Thursday, January 16, 2020

“Something to Whine About”

Janet laid down the fresh pitcher of bock.

“I’ve had it,” said Hector, the doomed romantic poet.

“Ah, we’ve all had it, lad,” said Seamas the Irish poet.

“Up to the ears,” said Scaramanga the leftist poet.

“And out the butt,” said Frank X Fagan the nature poet.

“Had it and been had by, son,” said Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, the Negro poet. “The game was fixed before you were born.”

“We have all heard that high sad moaning whine across the prairie,” said Howard Paul Studebaker, the western poet.

“Tonight I do it, damn it,” said young Hector. “Down to the Brooklyn Bridge, and off I go.”

“We’re heard that before, me boyo,” said Seamas.

“That old sad song,” said Scaramanga.

“But somehow it never grows old,” said Frank X.

“The Comanche call it the coyote’s song of death,” said Howard.

“Just make sure you go all the way out to the middle of the bridge,” advised Lucius. “You don’t want to botch the job.”

“I won’t botch the job,” said Hector. “Just you guys wait and see.”

“Hey, Hector,” said Janet, who had been standing there the whole time. “Can I talk to you a minute?”

“What about?” said Hector. This was unheard of, beautiful Janet actually asking one of these bums to talk to her.

“I just want to talk to you a minute. Step outside with me and we’ll have a smoke.”

“But it’s cold out there,” said Hector.

Janet just stared at him, and so he said okay.

Outside it was snowing again, and they stood under the slight shelter provided by the entranceway of Bob’s Bowery Bar.

“What is it, Janet?” said Hector. He was wearing his old army overcoat, he hadn’t taken it off all night, nor his Greek fisherman’s cap, but Janet only wore her old threadbare cardigan.

She offered Hector her pack of Philip Morris Commanders, and of course Hector took one. Janet popped out one for herself, and she gave them both a light.

“So you’re gonna top yourself, hey, Hector?” She flicked the match out into the falling snow. “Jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.”

“Yes,” said Hector, “in point of fact I am, and please don’t try to talk me out of it, Janet, because my mind’s made up.”

“Oh, I won’t try to talk you out of it. But can I ask you exactly why you wanta jump off the bridge?”

“Because I’m tired of it all, Janet! The rejection, the failure, the poverty, the, the, gee, all of it.”

“Tired of it all, huh?”

“Yes, tired to my soul.”

“Okay, I can understand that. But, Hector, before you take that long jump, can I at least give you somethin’?”

“Gee, sure, Janet. What is it?”

Hector for a brief moment thought he might be getting a kiss, a farewell kiss, but instead Janet brought her leather sap out of her apron pocket and whacked him hard across the jaw with it. Hector fell back against the wall and slid down to the pavement, and Janet drew back and gave him another stout whack on the shoulder. Crying, Hector curled up in pain, but Janet leaned over and gave him one more well-placed whack right on the kneecap, and he screamed, but his scream was softly muffled by the thick falling snow.

Janet straightened up, and slid the sap back into her apron.

“Now you got something to whine about,” she said.

She went back in the bar and told the poets to go outside and carry Hector back to his trap around the corner.

Maybe someday Hector would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, but he sure wasn’t going to do it tonight.

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comic” version in “A Flophouse Is Not a Home”, illustrated by the immortal rhoda penmarq.)

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