Appears in The Bell Tolls for No One

Charles Bukowski

Note: Bukowski wrote a lot of these types of stories for "the skin mags," as he called them. Some were quickly written throw-away pieces done only for a check, others more thought-provoking, some downright shocking. A reference to this piece is contained in a letter to Carl Weissner (November 28, 1978) in the second volume of Bukowski letters, Living on Luck: "Got proofs from Hustler on my story "Break-In". I discovered an error, I had a 32 magnum in there and there isn't any such thing so I phoned the copy editor and told him to change it to 38 magnum and while I was talking to him I learned something: Larry Flynt ain't just kidding about his religious stance. The copy editor told me that my story had several "god damns" in it and that Larry wouldn't allow God to be used like that in his mag so my people instead of saying "god damn" would have to end up saying "damn." Also 20 other lines deleted."


     It was one of the outer rooms of the first floor. I stumbled on something - I think it was a footstool - and I almost went down. I banged into a table to hold myself up.
     "That's right," said Harry, "wake up the whole fucking household."
     "Look," I said, "what are we going to get here?"
     "Keep your fucking voice down!"
     "Harry, do you have to keep saying fucking?"
     "What are you, a fucking linguist? We're here for cash and jewels."
     I didn't like it. It seemed like total insanity. Harry was crazy; he'd been in and out of madhouses. Between that and doing time he'd spent three-quarters of his adult life in lockup. He'd talked me into the thing. I didn't have much resistance.
     "This damn country," he said. "there are too many rich pricks having it too easy." Then Harry banged into something. "Shit!" he said.
     "Hello? What is it?" We heard a man's voice coming from upstairs.
     "We're in trouble," I said. I could feel the sweat dripping down from my armpits.
     "No," said Harry, "he's in trouble."
     "Hello," said the man upstairs.
     "Who's down there?"
     "Come on," Harry told me.
     He began walking up the stairway. I followed him. There was a hallway, and there was a light coming from one of the rooms. Harry moved quickly and silently. Then he ran into the room. I was behind him. It was a bedroom. A man and a woman were in separate beds.
     Harry pointed his .38 Magnum at the man. "All right, buddy, if you don't want your balls blown off, you'll keep it quiet. I don't play."
     The man was about 45, with a strong and imperial face. You could see he had had it his own way for a long time. His wife was about 25, blond, long hair, truly beautiful. She looked like an ad for something or other.
     "Get the hell out of my house!" the man said.
     "Hey," Harry said to me, "you know who this is?"
     "It's Tom Maxson, the famous news broadcaster, Channel 7. Hello Tom."
     "Get out of here! NOW!" Maxson barked.
     He reached out and picked up the phone. "Operator-"
     Harry ran up and slammed him across the temple with the butt of his .38. Maxson fell across the bed. Harry put the phone back on the hook.
     "You bastards, you hurt him!" cried the blond. "You cheap, cowardly bastards!"
     She was dressed in a light-green negligee. Harry walked around and broke one of the shoulder straps. He grabbed one of the woman's breasts and pulled it out. "Nice, ain't it?" he said to me. Then he slapped her across the face, hard.
     "You address me with respect, whore!" Harry said. Then he walked around and sat Tom Maxson back up. "And you: I told you I don't play."
     Maxson revived. "You've got the gun; that's all you've got."
     "You fool. That's all I need. Now I'm gonna get some cooperation from you and your whore or it's going to get worse."
     "You cheap punk!" Maxson said.
     "Just keep it up, keep it up. You'll see," said Harry.
     "You think I'm afraid of it couple of cheap hoods?"
     "If you're not, you ought to be."
     "Who's your friend? What does he do?"
     "He does what I tell him."
     "Like what?"
     "Like, Eddie, go kiss that blond!"
     "Listen, you leave my wife out of this!"
     "And if she screams, I put a bullet in your gut. I don't play. Go on, Eddie, kiss the blond-"
     The blond was trying to hold up the broken shoulder strap with one hand.
     "No," she said, "please-"
     "I'm sorry, lady, I gotta do what Harry tells me."
     I grabbed her by the hair and got my lips on hers. She pushed against me, but she wasn't very strong. I'd never kissed a woman that beautiful before.
