Tuesday, December 27, 2022

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Addison"

Addison floated out of the Prince Hal Room and into the lobby of the hotel, past the cushioned arm chairs and sofas and settees on which sat various old people, past a rubber tree and a bird of paradise plant, and on to the entrance, where the enormous doorman was ready, opening the door with a slight bow.

“I trust you had an enjoyable evening, sir.”

“Um, yes, quite, actually.”

“I’m glad you have your umbrella. Because, as you see, it has begun to snow again.”

“Oh,” said Addison, looking out at the street, at the snow falling heavily through the light of a street lamp. “Damn.”

“If you like, sir, I could summon the next passing free cab while you wait in the warmth of the lobby.”

“A cab?”

“Yes, sir.”

Addison rarely if ever took cabs, in fact he wouldn’t even pay for a bus or the subway if he could help it. It wasn’t so much that he was cheap, as that he hardly ever had very much money. It was true, thanks to Farmer Brown’s largesse, he still had the two bucks and change he had walked in here with, but he was loath to spend any of it on such a wild extravagance as a cab – not when it could be spent on more important things like beer and cigarettes. And, also, yes, he was cheap, and so…

“No, thank you, you know, there’s nothing like a good bracing walk through a snowstorm –”

“I hope you have gloves, sir.”


“Yes, gloves, to protect your hands from the cold.”

“Oh, well, I used to have gloves, but, you know how it is, I left them somewhere –”

“I know precisely how that is, sir. And, if I may be so bold, I daresay judging by your general demeanor and somewhat carefree mode of dress that you are an intellectual, perhaps even what one may call a bohemian.”

“Oh, well, I suppose one might –”

“Where I come from, sir, such men as yourself are held in high regard, because it is such as you who further and celebrate and create the deepest beauties of mankind.”

“Wow, well, I’m not sure where you come from, but I’m afraid that’s not quite the case here in the good old U.S. of A.”

“No, sir, alas it is not. This country is a great one for liberty, but for the nurturing of artistic and philosophical souls – eh bien, perhaps it is not for me, a humble immigrant to say.”

“Well, gee, I don’t know,” said Addison, “it seems to me your opinion is as worthwhile as the next fellow’s –”

“Do you really think so, sir?”

“Sure, why not? Well, nice chatting with you –”

“Will you wait one moment, please.”

The man let the door close and went to his little doorman’s podium, and apparently opened a drawer in it. He reached around for a bit and then came around holding a nice-looking pair of leather gloves.

“I should think these would be a good fit, sir.”

“Oh, gee,” said Addison. I couldn’t.”

“Nonsense, sir. They’ve lain in that drawer unclaimed since last winter.”

“Well, if you insist.”

“I do, sir. Allow me to hold your umbrella while you try them on.”

Addison handed the man his umbrella and took the gloves, put one on, and then the other. They were lined with soft white fur, and they fit perfectly.

“Wow,” said Addison. “Thanks a lot, pal. What’s your name?”

“Olaf, sir.”

Olaf handed the umbrella back to Addison.

“Thanks, Olaf. You’re what the guys in the parachute factory I worked in during the war would call a regular Joe.”

“I try to be, sir. In my view we are here on this planet to be kind to our fellow human beings.”

“What an admirable philosophy – Olaf.”

“It is the only philosophy I subscribe to. And may I know your name, sir?”

“Well, Olaf, everybody calls me Addison, but, you see, that’s by way of being a sort of nickname, or perhaps a sobriquet, because my friends and acquaintances somehow see a resemblance in my manner to that of the character Addison DeWitt in the film All About Eve –”

“I have not see that film, sir.”

“Well, at any rate, that’s why they call me Addison. And to tell the truth I’ve gotten used to it.”

“And so should I address you as Mr. Addison, sir?”

“Oh, just Addison will do, Olaf. Well, here I go.”

Olaf put his white-gloved hand on the large brass door handle.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Addison.”

“Pardon me?”

“Merry Christmas, sir. Unless you are perhaps of the Hebrew or Moslem faiths?”

“Oh, no, but it’s just, I’d forgotten that Christmas was approaching.”

“It is indeed, Mr. Addison. That very special time of the year.”

“Yeah. I guess it is,” said Addison.

“That time of, in the words of the Evangelist Luke, ‘peace and good will toward men.’ And, one may presume, to women.”

“Yes,” said Addison. “Right. Oh. The gloves. Should I bring them back?”

“No need, sir. As I say, they’ve lain unclaimed and forlorn in that drawer for at least a year now.”

“So I can keep them?”

“Consider it a present from the Hotel St Crispian, sir.”

“Wow, okay. Thanks again.”

Olaf opened the door.

“I should release your umbrella from its constraint, sir. The snow falls heavily.”

“Oh, right.”

After only a minute, not much more, Addison got the umbrella unbuttoned and unfurled and over his head.

“Merry Christmas, Olaf.”

“And all the compliments of the season to you, sir.”

And down the steps Addison went, without falling, into the heavy falling snow. He turned left. How far was it to Bleecker and the Bowery? Surely no more than half an hour’s walk. He walked past the alleyway at the corner of the hotel and there was the automat, looking warm and inviting through its misted plate glass windows, and as he drew closer through the softly falling snow he saw at a table, sitting alone, no other than the lovely Bubbles. She seemed to be writing something, and on the table was what looked like a box of Christmas cards. She was smoking a cigarette, and on the table was a coffee cup in a saucer and a partially-eaten slice of what might be pumpkin pie.

Did he dare?

Yes, he would, and he walked over to the entrance and opened the door.


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

Friday, December 16, 2022

“The Immutable Laws of the Universe”


It was one of the immutable laws of the universe that it was very easy to walk into a bar as long as you had the price of a drink in your pocket, but it was very hard to walk out of a bar when somebody else was buying. It had been twenty minutes (thirty?) since Addison had said he really must leave, but somehow (he knew how) a fresh Cream of Kentucky and ginger ale had appeared before him and had duly been drunk, another one of Farmer Brown’s Old Golds smoked, Shirley De La Salle had finished her set and the Betty Baxter Dancers had come on again, stomping their way now through “A Night in Tunisia”, but finally our hero was actually off his stool, his hat and raincoat on, his umbrella in his hand.

“Well, thanks for everything, Mr. Brown,” he said, not so much speaking the words as willing them out of his mouth.

“’Farmer’, my lad, Farmer!”

“Oh, right, ‘Farmer’ –” said Addison, “thanks, Farmer, uh –”

Uh what? Uh nothing -

“I do wish you would stay for another,” said Farmer Brown, “but I understand!”

“Yeah, great,” said Addison. “So, uh –”

Farmer Brown thrust out his hand, and Addison looked at it. It was pink, almost hairless, pudgy, with a Harvard class ring on its ring finger. To think this man graduated from Harvard –

“Don’t leave me hanging, my boy!” said the Farmer, making short chopping motions with the hand.

“Oh, sorry, Farmer,” said Addison, and he put his hand in the Farmer’s, which was soft and moist, like that of a giant baby’s. He felt his own hand being shook, up and down, up and down, down and up, down and up, would the Farmer never let him leave?

“Hey, Addison,” said a constricted little voice, and standing next to him was that shabby little ventriloquist, Waldo McGee, holding his wooden dummy, Mickey Pumpernickel, who was the one who had spoken. “You leavin’ already?”

“Um, yes,” said Addison, not quite sure whether he should address the little human man or the wooden one, “I, uh, you know –”

“He has to go home so he can get a good night’s sleep so he can work on his epic novel of the American West tomorrow,” said the Farmer, blatantly addressing the dummy and not the man.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right, you’re a writer,” said Mickey.

“Yes, well, you know, trying to be –” said Addison.

“Me and McGee write all our own material,” said Mickey.

“Oh, really?” said Addison, and he managed to extricate his hand from the Farmer’s.

“Yeah, we always done it,” said Mickey. “Every line. To us that’s the mark of a real artiste, y’know? Personal expression.”

“Yes, uh –” said Addison.

“Although we don’t really write it so much as make it up,” said Mickey.

“Really?” said Addison, with a glance at Waldo’s face, whose lips were only moving slightly.

“You write shit down,” said Mickey, “it don’t got that feel, y’know? It’s gotta have that feel, like real people talking.”

“Yes, of course,” said Addison.

“Not like something wrote by some asshole sat in a room with a typewriter. Something real.”

“Um,” said Addison. “Uh –”

“And sometimes when we’re up there, tell the truth, we’re just winging it. Vamping they call it. You go out on a limb and you jump off and sometimes you land on your face, sure, but sometimes you fly, and when you fly there ain’t no other feeling like it.”

“Yes, well -”

“It ain’t like you writer johnnies, sitting in your room at your typewriter.”

“No, um, uh –”

“But it’s what we do. Me and McGee.”

“And you do it well, Mickey!” said the Farmer.

“Thanks, Farmer,” said Mickey. “We appreciate it.”

“Not at all!” said the Farmer.

“Anyways,” said Mickey, addressing Addison again, “we seen you sitting at the bar here, and we just wanted to thank you for stopping in.”

“Oh, my pleasure!”

“None of them other bums from Bob’s ever come in to see us.”

“Oh. Yes, well, you know –”

“I know, we’re a long ways from the Bowery here. Not like geographically speaking. But in every other way. And ya know somethin’, Addison?”

“What’s that, Mickey?”

“If McGee and I didn’t have this gig, we wouldn’t come in here either.”

“Oh, well, uh –”

“Anyway, thanks, pal, and I hope you enjoyed the show.”

“Oh, yes, very much,” said Addison.

“It means a lot, you comin’ in to see us.”

Of course Addison hadn’t actually come in here just to see Waldo and Mickey, no, it was more that after his “date” (could he call it that?) with the lovely Bubbles, he’d been walking aimlessly around on this cold rainy night, in love, and he hadn’t wanted to go home to his lonely room yet, and there across the alleyway from the automat was the Hotel St Crispian with that glass-encased poster by the entrance...
The Prince Hal Room

Entertainment Tonight!

Featuring the “swinging” sounds of

Tony Winston & his Winstonians

with the stunning chanteuse Shirley De LaSalle

(fresh from her nation-wide tour in Fifty Million Frenchmen)

Also, the Betty Baxter Dancers!

(as featured on the Schaefer Beer Variety Hour)

No cover charge. One-drink minimum.

With your compères Waldo McGee and Mickey Pumpernickel!

...and he still had a couple of bucks and change in his pocket, so he had gone in, but there was no reason to mention all that, no reason at all…

“Well, okay, then –” said Addison.

“Put ‘er there, pal,” said Mickey, and the little wooden dummy extended his hand. Addison took the tiny hand and gave it a shake. He had never shaken hands with a wooden dummy before.

“Okay, then,” said Addison.

“See ya later, pal,” said Mickey. “And if we don’t see ya round, we’ll see ya square.”

“Ha ha!” laughed Farmer Brown.

“Okay, good night,” said Addison.

“Write well, Thackerman!” said Farmer Brown.

“I’ll try,” said Addison.

“And don’t forget to put me in your novel!”

“I won’t forget,” said Addison.

“Wait, he’s putting you in his novel?” said Mickey Pumpernickel.

“He most certainly is,” said Farmer Brown.

“What about me and McGee?” said Mickey to Addison. “What are we, day-old chopped liver on melba toast?”

“Uh –”

“Can’t we be in your novel too?’

“Oh,” said Addison, “yes, of course! I mean, why not?”

“Good,” said Mickey. “Look at it this way, it’s two less characters you got to make up.”

“That’s a very good point,” said Addison.

“Just don’t make us out to be too pathetic,” said Mickey.

“Oh, no, of course not,” said Addison.

“Make us, like, you know, heroic.”

“Of course.”

“Admirable like. Noble.”

“Yes, certainly.”

“Addison,” said the tiny wooden man.

“Yes?” said Addison.

“We’re fucking with you.”


“You don’t got to put us in your novel.”

“Oh, but I will!”

“Okay, thanks.”

“Right, well, good night again,” said Addison.

“Good night, Hemingway,” said Mickey.

“Heh heh,” said Addison.

“Did I ever tell you fellows my Hemingway story?” said Farmer Brown.

“Tell us,” said Mickey.

“Listen to this, Hatcherman,” said Farmer Brown, “you’ll really like this story.”

“Can I hear it some other time?” said Addison.

“Oh,” said the Farmer. “Okay.”

“Wow,” said Mickey.

“No, sorry,” said Addison “it’s just that, you know, I’m really trying to get out of here –

“Okay,” said Farmer Brown.

“You understand. I’ll take a, uh –”

“A rain check,” said Mickey Pumpernickel.

“A rain check, yes,” said Addison.

“It’s a good story,” said Farmer Brown.

“I’m sure it is, Mr. Brown, but –”


“I’m sure it is, Farmer, but it’s just –”

“I know, I know, you have to go home and get a good night’s sleep so you can work on your novel tomorrow.”

“Yes, I mean, otherwise –”

“Otherwise he’d stay and listen to your Hemingway story,” said Mickey.

“Yes, of course,” said the Farmer. “I understand. You’re a writer. You can’t sit at a bar all night and listen to my drivel.”

“Well, um –”

“You’re an artist.”

“Uh –”

“But you know, Hackerman, maybe, just maybe, this is my art form, sitting here, expatiating in a hotel cocktail lounge – maybe, just maybe mind you, maybe in my own way I am an artist.”

“Um –”

“He’s got a point, Addison,” said Mickey. “Not everybody can do what the Farmer does.”

“No, of course not,” said Addison.

“What would the world be without guys like the Farmer shooting the crap in bars every night?”

“I, uh –”

“But go on, get out of here,” said Mickey.

“Okay, good night again,” said Addison.

“I can’t twist your arm, Amperson?” said Farmer Brown.

“No, yes, I mean, no, sorry –” said Addison.

“He’ll take a rain check,” said the dummy.

“Right,” said Addison, “a rain check –”

“I’m going to hold you to that,” said the Farmer.

Suddenly Addison realized that if he didn’t shove off now he might never shove off, and he would be here for the rest of his life talking nonsense with a wooden dummy and an insane midwestern remittance man, and so he said good night one more time to Farmer Brown, one more time to Mickey Pumpernickel, and then, as an afterthought, he said good night to Waldo McGee, who had not said a word for himself or as himself through the entire exchange, and off Addison shoved at long last, away from the bar, at last, through the smoky crowded room and the laughing and shouting of drunken people and the crashing of the band and the stomping of the Betty Baxter Dancers on the dance floor.

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

Friday, December 9, 2022

“A Minor Character”


Farmer Brown was talking, you could tell because his lips were moving, but to Addison it was all just part and parcel of the noise of the bar, the music and chatter, the shouting and drunken laughter.

Yes, this was that happy peak of inebriation, and Addison could smile and nod as if he actually knew what the Farmer was saying,  and after all, wasn’t the old boy drunk as a lord himself? Was he any more cognizant of whatever rubbish he was spewing than Addison? Did Farmer Brown himself care any more about whatever it was he was saying than Addison did, which was not at all?

That girl Shirley De LaSalle was onstage singing again with the combo – what was the song? Addison couldn’t recall ever hearing it before…

Somewhere there's a fella –
somewhere there’s a guy,
somewhere there's a hell of
a chap for such as I…

And across the smoky room was that frightening painted hag who had supposedly been the Farmer’s one true love, sitting with that painted old boy, both of them no doubt as plastered as the Farmer and Addison were, surrounded by lots of other drunken people in this lounge.

And was this what it was all about in the end? Drunkenness? The surrendering of oneself to the chaos of existence?

