CHICKEN MESSIAHS by Peter Nolan Smith

Several years ago the media covered a story about rats infesting a Greenwich Village KFC. The stock for Yum Corp, which owns the fast food chain along with Taco Bell, dropped fifty cents on the NYSE with the negative news and I felt bad, because for several years I had been a quality control inspector for KFC in the New York area.

I got the job in 1999 through Colonel Jim Rockford, no relation to the TV character. Our friendship dated back to an acid trip on Black’s Beach in August 1974. I swam with seals and they spoke my name. Jim laughed at their jokes. Coming down we forgot the punchlines.

Jim was a hippie guru with a girlfriend who looked like Patty Hearst. The cops stopped us everywhere with guns drawn. The police attention was a buzzkill and Jim felt the urge for going. “Come join us in Frisco. You can wear flowers in your hair.”

My senior year in university began in September and the summer of love died in 1969. We shook hands good-bye on the highway and I hitchhiked east to Boston. I graduated sin laude from BC and drove taxi, while waiting for a teaching job for the fall of 1974.

Jim showed up that summer. Hair longer than before. His blonde SLA clone girlfriend traded for a young Eurasian twenty year-old named Nona. Everyone in Boston fell in love with her that summer. Me too. We swam in Provincetown and danced at gay clubs in Boston. September arrive with a frost and they left for Woodstock.

We stayed in touch for as long as we could, but I moved to New York to pursue a career as a poet and the connection snapped like an old rubber band. I thought about Nona a lot. Her beauty was an exception to the rule in America. Dusky instead of blonde. I never expected to see her again.

In the winter of 1995 I was in Bali at a seaside bar where everyone who disappeared from your life reappears cooler than before and one night a woman called my name.

It was Nona.

The early evening tropical light was the best make-up a woman in her 30s could desire. We had a laugh that night with mutual friend and later went to her kon-tiki house in a bamboo grove. Her jealous Balinese boyfriend threatened me with a ceremonial kris. Nona showed him the door. “Pagi. Anda tidak bagus.”

“Not you. Stay here. He scares me.” I slept in the spare bedroom listening to the bamboo trunks rub against each other like lovers driven by the wind. I heard her lover climb the wall and throw rocks against the window, whispering words of love in Balinese.

In the morning he was gone and Nona said she was leaving for Singapore. No packed bags lay by the door and I read the situation for what it was, but before I left the house, I asked about Jim.

“I left him.”


“Because he hit me.”

“Hit you?”

“It’s a long story, anyway he’s married and living in Iowa. I think he’s growing marijuana. Here’s his number. If you see him, tell him thanks for everything.”

A month later I was back in New York and called the number in Iowa. The woman answering the phone said Jim wasn’t home. I later found out he was doing a five-year bid for cocaine possession.

I was able to afford my travels because of my diamond gig on West 47th Street.

Six months on. Six months off.

I ran into Nona over and over again. Bali, Paris, and London. She was making silver jewelry for a German boyfriend. There was no talk about the Bali guy or Jim. Women don’t discuss guys that hit them, unless they’ve had a lot to drink and Nona only sipped wine.

My 1998 trip to Thailand ended with my falling in love with a one-eyed go-go dancer. New York and its nightlife was a bland imitation of my redux of the film THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG. My friends avoided my calls. Broken hearts are always bad luck. I drank at the 10th Street Lounge and one night spotted someone familiar staring at me. He was older and had long hair. I couldn’t ID him until he smiled.

It was Jim Rockford.

“What you doing here?”

A friend from Boston had said I was living on East 10th street. “This seemed like the bar you would drink in.”

“How so.”

“Pretty girls. Good music.”

“What are you really doing here?” I asked in the bathroom doing a line of coke.

“I spent the last five years as a guest of the Iowa penal system. The cops invaded my house for suspicion of pot growing. Couldn’t find anything but an ounce of coke. Said it was for dealing.”

“Was it?” I’m very pro-anti-drugs.

“What you think?” Jim hooted a cigarette-thick line from the shelf.


“Anyway they never found the reefer since I had buried the farm and was using solar panel to heat the room. Couldn’t see the heat signature. Dopes. I’m still dealing pot but needed a clean source of income, so when I got out of prison, my PO got me a job inspecting KFCs.”

“Kentucky Fried Chicken?” Jim had been a vegetarian since a near-fatal bout of cancer in his teens.

“Yeah, Frankenstein chickens with no legs and no eyes. Only a mouth, bones, meat, and an asshole.”

It wasn’t a pretty picture and I ordered a vodka at the bar from the waitress I’d been trying to seduce for ages. The coke didn’t help my spiel and at the end of the night I invited Jim to sleep at my place.

“Thanks, I couldn’t have made it to New Jersey.”

“What are you really doing out there?”

“Well, I told you about that KFC gig. Every day I go to about 30-40 of them. Maybe you can help me.”

“How so?” My coke-spastic hands were having trouble with the front door. The key kept getting bigger.

“You can drive while I fill out my reports. I’ll give you $200 for the day and all the chicken you can eat.”

“I have my diamond job.” It was September and no one was buying jewelry.

“Call in sick.”

My boss Richie Boy was my drinking buddy. He would read my saying a head cold for what it was. A killer hang-over.

The next morning’s recovery required a bacon and eggs sandwich. Jim had a cup of coffee and a line of blow. “Hair of the dog.”

We picked up his rented Ford Taurus from the parking lot on East 9th street. I put Arthur Lee’s LOVE on the CD player.

“Damn, I love SIGNED DC. Head over to queens. I have a battle plans.” Jim threw a metropolitan map on my lap. The locations of the KFCs were marked with a red marker. “Today’s Brooklyn and Queens. Tomorrow the Bronx and Manhattan.”

I glanced at the map. There were over a hundred KFCs. None of them were on 5th Avenue or Soho or the Upper East Side. I mentioned this to Jim and he laughed, “Wherever KFC is, then you can count it as a scary neighborhood after dark. So step on it.”

We drove over the Queensboro Bridge and hit 10 KFCS before noon. The back seat was jammed with specials and super-sized drinks. “The stores get a bonus if they ask us to supersize.”

The traffic sucked, but I made good time throughout Queens, because most of the shops were on the same boulevards, however Brooklyn had 30 KFCs scattered over the 5th biggest city in the USA and the neighborhoods got rougher as darkness dropped over the city.

East New York was an apocalypse. Especially Pitcairn Avenue. KFCs were the only sign of life. No bars. No restaurants. No stores. Only KFCs and bums hanging around the corners. No one bothered us, since two white guys cruising a black neighborhood look like cops.

“We had about $300 worth of chicken in the back seat. The car reeked of the Colonel. I had eaten about $20 worth. “We gotta to get rid of this shit.”

“Stop at Courtlandt. There a few homeless people there.”

“A few was about twenty and most appeared ready to run when we pulled up to the curb. Jim lowered the window and said, “Don’t anyone make a move.”

They froze like it was a Kojak episode and Jim got out of the car. “Anyone here like chicken?”

“Does the pope shit in the woods?” A toothless wino joked, until Jim opened the back door and distributed fifty meals to the shopping cart brigade. The toothless wino cackled holding up a drumstick. First I thought you wuz the cops. Now I know who you are. You the chicken messiahs.”

Like that the chicken messiahs became an urban legend to the needy in Phillie, Newark, Yonkers, and New York.

Only the homeless would accept our charity on the streets. Anyone else was too proud or suspicious to take a hand-out. Not the boys working security at the 10th Street Lounge. The Jamaican bouncers loved the special deliveries.

Jim and I washed off the grease and drank vodkas at the bar. Our dessert was a line of blow. Nothing too extreme. “I got another busy day tomorrow.”

In the morning he woke early. “I’ll be back next month.”

Every month we would come into month with a kilo of pot and a bag of blow. KFCS recognizes us and put a special effort to cleaning their stores for our review. Some were good. Some were horrible. Jim never ate the chicken. Only the potatoes and corn bread. I loved the skin.

“Most people working this job get really fat.” Jim warned, as I had a bite of an extra spicy chicken. “So watch out.”

I did and concentrated on driving. I got to know the roads in the Bronx and Brooklyn like a gypsy cabdriver. Phillie was worst than anything New York had to offer. Especially North Phillie. People there shot dope on the streets. They never wanted charity chicken.

About a year into the gig Jim asked at the bar, “You know I been wanting to ask you a question.”

He had gotten the manager, Cornell, to play IMAGINE. Jim was a Beatles fan. I liked the Damned.

“What kind of question?’

“How you get my number?”

“Nona gave it to me.”

“Nona? Where you see her?”

“In Bali.” I explained about our meeting at the Blue Ocean without adding the boyfriends.

“How she look?”


“She say anything about me.”

“She said you hit her.”

“It was a mistake.”

“Yeah,” I never hit women. At least I told myself that, but had done so three times. They were also all mistakes.

“She was telling me I was a loser. Every day. It got to me and I slapped her once. She left me after that. I don’t know why her telling me that would have such an effect. I’m a peaceful guy.”

Nona had recently returned to New Jersey. “I saw her last week.”

“She’s back.”


“You have her number?”

Nona had told me never to give her number to Jim, but he was my friend and she was a 100 miles away. I wrote down the number and he went outside to call her. He came back after a few minutes and said, “Now I remember why I hit her.”

“The voice.” Nona came from Trenton. Her voice was a garbage router in your ear like the movie actress from SINGING IN THE RAIN.


“She still didn’t deserve to get hit.”

“You’re right. Jim was contrite. “She was a good girl. Said she wants to meet me.”

“You tell her about KFC?”

“She had a good laugh about that. Made me feel good I could make her laugh.”

Me too and they did get together. Although only as friends. I left the states after 2001. Jim and I still speak. He still visits Nona on his trips to Jersey. She eats chicken. He drinks wine in her house on the Delaware. No chicken messiah could hope for more in this age of little magic, because like the ad says, “The Colonel knows best.”

And Colonel Rockford knows even better.

Cross Country 1996

In the late summer of 1996 I left Bali for America. My good friend Meg left me at LAX and said that she was driving east from LA to New York and needed someone to share the driving and gas.
“I’ve fallen in love.” Meg was a tall ex-model.
She and I were strictly friends.
Her car was a very cool Studebaker Hawk.
“Sounds good to me. Count me in.”

Friends and family gave Meg a going-away party. She had no intentions on coming back to LA and I was just passing through same as I always did in Southern California.

We left LA at 4am on a heavily traveled freeway.

By dawn we were in the desert.

The road was empty.

Meg liked driving the Hawk and stepped on the gas.

We gave Las Vegas a miss and continued onto Zion Canyon.

There was nothing like it back in the East.

I walked into the canyon. The water was low in the narrow canyons. Meg took photos.

That night we stayed on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The room had twin beds. We fell asleep fast. It had been a long day.

In the morning I posed as ‘the thinker’ on a rock.

At noon we passed the Vermillion Cliffs, which Francisco Coronado’s expedition had explored in the 1500s. It was getting hot and there was no water in sight.

The Hawk was running good. Meg drove faster.

“This car wasn’t built for speed.”

“It’ll go as fast as I want.” She was deeply in love and wanted to see her man, whose name was Chris.

That night we neared Kayenta, Arizona, capitol of the Navaho nation. The windblown town looked like Mars 100 years after a failed terra-forming experiment. Meg wanted to stop at the hotel. I said that we could a room nearer Monument Valley. I was wrong. Everything was booked for miles.

After dinner we slept in the car. There was only one blanket. The temperature dropped into the 50s. I woke in the middle of the night and got out of the Studebaker.

A billion stars spread across the heaven and I went back to the car, happy to be alive. Meg was less happy. She liked sleeping in a bed.

The next afternoon we stopped at the Ananazi cliffside ruins, which had been abandoned a century before Coronado’s coming. Now there were only tourists.

Heading into the Rockies it was obvious something was wrong with the Hawk’s carborator. A mechanic fixed it in Durango. Meg called Chris. They spoke on the phone for a long time.

“I wish we were on the highway.”

“We’ll be on one as soon as we’re out of the mountains.”


I didn’t lie.


The next day we reached the Great Plains.

Meg’s foot was heavy on the accelerator.

“No stops.”

“Only for food and gas.” I fought for photos on the back roads.

Meg wanted to see the Studebaker Museum in Michigan. It was on our way.

I convinced her to skip it, but we swam in Lake Michigan.

We had no reason to stop in Detroit and continued across Ontario to Niagara Falls and would have kept driving, except the Studebaker had a flat. The mechanic told us to wait in the diner. Meg entered first.

The patrons had never seen someone as tall as her and their eyes followed her every steps of her flipflops slapping against the floor on her way to the Ladies room. We slept that night on the Canadian side of the Falls.

New York was across the river. We had run out of states.

We arrived in Soho in the evening. The Studebaker had done its job. Chris met us at Lucky Strike. He took one look at me and figured the worst. He was wrong. Meg and I were just friends, but the two were in love and I left the restaurant to go to my apartment on East Tenth Street.

Sometimes I called it home and tonight was one of them.

THE TASTE FOR PIG by Peter Nolan Smith

My great-grandaunt Bert circumnavigated the world on her father’s whaling ship in the 1870s.

In 1960 National Geographic published a story about her childhood travels and at her 101st birthday the old Yankee lady related tales of the black-toothed betel-nut chewers of Indonesia and tiger hunter in Java.

The only two other family member had been to that part of the Orient.

My Uncle Dave had fought on a destroyer during the Battle of Biak in World War II and my grand-aunt Marion brought back a statue of a bare-breasted Legong dancer from Bali. Their travels to faraway places fascinated my imagination and throughout my youth I dreamed of traveling to Indonesia.

My chance to scratch this itch came in 1990.

That winter I sold a 10-carat diamond and quit my job at the diamond exchange.

Manny, my boss, asked my plans.

“Travel to Indonesia and write a novel.” My take on the sales was enough to buy a round-the world ticket.

“You should invest your money in some diamonds. That’s how you make more money.”

“I want to see the other half of the world.”

“Suit yourself, but don’t expect a job when you get back.” Manny was twenty years older than me and hadn’t taken on a vacation in years.

“I won’t.”

After buying THE ROUGH GUIDE I researched the various islands of the populous archipelago; Biak, Ambon, Ternate, Sulawesi, Lombok, Bali, Java, and Sumatra.

My farewell party was a blur and the day of my departure I rode the subway up to 47th Street to say my good-byes.

“How long are you going?” Manny was at his desk, sorting diamonds.

“Six months.”

“Six months? Sei gesund.” Manny wished me well and gave me a hundred dollars. I asked him about my commission and he said, “I’ll pay you when you get back.”

Manny was the master of slow-pay.

That evening I flew from JFK to LAX and then onward to the small fishing port of Biak in Irian Jaya.

The Garuda 747 lifted off the tarmac.

I was the only Mistah or white man on the island.

And I couldn’t be happier, drinking a Bintang beer on the veranda of the old Dutch hotel on Cendrawasih Bay.

For the next three months I voyaged through the islands on boats, ferries, trains, and buses. Indonesia had hundreds of language and cultures. Each journey brought me to a new land. The kids shouted ‘allo mistah’ and Bahasa Indonesian became my fourth language, which I spoke with a Boston accent.

The natives laughed at my jokes, because I mangled their language and also because my tales of New York were the antithesis to the languid life under the palms. My pseudo-fluency earned invitations to watch the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight in Biak, funeral celebrations in Bali, a traditional burial in Tana Toraja, and drinking sessions of Johnny Walker whiskey in various chicken farms across the archipelago.

Indonesia was a big country and spread over 2000 miles from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

In early April I jumped on bus in a Sumatran coastal market town bound for the Batak Highlands. The seats and aisles were packed with Sunday shoppers and I stood at the back door smoking a kretek cigarette. The clove and tobacco smoke mixed well with the diesel fumes from the bus’ laboring engine.

I studied the chattering passengers. Their smiling faces were ethnically different from the dour lowlanders and halfway up the mountain they sang a song which I recognized as BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON.

I loved the Melodians’ version.

When I joined the impromptu choir, the closest passengers stared at me with amusement. At the end of the song an old man rose from his seat to shake my hand.

“Chretian?” He had several front teeth. They looked sharp.

“Christian,” I replied without hesitation. My atheism was a secret better kept from the devout.

“My name is John.” His English was a step above the usual ‘hello mistah’.

I told him mine.

“Where are you going?”

“Danau Tobah.”

The largest lake in Indonesia was set in a gigantic volcano. I had seen its photos in National Geographic

“That is my home. You must stay at my guest house. Very cheap. Very good.” John motioned for a young man to get out of his seat.

“No.” I waved off the offer. “I like standing.”

“No, you big mistah. Must sit. You my friend. Duduk.” The word sounded more like an order for the two of us and I sat in the young man’s place.

On the climb into the mountains John proudly recounted the traditional fierceness of Batak warriors. saying, “Many of our people serve in the top ranks of the Indonesian military. I served with British against Communist in Malaysia.” His accent was Welsh. “Good money.”

The Irish and Scots had assisted the English in the conquest of the world. John’s tribe had done the same for Java.

“My family live Lake Toba. Since before time.”

“It says in my book that the Batak people came to Sumatra 2500 years ago.” The Rough Guide delved deeply into history.

“2500 years before time.”

“This book states that 50,000 years ago Lake Toba blew up and nearly killed off everyone on Earth at the time. Some scientists think the population of the world was reduced to 10,000 and they lived someplace in Central Asia.”

“That book say many things, but Batak people believe world came from Sideak Parujar.”

“Sideak Parujar.”

“Yes, goddess leave husband, a lizard-god.”

John told his tale of creation in a combination of Bahasa Indonesian, English, Dutch, and a little Batak. The rest of the bus listened intently to every word and the children shuddered when John stabbed downward with his hand.

“Sideak Parudjar thrust sword into Naga Padoha. He not die. God never die and every time he move earth shake.”

His captive audience applauded his story and John lit a kretek cigarette.

I like the smell of burning cloves.

“As Christian we not believe in other gods, but the old stories too good to give up. Maybe tonight you tell story.”

Nearing dusk the bus descended to Lake Toba and we boarded a ferry to the island on the opposite shore.

John led me to his guesthouse. The Batak Villa was simple and cheap. My room had a lake view. The other guests were European backpackers. Few Americans traveled this far from the States.

That night on the deck I narrated the story of the Evans Mountain ghost. His family gathered around our table, as I introduced the Batak clan to a haunted house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

John struggled to translate my tale, but the little children shivered with the old man’s eyes. At the end John said, “Good story. Everyone like. They think Mistahs not have ghosts. Only have one god. Good story. Now go sleep.”

I spent the next few days sightseeing around the island. The equatorial sun flayed the skin off my shoulder. John’s wife salved my burnt flesh with a healing clove oil. The sting of the sun disappeared, but I avoided any further exposure to the equatorial sun.

Every evening I ate with John’s family. They asked questions about my family. I lied about a dead wife and showed photos of my nieces and nephews, claiming that they were mine. A man my age without a wife or children was considered strange by the Bataks and all Indonesians. They had big families.

The day before my departure to Medan John invited me to a pig roast in an abandoned village. We arrived at a compound of wooden houses before sunset. The thatched roofs were curved like the horns of bulls. Five men sat by a blazing fire. A sizable pig was killed and gutted by a middle-aged man with a long sharp kris. I lay a case on Bintang beer on the ground and the men smiled with appreciation.

Dogs tried to steal the offal. John beat them off with a club.

“Angin no good.”

“They like people.”

“Because people give dog food. I no trust dog, but everything have tondi, man, pig, dog.”

“Tindi.” I nodded my head figuring tindi meant soul.

The two younger men tended to the cooking. Pig fat sizzled onto the coals. We had finished the beer and moved onto ringing arak or rice wine from plastic bags.

“Tindi lives many places. The first in body. The second in birth bag from woman.”

“I was born with the placenta wrapped around my head. In the land of my grandmother the Irish think that gives the new-born the gift of sight.”


I struggled to read a small Bahasa-English dictionary in the firelight.

“Penglihatan, but with mind.”

“Ah, ESP.” John rattled off an explanation to his friends.

Batak people understood the shadow worlds.

“In old days every Batak men have birth bag buried special place to protect tindi.”

“Not the same as in America.” Doctors chucked the placenta out with the trash.

“America have no tindi.”

“Too much tindi.”

Spirituality in the West was the domain of priests, ministers, and rabbis and I almost told John and his friends this, except they believed every man was in touch with the world beyond our senses.

Once the pig was cooked, thick slabs of pork were sliced with the long curved kris. We ate with my right hand, since the left hand was for wiping the ass. John called his right hand ‘Adam’s Spoon’.

No one spoke during the feast.

Communication consisted of grunts and lip-smacking.

The pig was good.

After fifteen minutes John sighed with contentment and loosened his trousers to signal it was time for a break.

A young man broke out a bamboo flute and bags of arak were passed round the fire.

It was a fiery concoction.

“You like pig.” John swayed to the music.

The other men were entering a pig flesh trance like Americans after gorging on turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

“Saya sekali mak mak.” I had never tasted better.

The older men nodded in appreciation of my compliment. We smoked kretek cigarettes to the filter and I felt one with them enough to muster up the courage to ask John a question, which had been nagging me for days.

“Islam came to Banda Aceh almost seven hundred years ago. Most of Indonesia submitted to Allah, but the Batak and other mountain tribes resisted Mohammad’s call. Why?”.

“First we have the Batak tradition.” John licked at his lips and spoke slowly in simple Bahasa, “At one time Batak people ate men.”

“I had read that.” The Rough Guide covered every aspect of a culture without recrimination.

“We drank blood and ate heart, palms and soles of feet. They were good eating and rich with ‘tindi’ or the life-soul of eaten. In old days we ate man with his family. We suck the bones dry. The meat we eat last and we store bones in cave. If man stranger, we ate him cepat. Fast fast. You know what we call these men?”

“No.” The fire was flickering low. The horned houses were giant buffaloes. I could have been Marco Polo. The year was 1231 AD.

“Babi Bisa,” he spoke the words in a hush.

The other men woke from their stupor to mutter the words in unison.

“Big pig.”

I recognized the words from my guidebook’s extensive dictionary, but I didn’t like the way John had said the words.

“Yes, and that why we not Muslims. Because pig taste like man. We killed them on stone.”

The elder explained our conversation to his tribesmen. They nodded with laughter and stared at me for a response. I tried to hide my shaking. They were looking at me funny and not in a funny ha-ha way.

“I like pig too. Not because it tastes like man.” No one in my family had ever eaten another human being. “I like pig, because it tastes good. Even the oink.”

I snorted several times in my best imitation of a pig.

The party chuckled in convulsion and toasted me with warm arak. The pig was gnawed to the bone. The snarling dogs had their way with the carcass. We snacked on the crispy ears. The fire died out and John walked me to my hotel.

At the door of my room he said, “I tell story to many Mistahs. It is joke. No Batak eat man in 100 years. Many westerners run away, not you. Why?”

“Because I like pig too.” Bacon was my favorite meat.


“Nothing taste like it.”

“Not babi besa?”

