Rotten Davis Takes Up the Tobacco Habit - by Paul Rhymer

ANNOUNCER: Well sir, it's early evening as we enter the small house half-way up in the next block now - about seven o'clock - and here in the living room we find Mr. and Mrs. Victor Gook comfortably settled on the davenport with sections of the newspaper. And now a somewhat prolonged silence is broken as the husband says to the wife:

VIC: Read this about Mis' Slimer?

SADE: No. Paper state something about her?

VIC: Yeah. She almost got killed.

SADE: Really?

VIC: [reads] "Mrs. L.W. Slimer, 718 West Market Street, narrowly escaped serious injury late last evening when her automobile stalled on the Chicago and Alton tracks at Morris Avenue directly in the path of a freight train. Fortunately, E.E. Rogers, who was in charge of the locomotive, was able to come to a stop."

SADE: My!

VIC: That's woman drivers for ya. I bet she got scared when she saw the train an' put on the brake.

SADE: She's s'posed to be a very good driver.

VIC: Women are too high-strung to operate automobiles. I read the other day where some college professor worked out some statistics that showed...

RUSH: [off] Hey.

SADE: [calls] Yes?

RUSH: [closer] Rooster an' Harold get here yet?

SADE: Who?

RUSH: [closer] Rooster an' Harold Davis. Said they'd be right over.

SADE: We haven't seen anything of ?em.

RUSH: [closer] They'll be here any minute then.

SADE: Did you go ?way over to Williams' an' back in just this little time?

RUSH: [up] I took a streetcar home.

SADE: What was the idea?

RUSH: I wanted to be here when Rooster an' Harold come. Hello, Gov.

VIC: Hello.

RUSH: [to Sade] Is it O.K. me havin' a little company tonight?

SADE: I guess so. Harold's comin' too, huh?

RUSH: Yeah. I'm surprised they haven't showed up. See, I met ?em on my way over to Williams' an' they said they'd... That them?

SADE: Where?

RUSH: I heard somebody run up on the porch.

SADE: Oh, that's the kids from up in the next block. They been doin' that all evening. It's a game of Run Sheep Run.

RUSH: Oh.

SADE: How's it happen Harold's comin'? He's a lot older'n you an' Rooster, ain't he?

RUSH: Yeah.

VIC: Who's Harold?

RUSH: Rooster's big brother.

VIC: Oh, the gawky guy with the hair all gummed down slick with stickum?

RUSH: Yeah. The reason he's comin', Mom, is to show off his tobacco habit.

SADE: His what?

RUSH: His tobacco habit. It's a brand new habit. Beginning this evening he's startin' to smoke an' chew. I invited him an' Rooster over so he could enjoy a cigar with Gov.

VIC: Who's gonna furnish the cigar?

RUSH: He is. He's got cigars by the thousand. All his pockets are crammed with ?em.

SADE: How old is Harold?

RUSH: Twenty. Be twenty-one the third of November. See, he promised his mother he wouldn't smoke ?till he got to be of age, but he's been puttin' the pressure on her an today she finally give in an' let him have permission to cultivate the tobacco habit.

SADE: My.

RUSH: He's so happy an' excited he don't know what to do. Wait'll ya see him. Just bulges with cans of tobacco an' cigars an' stuff. Rooster says he's spent over ten dollars.

SADE: He buy ten dollars worth of tobacco?

RUSH: He bought a box of cigars, a fancy cigarette lighter that works by machinery, a leather pouch, a cigar-cutter, an' a silver case with his name on it.

SADE: Um.

RUSH: We still got that cuspidor around any place?

SADE: Haven't seen it in ages. What ever become of that, Vic?

VIC: Didn't Laurastine Price's youngest kid break it last time they visited?

SADE: Oh, sure. He was lookin' for it in the dark an' knocked a chair over on it.

RUSH: I wish we had a cuspidor or somethin' for Harold. He'll be smokin' so much he'll prob'ly enjoy an occasional spit.

VIC: I've seen that guy around the barber shop quite a bit. Always struck me as a little simple.

RUSH: Harold's a fairly bright fella. Got a memory like a horse. He can rattle off the batting averages of every player in the big leagues.

VIC: What's he do for a living?

