Short Story Review: "Old Bugs" by H. P. Lovecraft
In this un-Lovecraftian tale, set in the then future year 1950, Sheehan’s Pool Room is not a nice place. A benevolent government has banished “strong, wicked whiskey” so it shows up only in dark place like Sheehan’s in the heart of Chicago’s stockyard district.
In this disreputable place works an even more disreputable man, known only as “Old Bugs.” He performs dozens of menial tasks in exchange for whiskey and “hasheesh.” He never speaks of himself and no one knows where he came from. Sometimes, when he is loaded, his speech makes everyone wonder. Sometimes, he bursts forth in prose and verse that no one understands. One regular patron thinks he might have been a writer or a professor at one time.
The only memento he has of his past was a woman’s picture. He never speaks of her. No one knew who she is.
One day, a young man by the name of Alfred Trevor comes in to Sheehan’s to have his first sip of whiskey, to taste life to its fullest. Old Bugs, to everyone's surprise, objects strenuously.
This is a morality tale, told with Lovecraft’s usual old-fashioned language and a seemingly rather heavy hand. It was not published during his lifetime, but written during a time of impending Prohibition in the US. It thought to have been something of a private note to a friend. There is a sentimental streak a mile wide in it.
Yesterday’s review: Pindar from World Poetry
Last Lovecraft review: “The Temple”
© 2015 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared at another site. It has since removed from that site and is no longer visible there or anywhere else. It had been updated and expanded for its inclusion in PP.
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