Thursday, March 25, 2021

“Your Friend From the Mountains”


Miss Blotnick opened the door without knocking, came in, and closed the door behind her. She did that sometimes. Philip would have preferred it if she used the intercom, that’s what he had bought it for, or she could at least knock first, but he didn’t have the heart to say anything to her about it.

She came up to his desk and leaned over it.

“There’s a strange dame out there.”

“Do we get any other kind of dames out there?”

“She says she knows you.”

“Did she give you her name?”

“She said to tell you it’s your friend from the mountains.”

“My what?”

“Your friend from the mountains.”

“The mountains?”

“You want me to get rid of her?”


“I’ll get rid of her,” said Miss Blotnick.

“No, no,” said Philip. “Please show her in, Miss Blotnick.”

“Don’t forget you got to be in the courthouse at one.”

“I won’t forget.”

“All right.”

Miss Blotnick went out, and a minute later she showed Edna in. Miss Blotnick stood in the doorway. Philip came around from his desk.

“You can close the door, Miss Blotnick.”

She shut the door.

Edna stood there, in a smart grey suit and pale blue coat, with a black leather shoulder bag, a blue pillbox hat.

“I like your secretary,” she said.

“She’s very protective of me,” said Philip.

They didn’t shake hands, let alone kiss or embrace. They had never got that far in the physical realm.

“Can I, uh, take your coat, or –”

“I’ll keep it on.”

“Won’t you sit?”

She sat in one of the two armchairs facing his desk, and Philip resumed his seat behind it.

She took off her gloves, white gloves, dropped them in her purse, took out her cigarettes. Herbert Tareyton cork tips. Up in the mountains she had usually bummed his Luckies. Philip leaned across the desk and gave her a light, then he lighted one of his own.

“I had to do some serious detective work to find you.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah. I called your firm and they told me you had started up your own practice down here.”

“As you see!”

“So I guess this isn’t what they call a white shoe firm.”

“Ha ha, far from it.”

“I guess this is a slum, right?”

“Well, let’s say low income.”

“So you wanted a change?”

“Yes, I wanted a change.”

“People, places and things.”

“Yeah, that sort of thing.”

“How do you like it?”

“It’s okay. It’s very different from what I’d been used to.”

“I’m sure it is. You staying off the sauce?”


“Me too. But I only got home a couple of weeks ago.”

“And how’s it going?”

“I go to these suburban AA meetings every day.”

“And how are they?”

“An absolute scream.” She looked around, at his empty walls. “My husband thinks I should get pregnant and we can start living a normal life.”

“Well, why not?”

“I’m bored out of my skull, Philip.”

“If you have a child you won’t be bored.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. And if I have two or three or four kids I’ll be really not bored.”

“Maybe you should pursue a career?”

“Yeah, maybe. You know, you could decorate this office a little bit.”

“I keep thinking that, but ever since I moved in here I’ve been so busy.”

“Lots of clients, huh?”

“You wouldn’t believe.”

“Poor people?”

“Yeah, most of them don’t have too much money, or any money.”

“How do they pay you?”

“It seems that most of them don’t.”

“You’re too kind, Philip.”


They didn’t say anything for a minute, but they had both gotten used to long silences at the sanitarium, up in the mountains.

“You look good, Edna.”

“You too, Philip.”

There was a lot to say, a lot they could have said.

“Tell you what,” said Philip, “do you want to go for a bite of lunch?”

“I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

“I have to eat lunch anyway.”


“There’s a diner right down the block here.”

“A diner.”

“You’ll like it, it’s called Ma’s Diner.”

“Ma’s Diner.”

“No, it’s good.”

“I’ll bet.”

“It’s not the Stork Club.”

“Thank God.”

“I have to be downtown in court by one.”

She looked at the slim golden watch on her wrist.

“Shall we go then.”

Philip got up.

Would they have an affair, or would they just talk, or not talk, as they had back at the sanitarium, during their walks through the grounds and the woods and along the roads with the snow banked up high as their heads…

In the reception area Philip took his topcoat and hat from the clothes tree and said, “We’re just going down to Ma’s for lunch, Miss Blotnick.”

“City Hall, Mr. Philip. One o’clock.”

“I won’t forget.”

He opened the door for Edna, and they went out onto Bleecker Street.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2021

“Every Day Is St. Patrick’s Day When You’re a Drunk”

 It was one thing to avoid places, another to avoid things. But it was quite another thing to avoid people.

