Thursday, April 29, 2021

“Walking With the Big Man”

 “I seen God last night,” said Gilbey the Geek.

“Oh, Christ,” said Angie the retired whore.

“Not Christ, Angie, but God.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

“No, just God, Angie. The big guy. I seen him. Last night. In my room.”

“Listen, Gilbey,” said Angie, “No offense, but I just can’t take your idiotic bullshit right now, so do me a favor and just drink your bock and don’t talk to me.”

“All right, Angie. But I seen him. Last night. In my room. God.”

“You’ll be seeing stars you say just one more word, Gilbey. I swear to God.”

“That’s who I seen. God.”

“Shut the fuck up, Gilbey.”

“Well, okay, Angie. I was only saying.”

“Zip it.”

Even Gilbey could tell that Angie really meant it this time, so he turned away. The ventriloquist Waldo McGee was sitting there to Gilbey’s right, and as usual Waldo had his dummy Mickey Pumpernickel sitting on his lap.

“Hey, Waldo, guess what?”

“What’s that, Gilbey?”

“I seen God last night.”

“That’s great, Gilbey.”

“No, I really seen him. He showed up in my room.”

“That’s swell, Gilbey.”

“He was like all shiny,” said Gilbey.

“Shiny, huh?”

“Yeah, kind of like a big shiny light.”  

“That’s really great, kid.”

“Yeah, I thought it was really something,” said Gilbey.

“Hey, Gilbey,” said Waldo, “I gotta go strangle the worm. Keep an eye on Mickey Pumpernickel for me.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” said Gilbey.

“Here, put him on your lap till I get back. And don’t let nobody touch him.”

“I won’t, Waldo.”

Gilbey sat Mickey Pumpernickel on his lap, and Waldo staggered off to the men’s room. This was Monday, Waldo’s one night off from his steady gig as compère at the Prince Hal Room over at the Hotel St Crispian on Bedford Street, the one night when he could let loose and tie what he called “a good old country load on”, and he was already halfway there at only six-thirty in the evening.

Gilbey heard a whisper: “Hey, Gilbey.”

Who was it? Was he hearing things? Or was it God, whispering to him?

“Down here,” Gilbey,” said the whispering voice.

Gilbey looked down, and Mickey Pumpernickel looked up at him.

“Don’t talk,” said Mickey, “or these bums in this joint will think you’re crazier than they already think you are. Just nod your head.”

“Okay,” said Gilbey.

“I said don’t talk. Just nod your head.”

“Sorry,” said Gilbey.

“What’d I just tell you? Now don’t say another word. Just nod your head.”

Gilbey just nodded his head.

“I heard what you said, Gilbey,” said Mickey Pumpernickel. “And I just want to say I believe you.”

Gilbey started to say something again but Mickey quickly cut him off.

“I said don’t say nothing.”

Gilbey said nothing.

“Just nod your head.”

Gilbey nodded his head.

“You, my friend,” said Mickey, “have been vouchsafed a very special gift. You have seen God. Now you want my advice? Clam up about it. Keep it to yourself. You don’t got to advertise it. But know this. That you are now one of the elect. One of the very few. I see you’re getting ready to say something again, but don’t. Just nod your head.”

Gilbey nodded his head again.

“Okay, that’s all,” said Waldo. “Now relax, enjoy your bock. Because you’re walking with the big man now.”

Gilbey nodded.

“You can stop nodding now,” said Waldo. “It looks weird.”

Gilbey stopped nodding.

“These bums in here,” said Mickey. “They don’t know nothing. But you do. And I do.”

Gilbey nodded.

“I said stop nodding,” said Mickey Pumpernickel. “Just sit there, and drink your bock.”

Gilbey remembered not to nod, and he took a drink of his bock.

He looked down at Mickey Pumpernickel and Mickey gave him a wink.

Mickey Pumpernickel understood.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2021

"The Real Me"

“Nobody knows the real me,” said Gilbey the Geek.

“Why would anyone want to know the real you?” said Angie the retired whore.

“I got a lot to offer,” said Gilbey.

“Yeah? Like what?” said Angie.

“I got wisdom,” said Gilbey.

“Oh, Christ,” said Angie.

“I know it don’t look like it, but I got wisdom,” said Gilbey.

“You got shit is what you got,” said Angie.

“That ain’t nice, Angie,” said Gilbey

“I ain’t paid to be nice,” said Angie. Once she had made her living by being paid to be nice. Now she sold flowers out of a cart on Delancey Street.

“It don’t hurt to be nice,” said Gilbey.

“I’m sorry, Gilbey. But sometimes the shit you say.”

“I know, Angie. But I can’t help it.”

They sat in silence for a minute, Angie drinking her Rheingold and Gilbey drinking his bock.

“Nobody knows the real me,” said Gilbey, again.

“Okay,” said Angie. “I’ll bite. What’s the real you, Gilbey?”

“I got dreams,” said Gilbey.

“What kind of dreams.”

“You got to promise not to make fun of me.”

“I can’t promise that, Gilbey.”

“All right, I’ll tell you anyway. My dreams is a world where I don’t never need no money, and where I can drink bock all day and not be hungover the next day.”

“That’s your dreams?”

“Yeah,” said Gilbey. “You think maybe someday my dreams will come true?”

Angie looked at the dumb bum with his trusting dumb face.

“Can I ask you a question, Gilbey?”

“Sure, Angie. I am an open book.”

“Were you always kind of retarded, like ever since you were a little kid?”

Gilbey cocked his head, and stared off into nothing out of the corners of his eyes. This meant he was thinking, or trying to think. Then he straightened out his head again and looked at Angie with his sad eyes like a puppy dog’s.

“Yeah, I guess I always been kind of retarded, Angie.”

“So it ain’t your fault,” said Angie.

“No, I guess not,” said Gilbey. “But you know something, Angie?”

Angie waited, but Gilbey didn’t say anything, so just to move things along she said, “What? What do I know, Gilbey?”

“Nobody knows the real me, Angie.”

Angie stared at him.

“Yeah, Gilbey,” she said. “You’re probably right.”

Bob came over. It was just another Monday afternoon in the bar. Outside the sun was shining, you could tell when somebody opened the door to come in, or, more rarely, to go out.

“You two okay?” said Bob. Their glasses were empty.

“I’ll take another one, Bob,” said Angie. “And give the wise man here another bock.”

Bob took their empties and went down to the taps.

“Gee, thanks, Angie,” said Gilbey. “I wasn’t trying to get a drink out of you.”

“I know that, Gilbey,” said Angie. “You ain’t that smart.”

“I ain’t that smart, but I got wisdom,” said Gilbey. “And I got dreams. It may not look like it, but I got a lot to offer, Angie.”

“Yeah?” said Angie.

“Yeah,” said Gilbey. “Nobody knows the real me.”

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

Thursday, April 15, 2021

“Love Is a Beautiful Thing”

It was Bosco and Janey’s first anniversary, and they celebrated by doing what they did every day, which was getting their loads on at Bob’s Bowery Bar.

How well they remembered their first meeting, right here at Bob’s, when they had bonded one afternoon over Janey’s tokay and Bosco’s bock and bourbon. Janey had been buying, because Bosco was unemployed and Janey had a job working at the 24-hour automat over on Bedford Street, shoving sandwiches and pies into the little windows.

They tied the knot down at City Hall a month later, and Bosco moved into Janey’s room at the Sunshine Hotel.

Now they had been married a year, and they both knew everything there was to know about each other.

“We ain’t got much, Janey,” said Bosco. “But we got each other.”

“If I was still able to have a baby I would let you knock me up, Bosco, that’s how much I love you.”

“Yeah, but how would we bring it up?” said Bosco. “Me being a bum that can’t keep a job, and you just working at the automat and all.”

“We would find a way, Bosco. Love always finds a way, you big bum.”

“We could adopt a kid if you want.”

“Nobody would let us adopt a kid, you knucklehead.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” said Bosco.

“Just do me one favor,” said Janey.

“Anything, babe.”

“When you croak, croak quick. I don’t want to see you dying slow in the charity ward.”

