Post #463 (fiction no. 7)   THE ORACLE ON TREMONT AVENUE  (A modern day redux on Aesop’s, “The Grasshopper and the Ant”)  

The protagonist, Cedrick P. Boobish, (“C.P.”), having recently immigrated to the United States, from London’s East Side, and residing (“for the moment”) in a modest flat on Tremont Avenue, Bronx, New York, slyly, acknowledged to himself, with a subtle smile, that he, indeed, was an especially fortunate man.

Despite his recent, unjust expulsion, as a recently hired, adjunct professor, from a small, “non-descript,” College in England, he was, nevertheless, exultant, in the confident recognition, of being uniquely in possession of a rare, unorthodox and remarkably advanced, gift of reason. It was that rare and precious gift, he came to realize, which, no doubt, was the underlying basis, of his summary, tactical, dismissal from the College. To be specific, he felt that his discharge was motivated by the Dean’s apprehension, that, if he were further retained, the members of the college’s professorial staff would find themselves professionally challenged, threatened, by his especially nuanced and deeply insightful observations, relative to curricular subjects, taught at the College.

One illustrative, and typical example, of this, singularity, was his ongoing, disdainful, dismissal of the marvelous, 17th through 19th Century, Enlightenment thinkers, including, Copernicus (heliocentric theory of the solar system), and Erasmus. It was Boobish’s vehement, and often expressed, belief, that, the universally acknowledged, paramount contribution, to mankind, of said Age of Enlightenment, viz., the scientific and philosophical, disproval and rejection, of the ancient, religious trope, that Man was placed, at the center of the Universe, was itself, “incorrect.” Boobish declared, that such historical breakthrough, and the “purported, rejection,” lacked, even one scintilla of redeeming merit”.

Continuing with the intended narrative, we might, observe, that, our protagonist, Mr. C.P.Boobish, albeit, born to modest, economic, circumstances, was, by some propitious chance, possessed of the fulsome, theatrical accent, normally attributable to the British upper class, a  phenomenon, rarely, if ever, previously, encountered in the West Bronx. By virtue of its ethnic comparison, with New York speech or, even worse, with the Bronx diphthong, lent to his speech, in such venue, a misleading and undeserved, aura of authority, and far more troubling and deceptive, a false aura of wisdom.

Boobish’s self-serving, rationalizations for his total inability, to find employment in New York, were, dual; as to high scale positions, it was his evident brilliance, causing corporate representatives, to fear their own replacement, and, regarding lower scale jobs, was his obvious over- qualification. Rather than being discouraged, B.J. perceived, that it all was destiny, an inspirational message, directing him, by virtue of his unique natural endowments, to establish for his fellow man, a public advisory service.

Such advisory service, purely for practical reasons, would have its first and temporary location, at his ground floor, street facing apartment, until the time of its expected success, and predictable major expansion. The first week, following his affixation of an elegant sign, to the center-front window of his front-facing apartment, advertising his advisory service, was disastrous. The only parties that came to the door were, in order, the landlord, demanding her two month’s, unpaid rent, two solicitors, vacuum cleaners and magazine sales, and, finally, a young high school student, desperately, requiring tutoring in intermediate algebra. They were all sent away, the young student, angrily dismissed, on the firm grounds, that Boobish, as he haughtily proclaimed, “never, even once, heard of the subject of algebra, whether, intermediate or final.”

After approximately two months, more local people, started to slowly, drift in. The first was Mr. Bernstein, who was a tenant, upstairs, on the fifth floor of the same building, in which the advisory service was located. He explained that he is a medical student, needing funds and heavily in debt, having, recently, graduated from medical school, and presently, pursuing a course of specialization, in orthopedics. The problem, regarding which he needed advice and help, was the refusal of the landlord, to furnish sufficient heat to his apartment, thus interfering with his study, and causing him personal discomfort. The advice, and service, for which the indigent tenant, paid $50.00, was succinct, and frustratingly disappointing to Bernstein, (who, in truth, expected advice on legal redress) was simply: “Buy a warm sweater.” The young, Student-Doctor, pursuing orthopedics, left, disappointed, angry and embarrassed.

The following is a quick recitation, in summary form, of problems, brought to Boobish, seeking advice and assistance, and the nature of the advice, offered by such sage advisor: Problem, wrongful firing and loss of employment. Advice: “get plenty of rest”. Problem, wife being constantly beaten, by violent husband. Advice:” Get a big stick.” Student with claim of wrongful expulsion from University. Advice: “Get a job”. Severe alcoholism. Advice: “Stop drinking”. Problem, incessant, verbal battles between married couple. Advice: “Stop talking to each other, if you both remain silent, the argument will be ended.” Problem, Expensive, newly purchased, washer and dryer, do not work. Advice: “Do not use them”.

After the first few weeks of operation of this, remarkable consulting service, Boobish gathered his receipts together, for the purpose of prudently, depositing his net receipts, into his local bank account. It was raining heavily, that day, and so, he decided to take the bus. When the City bus stopped, at the proximity of the selected bank, Boobish, politely thanked the bus driver, and then, intending to routinely, step down, awkwardly, turned his foot, and slipped, to the sidewalk. He arose with some help from a bystander, apparently unhurt. However, when he attempted to walk, the leg, which he had twisted, stepping off the bus, at first, could not be moved, without extreme pain. Shortly, thereafter, he was able to walk home, very slowly and painfully.

He, awkwardly mounted the front steps to his apartment building, alternately slipping and catching himself, opened the heavy outside door, and painfully, limped to his first floor apartment. He had come close to slipping, yet, again, when he fumbled in his trousers, for the key, and, finally, sweating, shaky and puffing, let himself in, and tumbled, in relief, on the couch. He painfully, sat, for a while, noticing that his knee was, red and slowly swelling. After a few minutes, Boobish recalled, that the nice fifth floor tenant, Bernstein, is a doctor, working toward a specialization in orthopedics, of all things, and attempted to telephone him. He was not home, and disappointedly, and, in a state of impatient anxiety, he left an “urgent” message, for Bernstein, to call back, immediately, reciting the facts and his extreme pain and suffering.

Two hours later, Bernstein, “at long last,” came home, and in the process of accessing the message, recalled the insensitive and insulting, short shrift, previously afforded him, by the caller. As expected by Bernstein, it wasn’t long, before Boobish called again. Bernstein listened patiently, for a full five minutes, to the detailed description of the incident, and to an extensive account of the consequent, pain and disability. At last, in the midst of his frantic complaints, Boobish anxiously, asked Bernstein, the very question, for which Bernstein had been patiently awaiting: “I can’t walk on that leg; what should I do now?” Bernstein, smiled devilishly, after hanging up, but not before having advised, “So don’t walk.”


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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