Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Hello, Miss Abernathy"

Philip pressed the intercom button.

“Hello, Miss Abernathy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I feel as if I might be coming down with a virus, so I think I’d better take the rest of the day off, and maybe tomorrow as well.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Just to be on the safe side, maybe you’d better cancel all my appointments for the rest of the week.”

“Of course.”

“Better to err on the side of caution.”

“Yes, certainly.”

“I’m going to leave by the back way now. Give me a five-minute head start, then you can let my brother know.”

“I will, don’t worry, and, Mr. –”

But Philip had switched off the intercom.

He got his hat, went out the back door of his office, and walked down the service corridor to the staircase. The last thing he wanted was to meet someone he knew getting into the elevator. As he went down the six flights to the ground floor, he considered the typical itinerary he had followed for his binges ever since rejoining the family firm after the war. First he would hit Joe’s down the block for a quick bracing one before the lunch crowd started coming in, then out the door, and a brisk walk west to the Hi-Low Club on the next block, from there another block west to the Ten Hut, and then a gradual descent downtown through the Irish saloons on Seventh Avenue, and after that the Village bars: Chumley’s, the White Horse, the Kettle of Fish, the San Remo, and so on and so on to the Prince Hal Room at the Hotel St Crispian, where, depending on his state, he would spend the night, before heading off to his final destination the next morning.

But this time, between the mezzanine and the ground floor, Philip had a brainwave.

Why not skip all the preliminaries for once and go right to the heart of the matter? I mean, really, who was kidding who here? What was he trying to prove? He had nothing to prove, and suddenly he felt rather like an eighteen-year-old ball player going right from high school to the majors. And, after all, if he wasn’t a major-leaguer by this point he would never be.

He went out the back of the building and down the alley to the street. It was a sunny warm day in June. Philip raised his hand and an empty cab pulled over at once, so the gods were with him.

He got in, shut the door, sat back, and sighed.

“Where to, buddy?”

“Bleecker and the Bowery, please.”


“Bleecker and the Bowery.”

“Bleecker and the Bowery?”


“Well-dressed gentleman like you? What you want to go down there for?”

“I'm afraid that would be hard to say.”

“You’re the boss, boss.”

The driver pulled out into the flow of traffic. Philip took out his cigarettes, lighted one up, and watched the city drift by the open window.

It would take a while to drive all the way down there, but he was in no hurry now.

No need to rush things. Now was the time to relax.

The buildings and the people on the crowded sidewalks passed by, like a movie, like real life, all these mobs of people going somewhere or other.

Philip knew where he was going.

And Bob’s Bowery Bar would still be there, God willing, whenever he got there.

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

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