Thursday, May 6, 2021

“The Misunderstanding”


 “Nothing is as great as you how you remember it, but many things were worse than how you remember them.”

Gerry “The Brain” Goldsmith stared at the sentence he had just typed. It had taken him all afternoon to come up with the sentence, but, hang it all, it was a good one!

His work-in-progress (currently titled Pensées for a Rainy Day; Volume One) was coming along apace. Almost ninety-two double-spaced pages completed in just over a year and a half, ever since he had decided to get serious about distilling the work of two decades of ruminations collected in those stacks of schoolboy copybooks piled on his shelves. It was true that he only averaged one completed sentence a day (Saturdays and Sundays off), but Gerry firmly believed that it was far better to write one good sentence than ten pages of nonsense.

For a few brief seconds he considered moving on to the next sentence, but quickly decided not to push it. Always leave some gas in the tank for the next day’s work, that was Gerry’s motto, or one of them.

As usual he left the page in his old Royal portable, one of his little methods for achieving a continuity from one day’s labor to the next.

Outside his window the Third Avenue El roared and rumbled on its way to the Houston Street stop.

Gerry leisurely rolled another Bull Durham, and then lighted it with a Blue Tip kitchen match.

Soon he would have his reward for his day’s work: a glass of the delicious basement-brewed bock around the corner at Bob’s Bowery bar. And after that glass, another, and so on…

Yes, his days held little apparent variety, but what was so great about variety? A philosopher (a man of letters, yes, say it, an artist) needed stability, a routine, and not to be running around madly all day and night. And, after all, didn’t each day bring something new, if only you kept your eyes and your ears and your mind open?

He gazed at his day’s production again.

“Nothing is as great as you how you remember it, but many things were worse than how you remember them.”

His youthful two post-collegiate years in Paris, living off his Harvard graduation money and his fifty-dollars-a-month remittance courtesy of Grandmother Goldsmith, that glorious time of – but, wait, had it really been all that glorious? No, let’s face it, he had been a shy young man, and he would go days at a time without speaking to anyone but a waiter, requesting another glass of wine or beer.

That first summer, sitting in the cafés, watching les jeunes filles stroll by. Why had he never attempted even once to pick one up? Well, it was too late now, and, really, what had he missed? He would never know of course, but, after all, who’s to say that even if he had had an affair, even once, if it would have been a good memory to have? And he was only forty-nine now after all, he still had time, perhaps, to have concupiscent relations with a woman, at least once, before he died.

No doubt when his book came out his publisher (he had his eye on Smythe & Son, although he had not yet approached that august firm) would arrange a “release party” for him. For once in his life he would be the center of attention, and perhaps a likely bookish woman would approach him, a copy of his volume in hand, requesting a personalized inscription. One thing would lead to another. She wouldn’t mind his pot belly, because she would be attracted to his mind…

Anyway, time for a bock!

Gerry put on his tie and his old Donegal tweed suit coat and his fedora, and left his tiny flat, not bothering to lock the door, as usual.

Gerry lived on the sixth floor, and he was just about to turn down the fourth-floor landing when he heard the scream.

What was that?

Again the scream, a woman’s scream.

Good God, was someone being murdered?

The noise came from behind him.

He turned, his head cocked, listening, and the scream sounded again. It seemed to be coming from the door one down to the left. That was the apartment of that nice young fellow Terry Foley. Could it be that Terry was in fact a murderer? Who would have suspected? Terry was another literary fellow, working on a long autobiographical novel (or so he said), but was he in reality a modern-day Raskolnikov?

Again the scream, a scream. Frightening.

Gerry was no hero, but could he just continue on down to the bar while some poor woman was being butchered?

No. If only for once in his life, he must take action in the physical world.

He walked, legs trembling, over to the door as yet another scream rang out.

He raised his fist, took a deep breath, and then pounded on the door with the heel of his hand.

A scream had just started again, but suddenly it halted, almost as if the woman had had her throat slit, or crushed.

He pounded again.

“Yes, who is it?” called a man’s voice, Terry Foley’s voice.

“It’s Gerry Goldsmith, Terry,” said Gerry, into the wood of the door. “I can hear you in there, and I warn you, I am not afraid to go find a policeman!”

“What the devil are you talking about?” said Terry’s voice.

“You know damned well what I’m talking about, Terry, and I’m not leaving here until you open up and let that woman out of there, provided she is still alive.”

“Are you insane, Gerry?”

“I assure you I am quite sane, Terry, but perhaps the more apposite question is, ‘Are you a homicidal maniac, Terry?’”

“What?”

“You heard me, man. Now open this door at once!”

Gerry heard padding footsteps. Would Terry have a knife, or a gun? Would he, Gerry, pay for being a good Samaritan by becoming Terry’s next victim?

The door opened a few inches.

Gerry could see thin young Terry standing there, clad only in boxer shorts. Behind him in Terry’s bed with the sheet drawn up to her neck lay young Araminta Sauvage, from down on the second floor. She was lighting a cigarette.

“Oh my God, Terry,” said Gerry, “I am so terribly sorry.”

“Jesus Christ, man,” said Terry. “You scared the shit out of us.”

“I am so terribly sorry.”

“Yes, you said that.”

“Hello, Mr. Goldsmith,” called Araminta.

“Hello, Miss Sauvage,” said Gerry. “I am so terribly sorry.”

“Yes,” she said. “I heard that.”

“Can you both please forgive me?” said Gerry.

“Jesus Christ, man,” said Terry, again.

“I forgive you, Mr. Goldsmith,” called young Araminta.

“Thank you, Miss Sauvage.”

“Can I close the door now?” said Terry.

“Yes, of course,” said Gerry, “and I do beg your pardon, but I thought –”

“Okay, fine, good day, Gerry.”

“Yes, and good day to you, Terry, and Miss Sauvage, and, please –”

The door closed.

“Carry on,” said Gerry, quietly.

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

Thursday, April 29, 2021

“Walking With the Big Man”


 “I seen God last night,” said Gilbey the Geek.

“Oh, Christ,” said Angie the retired whore.

“Not Christ, Angie, but God.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

“No, just God, Angie. The big guy. I seen him. Last night. In my room.”

“Listen, Gilbey,” said Angie, “No offense, but I just can’t take your idiotic bullshit right now, so do me a favor and just drink your bock and don’t talk to me.”

“All right, Angie. But I seen him. Last night. In my room. God.”

“You’ll be seeing stars you say just one more word, Gilbey. I swear to God.”

“That’s who I seen. God.”

“Shut the fuck up, Gilbey.”

“Well, okay, Angie. I was only saying.”

“Zip it.”

Even Gilbey could tell that Angie really meant it this time, so he turned away. The ventriloquist Waldo McGee was sitting there to Gilbey’s right, and as usual Waldo had his dummy Mickey Pumpernickel sitting on his lap.

“Hey, Waldo, guess what?”

“What’s that, Gilbey?”

“I seen God last night.”

“That’s great, Gilbey.”

“No, I really seen him. He showed up in my room.”

“That’s swell, Gilbey.”

“He was like all shiny,” said Gilbey.

“Shiny, huh?”

“Yeah, kind of like a big shiny light.”  

“That’s really great, kid.”

“Yeah, I thought it was really something,” said Gilbey.

“Hey, Gilbey,” said Waldo, “I gotta go strangle the worm. Keep an eye on Mickey Pumpernickel for me.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” said Gilbey.

“Here, put him on your lap till I get back. And don’t let nobody touch him.”

“I won’t, Waldo.”

Gilbey sat Mickey Pumpernickel on his lap, and Waldo staggered off to the men’s room. This was Monday, Waldo’s one night off from his steady gig as compère at the Prince Hal Room over at the Hotel St Crispian on Bedford Street, the one night when he could let loose and tie what he called “a good old country load on”, and he was already halfway there at only six-thirty in the evening.

Gilbey heard a whisper: “Hey, Gilbey.”

Who was it? Was he hearing things? Or was it God, whispering to him?

“Down here,” Gilbey,” said the whispering voice.

Gilbey looked down, and Mickey Pumpernickel looked up at him.

“Don’t talk,” said Mickey, “or these bums in this joint will think you’re crazier than they already think you are. Just nod your head.”

“Okay,” said Gilbey.

“I said don’t talk. Just nod your head.”

“Sorry,” said Gilbey.

“What’d I just tell you? Now don’t say another word. Just nod your head.”

Gilbey just nodded his head.

“I heard what you said, Gilbey,” said Mickey Pumpernickel. “And I just want to say I believe you.”

Gilbey started to say something again but Mickey quickly cut him off.

“I said don’t say nothing.”

Gilbey said nothing.

“Just nod your head.”

Gilbey nodded his head.

“You, my friend,” said Mickey, “have been vouchsafed a very special gift. You have seen God. Now you want my advice? Clam up about it. Keep it to yourself. You don’t got to advertise it. But know this. That you are now one of the elect. One of the very few. I see you’re getting ready to say something again, but don’t. Just nod your head.”

Gilbey nodded his head again.

“Okay, that’s all,” said Waldo. “Now relax, enjoy your bock. Because you’re walking with the big man now.”

Gilbey nodded.

“You can stop nodding now,” said Waldo. “It looks weird.”

Gilbey stopped nodding.

“These bums in here,” said Mickey. “They don’t know nothing. But you do. And I do.”

Gilbey nodded.

“I said stop nodding,” said Mickey Pumpernickel. “Just sit there, and drink your bock.”

Gilbey remembered not to nod, and he took a drink of his bock.

He looked down at Mickey Pumpernickel and Mickey gave him a wink.

Mickey Pumpernickel understood.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2021

"The Real Me"


“Nobody knows the real me,” said Gilbey the Geek.

“Why would anyone want to know the real you?” said Angie the retired whore.

“I got a lot to offer,” said Gilbey.

“Yeah? Like what?” said Angie.

“I got wisdom,” said Gilbey.

“Oh, Christ,” said Angie.

“I know it don’t look like it, but I got wisdom,” said Gilbey.

“You got shit is what you got,” said Angie.

“That ain’t nice, Angie,” said Gilbey

“I ain’t paid to be nice,” said Angie. Once she had made her living by being paid to be nice. Now she sold flowers out of a cart on Delancey Street.

“It don’t hurt to be nice,” said Gilbey.

“I’m sorry, Gilbey. But sometimes the shit you say.”

“I know, Angie. But I can’t help it.”

They sat in silence for a minute, Angie drinking her Rheingold and Gilbey drinking his bock.

“Nobody knows the real me,” said Gilbey, again.

“Okay,” said Angie. “I’ll bite. What’s the real you, Gilbey?”

“I got dreams,” said Gilbey.

“What kind of dreams.”

“You got to promise not to make fun of me.”

“I can’t promise that, Gilbey.”

“All right, I’ll tell you anyway. My dreams is a world where I don’t never need no money, and where I can drink bock all day and not be hungover the next day.”

“That’s your dreams?”

“Yeah,” said Gilbey. “You think maybe someday my dreams will come true?”

Angie looked at the dumb bum with his trusting dumb face.

“Can I ask you a question, Gilbey?”

“Sure, Angie. I am an open book.”

“Were you always kind of retarded, like ever since you were a little kid?”

Gilbey cocked his head, and stared off into nothing out of the corners of his eyes. This meant he was thinking, or trying to think. Then he straightened out his head again and looked at Angie with his sad eyes like a puppy dog’s.

“Yeah, I guess I always been kind of retarded, Angie.”

“So it ain’t your fault,” said Angie.

“No, I guess not,” said Gilbey. “But you know something, Angie?”

Angie waited, but Gilbey didn’t say anything, so just to move things along she said, “What? What do I know, Gilbey?”

“Nobody knows the real me, Angie.”

Angie stared at him.

“Yeah, Gilbey,” she said. “You’re probably right.”

Bob came over. It was just another Monday afternoon in the bar. Outside the sun was shining, you could tell when somebody opened the door to come in, or, more rarely, to go out.

“You two okay?” said Bob. Their glasses were empty.

“I’ll take another one, Bob,” said Angie. “And give the wise man here another bock.”

Bob took their empties and went down to the taps.

“Gee, thanks, Angie,” said Gilbey. “I wasn’t trying to get a drink out of you.”

“I know that, Gilbey,” said Angie. “You ain’t that smart.”

“I ain’t that smart, but I got wisdom,” said Gilbey. “And I got dreams. It may not look like it, but I got a lot to offer, Angie.”

“Yeah?” said Angie.

“Yeah,” said Gilbey. “Nobody knows the real me.”

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

Thursday, April 15, 2021

“Love Is a Beautiful Thing”


It was Bosco and Janey’s first anniversary, and they celebrated by doing what they did every day, which was getting their loads on at Bob’s Bowery Bar.

How well they remembered their first meeting, right here at Bob’s, when they had bonded one afternoon over Janey’s tokay and Bosco’s bock and bourbon. Janey had been buying, because Bosco was unemployed and Janey had a job working at the 24-hour automat over on Bedford Street, shoving sandwiches and pies into the little windows.

They tied the knot down at City Hall a month later, and Bosco moved into Janey’s room at the Sunshine Hotel.

Now they had been married a year, and they both knew everything there was to know about each other.

“We ain’t got much, Janey,” said Bosco. “But we got each other.”

“If I was still able to have a baby I would let you knock me up, Bosco, that’s how much I love you.”

“Yeah, but how would we bring it up?” said Bosco. “Me being a bum that can’t keep a job, and you just working at the automat and all.”

“We would find a way, Bosco. Love always finds a way, you big bum.”

“We could adopt a kid if you want.”

“Nobody would let us adopt a kid, you knucklehead.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” said Bosco.

“Just do me one favor,” said Janey.

“Anything, babe.”

“When you croak, croak quick. I don’t want to see you dying slow in the charity ward.”

“Okay, Janey. I will do that. If I feel my croaking coming on, you know what I’m gonna do?”

“What’s that, Bosco?”

“I will walk right out to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and jump off.”

“Thank you, Bosco.”

“You’re welcome, Janey.”

“Just one thing.”

“What?”

“Don’t tell me about it first,” she said. “Just walk down to the bridge and jump off, but I don’t want to know ahead of time.”

“Okay,” said Bosco. “That’s what I’ll do. Maybe while you’re working at the automat, I’ll just go down the bridge and jump off, but I won’t tell you about it ahead of time.”

They sat silently, drinking, and then Janey spoke.

“Just leave me a note when you do it,” she said.

“A note.”

“Yeah, just a brief note, so I don’t worry where you are.”

“I get it,” said Bosco. “Just a brief note. But you know I ain’t much of a writer.”

“It don’t got to be Shakespeare, Bosco. Just a brief note, like, ‘Went down to the bridge. You know why. Love, and best of luck, Bosco.’”

“Short and sweet.”

“Short and sweet,” she said. “Just so I don’t worry you got run over by a truck or something.”

“I will leave a note,” said Bosco.

“But let’s hope that day don’t come soon,” said Janey.

“Yeah, we still got some good times left,” said Bosco.

“I hope the hell we do, Bosco,” said Janey.

“Look at them two,” said Angie the retired whore to Gilbey the Geek. “Lovebirds.”

“They’re in love, Angie,” said Gilbey. “And love is a beautiful thing.”

“What would you know about it, Gilbey?” said Angie.

“My mom loved me,” said Gilbey. “God rest her soul.”

Angie stared into her Rheingold, thinking of her own sainted mother.

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