Thursday, April 30, 2020

"Little Ray in Heaven"

Many readers have written letters and postcards asking and wondering, “What ever became of Little Ray the chronic complainer? Did he ever stop complaining?” Well, our motto has always been “Give the People What They Want”, and so, dear reader, read on…

The days and the nights and the years passed, slowly, and yet, in retrospect, all too quickly, and the lugubrious fellow they called Little Ray continued to work at his despised job as a shipping clerk at a fabric factory on Seventh Avenue, and every evening after work he went to Bob’s Bowery Bar and ate whatever the special was and drank Bob’s basement-brewed house bock and complained about his life to anyone he could get to listen to him.

Let’s face it, Little Ray (who wasn’t little, and whose real name wasn’t Ray) didn’t bring much to the great party of life, and nobody knew why Bob didn’t just flag him. Did Bob feel sorry for him? No one knew, but Bob tolerated Little Ray’s baleful presence, and Little Ray knew well enough not to try to complain to Bob himself.

Yes, the days and the nights and the years passed, slowly and quickly, and suddenly it was the future, and flying cars flew down the boulevards and streets, and people in jet packs zoomed up to their offices in the skyscrapers that reached miles into the sky, but still Little Ray worked at the fabric factory (which now manufactured material for space suits) and went to Bob’s Bowery Bar each evening to drink his bock beer and complain to anyone who would listen…

One wet Tuesday evening in April, a tiny old man tapped Little Ray on the shoulder as he sat at the bar hoping that someone would sit next to him so that he would have someone to complain to, and the tiny old man said, “It’s time, Little Ray. Come with me.”

“Can I at least finish my beer?” said Little Ray.

“I am afraid not,” said the little man, “because you’re already dead.”

And Little Ray looked down and saw himself slumped forward over the bar, a victim of a massive fatal thrombosis.

“This ain’t fair,” complained Little Ray.

“Life is not fair,” said the tiny old man, who was an angel named Bowery Bert, “and neither is death. Let’s go, Little Ray.”

“But I’ve never even gone up in one of them flying cars, or flown around in one of them jet packs. I’d like to take one of them excursions to the Moon Colony too. I been saving my money to do that after I retire.”

“Too late now,” said the little man, and suddenly they were both standing at the base of a hill at the top of which was God’s enormous turreted and gabled house.

“Just walk right up there,” said Bowery Bert.

“Do I gotta? I don’t really wanta. What if they send me to hell?”

“Yes, you got to, whether you want to or not. Now be a man and get up there.”

Reluctantly Little Ray walked up the winding stone path through the gardens and shrubbery and went up the steps of the porch to where St. Peter sat at a little table with a big leather book.

St. Peter, a grey-bearded man in a plaid hunter’s cap and a faded yellow canvas work coat, took his pipe from his mouth and said, simply:


“Well, for years they been calling me Little Ray, but –”

“Why ‘Little’ Ray? You look pretty big and fat to me.”

“Um, it’s a shortened version of Little Ray of Sunshine, actually, but my real name is –”

“And why did everybody call you a shortened version of ‘Little Ray of Sunshine?”

“Do we really gotta go into all this?”

“I’ll ask the questions, you answer them. So answer me.”

“Awright, awright, they called me Little Ray short for Little Ray of Sunshine on accounta they thought I complained all the time.”

“And did you?”

“Complain all the time?”

“Yes. Did you complain all the time?”

“Not all the time.”

St. Peter had been turning the pages of his great book, and now he stopped, and put the stem of his pipe on the page.

“Here we go,” he said. “'Little Ray.'”

“They got me listed in there as Little Ray?”

“That’s what everybody called you, wasn’t it?”

“Well, yeah, but –”

“So that’s what you’re listed as.”

“That don’t seem fair to me. That don’t seem very fair at all,” complained Little Ray.

“Quiet,” said St. Peter. “I’m reading. You can complain about how unfair it all is when I’m finished.”

“I wasn’t complaining, I was just saying, I was just making a like observation –”

“I said quiet.”


It really wasn’t fair, thought Little Ray. Even in the afterlife he had to be stuck with that awful nickname. Was it his fault that life had been so hard on him? But he kept his trap shut, while St. Peter read the great book, mumbling under his breath and taking occasional puffs on his pipe.

Finally St. Peter closed the big book.

“Jesus Christ,” he said. “You lived sixty-three years and all you did was bitch and moan and complain.”

“It wasn’t all I did. It ain’t fair to say that was all I did.”

“What, because you also slept sometimes? Because the only reason you weren’t complaining every waking hour was because you couldn’t find somebody masochistic enough to listen to your whining?”

“I had a tough life.”

“What about the starving children in China and Africa. You think their lives are easy?”

“I guess not. But still –”

“Never mind. It kills me to do this, but here –” St. Peter scribbled something on a notepad, then tore the note off, folded it once, and held it out to Little Ray. “Take this, go through that door behind you, give it to the person inside.”

“Am I going to hell? Because if I am, I really don’t think it’s fair –”

“Take the paper, go through the door, hand the paper over. Now get out of my sight before I change my mind.”

Little Ray took the folded paper, turned and went through the door, handed it over, and he was led through many vaulted rooms and long corridors until finally the docent brought him to the entrance of what looked like a crowded bar much like Bob’s Bowery Bar.

“Take a seat anywhere, table or bar, and a server will be right with you.”

Little Ray always preferred to sit at the bar, because who could you talk to if you were all alone at a table? Just the waitress, and waitresses never wanted to talk to him.

He made his way through the crowd, and there at the bar he saw many of the old Bob’s Bowery Bar crew who had pre-deceased him: Fat Angie the retired whore, Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith, Philip the uptown swell, Willie the Weeper, Mushmouth Joe, George the Gimp, Gilbey the Geek, the old guy they called Wine, Tom the Bomb, and a bunch of the poets who never let him sit with them. There was an empty stool between Angie and the Brain and so Little Ray went over and sat on it.

“Oh, my God,” said Angie. “I thought this was heaven, but now look who they let in.”

Little Ray chose to ignore this remark, and the bartender was right there. It was Paddy, the philosophical Irish bartender from Bob’s who had died right around the time when they sent up the first expedition to explore Mars.

“What’ll it be, Little Ray?”

“Can I drink anything I want?”

“Anything you want, as long as we carry it.”

“You got Cream of Kentucky bourbon?”

“No, sorry, that we don’t carry.”

“What about Cyrus Noble?”


“What do you got?”

“Heaven Hill?”

“Okay. Give me a Heaven Hill, although I’m not a fan. Can I get a glass of the basement-brewed bock, too?”

“We don’t got a basement-brewed, but we carry a good genuine German bock.”

“I’d prefer Bob’s old basement-brewed bock.”

“Well, we ain’t got that. And anyways, didn’t you drink enough of that stuff back on earth?”

“I liked it.”

“You liked it ‘cause it was cheap. Drink the German bock, Little Ray, and stop your complaining, you just got here.”

“I ain’t complaining, Paddy, I was just saying, just making a observation.”

“Heaven Hill and a German bock,” said Paddy, and he went to fetch Little Ray’s collation.

Angie had turned away from him, so Little Ray turned to the Brain, on his right, who was also turned away, pretending he hadn’t seen Little Ray.

“Hi, Brain,” said Little Ray, loudly.

The Brain turned to face Little Ray, feigning surprise.

“Oh, Little Ray, didn’t see you there, what a pleasant surprise.”

“What,” said Little Ray. “Like you’re surprised they let me in? Let me tell you something, Brain. I wasn’t a bad guy.”

“No one said you were, Little Ray,” said the Brain, already planning to pretend to go to the men’s room and not come back to this seat.

“I wasn’t the worst guy in the world, Brain,” said Little Ray.

“Oh, far from it, I’m sure,” said the Brain.

Little Ray paused for a moment, looking around at the crowded, smoky and noisy barroom filled with chattering and laughing people.

“And you know what else?” said Little Ray.

“Uh, no, what, Ray?”

“This place ain’t so great.”


“No. Now don’t get me wrong, Brain, I ain’t complaining.”

“No, of course not.”

“I ain’t complaining, but this joint don’t look that great to me. Again, I ain’t complaining. But I woulda expected something just a little bit more classy, y’know?. But hey, that’s just me. I ain’t complaining. But.”


“I’m just saying, just making a, you know, a observation.”

“I see, yes,” said the Brain. “Hey, listen, will you excuse me, Little Ray? I just have to go to the men’s room.”

The Brain had a nearly full glass of what looked like Bob’s old basement-brewed bock, and he lifted the glass, polished it off in three gulps, got off his stool and hurried away.

