Just a Little Piece of Ham

Damon Runyon

When you are talking about doorknobs, which is a way of saying hard guys, I wish to tell you about a friend of this Chelsea McBride’s.

I see this Chelsea the other day, and he has a small black eye, and a cut lip, so I can see he is around scrapping with somebody or other again, because scrapping is Chelsea’s racket when anybody gets in an argument with him.

Well, it seems that Chelsea is battling with this friend of his, who is a guy by the name of Snuffy Wiggins. For many years Snuffy and Chelsea are good pals, and are in many a dodge together, but when Chelsea tells me the story I can see where he is half way right, and being half way right is a big percentage for Chelsea in an argument, if anybody asks you.

It seems that Chelsea and Snuffy are living together in a rooming house some place or other, and things are not any too good for them, what with hard times and all this and that. In fact, they have to figure very close to make out, especially when it comes to the scoffing, which is a way of saying eating.

They are doing the best they can, and doing one thing and another, but somehow they cannot get moving.

“We are not exactly broke,” Chelsea says, “but,” he says, “there is a terrible crack across our bodies.”

Well, what happens, but they get enough dough together to buy a ham. It is a big fat boiled ham, and they get some crackers to go with it, and take it up to their room. Every morning they cut off a little of this ham, and have breakfast on ham and crackers.

“We are fifty-fifty on this ham, you understand,” Chelsea says. “We both put in the same amount of dough to buy it, and we each cut off exactly the same size chunk of ham every morning. Maybe I never tip you off before,” he says, “but this Snuffy is a very stingy guy, and he is particular to see I do not get any more ham than he does.

“Yes,” Chelsea says, “Snuffy is hard boiled. He is a twenty-minute egg. In fact,” Chelsea says, “he will not give you the hole of a doughnut, but,” Chelsea says, “he is a good man with a deck of cards, or anything requiring skill.

“Well,” Chelsea says, “we go along eating this ham for about a week, and Snuffy is always there to see that I do not get any more ham than he does, but one morning he gets up ahead of me, eats his piece of ham, and goes downtown on business.

“By and by I get up, and slice off my piece of ham, and eat it, and then I am hungrier than ever, because Snuffy sets a size on the slice we are to eat, and it is not big enough to satisfy a canary, and a canary will be satisfied with mighty little ham, from what I hear.

“So I sit looking at this ham, and the more I look at it, the hungrier I get. I do not wish to take any more ham, because I am an honest man, and furthermore Snuffy has such a sharp eye I know he will miss it.

“But finally I cannot stand it, so rather than suffer I get out a safety razor blade and strip off a slice of ham no thicker than a sheet of paper. It is so thin I do not see a chance of Snuffy missing it, no matter how sharp his eye is.

“Well, this extra slice cheers me up some, and I go out to see what I can do. I am at home when Snuffy comes in that night, and what happens but he hauls out the ham, then he outs with a piece of string which he has in his pocket and starts measuring the ham. It seems ha measures the ham from one end to the other where he cuts off his slice that morning, so the minute he lays the string on old Mister Ham he knows something is missing, and right away he says to me like this:

“‘Ham thief!’

“Well,” Chelsea says, “naturally nobody can call me such a thing and get away with it, and, furthermore, I cannot stand such a hard boiled guy as this, so I up and slug him, and he slugs me back. And,” Chelsea says, “this is all there is to it, except that we are still eating the ham together, but we do not speak.”