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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the fourteenth princess - chapter 9: the suspicions of sabine

by emily de villaincourt

illustrated by rhoda penmarq, konrad kraus and roy dismas

for complete episode, click here

Monday, October 29, 2012


by jean-claude etranger

translated by horace p sternwall

illustrations by eddie el greco

girls in summery blue dresses
with softly fluttering yellow tresses
drift across my waking dreams
like crumbling leaves in shaded streams

seated beneath my favorite tree
in a purple reverie
each drop of rain on each soft leaf
echoes my disconsolate grief

o faithless one! since you betrayed me
no ghost or memory can upbraid me

here on my bench of faded green
i fade into the passing scene

invisible, with soul destroyed
enveloped by the whispering void
here in the evening mist and dew
i rehearse each perfect scene with you

in a play that was never played
of gallant lover and sparkling maid
in a tale that was never spun
in a ballad that was never begun

Sunday, October 28, 2012

l'amour, part 31

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-one of seventy-eight

for previous chapter, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

part 32

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ace of night - 1. a friendly conversation

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus


i flipped my butt into harry's wastebasket and sat down.

harry leaned back and looked at me. he didn't look like he'd changed much since i saw him last. if anything, he looked meaner than ever.

"that wasn't very polite, jeff." he reached out with his long gorilla arm and pulled the wastebasket closer. he shook it, made sure the butt was out, and put it back down. "and you could set the place on fire. i wouldn't like that."

"very polite? where i been --"

harry held up his hand. "jeff, jeff, stop right there. i don't want to hear about where you've been. i don't want to hear your sad story. if you want to tell your sad story, i got the phone book here - " he picked the phone book up and slapped it back down on the desk - "and you can look up the sad story department under 's' and tell it to them. i hear you guys start to tell your sad stories all day and i'm sick of them. i can get a bag of sad stories cheaper than a bag of peanuts at the polo grounds. "

i just leaned back - in what felt like the same uncomfortable chair he'd always had - and looked at him. "you going to offer me a drink?"


"why not?"

"because this is my office, not the bar. stop at the bar on your way out, and buy - b-u -y, yourself a drink."

"come on, harry, stop trying to act tough. you wouldn't have let me in here in the first place, if you didn't want to hear me out."

harry laughed, that little laugh he had that you could hardly hear. "all right, what can i do for you?"

"it's what i can do for you. i thought you might have something for me."


"maybe? when maybe?"

"whenever. i'll let you know."

"so, can you let me have a little something, keep me going until you let me know.?"

"you mean, pay you before you do anything? no. no, that's not the way i operate. never was."

"i don't know, harry. it seems to me it was. "

"your memory is at fault."

i shook my head. "i don't know if i like this new world i come back to. it seems different somehow. colder, or something."

"yeah, well take it up with jesus, or truman or betty crocker or whoever is in charge. because it ain't me."

it wasn't the time or the place. i decided to give in. but down the line, harry would pay. he would pay like no man had ever paid before.

it's a funny thing about me - i can kind of predict the future. not exactly, not one hundred percent all the time, but still - i am pretty good at it. and the whole time harry was talking, i was thinking about what was going to happen when i left his office. it was one of the reasons i played it cool, why i let harry ride.

because when i got up and left harry's office i was going to meet a dame. and not just any dame. i was going to meet a dame who would almost be too hot for me to handle. who would take me to the end of the night and the edge of oblivion and let me look into the winking eye of the abyss. could i make it back?

i couldn't wait to find out.

"well, okay," i told harry. "if that is the way it has to be, i guess that is the way it has to be.

harry gave me a funny look then, like he hadn't expected me to give up so easy. well, he hadn't, had he?

"not going to try anything funny, are you, jeff?"

"who, me?"

he leaned back in his chair. "a lot of things have changed around here."

"i'm sure they have."

"one thing that has changed - i got more people - actually quite a few people - looking out for me now. not that i can't look for myself, you understand. but with all these people looking out for me, you know what?"


"i got more time to look out for myself. and with more time to look out for myself, i can do more good for myself. and the more good i do myself the more people want to be my friend and look out for me even more. and it just goes on like that."

this time i didn't bother to say anything.

harry went on. "it's like - like - what do you call it?"

"perpetual motion?"

"yeah - perpetual motion. or you throw a rock in the river and it keeps making circles - more and more circles."

"until they finally hit the shore."

"yeah, but the shore might be in china. anyway, i got lots of new friends."

"that's good. everybody can use friends."

"friends like the mayor, the police commissioner, some city councilors and judges -"

"just some city councilors and judges?"

"for now. well, jeff, i think this fascinating conversation is over. unless you got something else."

i pretended to think a little bit. "i might have something that might interest you."

"and you're just remembering it now? it must be good."

"well - it's - it's not a sure thing. not right now. it's just - a possibility, you know what i mean?"

"i know what you mean. you know, another thing that has changed - i'm not so interested as before in these one time deals." harry gave a little shrug. "you know how it is, you plan them, you bankroll them, more and more people get involved, then some little thing goes wrong, and the whole thing goes down the drain. i've come to prefer more steady sources of income, you know what i'm saying?"

"sure. but i still think you might be interested."

"okay, what is it? a bank? a payroll? don't tell me a jewelry store?"

"no, nothing like that."

"like what, then?" harry rubbed his eyes to show he was impatient.

"you hear about this new thing - the atomic bomb?"

"yeah, i read the papers from time to time. what about the atomic bomb?"

"well - like i say, it's not certain, but i think i might - might be able to steal one or two of them."

harry looked over my shoulder at the door and laughed his little laugh. "that's great, jeff. you got a fence lined up for this bomb, huh? or maybe you could take it out on broadway under your coat like a watch or a tie - hey buddy, want to buy an atomic bomb?"

"no, no - we wouldn't sell it. we would use it ourselves."

"oh? for what?"

"to rule the world."

and then harry did something i had never seen him do before. he laughed, really laughed. laughed out loud, like john q citizen at an abbott and costello movie.

"that's good, jeff," he said when he finished. "that's really good. it's so good, i tell you what i am going to do. i'm going to break my own rule. i'll call out to the bar and tell them you can have a free drink. but just one." he held up a finger. "one."

i stood up. "thanks, harry. and thanks for your time." i wasn't surprised. i knew harry didn't have any imagination. or know how to think big.

at least i had a free drink out of it.

and i had a date with a dame.

2. another old friend