I didn’t know fuck-all about nothin’ the summer I worked as a Shabbos Goy at Cantor’s Regency Hotel and Spa, a tarnished never-was-nothin’ jewel right in the buckle of the Borscht Belt. It may have been a hundred-mile razor cut from Flatbush and the Loews King’s Theatre where I tore 50 cent tickets Friday nights, but with the green trees and fresh mountain air I coulda been in Timbuktu for all I knew.
I was sixteen years old and built like a concrete shithouse with a choice Dion and the Belmonts pompadour, scarred up knuckles and a college school ring I’d lifted from the theatre’s coat check. I wore it on my wedding ring finger as a sort of fuck you to the whole life sentence institution. If my folks’ never-ending title fight of a marriage was any clue of the future waiting for me, I’d take the electric chair any day of the week.
The night before I left, Dicky handed me a Trojan and said, “Joosh broads is easy. Nonnadat Catlicker guilt on dem Talmudical brains.”
I’d copped a feel here and there, but was still cherry as the first day on earth, not an inch of slash to speak of and it looked like the summer was going to go off that way. The big shot husbands ordered me around like a dog; do this, boy; do that; faster! faster! Those are Dunlop tennis rackets, not kindling. Are you deaf or just stupid? In my burgundy blazer with gold piping on the sleeves, I looked like a captain who’d lost his ship. I hated what I was becoming: a worn out stiff like my miserable old man.
I learned to make myself scarce when the men was around and kissed up to the wives, smiling a million-dollar smile every time I schlepped their luggage. Sometimes when they slipped a folded dollar bill into my hand, they gave a squeeze and batted their masqueraded lashes, flashing their yellow teeth like they would devour me whole.
Halfway through the summer, with no tail to chase, I was staring down another endless stretch of lonesome knuckle fucking. I’d pounded my prick so raw it ached every time it shifted in my jockeys.
Fuckface Ira Silverman, the head bellhop, was busy chatting up some skirt like he was Doctor Kildare and told me to take a couple brandy stingers up to 212 and to make it snappy. I was too young to serve booze but couldn’t stand the sight of that hatchet-faced feeb sweet talking the only true prospect I’d seen all week.
The dim hallway stank of cigarettes and a kind of permanent punch-in-the-nose mildew. “Palisades Park” was playing on the transistor radio behind the door and right away I knew something was different, because the old Jews always seemed to be screaming at each other even when they wasn’t. I blew into my palm to check my breath, because you never knew what prize might be waiting behind door number one.
I knocked and a soft voice told me it’s open.
I could have shit myself right there, because in each of the two twin beds a beehived bottle blonde is laying beneath the covers with her perfect naked titties sitting there like snow cones on display at Luna Park. The girl to my right is out cold so I says to the other, bending low with my tray out, “I got your cocktails.”
I can’t take my eyes off her tits and my nuts are about to bust.
“Whatsyername?” she says.
“Frank’s a nice name. I got a uncle Frank upstate somewheres.”
I’m trying not stare at her cans but they’re like magnets pulling my eyes like I’m some hungry cartoon wolf.
“You like them?” she says.
“Yeah,” I tell her. “They’re real pretty.”
She looks at me with blank blue eyes and says, “You got a girl back home?”
“Stag as the day is long,” I say.
“Good,” she says.
I’m so hard you could’ve hung a lantern on my prick that would’ve lit the whole world. I skip right past missionary and picture me and her doing it doggie style and she’s moaning my name like it’s a secret she just discovered.
She takes the Stinger off the tray, offering the other drink with a twist of her delicate wrist.
It’s finally happening, I think. This is it!
She clicks my glass with hers and says, “May the good Lord take a liking to you…but not too soon!”
She downs her drink in one swallow.
I do the same and it burns like Sunday morning hellfire.
“You’re not Jewish?” I say.
“Ever see a Jewish nun?”
Her words don’t make no sense, but my hard-on knows enough to curl up and die. Her tits may as well be behind glass in a museum for all the good they’ll do me.
She says, “Me an’ Misty is joining the Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin.”
She’s maybe 21 and don’t look nothing like Sister Angela with her pushed in face and beard hairs and I ask her why she’d do a thing like that.
Del Shannon’s “Runaway” is playing and it is the saddest song I ever heard. Their two pink Samsonites sit packed by the door and I want to tell her not to do it, the church will take her life and won’t give nothin’ back. I just want her to stay with me and never leave.
“Why?” I ask.
“I’m tired,” she says.
“Let me go with you,” I say.
She laughs, kinda sad like.
And then I say, “You got an address for the convent? Maybe I can write you a letter or something.”
She smiles a hurting smile and says, “You’re real cute, Frank. If I’d’a met you a year ago we’d of had a lot of fun.”
Jonathan Papernick is the author of two collections of short stories: The Ascent of Eli Israel, and There Is No Other. His fiction has appeared in Post Road, Green Mountains Review, Nerve, Blunderbuss, Exile: The Literary Quarterly, Confrontation, and elsewhere. He is Senior Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.
His novel The Book of Stone was published in 2015 by Fig Tree Books.
Photo courtesy of Global Pillage