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0100_005E Buttered Side Down Edna Ferber

That Home-Town Feeling

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Copy-hunting, I approached Tony with hope in my heart, a smile on my lips, and a nickel in my hand.

"Philadelphia--er--Inquirer?" I asked, those being the city and paper which fire my imagination least.

Tony whipped it out, dexterously.

I looked at his keen blue eye, his lean brown face, and his punishing jaw, and I knew that no airy persiflage would deceive him. Boldly I waded in.

"I write for the magazines," said I.

"Do they know it?" grinned Tony.

"Just beginning to be faintly aware. Your stand looks like a story to me. Tell me, does one ever come your way? For instance, don't they come here asking for their home-town paper--sobs in their voice--grasp the sheet with trembling hands--type swims in a misty haze before their eyes--turn aside to brush away a tear--all that kind of stuff, you know?"

Tony's grin threatened his cold-sore. You can't stand on the corner of Clark and Randolph all those years without getting wise to everything there is.

"I'm on," said he, "but I'm afraid I can't accommodate, girlie. I guess my ear ain't attuned to that sob stuff. What's that? Yessir. Nossir, fifteen cents. Well, I can't help that; fifteen's the reg'lar price of foreign papers. Thanks. There, did you see that? I bet that gink give up fifteen of his last two bits to get that paper. O, well, sometimes they look happy, and then again sometimes they--Yes'm. Mississippi? Five cents. Los Vegas Optic right here. Heh there! You're forgettin' your change!--an' then again sometimes they look all to the doleful. Say, stick around. Maybe somebody'll start something. You can't never tell."

And then this happened.

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A man approached Tony's news stand from the north, and a woman approached Tony's news stand from the south. They brought my story with them.

The woman reeked of the city. I hope you know what I mean. She bore the stamp, and seal, and imprint of it. It had ground its heel down on her face. At the front of her coat she wore a huge bunch of violets, with a fleshly tuberose rising from its center. Her furs were voluminous. Her hat was hidden beneath the cascades of a green willow plume. A green willow plume would make Edna May look sophisticated. She walked with that humping hip movement which city women acquire. She carried a jangling handful of useless gold trinkets. Her heels were too high, and her hair too yellow, and her lips too red, and her nose too white, and her cheeks too pink. Everything about her was "too," from the black stitching on her white gloves to the buckle of brilliants in her hat. The city had her, body and soul, and had fashioned her in its metallic cast. You would have sworn that she had never seen flowers growing in a field.

Said she to Tony:

"Got a Kewaskum Courier?"

As she said it the man stopped at the stand and put his question. To present this thing properly I ought to be able to describe them both at the same time, like a juggler keeping two balls in the air at once. Kindly carry the lady in your mind's eye. The man was tall and rawboned, with very white teeth, very blue eyes and an open-faced collar that allowed full play to an objectionably apparent Adam's apple. His hair and mustache were sandy, his gait loping. His manner, clothes, and complexion breathed of Waco, Texas (or is it Arizona?)

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Buttered Side Down
Edna Ferber

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