tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 88: "it had come to this"
by horace p sternwall
illustrated by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq
editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo
And so it had come to this.
Landon (unfortunately nicknamed “Rooster”) Crow waited with Alice “Sniffy” Smith in a booth at the back of Bob’s Bowery Bar, waiting for “the two Bills” (Grey and Leighton) to return from God knows where with an ounce of marijuana, an ounce which Rooster and Sniffy hoped to parlay into a twenty-five thousand dollar profit.
Rooster sipped his tepid flat Rheingold beer, then he stubbed out his Philip Morris, and quickly lit another one, not so much because he wanted a cigarette, but because this bar smelled like the interior of the most vile men’s room in the world. If it smelled like this in the barroom, what could it possibly smell like in the bar’s actual men’s room?
Sniffy didn’t seem to mind at all. As soon as they had sat down she had taken the cap off a Benzedrine inhaler, pulled out the cloth strip, wadded it into a little ball, popped it into her mouth and begun to chew it with relish, chattering away about how rich they were going to be, smoking Rooster’s cigarettes, and occasionally taking a sip from her own glass of tepid Rheingold.
It had come to this, as the drunks in the bar screamed and shouted and cackled in dubious hacking laughter, and as Gene Krupa pounded his traps on the jukebox, yes, it had come to this...
Rooster had been something of a celebrity at the University of Oklahoma, the president of the Poetry Club and the editor of the campus literary magazine, The Covered Wagon Review. At the commencement ceremony for his class, in May of 1942, he recited one of his own poems, “Lest Fascism Triumph”, and then the next day, along with several of his fellow young littérateurs, he had gone down to the army recruiting office and enlisted. Rooster happened to be a physical coward who was also completely devoid of patriotic feeling, but he knew he would probably be drafted anyway; it was his plan to use his education to get a safe clerical posting far from battle, but he need not have worried, because his first day of basic training at Fort Dix he woke up screaming, cawing, crowing uncontrollably.