Sunday, November 11, 2012

pals, part 2: jane

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus


part two of three or four

click here for part one






she said her name was jane
a perfect name for a sad refrain
though i knew not at the time
when she locked her eyes on mine

as to why she spoke to me
that remains a mystery
that i can not now dispel
though the story i can tell

"you wouldn't have - a cigarette?"
"sure, " i mumbled, "you bet."
"and a light?"
"right."

she did not even say thanks
her eyes were complete blanks
"you live here?" she asked
my brain was not up to the task


i muttered something insensible
even to myself incomprehensible
"i didn't mean here in ray's cafe
i meant where do you live all day?"

"sometimes i live here," i said
"when the place closes i go to bed."
"and where might that be?," she insisted
i was surprised by the way that she persisted

i said "i live in mrs brown's
well within the outskirts of town
for working persons who need their sleep
her prices are not too steep"

her eyes bored into me
"so you value respectability?"
"i just value my rest"
"yes," she replied, "i suppose that is best"

i was now over my initial shock
and managed to almost normally talk
her eyes scanned the cafe
in her curious listless way

she fingered a strand of her hair
and hit me with another stare
"your friend you talk to every night
you seem to think he's pretty bright"

"you must mean henry," i replied
her eyes narrowed (they were never wide)
"henry is not a bad chap
but his conversation is all over the map"

"but i never see you argue -
do you think all his pronouncements true?"
"oh no, " i replied
"it's just that i never take sides"

"i think all talk is the same
just a pulse in the human brain
that releases the pressure of existence
even if it makes no sense"

"i see." she stared intently
"then you might be just the man for me -
what did you say your name was again?"
"i didn't - but it's ben"

"well, ben" - did her eyes slightly glisten?
"i like to talk myself, but no one listens
so i have silently walked to earth
crushed by indifference since my birth

that somebody might hear my views
and not beg off with some excuse
after all these years
almost brings me to tears"

her gaze, though empty, transfixed me
and i answered "certainly
i am sure that your well rehearsed opinions
over my mind will exert dominion"

no further prompting did she need
her words flowed forth with urgent speed
on religion, politics, love and art
and that was just a start

pausing only some alcohol to get
or to light another cigarette
(which i continued to provide)
her soliloquy did not subside

to get a word in i did not try
i could see from the corner of my eye
bertha at the bar dispensing booze
and looking on quite amused

suddenly jane's conversation ended
and silence descended
her eyes turned off their beam
and i awoke as from a dream

she mumbled something i could not discern
to the clock on the wall her eyes did turn
"oh my," she said, "it's closing time
i hope i haven't been out of line

boring you this way"
"oh no, " i heard myself say
the pleasure was all mine
let's do it again some time"

she managed a sort of smile
which i saw as without guile
and left with no more reply
except a mumbled good-bye

as she quickly made her way out
i thought, what was that all about?
i saw bertha wiping the bar with a rag
and realized i was nine-tenths in the bag

i staggered home and fell into bed
curious visions swirled in my head
all i could think of was my new friend and i wondered how it all would end

as my sleepy brain grew dim
henry, i thought - what of him?
is he involved in all this?
is there something i have missed?

part 3: dangerous


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