One cold March evening, after a late day at his office, Philip was about to go into Ma’s Diner for his supper, and some shabby-looking guy leaning on a cane near the entrance stuck his hand out.

“Spare a nickel for a cup of coffee for a disabled veteran?”

The guy seemed familiar, but then so many people seemed familiar,

Philip always tried to keep a handful of coins in his pocket. He lived and worked one block from the Bowery after all.

“Here ya go, fella. Take a quarter.”

“Jaysus fuck, if it ain’t old Philip his own self!”

Suddenly the man’s nondescript whining mumble had transformed into a full-throated Irish-accented shout, but Philip still couldn’t place him.

“Doncha know me, Phil-o? You ain’t suffered a bout of brain fever, God forbid.”

The man who had at first seemed hunched-over, crippled, sickly, at death’s front steps if not at its door, now stood erect, vibrant and red-faced, and holding his cane like a club.

“I, uh,” said Philip, “um, I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, sir.”

“It’s me, Seamas!”

“Seamas –” And suddenly with a rush Philip saw the red sweating faces of a score of drunken Seamases on a score of drunken nights, pounding his back and the bar top and shouting and laughing in the chaos of Bob’s Bowery Bar as Philip bought him pint after pint of bock and endless shots of Jameson’s whisky. “Oh, hi, Seamas, good to see you again.”

“Where ya fuckin’ been, ya old fucker? I ain’t seen ya in half a year!”

“Well, in fact I was in a sanitarium, Seamas.”

“Ya don’t say? A touch of the consumption perhaps?”

“No, just alcoholism, I’m afraid.”

“Is that all it was? Not a state institution I hope?”

“No, this was a nice private place upstate in the mountains.”


“Yeah, it’s pretty nice there.”

“A good rest then?”

“Yes, it was good. I was there for five months this time. I needed it –”

“Ah, the best thing for ya now and then. Give the system a bit of a rest, get your strength back and then come back roarin’ for more.”

“Uh, yes, heh heh –”

“Ya wouldn’t have a gasper on ya, would ya, Phil-o?”

“Oh, of course.”

Philip took out a pack of cigarettes, Seamas took one, and then cocked his head.

“Might I just have another for later, old man?”

Philip took out a cigarette for himself and then told Seamas to keep the pack.

“Ah, you’re all right, Phil-o,” said Seamas, as Philip gave him a light. “I don’t care what nobody says about ya. You’re A-okay in my book.”

Philip lighted his own cigarette. He knew roughly where this was all going, but he also knew he had to play it out.

“Goin’ into Ma’s for a bite to eat, were ya, Phil-o?”


“Good food in this place, man. The best. But you know what’s a close second?”


“Ha ha, no. Ya know what’s a good second for a reasonable bite to eat?”

“The Stork Club?”

“You’re killin’ me, man. No. It’s Bob’s Bowery Bar. You ever try the Mulligan Stew at Bob’s?”

“I might have –”

“Bob’s Mulligan Stew, man. Bob’s old mom makes it. They calls it Bob’s Mom’s Mulligan Stew. Get yourself outside a big plate of that, sop it up good with a couple of Bob’s mom’s fresh-baked rolls, and you’re all set for a good night’s roisterin’ and singin’, spoutin’ roundelays and epic pomes to beat the band.”

“Sounds good.”

“Now, nothin’ against the food here in Ma’s Diner, mind ya, nothin’ at all, but Bob’s Mom’s Mulligan Stew? Forget it, man. Of course to truly appreciate it you’ve got to wash it down with a couple of pints of Bob’s proprietary basement brewed bock, and, oh, that’s heaven, man. And you can keep your heaven with its choirs of angels with their harps and white robes, you just give me a bowl of Bob’s Mom’s Mulligan and a couple of pints of bock, and that’s your man, every time.”

“I’ll bet.”

“So what say we head over there right now, just the two of us. A couple big plates of the Mulligan, a couple or three pints of the bock, and you can tell me all about your vacation at that fine sanitarium up in the mountains.”

“Well, here’s the thing, Seamas, your suggestion really does sound good, but I’ve given up drinking.”


“I’ve stopped drinking.”

“What, even bock?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“What about plain beer?”

“That too.”

“So you’re sayin’, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you have abjured and renounced all alcoholic beverages?”

“Yes. I know it’s hard to believe.”

“May I ask you one question, Phil-o?”


“If it ain’t too personal.”

“Go right ahead.”




“Why have I quit drinking?”

“You’ve hit the nail on the head, Phil-o. Why?”

