"He knew the girl’s name from hearing it spoken in the bar, and as she came often he surmised she
was employed somewhere nearby." . . .
Walter Hebert was a tall, heavy man with straight black hair beginning to recede from his rather high forehead. He habitually wore horn rimmed spectacles, and his face was heavy of feature and inclined to be florid. He was well past forty, with a slow, somewhat ponderous walk and careful eyes. An untidy man, he was perpetually drinking beer or eating candy, his shirts soiled around the neck, his suit rarely pressed. His stomach bulged against his belt, and more often than not his shirt gaped over his buckle.
He came often to the bar, but rarely entered into any of the conversations, keeping to himself, and watching with his pale bulbous eyes. Aside from his eyes it was his lips and his hands you noticed most. There was something greedy, something faintly repulsive about them. His hands were large with thickly padded palms and fingers, and they were white like the underside of a fish cast up by the tide.
He knew the girl’s name from hearing it spoken in the bar, and as she appeared regularly he surmised she was employed somewhere nearby. Usually, she arrived in company with a taller, blonde girl who wore effective sweaters. Millie herself was small, slender, and wearing her rusty hair in a bob. She had a scattering of freckles, and she laughed easily and gaily, friendly always in a comradely little way of her own.
Three or four times a week they met in the bar with several young men who also worked nearby, or who frequented the bar from habit. Over a period of time they had grown acquainted until the bar was almost a club, a common meeting ground for the eternal conflict of the sexes, the men wanting women, the women wanting husbands, and sometimes the one winning, sometimes the other. Occasionally, both got what they wanted, and at the same time.
From across the bar Walter Hebert watched their gaiety and laughter with sullen lascivious eyes. In the turbid convolutions of his brain he suspected them of all manner of unspeakable vileness, and drawing from occasional overheard remarks meanings which they could never have guessed. Out of their loneliness and longing they came here to find a refuge from the impersonality of the street. Out there they were just part of the crowd, and at their work they were little more. Home in their small apartments there were only dreams to tint the drabness of their lives. Here they were personalities, they were girls being sought and wanted, men being young heroes, prideful of their strength or their success.
Walter Hebert hated the young men, and felt for them a certain contempt that mingled with resentment at their obvious success in securing the companionship of the girls, and this success he felt sure was due to some secret, degenerate approach that enticed the girls to them.
- End of Fragment -
BEAU L'AMOUR'S COMMENTS: A nice, if creepy, character sketch. If nothing else this short fragment makes you wonder what story is going to be acted out. A crime? A twist of the plotting knife that leads you to ultimately have feelings for this story's uncouth and sexually paranoid protagonist? Louis used the trick of twisting the reader's sympathies in "Old Doc Yak" and "Thicker Than Blood."
Regardless, at this point all we know about Walter Herbert is that he is a type that anyone who has had even the mildest amount of notoriety in their lives has come across; the jealous fantasist. A person who wants what he imagines others have. It's a tendency that we all have lurking within us, sometimes it even begins with hero worship. Left unchecked, the next step is stalking, and then sometimes violence.
This piece might have been written in the 1930s or '40s but it's more likely the early 1950s. Dad began using sentence construction like, "He came often to the bar ..." occasionally around that time. The tendency disappeared for awhile and then reappeared in the 1970s. I also suspect that this was written in the days when Dad was frequenting old school downtown or Hollywood bars in Los Angeles and that was generally before he was married and before he moved to West Hollywood, a place that had much more of an outlaw beatnik vibe.