portion of the artwork for Lou Gaglia's fiction

Private Eye
Lou Gaglia

After I solved the mystery of which dogs was doing their bizness in the stairwells, the housing security guy who looks like Bill Clinton says to me, We don’t know what we could of did without your help. Now the old people in the building can walk in safety down the stairways without slipping and sliding on dog stuff and maybe falling down and putting out an eye or something.

I retorted that I was glad to of been of service and to call on me again anytime he needed help with the housing complecks because after all I lived there and am just hanging around anyway with nothing to do since the wife has left me and I ain’t got no job.

The Bill Clinton guy just looked at me. Then he said, Well, thanks again, you have made a lot of people happy, and maybe we will even print up your name in the housing newsletter.

No, thanks, don’t do that, I said, because maybe some dogs will come after me if they find out I was the snitch.

O.K., says Bill Clinton. Soot yourself.

I could see that there was not nothing else to say so I shook hands one more time and edged my way away from him.

* * *

It was easy enough to catch those dogs in the stairwell because all I had to do was stake out the stairwells in the A.M. when dogs is usually most anxious to get busy. The H building was where I staked out first, and after a couple of mornings of hanging around quiet and going from floor to floor, I caught a dog going number two whilst the owner just stood there saying to hurry up. I said ah ha to them and the dog barked, but pretty soon I got both their names and went off to the next building. I captured five dogs and five owners in one day and then four more the next day. It was easy work, and I didn’t even get paid, so I thought maybe I could do this kind of work for money instead of hanging around depressed and staring at the four walls and the windows.

So the next day I put some ads in the local papers where it don’t cost nothing, even in the Chinese and Spanish ones. The ad said I was a private dick that could do any kind of work and that fees was negotiable, but not to answer the ad if they wasn’t interested.

Well, that first night my phone did not ring once, so I was mad, but the next A.M. I got a call it was some lady saying could she come over and talk about a preposition she had for me, so I said is this concerning private eye work and she said duh. O.K., I says, but you better give me your address and let me come over. She says no and we better meet at some nootril sight, so I said how about Gino’s pizza on Catherine St. and she said O.K. like she knew where it was at and I knew already that she was from the neighborhood because she didn’t ask no directions. Pretty good, huh?

So anyway we both agreed to meet in a hour and I said I’d be wearing a Yankee hat slanted just so, and she said she was wearing pants and a shirt and sandals and she had her toes painted red so I said Ok that I will look down at her feet to see who she was since lots of people walk around with pants and a shirt and then we hung up on each other.

I went down to the drug store and bought myself a new notebook, one of those little memo ones, and also a pen so I could write down names and clues and stuff, and then I went over to Gino’s and ordered a slice.

I had three slices before this lady finely walked in. She was kind of pretty in her pants and shirt and toenails and she sat down and said hey are you the detective and I said yeah, what’s it to you, toots? She said don’t get fresh. Then she asked me did I know how to follow people. I said that is my specialty and what did she think I was? She said she didn’t know what I was but that she hoped I could follow people because she would like me to follow a friend of hers, a fellow named Ricky. I says who is this fellow Ricky, your boyfriend? and she said no that he was her friend’s boyfriend. Her nostrils flamed up when she said that, though, so I knew she was fibbing and I wrote it down in the little book. She tried to see what I was writing but I pointed the book away from her. Then she says, I want you to see what he does from morning until the night for one week and then report it to me.

O.K, I said, but what if he don’t do nothing?

Don’t worry, she laughed, he’ll do something. Just be careful.

O.K, I says, and she smiled and I could see that she was kind of being flirty with me. Then she give me this Ricky’s address and a picture of him and she walked away saying she will contact me in one week.

It was a perfect start to my 1st case except that she forgot to say how much she would pay me, so I wrote down in my book to make sure I asked her about that the next time I talked to her.

* * *

In a way it felt kind of funny to be button in on someone’s bizness like that, but I figured that if the guy didn’t know he was being followed it would be no skin off of his nose and no one would be any the wiser. Anyway, as luck would habit, his address was right in the same complecks as I lived in and after I found out which apt. he lived in and if it faced my building, then maybe I could rent a pair of binockulers and really do my duty.

Well, the next A.M. I sat on one of the benches in the courtyard and waited until he come out of his building and it took two hours but he finely come waltzing out at around 10 o’clock, so I pretended like I was watching the birds as he walked by me, but then I got up and strolled behind him, not too close so he wouldn’t get suspishus, and not too far so I wouldn’t lose him (around 10 feet). I followed him to this little Chinese bakery and he come out with some coffee and one of those little coconut rolls that I hate except for the cherry in the middle. Then he walked real slow down Catherine Street and then East Broadway which are both streets all filled with new immigrants from China who like to bump into you and spit willy nilly—even the ladies. Then he turned down Allen Street for a block until he got to Henry Street. At the end of Henry he turned down Catherine again and took the hole dam root all over again. All the wile he still carried his coffee and coconut roll without touching neither one. Finely, after he made like his fourth circuit, he made a left down Catherine instead of a right and headed back for Monroe Street and the complecks. I followed him back to the courtyard, and he sat down on one of the benches for about a hour drinking his coffee and looking around at nothing. Meanwile I sat on the next bench pretending he wasn’t there, but I wrote down the hole incident in my nb.

It was close to noon when he got up out of the bench and went out again. This time he went to Gino’s pizza, and I stood outside for a half hour wile he ate his pizza. Then he went back to the complecks again and into his building. After a while I went up to where his apt. was to see which side of the building his apt. was at, and as luck would habit his windows faced mine across the courtyard, so I went out to buy some binoculars.

That night I shut off my lights and went spying across the courtyard for his windows, and when I finely found them, I spotted him sitting on his couch watching t.v. There was not nobody with him, just him sitting there, so I wrote that down too. So far so good.

The next day he did the same dam thing in the A.M., just walking in circles around the neighborhood four or five times and then sitting around looking at the birds and getting pizza and then going upstairs. And at night I caught him sitting on the couch watching t.v. until like 2 A.M. and then all the lights went off.

Three more days of the same thing, and at last I had enough, so when he was sitting in the courtyard I sat on the same bench with him this time, and when I did he looked over at me and I said, How ya doin’? He just looked at me and sipped at his coffee, so I wrote down in my notebook, “Snob,” Then I said, I see you around a lot. You live around here? He says to me, I must live here since I’m sitting in the dam courtyard. I says to him, I don’t know, maybe you snook into the courtyard but live way down near the Valedicks. He looks at me funny and says what language did I speak in. I says English and he just looked away. I wrote down in my book, “Jerk.” Then I says to him, You ever been to that Gino’s pizza place? It’s got a lot better since they reopened it. He says, No, I never go there. So I wrote down, “Liar,” in my book. He says to me, Why don’t you get a bigger notebook if you are going to write about every word I say? I said what do you mean, and he says, What’s the big idea of following me around all the time? Every day you follow me all over the place. What for? I told him he was crazy and I was not following him at all, but he said he would punch my jaw if he catched me following him again. I said OK, OK, OK to him and then he walked back into his building and I just sat there for a while staring into empty space. I wrote in my notebook, "He’s onto me," and then quit for the day.

The next day I wore sunglasses and a hat and a different kind of a shirt and this time I kept a little farther back as I followed him, but I may as well have just stood home because he just did the same thing again which was nothing. At night, nothing happened as I looked in on him with the binockulers. This time he was not watching no t.v. and was just sitting at his kitchen table reading some book, but I thought big deal. At about midnight he picked at his ear a little and then closed the book and all the lights went off. I wrote everything down again.

* * *

It was almost two weeks and that lady didn’t call yet, and the guy was still doing nothing every day so that I begun to write "Ditto" in my nb each day. Every day was the same, and every day I was going to stop following him because I have got better things to do and after all the lady said she would call back in one wk. and the time was up so to speak but on the other hand I kept wanting to see if the guy did anything different and kept thinking what if I stopped following him and he finely did something, so that kept me following him for like two more weeks but it was getting ridiculous so I said to myself I have to stop and so I did. My notebook was all filled up anyway and I didn’t want to buy a new one, so that was that.

Well, the next day after I stopped following the guy I heard from a couple of the security guys that there was a murder of some guy in building J. I said, What guy? They said they didn’t know him but that the police was there in the A.M. and they found out he was suffokated by a loaf of Wonder bread in his sleep.

Was it soocide? I remarked to them questioningly.

Well, says one of them with a mustache, there was a note to make it look like it was sooicide, and the note said something like, "I have kilt myself with the bread because there is not nothing to do," but the police said no it couldn’t be no sooicide because how could a guy suffokate himself, esp. with bread.

Well, it depends on the size of the loaf, says another security guy, this time without a mustache.

I said, Wow, but why didn’t the murderer use a pillow to suffokate him instead of bread?

Maybe the killer was a baker and not a regular murderer and he was more handier with bread, says the guy with the mustache.

No, that wasn’t the reason, stupid, the without-the-mustache guard said, because the cops said he didn’t sleep on no pillow, just a mattress on the ground. So I guess the killer needed something handy and found the bread off in the kitchen.

That’s why I never buy a hole loaf, says the mustache guard. I just live from slice to slice.

That reminds me, says the unbushy one, I am hungry and it is near lunch time.

Hold onto your horses, says the guy with the stash, we got a hole half hour yet before lunch. Some guy gets all killed and stuff, and you want to eat.

That’s right. Anyway, I didn’t know the guy so it is no skin off of my nose.

Anyway, if you kill a guy by suffokating him, you got to be pretty dumb to write a soocide note to make it look like he kilt himself like that, says mustache.

What are you looking at me for, I didn’t do it, says the shaved face.

What are you all parannoyed about, says the stash.

I finely broke in and said, Hey, what floor did the guy live on?

The one with the mustache looks at me and says what was it to me and was I a detective or something.

No, I says. I am just some guy.

Wait, guys, I know him, says another guard who was in the guard house but came out with us. That’s the guy who found out about those dogs going in the stairways. We should put him on this case.

We was all laughing together but then I thought I saw a couple of dogs looking over at me and I said, Not so loud, and beat it out of there.

* * *

The next A.M. I decided to check up on that Ricky guy and see if he was alive or dead, but he didn’t come out of his building and I didn’t never see him in the courtyard and at night I saw a empty apt.

And now it’s been five weeks and I never heard from that lady again and I still never saw that guy neither, so I figure he was the dead one and I just missed it all by one day, but I don’t say nothing to anyone, and I have even throwed away that nb and tooken the adds out of the papers, even though no one else called me for no jobs but it’s better safe than sorry. I even throwed away the binockulars and lock up my doors extra at night.

Lately I can’t sleep either and just look out the window, thinking about stuff, mostly about that dead guy, and I’m thinking of how you can be a guy that just minds his own bizness and does nothing at all, and still gets himself all killed. It is not safe in this world at all, even if your life is just nothing.

Lou Gaglia’s Comments

“Private Eye” came to me in an elevator one morning on my way to my apartment when I lived in NYC. A couple of residents were complaining to each other about people who walked their dogs in the stairwells, and that someone really should do something about it. I thought that was funny, so I invented a wanna-be detective who did something about it, and he told his own story, which meant I got to write it “in character,” complete with misspellings and malapropisms. I enjoy using that kind of narrator; it’s more fun than straight-ahead writing, although I have to be in the mood to write that way. The story was quickly rejected several times. One editor rejected it immediately, telling me I really should proofread my work.

I liked the narrator character (especially after he realized how dangerous it was to do nothing), but I probably identified more with the followed guy than the detective in the story … even though I use pillows freely while sleeping and stay away from Wonder Bread as a rule.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 32 | Spring 2011