Based on a true story, step inside the horror of one Brooklyn apartment in the mid-1970s. Ham and Von are best friends, and they believe they've found the opportunity of a lifetime-a cheap place to live in New York City. Mysteriously, the apartment has not been occupied in over forty years. They soon discover the reason for the vacancy: it is apparently inhabited by a ghost.
Once settled in to their new home, the boys begin to notice wild temperature changes and witness things flying around the room of their own accord. They decide to call in a white witch to learn more about the ghost by way of a late-night séance. But nothing is quite as it seems in New York of the seventies. Surrounded by a party mentality filled with drugs, sex, and music, the boys have trouble fighting whatever haunts their home.
Soon, a friend with possible good intentions begins experimenting with the Brazilian Old Religion, known as Macondo. Brutality breaks out in their once peaceful Brooklyn neighborhood. A beloved cat is donated to the white witch as a "familiar." The two find their lives have been rapidly turned upside-down.
Based on the actual experiences of author Dennis Doph, We Know Too Much is a story of terror, tough choices, and lasting friendships.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)|
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We Know Too MuchA Novel of Things That Happened
By Dennis Doph
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Dennis Doph
All right reserved.
Von was not going to get up. It was mid-morning and the sun was a Already hot. Von refused to acknowledge that it was daytime, even though he could feel the sun warming the foot of his bed. His feet Were hot. Then they were cold.
Von was pissed about a lot of things. Six sisters in a little Pennsy Mining town were enough to be pissed about. Plus his father's Attitude.
(roar) Whaddya wanna be, a sissy-boy? (roar) (crunch)
Von was only seven but he was already very good about blotting out that sort of thing. He could even blot out the strap, if it came to That. He could blot out the sisters if they stayed out of his way – Most of the time.
Unless they hit.
He carried a very small, very sharp penknife to deal with those Moments.
It was really getting irritating. The sun was hot and his grandmother was sitting there at the foot of the bed, staring at him. Von hadn't opened his eyes, not a crack, but he knew it was Oma Because he always knew when Oma was in the room. Oma wasn't like Mama. Mama always smelled like Evening in Paris. Oma smalled like Oma, a good Czech grandmother. Safflower oil; turmeric. Honest cooking odors.
Von gave in. He let his eyes open. Oma was there allright, old Oma, like always, smiling and nodding.
She sure was placid. Smile and nod, nod and smile. Not freaky like Mama.
"Just watching you, Sweet."
Von rolled over and curled himself up into a ball, pulling his feet up out of the hot space. Why the hell did she want to wake him up?
Grumbling deep in his skinny seven-year-old form, Von pulled himself out of half-sleep.
Nod and smile.
"Oma? Mama said you –"
"Yes, Sweet. I'll always watch you. You're my boy."
Von was puzzled. She looked so real. You couldn't see through her, like Claude Rains in the Invisible Man. That was a neat movie. Von wasn't sure this was so neat.
"—but I can SEE you."
Von understood then. She would BE there, wouldn't she? Well. So much for that.
Von went back to sleep. The little Wyoming Valley milltown slumbered on in the heat of summer.
When Von woke, and pulled himself out of his toasty-warm bed, he was no longer a child.
In the other room, just down the hall, was Mama. Mama was vaguely pretty and lived in Minesville by what appeared to be coercion. She was married to Dad and had kids. She was still having them. She was in the middle of making one now. Von knew that, when he toddled out into the kitchen for his morning tea, he would see the bulge under her Sears-Roebuck apron that was another little brother or sister.
They lived by and according to the Czech God, and Czech rules which had been handed down to them for centuries. Oma had lived by those rules. She had one man in her lifetime and died of a thing which is never spoken of, by name, or in any other fashion. This is how things would always be done in Minesville.
Mama was different. She had lived in Hollywood, where the movies came from. She had gone to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church with Loretta Young. Mama yearned for The Outside, that other world way, way away from the Wyoming Valley. People were naughty there.
