hot night

I had a horrible job and I was living with a horrible woman and it was
night work, hard work, dull work but for all of that we still had to
fight to hold our jobs (a commonplace agony in the low labor market) and
early each morning just before sunrise I punched out barely able to
place my timecard back into the rack, and always, driving back to where
I lived seemed an impossibility.

this particular night–driving back–I was tooling it along way over the
speed limit while checking my rear view mirror for the police cruisers
when my mind–strangely–found enough energy to think thusly:   hell,
what are you rushing for?   between the job and the woman is the ONLY
time you are FREE.

I slowed it down and noticed the sun breaking into the night and then I
did something I had never done before:   I stopped the car, I parked the car,
I sat there and I lit a cigarette.

and noticed across the street a restaurant, evidently long closed, it was a
fancy red place and out front it had these two long pipes going far up into
the night and the pipes fed gas upward into these large saucers which housed
the flames which whirled and jumped about and then as I watched this the front
door opened and two men in black suits shoved a man mostly drunk and white-
             down the steps.
the man stumbled, fell, got up, looked back.

“get the fuck out of here you son of a bitch!” one of the men yelled as the
man in the white shirt walked down the street the other two men walked inside
and slammed the door.

I must have sat another  5 minutes or so when I noticed that one of the flames
was going crazy, it was lengthening and leaping into the sky and I could hear
the roaring of gas and then I noticed that there must have been a wind–
the flame kept making leaps toward the roof of the restaurant as if it were a
live thing–it tried again and again to leap to the roof and it failed again
and again and then, at once, it made it, it ran along the roof like something
with legs and soon it stopped running, it just sat on the roof getting bigger
and bigger and I watched it and if it had been somebody’s home I would have
tried to find a telephone but I was tired and I remembered the scene with the
man in the white shirt.

I sat and watched the growing fire, that red moving tiger, and wondering
why the two men in black inside there hadn’t noticed and then the door opened
and they ran out.

it was a magnificent fire and I sat and watched it.

soon I heard the approaching fire sirens and I started my car and drove
the engines were coming from behind me so I had clearance and I drove down
Sunset boulevard toward my east Hollywood court and I got there and parked
on my spot on the lawn in front of my place, got out, walked up the steps,
took out my key, unlocked the door, entered, went to the refrigerator, got a
beer, uncapped it, had a hit, walked to the bedroom with the beer.

she was sitting up in bed reading a magazine and she didn’t look up but
she said, “where the hell you been?”

“just fucking around,” I

“good,” she said and turned a

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript