It didn’t happen often, but Harry Beachcroft was stuck. He had been sitting at his battered old Royal portable all afternoon, and he still hadn’t typed a single word. This is what happened when your rent was a month overdue, when you hadn’t had a story or a novel accepted in three months, this is what happened when you really needed to make a sale!
Harry lighted up another Philip Morris Commander and looked out through the thick smoke of his fifth-floor walk-up out at the grey December rooftops of the Bowery, at the elevated tracks, at the sky that promised snow. How he wished he could be downstairs and just around the corner at Bob’s Bowery Bar, hoisting an imperial pint of Bob’s rich basement-brewed bock, carousing with the rest of the gang of pulp writers, bad poets, four-flushers, punks, and assorted reprobates, but he had promised himself he wouldn’t go down to the bar until he had at least knocked out a first draft of a story or the first chapter of a novel or maybe a novella. Something, goddammit!
Why couldn’t a genie suddenly appear out of this cloud of cigarette smoke and tell him a story fully-formed, so that all Harry would need to do was type it up – and Harry was a fast typist, too!
The hell with it, the thing to do was just to start typing, just bash out the first nonsense that came into his head, and let the devil take the hindmost.
And so Harry typed:
Gary Meeker was blocked, blocked goddammit! He had been sitting here in his Bunker Hill hotel room overlooking the Angel’s Flight railway tracks all this hot August afternoon, trying to find a way into this screenplay he needed to write, and write quick, before he got kicked out of his room and had to shift quarters to Skid Row. Mel Melvin over at Colossal Studios had promised him five hundred bucks for an original script in their Range Riders of the Jungle series if he could turn it in by Monday, but here it was Friday and he had idea zero, zilch, nada, nothing! What he wouldn’t give for an angel to drop down from heaven and give him a story idea – an angel, a genie, a devil, Gary didn’t give a damn.
“Well, here I am,” said a voice, kind of like Peter Lorre’s, and Gary turned, and sitting there yogi-style on the unmade bed was a little guy dressed up like an Arabian. He was smoking a roll-your-own, and if Gary was not mistaken it was a reefer. “You say you need a story, Mr. Meeker? I got a million of them. You ready?”
“Sure, pal,” said Gary. “Fire away. But can you make it about the Range Riders of the Jungle?”
“No problem,” said the little guy.
“Okay, then,” said Gary. He cracked his knuckles, then splayed his fingers over his battered old Olivetti portable. “Go.”
And the genie began to tell his tale.
Illustration by the fabulous rhoda penmarq. Click here to read the fully-illustrated "adult comic book" version in A Flophouse is Not a Home.