Thursday, November 26, 2020

“What Montaigne Said”

She waited until he finished talking, and then she started talking.

She went on for quite a while, twenty-five or thirty minutes, and then she just stared at him. She was breathing heavy.

Spike had nothing more to say, and he guessed Myrtle had nothing more to say, at least for the time being.

He put out his cigarette, got up, went and got his jacket and went out the door and down the four flights of stairs to the street.

The Bowery was dirty and cold, and the sky up above the Third Avenue El was the color of an old potato sack. Spike walked down the block to Bob’s Bowery Bar and went in. He didn’t have much money in his pocket, but he had enough to get his load on.

It was mid-afternoon on a November Sunday, the place was thick with smoke and drunks, but Spike saw an empty stool down near the toilets and he went for it before somebody else could.

On his left sat Fat Angie, the retired prostitute who sold flowers from a cart on the street. On his right was that guy they called Addison, although apparently that wasn’t his real name.

Bob came over, and Spike ordered his usual, a glass of the house basement-brewed bock. When Bob brought it to him, Spike said, “Wait a second, will you, Bob?” and he lifted the glass and downed it all in four gulps. “I’ll take another one, please, Bob,” he said.

While he was waiting for Bob to bring him his refill, Spike took out his cigarettes, he still had a few left, and he lighted one up.

“Hard day, Spike?” said Addison.

This was the trouble with this guy Addison. He always had to talk.

“No harder than most days,” said Spike.

“Do you know what Montaigne said?” said Addison.

“No, I don’t,” said Spike.

Addison told him what Montaigne said.

“Montaigne said that the only thing worse than being alive was not being alive.”

“How the fuck would this nitwit Montaigne know that?” said Angie, leaning into the conversation, such as it was.

“Well, I suppose it was just his opinion, based of course on a lifetime of philosophy, and his, um, experience of life, and –”

“Fuck his opinion,” said Angie.

Fortunately Bob was there with Spike’s fresh bock. He could relax and drink this one slow, or at least slower.

“What do you think, Bob?” said Addison.

“About what?”

“I was just telling Spike and dear Angie here that the great French philosopher Montaigne said that the only thing worse than being alive was not being alive.”

Bob took a puff on his Parodi.

“You know what I think?” said Bob.

“I should love to know what you think,” said Addison. Bob so rarely deigned to speak with Addison.

“I think I spent twenty years in the marine corps and another twenty-some years running this dive, and I still don’t know shit from Shinola.”

“Ha ha,” said Angie.

Bob took two dimes for Spike’s bocks and went to the register.

“Well,” said Addison.

Spike took a drink of his bock.

Maybe he shouldn’t get his load on after all.

Maybe Myrtle was right about what a bum he was.

Maybe he should just finish this bock and then go back up to the apartment and talk to her.

“Do you know what Voltaire said?” said Addison.

“What?” said Spike.

“I said do you know what Voltaire said?”

“Who’s Voltaire?”

“He was another great French philosopher. Voltaire. Do you know what he said?”

“No,” said Spike. “I don’t know what nobody said.”

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comix” version profusely illustrated by rhoda penmarq.}

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