J. Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was the author of “Topper / The Jovial Ghosts,” “Topper Takes a Trip,” “The Night Life of the Gods,” “The Stray Lamb,” “Turnabout,” “The Glorious Pool,” etc.
“Rain in the Doorway” was published in 1933.
Public Domain in countries where copyright is Life+70.
Yet another cuckold husband, Hector Owen, inadvertently becomes a partner in a big-city department store. The bulk of the action involves the highly inebriated adventures of Owen, his three partners (Mr. Horace Larkin, a man called Dinner, and Major Barney Britt-Britt), and a salesgirl from the pornographic books department, Miss Honor "Satin" Knightly. Of the three novels included in The Thorne Smith 3-Decker (see “The Stray Lamb” and “Turnabout”) this is the most openly erotic, with many direct suggestions of sexual encounters and [in the print edition] cartoons of nude young women cavorting with the protagonists, drawn by artist Herbert Roese. The Thorne Smith signature courtroom scene provides a climax, but the novel's biggest surprise isn't sprung until the final pages.
[The store owners decide to help on the sales floor ...]
In the Toy Department they naturally lingered a little—which one of them started the lingering it would be difficult to decide. Probably it was by general consent. It is almost impossible not to linger in a Toy Department. They lingered long enough in this one for a lady, who seemingly had just remembered something, to accost Mr. Larkin.
“Have you something for a mechanical boy?” she asked, all of a breath.
Mr. Larkin looked puzzled.
“A mechanical boy?” he asked politely as if to give the woman another chance as well as himself.
“Yes,” almost panted the woman. “A mechanical boy he is.”
“Is he, now,” murmured Mr. Larkin. “Too bad—too bad. A mechanical boy. Fancy that. How mechanical is he, madam?”
“Oh, very,” replied the woman proudly. “Entirely.”
“God spare me,” breathed Mr. Larkin. “An entirely mechanical boy. What does he run by, madam, steam?”
“What?” cried the woman. “He doesn’t run at all.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Mr. Larkin, his face lighting up. “I see it. You want this mechanical boy repaired, is that it?”
“It is not,” said the woman coldly. “I want a mechanical toy for the boy.”
“Does it play with mechanical toys?” asked Mr. Larkin, greatly interested.
“Naturally,” replied the woman.
“Must be a remarkable sort of mechanical boy,” observed Mr. Larkin with a sigh. “I’ll have to admit that. Will someone else talk with the lady? We’re not getting along so well.”
“Certainly,” volunteered the Major, stepping forward. “Is this a clockwork boy, madam, or an electric one?”
“Both,” said the woman promptly. “He’s good at both.”
“Oh, he is,” muttered the Major, slightly taken aback. “I never saw one of those.”
“You never saw this boy,” said the woman. “Never saw the likes of him myself.”
“You must be right,” admitted the Major, then turning to his senior, added in a low voice, “Shall we go? I’m afraid she’ll get angry soon. I don’t seem to understand either.”
“You great big dummy,” said Mr. Dinner, in turn confronting the woman. “Madam,” he continued with great assurance, “you just can’t have a mechanical boy that works by both clockwork and electricity, and if you have, it should be solving the fourth dimension instead of playing with toys. In other words, we place little reliance in what you have told us. Please come to the point. Make it snappy.”
“All I want to do is to buy a mechanical toy,” said the woman in a hopeless voice. “Here I’ve been talking to three grown men, and I don’t seem to be any further along than if I’d been talking to three stuffed owls that had never—”
“Don’t let her go on,” interrupted Mr. Larkin anxiously. “She’ll never stop if she once starts going on. They never do. I know them. The stuffed owls are very bad. God only knows what she’ll take up next. Get her mind off us. Ask her how she feels—anything.”
“Would you like a broken mechanical toy, madam?” asked Mr. Dinner.
“What would I want with a broken mechanical toy?” demanded the woman.
“We don’t know,” said Mr. Dinner, stepping back among his larger partners. “If that boy is such a wonder he might like to find out what’s wrong with this mechanical toy. No one round here seems to know.”
“A good idea,” put in Major Barney. “I’ve been told on reliable authority that it’s more fun to get mechanical toys to work than to watch them do their stuff. Don’t you think so, madam?”
“No, I don’t,” retorted the woman. “I think you should have your minds examined—all of you.”
“Does she now?” Mr. Larkin murmured thoughtfully. “All of us. That’s a lot of minds to have examined. It would take so long to find Dinner’s, if ever. And then it would be such a great disappointment when found.”
“Don’t want it examined,” said Mr. Dinner. “If they found anything wrong with it, I’d go crazy wondering what it was.”
“You don’t have to wonder,” replied the Major. “It’s merely an alcoholic husk.”
No scan of original for comparison, please report any errors you find.
Americanized spelling. Formatted punctuation (curly quotes, emdashes). Chapter headings cross-linked to/from inline ToC. Available with Drop-caps or Large-caps.
I hope you get some giggles from this. I love the Abbott and Costello conversations that Thorne Smith writes.
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