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Monthly Archives: December 2007

A Short Story

Angeline Gower

by

R.E. Prindle

     As I have told you I have never had the blues.  But, as with the weather systems, tropical low pressure systems are of the most intense low pressure systems, so while I have never had the blues, I have flirted with the blues.  So it was on the evening in question.  A Pacific low pressure system was passing through bringing with it the steady splash and drips of its persistent rains.  The drops hit the skylight and roof with two distinct tones, answered by the drops pelting the windows and the gurgle of the runoff down the drainpipe.

     I stood in the dark looking out the windows at my own reflection suspended like a phantom on the glass.  The vision of myself stirred up memories from my past that haunted my mind just below the limes separated from conscious memory by an invisible but impenetrable barrier.  There lay those troubling ghosts that I had spent my life trying to exhume.  The suppressed memories, those most painful episodes in a troubled life, that dominated my consciousness from the beyond and directed my energies into unfruitful  channels.

     Loosing the spectres of the past was my preocupation.  I had long studied Freud and De Sade, self-analysis of my psyche had often nearly driven me mad, but how could I, how can I desist.  Our minds are on the beam of the same wavelength so I can tell you this without overt shame or embarrassment.

page 1.

     Reading, my usual refuge and solace, had failed me on this particular evening.  I had replaced on their shelves Athenian Propertied Families 600-300 B.C., Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds as well as Robertson Smith’s Religion Of The Semites.

     I opted for a bottle of scotch and some old phonograph records.  Now I’m not what you would call a drinker, and you know I’m not, but this night as I saw the Blues sitting on my couch batting her eyelids at me, I though I’d fortify myself with some protection and possibly open a door on one of those troublesome memories.  Aiming for lighter hearted frivolity I got out some old Louis Prima records and tried to lift my spirits.  Oh, of course I was amused by Josephina Please No Leana On Da Bell and Prima’s other amusing frivolities but as I sipped away at my scotch I found a need for more ineffable sadness.  Thus just as Louis was swinging into Bongo, Bongo, Bongo, I don’t Want To Leave The Congo, I levered the tone arm up and began digging through my collection for someone giving voice to their hurt.  I passed up Hank Snow and Webb Pierce because they don’t reach the area I was reaching for, although both are great singers of sad songs.

     Reaching down into the section labeled ‘Moaners’ I pulled up Jesse Winchester’s first LP and Mickey Newbury’s It Looks Like Rain.  Mick and Jesse knew enough about rain and pain to satisfy my desires.

     My bottle was half empty as my brain fogged up and the notion of lying down occurred to me.  The rain was still descending as I weaved toward the bedroom with the lyrics of Winchester’s Yankee Lady and Newbury’s pleas for his Angeline dancing around in my brain.  I had hopes, even in my sodden state, that my memories would be jostled around and one might come up.  One did.  I wish now that it never had.

page 2.

     I stood for a moment clutching the door jamb while trying to relocate my balance.  I had wanted to connect links with suffering humanity and I had.  I was feeling lower than a catfish on the bottom of the mouth of the Mississippi way down South in New Orleans.  I oriented myself in the direction of my bed and gave a shove.  With a deftness unplanned and of which I would not have thought myself capable I caught the covers up and in my fall actually slid between them.  I didn’t have to wait for sleep for Sleep took my head and slammed it into the pillow.  I disappeared into the abyss of oblivion.

      Sometimes, most of the time, sleep is never so deep that you’re unaware of your blood circulating or your hair growing or anyone of a number of physiological matters, but this night, probably because of the alcohol or possibly because of psychic exhaustion I slipped below the level in the abyss of oblivion where the sun had never penetrated.  If there had not been a bottom I would probably be falling yet.

     My exhaustion was psychic rather than physical.  After a couple of hours of total amnesia, my body sated with rest, the alcohol in my blood stream diminished but not yet dissipated set off discharges in my mind that lifted me from the pleasure of oblivion to the threshold of pain.  I lay there flickering in and out of consciousness until I reached a state that was half waking, half dozing.

page 3.

     I didn’t dream, but my liberated sub-conscious sent up images and images from my subliminal reservoirs faster than I could grasp them.  Just as I was about to recognize an image it fled before my mental grasping.  And then, I can’t explain it, it’s only happened twice in my life, my inner being, my doppel-ganger, my alter ego, that image of myself in the rain splattered window, that phantom who may be more real than myself, perhaps he is the guardian of my sanity, he who suppresses and hides my most painful memories; puts them in a place where they can’t harm me, transweaves the unpleasantnesses of life into a fabric that makes my life presentable, who didn’t, can’t make himself known, seemed to say, athough nothing could be heard:  ‘All right, you want to see?  Look!’

     Then, somewhere along the limes where my conscious and unconscious meet, a hatch, a skylight opened and I was shown, I don’t say I remember, but I was shown the worst moment of shame and sorrow I have ever known.  The guilt of a thoughtless and callous man rose up and took possession of me.  I let out a low moan.  It was too late to turn away.

     Don’t think badly of me.  It was my fault but I wasn’t entirely responsible, there were mitigating circumstances.  I’m sure you’ll agree once you know.  Let me tell you the story.  I’m sure you will find mitigation to soften your censure into a compassionate pity, empathy, or even sympathy.  Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.

     I was eighteen, no, nineteen, when I committed that despicable act.  But let me begin the story much earlier so that you can understand much better.  No man can be understood without a knowledge of his childhood.  My own was not imbued with the vibrant and cheerful colors of happiness.  No, my friends, it was quite the reverse.  Nor do I seek your pity although I will not reject your sympathetic attention.  I have always been of the opinion that one must accept the situation in which one finds oneself and try to convert that dross into gold.  To shed our past like a caterpillar sheds his skin and emerge transformed into a newer better creation.  I hope when my life is over I will not have failed in this task.

page 4.

     I am not an orphan but I was abandoned by my mother when I was seven.  She left me on the steps of the Municipal Orphanage and I never saw her again.  My life in the orphanage is not germane to my story, but you must know the hardships which orphans must endure.  Orphans are social outcasts.  Just as a man without a country has no place to rest, so the child without a parent is an outcast of society.  An orphan child has no protector.  He is a wanderer in a desert with no boundaries.  He is despised  and victimized by adult and child alike.  He is compelled to wear the badge of inferiority just as the Jews in medieval times were required to display their yellow Star of David.  He wears his as the Negro wears his skin.

     In our case we were dressed in oversized or undersized clothes.  We were compelled at various times to wear mismatched socks or shoes.  Oversized shoes and socks that were more hole than sock.  Shirts so large that the sleeves had to be cut back to expose our hands, the ragged edges flapping at our wrists. Our hair was cut with cowlicks sprouting every which way.  We were made to look ridiculous, so that others might appear normal.  We did look ridiculous and we were sent to public school that way.  I have often envied Blacks and Jews their solidarity.  Despised though they may have been they could find solace together, or at least as much as humankind will allow from each other.  At school we were not allowed to win, and were denied any success.  The gates of charity were closed to us although the ‘decent folk’; gave us small conscience offerings at Christmas.  It was demanded that we be hewers of wood and carriers of water for our masters with the parents.  But the worst was yet to come.

page 5.

     When a child turned ten he was no longer welcome at the Children’s Home.  Orphaned or abandoned he was even rejected by the custodians of the damned.  The Angels of Charity arrived to claim their due.  Our foster parents arrived to pick up a means of livelihood and a slave for the house.  I was either selected by or assigned to, I don’t know which, the Wardens.  The Wardens did not really want the money they were sent for my care each month, or, that was not their prime motivation, although precious little of the money was ever spent on me.  What they wanted was a clown.

     The Wardens were much less than successful people.  Jack Warden, or Mr. Warden as I was compelled to call him, had delusions of grandeur based  on some sort of imagined connection to the royalty or nobility of ancient England.  He even kept a collection of coats of arms on the wall.  He would point to this particular one and say, ‘Yeh, that’s the one right there.  That’s the one all right.’  just like it was his, but I knew it wasn’t.  He was white collar over at Malleable Iron so that he could maintain his dignity over the blue collar workers.

     The Wardens lived in a decent house on Bay Street which was OK, but beneath his supposed diginity.  Geli Warden, Angelica, his wife, affected manners which she thought the immaculate reflection of the ‘Well born.’  But, I shouldn’t complain because those manners have stood me in good stead.  They had two sons, Skippy and Cappy.  Cappy was two years older than I and Skippy was four.  Neither boy was amounting to anything.  The townsfolks’ opinion of the Wardens was much less exalted than their own.  The status of Skippy and Cappy consequently was not the highest.  The Warden’s were not totally oblivious to reality.  While they were masters of delusion they were also acutely aware of the disparity between their illusions and reality.  They could not levitate their sons over the children of more affluent and successful people.  They could invent innummerable reasons for themselves but the neighbors rebuked them when they made exorbitant claims for the lads.

page 6.

     I was the solution to their problems.  On the one hand they could demand credit for their charity from the neighbors and on the other society paid them to keep a fool for them and their boys.  What radio beam I followed to keep me on track I’ll never know.  I suppose religion had something to do with it.  I had been compelled to attend church since a small boy.  I knew the Baptists, the Methodists and non-sectarians , whatever their fantasy may be, now, as the Wardens were very sanctimonious I found the Presbyterians.  I was always revolted by both the Bible and its devotees, but as the Bible is the dream story of a despised and ineffectual people whose lives are irradiated only by an irrational hope, I identified with that strange peoples’ desperate situation and seized the only life raft that fate had to offer me.  I embraced a vain hope as a fat man embraces a full refrigerator.  I made it my own.  It was all there was between myself and psychic desolation.  For the Wardens drove me further and further into a mental zone that was very far from normal.  As my childhood progressed I became aware of two existences.  The one, the despicable clown that I was compelled to be and the other, the real me, that stood aside and watched and doled out encouragement and hope to the wretch that walked in my shoes. 

     As society would not honor Skippy and Cappy in the manner they thought was their due, I was to give them that status in their eyes.  I was denied and ridiculed.  I was made to mow the lawn with a dull mower and compelled to watch in silence and mortification while Skippy ‘did the job right’ with a sharpened mower.  But it’s more important that you see what I was forced to become.

     While the boys dressed well I was made to look shabby and unkempt.  Just as at the orphanage my clothes never fit.  I had to wear Skippy’s worn out shoes.  Cappy’s old clothes, although I actually outgrew him.  By high school I was flopping around in oversize shoes and a pair of too small grey gabardine pants.  High in the leg and the crotch pulled up tight between my legs.  The pocket openings were all frayed and the pockets were all worn out.  Girls wouldn’t even look at me.

page 6.

     Then after Skippy and Cappy graduated it was even worse.  Neither went to college as was expected.  Both just kind of bummed around.  The Wardens turned on me savagely in their disappointment.  They wanted me to be even more ridiculous as they now thought their sons had failed them and I had been a bad influence.  I don’t like to drink because sometimes the memory of it seems to drive railway spikes through my brain.

     I don’t know when it started but I know that it was the result of the accumulated opprobrium, ridicule and denial that I had endured all my life.  It became an especial burden as I became old enough to understand, even if in primitive outline, what was being done to me.  I rejected all accusations of unworthiness and knew in my heart and grasped intellectually that I was as good as my detractors.  Nevertheless the weight of their scorn and hatred, which they of course denied, bore down heavily on me.  As my various neuroses and eccentricities developed in relation to this ostracization I began to hear a sound in my ears, a roar as mighty as Niagara.  It stood as a barrier between myself and the world.  I had to listen to people around it, with an especially attentive ear.  I was afraid.

