Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Audrey, Pink Bunny Slippers, Her Cat, and the God’s Eye…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman © May 18, 2017

(a podcast of this story I read on 91.1 FM, WGTD Kenosha, Wis NPR a week earlier courtesy of the warm and kind people of the Kenosha Writers Guild, especially Dave Gourdoux, has a link at the end of this posting.)

 

I was reading an online obituary page a while ago, and saw that Audrey, my Audrey, by then 86, had died.

It sent a shiver through me and I glanced over at the God’s Eye I’ve kept with me wherever I’ve moved over the past half century. It rests about five feet away from me. Intricately woven multi-colored yarn with fine detail in a Native American style, using three foot-long slender branches tied together in the shape of a six-pointed star.

It is a spiritual and ritual object thought to have magical powers by the ancient Pueblo tribes in the Southwest.

It is thought to possess the power to be able to see and understand that which an ordinary person cannot see.

Audrey, I thought to myself, now you’re really gone from me, aren’t you?

The pain within me was so real, so deep. She was someone I would often go see in Shabby Town, when I needed to remind myself that whatever else was wrong with me, with my life, a woman with fine qualities like Audrey–and Jesus, man–so beautiful, too, who was willing to give me a second look, well, ok, a lot more than a second look, then…maybe I had something valuable about me that she wanted, too, if only for a moment in time.

Audrey, Audrey, that picture of you, that little old lady scrunched up in a hospital bed, why had that newspaper or whatever online things are called now…no idea about how incredible you once were? What you were really like, so long ago. The smile that radiated from your big brown eyes, and your soft wide mouth?

So kissable a mouth. Soft lips, Audrey, you had such soft lips…soft everything.

I’m going back to visit Shabby Town, gotta see you one more time, see you as you were to me a million years ago, see your pink bunny slippers, your wide hips…oh man, here I go……

In 1969, just about every morning at seven, a thirtyish woman who lived a block west of my wooden newsstand in Hyde Park would begin her special little shuffle toward me, to buy her daily New York Times. After the first few times she arrived, and I noticed her, because how could I not notice her, I sort of looked west at the brownstone apartment buildings around that morning time to see if she was coming. No question who it was, once she began her steady trek toward me.

About five feet tall, short dark hair cut like a professional woman would have done, who didn’t want to bother with her hair in the morning, thick gold wire-rimmed glasses that magnified her lovely eyes, no makeup which her cushy pouty mouth and smooth white skin didn’t need, wearing a long pink bathrobe, big fluffy pink bunny slippers, holding a large cup of coffee that had this European aroma flowing from it when she came close enough for me to inhale it, and she did come close enough for me to do that, and her own fresh aroma, too, like she had just stepped out of a hot shower—I liked to imagine that—slipped on her pink robe, grabbed her coffee cup and came shuffling along to get her daily dose of liberal East Coast news.

From me, her local paperboy, paper person, newspaper slave and far younger but extremely polite local admirer of everything about her.

She’d pay me the fifty cents, always two silver Washington quarters pressed into my calloused hand, her smaller hand slightly damp, scan at the big New York Times headline of the day, sip coffee from her mug, sometimes wrinkle her nose disapprovingly if she didn’t like whatever the political news was that morning, then, she’d turn to look up at me, smile her wide smile with so many white teeth slightly stained by coffee, pat my arm or whatever part of me was nearest to her hand and then she’d turn west to shuffle back home.

I’d watch her shuffle home. Her hips had this interesting rhythm when she walked away, almost musical. Maybe some old Fifties song playing in her memory.

She knew I was watching, even though I tried to be discreet about it. One day, she unexpectedly turned back while I was looking at her and she caught me, looked into my wide surprised eyes, and she laughed. I was so embarrassed, but she wasn’t. I think she always knew I was looking. Some women just know what attractive things they have, and assume that men admire that something, whatever it is. Audrey had a lot to admire.

One day, after she asked me and I told her that, yeah, I owned the newsstand, that I was the Bob of Bob’s Newsstand, like it said on the black and white wooden sign I painted in my high school workshop and then nailed up on the newsstand’s roof three years before, and that I was nineteen.

Audrey then told me her name was Audrey, that she was a therapist, that she was thirty-eight and from her very distinct accent, told me she was from Brooklyn.

From most people who were not in cars and walked right up to my stand to buy a newspaper from me, I’d automatically take their coins with one hand and with my other hand swiftly fold their newspaper in half and slide it right under their arm so they could just take off and run for the Illinois Central train to Downtown Chicago.

I pretty much memorized all my regular customer’s newspapers preferences—which pleased them—and I was very fast about the whole transaction. Just a little friendly chit-chat and they were gone.

I never attempted to do that with Audrey, because she was holding her pink robe closed with one hand and had her coffee cup in the other hand, and if I tried to slip a New York Times under her arm holding the robe together, it would open up and show me a whole lot more than she intended to show me, while in pursuit of her daily printed fix.

 

I assumed she would feel that way because she saw how I waited on the other customers if I was busy when she appeared on any particular morning. I never asked her if I could do this most common of experienced newsvendor’s action with her. I did imagine what she might look like, if I did do that, and perhaps she did, too.

But both of us were silent about it and I just put the Times in her hand when she gave me the two quarters.

I was polite in my lust, Audrey being twice as old as I was, me born in 1950 and she born in 1931, at the beginning of the Great Depression and a decade before World War Two.

I would never dream of putting any of my customers in some embarrassing situation no matter what my imagination wanted and so Audrey and I went on this way for a while. I marveled at how different the situation was for me at that point in my life, when remembering how impossible it was for me to get noticed by any of the attractive girls in my fancy private high school, especially when they knew I ran a grungy pathetic newsstand and that I was never gonna be going to Harvard, ever.

Yet at the newsstand, very nice-looking women, those same stuck-up high school teenaged girl’s mother’s age—or Audrey’s age–and older would flirt with me all the time.

Married women, nurses going off duty from the University of Chicago Medical School, working-class women coming off of the night shift somewhere, just all sorts of older women were a little aggressive in asking me questions about: When was I off work, and was I married or did I have a girlfriend, and my, lifting all those heavy bundles of newspapers sure kept me in good shape, and all that kind of uncomfortable stuff.

A world of difference from the total indifference of the girls I tried to take out a year before. My battered, $300 seven-year-old 1962 gun-metal blue Buick Electra 225 didn’t tip the scales in my favor, either.

I didn’t change much, but those middle-aged women’s lives sure did, twenty years after they were the hot chicks or prom queens or whatever they were back in 1949. A little rounder, a few lines in their foreheads and around their eyes and mouths, maybe life was kinda dull and dreary for some of those women. Maybe their long ago Prince Charming turned out to actually be a toad. A boring, snoring toad.

I never responded to any invitations or stuff like that from my flirtatious customers because it was a bad policy to sleep with married women or even single regular customers in general, especially if their husbands or boyfriends were also customers of mine. Not every opportunity was a golden one, and making politically influential local Hyde Park people angry with me, could also endanger my valuable city newsvendor license.

Audrey had a Turkish boyfriend—Faruk!. Met him once while he was shopping with her in a grocery story when lovely Audrey was wearing actual clothes that made her all the more alluring to my teenaged imagination. They added definition to what the pink bathrobe concealed.

 

Faruk.

 

He was a big guy who looked like he’d stepped out of a Camel Cigarette commercial, with pale tan desert-colored two-pocketed shirts, sleeves rolled up to show off his thick muscular biceps, dusty blue jeans and who was, he told me, an archeologist. Very tall, wore hiking boots, thick black moustache, thick Turkish accent, deep voice, wide shoulders perhaps from digging though all those hot desert sands searching for dead things from lost civilizations.

Them standing together, her curvy self five-feet tall, him a muscular vertical six-foot-four or whatever, was annoying for me to contemplate in other circumstances besides their serenely shopping together in a grocery store.

Well, I didn’t know or want to know any more about Mr. Adventure. Her pink bunny boots were more of a fascination to me, frankly. I liked sexy Audrey, but all I did was sell her a newspaper every morning and admired her very fine ass wiggling as she walked back home. The arrangement was working out well and, I had no plans to change it.

Then, Audrey came by late one evening and she asked me to do her a favor.

 

Beware of sexy therapists asking favors.

 

She was off to some Native American art and culture convention in San Francisco, with her charming gravedigger, Faruk, and would I please consider feeding her cat, Feline, at night after I closed down the newsstand?

Audrey said she trusted me after a year of our warm fleeting conversations and that it would be a very kind thing for me to do for a very good customer. I imagined she was subtly wiggling her very fine ass as she was speaking to me even though she was facing me, in order to persuade me to respond positively to her in my fevered state. Perceptive therapist.

 

Not such an easy thing to do, since I hated cats.

An evolutionary mistake. No one ever had a cat. A cat had them. You can come home, not come home, a cat doesn’t give a good goddamn.

Annoying humans are irrelevant to their lives and it was such an inconvenience to the superior cats they were dependent on their so-called owners–to feed them. The only animal to effectively display their condescension and an attitude of irrelevance regarding people. They made obvious their antagonized mewing resentment of any effort to thwart their hunting for delicious songbirds to kill under the cover of darkness.

 

But…I digress.

 

Under Audrey’s compelling aura, her liquid magnified brown eyes searching mine, I instantly agreed to do her bidding and she smiled her smile, wide and soft, kissable and wordlessly inviting me to find out about that some time.

Well…

She pressed her house key into my hand with the same gentle pressure she used to give me her two silver quarters every morning for her New York Times. I closed my fingers around the key and told her not to worry. Her eyes still penetrating mine, Audrey slowly squeezed my own, not too inconsiderable bicep, like I was some dumb, but healthy animal she was considering acquiring.

Perhaps.

Nearly five-foot-nine (internationally agreed upon height for Jewish males whether they won a Nobel Prize or robotically sold a Wall Street Journal to a passing car every morning, like some capitalist drone), about 155 pretty solid pounds, muscular hands permanently covered with black newsprint, my face and arms burnished from the sun each morning, my own dark brown hair and dark brown eyes stemming from my own desert people thousands of years ago, possibly still wandering around the Sinai

My wary street urchin face didn’t exactly stop traffic, although it was fair to say my ramshackle newsstand…did.

Well, even if I might not have been gorgeous or anything, but pretty women did whisper nice things to me. They did stop and kinda lingered, sometimes, just watching me. And every so often, when it seemed not impossibly dangerous, I got kissed…and other stuff.

So go fly a kite, mister photogenicFaruk.

Or a King Tut Sar-coph-a-gus.

 

For what I believed she said would be a week, I closed my newsstand in the dark—because it was late October in 1969 and getting darker, earlier—and somewhat wearily dragged myself over to Audrey’s second floor apartment to feed her beloved…Feline.

No conversation. Kept my dark thoughts to myself.

On some windy nights, the black branches stretching boney fingers from the tall and leafless trees just outside of Audrey’s multipaneled glass windows, would repeatedly, and loudly scratch against the old fashioned not quite transparent glass. Antique glass, I guess. I never bothered to turn on the lights.

Small place, cat food in the kitchen, right around the corner from the door, Audrey told me. I could see well enough in the moonlight to do my assignment.

 

Leather couch smack against the wall and under the big east window, to catch the sunrise I suppose, some comfy armchairs facing that couch, short coffee table between them covered, totally covered with books I’d never read, books falling off of the old scratched wooden coffee table and piling up on the floor:

Ancient Palestine, Near East sites, Assyrian civilization, Biblical Egyptian Dynasty Monuments, conversational Aramaic…yeah…real bathroom reading sorts of books. Endless obsessions with digging up the dead.

Art on the walls from her world travels, some pictures here and there of Audrey at various ages, and I could see she was getting better with time, African fabrics and a Native American God’s Eye, strange, primitive and compelling to look at. That was very cool. Definitely caught my eye, though I had no idea what it was. Not then.

