Conversation On The Corner by Langston Hughes, 1950
The magic trick:
The comedy duo interplay between the narrator and Simple
The Simple stories often function like a classic comedy duo, with the Langston Hughes character narrating and serving as the straight man to Simple’s tell-it-like-it-is Redd Foxx. That arrangement is present in “Conversation On The Corner.” Nothing much happens… well, nothing really ever happens in Simple stories, but this one is particularly unfocused. It’s really just the narrator setting topics and questions on the tee, and Simple knocking them out of the park. And that’s quite a trick on Hughes’s part.
“…But why do you imbibe practically every night?”
“Because I like it. I also drink because I don’t have anything better to do.”
“Why don’t you read a book?” I asked, “or go to a show or a dance?”
“I do not read a book because I don’t understand books, daddy-o. I do not go to the show because you see nothing but white folks on the screen. And I do not go to a dance because if I do, I get in trouble with Joyce, who is one girl friend I respect.”
“Trouble with Joyce?”
“Yes,” said Simple, leaning on the mailbox so no one could mail a letter. “Joyce thinks every time I put my arms around a woman to dance with her, I am hugging the woman! Now, how can you dance with a woman without hugging her? I see Joyce enough as it is. I drink because I am lonesome.”
“Lonesome? How can you be lonesome when you’ve got plenty of friends, also girl friends?”
“I’m lonesome inside myself.”
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.