Meanwhile Little Ray was still waiting for his Heaven Hill and German bock. What, did Paddy have to go all the way to Kentucky for the Heaven Hill and to Germany for the bock? It was busy in here, but it wasn’t that busy, and if Paddy couldn’t handle the crowd they should have another bartender on back there.

Little Ray didn’t want to complain, but still. 

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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

"I Ain't Complaining"

“I ain’t complaining,” said Little Ray. 

His real name wasn’t Ray and he wasn’t little, either, but everybody called him Little Ray, because one night Fat Angie the retired whore said to him, “Jesus Christ, don’t you do nothing but complain alla time? You’re just a little ray of sunshine, ain’t you? Shut the hell up with your goddam complaining.”

Well, he never did shut up with his complaining, and from that night onward everybody called him Little Ray, short for Little Ray of Sunshine. Hardly anybody even remembered what his real name was, and nobody cared either.

“Lookit,” he said, he was talking to or talking at Philip the uptown swell, down here on another one of his benders, “don’t get me wrong. I ain’t complaining. But these bums at my job, you know what their problem is? They don’t want to work. They want to get paid for doing nothing while I pick up the slack. I ain’t complaining, but it just gets to me, ya know what I mean?”

Suddenly Philip became aware that Ray was talking to him, or talking at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “what?”

“I said I ain’t complaining,” said Little Ray, who was a tall fat, disjointed-looking, goofy looking guy with milk-bottle horn-rimmed glasses held together with electrical tape. “I ain’t complaining, but –”

He paused for a moment, gathering his strength to air his many and deep grievances all over again.

“Yes?” said Philip, already losing interest.

“It’s just these lazy bums at my job,” said Little Ray. “They don’t want to work. All they want to do is the least they can get away with, while a guy like me is doing more work than he should be doing –”

“So,” interrupted Philip, “you’re complaining about your job?”

“Well,” said Little Ray, “like I said, I ain’t complaining –”

“You’re not?” said Philip.

“No, I ain’t,” said Little Ray. “I’m only saying. Y’know? I’m only saying that it ain’t fair that I gotta do extra work when these other bums don’t do half the work I do.”

“So you’re complaining about your co-workers?”

“I ain’t complaining, per se,” said Little Ray. “I am only saying. I am only making a observation, Philip. I am not complaining. Nobody likes a complainer.”

But Philip was no longer listening. Little Ray continued to complain but his voice was no more than a meaningless distant buzzing as far as Philip was concerned.

What did Little Ray care?

“Again,” he said, again, “I ain’t complaining, Philip. You understand that. I ain’t complaining.”

He continued to complain, and Philip continued to stare into something that could not be seen here in Bob’s Bowery Bar or anywhere, deep into the swirling multitudinous memories of his life, and even into events and thoughts and sights and sounds he had never consciously remembered before, and might never remember again.

“I ain’t complaining,” said Little Ray. “You understand that, don’t you, Philip?”

For some reason Philip heard this last sentence, and he turned to Little Ray.

“I understand,” he said.

At last Little Ray shut up.

At last someone understood.

He took a sip of the flat and warm bock beer he had been nursing for over an hour in the hopes that Philip would offer to buy him a fresh dime glass. It wasn’t like the guy couldn’t afford it. Everybody knew that Philip was loaded, and came from money, but just try to get these rich bastards to buy you a beer, it was like pulling teeth. Little Ray sighed, and laid the short stubby glass down.

“I ain’t complaining,” he said.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2020

"All About Janet"

“I ain’t never even been in a joint like this,” said the lovely Janet, who by occupation was a waitress at Bob’s Bowery Bar, a colorful caravanserai at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery. “You they might let in, but me they’re gonna throw out on my goddam ear.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Hector Philips Stone, the doomed romantic poet. “Half the staff in this hotel probably come from worse neighborhoods than you do.”

“There ain’t no neighborhood worse than my neighborhood, and as soon as I open my trap they’re gonna tell me to get my narrow ass back to the slums where I belong.”

A,” said Hector, “your ass is far from narrow –”

“Hey, what’re you saying –”

“And B, when you open your mouth just talk like one of the actresses in those movies you love so much.”

“What, like Anne Sheridan?”

“More like Bette Davis say.”

“Like Bette Davis?”

“Yes, but in one of her more upper-crusty sort of roles.”

