About the Author
Jerome Charyn (b. 1937) is the critically acclaimed author of nearly fifty books. Born in the Bronx, he attended Columbia College. After graduating, he took a job as a playground director and wrote in his spare time, producing his first novel, a Lower East Side fairytale called Once Upon a Droshky, in 1964. In 1974, Charyn published Blue Eyes, his first Isaac Sidel mystery. This first in the so-called Sidel quartet introduced the eccentric, near-mythic Sidel, and his bizarre cast of sidekicks. Although he completed the quartet with Secret Isaac (1978), Charyn followed the character through Under the Eye of God. Charyn, who divides his time between New York and Paris, is also accomplished at table tennis, and once ranked amongst France’s top 10 percent of ping-pong players.
Read an Excerpt
Marilyn the Wild
An Isaac Sidel Novel
By Jerome Charyn
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1976 Jerome Charyn
All rights reserved.
She was indebted to the gouges in his face, high cheeks that could blunt a scary color. The specks in his eyes might harm any girl who had just run away from her husband. She didn't want to be snared again. She had come to him for Russian tea, firm pillows, and the comforts of a temporary home.
"Marilyn," he said, with a nasalness that made her twitch. He had her father's voice. And she refused to wrestle with Isaac on Coen's bed.
"Marilyn, shouldn't you talk to Isaac?"
"Screw him." She had unpacked an hour ago. Her suitcase was under Coen's laundry bag. She intended to mingle her dirty underwear with his. She would rinse them in the bathtub together, with the Woolite she had brought, after Coen went to work.
"Marilyn, suppose he finds out? I'm not too good at lying."
She held his collarbone in her teeth, made perfect little bites that were meant to arouse her father's man. She would tolerate no protests from him. She dug her nipples into his chest. She worked spit under his arm. But she'd trap herself, fall victim to Coen, if she couldn't get around his eyes.
Whenever she weakened and let his infernal blue peek out at her, she would lower her head to lick the scars on his back (souvenirs Coen had acquired in the street), or stare at the holster on his desk.
She straddled him, rubbing his prick with a wet finger. The blueness couldn't hurt her now. Coen's eyes were thickening with impure spots. She pushed Coen inside herself, milked him with the pressure off her thighs, until she lost all sense of Isaac, and that husband of hers, a Brooklyn architect, and responded to Coen's gentle body.
Twice divorced at twenty-five, she could chew up husbands faster than any other Bronx-Manhattan girl who had bombed out of Sarah Lawrence. Isaac had always been there to find husbands for her, genteel men with forty-thousand-dollar jobs and a flush of college degrees. Her father sat at Headquarters behind the paneled walls of the First Deputy Police Commissioner. He'd been invited to Paris, she heard, as the World's Greatest Cop (of 1970–71), or something close to that. And Coen was Isaac's fool, a spy attached to the First Dep.
She gulped through her nose, smelling Coen's blond hairs. She came five times, her tongue twisting deeper into her mouth. She could beg him now.
"Come in me, Manfred, please."
She saw the hesitation in the pull of his lip. He was frightened of knocking up Isaac's girl, and imposing a grandchild on his Chief, a baby Coen. But Marilyn was a stubborn creature. She soothed the bumps in Coen's jaw with the side of her face. She understood the depths of her father's cop. He was a shy boy, a Jewish orphan with a handsome streak that fed itself on Bronx sadnesses: both his parents were suicides. She softened the points of tension in his throat with the flesh of her shoulder and the powerful membranes in her ear.
Marilyn hadn't reckoned on the telephone. Coen was out of her before she could kick the receiver under the bed. "Fuck" was all she could think to say.
She crouched against Coen so she could listen to her father. He was calling from Times Square. "Manfred," he croaked, "Marilyn's left her husband again. Has she been in touch with you?"
"No," Blue Eyes said. Marilyn was grateful that he didn't lose his erection under duress from her father.
"Stay put," Isaac said. "She always comes to you."
Coen returned to bed without a prick. Marilyn couldn't hold a grudge against the cop. Her father had half of New York City by the balls.
