For those of you who missed the inkling, a verge publication which premiered in September’s issue, we still have a few copies left. Numerous entries were passed over for various reasons, but one particular story by Dino Lull is so fantastic, I want to share it with you. Be forewarned, it is very graphic, disturbing and not intended for younger readers.
The place was a dive. A hovel. A junkheap. Not much left but the shell of a building, old tin cans of Alpo, and used hypodermics that were sure to give you something nasty and rotting if you stepped on them barefoot.
But I had to wonder, why would anyone be barefoot in this city?
Still, whether the place was a mansion or a hole in the wall, it was the one time home of my favorite poet, Frank Costello III.
Two stories of moldy gray brick set for demolition any day now, condemned to death by wrecking ball; the old tenement on 1478 Wiltshire spoke to me from the dark recesses of the mind of F.C. A past fraught with drugs, prostitutes, and booze; 1478 Wiltshire held the secrets of Costello’s soul in a way his poems could not accomplish.
This is what made me come here alone in the middle of the night with nothing more than a pocketknife and a flashlight. This was not a safe part of the city. It hadn’t been safe when Costello lived here and now it was nothing more than crack dens and public toilets for the homeless.
I approached the gaping rectangle that might have been a door a decade ago but now resembled nothing less than a cavity in a mouth predisposed for pain. It reminded me of Costello’s poem, “The Door is Red,” where he compares the entrance of his squalid little apartment to his birth from an anonymous streetwalker. From there, my mind raced to the stories I’d heard about him learning who his mother was when he was twelve from the nuns who ran the orphanage. Supposedly, Costello asked around and located her on a corner well known for giving hookers a place to stand. He paid $25 bucks for a night with her, only revealing who he was in the moment of orgasm. He called it “giving something back to your parents.”
She aborted their son five months later.
Silhouetted in the doorframe like an earthquake survivor, I felt vulnerable with the city flayed open to my back and the gaping darkness of the doorway breathing on my face.
The fat silver moon cast everything in blue-silver, washing the cinder block in ice cold steel. Maybe somebody would choose this very moment to take a shot at me from across the street. The thought gave me the jitters and hurried me up the decrepit staircase at the end of the foyer. Each step groaned like an old man.
When he was twenty, Costello reported a murder. He waltzed into the police station, claiming to have seen a man knifed to death in a downstairs apartment. How he saw it happen was never ascertained. Shades pulled. Door locked from the inside. The only way in and out through an old fireplace.
Costello had soot on his hands. Or maybe it was graphite from the grave rubbings he did at night in Canterbury Park. Maybe it’s only rumor the old man had his throat cut and his eyes gouged out.
Maybe it’s also only rumor the man was Frank Costello II.
Now here I was in front of Room 14. One time home of the last protégé of Andy Warhol. Never really a part of the Factory, Costello existed outside the realm of popularity. He was a street kid, through and through.
The graffiti on the walls by others who had made this trek in Costello’s honor are a testament to his fame among the outsider poets. People like me.
Even from beyond the grave, Costello calls my name. He speaks to me about rabid dogs, chain link fences with diamond patterns, and razorblades caked with coke and blood.
I open the door and the stench hits me like a sledgehammer to the nose. It’s unbearable. Horrible. A miasma of feces, sweat, and tears. All around me the room was in ruins. Smashed tables. Holes in the walls. Piss on the countertops. Many had come before me and many had defiled the place. It wasn’t a sacrilegious act. No. This is how Costello would have wanted to be remembered. This was an honorable act.
In the corner nearest the door where everyone after me would step in it, I yanked out my own flaccid appendage and urinated in the moldering carpet. Thirsty, the shag soaked it up like a sponge. A little piece of myself left behind in the memory of the great poet Frank Costello III. I couldn’t help but be reminded of his poem “To the Truly Loyal,” his big famous poem, published in several literary magazines. The poem that he is known for and that has wormed its way into poetry collections in fifty different languages. An ode to self-termination. A plea to his fans to live life the way he does or die trying. A desire to see the world burn that many have shared.
Frank Costello III died in Paris fifteen years later, never achieving anything even remotely resembling success again. According to my notes, he lived in 117 different addresses in his thirty-two years on this planet. Not including couches he slept on, park benches he called home, or squats he shared with other junkies.
1478 Wiltshire is the first. One hundred sixteen to go.
Dino Lull was born and raised primarily in the south moving around a lot as a kid before settling in the Augusta area in the early-1990’s. He began self-publishing in the late-1990’s, making a name for himself in the Augusta underground music scene. Currently, Dino Lull is a freelance music journalist, writes short stories, and is putting the finishing touches on his first novel. He is also the second place winner of the Metro Spirit 2008 short story contest with his autobiographical “The Bear,” a tale about discovering his own obsessive compulsive problems as a child.