Nobody had a better friend than PL, who died this morning [28th June, 2013]... Milton Wordley photo ... LATE NEWS: see the comments boxes at the foot of this piece for Philip Lehmann's advice regarding a celebratory get-together at the Peter Lehmann Winery on July 26th., and I shall see you there.
DEATH PAYS A SOCIAL CALL
Damon Runyon’s last column 1945
Death came in and sat down beside me, a large and most distinguished-looking figure in beautifully-tailored soft, white flannels. His expensive face wore a big smile.
“Oh hello,” I said. “Hello, hello, hello. I was not expecting you. I have not looked at the red board lately and did not know my number was up. If you will just hand me my kady and my coat I will be with you in a jiffy.”
“Tut-tut-tut,” Death said. “Not so fast. I have not come for you. By no means.”
“You haven’t?” I said.
“No,” Death said.
“Then what the hell are you doing here?” I demanded indignantly. “What do you mean by barging in here without even knocking and depositing your fat Francis in my easiest chair without so much as by-your-leave?”
“Excuse me,” Death said, taken aback at my vehemence. “I was in your neighbourhood and all tired out after my day’s work and I thought I would just drop in and sit around with you a while and cut up old scores. It is merely a social call, but I guess I owe you an apology at that for my entrance.”
“I should say you do,” I said.
“Well, you see I am so accustomed to entering doors without knocking that I never thought,” Death said. “If you like, I will go outside and knock and not come in until you answer.”
“Look,” I said. “You can get out of here and stay out of here. Screw, bum!”
Death burst out crying.
Huge tears rolled down both pudgy cheeks and splashed on his white silk-faced lapels.
“There it is again,” he sobbed. “That same inhospitable note wherever I go. No-one wants to chat with me. I am so terribly lonesome. I thought surely you would like to punch the bag with me awhile.”
I declined to soften up.
“Another thing,” I said sternly, “what are you doing in that get-up? You are supposed to be in black. You are supposed to look somber, not like a Miami Beach Winter tourist.”
“Why,” Death said, “I got tired of wearing my old working clothes all the time. Besides, I thought these garments would be more cheerful and informal for a social call.”
“Well, beat it,” I said. “Just Duffy out of here.”
“You need not fear me,” Death said.
“I do not fear you, Deathie, old boy," I said, “but you are a knock to me among my neighbours. Your visit is sure to get noised about and cause gossip. You know you are not considered a desirable character by many persons, although, mind you, I am not saying anything against you.”
“Oh, go ahead,” Death said. “Everybody else puts the zing on me so you might as well, too. But I did not think your neighbours would recognize me in white, although, come to think of it, I noticed everybody running to their front door and grabbing in their ‘Welcome’ mats as I went past. Why are you shivering if you do not fear me?”
“I am shivering because of that clammy chill you brought in with you,” I said. “You lug the atmosphere of a Frigidaire around with you.”
“You don’t tell me?” Death said. “I must correct that. I must pack an electric pad with me. Do you think that is why I seem so unpopular wherever I go? Do you think I will ever be a social success?”
“I am inclined to doubt it,” I said. “Your personality repels many persons. I do not find it as bad as that of some others I know, but have undoubtedly developed considerable sales resistance to yourself in various quarters.”
“Do you think it would do any good if I hired a publicity man?” Death asked. “I mean, to conduct a campaign to make me popular?”
“It might,” I said. “The publicity men have worked wonders with even worse causes than yours. But see here, D., I am not going to waste my time giving you advice and permitting you to linger on in my quarters to get me talked about. Kindly do a scrammola, will you?”
Death had halted his tears for a moment, but now he turned on all faucets, crying boo-hoo-hoo-hoo.
“I am so lonesome,” he said between lachrymose heaves.
“Git!” I said.
“Everybody is against me,” Death said.
He slowly exited and, as I heard his tears falling plop-plop-plop to the floor as he passed down the hallway, I thought of the remark of Agag, the King of the Amalekites, to Samuel just before Samuel mowed him down: “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
|Peter the Rock : PL so loved the work of Damon Runyon that he named his first winery Masterson after Runyon's Guys and Dolls character, Sky Masterson, "a gambler willing to bet on virtually anything". Both photographs copyright Milton Wordley.|
|To those urging me to make another obituary, this is a message from the dream. So until I get my mojo back on the PL case, please accept these photographs taken by that true friend of both us, my colleague Milton Wordley.|
|First board meeting, Peter Lehmann Wines PL., in the kitchen of PL and Marg. photo copyright Milton Wordley|
|Marg, Doug and PL at the weighbridge ... photo copyright Milton Wordley|
|The wine column ... photo copyright Milton Wordley|