Hank Kirton

Elmer

So, at the plump, achieved age of forty-eight I decided I wanted an imaginary friend. I’d never concocted one as a child so I had to make up for lost time. I would have to invent one from scratch. I couldn’t just fetch a lovable character from my past and dust him off, dress him up, make him new. I also didn’t need an invisible playmate. That wouldn’t work anymore. It was far too late. The meager imagination of my youth had rusted to dust. It was just as well, I held no interest in running around the yard or building forts with cushions. I needed a friend who would be roughly my age—40-50, with similar interests. I would need a list of characteristics.

I didn’t want a lovable animal or fanciful creature. No friendly monsters or fairies or winged entities of any kind. I wanted a middle-aged humanoid.

And he should be a man, like me.

The first thing I came up with was the name. Mr. Elmer J. Walters. The name was based on nothing and no one but it held a vaporously familiar ring. Or not quite a ring. Maybe a chime. One note of a tiny chime nearly erased by long rain.

I gave Elmer a career, made him a press agent. He helped publicize plays and operas and symphonies. I’d always had an unhealthy attraction to show business. Elmer would satisfy that. He’d give me entrée into that footlighted headspace. I decided he should also be a former actor. He had a talent for Shakespeare and trod the boards around the globe.

Elmer was a widower. His wife Theresa died of consumption in 1918. That was another thing. Elmer lived in the Roaring Twenties. He wore a tweed three-piece suit, long coat, bowler hat and two-tone oxfords. He smoked Murad cigarettes and had syphilis. He was violent when he got drunk. Because of his Broadway connections he was able to get his hands on good Canadian whiskey. Sexually, he was a prism. He lived in New York City (as did I) and after a performance he would slip into the night and murder prostitutes with a piano-wire garrote.  As soon as the struggling ceased, Elmer would flee into the shadows. Once at home, he’d drink whiskey and cry until dawn finally broke open his moaning head. Then he would masturbate and insert sewing needles into his scrotum. He often fantasized about eating human flesh and would cut sections of epidermal skin from his thighs and consume them, pretending it was the flesh of his mother, Hattie Walters. Hattie, a bitter, abusive hysteric could be an imaginary friend in her own right.

At a blind tiger one night Elmer got into a drunken knife fight with a longshoreman named Chester Pough. Chester stabbed Elmer in his right eye, making him half-blind for the rest of his life. Elmer wore an eye patch over his tough, scarified eye socket. At the age of 48, Elmer finally succumbed to his dripping syphilis and died penniless in a boarding house in Jersey City.

Elmer is now a woeful ghost and we drink brandy and smoke cigars at night.

I finally have my imaginary friend.

***

From: Everything Dissolves

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