Nothing…from a writer’s perspective…and I do mean NOTHING, is more galling that coming up with a great, original idea and something else coming along later that gives the impression that your vision was inspired by it. In this case, I’m talking about the movie, “THE FORTY-YEAR OLD VIRGIN.”
|STEVE CARELL STARRED IN 2005's, "FORTY-YEAR OLD VIRGIN," TWO YEARS AFTER I DEVELOPED MY CHARACTER.|
An intensifying snowstorm managed to make the Depression-era Christmas Eve more dismal. Together with the last wisps of dwindling sunlight, the shopkeepers’ hopes to cash-in a few more pennies from last-minute shoppers vanished.
On Manhattan’s desolate West End Avenue, in a sea of snowy whiteness, a solitary black dot persevered against the stinging wind. This dot was a hunched woman in a thin, black, flannel coat, shrouded by a black babushka. She clutched a black satchel as she followed the faded tracks in the snow made by the messenger who had summoned her.
The woman faced a severe crosswind as she cautiously turned on slick pavement, up West 28th Street. From the corner, only three burning lights could be seen in the usually bustling business district. Across the way, muted laughter brought her attention to a tawny light glimmering through a greasy, nicotine-stained, shamrock-shaped window of Walden’s Frolic Tavern.
Next, buried in a mounting snowdrift were the three stairs that led down to Bu Dun Yu’s Curio Shop. Safe inside, under a bare forty watt bulb, Mr. Yu looked up at the frozen urban wilderness. He caught eye-contact with the woman and gave her a disconsolate nod. The austere woman did not respond and persevered.
Beyond other closed shops, the woman’s destination was identified by a glowing red lantern, in a tenement’s second floor window. She paused to peer up at the four-flight walk-up. The woman climbed the snow-covered mortar stairs. Carefully, she followed the beaten-down, center path that surrounded the virgin blanket. At the icy top step, she felt cracks in the cement underfoot. A sudden howling gale disturbed the ghostly silence...she lost her balance. Luckily, she grabbed the doorknob to prevent tumbling down.
The woman was not greeted in the dingy, unlit foyer as she bypassed the locked doors of four apartments. Up one flight, a garish mauve carpet replaced the stark hardwood floor. Frilly scarlet lampshades and cherry-red floral wallpaper gaily enlivened the hall’s parlor-like ambiance.
The doors to the apartments were all open as young girls in open housecoats revealed various levels of undress. The devoutly Catholic woman in black shivered as she looked down at a tiny Christmas tree and grasped her rosary beads. She avoided any dignifying glimpses at the fallen women as she murmured prayers for their absolution.
Madam Nellie appeared. In a robust Hungarian accent she said, “You must be the midwife. My Sonja usually handles these matters but she’s more suited to…” In a hushed tone she added, “How you say…getting rid of…” The midwife was nauseated by the crassness and was seething by the implication as the madam continued, “You know…ending such matters.” The holier-than-thou midwife extended her hand and said, “Three dollars.”
Croatian-born Lucy Pisarcik was the mother-to-be. The difficult, painful delivery would last long into the night. The storm knocked out the electricity and by candlelight, the baby boy was born a few minutes before midnight. Nellie was comforting the new mom and asked, “What will you name him?” In broken English Lucy groaned, “My father’s name was Šimun Tomislav.” Nellie rolled her eyes, “Perhaps we can make that great name sound more American…” Suddenly, the midwife broke the tranquility, “There’s second child!” Lucy fainted.
In the stillness of the pristine Christmas Day morning, Lucy was introduced to her fraternal twin sons. Named by Madam Nellie, the elder (by an hour) Samuel Thomas was a healthy six pounds. The second, Joseph George was a scrawny two-pounder struggling to breathe. The boys were given the name Singletary, in the hope that Lucy's favorite customer Joseph George Singletary would support them...but he didn't.
In a couple of months, the girls of the house had arranged a rotation to communally attend to the boys while Lucy worked. Sammy was strong but little Joey didn’t take well to the breast. He was weak from undernourishment and it was feared that he would be susceptible to disease. So when a shrill hacking cough woke up the house, the ladies feared the dreaded baby killer, whooping cough. They rushed to Joey’s aid. The women found tiny Joey sleeping peacefully until another distressed bark turned everyone’s attention to Sammy.
Lithuanian Mary was sent to the Frolic Tavern. She was told to promise anyone a fifty-cent piece who could come back and do some doctoring. A low-life barfly accepted the proposition. On the way up, he groped several girls. When saw the baby he shrugged, “It don’t look good…where’s my four bits?” A real doctor was sent for. He diagnosed Sammy as having diphtheria and before the summer, the big brother died.
Two years later, impish Joey became the whorehouse's mascot. He was playing with one of his many mothers when a violent shriek rang-out from the third floor. There was the sound of a struggle...then a scream of finality. A john bounded down the stairs. Moments later, Lucy Pisarcik was discovered dead...with a knife in her neck.
The working girls tried to keep Joey but social services shipped him off to the St. Eustis Home for Children.
In 1944 Joey was fourteen. The crumbling orphanage was about to close and disperse its populace. The over-worked Monsignor, who had deemed the diminutive loner as incorrigible, now faced the dilemma of “sticking” another institution with the troubled boy or shipping him to a reform school.
In early June, Joey disturbed an arithmetic lesson and was beaten mercilessly by Brother Dante. But the punishment was far reaching. The next day, while waiting to board one of the buses for the school trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brother Dante jumped Joey from behind and dragged him back into the building.
A new student, Consuela Wood witnessed the attack. At fifteen, this bashful girl was the tallest person at St. Eustis. Due to her newness, height, Philippine/American parentage and acne plagued complexion, she was taunted by the other kids. Soon like Joey, she became a withdrawn loner.
Consuela saw something heroic about Joey. All through the class trip as she dodged bullying barbs about her heritage, matured body and pimples, she had romantic fantasies about Joey.
While the student body enjoyed the outing, Brother Dante punished Joey by leaving him with the custodian, Carroll Inmen. Inmen (or as the kids called, Old Tomato Face), was a red-nosed old man who used to play Santa every year at Christmas, until a mysterious problem occured between him and a student. To everyone’s dismay, stoic Brother Dante became the new Santa.
Mr. Inmen was ordered to have Joey do his chores that day. While Joey mopped around the Ionic columns at the main entrance, Inmen smoked a few Chesterfields outside.
The old man came back, looked at Joey's half-assed, unfinished work and said, “Excellent job…now we can move on to something more important.” Joey growled in sing-song voice, “Yes Mr. Inmen.” Inmen gently lifted Joey’s chin and smiled, “Call me Cal.”
In the basement of the decrepit Pre-Civil War building, beyond stacks of text books, desks and chairs was a junk pile of broken items. Cal said, “To help fight the Huns and Japs, we’re gonna bring all the metal outside.” Joey said, “This mess helps fight Japs?” Cal picked up a bent bed frame and said, “Scrap metal guys take it, melt it down and bring it to the factories that make armaments…” Joey said, “Heh?” “You know airplanes, tanks and bombs.” The patriotic notion motivated Joey to talk about running away and enlisting as he hustled-up the day-long event into ninety minutes.
Cal wiped his brow and said, “Excellent job, kid. You deserve a reward.” He was rubbing Joey’s upper arm as the boy exclaimed, “Yessirree.” Inmen took Joey into the side-basement, an interior, four-foot wide, unlit alley. This brick-lined conduit ran parallel with the long basement. Despite Inmen’s flashlight, the walk in the damp darkness was nerve-racking as Joey inched slowly along. Inmen impatiently prodded Joey along from behind. Joey cried, “Are there rats and bugs in here?” Inmen sneered, “There are much worse things in life than vermin,” as he patted Joey’s posterior.
Joey didn't like being touched back there. He remembered that Inmen had gotten in some sort of trouble before. He was scared and wanted to punch Old Tomato Face...but where could he run to. In the near distance, Joey saw a thin silver line of light on the floor. At the same time Inmen said, “Here we are” and opened the squeaky door.
To Joey's surprise, he wasn't being led to a dungeon. The door opened to the sun-drenched boiler room but Joey still didn't feel safe. He up to spied the row of street-level opaque windows that led to a small, latched opening that allowed for coal deliveries. He examined the coal chute and decided to scale it and use it as an emergency escape route.
Inmen's lair featured a cot, a rectangular table and a beat-up easy chair hidden behind the massive boiler. Cal told Joey to sit in the comfy chair as he grabbed something from inside the cracked, cinder-block wall. Joey was curious but couldn’t see what it was. Inmen lit another Chesterfield, pulled up a busted, three-legged stool and said, “Here’s the reward I offered you.” The old-timer produced the pint of Canadian Club rye. Joey trembled as he took a slug, spit it out and had a coughing fit. Mr. Inmen laughed, “Take a drag off my cig…” Joey smiled, “Next time you wanna give me a reward, get me an orange Nehi.”
