Thursday, January 10, 2013

92. "blue moon"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo* 

illustrations by roy dismas , danny delacroix and eddie el greco

*Associate Professor of Sumerian Literature, Assistant Water Polo Coach, Olney Community College; editor of How’s Tricks on the Outside? The Prison Poems of Horace P. Sternwall, Vol. 1; Olney Community College Press; underwritten in part by a generous grant from The Pep Boys: “Hey, you know you can’t afford a new car! Let Manny, Moe & Jack help keep that old jalopy of yours running just a little bit longer!”

for previous chapter, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

click here for synopsis of all chapters so far

I say again, Mr. Sternhagen," bellowed Lord Wolverington, "don't you agree that youth is wasted on the young? Haw haw haw!"

Harold P. Sternhagen returned from the story (or was it a first chapter?) that had just passed through his brain, to the here and now, to this table in the Prince Hal Room of the Hotel St Crispian, and to the sight of the horrible gaping rictus of that old pansy Lord Wolverington across the table, to the leering wizened painted mask of his companion Miss Charlton, to the terrified pale face of that Michael fellow (or was it Henry?) squeezed in between those two ancient wrecks.

“Farmer” Brown clapped Harold on the shoulder, bringing him ever more fully into this world, the one people called reality. 

"Oh, I completely agree!" said the Farmer. "My own youth was entirely wasted on me!"

"As is your middle age," muttered Fred Flynn, sitting to Harold's left.

"What's that, Mr. Flynn?" said the Farmer.

"I said as is your middle age being wasted, and as will your old age and senescence, should you live so long."

"Ha ha!" said the imperturbable Farmer, leaning across Harold, so that Harold could smell the man’s Old Spice aftershave and the Brylcreem in his harshly dyed bright-brown hair. "So right you are, Mr. Flynn! But I shouldn't have it any other way! Ha ha! No other way indeed! Ha ha!"

"Haw haw!" bellowed Lord Wolverington.

Miss Charlton made a cackling sound, like the sound an old hen makes as she's being throttled for the stew pot.

Michael or Henry continued to look terrified.

And Shirley, Shirley De La Salle, continued to sing, over there across the smoky room. 

“Blue moon,” she sang, “You saw me standing alone…”
If Harold had any sense he would get up from this table at once, go right up to his room on the mezzanine, and type up that new story (or was it a chapter?) which had just played its way through his head like a two-reeler movie. At the very least it could be something that old Max Shambleton might take for Man Up! magazine, an easy ten bucks, maybe more if he could stretch it out into a serial novel. After all, his last serial (The Dead Man’s Horse, for Max’s Western Terror Tales) had netted him a cool one hundred bucks, with a possibility for another C-note if the paperback deal went through.


"Blue moon," sang Shirley, Shirley De La Salle, "you knew just what I was there for. You heard me saying a prayer for someone I really could care for..."
No, Harold decided, he would stay, maybe just for one more drink, one more song. The story (the chapter?), the story could wait, or it could tumble into oblivion, never to be written, never to be published on cheap pulp paper to be read by a few thousand semi-literates soda jerks and bus drivers and then forgotten forever, it didn't matter.

This is what mattered, sitting here at this table among these idiots, listening to Shirley over there across this smoky room, singing her heart out…
Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

And, who knew? Maybe, maybe after one more Manhattan, Harold would screw up the nerve to go over to her when she took her next break, introduce himself, tell her how much he enjoyed her singing…

“Haw haw!” yelled Lord Wolverington, leaning across the table toward Harold. How did he keep that monocle in his eye while he contorted his face so hideously with his mirthless laughter? “Haw haw!”

“Oh, Wolfie, please,” said Miss Charlton with her voice which sounded like, like what? Like sandpaper rubbing against sandpaper?

“Ha ha,” said Farmer Brown. “Ha ha!”

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” said Fred Flynn. “I don’t think I’ve ever paid so dearly for supposedly free drinks in my entire life!”

“But you agree with me, don’t you Mr. Chandler?” said Wolverington to the Michael or Henry fellow.

Harold couldn’t tell for sure but it really looked like Wolverington had his hand between the fellow’s legs.
“I, I, I —” said the fellow.

“Oh, leave the poor boy alone,” said Miss Charlton, and, yes, it looked like she had her hand between the guy’s legs also.

“She’s a peach all right, isn’t she, that Shirley De La Salle?” said the Farmer, holding his face very close to Harold’s. “If only I were twenty years younger!”

“You would what?” said Fred Flynn.
“Why, I’ll tell you what I’d do,” said Farmer Brown. “Do you know what I would do?”

“Oh, Christ,” said Fred.

“I should march right over to the end of the bar there, where Miss De La Salle sits when she’s ‘laying out’ as the ‘cats’ say, and I should offer to buy her a cocktail! That’s what I should do! That’s what a fellow did back in my day!”

“Oh, I’ll bet you just made out like a bandit back in your day, didn’t you, Mr. Brown?” said Fred, staring grimly at the Farmer.

“I had my share of the young fillies,” said Farmer Brown, smiling broadly, as usual. “Frisky young bangtails, dancing the Charlton and the Black Bottom, on this very dance floor, and gazing at me not with the contempt I admit I now so richly deserve, but, yes, with eyes filled with feminine concupiscence!” “Haw haw!” bellowed Lord Wolverington.

Miss Charlton cackled, and then coughed a couple of times. “Oh, my God,” said Harold.

He put his glass down on the table, even though there was still booze in it. He pushed back his chair and stood up.

“I say, where are you going, Mr. Sternhagen?” said the Farmer.

“I think he’s going to be sick,” said Miss Charlton, and then she cackled again, and then coughed again.

“Haw haw,” bellowed Lord Wolverington.

“Are you gonna finish that drink, Sternhagen?” said Fred Flynn.

“Please don’t leave me here,” said the Michael or Henry guy.

Harold stood there, gazing across the room.

“Blue moon,” sang Shirley, Shirley De La Salle. “Now I'm no longer alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own.”

Tony Winston played a showy run on his piano and the song ended with the drummer thrashing his cymbals with the brushes, bending forward as if in concentration, as if he really cared.

“I said are you going to finish your drink, Sternhagen?” said Fred Flynn.

“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” said Shirley into her microphone, even though hardly anyone was clapping. “Thank you very much! And now Tony and the boys are going to do a little instrumental number for you entitled ‘Hot House’. Take it, boys!” Then quickly she went to the side of the small stage, stepped down, and took a stool at the end of the bar.

Harold pushed his chair back further with his leg and he took a step, and then another, passing around behind Fred Flynn.

“Hey,” said Fred, turning, “can I have your drink?”

“Haw haw!” bellowed Lord Wolverington.

Miss Charlton cackled, then coughed.

“Ha ha!” laughed Farmer Brown.

“Wait, don’t leave,” said Michael or Henry.

Harold headed straight for the far end of the bar.

93. "a penny in the pistachio machine"

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