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(c. 1925)

by Charles MacArthur

Chapter III.

In the taxicab, he occupied himself with the fortunes of his estranged family.

“So you married Mibs,” he ventured.

“It looks like it.” Evidently small talk was not Eugene’s speciality. Miller bit the end of his cigar and smiled dreamily.

“Well, sir, you don’t know how old that makes me feel,” he said. “The last time I saw that kid she was knee high to a grasshopper.”


“Now she’s grown up and married!”


“Does she still wear glasses?”

“I’ll say so.”

“You know, I always told her mother all that eyeglass business was the bunk. These opticians are in cahoots with the school-teachers as far as I can make out. Why, I was reading an article just the other day where this big doctor says glasses only make you blind. His theory is that all a person needs is a few exercises. It’s the same with vaccination, too.”

A genteel pause followed. Miller coughed, and enquired with the utmost delicacy:

“Was she -- sick long?”

“Two days.”

“That’s merciful. I always say, if I’ve got to die, I want to die all at once. It’s this hanging around that gets on everybody’s nerves.”

“I know,” said Eugene, with surprising warmth. “It took my old man two years to kick off. My old lady used to run in the bathroom and lock the door so’s she wouldn’t hear him yell. That’s where the word ‘Angela’ comes from. It means agony.”

“Is that right?” Miller seemed astonished. He proceeded almost tenderly:

“Just what seemed to be the matter with Mrs. M?”

“Acute indigestion. She ate nearly a pound of peanut brittle and it swole up in her.”

“Well, her god was her stomach,” sighed Miller. “You know, I’ve seen her eat a whole box of cookies at one sitting. Anything sweet! I always thought she would get sick.”

“Well, she did.”

Miller shook his head sadly and indulged in a moment’s reverie.

“Poor Gussie,” he said. “She always tried to be a good wife -- you’ll have to hand her that ... I was thinking just now how we used to chew the fat about which one of us would die first. It used to get my goat. Morbid-like. But she seemed to enjoy it.”

Eugene had no comment to make on this foible of the deceased. With an effort, Miller shook off his gloom.

“But let’s talk about something pleasant,” he boomed, slapping his companion’s back. “How is married life?”

“What makes you think that’s pleasant?”

“Oh, now, now, you shouldn’t say that! A young fellow like you. How long have you been married, anyhow?”

“Six months.”

“What, that’s no time at all. Six months after I was married, we were billing and cooing like turtle doves. We would probably have been hitting it off yet if it hadn’t been --”

He stopped uncomfortably.

“Oh, well,” he decided. “Let bygones be bye-gones. She’s gone now, and I hope she’s happy.”

“That’s pretty white of you, after you done to her,” Eugene sneered. With a mild stare, Miller laid his hand on Eugene’s knee.

“Now, listen, son. There’s two sides to every question. Between you and me and the lamp post, if I had of stayed with Mrs. M. a day longer, I would have gone nuts, I mean really nuts. That’s all I’ll say about my side of the matter. Some things are sacred. But if you have any imagination you can guess.”

“I ain’t interested,” said Eugene, “in anything but my own troubles.”

In the silence that followed this riposte the taxicab drew up in front of Cunningham’s Funeral Home. Miller surveyed its rich facade, the glittering plate glass and sumptuous interior beyond with personal resentment.

“I’m supposed to pay for all that front,” he observed. “Well, watch my smoke!”

© 2003-04 The Estate of Charles G. MacArthur. All Rights Reserved.

Continue to Chapter Four or Return to Charles Gordon MacArthur Page

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