Ethel’s Bathing Suit

Damon Runyon


DEAR SIR yesterday was a nice warm Sunday so I took my wife Ethel to the beach for a little swim and when she come out of the ladies dressing room I ses my goodness Ethel you better go back and put something on before you get arrested. I ses if you go to jail down here I would have a hard time getting you out because I dont know anybody in this part of the country.

She ses why Joe what are you talking about? I have got something on. This is my new bathing suit that I was telling you about and it is the cutest thing in the world. I ses well if that is a bathing suit I wish you would hurry up and hide yourself in the water before somebody else sees you and she ses why Joe I want somebody else to see me. That is what this bathing suit is for. If you think I am going to ruin it by going in the water you are crazy.

I ses well all right but I am going to walk up the beach and pretend I am not with you so I went off a little ways and set down close to the water and Ethel followed me and ses why Joe dont be mad. This bathing suit is really very smart and I was about to say something back to her when I felt something burning me underneath.

So I got up in a hurry and was hopping around on one leg and rubbing myself and Ethel ses Joe what on earth is the matter? Have you gone crazy? I ses somebody threw a cigar butt that was still lit down on this beach and I sat on it and burned myself. Ethel ses where? I ses where I am rubbing myself thats where and she ses well that is a fine thing to happen on a beach where you pay your good money to go in bathing.

Then a fellow in a bathing suit that ses Guard on his shirt came along and Ethel ses do you have something to do with this beach? The fellow ses yes lady I am one of the attendants here and Ethel ses well who is supposed to keep this beach clean? The fellow ses what do you mean lady? Ethel ses why I never saw such a dirty filthy place in my life with cigar butts thrown all around. A thing like that could not happen at Coney Island or Jones Beach where we came from.

The fellow ses why lady everything around here looks clean to me. I do not see any cigar butts. Ethel ses well you see that fellow there hopping around on one leg like he is crazy? The fellow ses is he? Ethel ses is he what? The fellow ses is he crazy? Ethel ses of course not. That is my husband Joe and he is seriously injured. He set down on the beach to rest and there was an old cigar butt where he set and it was still lit and he got badly burned.

The fellow ses lady a cigar butt could not have staid lit where he set down because the water keeps coming up over that place and it would have put the butts out. Ethel ses O I suppose you are going to tell me nothing happened to my husband. Look at the way he is hopping around on one leg and rubbing himself. He is in terrible pain. I ses yes you big blubberhead I guess nothing happened to me.

The fellow ses O I am a blubberhead am I? Ethel ses look mister never mind what you are but please do something to help my husband. Maybe the cigar butt is still inside his pants somewhere and going on burning him. The fellow ses lady if you look at his pants you will see that they are not burned on the outside so there is no cigar butts burning inside his pants and never was. I know what happened to him.

Ethel ses you do? He ses yes I do. He just set down on a Portuguese man of war. Ethel ses what is that? The fellow ses it is a little thing that lives in the ocean and sometimes gets up on the beach and when somebody sets down on it they get stung. It feels just like you had set down on a cigar butt that was still lit. Ethel ses well of course you cannot blame the poor little things for stinging somebody that sets on them but what am I going to do about my husband Joe? He is suffering from the pain. Look at the way he is hopping and rubbing. The fellow ses well you just wait a minute and I will go and get some ammonia and that will fix him up swell.

So he went and got a bottle of ammonia and rubbed where I hurt with it and pretty soon the pain was not so bad and I ses pal I am sorry I called you a blubberhead but I was feeling tough. He ses that is all right neighbor. I know how a man feels when he sets down on one of those things. They make him think somebody is prodding him with a red hot poker.

I ses how about you and me having a little drink and he ses neighbor you are now talking my language. So after I got my clothes on and Ethel was still dressing I took him to a bar and we had a couple of jolts and then the fellow ses neighbor I would have warned you not to set in that particular spot because there are always a lot of those man of wars around there at low tide but to tell you the truth I was so busy looking at your wifes bathing suit I forgot everything else.

This morning my wife Ethel ses Joe you are acting awfully unfriendly to me. Is it still because of my bathing suit? I ses Ethel you can bet it is.

Yours truly