THE GOOD MISTER
When I was living on Clement Street, a thousand years ago, the nearly ancient old Russian lady
who lived across the hall somehow repeatedly got herself locked outside on our shared, fourth-
floor, fire escape. At the time the Shah of Iran’s ski instructor was also living in that apartment
along with an old old old Russian woman—a very good friend of mine, who was a journalist
though she could hardly see—as well as a middle aged Russian woman and her teenaged son. I
was convinced it was the Shah of Iran’s ski instructor who was somehow getting Marie out on that
fire escape and then locking her out, though I could not figure out why he would do such a thing.
Still, I knew it was him.
One time he showed me a binder full of photographs with him on skis beside the Shah of Iran and
his wife, all leering like puppet royalty into the camera. There were kids involved too. Their
arrogance was such that they still looked down upon anyone who had the audacity to glance at
them, no matter the distance or how many year had passed. I pretended I wasn’t impressed,
because I knew he wanted me to be, and, honestly, I really just, you know instinctually, didn’t like
the guy. Smarmy is an interesting word.
So, we—me and whatever woman I happened to be living with at the time—would be doing
whatever normal healthy people might be doing in a bedroom at whatever hour normal healthy
people might be doing such a thing and there would be a little tap tap tap upon the window,
behind the closed curtains. And I knew when I got up and walked over there and took a look,
Marie would be out there with contrition written all over her lovely old face. Through the window I
could read her lips as she pleaded, “Mister. Mister.” She clenched her hands in prayer and
bowed her head and pleaded, “Mister. Mister.”
So then I opened that window and assisted her inside with great care on my part, and some
difficulty on hers. When she was safely inside she always bowed and said, “Thank you too much,
Mister. Thank you too much.” Then I would lead her through our place and out into the hallway,
and I watched after her as she entered her apartment again.
You know, some times she’d end up out on the fire escape again just a few minutes later. It was
like a comedy routine.
So, whenever we met in the hallway she would take my hand in hers and pat me on the hand
saying, “Good Mister. Good Mister.” She always said it with tears gathering in her ancient eyes.
Tears in her eyes.
“For god’s sake,” I thought, “what the hell kind of mister would I be to abandon you to your fate
out there on our fire escape?”
Real American Writin' for Real American Readin'
by HENRY EDWARD FOOL
More from AMERICAN RACONTEUR
The GOOD MISTER LEARNS A LESSON
I lived out on Clement Street in San Francisco for something like 10 years.
And where I lived, because of the steady climb of the landscape, you could
look off to the west and see Clement as it ran all the way up to the Palace
of the Legion of Honor. That’s about 30 city blocks.
So, one day I walked out onto the street and a tiny little old lady
approached me. She was dressed in a manner that pegged her
somewhere between, well off and utterly insane, but she had a gentle way
“Excuse me, sir,” she said in a soft, slightly wavering voice, “but, can you
look down there and tell me if you see the Clement Street bus coming?”
“Sure,” I said. I was glad to help her out.
She apologized, “My eyes have gotten so bad lately.”
“That’s OK,” I said and stepped out into the middle of the street, and
casting my eagle eyes westward, I waited to see if I might detect any bus-
like movement headed in our direction. I watched for a bit because I
wanted to be able to offer her good news if I could, but there was not a
single bus to be seen in any of those 30 blocks.
So, I stepped back to the sidewalk and I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see any
And she looked me right in the eye, and she began to tremble, and she
said, “You FUCKING LIAR!”, and marched off smartly down the street.