“Okay, Janey. I will do that. If I feel my croaking coming on, you know what I’m gonna do?”

“What’s that, Bosco?”

“I will walk right out to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and jump off.”

“Thank you, Bosco.”

“You’re welcome, Janey.”

“Just one thing.”


“Don’t tell me about it first,” she said. “Just walk down to the bridge and jump off, but I don’t want to know ahead of time.”

“Okay,” said Bosco. “That’s what I’ll do. Maybe while you’re working at the automat, I’ll just go down the bridge and jump off, but I won’t tell you about it ahead of time.”

They sat silently, drinking, and then Janey spoke.

“Just leave me a note when you do it,” she said.

“A note.”

“Yeah, just a brief note, so I don’t worry where you are.”

“I get it,” said Bosco. “Just a brief note. But you know I ain’t much of a writer.”

“It don’t got to be Shakespeare, Bosco. Just a brief note, like, ‘Went down to the bridge. You know why. Love, and best of luck, Bosco.’”

“Short and sweet.”

“Short and sweet,” she said. “Just so I don’t worry you got run over by a truck or something.”

“I will leave a note,” said Bosco.

“But let’s hope that day don’t come soon,” said Janey.

“Yeah, we still got some good times left,” said Bosco.

“I hope the hell we do, Bosco,” said Janey.

“Look at them two,” said Angie the retired whore to Gilbey the Geek. “Lovebirds.”

“They’re in love, Angie,” said Gilbey. “And love is a beautiful thing.”

“What would you know about it, Gilbey?” said Angie.

“My mom loved me,” said Gilbey. “God rest her soul.”

Angie stared into her Rheingold, thinking of her own sainted mother.

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

Thursday, April 8, 2021


It was just another drunken night at Bob’s Bowery Bar, a Tuesday night, not that it mattered a whole hell of a lot what night it was, because every night is a Saturday night when you don’t work for a living, or when you hardly work, or work just enough so you can get your load on every night of the week.

Hector Philips Stone, the doomed romantic poet, came out of the men’s room and went over to Janet, who was standing at the service bar waiting for Bob to fill her order.

“Hi, Janet.”

“Oh. Hi,” she said.

“Hey, Janet, Wednesdays are still your night off, right?”


“How about we get together tomorrow?”

“And do what?”

This was a question she had never asked before.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe we could have dinner at Ma’s Diner?”

“Big spender.”

“We could go somewhere else if you like.”

She turned and stared at him.

“Why don’t you just say what you want, Hector?”

“Well, all right then, hang it all, Janet! We could go to my flat, and –”

“You call that a flat? I call it a room.”

“Well, I think the term is ‘studio apartment’.”

“Forget it, Hector.”

“Why are you acting like this?”

“I ain’t acting like nothing.”

“Are you angry with me about something?”

“All you do is drink and sleep and write your stupid poems.”

“Well, this is true.”

“You don’t give a shit about me.”

“That is not true.”

“Forget it, Hector.”

“But what did I do?”

“You didn’t do nothing except be you.”

“But what else can I be except me?”

“Nothing. And that’s why I ain’t gonna hang around with you on my night off, because I know what you want to do, and I don’t want to do it with you, or with nobody, so don’t feel bad.”

She turned away and picked up her tray of drinks and went off.

Hector stood there and watched her. He took out his cigarettes and lighted one up. What had he done? Or had he done nothing, and merely been himself, and that really was the problem?

It was too bad, because he was fond of Janet. He was pretty sure it had only been that one night that they had fully made love, if you could call it that, and, sure, he had been drunk, but that was to be expected, wasn’t it? Had he performed clumsily? As it was, he could barely remember even that one time. It had happened almost as in a dream, and he had fallen asleep, and when he woke up in the middle of the night she was gone, leaving only a small bloodstain on his sheet (which, to be honest, he had not even noticed until several days later). Had she gotten angry because he had fallen asleep, or, let’s face it, passed out? Had he snored? Had his breath smelled?

It was such a cliché to say it, but women were a mystery. He headed for the table where his friends the other poets sat, drinking and shouting.

He would write a poem about this. It was only through poetry that his life made sense.

On the way to the table he passed Janet who was on the way back to the service bar with her tray filled with empty glasses and bottles and an empty beer pitcher.

“Oh, I say, Janet, could you bring me and the fellows another pitcher of bock when you get a chance?”

Holding the tray in the upraised palm of her left hand she took the empty pitcher by its handle, and Hector stared in disbelief as she reared back and walloped him on the side of his jaw with it. The pitcher was very sturdy, and it didn’t break, but Hector went down, landing on his lean backside.

“Wow,” said Howard Paul Studebaker, the western poet, “you fellers see that?”

“Got him good,” said Frank X Fagen, the nature poet.

“The boy said something wrong,” said Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, the Negro poet.

“Glad it wasn’t me,” said Scaramanga, the leftist poet.

“Lover’s spat,” said Seamas, the Irish poet.

Hector sat there in the sawdust, rubbing his jaw, watching Janet stride over to the service bar. He didn’t know what he had done to deserve such treatment, but somehow he was sure that he did deserve it.

(Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by the one-and-only rhoda penmarq…)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

“Ladies First”

Miss Blotnick opened the door and came in, without knocking, as usual. Someday he would be picking his nose when she did this, and then they would both be sorry. She closed the door and came up to his desk and leaned over.

“It’s that dame again.”

“What dame?” said Philip, although he was pretty sure he knew already.

“The one from the mountains.”



“Well, please show her in, Miss Blotnick.”

She looked at him as if she were about to say something, but then she turned around and went out, and half a minute later she showed Edna in. Philip had already come around from behind his desk.

“I guess you want I should shut the door, Mr. Philip,” said Miss Blotnick, seeming to imply that she would prefer not to.

“Yes, please, Miss Blotnick, you may shut the door.”

Edna was wearing a wet raincoat, and she carried a furled black umbrella.

“You still haven’t decorated.”

“No,” said Philip, “but I’m thinking about it.”

“You busy?”

“In general, or right now?”


“Not really. I was reading a book, actually, and hoping no clients would come in.”

“What are you reading?”

The Naked and the Dead?”

“Sounds hilarious.”

“Heh heh.”

“Have you had lunch?”


“Let’s go to Ma’s Diner.”


Outside in the reception area Philip told Miss Blotnick he was going to lunch, and he took his topcoat and hat off the tree.

“It’s raining, you know,” said Miss Blotnick. “You can borrow my umbrella if you want, Mr. Philip.”

Her flowered umbrella stood in the cheap vase he had bought in Chinatown for an umbrella stand.

“Um,” said Philip, looking at the red and white and purple umbrella, because he still had some pride left.

“You can share my umbrella, Philip,” said Edna.

He put on his hat and coat, and they went out into the rain and started down the block toward Ma’s. Philip held the umbrella, and Edna slid her very slender raincoated arm into his. It occurred to Philip that in all the months they had known each other this was the closest they had ever come to touching each other’s flesh.

When they got to Ma’s Diner, Edna said, “Let’s cross the street. I want to show you something.”

They crossed at the corner, there was Morgenstern’s cobbler shop (“Shoes Re Souled While U Wait”), and Edna led him to the entrance of the tenement building next door. She opened her purse and took out a set of keys.

She unlocked the door, led him into the foyer.

“You can close up the umbrella.”

“What’s going on?”

“You’ll see.”

She led him into the hall and up the stairs. The building smelled old, of tobacco and soap. The stairs with their grooved rubber runners were worn, but they were clean. On the second floor Edna led Philip halfway down the hall, and she used her keys to open a door on the right.

“Come on in.”

He went in, and she closed the door behind him.

“What’s this, Edna?”

“It’s my new apartment. What do you think?”

It was what they called a shotgun flat, with a tub in the kitchen. It looked freshly painted, and the floor was waxed. At the far end must be the bedroom.

“I haven’t decorated yet either. But what do you think?”

“I don’t know what to think.”

“Don’t you love the tub right there next to the icebox?”

“Yeah, it’s a nice touch.”

“Put down that umbrella somewhere and take off your hat and coat.”

“What about lunch?”

“Lunch can wait.”

She was right.

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