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A Tale of New York

by scriever 

Posted: 07 January 2017
Word Count: 982
Summary: For the challenge. I've always loved the short stories of P G Wodehouse and Damon Runyon. What would happen if some of the characters from these two worlds came into contact?

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We were on the old Queen Mary, heading back to Blighty, and I was having a cigarette with my new pal Eddie. Eddie was telling me a story about his time in New York.

“It all began when I set eyes on Gloria, the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, in the chorus of a Broadway show. As well as the usual attributes, she had bags of enthusiasm and a smile that could light up the darkest night and give succour to the most jaded soul.
I was waiting at the stage door to take her out to dinner. One of the other chaps there sidled up to me. “Weren't you at the track on Tuesday? Belmont?”
“I was indeed, with a friend of mine, Joseph.”
“Joe the Cheese. I know him. How did you get on? Did you win many potatoes?”
“Alas no, I lost all my…potatoes on Baker’s Boy, fourth race on the card.”
“Baker’s Boy! You shouldn’t listen to Joe, he knows as much about horses as my kid sister. I’ll go wit’ you next time. Get you your wad back.” 
We got into a chat about the geegees, and by the time the chorus emerged we'd arranged a return visit to the track the next day. And then there she was; my angel. But Harry got in before me. "Hiya Glo. Eddie here is desirous of treating you to dinner. Think I'll come along too, Eddie, if you don't mind. Gloria and I is old pals, ain't we Glo?" 
The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. Harry had a great many friends, with the most unusual names: as well as Joe the Cheese there were Tommy Wheels, Phil the Pill, and Hound Dog, to name but three. When I woke the next morning, it felt as if Krakatoa were erupting in the central cortex. 
"Your restorative is on the bedside table sir," said Chivers. Man's a marvel. I was sucking it down when a knock came to the door. It was Harry, looking excessively hale and hearty. 
"Why" he said, "I didn't expect to find you in this sorry state, Eddie. The first race is scheduled to begin in a very short space of time. Just under one hour, to be exact." 
I have to admit that I'd forgotten our arrangement, but with Chivers help we were on our way in no time.
We missed the first race, but there was ample time for me to make good the previous day's losses and add to my wad, guided by Harry's good advice. We parted with a rendezvous arranged for a restaurant later that night. Harry assured me that Gloria would be there. When I got back to the old homestead Chivers had a hot bath waiting and the best bib and tucker laid out. Suitably fragranced and suited, I sallied forth into the bright lights of the big city. 
But what a sight awaited me. Gloria appeared to be canoodling with my new best friend Harry. 
I'm afraid I rather saw red. "Now look here Harry. Dash it all, old man. This is a bit rich." Harry looked up from his canoodle. “Here’s the boy! See, Glo, I told you he would not be standing us up. Eddie doesn’t forget these things. Eddie the Elephant, that’s him.” That was the last straw. I’ve always been a keen trencherman, and as a consequence tend to be a bit touchy about my weight. I'm afraid to say I snapped and put my weight behind a roundhouse punch of which Mr Dempsey, had he been present, would have nodded in approval. Harry went down, unfortunately taking Gloria with him. All conversation had ceased as the other diners surveyed the scene. “I’ll give five to two on Harry. Any takers?” I looked round and saw, at an adjoining table, Phil the Pill and Hound Dog enjoying a steak dinner. “No offence, your lordship, but Harry does not often come off second best in a ruck.”
Harry was sitting up by now and, much to my annoyance, Gloria was dividing her time between comforting him and glaring at me. “Don’t worry, Jess” said Harry, rubbing his jaw. “He sucker-punched me, that’s all. I’m ok.”
“I’m sorry to have hit you, Harry, but I think I’m due some sort of explanation. I mean, why are you looking daggers at me, Gloria? And who’s Jess?”
Gloria pulled herself up to the full 5 foot 5. “I’m Jess. My given name is Jessica. And I’m looking daggers at you because you just socked my brother on the jaw.”
I didn’t know what to say, and I just stood there open mouthed while Gloria helped Harry to a chair. She was still looking daggers in my direction. “I think you’d best leave, Ed,” she said.
Back at the flat, I found a scene of chaos. My cases were heading out of the door, with Chivers supervising. He handed me a ticket to the Queen Mary. "Your Aunt Agatha called, sir. She was most insistent that you return home forthwith. We sail in three hours."
And with that, we were away. Just as well, probably. Gloria was unlikely to look upon me with favour, and I understand Harry was quite the pugilist. He'd probably be keen on a return bout. I have wondered whether Chivers might have somehow heard about the unpleasantness and taken action to ensure the young master's safety. Wouldn't have been the first time.”

My new friend looked downcast. I knew what would cheer him up. The fact he still had to unburden himself from his winnings from the racecourse never crossed my mind. “I know just the thing," I said. "I’ve met a few keen sportsmen since we left the US. Why don’t I get them together and we’ll get our own game going? Poker to your liking?”        

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 09:18 on 08 January 2017  Report this post
Hello Ross,
Not having heard of this Damon bloke, I did something that most ignorant Aussies would never do - research. Now armed with a modicum of background I can tackle your ambitious exercise. I was immediately impressed with the premise - mixing the two styles. Let's see how you've done.
Loved the mish-mash of slang and words from long ago as well as the culture clash. Must admit I was expecting present rather than past tenses as Damon apparently refused to use the past . Nevertheless a great story with lots of historical flavour. One might dare to suggest your foray into by-gone times to be rather ticketty-boo spiffing, don't you know.

Bazz at 15:22 on 08 January 2017  Report this post
Hi Ross, afraid I'd also not heard of Runyon, but I can see the two styles being mixed here, bit like Wooster getting caught up in a Chandler novel, perhaps. It's a fun exercise, and a good homage, you can sense two very distinct things being mixed, and it's interesting to read the result. 

FelixBenson at 20:10 on 08 January 2017  Report this post
Well, I am amazed how well these two worlds collide. They fit together remarkable well, and I suppose when I think about it - with your excellent example here - they really do have a lot in common. No wonder nicknames came up so quickly, but I suppose they both have distinct and rather enclosed world's, lots of character (and characters) and are both distinctive exercises in style. I was waiting for an aunt to turn up and you didn't disppoint! Well done for pulling this off so entertainingly and so convincingly too!

scriever at 13:51 on 09 January 2017  Report this post
If you want a gander at Runyon's stories, they're available free on project Gutenberg, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks11/1100651h.html . He wrote the story for the musical Guys and Dolls, and all of his stories cover the same sort of ground, i.e. petty crooks and gamblers in New York. He has a style all of his own which is full of the street slang in use in the 20s and 30s in New York. An example:

Well, besides black hair, this doll has a complexion like I do not know what, and little feet and ankles, and a way of walking that is very pleasant to behold. Personally, I always take a gander at a doll’s feet and ankles before I start handicapping her, because the way I look at it, the feet and ankles are the big tell in the matter of class, although I wish to state that I see some dolls in my time who have large feet and big ankles, but who are by no means bad.
But this doll I am speaking of is 100 per cent in every respect, and as she passes, The Humming Bird looks at her, and she looks at The Humming Bird, and it is just the same as if they hold a two hours’ conversation on the telephone, for they are both young, and it is spring, and the way language can pass between young guys and young dolls in the spring without them saying a word is really most surprising, and, in fact, it is practically uncanny.

Perhaps a little on the sexist side for today's tastes, but in his defence he was writing a fair while ago.

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