Thursday, December 21, 2023



Milford set to unfastening the sturdy stamped-brass buttons of the fly of his dungarees (he preferred the “authenticity” of button flies to zippers), but unfortunately his fingers still felt like living uncooked sausages, as his alleged organ of masculinity continued to pulse and throb unremittingly.

“Oh, damn,” he said. “Oh, damn, and damn again.”

And continuing silently as he still struggled with the top button below his belt, Yes, I am damned, damned not once or even just twice, or thrice, but no, each second of my absurd existence, and if I ever manage to get out of this place the first thing I will do is to try to hail a cab, and I shall ask the driver to take me up to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. I will tip him handsomely, explaining that I only wish to take a nice brisk midnight stroll in the snowstorm on the bridge, looking out at the vague twinkling lights of the mighty city, and he will say, “Thanks, buddy, have a nice walk,” knowing full well what I intend to do and not giving a shit which is to climb over the rail and throw myself into the cold river clogged with ice floes and thus put an end to this nightmare of an existence once and for all…

“Hey, pal, you need some help with them buttons?”

This was a tiny man standing at the urinal to Milford’s right. He wore a leather-billed cap of faded blue and in his mouth was a thick cigarette.

“What?” said Milford.

“I said you need any help with them buttons, ‘cause I see ya strugglin’ there.”

“What? No. I don’t need any help.”

“You look like you need help.”

The top of the little man’s cap only came up as high as Milford’s hip, and Milford himself was not even quite medium height.

“I don’t need help.”

“Look, on account of my deprivation in the heighth department I could not help but notice your difficulty. I meant no disrespect.”

“I don’t need or want help, but thank you for offering.”

“Suit yourself, pal.”

The man had been urinating through all this, Milford could tell because of the hissing and splashing sound, even if he kept his eyes steadfastly away from looking at the source of the sound.

At last he got one button free, and now he set to work on the next one. Damn his uncoöperative fingers! And damn these buttons. If he ever made it home alive he would donate all his trousers to Goodwill and specifically ask his mother to take him shopping for pants with zippers!

“Ah, shit,” said the little man. “Ah shit. Ain’t nothin’ like a good whiz, is there?”

Milford got the second button undone. One more should do the trick.

“I got a bad habit,” the little man went on. “I like to sit at the bar and drink ale, but what I don’t like is to get up and go to the gents, on accounta that takes away from the time I could be drinkin’ ale, so what I always do, I wait until I’ve had like a baker’s dozen glasses, until my bladder is like to burst right there at the bar and I uncontrollably piss meself, but just before that can happen, and only just right before, I finally reluctantly climb down from my stool and head for the jakes, and then when I get here it’s like this, and I’m peein’ for a good ten minutes straight like a draft horse. By the way, wow. I said wow, buddy. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Yes, I heard you,” said Milford, who had finally unbuttoned that third button and freed what might be called his manhood, were he a man and not what he was, which was what? What his mother called him, a pathetic excuse for a specimen of a man and a disgrace to both proud family lines.

“I mean, Jesus, pal, did you just eat an ounce of Spanish fly, or what? ‘Cause that is some boner you got goin’ on there.”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but, no, I did not eat an ounce of Spanish fly, but I did eat a handful of strange mushrooms and I think that they are the cause of this, um, this –”

“So it ain’t just your way of saying you wanta be friendly.”

“No! It was these mushrooms, and then I met this woman here –”

“Who? Maybe I know her.”

“She said she was Louisa May Alcott.”

“Oh, Lou. Well, she is a hot tamale, that Lou. You gonna give her the old you-know-what?”

“Listen, sir, I wish you would leave me alone. All I want to do is to, to make this go away.”

“So you gonna burp the worm or should I say boa constrictor right here, standing at the pisser?”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. We were walking down the corridor –”

“You and Lou?”

“Yes, Miss Alcott and I, and I was having the utmost difficulty walking –”

“I can see why.”

“– and I saw the “POINTERS” sign and on impulse I told her I had to come in here, and now I’m beginning to regret doing so.”

“Y’know the Bible says it’s a sin to spill your seed on the ground. Or in a urinal.”

“I don’t care about the Bible, but now I feel so self-conscious I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Did you try thinking about baseball?”

“No. I don’t care about baseball.”

“Try to think about your mother.”

“Oh, God, no, I can’t bear to think about my mother.”


“But I can’t stand my mother.”

“All the better. Think about her. What’s her name?”

“Mrs. Milford.”

“Is that what you call her? Mrs. Milford?”

“No, I call her Mother.”

“Tell me about her.”

“She is a harridan, a harpy, a soul destroyer, and all she does is criticize me. And all I want is for her to hurry up and have a fatal heart attack so I can have all her money and the house, but knowing her she will outlive me just to spite me.”

“Hey, buddy, guess what?”


At last the little man had stopped urinating, and now he was buttoning up his own fly.

“Take a look at your johnson.”

Milford looked down, and at last his erection had subsided.

“Oh,” he said. “Thank God!”

“Don’t thank God,” said the little man. “Thank your mother. Go on, put that thing away unless you got to pee.”

“No, I don’t think I have to pee, actually.”

“Then pack it away and button it up.”

“I have to thank you, sir.”

“They call me Shorty,” said the man. “On accounta my heighth. Or lack thereof.”

“Thank you, Shorty.”

“Hey, you two,” said a voice behind them, “Mutt and Jeff, whyn’tcha stop your yapping and get a room if you’re done with them urinals.”

“Ah, wait your turn, ya big bum,” said Shorty over his shoulder. And he turned to Milford. “Come on, fella, I’ll buy you a glass of ale.”

Milford was on the verge of saying he didn’t drink, but he let it go. What did it matter? What did anything matter? First he must get out of this men’s room, and then let the Devil or God himself take the hindmost.

Shorty waited, seemingly patiently, smoking his fat cigarette and watching as Milford struggled again with the sturdy stamped-brass buttons of his fly.

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

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