CHRISTMAS EVE SMELLS 1946
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It was Christmas Eve in New York City, 1946, and I was on my way home from my job as a payroll clerk at Bellevue Hospital. At the beginning of the year I had been demobilized from three years of service in the Army Air Corps, where I had served successfully as a radio operator. In the last ten months I had several jobs, in a dry goods store on Orchard St., as a typist at the United Nations. I was in the process of applying for pre-medical education so I could become a medical doctor and psychiatrist. I hadn’t been accepted by the fifty colleges I had applied to because my high school average was just above the passing minimum. I was biding my time and working at anything available.
The evening was snowy, crisply cold and filled with hope. It was a happy time, the mood of people everywhere was friendly, the memory of the glorious victory of World War II still around. I had just left the office party, on my way home, walking briskly in the crowded streets to the 28th Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated. There was a jolly Santa Claus standing on the corner, in front of a bar, tinkling his bell, talking to the passers-by, collecting money which gently thudded into his kettle.
As I approached the canopied train steps I saw a well-dressed, middle-aged man sitting on the second step looking forlorn and sobbing quietly with hung-head hopelessness. As I came up to him I was impaled by a strong smell of alcohol mixed with the acrid stench of shit. People were streaming by him, going up the steps, each making a big swerve around him as the double smell assaulted them. It was clear to me, standing in front of him, that he had made in his pants and that he was too drunk and to do anything about it except sit in his own filth, crying like a baby.
Without thinking I knew what I had to do. I tapped him on the shoulder of his light brown cashmere coat; he looked up at me with glazed eyes. He allowed me to help him to his feet and half-supporting him, he stagger slightly as I led him into the corner bar. I bulled a path through the crowded, smoked-filled, noisy place. No one paid any attention to us as we quickly made our way to the men’s room .
It was empty; I took him into one of the stalls, took off his vile smelling pants and under-shorts. I threw the underwear into a trash bin, and told him to hang on for a minute while I cleaned up his pants. He stood there dumbly, slightly nodding his head, sighing deeply.
I cleaned out his pants as best as I could; I hesitated for a moment before I decided that I would not wipe his ass. We both struggled in getting his pants back on and getting him belted up.
I took my time as I lead him out through the densely happy, loud, throbbing crow. No one paid any attention to us. The refreshingly brisk cold air awakened my companion and he became aware of what had transpired between us. Slurringly, he began to thank me and I nodded in return, continuing to lead him towards the lighted steps of the elevated station.
Before he started up the steps he asked for my name and address and I told him “Never mind, your thanks are enough for me.” I left him standing briskly moved off, waving goodbye with a slight wave of my hand.
The moral of this story is best understood in the following story:
Cannibals captured a missionary in the deep jungle. Before putting him in the huge pot of boiling they brought him into the chief’s hut for a blessing. The chief was sitting on his thrown, underneath a beam of wood, and on the beam, a Foo Bird was sitting.. The chief was examining this juicy morsel and the Foo Bird shit on the missionaries shoulder. Automatically the missionary started to brush off the shit when the chief stopped him, saying “If the Foo shits, wear it.”
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