“How about like Bette Davis in All About Eve.”

“Sure, great, just talk the way Bette Davis does in All About Eve.”

“I musta seen that movie thirty times.”

“Must have seen.”

“Right. Must have seen. Okay. What the hell, let’s do this, sonny Jim.”

They went across the lobby to the entrance to the dining room, checked their coats and Hector’s hat, and then walked up to the maître d'hôtel’s little podium.

“May I help you?” said the man, looking Hector and Janet up and down and up again.

“Yes,” said Hector. “We’re here to meet Mr. Julian Smythe.”

Suddenly the man’s face opened up.

“Ah, Mr. Smythe! Yes, of course, follow me please.”

He grabbed two menus and headed into the dining room, and Hector and Janet followed him to a round table that could have seated six, but which was set for only three. The man pulled a chair out for Janet, something that had never happened to her before in her life.

“Would you care for a cocktail while you’re waiting for Mr. Smythe?”

“Yes, two dry sherries, please,” said Hector.

The man bowed and went away.

“What a snob,” said Janet. “He’s lucky I didn’t slam him across the jaw with my purse with that look he gave us. And sherry? Since when do you drink sherry?”

“It’s comme il faut in this sort of place. Try it, you’ll like it.”

“I think I’d rather have a shot of Cream of Kentucky, I’m that nervous.”

“Relax. Look, this guy Smythe is just a human being, no different from you or me.”

“You or me ain’t publishers of a big book company.”

“You and I aren’t.”

“Yeah, right, what you said.”

Suddenly a tall good-looking young man with shiny dark hair loomed up out of nowhere.

“So terribly sorry I’m late! I’m Julian Smythe, and you must be Mr. Stone. Please don’t get up.”

He reached across the table extending a very large hand, and Hector took it in his own thin and medium-sized hand.

“And this must be your lovely literary agent?”

“That’s me,” said Janet, and she extended her hand the way ladies in movies did, palm downward.

“Julian Smythe.” He brushed the knuckles of her hand with his lips. “But please call me Julian.”

“Call me Janet, Julian.”

“Charmed, I’m sure, Janet. My God, Stone, how ever did you find such an attractive young woman to represent you?”

“He’s just lucky,” said Janet, and she realized she was talking like Bette Davis.

“I’ll say he’s lucky,” said Julian, and he sat down. “Have you ordered drinks?”

“Sherry,” said Hector.

“Sherry?” said Julian. “I won’t hear of it.”

He turned his head to his left and like magic a small nervous-looking waiter was there.

“Benjie, do me an enormous favor, old man, and cancel my friends’ orders for sherry, and have Jean-Claude make us three absolutely arctically cold Manhattans.”

“You betcha, Mr. Smythe.”

“I like a nice bourbon in my Manhattan,” said Julian. “That okay with you two?”

“I should love Cream of Kentucky in mine,” said Janet, now in full Bette Davis mode.

“Cream of Kentucky it shall be then,” said Julian.

“Right away,” Mr. Smythe, said Benjie.

And Julian turned and gazed at Janet.

So it was that Smythe & Son, Publishers, who commonly advanced a first-time author no more than a hundred dollars, if that, wound up giving Hector Philips Stone an advance of one thousand dollars for his book of poems, tentatively titled Love Songs of the Damned

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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

"Ernest and Bill"

One rainy day in early April a big guy wearing a trench coat and a fedora came into the bar and took a stool. He had a salt-and-pepper beard and he looked to be about fifty.

“Can I help you?” said Bob.

The bearded man pointed at the hand-painted sign above the mirror.


“You really brew your own bock beer in the basement?”

“Sure do.”

“Okay, I’ll take a flyer.”

“Eight-ounce glass, twelve-ounce schooner, or imperial pint.”

“Would you be offended if I started off with just a glass?”

“Not at all.”

“Okay, I’ll try a glass.”

Bob got him a glass of bock from the tap.

“That’ll be a dime.”


The stranger took out his wallet and put a ten on the bar.

When Bob brought him his change the man said, “Hey, this is pretty good bock. It reminds me of the bock I drank back when I was young, skiing in the Harz Mountains of Germany: cold, rich, thick, and strong. With notes of the native spruce trees and peat bogs.”

“Glad you like it.”

The big man pointed to Bob’s ring.

“Marine corps?”

“Twenty years.”

“The fighting leathernecks.”


