Thursday, February 25, 2021


 Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith arose, not unusually, at 1:16 in the afternoon, with no more than his usual Sunday hangover. Not that his Sunday hangovers were all that much different from those of the rest of the week, of the month, of the year, of the past three decades.

After a pensive hand-rolled Bull Durham in bed, Gerry climbed out and padded in his wool-stockinged feet to his closet, where he kept his two suits, one Donegal tweed, one Scotch flannel. Today would be flannel day. Gerry was quite severe about never wearing the same suit two days in a row.

But this afternoon he did a strange thing, something he did so rarely that he couldn’t remember the last time he had done it. He looked at himself in the four-foot mirror hanging inside the closet door.

Good God, did he really look like this? At – what was he? Forty-eight? The protuberant belly, the puffy unshaven face, the balding and greying head.  

Where was the beamish one-hundred-and-forty-pound young fellow who had once strolled merrily along the narrow cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter?

Where was the bounding lad who had played (albeit second-string) on the Harvard tennis squad?

There in the corner of the closet was his old Bill Tilden racket, covered with dust. When had he last even taken it out of its press? And in the corner, a single lonely putter, all the rest of his MacGregor clubs and their bag long gone in pawn.

Thank God his life was not all in vain.

At least he had his work, his book (current working title: Pensées for a Rainy Day), a collection of “philosophical observations” he had been working on for this past quarter century or more. Indeed, had he not been working on it his entire life, by living his life?

Gerry sucked in his stomach, which act produced only a barely noticeable change in the reflection in the mirror. Slowly he exhaled, coughing his smoker’s cough. He must not let himself go completely to the dogs. He owed it not just to himself, but to his work. What if he were to drop dead of a massive coronary before finishing his book? Then his life really would have been in vain.

Quickly, or as quickly as he did anything, which was not very quickly, Gerry took out his old flannel suit and got dressed. Today would be the start of his new health régime. No longer would he start each day with an eye-opener collation at Bob’s Bowery Bar – a restorative shot of Cream of Kentucky, washed down with a soothing rich glass of Bob’s proprietary basement-brewed house bock – followed by a good nap, and then a leisurely breakfast at Ma’s Diner. No, he would launch each day instead with a brisk bracing walk, say a half-hour at first, and then maybe he would gradually build it up to an hour. And after his walk he would go to Ma’s Diner and have a nutritious brunch, washed down with copious cups of her chicory coffee. And even then he wouldn’t go to Bob’s, no, he would return to his digs and work on his book until, let’s say, five, or four at the earliest, and then and only then would he allow himself to go to Bob’s for happy hour.

And just watch those unwanted pounds melt away!

Gerry made his way down the six flights of his tenement building and out the door, where he stopped in the shelter of the entranceway.

Oh, dear.

It was snowing, again. But not one of those scenic poetic  snowfalls like in the movies, this was one of those wet driving stinging snows, not laying so much but coating the sidewalk with an icy dandruff. The last few snowfalls still left their evidence in the soot-covered ridges along the curb, and the people who passed by were hunched over, looking like stragglers in Napoleon’s army on their doomed retreat from Moscow.

Gerry adjusted his old Andover rowing-team muffler so that it covered more of his chubby neck, raised the velvet collar of his old camel’s hair Chesterfield. He pulled his fedora down as far as it would go on his head, but how much protection from the cold and wet did a fedora afford? And, alas, he had no gloves. Gerry had always had a hard time holding onto gloves, they were like umbrellas in that regard. He shoved his hands into his coat pockets. Okay, it was snowing, or, no, actually it was more like sleet now, but so what? It wasn’t as if this were an absolute blizzard. Now the question was: which way? It occurred to him that in the twenty-some years he had lived in this building he had never walked farther than to the Houston Street stop of the Third Avenue El. He had only vague and fanciful notions of what lay beyond a two-block radius or so of his building in any direction. Presumably the East River was off to the left somewhere. To the right was the Village. South was downtown, north was uptown, where his lawyer’s offices were, almost the only place besides Bob’s bar and Ma’s Diner that he ever went to, a once-a-month hejira via elevated train and bus to pick up his remittance check.

