the girls

there can be no existence with these dogs dragging these blue
bones and the flowers all bend left in the wind and look tired
and the phone rings, it’s Pauline down at   Ye Ol’ Stagger Inn,
“I’d like to see you, Hank…”
it’s one thirty p.m. and I drive down to Hollywood and Cherokee
and walk in and Pauline is sitting with Alta and Alta flashes
me the big false smile and Pauline just sits looking down into
her marguerita.
they are both drinking margueritas.
I sit down next to Pauline.
“what is it?”
“some asshole’s been bugging me, so I thought if you came by
you’d get him off me.”
Alta bends her head down around Pauline and flashes me another
false heavy lipstick smile.
“how ya doin’, Hank?”
“look,” I say to Pauline, “I never saw a guy yet you couldn’t
drive off.”
“you just don’t know,” she says.
I get a whiskey and soda from the barkeep.
Hollywood at one thirty five p.m. is a big tomb full of stink
“I’m going back to Cleveland,” says Alta, “I’m going to get
straight…   hey, ya got a cigarette?”
I push the pack down to her.
Pauline just sits there, nobody says anything at all.
I finish my drink, stand up and dig out a tip for the barkeep.
“well, girls, I got to be going…”
“wait a minute, Hank,” says Pauline.
“what is it?”
“I want you to pay for our drinks, we’ve had 8 or 9 drinks
and a bowl of chili a piece…”
“how about a little song on the juke box instead?”
“Hank, we don’t have any money…”
“you’d be surprised how many people there are in the world
like that…”
“the bill is $18.50 and I only have $9.”
“here,” I say and I drop a dollar bill out of my wallet in
front of her.
as I walk out of there I hear Alta say, “don’t be pissed,

I get to my car, get in and drive off and I turn the radio
on and can’t hear a thing, then I remember I have been in a
car wash and I reach outside and pull the ariel up and the
radio begins to play.
you know, there can be no chance when the cobra sleeps under
your pillow, and there can be no mercy when the only mercy is
yours–I have slept in the alleys of the world and never
begged a dime, and the trouble with whores who have no taste
for their work, they ought to get on as waitresses at Norm’s.

I pull up outside my liquor store and go in for some decency.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript