Thursday, December 28, 2023

"Never Mind"

At last Milford got his fly buttoned up, and the tiny man called Shorty reached up and tugged on his peacoat’s sleeve.

“Great, now let’s get them ales, pal.”

“Yo, youse two,” said the big guy who had been waiting behind them. He was an enormous bearded fellow with a pipe in his mouth and a hunting cap on his head, wearing a checked flannel shirt and blue jeans with suspenders. “Ain’t yez forgetting something?”

“What would that be, Paul Bunyan?” said Shorty. He still had his thick cigarette in his mouth, and he spoke without removing it.

“You take up both urinals for like fifteen minutes, and now you don’t even flush?”

“Okay, two things, Two Ton Tony,” said the tiny man. “One, my friend here didn’t even pee, so why should he flush?”

“Okay, so he’s off the hook, but what about you, short-change? God knows you pissed a gallon if you pissed a quart.”

“It is true, I did not flush the terlet,” said Shorty, “but that is because who knows what kinda germs is on that handle?”

“So just because the handle’s got germs on it you don’t flush it? That’s why you wash your fucking hands, shrimp. And anyways, there’s a technique. What you do is you depress the handle with the side of your hand with a hammer motion –” the man demonstrated the motion, “and then you only get the cooties on the side, which you then forthwith wash with soap and water.”

“Ah, but you forget, dear Gargantua,” said Shorty, “I am only three feet six inches in heighth, and so the only way I could depress the handle with the side of my hand with a hammering motion would be to leap up and try to hit it on my way down.”

“So why didn’t you do just that?”

“Why did I not do that, you ask?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m asking. Why didn’t you leap up and flush the terlet with the side of your hand in a hammering or chopping motion on your descent.”

“I’ll tell you why I didn’t do it.”

“Go ahead. Why?”

“I didn’t do it because I didn’t feel like jumping up like a idiot and rabbit-punching a terlet handle, that’s why.”

“It’s people like you that make the world a very unpleasant place,” said the big man, after a pause.

“Oh, fuck off, ya big bum. You were in such a hurry to use the pisser, why are you standing here jabbering?”

“Y’know, something, half-pint, you are lucky you are only three foot six.”

“Oh, yeah, why? ‘Cause if I was taller you would take a swing at me? Well, go ahead, tough guy, give it a try. I dare you.”

“Wait a minute,” said Milford at last, pushing the words out of his mouth as if they were made of great wads of soggy cotton. “Look, here.”

He reached over Shorty’s head and depressed the handle of the urinal the little fellow had used. A thin trickle of grey water came from a small black hole in the stained and cracked porcelain and weakly coursed down toward the swampy puddle at the base of the urinal, with its detritus of cigarette-and-cigar butts and wads of chewing gum.

“There,” said Milford. “I flushed it.”

“Okay, then,” said the big man. “That’s all I asked. At least you are a gentleman, sir.”

“Thank you,” said Milford.

“Unlike some people I could mention,” said the big man.

“Keep it up, pal,” said the little guy. “Just keep it up. ‘Cause you are just about one cooze-hair away from getting my fist up your fat ass.”

“Look, just get out of my way,” said the big man. “I’m about to piss myself.”

“Bet it wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Hey, sir,” said Milford to Shorty, touching his shoulder, “can we just go now?”

“Okay,” said the little man. “But only ‘cause you asked me. But you, King Kong,” he pointed his tiny index finger up at the big man, “you watch your step around me. ‘Cause you don’t know how close you just came to getting your balls bit off and spat back in your stupid face.”

“Aw, scram, willya, and let me take a slash.”

“Sure, I’ll scram, but only because my friend here ast me to.” He reached up again and grabbed Milford’s wrist. “Come on, pal, it stinks around here. Pull me up onto your shoulders, we’ll make better time.”


“Just swing me up onto your shoulders, I don’t weigh much.”

“I feel weird doing that.”

“I feel weird every second of my life, now pull me up.”

