Thursday, July 8, 2021

“Bon Mot”

Gerry Goldsmith (known as “the Brain” to his fellow habitués at Bob’s Bowery Bar) at last began to feel human again.

Addison had made good on his offer to buy Gerry a bock (just a stubby eight-ounce glass, God forbid not the imperial pint, but this was Addison after all, well-known for paying for his drinks with exact change), which Gerry had downed in three good gulps, and by the time the third gulp had entered his alimentary canal he could palpably feel his hangover fading into the past, along with all the ten thousand hangovers that had preceded it.

“How was that bock?” said Addison, who sat on the stool to Gerry’s left.

“As good as the first one I ever had,” said Gerry. “And now may I buy you one, Addison?”

“You don’t have to,” said Addison.

“I realize that, Addison, but please allow me.”

“But, dear Gerry, if you buy me one, then won’t it negate the moral significance of my having bought you one?”

“I don’t see why,” said Gerry.

“But I wanted to, how shall I put it, to express in a remunerative manner my appreciation for your having read my modest work-in-progress.”

Gerry sighed. Nothing was easy with Addison, but what could Gerry do? Alas, he was stuck with the fellow. It wasn’t as if Gerry could tell Addison outright that Addison was a crashing bore, and please to let him alone. The poor guy couldn’t help being a pathetic drip.

“It was my pleasure to read your novel,” lied Gerry, on at least two levels, as he had not read more than a hundred words of Addison’s novel, nor had he derived the slightest pleasure from reading them.

“You don’t know what that means to me, Gerry,” said Addison. “But, look, I still wanted to show my gratitude in some way beyond mere words –”

“Buy him a shot then, and shut up about it,” said Angie the retired whore, who was sitting on the stool on the other side of Addison.

“A shot?” said Addison.

“Yeah,” said Angie. “Get him a shot. And not that cheap shit either. Get him a Cream of Kentucky.”

“Well,” said Addison, “I suppose I could –”

“That’s okay, Addison,” said Gerry. “You don’t have to buy me a shot.”

“Get the Brain a goddam shot of Cream of Kentucky, Addison,” said Angie. “I been listening to you two, and if he really read your novel –”

“In progress, dear Angie,” said Addison. “Novel in progress. I still have much work to do on it.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do,” said Angie. “I’m sure you do.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you think I mean?”

“I’m not quite sure.”

“Look, just buy the Brain a shot of Cream of Kentucky. He read your crappy novel, and he deserves a reward.”

“You don’t know that my novel is crappy,” said Addison.

“I know you,” said Angie, “and I know you’re the most boring guy I’ve ever met, and I’ve met some doozies in my time.”

Meanwhile Gerry caught Bob’s eye, and pointed to his empty glass.

“You’re not very nice, Angie,” said Addison, the best he could come up with after a brief pause.

“But you got to admit it’s true, Addison,” said Gilbey the Geek, who was sitting on the stool to Gerry’s right. “I ain’t too smart, but even I know you’re a boring guy.”

Bob came over, picked up Gerry’s empty glass, and headed to the taps.

“I feel as if I am being assailed from all sides,” said Addison.

“It’s okay,” said Gerry. “They’re just kidding.”

“I ain’t kidding,” said Angie.

“Yeah, me neither,” said Gilbey.

“Drink your bock, Addison,” said Gerry.

Addison had only had a few sips of his own bock, but now he lifted the glass and drank it to the dregs.

“Feel better now?” asked Gerry.

“Marginally,” said Addison.

Bob came back with Gerry’s refreshed glass of bock.

“Let me get Addison one too, Bob,” said Gerry.

“But,” said Addison.

“But nothing,” said Gerry. “Oh, and you know what, Bob?” Gerry dragged out his old wallet, a present from his grandmother upon his successful graduation with gentleman’s Cs from Harvard so many years ago, when he was young and full of illusions, some of which he still harbored. “Get Angie and Gilbey what they’re drinking, too.”

“Hey, thanks, Brain,” said Gilbey.

“Yeah, thanks, Brain,” said Angie.

Addison was silent. Maybe he should learn to be silent more often? Maybe then people would not abuse him as a bore, a twit, a drip. But still he felt the urge, that primeval urge to be witty. Perhaps after another bock he would think of an incisive bon mot

{Please 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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