     "All right, Eddie, that's enough."
     I pulled away. I walked around and stood next to Harry. "Why, Eddie," he said, "what's that thing sticking out in span of you?"
     I didn't answer.
     "Look, Maxson," said Harry, "your wife gave my man a hard-on! How the hell are we supposed to get any work done around here? We came for cash and jewelry."
     "You wise-ass punks make me sick. You're no better than maggots."
     "And what have you got? The six o'clock news. What's so big about that? Political pull and an asshole public. Anybody can read the news. I make the news."
     "You make the news? Like what? What can you do?"
     "Any amount of numbers. Ah, let me think. How about, TV newscaster drinks burglar's piss? How's that sound to you?"
     "I'd die first."
     "You won't. Eddie, go get me a glass. There's one there on the nightstand. Bring me that."
     "Look," said the blond, "please take our money. Take our jewels. just go away. What's the need for all this?"
     "It's your loudmouthed, spoiled husband, lady. He's getting on my fucking nerves."
     I brought Harry the glass, and he unzipped his pants and began to piss into it. It was a tall glass, but he filled it to the brim. Then he zipped up and moved toward Maxson.
     "Now you're gonna drink my piss, Mr. Maxson."
     "No way, bastard. I'd die first."
     "You won't die. You'll drink my piss, all of it!"
     "Never, punk!"
     "Eddie," Harry nodded to me, "see that cigar on the dresser mantle?"
     "Get it. Light it. There's a lighter there."
     I got the lighter and lit the cigar. It was a good one. I puffed on it. My best cigar. Never had anything like it.
     "You like the cigar, Eddie?" Harry asked me.
     "It's great, Harry."
     "OK. Now you walk over to the whore and get that breast out from under the broken shoulder strap. Pull it out. I'm gonna hand this jerk-off this glass full of my piss. You hold that cigar next to the nipple of the lady's breast. And if this jerk-off doesn't drink all of this piss down to the very last drop, I want you to burn that nipple off with that cigar. Understand?"
     I got it. I walked around and pulled out Mrs. Maxson's breast. I felt dizzy looking at it- never had I seen anything like that.
     Harry handed Tom Maxson the glass of piss. Maxson looked over at his wife and tilted the glass and began to drink.
     The blond was trembling all over. It felt so good to hold her breast.
     The yellow piss was going down the newscaster's throat. He stopped a moment at the Halfway mark. He looked sick.
     "All of it," said Harry. "Go ahead; it's good to the last drop."
     Maxson put the glass to his lips and drained the remainder. The glass fell from his hand.
     "I still think you're a couple of cheap punks," gasped Maxson.
     I was still standing there holding the blond's breast. She yanked it away.
     "Tom," said the blond, "will you stop antagonizing these men? You're doing the most foolish thing possible!"
     "Oh, playing the winners, eh? Is that why you married me? Because I was a winner?"
     "Of course that's why she married you, asshole," said Harry. "Look at that fat gut on you. Did you think it was for your body?"
     "I've got something," said Maxson. "That's why I'm Number One in newscasting. You don't do that on luck."
     "But if she hadn't married Number One," said Harry, "she would have married Number Two."
     "Don't listen to him, Tom," said the blond.
     "It's all right," said Maxson, "I know you love me."
     "Thank you, Daddy," said the blond.
     "It's all right, Nana,"
     "'Nana,'" said Harry, "I like that name, 'Nana.' That's class, Class an ass. That's what the rich get while we get the scrubwomen."
     "Why don't you join the Communist Party?" asked Maxson.
     "Man, I don't care to Wait Centuries for something that might not finally work. I want it now."
     "Look, Harry," I said, "all we're doing is standing around and holding conversations with these people. That doesn't get us anything. I don't care what they think. Let's get the loot and split. The longer we stay, the sooner we draw the heat."
     "Now, Eddie," he answered, "that's the first good bit of sense I've heard you speak in five or six years."