“Oh, all right,” said Milford, and with surprising lack of difficulty he lifted his wrist up, the little fellow deftly swung his childlike legs on either side of Milford’s neck, and then placed his hands firmly on Milford’s collarbone.

“Okay, let’s go,” said the little man, and Milford began to forge through the monstrous milling mob toward the door he had come in through.

“No, not that way,” said the little guy. “Bear to the left.”

“But I want to get out of here,” said Milford.

“We’ll get out of here. Now bear to the left.” He guided Milford with his legs, as if he were a horse. “Outa our way, you rumdums,” he yelled at the thronging men, “comin’ through!”

“Where are we going?” said Milford.

“To get them ales,” said the tiny man on Milford’s shoulders. “Now go through this door here.”

Sure enough there was a door there, to the right of the toilet stalls.

“This door?” said Milford.

“That door. Open it up.”

“Wait. We forgot to wash our hands.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, do you really want to go back and wash your hands? Do you know how long that could take?”

“Possibly a long time?”

“Possibly a very long time. Like if this was a novel it might take us three more chapters just to make it back to this door is how long it might take, even longer, I don’t know. Maybe never. You really want to take that chance, just to wash your hands?”

“It just seems so unsanitary.”

“Sanitariness is overrated. You think the cavemen were sanitary? You think they washed their hands every time they pissed?”

“I don’t know.”

“I got news for you, they didn’t. Now open the fucking door.”


Milford opened the door and saw a dimly lit narrow corridor, extending into darkness.

“Oh, no,” he said.

“Now what?”

“I’m afraid,” said Milford. “I just want to go back out the way I came in.”

“You’re hurting my feelings, buddy,” said the little man. “Because at least where I come from, way I was raised, a man offers to buy you a glass of ale and you refuse it that is the gravest insult. Possibly even more so than impugning the honor of one’s mother, or God forbid, your sister. What did you say your name was?”

“I don’t think I said, but my name is Milford.”

“Like your mother.”

“Yes, she’s Mrs. Milford, but I just go by Milford.”

“So your name is Milford Milford?”

“No,” said Milford, after a great sigh that almost dislodged the little fellow from his shoulders. “My name is Marion Milford. But I prefer to be called just Milford.”

“And I don’t blame you one bit. You remember my sobriquet?”

“Um, Short Stuff?”

“Close. Shorty. Which ain’t my real name either but it’s what I go by. So just call me Shorty because I don’t like my real name either, which is never mind.”


“You ain’t gonna ask what my real name is?”

“I wasn’t planning to.”

“Go ahead, ask.”

“Okay, what’s your real name?”

“My name is Never Mind.”

“Your name is Never Mind?”


“That’s very strange.”

“I’m fucking with you.”


“My name is Odo.”


“Odo Guggenheim.”


“Now do you know why I don’t mind going by Shorty?”

“Yes, I guess so.”

“We all got our crosses to bear, my friend. Like you’re bearing me right now. Now you gonna go down that corridor like a man, Tilford? If not you can just set me down right here and I’ll go all by myself. It’s your choice. And to tell the truth at this point I don’t even give a fuck if you’re gonna be such a pussy about it. Jesus Christ.”

“But, look, I just remembered I’m supposed to be having a drink with Louisa May Alcott.”

“One glass of ale,” said the tiny man into Milford’s right ear. “One quick one, and then you can go off to have your drink with Lou Alcott. Believe me, she’s not going to miss you for the time it takes you to down one lousy short ale.”

“Well –”

The tiny man dug his little heels into Milford’s ribs.

“Great, then let’s go,” he said. 

And Milford headed into the narrow dim corridor, with the tiny man on his shoulders.

Milford heard the door close behind him, and the babble of the monstrous men in the POINTERS room became muffled and distant, and the corridor grew darker.

“Just go straight down this hallway,” said Shorty, his cigarette dropping its ash down the front of Milford’s peacoat. “Nothing to be afraid of, buddy. Nothing at all.”

{Please 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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