Thursday, June 17, 2021

“À demain, cher Gérard”

 There was nothing to be done for it, thought Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith, nothing but to finish his imperial pint of bock and leave.

Damn Addison! Look at him there, guzzling his own imperial pint. And, since Bob had given them and Gilbey this round on the house, Addison was undoubtedly hoping that Gerry would buy him another imperial, shameless moocher that he was.

All a man wanted was to work on his book of philosophical observations (was Pensées for a Rainy Day really a good title? what about Thoughts Like Falling Leaves?) and then go down to his corner bar and get half a load on, or even a full load, what the hell, it was a free country. But, oh, no, thanks to Addison, this simple desire was not to be satisfied, and all because Gerry had told Addison that he would read his bad work-in-progress novel tonight, all two hundred and forty-eight pages of it, damn him!

Gerry put down the big glass. It was empty.

“Well, I suppose I’d better be going,” he said, with exactly the same tone as a man speaking to a priest before heading down the cell block corridor to the room where they kept the electric chair.

“Yes,” said Addison, who also lowered his big glass, empty. “You’ve still got a lot of reading to do, old chum.”

“Yeah,” said Gerry.

“The Brain don’t want to read it,” said Gilbey, whose own small glass was now also empty.

“I think, Gilbey,” said Addison, “that my good friend Gerry –”

“You mean the Brain?” said Gilbey.

“Yes,” said Addison, “I think that my good friend ‘the Brain’ as you call him, is quite capable of saying for himself whether he wants to read my work-in-progress or not. Right, Gerry?”

“Um,” said Gerry.

“See?” said Gilbey. “You put him on the spot. But he don’t want to read your whaddyacallit –”


“Yeah, he don’t want to read that,” said Gilbey. “He wants to sit on that stool there and get his load on, just like he does every night. Look at him.”

Addison looked at Gerry. Gerry produced a weak, perhaps a slightly hopeful smile, the tentative half smile of the condemned man who thinks that word might yet come down from the governor granting a last-minute reprieve, or at least a stay of execution.

“Well?” said Addison.

“Yes?” said Gerry.

“Tell him,” said Addison, “tell Gilbey that you gladly agreed to read my work-in-progress tonight, as a favor, from one literary chap to another.”

Gerry sighed.

“Yes,” he said. “I agreed to read your work-uh-in-progress tonight.’

Of course Gerry had no intention of reading the damn thing tonight, or ever. At best he would skim through a few more passages, just enough to fake having read it. This method had gotten him a degree from Harvard, hadn’t it?

“And, Gerry, may I say something?” said Addison. He struck a match and lighted up a Philip Morris.

“Yes?” said Gerry, wishing he could say no.

Addison exhaled a great cloud of smoke before speaking. One of these days he would offer a Philip Morris to someone else, but it wouldn’t be today.

“I know,” he said, “that two hundred and forty-eight pages might seem a bit much for one night’s reading, but bear in mind these are double-spaced typed pages.”

“That’s true.”

“So it’s not like reading two hundred and forty-eight printed pages.”

“No –”

“And, not to blow my own horn, but I think, old man, that you’ll find that the pages will simply fly by, like, like –”

“Like the wild geese in the west?”

“Precisely, like the wild geese in the west,” said Addison. “In fact, I shouldn’t be surprised if you’ll find that before you know it you’ll have reached page two-hundred and forty-eight, and you’ll say, ‘Hey, is this all? Give me more!’”

“Yeah, maybe so,” said Gerry.

“What do you mean, ‘Maybe?’”

“I mean, yes, I’m sure,” said Gerry.

“I don’t think so,” said Gilbey.

“Gilbey, will you please stay out of it?” said Addison. “What do you know about literature? What’s the last novel you read?”

Stopover in Singapore, by Horace P. Sternwall.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a good one, Addison. You could learn a lot from Horace P. Sternwall.”

“All right,” said Gerry, “I’m going.”

He got up off his stool, his comfortable bar stool.

“I eagerly await your verdict tomorrow,” said Addison.

“Yeah, sure,” said Gerry.

“Don’t forget to make a list of any errata or typographical errors.”

“Okay,” said Gerry, “I’ll do that.”

“You still have two dollars on the bar there,” said Addison.

“Yeah,” said Gerry. “Ask Bob to give you both another imperial pint, and he can keep the change.”

“Well, that’s most generous of you,” said Addison.