     "I don't care," said Maxson. "You're just the weak feeding off of the strong. If I weren't here, you'd hardly exist. You remind me of people who go around assassinating political and spiritual leaders. It's the worst kind of cowardice; it's the easiest thing to do with the least talent available. It comes from hatred and envy; it comes from rancor and bitterness and ultimate stupidity; it comes from the lowest scale of the human ladder; it stinks and it reeks and it makes me ashamed to belong to the same tribe."
     "Boy," said Harry, "that was some speech. Even piss can't stop your flow of bullshit. You're one spoiled turd. You realize how many people there are on this earth without a chance? Because of where and how they were born? Because they had no education? Because they never had anything and never will have and nobody gives a fuck, and you marry the best body you can find, your age be damned?"
     "Take your loot and go," said Maxson. "All you bastards who never make it have some alibi."
     "Oh, wait," said Harry, "everything counts. We're making now. You don't quite understand."
     "Tom," said the blond, "just give them the money, the jewelry ... let them go ... please get off Channel 7."
     "It's not Channel 7, Nana. It's letting them know. I've got to let them know."
     "Eddie," said Harry, "check the bathroom. Bring back some adhesive tape."
     I walked down the hall and found the bathroom. In the medicine cabinet was a wide roll of adhesive. Harry made me nervous. I never knew what he was going to do. I brought the tape back into the bedroom. Harry was yanking the phone cord out of the wall. "OK," he told me, "shut off Channel 7."
     I got it. I taped his mouth good.
     "Now the hands, the hands in back," said Harry.
     He walked over to Nana, pulled out both of her breasts and looked at them.
     Then he spit in her face. She wiped it off with the bedsheet.
     "OK," he said, "now this one. Get the mouth, but leave the hands loose. I like a little fight."
     I fixed her up.
     Harry got Tom Maxson turned on his side in his bed; he had him facing Nana. He walked over and got one of Maxson's cigars and lit it. "I guess Maxson's right," said Harry. "We are the suckerfish. We are the maggots. We are the slime, and maybe the cowards."
     He took a good pull on the cigar.
     "It's yours, Eddie."
     "Harry, I can't."
     "You can. You don't know how. You've never been taught how. No education. I'm your teacher. She's yours. It's simple."
     "You do it, Harry."
     "No. She'll mean more to you."
     "Because you're such a simple asshole."
     I walked over to her bed. She was so beautiful and I was so ugly I fell as if my whole body was smeared with a layer of shit.
     "Go on," said Harry, "get it on, asshole."
     "Harry, I'm scared. It's not right; she's not mine."
     "She's yours."
     "Look at it like a war. We won this war. We've killed all their machos, all their big-timers, all their heroes. There's nothing left but women and children. We kill the children and send the old women up the road. We are the conquering army. All that's left is their women. And the most beautiful woman of all is ours . . . is yours. She's helpless. Take her."
     I walked up and pulled back the covers. It was as if I had died and was suddenly in heaven, and there was this magical creature in front of me. I took her negligee and ripped it completely off.
     "Fuck her, Eddie!"
     All the curves were absolutely where they were supposed to be. They were there and beyond. It was like beautiful skies; it was like beautiful rivers flowing. I just wanted to look. I was afraid. I stood there, this horn of a thing in front of me. I had no rights.
     "Go ahead," said Harry. "Fuck her! She's the same as any other woman. She plays games, tells lies. She'll be an old woman someday, and other young girls will replace her. She'll even die. Fuck her while she's still there!"
     I pulled at her shoulders, trying to gather her to me. She had gotten strength from somewhere. She pushed against me, pulling her head back. She was completely repulsed.
     "Listen, Nana, I really don't want to do this ... but I do. I'm sorry. I don't know what to do. I want you and I'm ashamed."
     She made a sound through the adhesive on her mouth and pushed against me. She was so beautiful. I didn't deserve that. Her eyes looked into mine. They said what I was thinking: I had no human right.
     "Go ahead," said Harry, "slam it to her! She'll love it."
     "I can't do it, Harry."
     "All right," he said, "you watch Channel 7 then."
     I walked over and sat next to Tom Maxson. We sat side-by-side on his bed. He was making small sounds through the adhesive. Harry walked over to the other bed. "All right, whore, I guess I'll have to impregnate you."