“Got nothing but respect for you guys,” said the big man. “Hemingway’s the name. What’s your name, pal?”


“Pleased to meet you, Bob. Ernest is my first name.”

“Pleased to meet you, Ernest.”

“Maybe you’ve read my some of my books. Ernest Hemingway?”

“Oh, right, yeah, I’ve heard of you.”

“Ever read any of my stuff?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, anyway, your bock is really good.”


Just then a little guy in a tan raincoat and carrying a black umbrella came in the joint. He folded up the umbrella and looked around. He was fifty or so, he had a thick moustache, and he wore a Panama hat on his head. He walked over to where Ernest Hemingway sat.

“As I live and breathe,” said the moustached man.

“Jesus Christ,” said Hemingway. “Wild Bill! Sit down, buddy. I don’t believe it.”

The moustached man climbed up on the stool to the left of Hemingway, and hooked his umbrella on the edge of the bar.

“Hey, Bob,” said Hemingway, “want you to meet an old friend of mine – Bill Faulkner.”

“Hi, Bill,” said Bob.

“What’re you drinking, Bill?” said Hemingway.

“What’s that you got there, Ernie?”

“It’s the basement-brewed house bock, really good.”

“Okay, I’ll try one, and a shot of bourbon. You got any Cream of Kentucky, Bob?”


“Then I’ll take a glass of your house bock and a shot of Cream of Kentucky, on my father here.”

“Ha ha,” said Hemingway, “same old Bill. Hey, Bob, give me another glass of bock too, and I guess I’ll have one of those Cream of Kentuckys myself.”

“Excuse me,” said Philip, who was sitting to Hemingway’s right. “I couldn’t help but overhearing. But – Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner?”

“How come I get second billing?” said Bill.

“Ha ha,” said Hemingway.

“Heh heh,” said Philip. “This is such an honor to meet you both. My name is Philip.”

“Hi, Philip,” said Hemingway.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Faulkner.

“Such an honor,” said Philip. “I think you two gentlemen are probably our two greatest living American authors.”

“We won’t ask which one is the greater,” said Bill.

“Ha ha,” said Philip.

Bob came over with the two glasses of bock, and he poured out two shots of Cream of Kentucky.

“Hey, Bob,” said Bill. “Give Philip there whatever he’s drinking, on me.”

“Thanks, Mr. Faulkner,” said Philip. “I guess I’ll take another Manhattan, Bob.”

Philip had an almost full Manhattan in his hand, but he lifted it up, drained it, and put it down.

“So you’ve actually read our stuff, Philip?” said Hemingway.

“Oh, of course I have,” said Philip. “My God.”

“What’s your favorite?”

“Of your books, Mr. Hemingway?”


“That’s a hard one,” said Philip.

“I agree,” said Bill. “That’s a very hard one. But I’ll give you a tip. It probably didn’t come out any sooner than twenty years ago.”

“Ha ha,” said Hemingway. “Very funny. Go ahead, Philip, what’s your favorite?”

“Wow, gun to my head?”

“Gun to your head.”

“Okay, I’m going to say The Grapes of Wrath.”

“Oh, wow,” said Bill.

“I loved that book,” said Philip. “It was just so moving. And, like, a really trenchant study of the poor working classes of our country.”

“Oh, wow,” said Bill, again.

“Do you agree, Mr. Faulkner?” said Philip.

“Oh, absolutely,” said Bill. “Grapes of Wrath. Magnificent novel.”

Bob came over and poured out a fresh Manhattan for Philip.

“Out of here, Bob,” said Bill, and he shoved a ten forward on the bar.

“Thanks, Mr. Faulkner,” said Philip. He picked up the Manhattan and drank half of it in one go, then sighed. “But you know what’s my favorite of your books, Mr. Faulkner?”

“I’d love to know,” said Bill.

The Great Gatsby,” said Philip. “Amazing novel.”

The Great Gatsby?” said Bill.
“Ha ha,” said Hemingway. “Ha ha. Ha ha ha.”

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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

“A Mob of Loners”

The Bleecker Street Boys weren’t the biggest mob on the Lower East Side, not by a long shot, but they were the most feared, for the simple reason that none of them cared if he lived or died. They were the hardest of the hard cases, and they didn’t like anybody, not even themselves. When they weren’t planning or pulling off a job they never hung out together.