The next Sunday morning was cloudy and breezy. After mass, Consuela approached Joey. She was complimenting his bravery as he surveyed her and the shapely body that the older boys thought was so appealing. Joey was in shock that any girl would talk to him as he remembered what a jock said; Consuela’s perfect, skinny with big tits…as a flow a blood to his genitals resulted in an erection. When he saw her adoring smile, Joey realized it was Cal's day off. He got a wild idea and suggested an adventure to Inmen’s man cave. She agreed to go.
He led the way with Cal's flashlight as Consuela fearlessly followed behind holding his other hand. The boiler room was filthy. But despite wearing her best white blouse, she overlooked the dirtiness and marveled at the secret hide-away. He offered her the comfy chair, found the rye and pulled-up the broken stool.
Consuela turned down the liquor. Ever so carefully, Joey let one droplet of rye into his mouth. She closed her eyes, puckered her lips and said, “Do with me as you wish.” Joey was a devious, guilt-ridden problem-child. He never cared about the scoldings, punishments and being beaten. But this time, he truly knew that taking the next step was a sin.
Joey invisioned being beaten to death by Brother Dante and eternal damnation from God as he stared at Consuela's soft throat, past her dangling crucifix, the “V” shape formed by her open collar and down to her breasts. He was still ogling her as she breathlessly said, “I'm ready.” Joey ignored his fear of going to hell and leaned forward. His inexperienced hand reached for her bosom as a crack of thunder startled him. His hand accidentally clawed across her chest and the top button popped off. When she let out a little shriek, he panicked and scaled the coal chute. She cried out, “It’s okay,” as he opened the latch, pushed himself through the narrow slit and into the street.
Consuela mended the button, washed the soot off her blouse and never mentioned the incident. Joey wasn’t missed until dinner yet despite police involvement, the scared boy never returned. All he had was the clothes on his back, a tattered photo of his mother and his Student Index File Card that he had stolen from the Monsignor’s file cabinet. This card included his December 25th birthday, mother’s name, George Singletary as his father and identified Samuel Thomas as his deceased brother.
In the weeks that followed Joey lived by his wits in streets and slept in Central Park. In August, St. Eustis closed and the students were reassigned to different orphanages. But because Joey’s ID card was missing, he fell through the bureaucratic cracks and was never missed.
Summer gave way to autumn. The chillier weather and the abundance of enlistment posters since D-Day (June 6, 1944) gave Joey the idea to join the army. He switched to his middle name and his mother’s name and marched into the Times Square recruitment office. Joey wasn’t fifteen yet but looked a lot younger plus he had no ID. He was shooed away.
He tried again at a naval enlistment center. This time, young George Pisarcik was taken serious…so serious that he was detained. When the boy refused to give parental information or an address, the police were called. Before they arrived, George bolted out the door. He kept running until he got to the freight yards, hopped into a boxcar and never returned to New York.
For over twenty-five years, George Pisarcik led a hobo life. This fit his loner lifestyle. He was around few women in that time and because of his guilt over “molesting” Consuela and the eternal damnation drummed into him by Brother Dante…he eventually stopped achieving erections...and didn’t miss them.
The best place in the country for hobos was Las Vegas Nevada. Glitter Gluch became a Mecca for drifters because it offered meager jobs (handing out leaflets or casino coupons), inexpensive food and liquor and a comfortable climate. It was so popular that a hobo shantytown sprang-up in the downtown train yards.
George overheard other bums fantasizing about scamming casinos. So he decided to see what life was like inside. He became a fixture at the Tropicana and developed a down-on-his-luck “rap” that would encourage patrons to spot him a few dollars. Soon he formed a route through other casinos so he and his “schtick” wouldn’t be so apparent.
Years later, casinos started cracking down on hustlers like him. Now that his “job” was more difficult, he tried something new…by staging a fake fall at the Sahara.
His ploy worked well because the best interest of the casino was served by indulging this nuisance. So after a paltry out-of-court settlement, the Sahara fortified their defenses against such nonsense in the future while side-stepping bad publicity.
For George, the actual cashing-in became more complicated because he had no ID, no past and no identity. So in the hospital, he had to add amnesia to his list of physical maladies. Then through the unwitting help of Ms. Nilson, an altruistic social worker, his scam net over ten thousand dollars.
George confessed to Nilson that he lied about the amnesia. He cut-off the name from his St. Eustis student identification card and said he wanted is new name to be George Pisarcik. The spinster didn't like being "played." She assumed he was from New York because of his accent but her investigation found no hospital that matched the births with the dates. So rather than undo the mess, she decided to make it her mission to save George's soul. One of her stipulations included George taking the tiny apartment over her garage…which he did. And get a real job…which he did not.
|MS. NILSON WAS MOLDED FROM NANCY KULP (1921-1991). SHE PLAYED MISS JANE HATHAWAY, A STICK-IN-THE-MUD BANKER'S SECRETARY ON THE LONG-RUNNING, "BEVERLEY HILLBILLES," TV SHOW.|
George without considering the comfort of a woman squandered the whole ten thousand gambling. In that time, he became a fixture at the Stardust Casino’s sports book, (race horse and sports betting parlor), and was exposed to a criminal element that included loan sharks, drug dealers, pimps and thieves. At times of extreme poverty, he accepted small jobs from these lowlifes.
