Thursday, December 30, 2021

“New Year’s Eve, 1944, Fayetteville, North Carolina”

 Gerry decided to resign himself to Addison’s intrusion on his tête-à-tête with Araminta.

The sad fact was that Addison was simply impregnable to hints, and he had solidified his position by shoving himself up against the bar in the very narrow space between where Gerry and Araminta sat on their bar stools.

“My friends,” said Addison, “I truly feel that this coming year will be the year of great change – yes, momentous change – at least for myself. My novel proceeds apace, thank you very much, and, as soon as it is published, then, at last, at long last, I shall take my place at the table of the great feast of life.”

“So you think your book’s going to be a big success?” said Araminta, quite deadpan.

“Yes, Araminta,” said Addison, “I do. Oh, perhaps not a top bestseller, but most certainly a succès d’estime.

“A critics’ choice,” posited Araminta.

“Precisely,” said Addison. “I should not be surprised if next year Sixguns to El Paso makes all the most respected end-of-the-year top-ten lists. But.”

“But?” said Araminta, while Gerry said nothing, for the very good reason that he was paying not the least bit of attention to a word Addison said.

“But – I don’t want either of you to think that I shall forget my old friends,” said Addison.

“I would never think that,” said Araminta.

“And, perhaps,” said Addison, “perhaps I say, I just might find an opportunity to drop a word or two to my publisher regarding the both of you.”

“You have a publisher?” asked Araminta.

“Oh, no, not as yet; after all, I’ve only finished two hundred and eighty-four pages of what I envision as a work of possibly two or even three thousand typed pages. But as soon as I finish it I’ll drop it off at a suitable house – I have my eye on Smythe & Son – and I’m sure it will be accepted at once.”

“I have no doubt,” said Araminta.

“Yes, and so I just might be able to put in a good word for your novel, Araminta, and also, possibly, even for your little volume of philosophical observations, Gerry. Gerry?”


“I said I might put in a good word for your book with my publisher.”

“You have a publisher?”

“No, as I was just saying to Araminta, I don’t have a publisher quite as yet per se, but when I do I’ll see if I can get them to consider your and Araminta’s books.”

“Oh, thanks,” said Gerry. “I don’t know about Araminta’s novel, but I’m sure my book will need all the help it can get.”

“Yes,” said Addison, “sadly the market for books of philosophy is not quite bullish shall we say. But, rest assured, if I can crack open a door for you, and for dear Araminta, I shall.”

“Another round here?” said the bartender, and indeed all of our friends’ glasses were empty.

“Yes, please,” said Gerry, and he somehow wound up paying for another round, Rheingolds and Creams of Kentucky for the two gentlemen, a house red wine and a grappa for Araminta.

“To the encroaching new year,” said Addison, raising his fresh shot. “May this one not be like all its predecessors, fraught with failure, with poverty and humiliation, no, but resounding with triumph both artistic, and, to an acceptable extent, commercial.”

They drank.

Addison sighed.

“And now I must tell you, my friends, something else which I have never told anyone, not even my shrink. This talk of the looming year has dislodged a certain memory from the dark vault where it has lain hidden away for some half-dozen grey and lost years. It is a memory that serves as a coda to the incident I told you of earlier, in the men’s room of that low tavern the Sow’s Belly, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when I was doing my grim wartime service in the parachute factory.” Addison wet his whistle with a slug of Rheingold, and then continued. “It was New Year’s Eve, and of course I was at the bar and well into my cups, attempting and failing quite miserably to drown my sorrows, when who should shove in next to me but that huge sergeant I told you about.”

“The one who buggered you in the men’s room?” said Araminta.

“Well, I suppose ‘dry buggered’ might be the apt phrase, but, yes, the same. And this chap clapped me on the shoulder and I was terrified that he was going to drag me into the lavatory by main force for a vigorous repeat performance. But instead he just said, ‘Happy New Year, pal,’ and he insisted on buying me a drink. ‘Happy New Year.’ He didn’t recognize me, you see. Had no idea it was I whom he had heaved and ground his sodden corporeal host against as I was standing mid-micturition at the urinal only the previous weekend.”

“Did you accept the drink?” asked Araminta.

“Of course I did,” said Addison.  

