International Writers Magazine: Fiction Extract from 'Symphony of Fear'
San Juan Bagels Parking Lot
Dean Borok (Who sadly passed away in 2015)
Creta rarely left her office to inspect the plant premises other
than an occasional walk around the place. Trucks were forever leaving
the premises short one or more pallet of goods because she had neglected
to impart clear shipping instructions to her shipping manager, a
dreadlocked Rastafarian former boxer called King Bongo Rock, who
had recently returned to work after recovering from a gunshot wound
received under nebulous circumstances in East New York.
had never been inside the huge walk-in freezer, which was the size
of a movie theater and kept at a frigid twenty degrees below zero,
her delicate Ecuadorian constitution precluding exposure to harsh
Likewise, she had never been on the roof where the machinist, Nestor
Valenzuela, dwelt in perfect and contented obscurity among his drill
presses and lathes, away from all supervision, emerging only periodically
to demand a raise from Pato Gonzalez, a demand that was always coarsely
rebuffed, and Nestor would retreat to his rooftop hideaway to smoke
dope and plot his next campaign.
She never visited the parking lot either. If she was afraid of the
freezer and roof, La Creta dwelt in perpetual fear of the parking
lot, which was two doors away, separated from the factory by the
Taliban shish-kebab garage where resided the The Forty Thieves of
the spicy halal chicken and rice wagons which were ubiquitous around
Manhattan, led by their boss, ZiZu. The sidewalk was blocked by overflowing dumpsters and sundry, ripped garbage
bags overflowing with a universe of greasy food waste, rice, chicken bones
and wilted lettuce leaves covering the sidewalk and gutters as gangs of
pigeons gorged themselves on the rancid wastes, while crazy Arabic men
wielding large knives and pushing aluminum hot dog carts in and out of
the building at all hours, screaming hysterically at each other, an object
lesson in the futility of trying to transform a phantasmagoria of chaotic
nonsense like Iraq, incomprehensible to the occidental mind, into a non-threatening,
family-oriented theme park. And this was only the outside of the establishment!
A visitor brushing aside the grease-encrusted plastic slats covering the
entrance penetrated the dank, sinister interior, blasting with Arab music
as swarthy, Levantine men with squinty, suspicious eyes and thick, unwashed
moustaches chopped up raw chicken parts, letting the guts and waste fall
to the floor to be infested with vermin and insect larvae. Anyone care
for a shish-kebab?
This mess was not helped much by the periodic flooding which took place
when the drains from the second floor of the bakery, directly upstairs
from the garage, regularly backed up and the stinking mess of sewage,
filthy onion and garlic waste mixed with vegetable-based machine lubricating
oil seeped through the cracks in the concrete ceiling to form unspeakably
nauseating pools of raw soup with lumps of chicken guts floating in them.
If the average attorney or paralegal working in the white shoe law firms
that line the Avenue of the Americas, who step out to grab a fast lunch
of spicy chicken and rice from one of the halal food wagons which surround
his building the way the thugees surrounded Calcutta's British garrison,
had any concept of the type of conditions under which that food had been
prepared, would he instead opt for a container of cottage cheese? I would!
(Would the cottage cheese prove to be any more sanitary?) The fact that
these unspeakable sewers remain open year after year goes a long way toward
denoting the true state of the hygienic oversight to which our food processing
installations are subject. Upton Sinclair notwithstanding, can anybody
assert that things have really changed since publication of "The
La Creta avoided this pestilential horror at all costs, crossing the street
to avoid it. If she had any business with ZiZu, the proprietor of this
mess, she sent one of the male managers to execute it.
Likewise did she avoid the adjacent parking lot where the bakery's fleet
of trucks was parked, which inevitably had become a repository for every
kind of junk that Pato Gonzalez could buy at an auction, like shelves,
scaffolding, trailers and disused machine remnants; as well as useless
garbage that he refused to throw out because it had once cost him money.
Naturally, there were a few obligatory wrecked heaps of bakery trucks
which had long ago been cannibalized for useful parts to keep the remaining
trucks running, but Pato, in his mind's eye seeing them new and shiny
as they were on the first day he had purchased them, refused to let them
go, like the parent of a degenerate wreck who still sees a new baby, full
These trucks now served as provisional homeless shelters and latrines
for the crackheads and other transitory elements of the quarter. Admittedly,
we are most of us only a few bad breaks away from living outdoors, so
it's no subject for levity. Nevertheless, the men and occasional women
who frequented this terrain had few favorable aspects to recommend them.
They were offensive and filthy. Even the most determined outreach workers
gave that lot a wide berth. The only aspects of humanity who assigned
this band of brigands any merit at all were the company truck mechanics,
led by Chino and his son Orlando, Nelson, Chantay, Milton and Pascal.
Hands blackened and scarred by multiple applications of battery acid and
forearms criss-crossed by knife wounds and razor cuts, Chino and Orlando
were as accomplished a pair of thieves and slackers as could be found
in any prison courtyard. Any pumps, wipers or circuit boards entrusted
to them for repair of the truck fleet could be reliably predicted to end
up as hot merchandise in any of the little hole-in-the-wall vehicle repair
shops that dotted the side streets of Hell's Kitchen.
Chantay, a black lesbian as swarthy and nasty as any of the men, once
emerged from working beneath a truck to find her whole box of tools had
been stolen from her in plain daylight. This resulted in a marked hardening
of her attitude towards the job, and a determination to recoup her loss
at any price to the company.
Pascal had an expensive drug habit to maintain. Half his time was consumed
fencing stolen parts and equipment and the other half chasing around to
crack houses and drug dens to fill up his head.
Since Pato Gonzalez was too cheap to employ a full-time supervisor to
ride herd on these idiots, they were left on the honor system. As a result,
they swilled quart bottles of Colt 45 all day and spent hours at a time
repairing signal lights and securing crooked bumpers to trucks with twisted
bits of wire.
The only real working mechanic was Nelson, an illegal Dominican immigrant
who happily broke his back for $7.00 an hour, covering everybody else's
fuck-ups. The way Nelson saw it, working with this bunch of losers provided
him with a measure of job security. He kept the whole fleet running single-handed
and never complained that the rest of the mechanics had disappeared from
sight all day. It wasn't unusual for him to turn in a time sheet for 88
or 96 hours of time worked.
In fact, he hated to see anybody else touch one of his trucks, accurately
reasoning that their shabby work only meant more work for him in fixing
In tacit recognition of Nelson's complete supremacy of the truck maintenance
function, Pato's kneejerk reaction to a mechanical problem was, "Get
Nelson to work on it!" without ever working through a reasoned analysis
of why none of his other mechanics ever seemed to accomplish anything.
None of them were being paid more than $8.00 per hour, so Pato didn't
expect anything out of them anyway. If anything, San Juan Bagels was just
a way station for most of them on their journey from one jail to the next.
The parking lot had originally been a perfectly good factory building
that its owner had torn down for reasons of his own. It stood for a long
time as a terrain vague surrounded by a chain link fence until its new
occupants, a family of Dominican parking lot operators, rented it. Pato
Gonzalez and his manager, who was called Gringo Pendejo because he spoke
fluent Spanish with a lame North American accent, immediately started
scheming to get their hooks into it.
Acquiring the lot would mean that they would no longer have to park the
Company's three tractor trailers on side streets throughout Hell's Kitchen
and keep moving them around in a perpetual game of Three-Card Monty one
step ahead of the cops, who were always hitting them with massive parking
tickets and towing them away to the pound on West 34th Street, obliging
Pato to send down a Class A driver and four hundred dollars to get them
released. Also, the Company's delivery vans could be parked in the lot,
to be repaired on the spot, instead of having to ferry mechanics up to
the previous parking location on West 57th Street, where they would be
at all hours of day and night without supervision, in all kinds of weather
and doing whatever they want.
Using a combination of cold cash and unctuous charm, Pato and Gringo Pendejo
finally managed to get possession of the lot, but it stretched thin the
emotional capacity of Gringo Pendejo, whose job it was to deal with the
crooked, low-life Dominican lessees on a minute-to-minute basis. These
idiots eventually crapped out through a combination of their own greed
and incompetence. Thus, Pato Gonzalez achieved his goal the same lucky
way he had always gotten everything else in life, by focusing on a goal
and waiting for everybody else to fuck themselves up and crap out.
But once the Company had achieved possession of the property and installed
its trucks there a new set of problems arose. First of all, in order to
defray some of the very expensive monthly rent, Pato Gonzalez was obliged
to lease a portion of the space to ZiZu, the idiot owner of the halal
chicken garage, who filled up his part with beat-up food peddler's carts.
Then came the real challenge. Most of the employees of San Juan Bagels
lived in the outlying boroughs and suburbs. They all started scheming
to get permission to park their cars in the lot so that they could drive
to work and avoid having to take the train.
This process happened gradually and with much finesse, much the same as
the anaconda snake wraps itself around a capybara; slowly, squeezing the
breath out of it. Various night employees pleaded to Pato that the subways
were too dangerous in the early morning hours. They reasoned to him that
the lot would have free capacity since the delivery vans were out after
midnight making their rounds.
Then, many of the delivery drivers volunteered to use their own vehicles
to make deliveries, but with the condition that they needed to keep their
cars and vans in the lot before loading them to take out. Pato acceded
to this reasoning on the grounds that it would save wear and tear on his
trucks, most of which were held together bits of wire and tape anyway.
Various of the Company managers insisted on their right to park in the
lot as well, invoking a kind of droit de seigneur, most notably the loading
dock foreman, King Bongo Rock, who insisted that as African-American royalty,
he should not be obliged to ride in from East New York on the train like
a common worker, but access his cheval de guerre, a shining metallic emerald-color
Jaguar. For whatever reason, Pato Gonzalez indulged King Bongo Rock on
almost every point, provoking horrible screaming fights with Frank Perdue,
who became so wound up in his fury at this appeasement of a manager that
he considered a stinking, lying scumbag of a thief that he put it about
to the Spanish employees that Pato Gonzalez and King Bongo Rock had to
be engaged in mutual sodomy, this being the only excuse for Pato's tolerance
of the Caribbean man's laziness and substandard job performance. This
imagined buggery he expressed graphically with a hip movement and a Bronx
cheer, to the delight of the male workers.
Thus, the parking lot, which was to originally supposed to streamline
bakery operations, became a focal point for tantrums and time wasting.
Truck drivers would park their cars in the lot and then go off on their
delivery runs without leaving the key, obstructing people who wanted to
get in or out. Fistfights would erupt between employees, and sometimes
managers, about access to the lot. Arab chicken vendors would go berserk
about San Juan vehicles in the portion of the lot leased to ZiZu and his
It evolved into a situation where the San Juan delivery vans had to be
parked in the street, so many were the employees' cars parked in the lot,
plus the fact that Pato had designated the lot as a storage for any sundry
junk that would not fit in the factory or that he had picked up at auction.
The police continued issuing tickets like there was no tomorrow, at huge
expense to the Company.
Homeless people would break into the back of the tractor trailers and
live there, using the space between parked cars for their latrine. Rats,
attracted by the Chinese food take-out containers strewn about by the
mechanics and homeless residents, gravitated to the area as well, and
were so common that nobody paid them much mind at all, as though they
were pets or mascots.
The San Juan mechanics, totally at home in this ambiance, extorted tips
for acting as valets for the employees, moving the cars around so that
people could get in and out.
Gringo Pendejo, who was ostensibly in charge of order in the factory and
the parking lot, refused to get involved. The few times he had attempted
to intervene, the car owners had gone over his head to Pato, who for reasons
of his own (or to intentionally undermine his manager's authority in a
destructively egotistical little mind game that Pato indulged in for his
own sick gratification) had overruled his factory manager. A longtime
Manhattanite who did not share the American fascination for automobiles
and did not even possess a driver's license, Gringo Pendejo walked away
from the parking lot and its conflicts and applied his abilities where
they would be most effective, the administration of the factory.
The parking lot, which was originally procured to make business flow more
efficiently, now looked like Times Square at rush hour with employees'
heaps parked very which way, taking every available inch of space. Half
the time the bums couldn't even squeeze through to relieve themselves.
Nobody wanted to park in the back, because in order to get his car out
he would have to go into the factory and get five guys to come out and
move their cars. The calculations that went into getting a strategically
placed parking spot came to resemble the court machinations of medieval
Byzantium. Gringo Pendejo, unable to impose order because of Pato's interference,
washed his hands, saying "Fuck 'em! Let 'em drive their cars up each
The most explosive element in this volatile compound of automotive madness
was Johnny Pato, who was Pato's brother, another Puerto Rican Jew. But
Johnny was more Puerto Rican than Jew. He called himself Johnny Toro,
which means "bull," but that got changed to Johnny Loro, which
means parrot, because when he got excited, which was all the time, his
voice went up an octave and it sounded like a parrot squawking. Finally,
it morphed into Johnny Pato, because of his brother and because "pato,"
which means "duck," is also Spanish slang for homosexual.
If Pato, with his round face and bourgeois corpulence, could be said to
have been born in the Year of the Pig, Johnny had every hallmark of the
Year of the Monkey. A short, thin man with slightly bowled legs, long
arms that seemed to reach almost to his knees and bony hands like vice
grips which ended in gnarled, disfigured fingernails that bespoke too
many exposures to degreaser and battery acid, Johnny was a rough, mean
character capable of spontaneous combustion at any minute. Though illiterate,
he was a reasoning, intelligent being and his violent outbursts were all
the more ominous for the logic and calculated reasoning that informed
If logic and calculation were manifestations of the Jewish side of Johnny's
nature, the outrageous lunatic aspects of his personality could be attributed
to the Puerto Rican blood flowing through his veins like an unstable and
combustable compound of rum and salsa picante heated to the boiling point,
exploding out of his head like a ferociously overheated double boiler.
Pato had fired Johnny and taken him back so many times that he got paid
for the times he was absent, with that time deducted from his pay. As
a consequence, he never took a vacation, all his off time being spent
in court or at anger management therapy sessions which Pato, who subscribed
to whatever politically correct theory of self-improvement happened to
be currently circulating, fervently believed in.
Johnny was already persona non grata in the office of La Creta, whom he
had tried to seduce in his own inimitable grease monkey style by telling
her up front, "Why don't you quit playing hard to get and admit that
you want me, bitch?"
Borok Feb 6th 2008
Like Satan, she was known by many names, all of which related to that
most alluring and reviled aspect of the female physiognomy.
Dean Borok (Extract from Symphony of Fear)
The world of dreams is an eternal infinite universe inside each person...
driven by the unformed expression of neurotic impulses and sexual repressions
of the dreamer
Gets His Fortune Told
Still holding the dregs of his drink in his hand, Havelock Jones waded
through the Halloween party in the direction of the fortune
of Nino De Jesus
Hell's Kitchen fork lift saga
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