Thursday, April 23, 2020

"I Ain't Complaining"

“I ain’t complaining,” said Little Ray. 

His real name wasn’t Ray and he wasn’t little, either, but everybody called him Little Ray, because one night Fat Angie the retired whore said to him, “Jesus Christ, don’t you do nothing but complain alla time? You’re just a little ray of sunshine, ain’t you? Shut the hell up with your goddam complaining.”

Well, he never did shut up with his complaining, and from that night onward everybody called him Little Ray, short for Little Ray of Sunshine. Hardly anybody even remembered what his real name was, and nobody cared either.

“Lookit,” he said, he was talking to or talking at Philip the uptown swell, down here on another one of his benders, “don’t get me wrong. I ain’t complaining. But these bums at my job, you know what their problem is? They don’t want to work. They want to get paid for doing nothing while I pick up the slack. I ain’t complaining, but it just gets to me, ya know what I mean?”

Suddenly Philip became aware that Ray was talking to him, or talking at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “what?”

“I said I ain’t complaining,” said Little Ray, who was a tall fat, disjointed-looking, goofy looking guy with milk-bottle horn-rimmed glasses held together with electrical tape. “I ain’t complaining, but –”

He paused for a moment, gathering his strength to air his many and deep grievances all over again.

“Yes?” said Philip, already losing interest.

“It’s just these lazy bums at my job,” said Little Ray. “They don’t want to work. All they want to do is the least they can get away with, while a guy like me is doing more work than he should be doing –”

“So,” interrupted Philip, “you’re complaining about your job?”

“Well,” said Little Ray, “like I said, I ain’t complaining –”

“You’re not?” said Philip.

“No, I ain’t,” said Little Ray. “I’m only saying. Y’know? I’m only saying that it ain’t fair that I gotta do extra work when these other bums don’t do half the work I do.”

“So you’re complaining about your co-workers?”

“I ain’t complaining, per se,” said Little Ray. “I am only saying. I am only making a observation, Philip. I am not complaining. Nobody likes a complainer.”

But Philip was no longer listening. Little Ray continued to complain but his voice was no more than a meaningless distant buzzing as far as Philip was concerned.

What did Little Ray care?

“Again,” he said, again, “I ain’t complaining, Philip. You understand that. I ain’t complaining.”

He continued to complain, and Philip continued to stare into something that could not be seen here in Bob’s Bowery Bar or anywhere, deep into the swirling multitudinous memories of his life, and even into events and thoughts and sights and sounds he had never consciously remembered before, and might never remember again.

“I ain’t complaining,” said Little Ray. “You understand that, don’t you, Philip?”

For some reason Philip heard this last sentence, and he turned to Little Ray.

“I understand,” he said.

At last Little Ray shut up.

At last someone understood.

He took a sip of the flat and warm bock beer he had been nursing for over an hour in the hopes that Philip would offer to buy him a fresh dime glass. It wasn’t like the guy couldn’t afford it. Everybody knew that Philip was loaded, and came from money, but just try to get these rich bastards to buy you a beer, it was like pulling teeth. Little Ray sighed, and laid the short stubby glass down.

“I ain’t complaining,” he said.

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq.}

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