“Where are you going now?”

“Mr. Mancuso and his aunt, they gonna pick me up in a few minutes. We going down by Fazzio’s to bowl.”

“What?” Ignatius screamed. “Is that true?”

“I’ll be in early. I told Mr. Mancuso I can’t stay out late. And his aunt’s a grammaw, so I guess she needs her sleep.”

“This is certainly a fine reception that I am given after my first day of work,” Ignatius said furiously. “You can’t bowl. You have arthritis or something. This is ridiculous. Where are you going to eat?”

“I can get me some chili down by the bowling alley.” Mrs. Reilly was already going to her room to change clothes. “Oh, honey, a letter come for you today from New York. I put it behind the coffee can. It looks like it came from that Myrna girl because the envelope’s all dirty and smudged up. How come that Myrna’s gotta send out mail looking like that? I thought you said her poppa’s got money.”

“You can’t go bowling,” Ignatius bellowed. “This is the most absurd thing that you have ever done.”

Mrs. Reilly’s door slammed. Ignatius found the envelope and tore it to shreds in opening it. He pulled out some art theater’s year-old schedule for a summer film festival. On the reverse side of the rumpled schedule there was a letter written in the uneven and angular hand that constituted Minkoffian penmanship. Myrna’s habit of writing to editors rather than friends was always reflected in her salutation:


What is this strange, frightening letter that you have written me, Ignatius? How can I contact the Civil Liberties Union with the little evidence that you have given me? I can’t imagine why a policeman would try to arrest you. You stay in your room all the time. I might have believed the arrest if you hadn’t written about that “automobile accident.” If both of your wrists were broken, how could you write me a letter? Let us be honest with each other, Ignatius. I do not believe a word of what I read. But I am frightened for you. The fantasy about the arrest has all the classic paranoid qualities. You are aware, of course, that Freud linked paranoia with homosexual tendencies.

“Filth!” Ignatius shouted.

However, we won’t go into that aspect of the fantasy because I know how dedicated you are in your opposition to sex of any sort. Still your emotional problem is very apparent. Since you flunked that interview for the teaching job in Baton Rouge (meanwhile blaming it on the bus and things — a transferral of guilt), you have probably suffered feelings of failure. This “automobile accident” is a new crutch to help you make excuses for your meaningless, impotent existence. Ignatius, you must identify with something. As I’ve told you time and again, you must commit yourself to the crucial problems of the times.

“Ho hum,” Ignatius yawned.

Subconsciously you feel that you must attempt to explain away your failure, as an intellectual and soldier of ideas, to actively participate in critical social movements. Also, a satisfying sexual encounter would purify your mind and body. You need the therapy of sex desperately. I’m afraid — from what I know about clinical cases like yours — that you may end up a psychosomatic invalid like Elizabeth B. Browning.

“How unspeakably offensive,” Ignatius spluttered.

I don’t feel much sympathy for you. You have closed your mind to both love and society. At the moment my every waking hour is spent in helping some dedicated friends raise money for a bold and shattering movie that they are planning to film about an interracial marriage. Although it will be a low-budget number, the script itself is chock full of disturbing truths and has the most fascinating tonalities and ironies. It was written by Shmuel, a boy I’ve known since Taft High days. Shmuel will also play the husband in the movie. We have found a girl from the streets of Harlem to play the wife. She is such a real, vital person that I have made her my very closest friend. I discuss her racial problems with her constantly, drawing her out even when she doesn’t feel like discussing them — and I can tell how fervently she appreciates these dialogues with me.

There is a sick, reactionary villain in the script, an Irish landlord who refuses to rent to the couple, who by this time have been married in this subdued Ethical Culture ceremony. The landlord lives in this little womb-room whose walls are covered with pictures of the Pope and stuff like that. In other words, the audience will have no trouble reading him as soon as they get one glimpse at that room. We have not cast the landlord yet. You, of course, would be fantastic for the part. You see, Ignatius, if you would just decide to cut the umbilical cord that binds you to that stagnant city, that mother of yours, and that bed, you could be up here having opportunities like this. Are you interested in the part? We can’t pay much, but you can stay with me.

I may play a little mood music or protest music on my guitar for the sound track. I hope that we can finally get this magnificent project on film soon because Leola, the unbelievable girl from Harlem, is beginning to bug us about salary. Already I’ve bled about $1,000 from my father, who is suspicious (as usual) of the whole enterprise.

Ignatius, I’ve humored you long enough in our correspondence. Don’t write to me again until you’ve taken part. I hate cowards.

M. Minkoff

P.S. Also write if you’d like to play the landlord.

“I’ll show this offensive trollop,” Ignatius mumbled, throwing the art theater schedule into the fire beneath the stew.