     Nana leaped out of bed and ran toward the door. Harry caught her by the hair, spun her and slapped her hard across the face. She fell against the wall and slid down. Harry pulled her up by the hair and hit her again. Maxson made a louder sound through his adhesive and leaped up. He ran over and butted Harry with his head. Harry gave him a chop along the back of the neck, and Maxson dropped.
     "Tape the hero's ankles," he told me.
     I bound Maxson's feet and shoved him onto his bed.
     "Sit him up," said Harry. "I want him to watch."
     "Look, Harry," I said, "let's get out of here. The longer we stay-"
     "Shut up!"
     Harry dragged the blond back to the bed. She still had on a pair of panties. He ripped them off and threw them at Maxson. The panties fell at his feet. Maxson moaned and began to struggle. I punched him a hard one, deep into the belly.
     Harry took off his pants and undershorts.
     "Whore," he said to the blond, "I'm gonna sink this thing deep into you and you're going to feel it and there's nothing you can do. You'll take all of it! And I'm going to cream deep inside of you!"
     He had her on her back; she was still struggling. He hit her again, hard. Her head fell back. He spread her legs. He tried to work his cock in. He was having trouble.
     "Loosen up, bitch; I know you want it! Lift your legs!"
     He hit her hard, twice. The legs rose.
     "That's better, whore!"
     Harry poked and poked. Finally, he penetrated. He moved it in and out, slowly.
     Maxson began moaning and moving again. I sank another one into his belly.
     Harry began to get up a rhythm. The blond groaned as if in pain.
     "You like it, don't you, whore? It's better turkeyneck than your old man ever gave you, ain't it? Feel it growing?"
     I couldn't stand it. I stood up, took out my cock and began masturbating. Harry was ramming the blond so hard that her head was bouncing. Then he slapped her and pulled out.
     "Not yet, whore. I'm taking my time."
     He walked over to where Tom Maxson was sitting.
     "Look at the SIZE of that thing! And I'm going to put it back into her now and come right inside her, Tommy boy! You'll never be able to make love to your Nana without thinking of me! Without thinking of THIS!"
     Harry put his cock right into Maxson's face, "And I may have her suck me off after I'm finished!"
     Then he turned, went back to the other bed and mounted the blond. He slapped her again and began pumping wildly.
     "You cheap, stinking whore, I'm going to come!"
     Then: "Oh, shit! OH, MY GOD! Oh, oh, oh!"
     He fell down against Nana and lay there. After a moment he pulled out. Then he looked over at me. "Sure you don't want some?"
     "No thanks, Harry."
     Harry began to laugh. "Look at you, fool, you've whacked off!" Harry got back into his pants, laughing.
     "All right," he said, "tape up her hands and ankles. We're gettin' out of here."
     I walked over and taped her up.
     "But, Harry, how about the money and jewels?"
     "We'll take his wallet. I want to get out of here. I'm nervous."
     "But, Harry, let's take it all."
     "No," he said, "just the wallet. Check his trousers. just take the money."
     I found the wallet.
     "There's only $83 here, Harry."
     "We take it and we leave. I'm nervous. I feel something in the air. We have to go."
     "Shit, Harry, that's no haul! We can really clean them out!"
     "I told you: I'm nervous. I feel trouble coming. You can stay. I'm leaving."
     I followed him down the stairway.
     "That son of a bitch will think twice before he insults anybody again," said Harry.
     We found the window we had jimmied open and left the same way. We walked through the garden and out the iron gate.
     "All right," said Harry, "we walk at a casual gait. Light a cigarette. Try to look normal."
     "Why are you so nervous, Harry?"
     "Shut up!"
     We walked four blocks. The car was still there. Harry took the wheel and we drove off.
     "Where we going?" I asked.
     "The Guild Theater."
     "What's playing?"
     "Black Silk Stockings, with Annette Haven."
     The place was down on Lankershim.
     We parked and got out. Harry bought the tickets. We walked in.
     "Popcorn?" I asked Harry.
     "I want some."
     "Get it."
     Harry waited until I got the popcorn, large. We found some seats near the back. We were in luck. The feature was just beginning.

©Linda Lee Bukowski - used with permission