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Poetry of Issue #8        Page 31

Darla and The Dungeon

East Village dive bars are droppin’ off
faster than a prom dress in a pickup truck:
Dave’s Taproom, Broadway Charlie’s, Downtown Beirut,
Cheap Shots, Grassroots, Continental, Coal Yard,
The Central, and lots more.

Blondie and Boho drop by Double Down Saloon for Happy Hour
and run into Blondie’s pal Brenda.
Looks like Brenda’s got herself
a handsome new lover boy
who looks to be a good bit younger than her.
She introduces him as “Bungie” and Blondie asks,
“What the hell kinda’ name is that?”
Brenda says his real name’s Russell
but she calls him Bungie
‘cause he’s had a pretty fucked up life
but he always seems to “bounce back”
and stay positive.

They all chat for a bit
with Bungie adding that he lives in a loft
on Attorney Street by Parkside Lounge.
He mostly writes and publishes online “Flash Fiction”
and fills in for cash
with a hydroponic, computer-controlled, grow in his loft;
mostly high-end “Yellow Haze.”
Says his product is excellent and sells really well
with his downtown dive bar buddies.
Blondie and Boho like Brenda’s new guy.
He’s a writer, he’s cool,
and they wanna’ cop some of that Yellow Haze too.

Boho asks Brenda how she’s doin’
since Bubba passed and Dave’s closed.
Says she’s still livin’ in that walkup in Chinatown
with Bubba’s teenage daughter Darla.

Blondie says, “What? We didn’t know Bubba had a daughter.”
Seems her mama’s a junkie hooker
who runs a steady trail in and out of lockup.
Darla leaves home at fifteen and couch bounces
with different school mates from St. Brigid’s
while tryin’ to track down her dad.

She scours local bars and junkie crash pads,
eventually learns that Bubba’s passed
and that he had a wife who’s livin’ in Chinatown.
Long story short: Darla finds Brenda, moves in with her,
and is a senior now at St. Brigid’s High School.
She has really good grades and wants to be a nurse.
“Damn!”

Boho asks Brenda how she’s gettin’ by for rent money.
She tells them she and her of out of work bartender buddies
opened up their own joint, a private club
in a basement on 3rd Street,
across from the Hell’s Angels.

She remembered a Puerto Rican Social Club
called “El Gallo Rojo”
that was busted for illegal cock fightin’ and shut down.
Was sittin’ there empty for a year,
so they check with the landlord
and get a two-year lease for $1,100 a month.
They all pitch in and fix the joint up
‘til it looks like a real bar again
and doesn’t smell like chicken shit anymore.
They contact a lot of their old regulars,
tell them they can join the club for twenty-five bucks,
and they get a lot of takers.

It’s called The Dungeon and been open about six months.
She invites Blondie and Boho to join.
Tells ‘em she works noon to six Monday to Friday
and it’s usually open ‘til around two in the morning.
They’re doin’ good, it’s fun,
and drinks are only five bucks.

Blondie and Boho stop by the club
the following day around four
stepping carefully out of bright sunlight,
down crumbling cement steps,
into a very dark space,
definitely justifying “The Dungeon” name.

As their eyes slowly adjust,
they find that it looks very much
like the old dives in the neighborhood.
There’s a jukebox, pool table, dartboard,
a DJ setup, and even a small space for dancin’.
(Probably where the cockfights used to be.)

Comin’ as no surprise,
sittin’ on the bar, below the TV,
is a Maxwell House coffee can
with a Yankee cap over the top.
They each tap the can,
say, “Hey Bubba!” hug Brenda,
and offer up fifty bucks to join the club.

There’s a striking young girl
in a Catholic school uniform
sittin’ at the far end of the bar, smokin’.
She looks totally out of place among the bar regulars.
Brenda introduces her as Bubba’s daughter Darla.
She doesn’t like bein’ alone in the apartment
so she hangs out here after school
until Brenda gets off.
She looks like a bi-racial gal, with olive skin,
striking blue eyes, and long blond “dreds.”
She’s wearin’ a pleated plaid mini skirt,
saddle shoes, and white blouse.
She gives Blondie a big hug
while smiling seductively at Boho.
Boho’s thinkin’ there’s lots more gonna’ be heard from this one.

Every Saturday is theme music night at Dungeon
with DJs, Ms. Cal and Oscar-Oscar spinnin’ the hits.
There’s Punk “moshes,” Shitkicker Rockabilly nights,
Disco Nights, High Hair Heavy Metal Nights,
and even Swing Dance contests
with gals sportin’ vintage dresses
and guys in Zoot Suits.

Blondie and Boho quickly become Dungeon regulars
and Blondie’s always out there on the dance floor
with her sexy ‘80s moves.
Cyndi Lauper was even spotted dancin’ with her
one late Saturday night at the club.

Everybody knows everyone
and everyone dances, drinks,
smokes, and tokes with everybody.
It’s even better than the old days
in the bars they closed,
‘cause this is more like family here.
They’re makin’ the rent,
the bartenders are makin’ a decent livin’,
and life is good at The Dungeon.

Blondie stops by on a Thursday afternoon
to hang with Brenda for a few hours
only to find the place closed.
She peeks in the window and it’s dark.
Even the neon beer signs are off.
She texts Brenda and asks what’s up.
Brenda says meet her at Double Down in an hour.

Blondie walks in to find her sippin’ a whiskey
watchin’ vintage porn on the bar monitor.
Looks like a digitized, black and white,
of an old 8mm from the ‘40s:
A naked bald guy wearing only black socks
is goin’ down on some chubby chick
with a dark barbwire triangle of a bush.
It’s actually pretty funny.

Blondie grabs a stool next to Brenda,
orders “a double Jack, back”
and asks what’s goin’ on with The Dungeon.
Brenda lets out a deep sigh, chokes up,
silently tryin’ to fight back tears.

She swills down the rest of her whiskey,
takes a deep breath,
and says Darla starts bringin’ two of her friends over
to smoke and hang with her after school every day.
Unknown to Brenda, they’re all sneakin’ vodka
from behind the bar
and pouring it in their cokes
when she’s busy or not payin’ attention.
On more than one occasion,
Darla’s friends are noticed by regulars
staggerin’ out of the bar.

Sonny, the President of the Hells Angels
stops by and tells Brenda
that the girls in uniform leaving the bar
are attracting attention from neighbors.
The Angels are concerned
that police’ll be snoopin’ around.
He mentions the cockfighting that was here before
and the police attention it caused.
He says, “As of right now, you’re closin’ this place,
and ya’ll got two days to get your shit outta’ here.
You’re not welcome on this block anymore.
Do you understand me? Do you get what I’m sayin’?”
Brenda nods and starts sobbing as he turns and leaves.
Darla and the girls stare in shocked silence.

Everybody’s outta’ work now
and they’re all really pissed at Brenda
for fuckin’ up a good thing.
She’s back on welfare and very depressed.
Darla keeps her head down and her mouth shut
around Brenda these dark days.
She’s scared.
Brenda stays curled up in bed crying a lot.
Time passes slow, hard, and painful for several years.

Darla quits college her senior year
and after two years singing covers in Hipster clubs,
a press agent finds her and decides
she’s gonna’ be the next Lady Gaga.
She’s reinvented and packaged as “Darla Dungeon,”
in Neo-Goth black latex with blonde braided hair
down to her artificially enhanced, Kardashian, bubble butt.
The release of her first 3D virtual reality video;
a very sexy and electrifyin’ remake
of Bubba’s old favorite, “Sultans of Swing,”
explodes on the internet and seals forever her image
as every teenager’s polyamorous sex fantasy.

Things don’t always happen like ya’ plan though.
Three years later, after a sellout concert at Barclay Center,
she’s found lying peacefully
by Harry Houdini’s grave in Queens;
“works” by her side
and a needle in the femoral artery of her leg.
Like Houdini, she discovers too late
that sometimes the magic just don’t work.

Brenda’s forced into hiding
to avoid press and paparazzi.
Darla’s publicity team arranges a memorial service.
It’s an over-the-top event at St. Pat’s Cathedral,
broadcast live worldwide by satellite.
Darla’s old schoolmates from St. Brigid are there
in the “VIP” section along with Brenda, Blondie, Boho, and Bungie.
They seem isolated and detached
from the spectacle surrounding them,
grieving bystanders, in an embarrassing publicity circus.
Brenda and Blondie sob silently through most of the service,
Boho and Bungie are feeling sad, awkward, and helpless.

Darla’s obit offers no mention of where she’ll be buried.
Hordes of fans scour city cemeteries in vain.
Conspiracy theories run rampant
that she’s actually still alive.
Some even claim to have seen her
prowling bars late night on Avenue B
in various disguises, but easily recognized
by those striking blue eyes.

Phillip Giambri