old soak chapter three

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By Don Marquis
Chapter Three, “The Old Soak and Hail and Farewell,” 1921

“I never could see liquor drinking as a bad habit,” said the Old Soak, “though I admit fair and free it will lead to bad habits if it ain’t watched.

“In these here remarks of mine, I aim to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Jehorsophat, as the good book says.

“One feller I knowed whose liquor drinking led to bad habits was my old friend Hennery Simms.

“Every time Hennery got anyways jingled he used to fall downstairs, and he fell down so often that it got to be a habit and you couldn’t call it nothing else. He thought he had to.

“One time late at night I was going over to Brooklyn on the subway, and I seen one of these here escalators with Hennery onto it moving upwards, only Hennery wasn’t riding on his feet, he was riding on the spine of his back.

“And when he got to the top of the thing and it skated him out onto the level, what does Hennery do but pitch himself onto it again, head first, and again he was carried up.

“After I seen him do that three or four times I rode up to where Hennery was floundering at and I ast him what was he doing.

” ‘I’m falling downstairs,’ says Hennery.

” ‘What you doing that fur?’ I says.

” ‘I’m drunk, ain’t I?’ says Hennery. ‘You old fool, you knows I always falls downstairs when I’m drunk.’

” ‘How many times you goin’ to fall down these here stairs?’ I ast him.

” ‘I ain’t fell down these here stairs once yet,’ says Hennery, ‘though I must of tried to a dozen times. I been tryin’ to fall down these here stairs ever since dusk set in, but they’s something wrong about ’em.

” ‘If I didn’t know I was drunk, I would swear these here stairs was movin’.’

” ‘They be movin’,’ I tells him.

” ‘You go about your business,’ he says, ‘and don’t mock a man that’s doing the best he can. In course they ain’t movin’.

” ‘They only looks like they was movin’ to me because I’m drunk. You can’t fool me.’

“And I left him still tryin’ to fall down them stairs, and still bein’ carried up again. Which, as I remarked at first, only goes to show that drink will lead to habits if it ain’t watched, even when it ain’t a habit itself.”

“Do you have any more of your History of the Rum Demon written?” we asked him.

“Uh-huh,” said he, and left us the second installment.

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