Thursday, October 13, 2022

“A Handsome Woman”

“Another thing Tommy Eliot told me, ‘Farmer,’ he said to me – ‘cause he called me Farmer, just like I asked him to, just like I called him Tommy, just two straight shootin’ midwestern lads in the big city – ‘Farmer,’ he says, ‘the plain and honest truth is that the vast majority of humanity are dullards, and the one thousandth of one percent of humanity who are not dullards are as annoying as all hell.’ I thought that rather a harsh assessment myself.”

“That’s because you are a dullard yourself,” said Milford.

“Yes, it’s true,” said Farmer Brown, apparently unfazed. “But, you see, Milberg, I have accepted my humble lot in life, and, in truth, I love humanity.” He turned to Addison. “What think you, Rafelson?”

“I’m sorry, what?” said Addison.

“Would you agree with T.S. Eliot (or Tommy as I called him) that the preponderance of humanity are dullards, and that the remaining percentage who are not dullards are annoying?”

“An intriguing question,” said Addison, “and, speaking as one who has been accused, alternately, of being boring and annoying my entire life, yes, I would be inclined to agree with Mr. Eliot. However –”

And here Addison paused, as he so rarely did while discoursing.

“Yes?” prompted Farmer Brown.

“However,” said Addison, “the exception to this rule is a beautiful woman with whom one is in love.”

“Ah, a very good point, sir,” said Farmer Brown. “And, yes, I know it may be hard to believe to look at me now, but even I was once in love!”

“Only once?” said Addison.

“Yes,” said the Farmer, “only the once, but how intensely that once! The object of my amour was a certain Miss Charlton, whom I met in this very bar some quarter of a century ago. She was young and beautiful – and rich, which didn’t hurt, I’ll tell you. Alas, I never told her of my infatuation.”

“Too bad,” said Addison.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Farmer Brown. “You see, by never pursuing my infatuation, even had I been successful, I never had to face the inevitable deterioration of my adoration, and of its object. There she is, by the way, sitting at that table over there right now.”

The Farmer pointed with his soft pudgy finger, and Addison looked and saw, halfway across the room, a thin, drawn, bejeweled and quite drunk-looking old woman sitting with a fattish and also quite drunk-looking old man at a table with a bottle of champagne in a silvery ice bucket. Even through the thick and barely stirring clouds of tobacco smoke in this place Addison could see that the faces of both creatures were so thickly powdered and painted that they looked like life-sized Punch and Judy puppets, and barely more animated.

“That’s her?” said Addison.

“Yes, it is she,” said Farmer Brown.

Addison was almost about to mutter “Good God” but he caught himself.

“A not entirely unhandsome woman still at the age of fifty, isn’t she?” said Farmer Brown.

“Yes,” said Addison, looking away from the wasted crone and her bloated companion. “A handsome woman indeed.”

Milford had been listening to none of this. He was thinking only of Shirley De LaSalle, the young and beautiful chanteuse Shirley De LaSalle. Who now emerged from a door off to the left of the stage, and who was now walking toward the bar, toward Milford, and, oh, would she talk to him? 

{Kindly 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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