Read an Excerpt
Requiem for a Dream
By Hubert Selby Jr.
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Hubert Selby, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Harry locked his mother in the closet. Harold. Please. Not again the TV. Okay, okay, Harry opened the door, then stop playin games with my head. He started walking across the room toward the television set. And dont bug me. He yanked the plug out of the socket and disconnected the rabbit ears. Sara went back into the closet and closed the door. Harry stared at the closet for a moment. So okay, stay. He started to push the set, on its stand, when it stopped with a jerk, the set almost falling. What the hells goin on here? He looked down and saw a bicycle chain going from a steel eye on the side of the set to the radiator. He stared at the closet. Whatta ya tryin to do, eh? Whats with this chain? You tryin to get me to break my own mothers set? or break the radiator?—she sat mutely on the closet floor—an maybe blow up the whole house? You tryin to make me a killer? Your own son? your own flesh and blood? WHATTA YA DOIN TA ME???? Harry was standing in front of the closet. YOUR OWN SON!!!! A thin key slowly peeked out from under the closet door. Harry worked it out with his fingernail then yanked it up. Why do you always gotta play games with my head for krists sake, always laying some heavy guilt shit on me? Dont you have any consideration for my feelings? Why do you haveta make my life so difficult? Why do—Harold, I wouldnt. The chain isnt for you. The robbers. Then why didnt you tell me? The set almost fell. I coulda had a heart attack. Sara was shaking her head in the darkness. You should be well Harold. Then why wont you come out? Harry tugging on the door and rattling the knob, but it was locked on the inside. Harry threw his hands up in despair and disgust. See what I mean? See how you always gotta upset me? He walked back to the set and unlocked the chain, then turned back to the closet. Why do you haveta make such a big deal outta this? eh? Just ta lay that guilt shit on me, right? Right????—Sara continued rocking back and forth—you know youll have the set back in a couple a hours but ya gotta make me feel guilty. He continued to look at the closet—Sara silent and rocking—then threw up his hands, Eh, screw it, and pushed the set, carefully, out of the apartment. Sara heard the set being rolled across the floor, heard the door open and close, and sat with her eyes closed rocking back and forth. It wasnt happening. She didnt see it so it wasnt happening. She told her husband Seymour, dead these years, it wasnt happening. And if it should be happening it would be alright, so dont worry Seymour. This is like a commercial break. Soon the program will be back on and youll see, theyll make it nice Seymour. Itll all work out. Youll see already. In the end its all nice.
Harrys partner, a black guy name Tyrone C. Love—Thas right jim, thats mah name an ah loves nobody but Tyrone C.—was waiting for him in the hallway, chewing a Snickers candy bar. They got the set out of the building without any trouble, Harry saying hello to all the yentas sitting by the building getting the sun. But now came the hard part. Pushing that damn thing the three blocks to the hock shop without it getting ripped off, or getting knocked over by some dumb ass kid, or being tipped over by running into a hole in the ground or bumping into a lump of litter, or just having the goddamn table collapse, took patience and perseverance. Tyrone steadied the set as Harry pushed and steered, Tyrone acting as lookout and warning Harry of the large hunks of paper and bags of garbage that might prove hazardous to the swift and safe completion of their appointed mission. They each grabbed an end as they eased it off the curb and up onto the other side of the street. Tyrone tilted his head and looked the set over. Sheeit, this mutha startin to look a little seedy man. Whats the matta, ya particular all of a sudden? Hey baby, ah dont much care if its growin hair just sos we gets our braid.