Outside the casinos, George spent years dodging Ms. Nilson and her prying questions...while desperately trying to maintain the only solid roof over his head since St. Eustis.
To avoid the criminals, when he was broke, George developed a new talent as an independant tout. He scratched out an existence by recommending race horses or sports teams to naive gamblers and receiving occasional commissions for his expert advice.
Still, he experienced tough times. It was during one of those lulls that Dennis LaRue (the lowlife bell captain at the Stardust) recruited him, another hustler named Marco Del Toro and an English cripple named Cobby Webster to rob that casino, (no spoiler alert here…you’ll have to join CHARLIEOPERA, WTW, ZYMBOT, THELARCH, JERMAC and a couple of others who read my book).
|IN THE TWO YEARS I DEALT CRAPS AT THE STARDUST CASINO, I OBSERVED THE ACTIVITES OF A PARTICULAR TOUT (HUSTLER). I NEVER KNEW HIS NAME, SO HIS LIFE STORY AND THE ROBBERY I DISCRIBE ARE COMPLETELY MADE-UP.|
The heist involved Marco driving the getaway car, Cobby being the spotter and George grabbing the money, (casino chips). George was a regular at the Stardust, so it was important to disguise his looks. The least expensive way to do it was a few hours at Caesar’s Palaces's spa. He went in with an unhealthy pasty complexion, a wild hairdo, scraggly beard and clothes that looked like he was just rescued after years on a deserted island. Under LaRue’s tutelage, George came out clean-shaven, in a neat hair-cut and a spray-on sun tan. To complete the disguise, George was given new clothes from Goodwill and non-prescription eye glasses.
LaRue looked at George and Marco as perfect dupes because in his scheme, they would be taking all the risks.
The four-man Bad News Bears-like criminal team met at a round table in the Marina Casino coffee shop. The other two henchmen couldn’t believe George’s clean-cut transformation. With a new found confidence, George joked with the squatty battleaxe waitress. By the time she left to put in their order, her ornery disposition melted into girlish playfulness. Marco said, "That broad looks like Phyllis Diller. And I bet she puts her make-up on with a putty knife." In his gentlemenly English accent Cobby said, "You shouldn't call her a broad, she seems quite pleasant." Marco snapped, "Okay, that train-wreck looks like Phyllis Diller..." Cobby snarled, "Don't listen to this wanker, she has the hots for you." George shrugged it all off.
|PHYLLIS DILLER (1917-2012) WAS A COMEDIENNE WHO PARLAYED AN ECCENTRIC LOOK WITH A LOUD, OBNOXIOUS PERSONALITY TO CARVE-OUT A LONG SUCCESSFUL CAREER.|
A couple of minutes later while delivering another party’s check, the waitress detoured to their table, glided her fingernails along George’s bicep and whispered in his ear, “You’re cute.”
Ten minutes later, she dropped off everyone's food. She was staring down at Marco’s sparsely combed-over bald head when she was repulsed by his intense body odor. She gathered herself and announced, I saved best for last.” While setting down George’s eggs ranchero, she grazed her breasts along his cheek and said, “You’ll love these…” George felt something foreign inside him. This excitement soon blossomed into his first erection in decades.
George was interested but had no inkling how to close the deal so his sexual impulse wasn't acted on. But the waitress followed him outside and said, "Don't be fooled, I can be very spry when I want to be." George didn't know what she meant as she added, "Are you a local?" When he nodded, she gave him her phone number. He read her name on the slip of paper and said, “Rayette, I have work out of town. It might be a while till I call.” She kissed his cheek, smiled coyly and said, “I’ll wait.”
George was neither arrested nor injured during the robbery. He came back, dated Rayette for a short time and at age fifty, lost his virginity to her. However, as part of the heist preparation, Marco stayed over at George’s apartment. Ms. Nilson caught them breaking her “no visitor” rule and changed the lock after they left.
After the job, George begged for his place back. Nilson demanded that he seek employment first. To soothe his relationship, George considered her offer of free blackjack dealer schooling. George stipulated that he would...only if Marco was bundled into the deal. Weeks later, he and Marco went to work as dealers at the California Club and rented a crappy apartment on seedy Chicago Street.
