the night I broke away from Hemingway

well, Seeley, kid, we are far apart now,
you went to Frisco to make it with the
literary gang
but we had some good nights, like remember
Straw Hat Pizza on Hollywood Boulevard?
you loved pizza, you loved to jam pizza
so we went there that night with our crazy
friend Sputz, you were both disgusted with
me for throwing bags of shit into the back-
yard of a home for the aged
but I was still working on breaking away
from Hemingway
and I had to do strange things to break
away from the drizzling destiny.

anyhow, we went on in and you got that
pizza and I got the pitchers of beer and
I had a pitcher for myself, didn’t need a
glass, drank right out of it, some night,
the piano player started and we had on our
free straw hats and I said, “I can’t stand
that piano playing, it’s killing the inside
of my head.”

we were jamming pizza into your Jewish
face while Sputz was just staring ahead
through his triple-focus lenses
his brain a thin wavering thing in a
seashell head of nowhere.

“you don’t like the piano player?” you
asked me through a mouthful.

and I told you, “I can’t stand it. if
he doesn’t stop I am going to rip off
his asshole and place it over the top
of his head like a bloody embouchure of

“I’m going to tell him what you said,”
you told me.

then Seeley you walked up behind him and
began talking to him over his shoulder as
he played the piano.
then he stopped, turned and looked
and you pointed at me
and I nodded at him and winked, raising
my pitcher of beer.

the piano player got up and walked across the
room to the men’s room, walked in and closed
the door.

it got worse and it got better.
the piano was on automatic play and we kept
drinking pitchers of beer and then
the piano player came out and
sat down with us and
he looked at me and said,
“look, I’m just trying to make a

“not at my expense,” I told him,
“take the night off.”

he did.
I don’t know why.
but he did.

the night got better.
we kept drinking the pitchers of

then I jumped up on the table and
started dancing
on top of the table to the
automatic piano music while doing
tricks with my straw hat.

with each new tune I did another
and after each number the audience

I was waiting on the police.
I knew the police were coming so I
really turned it on more with each
I even went into a minor strip tease
free pitchers of beer arrived.
I finally got winded and sat

and then the movies were flashed on
the wall and they were so god damned
I started laughing and you started
laughing and everybody was laughing
and it wasn’t because the movies were
it was only that they were
absolutely stupid
and we laughed at that and
then the movies shut off and
we sat there
still drinking the beer
so many pitchers we couldn’t
empty them
the beer was getting warm
and the help was sweeping up and
clearing the tables and
Sputz was asleep and you were
picking little pieces of pizza
off the table and nibbling at
them and I said,
“it’s time to go.”
I was tired of waiting for the

and we got Sputz up and walked
back to my court and I went to my
bedroom and let you guys settle for
what was left.

you know, that was the night I got
away from Hemingway and I slept
and in the morning
there you were
there was Sputz
both of you sprawled
the noon light
coming across your dumb faces
and I said, “hey, you guys!    that was
some hell of a night, huh?”

and you looked up from the rug and
said, “god damn it, man, go back to
and Sputz
somewhere in the corner of the room
said:   “yes.”

so I did but I went in and pissed
first, flushed, walked back to the
bedroom and slept
knowing then that I had only Kafka,
Celine and Dos to escape.
I awakened to hear somebody puking
then slept again.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript