Thursday, May 13, 2021

"It Ain't Nothing"

Father Frank, known as “the whiskey priest”, finished up his three-month jolt at the Tombs, walked up the Bowery to Bob’s and took a stool at the bar on this fine day in May.

Bob let him have a Cream of Kentucky and a bock on the arm, and all was well in the world.

Gilbey the Geek came over and sat on the stool to the father’s left. He had a greasy-looking glass in his hand with about a quarter-inch of flat bock in it

“Hey, Father Frank, d’ja hear the news?”

“What’s that, Gilbey?”

“I seen God.”

“Did you now?”

“Yeah. It was really something. He came to me one night when I was laying in the dark in my room. It was like this big shiny light. He stayed there for like a minute that seemed like forever, and he didn’t say nothing, but he didn’t have to I guess. And then he went away. But it was God all right, Father. I seen God.”

“That’s swell, Gilbey.”

“I guess you seen him plenty of times, being a priest and all.”

“Well, no, Gilbey, not per se.”

“I don’t know what per se means, Father.”

“It means, well, literally speaking I have never seen God.”

“I don’t know what literally speaking means, Father. I don’t got book learning like you, Father Frank. But I seen God.”

“Well, I should imagine that seeing God is much more important than book learning, Gilbey.”

“You think so, Father?”

“I do, Gilbey. I think you’re a very lucky man, my son.”

“Gee. I ain’t never had no luck before.”

“Well, you’ve got luck now.”

“It was only the oncet.”

“The oncet?”

“It was only the oncet I seen him.”

“Oncet is about one more time than most people have a chance to see the good lord.”

“You think so?”

“I’m pretty sure, Gilbey.”

“How was jail?”

“It was okay, Gilbey. A spot of jail now and then can do a man good, I think. Cuts down on the all day drinking, plus you’ve got the three meals and a cot.”

“That’s what I thought whenever I been in jail. It ain’t so bad. Except you can’t drink all day, like you said. It ain’t no worse than the flophouse.”

“No, it isn’t, Gilbey.”

“And you don’t even got to pay nothing for your meals and the cot.”

“This is true, Gilbey.”

“You think I’ll ever see God again, Father?”

Father Frank hesitated just a moment before replying.

“Yes, Gilbey, I think someday you will.”

“I see him I’ll say hi for ya.”

“Why thank you, Gilbey.”

“I’ll put in a good word for you. Tell him you always been all right in my book, even if you do get drunk and disorderly and sent down to the Tombs sometimes.”

“That’s – that’s –”

“It ain’t nothing, Father.”

“No, I think it’s something, Gilbey.”

“Well, you should know, Father Frank, you being a priest and all.”

“Yes, I suppose I should,” said Father Frank.

He signaled to Bob, and when Bob came over he asked him for another bock, and one for Gilbey. It was the least he could do.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by Sister Rhoda Penmarq, S.S.J.}

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