“Well, I just got, you know, sick and tired of the continual cycles of drunkenness and hangover –”

“Okay. Fair play. I can see that.”

“Also, I realized I was killing myself.”

“Okay again. I see your point there.”

“And I was wasting my life.”

“And that’s one way of lookin’ at it, no denyin’ that.”

“And in the mountains I started to enjoy life being sober.”

“Now what do you mean by enjoy life?”

“Just the little things. Not being hungover –”

“Not being hungover.”


“But don’t you miss the madness, man? The sheer rip-roaring foot-stompin’ cock-slappin’ fuck it all of it all.”

“Well, a little, maybe.”

“So let’s go, old stick, you and me. Now as you might have guessed I’m a bit short at the moment, but if you can stand me a night’s drinkin’ I’ll make it up to you.”

“Well –”

“And I know what you’re thinkin’, Seamas will buy me one bock in ten if I’m lucky, but think of the good fellowship, man. Think of the songs I’ll sing, the pomes I will shout, the tall tales I will tell.”

“Yes, it does sound pretty entertaining.”

“Then why are we wastin’ time here, Phil-o?” Seamas put his big hand on Philip’s arm. “Let’s go, pal. You and me. Once more into the breach, full speed ahead and fuck the torpedoes.”

“I’m going to have to pass, Seamas.”

Seamas stared at Philip. He removed his hand from Philip’s arm.

“All right then, Phil-o. I can respect that. I guess you’re going to go into Ma’s then, have your supper.”

“Yes, that was my plan. Would you like to join me?”

“For supper at Ma’s?”

“Yes. My treat.”

“Ah, now that’s very generous of ya, Phil-o, but I have to say, all our previous talk of the Mulligan Stew over at Bob’s has given me a hankerin’ for some of that, so I think I’ll just stand outside here with me cane for a little while longer and see if I can earn a few more coins and then I’ll be headin’ on over to Bob’s.”

Philip reached under his topcoat and brought out his wallet. He opened it, took out a five-dollar bill, and handed it to Seamas.

“Here ya go, Seamas. Have a good time.”

“A fiver!” said Seamas. “Jaysus, man, I would’ve settled gladly for a buck.”

Seamas stuck the bill into the pocket of his raggedy old tweed coat.

“Well –” said Philip.

“Y’know what they all called you, Phil-o?”

“Pardon me?”

“The uptown swell. Philip the uptown swell they called ya. Said you was just a rich guy who came down to the Bowery when he was on a toot, slummin’.”

“Well, they weren’t wrong, Seamas.”

“No, Phil-o, you was doin’ more than just slummin’, man. You was goin’ down to where it’s real, man. Where people make no bones. Where the people know they’re shite. Where they know they’re already dead, but they still don’t fall over.”

“Until they do,” said Philip.

“Until they do,” said Seamas.

Seamas looked away, across Bleecker to the corner of the Bowery. Bob’s Bowery Bar was right around the corner there. He was ready and raring to go, and five dollars was plenty enough to get your load on there, and more.

“Well,” said Philip, “I’ll catch you later, Seamas.”

“I hope so,” said Seamas. “God bless and keep you, Phil-o.”

And, carrying his cane like a club, he launched himself across the street, against the red light, just barely missing being hit by an ice truck.

Philip tossed his cigarette into the gutter and went into Ma’s Diner.

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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

"The Calling"

Addison stared at the blank page in his old Olivetti portable (a gift from his grandmother when he went off to his freshman year at Swarthmore), took what he couldn’t help but mentally describing as “a pensive drag of his Herbert Tareyton”, and finally typed:


He stared at the page for another two or three minutes, smoking, and wondering if perhaps he should run down to Ma’s Diner for a restorative cup or two of chicory coffee, perhaps one of Ma’s delicious jelly doughnuts, but then found himself scrolling down a line and rapidly tapping out the subtitle:


A Novel of the Old West

Now what?

