Thursday, May 4, 2023

“The World Is Your Oyster”

“And so you see, Bubbles,” said Milford, “the poet of today must I think passionately come to grips with the looming threat of nuclear annihilation, but – and I think this is so terribly important – he must also deal with the fracturing of the modern consciousness –”

Bubbles turned and gave Milford a look.

“The, uh,” he went on, “the modern consciousness, of, uh, um –”

She continued to stare at him.

“I think it was Ezra Pound who said,” he didn’t stop, couldn’t stop, “and, yes, this was back in the days before the First World War, the supposed ‘war to end wars’, but, uh –”

“What is it,” she said, “Melvin?”

“My name?”  

“Yeah, what is it, Merwyn?”

“Um, Milford, actually,” he said.

“Milford. Okay, Milford, I’m gonna tell you something.”

“Oh, please do.”

“I used to think your buddy Addison there was the most boring guy I ever met.”

“Heh heh.”

“But he’s not,” she said. “I think you’re the most boring guy I’ve ever met.”


“I’m gonna tell you something else.”


“Nobody gives a shit, Marvin.”


“Nobody gives a shit about your theories of modern poetry, Milford.”


“I finally got Addison trained not to bore the living shit out of me.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. Now if he starts in on his theories I just give him one look and he shuts right up.”


“That’s the look I’m giving you now, Mumford.”


“Milford, sorry. But that’s the look I’m giving you now.”

“So you want me to shut up?”

“I want you not to bore the living shit out of me. You think you can do that?”

“I don’t know.”


Milford felt something falling away inside his chest. Should he just commit suicide? But, no, he was far too much of a coward for that. He picked up his glass of ginger ale, but it was empty except for some ice at the bottom.

“May I buy you another drink, Bubbles?” he said.

“Sure,” she said.

Milford leaned forward, his hand raised, to summon the bartender. To his left Addison was chattering to Polly. They seemed happy. Why was he not happy? Why was he falling in love with Bubbles, who thought him the most boring guy she had ever met?

The bartender came over.

“Hello,” said Milford. “May I buy the lady another drink, please?”

The bartender looked at Bubbles.

“Another Christian Brothers, Bubbles?”

“Yeah, thanks, Louie,” she said.

“What about you, pal?” said the bartender, “another Christian Brothers?” and Milford belatedly realized that somehow he had drunk a shot of brandy a few minutes ago. How had that happened? Sobriety down the drain, once again.

“I think Polly and I could go for another Christian Brothers each,” piped in Addison.

“So that’s four Christian Brothers,” said Louie the bartender.

“No!” said Milford. “Just three Christian Brothers, please. I’ll take another ginger ale.”

Bubbles turned and looked at him with what might be disdain.

“I’m sorry,” said Milford, “but, you see, Bubbles, I’m an alcoholic, and I really shouldn’t have had that last shot, but I wasn’t thinking, I had become distracted, and I drank it without meaning to, and –”

“I don’t give a damn,” said Bubbles.
“Oh,” said Milford.

“So that’s three Christian Brothers,” said Louie.

“And one ginger ale,” said Milford.

“Yeah, I heard you,” said the bartender.

“I’m not supposed to drink alcohol,” said Milford.

“Good for you,” said the bartender.

“I’m going to be drunk!” cried Polly.

“But that’s the whole idea, dear Polly,” said Addison.

The bartender went away to find his Christian Brothers bottle, and Milford wondered why he was here, with this falling-away feeling in his chest. He should just leave. Go home. Go out into the cold rain or the snow or whatever it was doing out there and go home and avoid his mother and go up to his room and write a poem of despair. He was supposed to be on some sort of date with Polly, but she wouldn’t care, nor would Addison, and obviously not Bubbles. The only thing was, he was getting hungry. Would he be able to sneak into the kitchen without being accosted by his mother? What had Julia the cook make for dinner tonight? Meatloaf would be good, especially if it was still warm…

The bartender was there again. He had replaced Milford’s ginger ale, and now he was pouring out shots of Christian Brothers brandy into the empty glasses in front of Bubbles, and Addison and Polly.

“Give my father one, too, Louie,” said Bubbles, gesturing with her cigarette at the empty small glass in front of Milford.

“Oh, no,” said Milford.

“Give him one,” repeated Bubbles. “And put this round on my tab.”

“Oh! No,” said Milford. “Put it all on my tab, please, sir, I insist –”

The bartender glanced at Bubbles.

“Okay,“ she said, “put it on Diamond Jim’s tab, Louie. And give him a shot of the Christians.”

“You got it, Bubbles,” said Louie, and he poured brandy into Milford’s glass, and then went away.

“Don’t look so crestfallen, Mumford,” said Bubbles. “If you don’t want to drink it, somebody else will.”

She lifted her glass, and took a sip, sighed. Maybe after this one she would get the taste of this day out of her mouth.

Addison and Polly resumed their chattering, and Milford looked at the brandy in his glass. He would definitely have something to talk about at his next Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“Cheer up, Marlowe,” said Bubbles.

“Pardon me?”

“Sure, you’re boring,” she said. “But at least you’re not cheap.”

Now it was Milford who sighed.

“What?” she said.

“There’s only one reason that I’m not cheap,” he said. “And that is that I have a trust fund from my late father for five hundred a month. And also I live with my mother, which means I pay no room or board.”

“So the world is your oyster?” she said.

This had never occurred to Milford before. He had been too busy being miserable to realize that he had no earthly reason to be miserable.

He looked at Bubbles, who was still looking at him.

“Bubbles,” he said. “I am falling in love with you.”

She said nothing.

“I hope you don’t mind my saying that,” he said.

“I’ve heard it before,” she said.

{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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