Thursday, May 7, 2020

"Nature's Way"

Frank X Fagen the nature poet had had a particularly boisterous night with his fellow poets Hector Phillips Stone (the doomed romantic poet), Seamas McSeamas (the Irish poet), Howard Paul Studebaker (the western poet), Scaramanga (the leftist poet), and Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III (the Negro poet). Hector had just sold his first book of poems (Love Songs of the Damned) to Smythe & Sons, Publishers, and he had treated his friends generously with his advance money. Normally the poets stuck with the basement-brewed bock, but on this heroic night the Cream of Kentucky bourbon whiskey had flowed like a great flooded river of inebriation, and so when Frank staggered into Bob’s Bowery Bar the next afternoon at around two o’clock all he wanted was a hair of the dog, maybe two or even three.

“A glass of the bock, Bob,” he said, by way of greeting, “and a shot of Cream of Kentucky, but don’t let me order a second shot.”

“What about a second glass of the bock?”

“You can keep the bocks coming.”

After the shot and two glasses of the bock Frank felt the malaise subside, replaced by revived drunkenness and only his usual sense of being just nominally alive. When Bob brought him his third glass he knew he could now relax and take his time. Maybe he would even eat something. The blackboard behind the bar read

ONLY ¢.35

Creamed chipped beef on toast, the perfect day-after meal! But first to drink this glass of bock, and maybe another…

“Jesus Christ, Frank, look at you.”

It was the waitress, Janet.

“My dear Janet,” said Frank, “I assure you the last thing I would want to look at is myself.”

“You were throwing up on the pavement outside last night, and now here you are again, getting your load on again.”

“What else am I supposed to do?”

“It’s a beautiful May day outside and you’re sitting here in this smelly dark bar. Ain’t you supposed to be a nature poet?”

“Well, yes –”

“Then whyn’t you go out and take a nice healthy walk in nature?”

“Go outside?”

“Yeah, go outside.”

“Gee, but –”

“No gee buts. Go outside.”


“Yeah, outside. What kind of nature poet are you when you spend every day and night sitting getting plastered in a bar?”

Janet had struck close to home.

“Y’know, Janet,” said Frank, “you’re right, you’re absolutely right.”

He lifted up his bock, drank it down in one go, and then, heaving a great belch of satisfaction, he put the thick stubby glass down with a hollow clunking sound.

“Another one, Frank?” said Bob, looking up from his Federal Democrat.

“No, thank you, Bob. I have decided, at Janet’s urging, to go for a walk.”

“You what?”

“I’m going for a walk.”

“Now I’ve seen everything,” said Bob. “And I’ve seen a lot.”

Frank left a quarter tip, almost fell off his stool, and staggered out.

“I hope he don’t walk in front of a garbage truck,” said Bob.

“He might be doing himself a favor if he did,” said Janet.

Outside the bright warm sunlight attacked Frank at once and without mercy, but he couldn’t turn back now. Janet was right, goddammit! When was the last time he had been out in nature? Five years ago? Six? Seven?

He headed right on the Bowery, and again right at the nearby corner on Bleecker. He passed Morgenstern’s cobbler shop and right there next door was the entrance to his tenement building, also owned by Mr. Morgenstern. Should he just go up to his room and take a nap? But no, he knew himself, he would only lie in his narrow bed, unable to sleep, fighting a losing war with the heebie jeebies and longing for a bock – best to keep to his plan! On he walked along Bleecker in the blazing sunlight, breathing the harsh thick smells of this poor quarter of the city. But this asphalt, the dirty concrete and stained bricks, the garbage, the leavings of dogs – was not all this part of nature?

Suddenly Frank realized he had to urinate, and so he ducked into the first alley he saw, the one between Moe’s pawn shop and Fat Chow’s chop suey joint. He unbuttoned the fly of his old tweed trousers, and with a sigh returned some of the bock and bourbon he had drunk to the world.

“Hey, buddy, whatcha doin’?”

The piece of cardboard Frank had been going on lifted up, revealing the face of no other than his friend Howard Paul Studebaker, the western poet.

“Oh, my God,” said Frank, turning his stream away, “I’m so sorry, old man, I didn’t see you there.”

“Oh, well, no hard feelings,” said Howard, sitting up and tossing the wet cardboard aside. “An honest mistake. Buy me a bock and all is forgiven.”

“But I’m taking a walk,” said Frank, buttoning his fly.

“You’re what?”

“Taking a walk.”

“Since when do you take walks?”

“Well, I was sitting at Bob’s having a hair of the dog and Janet shamed me, pointing out that I am a nature poet who spends fine spring days sitting in a bar.”

“You gonna let a woman tell you what to do?”

“But don’t you think it’s a good idea to take a walk now and then, especially on such a beautiful day?”

“What’s so beautiful about it?”

“Um, sunlight, warmth, fresh air?”

“Help me up.”

Frank helped Howard up.

“Did you not make it home last night?” asked Frank.

“What does it look like?” said Howard. “And anyway, a flophouse is not a home.”

“Yes, I suppose you could say that,” said Frank.

“Besides, this alley ain’t so bad,” said Howard. “Until somebody uses you for a urinal, that is.”

“I’m so sorry about that, Howard.”

“All is forgiven, for the price of one imperial pint of bock.”

“Well, that seems fair,” said Frank.

Together the two poets staggered their way back to Bob’s.

“Jesus Christ,” said Janet, when she saw them come through the door. “How long was that walk, Frank? Five minutes?”

“There were unforeseen circumstances,” said Frank.

“In other words you ran into this drunk and he talked you into coming back here to get your loads back on.”

“There was more to it than that, Janet,” said Howard.

“There’s always more to it with you guys,” said Janet.

Over at the poets’ usual table sat Hector, Scaramanga, Seamas, and Lucius, all of them looking ashen and chastened. Frank and Howard went over and joined them.

It was nature’s way.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version, illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

No comments: