The zoo cafe is practically empty. Harry is laughing like he’s just discovered ice cream. “This is wiggy, man. You—it’s good to see you.  Long time.”

Long time for sure, longer than I thought he’d be alive.

“You know…you’re important to me Harry. You’ve always been like a—”

“Yeah, me too. And you—the same, no change. Henry just like ten–no–wow– thirteen years ago. You know, I always…if it wasn’t for Michelle…” He looks right at me and smiles.

“A lot of things if not for Michelle—but no, not that.  Not like that. Not my thing. You know that. It’s something else.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You don’t know what I’m capable of.” He laughs.

I’m here in Central Park at 9:30 in the morning on a Tuesday in January with Harold Francis Moon. “You were a piece of ass,” he says. “A real piece. I remember you walking into somebody’s kitchen—Lynn, yeah it was Lynn’s place on Twenty-fourth Street. There were about four or five of us sitting around the table, we were all ready to fuck you.  Me, Lynn, Dee, Larry.  Wow, yeah.”

“I was fifteen.  What did I know?”

“Was Michelle any good?”

“Are you kidding—we were both barely out of puberty—what do you think?  We fucked anytime someone’s parents were out. When we weren’t fucking we were fighting. After a fight we’d stay up till dawn psychoanalyzing each other. If Michelle had bad phone with her mother I couldn’t touch her. Then the junk. I got bored. Candice, on the other hand…thinks sex solves everything.”

“Are you going to marry her?”

“Marry her? What for? No more kids, that’s for sure.  And I don’t want to be ‘married’. Besides, she’s old enough to be my—aunt.”

“I wouldn’t do it again. My mother was drunk one night and she gave me a glass of beer–she was drinking vodka but didn’t think that would be motherly so she gave me beer– and told me, I guess I was about ten, that she never wore a wedding ring. She said it made her feel sexy. She took it off right after the ceremony so she could really enjoy her honeymoon and only put it on for their anniversary when they got dressed to go out. I remember once on their anniversary he bought her a corsage, treated himself to a good cigar and tucked a silk handkerchief into his pocket. She put on some fancy sequin thing, red lipstick, put her hair up. All so lovey-dovey right up to the end. Next day she left. So what’s the old guy supposed to do? Nothing. He faded. More like he was snuffed out. I used to see her sometimes walking around downtown, maybe three years, five years after she left. Just walking around like she still existed. I don’t know if she recognized me but I sure recognized her. The last time was ten years later. Along comes this eighteen-year-old kid in a stolen car, runs a light, and boom. Man. It was like she left a second time. But this time she was gone, really gone. That’s when I took off. I just took off, you know? Who gave a shit? But speaking of beer…”

I rooted around in my wallet for a joint. “Here. We can get some beer—there’s a Korean’s on Madison, but I need a liquor store.”

“And here,” Harry says, reaching into his pocket, shaking a couple of capsules out of a cigarette pack into his palm.  We gulp them down with the last of our coffee.

“What is it?”


“Nice.  Let’s go.”

We find an open liquor store and buy a liter of dark Jamaican rum and take it, along with two cans of beer, to the East River. We find a bench and sit in silence for a while. We watch the joggers and red Pepsi Cola sign across the river in Jersey, the water painted with the neon and sun rippling into each other. Everything is good.

“I used to come here a lot when I wanted to get away from Michelle—you know? Now I go to Chinatown. Or the movies.  It’s never far enough… long enough. You know what I mean? The first time I ever got drunk was on Ripple. I was 10. You want this?”

“Waste not, want not,” he says, zigzagging for the tiny roach pinched between my thumb and forefinger.

I press it into his thumb, “…Ha ha! I just thought of something—‘Nomads with gonads,’ hah, hah, hah……Do you ever think about killing yourself?”

“What’s to think about? It’s past thinking, it’s what I do.”

“I think about it all the time. I think about jumping off a roof. I once had this neighbor—she did it naked. You know? Naked at birth, naked at death? Full circle. Her husband was a Wall Street lawyer. They had a Bassett hound named Godfrey. It was like their child. They went everywhere with that dog. She wore a lot of gold jewelry and got in and out of the BMW they kept in the garage like she was debarking for the Oscars. I found out later that her husband was enjoying himself with some office chick. I didn’t see him around—a couple of months maybe. I figured he must have left her for the office chick because she’d been losing it for weeks. She became anorexic, her face got all pocked and sunken. She’d hang around the lobby talking to the doorman and anyone who walked in or out of the building, getting thinner and thinner. Then one morning the super thought someone’s air conditioner fell out a window. He looked outside and it was her, naked—what was recognizable. She’d gone up to the roof and jumped—six stories down. I didn’t see it, only heard about it. But I played it over and over in my head, imagining all the various moments from the instant she made the move to final impact and discovery. I know I would change my mind on the way down. I’m sure of it. Do you ever look at the subway tracks and think about jumping just as the train’s pulling in?  Sometimes I try to imagine blowing my brains out, or tying a rope around my neck and hanging from the sprinkler pipe. I think about dangling there, about being dead, being nothing—the shock of whoever finds me, Candice crying. Anyway, I’d never do that to Stella. Her mother’s practically a bag lady. I can’t split until she’s on her own. She’s going forward and I’m going back. Beware the gluttony of free choice.”

“Who said that?”


“And how is Stella?”

