This is Jami Attenberg, a young Brooklyn novelist who is as good as they all wish they were. You may have seen her earlier novel The Middlesteins, which dismembers a 'typical' American Jewish family and their entanglement in food and love and fear and greed and insecurity and their mother, who is, perhaps, or perhaps not, eating herself to death. I liked this book so much I did that sneaky thing a novelist can do in this miraculous century - I located the author, and met her, and got to be her friend.
When I did so, Jami was in the middle of the novel which has just come out: Saint Mazie. She talked about this woman, Mazie Gordon, who was angelic and diabolical and may have written a memoir of her extraordinary life, only probably not, and how she, Jami, had realised that if it didn't exist she wanted to write it - and I would prod her, transatlantically, willing her to get on with it, so that I could get on and read it.
Mazie Phillips Gordon was a 'well-known figure', as they say, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 20s and 30s. She was a fallen-saintly cinema-keeper, owning and operating a seedy movie house called the Venice, at 209 Park Row, where after 13-hour stints selling tickets, perusing the neighbourhood and talking to all comers, she would go out and help the ruined men of the Depression who gathered in that area.
Mazie has survived into the modern imagination really only because in 1940 Joseph Mitchell published an essay about her in the New Yorker. 'Mazie has a genuine fondness for bums,' says the intro to the article, 'and undoubtedly knows more bums than any other person in the city. This tells about her movie house to which bums are admitted free; about her Samaritan tours of the Bowery and environs distributing change to the bums; dragging the drunk ones to flop houses, calling an ambulance, when one has been injured. Fanny Hurst (a novelist) visits Mazie frequently, and admires her greatly. "She's the most compassionate person I've ever known. No matter how filthy, or drunk or evil-smelling a bum may be, she treats him as an equal," she said.
Mazie with her bums: 'She's a drinker, a smoker, a fighter, and a caregiver'
'She seemed like she’d be a real hoot,' Jami says. 'I don’t know how to write without humor. I’m of the school of thought that if you wait long enough everything eventually gets funny. And it was Mazie’s sense of humor that I originally connected to in the original article. I imagine in part it was that sense of humor that helped her to deal with these men. It felt necessary to me to write her that way. But I did set out with the intention of writing some heartbreak in this book. I wanted to kill characters off! I think after the last book, where you spend 300 pages wondering whether the protagonist [Edie, the intensely fat mother in The Middlesteins] will live or die by the end, I wanted to make some life and death things happen throughout. I approached the book with the intention of expressing the ideas of compassion and empathy and hopefully that filters through.'
Given that Maizie was real, I ask, and that the way you tell her story rings so true - how much did you need to invent?
'I invented everything!' Jami says. 'I mean I knew where she worked and that she had two sisters and a brother-in-law and that she was known as The Queen of the Bowery and helped homeless men for decades. But the book is really her origin story, how she got to what little bit I did know about her. I’m glad you think it rings true though.'
The New York Observer quotes Jami as saying that Mazie felt like a piece of New York she didn't want people to forget about, and if Mazie is a compelling heroine so too is New York, equally flawed and equally heartbreaking. 'It’s a rough and tumble place, full of people from all over the world,' Jami says. 'It scales high and low and everything in between. An excellent place to drink gin.' And she has peopled it with some glorious characters - an on/off lover, The Captain, who sends the postcards Mazie pastes inside her kiosk; George the neighbour, her heartbreaking brother-in-law and impossible sisters. They come to life through Mazie's diaries and letters, and in interviews conducted by Nadine, a young modern film-maker who is conducting what is turning into a kind of oral history project, and the hipster who found the mythological 'memoirs'. It could be a mess but it is extremely readable, a full-on page turner, with the mood of one of those tender-hearted madcap wise-cracking 1930s comedies. If they made a film of this you'd want Myrna Loy, Buster Keaton and Louise Brooks to be in it, and Jimmy Cagney and Pat O'Brien, and Gloria Grahame and Mae West - all the grand old sassy dames and poignant over-coated guys.
'Most of the minor characters just showed up and hung around for a while,' Jami says, 'offering me up a tidbit of information here and there about Mazie, until, maybe 100 pages later, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them. The only person who was mostly fully formed from the outset was George Flicker, Mazie’s neighbor. Because I needed someone from the same streets as her to talk to me.'
She does really take you to those streets. I ask her how she gets there: 'For Mazie, I read a lot of books! Lots of non-fiction books and some photo books and also I watched films from the era and little clips of things on Youtube. I found a great website that had audio recordings from the era. Basically anything that put me in the room.
