Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Ode to Joy"

“All right, tough guy,” said Bubbles, “it’s been fun, and thanks for the spaghetti dinner and drinks, but I need my beauty sleep.”

“Oh, but it’s early yet,” said Addison.

“Early for you, maybe, but I have better things to do than sitting in bars until the wee hours. Like sleeping. And, look, I know you’re not exactly John D. Rockefeller, so I’ll take care of Joe’s tip.”

“Gee, but that’s not necessary, Bubbles.”

“Yes, it is, because this joint is one of my regular hangs, and I like to take care of my bartenders, because they take care of me.”

“Well, only if you insist,” said Addison, and he of course did not insist. “But may I walk you home?”

“Sure, just don’t get any ideas.”

“Oh, heaven forfend!”

“You really slay me, daddy-o. Where’d you say you come from? Pittsburgh?”

“Philadelphia, actually.”

“Are they all like you down there?”

“I doubt that very much, Bubbles.”

“Ha ha. Now help me on with my wrap.”

Outside the snow still fell, thick fat flakes falling through the light of the corner street lamp, tinged with the orange red glow of the San Remo’s neon sign. Addison opened his umbrella, Bubbles took his arm, and they trudged along the white-blanketed sidewalk down Bleecker Street. When they got to Bubbles’s building Addison held the umbrella over her while she dug her key out of her red purse that matched her red pillbox hat.

“Bubbles,” said Addison, “I don’t mean to be forward.”

“Now what is it?”

“But I wonder if I might stop up for a cup of coffee?”


“Hot cocoa?”

“What is it with you and cups of coffee and cocoa? I already told you I am not a Horn & Hardart’s.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Besides, I am a civilized girl, and when I want coffee or cocoa I go out to a coffee shop like a civilized person.”

“Would you like to go to a coffee shop?”

“Lookit, buddy, I hate to repeat myself, but I need my sleep. If I don’t get my good ten hours I can’t even show my face to the world.”

“I think you have a lovely face.”

“And it won’t stay lovely if I don’t get my required quota of shut-eye.”

“I wonder – oh, no, I’d better not say it.”

“Say what?”

“You’ll think me frightfully importunate.”

“Out with it.”

“Um –”

“You’ve been talking nonstop all night, and now you’re at a loss for words?”

“I feel somewhat constrained by social custom.”

“You’re not gonna ask to borrow some dough, are you?”

“God forbid!”

“Well, that’s a relief. So what is it, because I’m cold and want to crawl into the sack.”

“I wonder if I might have a kiss?”

“A kiss?”

“Yes. Just a small one.”

“A small kiss.”

“Yes. If it’s not asking too much. You see, well, you may not believe this, but, dash it all, why should I stand on pride? You see, I have never been kissed by a woman before.”

“You’ve never been kissed.”

“Well, I suppose when I was a lad I was kissed once or twice by my grandmother.”

“Christ, Addison, you really are a weirdo.”

“Yes, I am well aware of that.”

“And that’s all you want, a kiss?”

“I know it’s more than I deserve.”

“Nobody deserves anything. Pucker up.”

Addison had seen many movies, and so he puckered up. Bubbles gave him a quick peck on the lips, then she drew her face back.

“Happy now?”

“Oh, ecstatic,” said Addison, without irony.

Bubbles looked at him for a moment, with his shining puppy dog eyes. She had been holding her door key this whole time, and now she put it into the door’s lock, turned it, opened the door.

“I wonder if I might see you again?” said Addison.

She turned.

“What do you mean?”

“When I get my next envelope from home, I wonder if we could, oh, I don’t know, meet for drinks.”


“Yes, and, even, if you were hungry, perhaps I could take you to dinner again. We could have spaghetti at the San Remo again, or, if you would like to try something different I know an excellent place across the street from where I live called Ma’s Diner, she has some superb daily specials –”



“You want to take me to dinner.” 
“Yes. Only because I feel there’s so much more we could talk about.”

Bubbles paused for a moment, holding the door knob.

“How’s your memory?”

“Like a steel trap.”

She rattled off a phone number, a SPring-7 exchange. Addison repeated it.

“You got it?”

“Emblazoned permanently on the inner wall of my egg-like skull.”

“Don’t call me earlier than noon, ‘cause like I said, I like my beauty sleep.”

“Oh, yes, of course –”

“Swell. Nighty night then.”

“Oh, wait!”


“I said I would give you any money I had left over.” Addison reached under his coat and brought out his old Boy Scout wallet. “Look,” he said. “I have, uh, three dollars left.”

“Keep it.”


“I said keep it. I’m not gonna take your last three bucks.”

“You won’t?”

“No, I won’t. Well, good night, hard guy.”

“Wait, Bubbles.”


“If you won’t take the three dollars gratis I wonder if I could give them to you in exchange for another, you know, what you did earlier?”

“Another Billie Burke?”

“I thought it was called a Baltimore handshake?”

“Yeah, they call it that, too.”

“Yes. One of those.”

“Aren’t you the frisky puppy?”

“Just a quick one, and I promise I’ll leave posthaste afterwards so you can get your beauty sleep.”

“You are really too much, pal.”

“Yes, I am aware. I have always been too much. Too much, and too little.”

“Tell you what, Addison, if I wasn’t tired and dying to dive into the rack I’d maybe take you up on your offer. Who knows, maybe I’d even let you have a tug on the house.”

“Gosh, Bubbles, I wouldn’t dream of imposing on you in that way.”

“Hey, I do what I want to do. But, look, save your three bucks, because I’m gonna hit the hay.”

“Yes, of course,” said Addison.

She went inside, and as she was closing the door she said, “Remember, no phone calls before noon.”

“I’ll remember!” said Addison.

The door closed, and after standing there for half a minute Addison went down the stoop and headed off through the falling snow back to the San Remo. He still had three whole dollars to spend!

And as he walked he repeated Bubbles’s phone number over and over again, aloud, “SPring-7, SPring-7, SPring-7 –” to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”…

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq.}

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