Homeboy: A Novelby Seth Morgan
Seth Morgan’s frenzied, addictive walk on the wild side of 1980s San Francisco When strip-joint barker Joe Speaker unwittingly steals a sixty-nine-carat blue diamond, he becomes enmeshed in a blackmail-and-murder conspiracy that begins with the savage slaying of high-priced call girl Gloria Monday. Suddenly Joe’s a wanted man. Hunted/b>
Seth Morgan’s frenzied, addictive walk on the wild side of 1980s San Francisco When strip-joint barker Joe Speaker unwittingly steals a sixty-nine-carat blue diamond, he becomes enmeshed in a blackmail-and-murder conspiracy that begins with the savage slaying of high-priced call girl Gloria Monday. Suddenly Joe’s a wanted man. Hunted by a murderous pimp known as Baby Jewels Moses and a relentless homicide cop named Tarzon, Joe ends up taking the rap and getting sentenced to three years. But it’s in prison that the real trouble begins. An adrenaline-pumped, hallucinogenic descent into the lower depths, Homeboy is a tough, eye-opening look at San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic. Part memoir and part richly conceived work of imagination, this gritty, rambunctious novel reads like pure poetry and celebrates an uncommon talent at the height of his storytelling powers.
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Read an Excerpt
By Seth Morgan
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Seth Morgan
All rights reserved.
That afternoon was the first time in her bustout life Rings'n'Things had met a man who wanted to know her real name before banging her silly. Daddy didn't count—naming her after Rosemary Clooney was his big inspiration in the first place. So it wasn't exactly like intros were needed that night in the garage when she was twelve and he was drunk and bent her over the Pontiac's front fender and went to town.
Rings'n'Things had been her handle ever since a biker called Sugarfoot broke her out of the Encino splitlevel where she'd been held POW fifteen years. Sugarfoot was prez of the Ventura chapter of the Satan's Slaves and the business end of a dozen felony warrants—which pedigree spelled G-O-D to an echohead Valleyette. She took on faith his solemn word that chasing a fistful of Seconals with a quart of Thunderbird was the righteous way to celebrate her liberation. Three days later, when she came to, Sugarfoot was croaked from lead poisoning, like forty SWAT-issue rounds worth; and Rosemary Hooten, lollisucker of the shopping mall, was transmogrified into Rings'n'Things, shedevil bike bimbo and certified Satan's Slut.
Dozens of cheap golden hoops dangled from her ears, nostrils, nipples, and—"Gag me with a blowdryer!" she Valleyshrieked, shivering cracks in the gas station mirror and setting the towel dispenser to vomiting its endless soiled tongue while dogs in the next county howled at moons unrisen—good ole MAJOR LABES!
Yet even the horror of the hoops paled beside her next discovery. The rings at least could be removed. Not so the fresh tattoos beneath a crusty canopy of scabbing stretching from her neck to ankles. Some designs she could make out through hot helpless tears: serpents slithering along her limbs, horned toads and hobgoblins, winged insects amidst deadly orchids; and emblazoned on her schoolgirl tummy a hybrid spawned in a Methedrine delirium, a sort of freeway centaur, half mad biker, half flamethrowing shovelhead Harley-Davidson.
Now that she was good for nothing else, she figured why not fulfill Sugarfoot's highest ambition for her and sling pussy on Sunset Strip. If for no better reason than to consecrate his memory performing the most spiritual exercise to which her knees were adapted; and she'd been at it ever since, up and down the coast from Tacoma to Tarzana; in massage parlors, for escort services, in no-tell motels, on street corners.
"Sometimes I feel rode too hard and put up wet," she confided to other working girls. Yet told the social workers and probation officers who wondered how she kept it up year upon flatbacking year: "It's just a piece of gut, you cant wear it out. Like, you ever seen one in a junk yard? Huh? HUH?"
God, squares gave Rings'n'Things a pain in the bahakas. Especially the way their eyes shone and they wet their lips pumping her with questions about the Life. Though she couldn't have spelled hypocrisy on a bet, she had a hooker's nose for its faintest fume.
Not that this kept her from deciding that afternoon she'd fallen in like atomic love with the buttondown square of the millennium. Everything else in her silly sad twentyfive years had been upside down and wrong way around. "I was born backasswards," she liked to explain, referring to her breech birth. "Why switch up now?"
It was rush hour on the 3 Kearny and this cacahuate was standing like right over her seat taking a megachomp of a weenie extra the world when the bus lurched and the chilified tube steak shot right out of its bun and slithered down the front of her Frederick's of Hollywood Kasual Kitten kreation with builtin padded bra and hip inserts. She shrieked, jumping up; down it sluiced between her knockers and torpedoed out between her legs like a greasy tampoon. Nothing kasj about those brown and yellow stains. What was Rings'n'Things to do but like sob her eyes out of their Maybellined sockets.
Stammering apologies, El Dorko whisked her off the bus into a cab and straight to I. Magnin, where he insisted she pick up something pricey from the New Choices collection in the Career Girl department. Rings fur shur knew she had a career, as in like the Original Gig, though how much choice was less clear.
The Bus Bozo wouldn't let up until she told him her real name and it just so happened his fourthgrade biology teach was another Rosemary, which seemed to clinch the thing. He begged her to call him Marty and have dinner at a ritzy frog joint on Geary, where, over garlicky snails and teeny lamb chops with frilly booties, he asked her to come meet his mama at the rest home the very next day. It was as if he couldn't see the rings and tattoos and all. Though if he did, Rings had the old chestnut all heated up about when she was a kid and ran away with the circus. During dessert the beeper she carried in her purse went off and she explained she was a lab technician on twentyfourhour call and scooted back to the ladiesroom to phone her escort service and say she couldn't book any tricks that night, she'd just started her period and was it a whopper.
In the cab hailed by the tophatted doorman, Marty asked where she wanted to be dropped, and Rings had to do some fast thinking. Girls with any kind of choice, forget new ones, didn't live in the Tenderloin. Right off she remembered her friend Gloria Monday and gave her Nob Hill address. Glorioski had a mysterious new sugardaddy and was living on cocaine and caviar with a view of the bay, a Maserati Mistral, and expense accounts like everywhere.
She told Marty she had errands in the morning, please meet her at the Sir Francis Drake bar, noonish. Kissing goodnight, she let him swizzle his tongue in there just a little for something to dream on. She stood on the curb watching the cab's taillights wink out like coals dropping down the Taylor Street hill, imagining how she'd like to hop Marty up in a highchair and spoonfeed him forever. Suddenly her wistful smile went woeful. The happy everafter reverie featuring Marty in Pampers had juiced the crotch of her new Career Girl getup, as in damp ... D-A-M-P.
Luckily she was already at Glori's crib and Rings was sure her friend would loan her one of her thousand and one designer dresses for the next day. She couldn't wear one of her own peekaboob whoredrobe numbers, not if she wanted to spare Marty's mom a coronary. While she was there, she thought, she might as well phone back her service and announce her period had backed off its attitude and she was like a big Ten Four for the rest of the evening.
The elevator was paneled in old walnut and carried a faint familiar scent Rings remembered from some highrolling trick. The carpeted hallway was dimly lit and quiet, like old money. Tiptoeing down it, Rings caught herself holding her silly breath. At a palmed alcove opposite Glori's door she paused to appraise its occupant, a plaster toddler making weewee in a giant seashell. Frowning, Rings flicked at the multiple hoops compassing her left earlobe, adding their twinkly chime to the fat brat's tireless tinkling. She shrugged then, deciding the only Art she needed to appreciate was the usedcar salesman from Half Moon Bay who paid full freight once a week just to play dolls.
Gloria Monday was scripted on the brass nameplate over the bell. Some handle for a Polack from the wrong side of Milwaukee. Rings was about to push the bell when she noticed the door was ajar. Gingerly, as though it might be boobytrapped, she pushed it inward. She snatched a breath and let it go in a long whoosh blending horror and amazement: "Combat decoratin, fur shur ..."
New furniture all overturned, upholstery slashed; expensive art prints hurled to the floor and everywhere broken glass. Upsidedown drawers lay around, their hoards of lace and satin strewn across the floor. A mattress had been dragged from the spare bedroom and disemboweled. Clothing, makeup, magazines, kitchen spices, and smashed potted plants contributed to the domestic demo derby. In the corner, by the toppled bust of Prince, glittered the delicate shards of what was once a blownglass crack pipe in the shape of a dolphin, stained citrine with use. At the clawed feet of a Victorian loveseat spurting tufted guts sprawled Glori.
Her wrists were bound with electrical cord, both her eyes were moused. Her nude body crawled with bruises like bloodsuckers; her throat was collared with a glowy welt, as if someone had tried ringing her skull by hammering her adamsapple up her throat like a carnival strongman contraption. Rings thought fur shur she was dead, then she saw the pale ribs shudder. She rushed over, fell to her knees and freed Glori's hands; then, cradling her friend's head in her lap, kneaded her swollen larynx and lightly slapped her face until Glori girl coughed up bloody foam and started sucking air, great ragged sobs. She tried to speak, but all that came out was "ach ... ach ..." like a rusty rachet wheel turning in her throat.
"Glori girl! What came down here? I'm callin the cops."
Glori's puffed lids trembled. She clutched Rings's sleeve, shaking her head in terror. She made a shaky drinking motion. Rings fetched a glass of water and held Glori's head until she choked it down and croaked, "Gimme phone."
Rings thrashed through the detritus searching unsuccessfully for the instrument, then she found its cord and reeled it in like a fish. Taking drunken aim, Glori stabbed seven buttons. "Mr. Moses, come quick. He fucked me up."
Picking up and recradling the receiver dropped from Glori's hand, Rings scarcely wondered that she was calling her pimp, Baby Jewels Moses, instead of real help. Most working girls were like that, their noses open wider than their cunts. Rings'n'Things counted first among her virtues that she flatbacked for no man ... well, maybe Sugarfoot's ghost. A girl needs some inspiration.
Ignoring the catarrhal ruckus Glori raised in warning, Rings made a beeline for the bedroom to forage through the closet. Like, another thing a girl needs is to look out for herself. Trouble was, Glori had so much stuff Rings couldn't make up her mind which outfit might best impress Marty's mama.
"Make ... history," she heard Glori creak from the livingroom.
"Girl, I dont need a bullet between the eyes to take a hint," settling on the cutest little peachcolored outfit still in its drycleaning bag.
She turned with it over her arm and was starting back into the livingroom when she heard another sound added to Glori's rattling, a flaccid wheezing like a blowup sex doll leaking from a seam. She knew it was the Fat Man before she whiffed his trademark lavender lozenges. She flung the dress on Glori's canopied babydoll bed and scooted beneath it. No way Rings wanted to run up on the Pimp Blimp. He made a practice of sending to hell in small pieces freelance flatbackers dipping his girls' business. But how'd he gotten there so fast? ... Fur shur ... The cellular phone in his limo!
That was Glori girl's intended warning. For the hundredth time that week Rings rued that thinking wasn't part of her M.O. Through the litter beneath the bed of spent rubbers that squished like slugs, she wriggled, suppressing gag after gag until she was positioned so she could part the bedspread's ruffled taffeta trim just like Grandma's kitchen curtains and peek terrified into the livingroom.
Smirkily the Fat Man surveyed the wreckage. He wagged his neckless glabrous head, shivering jowls talced like sugared aspic, and clucked his tongue, his standard expression of avuncular reproof for his girls' each peccadillo. But for the tiny black eyes sunk deep in fat like cloves in ham, he would have been albino. Something obscenely prenatal about him incarnated all the blind importunate guilt of original sin.
"Gracious, Glorioski," he said. Such an eerie incongruity, that squeaky glottal lilt so like a pullstring doll's voice. "Your greed got the best of you, hmm?" Beneath the bed Rings rolled her eyes—Like, when was it even a contest? "What did you get on him? Polaroids? Maybe a video of you pissing in his mouth? ... Wasnt all this enough?" His multitude of rings twinkled with the truncated gesture meant to encompass the penthouse, the clothes, all the accoutrements of a kept life. Behind her ruffled curtain Rings lifted a tired brow which said anything was too much, and all the world too little, for the likes of Glori M.
"No, I suppose not," the Pimp Blimp chortled, unwittingly endorsing his unseen watcher's estimate. "The shvarze's a shlemiel, he should have known better." A second man prowled the room, lifting debris with shiny, pointed shoetip, peeking behind the one print remaining on the wall. If the pancaked nose and cauliflowered ears weren't enough, the simultaneous neck roll and shoulder hitch gave him away. They were the vestigial reflexes of an expug staying loose between rounds of fights he no longer remembered. This was Bobby "Quick" Cicero, factotum to the Fat Man.
"No prints," snapped Baby Jewels. From his hip pocket Quick produced a pair of kid gloves, flexed them over his knuckles, and resumed his casual, yet narrow sweep.
Baby Jewels turned back to Glori. The slow smile was swallowed in fat before reaching his eyes.
