Thursday, December 19, 2019

"The Butler"

“Oh, my dear God!” said Carlotta.

“What,” groaned Pat, from her bed on the other side of the “oriental” folding screen which afforded them at least the fantasy of more than one room in their apartment (“Lg studio w/kitchenette & bath. Heat water electric incl. Bleecker off Bowery”).

“Oh my dear God in Heaven!” said Carlotta.

“What?” said Pat.

“I’m so hungover!” said Carlotta.

“Oh,” said Pat. “Is that all it is. I thought maybe a rat jumped up on your bed and was staring at you.”

“Heh heh,” said Carlotta, as opposed to actually laughed Carlotta.

“What did we do last night?” asked Pat, not in the sense of what awful thing did we do last night, but rather a simple curious question as to what in fact the two girls had done.

“We went to Bob’s Bowery Bar after we left the Prince Hal Room.”


“Yes, we did.”

On their opposite sides of the oriental (made by immigrant Chinese women in a little factory down in Mott Street) partition each girl lay on her back smoking a cigarette. Carlotta had an ashtray on her stomach, a glass ashtray with the words THE ST CRISPIAN HOTEL WHERE THE SERVICE IS SWELL emblazoned on it in gold and red paint. Pat was using an open copy of Photoplay for an ashtray, dropping her ashes on an article titled MONTY CLIFT – HOLLYWOOD’S BROODING LONER? OR SECRET LOVER BOY?

“Oh, my dear Lord,” said Pat, after a half-a-minute’s rare silence between the young ladies. “I remember! What were we thinking?”

“That’s just it,” said Carlotta. “We weren’t thinking. Those guys in the Prince Hal Room kept buying us drinks and we got drunk. And then when they got fresh we ran out and jumped in a cab to supposedly go home.”

“I remember, and when the cab passed by Bob’s Bowery Bar we thought it would be a good night to try it out, heh heh. After that I remember nothing.”

“We were so drunk.”

“I hope we didn’t disgrace ourselves,” said Pat, stifling a yawn.

“It’s a dive. How could we disgrace ourselves there?”

“Good point. Well, at least we got home somehow.”

“I want coffee. I’ll give you a dollar if you make a pot of coffee.”

“The hell with you, sister. You make it.”

“I make splendid coffee,” said a man’s voice.

Both girls screamed and pulled their bedclothes up to their necks, being careful not to drop their cigarettes, although Carlotta’s ashtray and Pat’s Photoplay both slid to the floor.

A man laboriously stood up from where he had apparently been lying on the rug at the feet of the two beds. He was a middle-aged, dumpy fellow, wearing a shabby old chesterfield and a beat-up fedora. Each girl could see exactly one half of him on either side of the oriental Mott Street screen.

“I assume the coffee and percolator are in your kitchenette?”

He smiled at each girl in turn on either side of the screen, his hands folded together in an ingratiating sort of way.

“Who,” said Carlotta.

“Are you,” said Pat.

“Oh,” said the man. “I could have sworn we introduced ourselves last night, but I’m Gerry. Gerard Goldsmith. But please call me Gerry. They all call me ‘The Brain’ down at Bob’s, heh heh, God knows why, but please, call me Gerry.”

Simultaneously each girl suddenly recognized the man as someone they had passed occasionally on the stairs of their tenement apartment house, a funny-looking man who always doffed his hat and said good day or good evening with a shy smile.

“What,” said Carlotta.

“Are you doing here,” said Pat.

“’Gerry’,” said Carlotta.

“You don’t remember inviting me in?” said Gerry, turning his glance from one side of the screen to the other, in order to include both girls in the question.

“We,” said Pat.

“Invited you,” said Carlotta.

“In,” said Pat.

“’Gerry’” said Carlotta.

“Yes, and what a swell time we had!” said Gerry. “In fact, I should say it was the most, what’s the word, scintillating time I’ve ever had in my life!”

Oh, no, thought both girls, simultaneously. Please God no.

“Uh,” said Carlotta.

“Um,” said Pat.

“So, I’d better get to that coffee,” said Gerry. “Don’t you two ladies even budge. Just let me know, cream or black, and how many sugars?”

Both girls paused before answering. They heard the el roar by on the other side of the building, and after its roar had faded Carlotta said cream, two sugars, and Pat said cream, one sugar.

{Kindly click here to read the "adult comic book" version with art by the fabulous rhoda penmarq in A Flophouse Is Not a Home.}


Kurt McGill said...

Thanks for your "like" on the David Goodis Facebook page. If you wake up on a stormy Monday, and the sky is a grimy kind of gray, tune in to my writing website: . It's guaranteed to lower your spirits a notch or two...

Dan Leo said...

I'll check it out, Kurt!