Almost as an afterthought he scrolled down another line and typed the preposition:



And he was just about to type in his name (his real name, not Addison, which was only the name everyone called him, after “Addison DeWitt” in the movie All About Eve, because he was always trying to be witty and urbane, trying, and, yes, invariably failing on both counts), but he hesitated. Should he use his real name? What if he decided to continue with his comprehensive study of trends in criticism of the modern novel? Would a western novel on his curriculum vitae stand in the way of his being taken seriously by the panjandrums of the literary establishment? Perhaps it would be wiser to choose a nom de plume? He had smoked his cigarette down almost to his delicate fingers. He stubbed it out and looked at the opened pack next to his typewriter. Herbert Tareyton. There was a name with a ring to it. A trochee (was it?) followed by a dactyl? What about, say, Herbert Madison? But, no, that seemed like the name of someone who wrote sensitive novels of upper-middle class despair and ennui. What about something with a bit more of a double-trochee punch? Herbert Jackson. No, Herbert wasn’t quite right, let’s face it, Herbert was an effete-sounding name. Wait, flip it around! Jackson Herbert? No, forget about Herbert, damn it! Jackson, Jackson, Jackson, something with force, with strength, a name that would hit the reader like a Joe Louis haymaker to the jaw – wait: Jackson Stackhouse! Now there was a name with hair on its chest. He typed it in and now looked at what he had so far:


A Novel of the Old West

by Jackson Stackhouse

He scrolled down a few more lines and boldly typed:

Chapter One

Now what?

It occurred to Addison only now that he had never actually read a western novel. He had also never been farther west than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, he had seen western movies, so let’s stop dilly-dallying around and dive right into it:

The tall stranger looked down on the town of El Paso.

“There it is, yonder,” he said to his horse, Pancho. “Down in that there town lies our destiny, old friend.”

The horse, who was the color of a muddy stream in November, whinnied in response.

“I know, I know,” said the stranger, whose name was Buck Baxter, “you’re not fond of the sounds of gunfire, but I’m sorry, it can’t be helped. I mean to go down into that town and find the gang that killed my kinfolk, and I’m going to kill them killers. With these.”

He pointed in turn to the two sixguns he wore, one on each hip, in holsters of finely tooled Spanish leather.

“And, also, perhaps, with this,” he said, patting the stock of the Winchester carbine in his saddle holster.

“And maybe – just maybe – with a little help from this.”

And he patted the pocket of his leather vest in which he kept his two-shot .50 caliber Derringer.

“Or, come to think of it, with this bad boy.”

And he drew his right leg from its stirrup and pointed to the handle of the shin-holstered Bowie knife protruding from the top of his boot.

Pancho the horse whinnied again.

“I know, I know, Pancho, enough talk. It’s been a long hard trail, and now let’s get to it. Giddy up, old fella!”

Buck Baxter lightly dug his spur into the horse’s flank, and off they went, man and horse, down towards the dusty town of El Paso, stomping ground of that pack of thieving murderers called the Bad Men Gang.

He had reached the bottom of the page. Addison lighted up a fresh Herbert Tareyton and looked over what he had written. Not bad! Not bad at all. Should he describe Buck’s ride down into town? No, descriptions were boring. Leave that crap to Hemingway and Faulkner. Nobody wanted to read descriptions. This is why movies were invented, so that people wouldn’t have to read tedious recountings of cowboys riding horses. Just say it and be done with it. Everyone had seen movies showing some cowpoke riding into a dusty town, why bore the reader with a description of it? Having not the faintest idea of what he would type next, Addison rolled the page out, inserted a fresh one, and began to type:

“Say, mister,” called a young voice from out of seemingly nowhere.

Buck pulled up Pancho and looked in the direction of the voice.

It was a young barefoot lad, towheaded, wearing faded overalls and a straw hat, stepping out from behind a large rock. He held  a shotgun that was almost as tall as he.

“Yes, may I help you, sonny?”

“I see you’re carrying a lot of hardware, sir.”

“Yes, I suppose you could say that. Besides what you see, I even have a Derringer in my vest.”

“Nice,” said the lad. “I wonder, would you possibly be heading in to El Paso to join the Bad Men Gang?”

“Far from it, my boy! Indeed, I intend to wipe out the Bad Men Gang, for having my kinfolk slain.”

“You don’t say,” said the boy. “In point of fact I was heading into El Paso my own self to shoot down them murderous varmints, for having my own kinfolk slain.”

“I suggest, my lad, that we combine forces. I could use a good shotgun man at my side.”

“As I could use a stout gunfellow well-armed like yourself, sir. And now, may I introduce my sister, Maisie Mae. Come out from behind that cactus, Maisie Mae.”

And out from behind a nearby cactus came a lissome and comely young lass in a faded gingham dress. She carried an enormous pistol in a gunbelt encircling her shapely hip.

“Well, what have we here?” said Buck.

In the time it takes a hummingbird to bat one of its tiny wings the girl drew her great pistol and, holding it in both hands she aimed it at Buck’s face.

