Joel Called Last Night

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The phone rang. It was midnight. I knew it was Joel. The dreams of his absence were over. This was the reality of hearing that voice I had held silently in my throat all these years to hear.

I picked up the receiver.

Joel said, “It’s St. Nicks and it’s raining.”

I told him not to be a puppet again. Not to be a marionette. To stop being sad. To stop hiding behind words. To stop being so damned elliptical. He could have said, Hi Barry. To start with.

He said instead, “We’re gonna be a starrrrrrr.” Like Fats the mad dummy in the great horror film “Magic.”

I told him to stop it. He should never know the sad stuff that comforted me. That was after him. And after me, in the other sense of the word. I told him I loved him. I asked where he is. Please tell me where he was and had been for so long.

“It’s a sin to kill—-“

No, Joel. Come on. No. Don’t do this to me. Don’t quote titles to me. I know what you say. But it’s like you’re in a PR division of a movie studio, throwing movie posters my way. Of those shadows on the screen even more ephemeral than you.

“Where is everybody?” His voice was young and he sounded didactic. Before him. The words.

I asked him if he ever played kick-the-can. I can do this too, I thought. Remember, Joel, the Twilight Zone episode by George Clayton Johnson? About these ancient things in the Sunnyvale Retirement home, about to die, and to die, but Ernest Truex played the old man who believed if they played kick-the-can, that childhood timeless game, they could be young again; they could be children again—and it took some convincing them, but they did it, the played the game and were children—except for one old man who didn’t believe until far too late…you can’t remember that Joel. But it was beautiful. George Clayton Johnson also co-wrote with William F. Nolan, “Logan’s Run” the great science fiction novel you told me about.

So there, Joel, don’t take all my loves from me. I refuse you that privilege.

He said Jimmy had recommended “Logan’s Run,” not him and he was right, it had slipped my quicksilver sieve trap mind.

How do you know that? I said, you never knew Jimmy.

Joel laughed this chilling laugh he had never laughed before. God, it scared me. But it was him. My soul said so. God, what had happened to him. Had he fallen into a pool of a horror movie?

So, I countered. I told him to stop it; he was not Fats. I would trip him up in his knowledge of my fake world and it worked.

He said, but you never get him out of your mind even though he’s there so seldom.

I told him, no, you’ve referenced the wrong thing. I don’t mean Minnesota Fats…

He interrupted me with, “This is Ames, mister…”

No. Wrong. Not “The Hustler.” No. You cannot read my mind. I had always wanted Joel to read my mind back then, because it was always whispering I love you, I love you…

“Where you least expect it…”

I said, those were Jimmy’s words.

He said in a too old voice, in a too mean voice, ” It’s part of the theme to ‘Candid Camera.’ You’ve done it all your life. Chicken. Pkaw pkaw.”

Stop it. Not so. You are lying. No, you are not.

“Why, Corky, I have no idea what you mean.”

No. It’s not St. Nick’s and it’s not raining. That’s the line in Rod Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” You never saw that. Damn DVDs anyway. They take away personal memories. Stop being Mountain Rivera that night he got a hole beaten in his head you could see his brain through, and stop being a mad ventriloquist doll sitting on the lap of a mad ventriloquist.

“We’re going to be a starrrrrrr-“

I love William Goldman who wrote that line. He also wrote the novel “Boys and Girls Together” which started with the line, “Aaron would not come out.” And ended some six hundred and more pages, “Aaron entered into agony.” He wrote lots more novels and movies than most people believe or know. Rod Serling was my god. And Ray Bradbury. And Richard Matheson. And Charles Beaumont. And the casino siteleri best dedication of any book ever was the one to “Logan’s Run” which Jimmy recommended. Not you. And Harper Lee—don’t have the audacity to tell me it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. You killed me and you’ve no right to haunt me. You hear me? So don’t go all moral on me. And so damned literary. Your dad was a college English teacher. You don’t know this stuff cause it’s too low brow, so don’t bump your noggin on the ceiling as you bend over some more in condescending out the door.

I’m sending Joel away. God. What is happening here?

“Which me you want? The real, prosaic me, the ethereal me, the dream of tomorrow me, the send me back to yesterday so we can be together forever me? Which you want? Where is Everybody?”

They drove their Chevys to the levees….

“..but the levees were dry…..”

And they’re singing, this’ll be the day that I—

“Can’t say it, can you?”

I can. It’s what I’ve been wanting for a million years, so we can—

”ComeTogether’ was an awful film.”

Hey, you just can’t come kicking a fellow’s private memory canon around like that, just break the windows in his brain and start a fire with his books and smash his TV screen like this—where the hell have you been all these years? Who are you to tear open the Band-Aids I put over the wounds?

“Where is Everybody? The title of the first Twilight Zone that was broadcast, but not the first they made. It starred Earl Holliman and it was written by Rod Serling, who won many awards including the prestigious Peabody Award for ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’ and I never saw anything in my life that said me like that did, and the next episode and the next…”

“You wanna go to Homewood? It’ s Walking Distance. Or how about Willoughby, but that wouldn’t be right for you—that’s eternal summer there and you’re no Huck Finn…”

“What have you been doing?”

Nothing.

“Wanna talk about anything?”

No. Not really.

“You been waking up tired, you been looking to see….”

Steven Grossman. The only album he ever made, I think, “Caravan Tonight.”

“You were jacking, weren’t you?”

No.

“You don’t know your lonely hunter heart is screaming out, tell him, this is Joel, this is God, this is where you get to finally be a part of something…..”

THAT GREEN AND CRAZY SUMMER WHEN FRANKIE WAS 13 AND NOT A MEMBER OF ANYTHING. Please..Joel…please….

“You were jerking, weren’t you?”

All right, Fats, yeah so what’s it to ya?

“Which Fats you have in mind?”

The mad dummy in “Magic” by William—-

“Goldman.”

Stop it, whoever this is—–

“You know it’s me, buddy.”

Your voice was sweet as cotton candy and smooth and soft and friendly as a lake in the mountains, soothing.

“Wanna know the truth?”

No.

“I’ll make you tell me if you don’t tell me you were jacking off….”

All right, all right, then, yes.

“Cum?”

Yes.

“And you cried, didn’t you? It made you want to tear the years up and rip them into tiny pieces of calendars and come rushing back to me, because you CAN’T STAND IT ONE MORE SECONNNNNNDDDDDDDD—

All right, Joel, make fun of me. You never did before. Everyone else did and does though. It’s like old home week here too. In a multiplicity of ways.

“Don’t you tell your Joel what to do and what not to do.”

What the hell you going to do, pal o’ mine, ditch me? Tell me my time on the friend meter has expired, make me die each time the phone rings and then die again when it’s not you? Make me check the mailbox every day and pray God..And there’s nothing from you—not ever—not fuckin’ ever—

“I’ve fucked lots of girls along the way…”

And you had some hard times, and some mean times and some bad times and some sad times. Yeah, I know, Fritz the Joel Cat. I know. And I will hang up now.

“I won’t call back.”

Wait. Please. Wait. Don’t go.

“You slot oyna have something you been itchin’ to tell me and before I ask what that obvious oh I love you Joel I can’t live without you oh there is nothing in the world I think of but you, tell me when you tickled your pickle just now, for all of us here who can only see the June Taylor dancers and awayyyyyyyyy we go, did you cum?”

I said it.

“Does it get you hot to say to Joel, to JOEL, you came?”

No.

“Why not?”

It’s as exciting as having a chart of the major arteries and a razor blade with which to cut them, it is as stimulating as open heart surgery, it is as sexual as a fat old man who runs the place where I work who kills his slaves for the sheer hell of it with his “push and shove, push and shove” and no magic time will kill the ache, there is nothing to kill the thirst, maybe a dream would help but I would like to see more things than poverty come down the chimneys of poor kids’ houses on Christmas Eve, I want to be the biggest gift giver of all time, and I want to put flowers on Algernon’s grave and I want Gil Favor and Neil Brock and Richard Kimble and I want comic books when late I think of Cliffordville and I want to catch the next bus out of town, and I want to walk not too fast or too slow and when I find a rooming house to fill a vacant room, remember windows look out, but they also look in——

“God, man, the whole magilla. You are a walking dictionary of other people’s words. Look, kid, take two cigars; they’re big.”

NO. NO. DON’T TAKE MY WORDS FROM ME.

” Them’s ain’t your words, buddy boy. That phrase you just said—from Lenny Bruce, supposedly when the decent people were slowly murdering him at their leisure, that one, for instance. At least according to the movie which would be “Lenny,” based on the play by Julian Barry; film made by Bob Fosse with Dustin Hoffman as Lenny, while Cliff Gorman played him in the surreal play, though the film opted to go for a straight forward, mostly, biopic..And that bring me back to, did you cum?”

I need these words. I envelop you and me in these words. They are talismans. They are magic things to me. Don’t mock them—-

” ‘It just sits there and mocks me.’ Said by Jack Warden. “The Lonely.” Script by Rod Serling. Rod and Jack were in the paratroopers in WW II. But beyond that, did you cum, did you cum good, did you come super good? Cause if you can’t tell me you cum good, then perhaps you can’t come.”

Oh, I come better with you baby than with anyone else in the whole world. Stop it, Lenny. ‘ Peggy Ann Snow Peggy Ann Snow Please Let Me Follow Wherever You Go’, take please my little wooden heart before it’s too laaaattttteeeeeee…Corky, the poet of secret sorrow, in love with Peggy Ann Snow, girl of his dreams in high school, now these long years later when Corky is gone quite mad and he and Fats are dying, she finds his wooden heart he left outside her door—the wooden Valentine he made for her in high school but never had the courage to give her—girls like her never went with boys like him… and she loved Corky and wants him, tosses the wooden Valentine up into the air..freeze frame-or it’ll be too lateeeeeeee.

And Dandelion Wine’s Doug Spaulding knew he was alive on that summer morning when he burst through a spider’s web..And Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s Is A Friend of Mine—great Bradbury story, TV play, about a failed writer—played in the TV production by the truly superb Fred Gwynne. Who wrote all of Dickens books from memory and tried to believe himself Dickens because he was nothing, but a compendium of what he read….

“And after throwing off all his tons of failed manuscripts to the wind…”

He became himself. Oh come on, Joel, don’t do this to me.. Don’t make me be me. I’m you. I’ve hidden in you all my life. We have words…words can be magic..I’m no good at them or life or friendship or even death really..But Joel you were so good at life and words and poetry and being a friend and not screwing up canlı casino siteleri and I love you, my god, kid…let me hold you…hey…Joel, who’s your best buddy? You, Joel, you’re my best buddy.

“‘In Praise of Pip’ spoken by the never to be equaled Jack Klugman, by Rod Serling, first writer to touch your soul and again and again and you’ve never forgotten him. God forever bless Rod Serling. Who somehow knew.”

Right, Joel. You know my heart.

Joel?

Joel?

Hello?

Did I pass the test?

Hey, Joel, what’s ya know kackamo?

You follow the evening star if you’re lost, it always points to home. That’s what Clark Gable tells Marilyn Monroe at the end of “The Misfits”—oddly enough the last movie scene for both of them. He died shortly after from a heart attack. She died a while later during making another sex comedy…

Joel..

Don’t go away. Don’t. I’ve been bleeding inside all these lonely years. I feel like I’m Jack Klugman in “Passage for Trumpet” so longing and so tired of being a failure–God, it’s been fuckin’ awful, Joel—-“come Saturday morning, I’m going away with my friend, we’ll Saturday laugh more than half of the day—“

“‘We’ll travel for miles in our Saturday smiles'”—

“The Sterile Cuckoo” theme. Academy Award wsinner.

Then a long horrible endless silence during which I stopped breathing and my heart almost pounded out of my chest.

Finally I said, “Sid at the deli was Sid at the bottom.” For no reason, just thought of it. It’s an elegant sentence in the middle of “Boys and Girls Together.”

Still silence. I would not cry. I refused to cry.

And then—and then—

“Barry?”

YOU’RE THERE. I ALMOST DIED. I THOUGHT YOU HAD GONE AGAIN—Oh thank you, Joel, on my hands and knees thank you…

“I’m lost, Barry.”

Tell me where you are, Joel.

“They don’t remember me.”

No one remembers me either. Not ever. But how could anyone not remember you? You always had so many friends.

“Going home, Mr. Dundee?”

“Going home Officer Flarrity.”

Conclusion of “Night of the Meek” in which Art Carney gets to be Santa Claus forever, and rides his sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer over the heads of two people who suddenly believed in miracles.

Tell me where you are, Joel.

“In your heart. Open it up. I’m in there. And I will be better than you remember. You gave up your magic words, Barry. We won’t need them.”

Why ask for the stars?

“We have each other. Here’s lookin’ at you kid. Go, now. Take off your shirt and get the knife.”

Hey Joel, don’t go away. Hey, Joel, that would kill us. Like in “Magic.” I want to live. I want the you here and now. Tell me where you are.

“But you wouldn’t want me now.”

Come on, you’re Joel, my love, my friend, my buddy, my best pal—always were and always are and always will be….

“I’m in you all this time. All you had to do was open your heart up. I am not on the phone with you. I am throwing my voice—-” Joel, listen to me, give me your phone number, tell me your address, what city are you in? Anything. You need a friend, Joel. I don’t know why, but you do. Let me help.

“Would you do that, Barry?”

“‘Womb to tomb.'”

“Birth to earth.”

Tony.

“Riff.”

“West Side Story”

There was a smile deeply in Barry’s heart as Joel told him and he wrote down what Joel said and afterwards, dressing hurriedly; Joel was only on the other side of the same State after all, all this time. And Barry was discovering something new in himself, what stepped up on that final top rung was a visitor known by a quaint name that you don’t hear much anymore, or when you do hear it, all the resonance of it is taken away, all the character and strength—but now, it sounds good and strong and full of a muscular heart—the word in question, being—salvation.

He was going home. And maybe so was Joel. And they would see each other. And just that, maybe so, would make everything have been worthwhile. The whole thing could shatter into a million pieces. But, was it worth it? he thought as he got his toiletries and placed the in the bag compartment. And made ready. By God and Christ and hell and damn!!!

Yes!

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