Phooey and Louie

Damon Runyon

My adult readers will kindly hand this one over to the kiddies without bothering to read it because it is nothing but a story about how Phooey Pigeon tried to impersonate Louie the stork and what came of it and I am sure the grown-ups will wish to avoid that sort of tripe.

Phooey Pigeon is a big blue bird who has always been what in my set we call a schnorrer, a sort of a bum who never works and is ever on the mooch, panhandling crumbs wherever he can and sleeping in the sheltered crevices of various buildings for which privilege he pays no rent whatever.

He is a member of the group that used to hang out in front of the Stork Club in East 53rd Street which as I have told you is the headquarters of Louie the stork who brings the little bouncing babies and some that never bounce, especially nowadays when the rubber shortage is very keen.

You could see Phooey and his companions there almost any day gossiping among themselves and cadging victuals from the doorman until a street repair crew moved into the strasse and set up such an ungodly racket that Phooey and his mob had to scram down to St. Patrick’s cathedral for peace and quiet although their appearance was deemed an unwarranted intrusion by the devout and orderly birds that have made the cathedral steps a meeting place for years.

The racket got so terrific that it also wore on the nerves of Louie the stork and during the repair crew’s working hours he likewise took to going down to the cathedral and standing on the steps where he could meditate and doze without having his ear drums busted, although of course Louie held himself aloof from Phooey and his ilk, storks having no truck in common with pigeons especially if the pigeons are bums.

It was during one of these periods of Louie’s absence from his headquarters that there arrived at the Stork Club a somewhat flustered but fine upstanding young gentleman with a slip of paper clutched in his duke and it also happened that at this moment Phooey Pigeon was standing on the sidewalk in front of the club waiting to see the doorman on the off chance of making a quick touch of a few grains of corn.

“I beg your pardon,” said the young gentleman addressing himself to Phooey, “my wife told me I would find here the famous bird she has been expecting. You are Louie the stork I presume.”

“I am,” replied Phooey, marvelling slightly that anyone could be dope enough to mistake a pigeon for a stork but as alert to opportunity as any other city slicker to a sucker. At the same time he tried to hunch himself upwards to look taller.

“Your legs are shorter than I anticipated,” said the young gentleman handing Phooey the slip of paper. “I have here an order from my missus for a ten-pound boy. I tried to get her to compromise on six pounds but she insists on a tenner. Can you take care of this?”

“Why, sure,” said Phooey Pigeon, quickly figuring in his mind the charges he would impose for cartage and other expenses. “Just give me the address and leave everything else to me. But of course,” he added, “I require a small retainer of let us say a peck of wheat.”

“I haven’t got much with me,” said the young man, “but I’ll leave my watch with you for security and I will have your fee waiting for you when you arrive.”

Seeing this was the best he could do, Phooey Pigeon took the time-piece and the address and the young gentleman departed highly elated. Then Phooey waited around until he got the chance of sneaking into the store room of the stork where the babies are kept and where he grabbed one off the ten-pound shelf although he was half tempted by the six pounders as they struck him as much cuter.

But he was afraid that the young gentleman might not pay off on a skimpier order so he put the ten pounder over his shoulder and started for the address wishing his legs were longer so he could get there more rapidly. And now, children, what do you suppose happened?

Well, the burden was too much for Phooey Pigeon and when a kindly cop picked up what he thought was an abandoned baby in a doorway, who was under the chubby little creature all flattened out but Phooey. They had to pump air into him with an auto tire pump to get him back in shape again.

And do you know what? It was the lady’s ten-pound requirement that was his undoing because packing only a sixer, Phooey would have made the delivery okay and pulled off his swindle. So the moral is, kids, never try to carry too much weight.