     I held myself together through high school but upon graduation, abandoned by everyone, ridiculed and laughed at by the Wardens, I fell apart.  I became ineffective.  I had difficulty tying my clown shoes.  I often had to make two, three or four attempts before I could succeed at that simple task.  Once while receiving change from the paper boy I turned my hand sideways just as he released the change which clattered to the floor.  I was mad with anguish and self-criticism.  The hope that had sustained me fled and I was hopeless.

     Throughout the summer I knew not what to do.  When the days began to shorten and daylight began to flee I, by association, thought that I too must flee.  I had some few dollars that I had managed to save and putting on my clown shoes my shabby grey pants with the short legs and high crotch, an old white T-shirt and a too small denim jacket that I had inherited from Cappy, I walked out of theWarden’s house for the last time.

page 7.

     I wanted to get far away.  As I had never been far away before I thought in short distances.  Primary to my mind was to leave the Valley.  I rejected Detroit and the South because I knew I couldn’t deal with that many people.  I thought of going out into the Thumb but the Wardens had relatives in Caro and I didn’t want to be close to them at all.  For probably psychological reasons I decided to head up North to the Grand Traverse, The Great Crossing.  A divide that once crossed would divide me forever from a hated and hateful childhood.  As my mother had abandoned me I would symbolically abandon her.  Not that she cared.  I had never heard from her.

     Blinded by my desperate urgency I walked out of that house of the distraught and just kept walking.  I wouldn’t have spent the money anyway but it never occurred to me to take a bus.  It never occurred to me to put out my thumb; I just walked along listening to the roar in my ears which seemed to be intensifying; to be getting louder, it seemed to be engulfing my brain.  I don’t remember much of my flight.  I remember passing the multitudinous churches of Midland.  The chemical stench of the place corresponded exactly in my mind with my opinion of the parishioners of those churches.  No love had I ever known from those sanctimonious hypocrites of God.

     After Midland the roar seemed to affect my vision.  I saw but registered nothing.  The tears repressed for eighteen years began to flow and I walked and walked sobbing and sobbing.

     I don’t even know whether I stopped to rest or not.  I just kept picking those big clown shoes up and laying them down.  Because of the size of the shoes I had to lift my knees high to bring my foot forward.  I was oblivious to the catcalls of passing drivers appalled by the sight of the strange apparition that I was.  At night, local boys drove by and threw beer cans at me.  One reached out the window and tried to hit me with his fist.  I grabbed at his arm and pulled it back.  I escaped their wrath for playing ‘unfair.’

page 8.

     As I say I walked on an on until my woes engulfed me completely, until my body and mind separated and we existed in two different worlds.  As my body trudged on my mind descended by stages into a hell of despair.  Oblivion overwhelmed me, nothingness became my reality.  I don’t know what happened.

     When my senses returned, when the terrible fog lifted and dissipated and became a mere haze I found that I must have left hell and gone directly to heaven.  My overall impression was white but I was surrounded by the most heavenly colors.  White, a delicate pink and the palest of blues.  My head was resting in billows of soft clean pillows, the cases of which I never seen the like.  My body was covered by the sheets, pink and blue and a downy blue comforter.  Above, the white underside of a blue canopy glowed cheerily back at me.  It was daylight but still semi-dazed I lay there drifting in and out of consciousness.  Then just as the sun was going down I heard the door open and shut.  I looked up to find her smiling down at me.  It was Angeline, my redemptress.

     A feeling of security warmed my heart and saying nothing I slipped off into unconsciousness for the night.  When I awoke, sometime before dawn she was laying there beside me, sleeping peacefully.  Not daring to move I lay there quietly studying her.  She began to stir.  I pretended to be asleep  and she, solicitous for my welfare, dressed quietly and left for work.  As I tried to rise I found I couldn’t and spent the morning fitting my mind back into my body.  The reunion was difficult and imperfect.  I would spend decades trying to match the edges.

     I found myself weak and lethargic, unable to concentrate or even to grasp my situation.  Sometime in that morning, feeling the pangs of hunger, I compelled myself to rise and seek nourishment.  During the process of alimentation I surveyed my surroundings.  My shelter, and it was little more than that, was a one room shack.  It was small and mean but immaculate.  The lovely bed, although bed is an inadequate description of the little paradise in which Angeline reposed for her slumbers, was in one corner.  A bathtub was adjacent to it.  On the other side of the room, where I now sat, were her kitchen facilities.  Dressers and a table with chairs occupied the front of the room.  In the middle of the front wall was the door.

page 8.

     After eating, still exhausted, I lay down again to rest.

     It was as though I had received a great injury, suffered a debilitating illness for as the fall turned into winter I remained faint and listless.  As the approach of spring became imminent my mind began to regain some of its sharpness and my body its vitality.

     Angeline was very patient with me, neither pressing me nor hurrying me.  In those few months, even in my depressed state I came to appreciate and love her.  She was twenty-five and had also had a difficult childhood; which fact I only surmise as she never talked about her past nor complained about her present.  She sought complete self-sufficiency and within reason did everything for herself.  She eschewed radio and television and even never bought magazines and newspapers.  She wanted to create her own perfect world without obtrusions from an unsympathetic and hostile reality.  In the time I knew her I never saw her with another person.

      My own laughable wardrobe had disappeared and she had tailored new clothes for me.  She knew how to do everything.  Where she learned I don’t know.  Even my oversize shoes were gone, replaced by a pair of moccasins Angeline had sewn.  For the first time in my life I was dressed in clothes that fit.  Clothes that were meant to dignify me and not ridicule me.  Clothes that signified manhood and not foolhood.

     Angeline worked as a waitress in town.  What town I can’t remember except that it was on the Lake Michigan side of the Grand Traverse.  It was a small town.  Angeline’s cabin was on the rise looking out over the cool blue waters of Lake Michigan, over the Grand Traverse separating the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.  the place where Lake Michigan without any discontinuity or break changed its name to Lake Huron.

     On those cold winter days I often sat on a stump looking out over the Great Crossing, The Grand Traverse, that might someday separate me from my past, that might lead to a new and better life on the other side.

page 9.

     Angeline was always cheery, what cheeriness I know I learned from her.  Much cheerier she than I.  I was not the best of company that winter and I often wondered why she didn’t turn me out.  She didn’t.  Angeline had the capacity to make the best of everything.  She could warm up the coldest night and cool off the hottest day.  She could make the darkest corner bright.  She was able to nurse me back to health.

     So my winter of recuperation passed in the heaven created by Angeline.  Recovering by day, fed by a divine cook and passing my nights beside the loveliest incarnation of woman ever made.  Angeline would have been no-ones cover girl but there was no woman more beautiful than she.

      As Spring came on my strength and energy returned.  My psyche repaired itself and I attempted to recover my balance or perhaps I began to seek a balance I had always been denied.  As the days grew longer and daylight appeared between Angeline’s return and nightfall we began to take long walks through the woods and down to the lake shore.  There were delightful little streams in the woods, there was an abundance of wild flowers.  The air was fresh and sweet.  The skies were clear and blue.  There was nothing more a man could want-except escape from a hateful past that lay too close behind.

     As I began my slow recovery I felt the need to tell the world of the way it really was, to save it from doing to others what it had done to me.  I began to write about my pain in little stories.  I sent them to magazines but they all came back.  the world was not interested in my pain, or perhaps, my pain was so new and fresh that the jagged edges terrified whoever my readers were.  Angeline encouraged me and urged me on so that I never quit trying.

page 10.

     The roaring in my ears had continued and continually distracted me.  I was compelled to be patient with it for there was no way to avoid it.  But then one night that summer during my sleep that mighty Niagara ceased to flow.  When I awoke that morning I was aware that something was different but I didn’t know what.  Something was missing. It was so quiet.  And then when Angeline spoke to me it was as though I could hear her voice clearly for the first time.  It was then that I realized that the roaring had stopped.  The very worst part of the pain must have been dissipated.  My joy suffused my body and the look of love and gratitude with which I embathed Angeline brought a flush of pleasure to her cheeks.  Whatever happiness I was able to give her she enjoyed it then.  I could never understand what pleasure Angeline could find in me.  I wanted to be pleasant and charming for her and I tried very hard to be so but I know that my injuries were so grievous, my self-absorption so complete that I couldn’t have been.

     But we spent the summer and fall roaming over our little paradise, dipping our feet in the cool streams and exploring the lake side.  And then came the winter once again.  We still walked in the woods on Angeline’s days off and it was there on that cold January day that we came on our portent of disaster.  We discovered a deer that had been injured by a bow hunter.  The arrowhead and the broken shaft of the arrow were still lodged in the deer’s foreleg.  the wound had festered and the deer was in great pain, limping badly.  If it had been healthy it would have run away before Angeline could have charmed it.  Perhaps Angeline could have charmed it anyway; she was that spontaneous and wonderful.  The deer, with the trust and docility of one bereft of hope, subordinating his fear out of desperation in his pain submitted to Angeline’s graces and the two of us guided it to Angeline’s little cabin in the woods.

page 11.

     She lavished attention on the deer and with all the care of a loving and open heart began to nurse it back to health.

     I am ashamed.  It wasn’t jealousy.  It wasn’t envy.  I too had enough compassion to want to help the deer.  It was a feeling of foreboding.  My own pain had been so great, indeed its dissolution had only a year earlier just begun, that I had been unable, it had not occurred to me till then, to ask Angeline how it was that she had found and brought me to her home to mend.  I wish I had not thought to ask myself that terrible question then.  I certainly could not have been a prize.  My face must have mirrored the distraction of my mind.  I was wearing those ridiculous clothes, dirty from I don’t know how many days of tramping along the highway.  I was grateful to Angeline then, I’m even more grateful today, but I couldn’t help comparing myself to that deer on which she lavished as much love and attention as she lavished on me.

      I didn’t really think about it, I didn’t consciously dwell on it but my past, just behind me, began nipping at my heels.  As I stood outside her door and gazed out toward the Grand Traverse, escape from that past seemed possible and necessary.  Without really thinking about the notion of flight, or leaving, leaving Angeline behind, the notion began to take shape in my mind.

     As winter passed once more and the beauties of April and May arrived, the deer, now healed, nodded a goodbye one morning and disappeared into the woods.  I stood by Angeline and watched him leave saying nothing.  That April and May I enjoyed Angeline’s company as never before while I, myself, grew more sad and morose.

page 12.

      On a day in May Angeline and I were out walking through the woods.  I had my head down my mind dwelling on myself, Angeline and the deer.  Thinking me sad, in an effort to cheer me Angeline exclaimed:  ‘Oh, Greshie, look up, look at the sky, isn’t it beautiful?’  And it was.

     It was a sky such as I’ve only seen in Michigan.  The clouds were drifting in majestic rows from the Northwest.  Each wisp seemed no bigger than a cream puff.  Each was separated from its neighbors by an equal distance; each row separated from the others equally.  These serried battalions of fluffy white clouds marched on in endless succession with absolute precision across the blue of a fading day.

     Each cloud was tinted with overtones of pink.  Pink, white and blue.  Angeline’s colors.  The colors of happiness with which she surrounded herself, surrounded us, me too, each night in her arbor of bliss.  She pointed this out to me glowing and joyous.  Of couse I shared her joy but I also noticed a dark grey band forming behind each of the thousands of clouds.  I said nothing.  An answering ominous shade formed in my own mind.

     When we returned to the cabin the deep blue of the Grand Traverse was still visible in the fading light of a perfect day.  It was then I think that I first saw the path across the water.  I didn’t think any of this out at the time and perhaps I’m only making excuses for myself now, but Angeline was on this side of the Grand Traverse at childhood’s end. 

     Perhaps if I had made the crossing and she had found me on the other side things could have been different.  There was no hope on this side and there was on the other.  As part of my future rather than my past I might, I might never had had to leave her.  Perhaps.  I can’t be sure.

