Klugman’s Plea (with a hair in the gate)

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An ode to “In Praise Of Pip” Twilight Zone S5, Ep121 1963.

The air raid siren’s playing a Tony Bennett tune. We’re all heaped in yellow, washed brutally in gold, and stabbed brushing into a stale copper that’s jerry-rigging havoc from the street’s steely skin. The ambulances are in a trance, and I’m making hay with a gentleman’s magazine. Lowly and rising. There’s a sticker price of 99 cents on most of my ideas, and the garbage sure ain’t taking itself out, but the sky’s lapping up the lazuli from an opening-day sale, and the cards have lost their faces and their shine, and for the moment there’s no real way to tell if the weather’s going to take off its hat and stick around a while. The Senators are all dead. The sky’s pitching for its life. And I’m just one of those heels with a Robin-Hood complex, gone from auburn to a streaky gray. It’s to laugh. No more bets. No more bottle. No more plying blue for the dirt. The carousel’s piping Gloria and spitting rain-slick neon, and the shooting gallery’s all ducks and squashed hope. A shill ducking for cover in a rooming house dreams big and loses the same way. The sodden carcass of an aging, weak idiot in exchange for a little kid’s shoe-box soul. The nature of reality’s becoming unraveled. Stuffy and refined, going out for a beer run and forgetting to buy beer. Geezer plates and teeth like a rabid hound, and all inroads are leading out to the pastures of hell. Locks change. Doors get blown. Strays’ chains rattle the kennels. A place where there’s not even supposed to be a war on, and the kid lies dying, for an hour or so. Low-balling chances of making it out to brighter lights, to the peppered squeaks and thwacks of a pickup game. An hour. An hour. Nobody’s stuffing three hundred in an envelope. Nobody’s drinking light beer. A dropped coin down the slot of blame and ruin. The odds of getting into heaven at an all-time low. And TS Eliot was just a lazy banker with a lot of free time. Making moves from scraps and leftovers, worn-down resentment, out-classed pizzazz. Tax me, then. The rum’s been stirred to life. The spaghetti’s gone to mush. A bible’s ripped to shreds on the bed. Hang on. Get yourself a stool’s worth. We’ll meet back at a quarter ‘til doomsday. The string is gone from the piñata. The milk’s drained from the livestock. Catch the last bus to Norfolk. We’ll find others to hang for our crimes. We’ll don paraffin wings and gorilla-glue felt hearts to our wrists. Don’t you know, the moon’s made of squash and eucalyptus bark? Cash on the barrelhead, it’s only cashed-in losses now. Bet the book and throw silver dollars at the band when they’re finally done for good. Our song’s been out of tune for so long now that we don’t even notice. A couple of broken mirrors and your picture fallen frame-less to the concrete, a widow’s weeping caught in the slivers and shards. Hokey-Pokey’d to a dream while home’s just one last losing streak away. It’s to laugh. That’s what it’s always been. To laugh. So, steal the smoke from all the fires, and curl, soft and happy and lost, into the curve of the world. We’ll send out for the clowns to take care of the rest.

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