Mr. Rabinowitz shook his head as he watched them push the set into his pawn shop. So look, the table too already. Hey, what do you want from me? I cant schlep it on my back. You got a friend. He could help already. Hey mah man, ah aint mah lepers schlepper. Harry chuckled and shook his head, Whatta jew. Anyway, it makes it easier to get it home. Thats mah man, always thinkin of his moms. Oi, such a son. A goniff. Shes needing you like a moose needs a hat rack. Come on Abe, we/re in a hurry. Just give us the bread. Hurry, hurry. All the time in a hurry, shuffling around behind the counter, inspecting the pencils carefully before picking one out to use. You got such big things to do the voild is falling apart if everything isnt dont yesterday. He clucked his tongue, shook his head, and slowly counted the money ... twice ... three times—Hey, comeon Abe, lets get with it. You dig this dude jim? Hes lickin them fingers and countin that braid ovah and ovah like its gonna change numbers. He dont even trus his ownself. Damn.
Mr. Rabinowitz gave the money to Harry and Harry signed the book. Do for me a favor and veel it over there?
Sheeit. You know somethin jim, evertime I see you I work mah pretty little ass off. They pushed the set to the corner and split.
Mr. Rabinowitz watched, shaking his head and clucking his tongue, then sighed, Somethingks wrong ... it just aint kosher already, it just aint kosher.
Sheeit. Why you wanna go there man? Why do I wanta go there? Because they give blue chip stamps with the dope. You know somthin Harry? You is simple minded. You shouldnt fuck aroun when you talkin about somethin serious like dope man. Aspecially when you be talkin about mah dope. Yours I'm not carin about. Just mine. And whats so great about the dope here? O man, what you mean? Theys just as many connections right here as there. We could even try somebody new. New? Yeah baby. We could jus ease on down the street and see who have the most fingers up their nose and noddin out an we know where the good dope be, ah mean the outta sight shit jim. An anyways, we save the cab fare. Cab fare? Who died and left you rich? This moneys goin for dope man. It aint goin for no cab. Ya gotta take care a necessities before ya fuck with luxuries.
Sheeit. You aspect me to ride them mutha fuckin subways with all them poiverts and winos? Damn. You outta your mine. They rip you off before you gets anywheres. Hey man, dont go pulling that lazy ass ol black joe shit on me. Tyrone chuckled, Man, if ah gotta do some travelin then let me call mah man Brody and see what he got. Gimme a dime. Goddamn it man, since when do you need a dime to make a call. Hey baby, ah dont fuck with no phone company. Harry leaned against the phone booth as Tyrone hunched himself around the phone and spoke conspiratorially. After a minute or so he hung up the phone and stepped forth from the booth, a huge grin on his face. Hey man, close ya mouth, its hurtin my eyes. You pale-assed mutha fucka. You shure wouldnt make it in no cotton fields. Tyrone started walking and Harry fell in alongside him. So whats happenin? Mah man got some dynamite shit baby an wes gonna get us a spoon. They walked up the stairs from the subway separately. Harry looked around for a moment as Tyrone continued down the street, then went to the coffee shop a few doors away. The neighborhood was absolutely and completely black. Even the plain-clothesmen were black. Harry always felt a little conspicuous in the coffee shop sipping light coffee and eating a chocolate doughnut. This was the only drag about copping from Brody. He usually had good shit but Harry couldnt go any further than the coffee shop or they would blow the whole scene, or what was almost as bad, he might get his head laid open. Actually the smart thing to do, the really smart thing to do, would be to stay uptown, but Harry couldnt bear to be that far away from the money and the shit. It was bad enough sitting here feeling his stomach muscles tighten and that anxiety crawl through his body and the taste twitch the back of his throat, but it was a million times better than not being here.
He ordered another cup of coffee and doughnut and turned in the stool slightly as a cop, blacker than his doughnut and bigger than a goddamn Mack truck, sat next to him. Jesus krist, just my fuckin luck. Try to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee and a fuckin baboon has to sit next to me. Shit! He sipped his coffee and looked at the gun in the holster wondering what would happen if he suddenly yanked the gun out and started shooting, pow, pow, and blow the mother fuckers head right the fuck off then toss a bill on the counter and tell the chick to keep the change and stroll out or maybe just ease the gun out and then hand it to the cop and ask him if it was his, I just found it on the floor and I thought maybe you misplaced your gun, or what would really be a gasser would be to sneak the fuckin thing out and mail it to the commissioner with a little note how a couple a guys got burned with it and maybe he should take better care a his toys ... yeah, that would be a gasser and he looked at the huge son of a bitch sitting next to him as he fat mouthed with the chick behind the counter and laughed his big black ass off and Harry chuckled to himself and wondered what the cop would think if he knew that his life was in Harrys hands and then Harry noticed the size of the hand holding the coffee cup and realized that it was bigger than a fuckin basketball and he stuffed the rest of the doughnut in his mouth and swished it down with the coffee and strolled out of the coffee shop, slowly, still feeling that mountain of a fuzz behind him, as Tyrone bebopped his way down the subway steps.