     How could I tell her; How could I explain?  How could I possibly find the words to say it?  What right did I have to leave the savior of my life?  There were no answers that came to my mind.  There were no answers.

     And this is my shame.  That deer had more compassion for Angeline than I had.  He had a deeper sense of gratitude.  He at least gave Angeline a nod good-bye.  With me Angeline just came home to an empty cabin and an empty bed.  Oh god!  I am so ashamed of myself.  How could I be so cruel and heartless?  I who knew what cruelty and heartlessness was.  How could I…

     As the ferry pulled from the slip leading across the Grand Traverse toward St. Ignace and the Upper Peninsula I was on it.  Across the water lay escape and freedom or so I thought.

     Once across the Traverse I had no idea what to do.  So I just started walking down the highway toward Sault Ste. Marie.  I had walked for a day and night; I was out there somewhere when I was overwhelmed by despair again but not so bad as last time.  I threw myself down on my back in the middle of the road spreadeagled.  I don’t know how long I lay there, perhaps five minutes, perhaps a couple hours.  Maybe I thought a truck would run over me and my problems.  None did.  There wasn’t even a car came by, either way. 

     I had no choice but to get up, I couldn’t lay there forever.  Once on my feet I looked off to the West over a mile of cutover ground.  Away in the distance the forest began again.  With shaking steps that slowly grew firmer I walked off to the woods into which I disappeared…

Finis.

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A Novel

Far Gresham

by

R.E. Prindle

Clip 10

     ‘William C. Durant?  Never heard of Billy Durant?’

     Give me a break.  ‘No, not until now, anyway.’

     ‘Well, Billy Durant put General Motors together.  Built it all from the ground up, then lost it.’  He went on speaking of Durant familiarly as Billy as we entered downtown Flint.  ‘And there’s the bowling alley he ended up managing after he lost G.M.  Quite a drop isn’t it?  From GM to that scuzzy bowling alley?’  He said taking obvious pleasure in Durant’s drop.  The Duke had had no success in life at all, unless you wanted to call the Patricians successes, but he laughed and chuckled over Durant’s fall as though he himself had gone on to greater success.

     The bowling alley really was a scuzzy old affair.  Warden said the bankers sold Durant out at ten cents on the dollar which still left him with twenty million in 1920.  Hard to believe a guy could go through twenty million to end up running a measly bowling alley answering question like:  ‘How’s it going auto magnate?’  Warden merely showed me how small he really was.

     The Valley if flatter than a board while Flint is situated among pleasant rolling hills.  Warden’s relatives lived out on the South-west edge of town in a house with the steepest pitched roof I’ve ever seen.  The thing had the angle of a church steeple.  the back yard had a gigantic weeping willow.  Two blocks down the street was a corner grocery store.

     I had been there two days when I was asked to go down to the store to pick up a loaf of bread.  Did Michael have nothing better to do than watch my movements?  Did he just know that I would be getting a loaf of bread at that time?  When I walked in he and a few of his young female relatives were waiting for me.

page 451.

     We must have been poor in the Valley because the store in Flint was bigger, cleaner and better maintained than the ones in the Valley although it was still surrounded by huge trees with a bare yard.

     When I walked into the store all I could see was the area behind the counter.  As I stood looking for the bread bins Michael Hirsh strolled out from the far aisle while the girls moved into view.  My mind was rigidly divided into the conscious and subconscious.  Thus it was as though there was a veil before my eyes preventing me from recognizing Michael while the image registered in my subconscious.  While I didn’t know who he was I could make responses from my subconscious bypassing my conscious that betrayed knowledge of his identity.

     He strolled out in an intimidating manner which I noted but ignored.  He gave a sardonic smile and snort which I also ignored.  He quite obviously thought I was intentionally rejecting him as well he should.  I spotted the bread and went to get a loaf.  I was conscious of the girls crowding around me but thought little of it and was actually pleased by the frotage.

     Michael had learned something from out previous encounter, but not enough.  While the girls had crowded around me one had slipped a Baby ruth into my right back pocket.  As I emerged from the stacks, Michael moved up, this time he didn’t take the candy bar from my pocket but merely pointed saying:  ‘What’s that in Gresham’s back pocket?  Hey, look, he’s stealing a Baby Ruth.’  The girls giggled and made Shame Shame gestures with their fingers.

page 452.

     ‘I didn’t put the candy bar in my pocket.’  I said.  ‘I wouldn’t be stupid to leave it half hanging out.’

     ‘Oh, so then you do steal.  You know all about how to do it?’  Michael said interpreting my rather too casual denial against me.

     ‘No.  I don’t Hirsh, you pulled this same trick at the Children’s Home.  It didn’t work then, it won’t work now.’

     Calling him by his name afater ignoring him when I entered convinced Hirsh that I had arrogantly ignored him when I entered which increased his frustration.  I was completely unaware I had used his name and would have denied it if he had accused me of using it.

     I flipped the bread and change up on the counter.

     ‘You buying the candy bar?’  The grocer asked.

     ‘No.  You can get Hirsh here to pay for it.’

     ‘Then give it to me.’

     ‘Have Hirsh give it to you.  I didn’t put it in my pocket and I’m not taking it out.’

     The Grocer sighed, reached around and removed the Baby Ruth.  I didn’t even like Baby Ruths.  I liked Mounds.

     I took my bread and left.  Michael failed again; but far from the Valley he felt more secure in harassing me.  He had a tighter control of opinion whereas I had none.  During the rest of the stay whenever I went to the store I was assaulted by Hirsh and several of his pals.  The first couple times I was able to fight my way through but then they made it so difficult I had to give up going to the store.

page 453.

     At the beginning of my story my father had flattened David Hirsh as a Sunday ice cream social in the park in the Valley before his betrothed, Beverly.  David Hirsh had deserved it for an unwarranted meddling in my father’s relationship with his future wife, my mother.  As he lay on the ground, David had muttered:  The sins of the father…’  Michael had been thwarted at the grocery store yet once again, but the following Sunday presented an opportunity for David to settle old scores and new.

     Perhaps David organized the social, perhaps he merely took advantage of an existing situation, I don’t know.  Word was gotten to the Wardens that the social would be taking place.  They were urged to come and especially to bring their youngest boy.  Geli coolly explained that I was no relation to them.  The faux pas almost cost Hirsh his opportunity.  The Wardens reacted to the seeming preference to me by dropping me off while explaining they had a prior engagement.

     The contrast between the grim and grimy affairs at the Children’s Home was startling.  Everyone was dressed so nicely and shone so brightly that I was as entranced as though I had been deposited for a gala with the wee folk.  All my resistance melted as my heart danced.  I was especially invited.  Everyone was smiling at me,  I was welcomed with open arms.  A little girl was enthroned as the little queen of the social.  I was urged to go up to her to do obeisance and present myself.  How could I refuse?  I was delighted to offer my fealty.

page 454.

     As I approached her to introduce myself Michael Hirsh darted from the crowd gave me a cold look, whispered something in the girl’s ear, then disappeared once again into the crowd.

      ‘Him again.’  I thought.  ‘Why does he always show up?’

     As I approached the girl, she looked away from me refusing to acknowledge me.  There were a few laughs from the crowd; the parents gathered their young and all departed leaving me alone in the park to socialize with myself.

     The little play was over.  David Hirsh had revenged himself on me for my father’s act.  Hirsh’s evil mind which had given the first offence to my father had visited his vengeance on the father’s son.  Michael had acted his part.  the revenge betrayed a weakness in conception, a misunderstand of what had happened so long ago.  David had observed from the slope across the way.  He was satisfied in a grudging way but Michael had not yet been clearly vindicated.

     The part was a lovely park.  I returned to it the next day.  There were some boys there with whom I struck up an acquaintance and we began to play.  Word was carried to David Hirsh that I was in the park.  David and Michael thought this was an ideal time to bring me to heel.  Michael and a few friends and relatives entered the park.  I was brought to stand before him.  In Michael’s mind he had suffered so many defeats from me, so many well thought plans had gone agley, he had broken his lance on my shield without unhorsing me, that his confidence now wavered.  He stood before me as a half broken warrior.

 page 455.

     Michael had every reason to believe I knew who he was; I had used his name thrice in the grocery store.  If I had recognized him I would never have associated him with any of the scenes from the past.  His memory existed only in my subconscious.  In my conscious mind he was only a mysterious stranger who interfered in my affairs for no good reason.  His repeated appearance strangely excited no interest in me to learn who he was.

     We stood looking at each other.

     ‘Well!’  He said.

     ‘Well?’  I said.

     He had no choice but to interpret the confrontation as a contest of wills.  We stood looking at each other for several moments.  Michael’s brow furrowed, his lips quivered as they moved in response to his minds grasping to find words to express his meaning.  He couldn’t.  He raised his right his right arm and slapped at the air in frustration; a sob emerged from his throat that almost sounded like ‘You’re…’;  he turned on his heel followed by his friends out of the park.  As he reached the sidewalk he turned through tear blinded eyes with large sobs coming from his heart to shake his impostent fist at me.

     For my part I had no idea what was happening.  I suppressed the momory os this incident into my subconscious atop the other memories of Michael Hirsh which were too terrible for me to face.  For the rest of my stay no one would play with me.  Indeed, when I showed up the park emptied.  Even the adults whomanned the office by the tennis courts were exceptionally rude to me.  I was a twelve year old boy.  What could I possible have done to warrant such treatment?  I could understand kids but I couldn’t understand the adults.

page 456.

     The incident was a greater victory for David Hirsh than he realized.  For at that time I lost a great treasure.  My male force was taken from me.  The virility required to make your way among men was hidden behind the altar of David’s hate.  I became almost feminine in my desires to please.  In the eyes of others I was willing to be their doormat.  The only that saved me was the duality of my mind.  My mind converted everything into symbols that allowed me to survive yet in no way affected my rationality.  I led two lives.  One daytime reality, the other a dream life at night that was no less real to me.  I lived both lives at all times; my real me entering my dreams’ my dream me directing my daytime life.  Yet both lives remained separated and compartmentalized.

      David and Michael Hirsh’s victory had, however, been a pyhrric victory.  What to them was my stubborn resistance cost Michael his self-respect.  He had been unable to defeat me in direct confrontation.  He had repeatedly humiliated himself before his friends.  His and his father’s dreams of dominion in the Valley had been dashed to the ground.  My mental condition had my real status from me; Michael had nothing to protect him.  His self-image crumbled to dust.  He gained nothing by emasculating me as, in the process, he had emasculated himself.

page 457.

      Had David and Michael had powers of reflection, had they been able to rise above the primal state, their lives would have continued to shine.  But like the savage of ten thousand years ago who set a whole forest ablaze to avenge himself on a root over which he had stumbled, the Hirshes destroyed their lives to avenge imaginary or self-caused wrongs.  I was not the only grudge David was pursuing.  His mind had the capacity to identify and catalog tens, hundreds, even thousands of so-called injuries.  He was capable of following each case in his case book daily, devoting his life, as it were, to indulging his passions.  The juice of the poison red berries worked on his mind constantly.  He led his boy deep into the berry patch.

     The primitive mentality lay exposed in Dvid.  Ten thousand years of subsequent experience and development left no mark on him.  Judaeo-Christian beliefs could not affect his mind.  Reason left him unmoved.  David had a primitive belief in his rights.  He was one of the elect of Judaeo-Christian theology; he was nature’s nobleman before whom all should bow.  I envied David and Michael’s conception of reality which was seemingly so much better than my own.

