WritingForums Literary Maneuvers challenge winner Oct 2019
The Boys Are Dead But Also Back In Town
by Richard O’Neill
Once a goddamned ’gain it was Walt Whitman, bellowing his heart out off the top of the roof. “Walt!” I screamed. “Walt!”
Of course he didn’t hear me. A fine craftsman, so-so poet, and all-around good Schmoe, my literary neighbor happened to be neurotic, prone to climbing outside his window at two in the morning in order to serenade the moon or to leap onto the balcony next door where he might try and fail a Young Werther in attempts to vaginally bamboozle his neighbor’s wife. His voice, finely lubricated, rose an unchallenged octave above my own.
By dint of tune and peculiarity of lyricism I suspected he was once again revisiting certain passages to Leaves of Grass that he might pick up and tinker with last-millennia touch-ups regarding his most popular verse. But tonight I was in no mood. I lobbed a shoe, striking him across the ear, precipitating a teeter which turned rapidly into a totter, turning thence into a loose-limbed freewheeling: out flailed a leg, there an arm, between both a bottle of rum, before down Walt Whitman went, babbling charitable gibberish whilst capitulating into the shrubs below.
“Fuck…” I said. “FUCK! WALT!”
Brief rustlings signaled he was okay. Then―voila!―out popped his noggin, no worse for wear, adorned in leaflets and jagged bristles plus plastered with a drunkard’s wide grin. “McGee?” he slurred; recognition slowly blinked within him. “McGee!”
“You’re okay!” I said. “I’m… I’m sorry, Walt, it’s just―Jesus, dude, it’s two in the fucking morning!”
“McGee, McGee…. Oooooooh, MUUUUUH-GEEEEE―UHAH!”
I lobbed my last shoe, striking the bridge of his nose, this time with enough force to propel him backwards into the shrubbery folds from whence he’d
came, the top of his head disappearing like a stone into the sea. “Walt…?” I inquired “Walt?”
An intruder: “He dead?” I screamed and spun around: Wolfgang Von Goethe, himself a playboy neurotic, had climbed onto my balcony. “Well?” he asked, and leaned over the railing to signify just how much this curiosity meant to him.
“What are you doing?” I shouted.
“Apparently witnessing a murder.”
“Get off my balcony!”
“I need a place to hide.”
Wolfgang looked over his shoulder, less for the view than because he seemed intent on pantomiming every display of emotion. “I banged my neighbor’s wife.”
“That was you?”
I pointed at the shrubs: “I thought that was him?”
“Why no.” He contemplated: “Do you have a couch?”
I was in no mood for this―Walt’s singing, Goethe’s debauchery. Still, much as I wanted, I couldn’t just leave him there. The night was wintry and, in the absence of shoes, I had already started to hop from foot to foot. Meanwhile, a litany of sliding balcony doors had sounded up and around me; unto their balconies ventured the Virginia Woolfs, Sylvia Plaths, Hunter S. Thompsons, and all other shapes and sizes of luminary neurotics. I looked up; down; everywhere. “Do any of you fucking sleep?”
“We’ll sleep when we’re dead,” said Wolfgang, a joke which everybody except me seemed to get and at which everybody immediately chortled.
“Oh, no!” said Sylvia Plath, pointing below. “Is he dead?”
“Indeed!” said Wolfgang, “―and McGee here killed him!”
I hurried down the steps. By the time I reached Walt he’d riled himself awake. “McGee!” he cried. “Oooooooh, Muuuuh-Geeee―UHAHPHEW!” and sneezed, dispensing from his nostrils projectile clods of soil and a perturbed, fist-waggling snail. Walt blinked, stupefied; then, gradually, he smiled and pointed; slurring: “I will sing that snail’s song…”
Of course I couldn’t stop him. He sang of stars, grass, people, insects; each with no less enthusiasm than the last. Sylvia met me on the first flight and grabbed his opposite arm; Hunter, flicking a cigarette aside, met us on the second. Even Wolfgang joined in; and by the time we reached Whitman’s door, I have to admit―
I was singing, too.
About the author
Aspiring writer, Richard O’Neil lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.
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