Thursday, November 2, 2023

“One With the Universe”

The big man shoved his pipe into his coat, then hooked his burly right arm under Milford’s insubstantial left arm, pulled him to the door, drew it open, and out they went into the short hallway looking out on that crowded barroom filled with drunken shouting and laughing people, thick with smoke and blaring with jukebox music.

“Ah, humanity!” cried the man who would be Walt Whitman. “Do you see these good people, Milforth?”

“My name is Milford,” said Milford.

“I said my name is Milford!” shouted Milford.

“Is that what you told me before?”

“Yes! It’s Milford! Milford! M-I-L-F-O-R-D! Milford!

“No need to shout so loud, friend. I heard you the first time.”

“But everybody keeps calling me every name in the world except my real name, and I’m tired of it!”

“And do you ever wonder why that is?”

“Why I’m tired of it?”

“No, why people always get your name wrong?”

“Because they’re stupid.”

“I hope you’re not calling me stupid, Wilford. That’s no way to begin a grand manly friendship.”

“Oh, forget it.”

“Tell me your name again.”


“Milford?” said ‘Walt Whitman’. “I could have sworn you said Redford.”

“Look,” said Milford, “it doesn’t matter, and I’m sorry I shouted. Now can we go to the bar, because I can see my lady friend is still there, thank God.”

“Boy, you really do have a bee in your bonnet about this alleged lady friend, don’t you?”

“I don’t have a bee in my bonnet about her, but she’s been waiting for me to get back from the men’s room for about a half hour now.”

“It hasn’t been a half hour.”

“Twenty minutes then.”

“More like fifteen minutes, I’ll warrant.”

“Look, Mr. Whitman, can we just go over there, before she gets tired of waiting and leaves?”

“You really do want to get in her knickers tonight, don’t you?”

“Look, Mr. Whitman –”

Walt. Please, we’re friends, so call me Walt.”

“Look, Walt, not that it’s any of your business, but, yes, I would like to – oh, forget it.”

“Oh. Wait.”

“What?” said Milford.

“I think I understand now.”

“Great, because I don’t.”

“You are a virgin, aren’t you?”

“Oh, Christ.”

“The big guy is not going to help you in this matter, Redfield, nor in any other. Sooner you learn that the better off you’ll be. Some things a man has to do himself. And dipping your wick into a young lady’s moist pink envelope for the first time is amongst the foremost of those things.”

“Okay, fine. Now can we please go over there?”

“Which one is she? That buxom babe in red? In which case, well done, my lad, well done indeed, and my old slouch hat off to you!”

“No, it’s not the one in red, it’s the one to the left of the one in red.”

“Oh. Her. Well, she looks all right, I suppose, if you like that thin mousy type. What is she, another versifier?”

“She’s a novelist I think, or at least a would-be novelist.”

“Yes, of course she is. Probably adores the Georges Eliot and Sand.”

“How did you know?”

“Hey, again, even though I may prefer the simple fellowship of good strong honest workmen, I know dames. But tell me this, why not go for the one in red?”

“Look, I’m not going to answer that, Mr. Whitman.”


“I’m not going to answer that, Walt.”

“She wouldn’t have you, I suppose.”

“Oh, God.”


“It’s happening again.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m floating above my body.”


“Yes, I’m talking to you, but my consciousness is floating several feet above my head.”

“I told you that hash was some good shit.”

“I think I might be going insane.”

“You’re not going insane. You are merely becoming one with the universe.”

“I’m afraid.”

“Embrace the wholeness of the universe.”

“I don’t want to. I just want to return to my body.”

“There are plenty of yogis in Tibet who meditate for decades trying to reach the state you have now achieved.”

“Fuck the yogis, and fuck Tibet.”

“You know what the Buddha said. He said –”

“And fuck the Buddha too.”


“Oh, wait.”

“What is it?”

“I’m back in my body now,” said Milford, and indeed he was, standing here outside the men’s room door with this Walt Whitman holding his arm in his.

“So you’re all right now?” said Walt Whitman.

“I wouldn’t say I’m all right, but I’m better,” Milford’s voice said. “Can we go over to the bar now?”


“I feel strange.”

“Oh, now you feel strange?”

“I mean strange in a different way. I just remembered those mushrooms I ate.”

“Oh, the mushrooms.”

“Yes, I think they are beginning to take effect.”

“Lucky you.”

“I have to get to my lady friend before they take effect.”

“And then what?”

“Then what I don’t know.”

“I’m starting to like you, Renfield. Let’s go.”

And off they forged, arm in arm, through the laughing and shouting drunk people, through the thick smoke and the loud jukebox music, to the bar, and to Milford’s so-called friends.

“Hi, Polly,” said Milford, forcing the words out of his mouth in her direction. “I’m back.”

Back, back, the word echoed through the hidden corridors of Milford’s brain.

Polly, who had apparently been deep in conversation with Bubbles and Addison, turned to Milford.

“What did you say?”

“I said I’m back,” oozed the words from Milford’s mouth.

“You went somewhere?”

“Ha ha,” boomed Walt Whitman, heartily. “Ha ha, I say! How divinely risible!”

Risible, risible, the word echoed through the dark courtyards behind the hidden corridors of Milford’s brain. Will my humiliations never cease? he wondered, and he knew the answer was no, no…

{Please go here to read the “adult comix version, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

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