     Yet, my heart was pure.  The agonies I endured were the agonies of an unjust persecution.  Their agonies for different reasons were no less than my own.  The story has hnot yet been told, the depths to which I had yet to descend were too much for a knowing mind to bear.  Like the cat in the trap I complacently preened myself looking back from time to time to see if the trap still gripped my ankle.  Worse agonies were in store for David and Michael Hirsh.

End Vol. I

A Novel

Far Gresham

Volume I

by

R.E. Prindle

Clip 9.

10.

     Ben didn’t last.  The Big Belly closed up his oil business pretty quick.  The next time I rode by for another look he was gone.  From lumber to coal to oil to alcohol in three generations.  Ben didn’t sell the alcohol, he drank it.  He stood around his  house all day drinking it.  Anxiety plagued him.  He had severe headaches, fainting spells, he walked around clutching his heart.  The bold marauding man of commerce didn’t know which way to turn next.

     For the sake of his family David Hirsh had made up with his father-in-law.  But, consistent with his character he had neither forgiven nor forgotten.

     I suppose Ben would have died anyway.  He was getting old although still only in his early sixties.  One day Jane Webster found David, who didn’t drink, closing the door to Ben’s liquor cabinet.

page 402.

     ‘David, I didn’t know you drank.’  She said pleasantly.

     ‘I was just looking to see what Ben drank, Mother Webster.  I might make him a present.’  David said fumblingly and with apparent embarrassment.

     ‘Oh, heavens, he doesn’t need any more alcohol David.  Buy him a pair of socks.’

     David laughed appreciatively.

     Not more than a week later Ben got tanked up.  Everybody said he’d probably had a little too much to drink.  His heart couldn’t take it.  Anyway he toppled off the toilet and they found him face down on the bathroom floor with his pants around his knees.  They thought his heart had just stopped.

     Big Ben’s vital spark flew out among the stars.  Flying with the speed of light it set off in pursuit of the words traveling at the speed of sound that had brought his fate to him.  His spark overtook his words swirling around and through them as his spark shot past Mars into the withering cold between the stars.  Perhaps some light year in the distant future Ben’s spark will be drawn within the gravitational pull of some sun to bury itself once again in warmth to be emitted back into space as light to seek some future destiny.

     Ben wasn’t all bad, there wasn’t much good about him, but he wasn’t all bad.  That’s not possible.

page 403.

11.

     While Ben and David were pursuing their destinies I was still accommodating myself to the routine of the Warden household.  I had walked away from the Children’s Home with brave hopes of winning the affection of my foster parents and changing the dismal direction of my life.  You know- excelsior, onward and upward,  I believed this stuff.  Winning the affection of my foster parents meant attaining self-respect to me.  It was clear to me when Geli Warden explained the terms of my residence to me that they did not mean to allow me self-respect.

     Whatever hopes I had had been dashed by my showing at Reuchlin Park.  Jack Warden’s hope for an honorable servitor or page was turned into one of pure servant.  I was only to clean up after them.  No matter how I performed my task I was ridiculed.  In an attempt to please I tried all styles of performance from the utmost seriousness to ridiculous clowning.  Each attempt was ridiculed in turn until I had exhausted all the possibilities.  Each attempt and rejection brought a gleam of satisfaction into Jack Warden’s eye.  He was able to project his own failures onto a defenseless human being.

page 404.

     Then he was capable of projecting his own competence through his sons.  Skippy or Cappy would ostentatiously show me the right way.  The Wardens would go to great lengths to set up a situation in which I would fail and one of their boys shine.

     The lawn was Jack Warden’s pride and joy, a good lawn was much to be envied.  Warden spent much time and money over his.  It was my duty to mow the lawn.  Warden had allowed the blades of the lawn mower to become dull, consequently the mower only bent the grass over but didn’t shear it off.  The result was the appearance of a very sloppy job.  I had remonstrated with the Duke to get the blades sharpened but the Duke sneered away my request as the complaint of an imcompetent.  Skippy would show me how a capable boy would do it, how it had been done before I got there and how it would be done after I left.  He had the mower sharpened before asking Skippy to demonstrate mowing to me.  Naturally Skippy did a terrific job; pointing to the lawn as if it was self-explanatory Duke gave me a deprecating glance, shrugged and walked off.  My performance improved with the sharpened mower.  The improvement was attributed to Skippy’s demonstration.

     On the one hand I was humiliated, on the other I had no difficulty penetrating Warden’s sham.  It seemed to have been my destiny to deal with sham.  The direction of my life as an outsider formed me to see sham.  Whereas Warden’s boys and nearly everyone I knew was trained or allowed themselves to be persuaded to accept the picture of society as it was presented to them I, as it were, lived on the side of the footlights that showed the actors and actresses in undress.  The social deception basic to society was clearly exposed to me.  This social deception was no more apparent than in church.

pp. 405-406.

12.

     The Wardens were peculiar in their religiosity.  Christianity was an additional secondary religion to them, at least to Jack and Geli.  The Duke took his genealogical studies seriously; along with them was his interest in Arthurian legends, the Green Man and something he called the Celtic Twilight.  He almost never referred to Jesus except by the name of Jesu as in King Arthur.  He apparently believed that he knew of an older superior religion but was compelled to pay tribute to Jesus.  He did it with grace.

     The Wardens to all appearances were God fearing Christians, that is to say, hypocrites, who attended church every Sunday but indulged their primal passions during the rest of the week.  I was expected to do the same.

     The Warden were Presbyterians.  They attended the old Rivers Of Blood Presbyterian down on Melmoth Avenue.  Melmoth was the main North-South thoroughfare that ran along the West Side of the River.  The building was a magnificent structure built post-Civil War in that style of reverence and pride so popular in America then.  It sat on what was most likely the first filled in swamp.

page 407.

     Rivers Of Blood was my first real introduction to religion.  During my days at the Orphanage I had refused to attend church.  The orphans were expected to sit in the back rows as tolerated but unwanted communicants.  One needs money and antecedents to attend church.  An interesting fact is that church attendance in the twentieth century increased each decade as the working class prospered.  Thank Henry Ford.  I didn’t want to sit tolerated in the back row.

     I wouldn’t have attended now had not the Wardens demanded it.  As an introduction to Biblical religion Rivers Of Blood was not the worst choice.  The Presbys didn’t teach as much twaddle as the other churches, but I didn’t last long at Rivers Of Blood.  After the Presbys I experimented with different churches although not different religions.  Of the others I found the Episcopalians and the Methodists most congenial to my termperament.  The ecstatic churches like the Holy Rollers or Free Methodists was beyond my ken although I respected and understood them.  Catholicism and Judaism bespoke foreign worlds I could not enter.  The further one got from the established churches which at least had intellectual standards, the more the congregations were sunk in Biblical ignorance and superstition.  The congregants were also less kind and more bigoted.  Those sects were totally repellent to me.  As I approached nearer to high school graduation I discontinued all religious experimentation.

page 408.

     I found the Bible itself to be a sink of ignorance; I could find no good in it.  If the Bible was the actual word of God I was amazed that he could write so clumsily.  My first contact with Biblical teaching at Rivers Of Blood sealed my fate.  As I said my education was to the falseness of society not its virtue.  I had already learned to be critical rather than accepting.  As my instructors piled absurdity on top of absurdity for me to digest I became more and more incredulous.

     I was also becoming a pretty sharp judge of people.  Even at ten I could spot a fraud when I saw one.  I had been sent downstairs to the basement where Sunday School was held.  Rivers Of Blood was a fairly large church.   There were twenty or thirty of us of varying ages.  An adult set up the lesson who then turned its discussion over to a teenager.  This guy was called Court Banke.  Court was sixteen or seventeen.  He was the youngest son of the Banke family.  They were notorious at Rivers Of Blood.  They had the most exalted opinion of themselves.  The father and mother never came to church.  The Bankes believed the old man to be a great man, perhaps of the order of- well, not Christ, but Caesar, Napoleon, at least Wellington, who had somehow been deprived of his inheritance.  Sort of a once and future king who had been denied his sword the second time around.  The Bankes family too thought they stood head and shoulders above the rest of us.

     God had selected his chosen people according tothe Bible.  John Calvin pondering over the text of the Bible had come to the conclusion that there were also chosen persons- the elect in God’s sight.  These chosen ones were Justified Sinners; they were assured a place on the right hand of God no matter how they lived their lives.  They were incapable of losing grace.  the Bankes considered themselves among these self-chosen.  In a small way they tyrannized over the rest of the congregation by the sheer force of their belief.  No one would stand up to them hence their claims were honored to a very large extent.  No one even dared contradict them about the alleged magnificence of their father.

     The oldest was Montgomery, his feet were on the earth but his mind was flirting with the great beyond.  Insanity is a very special quality which few actually attain; Monty was wildly distracted.  He was of the age when he knew he must realize the grandeur of his family’s pretensions.  He had no abilities; or even skills, so he had hit upon the notion that he was ‘called’ to be a great minister.  He hadn’t even the talent for that.  He had already been twice entered in religious colleges, once Presby and then some non-denominational place.  He hadn’t lasted three months in either one.  He was  just back from the latter.  When I was sent upstairs I would find him charging into walls in the hopes of realizing his father’s greatness.

     The second brother, Morgan, was near twenty.  He was quiet for himself, although he fiercely defended his family’s claim.  Courtois, or Court Banke taught Sunday School.  He was as much a raver and fanatic of his family’s claims as Monty.  There were also two girls, Lee and Fay.  Lee was about fourteen, while Fay was my age.  Morgan and Court were fairly good looking while Monty was actually repulsive.  Lee was OK while Fay was homely.  Lee and Fay acted as cheer leaders for the Bankes family.

page 410.

     Court, because he thought himself justified believed himself therefor not only sanctified but possessed of all Biblical knowledge.  In other words he thought that his level of ignorance was the upper limit of everyone else’s knowledge.  Anyone who was the upper limit of everyone elses knowledge.  Anyone who questioned his opinion was merely perverse.  As is natural with people of his type they find it more necessary to eliminate the questioner rather than face the consequences of their own ignorance.

     At that time having a personal relationship with Jesus was the primary thing.  One had to accept Jesus as your personal savior, as opposed to what other kind of savior I don’t know, or to be saved in order to become a candidate for heaven.  I, of course, accepted Jesus as my personal savior, as I thought sincerely, and was therefore saved.  Saving was an early form of being born again.  I was later to learn that you can’t be saved too often.

     The first block I stumbled over was Court’s assertion that no one who had not accepted Jesus was forbidden the kingdom of heaven whether or not the choice had ever been offered to him.  To my young mind this notion presented some insuperable difficulties.  Even a child could read that the Bible was written by Jews for Jews.  The primary assertion is that the Jews are God’s chosen people destined to the dominion of the world and its peoples.  The Bible said it not once, twice or thrice but innumerable times in many different ways.   The Jews had made a deal with God, not put out to bid one might note, and according to them He put it in writing.

 

page 411.

     Yet, we were told that this privileged people were to be denied entrance into heaven because they refused to accept what was said to be their own flesh and blood, if not God himself in human guise, as their personal savior.  I was young and tender but I saw a contradiction in there somewhere.

     Court’s answer was the direct intellectual approach that the truth is the truth, it has to be accepted without question or else you would roast in hell for longer than anyone could remember.  But I had also challenged the limits of his intelligence so that from that moment he began to eye me as a troublemaker.

     I didn’t like being put down by someone who came from a family that was at least as distraught, if not delusional, as myself.  As far as I knew Court’s father had no job and had not even left the house for years.  The family was living from hand to mouth.  The family’s claims to pre-eminence were of the most specious nature.  I was still struggling with the problem of the exclusion of the Chosen People from heaven when Court elaborated further that anyone alive today or who had ever been alive in the past who had never heard of Christ let alone had the opportunity to accept or reject him, was condemned to burn in the eternal flames- forever- as Court redundantly added.  I asked if this meant all the Asians and Africans.  I was informed in Court’s officious omniscient manner that this was so.  I wasn’t against a White man’s heaven but there was something so grossly unfair, so contradictory to what Christian teaching I knew, that I had to reject the notion.  There was just no logic that God would reject his own creatures without a chance at salvation.

page 412.

