Sapiens: In the Midst by Rick Ewing


“Ras-clot likkle feds threatened to go after my family.” She began to cry when I got her on the phone. “Oh, Billy, it was horrid. I never heard what agency they were from, but they couldn’t tolerate that a monkey accomplished what you did.” She said my work hadn’t been destroyed, that it had been cached in some kind of inaccessible vault, like a NORAD missile silo.

“Cho!” she scolded, “Nasty business, whole ting. I love you, Billy, but I’m afraid. Riddle me dis, sweetie: Which presidential candidate, in televised debate, whirled on his opponent to utter You change your mind like a girl changes clothes? I heard her weeping as she hung up.

Rat bastards. I wouldn’t give you a busted cowry shell for my work on the Shakespeare. Only reason I yearn it be found is that the publicity might bring Sadie Newell out of the woodwork.

Sadie Newell. Sadie Newell. Sweetest words in human language. Saaaayy-deeee Nooooo-uuuuhl. I didn’t say any of this and you didn’t hear it.

Sometimes the phone brought good news. Christmas morning, after I’d been in NYC about four months, I picked up the Post at my bodega to find an article about a mysterious break-in at Beardsley Zoo. I was still reading when I got back to the apartment. Liam came dashing out saying Mickey just called, get over to him pronto, he said.

He greeted us at the door with a dung-eatin’ grin broad as a landfill and a shamrock sparkle in his eye. Merry Frickin’ Christmas, he said, and opened the bedroom door. June, Barry and Sass came trooping out laughing, pummeling me with glee and Aiiiiiiii!!-ing up a blizzard.

The Hammer’s girlfriend Deirdre flew with Mummerdinks and Poppysloot back to Sierra Leone just after New Year’s. They boarded the plane dressed as leprechauns, tooting party-favor noisemakers. Sassmaster stayed in the city, gravitating toward the East Village. It only took six months for her to get what she’d been looking for all along.

After a lifetime of running poolside with scissors, looking one way crossing the street, operating heavy machinery with major pharmaceuticals in her veins, looking gift horses squarely in the maw while counting chickens and damn skippy messing around with Jim, Sarsasparilla Gloverson left for Monkey Heaven in mid-June.

Her passing is how I eventually ended up in Wildwood after all those years in the city.

Sass’ remains were discovered when a twenty-two-year-old cold case was solved. Shortly before, Shep McEvoy went berserk and left the gang when this Kenyan chick from Paterson he used to party with drank herself to death. Shep said Screw It to pretty much everything, brought her body to South Jersey and had her buried here. So one day he met Rev Bev in the Acme on the mainland; they got to chatting and realized her husband and his ex were interred in the same graveyard outside Cape May.

Sapiens: In the Midst is excerpted from a longer piece of the same name.

Rick Ewing holds an MFA in a field unrelated to writing. SAPIENS was written while he homeless in New York City. Now happily domiciled, he is completing a collection of short stories to be published later this year.