Tyrones pad wasnt much more than a room with a sink. They sat around the small table, their works in a glass, the water tinged pink with blood, their heads hanging loose from their necks, their hands hanging loose from their wrists, their fingers barely holding their cigarettes. Occasionally a finger probed a nostril. Their voices came low and weak from their throats. Sheeit, thats some boss scag baby. I mean dyn a mite. Yeah man, its really somethin else. Harrys cigarette burned his fingers and he dropped it, Shit, then slowly bent over and looked at it for a minute, his hand hanging over it, then finally picked it up, looked at it, then gradually worked a fresh cigarette out of his pack and into his mouth and lit it with the old one, dropped the butt in the ashtray, then licked the burned spot on his fingers. He stared at the tip of his shoes for a moment, then another ... they looked good, sort of soft the way they—a huge roach attracted his attention as it belligerently marched by, and by the time he thought of trying to step on it it disappeared under the molding. Just as well, that sonofabitch mighta put a hole in my shoe. He tugged his arm up and then his hand and took a drag of his cigarette. Harry took another long drag on his cigarette and inhaled it slowly and deeply, tasting each particle of smoke and savoring the way it seemed to titillate his tonsils and throat, krist it tasted good. There was something about smack that made a cigarette taste so fuckin good. Ya know what we oughtta do man? Huh? We oughtta get a piece a this shit and cut it and off half of it, ya dig? Yeah baby, this stuffs good enough to cut in half and still get you wasted. Yeah, we/d just take a taste for ourselves and off the rest. We could double our money. Easy. Thas right baby. An then we buys a couple a pieces an we got somethin else goin man. It sure would be righteous baby. All we gotta do is cool it with the shit, you know, just a taste once in a while but no heavy shit—Right on baby—just enough to stay straight an we/d have a fuckin bundle in no time. You bet your sweet ass. Those bucks would just be pilin up till we was ass deep in braid jim. Thats right man, and we wouldnt fuck it up like those other assholes. We wont get strung out and blow it. We/d be cool and take care a business and in no time we/d get a pound of pure and just sit back and count the bread. No hustlin the fuckin streets. You goddamn right mutha fucka. We get it right from the eyetalians and cut it our ownselves and get us some runy nosed dope fiens to hustle it for us an we jus sit back countin them bucks and drivin a big ass pink mutha fuckin El Dorado. Yeah, and I/ll get a chaufers uniform and drive your black ass all over town. An you better hold that mutha fuckin door jim or I/ll burn your ass.... O yeah, mah names Tyrone C. Love and I loves nobody but Tyrone C. Well, it ain't no Tyrone C. Im gonta love. Im gonta get me a fine pad by Central Park man and just spend my time sniffin all that fine quiff walkin by. Sheeit ... what you gonna do with that man. You done doogied out your dong. Im just gonta lay down beside it and pet it man and maybe just sort of nibble on it once in a while. Damn. Now aint this a muthafuckin shame. This dudes gonna lay up in some fine pad with some fine fox and hes gonna go stickin his nose in that nasty thang. So what do you want from me, I like to knosh. A little chopped liver, a little smoked fish, a—Gawddamn, but you a nasty mutha fucka. Thas the trouble with you ofays man, you dont know what to do with a fox. Shit man, we know what to do. Its you fuckin Africans who dont have any table manners ...why do ya think the Jewish guys get all the broads? It aint got nothing ta do with money. Its because we/re knoshers. Sheeit, you just a missin dick fool man. Afta ah has mah tailor measure me for a few more suits ahm goin back to the pad and have me a stable of foxes jim that make your knees buckle. Ah mean theys gonna be real fine. An Im gonna have a different color for everyday in the week. How long ya figure itll take us before we can go for a pound of pure? Sheeit man. That aint nothin. We get out there an hustle up a couple a yards for a piece an we on our way. By Christmas we be sittin back countin those bucks and talkin that trash. Merry Christmas man. Harrys cigarette burned his fingers, Shit, and he dropped it, son of a bitch.
