Alleyways and Passages/Despair and Redemption


Our hero (or villain, you must judge for yourselves) sat in the all night diner across the street from the alleyway. He’d been down that alleyway more than once in both despair and desperation – visiting the tenants of the dark, dank tenement block that lay at its furthest end.

Maria (that was the name she gave and the one he had used, though he doubted its authenticity) gave a smile, a wink and a nod to the sign that hung on the wall in the doorway where she stood which stated “please, don’t squeeze the merchandise”,there was a cartoon of a voluptuous, young (very young, it seemed from her face), Latino girl, “unless you intend to buy”.

Behind Maria, a dimly lit passage way led to a stairwell. The stairs went upwards but  surely guided the passenger down to the eternal fires of damnation by way of the series of rooms opening off each landing that were in turn as much purgatory as any described by Father McMahon who regularly stood outside the diner condemning the sins of the flesh and preaching salvation through repentance.

His conscious had got the better of him this time, he had got a taste of these forbidden fruits too often for his own comfort and now he had got a taste of regret which stuck in his craw and turned his stomach, turned his face away from the mirror behind the counter to glance uneasily around the room. A life size poster of “The King” was emblazoned with the slogan “Elvis Presley is NOT dead!” He had not felt so dead inside since the day Elvis had died (in spite of the proclamation on the opposite wall).

Our protagonist (let’s leave it at that and let the preacher and his maker sit in judgement), gulped down his burnt, stale coffee and rose to his feet. He said “goodbye” to the counter-girl who responded with a “see ya later, Mac”. “No!” he retorted, “goodbye!” He stepped out into the hot, still, summer night air and in a blur of self-doubt he crossed the street and made a single pace into the alley. He stopped, frozen, mesmerised by the faint light behind the unmistakable form of Maria. He spat, cursed and turned on his heel, striding quickly away. at the corner of the thoroughfare he hailed a cab and bid its driver take him home (if that is what you might call it – a place to sleep and keep his other suit was about all it amounted to).

He halted the taxi’s progress uptown and went instead of “home” into a swish hotel lobby, took a room, took a drink at the bar and took the elevator to the roof.

The morning paper stated that Jessie, a waitress at an all night diner and a working-girl who gave her name as Maria, identified the man as a frequent customer of both  their “establishments” but were unable to offer a name to go with the now battered but peaceful face. The hotel lobby bartender recalled that he drank bourbon on the rocks and said his name was Elvis.


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