Ms. Nilson help didn’t come cheap. She required George to make monthly visits to her office, (as if he was a parolee) to make sure he was on the straight and narrow. Prior to one of those meetings, George saw an Asian woman, (about twenty years younger than him), in the waiting room. She was struggling to calm her screaming infant. George offered to help. The baby took to his silly noises and funny faces and stopped screaming.
He looked into the mom’s face and asked her name. She said, “Jing.” George knew of the plight of the Vietnamese boat people and understood the rough life they led, (later he would find out that she was Chinese but still led a difficult life).
Jing’s oriental features reminded him of Consuela as he said, “What’s the baby’s name?” She said, “Sammy.” He stammered, “S-s-sammy was my brother’s name.” They were frozen in awkwardness as they looked at each in mutual regard.
Later in their conversation, George found out that the child’s American father had run off and that Ms. Nilson was trying…unsuccessfully…to keep Child Services from taking the baby and possibly deporting Jing. George stepped in and used his influence on Ms. Nilson and got an extension. In that extra time, he spent a lot of his spare time and money on Jing and the baby.
At the casino, George’s personality flourished. He used his experience with Rayette to gain the sympathy of female dealers by saying, “Her addiction to nickel slots (machines) ruined our relationship.” He then sighed, “It was the best sex I ever had…” He also told unbelievable but true stories about being a hobo. He was so endearing that two of the divorcees he worked with fought for his attention. But it didn’t matter; he was falling in love with Jing.
On the other hand, Marco’s moodiness (bi-polar disorder) repelled the same coworkers. Plus he always smelled like he never bathed and was an unskilled, habitual liar.
Marco was estranged from his wife and adult daughter (he was unaware that they had recently moved back to South Philadelphia). So while George platonically sat most nights with Jing, Marco was alone. Without his only friend, he went crazy with boredom. Their relationship then hit a brick wall when George announced he wanted to get an apartment with Jing. Marco felt betrayed and sealed their fate by calling George (Pisarcik) his long lost, hated nickname, “Piss.”
Within a short time of their split, Marco returned to gambling. Once his downward spiral hit rock-bottom, he started hanging out at the Stardust Race and Sports Book. When he was completely broke, he reintroduced himself to the hustler lifestyle. It didn’t take long until he owed the wrong people more money than he could handle. So through the use of "favors," to pay down his debt, the novice gangster met with a painful, lonely death.
Ms. Nilson got Jing free training and she became a blackjack dealer too. While visiting Ms. Nilson’s office together, George proposed. A month after their wedding, George adopted baby Sammy and cried, “Sammy Pisarcik will live again.”
George, Jing and Sammy moved to a modest apartment in a better section of town. To celebrate, he invited Ms. Nilson to a luncheon. The happy couple surprised Nilson when they asked for baby name suggestions. The old maid excitedly said, “When are you expecting?” Jing said, “Around Christmas…” Nilson said, "Let's see...maybe Noel or Noelle would be a good name.” George and Jing politely shook their heads. “Well then,” Nilson continued, “If it’s a boy, he should carry your name…” George avoided eye-contact and coyly said, “Nah, everyone should have their own identity.” Nilson said, “Well, I’ve always been partial to the name Lowell…” George and Jing’s giggles signaled their disapproval.
Nilson wasn’t insulted as she said, “Okay wise-guys. What were you thinking?” George said, “We were thinkin’ Mark for my best friend Marco...may he rest in peace. But we're stuck for a middle name…” Nilson said, “You’re sure Lowell is out of the question?” George grinned, “Seriously, I know you how many years...and I don’t know your first name.” “It’s no secret, my full name is Leanne Gretchen Nilson…” George fought off another giggle and said, “I would like to honor you…but there isn’t much we can do with Gretchen.” Jing smiled, “Like Leanne, my father’s name was Lee.”
On Christmas Day, Jing gave birth to Lee Mark Pisarcik. In the hospital George was beaming when he told Ms. Nilson, "This is my merriest Christmas. And even better, my baby boy will share the same birthday as me..." Nilson said, "And...you both will have the same birthday as Him." George scratched his chin, "Him who?" Nilson pointed upwards and smiled, "Jesus." George shrugged, "Oh yeah, him too..."
Interestingly, because of the baby's stinky diapers and bald head, George and Jing began to call him Marco…and the name stuck.
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LET ME NOW IF YOU WANT TO READ MY, "IF IT AIN'T NAILED DOWN," BOOK, LET ME KNOW AN I'LL ARRANGE IT. EITHER WAY, HAVE YOUR OWN MERRIEST CHRISTMAS EVER! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOU CONTINOUS SUPPORT.