Charles Bukowski. Short stories collection
Confession of a Coward
God, she thought lying in bed naked and re-reading Aldington’s Portrait of a Genius, But… he’s an impostor! Not D. H. Lawrence, but her husband – Henry-with his bauble of a belly and all the hair he never combed and the way he stood around in his shorts, and the way he stood naked before the window like an Arabian and howled; and he told her that he was turning into a toad and that he wanted to buy a Buddha and that he wanted to be old and drown in the sea, and that he was going to grow a beard and that he felt as if he was turning into a woman.
And Henry was poor, poor and worthless and miserable and sick. And he wanted to join the Mahler Society. His breath was bad, his father was insane and his mother was dying of cancer.
And besides all this, the weather was hot, hot as hell.
“I’ve got a new system,” he said. “All I need is four or five
grand. It’s a matter of investment. We could travel from track to track in a trailer.”
She felt like saying something blas+ like, “We don’t have four or five grand,” but it didn’t come out. Nothing came out: all the doors were closed and all the windows were down, and it was in the middle of the desert-not even vultures-and they were about to drop the Bomb. She should have stayed in Texas, she should have stayed with Papa-this man is a goon, a gunnysack, a gutless no-nothing in a world of doers. He hides behind symphonies and poetic fancies; a weak and listless soul.
“Are you going to take me to the museum?” she asked.
“They’re having an Art Exhibit.”
“Well, don’t you want to see Van Gogh?”
“To hell with Van Gogh! What’s Van Gogh to me?”
The doors closed again and she couldn’t think of an answer.
“I don’t like museums,” he continued. “I don’t like museum-people.”
The fan was going but it was a small apartment and the heat held as if enclosed in a kettle.
“In fact,” he said, peeling off his T-shirt and standing in just his shorts, “I don’t like any kind of people.”
Amazingly, he had hair on his chest.
“In fact,” he continued, pulling his shorts down and over the end of one foot, “I’m going to write a book some day and call it Confession of a Coward.”
The doorbell rang like a rape, or the tearing of ripe flesh.
“Jesus Christ!” he said like something trapped.
She jumped off the bed, looking very white and unpeeled. Like a candy banana. Aldington and D. H. Lawrence and Taos fell to the floor.
She ran to the closet and began stuffing herself inside the flying cloth of female necessaries.
“Never mind the clothes,” he said.
“Aren’t you going to answer?”
“No! Why should I?”
It rang again. The sound of the bell entered the room and searched them out, scaled and scalded their skins, pummeled them with crawling eyes.
Then it was silent.
And the feet turned with their sound, turning and guiding some monster, taking it back down the stairwell, one two three, 1, 2, 3; and then gone.
“I wonder,” he said, still not moving, “what that was?”
“I don’t know,” she said, bending double at the waist and pulling her petticoat back over her head.
“Here!” she yelled. “Here!” holding her arms out like feelers.
He finished yanking the petticoat off over her head with some distaste.
“Why do you women wear this crap?” he asked in a loud voice.
She didn’t feel an answer was necessary and went over and pulled Lawrence out from under the bed. Then she got into bed with Lorenzo and her husband sat on the couch.
“They built a little shrine for him,” he said.