“What we have here is the gal who’s gonna blow your head off if you try and double cross me and my kid brother Jedediah.”

“Now hold on, little lady,” said Buck. “You sure you can hit the broad side of a barn with that blunderbuss of yourn?”

“You got a silver dollar?”

“Yes, I suppose so, but –”

“Then dig it out and toss it up in the air.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“I said dig it out and toss it.”

“Oh, very well,” said Buck. “Don’t get your knickers all in a twist.”

“Toss it!”

Buck dug a silver dollar out of his Levi’s and tossed it up into the air flashing against the bright blue sky, a shot rang out, and Pancho reared wildly, tossing Buck from the saddle and to the dusty dry earth.  

Buck sat up, dazed, and the young lad capered up to him and tossed a silver disk into the dust between his legs. It was a silver dollar with a neat hole in it. A .44 caliber hole.

The lissome lass approached, holstering that enormous pistol.

“What do you say now, gunslinger?” she said.

“I say you owe me a silver dollar,” said Buck.

Addison rolled the page out of the typewriter.

Two pages done! Three characters introduced, and even the beginnings of a plot!

He looked at the pile of typescript on the floor next to his little table. His study of trends in criticism of the 20th century novel. He got up, bent down, and gathered up the stack of pages and carried it to his closet, where he stuck it on the overhead shelf under his modest collection of pre-war French pornographic magazines. Then he returned to his typewriter and inserted another blank page. He had found his new calling.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2021

“Sixguns to El Paso”

Addison held off going back into Bob’s Bowery Bar for as long as he could, which as it happened was only five days. Where else was he going to go? Oh, sure, there were probably dozens of bars within a ten-minute walk of his tenement building, but if he went to one of them he would only have to go through the whole tedious process of becoming “a regular” all over again. Those initial, strained conversations – the prospect was depressing. And, really, why should he avoid Bob’s, when all he would really be doing was avoiding Tommy McCarthy? And did Tommy even care? Probably not. What was Addison to Tommy, but someone he had gone to an Audie Murphy movie with one time. Someone who, on the way to the movie, had sat in Tommy’s big Studebaker while Tommy went into some dockside bar called Sailor Sid’s, someone who had heard a popping sound that might or might not have been a gunshot, someone to whom Tommy, upon returning to the car, had given a pistol, still warm, “to hold”. Someone whom Tommy had subsequently offered vague employment at the fantastical wage of a hundred dollars a week. Someone who, after a week of the most intense anxiety had somehow gathered the courage to tell Tommy that he would not be able to accept the position, nor to continue to carry the gun.

It was a rainy day, and cold, the last day of February. Addison stood for a minute smoking a Herbert Tareyton in the entranceway of his building. It was going on for four o’clock, the beginning of the alleged happy hour, and around the time that Tommy habitually came into Bob’s.

This was what his life had come to, and Addison a Swarthmore man, living in a tiny tenement flat, jobless, subsisting on the generosity of his grandmother and his great aunts while he “worked on his book”, and afraid to go to his local bar for fear of encountering a semi-literate thug of a river boss. Well, let’s get it over with. What was the worse that could happen? He flicked his cigarette butt into the rain, pulled up the collar of his old Burberry trench coat, and set off to meet his fate.

One minute later he opened the door of Bob’s Bowery Bar, and breathed in that welcoming warm miasma of smoke, whiskey, bock beer, and unwashed human beings. Not unusually for a Friday at this time, the place was packed. Bob had finally installed a juke box this past year, but the machine was silent, because juke boxes required coins to be played, coins that could be better spent on alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless the barroom resounded with the harsh babble of the bibulous. Resounded with the harsh babble of the bibulous, there he went again, mentally transforming every sensation into pretentious prose, he would never learn, he would never stop, not until he was stopped entirely by death.

Through the mob and the smoke he could see the broad overcoated back and shoulders of Tommy McCarthy, at his usual place at the bar, down near the men’s room. If there had been an empty seat anywhere else, Addison in his cowardice would have taken it, but of course the only free stool at the bar was the one to Tommy’s left. Addison took a deep breath of the warm heavy air and headed over for it.

Tommy was reading the afternoon Federal-Democrat, as usual, with his usual cigar and his glass of bock.

“Hey, Addison,” said Bob. “Where you been? You catch the flu or something?”

