Shorty & Morty
An Extraordinary Homeless Couple
“Mommy look! That man cut his dolly’s head off!”
Celine was so happy to have her prosthetic legs back on that she began to dance haphazardly while cradling Morty in her arms - in the County Hospital’s rear parking lot. The crutch leg was sturdy yet she was still a bit high from the Demerol and giggled with an English accent, “This is the best leg ever.” Her boyfriend – Morty the 4’6” dwarf – was proud of his craftsmanship and remembered the first time he kissed her make-shift legs. He helped her rise up to her true stature for the first time – all 5’8” as she wobbled along - slowly at first.
Celine’s reaction was astoundingly childlike in her Jersey best, “Wow… this is what the world looks like from up here? Morty you gotta see this – it’s absolutely gorgeous!” She reached over to hug him and with outstretched arms declared, “It’s a miracle. Let’s do stuff!”
He was riveted by Celine’s ability to shift accents mid-sentence and loved that she had become his partner – finally a woman who lit him up on a daily basis. Celine kissed the top of Morty’s head as if she could read his thoughts. Her gaze disarmed him. She was a pure heart in a volatile world – a sensitive that reflected the energies around her. Morty was her armor now.
Morty’s eyes were alerted to Celine when they were part of the homeless colony that infiltrated the piers of LA’s port. His memory was hazy because alcohol dictated many years of his life – but the first time his eyes met hers – he knew he had to find a way into her heart. She was like him misunderstood and short. He nicknamed her Shorty after winning her over when they formally met in the higher end of LA’s homeless crowd – on Hollywood Boulevard. Morty officially made her his girl by beating Sam the Can senseless for accosting her. Sam the Can went missing some months later but only Pikey Pram Pusher would know about that and he wasn’t talking or about to dig in one particular dumpster again.
Morty was dumped into an orphanage in New York City when his mother realized he wasn’t growing at a normal rate. In truth – his older brothers started using him as a torpedo or missile of sorts early on – like dwarf tossing except sometimes they took it to the rooftops. She was terrified Morty would end up as even more damaged goods than she felt he was or even worse yet – dead. Then where would she and her boys be? She already visited her ex in prison and her older boys would not be returning to juvy – no siree - so the toddler had to go. Luckily - this was years before elf bowling became a yuletide - cultural sensation.
He wasn’t a difficult child to adopt out but since Morty’s growth rarely spurted – his repeated returns to the Orphanage grew closer together in time as his life’s years upped – sans the inches. Life as an orphan marked Morty as a scrapper for life. He became good at learning how to get out of harm’s way by practicing gymnastics and kick-boxing that he picked up from other kids when placed in foster homes. It would be in these temporary nests that he learned to fight with an edge – it was the only way he could survive. Some people when faced with a short deck of cards in life give up or learn to merely exist – others – like Shorty and Morty – took their oddities and embraced their divine decree. To them? Everyone was normal and amazingly colorful – it was the Hollywood Ordinaries who confused them.
Morty was slippery on his feet – a two-fisted acceleration machine when angered – yet - he innately knew how to conduct himself until drinking took over his world. That happened so slowly he didn’t realize he was an alcoholic until he started skiing down the boulevards of cocaine. Life in the short lane wasn’t easy and he was spinning out of control.
When he first came to Hollywood ten years ago – Morty made enough friends to share an apartment with other wannabe actors and musicians. By appearance alone - he was signed to do children’s parties and play an elf at the malls with various Santas. The only thing he discovered that he and Santa had in common - was a high tolerance for booze. Most kids knocked him over to get to the man in red. It took Morty five years to build up a career that made him a viable income and just a few months of solid bar fights to melt it down. Most fights started with a really bad short joke. “Hey short stack – wanna half pint to go?” or “Hey big guy – where’s the little guy?” “Does it snow down there? I wanna write my name on it.” “Elf was my favorite movie and you weren’t in it.”
His first few days on the streets were harder than any day he had growing up. The language of the streets has its own rhythm and set of laws or rules of conduct that was created by the more experienced long term homeless homies. Morty learned quickly that lying and cheating was part of surviving and stealing was a gift he had to hone his skills on.
Back at the social worker’s office…
Mr. Weldon watched Pikey Pram Pusher’s DVD of E.M. Fredric over and over wondering what path her life had taken her on. He smiled knowing that Pikey would discover his treasure went missing and wondered why Krazy Kate had stolen it - maybe she had a secret crush on the monstrosity that roared at folks when angry. In Krazytown anything could happen – Arnold S. had proven that.
Forearmless Jake was on his way to get his friend out of jail. Not even the cops wanted to deal with the stench of Pikey Pram Pusher. Pikey sat in a release cell waiting for his bud to help buy his way out. At first he was going for the three squares and a roof over his head for a few days but the jail was stuffed over capacity so he sat and waited for his friend. He had roared in the paddy wagon among other inmate prospects and they begged to be euthanized. Pikey’s bail was at the homeless rate – not free – doable.
Back in Hollywood…
Some people stand in social quicksand – Berta King’s mommy was a pervert and relished swimming in it. Berta was one of four young girls lost to the state because of the numerous uncles that came late at night and abused Berta and her sisters. Only two sisters remained alive – even more unconscionable was that Mercy King (Berta’s mommy) lived in a Simi Valley trailer park while her self-described junkie daughters turned tricks for a living. Mercy made sure her daughters had Jesus driven into them when they slid out of her womb - so Berta and her fraternal twin – Lacy – had become hookers for Jesus on Hollywood Boulevard.
Jesus Junkies are the happiest junkies alive. They were two super freakin’ Asian girls who played naughty twister to raise their stakes as Hollywood Hookers with a clientele list that rated the names from stars – doctors - to the local politicos – with an occasional spiritual leader tossed in. They had stopped doing the unknowns to become untouchable. When either Berta or Lacy got out of a well-lit parked limousine in a lot – no cop stopped them – they were off limits ladies of the night and they were out early on a mission.
It was recruitment week. For every teenaged drug addict selling their body – the sisters got a percentage from helping align them with Johns that wouldn’t hurt them. Berta and Lacy considered this their God given mission. Not to remove the wounded but to help heal them with less abuse and it kept the streets a little cleaner for appearances sake. It was still late afternoon so they had time to discover the best young meat available for their return.
Back at the hospital…
Morty looked at Celine and knew in his heart that she was his flint stone – without her there was no fire. He took her by the hand and they headed toward the metro to return to Hollywood. “Come on, toots! We have an appointment with a social worker.” “What for?” She asked suspiciously. Celine hated confined contact with strangers – crowds were different. “It’ll be alright. It’s just some census thing and I think we might get an apartment out of it.” Morty - lied. He hated lying to her but Zippy - their blind self-appointed street mayor - said that if they didn’t show for the census interview and got caught on the streets they could be moved along. In other words – relocated to ensure the count was correct for the city to allocate funding to Hollywood’s refurbishing committee.
Zippy was far smarter than he let on. His blindness assisted him in getting and retaining information better than any other street rat. Zippy’s theory was “It’s all about making Hollywood - the brand - look and sell as good as it reads – see? Entertainment usurped the need for jobs and hope – this is about commerce by Hollywood standards and practices. It’s about the big guy bullying the little guy with a kinda sad raw bestial vulgarity to it- while assisting any foreigner who hops onto the American bandwagon. Then we look good in the eyes of the lands beyond Oz! This is gonna be It’s A Small World run by the men behind the curtains of all the businesses and buildings on Hollywood and Sunset and Vine combined and then some.” He also told Morty with a cackling laugh, “A new Hollywood is coming - but for now - the homeless - locals and tourists believe what they’re told - as all good children should be spoon-fed first.”
Morty found Zippy’s proclamations to be frightening but then just a few weeks ago a man stepped out of his car in 5 o’clock traffic and began emptying his revolver until he was shot dead. Most of the sitting ducks in their cars thought they were part of a movie being filmed. He just wanted his girl safe and to be able to build a life again. One day he wanted to locate his father and he truly believed his dad was an actor of some acclaim because acting came so easily to Morty. Louis Gossett, Jr. made sense because they were from the same part of NYC and Morty believed they had similar sensibilities. Plus, he heard that his hero had adopted one son and Morty was convinced that was because he didn’t know where his real son was. Only time would reveal – in Morty’s mind - the truth and he intended to take the journey to discover it.
At the hospital…
Shorty and Morty boarded the metro - Hollywood bound - while Jared was asking an orderly, “Did you see a little guy who makes legs for his girlfriend around?” As the orderly relayed the day’s events Jared twisted the head off the doll he took from the little girl on the metro and slammed it onto the ground. “Shit!” he said - throwing a tantrum while crushing the doll’s head segueing into playing air guitar with the doll’s body – he sang: “I’ll get that dummy and have his head and with his purty little girl I will bed.” The orderly just stared at him. Jared stopped as quickly as he had started, grinned and shook the orderly’s hand, “Nice to meet you dude. Have a reality day and night. I gotta blow this taco stand.” Then he was gone.
When Jared entered the metro car and sat his mind wandered as a little girl’s scream brought him back, “Mommy look! That man cut his dolly’s head off!” Jared jumped up and politely approached the mother and daughter, “Oh, no little girl you have it all wrong.” To the mother, “May I?” He kneeled down, “See, this dolly has a new home to get fixed. How old are you 5 or six?” She nodded – holding up four tiny fingers. “Your doll is pretty and new I see… mine needs a best friend to go with her so she’s not scared. Can yours come along?” He patted the girl’s head into a meek agreement. The mother was speechless and with Jared’s deranged appearance no one bothered to interfere. Jared now had two dolls for his collection. Perfect… now to find the midget.
Hollywood always had an unknowable muteness about it – even with the spotlights on - a purposeful ignorance of propriety - Shorty and Morty had been placed here – according to Celine – to be an example of brilliant loving exceptions in a desolate society.
To be continued…
ILLUSTRATIONS BY DYLAN BOCANEGRA
I love these characters, the Krazytown neighorhoods they reside in with the other misfits, tourists and has been or wannabe - "bluebloods." This journey goes beyond the films or the in-character interviews. I hope they will bring you as much pleasure as I had creating them. And will keep going... yesirree she will...