Thursday, March 26, 2020

"The Second Stone"

“You know what the Bible says?” said Gilbey the Geek. “Hey, Purple, I say you know what the Bible says?”

Purple hadn’t turned purple yet, but it was early yet.

“I know a lot of what the Bible says,” said Purple. “And, for your information, I prolly know a hell of a lot more about what the goddam Bible says than you’ll ever know.”

“Yeah,” said Gilbey, “but you know what in particular the Bible says?”

“What, Gilbey? What? Just come out and say it fer Chrissake.”

“Let him what is without sin cast the first stone.”


“Let him what is without sin cast –”

“Awright, awright, I heardja the first time. So what?”

“Let him what is without sin cast the first stone.”

“Jesus Christ, Gilbey –”

Sure enough, Purple was starting to turn purple now.

“But,” said Gilbey the Geek, “what about him what casts the second stone?”


“The first guy what casts a stone, let him what is without sin cast that first stone, okay, I get it, fair enough, but what I am asking is what about him what casts the second stone? Don’t he gotta be without sin? Or not. What I am saying is maybe, just maybe – maybe it’s only that first guy what casts a stone that’s gotta be without sin. But, if somebody already did cast a stone – and this should preferably be somebody who ain’t got no sins on his soul – then it’s like anybody can cast that second stone.”


“I am saying that you’re allowed to throw the second stone even if you do got sins on your soul, but you just ain’t allowed to throw the first stone.”

“That is the stupidest goddam thing I ever heard.”

“It makes sense, Purple. Ya see, this is why so many people get stoned. Because it only takes some guy to throw that first stone, and then everybody just rushes in fallin’ all over each other to cast that second stone.”

Purple didn’t say anything, and oddly enough his color started to fade from deep purple back to its normal bright red. He took a drink of his bock.

“Everybody,” said Gilbey. “Everybody can cast that second stone, and everybody will cast it. Except very few. Very few, Purple.”

Neither of them said anything for a minute. Purple took another drink from his glass, emptying it. Gilbey just stared at his own empty glass. He was out of dough, which was a shame. He sure would like another bock.

Bob came over.

“Another one, Purple?”

“Yeah,” said Purple. “Give Gilbey one too.”

“What?” said Bob.

Purple had never bought a drink for anyone in his life.

“Give Gilbey a bock too.”

“Can I get a imperial pint?” said Gilbey.

“No,” said Purple. “Just a glass, just like me. What do I look like, John D. Rockefeller? Just a glass, and be glad you’re gettin’ that much.”

Bob took the empty glasses and went over to the taps.

“First stone,” said Purple. “Second stone. They both hurt, no matter who throws them.”

“And every stone after that,” said Gilbey.

“Until you croak,” said Purple.

“Until you croak.”

“Then you don’t feel nothin’,” said Purple.

“Unless you go to Hell,” said Gilbey.

“Oh, Christ,” said Purple.

“Unless you go to Hell and burn in the everlasting fires of Hell,” said Gilbey.

“Hey, do me a favor,” said Purple.

“Sure, Purple,” said Gilbey.

Bob brought the fresh bocks over and laid them down. Purple slid two dimes forward, and Bob picked them up and went away.

“Just drink your bock and be quiet, Gilbey,” said Purple. “You think you can do that?”

“Sure, Purple.”

Both men picked up their bocks and took a good drink. They set down their glasses, and another minute passed silently into oblivion.

“You know what else the Bible says?” said Gilbey.

{Kindly click here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq.}

Thursday, March 19, 2020


“I got strange desires,” said Gilbey the Geek.

“Why you telling me this?” said the guy they called Purple, on account of when he got mad his face turned from its usual bright red to deep purple.

“I don’t know,” said Gilbey, “just to make conversation. Don’t you wanta know what my strange desires are?”

“No,” said Purple, and you could tell he was on his way to turning purple, “I don’t want to know what your strange desires are.”

“You sure?”


Gilbey turned to his left, where fat Angie the retired whore was sitting.

“Hey, Angie, you know something? I got strange desires.”

“Yeah, you and the rest of the bums in the world.”

“You want to know what my strange desires are?”


“Not at all?”

“Not at all.”

“That ain’t very open-minded of you, Angie.”

“I’ll open-mind you, Geek. I’ll crack your skull like an egg with this Rheingold beer bottle. How’d you like that?”

“So you really don’t want to know what my strange desires are.”

“Buzz off.”

“All right,” said Gilbey. “You ain’t got to be rude, Angie.”

“Tell your story walking,” said Angie.

Gilbey picked up his half-drunk glass of bock, now grown warm and flat, and walked over to the poets’ table. The usual crew were all there: Hector Phillips Stone, the doomed (yet somehow still alive) romantic poet; Seamas McSeamas, the professionally hearty Irish poet; Howard Paul Studebaker, the Western poet who had never ventured farther west than the Delaware River; Frank X Fagen, the nature poet who hadn’t departed the island of Manhattan since 1937; Scaramanga the leftist poet, drummed out of the Communist Party for conduct unbecoming of a comrade; and Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, the Negro poet who had once been a rising star in the Harlem Renaissance until too much of what he himself termed “excessively militaristic behavior in my cups” had exiled him down to the Bowery.

“I got strange desires,” said Gilbey, to the table as a whole.

“What?” said Frank X.

“Strange desires,” said Gilbey. “You guys mind if I sit with you and tell you about them?”

“Yes,” said Hector. “We mind.”

“You guys are poets, you should be innerested in stuff like strange desires.”

“Beat it, Gilbey,” said Howard.

“I’ll be quick,” said Gilbey.

“How about you be quick about taking a hike,” said Scaramanga.

“I got strange desires,” said Gilbey. “I gotta tell somebody about ‘em.”

“Listen, Gilbey,” said Seamas, “none of us wants to hurt your feelings, but go find a hole to dry up in.”

“Hey, Lucius,” said Gilbey, “you’re a Negro. You know what it’s like to be oppressed and all. You’ll listen to me, won’t ya?”

“No,” said Lucius. “Do I look like a priest? Now scram.”

But Lucius had given Gilbey an idea, so he went over to where Father Frank the defrocked whiskey priest sat at the bar.

“Hey, Father Frank, I got strange desires. You want to hear ‘em?”

“If you want me to hear your confession I charge one shot of Cream of Kentucky bourbon whiskey.”

“I ain’t got no money. Can I owe ya?”


“But –”

“Hop it, Gilbey. The good lord’s got no time for pikers.”

In near despair Gilbey looked around and saw Philip the uptown swell, down here on another one of his benders, sitting alone at one of the little tables near the men’s room. Gilbey went over and sat down across from him.

“Hey, Philip, I got strange desires, you want to know what they are?”

“Strange desires?” said Philip, after a long pause.

“Yeah, strange desires. You want to hear about them?”

“Sure,” said Philip. “Fire away.”

“It’s like this,” said Gilbey.

Suddenly Philip pushed his whiskey glass to one side, crossed his forearms on the table top, laid his head on his arms, and began to snore.

Not to be deterred, Gilbey the Geek proceeded to tell the sleeping Philip all about his strange desires.

{Kindly click here to read the “adult comix” version of this tale in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by my esteemed colleague rhoda penmarq.}

Saturday, March 14, 2020

“A Father’s Advice”

One cold grey day in March a young fellow carrying a duffel bag came into Bob’s Bowery Bar, and after looking around in the smoky dimness he came up to the guy everybody called Buffalo Bill, on account of he was so cheap they said he squeezed a nickel so hard he made the Indian ride the buffalo’s back.

It was mid-afternoon, not too crowded, and Buffalo Bill was sitting alone at the bar nursing a glass of bock and waiting for some fool to come in and sit next to him and maybe buy him another bock.


Bill turned and looked at the kid.


“Yeah, it’s me, Dad.”

“What’d ya do, bust out?”

“No, I turned eighteen, so they had to let me out.”

“You’re eighteen?”

“Yeah, eighteen today.”

“Happy birthday.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Buffalo Bill was afraid the kid was going to ask him for money, but, what the hell, he couldn’t just tell him to get lost, could he?

“Well, sit down, boyo. You’re eighteen now, old enough to drink like a man.”

“Well, I don’t really want a drink, actually, Dad.”

“You don’t? Why the hell not? You ain’t a pansy, are ya?”

“No, but it’s only two in the afternoon, and I ain’t much of a drinker anyways. I mean, I been in reform school since I was twelve.”

“Don’t they make moonshine there, pruno?”

“Sure they do, but that homemade stuff don’t taste so good.”

“You sure you ain’t a pansy?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Well, sit down, anyway.”

The kid laid down his duffel bag and sat down. Bob came over.

“How old are you, kid?”

“I just turned eighteen today, sir.”

“This is my boy, Bob,” said Bill. “He just got out of Hell Gate reform school today. How about one on the house for him to celebrate his birthday?”

“Because you’re too cheap to buy your own son a birthday drink?”

“Wow, Bob,” said Buffalo Bill. “I mean, you know, wow.”

“You want a drink, kid?” Bob asked the kid.

“Could I just have a ginger ale?” said the kid.

“Sure,” said Bob.

Buffalo Bill looked worried, so Bob said, “Don’t worry, Bill, I’ll let him have a ginger ale on the house for his birthday, and because he just got out of Hell Gate.”

“Hey, that’s real nice of you, Bob,” said Buffalo Bill, suppressing a great sigh of relief.

Father and son were quiet as Bob went and got a ginger ale, laid it in front of the kid, and then went back to reading his Federal-Democrat at the end of the bar.

After a minute the kid said, “So what you been doing, Dad?”

“Ah, you know,” said Buffalo Bill, “this and that. I got a few irons in the fire. What about you? Gonna go back to boosting cars?”

“Nah, I’d like to not be locked up for a while, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure,” said Bill. “I can see that. Nothing wrong with that. So you gonna get a job or something?”

“I was thinking of joining the navy.”

This time Buffalo Bill couldn’t help himself and he did sigh, with relief.

