The Last Man Left in the Bar by C. M. Kornbluth

The Last Man Left in the Bar C M Kornbluth

The Last Man Left in the Bar C M Kornbluth

You KNOW HIM, Joe—or Sam, Mike, Tony, Ben, whatever your deceitful, cheaply genial name may be. And do not lie to yourself, Gentle Reader; you know him too.

A loner, he was.

You did not notice him when he slipped in; you only knew by his aggrieved air when he (finally) caught your eye and self-consciously said “Shot of Red Top and a beer” that he’d ruffle your working day. (Six at night until two in the morning is a day? But ah, the horrible alternative is to work for a living.)

Shot of Red Top and a beer at 8:35.

And unbeknownst to him, Gentle Reader, in the garage up the street the two contrivers of his dilemma conspired; the breaths of tall dark stooped cadaverous Galardo and the mouse-eyed lassie mingled.

“Hyii shall be a religion-isst,” he instructed her.

“I know the role,” she squeaked and quoted: ” ‘Woe to the day on which I was born into the world! Woe to the womb which bare me! Woe to the bowels which admitted me! Woe to the breasts which suckled me! Woe to the feet upon which I sat and rested! Woe to the hands which carried me and reared me until I grew! Woe to my tongue and my lips which have brought forth and spoken vanity, detraction, falsehood, ignorance, derision, idle tales, craft and hypocrisy! Woe to mine eyes which have looked upon scandalous things! Woe to mine ears which have delighted in the words of slanderers!

Woe to my hands which have seized what did not of right belong to them! Woe to my belly and my bowels which have lusted after food unlawful to be eaten! Woe to my throat which like a fire has consumed all that it found!'”

He sobbed with the beauty of it and nodded at last, tears hanging in his eyes: “Yess, that religion. It iss one of my fave-o-ritts.”

She was carried away. “I can do others. Oh, I can do others. I c$n do Mithras, and Ms, and Marduk, and Eddyism and Billsword and Pealing and Uranium, both orthodox and reformed.”

“Mithras, Isis, and Marduk are long gone and the resst are ss-till tii come. Listen tii your master, dii not chat-ter, and we shall an artwork make of which there will be talk under the green sky until all food is eaten.”

Meanwhile, Gentle Reader, the loner listened. To his left strong silent sinewy men in fellowship, the builders, the doers, the darers: “So I told the foreman where he should put his Bullard. I told him I run a Warner and Swasey, I run a Warner and Swasey good, I never even seen a Bullard up close in my life, and where he should put it. I know how to run a Warner and Swasey and why should he take me off a Warner and Swasey I know how to run and put me on a Bullard and where he should put it ain’t I right?”


To his right the clear-eyed virtuous matrons, the steadfast, the true-seeing, the loving-kind: “Oh, I don’t know what I want, what do you want? I’m a Scotch drinker really but I don’t feel like Scotch but if I come home with Muscatel on my breath Eddie calls me a wino and laughs his head off. I don’t know what I want. What do you want?”

In the box above the bar the rollicking raster raced.


Gampa smashes bottle over the head of Bibby.

Bibby spits out water.

Gampa picks up sugar bowl and smashes it over Bibby’s head. Bibby licks sugar from face.

AUDIO Gampa: Young whippersnapper!

Bibby: Next time put some flavoring in it, Gramps!

Bibby: My, that’s better! But what of Naughty Roger and his attempted kidnapping of Sis to extort the secret of the Q-bomb?

cut to Limbo Shot of Reel-Rye bottle.

Announcer: Yes, kiddies! What of Roger?

But first a word from the makers of Reel-Rye, that happy syrup that gives your milk grown-up flavor! YES! Grown-up flavor!

Shot of Red Top and a beer. At 8:50.

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Categories: C M Kornbluth