“Thanks, Brain,” said Gilbey. “I’m gonna really enjoy that imperial pint.”

“You’re welcome, Gilbey,” said Gerry. “See you, Addison.”

“I’ll be by first thing tomorrow to pick up my pages.”

“Well, maybe not first thing –”

“So you’re not an early riser?”

“Far from it.”

“Shall we say around noonish then?”
“Can you make it a bit later in the day?”

“How much later?”

“Well, uh –”

“Oh, how self-involved of me. I forgot that quite likely you’ll be up rather late voraciously devouring my book.”

“Uh, yeah –”

“Even though as I said I think you’ll find it is quite the page-turner.”


“But you’ll probably want to reread certain particularly felicitous sections.”


“Sometimes, as with certain pages of Proust, the author’s true meaning does not begin to emerge until one has read it at least three or four times. Or more.”

“Right,” said Gerry, screaming silently.

“Fine,” said Addison. “Let’s say then shall we that I’ll come over around four-ish. You should be well-rested by then, and perhaps we can adjourn to the bar here, to discuss the work.”

“Yeah, great, sounds good, Addison.”

“It does, doesn’t it?”

So there you had it. The man was insane, and had no idea just how boring he was, and how hopelessly untalented, and how horrible his book was. And yet, who was to say that Gerry’s own book wasn’t just as bad? How deluded was he himself? Didn’t we all need our little delusions and our major delusions just to get us out of bed each day?

The bar was full now, with the regular after-work crowd, and the crowd of regulars who didn’t work and never would work if they had any say in the matter. Over there were the poets at their usual table: Seamas and Lucius, Frank and Howard and Hector – they would never ask a friend to stay home from the bar to read one of their books, they had more consideration and class than that. How Gerry wished he could join those good fellows for a few hours or more of drunken badinage, but no, this was not to be.

“Well, see you Addison,” said Gerry.

“À demain, cher Gérard,” said Addison.

“See ya, Brain,” said Gilbey.

“Yeah, see ya, Gilbey,” said Gerry.

“I feel sorry for ya,” said Gilbey.

“What do you mean?” said Addison.

“’Cause he’s gotta read your work-in-whaddyacallit.”

Gerry didn’t stay to listen to any more of this, but headed for the door and went out into the hot late-afternoon dirty June sunlight. He turned right, and started walking down the Bowery. He needed to get out of the immediate neighborhood, out of Addison’s usual area of operations, and he kept walking until he got to Houston Street and saw the sign for a bar called Henry’s Horseplayers Bar. He had never been in the place before, but it would do. It would have to do.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

“Imperial Pint”

 Addison came right up to where Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith sat on his stool.

“Hello, Gerry.”

“Hi, uh, Addison.”

“Hey, Addison,” said Gilbey, still standing there, and he tugged on Addison’s sleeve.


“I seen the Devil.”


“Here’s your bock, Gilbey,” said Bob, and he laid a glass down in front of Gilbey.

“Thanks, Bob,” said Gilbey, and he picked up the glass and drank half of it down. “What was I sayin’?” he said.

“Does it matter?” said Addison.

“Prolly not, Addison, prolly not. Oh, yeah, now I remember. I seen the Devil.”

“Oh really?” said Addison.

“Yeah. It was something, Addison.”

“Oh, I’m sure it was,” said Addison.

“Um, how about a bock, Addison?” said Gerry.

“You mean you’re offering to buy me one?”


Addison took pause. Gerry had only ever bought him a drink once, as far as he could recall. But then, to be fair, that was one more drink than Addison had ever bought Gerry.

“Why, thank you, Gerry,” said Addison. “Yes, I don’t mind if I do.”

Bob was still standing there, watching the show, so Gerry said, “Let me get Addison a glass of bock, too, Bob.”

“Is that an imperial pint you’re drinking there?” said Addison.

“Yes, it is,” said Gerry. “Would you like one?”

“Doesn’t the bock get flat when you drink it out of such a large receptacle?”

“Not if you drink it fast enough,” said Gerry, “but if you would prefer just a glass –”

“I think I should like to try one of those imperial pints,” said Addison.

“Make it an imperial pint, please, Bob,” said Gerry.

“Yeah. Sure,” said Bob, and he went down to the taps.

“Thanks, Gerry,” said Addison.

“You’re welcome, Addison.”

“I suppose you’re just taking a brief break from reading my book?”

Gerry had been gulping his bock, but now he lowered the big glass.

“Um, yes,” he said. “Just a brief break, before, you know –”

“You go back and finish it.”

“Yes, precisely – just wanted to wet my whistle a bit, you know –”

“Yes, of course,” said Addison. “Because I really would like it back by tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, you said –”

“You see I really must continue the work while the flow of inspiration yet gushes from the hidden wellsprings of the imagination. Heh heh. And in fact the book is so complex, so multi-layered, that I need continually to check back over the completed pages, just to make absolutely sure there are no errors of continuity.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.”

“For instance, you know Buck?”


“My protagonist, Buck Baxter.”

“Oh, right,” said Gerry. “Buck Baxter.”

“Imagine my dismay when I suddenly discovered that from page 97 to page 198, I was calling him Chuck Thaxter.”

“Chuck Thaxter?”

“Yes, I was calling Buck Baxter Chuck Thaxter.”

“Why were you doing that?”

“Because I forgot what his name was. And that’s why I always have to have my completed pages at hand when I’m writing new pages. Also, consider my consternation when I established that he had blond hair, and then next thing you know I mentioned his ‘raven black’ hair.”

“Heh heh.”

“It wouldn’t be so funny if I hadn’t caught the error.”
“Well, that’s true,” said Gerry.

“So if you find any of these sorts of errata, please let me know.”


“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mark up the typescript, but perhaps you might keep a separate notebook where you could write down any of the more blatant errors.”

“Uh, yeah, sure, Addison.”

Bob was standing there again, and now he put down the imperial pint of bock he had been holding.

“Here’s your imperial, Addison,” said Bob.

“Oh. Thank you,” said Addison, and he took the big 20-ounce glass in both his hands and raised it to his lips.

Gerry quickly pulled a dollar bill out of his trousers and laid it on top of the other dollar he had lying on the bar.

“Let me get this straight,” said Bob. “Addison is writing a book, and the Brain here is reading it?”

“Yes,” said Gerry. “I told Addison I would, you know, give it a read –”

“Is this that critical study Addison was supposed to be writing?”

“Um, no,” said Gerry.

“In point of fact, Bob,” said Addison, “I have set aside for the nonce my study of trends in 20th century literary criticism, and I am now writing a novel.”

Addison had drunk about one third of the free imperial pint, and now he put the glass on the bar.

“You’re writing a novel,” said Bob.

“Yes,” said Addison. “It’s an epic novel of the old west.”

“You’re writing a western novel?”

“Yes. But I prefer to think of it not so much as a ‘western novel’ per se, but rather shall we say a sweeping epic in the Homeric tradition – a prose epic, but an epic nonetheless.”


“And I just wanted Gerry to let me know if he thinks I’m on the right path with the book.”

“Okay,” said Bob, after just a slight pause. “Sure.”  

And then he started to turn away.

“Oh, wait, Bob,” said Gerry, and he held up the two dollar bills. “I’ve got this round.”

Bob looked at him over his shoulder.

“That’s okay, Brain. That round’s on the house.”

And he walked away.

“That was odd,” said Addison. “Why did Bob give us a round?”
“I know why,” said Gilbey.

“You do?” said Addison. “Why?”

“On account of he feels sorry for the Brain on account of –”

“Hey,” said Gerry, interrupting, and he raised his imperial pint glass. “Let’s drink up, fellas.”

“It’s on account of –” said Gilbey.

“Drink up, Gilbey,” said Gerry, “and I’ll buy you one of these imperial pints.”

“Oh, boy,” said Gilbey, and he quickly finished off his glass of bock. “I ain’t never had one of them imperial pints before.”

Addison suspected he knew what Gilbey was about to say, but Gilbey was an idiot. What did Gilbey know? The fellow had probably never read a novel in his life. Addison raised his big glass and drank deeply. Maybe, since Bob had given them this round, maybe Gerry would offer to buy him another imperial pint.

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

Thursday, June 3, 2021

“The Devil Came to the Lower East Side”

Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith stood inside his door and listened to Addison’s footsteps recede down the hallway and fade away down the stairs.

Damn Addison!

There, he had said it, or, if not exactly said it, then thought it, and quite loudly and forcefully too, if one could be said to think loudly and forcefully.

Damn him!

Gerry was by nature the mildest of men, but all he could think was: Damn Addison, damn that tedious, pretentious, pathetic, completely humorless and self-absorbed son-of-a-bitch bastard.

Damn Addison, damn his eyes, and damn all he stood for!

