Thursday, August 18, 2022

"An American Epic"

“And so you see, Bubbles,” said Addison, “what I am attempting to do in my novel is to do something akin to what Tolstoy did in War and Peace, but to create an essentially American epic, which, yes, might fall within the delineaments of what we call ‘a western’ qua ‘western’, but which will also encompass all the themes of all great literature, from the time of Homer down to our own sadly decadent day –”

“Hey, Atcheson,” said Bubbles, “I hate to interrupt you, but can I just say one thing?”

“Of course, Bubbles, say not only one thing, but a dozen, a thousand things –”

“That one thing I want to say is I don’t care.”

“You don’t care. In what sense, dear Bubbles?”

“In the sense that I don’t care about your ideas for your novel. I mean, if you want to ramble on, knock yourself out, but just don’t expect me to pay attention.”

“Oh. So I was boring you.”

“You would have been boring me if I was paying attention, but luckily for me I wasn’t.”

“Ha ha.”

“No offense.”

“Oh, no offense taken. May I tell you a little secret, Bubbles?”

“Fire away. I love secrets.”

“My little secret is that my entire life people have been telling me I’m boring.”

“But it hasn’t stopped you yet, has it?”

“No, I seem to be quite irrepressible that way. But what ever shall we talk about?”

“Nothing’s always good for me.”

“You mean you like to talk about nothing?”

“I mean I like not talking about anything.”

“Just sitting here, saying nothing?”

“It’s not so bad. It beats hearing about Homer and Tolstoy and your western.”
“A prose epic in the guise of a western –”

“Yeah, not talking about anything is better than hearing about your whatever in the guise of a western.”

“So I should just write it and not talk about it.”

“It doesn’t matter to me if you write it or not, just don’t talk about it to me and expect me to listen.”

Addison paused for a moment, his senses full with Chianti and baked ziti and cheesecake, with the jukebox jazz music and the warmth of human bodies, the rich odors of cigarette smoke, the chatter and laughter of the voices of men and women, and above all the calm beauty of Bubbles. At last he spoke again, as he was innately incapable of not speaking for more than a minute at a time.

“May I say it again, Bubbles?”

“What’s that?”

“That you are a true existential heroine?”

“Yeah, you can say that again. I don’t know what it means, but I like being called some kind of heroine.”

“You truly are.”

“Hey, let’s get the check.”

“Oh, I am boring you.”

“Just a little maybe, but mostly I’m getting a little sleepy, and like I told you, I don’t get my good ten hours beauty sleep I’m just a wreck the whole next day.”

“Speaking of the check, I’m afraid I only have two dollars and some small change left.”

“I told you dinner was on me.”

“Thank you very much, Bubbles.”

“You’re welcome. Y’know, Addison, even though you’re kind of a boring guy, I like you for some reason.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I’m not sure why. I mean, you look like Dan Duryea on a bad day, you never have any money and you never buy your own cigarettes, but, I don’t know, I kind of like you.”

“Bubbles, you don’t know what it means to me to hear you say that.”

“Don’t get carried away, pal. I didn’t say I was in love with you.”

“No, of course not! I mean, why would you?”

“Exactly. Why would I? Now flag that waiter down.”

Outside the San Remo the sleety rain had all but stopped, and the neon sign of the bar cast its blood-orange glow over the wet pavement and the piles of dirty snow.

“May I at least walk you to your door?” said Addison.

“You’d better,” said Bubbles. “All the creeps in this town?”

A half block down Bleecker and they were at the steps of her building.

“Good night, Atcheson.”

“Good night, Bubbles. But.”

“But what?”

“I hate to overstep my bounds.”

“Go ahead and overstep.”

“I wonder if I might kiss you.”

She looked at him.

“Only if you wanted to,” added Addison.

She continued to look at him.

“I could give you that two dollars I still have,” said Addison.

“Your last two bucks?”

“Well, I still have some loose change also.”

“So you’d still have enough for some coffee and a roll or two for breakfast.”

“Oh, yes, the diner I always go to, Ma’s Diner, it’s quite reasonable, and Ma bakes the most excellent breakfast rolls and cinnamon buns –”

“Keep your two bucks, Addison.”


“Keep your two bucks, and get yourself a nice nutritious breakfast tomorrow.”

“Well, if you insist.”

“I insist,” said Bubbles. “And, yeah, you can kiss me.”

“I can?”

“That’s what I said, wasn’t it?”

“And I don’t have to pay?”

“Shut up and pucker up before I change my mind,” said Bubbles.

It was never easy for Addison to shut up, but now he did, and then he puckered up.

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

No comments: