Blue Collar Noir, International Noir, MARC OLMSTED, Poetry, Short Stories


Zachariah knew his old girlfriend was stripping so he wanted to check on her.  J was now in his 40s, the girl was in her mid 20s, it had been 5 years since they were lovers.  He was now the night manager at a Mt. Rainer mountain lodge and when I asked him if he was a hermit, he said, “I guess so.”  I don’t know if the failed romance had put him there.  He said all he needed was pencil and paper, he was a great artist, and had actually sold a lot of work but people seemed a problem.  He still drank, still smoked, but had apparently been a lot worse once said his old friend Tia, now visiting Portland and staying at my place after running around Portland night with him looking for his stripper ex-girlfriend.   Z and the girl, call her Treats, had been texting, but his phone died and he didn’t bring a charger.  When I met him as he dropped Tia off, he seemed befuddled, hungover, had the face of a drinker and the sad eyes of someone who Just couldn’t deal. 

But Z did remember had remembered she worked at a strip club with two words like the Kit Kat, and miraculously after 5 clubs they found Treats, each club getting worse and worse until they were out by the airport.  Treats was just done with her shift and wanted everyone to go back to her place.  [It was a two-storied apartment building from anycity, USA.  She lived there with a black stripper, Trix, “a tiny thing” said Tia.  The girls got down to the business of partying and put a big tray of coke down onto of the garbage on the coffee table.  Z did a line or so, Tia did none, and the girls went on to polish off the 8 ball, each doing roughly 3 and a half grams each and drinking Everclear.  Now Everclear is deadly (and in case you don’t know illegal in 14 states but not good ole Oregon.)  it is virtually pure alcohol but if you put it in juice, it goes down with an ease that is essentially the provided pen and paper of a suicide note, or the drawing pad of Z,, whichever came first.  Z had one sip of the Everclear and immediately vomited.  The girls pounded the coke and Everclear for hours, but never became incoherent.  Trix kept getting calls on her phone and would disappear for twenty minutes to half an hour.  She was apparently having sex in cars outside. 

My understanding was that Portland strippers made a shit wage, and existed primarily on tips, which meant they almost couldn’t exist at all.  Hooking was virtually inevitable.  In Portland, count yourself majorly lucky if you worked at the UPS store for minimum wage.  Treats just got new tits, which certainly didn’t come from stripper tips.  Treats seemed to want to screw Z but Z was having none of it.  He was devastated but what he was seeing.  Perhaps their age difference was finally making sense to him, maybe he already knew.  Treats and older men.  When I saw his artwork, it was dominated by haunted figures, possessed people.  I hoped he never ran around with an axe in Mt. Rainer some night in the lodge.  That night he just ran in his head. 

The party went on till dawn.  Tia tried to mellow things with some weed she’d been given at a wedding she was in Portland for, but the Trix and Treats were having none of it.   Hahahahahhhaaaaaaaaaha whooooooooo!  They were the masters now, they were the magicians of the Golden Dawn which now rose tepidly through cracks in the heavy curtains.  Afraid to see their flesh burn brushing against an accidentally beam of daylight, Z finally begged off.  Tia had wanted to go hours ago;    Maybe Z was trying to figure out a way to save Treats, but each equation kept adding up to the same grim Waco. 

Treat and Trix said goodbye indoors.  Tia watched Z clutch the black railing of the staircase down to the street with the fierceness of a drowning man.  If possible, he gripped his steering wheel even tighter.

Marc Olmsted has appeared in City Lights Journal, New Directions in Prose & Poetry, New York Quarterly, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and a variety of small presses.  He is the author of five collections of poetry, including What Use Am I a Hungry Ghost?, which has an introduction by Allen Ginsberg.   Olmsted’s 25 year relationship with Ginsberg is chronicled in his  Beatdom Books memoir Don’t Hesitate: Knowing Allen Ginsberg 1972-1997 – Letters and Recollections, available on Amazon.  For more of his work,