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Ptomaine Street   By: (1862-1942)

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First Page:







A certain Poet once opined That life is earnest, life is real; But some are of a different mind, And turn to hear the Cap bells peal. Oft in this Vale of Smiles I've found Foolishness makes the world go round.

Ecclesiastes, Solomon, And lots of those who've passed before us, Denounced all foolishness and fun, Not so the gay and blithesome Horace; And Shakespeare's Jaques, somewhat hotly, Declared the only wear is Motley!

We mortals, fools are said to be; And doesn't this seem rather nice? I learn, on good authority, That Fools inhabit Paradise! Honored by kings they've always been; And you know where Fools may rush in.

And so, with confidence unshaken, In Cap and Bells, I strike the trail. I know just how, because I've taken A Correspondence Course by mail. I find the Foolish life's less trouble Than Higher, Strenuous or Double. Dear Reader, small the boon I ask, Your gentle smile, to egg my wit on; Lest people deem my earnest task Not worth the paper it is writ on. Well, at white paper's present worth, That would be rather high priced mirth!

I hope you think my lines are bright, I hope you trow my jests are clever; If you approve of what I write Then you and I are friends forever. But if you say my stuff is rotten, You are forgiven and forgotten.

Though, as the old hymn runs, I may not Sing like the angels, speak like Paul; Though on a golden lyre I play not, As David played before King Saul; Yet I consider this production A gem of verbalesque construction.

So, what your calling, or your bent, If clergy or if laity, Fall into line. I'll be content And plume me on my gayety, If of the human file and rank I can make nine tenths smile, and thank. [Blank Page] PTOMAINE STREET


On a Pittsburgh block, where three generations ago might have been heard Indian war whoops yes, and the next generation wore hoops, too a girl child stood, in evident relief, far below the murky gray of the Pittsburgh sky.

She couldn't see an Indian, not even a cigar store one, and she wouldn't have noticed him anyway, for she was shaking with laughter.

A breeze, which had hurried across from New York for the purpose, blew her hat off, but she recked not, and only tautened her hair ribbon with an involuntary jerk just in time to prevent that going too.

A girl on a Pittsburgh block; bibulous, plastic, young; drinking the air in great gulps, as she would later drink life.

It is Warble Mildew, expelled from Public School, and carolling with laughter.

She had only attended for four weeks and they had been altogether wasted. In her class there were several better girls, many brighter, one prettier, but none fatter. The schoolgirls marveled at the fatness of her legs when, skirts well tucked up, they all waded in the brook. Every cell of her body was plump and she had dimples in her wrists.

And cheeks, like:

A satin pincushion pink, Before rude pins have touched it.

Her eyes were of the lagoon blue found in picture postcards of Venice and her hair was a curly yellow brush heap. Sunning over with curls you know, sort of ringolets.

In fact, Warble was not unlike one of those Kewpie things, only she was more dressed.


That's the way things were to come to Warble all her life. Fate laid on in broad strokes in great splashes in slathers.

Expelled! And she had scarce dared hope for such a thing.

To sound the humor of Warble.

She hated school. Books, restraint, routine, scratching slate pencils, gum under desks, smells all the set up palette of the schoolroom was not to her a happy vehicle of self expression.

Often, in hope of being sent home, she had let a rosy tongue tip protrude from screwed up red lips at teacher, but it had gone unpunished... Continue reading book >>

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