And with that last silent imprecation, Gerry felt slightly better. He was a philosopher after all, and one did have to make an attempt to rise up above life’s minor annoyances. Life’s major annoyances were another matter, but, really, how bad was it after all that Addison had asked him to read the two-hundred and forty-eight pages of the “overture” of his novel-in-progress, in one night, when all Gerry wanted out of life at the moment was to go down to the bar like a gentleman and get his nightly half-a-load on?

Gerry went over to his writing table and looked down at that thick stack of typescript lying there next to the much less thick sheaf of his own work-in-progress.

He picked up the first page.


A Novel of the Old West

So that was Addison’s real name? Funny, Addison must have told Gerry his actual name a couple of years ago, when they first met at Bob’s Bowery Bar, but that was right around the time when that movie All About Eve was popular, and so everyone started to call the fellow Addison the Wit, after “Addison DeWitt”, the character played so memorably in that film by George Sanders, and not because the guy was witty like Addison DeWitt, but because he was constantly trying to be witty, and constantly failing, abysmally. So, okay, the ass had a real name, but to Gerry and to everyone else in the crowd he was and always would be “Addison the Wit”, the witless wit, the crown prince of bores.

Oh, well, how horrible could this thing be?

Gerry looked at the first sentence. It was partially obscured by a coffee stain, but still legible.

“’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…”

Oh, God, no.

Two hundred and what? Two-hundred and forty-eight pages of this drivel?

No. Just no.


He put the page down, flipped the stack of pages over at roughly the halfway point, and picked up another sheet of typescript.

“…the tumbling chaotic dreams of childhood, the memories of those harsh schoolmasters with their pointers used more for the reddening of tender boyish bottoms than for their supposed purpose of pointing to Latin declensions on the blackboard…”

Okay, so that was enough of that, and kudos to Addison for putting a childhood flashback into his western epic.

Gerry put the page back, turned the second half of the stack over onto the first half and picked up the final page.

“…had he learnt, in the burning churning of his soul, in the dark watches of his schoolboy nights, in the throbbing of his seed-heavy young appendage? That one day he would travel West, away from these cruel and oppressive schoolmasters and their thrashing sticks and probing ink-stained fingers…”

Good God, two-hundred and forty-eight pages in, and he was still in the schoolboy flashback? Addison was not only a bore and completely untalented, no, he was also quite mad.

Well, Gerry had had quite enough. He’d read bits of the beginning, the middle, and the end, which of course was not the end, because knowing Addison this book would probably clock in at no less than two thousand pages, which was probably only the first installment of a ten-volume roman fleuve…

He put the sheet down, grabbed his suit coat and his hat, and went out the door.

A few minutes later Gerry was pushing open the door of Bob’s Bowery Bar. It was not quite four-thirty, and so there were still a few bar seats open, and he went over and took one, over on the right near the men’s room.

“The usual, Brain?”

“Make it an imperial pint, Bob. I’ve got a thirst today.”

Bob went to draw the imperial, and someone touched Gerry’s left arm. It was that retarded guy, or maybe he wasn’t retarded, the one they called Gilbey the Geek.

“Hey, Brain, I seen the Devil.”


“I seen the Devil. I seen God the other week, but last night I seen the Devil.”

“No kidding, Gilbey? Where’d you see him?”

“In my room, just like how I seen God. Except God was like this shimmering light, but the Devil was like this black hole.”

“A black hole?”

“Yeah, he was like this black hole in the ceiling.”

“Wow. That must have been scary.”

“It was. I felt like I was gonna fall into it, even though I know you can’t fall upwards, but that’s what it felt like.”

“So what did you do?”

“I just laid there and tried to press my body against my mattress so I wouldn’t float up into the black hole, and after a while the hole closed up again.”

“Thank God for that, Gilbey. Thank you, Bob.” Bob had laid down Gerry’s imperial pint. Gerry tapped the dollar he had put on the bar. “And get Gilbey whatever he’s drinking too.”

“I’ll just take a glass of bock,” said Gilbey.

“Coming up,” said Bob.

“Thanks, Brain,” said Gilbey.

“You’re welcome, Gilbey,” said Gerry, and then he said, “Oh, no.”

“What’s the matter, Brain?”

“Oh, Christ.”

“What is it, Brain? Now you look like you seen the Devil.”

“No, not the Devil, Gilbey.”

It was Addison, and he was approaching from the other end of the bar, and with a very serious expression on his face.

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