Monday, April 23, 2012

voyage to star 25, part 1: jake's rooming house

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

previously posted in slightly different form on april 14, 2010

there once was a landlord named jake
who had for a tenant a thirty foot snake
he grew so fond of that boa constrictor
he knew in his heart he could never evict her

she was the best friend he ever had, oh
but over his life there fell a shadow
he worked all day at the missile base
and came home at night with a sad face

many tenants in rooms along the street
sat in the gloom staring at their feet
and conceived passions for barely sentient creatures
mental death was one of their features

and the missiles - when would they go off?
the silence was broken by an occasional cough
and a slurp from a bottle of schlitz or bud
the collapse of the universe was in their blood

the windows in the bars were dim and blue
the used car lots were silent too
with burgers and marlboros on their breath
they waited in the shadow of meaningless death

you can't love a snake unless you give it a name
that's part of the game
but words came slow to jake's brain
on the dusty window it began to rain

the snake used a hundred square feet of rental space
but jake took it with a good grace
not so mrs harvis down the hall
who did not care for reptiles at all

and neither did jack d hubbatak
a retired spaceman with a bad back
who lived upstairs in a one room flat
with a seashell collection and an orange cat

he and mrs harvis put their heads together
whether in fair or stormy weather
and drank tea and stayed up late
complaining about the government, life and fate

mrs hervis was forty-four years old
her hair was orange and her eyes were cold
men had betrayed her, religion too
her children were worthless through and through

she did not care much for other females
of their troubles, she did not want the details
her only desire, and it made her eyes grow wide
was revenge against the world before she died

joe archibald was another tenant
he could say "i'll kill you" like he meant it
he had a machime gun tattooed on his arm
and was completely devoid of charm

joe was prowling the hall one night
something just did not feel right
he heard the throbbing music of fear
for which he had a most sensitive ear

he started down the creaking stair
past jake's well-barricaded lair
of the snake he was not scared a whit
in fact he'd like to have a go at it

he put his ear to jake's scarred door
a thing he'd never done before
on the scuffed and worn linoleum
a vision suddenly came to him

jake was nothing but a commie rat
joe was absolutely sure of that
talking to his snake? that was a load -
he was really talking in code!

he was an un-american deceiver
talking to a hidden receiver
probably planted in the snake
it was almost too much for joe to take

"peeping through keyholes, eh, fellow?"
hubbatak, more than a little mellow
swaying in his slippered feet
sneered at joe without missing a beat

"what's it to you anyway, hubbatak?
wasn't peeking through no keyhole, i was peeking through the crack.
"it's not the same thing at all
and besides, it ain't your call."

inside, jake seemed impervious
to all the fuss
but another door opened down the hall
and miss maisie muldoon, willowy and tall

barely glanced at the two combatant gents
as past them she serenely went
hubbatak and joe didn't scream or shout
but forgot what they were arguing about

maisie worked two blocks away
in mrs wilson's all night cafe
the moon looked down and seemed to say
is it her fate to carry a tray?

part 2


Dan Leo said...

Inexpressibly brilliant, but then we have come to expect nothing less from the immortal Sternwall.

Peter Greene said...

this is too cool...