“Great.  All her friends take drugs and drink, smoke.  She doesn’t do any of that. That’s what her shoddy parents do. She’s a vegetarian. She said she’s not a hippy but not a preppy either. Oh yeah—Candice declared we should take her out of public school. A girl handed her a bag of dope and said, ‘Here, hold this.’ She was totally freaked. She told me not to tell the girl’s mother. Right. They sent the girl to some school for fucked up kids and Candice ended up paying for Stella to go to private school. She’s trying for a scholarship and early admissions to Syracuse. The Art Department. I have no doubt she’ll get it. She doubts, but I don’t. I hope we’re okay before she takes off. Because…then, you know, I’m gone.”


“I don’t know. India, Nepal, Morocco, the circus. Who knows?”

Harry leans into me. His wet mustache stinks from beer and cigarettes, everything is spinning—weed, speed, rum and disaster. I’m in too much synch with the river’s undulations. I make for the railing but can’t throw up. Harry puts his arm around my shoulders and rubs my back and neck.


He takes my chin with two fingers, his face lit by the red water. I wonder if I look as pathetic as his expression is telling me.


“Okay enough. I’m freezing.  Let’s go. I need some pizza or something.”


Ray’s, on Seventy-Sixth and Third. It’s getting dark. We study the pizzas in the case: Broccoli, spinach, pepperoni, white pizza, eggplant, pineapple and ham.

“Pineapple and ham?” I say, grimacing.

“Pizza Ha-va-ee,” he says, his laugh weaker, his smile frozen.  “Dare I say it?”


Dole it out!”  He barely gets the words out, his shoulders shaking with hilarity.

A short guy, about twenty-five with a pointy goatee, a ponytail and a beret, is standing next to me. He pokes his finger into the opening of the glass, touching the edge of a broccoli pizza with his black-painted nail. This pisses me off. How could it not?

“Why are you doing that, man?”

“I feel like it.”

“Would you like it if someone put their hands on your food?”

“I don’t like broccoli…do you?”


“Then eat it.”

“I already had broccoli today.”

“Why don’t you mind your own business?”

“This is my business.”

“You should think about whose business you go nosing into.”

“Oh, excuse me. Heh, heh—Rambo the Pizza Poker. Should I be careful?”

Harry’s laughing—so loud the place gets quiet, but only long enough for Rambo to shoot him a look, and everybody goes back to what they were doing.

“What’s funny, asshole?”

He is. Don’t you think?”

“Dead ain’t funny.”

“That’s a groovy hat, man.  Did your mother buy it for you?”

The man behind the counter slips the slices onto paper plates.  “Do you want this to go?”

I tell him we’ll walk with it.


Harry took one small bite and now he’s holding the pizza like a fashion accessory.  An icy gust blows us down Third Avenue. “Man—what an asshole.” I’m yelling above the wind and traffic. “Why does he have to put all that energy into bullshit?“ ‘Cause bullshit is all he’s got,” he says, throwing his arms up in the air. The pizza flaps onto his sleeve. He sort of wobbles into his knees and almost knocks over a woman with a shopping cart full of D’Agostino bags. We turn onto Seventy-Fifth.

I’m pulling on his jacket for balance, laughing. “He could’ve really fucked us up.”

“So—this Candice—It’s got to be more than sex and money.”

“It’s not normal. Who knows why we do it. She puts lipstick on her nipples. And duck sauce on…”

“Yeah? And?”

“That’s as much as you need to know.”

“Okay, I got it. Like the first year or two…”

“‘No—it’s really over the top.”

“She must be something—Don’t know her, but I can see why she’s so agreeable.”

Both—always up for it.”

“Sounds fatal …”

“Pure Death—”

“I gotta sit. Down.” He spills sideways onto the cement, leaning onto his elbow, snickering, the pizza face-down. “Pure Death, heh.”

“Oh, come on—shit—it’s cold. Let’s get warm. I want some soup or something. The subway’ll be warm. Come on.” I nudge him with my toe. “Some soup.” I pull on his arm. “Downtown.” Dead weight. “Come on.” I prop him up against a doorway.

Rambo is back, a bad memory pressing me against the wall with his chest and groin, a butterfly knife springs open two inches from my neck.  Another guy slips behind Harry, grabbing his arms. He struggles free, slides his arm under Rambo’s chin and grabs the hand holding the knife. The other guy grabs Harry from behind and stabs him in the side of the neck. He falters and turns. Rambo grabs Harry’s mouth but Harry works his bent arms like an oil well, aiming his elbows at the guys ribs and his fists toward his chin. The guy is slashing at Harry’s throat, blood erupting from a hole, turning black on the army jacket. In the blur it seems like pieces of him, never meant to be seen, are escaping from his neck. He turns toward me and falls, banging his head.

She’s crossing the street from the opposite direction, brown hair under a violet hat, lavender dress, mint green Chevy running the light, trying to form the word stuck in his mouth, his hand out as if he could reach her from that distance—Ma!

He’s out. Suddenly the street is empty except for the two of us, heaped together on the ground.



We’re speeding down Second Avenue, sirens shoving traffic out of the way. The emergency light sweeps the walls, pulsing red against Harry’s deflating brain. The scarf I tied around his neck lies bleeding on the floor, replaced by bandages. The EMS guys are trying to plug him up, or whatever it is they’re doing. They zap him, check the results then zap him again.

The cops push everyone out of the way wheeling him into the Emergency Room. They take my statement and say they want me down at the precinct the next day to get more details and look at some pictures.

Harry looks dead.


Bonny Finberg’s work is included in the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, five Unbearables anthologies and Lost and Found: Stories from Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. Her fiction, poetry, photography and reviews are included in Van Gogh’s Ear, the Brooklyn Rail, Evergreen Review and A Gathering of Tribes. Her chapbook, How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era was published by Sisyphus Press. Her most recent book is Déjà vu. This is an excerpt from her novel, Kali’s Day, due out 2013.