That's about all she would let Von know. Down in Philadelphia and New York, people were naughty, and rich, and frequently ladies wore their aprons high without benefit of the little gold band.
Von, forever after, retained in some small, illuminated corner of his memory that early morning experience with Oma. Retained it; believed in it. Mystery is also part of the Great Tradition.
So Baby Boy Von became Von who grew, who experimented – who saved for his first set of Conti crayons and had to explain them to his father; who, at thirteen, began to sneak away to Reading, to an appropriately anonymous drugstore for RouX hairdye which made him Blond Von, the Viking Boy.
Eventually, Von, the Wild Viking Boy who left Minesville with his Conti crayons, and his defiantly blond image, with the invisible yet palpable image of the former Hollywood Lady (Mama) thrown over him. He escaped with her blessing.
Escaped into the ever-promised land of New York, early-Seventies New York, Hot City. Von was hot too. Hot, and terrified.
He was not quite gay and not quite straight and had always expected to be one or the other. Suddenly it didn't matter a damn what he was. He was Von. They came at him in droves, laughing, pushing, grabbing, funny, loveable and horny. He acquiesced. It was all very confusing.
It was called Survival. He tried to sit very still and sort it all out. It he moved around much he began to lose track of his thoughts.
Always, when things were tense or confusing or terrifying, there was Oma to fall back on.
Because she was still with him. Always. Flourishing, red-blooded, Central European mysticism with all its trappings; the Old Gods; just as important as the civilized "Christian" God.
Von could always fall back on – Oma — his inner voice. He could read people.
Von's mystical lines of communication were so acutely developed he could walk into a social situation – even some of the most specialized ones – (the kind New York froths with) and perceive.
And survive. Oma lived on in him and his instinctual step-by-step incursions into Hot City.
Von was instinctively self-protective, building about him a crustaceous shell consisting primarily of dazzling appearance and rogueish demeanor. To most, he was what met the eye.
What met the eye was a thin, young, moustached, glitteringly blond man with large blue eyes, which seemed to see undiscussable enormities. He was not a clone. He did not wear the uniform.
Von pursued life, flashing his BFA in fine arts like a shield, landing one dreck job after another. First as a draftsman for a big, dumb clothing outlet's advertising department. Then, most notably, in one of those mind-boggling art shops (shoppes), on the Bowery which sold everything from original Dali rip-offs to the most egregious Korean "Cottage-Small-by-a-Waterfall" paint-it-yourselves.
He was unhappy. Horny. Made forays into Greenwich Village and it, and they, made forays into him. He deplored macho behavior. When he found what he thought of as "Dirty Czech" rising up in him he suppressed it, manfully as the manful action he sought to suppress.
He would not play Topstud. With women or with men. No matter how often they asked for it, how compellingly.
He met people with names, and faces like the fruits and flowers. He met Ham Johann. Ham was a nice, warm, unthreatening person who asked nothing of Von except the salubrious sort of friendship almost never experienced by men who aren't fucking each other.
And seldom by those who are. Ham Johann: Good, kind, of uncertain age.
The best possible sort of friend Von could have in his state of almost- suspended animation.
Ham had pretensions to being an editor, and a writer, and a student of belles-lettres. He had worked hard at all of these, had succeeded, failed, succeeded, failed. When Von met him in the deep black hot night of a place called the Firehouse – ask any student of Manhattan mores about the Firehouse – Ham was in a statte of advanced funk, having, once again, resolutely failed.
Ham Johann was a great big sonofabitch with shoulders like andirons and a disctinct resemblance to Sean Connery (without his rug). The kind of company Ham usually kept frequently viewed him – at least – through a haze. Such was the gay life of Manhattan.
Von and Ham could look right into and right past each other. Each was a window through which the other saw amazing vistas. Foreign lands. Then, together, they took that one false step and were sucked into hell.
Von in 2011.