'My best ideas occur to me when I’m away from the computer, away from reading, away from consuming information, people, culture. It’s the quiet time, the downtime, when my brain is allowed to process everything, that I find the ideas rising to the surface. But I need all the consumption of everything else first in order to get to the place where an idea might exist. So the ideas come from the noise and the silence working together.'
Extract from Saint Mazie
Mazie’s Diary, September 12, 1916
On the way home from work who did I see but our little
Jeanie twirling around on a street corner. I stood off to the
side and watched her for a while in her candy-colored tutu.
Our little sweetheart. Her cheeks were flushed pink from the
sun. Our father loved to dance, is what I was thinking. You
can’t dance on the street forever, is also what I was thinking.
But I want her to anyway.
Mazie’s Diary, September 23, 1916
Tonight I met two sailors from California. San Francisco
seems so far away, how can it even be real? One was tall and
one was short and that’s all I can remember. Names, I don’t
know. I got so many names in my head all the time.
They said New York reminded them of home, it being so
close to the water. But in San Francisco the mist and the fog
come off the ocean so thick you can’t see one foot in front of
you, that’s what they told me.
I said they were lying, and they laughed.
I said: What’s so funny?
But then they never answered.
I danced with the tall one while the short one watched
us, smiling hard. He looked like he was burning up. When
the tall one dipped me, the tie from his uniform tickled
my face. I love a man in uniform. Any kind. I think they
walk taller when they got something formal to wear. When
they got a place to go. The tall one asked me how old I
I said: Old enough.
He said: Old enough for what?
Then they both laughed at me some more. But I’m old
enough for anything. They don’t know but I know.
The tall one tasted salty when I kissed him but later I saw
him holding hands with the short one. They were so slim and
pretty in their uniforms. Sometimes I just want a uniform of
She was unapologetic about who she was and haughty to
those who questioned her, even if they didn’t say anything out
loud. Like my mother for example. The two of them did not
like each other at all. People sometimes think “chutzpah” is
a compliment but not the way my mother said it. Sometimes
she would cross to the other side of the street when she saw
Mazie coming, and she did not do it quietly. She coughed
and she stomped. My mother was a tremendous noisemaker.
If Mazie cared she didn’t show it. Once I heard her shout,
“More room for me,” after my mother had sashayed her way
across the street.
Mazie’s Diary, November 1, 1916
Jeanie bought me a birthday present, a pretty dark purple
bow, nearly the color of the night sky. I asked her where she
got the money, and she told me she saved every penny from
dancing next to Bella.
She said: She lets me keep a penny for every ten we make.
I said: That doesn’t seem fair.
She said: It was her idea to have the show in the first place.
Bella says people with the brains make the money.
I said: You got brains.
She said: I just love to dance.
I asked her how much change she had and she told me it
was a lot. I told her I’d show her where I hid you if she’d
show me where she hid her change.
I said: We could trade secrets.
Jeanie showed me all the change she had, a few bills at least.
Hidden in her suitcase in the closet, the same suitcase we used
when we came to town from Boston. I asked her if she was
saving for anything. She didn’t say anything. I told her she
could tell me anything, that she was my sweetheart, my little
girl. Finally she got very close to my ear.
She said: I wouldn’t want to go forever, but I’d like to join
I told her I’d come with. I’d ride on top of a horse with a
crown on my head and she’d be an acrobat and fly high up
above me. The Phillips Sisters, the stars of the show. All the
men would swoon at our feet. That part I liked the best but I
didn’t tell her that.
Jeanie said: But what would Rosie say?
I said: She wouldn’t say anything. She’d just be in the audience
clapping like everyone else.
Jeanie said: Do you think that’s true? Wouldn’t she miss us?
I said: We’re just daydreaming here, Jeanie. Don’t ruin it.
Jeanie said: All right. I guess she’d be in the front row then.
I said: She’d be our biggest fan.
Mazie’s Diary, November 7, 1916
I have to work in the candy shop again today. Boring. Only
little kids coming in there all day long, dirty change, sticky
paws. The bell rings on the front door and I look up and it’s
the same thing over and over. I feel like a dog when that bell
rings. Waiting for someone to feed me with something interesting
to look at.
I’d rather be running errands for Louis at the track. I like
the track. There’s grass and trees, blue sky cracking above
us, but then everyone’s smoking cigars, too. I like the way it
smells clean and dirty at the same time. Plus everyone’s having
a nip of something. The flasks those men have, jewels crusted
in them. Whatever it takes to hide the money. But they’re
generous though with sharing what they got. Makes it so I
don’t even mind the horseshit.
But Louis doesn’t like it when I come. The track’s no place
for a woman, that’s what Louis says. Of course he says that.
He doesn’t like the way the men there look at me. I thought
he wanted me to get married, but Louis doesn’t trust any of
those men, at least not with me. But he’s one of those men. I
like to kid him.
I said: Rosie found you at the track. How’d she find you?
I poke him with my finger.
I said: Is it cause you’re so tall, Louis?
He doesn’t answer me.
I said: Cause you stick out like a giraffe?
Nothing. Louis keeps his cards so close it’s like there’s no
deck at all.
I think I’ll eat all the chocolates in the shop today. All the
chocolate kisses, all the chocolate bars. I’m going to tear off
their wrapper with my teeth. And I’ll eat all the Squirrel Nut
Zippers and Tootsie Rolls. Chew till my jaw hurts. And all
the caramel creams and butterscotch twists and peanut butter
nuggets and those sweetie almond treats. I’ll suck on all the
the lollies till they’re gone.
I’ll eat and I’ll eat and I’ll eat just so I never have to look at
any of those stinking candies ever again.
Mazie’s Diary, January 3, 1917
Last night Rosie and I split a bottle of whiskey. This was after
I came home, on time for once. I came in to say good night
and the bottle was next to her in bed. I couldn’t tell how long
she’d been drinking. All I knew was she was already knee-deep
in it. She was mourning something, I didn’t know what. Louis
was nowhere. Jeanie was sleeping. I got under the covers with
Rosie, and she handed me the bottle.
I said: What are you thinking about?
She said: Our parents.
I said: Well that’ll do it.
She said: Do you remember what happened in Topsfield?
That story again. She and I had talked about it before,
when Jeanie wasn’t around. Topsfield, that was right before
she left us behind.
We were all out together, a real, happy family for the day.
Papa holding me with one hand, Jeanie in his other arm,
Rosie wedged between him and Mama. Papa was not handsome.
His eyes drooped, and his skin was the color of cold,
watery soup. And those lines around his mouth and eyes
made him always look furious, which he was. Lines don’t lie.
But he was tall and young and had so much hair, and I remember
him as strong. That day, out in the world, he was
We walked together like that. A ruddy-cheeked barker
and his wife, the world’s fattest woman. There was the darkskinned
rubber man, skinny as stretched taffy. His face was so
calm, like turning himself inside and out was nothing to him.
He was born to bend. I remember the sun was bright, and it
was nearly fall, but it was still warm. I was squinting, seeing
the world between tiny slits in my eyes. Men with low-slung
hats waved hello to Papa. Everyone knew Horvath Phillips, for
better or for worse.
But to Rosie I said: I remember that he left us that day.
Because I knew that she wanted that to be my only memory.
He told us to stay put, said he’d be back, sliding that flask
from his pocket as he walked away. There were men in white
face paint pretending to tug on an imaginary rope. The sun
began to set. Jeanie was tired and we found a bench and
Mama took her in her lap. My skin stung from the sun, my
stomach was sick from sweets.
Mama said: Should we try to find him? I don’t know.
She was talking to Rosie, who was the only one of us old
enough to understand that the question was not a simple one.
But I can’t remember her saying anything. She was just simmering.
Mama said: Yes, we’ll wait.
Then it was dark and the mimes were gone, most of the
families too. Just young people floating around, also some
lonely-looking men. Mama still kept turning her head around,
thinking he’d come back.
Rosie said: If you don’t go find him, I will.
They argued about Rosie wandering around at night by
herself. Rosie started fighting for us to just go home already.
Mama didn’t want to walk the roads by herself. She was
here. Found the most terrifying man in town to marry, that
couldn’t have helped much either.
Mama finally gave in to Rosie, and agreed we should try
to find him. I remember this sigh of her shoulder, and then
Jeanie nearly rolled off her lap.
She wasn’t pretty anymore then, Mama. Her hair was thin.
She pulled clumps of it out, and so did he, when he was mad.
She still had the knockout hips though. I walked behind her
as we went to find him and I remember those hips, because
I have those hips too. A little girl with her arms around her
mama, her face sunk in her hips.
Rosie had known where he was all night. Mama did, too.