Two young kids from the neighborhood went to the hock shop with Sara. Mr. Rabinowitz shuffled around the counter, Good evening Mrs. Goldfarb. Good evening Mr. Rabinowitz, though I'm not so sure how good it is. And you? Uh, he half closed his eyes, hunched his shoulders and tilted his head, so vat could I say? Im alone in the store all day and mine wife is shopping mit our daughter Rachel for little Izzy something and still not home yet. For lunch Im having cold tongue, mit out da rye.... Im having some mustard and harseradish, but mit out da rye already, oi ... he shrugged, tilted and peered again, but for supper maybe Im having cold soup if she still not home, are you vanting your TV? How old is little Izzy now? O, hes so cute I could just take hunks and bits out of those chubby little legs. Yes, if you dont mind. I have these nice young boys to push it home for me—such nice boys to help a poor mother—thank God he took the stand too so it makes it easier to get back. I only have three dollars now but next week Im—So take it, take, shrugging and tilting his head, and veal hope he doesnt take it again before you pay for this time, not like the time he stole already the set three times in vun month and it vas how long before youre paying it off? Izzy is being a whole year next week, Tuesday. Oooo, Sara sighed long and deep, it seems like only yesterday Rachel was playing dolls and now ... Sara gave the three dollars, that had been folded and carefully tucked in the corner of her blouse, to Mr. Rabinowitz, and he shuffled behind the counter and put it in his cash register and carefully made an entry in a small book with the title, SARA GOLDFARB'S TV, on the cover. There were endless pages of entries and dates, covering the last few years, of money given Harry for the set and the payments his mother made after redeeming it. The two kids had started pushing the set, and the table, out to the street. Mrs. Goldfarb, can I ask of you a question, you vont be taking git personal? Sara shrugged, How many years we know each other? He nodded his head up and down up and down up and down, Whos to count? Vy dont you tell already the police so maybe they could talk to Harry and he vouldnt be stealing no more the TV, or maybe they send him somewhere for a few months he can tink and ven hes coming out hes already a good boy and takes care of you and no more all the time taking the TV? Oooo, another long and deep sigh, Mr. Rabinowitz, I couldnt, clutching her breast most fervently, Harolds my only child, and only relative. Hes all I have. Everyone else is dead. Theres only Harry and me ... my son, my boobala. And who knows how much time I have left—Ah, a young voman—she waved away his remark, to help my son. Hes the end of the line. The last of the Goldfarbs. How could I make him a criminal? They would put him with such terrible people where he could learn such terrible things. No, hes young. Hes a good boy my Harold. Hes just a little mischief. Someday he/ll meet a nice young Jewish girl and he/ll settle down and make me a grandmother. Goodbye Mr. Rabinowitz, waving as she walked toward the door, say hello to Mrs. Rabinowitz. Be careful going out the door boys. Abe Rabinowitz nodded as he watched her go out, the two boys pushing the set, then watched them go slowly up the street, past his cloudy windows, and then out of sight. He stopped nodding and shook his head, Oi, such a life. I hope she gets home already. Im not vanting cold soup. A man my age is needingk hot food for his stomach and hot water for his feet. Oi mine feet. Ahhhhhhh ... such a life. Tsouris ... tsouris ...
Excerpted from Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.. Copyright © 1988 Hubert Selby, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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