of a literary bent

The Way You’d Smell a Rose, or a Shot of Brandy.


it is inconceivable that i have not posted this before:

Once, in a Hartford barroom, a trembly fellow in his seventies turned to Mr Flood and said “Flood, I had a birthday last week. i’m getting on. I’m not long for this world.”

Mr Flood snorted angrily. “Well by God, am,” he said. “I just got started.”

The trembly fellow sighed and said, “I’m all out of whack. I’m going uptown to see my doctor.”

Mr Flood snorted again. “Oh shut up,” he said. “Damn your doctor! I tell you what you do. You get right out of here and go over to Libby’s oyster house and tell the man you want to eat some of his big oysters. Don’t sit down. Stand up at that fine marble bar they got over there, where you can watch the man knife them open. And tell him you intend to drink the oyster liquor; he’ll knife them on the cup shell, so the liquor won’t spill. And be sure you get the big ones. Get them so big you’ll have to rear back to swallow, the size that most restaurants use for fries and stews; God forgive them, they don’t know any better. Ask for Robbins Islands, Mattitucks, Cape Cods, or Saddle Rocks. And don’t put any of that red sauce on them, that cocktail sauce, that mess, that gurry. Ask the man for half a lemon, poke it a time or two to free the juice, and squeeze it over the oysters. And the first one he knifes, pick it up and smell it, the way you’d smell a rose, or a shot of brandy. That briny, seaweedy fragrance will clear your head; it’ll make your blood run faster. And don’t eat just six; take your time and eat a dozen, eat two dozen, eat three dozen, eat four dozen. And then leave the man a generous tip and go buy yourself a fifty-cent cigar and put your hat on the side of your heard and take a walk down to Bowling Green. Look at the sky! Isn’t it blue? And look at the girls a-tap-tap-tapping past on their pretty little feet! Aren’t they just the finest girls you ever saw, the bounciest, the rumpiest, the laughingest? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for even thinking about spending money on a damned doctor?And along about here, you better be careful. You’re apt to feel so bucked-up you’ll slap strangers on the back, or kick a window in, or fight a cop, or jump on the tailboard of a truck and steal a ride.”  

               – Joseph Mitchell, “Old Mr. Flood” (1948)

more on this later.

6 thoughts on “The Way You’d Smell a Rose, or a Shot of Brandy.

  1. joseph mitchell is one of my all-time favourite dudes, and now he and you have caused me to learn the word “gurry”, both its literal meaning and the possibility of its use as a term of general disparagement. it is a good day.

    • stillcrapulent says:

      yeah, doesn’t he rule? i trust you read that bit of found unfinished memoir that the New Yorker published a while back?
      also, there’s kind of an amazing irony in using the word to disparage something you’re going to add to a raw mollusk.

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