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Original stories by Shmolnick that humorously explore the dark side of humanity.

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Shmolnick's Luck

Part One – Shmolnick

Shmolnick sighed as he wiped the day old snot from his ragged gray mustache.
Ah! An old can of tuna fish!

He dipped his grubby bloated paw into the black garbage bag that he'd torn open only moments before. The smell didn't faze Shmolnick as he had long ago grown used to it. To tell the truth, he welcomed the sweet smell of another's refuse. That smell usually meant that he would eat that day!

The tuna can had bits of stale tuna encrusted inside. Smiling a gap-toothed grin, Shmolnick pulled out his trusty rusty spoon, the one he stole before his girlfriend threw him out. Using the spoon, he scraped the precious meat out of the can and popped it into his gaping drooling maw. It was hard, true, but Shmolnick was expert as using his saliva to soften such tough chews.

He closed his eyes and savored the sustenance. Within seconds, however, the expectant rush of pain in his esophagus rose to greet him. Clutching the stolen Stop and Shop carriage that held his few precious belongings, Shmolnick rode out the wave of digestive agony, which subsided as quickly as it had arrived.

Now for a relaxing after-dinner smoke!

Shmolnick scoured the ground and spied his target - a half- smoked cigarette butt! He picked it up, paying no attention to the small amount of liquidump that added to his already soiled underwear.

Reaching into one of his jacket pockets (he really didn't have to use a pocket, the old black leather jacket had numerous large holes through which the job could have been accomplished), he pulled out a dirty Bic lighter. He clicked it several times, finally succeeding in lighting the priceless cigarette butt. Soon it would be time to steal another lighter.

As Shmolnick inhaled the sweet smoke of the cigarette butt, his lungs protested loudly, a gut- wrenching coughing fit forcing the homeless man to his knees. After this new pain subsided, Shmolnick wiped bits of blood from his lips using the sleeve of his tattered leather jacket, then slowly rose to his feet.

How had he come to this pitiful existence? What had driven a productive law-abiding citizen to such desperate straits?

It was a tragedy that had become so commonplace in America since the depths of the Bush depression that the media had ceased reporting it. After Bush's re- election in 2004, following a long and protracted war in Iraq, the nation's economy collapsed. The full weight of the infamous Bush tax cuts began to hit home in 2005 and the collapse of the stock market later that year caused millions of Americans to lose their retirement savings. Businesses were hurt as well, since they steadfastly refused to abandon their fruitless short-term quarter-to- quarter strategies. Unemployment rates rose to 25% and lawlessness took root in the major cities. Crime rose and law enforcement officials seemed powerless to stop it.

The wealthy captains of industry hid from the angry masses in their vacation homes, unable and unwilling to help stop the national economic madness. Many CEOs and their bootlicking money-grubbing toadies were dragged from their homes by bloodthirsty mobs of unemployed high-tech workers. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg suffered a particularly horrible fate, his severed head raised on a pike and paraded through the streets of Manhattan. Jack Welch, former head of GE simply disappeared one day, and months later small pieces of his carcass were mailed periodically to Fox News headquarters.

When Vice President Cheney dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of a congressional investigation, the hapless president retreated to his ranch in Crawford, Texas and went mad. Congress spent weeks arguing amongst themselves amid the growing chaos, rendered powerless by their deadly affection for politicking.

None of this recent history mattered to the beaten and slovenly Shmolnick. Just another victim of the Bush Depression, his life was a day to day affair. Would he find food today? Would it burn when he peed today? Would he live to see tomorrow? These were the issues pressing in on his tenuous hold over reality.

Part Two – The Landlord

Shmuel Krambergowitz admired his shiny new Lincoln Navigator for just a few more seconds, then pressed the lock button on the black remote control attached to his key chain.

He nodded his head to the audible CLICK-CLICK as if keeping time with the music of his beloved new purchase.

“Man, I just love this car,” he said, beaming.

He waddled his middle-aged bulk away from the vehicle, which was parked illegally in front of a dingy office building, carrying a sleek black leather valise. The office building was nestled snugly into a row of similarly unkempt and unremarkable structures.

The neighborhood in which Shmuel found himself that evening was familiar to him in spite of his wealth and influence. He was, after all, landlord of this particular edifice, and it was the first Thursday of the month, which meant it was time to collect the rent. Of course, the luckless nonprofit fools who paid him the exorbitant rent each month would be short of cash again. They always were short of cash.
“Idiots,” he though ruefully. “They”re gonna get what they deserve for doing all that pro bono work.”

This month, however, Attorney Krambergowitz would make them pay for shorting him. This month he would throw their poor altruistic keisters out on the streets with the rabble they so loved to support. And there was nothing they could do. He had the law on his side.

He absent-mindedly pulled a flaky booger from his prodigious proboscis and rolled it around a bit before sneaking a wipe on the side of the door frame. He then rang the doorbell.

“Pardick and Sloane” read the faded names on the inner door. Soon he would sell this monstrosity and make a bundle; his friends in the business community (his summer home neighbors, in fact) had assured him that this street was to be rezoned for “commercial use.” He could finally upgrade the in ground pool at his summer home in the Hamptons. The damn thing really DID need to be heated.

William Pardick was a tall thin man with tired eyes and a weary smile. The man lived in a two-room flat in a fading downtown neighborhood. He showed his landlord to a dusty office filled with faded manila folders and numerous uneven stacks of law books and papers.

An attractive latino secretary glared at the jowled unsmiling landlord as he passed her desk. “What a piece of ass,” thought Shmuel. “I could get her.”

Shmuel half-listened to Pardick’s sad tale of yet another home invasion, his possessions stolen, his teenage daughter assaulted.

“I’m sorry to hear it, Pardick,” he said, but he was thinking of how much labor he could get from those damned bloodsucking pool contractors.

Jimmy Sloane sauntered in, a red-faced little man who never knew when to keep his mouth shut. Shmuel very much preferred to deal with Pardick who always seemed to be afraid of him. Sloane frightened him a bit. Shmuel secretly hoped that he could bait the hot-tempered Irishman into hitting him. He entertained fantasies of the bars to the jail cell slamming shut as Sloane retreated into prison life.

“We need another week,” said Sloane, his ruddy face growing redder.

Shmuel smiled. “Not a chance, gentlemen. I have expenses, you know. This is not a charity.” Shmuel opened the valise and began removing the eviction papers he had drawn up weeks earlier in anticipation of this moment.

Pardick and Sloane exchanged a worried look.

“Now listen Shmuel,” began Pardick, “you know we”re good for it. We have a deposit scheduled for next Tuesday. The banks are closed until then because of the Jewish New Year. You of all people should realize that-”

“I of all people?” inquired Shmuel. “I of all people have been letting you idealists burn me each month, out of the goodness of my heart. I of all people have bills to pay too. I of all people am tired of supporting your lost causes.”

He stood up and put the eviction papers on Pardick’s desk. Sloane put his hand on Shmuel’s arm and raised his voice angrily.

“Now wait a minute, Krambergowitz, you”ve got plenty of money. I saw that big boat of yours parked outside. It won't break the bank to give us an extension.”

Shmuel’s face darkened. “Take your hands off me, Sloane. Unless you want me to have you arrested for assault.”

Pardick stood up and waved his hands nervously. “Shmuel, we”re doing important work here. We help those who cannot help themselves and-”

Shmuel turned toward the door. “I have no sympathy for the self-pitying losers you support. They got themselves into their messes. It’s not my responsibility to help them correct their mistakes.”

“You asshole, you can't do this!” shouted Sloane.

“I can and I have, gentlemen. Read the notice carefully. You have one week to vacate the premises.” Shmuel started down the creaking steps, glancing at his Rolex watch. “Damn these fools,” he thought. “Now I”m going to be late for Weiss’s party.”

He turned to face the desperate men standing at the top of the stairs. “Ask the bums you support to help you, hah hah.” He pushed open the door and left the building, Pardick’s pleas for mercy unheard.

Part Three – The Rabble

Shmolnick had been pushing his shopping carriage around all day, and his legs felt like lead. It had been a good day for the homeless man, however.

He had found a half-finished box of Kentucky Fried Chicken, complete with roll, and had returned a two-day haul of soda bottles and cans. The largess from that deal netted him a brand spanking-new half pint of grain alcohol. The bottle was nearly gone now, and a weary Shmolnick pushed his carriage down a quiet old commercial street, deserted now at dinner time except for a huge brown SUV parked by a fire hydrant.

He was shuffling slowly now, the weight of the carriage too much after his busy day. His sight was fuzzy from the liquor and he didn’t notice the carriage get away from him on the slight incline of the street. The sound of the carriage crashing into the SUV woke Shmolnick temporarily from his drunken stupor.

“Goddamned SUV’s are fuckin' everywhere,” he muttered bitterly, and pulled the carriage away from the vehicle. A small scratch was visible where the carriage had hit the car.

Meanwhile, Shmuel Krambergowitz was walking jauntily toward his precious Lincoln Navigator, the day’s work done at last. Singing “Sugaree” softly, he clicked the remote to unlock his vehicle. It was at that moment that he noticed the street bum pushing his ubiquitous carriage of useless dirty belongings away from the SUV.

“Hey, hey YOU!” yelled Shmuel after the bum. “Get that filthy thing away from my car!”

Shmolnick cocked his head toward the offending noise. “Hunh?” he asked, and turned around to see a fat balding well-dressed man pointing his pudgy finger at him.

“Wha-hnh?” asked Shmolnick, his hand unscrambling his balls from his stretched underwear.

“You there! You bum, stay away from this car I said!” Shmuel gave the car a cursory inspection. You had to watch these bums all the time. “Fucking bum, get a job!” he shouted. He rubbed his hand along the side of the SUV and it was then that he noticed the scratch.

“Fucking goddamned BUM!” he shouted angrily. “Look what you did to my car!”

Shmolnick looked perplexed. Why was this man shouting at him? He was confused. He'd been minding his own business when his fat man started yelling. He looked at the man. “Ain't no fuckin' bum,” he grumbled, and instinctively grabbed the bottle of grain alcohol in his jacket pocket.

“Man!” groaned Shmuel. This car is brand new! You know what I paid for this?” Shmuel was incensed. How dare this bum scratch his car. This bum ought to be taught a lesson.

“I”m calling the cops, you fucking drunk!” He pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open.

Shmolnick saw the man pull out a phone. He heard the word “cops” and panicked. “What the fuck,” he mumbled and ran toward Shmuel Krambergowitz.

Shmuel shrieked when Shmolnick’s dirt-encrusted fingers grasped his expensive Burberry overcoat. In his horror, his dropped the phone.

Shmolnick began swinging his scarred and blistered fist around wildly, not fully aware of his actions. His foot accidentally kicked the cell phone into the street, where it skedaddled onto a sewer grate and quickly disappeared down it.

“MY PHONE!!” shouted Shmuel. He tried to push the drunk aside, but the fool wouldn't let go. “LET GO OF ME!! SHIT!!”

Shmolnick’s confusion turned to anger. What was happening? Why was this rich man picking on him? Fucking typical rich bastard. “Fuckin” bastard, laid me off,” he breathed into Shmuel’s horrified face. He swung his arm around in a wide arc, not realizing that he was still holding the bottle of grain alcohol. The bottle smashed on the bald man’s forehead with a loud smack, and the fat man yelped and fell to the street, clutching his head.

“Oh shit,” said Shmolnick, who looked around desperately. When he saw nobody on the street, he sprung into action as best he could.

“Gotta get outta here,” he mumbled, turned to run away.

Shmuel rolled around on the ground, his head aching and blood flowing between his desperately clutching fingers. He spied the bum getting away and automatically reached for him.

Shmolnick spun around when he felt the man’s hand grab his pant leg.

“Fuckin” pants!” he yelled, and began stamping his foot in an attempt to release Shmuel’s hold.

He was wearing what used to be his good loafers, now faded and scarred from years on the street. Shmuel began yelping again, and Shmolnick kept yelling “Fuckin didn't do nothin” didn't do nothing!” over and over again while waving his arms in the air as if warding off angry insects.

Shmuel’s yelping finally ceased and Shmolnick looked down in a squint. The man’s head had been crushed by his stomping. Bits of brain littered a growing pool of blood, the red color fading as night filled the street. He bent over and vomited on the dead man. In a few minutes, he realized that he was still alone.

“Hmm,” he grumbled, and rifled through the man’s pocket. He took a fat wallet and found some jingling keys, which he held up to the light of the street lamp.

Shmolnick smiled as he wiped bits of puke off his face with his sleeve. He looked at the keys, then looked at the big dark car. He then proceeded to transfer the belongings of his carriage to the back seat of the SUV, a chore made all the more difficult by his drunken state.

As he drove off, he didn't hear the shouts of the two men who had belatedly run out of a building when they heard the commotion. His luck was finally changing!
He started singing an old Grateful Dead tune. “Shake it, shake it, Sugaree.”


© 2006 Michael S. Cohen

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