Night, after night, after night, at or near 8 pm…robotically feeding the damned cat…my arms and shoulders aching from lifting all the heavy bundles of newspapers…my eyes drooping with weariness from rising at 4 am to prevent the evil newspaper truck drivers from stealing some of my newspapers out of the dozens of tightly wire-bound bundles of Chicago Tribunes and Chicago Sun-Times, which would then expand to fill the new vacuum…I did what I promised Audrey I’d do.

In the rain.

In the cold.

In my day’s end exhaustion, I forgot which day it was, like the indifferent cat would ever bother to tell me. Never thanked me, either. But there I was, soundlessly unlocking the door, rain pounding Audrey’s strange leaded windows, branches waving in the wind, crashing against the glass, the room dark as one of Faruk’s tombs, I went to get a cup of Feline’s food when I heard her high pitched: Mew!.

Surprised me because that cat was always silent.

 

Then, out of the shadows, a small dark figure appeared, scaring the living shit out of me, and I recoiled from whatever the hell it was. Then my eyes adjusted. It was Audrey. Jesus H Christ!! It was Audrey.

 

Silently, she approached me, wearing what I recognized was…Faruk’s double-pocketed excavation shirt, except that was all she was wearing and it hung down off of her soft shoulders like a gown. And it was open. I could barely see that, but as she grew closer to me, I could inhale Audrey’s scent. Wow. She really smelled good, and I could feel her body’s warmth as she neared me. And the wine, too.

I stood there, straight and rigid as an Egyptian Obelisk.

Audrey stopped in front of me, put her hands on my chest, let them roam all over, squeezing my shoulders, my arms, caressing my face, her hands in my hair, then reaching lower, and lower, squeezing my thighs and caressing other parts of the healthy dumb animal she was considering for…ah…something.

Audrey soon found what she was looking for.

Then she grabbed my dirty calloused hands, slid them under Faruk’s long shirt, guiding them to rest on both of her hips, moving my hands up and down like I was her own living marionette, her hips so wide and round, her amazing ass so squeezable, my rough hands sinking into them, Audrey’s small hands driving mine, pushing mine, my swooning mind racing —that the dangerous grave-digging Faruk was sleeping in the next room.

 

Shit, man!

This was insanity!!!

 

That like a towering Egyptian mummy, Faruk would awaken and crush my smaller shaking body…oh Godshould I go or should I stay? I was nineteen. She was thirty-eight.

 

Farukwas a terror!

 

Then, wordlessly, Audrey guided my invisible hands under her shirt to her breasts, hot skin, taut nipples, breasts big enough to bury my head between them, like cosmic earmuffs, her flesh was perspiring in the cool room, and with my hands attached to her womanly breasts as if rooted there, she raised her own hands to my head, pulled my face next to hers, her mouth open…and I quietly whispered to her,

“Audrey…Audrey, Jesus, Audrey, where the hell is Faruk?

 With her breath flowing into my lungs, looking up at me, she answered so softly I could barely hear her say:

 “Faruk?…Faruk?…Faruk is far, far away…somewhere in Persia, Bob, and you, you are here, here and in my arms, so stop talking and you make love to me, right now!!”

 And I gentlemanly replied,

 “Well, hell Audrey, fuck Faruk!”

And with that, my strong hands came alive, freed her breasts, stripped off that damn dusty shirt in one sweeping motion, throwing it over some headless antique across the room, crushed her wet mouth with mine, her mouth a furnace, her advancing tongue a strong defender, the wine so good, so part of the taste of her, her hands in my hair, pulling my hair, grabbing my shoulders, unbuttoning my clothes so fast her fingers a blur, sliding my damp T-shirt up and then my jeans down like she’s mastered this incredible stripping of a man in an elite Graduate School of Sex.