     I wasn’t clear enough on the relationship of God and the Jews to give an argument on that issue but I had to stand up and reject the notion of all those innocent heathens roasting in hell.  The Bible is not a treatise of reason; the Bible is a book of dogma.  Court Banke did not reason with me.  He condemned me to hell.  Now Court was only sixteen or seventeen, not old enough to overawe me with his presence nor to convince me of his superior learning.  I did not take kindly to being condomned to hell, especially as I had already received Jesus Christ as my own personal savior.  The first of many times I would be required to do so by these insecure religious fanatics.

     I was not averse to being vocal about my understanding or, as the dispute turned ad hominem, about my opinion of my instructor.  Fay Banke reached over and hit me during my debate with her brother, I shoved her back.  There was a hurried consultation between Court and the adults.  The result was that my career in Sunday School was terminated.  The Bible, the mother of bigotry, and its disciples were not to be questioned, I was not to be allowed to remain to corrupt the minds of my fellow students.

     The Wardens received the news with a sigh, but it was a relieved sigh.  Here was proof that I was, in fact, inferior to their Patricians.

page 413.

     Thenceforward I attended regular church services upstairs.  There I was able to observe the result of the religious training going on downstairs.  Rather than inculcating a sense of universal love and brotherhood, the devotees of the Religion of Love had acquired a sense of distinctness and superiority to their fellow man.  I now learned that the list of the hell bound not only included Blacks and Asians and Jews but the Catholics also.  The odds of any of these getting into heaven were longer than the longest.  Nor was there a universal ticket to heaven by being a Presby.  In their evening discussions with God on their knees a sort of consensus had been arrived at as to which score or so of the congregants were assured of a place; which few might gain admittance and which multitude most assuredly would not.  The list varied according to the speaker but I learned that I was on the list of everyone’s excluded.  The chosen persons, the Justified Sinners actually had a walk, a bearing that distinguished them from the damned.

     I was only a kid but I could hear could hear this twaddle with barely suppressed laughter.  Aw heck, I didn’t even try to suppress it.

     As I sat in that most Christian congregration Sunday after Sunday, I became conscious of being the center of attention for some reason.  I was soon to find out why.  I was expected to wait till the Wardens  had gotten out of the car and entered the church after which I was exptected to walk in as though by myself.  I was expected to leave early to slouch out of their sight in their car as they got in and drove away.

page 314.

     I looked about for a seat, then gravitated to the first row, primarily because as I was short I could see better.  I didn’t have to look over, around or through someone else.  I was growing up in a secular society in which everyone considered themselves equal, but this equality did not extend to Biblical or religious society.  The congregatin was so organized that one’s place was apparent from one’s proximity to the pulpit.  My act was considered a piece of pure presumption.  As a little orphan boy I was mistakenly perceived by most as a bastard.  The two terms are synonymous in most people’s minds.  Anyone who has perused the pages of the Bible knows that bastards require ten generations to be accepted by the faithful.  The tenth generation is way at the bottom of the list of undesirables.  Even the Egyptians who held the Israelites in bondage only have to wait three generations.  Ten generations is something like two or three hundred years.  I couldn’t wait that long.  I was only first generation, year ten.

     There were murmurs.  There was discussion.  The Constitution came into conflict with the Bible.  The two traditions existed side by side in everyday life but Americans have a tacit agreement to never discuss religion as there was an uneasy truce between the attitudes in public.  I now thrust the problem before them in the sanctuary.  They had all tacitly accepted the Biblical hierarchy, but they were not clear as to how to deal with the offender.  The Biblical need for superiority clashed with the political need for equality.  They daren’t tell me that my social position  was unequal to theirs, still my sitting complacently in the front row irritated them and traduced their notion of the divine order.

page 415.

     As a stopgap they devised the notion that the front row was the appropriate place for the little children of God.  The younger children were now encouraged to sit in the front row with me, however the arrangement proved not entirely satisfactory.

     Court’s brother Montgomery who, since he had been sent home from the non-denominational seminary, had been in a state of mortal anxiety, had been importuning the ministers for the chance to deliver a sermon, was now given one.  The minsters must have thought it better to give Monty a chance to make a fool of himself than to allow him to disrupt the congregation with his importuning.

     Monty believed, quite sincerely, that God had called him to the pulpit.  All the ministers had been ‘called’ to the profession.  Monty believed God had called to him in a voice curiously like his own.  His sense of frustration at being denied the opportunity to answer God’s call was intense.  After months of the most obscene begging the ministers gave him a chance to deliver a sermon.

     Monty misunderstood the whole religious proecess.  He wanted to receive rather than to give.  His goal was self-aggrandizement rather than solicitation for the flock.  I was a humble member of his flock but he displayed the most obvious contempt for me.  Now, of a Sunday, Monty mounted the pulpit.

     Monty was about five-nine and stout.  He was not unwashed but he had that unclean, unsavory aura about him.  He was round faced and slab cheeked, slightly pock marked.  His eyes and nose were non-descript.  His mouth flowered forth from his face like two folded over slices of baloney.  They were not only thick, by thick I mean bulbous, but they protruded beyond the plane of his face by some distance.  In addition they were always wet as though he couldn’t firmly close them and the saliva oozed out like pus from a sore.

page 416.

     I knew it was futile to let him speak.  I rocked back and forth a little bit in anticipation.  I didn’t know when the precise moment for my opportunity would be but I knew it was coming.  Monty didn’t have anything in his head so when he opened his mouth nothing intelligible came out.  As he lacked Christian charity what did come out no one wanted to hear.  I could feel the tremble of anguish behind me.  Monty could see it.  As he realized the progression of his failure he attempted to overcome it by violence.  He shouted and roared more.  He leaned forward out of the pulpit punching the air as though to beat the congregation into acceptance.  The anguish of the ministers sitting to the side of Monty was apparent.

     Suddenly Monty made a long pause, still leaning out of the pulpit, his fist stretched before him almost to where I could touch it.  Then his fist opened and he began clutching the air rhythmically as though milking a cow.  All his hope fell from his face as he bellowed in desperation:  ‘People! People, if you want to find God you’ve got to go out and grab him.  Grab him!  Grab him and bend him to your will!’

page 417.

     Bend Him to your will!  My knees rose reflexively, I rolled to one side as my pealing sobs of laughter burst as by ventriloquism throughout the whole church.   Banke froze in humiliation, the church was absolutely silent except for my high pitched gasping peals of laughter.  It took me two minutes to get myself under control.  Monty began to speak again but the mere sound of his voice set me off once more.  I got up and staggered out of Rivers of Blood holding my stomach.  ‘Grab God, bend him to your will.’  Just like you Monty, just like you.  I thought.

     Well, I had given the congregation the excuse they needed, not to mention the Banke family.  I was asked to remove myself from the front row.  The Wardens were chosen to give me this message.  It was intended, if not stated, that the back row was now not good enough for me.  The Wardens themselves sat in the tenth row which was considered by some to be an act of presumption.  Now, Jack Warden, the descendent of Richard Couer de Lion, secretly wanted to sit in the front row.  He mollified his conscience for sitting in the tenth row by inventing the excuse that he chose to do so because his eyes focused more perfectly at that distance from the pulpit.  Various scruples prevented Warden from telling me, who after all was a stranger in his household, where to sit, but I considered it wiser to sit behind them.

     I removed myself to the fifteenth row, half way back.  There, periodically the congregation turned and looked back at me in my exile in satisfaction.  Those around me treated me as an intruder while those behind me seemed to ask why I was so far forward by their expressions.  ‘What entitles him to sit in front of me?’  They seemed to say.  Christian charity was conspicuously lacking in God’s own house.

page 418.

     I continued to scandalize the congregation.  As I was now unable to see I grew bored and restless.  I was an outcast so I did not feel the restraints of the included.  Law and laws were different for me.  I first scandalized those near me by taking off those outsized shoes, examining the details of construction with great care, while I listened to Reverend Breedlove drone on about the importance of being good neighbors.

     I might have been allowed to remain in the fifteenth row but for the following incident.

     Reverend Breedlove, who had a tendency to gush in the pulpit, told a story- an anecdote- one Sunday of a saintly child who found himself without any change to put in the collection plate as it passed by him.  This saintly child asked the usher to place the plate on the floor.  Stepping into the plate the child said:  ‘I have no money to give the sweet baby Jesus so I give myself instead.’  That boy had not only been saved but received.  Then an audible hum of wonder and admiration rose from the congregation.  Perhaps I misinterpreted its tenor.

     The application to my own situation seemed to me to be uncanny.  The Wardens refused to give me a nickel to put into the collection plate.  My sense of mortification was intense each week as I passed the plate to my neighbor without putting anything in it.  Once my neighbor passed it back with a querying look.  I could only indicate to him to pass it on as the usher snickered.  For a brief while I placed my finers on the plate in imitation of placing a coin in the plate.  Then the rumor spread that I was taking money out of the plate.  My mental agony oppressed me.  Reverend Breedlove’s anecdote gestated in my distressed agitated mind for some weeks.

page 419.

     One Sunday in desperation I asked the usher to place the collection plate on the floor.  He stopped in his tracks giving me a look of incredulous disbelief.  ‘You’ve got to be kidding?’ He said.  Well, I wasn’t, although as he stared at me, mouth gaping, I wished I had been.

     As a little gale of laughter flashed out into the church from my section, I wondered what made that other boy a saint and me a fool.  The story advanced in a wave of whispers.  The ripple of laughter marked its progress.  Reverend Breedlove looked up with a questioning look on his face.  Skippy and Cappy stood right up and scowled back at me.  I lamely said to the usher:  ‘Well, it’s me or nothing.’  They chose nothing but I think they were wrong.

     Once again the congregation was scandalized.  There was discussion during the week to which I was not party.  The next Sunday when we arrived, early as usual, the good Reverend Breedlove called me into his office.  I wasn’t very happy about this as the rumor was that Reverend Breedlove lived up to his name and did not discriminate between the sexes.  The laying on of hands had a whole different meaning in his office.  As it turned out he had taken the task of breaking the delicate news to me manfully upon himself rather than delegating the responsibility to one of lesser tact.  He informed me that in the future a special place for me had been reserved in the vestibule behind the rest of the congregation.  I was not surprised but I was hurt.  I bargained to be allowed to sit in the balcony which was at least a part of the church and was usually unoccupied.  Christian charity virtually bubbled from the good Reverend as he consented.

page 420.

     Thus I placed myself in the front row of the balcony that gave me a superb view of what was going on in the congregation.  In my position overlooking the folk I learned that I had never done anything which was not exceeded by what I saw.  It was as though I had invaded their privacy.  I was more conspicuous than before.  Heads turned slightly as eyes sought me out in my eagle’s nest.  As happens in these situations the balcony became a desirable place to sit just because I was sitting there.  It filled up.  I was once again in the way.

     I made another visit to Reverend Breedlove.  He insisted that I sit in the vestibule.  I made numerous objections giving good and weighty arguments both religious and secular, but the Law was set aside and naked human desire prevailed.  Charity wasn’t even for Sundays.

