Thursday, March 17, 2022

“For a Good Time Call Bubbles”

Addison deposited his nickel in the hallway phone outside his tiny fourth floor walk-up, dialed the number and waited. On the wall around the phone were scrawled various telephone numbers and names and cryptic admonitions, such as “for a good time call trixie”. After ten rings came a click – and her voice, that inimitable voice:

“Who the fuck is this and why are you waking me up.”

“Oh, hello, Bubbles! It is I.”

“Who is I?”

“I am he whom men, and, yes, women, call ‘Addison’ – not, as I think I mentioned last night, that that is either my actual Christian or family name, but, alas, for good or ill, or all that’s in between, it is the shall we say nom de guerre by which I am known to nearly all mankind but for my blood relations, among which latter cohort my pet sobriquet is – embarrassingly enough –”

“Just shut up a minute. Who is this again?”



“From last night.”

“Last night?”

“Yes, we met at the San Remo Café, remember?”

Addison felt a trickle of cold sweat oozing down his back. Had he dreamt it all?

“Oh,” she said, after half a minute’s agonizing pause. “You.”

“Yes, dear Bubbles, ‘tis I!”

“What the hell are you doing calling me so early? What time is it, anyway?”

“It’s half past noon, on the dot, or at least it was when I dialed your number. You see you asked me not to call you before noon, and so I thought it might be wise to give you an extra thirty minutes, because, because –”

“Because why.”

“You said last night you needed your good ten hours at least. Your beauty sleep –”

“And just why are you calling me and waking me up out of a sound sleep?”

“Well, it just so happened that the postman brought me an envelope today, and in that envelope was a Hallmark birthday card and, better yet, a twenty-dollar bill, from my beloved old Aunt Edna.”

“Your who?”

“My Aunt Edna. You see she is quite devoted to me, God knows why, ha ha, but she has the most charming habit of sending me birthday cards two and sometimes three times a year, and always with a twenty dollar bill, well, sometimes only ten, but who am I to complain?”

“It’s your birthday?”

“Oh, no, my birthday is not until October, but you see my Aunt Edna, actually great aunt if we’re being precise, but to the point she is ninety-one and has difficulty remembering birthdays, and so –”

“So your great aunt sent you twenty bucks for your birthday even though your birthday is not till October.”

“What was that funny sound?”

“I just lit a cigarette. If I’m going to listen to your life story, Amberson, I’m gonna have to have a Philip Morris, I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all! But by the way, it’s Addison, not Amberson, ha ha.”

“Okay, whatever, Magnificent Amberson, now what did you wake me up for?”

“Well, I wondered, since I’m now rolling in funds, heh heh, if perhaps you would like to join me for a spot of lunch.”

“A spot of lunch? I’m still in bed, buddy.”

“Call it brunch then.”


“Yes, that ever so civilized amalgam of the first two meals of the day, but with more of an emphasis on lingering at the table, while chatting of this and that, of world affairs, of the arts, of hopes, dreams, even schemes –”

“Amberson, I’ve got two questions for you. First, are you out of your mind, and, second, are you sure you’re not a raging fairy?”

“Ha ha, my dear lady, surely our little encounter last night answered your second question.”


“The, uh, I think you so cleverly called it a Baltimore handshake.”

“Oh, right, it’s all coming back to me now. Okay, maybe you’re not a fairy, although you sure talk like one, but what about my first question. Are you some kind of a nut?”

“Define ‘nut’.”

“It’s a yes or no question, Amberson. Are you out of your mind.”

“Yes,” said Addison.

“Okay, good to know, and goodbye, and don’t call me again.”

“I am out of my mind over you, Bubbles.”

Addison felt a fresh trickle of cold sweat oozing down his spine.

“Bubbles,” he said. “Are you still there? I hope I didn’t speak out of turn. But you see I really am extremely fond of you.”

Silence, except for the faint and possibly imagined gentle sound of exhaled Philip Morris smoke.

“You’re fond of me,” she said at last.

“Very much so,” said Addison.

Another pause, and was that the sound of a Philip Morris Commander ash being tapped into an ashtray?

“You remember where the San Remo is?” she said into the silence.

“Oh, vividly,” said Addison.

“I’ll meet you there in an hour. They have a good lunch there. You like Italian food?”

“I adore Italian cuisine.”

“Swell. I’ll meet you there in an hour.”

“I’ll get there early and make sure we have a good table.”

“Whatever. I’ll be there in an hour.”


“If I’m a little late, wait for me.”

“I shall wait until the cows come home!”

“You won’t have to wait that long. Later, Amberson.”

She hung up, the dial tone came on, and Addison returned the receiver to the hook.

An hour!

One hour to ecstasy. How would he ever fill the hour? He decided to go across the street to Ma’s Diner. He would have a cup or two of Ma’s chicory coffee, and perhaps he would meet someone he knew, or make the acquaintance of someone he didn’t know. He would converse with this person, and then, glancing at his watch, he would say, “Oh, please excuse me, but I really must run. I have a brunch date, you see, with a delightful young lady.”

And it would be true. He actually had a brunch date with a delightful young lady, and this world, which had seemed rather frightful all his previous life up until last night, this world was now full of possibilities for joy.  

{Kindly 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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