Jackie Fresco – he’s no friend of mine. No.
No. Not at all.
his face in the frying pan, like in the old song. Yes he did. Maybe it was just
when you were watching. Make an impression. Try to
toss you the jinx. Maybe not.
scrambled the eggs.
Jackie Fresco. Fleece you in a back room.
Fleece you in the mighty Metropolis. He don’t care. Fleece
you anytime, anyhow, anywhere. Always try to take you from behind.
He got a big roll, he don’t need yours. Plush from time to time.
Throw down a twenty dollar bill on the tabletop. Not to be
impressing me. I ain’t some dirt farmer.
Jackie Fresco, now he could play the small town
rube, down to a tee. Suit dusty and a way too big, funny
looking haircut from the barber school and bet your ass
they had to pay him for the pleasure.
Tell you a joke and you laugh and buy him a
drink. Way it used to work. Folks always needing a good
laugh. People used to tell Eisenhower jokes in the fifties.
Innocent stuff. Not vicious, the way they talk now. Hitler
jokes, they lasted for a good two decades. Then things got
ugly in the sixties. Jokes weren’t funny no more.
“Knock knock,” Jackie says to Sonny Malone.
You too young to remember these times. People used to tell
knock knock jokes, riddles and tall tales. I was right there
on the street when Jackie strode by.
Didn’t have to use a lot of dirty words back
then. Nahh, not like I never heard them before – I was in
the Navy four years, you know, Korea – just that people
didn’t have to say the f word to be funny. You didn’t cuss in a
joke. Different times.
So “knock knock” he says, and Sonny being a
regular guy says “who’s there?” Sonny was a nigger but he
was a regular guy kind of a nigger. Not all angry all the
time like these days. It was a different world back then. Sonny, me, we used
to shoot a little nine ball from time to time.
“Who’s there?” Sonny says, and Jackie Fresco,
face all smiling and mean in the eyes at the same time, he
says “Eisenhower”. I didn’t have a good feeling about it. I
don’t know. Maybe I’d heard this one before. I don’t know.
But I started edging away from Jackie. Not like I was there
with him anyway. Just standing there on the street watching
traffic when Jackie walks by. I didn’t know anything would
happen, but if it did, I didn’t want Sonny to think I was
standing there with Jackie Fresco. Although I was, but it
was not a purposeful kind of standing there.
“Eisenhower who?” says Sonny, being a good
sport. Because he looked tired, he didn’t look like he felt
much like joking. Lost his job at the processing plant a
week prior, and now taking any kind of job he come by to keep his family
fed I guess. Looked tired, but he was game.
“Eisenhower late for work again boss, please
don’t put my coon ass back on the street.” Then Jackie just
stands there with a toothpick jutting out of his mouth like
Roosevelt with his cigarette holder, just stands there and
grins, and he walks over to me and punches me on the
shoulder like I’m in on the joke. And that was that. Last
time I heard about Sonny, there was a funeral.
Everything’s different now then it was then.
Got older, learned how to make friends. I didn’t grow up
knowing that – it’s learned behavior.
Everything’s changed almost, but not Jackie
Fresco. Never left town, old and mean as sin. You know, he had
running water all along. That ‘tater pan', that was just to
frighten you. Make you think he was psycho. But he was, he
Jackie Fresco – he’s no friend of mine.
Things change. Not that.