Saturday, February 9, 2013

96. "Kid Conrad"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo* 

illustrations by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

*Associate Professor of American Literature, assistant Debate Club coach, Olney Community College; editor of A Dame of Ill Fame and Four Other Previously Uncollected Novellas of Doomed Love, by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press. Available exclusively in the books department at Woolworth’s.

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we return to the stately uptown residence of the Collinson family, where Frisco Johnny Ramirez and young Conrad Collinson are discussing Conrad's new career as a budding pugilist.

Frisco Johnny Ramirez took an envelope out of his inside suit-jacket pocket. The envelope had been folded four times, and he unfolded it and then poured a white powder out of it onto the little ormolu table between his arm chair and Conrad’s. 

“You don’t mind, do you kid? I like a little snow now and then to give me a little lift, a little pick-me-up on top of the booze.”

“I could ask Williams to make us some fresh coffee if you like,” said Conrad.

“No thank you, Conrad,” said Johnny. “You see, I drink too much coffee it gives me gas.”

“I understand,” said Conrad.

“You like a line, pal?”

“A line?”

“Of snow. The Bolivian marching powder. The Big C.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny,” said Conrad. “You must forgive me, but I suppose I have lived a rather sheltered life. So, to be honest I have no idea what you’re talking about, in what I can only suppose is a sort of netherworld argot or patois.”

“I’m saying this is cocaine here, Conrad,” said Johnny. “And I’m asking you would you like to snort a bump or two?”

“Cocaine? Gee. What’s it like?”

“It’s great. Put hair on your chest. Only thing is it might keep you up all night. Which is nothing to me, me I always like to go to bed not till after breakfast, and a late breakfast at that. But a guy like you I know it’s different.”

“Well, I don’t have to work tomorrow. Tomorrow’s Saturday.”

“No pressing engagements.”

“No. Not really. I’m supposed to play cribbage with my Aunt Caroline and her friend Lord Wolverington after lunch, but —”

“Now you understand, once we start training it’s ixnay on the snow, you gotta get a good eight hours every night, plus a nap in the afternoon.”

“Oh, sure —”

“And no more cocktails neither.”

“Well, normally I’m really a very moderate drinker —”

“I don’t wanta hear moderate. I mean no alcohol whatsoever.”

“Oh, sure.”

“No cigarettes neither.”

“Well, I don’t smoke, actually.”

“No mary jane.”

“Mary who?”

“You crack me up, Conrad.”

“Heh heh.”

“Hey, you got a straw in that bar over there? Like a big straw?”

“Like for a Tom Collins?”


“Why yes, I believe we do have some straws.”

“Go get us a couple straws then, Conrad.”


Conrad stood up.

“And Conrad?”

“Yes, Johnny.”

“I’m gonna teach you how to be somebody, kid.”

“Gee, thanks, Johnny.”

“For what?”

“Well, just for, you know, taking the time out of what must be your very busy schedule, to —”

“Kid. Conrad.”


“I got nothing but time, Conrad.”

“Okay,” said Conrad.

“Nothing but time. You see, Conrad, all we really got is time. If you give away your time — to what? to your employer, to the government, whatever — you give away your time you give away your life.”

“Yes, I see what you mean, Johnny. I feel as if I’ve given most of my life away, all of it really, and to what? To my family, to school, to my career, to —”


“Yes, Johnny?”

“How about them straws.”

“Oh, right,” said Conrad. “I forgot. The straws. I’ll be right back.”

“The kid,” said Johnny. “That’s what we’re gonna call ya.”

“What?” said Conrad.

“The Kid,” said Johnny. “That’s you. Kid Conrad. That’s gonna be your ring moniker. Because, just between you and me and the wall, pal, Conrad Collinson ain’t such a fearsome name for a prize-fighter.”

“No, it isn’t,” said Conrad.

“Kid Conrad,” said Johnny. “That’s who you are, here on out.”

“Kid Conrad,” said Conrad. “It does have a certain je ne sais quoi about it, doesn’t it?”

“Whatever you say, kid.”

“Heh heh.”

“Kid Conrad,” said Frisco Johnny. “Now you sound like somebody.”


“Now how about them straws, kid?”

“Right,” said Conrad — no — “Kid” Conrad. “Straws. Coming up.”

“Kid Conrad,” said Frisco Johnny. “Somebody.”

“Somebody?” said Conrad.

“Somebody,” said Frisco Johnny. “Somebody named Kid Conrad.”

“Kid Conrad,” said Conrad.

“So, Kid Conrad?” said Johnny, smiling.

“Yes?” said Conrad, Kid Conrad.

“About them straws.”

“Oh. Yes! The straws!” said Conrad.

And Conrad — Kid Conrad — hurried across the room to the bar.

97. "done wrong"

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