You are going to get hurt in a knife fight. Unless you are incredibly lucky, which I must have been that night. Wasn’t skill or fancy choreography like a martial arts movie. I came up off that floor like a wild animal, exploding in panic, and thrashing. He must have dropped the knife, or it got knocked out of his hand, because I don’t remember ever seeing it again. In fact, I don’t remember anything except stroboscopic images, individual frames, bungled together in the editing room. I certainly don’t remember anything Sailor Martin said, or yelled, or my replies, if anything coherent. Screaming.
Scrambling across the floor, my legs still tangled in the blanket. Grabbing the lawn chair and whirling to swing it at him. Yelling. Battering him with the chair over and over. Spitting.
Sailor Martin naked, jumping up and down on the bed, with his hands out in from of him trying to push me away, the top half of his body brown as coffee, the bottom half white as fish belly, a two-toned harlequin, with a tiny penis bouncing up and down. Cursing.
Grabbing my clothes off the radiator and my boots off the floor. Fumbling with the door knob, ramming my shoulder into the door until it burst open. The cold, rain-laden wind hitting me. Spinning the wrong way, slamming into a rail, stumbling down slippery stairs in the driving rain, naked and clutching my clothes.
Huddling in a doorway, pulling on my clothes, heavy, wet, and cold. Missing one sock and my skivvies, casualties of the escape. The sickness falling on me like sandbags. Skin scalded with fever and joints throbbing in agony. Shaking. Dizzy. Vision blurred.
Pushing myself out of the doorway, dropping my head against the gale, I staggered back toward a lighted boulevard I could see a few blocks away. A few people were still about, though I had no idea what time it was. Nightclubs were belching forth their last-call losers. I hunkered down in the doorway of a bar, closing my eyes, as if that might relieve my misery.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up. Again, I don’t remember exactly what was said, but a well-dressed gentleman with an umbrella was asking me what was wrong and could he help. Next, I remember being in his car, the heater on, wearing a coat he had wrapped around me. He told me he was going to take me to his house where I could warm up and get some sleep. Those were the most wonderful words I had ever heard. We turned off the boulevard and into an industrial area.
That’s when he put his hand between my legs and squeezed. My first reaction was not fear or revulsion, it just hurt. I was sick and aching anyway, wearing a pair of icy cold slacks with no underwear, and some stranger was fondling my balls. I jerked away from him into the passenger door and kicked him in the ribs, over and over. The car screech to a stop. I flung myself out onto the road, panting and shaking. I hurled every curse word I knew. Realizing I was wearing his coat, which now felt like a thing most foul, I ripped it off and threw it into the puddle at my feet and stomped around on it. More cursing. I turned away and staggered off into the downpour. For a second time.
After a near-death march that seemed to last hours, I arrived at a lighted intersection and stood under a street light. A car stopped and a man asked if I was lost. I told him I was looking for a dry place to wait out the storm. He said that his church would take me in for the night. I got in his car and we drove off toward holy sanctuary. Whatever creed it espoused, I promised myself to convert in the morning.
After a few minutes, he turned to me, gave me a certain look, and asked me “Wouldn’t I rather go to his apartment where he could take care of me?” I screamed at him, “Isn’t there anybody but goddamned queers in fucking Clearwater Beach?” He yelled back, “If you didn’t want to be picked up, why were you hanging around this part of town at night like a streetwalker? I shouted at him, “Let me out of the car!” He pulled over to the curb, and I got out. Into the rain. Again. He drove away.
At that moment it occurred to me, that I might really die, die, dead, right there on the street, in the rain, and it would probably be easier if I just sat down right where I was and got it over with. I turned around looking for a pole to rest my back against as I waited for the end. Fuck it.
On the pole was a sign. “Sunset Motel.
Peering in the office window, I saw no lights, but I rang the buzzer anyway. After a while, a heavy-set woman in a bathrobe opened the door. Her hair had that slept-in, matted-down look. Gruffly, she asked what I wanted. I told her I needed a room for the rest of the night. She said to come on in out of the rain and added that she would have to charge me for an entire night.
I sat down on a chair, and struggled to get my boot off. By this time I had created a noticeable puddle around me. With numb fingers, I opened the secret compartment in my boot heel and extracted Larry Casseaux’s five dollar bill, now almost as soggy as I was.
“This is all I have, mam. How long can I sleep on this?” She took the fiver and unfolded it. Looked at it, and me. “Son, I’m going to put you in the room next door to the office, and I’ll wake you up when your money runs out.”
She showed me into the room and left. I got out of my wet clothes. With my last strength, I dried myself with a towel. Teeth chattering and skin burning, I climbed into the bed, pulled the blankets over me, and passed out.