“So what do you think, Henderson?” impinged the Farmer’s words on Addison’s alcoholic musings.

“What?” said Addison. 

“What do you really think about this Joyce fella? You’re a novelist, and so your opinion means something.”


“Yeah,” said the Farmer. “What do ya think? Is he really on the up and up or what?”


“Yeah. I mean, what do you really think?”

What did Addison think of Joyce? To be honest he really didn’t have any opinion, but, hey, you couldn’t say that to a guy who was buying you drinks and giving you Old Golds to smoke all night, so…

“Oh, I think Joyce is marvelous,” said Addison.

“Marvelous!” said Farmer Brown. “Now there ya go. ‘Marvelous.’ A real gift for the old literary prose, right?”

“Oh, yes, absolutely,” said Addison, taking a cigarette from the Farmer’s open silver case.

“Marvelous,” said the Farmer, picking up his silver monogrammed lighter, a perfect match for the monogrammed case. He clicked the clicker, and after a few tries a flame appeared, and Addison accepted the light. Cigarettes were good, yes, and free cigarettes were best of all.

“Thanks, Mr. Brown,” said Addison.

“Farmer,” said Farmer Brown. “Please, call me Farmer, Patcheson. Like I said, all my pals call me Farmer, and I really want you to consider me your pal.”

“Okay, ‘Farmer’,” said Addison.

“Someday,” said the Farmer, “I’m gonna finish that book.”

Addison said nothing, he had nothing to say, not that having nothing to say always stopped him from saying anything, but at the moment he couldn’t be bothered to say a word.

“I said someday,” repeated the Farmer.

“Oh,” said Addison, realizing that politeness called for some sort of response.

“Yes, someday I’ll finish it, as the good lord above is my witness!”

“Uh-huh,” said Addison, having no idea what the Farmer was talking about.

“You know how many years I’ve been trying to finish it?”

“Uh, no,” said Addison.


“Uh, I don’t know, gee, five years?”

“Not even close, my friend. Not even close. Try twenty-five!”


“Twenty-five years. Maybe twenty. But somewheres in that range. Let’s say twenty-two years.”

“Okay,” said Addison.

“Twenty-odd long years, my friend, that’s how long it’s been taking me.”

“For what again?”

“To read the book.”

“Oh, the book.”

“Yes,” said the Farmer. “Odysseus. By your good man Joyce.”

“Oh!” said Addison. “You mean Ulysses?

“That’s the one!” said the Farmer. “Ulysses! Greatest novel of the century. And nigh on a quarter of a century is how long I’ve been trying to read that darned book.”

“Yes,” said Addison, “well, uh, Ulysses is a rather, shall we say, a demanding work –”

“I’ll say! And someday, by golly, I’m gonna finish it. If it kills me.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will finish it,” said Addison.

“That Joyce,” said the Farmer. “Say what you will about the man, he could write!”

“Oh, yes,” said Addison.

“Like a motherhumper,” said the Farmer. “Pardon the expression, but that’s just the way we speak back in Indiana. The man could write like a goldarn motherhumper, and I’ll fight any fella that disagrees with me!”

“Oh, you’ll get no disagreement from me, Farmer –”

“And I’m glad to hear it, Mackieson. Because, when they’re tallying up the great names of modern literature, there’s gonna be one fella that’s up if not at the very top of the list, then certainly in the top ten, and that’s our boy Joyce.”

“Yes, he was, uh, certainly, one of the foremost –”

“Yes, good old Joyce Kilmer,” said the Farmer. “That man could write like a motherhumper!”

Suddenly Addison realized that maybe he should make this current drink his last of the night.

The band had been taking an instrumental break, and now Shirley De LaSalle stepped up to the microphone again and sang…

Down, down, down,
to Chinatown I go,
downtown I go,
so low, so low I go
but not too low and
not too slow…

“Yes, sir, Mr. Joyce Kilmer,” said the Farmer again. “There was your man for your glittering literary prose!”

Yes, it was time to go home, thought Addison. The only question was, should he get one more drink from the Farmer, one for the road? Or would he regret it?

“Y’know, our friend Joyce was a fair to middling poet as well,” said the Farmer.

“Oh?” said Addison, that single syllable all he could manage at the moment.

“Fair to middling,” said the Farmer. “You know this one? It goes kinda like this:

“I think that I shall never see
a tree from sea to shining sea.

“A tree whose lusty mouth is pressed
against my lady’s heaving breast.

“A tree which looks way up at the sky
and says, 'Hello, there, big guy!’

“Always wondered what that poem meant,” said Farmer Brown. “Say, I see your glass is empty, MacPherson. Would you like another?”

Ah, what a question! Yes, he would like another, but somewhere deep in Addison’s brain was the awareness of the thick long hangover that already awaited him, and which would only be made thicker and longer by another Cream of Kentucky and ginger ale, and didn’t he have a novel he should be “working on” on the morrow?

“I’m very sorry,” said Addison, “and I thank you, Mr. Brown –”

“Farmer, my lad, Farmer –”

“And I thank you, Farmer, but I really should be going –”

“But why, Ackerman? The night is young!” said the man who was far from young but still young at heart, apparently.

“I must work on my own novel tomorrow, you see,” said Addison, his words feeling like mud he was pushing through his lips into the world.

“Ah, yes,” said the man, the bloodshot eyes behind the thick lenses of his glasses seeming like portals to all the madness of the world and all possible worlds, “your ‘novel’. Very well, my friend, I understand, you are an artist, a writer, whereas I, my fate is to be just ‘a guy in a bar’. But before you go, just do me one favor, Thatcherman.”

“Of course,” said Addison.

“Promise to put me in your novel, your monumental sprawling epic of the American Old West. Slip me in there, buddy. Suitably disguised of course, mutatis mutandis and so forth, poetic license and all that, but just put a version of me in your book – not a major role necessarily, but just a minor character.”

“Okay,” said Addison, “how about a guy in a saloon?”

“Precisely! A guy in a saloon! Will you do that for me, Patterman, just give me some small measure of immortality in your great work?”

Addison said yes, he would certainly do that, and gladly.

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

Thursday, December 1, 2022

“The Guano and Feed King of Indiana”


“Is that you, Marion?”

“No, Mother,” said Milford, removing his peacoat, “it is a burglar.”

“Ha ha, very funny. Take your shoes off, I don’t want you tracking wet all over the house.”

Obediently Milford hung up his newsboy’s cap, then sat in the foyer chair, took off his wet work shoes, and pulled on his slippers. Then he stood up.

“Good night, Mother,” he called.

“Come in here first.”

“I want to go to bed.”

“Indulge your mother and come in here.”

Milford sighed, and turned left down the hall to the sitting room where his mother sat in her chair, Daniel Deronda in her lap.

“How was your lunch with your friend?”

“My what?”

“Your lunch with your friend.”

“Oh, that, yes, it was quite nice, thank you.”

“It must have been quite a long lunch as it is now –” she glanced at the grandfather clock – ”nigh on eleven o’clock.”

“I – I – yes, um, I –” 

Should he lie? Would a lie be any better than the truth? How could one know?

“If you must know I was at the Prince Hal Room,” he said, the truth just welling up out of him for some strange reason or complex of reasons.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Milford, “so you did take your friend to lunch at the Prince Hal Room. I rather expected you to be a cheapskate and take that twenty I gave you and parsimoniously give your friend lunch at the automat, keeping the difference for yourself.”

This of course was exactly what Milford had done, but why tell the harridan?

“Yes,” he said, “so anyway, we, uh –”

“So you lingered at the Prince Hal.”

“Yes, one might say that.”

“You don’t seem drunk.”

“I am not drunk.”

“Join me in a glass of sherry.”

“Mother! How many times must I tell you, I am an alcoholic and I cannot have even one drink. Are you really trying to drive me by main force back to the sanatorium?”

“It’s only sherry, for goodness’ sake, Marion.”

“Even sherry!”

“So you mean to tell me you spent all afternoon and evening in the Prince Hal Room and had not even one drink.”

Milford sighed.

“You sighed,” said Mrs. Milford. “So you did drink.”

“I had one Cream of Kentucky and ginger ale. There, are you happy?”

“Only one? How does one spend some eight or nine hours in a cocktail lounge and have only one highball?”

“One does it when some oaf buys one a highball, and one drinks it before one realizes that aforementioned oaf has bought it for one.”

“Was the oaf your friend that you treated to lunch?”

“No, it was just some guy at the bar.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes you do.”

“Okay, it was Brown. His name was Brown, but he called himself Farmer Brown.”

“Fiftyish, heavyset, never shuts up?”

“Oh dear God, you know this man?”

“Occasionally after a rigorous day’s shopping I have had a restorative martini at the bar in the Prince Hal Room. A cocktail bar is a public setting, and people do start talking to me, I don’t know why.”

“I can’t believe you know this man.”

“Farmer Brown has been haunting the Prince Hal and the lobby of the St Crispian for over twenty years. He’s not hard to miss, dear boy.”

“My mind is reeling.”

“You’ll get over it.”

“That you actually know the man.”

“I know many men.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means exactly what it seems to mean.”

“Dear God, do you have some sort of secret life, Mother?”

“Nothing secret about it. But how odd.”

“What’s odd? That you consort with barflies?”

“Farmer Brown is no common barfly. I’m told his family owns the largest guano and feed concern in Indiana.”

“Guano? Feed?”

“Next time you see the Farmer tell him hello for me.”

“I most certainly will not.”

“Have a sherry. I want to hear about your evening with the Farmer.”

“I’ll not have a sherry, and there is nothing to tell about my evening with the Farmer, except that he bored me silly.”

“He does go on. But he means well.”

“The man is mentally retarded.”

“What else did you do?”

“Who says I did anything else?”

“You did something else. A mother can tell.”

“I – I –”


“Oh what?” said Milford.

“Did you meet someone else?”

Again Milford sighed. Why try to hide anything from her?

“Okay, I met someone else,” he said.



“An attractive someone?”

“If you must know, yes. Extremely attractive.”

“I must ask, so please don’t become exercised with indignation. Was this person a man?”


“This attractive person you met, it was a man?”


“I’ll find out anyway, you know.”

“No, Mother, it was not a man, it was a – a –”

“A girl?”

“Yes! It was a girl! Okay? I met a girl! And you know what else? We’re having lunch tomorrow!”

“You’re having lunch with a girl?”

“Yes, as fantastic as that possibility may seem to you, I am having lunch with a girl!”

“Sit down. Pour yourself a sherry and tell me all about it.”

“No, I’m tired, and I want to go to bed.”

“How can you be tired after sleeping till one and then spending the rest of your day in the Prince Hal Room? Not exactly a grueling shift at a steel mill, is it?”

“Good night, Mother.”

“What is that in your hand.”

“What, this?” Milford held up the rolled-up sheaf of paper, tied with a red ribbon, which he had been holding all this time.

“I see nothing else in your hand.”

“It is a collection of my poems.”

“May I read them?”

“Most certainly not.”

“Did you show them to your friend? What was his name, Hatcherson?”

“Addison. And, yes, he did read my poems.”

“Did he like them?”


“He said he liked them?”

“I said yes, didn’t I?”

“Have you shown them to your new girl friend?”

“Mother, I can stand no more of this inquisition! Good night!”

“Don’t show her the poems, Marion. Don’t scare her off first thing.”

“Oh my God!”

And Milford turned and left the drawing room.

Mrs. Milford reached for the sherry decanter and refilled her glass. And all this time she had been sure the boy was homosexual. Will wonders never cease. Was a grandchild out of the question? Was her only child perhaps not the last of the family line after all? Well, one step at a time. She would prize more out of the lad on the morrow…

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, with art and additional dialogues by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}