Those two had just been playing a game with each other for
hours. Because back behind the big top was an open field
lit up with lanterns and white candles, and filled with people
dancing in a frenzy. There was a small stage in the middle of
it, packed with men playing all kinds of instruments, accordians,
fiddles, guitars, a washboard and spoons. A man sang in
a deep growl, French, now I know, but I didn’t then. There
was a sign at the front of the stage, the Cajun Dancers is what
they were called.
The audience was so caught up in the moment, moving
faster and faster, laughing and grinning, they were almost hysterical.
I could feel the heat coming off their bodies, and then
I was nearly hysterical too. The lust of those people is a lust
that I hold in my heart. They were gorgeous and free.
Mama put Jeanie down next to me, and we held hands, and
then we looked at each other. While Rosie and Mama scanned
the crowd, we began to dance our own dance. We were never
going to sit still, Jeanie and me. Not like good girls did. I
The grass tickled the backs of my legs.
I looked up and there was Rosie, pulling away from
Mama, and working her way through the crowd. She had
found Papa. He looked happy, is what I remember thinking.
His eyes were closed, bliss, and his face was relaxed, the
lines erased for the moment. He embraced a young, plump,
black-haired woman in a long green gown. The dress rose
and crashed while they danced. I don’t know if he knew the
woman or not, if she was the reason why he was so content,
or if it was just the dancing. Maybe he just loved the
freedom. More than once I have wondered if it would have
been easier to forgive him for all that he did if he had just
up and left our home, rather than stayed put and laid his
cruelty upon us.
I said: I remember you grabbing his arm, and I remember
you pointing to us. You shamed him. You were so bold.
Papa bowed to the woman he had been dancing with, and
then walked with Rosie back through the crowd, which somehow
managed to keep moving and part for them at the same
time. Or at least that’s how I remember it: Everything faded
into the background except for Rosie and Papa.
I said: It was a long ride home.
Rosie said: I felt like I aged ten years in that time.
I said: She tucked us in so quietly that night. She kissed every
part of our face.
Rosie said: I didn’t get to go to sleep. He took me out
I said: I know.
Rosie said: Until I passed out from the pain.
I said: Oh, Rosie.
She was too drunk. She sounded confused.
I said: You were right, and he was wrong.
Rosie said: I’m sorry I left you there.
I said: We didn’t blame you for leaving us. I didn’t, anyway.
Jeanie didn’t even know what was happening.
Rosie said: And I came back for you didn’t I?
I said: You did.
Rosie said: I was always trying to do the right thing by us
even if she wouldn’t.
I said: You did.
She said: I take care of you, right?
I said: Rosie, we love you. You know we love you.
Rosie said: I’m not bad, am I?
I said: You’re not. You’re a good girl.
We drank until we slept. Rosie more than me. When I
woke, there was Jeanie, sleeping between us. I don’t know if
she heard us. I wouldn’t want her to hear it. I wouldn’t want
her to remember any of it.
Mazie’s Diary, March 1, 1917
The sun was rising when I took off my shoes this morning.
Rosie stood at the door and stared me down. I turned my
back on her and wrapped the covers around me, put my head
on the pillow, and prayed for peace. God heard me.
I don’t know much about praying. It feels like you could be
trading on one thing for another, and maybe the thing you’re
trading isn’t really yours in the first place.
Rosie just crawled into bed with me. No yelling. We started
whispering to each other.
I remember when Jeanie and I were little we used to crawl
into bed with her and Louis and rub her blue-tinted fingers
and toes, breathing on them with our hot breath. All I wanted
was to be warm and close like that forever.
She said: What if you get a baby in there?
She rubbed my stomach. When she touched it I felt ill. The
last thing I wanted was a baby to lug around all day. And I’d
never fit into my pretty dresses again.
She said: Then no respectable man will ever want to marry
I didn’t want nothing to do with marriage with a respectable
man or any other kind of man. Not once in my life
did I ever dream of my wedding day, no white dresses, no
goddamn diamond rings. I only ever dreamed of freedom.
The love I have is with the streets of this city.
Mazie’s Diary, March 20, 1917
Oh, Rosie. My poor, dear Rosie.
This morning she took us girls to a dusty little gypsy parlor
on Essex, empty except for a few plants and a folding table
and chairs and a vase with a peacock feather in it. I didn’t want
to be there, and neither did Jeanie. Golly, Jeanie’s so pretty
now, skinny and pretty, with her pale skin and puffy lips and
moony eyes. I swear she floats when she walks. Still she had a
sour face, just like I did. After being sweet for so long, turns
out she’s a Phillips girl, after all.
The gypsy pushed aside some curtains and came in from
the back room. She was wearing a chain of thick gold coins
around her neck, and the coins clinked together as she moved.
find that glamorous. To me it’s just another gypsy, but
Rosie has always had a thing for them.
At first she acted like we weren’t there. We could have been
ghosts. She lit some incense on the table in front of us, watered
some plants in the front window. Then I noticed the
plants were dead, gray leaves, stems tipped over. I felt like I
was nowhere all of a sudden.
The gypsy sat down at the table with us, told us her
name was Gabriela. She smiled at Rosie, and Rosie smiled
at her. There was a love there. She looked into my eyes
and held them there. The long stare. Searching for something,
but I didn’t give her a damn thing. Then she looked
at Jeanie’s eyes, and then back into Rosie’s eyes. We were
just sitting there waiting, all of us. All right already, is
what I was thinking. We get it. You know how to hold a
She told us we were there for our sister, like I needed to be
reminded Rosie existed. How can I forget?
She didn’t have an accent, like other Roma I’d met. She
had thick eyebrows, and they made her look serious. She
could have been old, she could have been young, I couldn’t
She said: I needed to meet you in order to help your sister.
You are all in the same home. You are living one life together.
You are family. You are sisters. You are connected in this life,
and the last one, and the next one, too.
A scam if I ever saw one, I thought. I couldn’t wait to tell
Louis when I got home. I looked at Jeanie, thinking she’d be
on my side. But she was drooling over everything the gypsy
said. What a sucker.
and I groused, but finally I put my hand in hers. With her index
finger, she traced a few lines on my hand.
She said: Life, money, good.
She was nodding her head.
She said: Well, money will come and go. Mostly come
Her hands were cool and soft. Her nails were clean. I admire
a well-kept hand. She rubbed a thumb along a line across
the top of my hand, and then a line beneath that.
She said: But this is no good.
She squeezed my hand tightly and released it.
She said: No love for you. You will spend your life alone.
I pulled my hands back.
I said: I got company whenever I like.
Rosie shushed me. I don’t care, I don’t need anyone telling
me about my life.
Jeanie said: Now me.
She shoved her hands in the gypsy’s. Gabriela smiled at
Jeanie like she loved her. The warm glow of a con artist. She
told her she had a strong love line, and she pointed to something
on her head. She told her she will marry well. A rich
man. She asked if she liked rich men. As if she wouldn’t want
a rich man! I watched Jeanie’s face. She was considering it,
though she didn’t answer. But she smiled. Maybe she smiled
like it was funny. I would have said, Who cares? But nobody
was asking me. Nobody was telling me I was going to marry
Gabriela turned to Rosie, and Rosie slid her hand in hers so
easily it was like they were husband and wife.
Rosie said: You already know what it says.
didn’t know why it was so serious.
Rosie said: Now that you’ve met them, look again.
Gabriela said: They are strong these two, as you said, but
who they are will not change what will happen to you. They
love you. I don’t need to look at their palms to see that.
They’re going to be who they’re going to be.
Then she brought Rosie’s hand to her lips and kissed it. It
was a sweet vision.
She said: I still think it can happen, Rosie.
Rosie started crying and then Gabriela swept herself up into
the back room, and came back with a handful of bottles. She
smacked each bottle down in front of Rosie.
She said: I’ve asked everyone I know, and they’ve asked everyone
they know too. I went uptown, I went downtown, I
went across the river, and I gathered these for you.
She handed Rosie a piece of paper.
She said: I wrote down instructions. How much, how often.
And there’s an address on there, a Chinaman. He sticks
needles in you and they say it lights a fire within your womb.
She held Rosie’s hand again.
She said: I lit candles for you, my friend.
Now Rosie was sobbing, and then we held her. So our poor
Rosie can’t have babies. I never knew, but how could I? We
were her babies all along, I thought we were enough for her.
I didn’t know she wanted anyone but us. She watched over
us better than our own mother ever did. She’s our sister and
our mother. Oh, all this time her heart was breaking and we
didn’t even know.
Oh you want to know about the gypsies? What do you think
you know about the gypsies? That they’re a bunch of criminals,
probably. That’s what people always thought about
them. My mother swore they spoke the truth. My friends
from Little Italy, they wouldn’t go anywhere near them.
They’re superstitious, and they were afraid of the curses. I
have only ever been afraid of what I could see right in front of
my face. Because I have seen enough. I don’t need to imagine
But the gypsies were just the same as you and me. They lived
here just like everyone else. They walked the same streets. It’s
true that some of them were criminals. But you can’t judge a
whole people by the actions of just a few. But that’s what we do
here in this country. We do it in this world. I’ve lived such a long
life. I thought things would be better by now. Every day I still
watch the news. I listen to people talk. Things are not as bad as
they once were, but not as good as I had hoped they would be
someday. It’s the year 2000 already, and there’s still all kinds of
messes in this country. I had higher hopes for this world. Eh, but
what are you going to do about it anyway?
Mazie’s Diary, June 16, 1917
Rosie’s sick on the couch again. Hands on her belly. She
swings from happy to sad in a heartbeat. We wrapped her up
in blankets. I told her to stop taking whatever the gypsy gave
her. Rosie, please stop, I was begging her.
She told me I was a fool and didn’t know what I was talking
about, that things take time, life takes time. But it doesn’t
seem right, this much pain.
longer? Gypsy con or not, it doesn’t change Rosie’s dream.
I can’t blame her for having one, though. I would never
blame anyone for wishing for something more from this
Then I was old enough to go to war, or at least I told them
I was. I was a few months shy of legal but they didn’t check
too hard. I would have said anything though to get out
of that cramped apartment! The taller I got, the smaller it
seemed. And I wanted to see the world. That I would be
fighting in a war didn’t scare me for some reason. Maybe
I wasn’t so brave, maybe I was just stupid instead. I won’t
talk about what happened though, what I saw there. You
know, we’re not like your generation where we need to talk
about every little thing. Sometimes a bad thing happens and
then you’re done with it.
But anyway I didn’t see Mazie again for five years, so I can’t
help you out during that particular time period. Because I
went to France and then I stayed there when the war was over
and lived there and worked there and had a life there. I lived
with a French girl for a year even. And she was really something,
I’ll tell you. Ooh-la-la, I know. [Laughs.] I’ve had my
fun, I’ve had my fun. Eventually I had to come back though.
My mother got sick, and of course, there was all that trouble
with Uncle Al.
Twenty years old. I’m sure I should be having more fun.
What is this pull in me that makes me want trouble? Months
I’ve been quiet and good, even though the heat on the streets
was making me feel sexy, wanting to dance and drink. To kiss
someone. Passing by alleys at night and seeing girls and boys
playing. Fingers on lips, fingers on tits, I miss it. It’s been so
long since I’ve lain down with someone. Most nights are with
Rosie now. I lost this summer to her belly.
Mazie’s Diary, December 13, 1917
Rosie lost another baby. This time it felt like she was pregnant
for only a minute.
Now she’s flat on her back again in the living room. Weeks
and weeks of it, and there’s a dent in the couch now, I can see
the mattress sagging beneath her. I swear the springs will sink
straight through the floor.
She grabs my hand but squeezes too hard and it hurts but
I try not to make a noise. She asks me to stroke her head but
shifts her head, squirms beneath my fingers. Rub my feet, she
But then she says: No, you’re doing it wrong. No, don’t
Watches me with her eagle eye, thinking I’ll leave her.
Louis sits in the kitchen, head down, in the food. He closed
the theater for a few days this week. Jeanie’s nowhere I can
see, smart girl.
I take nips in the bedroom. I can’t go to the whiskey, but
Something’s going to break soon. I got no control over myself
and I like it.
Mazie’s Diary, January 4, 1918
I wasn’t ready to go home yet but there was nobody left in the
bar worth talking to. Talked to a bum on the street instead,
an old fella. We split whatever was in his bottle and I gave him
a smoke. I was feeling tough. I asked him how long he’d been
on the streets.
He said: Longer than you’ve been alive, girlie. You gotta be
tough to last that long.
He beat his chest.
I said: I could survive out here.
He said: You don’t want to try.
I said: I could do it. You wanna see me?
He said: You got a home, you’re lucky.
I said: Why don’t I feel that way?
Then he got gentle with me.
He said: If someone loves you, go home to them.
A bad wind blew in and I grew suddenly, terribly cold. I
couldn’t bear the night for another minute. I handed him the
rest of my smokes and wandered home.
Mazie’s Diary, January 5, 1918
Rosie was trying to sweet-talk me early this morning. A nice
change from yelling I guess.
She said: Don’t you want a sweetheart?
I said: The whole world’s my sweetheart.
read more here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/books/review/saint-mazie-by-jami-attenberg.html?_r=0Saint Mazie is published by Serpent’s Tail, £12.99