The gangster was a trouper, a composer and a softshoe man; an ego the size of the South and a mouth that wrecked as many opportunities as it generated. A broad stage Irish brogue that pronounced every extra h in aitch, he dominated in parlors and small stages across every unfashionable small town in the old Old Northwest.

“I’m the senior partner,” cracked the one with the mustache. “I’ll do the throwing out.” Too many horses, too many dancing girls, too much ego. You can’t stop Georgie; noodles and syrup are just enough to keep the dream alive, and he’s a natural fit to the boarding house with the tattered writers and the unemployed magicians. There’s going to be work any day now. Any day now.

Dinner at the house was all brother-sisters and husband-wife acts, and none of them have had work in years. The Depression stretched out into infinity, and the fat years were a memory at best. There’s only so far you can water the goulash and still call it a soup; but the difference between a trouper and a clasper is the willingness to overlook such trifles.