Slice Him Down

a Reno story by Langston Hughes

 Esquire required that “Slice ’em Down” be given a happy ending, which rendered the story more of a joke than a satire. The title in dialect and the teaser between title and author’s name further its shift into caricature. Still, it’s a clever story and the setting is about as vintage 1934-Reno as you can find, down to the blues a local is playing–all consistent with how Hughes treated his evening’s entertainments whenever he could get out on his own, away from societal constraints. Such occasional  solitary behavior would fuel rumors about his personal life.

The original, “Slice Them Down,” has not been published. It’s included here, along with a note Hughes appended to a subsequent draft with a happy ending. Beinecke has 2 drafts of the happy ending verision, and below the original, I’ve added a few of those manuscript pages that have some interesting Reno details added in his handwriting..















First page of revised version of “Slice Him Down.” Beinecke.

• The original “Slice Him Down,” at Beinecke.