"Quick suspects the shvarze didnt find what he was looking for. Panicked and sprouted wings, I'd guess. But there's no reason for us to panic, hm?" Rings felt like telling Fatso to speak for himself.
"Mister Moses, I swear ..." Her voice was nearly recovered now, a hoarse whisper. Gathering the blanket around her, she lifted herself on the loveseat. "I wasnt tryin to shake him down or nothin. Just keep his respect so he dont take me for granite. But he nutted up. I was tryin to tell him where the necklace was ..."
Fool bitch! Clutching the coverlet's ruffles in angry frustration, Rings nearly yanked it off the bed. Talk makes two things your mouth does without thinking, whore.
"Necklace?" the Pimp Blimp coyly simped.
Why stop now? Rings telepathed rhetorically on the channel to which she knew Glori's brain was permanently tuned.
"Some bigass piece of blue ice belongs to his fancy white wife. I was tryin to tell him where I stashed it but he thought I was callin him a name I sometimes do and started sockin me up. He was crazy, like big time. See, he was blowin that rock cocaine ..."
"Tch." Baby Jewels shook his howitzershell head, sucking a fresh lozenge whose aroma recalled to Rings a shoe deodorizer favored by footsie freaks. Quick, to her relief, had ceased his perambulations and stood, head cocked, absently punching gloved fist into gloved palm, attending to this exchange. Then the Fat Man's ancient infant voice, wheedling as it might for a bon bon: "What name did you call Justice Bell?"
Something behind Glori's eyes crumbled and, were her face not blued already, she might have blushed. "Douchebag. Only it wasnt a name, it was where I hid it."
At a glance from his boss, Quick passed through the bedroom to the bathroom. One shoetip sharp as the stiletto that Rings imagined rode in the garter above it passed inches from her face, stalling her heart. Momentarily he returned, heels splashing sparks through the Herculon cutpile, carrying back into the livingroom a rubber douchebag of the variety that hangs from showerheads. Inquiringly, he lifted it by its plastic hanger;
Baby Jewels nodded. The expug squatted and shook the upended sack over the floor. Crystal blue light shuddered the room, sequining even the shadows where Rings lay.
Baby Jewels gasped liquidly and shook a handkerchief from his breast pocket to sop his brow. "Oy vey," he wheezed with reverence.
Quick scooped up the vaguely Egyptianlooking neckband, shaped like an open caliper with teardrop blue diamond glittering at its V. He handed it to his boss, who lifted it to the light. Prismlike, the gem refracted an arctic aurora around the walls.
As in a trance the Fat Man wheezed, "The Blue Jager Moon. The legendary Devilstone. His wife's family heirloom."
Her drawn face drenched in the diamond's cold blue light, Glori's words tumbled over themselves: "He took it out of the vault to get it appraised the next day. See, he was borrowin money against it to take care of me. His wife didnt know. The insurance company made her wear a fake. Anyway, it was the only way I'd go to the opera if he let me wear it. I hate them people struttin around, wavin swords and screamin their heads off. Then we spent the night here. Next mornin he went to a bar meeting, as in lawyers, and I went to my own, as in bocoo bourbon and beer backs. Then I come home first n hid the ice. Then he come to take it to the appraiser but first he bazooka'd a couple of crack rocks big as the diamond itself, I swear by the time he got around to askin me for it you could hear his brain sizzlin through his ears, and like a fool I told him ixnay, if you aint gonna make me an honest woman you can damn sure make me a rich one, and he went bananas. I shoulda known better, I shoulda stayed in school ..."
"Shut up," the Fat Man lisped drearily. He turned the necklace; the room shivered with scintillant cold colors washing the lights from his rings the way dawn enfeebles streetlamps. Shaking his huge head as if to shake a spell, he quickly tucked the stone beneath his jacket. At once the room shrank back to flat and finite hues.
Excerpted from Homeboy by Seth Morgan. Copyright © 1990 Seth Morgan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Seth Morgan (1949–1990) was an American novelist whose sole published title, Homeboy, received much critical acclaim. Morgan drew from his own experiences with San Francisco drug culture and prison in order to write what the New York Times called “an unnerving and utterly persuasive rendition of hell.” As a young boy, Morgan attended many elite private schools, including St. Bernard’s School in New York and the American School in Switzerland. He also briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley, before dropping out and moving in with singer Janis Joplin. They became engaged shortly before she died. At the time of his own death in a motorcycle accident, Morgan was under contract for a second novel, set in New Orleans and titled Mambo Mephiste.
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