Thursday, February 9, 2023

“The Last of the Milford Crackstone Line”

 “Where are you going, Marion?” said Mrs. Milford.

“Out,” said Milford.

“I can see you’re going out, but I asked where are you going.”

“To lunch, if you must know.”

“And where, if I dare to ask, are you lunching?”

“At the automat.”

“The one by the St Crispian?”

“No other.”

“And, again daring to ask, with whom are you lunching?”

“Who says I’m lunching with anyone?”
“Are you?”

“Yes! Yes, dash it all!”

“And is your lunching companion this mysterious female person you have so grudgingly mentioned?”

“Yes! Yes! If you must know, it is she! Now will you stop interrogating me and let me go? I don’t want to be late.”

“Don’t snap at me, young fellow.”

“I wasn’t snapping.”

“You were. Like a snapping turtle. Let me fix your muffler. It’s snowing outside and bitter cold.”

Milford sighed, and allowed his mother to remove his muffler from his neck, refold it, and then carefully replace it and knot it loosely but snugly around his neck.

“There,” she said. “Don’t forget your umbrella.”

“I shan’t. Now may I go?”

“What does this female friend of yours think of your mode of dress?”

“The subject has never come up,” said Milford, although in fact Shirley had indeed once asked him why he dressed like a stevedore.

“You have such nice clothes in your closet, I don’t know why you don’t wear them.”

“For the thousandth time, Mother, I dress as I do because I am a poet.”

“What is her name.”

“Goodbye. I may be gone some time.”

“I repeat, what is her name?”

“If I tell you, will you stop grilling me and let me leave?”




“That’s what I said, isn’t it?”

“And what is her surname?”

“What do you care?”

“Is she Jewish?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so.”

“Yes, I don’t think so.”

“Is she Italian then? Irish? I could accept Irish, provisionally.”

“I don’t know what she is. She’s American, okay?”

“Well, that’s something. What’s her last name?”

“De LaSalle.”

“De LaSalle?”

“Yes, and goodbye, and I don’t know why I told you because I know I’ll regret it.”

“Shirley De LaSalle who sings in the Prince Hal Room at the Hotel St Crispian?”

“Yes, yes, and yes. Good day, Mother.”

“Hold on. You’re having lunch with a nightclub singer.”

“Is there a law against it?”

“Not officially.”

“I bid you good day.”

“She’s a very attractive young lady, isn’t she?”

“Who? Shirley?”

“Miss De LaSalle, yes, of whom else are we speaking?”

“Yes, I suppose one might say she is attractive.”

“In a slightly brassy way.”

“How dare you.”

“Just slightly common.”

“Again, how dare you.”

“Remember your name, Marion: Milford. And on my side: Crackstone.”

“Oh, how could I possibly forget?”

“You are the last of the line, Marion. The very last of the Milford and Crackstone bloodlines.”

“Thank God.”

“And now it is my turn to say how dare you.”

“Oh, and what are these two lines, Mother, but the descendants of semi-literate English farmers and peasants and shop keepers who came to this continent because they couldn’t make a good living on their own benighted island?”

“Point taken. I suppose I shouldn’t be too picky.”

“No, you shouldn’t be.”

“I should be glad that Miss De LaSalle is a female, tout court.”

“What do you mean by that.”

“I mean she is not a man.”

“Oh, dear God.”

“I should like to meet her.”

“Fat chance.”

“If you’re going to marry her I shall have to meet her someday.”

“Good lord, Mother, who is speaking of marriage?”

“Don’t you want to get married?”

“I don’t know!”

“Settle down, with a nice girl. You can still write your little poems. And then when I die – and, mind you, I don’t plan on dying one single day before I turn one hundred, if that – you will have all my money. The house. The securities. The Glen Cove cottage. Everything. The Milford and Crackstone lines will live on through you and your heirs, spawned with Miss What’s-her-name.”

“De LaSalle.”

“French, but she looks Jewish to me.”

“And what if she is?”

Mrs. Milford paused, then went to the door, and opened it. Outside thick fat snowflakes fell onto Bleecker Street. She turned to her son.

“New blood. Fresh blood. Perhaps not a bad thing. You’d better go, Marion. You don’t want to keep Miss De LaSalle waiting at the automat.”

Now Milford paused, but then he went past his mother, through the doorway and down the steps into the snow. Forgetting to take his umbrella.

Mrs. Milford closed the door.

She would have to meet this Shirley De LaSalle. She would meet her. Invite her to lunch, tête-à-tête, just two girls, and not at the automat either, someplace nice, the sort of place women are fond of, the Colony, or 21. Get a martini into this Shirley De LaSalle, a plate of creamed spinach with a fried egg, and in fifteen minutes, no, in five minutes it would be plain as day if she were on the up-and-up or just some gold digger.

Mrs. Milford wandered out of the foyer, down the hall and into the front sitting room. She looked out the window at the falling snow, then went to the table by her chair and took a cigarette from the box. She lighted it, with the heavy brass table lighter in the form of a smiling Buddha, then she went to the window.

Yes, it had taken several centuries of near-inbreeding to descend from the hearty bold adventurers who had braved the harsh ocean voyage to strike out in a strange new land to peter out into the morbid pallid weakling of a nincompoop that was Marion, the last remnant of the once-proud Milford and Crackstone lines.

But perhaps not the last of the line after all.

And perhaps some fresh blood – yes, even Jewish or Italian, hang it all – was just what was needed!

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

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