What Would Philip Marlowe Do

by Joshua Michael Stewart

The shortest distance between two points is from a blonde to a bed.


                                                                       —Raymond Chandler



She was a blonde with chestnut eyes

wearing a street dress of pale green wool.


She was a .25 caliber purse gun

with an engraved butt inlaid with silver


and ivory. The detective followed her

into a paneled room. They sat close


to one another on a rose davenport.

He noticed the Scotch on a tabouret


and a cigar box near a chromium

smoking stand. “Ruin me, baby,”


her voice was lisping smoke from a long

cigarette. His heart flickered like a blue


neon sign outside a seedy joint. He saw

no reason to search for clues that night.



section break


He wished he spent the night looking

for clues. The blonde held a pistol


snug against the detective's gut,

and two thugs guarded the door.


One was a frowsy fat fellow

with the features of a slug—a slug


that wore a derby and a cheap suit

two sizes too small. The other resembled


a streetlamp in his black suit with no meat

underneath, not to mention the moths


flying around his fedora. The detective

took a fist to the chin, a knee to the groin,


a glass ashtray to the temple and a floor

lamp across the neck. He passed out


before the blonde's flunkies had their turn

with him. When the detective cracked


an eyelid, he was using a curb for a pillow

and traffic whizzed past his mangled mug.


He was limp as a handkerchief. His mind

was a scratchpad and he couldn't read


his own writing. He checked his pockets,

found his gun and the bottle of Scotch


he swiped earlier were missing. He stumbled

inside a nightclub called The Boogaloo,


and took a swig of whatever the bartender

splashed in front of him. On the bandstand


stood a lapis-lazuli blue evening gown

with a fresh gardenia in her hair.


She had a putty-face, but as she sang

As Time Goes By, her voice dripped


like molasses off a silver spoon.

After her number, she sat next to him


at the bar. They talked about women

and love and head wounds. “Honey,


don't dangle nothin' you can't risk

gettin' caught in a bear trap.”


She was a woman built like a phone

booth, all steel and glass, no smooth edges,


and at 3:00 A. M. when the streets are deserted

you can hear a ringing coming from inside.