the record of my life begins with my being found in a basket by the side of the high road in the province of d------, on a cold sunny morning a little after the beginning of this unfortunate century. as it is unlikely that those who placed me there expended themselves by traveling any great distance to do so, it seems that i was probably born in the said province. i have never found occasion to doubt this most reasonable assumption, and i suggest that you, dear reader, accept it also.
mademoiselle clotilde de t----------- de v-------- did everything at a most (100) leisurely pace, and liked her journeys through life and down the roads of the kingdom to be slow and smooth, so when the coachman spotted the bundle containing myself nestled between a rock and a flower and brought the coach from a trot to a halt she simply yawned and settled back in the coach, without even enquiring what he was about.
reader, i believe i have already indicated to you my distinct preference for simple and pious persons, and i have no doubt that this preference was sealed on that distant morning when charles the coachman - the sole cause of (200) my continued existence, the most pious creature i would ever know and the first person i encountered in this life - after my anonymous mother and perhaps an equally anonymous midwife - picked me up and brushed the dew off my still blind face.
did he say a prayer over me? probably not. curiously enough, despite his piety and his apparently limitless knowledge of the saints and angels and prophets and such, i do not recall that i ever actually saw or heard him pray. but i digress.
charles picked me up and brought me over to the coach and handed (300) me to adolphe, a "footman" or generally underfoot servant of mademoiselle, a lazy worthless rascal of a type she was all too complaisant about, and who on this morning was accompaniying mademoiselle and her maidservant and charles to - well, that is of no interest to you, dear reader, so i refrain from the description.
knowing adolphe as i later would, i have no doubt he was a veritable fountain of witticisms and droll remarks about my sudden appearance. but as he was always somewhat cowed by charles and did his bidding - more promptly than he did mademoiselle's or charlotte (400) the housekeeper's or jean-pierre the butler's - all of whom i will describe in good time - i do not doubt he handled me gently enough as the coach made it's easy way back to the chateau.
*Associate Professor of Mid-Victorian English Literature, Assistant Shuffleboard Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Poems from the Poop Deck: 197 Previously Uncollected Ballads of the Sea by Horace P. Sternwall, with an Afterword by Lowell Thomas; Olney Community College Press.
“Now you’re talking. Let’s head into the bar then, shall we?”
“Well, all right, but just one, mind.”
“One and done,” said Flossie.
The two women crossed the lobby, and Roland the night clerk seemed to rouse suddenly from a waking dream.
“Good evening, Miss Wilde. And Miss Flanagan.”
“Hello, Roland,” said Hyacinth.
“Hiya, Roland,” said Flossie. “And how is your evening going?”
“Just swell, miss, thank you very much.”
“Catch you on the flip side, pal,” she said.
The two women headed on into the Prince Hal Room, and Roland sank once again into his reverie, dreaming of that motel he hoped someday to own. Perhaps just on the border of Death Valley? Wouldn’t motorists want to stop and rest up before plunging into the parched wasteland of Death Valley? Perhaps he could also have a gasoline pump, and a small shop, in which people could stock up on provisions, just in case their cars should break down in the middle of the desert. He could call his motel The Last Chance Motel. The last chance for the weary traveler, before heading off into that burning and merciless hell…
Nolan came out of the hallway leading to the restrooms just in time to see Miss Wilde and Miss Flanagan entering the Prince Hal Room. And what were those two fillies up to? Perhaps the Flanagan girl was doing one of those personality profiles that people liked to read about actors and actresses, even ones as empty-headed as that Wilde girl.
He strode over to the desk, where Roland looked, as usual, to be sleeping with his eyes open.
“So, Roland, did ya hear the Commies have landed in force out by the West Side docks?”
“Pardon me?” said Roland, blinking.
“I said did I miss anything while I was in the john?”
jake's head hurt. it had been a long night - and it was not over yet.
he had lost track of lullaby lewinsky's tale of meeting corporal gray in times square and his rambling account of his and gray's - or was it just gray's? - exciting adventures in war-torn europe - and was there any point to it all? at all?
finally, the venerable hotel st crispian loomed up ahead.
up on the sixth floor of the hotel, stan slade was standing to the side of the broken window in room 603 and looking down at the dimly lit street.
"come on, jake, where are you?" he turned to cosette, who was sitting on the bed. "i must have been out of my mind to trust him."
cosette came over and looked out. "you want me to go look for him? i can ask to get off early, it's slow tonight."
"thanks for the offer, but if he didn't go to the drugstore he could be anywhere by now. he could be on a bus to d c, to talk to j edgar hoover."
"maybe you should think about getting out of here."
"yeah, maybe i should."
cosette thought for a few seconds. " there are a couple of empty rooms on the third floor."
"it might be better if i got out of the hotel. i just wish i had somewhere good to go."
"that's up to you."
stan went away from the window and sat back down on the bed. "maybe you should go up and see if hyacinth is back."
cosette peered down the street. "wait - i think i see him now."
mr paddington having gone for his fateful walk - the fatefulness of which had not yet been made manifest - the routine of his establishment was little disturbed.
the rain continued to fall. perhaps sal, desultorily chopping a potato for the evening meal, yawned a little wider than usual as she did so.
perhaps bill bikes, with a slight premonition of the changes about to be made to his comfortable existence, sat a little closer to the fire as he stuffed his master's best tobacco in his pipe. but perhaps not.
in any case their reveries were broken by a loud banging on the kitchen's back door.
neither bill nor sal moved to answer it. it continued.
"are you going to open the door, my lady?"
"no, are you?"
the pounding continued for a while. then it stopped, and only the rain beating on the window could be heard.
bill stared at the door. "he'll be back."
"indeed he will."
"he will be back with a stick, to half break the door down."
"that's a fact."
"maybe we should just let him in."
"you always do."
the perspicacious reader may have deduced from the brevity of this dialogue that it was one long practiced and often repeated.
"if you are so keen to let him in," sal contnued, "go open the door and call him back."
but bill did not move. "maybe it wasn't dennis."
"it was dennis."
bill now had the pipe filled to his liking. he took a piece of straw off the floor and stuck it in the fireplace. he was lighting the pipe with the burning straw when the pounding on the door began again, louder than before.
"didn't take him long to find a stick."
bill did not answer, being occupied in lighting the pipe.
the pounding continued, and with a sigh, sal put down her knife and went to the door. it opened with a fearful creak, letting in the wind, the rain, a foully blackened bowler hat, and a mass of patched clothing brandishing a stick.
sal dodged the stick and roughly pushed the mass of clothing aside. "no need to be so loud, dennis. you know we'll let you in, you're more bother out than in." she closed the door, which groaned even louder than when it had been opened.
"where's me seat?"
"on the floor," bikes answered. "where it always is."
*Assistant Professor of Popular Literature, Associate Skee-ball Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Hooray for the Damned! 47 Previously Uncollected Stories with Unhappy Endings by Horace P. Sternwall, with an Afterword by Oscar Levant; Olney Community College Press.
Landon “Rooster” Crow and Alice “Sniffy” Smith, failed hipsters, still sat at the same table in Bob’s Bowery Bar at which they had been sitting for over an hour now, waiting.
Waiting for the “two Bills”, Bill Grey and Bill Leighton, to return with a “lid” of marijuana, which Rooster and Sniffy hoped to sell at an enormous profit to two well-dressed idiots they had met in the musty stairwell of the Hotel St Crispian.
Sniffy as usual was oblivious to the passing of time, soaring on the high attained from her seemingly endless supply of Benzedrine inhalers, jabbering on and on, about herself, about her life.
To hear Sniffy tell it, she had had the most interesting life of anyone in the history of humanity.
She really was profoundly boring, thought Rooster, and he didn’t know why he loved her, but he did, even though she had never, in all of the nearly five years that they had known each other, shown him the slightest sign of physical affection, and precious little of any other kind of affection.
“Y’know, Sniffy,” said Rooster, “I’m starting to think ‘the two Bills' may not be coming back.”
“What do you mean, interrupting me in the middle of a sentence?”
“Oh, sorry, please go on.”
“Okay, so, as I was saying —”
Sniffy stopped speaking, for once, and both she and Rooster turned to look at the man who had just spoken.
It was the Irish poet Seamas McSeamas, standing there next to their table with his hands on his hips and a cigarette in his mouth.
“You heard me,” he said. “Absolute shite. Even standin’ over there at the bar amongst a crowd of drunken loudmouths and over the plaintive tones of the lovely Billie Holiday herself wailin’ the blues on the jukebox I could still hear your grating voice across the barroom, woman, talking shite nonstop.”