"Edward hurled the boiling soup into his face; and Matty knew agony."
--William Kennedy's The Flaming Corsage
§ Home § Search § SoupTales § Any comments?

"Edward and the Bean Soup"

(William Kennedy's The Flaming Corsage, 1996)

September 25, 1885

"...Who's a mudhole mick?"

The voice came from a table where two men had been eavesdropping on the presidential talk. The bigger of the two came over to Maginn. He wore a sweater and a cap, had the slouch of a man whose back had lifted too much weight, and his drooping right eye gave him a permanent squint. Edward knew him as Matty Lookup, a lumber handler and ice cutter on hard times, suspected of breaking into Benedict's lumber office in the District and stealing four rubber coats and pieces of harness; and so no one would hire him now. He had come by his name when he chased somebody into Tommy Mullon's icehouse on Erie Street and lost him, but three boys in the icehouse loft called out, "Look up, Matty, look up," and when he did they bumped a bag of horseshit on him.

"Who's a mudhole mick?" Matty Lookup said a second time.

"I don't remember," Maginn said.

"He's making a joke," Edward said. Always explaining Maginn's jokes.

"You calling me a mudhole mick?"

"I don't even know you," Maginn said. "Why should I call you anything?"

"You don't like the Irish?"

"I am Irish."

"You look like a goddamn Dutchman."

"I don't have enough money to be Dutch."

"You talk like you don't like the Irish."

"Why don't you go find a mudhole that'll accept you, and lay down and take a bath," Maginn said.

Matty Lookup grabbed Maginn's throat with both hands, lifted him off his stool, then off the floor, and swung him around like the ball of a hammer. While Maginn the splinter flailed helplessly with his fists (like pummeling a sack of grain), Jack came around the bar to pull the two apart but was staggered by Matty Lookup's backhanded wallop. Matty was pinning Maginn to a tabletop, positioning himself to bit off Maginn's right ear, when Edward vaulted the bar, lifted the cauldron of bean soup off Jack's stove with both hands, and moved with it toward the unequal struggle. He yelled in his most urgent vibrato, "Look up, Matty! Look up!" and, as Matty's teeth parted to release Maginn's ear and his glance turned predictably toward those mocking words, Edward hurled the boiling soup into his face; and Matty knew agony. He rolled off the table onto the sawdust of Black Jack's floor, screeching the song of the scalded beast. Edward stood over him, the pot raised above his head with both hands, ready to break the brute's skull if his belligerence revived. Matty wailed in pain and Edward lowered the pot. Jack, a short club in his right hand now, nudged Matty with his foot.

Get out you crazy son of a bitch, get out," Jack told him. "Come in again, you'll get worse."