Thursday, September 30, 2021

“One More Lucky for the Road”

 They came out of Ma’s Diner and stood there on the sidewalk.

“One more Lucky for the road, Addison?”

“Sure, thank you, Jack.”

Smiling Jack lighted them up with his Zippo.

“You said you live right across the street?”

“Yes, right in that building there,” said Addison, gesturing with his cigarette at the tenement building next to the shop with the sign reading


“Looks like a nice place.”

“It’s okay,” said Addison. “I expect I’ll be moving just as soon as I get an advance on my novel.”

“An advance? Is that what publishers do, give you an advance?”

“Yes, I believe that is the custom.”

“And do you have a publisher?”

“No, not at present, but then I haven’t submitted it anywhere as yet. You see, I still have quite a bit of work left to do on the book. I have I think two-hundred and seventy-nine pages in first draft, but in fact I envision the completed work to be a volume of roughly a thousand printed pages, perhaps more.”

“A thousand pages! Gee, I would have trouble writing one page.”

“Yes, but you must understand, Jack, it’s not the quantity of pages that matters, but the quality.”

“Yes, of course –”

“At present I am still toiling in the white hot fire of initial creation. Once I have a completed first draft, which might very possibly run to fifteen hundred or even two thousand pages, then I’ll submit it to a good house and see what sort of offer they make me.”

“Well, I don’t know much about it, but that sounds like a good plan.”

“In the meantime, in order to attract some attention in the literary world, I might also send an excerpt off to the New Yorker, as soon as I can isolate a passage which can function as a self-contained piece in and of itself.”

“The New Yorker? That’s a pretty good magazine, isn’t it?”

“It’s all right. Not as good as its reputation, in my not-so-humble opinion.”

“What about the Saturday Evening Post?”

“I’m not absolutely certain if my work would be suitable for the Saturday Evening Post.”

“Well, you would know more about these things than I would, Addison.”

“The thing is, Jack, that my book is quite modernist, even post-modernist, In fact, I shouldn’t be surprised if the critics call it post-post-modernist.”


“Yes, post-post-modernist. What comes after post-modernism? And for that matter, what comes after what comes after post-modernism? It is in this yet-uncharted realm that my work will be found, I think.”

“Gee, so, it really is more than just another western?”

“I should like to think so.”

They stood there smoking.

“Well, I suppose I should be toddling along now,” said Smiling Jack.

“Yes, and thank you so much for the meal, Jack.”

“Oh, my pleasure, Addison. It was sure good, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, excellent.”

“And I didn’t steer you wrong about Ma’s sweet potato pie, did I?”

“Far from it.”

“It’s that fresh-made whipped cream that really makes it great.”

“Oh, I completely agree.”

Yes, Addison had to admit that it had been the best meal he had had in a long time. The best since he had gone home last year for Christmas. But that meal had been paid for out of his soul by having to put up with his family and their endless questions about what he was doing with his life. Also, his mother had overcooked the turkey as usual, and his father had made a blatant point of locking the liquor cabinet after the cocktail hour. Yes, tonight’s meal had been better in every regard.

“So, Addison, will I see you at the meeting tomorrow evening?”

“The meeting?”

“Yes, at Old St. Pat’s basement. Same time.”

“I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“It would be good for you, pal. These early days are the hardest, and, well, the more meetings you can go to, the better.”

“I suppose I might drop by.”

“You could speak again, if you wanted to.”

“You know, I did feel that I had a lot more to say.”

“I’m sure you did, pal. I’m sure you did. But just remember, try to keep it to under twenty minutes, and try to stay on the topic of your illness.”

“My illness?”

“Your alcoholism, pal.”

“Oh, right, yes, of course.”

“It’ll help, buddy. It really will.”

Addison said nothing. Jack was a nice guy, but he could really be a broken record sometimes. And why did he continue to stand here after he said he was going to toddle off?

“Well, good night, Jack.”

“Put ‘er there, pal.”

Jack extended his pudgy hand, and Addison shook it, briefly.

“So,” said Smiling Jack, “tomorrow at Old St. Pat’s then?”

“Maybe,” said Addison. “I’ll have to see how my writing goes.”

“Oh, yes, of course, your writing.”

“If I finish up in time, maybe I’ll come down.”

“I’d love to see you there.” Jack hesitated. Why didn’t he move along? “Well, I guess I’ll be going, then.”

Finally! But, no, still the man didn’t budge.

“You want another Lucky for later, pal?”

At this point anything to get rid of him.

“Sure, Jack. Thanks.”

Addison accepted another Lucky Strike and put it in his shirt pocket. And yet still Smiling Jack made no move to go. He pointed to the building across the street.

“Pretty nice building, huh?”

Addison couldn’t bring himself to answer the question. It was a tenement building in a slum. But it was clean, and it was cheap. Why didn’t Smiling Jack move along? How lonely was this fellow?

“I’m up the Bowery there a block,” said Smiling Jack. “Sunshine Hotel. I used to have a nice apartment, but I lost it, lost it all, lost everything, all because of the booze.”

“That’s too bad.”

“I’ll get it back, pal. One day at a time.”

“Of course. Shall we cross the street?”

“Oh, okay,” said Smiling Jack. “Can’t stand here jabbering all night.”

They went to the corner, and crossed Bleecker Street.

“Well, I head up this way,” said Jack, pointing uptown.

“And I’m this way,” said Addison, pointing to the left.

“Maybe tomorrow?” said Jack.

“If I can,” said Addison.

“One day at a time,” said Smiling Jack, with a big smile.

“Right,” said Addison.

And off Smiling Jack went, up the Bowery.

Addison went left on Bleecker, and he stopped at the cobbler’s shop next to his building. He smoked the last of his cigarette, and tossed the butt into the gutter. Then he retraced his steps back to the corner and poked his head around. Up ahead he could see Jack crossing Bond street, and then entering the Sunshine Hotel.

At last.

Addison turned the corner and walked quickly to the nearby entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar.

Just one or two bocks, maybe three, and then an early night.

Tomorrow it would be back to work on his book…

{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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