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…}

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