Dry as hell

25 Aug

The City That Was

He strolled up Broadway, entered a popular resort, and sat down leisurely at one of the tables. It seemed to be good there. The glitter and the light warmed his jaded fancy. But the faces of those he saw! How drear and twisted!

“Give me a dry Martini,” he said to the waiter.

“We serve no alcoholic drinks here, sir.”

He rose dumbly and passed on. To have bandied words with the servitor would have shown a lack of dignity. He passed to the next caravanserai. The same old glitter and lights and crowds—crowds of restless people, dressed in white chokers, with bald heads and fanatical features, and among them an occasional old soak that did his heart good to look upon.

“Give me a Manhattan cocktail,” he said.

“Nothing hard, sir, I’m sorry to say.”

Once more he rose. He passed out. The Great White Way gleamed as gloriously as ever. Silently, patiently he passed through the old haunts. Each time he varied his request—highballs, ginrickeys—all drinks he could remember, but the answer was always the same. And those grim, shuddering faces about him—it was awful! And suddenly he realized the truth.

He had passed over.

He wanted to make sure, so he hurried into a newspaper office and asked for the back file. Yes, there was the notice of his death, staring him in his dread consciousness. He was dead—he had been dead since June, 1919, and he had not known it!

Surely the head man must be at the City Hall. He hurried there. And then, just as he went in, the head man came out. The visitor knew it was he at once by his regal bearing. The visitor stopped him.

“Excuse me, your honor, or your majesty,” he said, “but is this New York or Hell?”

His majesty smiled.

“It was New York,” he said, “but we are using it as an annex to take care of the overflow.”

Life, vol. 73 (13 March 1919), p. 432.

Prohibition brought before the devil . . .

. . . in the 1934 Willie Whopper cartoon "Hell's Fire".

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