Thursday, December 7, 2023


“Your cheek feels so warm,” said Lou, “and rather moist as well. I hope you’re not feeling ill.”

“Um, uh,” said Milford, realizing that his erection was growing exponentially with each passing moment, not that he knew what exponentially meant.

“Perhaps it is all the alcohol and marijuana and hashish and the Indians’ sacred mushrooms you said you consumed this evening?”

“Um, uh,” repeated Milford.

“You boys, always trying to experience so much.”

Milford wished she would take her hand away from his cheek, and he also wished she wouldn’t.

“I, uh, I –”

“Well, no matter, shall we go and have that little drink now?”

“Okay,” Milford managed to say.

“Come then.” At last she took her hand away from his cheek, flicking away a bead of his sweat, and she stepped to his side and put her arm in his. “Shall we go to the back room? It’s slightly more intime there, and also they have a swell little combo you might like, or is ‘dig’ the au courant term?”

She tugged on his arm.

“Wait,” said Milford.

“What ever for?”

“Listen, Miss –”

“Oh do call me Lou.”

“Listen, Lou, this is very difficult for me to say –”

He took a drag of his Husky Boy but now it tasted of burnt toast and ashes, and he let the cigarette fall to the floor.

“Oh, dear,” said Lou. “I think I know what you’re going to say.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I should have known, when you said that Walt brought you in here.”

“Known what?”

“That you are a catamite. But, look, Milford, no judgment on my part, I assure you.”

“But I am not a catamite.”

“There’s no shame in it, dear boy. You can’t help it.”

“But I am not ashamed.”

“As well you shouldn’t be. Many of our finest poets have been aficionados of homosexual lust.”

“But I am not homosexual.”

“Then what is the problem?”

“There’s no problem,” lied Milford.

“Great, let’s shake a leg then.”

“Shake a leg?”

“Yes, let’s go grab a small table and have a nice little chinwag. I want to hear all about your hopes and dreams.”

“Okay, there is one little problem.”

“You were wounded in the war?”

“What? No, I’ve never been in a war. Except the internal kind.”

“Perhaps like Mr. James you had a bicycle accident.”

“No, it’s not that either.”

“Then let’s go, buddy.”

She tugged on his arm again.

“Wait, please, Miss –”

“Lou. Just Lou, tout simplement, it’s what all my chums call me.”

“Listen, Lou, I’m not sure if I can walk.”

“What? An attack of hysterical paralysis?”

“No, it’s just –”

Without meaning to, Milford glanced down the front of his torso, just to see if the thing still growing between his legs was pushing up visibly against the hems of his peacoat, and, yes, he was sure that it was, and so he bent forward in an involuntary attempt to disguise the protuberance.

“Now what’s the matter?” said Louisa May Alcott. “Do you have a stomach cramp?”


“An attack of colitis?”


“Oh, dear, do you know what I think it is? You’re simply suffering heatstroke wearing that heavy peacoat in this crowded stuffy place. Here, let me help you.”

She came around to the front of Milford, and, putting her Lucky Strike between her lips, she began to unbutton Milford’s coat.

“Oh, no,” he said.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Don’t be foolish. Believe me, I as a woman know that sometimes we needs must sacrifice fashion for comfort. Here we go, just one more button, and there we are.” She took the cigarette from her mouth, and then said, “Oh. Oh my. Oh my indeed.”

“I’m sorry,” said Milford. “I am so embarrassed.”

“Is that for me?”
“I, uh, well –”

“Or is it rather a policeman’s nightstick you keep down your trousers in case you are accosted by thugs on the street.”

“Um, no –”

“I suppose I should be flattered.”

“I will go now.”

“You will not.”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“Oh, I’m sure you didn’t.”

“This has never happened to me before.”

“I somehow doubt that. I think I should rebutton your coat.”

“Let me do it.”

“No, I quite insist. After all, it was my fault, I suppose, for standing so close to you, and for caressing your boyish cheek.”

She put her Lucky Strike back in her lips and began to button up his coat, starting from the top. When she had buttoned the last button she removed her cigarette and cocked her head, examining.

“Only just barely apparent now I should say, unless you’re looking for it. Do you think you can walk?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, we can’t just stand here all night.”

“I don’t mind,” said Milford.

“Well, I do. Look, it might be best if you do bend forward just a teeny bit.”


Milford bent forward.

“Not too much. You look like Quasimodo all doubled over like that, and you’ll only draw more attention to yourself.”

Milford straightened up slightly.

“Right,” she said. “That will have to do. Now take my arm.”

She came around to his side, and as Milford made no move to take her arm, she took his.

“Are you ready?” she said.

“I suppose I’m as ready as I’m likely to be in the near future.”

“Very well,” she said. “Do you think you can take a step.”

“A small step maybe.”

“All right. I shall guide you.”

She tugged on his arm, and awkwardly they moved away from the cigarette machine, and past the jukebox, shuffling slowly.

“Can’t you walk any faster than that?” she whispered into his ear.

“Possibly,” said Milford.

“Because you’ll only invite more scrutiny by dragging along like a hundred-year-old man on the verge of death.”

“I’m trying.”

“Do try harder, dear Milford.”

He tried harder, but the very word harder made him feel harder down there.

Why must life always be so hard? he thought, as he limped along, Lou’s arm in his, as she led him toward a narrow hallway at the rear of the barroom. And then he thought, I must not think the word hard. I must think of something else. But of what? There was nothing else, only this monstrous appendage pulsing and seemingly still growing in his dungarees. Perhaps it would stop growing if she would let go of his arm, but if she did let go, he felt as if he would fall backwards onto the sawdust-and-cigarette-strewn floorboards, immobilized like a turtle on its back, and then horrifyingly he felt as if his entire being was now this growing pulsating thing.

“Are you quite all right?” asked Lou’s kind voice.

“Yes,” Milford’s voice said. “I’ll be all right.”

But he was not all right.

He had become a gigantic male organ of procreation and micturition. Yes, Gregor Samsa had nothing on him. And the horror of it all was that he seemed yet to be growing, pulsing and throbbing, and he knew the next stage would be the explosion of his head, and all the pent-up frustration of his life would be released and with it his self, soon to be splattered up into the vast reaches of interstellar space.

He saw a door to his left and on it was a sign with a picture of a dog and the word POINTERS.

“Excuse me,” said Milford, “but I have to go in here.”

“Oh,” said Lou. “I see. Well, when you’re finished just come on back to the back room and find me. We have ever so much to talk about.”


“Shall I order you a drink?”


“What would you like?”

“I don’t care. Whatever you’re having.”

“Splendid. Sherry it is then!”

Without another word Milford pushed open the door and went in before he could erupt like a human Mount Vesuvius.

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

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