Which way? Wasn’t Washington Square Park somewhere off in the Village direction? That might be a nice walk. Or he could walk down to the river. That might be picturesque. How many times had he reeled drunk along the quais and across the genuinely picturesque bridges of the Seine? Those were the days, and nights. A pity that he had been so shy as a young man. All those chic shop girls strolling on the trottoirs and sitting at the cafés of the boulevards. Maybe if he headed Villageward he would see some Bohemian lasses, with black stockings and berets. He’d bet they wouldn’t mind hearing about his post-collegiate days in Paris. It’s true he had never met Hemingway, or Picasso, or Gertrude Stein, but there was no denying that he had been in the city of light at the same time as those giants, and once he had even seen Picasso, or someone who looked an awful lot like him, sitting inside the Dôme.

Gerry took out his sack of Bull Durham and his Top papers. Right, left, uptown, downtown? Let’s have a smoke and think it over. Expertly he rolled one up and lighted it with one of the Blue Tip kitchen matches he always had with him.

“Hey, Brain.”

Gerry turned. It was Seamas, the Irish poet, who lived in a room on the fourth floor, even smaller than Gerry’s.

“Oh, hello, Seamas. Up bright and early, I see.”

“As are you, Brain. I say, Brain, remember that last round I bought ya?”

“Not precisely, Seamas.”

“Well, neither do I, but I wonder if you would be willing to stand me a shout or two, or three, or four, as I’ve got a powerful thirst on me, and you know when I get me next dole check I’ll make it up to you.”

“I was going to take a walk, actually, Seamas.”


“I was going to take a walk.”

“Why, in Christ’s holy name?”

“For my health.”

“Have you gone mad, man?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Do you not feel how ball biting cold it is out here? Do you not see that gelid shite pissing down? Look at you, your nose is already as red as a ripe raspberry, and dripping with rapidly freezing snot as we speak. How about a gasper.”

“Here, take this one, Seamas.”

“You’re all right, Brain, and I don’t care what anyone says about you. Ah, nothing like a good hand-rolled cancer stick, is there?”

Especially if it’s a free one, thought Gerry, but he was a good fellow, and he didn’t say it, but took out his pouch and his papers and set to rolling a fresh one.

“There’s a good lad,” said Seamas. “Soon as you fire that one up, let’s head on over to Bob’s.”

“But, Seamas, I really did want to take a walk.”

Seamas took a good drag of his smoke, looking up and down the street, then he turned again to Gerry.

“If you’ve not got the money to stand me a drink, you can just say so, Brain.”

“But it’s not that, Seamas.”

“So you do have some of the green on you.”


“Then what’s the problem. You can level with me, pal.”

Gerry lighted his fresh cigarette.

“I looked at myself in the mirror just a little while ago, and I saw a fat dissipated middle-aged man, balding and ill-favored.”

“And you think a walk in this freezing hell is going to fix that?”

“Well, it might not make it worse.”

“Did you ever hear the phrase catch your death of cold, Brain, or more accurately put, catch your death of the cold and freezing wet?”


“Do you want to die? Is that it?”


“Then come to your senses, man. It’s like fucking Antarctica out here. Do you want to go the way Shackleton went, and his brave but foolhardy men?”


“Then stop this nonsense and come with me to Bob’s.”

“I was going to take a walk and then get a good breakfast at Ma’s, and then work on my book.”

“Forget the walk, forget that insanity, man. Let’s go to Bob’s, we’ll have a shot and a bock apiece, and we’ll talk it over. Just one shot and a bock apiece, maybe another Bull Durham or two. And then, if, and please note I say if, dear Brain, if you think you could stand me a meal, I confess that I myself have not taken solid nourishment since roughly this time yesterday, and perhaps I could join you for a light lunch or a heavy breakfast at Ma’s. Please note my usage of the conjunction if. I am only speculating you understand, postulating if you will.”

Gerry just then felt an ooze of snot descend from his right nostril to his upper lip, and he wiped it way with his coat sleeve.

Maybe Seamas was right. It was cold, and wet, in fact the sleet was now more like rain than snow, and Bob’s would be warm, and smoky, and dim, and filled with drunken chatter and laughter.

“Don’t be a cunt, Brain.” said Seamas. “You’ve always been a good fellow. Don’t stop now.”

The man had a point. Gerry could always start his daily walk tomorrow, if it wasn’t too cold, if it wasn’t snowing, or sleeting, or raining.

The two friends set off through the cold stinging rain for Bob’s Bowery Bar, which fortunately for them was just around the corner.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2021


People, places, things. That’s what they told you that you had to watch out for when you got back into the world.

People, places, and things – which in Philip’s case covered a lot of territory.

He had stayed at the institution for five months this time, his longest stay yet, which meant he’d had plenty of time to think about what he was going to do when he left, plenty of time to talk it over with Dr. Himmelmann and with his new friend Edna.

He could have gone back to the firm. After all, it was the family firm, his brother would probably have taken him back, just as he had done all the other times when Philip had been away on binges followed by weeks or months in hospitals and institutions. However, there was that thing, the people, places and things thing, and so Philip formally resigned from the firm, got rid of his apartment on Sutton Place, found an office down on Bleecker and Elizabeth with a one-bedroom apartment upstairs, and he hung up a sign with his name and profession printed on it. He hired the first girl who answered the advertisement, a Miss Blotnick straight out of secretarial school, and he waited for clients to walk in.

Philip could have moved out west, or gone to Paris or Mexico City, he could have gone anywhere. He had a “private income” as it was called, so he didn’t have to work to support himself, but he had to do something with his time, and he had to live somewhere, so why not live and work in this poor neighborhood? Maybe he could actually do some good?

In his first week he had taken on six cases. A divorce, a will, a guy who had beaten up his brother, a kid who had robbed a candy store with a zip gun, a wife who had hit her drunken husband in the head with a clothes iron, another kid who had robbed the poor box at the Church of the Nativity. Word apparently got around about how cheap Philip’s fees were, and Miss Blotnick had a full calendar of appointments for the coming week.

Today was Sunday, his first fully free day since coming back to town. Philip had a kitchen, but all he had in the old icebox that came with the apartment was a bottle of milk. He picked up a book, and went downstairs to Bleecker Street. A stinging, misty cold rain, blotches of dirty snow. He walked down the block to Ma’s Diner, where he had taken every meal since moving down here.

He took a seat at the counter and ordered breakfast from Ma herself. She had asked his name the second day he came in here, and ever since she had greeted him by name. She appreciated his custom, a high class gentleman, so polite and well spoken.

When Ma gave him his cup of chicory coffee, Philip lighted a cigarette and opened his book, The Naked and the Dead, a book he had been meaning to read for some years now, but he had been too busy drinking.

“Hey, Philip. Howya doin’, buddy?”

Philip turned. He knew this guy. What was his name? A shabby little old man, not much different from a lot of other shabby little old men sitting in this place.


What was the man’s name?

“Bert. You know, good old Bowery Bert.”

“Oh, hi, Bert.”

Philip still couldn’t quite place the guy, but he knew he must have been one of the hundreds or was it thousands of random guys he had exchanged wisdom with while he was drunk.

“This stool taken?”

“No, not at all, help yourself.”

The little guy climbed up on the stool to Philip’s left. He had thick round glasses, a cloth cap, an unlighted stub of a cigar in his mouth. He needed a shave.

“I ain’t seen you around, Philip.”

“Yes, I’ve been away.”

“Away on business like?”

“Yeah, sort of.”

“But now you’re back.”

“Now I’m back.”

“Just a cup of joe, Ma,” said this Bowery Bert guy, to Ma.

“Are you bothering this gentleman, Bert?”

“I don’t know,” said Bert. He turned to Philip. “Am I bothering you, Philip?”

“No,” said Philip.

“Philip says I ain’t bothering him, Ma.”

“Well, see that you don’t. It ain’t many gentlemen I get in this place, and I don’t want you chasing them away.”

“I promise I’ll behave, Ma.”

Ma poured Bert a cup of her famous chicory coffee, and she topped off Philip’s cup.

“This bum bothers you, Mr. Philip, you let me know.”

“Thanks, Ma, but he’s not bothering me.”


Ma went down the counter with her coffee pot and Bowery Bert leaned in toward Philip.

“If only I was a few thousand years younger, boy, because that is one hell of a lot of woman right there, and just the way I like ‘em, strong and black, just like my java.”

Philip opened his book again, and started to read.

“You don’t remember me, do you, Philip?”

Philip looked up from his book.

“I’ll be honest – Bert is it?”

“Yeah. Bert. They call me Bowery Bert.”

“You seem familiar, Bert, but beyond that I can’t quite remember meeting you before. But please don’t be offended, because, you see, I used to drink a lot.”

“Like a lot of people around here,” said Bert.

“Like a lot of people everywhere,” said Philip.

“Ain’t that the truth?” said Bert. “People.”

“Yeah,” said Philip. “And places.”

“And places?”

“And things,” said Philip.

“People, places, and things,” said Bowery Bert. “Everywhere you go. There ain’t no escaping them.”

“That’s true,” said Philip.

“Here’s your breakfast, Mr. Philip,” said Ma, and she laid it down, fried eggs, bacon, home fries and toast.

Philip closed his book, stubbed out his cigarette.

“That breakfast sure looks good,” said Bert. “Best breakfast in the city here at Ma’s.”

Philip made sure that Ma wasn’t looking, and then he took out his wallet, and opened it on his lap. He took out a bill, and stuck it into the pocket of the old man’s overcoat.

“Hey, I wasn’t looking for no handout,” said Bert. He took the bill out of his pocket, and, keeping it under the edge of the counter, looked at it. “Wow, a fin. Thanks, buddy. How come?”

“I’m making amends,” said Philip. That was another thing they talked about in the meetings. “Why don’t you order some breakfast, Bert?”

“Y’know, pal, I think I just might do that.”

Philip had way too many people to make amends to, including himself. This old bum was as good as anyone else to start with.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2021

"Hard Ride to Laredo"

The snow came down in icy droplets. Addison stood in the entranceway of his building, looking across Bleecker at Ma’s Diner, and through the steam-clouded window he could see Tommy McCarthy in his usual booth, facing away, towards the Bowery. Tommy was a creature of habit, and every Sunday after the noon mass at the Church of the Nativity he walked over to Ma’s for a leisurely breakfast and the Sunday paper. Addison had waited until two before coming down. Tommy should be finished eating now.

Addison left the shelter of the entranceway, and started across the street. A car horn bleated, and he broke into a run as a cab drove past, just barely missing him. How ironic if the cab should have had hit him! That would have solved all his problems. Unless he were merely crippled, and then he would have had a whole new set of problems.

Breathing heavily he made it without further incident to Ma’s door, opened it and went inside. The place was full, as it usually was on a Sunday afternoon. Feeling as if he might pitch forward in a faint he walked over to the booth where Tommy sat.

“Hello, Tommy?”

Tommy looked up from his paper. He was smoking one of those big cigars of his.

“Look who the cat dragged in.”

“May I join you, Tommy?”

“Sure, kid. Sit down.”

Addison sat, and put his hands on the table.

“You want somethin’ to eat?”

“No, thank you, Tommy.”

“Cup o’ joe?”

“No, thanks, Tommy, I, uh, I really just wanted a quick word.”

“What’s up?”

“Tommy, it’s about this job you’ve offered me.”

“I’m glad you asked, Anderson, on account I’m gonna need you this week.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. About time you started earning your pay, right?”

“Heh heh. Yes. But that’s the thing, Tommy.”


“The thing is, I don’t think I can accept the job after all.”


“You see, with this book I’m working on, I really need to concentrate.”



“It ain’t like I got you working nine-to-five, forty hours a week.”

“Yes, I realize that.”

“You been on the payroll a week, I ain’t asked you to do nothing yet.”

“Yes, I know, and I appreciate that, Tommy, but –”

“A C-note I give you. That was last Monday, right? You got another C-note coming tomorrow, less you want to make your payday another day of the week. It don’t matter to me.”

“Here, Tommy.”

Addison had the money all ready in his coat pocket, and he drew it out and put it on the table.

“What’s that?”

“It’s the hundred dollars you gave me, Tommy.”

“What, you don’t want it?”

“Well, it’s not that I don’t want it, it’s just that I’ve decided that I really can’t accept a position at this time.”

“What, on account of this book you’re writing?”

“Um, uh –”

“Why you insulting me?”

“I, uh, insulting you?”

“You think I’m some kind of Indian giver, Anderson?”

“No, not at all, it’s just I don’t think I can do the the job, Tommy.”

Tommy looked at Addison with those steely blue eyes. Addison was sweating.

“Also, Tommy?”


“It’s the gun.”


“The gun you gave me.”

“What gun.”

“You know, the, uh –”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, sorry, I get it. I mean, that thing you gave me to hold.”

“What about it.”

“I feel very uncomfortable carrying it.”

“It ain’t supposed to be comfortable.”

“I mean, not physically uncomfortable, although it is, that, but I suppose I mean, morally uncomfortable.”


“Yes. I mean, I just don’t feel –”



“You got it on you now.”

“Yes, I do.”

Addison put his hand into his coat pocket.

“Hey,” said Tommy.


“You tryin’ to get us both pinched.”


“You gonna drag that thing out in here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“What if there’s a plainclothes dick in here. Or a professional stool pigeon. What the fuck’s the matter with you, Anderson.”

“I don’t know, Tommy. I’ve been asking myself that question since I was seven years old.”

Tommy took a drag on his cigar, gazing out the wet window at the falling snow. He tapped his ash into the ashtray in front of him, and without looking at Addison he said:

“Pick up that funny section of the Federal-Democrat there. Put it on your lap. Then, holding the paper over your pocket, take out the thing and put it inside the paper. Then put the funny pages with the thing in it on the table.”

Addison managed to carry out these instructions.

Tommy turned, looked at the comics section with the lump in it, looked at Addison.

“All right. You can go now, Anderson.”

“I can go?”

“That’s what I just said, wasn’t it?”

“Thank you, Tommy. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”

Addison started to get up.



“What’s that?”

Tommy gestured to the five folded-over twenty-dollar bills on the table.

“It’s the hundred dollars you gave me, Tommy, for my first week’s, uh, employment.”

“I look like a welcher to you?”

“No, not at all, it’s just –”

“Pick it up.”

Addison picked up the five twenties.

“Stick it in your pocket.”

Addison put the money in his pocket.

“Good luck with your book.”

“My book?”

“You’re writing a book, ain’t ya?”

“Oh. Yes, heh heh.”

“What’s it about again?”

“Well, it’s a comparative study of critical thinking on the modern novel –”

“You know what you ought to write?”

“Um –”

“You oughta write a western.”

“A western?”

“Yeah. Like Zane Grey. Or that Horace P. Sternwall. You ever read any of that guy’s books?”


“Hard Ride to Laredo. You read that one?”

“Um, no, I don’t think so –”

“Sally Six-Guns? That one was good.”

“Uh –”

“Tootsie From Tucson?”

“Um –”

“Horace P. Sternwall. Writes like a motherfucker.”

“I, uh, well, I’ll have to look for his books –”

“See ya around, Anderson.”

“I can go now?”

“Unless you’re gonna get something to eat. A cup of joe. A doughnut.”

“No, no, I don’t think so –”

“See ya later.”

Tommy picked up the sheaf of funny pages with the pistol inside it, brought it down to his side.

“See you, later, Tommy.”

Addison stood up.

“Stand there next to me a second.”

Addison stood next to Tommy while Tommy took the gun out of the paper and put the gun into his suit jacket pocket.

“All right, you can go now.”

Addison reeled away, and out the door. It was still spitting snow. He went out into the street and just avoided being hit by another taxi cab.

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

Thursday, February 4, 2021

“Roast Wooly Mammoth”

 “Cavemen converging on the wooly mammoth, spears at the ready – would there be meat tonight? Would there even be a tonight?”

Gerry “The Brain” Goldsmith looked at the sentence which had been the sole bounty of his previous day’s work.

Yes, it had been a good sentence, a good day’s work.

But how to follow it up?

Gerry paused for a minute, staring out of his grimy window at the thick falling snow.

He heard the faint whirring noise of the Third Avenue elevated coming downtown, heard the whirring become a rumbling, louder and louder, and then the high skidding screeching as it roared past above his window on its way to the Houston Street stop.

Time for another cigarette!

Ever since his monthly remittance had been increased last January (his brother Alistair’s preëmptive move to mollify Gerry into not contesting Aunt Edna’s will, as if Gerry might ever be bothered to do so), he could have afforded to buy factory-rolled cigarettes, but for some reason (reasons?) Gerry had stayed with his Bull Durham shag. Truth to tell, he liked the rolling ritual. And so he rolled himself another, lighted it with a Blue Tip kitchen match, and paused for another minute, enjoying the cigarette as much as he had ever enjoyed any cigarette, and then finally he typed these words: 

“And, later that night, sitting round the fire, dining on roast wooly mammoth after a long day’s hunting, and knowing the meat would last the tribe another week, what more could our caveman want?”


Should he continue?

No, perhaps it was best just to quit while he was hot. Better to write one good sentence than a thousand mediocre ones!

Time for a bock!

Gerry quickly knotted a tie and threw on his trusty old Chesterfield over his “new” Goodwill Donegal tweed suit, donned his hat, and headed out the door and down the stairs.

On the landing between the fourth and third floors, he saw someone sitting hunched over on the top step.


The man said nothing, didn’t even turn around. Gerry approached.


Addison turned his head and glanced up, then turned away again.

“Addison, are you okay?”

Addison said nothing. How very odd. Addison never said nothing.

“I say, Addison, are you ill?”

Addison heaved a great sigh.

“Addison, what’s up?”

This was annoying. Time was wasting, and there were bocks to be drunk. Gerry was loath to say what he was about to say, and he hesitated before saying it, but after a minute of uncertainty he said it:

“Come on, buddy, get up, let’s go get a bock.”

Addison turned his head and looked up at Gerry.

“You don’t want to have a bock with me.”

“Nonsense,” lied Gerry. “I’ll not only have a bock with you, but I’ll buy you one. Come on, get up.”


This was truly unbelievable. Addison turning down a free bock? It was literally unheard of. Not only was Addison among the most tedious of men Gerry knew, he was also perhaps the cheapest, and known throughout the neighborhood as a man who would squeeze a nickel so hard that he made the Indian ride the buffalo’s back.

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Addison, staring down the stairs.

“How can you possibly know what I’m thinking,” said Gerry.

“You’re thinking it’s unheard of me to turn down a drink, that I squeeze a nickel so hard I make the Indian ride the buffalo’s back.”

“Nonsense,” said Gerry, after a slight pause.

“See, you hesitated, because it’s true. You don’t like me. No one likes me.”

“That’s not true at all,” said Gerry, after another pause which he quickly cut short as soon as he realized he was pausing.

“It’s not true that you don’t like me, or not true that no one likes me?”

“Oh, come on, Addison, what exactly is this all about? This isn’t the witty carefree Addison I know.”

“The witty carefree Addison you know does not exist. I am neither witty nor carefree.”

Gerry hated to do it, but he sat himself down on the step beside Addison. One thing he did know, he wasn’t going to put his arm around the man’s shoulders. Gerry was a good fellow, but even he had his limits. He took one last drag of his cigarette. He didn’t want to just grind out the butt on the stairs, even though all the other tenants did so with abandon, leaving more work for poor Mrs. Morgenstern and her broom, so he stubbed out the cigarette on the riser of the step, and dropped the butt into his coat pocket.

“Do you know what I did yesterday?” said Addison suddenly.

Why did boring people always ask these unanswerable questions instead of just saying whatever they had to say? But Gerry was a kind man at heart, and so he said, “No, Addison, what did you do?”

“I walked out to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, fully intending to throw myself off of it.”

“So,” said Gerry, after a pause during which he could think of absolutely nothing else better to say.

“Yes, so,” said Addison. “So what?”

“So,” said Addison, “I gather you didn’t throw yourself off.”

Addison turned to face Gerry, and Gerry noticed that Addison’s eyes, always bloodshot, were now almost entirely red around the pallid blue of their pupils.

“An angel appeared to me, Gerry. He told me to appreciate the little things of life. And then I fell, or jumped, I’m not sure. But instead of crashing into the river I flew away, all the way up the river and out over Long Island Sound, and then I flew back.”

“To the bridge?”

“Yes, to the exact same spot on the bridge.”

There wasn’t much Gerry could say to this, or, rather, there were many things he might have said, but he said nothing. He didn’t know what else to do, so he took out his sack of tobacco and his papers and began rolling a cigarette.

After a minute Addison spoke again.

“I walked back off the bridge, and I walked around all the rest of the day, and all the night. I walked down to the Battery, and then I walked all the way up to I think Washington Heights it was and back again and I don’t know where. Finally it began to snow, and so I came back here. I’m so tired, Brain. I’ve never been so tired.”

“Why don’t you let me help you up to your digs, old man? A good sleep and you’ll be right as rain.”

“I can’t go to my digs.”

“Why not?”

“Because the walls will close in on me.”

“No they won’t, old boy. You’ll get in bed and be sound asleep before you know it.”

“I couldn’t even kill myself properly.”

“Why would you want to?”

“Do you really want to hear all the reasons? Even that angel who appeared to me told me that I would never amount to anything.”

“Addison, buddy, there was no angel.”

“Yes there was!”

“Well, even if there was, what does he know? Who says angels know everything?”

“They’re angels, damn it!”

“Only God knows everything,” said Gerry, even though he had no idea if this were true, or even if there was a God.

Suddenly Addison began to breathe very heavily, and Gerry was afraid he was going to get hysterical.

Gerry had just finished rolling his cigarette, and so he held it out to Addison.

“Here, Addison,” he said. “Addison. Here.”


“Have a cigarette.”

Addison took the cigarette. Gerry brought out his matches and gave him a light.

“There ya go,” he said. He blew out the match and put it in his coat pocket. “The little things. Like your angel said.”

Addison sat there hunched over, the smoking cigarette between his lips, and Gerry rolled himself another one. By the time he had the cigarette rolled and lighted, he noticed that Addison’s chin was on his chest, and his eyes were closed, but the cigarette still dangled from his lips. Gerry removed the cigarette, stubbed it out on the riser, dropped the butt into his coat pocket. Addison’s tiny apartment was on the fourth floor, and although Gerry was not a physically strong man, he figured he would probably be able to drag Addison up to his apartment and get him into his bed. A good long sleep wouldn’t be the answer to all the man’s problems, but it wouldn’t hurt, that was for sure.

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