I kicked off my gym shoes, wriggled out of my jeans, our bodies hot now, wet now, attached now, she grabbed the rigid part of me and pulled, pulled hardHey! God damn it, Audrey!! —and we crashed down on her cold leather couch, my arms embracing her, never leaving her, her pushing me into her as if my cock was a caged beast entering her fiery hell, her body, her hips moving, recoiling like some ten-cent dime-store bucking horse, my hard fingers clutching her ass trying to hang on, the ride of my life, biting her lips, her nipples, our bodies sliding across each other from our sweat, her ass too big to hold on to, my lips on her neck, her mouth so wet, her tongue everywhere on my face, licking me like I was an exotic young lollypop.

My firm young skin against her much older, lush and so fine a body, abruptly she stopping bucking, then erupting, her wide hips arcing upward as if they were launched, slamming against my groin, then back, then stopping, then deep breathing, holding all of me, tracing her fingernails aimlessly on my back, looking into my eyes, far into my eyes, deeply into my mind, no glasses, long lashes, her deliciously painted eyeshadow melting off unto my searching tongue…and then, God, starting up again.

 

No memory needs every single word said, every single act clinically described, some memories so intense, except that I tasted every part of Audrey, she a constantly moving target, and she me, drinking me, our busy tongues skittering across each other like waterbugs racing on a pond. The heat of her hips entrancing, overwhelming, my determined tongue and fingers discovering so many triggers hidden within Audrey, and what I didn’t know—me, then, a sexually unopened teenaged encyclopedia to voracious Audrey, me a virtual clean slate–she was determined to make me drive her amazing body wherever she wanted it to go.

We were on the Intercourse Interstate; speeding ahead, screw the cops, weaving across the lanes, free, fast, wet and still hungry.

Then, it stopped. Not sure how long I was there, or within her, or hunting for every inch of her, but it stopped.

 

Audrey looked up at me, her skin so smooth, but now with guilty eyes. I could feel, somehow it seemed I could always feel what another person’s eyes were saying to me and Audrey’s were overflowing with guilt, with sin, with her taking another man, possessing another man, a man so different than her own, so much younger, young enough to be her child, yet strong enough, old enough to make love to her for hours, or so it seemed, until Audrey got off her expressway and pulled over on the shoulder.

Then she spoke, her Brooklyn voice quavering, her brown eyes crying,

Oh goddamn it, Bob, how could this happen? How could you let me use you like this??

I hate myself!

I hate when this, this madness comes over me, when the hunger comes…what’ll I do?

Faruk can never know!

He’ll kill me, like he promised to do the last time he caught me!

 You!

 You can never speak of this, never, never, never, you understand, you…you…fucking paper-boy?

 I have to think. You have to leave.

Get your clothes.

Get your damn clothes on and get out of here, right now!!

No one can ever know about this. I am so…I don’t know, bad, but Jesus Christ!!, Bob, Jesus…”

 

Then she stood up, naked, so naked–super naked–magnificent, a living sculpture of a real woman, so beautiful. My eyes drank her in. I will keep this dream of this woman within me. Always.

Audrey came over to me…me still naked, shivering, so uncertain, so young, so mystified, caught up with this incredible demanding woman, and beautiful Audrey embraced me, her warm arms grasping me against her, her wet face pressed against my chest, her tears running down my body, like a person whose frenzied fever had finally broken, and she sobbed.

And then, Audrey kissed me, lightly, gently, almost not touching, a goodbye kiss, a kiss with enough magic to last my lifetime, as I type these words in 2017, forty-eight years later, and with stunning Audrey’s death, I’m freed to remember, to tell someone, to celebrate a powerful woman crazed by her need, her compulsion, so much force within her, her gift to unknowing me what I had, up to then, never understood before:

How fierce a woman’s passion could be.

That urgent sex wasn’t just a guy thing.

That a woman could be as hungry as a man, but also be a slave to that need.

Not just the guys.

 

Audrey, I never knew.

I was only nineteen.

 

I silently retrieved my shirt, then politely removed Faruk’s shirt from covering that headless statue, finding my shoes, my jeans, my T-shirt, hearing the hard rain, the clawing branches crashing against the old glass, leaving Audrey, and the pain, knowing I was leaving Audrey, and it hurt, so much in so short a time, she like a demon, she living the guilt, quivering with her sin, me in the way, I dressed, didn’t button my shirt, didn’t tie my gym shoes, didn’t care or know or understand what had happened, and I looked at sobbing naked Audrey, somehow more gentle, even smaller, watching me leave, and as I left, dropping her house key on a small marble table near the front door. No need for it now.

 

Or ever again.

Never saw Audrey again.

No phone calls.

No letters.

But one day, about five years later, an oddly-shaped package arrived at my newsstand. I was then in my middle twenties. The package very light. No return address. Just a handwritten :

 

 Bob’s Newsstand

Hyde Park

51st and Lake Park

Chicago

 

By then, my little wooden shack with a teenaged boy’s name perched above it, that newsstand still wooden, but now much bigger, with many employees, thousands of customers, endless newspaper, TV, radio and magazine interviews, was famous across the United States. No problem for anyone, anywhere getting a package to me from anyplace, in 1975.

I was married by then, had a child, still living my antique existence, but totally unknowing that I was only a decade away from the end of all American newsstands by 1985, from even the death of newspapers, from years of unemployment, from being so lost again at thirty-five, so bewildered by a modern world I didn’t understand and as uncertain as I was back when I was nineteen in 1969.

Standing alone, my back next to the outside wall of my newsstand, I quietly tore off the brown wrapping paper, letting it flutter to the ground, and then also the thin white tissue within.

An electric tremor ran through me.

It was Audrey’s beautiful God’s Eye.

How could she possibly know I wanted it?

How could she ever know a secret wish like that one?

And then, a small, yellow, folded piece of paper fell to the dirt I was standing on. I picked it up and there were these stunning words scrawled across it:

 

Bob, faraway Bob…you’ll never know how much that moment I stole from you that rainy night meant to me. It never left my mind…but I…I left Faruk. I started a new life. Never forgot about you, what happened and I never will. I am happy now. I hope you are too, Bob. Not a boy anymore, are you?

 

I knew, some way I can’t explain, that my God’s Eye was special to you. I still can’t figure that out. So, here, now it’s yours. Hang it on your wall somewhere. Look at it sometimes and please, remember me. And, Dear Bob, thank you for that one intoxicating night.

Goodbye, Audrey

 

I held the yellow note tightly in my hand, sunk my stunned face against the soft God’s Eye’s yarn, suddenly imagining I was inhaling the warm fragrance of Audrey. The womanly Audrey. Then slowly, I slid down the rough wooden wall of that damned newsstand, my ass hitting the dirt and, oh damn you, Audrey…I cried.

 

My hour-long story reading at WGTD 91.1 NPR Kenosha, Wis is now a podcast. The interview and story can be heard here:

With special guest star and featured writer Bob Katzman. Bob reads his memoir, “Audrey, Pink Bunny Slippers, Her Cat and the God’s Eye” and talks about his w…

Your comments are welcome, below, and please tell others I can be found here as a writer. I can also be hired as a speaker for organizations, etc, both here and in Europe.

I can be contacted at:

robertmkatzman@gmail.com or 847.274.1474

4 Comments »

Comment by SV

July 9, 2017 @ 10:01 am

Bob, this is a wonderful recollection. I felt I was next to you. Knowing you held this story for nearly 5 decades is a huge tribute. A dear friend gave me some gifts, and I think of her every time I see them, 50+ years later. We didnt meet till 10 years later, but I can picture all of the story. I know a lot of you went into this chapter. It deserves to be in some anthology.

Comment by beauty messages

July 9, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

I’m excited to uncover this page. I wanted to thank you for ones time
for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every bit of
it and I have you book marked to see new stuff on your blog.

Comment by Charlie Newman

July 9, 2017 @ 5:16 pm

as always, Bud…beautifully done, my Friend

Comment by Don Larson

July 10, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

Hi Bob,

This may be one of your best stories.

Strange as it may be for me to write my next sentence, but it clarifies an event of my own back in 1971. I’ll have to talk you you about it on the phone soon, that 1971 event had a hold on me for decades. Your story helped me reconcile about it.

Very possiblely other readers of this story find solace too?

Warmest regards,

Don

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