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Manhattan Transfer

pint o cream for our coffee." Gus spits into the newly polished cuspidor beside the bar.

"Boy, I got a thoist on me. . . ."

"Been drinkin too much milk again, Gus, I'll warrant," roars the barkeep out of a square steak face.

The saloon smells of brasspolish and fresh sawdust. Through an open window a streak of ruddy sunlight caresses the rump of a naked lady who reclines calm as a hardboiled egg on a bed of spinach in a giltframed picture behind the bar.

"Well Gus what's yer pleasure a foine cold mornin loike this?"

"I guess beer'll do, Mac."

The foam rises in the glass, trembles up, slops over. The barkeep cuts across the top with a wooden scoop, lets the foam settle a second, then puts the glass under the faintly wheezing spigot again. Gus is settling his heel comfortably against the brass rail.

"Well how's the job?"

Gus gulps the glass of beer and makes a mark on his neck with his flat hand before wiping his mouth with it. "Full up to the neck wid it. . . . I tell yer what I'm goin to do, I'm goin to go out West, take up free land in North Dakota or somewhere an raise wheat. . . . I'm pretty handy round a farm. . . . This here livin in the city's no good."

"How'll Nellie take that?"

"She wont cotton to it much at foist, loikes her comforts of home an all that she's been used to, but I think she'll loike it foine onct she's out there an all. This aint no loife for her nor me neyther."

"You're right there. This town's goin to hell. . . . Me and the misses'll sell out here some day soon I guess. If we could buy a noice genteel restaurant uptown or a roadhouse, that's what'd suit us. Got me eye on a little property out Bronxville way, within easy drivin distance." He lifts a malletshaped fist meditatively to his chin. "I'm sick o bouncin these goddam drunks every night. Whade hell did I get outen the ring for xep to stop fightin? Jus last