     The vestibule could be sealed off from the church.  The congregation shrunk from closing me off completely.  One door was left ajar from which I couldn’t even see the pulpit.  It was with a very heavy heart that I sat out each Sunday, lounging as it were in the vestibule.  Sometimes I felt like crying, sometimes I felt like screaming.  Then one fine Sunday, I turned my gaze from the half closed door leading into the darkness of the church and noticed the open door leading out of the church.  The beautiful sunlight was streaming in.  I cast another glance into the dark recess at the representatives of the god of Justice and the assembled adherents of the Religion of Love, turned and walked out the door into the warm bright sunshine.  I left them to their calculation of who was going to heaven who to hell.  My curiousity took me elsewhere.

      Curiously, or, as I thought, curiously, when I told the Wardens that I wouldn’t be attending church with them anymore they acquiesced in silence.  Perhaps I had fulfulled their expectations.  Perhaps in their minds I had vindicated the Patricians again.

pages 421-422.

13.

     I had no interest in Rivers Of Blood nor was I able to develop enthusiasm for any other church as many as I tried.  But then America is a religious country and religion is big business.  There were alternatives to the established churches.  There were wonderful traveling road show evangelists.  The evangelists used every gimmick to mulct an audience of its hard earned cash.  I should not say mulct for in fact evangelism was in many ways the most chanciest form of entertainment.  The shows were expensive to run, costing as much to stage as touring Broadway shows.  Unlike theatre they couldn’t charge admission, they had to rely on passing the plate.   The audience could give or not give depending on what they thought of the show.

     The evangelists had to put on a good show too; if they couldn’t whip an audience into orgiastic foot stomping enthusiasm  they were through.  No money, no fame, no god.  I saw the youngest evangelist, Marjoe Gortner, who had a good stage presence but failed mainly because a boy my age or younger wasn’t credible.  The packaging was too obvious.  I also saw the ‘oldest living Cowboy evangelist’ Cowboy Bob Danvers.  Cowboy Bob would have been worth money if I’d had any to give him, I didn’t, so as far as I was concerned he worked for free.  Bob was a charitable guy.

     The late forties was a golden age for evangelism.  Fear and anxiety had melded into a full blown hysteria, close to mass madness.  Communism and Russia was the main fuel but a whole generation was emerging from the decade of the Great Depression.  In 1950 the country had been prosperous for five years but the survivors of the Depression lived in constant fear of the recurrence of the event.  Fear haunted their waking and sleeping hours, they didn’t believe that prosperity would last.  They went out and bought the brand new toy, the Television set, notwithstanding.  As the fear of the Second Coming haunted the back of Big Ben’s mind, the religious fanatics were out proclaiming the imminent arrival of Jesus amongst the billowing clouds because the Jews were returning to Israel.

     The Atom Bomb had disturbed a number of people when we had the monopoly, but now that Russia announced that they had the Bomb anxiety was reaching a fever pitch.  A few months earlier I had read a fantasy in the paper in which a doomsday writer had postulated, with diagrams, that if the Russians exploded an atomic bomb at the intersections of a one hundred mile grid laid over the United States that the resultant fire storm would consume all life giving the Commies absolute victory.  The proposition was so absurd that it cured me of all fear of the Bomb, although instant destruction haunted the minds of the majority of the people.

page 424.

     Of course the substratum of the evangelists success remained personal guilt and affliction, combined with the unfathomable ignorance of mankind.  But the evangelist had to be good.  Billy Graham and Oral Roberts were men of incredible talent and skill.  Cowboy Bob didn’t have that much talent.  You can fool some of the people some of the time but it takes a man of God to fool them all the time.  Cowboy Bob wasn’t a man of God but he was a terrific showman.  His packagers and managers had put together a once in a lifetime show.

     Bob was seventy-eight, or so they said, which made him at least the oldest living Cowboy evangelist if not the oldest living evangelist.  He may actually have been that old because I read his obit about a year later which forced his packagers to strike the word ‘living’ from his billing.  The rumor was that it was a great show.  June 14th found me sitting in the balcony waiting for the show to start.

     As usual I found an aisle seat.  Next to me was a pudgy young woman and her girl friend.  She was neither a beauty nor cultivated but she perceived herself as a beauty while putting on coarse airs of quality.  She was gazing about hoping to be admired when a stentorian voice announced:  ‘You still sellin’ it, honey?’

page 425.

     The girl fluttered, looked around with unseeing eyes and said to me:  ‘I don’t know what he’s talking about, do you?’

     I could have asked her the obvious question: ‘How did you know he was talking about you?’ when the voice clarified the situation by saying:  ‘Yes, you, down there in the pink shirt and blue ribbon.  You still selling it or are you giving it away now?’

     She fluttered some more, placing her fingers over her mouth.  Without seeing me she stared into my face with a most plaintive look.  A good rule is, don’t ever get involved, but I took pity on her.  I shouted up toward the voice:  ‘What kind of guy insults a woman in a theatre?’

      ‘This doesn’t concern you kid, shut up, or I’ll come down there and shut you up.’

     My opportunity:  ‘Oh yeah?  You’re the kind of guy who insults women and beats up little kids, huh?’

     ‘I’m just telling you to shut up, kid.’  He snarled back.

     ‘Oh yeah, ‘sides you take money from a man to do what you do.  What makes you so hot?’

     ‘Why you…’  He shot back.  ‘I don’t take money from a man for what I do.’

     ‘Oh yeah, you get a pay check, don’t you?  Who signs it at the bottom?  Some guy, right?  You take money from men too.’

     My retort, that came from where I don’t know, stunned him and shamed his manhood.  His check was signed by another man, his superior, the man who told him what to do, who subordinated the fellow’s manhood to his own.  The Mouth understood my meaning; rather than give up he now moved to the defensive.

page 426.

     ‘No one signs my check you little creep, it’s a rubber stamp.’  He shouted out for all the world to hear, standing up with arms still folded across his chest:  ‘It’s a rubber stamp.’ emerged from him several times as he tried to convince himself and others that he was a real live independent male.

     I turned to face forward to find the pudgette studying me and my clothes with utter disdain.  ‘Some Lochinvar.’ She said, now feeling secure.  ‘Come on Mary, let’s go sit somewhere else around people who know how to dress.’

     I was hurt.  I had no ready answer as I tried to arrange a thought while ‘It’s a stamp’ was still descending from above.  The house stirred as a curtain went up to reveal a gospel quartet sitting around an electric campfire in imitation of the trail.  They broke into a strident version of the ‘Little Brown Church In The Dell.’  They were really good.  Each one of them could not only carry, but run, with the tune.  All of them knew where the notes were and the harmonies carried an edge.  By the time they got to the second reprise of the march:  ‘Come, come, come, come.’ The audience had joined in stamping and clapping; about a third of the house was on its feet.

     The stage director had the stage lighted perfectly, the quartet was miked as sharply as anything at the time.  When they started their second song, a rousing version of ‘Give Me That Old Time Religion’ it was clear that the musical director, who appeared leading a hundred voice local choir when a second curtain rose, really knew how to arrange those tunes.  The miked voices of the quartet came booming out of the loudspeakers accompanied by an unseen concertina, harmonica and guitars, while the choir swelled from the stage.  At the end of the tune while the quartet continued ‘Old Time Religion’ the choir switched to ‘Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?’  The whole audience was now on its feet cheering, stomping and singing.

     Cowboy Bob Danvers, the oldest living Cowboy evangelist, made his entrance.  God, what a stunning entrance.  Bob was gorgeous.  They could have called him Gorgeous Cowboy Bob.  He was a little coot not more than five foot three, extremely thin- like two toothpicks stuck together.  His boots and hat dominated his appearance.  The boots were black with a white eagle cut into the front.  There was big silver plate on the toes as well as a tap.  He wore a black suit of lights with silver spangles down the seams of his pants which were tucked into his boots.  An enormous silver buckle covered his midriff, while the yoke of his jacket was ablaze with silver spangles.  the bottons of his shirt reflected blazing stabs of light.  His hat was half as tall as he was and probably of a larger circumference.  If there were bigger ten gallon hats, this was it.  The hat was radiant white with a silver spangled hatband.  There was a dint on either side of the peak.

     Cowboy Bob had an old man’s face, when you could see it under the brim of his giant hat.  He had an enormous beak in a squat face.  The nose was extraordinary.  It not only protruded a great distance but was of uniform length from the bridge to the nostril. It just seemed to erupt from his face.  His mouth was a straight line, cleft, as it were, between his nose and chin.  The chin seemed to rise up seeking to touch his nose.  He had a very self-satisfied air.  Despite all his activity he seemed relaxed even complacent.

page 428.

     If he was seventy-eight he wasn’t giving up anything to age.  He came bouncing dazzlingly on stage moving sideways crablike in a spectacular dance whooping and hollering.  He fired off two enormous six-shooters that gave off an enormous amount of smoke as the lights played off the spangles of his outfit.  He passed behind the podium to the left, or stage right and bounced, kicked and hopped to the other side of the stage.  He was able to imitate the cowboy on the logo of the San Francisco Forty-Niner football team; like him he fired a double barreled salvo at the ground mid-stage.  Twirling his guns on his fingers he raised his arms directly over his head with a loud ‘Hoo haw’ as though to say: ‘Look at this and I’m seventy-eight.’  In fact he did bellow:  ‘I’m seventy-eight if I’m a day.’ which I did note was a qualified statement.  He fired off a salvo at the ceiling, then while bouncing back to stage center he began the most beautiful precision movement with the guns I’ve ever seen.  Spinning them slowly on his fingers he brought them forward and down in a perfect arc.  Bringing his elbows up till they were level with his shoulders he swept the guns past the holsters and threw the six-pistols into the holsters from behind as he came to a complete stop.  He tilted his head back to show a gruesome smile.  Then slowly raised, he didn’t even kick, his right leg up until it moved his hat a little.  He had big silver plates on his heels too.  He lowered his right leg as he repeated the movement with his left.  He was capable of getting each leg straight up.  The audience was watching spellbound.  I was breathing and swallowing hard.  Then Bob kicked three or four times in quick succession.  On the the last kick while his right leg was touching his hat he made an effortless and beautiful pirouette.  He brought his leg down, screamed out another ‘Hoo haw’ as he drew his pistols faster than anyone could see and fired off another salvo.  Then, just to show us who he was, or possibly who we werent’, he bounced over to the podium, changed pistols with another two someone had laid out for him and did it again with a few additional moves.

     The audience was breathless; Cowboy Bob had won us over completely.  People on every side were uttering:  ‘God, look at that guy go.  He’s seventy-eight and he can move like that?’

     As the lights played through the smoke from his guns and reflected off his spangles Bob stood front center stage and said in a very beautiful pear shaped baritone that sounded like a ventriloquist projected it from his improbable frame, filling the auditorium without the aid of amplifiers:  ‘Howdy Folks, I’m Cowboy Bob Danvers and I’m here to tell you what God has done for me.  And don’t never forget, People, what he’s done for others he can- and will, if you let him- do for you.’

     The audience broke into wild cheering that went on for minutes.  People left their seats and milled about in the aisles.  Some clusters of people remained seated, alternately, even simultaneously cheering and discussing Bob among themselves.  People wandered aimlessly, hands in pockets, stunned by the unbelievable demonstration of agility in an eighty year old man.  I left my seat and moved down to the front of the balcony to study this guy closer.

page 430.

     Then Bob began speaking:  ‘I said I’m here to tell you what God did for me.’  The crowd slowly calmed down.  While the noise diminished Bob took off his hat and held it in front of him.  The brim reached from his knees to his chest, but good God, what a magnificent head of silver hair.  The hum died down, Bob gave a little smile as if to say:  ‘See, isn’t God good to me?’  tipped his head forward and rotated it so that we could see that he didn’t have a bald spot in back, then replaced his hat.

     The magnificent baritone, God it was pretty, began again, projecting even into the last row of the balcony.

