The next day I
apprehensively climbed the stairs of the Broadway Table Tennis Courts. A
conceit common to travelers disturbed me, the gnawing notion that the world had
changed with my absence. But from the threshold I saw at once that the Club was
the same as I had left it, except that Hugo, of course, had not yet arrived
from Hawaii. Otherwise, all systems were go, condition "gloomy green."
Douglas Cartland, the star who habitually clawed his trouser legs to tatters,
was wearing jagged, impromptu shorts. Hustler John was eating glass. In the
small lounge near the casement windows he had trapped a guileless stranger in a
bet and was munching a succulent 200-watt bulb that he held like a drumstick.
All 12 tables were going, and Mr. Herwald Lawrence, our unimpeachable
proprietor, surveyed his clientele with benevolence. And then, from the hallway
below, came the sound of a familiar voice. "What did you say?" it
roared. "That's impossible. I mean, it might work in theory, but in