Thursday, July 15, 2021

“The Only One”

It was midway in the drinking of his third glass of Bob’s excellent basement-brewed house bock that Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith realized that he was getting terrifically hungry. What was it, past two in the afternoon? Come to think of it, all he had eaten last night when he tied that load on at Henry’s Horseplayers Bar was a small bowl or two of pretzels, and if memory served he hadn’t had a proper meal since yesterday’s lunch at Ma’s Diner, the chicken-fried steak special, with cornpone and stewed greens. Yum…

Addison was talking of course. The man was always talking. Some people lived to drink, some lived to eat, some lived for their art, and then there were people like Addison, who lived to talk.

“Don’t you find that’s true, Gerry?”

What? What was true? Gerry had no idea, but he was a past master in dealing with guys like Addison, and so of course he said, “Yes, of course.”

“You really think so, Gerry?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“I’m so glad to hear that. Because, really, is there any rule that a western novel cannot deal with questions of the artistic impulse?”

Oh, okay, so Addison was back on the subject of his awful novel-in-progress, or, more likely, he had never got off the subject.

“Yeah, sure, Addison. I mean, why not?”

“Or that a western novel cannot deal with – you should pardon the expression – sexuality?”


“Yes. As in the passage when Buck remembers his introduction to the mysteries of sex in his prep school.”

“Right, right,” said Gerry, although of course he hadn’t read the passage Addison had referred to. No, a dozen or so lines in toto skimmed from the beginning, the middle and the end of that thick sheaf of drivel had been all Gerry had managed, and more than he had wanted to manage.

“You don’t think that part was too, what’s the word, explicit?”

“Not at all.”

“I tried to couch the explicitness in poetic prose.”

“Quite successfully, I think.”

“No one wants to read, say, ‘Otto shoved his pulsing penis into Buck’s anus.’”

“God forbid.”

“Which is why I settled on ‘Otto shoved his pulsing jackhammer into Buck’s cavity of defecation.”


“The thing is, I believe, and I may be wrong, but I believe that one should leave something to the reader’s imagination. Don’t you agree?”

“Oh, entirely. Hey, look, Addison, I’m having a splendid time sitting here talking about your novel, but here’s the thing: I haven’t really eaten in over twenty-four hours and I’m rather starving, so I think I might just toddle over to Ma’s and get a bite of lunch –”

“But there’s nothing to drink at Ma’s. I mean nothing with alcohol in it.”

“That’s true, but –”

“I mean, if you really want to go over to Ma’s Diner, I’ll go with you –”

Damn, thought Gerry, there was just no escaping this twit today.

“But why not just eat here?”

“Yes, I suppose I could –”

“Then you can both eat and drink. While we talk.”

Gerry sighed. If he couldn’t escape Addison, then he would have to drink, that was for sure.

“Okay,” said Gerry. “Good idea, Addison.”

Today was Tuesday, two-for-one hot dogs day, so Gerry and Addison both ordered two dogs, with sauerkraut for Gerry, and melted American cheese for Addison. Gerry wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but he wound up paying for both orders, as well as for another bock each.

Gerry ate his first hot dog in approximately three seconds, and after a good gulp of bock he picked up the second wiener.

“So, Gerry,” said Addison, chewing away, “Speaking of sexuality. Have you, in the words of my old colleagues in the parachute factory, been getting any?”

Gerry had just been about to take his first bite of the dog, but now he halted.

“Pardon me?”

“Getting any,” said Addison. “Are you getting any these days? Or nights, ha ha. Getting any. Sex, I mean.”

Gerry put the hot dog back down on his plate. And he had had such a good appetite a second ago.

“Um,” he said.

“Oh, come on, old man,” said Addison. “No need to be coy with me. I am a fellow bohemian after all!”

Gerry looked at his hot dog. Then he looked at Addison. Should he tell him that he had never gotten any, and, the way his life was going, and had been going, and would doubtless continue to go, it was extremely unlikely he ever would get any?


Gerry was a philosopher, but even he had his limits to self-abasement.

“Well, the thing is, Addison, a gentleman never tells.”

“Ah ha, I knew it!” said Addison.

“Pardon me?”

Addison had just stuck his second hot dog into his mouth, and he pushed it in, chewing and swallowing until it was quite gone before speaking.

“Ah, that was good,” he said, and he scooped up a handful of potato chips. “I said I knew it.”

“You knew it?”

“I knew you were getting some.”

“Oh?” And Gerry knew he should let it go, but the devil made him ask, “How did you know?”

“Because,” said Addison, “– by the way, don’t you want that hot dog?”

“Well, you can have it if you want it, but I thought you didn’t like sauerkraut.”

“It is very true that I prefer my hot dogs with melted American cheese, but in a pinch I’ll take one with sauerkraut.”

“Help yourself.”

Addison grabbed the hot dog from Gerry’s plate and took a good bite.

“Mmm, good,” he said.

“I’m glad,” said Gerry. He picked up a potato chip. Was there nutrition in a potato chip?

“I knew you were getting some,” said Addison, chewing. “And how, you wonder, could I tell?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.”

“Because, dear chap, of the way that Ma spoke about you today when I told her I was buying you a coffee and a doughnut.”

“Ma? From Ma’s Diner?”

“Don’t play the choirboy, Gerry. As I say, I too am a bohemian. And who am I to judge you if you like a bit of brown sugar?”

“You mean me and Ma?”

“That’s exactly what I mean. Oh, ho.”

He had devoured Gerry’s hot dog with sauerkraut. He looked down at his plate, empty but for a few crumbs.

“Don’t you want your potato chips, Gerry?”

“Help yourself,” said Gerry, again.

Addison pushed away his empty plate, picked up Gerry’s plate and put it in front of himself.

“Salty,” he said. “Like Ma, eh, old man?”

“Um,” said Gerry.

Addison scooped up all the chips on the plate and stuffed them into his mouth. If there was one good thing about Addison eating, it was that it slowed down his talking slightly.

Addison finished swallowing the chips, lifted his glass of bock, and drank.

Gerry lifted his own glass and drank. He was still hungry. He would order two more hot dogs with sauerkraut, and maybe Addison would let him eat at least one of them.

“Someday I’m going to get some,” said Addison.

“Pardon me?” said Gerry.

“Someday,” said Addison. “After my book gets published. Then I’ll get some. Don’t you think?”

“Oh, sure,” said Gerry.

He was thinking about Ma, from over at the Diner. Her kind eyes. The way she called him “Mister Gerry”. Could it be possible? No, even if it were possible, Ma deserved better. A philosopher should know his limitations.

“You’re not going to be the only one who’s getting some, old boy,” said Addison.


“You won’t be the only one.”

“Oh, yes,” said Gerry. “That would be nice. I wouldn’t want to be the only one.”

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

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