Thursday, May 19, 2022

“Mrs. Milford and Son”

“Who was that on the telephone, dear?

“No one.”

“It was obviously not no one.”

“Can’t I get a telephone call?”

“Of course you can. But.”

“But what, Mother?”

“But for the life of me I can’t remember you ever getting a telephone call before.”

“I’ve gotten telephone calls.”

“Oh, have you, then it must have been when I was out of the house.”

“Yes, it probably was.”

“So who were you speaking with?”

“A friend. Okay?”

“Don’t use that vulgar word. Say all right instead.”

“It was a friend, all right?”

“That’s much better. And this ‘friend’, does he have a name?’

“Of course he does.”

“And may I ask what it is.”


“Addison what?”

“I don’t know! Why are you grilling me? What is this, a Gestapo interrogation? Where are the rubber hoses? Where are the telephone books?”

“I’m delighted to hear you have a friend. What does he do? If anything.”

“He is – a novelist.”

“A novelist? How charmingly bohemian. Where did you meet him?”

“At a meeting.”


“Where else would I meet someone?”

“Another drunkard.”

“We don’t say drunkard, Mother, we say alcoholic.”

“Another hopeless sot. Just like your father.”

“Excuse me, Mother. I must dress.”
“Oh dear me, and it’s only quarter to two. Are you sure you don’t need more rest, dear?”

“I am quite well rested, thank you very much.”

“Where are you going?”

“Who said I’m going anywhere?”

“You’re getting dressed, aren’t you? If you were not going somewhere you would stay in your pajamas all the livelong day and night, wouldn’t you?”

“I’m going to lunch if you must know.”

“With this, what, Atcheson?”
“Addison, and, yes, I am having lunch with Addison.”

“Where are you lunching.”

“At the automat on Bedford, over by the St Crispian.”

“Don’t go there. You shouldn’t eat that food. And besides, what will your friend Harrison think?”

“I think he will be perfectly delighted to lunch at the automat, especially since I shall be paying for it.”

“Don’t be such a tightwad, Marion. Take him someplace nice. Even the dining room at the St Crispian would be better than the automat.”

“You’ve eaten at that automat. I know you have because I’ve eaten there with you.”

“I have eaten a restorative slice of orange layer cake at the automat, yes, after a grueling day of taking you shopping, because I simply couldn’t stand the further ordeal of speaking to a waiter or waitress, but that’s different. If you’re giving a friend lunch, you do not take him to the automat.”

“Oh, God!”

“Here, take this ten-dollar bill, and take this fellow Murchison to the Prince Hal Room at the St Crispian. Order the sole meunière, or the finnan haddie. Be a man, for once in your wretched life!”

“Oh, all right!”

“You may keep the change, and don’t forget, a fifteen percent tip, no more, no less.”

“Thank you.”

“Here, better take another five, because you really should order a nice bottle of wine for your friend.”

“Mother, we are both alcoholics!”

“A half-bottle each of a nice Sancerre is not going to kill you, Marion.”

“I’ll take the extra five, but only so we can have a nice dessert.”

“The Baked Alaska is very good there.”

“Fine, I’ll order the Baked Alaska.”

At last Milford escaped his mother and went up to his room. What should he wear? The Hemingwayesque ribbed turtleneck again? Yes, damn it, and the newsboy’s cap as well, along with the sturdy workman’s dungarees, and his Abercrombie Wellingtons on account of the rain and snow. And the peacoat. She would no doubt have words to say about his attire, why didn’t he wear his nice grey suit. Well, too bad for her! He was a poet, damn it, and a poet should dress the part.

He looked at his face in the pier glass. He had not shaved since yesterday morning. Should he? No! Let her say what she would, the harridan. He was the man of the house, even if she did hold the purse strings.

However, just to be on the safe side, and to avoid trouble, when he got downstairs he hurried right through the hall to the foyer, without even saying goodbye to her. He was sorry, but she forced him to be rude!

He had gone halfway down the block before he realized he’d forgotten his umbrella, and so he turned and retraced his steps through the cold slashing rain and the mountains of grey snow. It was all Mother’s fault!

{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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