“Heh heh, no, Bob, just, uh, just, um –”

Bob didn’t care where Addison had been, and without asking he went to the taps to draw Addison’s usual bock. Addison had a quarter all ready (a glass of Bob’s basement-brewed bock was only a nickel, and, really, wasn’t this one of the main reasons why Addison liked the place?), but when Bob put the glass down on a soiled cardboard Rheingold coaster, Tommy disengaged his enormous left hand from his Federal-Democrat and tapped the pile of bills and change in front of him.

“Outa here, Bob. Gimme another one too, and a shot of Schenley’s. You want a shot, Anderson?”

“Of Schenley’s?” said Addison.

“No, of Napoleon fucking brandy.”

“Oh, heh heh, uh, um –”

“Give Anderson a Schenley’s too, Bob.”

For some reason Tommy always called Addison Anderson, but Addison didn’t care, Addison wasn’t his real name anyway. Bob went away, presumably to get the drinks, and Tommy went back to his Federal-Democrat.

When Bob had brought the fresh bock for Tommy and poured the two shots, Addison finally got up the nerve to say, “Well, thank you, Tommy.”

Tommy said nothing, just picked up his shot and continued reading the paper.

Addison picked up his own shot.

“Here’s to you, Tommy.”

Tommy had already tossed back his shot and put the glass down. Again he said nothing, and so Addison quickly drank his own whiskey down. The whiskey helped. Here’s what he would do. He had broken the ice, and so now he would drink his bock, and then order just one more. He would offer to buy Tommy a bock, and, yes, a Schenley’s, and Tommy would probably refuse both. Then Addison would finish his second bock and leave. The next time would be easier…

“Fuck this shit,” said Tommy, and he folded up the paper. “I don’t know why I read it, it’s all bullshit. Where you been?”

“Who, me?” said Addison.

“No, the man in the moon.”

“Heh heh, well, I’ve been, uh, I’ve been rather busy with my book this week –”

“Your book.”

“Yes, you see, I had rather an access of interesting ideas these past few days, and I thought I should strike while the iron is hot, you know, make hay while the sun –”

“I thought maybe you’d stopped coming in this dive.”

“Oh, no,” said Addison, “not me, heh heh, it’s just, you know, my, uh, book?”

“What’s this book about again?”

He had told Tommy, or tried to tell him, at least a dozen times before, but here he went again.

“Well, it’s a comparative study of trends in literary criticism, since the turn of the century, with a special emphasis on Anglo-American –”


“Pardon me?”


“Do you mean why write about trends in, uh –”


“Literary criticism?”


“Um –”

“Who wants to read that shit.”

Tommy said it just like that, without a question mark.

“Well, uh, I suppose the audience for such a book is rather limited, but –”

“I told you what you should write.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. Westerns.”


“Westerns. That’s the kind of shit people really want to read. Not these trends in what the fuck –”

“Literary criticism.”

“Yeah. Nobody wants to read that shit. Why you want to waste your life. Look at me, you think I like doing what I do?”

“I don’t know, Tommy, I would assume you do –”

“If I had an education like you I would write westerns. Like Zane Grey. Harold P. Sternhagen. Jake C. Higgins. Horace P. Sternwall. Them guys. Take my advice, Anderson, don’t waste your fucking life. You only get one ride on this merry-go-round. Don’t fuck it up. Write westerns.”

“You really think I should?”

“You ever hear me say one motherfucking thing I didn’t mean?”

“Well, no, no –”


“Westerns,” said Addison. “Well, you know, Tommy, I’ll tell you what, I’ll give it some thought –”

“What’s there to think about.”

“Westerns,” said Addison.

“Westerns,” said Tommy. He looked at his watch, polished off his bock. He put down his glass and shoved his pile of money toward the Bob side of the bar. “I got to go. Business.”

“Well, nice talking to you, Tommy, and thanks for the advice –”

Tommy heaved his great body off his stool.

“Westerns,” he said. He saluted in Bob’s direction, and walked off in that way he had, as if he would walk through a brick wall if it was in his way.

Westerns, thought Addison. Could it be possible? Was Tommy right? First he would need a title, a good title was essential, and then the story could flow from that. What was a good western title?

Sixgun. Prairie. Cowboys. Gunmen. Cactus. Laredo. Tucson. El Paso. Sixgun. Sixguns.

Sixguns to El Paso!

That was it, a splendid title. Sixguns to El Paso. Or what about Six Sixguns to El Paso, or was that a bit de trop? No, Sixguns to El Paso, tout court, don’t overthink it. He would start tomorrow. Then he would go to Bob’s around four, and wouldn’t he have something to tell Tommy.

Sixguns to El Paso!

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