     ‘I’m here to tell you what God has done for me.  Now, I don’t want to shock any of you ladies, children and good folk with any bad language but I was a borned hell-raiser.  That’s right.  I said it.  I’m ashamed for it but I was a borned hell-raiser.  I was mean.  I was mean just to be mean.  Just because it felt good.  I’m small but I was tough and as you can see, quick on the draw.

     I remember one time a bunch of us boys had pulled into Dodge after driving a herd up from the river.  The Rio Grandee River, down in Texas.  We’d drew our pay.  The whole bunch of us had three or four hundred dollars in our pockets.  In those days three or four hundred dollars was a heck of lot more money than it is today.  That was way back before the turn of the century.  Well, Folks, we come to cross the Canadian River to get into town.  This feller had thrown up a toll bridge across the river and he wanted us to give him two-bits to ride across.  Well, Sir, we had the money and to spare but we didn’t want to give him a quarter.  Well, we gave a whoop, just like some of ’em like I’ve give up here, drawed our guns, spurred our horses, fired a few rounds at the bridge keepers feet, a few in the air and rode across whether he liked it or not.  Well, Folks, I can tell you he didn’t like it a bit.  He raced into his shack and got hisself his double barreled shot gun.  Well, we was already across the bridge but I can still hear the buckshot clatterin’ along the boards of that bridge behind our horses heels…’

page 431.

     A hum rose from the audience as we sucked in our breath simultaneously.  I lowered my head in awe to absorb Bob’s story.  When I did so I saw the Wardens sitting on the main floor.  They’d shown up for this.  Skippy, when Bob had completed the story, snapped back in his seat dumbfounded.  He put his fingers to his chin in astonishment.

     ‘That’s the kinds of things I did folks, but that’s not the worst.  That was my best behavior.  When they found gold in the Klondike I went North to Alaska.  But I didn’t like the hard honest work of mining.  In those days there was plenty suc…uh, honest businessmen, a lot of Britishers,  who would buy claims sight unseen.  Well, I’m ashamed to say, I salted- salted- you know, spread a little gold around to make it look like a gold mine, a few giggings and sold ’em, cheated those good people out of their hard earned money.

page 432.

     Yes, I was leading an evil life, drinking chasing loose women, just, pardon my French Folks, raisin’ hell.  I never killed a man though, wouldn’t never do nothin’ like that.  I honestly don’t know what all I did.  My life was kind of a drunken haze.  I was wasting the most precious gift God ever gave anyone, my life.  I can’t even tell you how I got down to  the South Seas- Tahiti, but I found God there face down on a barroom floor.  I opened my eyes from that alcoholic haze and there he was, looking up at me, shaking his head at me in pity and shame.  And you know,’ a note of shyness crept into this voice, ‘with a beak like mine that’s plenty of room between me and the floor for God to see me.’  The audience broke into wild laughing and cheering.

     ‘Since that time.’  Bob shouted out.  ‘I’ve dedicated my life to Him, to bring His message to you.’

     At this time the quartet moved up behind him to aid him in a version of Stuart Hamblen’s song ‘It Is No Secret.’  Bob crooned along with the quartet.  The musicians who could no longer tolerate being hidden in the wings moved out beyond the curtain where they could be seen and appreciated.  The concertina played the high notes, undertoned by the harmonica, while one guitar strummed out the chords and the other ran off glissandoes.  The words of the song fit in perfectly with the message Cowboy had been expounding of religious creed:

The chimes of Time

Ring out the news,

Another day is through,

Someone slipped and fell,

Was that someone you?

You may have longed

For added strength

Your courage to renew,

Do not be disheartened

For I have news for you.

It is no secret

What God can do.

What he’s done for others

He will do for you.

With arms wide open

He will welcome you.

It is no secret

What God can do.

page 433.

     Then Bob gave another few words about how he wouldn’t change back no matter what temptations the Devil placed before him.  I thought that might not be totally true for I saw Bob’s eye lighting on the young twelve and thirteen year old girls in the audience with a gleam.  But then Bob said they were going to sing a song ‘and it has a pretty good chorus, so if you want to join in do so lustily.’  They then did a rousing version of  I Shall Not Be Moved.   ‘Just like a tree that’s standing by the water, I shall not be moved.’  The audience did join in.  It was a tremendously moving experience.  The audience was open to suggestion.

page 434.

      In the theatre the play is the thing, the audience is required to direct its attention solely to the play.  In the rivival meeting, which is really only a sort of morality play, the audience is the thing.  It is a particiapatory or inter-active show.  In actuality the dividing line between stage and audience is dissolved.  Directed by the evangelist the whole becomes one great communion.  This magic had now occurred.  Cowboy Bob had wooed and won the entire audience.  He now retired into the stage left wing while another fellow came out to address us in the heart wringing tones full of love for humanity, commiseration for all sinners and a request for money:  ‘Dig down deep, give all you can Folks, this one’s for God.’

     Those who really felt the spirit of the Lord were asked to come down the aisles to receive their savior.  Preparatory to passing the collection plate the milling audience was requested to go back to their seats, clear the aisles let the repentant through.

     The crowd separated, going back to seats while a stream of people began to slowly move forward filled with reverence.  Cripples hobbled up on their crutches to be healed while people on stretchers were wheeled down the aisles.  The choir began a softly sung version of ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Blessed Savior Set Me Free.’  My eyes were open wide with wonder and awe as I overheard two men speaking behind me.

     ‘Gosh, that was a terrific story about the toll bridge wasn’t it?’

page 435.

     ‘Yeah, I always liked it.’  Was the reply.

     ‘Oh, you’ve seen Cowboy Bob before?’

     ‘You mean Solly?  Naw, I just know the story.  He lifted it from Charlie Siringo, maybe word for word, if I know Harve Baker.’

     ‘Solly?  Charlie Siringo?  Harve Baker?  What do you mean?’  Replied the rube.

     ‘Well, kid, the story came from a book of reminiscences by a real cowboy called Charlie Siringo.  Charlie had an interesting life.  He was in on the gunfight with Bonney, then joined the Pinkertons and tried to run down Butch and the Kid.  He wrote about these things.  Then they asked him to go out to Hollywood as a kind of technical director.  I always meant to go out and meet him but I never found the time, wish I had now.  I don’t think Solly knows the book but Harve Baker who packaged the show sure does.’

     This information flew over the Rube’s head, or at least he had to take time to sort it out.  He returned to Solly.

     ‘Well, but who’s this Solly guy?’

     ‘Solly?  Sol Rosenblum?  That’s Cowboy Bob’s real name.’  The Slicker said confidentially.

      ‘Cowboy Bob’s not Cowboy Bob?’  The Rube asked with a catch of disappointment in his throat.

     ‘No. No.  That’s Solly Rosenblum.  Used to be the Human Pretzel until he couldn’t bend the way he used to.  That’s why he’s so agile.  That sideways hop, those spectacular kicks; terrific huh?  When I last saw him he talked like a Hebe, although he always had a terrific voice.  I don’t know where he picked up that terrific Western drawl.  He was always a great guy though.  He’s just the same in real life as he was on stage.  Amiable, gosh, what a great guy.’  The Slicker said.

 page 426.

     ‘What do you mean, the Human Pretzel?’  The rube asked totally bewildered.

     ‘The Human Pretzel?  Back in those days, gosh, we’ll never see their like again, how I loved ’em, when I was settin’ out on the pathway of life, there used to be a slew of guys around the Big Apple who had developed a trick.  They were wonderful guys.  Most of ’em were just one trick ponies, once you’d seen ’em you didn’t have to see ’em again.  Some like Harry Houdini especially, and the Mighty Atom turned their tricks into a real act.  Most just disappeared.  They were interesting guys.  They could only conceive of success in terms of doing something with their own body.  They couldn’t trust anybody, so they thought they nobody could steal their body.  It was always with ’em.

     Solly had a pretty good act, limited, but pretty good.  He got his moniker because he could really make himself look like a pretzel.  You know, get both feet behind his head and hold his arms just so.  All you’d have to do is add salt chunks.  He was really limber in those days.  I saw him do a pinwheel walk back and forth across a stage bigger’n that.’

     ‘What’s a pinwheel walk?’  Asked the Rube.

     ‘What’s a pinwheel walk?’  Repeated the Slicker, asking for psychic dues for the information he was going to give.

     ‘Yeah.  What’s a pinwheel walk?’

page 437.

     ‘What’s a pinwheel walk?’  Pause, no additional reward.  ‘Well, a pinwheel walk is when you bend over backward so that both hands and feet are on the boards.  then you slowly lift a leg and turn over laying one foot down then the other, over backwards on your hands and so on.  Solly was precision, just like when he twirled his handguns.  He could do it with such grace and style that all you could see was the motion.  I’ve seen a lot kid, and I’m not kidding you son, he was terrific.  The best I’ve ever seen.  I always wondered what happened to him.’

     ‘How did you meet him?’  Asked the Rube.

     ‘How did I meet him?’  The Slicker repeated becoming irritating.

     ‘Yeah.’

     ‘Oh, I was working Coney and that area during the twenties until I had to leave.’  The Slicker said ruefully.

     ‘What did you do.’  Asked the Rube.

     ‘What did I do?’  Replied the Slicker puzzled.

     ‘Yeah, you said you worked there.’  From the Rube.

     ‘Worked there?  Oh, oh yeah, well, I was, uh, a salesman.’

     ‘Oh yeah. What did you sell?  Pursued the Rube.

     ‘What did I sell?;  Said the Slicker somewhat irritated.  ‘Oh, just, you know, whatever came my way.  I wasn’t particular.  I can sell anything, iceboxes to Eskimos.  I’m good.’

     ‘Well, you mean you don’t think Cowboy Bob drove those steers into Dodge City?’  In a non-sequitur the Rube tried to restore his shattered illusions.

     ‘Aw heck, no.  This may be the first time Solly’s been West of the Hudson.  Harve just got him for the show.  Saw his potential and signed him up.  Harve’s a genius in his own way.’

page 438.

     ‘Harve?  Is that the Harve Baker you mentioned?’  Asked the Rube.

     ‘Yeah, yeah kid.  Listen I gotta be goin’ now.  Nice talkin’ to you.  Regards to your folks.’  The Slicker moved off into the crowd.

     ‘Hey, you don’t know my folks.’  The Rube said after the retreating figure.

     Cowboy Bob wasn’t really Cowboy Bob, he was really Solly Rosenblum?  Gosh, I really believed him.  I searched the stage to find him but he wasn’t there anymore.  His replacement was asking people to come down still.  Even more people were moving down the aisles.  Off to the right I saw just a few people being led from time to time into a little room.

     Coming down from the balcony was easy but once I reached the floor the psychic religious state was intense.  It was even hotter than in the balcony too.  I wasn’t a real believer but the others slowly pacing down the aisle were in full communion with their god.  I thought I better imitate them so I held my arms away from my sides a little, hands up, let my mouth gape a little to give me a holy look and half stumbled, half walked down the aisle.

     As I passed the Wardens I heard Skippy say:  ‘Hey look, there’s Far, wouldn’t you know it?’

     When I reached the front of the stage I found that they were saying a few words to the people then shaking them down for what they could get, which was usually whatever they had.  The people received Jesus, the evangelists received their cash.  I had my eye on the door on the right when I noticed an evangelist directing people to it if they really believed.  Not many really believed; neither did I but I wanted to see so when the guard at the door asked if I really believed he took my stupid pose and a nod of the head as proof positive.

     Inside the room it was pandemonium in a heat wave.  The sound from the choir echoed in from a door leading onto the stage.  A couple of stretcher cases were putting up a loud wail.  Some seriously crippled people were shouting back and forth with the evangelists.  Everyone was rushing around in the most intense manner.  No one was paying any attention to anyone else.  I was dismayed, even terrified.  I wedged myself between a table and the edge of the wall leading up to the stage entrance.

