Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) is considered (by many who get paid to write about American literature) one of the most influential novelist of the 20th century. He wrote about the life he lived. He lived the life of a drunken bum who had a hard time keeping a working-class job when he could get it. He didn’t break big as a writer until he was around 50 years old.
I want to know more about this writer. So, today I checked out from the public library his novel Factotum which was published in 1975. Here is the first chapter. It’s a short one.
I arrived in New Orleans in the rain at 5 o’clock in the morning. I sat around in the bus station for a while but the people depressed me so I took my suitcase and went out in the rain and began walking. I didn’t know where the rooming houses were, where the poor section was.
I had a cardboard suitcase that was falling apart. It had once been black but the black coating had peeled off and yellow cardboard was exposed. I had tried to solve that by putting black shoepolish over the exposed cardboard. As I walked along in the rain the shoepolish on the suitcase ran and unwittingly I rubbed black streaks on both legs of my pants as I switched the suitcase from hand to hand.
Well, it was a new town. Maybe I’d get lucky.
The rain stopped and the sun came out. I was in the black district. I walked slowly.
“Hey, poor white trash!”
I put my suitcase down. A high yellow was sitting on the porch steps swinging her legs. She did look good.
“Hello, poor white trash!”
I didn’t say anything. I just stood there looking at her.
“How’d you like a piece of ass, poor white trash?”
She laughed at me. She had her legs crossed high and she kicked her feet; she had nice legs, high heels, and she kicked her legs and laughed. I picked up my suitcase and began to approach her up the walk. As I did I noticed a side curtain on a window to my left move just a bit. I saw a black man’s face. He looked like Jersey Joe Wolcott. I backed down the pathway to the sidewalk. Her laughter followed me down the street.
This is the Old Soldier reporting for the PittsburghFlashFiction, a magazine of commentary, local interests, pop culture and sex as art and entertainment.