"Isaac's smart," she said. "He's got me mapped in his head like a Monopoly board. He knows all my resting places, that father of mine. Every water hole."
"Don't goose him too hard, Marilyn. He worries about you."
"Wake up, Manfred. You're just like me. We're on Isaac's casualty list. Aren't both of us divorcees?"
And she made the cop laugh. She'd fall in love with him, maybe, if he had the nerve to crumple his shield and spit in Isaac's face. But she shouldn't be harsh with him, strangle him with fantasies and expectations. Coen was Coen.
* * *
Isaac hadn't been cruising Times Square, nesting in ratty bars, peeking into pornographers' windows, for the First Deputy's office. He was on a personal mission. He pushed in and out of his car with a photograph in his fist. He had the First Deputy's private sedan at his disposal, a big Buick with bulletproof windows. But he wouldn't use the First Dep's chauffeur. Isaac had his own man. Fat Brodsky, a first-grade detective with piggly eyes, was Isaac's toad.
"Who's the girlie, Isaac? You say you haven't seen her since she was five. How are you gonna recognize her from a dumb photograph?"
"Never mind," Isaac said. He found a girl with a thick nose and a high, summer skirt (it was February) near Forty-sixth Street. He opened the door for her. "Honey Schapiro, get in."
The girl had welts on her exposed kneecaps. She growled at Isaac. "I'm Naomi, Mister. Who are you?"
He lunged at her and installed her on his lap, but he couldn't shut the door. Honey was kicking too hard. Isaac had to keep her from biting his ears.
"What is this? You don't belong to the pussy posse? I know all them guys."
She began screaming for her protector, a dude named Ralph, who rushed over from Forty-fifth Street in his leather coat. Brodsky upset him more than Isaac. The chauffeur was pointing a holster at Ralph's groin.
"Hey brother," Ralph said, with a nod for Isaac. "Speak to me." Ralph didn't reach for his money clip. The Buick made him cautious; ordinary house bulls wouldn't have come to him in so conspicuous a car.
"You bringing her down?"
"No," Isaac said. "She's going home to her father."
"Cut the shit, man. You asking me to buy you a hat? I'll buy, but I ain't supplying the feather. Fifty is all I'm giving today." Then he saw the blue teeth on Isaac's badge. He shuddered under his coat. Ralph was wise to the nitty-gritty of Manhattan stationhouses: no detective carried a badge with blue teeth.
Isaac spoke through his window. "Forget about Honey Schapiro, you understand? If I catch her above Fourteenth Street again, I'll personally break your face." He signaled to Brodsky, and Ralph waved goodbye to the Buick on jiggling knees. He didn't like to be swindled. If he'd known how Honey was connected, he wouldn't have battered her legs. He'd have rewarded her with a better corner, and a cleaner clientele. That ugly Jew broad had her hooks into the police.
Brodsky laughed on the ride downtown with Isaac and the girl. "Boy, you can scare nigger pimps. Isaac, did you look at his eyes?"
"Shut up," Isaac said. And Brodsky was satisfied. He loved to be scolded by his Chief. A slur from Isaac made him vigorous and alert. Brodsky could have farted on every cop at Headquarters, including the number one Irisher, First Deputy O'Roarke. The chauffeur swore himself to Isaac. Isn't he going to Paris, France, Brodsky reasoned. What other cop travels four thousand miles for a lecture?
The girl moved off Isaac's lap. She panicked at the benches and frozen grass of Union Square park. Second Avenue curled her chin into the padding under the window. With glum, bitter cheeks she watched Isaac's descent into the lower East Side.
Brodsky became aware of the girl's worsening state. "Honey, would you like a gumdrop?"
"Leave her alone," Isaac said.
They parked in a lot behind the Essex Street housing project, Isaac sticking his Deputy Chief Inspector's card over the dashboard. The smell of urine accompanied them to the back doors of the project Brodsky was about to comment on the smell when he noticed Isaac's glare. He displayed his badge to the housing guard, who had a disfigured nightstick and stubble on his face. He read the graffiti in the elevator car with obvious contempt. Essex Street had the musk and corrosive charm of a zoo. Brodsky lived in a house on Spuyten Duyvil hill. He came to Essex, Clinton, and Delancey to buy horseradish and squares of onion bread that were unknown in his section of Riverdale.