Araminta had nothing to say to this, or nothing that she chose to say. Gerry also said nothing, but then he had stopped listening again.

The bar around them roared with laughter, shouting and chatter, the jukebox music played, an old tune from the war years, “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B”.

“I recall that we had a pleasant conversation, of sorts,” said Addison. “And then he wished me a Happy New Year once more and staggered off into the drunken crowd. After that I saw him a few more times at the Sow’s Belly, but we never spoke again. And then I stopped seeing him. I suppose his unit shipped out. Oh, how these memories well up in Proustian profusion! But, you see, here’s the thing.”

“What’s the thing?” said Araminta, who was still listening, if not raptly.

“The thing was that for those few minutes of inebriate conversation that the sergeant and I shared that New Year’s Eve –”

“What was his name, this sergeant?” asked Araminta.

“No idea. He never said,” said Addison.

“Okay, go on,” said Araminta.

“For those few brief minutes of drunken fellowship I thought that perhaps I had made a friend.”

“A friend,” said Araminta. “With the man who tried to bugger you while you were urinating.”

“But he was drunk, my dear Araminta. A drunken soldier, far from his home, soon perhaps to be sent to war. We must not be too judgmental.”

“Okay,” said Araminta.

Another old song had come on the jukebox, it was Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, “Fools Rush In”…

“Perhaps,” said Addison, after a pause, “next year, in the new New Year, that sergeant, now a civilian, a bit paunchy now, his hairline receding, perhaps he will idly pick up Sixguns to El Paso in his local bookshop, and, turning it over and seeing the author’s photograph, he will recognize that lonely young fellow he spoke with at the bar of the Sow’s Belly, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that New Year’s Eve of 1944, yes, he will recognize him, and say, ‘Hey, I once spoke with that guy. And, gee, now he’s a famous author. I wonder if he remembers me?’”

Araminta thought this scenario highly unlikely, but she said nothing.

Gerry still wasn’t paying even an iota of attention and so he also said nothing.

And, for a minute at least, even Addison said nothing, dreaming of new years past and to come, as fools rushed in, where wise men never go…

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

Thursday, December 23, 2021

“Smiling Jack’s Christmas Miracle”

 The cold rain had turned to sleet and then the sleet had changed to snow, thick fat snowflakes swirling through the street lamp’s light and whitening the sidewalks and the street, and still Smiling Jack stood under his old umbrella with his satchel of pamphlets. Another hour, and then he could head down to Old St. Pat’s basement and the meeting.

A familiar-looking fellow came walking up Bleecker street.

“Can I offer you a book, buddy?” said Smiling Jack as the man came near.


“A book, my friend, free, gratis and for nothing. Oh, but, wait, don’t you know me?”

“Who are you?”

“They call me Smiling Jack. And you’re Hector, right?”

“That’s right,” said the fellow, a pale young guy wearing a thin topcoat and a fedora.

“You’re a poet.”

“So they say,” said Hector Philips Stone, the doomed romantic poet.

“We had a few conversations at Bob’s Bowery Bar.”

“I think I remember you now,” said Hector.

“We once had a very interesting discussion on the meaninglessness of life.”

“Well, that sounds like me.”

“Maybe you’ve wondered where I’ve been.”

“Uh –”

“I’ve been many places, Hector. I’ve been in jail. I’ve been in Bellevue. I’ve been in the gutter. I’ve been standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, buddy, seriously contemplating jumping off and ending it all.”

“Okay,” said Hector. “Well, uh –”

“But I am in a much better place now, Hector.”

“That’s great, uh, Jack is it?”

“Smiling Jack, that’s me,” said Smiling Jack, smiling.

“Well, look, you take it easy, Smiling Jack,” said Hector.

“I shall indeed, Hector, but before you go, please let me gift you with a book.”

Smiling Jack held out the cheap-looking stapled pamphlet.

“A book,” said Hector.

“A book I’ve written. Oh, I’m sure it’s not as well written as one of your books, Hector, but it comes from the heart. Go on, take it, buddy. For free. Absolutely free, as are all the best things in life.”

“Okay,” said Hector. He took the little booklet and looked at its cover, with its childish drawing of a drunk-looking man leaning against a lamp post and holding a bottle, and in large letters



“I hope you enjoy it,” said Smiling Jack. “And, perhaps, profit from it.”

“Yeah, well, thanks, Smiling Jack,” said Hector.

“Would you like to go get a cup of coffee, Hector?” said Smiling Jack.

“What, now?”

“Sure, why not? We could just go across the street to Ma’s Diner, have a nice cup of joe, a slice of Ma’s delicious warm sweet potato pie –”

“Maybe some other time, Jack.”

“Got to go somewhere?”


“Okay, then, Hector, maybe some other time.”

“Sure,” said Hector. “Thanks again for the book.”

And Hector turned and walked away through the falling snow. Smiling Jack watched as Hector stopped in the glow of the neon sign of Bob’s Bowery Bar. Hector stood there for a moment, thumbing through the pamphlet Jack had given him, and then he casually tossed the little book book away, and it fluttered down into the gutter of the Bowery. Hector opened the door of Bob’s and went inside.

Smiling Jack sighed, and wondered if he should walk over and pick his pamphlet up out of the gutter before it got too wet. But, no, if he walked over there he would be right in front of Bob’s, and he didn’t want to go that close to its entrance, not now.

He stood there and wondered why he bothered. Why did he bother with anything? Why had he written this stupid book and spent all his money getting it printed up? No one cared. No one would read it. No one would be saved. What was the point of anything? Why stay sober? Why even stay alive? Why not just follow Hector into Bob’s, get roaring drunk, and then stumble down to the Brooklyn Bridge and do the job right this time…

“Mr. Jack?”

Smiling Jack turned, and it was Ma, from Ma’s Diner. She had a shawl over her head and she held a large-size Dixie cup.

“Oh, hello, Ma,” said Smiling Jack, just barely managing a smile.

“I been watching you stand out here in the cold rain and now the snow all evening, so I brought you some nice hot cocoa.”

She held out the paper cup, and Smiling Jack took it. The cocoa was topped with whipped cream, and there were even slivers of shaved chocolate laid on top of the cream.

“Why, thank you, Ma.”

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Jack.”

“I – um – I –”

“Don’t stand out here all night. You’ll catch your death,” said Ma, and she turned and crossed Bleecker in the falling swirling  snow, and Smiling Jack watched as she opened the door to her diner with its misted windows and its Christmas decorations and lights.

He didn’t own a pair of gloves, and the cup was warm in his hand. Smiling Jack heaved another sigh, a great sigh, and then he took a sip of the hot cocoa.

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

Thursday, December 16, 2021

“Are You a Drunkard?”

Quickly, like unto the hot wind that blows up through the thirsty canyons of the badlands in August, Buck ducked behind the corner of the Penultimate Chance Saloon as the storm of hot lead buzzed past like a cloud of enraged hornets, and, drawing both his Colts with lightning-speed celerity, he

The little alarm clock to Addison’s right rang and rattled, and he depressed its button, sighing with satisfaction at another day’s good work done.

When Addison had first started his western epic (Sixguns to El Paso) a month or so ago he had worked to no particular schedule or quota, sometimes producing as much as fifty pages in a day, sometimes only a few words, sometimes laboring for several hours, sometimes giving up after a few minutes, but a couple of weeks ago he had hit on the idea of setting his alarm for one hour’s time, and he would cease work on the dot of sixty minutes even if, as today, he were in the midst of a sentence. He left the sheet of paper in his trusty old Olivetti portable (the same machine his grandmother had given him when he went off to his freshman year at Swarthmore), all the better to resume work on the morrow. As usual he had no idea what would happen next in his novel, but he trusted as always to his native genius. Something would come to him, just as something had come to him for the past two hundred and sixty-eight pages.

Addison stubbed out his latest Herbert Tareyton. Now for his reward! A nice cold glass of bock around the corner at Bob’s. His good friend Gerry (“the Brain”) Goldsmith would no doubt be there, and would be glad to hear that Addison continued to make good progress on the book. Maybe Gerry would even buy him a shot of Cream of Kentucky.

The roar of the Third Avenue Elevated resounded through Addison’s tiny apartment, and he looked out the window. Evening was falling, the street lights had come on, and falling rain sparkled through the air of the Bowery.

In a matter of moments Addison had donned his old Burberry trench coat (thanks again to Grandmother, his Swarthmore graduation present, and it still fit him, thanks in large part to his mostly liquid diet), put his hat on his narrow head, grabbed his umbrella, and was out the door and tripping lightly down the four flights to Bleecker Street.

Addison turned left at the entrance of his tenement (oh, how he longed to leave this neighborhood, and he had his eye on Sutton Place just as soon as he got his advance on his novel) and headed briskly through the rain to the nearby corner of the Bowery, when who should he see standing there but that fellow Smiling Jack, standing there smiling under his own dripping umbrella.

“Hello, Addison! Fancy meeting you here!”

“Smiling Jack, what are you doing standing here on the corner in this pissing rain?”

“I’m handing out pamphlets, buddy.”

“Pamphlets? What sort of pamphlets?”

“Oh, just a little something I wrote.”

Smiling Jack had a leather satchel hanging from a strap across his chest, and he reached under its flap with his free hand and bought out a slim little stapled booklet.

“Here, buddy, got one just for you, entirely free, gratis and for nothing.”

Addison took the little book of pulp paper, and tilting his umbrella to let in some of the corner street lamp’s light, he read the title on the cover:




Under the title and byline was a crude drawing of a man leaning sloppily against a lamp post and holding a bottle.

“Go ahead,” said Smiling Jack, smiling, “open it up, buddy!”

Addison opened the booklet and read:


Do you wake up hungover every day?

Do you commonly drink till you vomit, and then just keep drinking?

Do you wake up in the drunk tank at least once a month?

Does everyone hate you unless they are drunks too?

Do you hate yourself and your whole miserable life?

Do you wish you were dead, and often entertain thoughts of suicide?

And then do you just take another drink?

Well, friend, guess what, you are a drunk!

However, there is hope for you…  

Addison looked up.

“You wrote this, Jack?”

“Yeah, what do you think? Is my grammar okay? You’re a writer, so please be honest.”

“Uh, yes, I’ve only read the first several sentences, but so far I should say your grammar is unimpeachable, Jack.”

“Keep reading!”

“Well, tell you what, Jack, since it’s raining, and cold, let me save this, and I shall read it just as soon as I get indoors.”

“Oh, okay,” said Smiling Jack. “Where are you headed?”

“Well, I was just popping over to Bob’s, actually.”

“Bob’s Bowery Bar?”


“To drink?”

“Well, yes, you see I just finished my day’s work, and –”

“Addison, you can’t go in there.”

“Why not?”

“Weren’t you listening at the meeting, Addison? People, places, things! Places. Places like bars. Where they serve alcohol.”

“Yes, well, that’s what bars do, isn’t it?”

“But, Addison, you must be strong! Come with me, we’ll have a cup of coffee in Ma’s Diner, and then we’ll head over to Old St. Pat’s basement for a meeting.”

“But I want a bock.”

“You can’t have a bock, Addison.”

“What, not even one?”

“No, not even one, Addison! It’s a slippery slope.”

“But –”

“Addison, you must fight the urge!”

“But I might not have any more than a couple, maybe three, or –”

“No, no, my friend! Come with me for some coffee and pie, and then we’ll head down to the meeting.”

“I’m really not in the mood for a coffee right now.”

“We’ll have some pie.”

“I’m afraid I don’t much care for pie unless I’m having coffee.”

“We’ll take a walk then.”

“In the rain?”

“Why not? New York is beautiful in the rain!”

“But what about your pamphlets?”

“We can distribute them as we walk. You can help me.”

Damn Smiling Jack! There was Bob’s just a scant dozen paces away, and yet it might as well be across the Atlantic Ocean.

“Tell you what, Jack,” said Addison, “you’re right. I don’t really need a bock.”

“It’s the last thing you need, buddy. Take it from one what knows. One what destroyed his life.”

“Yeah, okay,” said Addison. “Y’know, I think I’ll just take a walk instead.”

“Let me walk with you, buddy.”

“No, if you don’t mind, Jack, I think I need to be alone for a while.”

“To think.”

“Yes,” said Addison.

“To examine yourself and your conscience. To take stock and moral inventory.”


“You do that, Addison. And take my advice: eight o’clock tonight, Old St. Pat’s basement. A meeting. I’ll be there, and I hope you will too.”

