The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty
Longshot (In The Damon Runyan Style)
One spring evening I find myself headed to the Upper East Side for a gala party being thrown by Sam the Gonoph. Sam is a ticket scalper by trade and it seems that one week ago he cleaned up on the last Joe Louis fight and made a bundle that amounted to more than somewhat. All of his friends have been invited including Jew Louie, Nathan Detroit, Old Liverlips, Boston Bennie and One-Finger Dave. Sam was even standing still for tux rentals all around because he said this was going to be a most elegant affair. Sam was even lining up dolls and a band. So here I am in my tux with tails and my top hat --- looking quite debonair if I do say so myself.
As I get out of my taxi I spy Jew Louie and Boston Bennie heading for the restaurant's two front doors and looking quite better than usual. "Hello, boys", says I, "You are both looking quite dapper, I see!" With that Boston Bennie opens one of the doors and the three of us enter the establishment. All the boys are there in their rental tuxes and the dolls are all adorned in evening gowns. The band is playing "Casey Would Waltz with the Strawberry Blonde". The three of us approach the bar and order drinks of our choice. We see Sam the Gonoph approaching us. Sam is a short squat guy with whom you do not want to tangle in a dark alley. As a matter of fact you do not want to meet any of these guys in a dark alley, tux or no tux. "Welcome, boys!" says Sam. The four of us proceed to exchange niceties and we all thank Sam for his generosity.
It is during Prohibition, of course, but there is booze flowing more than somewhat. Guys and dolls are dancing and it appears that everyone present is having a good time, indeed. Sam has even paid a nice little bundle to the Assistant Chief of Police to ensure that no raids are scheduled for this auspicious occasion. Sam does not throw a big party every week. Some weeks Sam does not even have two quarters to rub together. The restaurant we are in is called "Murphy's" despite the fact that it is owned by a little Italian guy and you are much more likely to see spaghetti and meatballs here than ham and cabbage. But tonight there is a wide variety of food spread out along several banquet tables.
A short time later Jew Louie and Boston Benny are dancing with two dolls and I am putting food into my face at one of the banquet tables when I hear a familiar voice. "I see you are sampling the food, my old friend!" Looking around I see none other than Longshot Riley. I have not seen Longshot for maybe two years now, but I notice he is wearing a black patch over his left eye. "Longshot", says I, "what mishap has fallen upon you since last we met?" "It happened at Belmont", says Longshot, "I never should have been standing so close to the track. When the horses came by one of them kicked up a stone that hit me square --- and I didn't even win the race!" Now everyone knows that you cannot believe everything Longshot tells you --- but I chat with Longshot anyway --- and the party continues.
Ten minutes later I am talking to Sam and I ask him about Longshot's eye. With a laugh Sam proceeds to tell me about the absence of Longshot's eye. The injury did occur at Belmont but not quite like Longshot had related. It seems Longshot found a booth in the racetrack's Men's Room that had a hole in the back wall. Longshot quickly ascertained that the hole enabled him to look into the Ladies' Room. About the fifth time Longshot took the liberty of peering through the hole, some doll poked the sharp end of her umbrella through the hole thusly ending Longshot's short-lived career as a Peeping Tom. Sam assured me that he had that story on very good authority, mainly straight from the mouth of the Assistant Chief of Police.
Next I am talking to One-Finger Dave and Old Liverlips. I tell them Longshot's version of the eye mishap --- and then I tell them Sam's version. They are both laughing in a big way. Says One-finger, "That is not the first time that Longshot has had a race track mishap. Let me tell you about the horse owner's daughter". One-Finger then proceeds to tell us of the time when Longshot was sitting in Jilly's bar at the bar when a cute doll sits down next to him. They begin to talk and it turns out that she is a horse owner's daughter, which owner has a horse named Tiger Tail that is running in the fourth at Belmont the very next day. The doll proceeds to tell Longshot that her father has been holding the horse back in his last six races but he is going to cut him loose tomorrow after placing a bundle on him. The doll assures Longshot that her father is basically an honest man but that he needs the money for an operation that her twelve-year-old brother needs in order to live. Tiger Tail, it seems, is going up against a very weak field and is a virtual certainty to win by numerous lengths. So the following day Longshot places five big ones on Tiger Tail to win. Of course Tiger Tail comes in fifth and it turns out that the doll is not the owner's daughter, but the owner's wife. And the owner does not own Tiger Tail but rather owns the horse that actually won the race. The owner and his wife wanted to keep the odds on their horse long, so they spread rumors about the other horses being "sure things". The winning horse went off as a 20 to 1 shot and the owner and his wife made a bundle. Longshot was out five big ones plus the drinks he had bought for the doll. Of course the doll's brother was non-existent as well.
We then notice that Longshot is drinking quite heavily. Jew Louie hears us talking about Longshot and he starts telling us the following. It seems that Longshot has cancer and he is scheduled for an operation two days hence. The doctors have told him that his chances of living through the surgery are 10 to 1 against. No wonder Longshot is drinking. Longshot is not one of our favorite people, but he has given us all tips on horses from time to time, so we all decide that we will go to the hospital to see if Longshot can beat the odds.
So two days later we are all in the waiting room of St Francis Hospital. Jew Louie, Sam the Gonoph, Nathan Detroit, Boston Benny, One-Finger Dave, Old Liverlips and myself are there. The surgery was supposed to take three hours and it had commenced three and a half hours ago. Some of us are drinking coffee, some of us are reading and some of us are just pacing around. Fifteen minutes later a doctor walks into the waiting room and after glancing at our motley crew he says, "Your friend, Longshot, has survived the operation --- we got it all --- and he should be fine." There are then smiles and nods all around. Longshot has beaten the odds for a change. He is not one of our best friends, of course --- but everybody loves an underdog more than somewhat.
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