Isaac and the girl lost their winter flush in the overheated halls of the ninth floor. They drifted into an apartment with mousy green walls. Brodsky was the last one inside. A man in silk pajamas, without a tooth in his face, hugged the girl and cried into his sleeve. Sensing Brodsky, a stranger to him, he recovered himself. "Isaac, I search for months, and you find her in an hour and a half. You're a magician, Isaac. She was a baby the last time you saw her."
"I had her picture, Mordecai. It was nothing."
"Nothing he says. The police force would be poking in a ditch without you."
"Mordecai, I have to go." The Chief kept his eyes on Honey; she couldn't relax in her father's grip. She had the waxy features of a bloated doll.
"Isaac, one more thing. Philip is looking for you."
Isaac headed for the door; he didn't want to be sucked into another family dispute. He had his own troubles: a wild, uncontrollable daughter who shed husbands in the middle of winter.
"I'll catch him later, Mordecai. Not now."
Brodsky climbed into the elevator with Isaac. He could hear shouts and cries coming from the apartment, and the echoes of a slap. He smiled at the tumult raised by Mordecai and Honey. The Chief jabbed him with a thumb. "Brodsky, put your mind somewhere else. That's private business."
"Isaac, who is that guy? Your mother's boyfriend, or what?"
"I went to high school with him."
"You're kidding me. Isaac, he could be your grandfather, I swear."
"Forget about it. Mordecai doesn't have a Park Avenue dentist to look after his gums."
"Isaac, what's his trade?"
"Mordecai? He's a leftover from World War Two. He minded all the Victory gardens from Chinatown to Corlears Hook, but he didn't save a carrot for himself."
What could Isaac tell his chauffeur? Mordecai squatted down a hundred yards from his high school, Seward Park, and never stirred. Isaac had nothing against fixed perimeters. He was born on West Broadway, in a block owned by London Jews, men and women who had a more powerful vocabulary than their Yankee neighbors. Yet he preferred Essex Street, where his mother kept a junk shop, to the London Jews of West Broadway, or the Riverdale of Brodsky and Kathleen, Isaac's estranged wife.
The chauffeur stopped at the pickle factory on Essex and Broome for a jar of grated horseradish roots, pure and white, without the sweetening effect of red beets. Only dehydrated women and quiffs from the District Attorney's office would buy red horseradish. He put his nose in the jar, sniffed until his eyes went blind, and recovered in time to watch Isaac pass Sophie Sidel's junk shop.
"Isaac, aren't you going to sit with your mother?"
The Chief wouldn't answer. "Brodsky, the First Dep needs his car. Bring it to him."
Isaac was hoping to skirt away from his mother. He had too many unexplainable items in his head. He'd visit her after Paris, not before. He went into Hubert's delicatessen, five doors up from Sophie's. The place seemed in perfect order, with fish balls steaming the counter glass, and the juice of several puddings bubbling down off the stove, but Hubert himself was in disarray. A little man, with pointy shoulders and a lion's shaggy scalp, he had lumps on his brow and pieces of toilet paper covering dark spots along his chin.
"Hubert, what's wrong?" Isaac said, occupying his favorite chair. "Did you shave with one eye this morning?" Isaac couldn't have anticipated any evil. The delicatessen was his roost. Other Deputy Chief Inspectors sat in the chosen clam-houses of Mulberry and Grand, elbows away from Mafia lieutenants and princelings. But Isaac ate alone. At Hubert's he could follow the cracks in the wall without interruptions. Hubert hadn't lost a dime from his cash register in fifteen years. East Side pistols learned to steer south of the delicatessen by habit. If they did come inside Hubert's, to warm their hands over a cup of winter tea, they made sure to leave an elaborate tip.
The Chief wasn't insensitive. When that big lion's head didn't come back at him with a pout, and splash barley soup on the tablecloth with customary verve, Isaac took a different turn.
"Who did it to you? Were they white or black?"
"White as snow," Hubert said.
"How much did they take?"
"Nothing. They didn't touch the register. They broke a few chairs, slapped me, and left."
"Hubert, what did they wear?"
"Army coats, navy coats, who remembers? Their faces were covered up. With ski masks."
"Then how can you be sure they were white?"
"By their hands, Isaac. By their hands. One of them was a girl. I'm no detective, but I can tell the outline of a tit."
"When did it happen?"
"Yesterday. Just before closing."
"How come it takes a whole day for me to hear about it?"
"Isaac, close the inquisition, please. It isn't a police matter. Crazy kids. They could have picked on anybody."
"Absolutely," Isaac said, with a thickened tongue. "They were playing trick-or-treat. Only Halloween doesn't come in February. Your cash was too good for them. So they took their profits on your skull. How many of them were there?"
"There were three." Hubert's mouth was crammed with spit.
"I'll be gone for a week. My man will look into it."
The lumps grew dark on the lion's head. "Isaac, I don't want a bully in my store. Brodsky has wide elbows. He doesn't give a person room to drink his soup."
"I'll send you Coen. He's small. He'll charm your customers to sleep with his blue eyes."
Isaac knocked in the window of the dairy restaurant on Ludlow Street; it was a place he liked to avoid. It was crammed with hungry playwrights and scholars who tried to tangle Isaac into conversations about Spinoza, Israel, police brutality, and the strange brotherhood of Aaron and Moses. The playwrights weren't scornful of him. They recognized Isaac as the patron saint of Ludlow and East Broadway. He kept bandits off their streets, but his strength was no surprise to them. He'd been suckled on strange milk. His mother was a woman with an obstinate heart. She befriended Arabs and Puerto Ricans over Jews.
They laughed at the reaction of the cashier lady to Isaac's knock. Ida Stutz threw off her uniform and smacked powder on her face. This one was Isaac's fiancée. They knew Isaac had an Irish wife up in Riverdale, but it would have been unwise of them to offend Ida. She furnished the scholars with toothpicks, sneaked them pats of butter and extra rolls, because she had a kindness for undernourished men. Ida was a girl with ample arms and legs. Whatever prettiness she had came from such proportions. She made her own lunch hours at the Ludlow restaurant. She was a dray horse most mornings and afternoons. The owners of the restaurant worked her silly. They could count on Ida's sweat, and Ida's husky back. So they allowed her one oddity. When the Chief knocked, Ida disappeared.
* * *
Isaac kept two stunted rooms on Rivington Street. He had to share a toilet with an ancient bachelor who peed wantonly. He washed his body in a kitchen tub that couldn't accommodate all of Isaac until his ears crept between his knees. It was in this undignified position that Ida found the Chief. She saw his suitcase on the bed, burgeoning with starched underwear, notebooks, and unbleached honey.
"Isaac, I know you. Soaping your belly is just a blind. Your brains are already in Paris."
Squirming in the tub, a prisoner to his own knees, Isaac had to smile. His wife Kathleen had been an extraordinary beauty. Even at forty-nine (she was five years older than the Chief), she had bosoms that could make Ida blush. But Isaac had never been a connoisseur of flesh. He gave up his home in Riverdale because Kathleen had grown independent of him. She was a woman with spectacular real estate. She had properties in Florida that ate up most of her energy. Isaac didn't have to crawl to the lower East Side for love. He could have stayed uptown with handsome widows, starlets who were hungry for intellectual cops, or bimbos with penthouses and rebuilt behinds. Ida pleased him more. She had a tongue that could scold him properly, and a mouth that could suck up all his teeth. It didn't matter to her how Isaac behaved. Ida wasn't fragile. She could match the Chief in kisses, bear hugs, and bites. She began to undress.
"This is your last bath in America. Aren't you sorry you don't have a bigger tub?"
Excerpted from Marilyn the Wild by Jerome Charyn. Copyright © 1976 Jerome Charyn. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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