Thursday, March 19, 2020


“I got strange desires,” said Gilbey the Geek.

“Why you telling me this?” said the guy they called Purple, on account of when he got mad his face turned from its usual bright red to deep purple.

“I don’t know,” said Gilbey, “just to make conversation. Don’t you wanta know what my strange desires are?”

“No,” said Purple, and you could tell he was on his way to turning purple, “I don’t want to know what your strange desires are.”

“You sure?”


Gilbey turned to his left, where fat Angie the retired whore was sitting.

“Hey, Angie, you know something? I got strange desires.”

“Yeah, you and the rest of the bums in the world.”

“You want to know what my strange desires are?”


“Not at all?”

“Not at all.”

“That ain’t very open-minded of you, Angie.”

“I’ll open-mind you, Geek. I’ll crack your skull like an egg with this Rheingold beer bottle. How’d you like that?”

“So you really don’t want to know what my strange desires are.”

“Buzz off.”

“All right,” said Gilbey. “You ain’t got to be rude, Angie.”

“Tell your story walking,” said Angie.

Gilbey picked up his half-drunk glass of bock, now grown warm and flat, and walked over to the poets’ table. The usual crew were all there: Hector Phillips Stone, the doomed (yet somehow still alive) romantic poet; Seamas McSeamas, the professionally hearty Irish poet; Howard Paul Studebaker, the Western poet who had never ventured farther west than the Delaware River; Frank X Fagen, the nature poet who hadn’t departed the island of Manhattan since 1937; Scaramanga the leftist poet, drummed out of the Communist Party for conduct unbecoming of a comrade; and Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, the Negro poet who had once been a rising star in the Harlem Renaissance until too much of what he himself termed “excessively militaristic behavior in my cups” had exiled him down to the Bowery.

“I got strange desires,” said Gilbey, to the table as a whole.

“What?” said Frank X.

“Strange desires,” said Gilbey. “You guys mind if I sit with you and tell you about them?”

“Yes,” said Hector. “We mind.”

“You guys are poets, you should be innerested in stuff like strange desires.”

“Beat it, Gilbey,” said Howard.

“I’ll be quick,” said Gilbey.

“How about you be quick about taking a hike,” said Scaramanga.

“I got strange desires,” said Gilbey. “I gotta tell somebody about ‘em.”

“Listen, Gilbey,” said Seamas, “none of us wants to hurt your feelings, but go find a hole to dry up in.”

“Hey, Lucius,” said Gilbey, “you’re a Negro. You know what it’s like to be oppressed and all. You’ll listen to me, won’t ya?”

“No,” said Lucius. “Do I look like a priest? Now scram.”

But Lucius had given Gilbey an idea, so he went over to where Father Frank the defrocked whiskey priest sat at the bar.

“Hey, Father Frank, I got strange desires. You want to hear ‘em?”

“If you want me to hear your confession I charge one shot of Cream of Kentucky bourbon whiskey.”

“I ain’t got no money. Can I owe ya?”


“But –”

“Hop it, Gilbey. The good lord’s got no time for pikers.”

In near despair Gilbey looked around and saw Philip the uptown swell, down here on another one of his benders, sitting alone at one of the little tables near the men’s room. Gilbey went over and sat down across from him.

“Hey, Philip, I got strange desires, you want to know what they are?”

“Strange desires?” said Philip, after a long pause.

“Yeah, strange desires. You want to hear about them?”

“Sure,” said Philip. “Fire away.”

“It’s like this,” said Gilbey.

Suddenly Philip pushed his whiskey glass to one side, crossed his forearms on the table top, laid his head on his arms, and began to snore.

Not to be deterred, Gilbey the Geek proceeded to tell the sleeping Philip all about his strange desires.

{Kindly click here to read the “adult comix” version of this tale in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by my esteemed colleague rhoda penmarq.}

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