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…}

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