“I’ll try to make it.”

“Please try.”

“I will. Try that is. But I might just take a really long walk.”

“In the rain.”


“It’s cold though. You might want to head to Old St. Pat’s after a while just to get in out of the cold and wet.”

“I well might, Jack. Good luck with your pamphlets.”

“Thank you. And I hope you’ll read your pamphlet.”

“I will, Jack. I look forward to it.”

“Let me know if the grammar and the spelling are okay.”

“Absolutely. See you later, Jack.”

“See you, Addison. Eight o’clock. Old St. Patrick’s basement.”

“Right,” said Addison.

He turned and headed back down Bleecker, slipping the pamphlet into the pocket of his trench coat. He didn’t dare to turn until he reached the corner of Lafayette, and when he did he saw the dark squat figure of Smiling Jack, still standing under his umbrella down there on the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery. Addison kept walking for another half-dozen blocks or so until he reached a sign heralding the “San Remo Café”. He had never been in the place before, he never went anywhere except for Bob’s Bowery Bar, but presumably they served alcoholic beverages here, even if they wouldn’t be the delicious basement-brewed bocks over at Bob’s, so Addison closed up his umbrella and went in through the open door to the smoky crowded room full of happy drinking revelers…

“And that,” said Addison, glancing from Araminta to Gerry, “is how I came to be here. And who should I find but you two lovely people?”

Back at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery, Smiling Jack still stood in the rain under his dripping old umbrella, a booklet in his hand.

A small scruffy fellow carrying an even more ancient and tattered umbrella came across Bleecker Street. He wore an old grey overcoat, with a cloth cap and thick eyeglasses, and he had a cigar in his mouth.

“Care to take a pamphlet, friend?” said Smiling Jack, smiling. “It just might save your life.”

“Sure, buddy,” said the little man. “Thanks.”

He took the pamphlet, shoved it in the pocket of his coat, and headed on to the neon-lit entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar.

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

Thursday, December 9, 2021

“That Much Maligned Word”

 “Well?” said Addison.

“Okay,” said Gerry, giving in, giving up, “I’ll have a Cream of Kentucky too, I suppose.”

“Splendid,” said Addison. “What about you, lovely Araminta?”

Araminta addressed the bartender.

“Do you have grappa, sir?”

“Sure,” said the bartender.

“I’ll have one of those then.”

Very occasionally the real world did obtrude upon Addison’s consciousness, and as he was looking down to see if there was a convenient hook on the side of the bar to hang his umbrella, he noticed Araminta’s hand on Gerry’s thigh.

“Oh,” he said. “Oh.”

Gerry and Araminta had turned away, and so they could not see the expression of astonishment on Addison’s face.

“Oh, dear,” he said. “Gerry. Araminta.”

Addison was still standing just slightly in back of and between where Gerry and Araminta sat on their bar stools, and now they both turned to look at him again.

“I did not know,” said Addison.

“What didn’t you know?” said Araminta. She kept her hand on Gerry’s thigh, and even made a kneading movement with her fingers, like a cat.

“I did not know that you two, how shall I put it, that you had become –”


“Yes,” said Addison.

“Well, now you know,” she said.

“Gerard,” said Addison, “may I proffer my heartiest congratulations?”

Gerry hated to lie or to dissimulate either by commission or omission, even though just a couple of nights before he had spent a dozen increasingly drunken hours not telling Addison how supremely untalented and unbearably boring the man was, and now he reached down and removed Araminta’s hand from his thigh, which was not easy, she really was amazingly strong, whereas Gerry’s upper-body strength had deteriorated drastically since his days on the Harvard rowing team well over two decades ago. Her delicate red-nailed fingers continued to make grasping motions even as he lifted them away.

“Okay, listen, Addison,” said Gerry, trying to force Araminta’s resisting hand onto her own lap, “Araminta and I are merely friends.”

“Oh, ho,” said Addison. “’Friends.’ Yes. Friends indeed. May I only say, dear Gerry, ‘Well done, sir!’ And to you, my dear Araminta, may I congratulate you on your discerning, and dare I say unusual taste?”

“You may,” said Araminta.

“I am sure that one so young and beautiful as yourself could have your pick of callow young muscular bucks, and yet you have chosen to bestow your affections on an obscure middle-aged littérateur, fond of his tipple, and, yes, much like myself, a remittance man of the old school.”

“Hey, that’s just the kind of gal I am,” said Araminta.

“Okay, look,” said Gerry, “for the last time –”

“Oh ho, Gerry old friend,” said Addison, “I fear your protestations are all to naught, but I admire your gentlemanly discretion. Ah! Our drinks. You did have this shout didn’t you, pal?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Gerry, and for the bartender’s benefit he tapped the little pile of dollar bills and coins in front of him on the bar. “Out of here, sir.”

The man took a couple of singles and a quarter, and Addison reached down and picked up one of the Cream of Kentucky shots the barman had laid down.

“Let us drink, my friends,” he said. “Go on, raise your glasses, you two lovebirds.”

Obediently Gerry lifted the other shot glass of bourbon, and Araminta raised her thin little glass of grappa.

“I should like us,” said Addison, “to drink to – yes, you will pardon the word I hope – to that much maligned and absurdly overused word. To love.”

Gerry and Araminta brought their glasses to their lips, but Addison raised his left hand in which he held the hooked handle of his inverted furled umbrella.

“No, not yet, friends, I’m not quite finished. Let us drink as I say, to ‘love’, but – as artists and intellectuals, and as philosophers – let us drink also to those who have always been denied love. I won’t mention names, although perhaps one such is among us now. But perhaps even he someday will find what you two lucky people have found. And so let us drink not only to love present but to love in the future tense.”

“Can we drink our drinks now?” said Araminta.

“Ha ha,” said Addison, “yes, let us drink.”

They drank, Addison and Gerry downing their shots in one go, Araminta taking a modest sip of her grappa.

“Someday,” said Addison, laying down his shot glass, “someday I too hope to know the joys of romantic love, or, failing that, at least those more physical joys which human beings can bestow upon one another through the frottage of their corporeal selves, the insertion and receiving of bodily organs one into another.”

He lifted his bottle of Rheingold.

“Are you saying that you are a virgin, Addison?” said Araminta.

Addison paused the lifting of his bottle in mid air.

“Define ‘virgin’.”

“Have you ever put what the Irish writer Samuel Beckett termed your ‘so-called virile member’ into the private parts of a lady.”

“A lady.”


“In that narrow sense, then no.”

“What about less narrow senses?”

Addison seemed suddenly to realize that he still held his umbrella in his left hand, and he now secured its handle to the  cunning cast-iron hook he had noticed on the side paneling of the bar. He then looked at Araminta, and then at Gerry.

“I am going to tell you two something I have never told anyone, except for a certain so-called ‘analyst’, who was an unhelpful idiot.” He paused, gazing at the label of his bottle of Rheingold, and then continued. “Once, this was during the war, when I was working in the parachute factory –”

“You worked in a parachute factory?” asked Araminta.

“Yes, you see I really wanted to join the OSS, but unfortunately I have flat feet and knock knees and was also diagnosed with a spurious case of psychological deficiency.”

“Psychological deficiency in what sense, Addison?”

“Well, if you must know, the army shrink considered me a latent homosexual.”

“May I ask why?”

“He asked me if I had any interests, and I said I was very much obsessed at the time with French Symbolist poetry.”


“This doctor was another hopeless philistine. But at any rate, I was rejected, and so my ‘war service’ was spent in this dreadful parachute factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Anyway, the other fellows at the plant commonly went to a certain inexpensive bawdy house on payday night, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go. The thought of spilling my seed into a French letter inserted into the vaginal orifice of some illiterate country bumpkin of a girl who had serviced hundreds of other factory workers and soldiers gave me the horrors. And so instead I would spend the bulk of my pay at an utterly Hobarthian low tavern called, not ironically, the Sow’s Belly. And it was there one typically inebriate night that a huge drunken sergeant came up behind me while I stood at the urinal, and he, well, let’s just say he forced himself against me while I was in mid-micturition, and –”

“Oh, my God,” said Araminta. “You mean you were raped?”

“Well, not perhaps precisely so. You see, penetration was not achieved, but I did accrue a most disgusting stain on the back leg of my work dungarees.”

“You poor thing!”

“Yes, it was quite – disturbing. But so you see, the question of whether I am a virgin or not is perhaps moot.”


Addison had been so lost in his recounting of this incident that he had forgotten his beer, and now he took a good long gulp.

“But do you want to know what the most humiliating part of the whole experience was?” he said.

“The stain on your dungarees?”

“No, the most humiliating part was what this army sergeant said after his brief moment of passion had spent itself.”

“What was that?”

“’Thanks, buddy,’ he said. ‘Thanks. I needed that.’ That was the most humiliating part of it.”

“’Thanks,’” said Addison. “Oh, well, at least I can say that I have, if not known love qua love, that I have indeed afforded some comfort to one of our brave fighting men. This I think is not nothing.”

“No,” said Araminta. “It’s not nothing.”

Gerry for his part said nothing.

What was there to say?

Everything and nothing.

But, for the moment, he chose nothing.

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

Thursday, December 2, 2021

"The Second of the Day"

They each picked up their fresh drinks, another house red wine for Araminta and another bottle of Rheingold for Gerry (no glass, because one could never be sure of the hygienic rigor of unknown bartenders), and they drank, a sip for Araminta, but a gulp for Gerry, who then sighed deeply as the jukebox music and the chatter and laughter of men and women swelled and eddied all about them.

“Y’know,” said Gerry, completely forgetting that he and Araminta had that afternoon polished off a nearly full bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, “the time-honored cliché is that the first drink of the day is the best, but a lifetime of dedicated bibulation has convinced me that the second drink is the superior.”

“Do tell?” said Araminta, not that she really cared, but because she enjoyed listening to Gerry’s blather.

“You see, at least for me,” elaborated Gerry, “the first drink of the day is one that must be steadfastly - dare I say dutifully - got through as the ‘first drink’ qua ‘first drink’, a necessary step but one whose very exigency makes it hard for the serious drinker to relax and appreciate it.”

“You slay me, Gerry.”

“Yes, it’s only when we move on to the second drink that we can slow down and savor the glories of the quaff of our choice, without the hurry and the anxiety of getting outside of that ‘first one of the day’.”

“This sort of well-articulated and profound insight,” said Araminta, “is why you are familiarly known as ‘the Brain’ among our fellow habitués over at Bob’s Bowery Bar.”

“Ah, thank you, Araminta, but still, as much as I love Bob’s, we must bear in mind that it’s no great feat to appear intelligent there.”

“You, as usual, have a point, mon cher Gérard.”

“I suspect that were I to find myself among a convocation of genuinely intelligent and deeply-read scholars I should be quite content to keep my little aperçus well to myself.”

“Ha ha.”

“Oh, no.”

“What’s the matter?”

Gerry put his hand over the right side of his face.

“Don’t turn, but you’ll never believe who just came in the door.”

Of course Araminta turned her beautiful head to look down the crowded bar and toward the entrance, and there, shaking out an umbrella, was none other than Addison, “Addison the Wit”, whose name was not really Addison and who was not a wit.

“Don’t look!” blurted Gerry.

Araminta turned to face Gerry.

“I already have looked,” she said. “What’s that ass Addison doing here?”

“How should I know? Remember, I’m only called ‘the Brain’, and that doesn’t mean I am The Brain. What should we do?”

“What can we do? He’s bound to see us.”

“Perhaps if we both went to the lavatories?”

“We can’t hide in the WCs all evening, Gerry.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. But, look, here’s the plan. We each go to our respective gender’s rest room, and we wait exactly five minutes just so Addison can get settled and order a drink and start boring some poor stranger to death, and then, after the five minutes have elapsed, we both quickly come out and head straight for the exit and meet up outside and go somewhere else. Let’s synchronize our watches.”

“You’re mad.”

“But you don’t understand, the other night I had to spend hours with him, pretending I’d read and admired his awful epic western novel-in-progress –”

“Ha ha, western epic?”

“Yes, I only read a few scattered sentences, but it was as if Virginia Woolf and Zane Grey had given birth to a retarded child and the child decided to write the worst novel ever written.”

“Oh, I love it!”

“He latched onto me for an entire afternoon and evening, only picking up one round out of four, pumping me for praise as I wept invisible tears of blood, silently screaming with ennui, and the experience was so excruciating that I got as drunk as I’ve ever gotten in my life, and, believe me, Araminta, that’s saying something.”

“You are so droll, Gerry.”

“I may be droll, but I am quite serious, you don’t know how unbelievably tedious that man is, how completely lacking in self-knowledge and even the slightest trace of a sense of humor, how unbearable in every way –”

“Ha ha.”

“And do you want to know the most pathetic thing?”

“Of course I do.”

“The most appalling thing?”


“It’s that he considers me his best friend, and indeed I suspect that I am his only friend.”

“Oh, dear, that is pathetic,” said Araminta. “What a drip!”

“Drip is not the word,” said Gerry. “How about the most insufferable, most deluded, most pompous, most arrogant and yet self-pitying –”

“I say, Gerry!” said the all-too-familiar voice. “And the lovely Araminta!”

They both turned, and there was Addison, wet, bedraggled, but obviously ready for action.

“Oh, hi, Addison,” said Gerry.

“And what, may I ask, are you two doing way over here in the faux-bohemian depths of the Village?”

“We might ask the same of you, Addison,” said Araminta.

“Yes, well you might, and for the price of a drink I will tell you.”

“I don’t have any money on me right now,” said Araminta.

“What do you say, Gerry?” said Addison. “I promise I’ll get the next round, because I just cashed a check from my grandmother.”

“Well, Addison,” said Gerry, “I’ll buy you a drink, gladly, but in fact Araminta and I were just about to leave as soon as we finish these drinks.”

“About to leave? Where to?”

“We were going to a movie,” said Araminta.

“What movie?”

“What was it called again?”

“That’s what I’m asking you.”

“Gerry,” said Araminta, “what was that film you wanted to see?”

“Oh, the film,” said Gerry, “yes, and, oh, my –” Gerry glanced at his old Hamilton wristwatch, his Great Aunt Edna’s Andover graduation present, currently stopped from not being wound, but Addison didn’t have to know that – “speaking of which, we’d better get a move on.”

“Yes,” said Addison, “but what is the film?”

“It’s, uh, you know –” said Gerry, “um, what’s it called –”

“Where’s it playing?” persisted Addison.

“The Waverly!” cried Araminta. She had gone to films there, and it was in the Village.

“Oh, the Waverly,” said Addison. “You must mean that dreary Somerset Maugham movie.”

“Yes, that’s the one,” said Gerry.

“I’ve seen it, and and it’s not all that good actually.”

“Oh?” said Gerry.

“Yes, I find Maugham so – I hate to use the term – middlebrow.”

“But I so was in the mood for a movie,” said Araminta.

“If you want to see a movie, you know what you should see? You should see this Audie Murphy movie called Ride a Dead Horse. I thought it was simply marvelous. Buy me that libation, Gerry, and I’ll tell you all about it, and I’ll also explain why I am in here and not at our humble but much revered ‘local’, Bob’s eponymous Bowery Bar.”

“But I really wanted to see that movie,” said Araminta.

“Dreary English people sipping tea and eating crumpets and hiding their true feelings? My dear, that is not cinema. It is simply slightly animated glossy women’s magazine prose. No, if you want true cinema you must turn to the American western, but most assuredly not the overrated oeuvres of Ford or Hawks or God forbid Zinneman, but those forged by auteurs whose names none but the true aficionado knows, like William Witney, Wallace Grissell, Lesley Selander, George Archainbaud, or, my personal favorite, Larry Winchester. As a simple rule of thumb I should suggest any film starring Audie Murphy or Tim Holt, although Rod Cameron is not bad. Ah, yes, bartender, I would like what my friend Gerry here is drinking, a Rheingold, and, say, is anyone else in the mood for something a bit stiffer just to cut the damp? I for one would adore a Cream of Kentucky bourbon.”

Gerry felt a hand grasping his thigh, and, looking down, saw it was Araminta’s, its grip surprisingly strong for an appendage so seemingly delicate. This was the first time that Araminta had ever touched him more than glancingly, and her doing so did wonders to ameliorate the dreadfulness of the situation. The universe gave, and it took away, and sometimes it gave again in these few brief hours before it took it all away forever.


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