Yeah, well. "Garrick" has made his point. Hell is a City, and Ham and I were the inhabitants. We thought we saw each other clearly. We didn't.
I barely survived this experience, still have a silver plate in my skull as a result.
I have regrets. Regrets that I kept obsessing on my grandmom. Regrets that I allowed my mother to mess over my environment with her Catholic cant.
Regrets that I let Garrick and his Poison Pansies, both male and female, jerk me up, and let me down HARD.
We all saw the same things. We should have got the fuck outta there, while the getting was good.
The stairwell was very dark. Halfway up there was a long window, so dirted-over with Brooklyn grime it might as well have been wallboard.
The stairwell was always cold. It was a funnel; funnels are always cold. Things run through funnels to their destination.
The stairwell knew it was a funnel, to funnel people, and thoughts, and things, to the top, where the action was.
Oustide on Smith Street Ham and Von took turns trying to make the key unlock the door. The door fought them. The key knew it was the door's key, and aided and abetted the door. Ham threw the force of his 190-pound-plus solidity behind that damned key and threw the lock.
They stumbled in, our of Puerto Rico-on-the-Gowanus, into a dead, benumbed, florid dream. The stairs were steep, with broad steps and balustrades chipped and scarred by years of industrial traffic up and down. The building had probably gone up in the 1880s as an office building. In the years between it had been absolutely everything.
On the walls leading up to the third floor were sheetings of bizarre, varyingly dirty 1940s wallpaper, featuring erotic-looking lilies in bloom, and vines. Vines entwined with lilies with an overlay of dirt. Vera Hruba Ralston would have worn a dress with that pattern.
Von, always receptive to the visually bizarre, fell back.
"Holy God! Look at that terminal wallpaper!"
"It reminds me of bordello upholstery fabric," growled Ham.
Von was Von, the same Von who didn't like hot feet, but much older. Von. Still skinny, still Czech. His father was still grousing about Von being a sissy-boy. Now, in the Seventies, Von didn't give two shits.
He didn't want to look like a snotnose Czech kid from Pennsylvania. To this end he affected transformations upon his person; he did not wear flannels or heavy work jeans except in the dead of winter, which, as all New Yorkers know, is dead as you can get. It was not quite dead-of-winter but Von was still wearing his tight little fleece jacket and transparent Indian shirts. Von was always cold but he suffered in style.
Von was a great admirer of Melina Mercouri. He had created for himself a mop of hair very like that of Ms. Mercouri, glittering blond, always on the move. He spent quite a bit of cash to sustain his hair in this state. Over his big, pink, Czech mouth Von had another mop of hair, which in his heart he thought of as "Melina Mercouri's Pussy Hair". It was blond but not as blond as the thatch on top.
He had developed into a very nervous, artistic "type". Like his mother, who had lived in Hollywood. Von bit Melina Mercouri's Pussy Hair nervously and surveyed the staircase. He didn't much feel like climbing up.
Ham was already bounding up the steps. Ham had so much fucking enthusiasm.
Von was in a very Czech mood. "Are these fucking stairs going to be wide enough for the escritoire?"
Ham turned slowly (very slowly) back to Von, a very large bird in flight.
"God, I hope so. Otherwise we may have to install a block and tackle on the roof."
Von was really pissed. Here he was, cold as hell, still dressed for summer (his fault!) , and here was Ham, old Up-and-at-'Em, ready to lease the fucking place.
Ham was big. Ham had big brown eyes like ripe Santa Rosa plums. How do you say "No" to someone like that?
"Ham - we haven't decided to take the place."
Von began to trudge toward Ham up those endless stairs. Ham's plum eyes laughed at Von. They usually did.
At the top, the wallpaper was cleaner, and so was the window on the third floor landing. Now Von could see, in all its glory, the thrilling violence of the Echt-Forties pattern. It was truly vile, and wonderful.
Ham searched for the key the landlord had given him, in the Indian Nonsense Boutique below on the street. Again, the door fought him and the key. Again Ham threw his very defined muscle structure and key and door gave in to brawn.
There it was.
First: a long narrow area with tall windows flooding the space with light. A sink. Obviously this was the soi-disant kitchen, and there was going to be fucking little space for two men to work, doing their
Von was not impressed. "No stove -?"
"No, but we could put a counter there –" Ham gestured at the wall under the windows – "With an electric oven. At least temporarily."
"Knowing how things work with us, that means permanently."
Just to the left beyond the "kitchen" was a narrow door. Von stepped through it.
The room was green and almost violently cold. It was completely surrounded by closets.
Completely surrounded by closets
The green was of a violence commensurate with the cold. One end of the room, the end backing on the landing, contained a large bathroom area, with brackish, crumbling walls. Most unappetizing. There were no windows.
"No windows!" cried Von, almost in pain.
Ham always had a smart answer. "It's an interior room."
"All those closets! Why did they need so many closets?"
Ham, ever energetic, stomped around, throwing open the closet doors. They were all the same vicious green, most of them simple cubicles without shelves. Von was ready to bolt.
"Reminds me of the baths," purred Ham, who had never been to a bathhouse in his life. Ham was not the sort of fella who needed vapors to get laid.
Ham and Von, friends and roommates, trolled out of the depressing Interior Room and out beyond the kitchen, into a very large space. Sunlight was everywhere. Six tall windows, three on the south, three on the east. Fifteen feet above, an antique pressed tin ornamental ceiling in perfect condition presented a florid counterpoint to the masculine lack of adornment in the rest of the space.
Just above the entryway was a sleeping loft constructed of knotty pine. It was unpainted and looked raw and totally unused.
The room was probably forty feet by twenty-five. It was splendid. Von stood as still as Von could stand.
"Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit."
Ham was full of joy. "Did I tell you?"
Von became the manic child he always was, the creature who was never more than a silly little millimeter away from a crafted surface.
"Could I PAINT,"
Excitement gave way to mania. " I could paint! Shit, could I paint!"
"Yes, you could paint."
As always in their measured three-year relationship, paternalism curled smokily around Ham's very defined edges.
Von began to clutch himself, pacing. His fingers dug into the fleece of his vest. "Too bad it's so cold, with all that sun."
"ARE you cold?"
Behind the Indian boutique, on their side of Smith Street, was a large vegetable market, featuring the kind of healthy all-Italian vegetables only grown in New Jersey with New Jersey nightsoil.
Von took a deep breath and spit essence of comidas y criollas back into the street through the opened window.
"ANYTHING is better than Union City, with your mother."
Ham sighed. "Oh, poor mother."
Von and Ham's mother were not an item. Poor Mother -! The maddened arch of Von's bushy Czech (non-Melina) brows told Ham that sooner away from Mother, much, much better. Mother was sweet but very dotty.
They walked into the Indian boutique and signed the lease. Two years at two hundred dollars a month.
There was time when there was a place called the Firehouse right in the Middle of the World, one of New York's many, the world called SoHo. The Firehouse was a real live Ball. For three halcyon years the Very Beautiful People besported themselves there. Finally Italians who lived in sullen splendor to the immediate west and the immediate east got tired of the Faggots, and the Fag Hags, and the Spades, and the New Rich with their ladies, and the Gutter Trash who made weekend nights at the Firehouse a little too lively for Aunt Angelina on Thompson Street.
They firebombed the Firehouse. But not before Von and Ham, the Alpha and the Omega, had a changeling encounter one dark night, the night the kids started screaming along with Mick at the end of "Brown Sugar". Ham took Von home to Union City to live in his house, with Mother in the basement. It was not a love affair. It was an arrangement. Against all odds, it took.
Von was now selling Shit Art in a Shit Art store on Christopher Street. Art was all he ever could see. He looked for it and he did it. As the Children say, he was into it.
Excerpted from We Know Too Much by Dennis Doph Copyright © 2011 by Dennis Doph. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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