“Hey, that’s great, kid. Join the navy and see the world.”

“Yeah, well, I just thought I’d say hi since I just got out of the place.”

“I’m glad you did, son, glad you did. You see your mother yet?”

“She’s dead, Dad.”

“Oh, right, I forgot.”

Neither of them said anything for another minute, and then the kid said, “Don’t worry, Dad, I ain’t gonna ask you for nothing, and I can get a room myself till I go in the navy.”

“I guess you made some good money making them hubcaps, huh?”

“Not so great, Dad, but after six years I got enough to hold me for a month or so maybe.”

“That’s great, kid. Really great.”

This was turning out to be not so bad for Bill after all.

The kid finished his ginger ale.

“Well, I guess I’ll be shoving off now, Dad.”

“Great seeing ya, kid. Drop me a postcard from one of them foreign ports once in a while.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“You can always address it to Bob’s Bowery Bar and I’ll get it.”


The kid got off his stool.

“One last word of advice,” said Buffalo Bill.

“What’s that, Dad?”

“Never do nothing you don’t got to do.”

“Never do nothing I don’t got to do.”

“That’s right. I been doing nothing forty-eight years and you know how many regrets I got?”


“That’s right, Jimmy boy. None. It’s doing stuff that gets you in trouble, every time. Just don’t do nothing unless you really got to do it.”

“Okay. I’ll remember that.”

“And good luck with the navy, kid. Twenty years, even better thirty years, you can retire with a good pension. You’ll be my age, sitting pretty, all the dough you need. Thirty years.”

The kid said nothing, nodded, then picked up his duffel bag, slung it over his shoulder and walked out.

It was starting to drizzle. The way he looked at it, he had two choices, find a car and boost it and go for a joy ride, or else just take the A train down to the navy recruiting office on Chambers Street. He decided to make up his mind on the way to the subway, depending on if he saw a likely car with the keys in it.

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

Thursday, March 5, 2020

“I Ain’t No Good”

“I ain’t no good,” said Bosco. “I been in jail. More than once. I ain’t smart neither. And I got a temper. Also, I admit it, I’m lazy, and I like to drink. But all in all I ain’t the worst guy in the world.”

Maybe he wasn’t the worst guy in the world. That had to mean something, right?

“All right then,” said Janey. “Tell ya what, you can buy me a drink.”

“Okay,” said Bosco. “And I appreciate your saying that. A classy dame like you. I do. Only thing is I just spent my last dime on this here bock I just finished drinking, and, to be honest, I was hoping maybe you would buy me a drink.”

“You’re asking a dame to buy you a drink.”

“I am, Amy.”


“I am, Janey. Asking you to buy me a drink. And you know why?”

“’Cause you ain’t got no money?”

“Yes, that is the primary reason I guess, but my secondary reason, you wanta know what that is?”

“Dying to, Roscoe.”


“Dying to, Bosco.”

“My secondary reason I’m asking you to buy me a drink is I ain’t got no pride. And you know why I ain’t got no pride?”

“Why, Roscoe?”


“Why, Bosco?”

“Because it says in the Bible, pride goeth before a fall.”

“That what it says?”

“It’s in the good book, Amy.”


“It’s what it says in the good book, Janey. Pride goeth before a fall, so if you ain’t got no pride you ain’t got nowhere to fall.”

“’Cause you’re already down in the gutter.”

“That is one way of looking at it. And I’ll admit it, all my life that’s where I been. In the gutter.”

“At least you’re honest, pal.”

“Actually I’m a compulsive liar. I don’t know why, but I am, and you know what? Even if I did know why I’d probably just lie about it.”

“What if you’re lying now?”

“That could well be.”

“So anyway, you want me to buy you a drink.”

“I do, Amy, and that ain’t no lie.”


“Janey,” he said.

“What’d you say your name was again? Cisco?”


“Tell ya what, Bosco, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“I guess it would be too much to ask for a boilermaker.”

“You mean a shot and a beer?”

“Yeah. I mean if you consider a shot and a beer as one like libation – a boilermaker if you will.”

“You got a lot of nerve, I’ll give you that that much.”

“Nerve is one thing I got. I ain’t got pride, but I got a lot of nerve.”

“All right, I’ll buy you a boilermaker, but nothing expensive.”

“How about just another glass of bock and a shot of Cream of Kentucky.”

“All right. I oughta have my head examined, but okay.”

“Thank you, Amy.”


“Thank you, Janey.”

“Hey, Bob,” called Janey. “When ya get time, another tokay for me, and a glass of bock and a Cream of Kentucky for my father over here.”

Bosco and Janey traded a few quips while Bob got the drinks, and when he laid them down Janey tapped her little pile of crumpled one-dollar bills and small change.

“Outa here, Bob.”

Bob took three quarters and a dime and went away, and Janey raised her glass of tokay.

Bosco raised his shot of Cream of Kentucky.

“You’re a class dame, Amy,” said Bosco.

“And you’re a bum, Roscoe,” said Janey.

They drank, and a month later they went to City Hall, both of them tight as ticks, and tied the knot.

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