Lou Louder

Damon Runyon

August 8 1936

Lou Louder was a bartender.

He tended bar in the Greenlight saloon.

He was tending bar there the night Shalimar Duke was killed.

Lou Louder was very tall, and very thin, and very pale. He said he was sent to Our Town by a doctor in Buffalo, N.Y., to die. Lou Louder had tb.

Lots of people used to come to Our Town to die. The doctors in other parts of the country highly recommended the climate.

Shalimar Duke was the owner of the Commercial Hotel. He was a short, fat man. He was one of the most popular citizens of Our Town. His books showed that more than twenty-eight thousand dollars was owing him on old accounts when he got killed.

Shalimar Duke married a Mexican girl half his age, named Pabalita Sanchez. Her people had a big sheep ranch. She had beautiful black eyes and black hair and an awful temper. She was like her mother, Juanita Sanchez. She was like her aunt, Maria Gomez, too.

Pabalita was pretty fly, but how could Shalimar Duke know that? He was forty-seven years of age.

The two Baker boys, Joe and Sid, had a fight about her and quit speaking to each other. This made it inconvenient in their business. They were partners in the B. B. coal yard.

Each thought Pabalita loved him. She told them so.

Shalimar Duke went into the Greenlight saloon one night and was talking to Lou Louder when Sid Baker came in. Sid had a .38-caliber revolver in his left hip pocket. Sid was left-handed.

Shalimar Duke asked Sid to have a drink. About that moment, Joe Baker came in. He had a .44-caliber revolver stuck in the waistband of his pants.

Shalimar Duke asked Joe Baker to have a drink. Shalimar Duke didn’t know the Baker boys weren’t speaking to each other. Shalimar Duke didn’t know about the Baker boys and Pabalita.

He was the only man in Our Town who didn’t know.

Joe Baker and Sid Baker were gentlemen. They accepted Shalimar Duke’s invitation to have a drink, even though they didn’t speak to each other.

Joe Baker stepped up on one side of Shalimar Duke, Sid Baker stepped up on the other side. They were all as close together as your first three fingers. Lou Louder was in front of them behind the bar.

It was a hot night. The side door of the Greenlight, directly opposite the bar, was standing open to let in a little breeze. The breeze brought in the perfume of some roses growing at the side door of the Greenlight.

It was a strange place for roses to grow.

Roses were always growing in strange places in Our Town.

There was no one else in the Greenlight saloon at the time.

Shalimar Duke and Joe and Sid Baker all called for straight bourbon. The Greenlight served good bourbon to its regular customers.

Shalimar Duke stepped up on the foot-rail at the bar, so he was up higher than the Baker boys, and Lou Louder, too. He raised his glass, and said, “Here’s how,” and they started to drink when Shalimar Duke fell on the floor dead.

A big-bladed knife with a very heavy handle was sticking in the back of his neck at the base of the brain.

His blood ran out in funny little rivulets on the floor.

He never said a word.

Joe Baker was arrested by Sheriff Letch and taken to the county jail. Sid Baker was arrested by Chief of Police Korn and taken to the city jail. The jails were about a mile apart.

They found a .32-caliber revolver in a side pocket of Shalimar Duke’s coat. Some said maybe he had learned about Pabalita and the Baker boys, and was out looking for them when they beat him to it.

There was much indignation in Our Town.

Lou Louder was questioned by Coroner Curley. Lou Louder said he had turned to the back bar after serving Shalimar Duke and the Baker boys with their bourbon, so how could he see just what happened?

Coroner Curley said, “That’s right, Lou.”

A number of citizens went to the county jail and broke down the door and took Joe Baker out and hanged him to a telephone pole. Joe said it was all right with him. Joe said he was the one who stuck the knife in Shalimar Duke. Joe said he wanted to get rid of Shalimar Duke so he could have Pabalita to himself.

Joe said, “Boys, I deserve my fate.”

The telephone company afterwards complained because the hanging broke some of its wires.

Joe Baker really thought Sid killed Shalimar Duke. Joe was trying to save Sid by taking the blame on himself. Joe remembered that Sid was his brother.

He didn’t know that about the time they were hanging him a different crowd of citizens was taking Sid out of the city jail and stringing him up to a girder on the Union Avenue bridge, and that Sid was confessing that he jabbed the knife into Shalimar Duke.

Sid said he did it so Pabalita would be free to love him alone.

Sid Baker really thought Joe killed Shalimar Duke and was trying to save Joe as Joe was trying to save him. Sid remembered that Joe was his brother. He remembered what fun they had together when they were little kids.

It was all very confusing to the citizens of Our Town when the stories were compared after the funerals.

Some said it showed that blood is thicker than water.

There were many arguments about which of the Baker boys really stuck the knife in Shalimar Duke. Sheriff Letch had a fist fight with Chief of Police Korn about it. Sheriff Letch said his prisoner, Joe Baker, was the more truthful of the Baker boys, and must have done it, because he said he did.

Chief of Police Korn stood up for Sid Baker.

Pabalita Duke ran the Commercial Hotel for six years after Shalimar Duke’s death. She died of pneumonia contracted while keeping a date with a traveling man in a snowstorm.

The first thing she did was to try to collect Shalimar Duke’s old accounts.

She never was very popular in Our Town.

Lou Louder lived thirty years longer. Before he passed away he told Doc Wilcox that when he turned to the back bar after serving Shalimar Duke and the Baker boys with their bourbon, he saw, by the back bar mirror, Pabalita step to the side door of the saloon and throw the knife that killed Shalimar Duke.

The knife wasn’t meant for Shalimar Duke. It was meant for Lou Louder. It would have got him, too, if Shalimar Duke hadn’t stepped up on the foot-rail of the bar as Pabalita let fly.

If Shalimar Duke had remained standing on the floor, the knife would have cleared his head and hit Lou Louder kerplunk in the back between the shoulders.

Lou Louder said he had quarreled with Pabalita and had written her a note telling her he was through with her. She got awful mad about it. Shalimar Duke found the note and went into the Greenlight saloon to kill Lou Louder.

He was mentioning his intention to Lou Louder when the Baker boys came in, Lou said.

Shalimar Duke stepped on the foot-rail to get up high enough to have a freer crack at Lou Louder, so Lou thought.

The Baker boys had also gone into the Greenlight saloon to kill Lou Louder, so Lou told Doc Wilcox. They didn’t know each other’s idea because they weren’t speaking. Pabalita had told them, separately, that Lou Louder had insulted her, and made each of them promise to kill him. They both mentioned it to friends that they were going to kill Lou Louder, and the friends warned Lou.

Pabalita had no confidence in the Baker boys.

Lou Louder remarked to Doc Wilcox just before he died that he always felt he had rather a narrow escape that night.

He didn’t die of tb.

He died of old age.

The Chamber of Commerce of Our Town often pointed to Lou Louder during his life as an example of what our climate will do for a man.