Friday, January 22, 2021


Terry and Araminta had been friends now for more than five months, and they met nearly every afternoon at Ma’s Diner to drink untold cups of coffee and peruse the pages each had produced that morning. They were very kind in their comments, despite the fact that neither could make head or tail of what the other was on about in their respective novels-in-progress.

Today, this snowy cold day in January, Araminta sipped her chicory coffee and read the following from Terry’s book, still titled (she hoped provisionally) Say There, Young Fellow!:
Another day awakening to the symphony of the great city! The fartings of the garbage trucks, the belchings of the El train, the wailing of the little guttersnipes in their slum dwellings, the vomiting of the drunkards on the sidewalk, the random shouts of violent young thugs! Jerry Hooley ripped another page from his trusty Olivetti portable and added it to the foot-high pile next to the machine. He inserted another blank sheet into the roller and typed the page number in at the top: 1,000. Not bad, not bad at all. He still hadn’t quite found the plot of the novel, but plots were overrated anyway. He scrolled down an inch and typed


The city’s daily concerto called to Mickey Mooney. Enough of creation for one day, time to go out and experience life! Time to shake off the

That was where Terry had left off. He always stopped writing at noon on the dot, even if he was in the middle of a sentence, or, for that matter at the beginning or ending of one.

“So, what do you think, Araminta?”

“I think it’s marvelous,” said Araminta, as usual. After all, what did she know about what she called boy novels? “Simply marvelous. Is anything going to happen with Annabella?”

Annabella was the presumable “love interest” in Terry’s novel, a bohemian lass who lived in the same building as Terry’s hero Jerry Hooley and who was writing a cycle of poems called Sappho, My Sappho.

“I honestly have no idea,” said Terry. “You know me, I have to go where my characters take me. However, I suspect that there might be something dramatic in store with Melpomene.”

Melpomene, a girl playwright, was the love interest of Mickey Mooney, the hero of the novel (Moon Over the Bowery) that Jerry Hooley (and, actually, Terry) was writing.

“Perhaps,” said Araminta, “and only perhaps, mind you, the development of Mickey and Melpomene’s relationship could mirror the same in Jerry and Annabella’s.”

Terry paused before answering. He lighted up another Camel.

“Wow,” he said, finally. “That could really be a swell idea!”

“It’s a thousand pages you’ve got there so far,” said Araminta. “I know you must follow your own artistic impulses, but maybe it’s time for a little, you know, I hate to use the word.”

“What?” said Terry.

“But I hate to use the word. It’s so crude.”

“What word?”

“I just told you I hate to use it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. But could you give me maybe a synonym? Or what do you call it when you use a nicer word for a harsh word or phrase?”


“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Oh, hang it all, Terence, the word I mean is sex. There, I’ve said it, full speed ahead and darn the torpedoes. Sex.”


“Yes. Now please don’t say it again.”

“I promise not to.”


Yes, perhaps Araminta was right. Maybe a thousand pages was a little too long to go without, well, Terry didn’t even want to think the word, so careful was he not to offend Araminta by even thinking of a word she found offensive.

“But I could be wrong,” said Araminta, and she took out one of her Viceroys. She waited while Terry scrabbled up his matches and gave her a light. “And after all, look at my own novel.” She brushed her long red-painted fingernails over the cover of the large leather-bound notebook that contained the latest pages of her own work in progress (provisional title: The Womb of the City). “I’ve been working on this thing for almost a year, and Azalea {the heroine of Araminta’s novel} hasn’t even been kissed by a man yet!”

“But,” said Terry.


“But –”

“Go on.”

“Well, please don’t be offended.”

“Damn it, Terence, stop beating about the bush. Out with it.”

“I thought Azalea was a, you know, I hope you won’t be offended if I say the word.”

“How can I know if I’ll be offended if you don’t say it.”

“You promise not to be?”

“I make no such promise. Now say it.”



“I thought Azalea was a lesbian.”

“You thought Azalea was a dyke?”

“Well, not definitely, but, you know, she went to a women’s college, and –”

“Well, Terence, I went to Vassar and I assure you that, despite everything you may have heard, the sisters of Lesbos were a distinct albeit noticeable minority there. Gee, whillikers, you never saw such a mob of boy-crazed sluts as in that school!”

“I’m sorry.”

Now Araminta took pause.


So now she knew why she and Terry had been having coffee together nearly every single day for five months, reading and critiquing one another’s work, and he had never once made a pass at her.


Or could it be?

Could it be that Terry himself was the one who was a little light in the loafers?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

“Say,” she said, “do you want to get out of here? Take a walk? Or something.”

“But it’s snowing.”

“I love to walk in the snow.”

“Well, okay,” said Terry, who remembered without fondness long hikes with a full pack in the snowy wastelands surrounding Fort Dix.

“I just need to get my galoshes,” said Araminta.

“Sure,” said Terry. They both lived in the same building, just across Bleecker Street and catercorner to Ma’s. “Do you want me to wait here?”

“No,” said Araminta. “Why don’t you come up with me.”

“To your apartment?”

Terry lived on the fourth floor, Araminta on the second, but he had never once been in her apartment.

“Yes, to my apartment,” said Araminta. “So I can get my galoshes.”

Terry really couldn’t see why he had to go up to Araminta’s flat if she was just going to get her galoshes, but he didn’t pretend to understand the first thing about women, so he said okay.

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

No comments: