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…}

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