“I don’t know, but I think not. Man is not as clean as a pig and not as smart. Dumb men can’t be good eating.”

John lifted his head to the stars and laughed aloud. His wife shouted at him to come inside. He clapped me on the shoulder and fondled my muscle.

“You not good food. Too tough.”

“Same you.”

“Sama sama. I not here tomorrow morning. Selamat jalan.” John wished me a good trip.

“Selamat tingaal.” I wished him a good life. It was the best thing to do with someone who hadn’t eaten you.

John ignored his wife’s entreaty and walked over to the restaurant. His friends greeted him and I joined him for a glass of arak. It was stronger at night. John’s right hand surveyed the flesh on a fat man. He turned and mouthed the words.

“Babi besa.”

“Makan bagus.” Good eating, because a young pig was always better than an old pig even with babi bear.

And everyone who has a taste for pig knows the truth.

Poor Call Girl

Last weekend a 27 year-old sex worker pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of a Google executive. The judge sentenced Alix Catherine Tichelman to six years in prison. The prosecutor claimed that the call girl never attempted to assist the 51 year-old internet manager and surveillance video backed up his charges to the jury of her peers.

Her defense attorney argued, “There was no intent to harm or injure, much less kill, Mr. Hayes. Why would she? He was a lucrative source of income to her. She appreciated his generosity.”

His plea for leniency fell on deaf ears, as Santa Cruz is well-known along the coast as a heroin entrepot and law enforcement, unwilling to surrender in the War on Drugs, wanted to show that they still consider drugs against the law.

Six years for administering an overdose and not a day of jail for the CIA, who has long controlled the drug trade in order to suppress the people of the USA.

Innocent until proven guilty by a witness living long enough to sit before the court.

THE ITCH by Steven Hammer

Early in the summer of 1965 I was coming home from buying the newest Rolling Stones LP in Mattapan Square. A green paperback lay atop a trash can at the Lower Mills trolley station. THE ITCH by Steven Hammer on Olympia Press was not on the summer reading list for thirteen year-old boys. I opened the pages to the center of the book and my eyes scanned the text. They found the word ‘fuck’ twice on the same page. The author had meshed them with an assortment of sexual terms.

My face went red.

THE ITCH was pornography.

I looked over my shoulder. No one was watching me. I stuck the paperback into the bag with OUT OF OUR HEADS and walked home two miles through the deep woods surrounding my suburban neighborhood south of Boston. I stopped twice to read pages 121-126. The men did everything to each other and women.

Reaching our split-level ranch-house I hid in the attic and devoured the book three times within two hours.

I was a fast reader and I must have read THE ITCH more than 3000 times between the 1965 and 1969. The author’s blue tales of tri-sexual liaisons between aristocrats warped my tender libido and I succumbed to the rages of onanism without any hope of stopping my hands rom touching myself over and over and over.

My girlfriend never knew about my betrayal and my parents were ignorant of my sin.

Even my older brother was excluded from the secret.

It was THE ITCH and me.

We were made for each other.

Here’s a passage from that great tome.

She doesn’t know what she says, her warm fingers along my thigh.

“We could escape,” he said. “There’s still a lot of that fifty grand.”

“Where would we go?” she whispered. “The Magnums have armies.

“Besides,” she went on, “you know how you are. You’d tire of me after another week of this connubial bliss. We both have this drive.”

“Itch,” he corrected. “The retarded child’s itch for self-destruction.”

“A lovely way to die,” she said, turning to kiss him closely.

When they broke apart, his head seemed to have cleared.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll go through with it. But we’ll have to live together, always. The rest will be sorties. We’ll be gods who land occasionally to copulate with the mortals. After all,” he said, “we’re strong and beautiful.”

She laughed. “Yes,” she said, and recited it after him like a spell, “we’re strong and beautiful. It should be a full year.”

These books were supposedly written by famous authors down on their luck.

They were very good and as Gore Vidal said, “The reading of pornography only leads to the reading of more pornography.

The old queer certainly had it right at least in my case.