I was half asleep in a chair, waiting for a meal.

I got up for a glass of water and as I walked into the kitchen I saw Picasso walk up to Joyce and lick her ankle. I was barefooted and she didn’t hear me. She had on high heels. She looked at him and her face was pure smalltown hatred, white hot. She kicked him hard in the side with the point of her shoe. The poor fellow just ran in little circles, whimpering. Piss dripped from his bladder. I walked in for my glass of water. I held the glass in my hand and then before I could get the water into it I threw the glass at the cupboard to the left of the sink. Glass went everywhere. Joyce had time to cover her face. I didn’t bother. I picked up the dog and walked out. I sat in the chair with him and petted the little shitsnot. He looked up at me and his tongue came out and licked my wrist. His tail wagged and flapped like a fish dying in a sack.

I saw Joyce on her knees with a paper sack, gathering glass. Then she began to sob. She tried to hide it. She turned her back to me but I could see the jolts of it, shaking her, tearing her.

I put Picasso down and walked into the kitchen.

“Baby. Baby, don’t!”

I picked her up from behind. She was limp. “Baby, I’m sorry . . . I’m sorry.

I held her up against me, my hand flat on her belly. I rubbed her belly easily and gently, trying to stop the convulsions.

”Easy, baby, easy now. Easy . . .”

She quieted a little. I pulled her hair back and kissed her behind the ear. It was warm back there. She jerked her head away. The next time I kissed her there she didn’t jerk her head away. I could feel her inhale, then she let out a little moan. I picked her up and carried her to the other room, sat down in a chair with her in my lap. She wouldn’t look at me. I kissed her throat and ears. One hand around her shoulders and the other above the hip. I moved the hand above her hip up and down with her breathing, trying to work the bad electricity out.

Finally, with the faintest of smiles, she looked at me. I reached out and bit the point of her chin.

“Crazy bitch!” I said.

She laughed and then we kissed, our heads moving back and forth. She began to sob again.

I pulled back and said, “DON’T!”

We kissed again. Then I picked her up and carried her to the bedroom, placed her on the bed, got my pants and shorts and shoes off fast, pulled her pants down over her shoes, got one of the shoes off, and then with one shoe off and one on, I gave her the best ride in months. Every geranium plant shook off the boards. When I finished, I nursed her back slowly, playing with her long hair, telling her things. She purred. Finally she got up and went to the bathroom.

She didn’t come back. She went into the kitchen and began washing dishes and singing.

For Christ’s sake, Steve McQueen couldn’t have done better. I had two Picassos on my hands.

Other works by Charles Bukowski...