The nominal boss of the gang, Georgie “Gaga” O’Reilly went home to the flat he shared with his mom, and read cowboy novels to pass the time.

Petie “Peepers” Silverstein spent his free time playing poker, and losing as much as he won, not that he cared either way; he just liked playing poker.

Albert “Uncle Albie” Albogino, the oldest of the mob at the age of thirty-three, liked to play handball against a warehouse wall, all by himself, all day.

Stevie  “Slick” Slivovitz sat in Washington Square Park all day, playing chess with himself. If it was raining or snowing he sat in the back booth at Ma’s Diner at Bleecker and the Bowery, playing chess with himself.

Howard “Hobie” Hobart pounded the heavy bag for a couple of hours every morning at Gleason’s Gym up in the Bronx, then he would take the Third Avenue El back downtown and drink bock beer at Bob’s Bowery Bar. He always sat at the bar alone, and he talked to no one except to Bob, and precious little to him. Usually everybody left him alone, but one evening Philip the uptown swell had decided to get his load on again and came in and took the stool next to Hobie.

Philip ordered a Manhattan, and when he got it he turned to Hobie.

“I think I’ve seen you in here before, fella. Call me Philip.”

Hobie looked at Philip but didn’t say anything.

“May I know your name, sir?” said Philip.

It was a busy Friday night, otherwise Bob would have already intervened by now. He was good at that sort of thing, twenty years in the United States Marine Corps had not been wasted on him. But he was currently engaged in pouring beers and drinks for other customers way down at the other end of the bar, and so there was no one there to suggest to Philip that he cool it before he wound up with a hard left hook to the jaw or worse.

“Ah,” said Philip, “you prefer to remain incognito! And I’m sure you have very good reasons for doing so. If I were smart I would also keep myself nameless. If not blameless, ha ha! Nameless but not blameless, no, sir, hardly. Unlike many of the fine people in this splendid caravanserai I freely admit I have no one but myself to blame for a life of dissipation –”

“Buddy,” said Hobie, at last.

“At your service, sir.”

“I like drinking here.”

“So also I! A wonderful place! Why –”

“I like drinking here so much that I would hate it if Bob would have to bar me from the joint for knocking you off that barstool and then stomping you with my steel-shanked shoes to a bloody pulp.”

“I would hate that, too, I assure you.”

“Then do us both a favor. Shut the hell up and leave me alone.”

“I only wanted a friendly chat.”

“I don’t.”

“So you really just want to sit there all alone, not talking to anyone?”

“That’s exactly what I want.”

“But doesn’t it get boring?”


“So you just sit there, staring at those rows of liquor bottles and at the mirror?”


“But what do you think about?”

“You don’t want to know what I think about.”

“But I do. Please tell me.”

“I think about how life is for the birds. I think about what a pain in the ass people are. I think about guys I want to slap around the next time I see ‘em.”

“And that’s it?”

“After a while I think I’m getting hungry, so I think about what I’m gonna eat.”

“Do you eat here?”

“Yeah. This is the only place I eat at.”

“What do you like to order?”

“The burger with hand-cut fries is good. Sometimes I’ll go for one of Bob’s Mom’s specials.”

“Y’know, I’ve been coming here off and on for years, but I’ve never eaten here.”

“The specials are always good, and the burger and fries.”

Suddenly Philip became aware of the blackboard above the mirror, scrawled with the words



“What about that mulligan stew,” said Philip. “Have you ever tried that?”

“Many times,” said Hobey.

“And what do you think?”

“To die for.”

“That good?”

“That good.”

“Wow, I’m not hungry now, but later maybe I’ll give it a try.”

Who was Philip kidding? He never ate when he was on a bender. He probably wouldn’t eat until a day or two after his family’s man that detective Joe Hooley found him again and either dragged him out to his parents’ house in the country or to the rest home, depending on how long the bender lasted. But it was nice at least to think about eating a nice mulligan stew.

He remembered suddenly that the nameless fellow had asked to be left alone, and so Philip shut up now, and stared into his drink.

For his part Hobie took a drink of his bock and wondered why out of nowhere he had just said more to this chump in a few minutes than he had to anyone, including the guys in his gang, for weeks, maybe months.

And the really weird part was that he suddenly realized that he felt like talking to the guy some more, but when he turned and looked at him the guy was staring intently into his drink, as if he were lost in thought, and so Hobie kept his trap shut. 

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