Wednesday, October 31, 2012

pals, part 1

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus


part one of two or three




pals should be true and blue
pals should be there for you
but since the truth will set us free
let me tell you what my pal did to me

i was working for the phone company, northern line
and didn't think much at the time
about anything but getting smashed
after my monthly check i cashed

a kindly soul named mrs brown
ran the cleanest boarding house in town
i was her most faithful boarder
and she kept my life in order


fried eggs in the morning, a sandwich for afternoon
mashed potatoes at evening, smooth as a breeze in june
clean sheets every night
things couldn't have been more right

but sometimes a strange restlessness
came over me, i confess
and under a mocking moon
i would head for the local saloon


bertha boone, the bartender
was a solid sender
her heart was halfway good
and you always knew just where you stood

my tab was just so much a month
and though there was no free lunch
i could sit with half a glass
as flickering shadows behind me passed


the free lunch was just a memory
an ancient tale told hesitantly
by my pal henry's uncle dan
an intermittently taciturn man

henry himself seemed without guile
we used to chat once in a while
that's why i refer to him as my pal
the only one i had, withal


henry was a deep cuss
never made much of a fuss
unfailingly polite
night after night

he could discuss any subject
and would never object
to any opinion or party line
even mine


if i advocated anarchy
he would smile pleasantly
if i pleaded for world government
he would nod a half assent

all opinions are the same
he asserted without shame
just something to pass the time
without reason or rhyme


this easygoing attitude
he extended to the passions rude
and affected a weary glance
toward love and romance

and would laugh at any poor john
who'd become a female's pawn
and professed but little respect
for the fair and gentle sex


at his views i felt no shock
but liked to listen to him talk
i mean, the price was right
and so passed night after night

but the universe slices and dices
even the humblest paradises
and my serene little world
into a dark abyss was hurled

she didn't seem blessed or cursed
we hardly noticed her at first
she sat in a corner of the room
portending no particular doom


one night henry didn't show
i had no place else to go
i just sat there like a lump
feeling down in the dumps

and then the anonymous lady
apparently not afraid of me
came over and sat in henry's seat
without missing a beat


and looked at me with an eye
that was neither wet nor dry
that wasn't blue or gray or brown
and she didn't smile or frown

she seemed neither young nor old
fat or thin or hot or cold
and only aroused in me
the faintest flicker of curiosity

little did i know
that this feeble flicker would grow
into a bonfire of despair
into which my soul would dumbly stare


part 2: jane


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