RUSH: He's out of a job right now. Up until a month ago he carried water for the extra gang down in the Chicago an' Alton yards but somebody in Washington D.C. pulled a boner an' he got let out.

VIC: Somebody in Washington D.C. pulled a boner, huh?

RUSH: Yeah. It was a political mix-up of some kind. I don't know all the ins an' outs of it but Harold says if it wasn't for the trouble they're havin' in Europe he'd still have his job.

VIC: I think I'll ask Harold about it when he arrives.

RUSH: Yeah. You can enjoy a pleasant manly chat over your cigars.

VIC: I'm interested in finding out how a waterboy on a railroad section gang can lose his job on account of a war threat in Europe.

RUSH: Oh, you know how things are in Washington D.C. A senator forgets to sign a bill or something an' there's the dickens to pay.

VIC: Uh-huh.

RUSH: Maybe you'd like to chat with Harold too, Mom, while he puffs away on his cigar.

SADE: [giggles] All right.

RUSH: Funny they don't get here. Said they'd be right over.

SADE: Maybe Harold stopped to enjoy a smoke with some other people.

RUSH: Maybe he did. Boy, he sure feels swell about his tobacco habit. See, he's been battlin' with his mother a long time. Months an' months. "Mama, please let me cultivate the tobacco habit. I'm gonna be twenty-one in a few months." Today she finally give in.

VIC: How are you gettin' along with the tobacco habit?

RUSH: Me? Oh, I haven't indulged for years.

SADE: Did you usta indulge?

RUSH: When I was a kid, sure.

SADE: What'd ya smoke?

RUSH: Oh, Indian cigars from that Indian cigar tree behind Call's house; Cubebs, cornsilk, buggy-whip handles... all the junk young kids smoke. I expect you done the same thing, Gov.

VIC: Yeah.

SADE: Ever smoke any tobacco?

RUSH: Couple times I did.

SADE: I better not catch ya.

RUSH: Like I say, I haven't indulged for years. Bein' one hundred percent frank with ya I really don't care much for the tobacco habit.

SADE: No, an' ya better not.

RUSH: When I'm twenty-one, I'll prob'ly be around draggin' down a few snappy lungfuls of high-class smoke.

SADE: Ump.

RUSH: Wait'll ya see how hepped up Harold is. By gosh, bein' a victim of the tobacco habit's been one of his principle ambitions. Why ever since his fifteenth birthday he's been puttin' coffee on his fingers every day.

SADE: Coffee?

RUSH: Sure.

SADE: Why?

RUSH: To give a stain. Sometimes he uses walnut hulls. To look at his thumb an' forefinger an' innocent passerby'd get the impression he used tobacco by the peck.

SADE: Oh, my.

RUSH: An' when he meets a stranger he always trembles an' acts nervous.

SADE: What for?

RUSH: He desires to put across the idea he's shot to pieces from havin' his system so full of nicotine.

SADE: Lands.

VIC: An' that's the guy I'm gonna have a pleasant manly chat with, huh?

RUSH: You'll enjoy chattin' with Harold. He can converse on any subject ya care to mention.

VIC: I bet.

RUSH: That's no joke.

SADE: Did he finish high school?

RUSH: Harold? No, he never. Somebody in Washington D.C. pulled a boner an' he got expelled.

VIC: Certainly a lot of boners pulled in Washington D.C.

RUSH: Yeah.

SADE: What'd he get expelled for?

RUSH: For cribbin' in three final examinations, the Board of Education claimed.

VIC: What's Harold's claim?

RUSH: The way Harold tells the story an Illinois Congressman in Washington D.C. got jealous of him an' pulled some political wires.

VIC: Hotsy-totsy.

RUSH: He's had some hard luck in his career, Harold has.

VIC: I can see that.

RUSH: Why, just last week his girl jilted him.

SADE: He got a girl?

RUSH: Not any more, he hasn't. She give him the gate.

SADE: Anybody I know?

RUSH: [negative] Uh-uh. She's a moving picture actress out in California. Goes under the name of Quenteena Quarles.

SADE: Quenteena Quarles! Why, she's the great big enormous star.

RUSH: Yeah.

SADE: Tonight's paper says Wilbert Willison, America's honey-boy, is her beau.

RUSH: Harold was her beau up until last week.

SADE: Aw, I don't believe it.

RUSH: Ask him when he gets here.

SADE: How could he be her beau?

RUSH: Harold usta write her a letter every day of the week.

SADE: Did she write him?

RUSH: I s'pose so. Anyway, it's all off now.

VIC: I bet I know what broke up the romance.

RUSH: What?

VIC: Somebody in Washington D.C. pulled a boner.

RUSH: [surprised] How'd you know?

VIC: Is that right?

RUSH: Sure. Harold was tellin' me about it just the other evening. Seems like the Chinese ambassador to France was in Washington D.C. an' got acquainted with a senator from California an' between ?em they cooked up some big lie about Harold.

VIC: Sometime somebody in Washington D.C.'s gonna pull a boner an' your friend Harold'll wind up in the insane asylum.

RUSH: Be just his luck. Well, he's got his tobacco habit to cheer him up. Mom, you might make things pleasant for him by handin' out a few compliments.

SADE: How ya mean?

RUSH: Oh... "Gosh, Harold, you sure hold that cigar like an old timer." "Harold, that smoke sure smells peachy." "Here, Harold, dump your ashes in this ashtray for a change."

SADE: [giggles] All right.

RUSH: Wonder why the heck they don't get here.

VIC: Somebody in Washington D.C. prob'ly pulled a boner.

SADE: [giggles] I was gonna say that, too.

RUSH: Hey, you people ain't gonna make fun of Harold, are ya?

VIC: No.

RUSH: I advise ya not to. When it comes to witty come-backs he's the world's champion. Anybody that pokes josh at Harold Davis gets josh poked right back... with plenty of steam on the ball.

VIC: I'll be very careful.

RUSH: A guy got funny down at the barber shop the other day an' did he wish he'd kept still.

VIC: Harold burn him down?

RUSH: I'll say. This guy says, "Hey, is that thing you got your hat on a head or is it an egg?" Harold looked at him a minute in silent contempt. Then he says, "If you think it's an egg, try puttin' a little salt on it." VIC &

SADE: [laugh]

RUSH: [laughing] Oh, when it comes to comical wise-cracks Harold takes the cake. Know what he said to Mis' Stormer that works there in the library?

VIC: No, what'd he say?

RUSH: Well, I'll hafta tell ya the first part.

VIC: O.K.

RUSH: Mis' Stormer caught him markin' up books with a pencil. She says, "Oh, so you're the one that's been drawin' mustaches on people. If you do it again I'll have you arrested." Harold says, "they're not your books." She says, "They're property of the public library an' I'm in charge of ?em." "All right," says Harold, "if you're the one that's in charge, how much'll ya charge me for a shave an' haircut?"

SADE: [somewhat disgusted] Oh my.

RUSH: Wasn't that comin' back at her like a ton of bricks?

SADE: Kid like that oughta be given a dose of the razor strap, twenty years old or no twenty years old.

RUSH: You just don't appreciate the humorous slant, Mom.

SADE: I guess I don't.

RUSH: Hey, I'm gonna call up them guys.

SADE: From what I've heard of this Harold I don't know whether I want him around my house or not.

RUSH: Oh, you'll like him fine.

SADE: I'll probably just love him.

RUSH: There's plenty of girls that do. [to phone] 2880-J, please. Yes. [to his folks] They're prob'ly on their way here but I might as well check up. Mom, we better have every ashtray in the house around handy. Harold'll prob'ly... [to phone] Hello... Mis' Davis?... Rush, Mis' Davis... say, I saw Roost.. Alvin an' Harold a little while ago an' they said they'd... huh? Yeah? Really? Well... ah... I hope... oh, I see. Yes. Uh-huh. Well... ah... thank you, Mis' Davis. No, needn't bother askin' Alvin to come to the phone. No. All right, Mis' Davis... good-bye. [hangs up]

VIC: What's the verdict?

RUSH: Harold has give up the tobacco habit.

VIC: So soon?

RUSH: He was downtown across from the courthouse. He whipped out a cigar an' lit up. He took three puffs... only three puffs... turned white as a sheet... an' fell down in a dead faint right there on the public street. They brought him home in an ambulance.

ANNOUNCER: Which concludes another brief interlude at the small house half-way up in the next block.