     I was looking out trying to make sense of things when I saw a guy standing over the head of an old woman on a stretcher.  She was hysterically shrieking that she want to be healed.  Some guy was leaning over her.  Another man yelled to him:  ‘Try to get to her now, Harve.’  The guy leaning over her was Harvey Baker, the packager of the show.  She was paying no attention to him but Harve was shouting at her:  ‘Do you have any money lady?  We need money, how much money can you give us?’  I guess Harve was hoping someone was going to lay a cool million on him, solve all his problems at once.  He wanted it now just in case if she were healed she might renege on him.

page 440.

     Harve moved off and another guy took his place.  Standing over her he reached down and grabbed her forehead in his hand.  All of a sudden his features jelled in my vision.  I stared in disbelief.  It was Montgomery Banke.  The guy had washed out of two seminaries and now he was trying to be a faith healer?

     How did Monty talk these guys into this?  Actually he hadn’t.  He waited his chance slipped into the room and waited his opportunity.  His emotional state was overcharged to say the least.  He too was oblivious to all save his own interests.  There was Harve begging for money; the old lady shrieking for health and Monty trying to be a vessel of God.  None of them was aware of anything but their own interests but an electric charge brought all three into a distant sweaty embrace.

     Monty hadn’t been able to become a man of God but he had a test as to whether he was in communication with the godhead or not.  He quivered and shook, half in anticipation of being proved, half in fear of rejection.  He gripped the poor woman’s head convulsively.  Her head rocked back and forth as Monty’s clammy hand on her forehead shook uncontrollably.  Monty raised his right hand with his finger pointing to the ceiling like a lightening rod on a barn hoping to receive the Holy Ghost.

     ‘Oh Lord, please, make me your vessel, redeem your servant’s life this time.  I want to succeed and be a great minister of Your Word.’

page 441.

     Monty really believed he was talking to God.  His face was ecstatic with hope.  Then he jammed the woman’s head deep into her pillow while stretching his right arm as high as it would go, he shouted: Heal!  Heal! Heal this woman through me, oh Lord.’  Well, the all embracing vision of the Lord was momentarily distracted because He didn’t answer Monty’s prayer.

     ‘Do you feel any different, lady?’  Monty asked his victim.  ‘Are you better, lady?’  He implored her.

     ‘No, I don’t you son-of-a-bitch.’  She spat at him.  ‘Get this phony away from me.  I want to be healed.’

     ‘Do you have any money?’  Harve implored.

     ‘I’ll try again.’  Monty said.

     It was a mistake but I couldn’t help it.  I started laughing.  Just a little subdued laugh; more shaking of the chest than a real laugh, but then a real giggle escaped and I was identified.

     ‘Hey, what’s he doing in here?’  Said a finger pointing at me.  ‘He’s not a real believer.’

     M0nty was too pre-occupied to notice me as his finger shot toward the ceiling in a second attempt.  But I heard a girl’s voice behind me shouting:  ‘That’s Far.  That’s Far Gresham.  Run him out.  They won’t even let him attend Rivers Of Blood church.’

     I turned around to see Fay Banke pointing at me.  I had been right about Cowboy Bob.  Twelve year old Fay had leaped up half breaking Cowboy Bob’s embrace who was apparently trying to tap God into her Holy orifice with his finger.  His hand was still up her skirt.  Cowboy Bob had been caught in the act.  He cave me a sheepish look as if to ask what I was going to do.  I shrugged at him to show I didn’t care.  If he wanted Fay Banke at any age he could have her.  Worse luck for him.

     I wasn’t going to stay where I wasn’t wanted.  I bolted for the door passing Monty just as he screamed ‘Heal!’ into my ear.  I didn’t heal either.

     As I entered the auditorium I was greeted by the choir singing out:  ‘When the Saints go marching in, oh how I want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in.’  I’d had enough excitement for the evening so this Saint marched up the side aisle to escape the pandemonium.  As I entered the lobby I noticed one of those tall wire wastebaskets.  Sitting in the middle atop three feet of waste paper were a whole bunch of wallets.  To my mind the strange thing was that the ‘secret’ pockets had all been pulled out extending over the top of the wallets.  I could only think that a bunch of people had taken vows of poverty and thrown the symbol of worldliness in the trash.

     I hadn’t really known how hot it had been in there until I issued from the lobby into the street.  It was still plenty warm outside but it seemed refreshingly cool compared to inside.  The front of the auditorium was a long row of double doors which all stood open.  As I stood organizing my senses after the exhilarating experience of Cowboy Bob Danvers I saw the Slicker emerge three doors down.  He turned in my direction approaching with short, almost fussy, steps with his arms swinging briskly by his sides.  He leaned forward as he walked pushing his rear out while holding his chin up and forward.

page 443.

      As I pulled my clothes away from my body to cool myself I saw that his suit  coat was badly stained in the arm pits and between the shoulders.  He walked briskly past me as I fell in behind.  As I passed a gap between the auditorium and the building next to it I noticed a man standing in the alleyway with his back to the street, his hands on his hips and his head bowed.  I thought he was going to the bathroom until I saw a pair of knees between his spread legs.  I looked around him as I passed and caught a glimpse of a pink blouse and a blue ribbon.   Huh, I thought and kept walking.  The Slicker reached into his pocket to pull out a wad of bills to look at thrusting them back with a bounce to his step.

     A bill fluttered to the ground as he did so.  I bent down scooped it up to find it was a twenty dollar bill.  Without hesitation I ran after the Slicker saying:  ‘Hey, Mister, you dropped this.’

     ‘I didn’t drop nothing kid.  Get away from me or I’ll knock your block off.’  He said in a relatively amiable fashion.

    Well there was no contest between keeping a twenty dollar bill or having my block knocked off.  I put it in my pocket and slowed down as the Slicker quickly moved ahead of me.

     The Lord had done for Cowboy Bob in a big way, the Slicker in a decent way and me, very well, considering the smallness of my desires.  Maybe Cowboy Bob was right about what God had done for him he would do for me.

page 444.

     I didn’t know I was receiving stolen money.  As should be obvious the Slicker was a pickpocket.  He was known as Waxey William to his pals whenever they saw him, or the cops, whenever they caught him.  Light Fingered Billy had been at it a long time.  Nor did he consider what he did for a living wrong.  Waxey was a Free Spirit.  He was no philosopher, nor could he have given academic articulation to his beliefs.  Put simply he believed that in a state of nature God had placed all the good things in an undivided manner for all men to enjoy at will.  If they wanted it they just took it.  Apples were on trees for all men to enjoy.  If you wanted one you picked it.  Evil men appropriated God’s bounty for themselves, preventing others from enjoying it.  Thus Waxey William thought he was merely  taking back his share from thieves.  He had a clear conscience when he did his strut on the outside; when he was downtown in the can his mind was as puzzled as that of a persecuted minority.  He couldn’t understand why the thieves walked around unmolested when they put the good guys in jail.  What a topsy-turvy world, he thought, at those times.  He had not been unnoticed this evening.  Although he had disposed of the evidence, a detective who had memorized thousands of names, aliases and faces would soon tap him on the shoulder to advise him to catch the first freight out of town.  Waxey would grumble but, since he always rode the cushions rather than the rods, he would be on the Midnight Special down to Detroit.

page 445.

     I didn’t know my twenty was stolen so I was happy.  I was contented from a terrific free show.  Cowboy Bob had been unbelievable.  That schnook Monty Banke had gotten his comeuppance; his God had shown him where he stood when He left him holding the bag.  Fay Banke had come off as the twit she really was.  I even wore a little smile as I walked through the downtown streets looking in windows and cooling off.

     Turning my steps back to the Wardens I basked in the Yellow light spewing out from the streetlamps beneath the inky blackness of the sky.  As I approached the house it was like a yellow beacon at sea.  The Wardens were back, as the house was ablaze with lights front and back and on both floors.  The door was open so I entered saluting the suit of armor on my left as was my custom.  Skippy was standing way down the living room with one hand on his hip, the other on the back of a chair.

     ‘Did you hear what happened to our Dad?’  Skippy demanded.

     ‘How could I skip, I just got back.’  I chirped.

     ‘Yeah, and you were there.’  Skippy said somewhat illogically.

     ‘Yeah, I know, I saw you, but I don’t know what happened to your dad.’  I said quietly.

     ‘Well, he got his pocket picked.’

     ‘Oh, wow, no kidding?  Your Dad got his pocket picked?  Gee, that’s too bad.  I’m sorry to hear it.’  I thought of all those wallets sitting in the trash.  ‘Did they catch the guy?’

page 446.

     ‘No, they didn’t catch him.  Dad got his wallet back because the dirty thief threw it into the trash with a whole bunch of others.  But he lost his money.  Twenty dollars.’

     ‘Gee, that’s too bad Skip.  Well I think I’ll go to sleep now.’  I headed upstairs to my door only to be called back by Geli.  They had had an unpleasant ending to their evening which they now passed on to me.

     ‘Just a minute, young man!  Not so fast.  You’ve got a chore or two to do before you go to bed.’

     I had the satisfaction of knowing Warden had been robbed as I quickly washed up the few dishes.  It was too hot to cover up so I just lay on my door mulling over a very exciting evening.

page 447.

     14.

     It had been two years now since I had left the Orphanage.  David Hirsh had kept an eye on me, interfered with me over a couple of occasions.  It wouldn’t be accurate to say that David Hirsh actively spied on me but in a town where gossip forms the main staple of conversation he and Beverly had become more friendly with a couple of people who fell within the Warden circle of acquaintances.

     As happens when one’s day to day hopes and expections form the staple of conversation, Geli had mentioned, around and about, that this year she, Jack, the Patricians and myself would be going to visit her relations in Flint for a week or two in August.  Beverly had directed the conversation of one of these people she used as a quasi-agent around to summer plans.  In the ensuing catalog of other people’s plans it fell out that the Wardens were planning their August trip to Flint.

page 448.

     The Hirshes hadn’t had a fair shot at me for two years.  It just so happened that David Hirsh had relatives in Flint also.  He and Michael sat down to devise a plan to interfere with me there.

      The years were not being kind to either David or Michael Hirsh.  David was struggling for his business life, the insult from his father-in-law festered in his mind along with his hatred of me and whatever other grudges he nursed.  He was beginning to feel as though the eighty black years had descended on him, which, indeed, they had.

     Michael, who was, of course, my age, was struggling to understand a life that was developing in a confusing way.  While he had never been completely unaware of his Jewish antecedents nevertheless his first seven years had been spent in attending Fortress Of God and more among goi children than Jewish kids.  Then at seven his continuity had been broken.  He was taken from Fortress Of God to be placed among the congregation of Temple Israel to receive a Jewish education.  His Jewish fellows totally repudiated his Christian beginnings while his Jewish education divided him from his goi relatives and friends.

     He and his fellow Jews were subject to all the terrors of the post-war years as well as the additional fear, or terror even, that extermination might be awaiting them just around the corner.  He was drawn to the fold just as the Jews assumed a very low profile.  From 1945 to 1956, until after the Israeli victory over the Arabs, the Jews did everything they could to conceal their Jewishness.  I went through high school without knowing that a single classmate was Jewish, except for one.  Only after 1956 did it become fashionable to wear, what had been a compulsory sign of opprobrium in Nazi Germany, the Star of David prominently as a piece of jewelry.

page 449.

     In addition Michael was not legally a Jew.  So he had to play catch up in learning Judaism while being stigmatized as almost a convert.  Thus Michael was placed in a singularly confusing social and religious situation.

     His status as the future king of the Valley had been scotched in kindergarten.  Each subsequent assault on me had cost him status among the Eloy.  His attempt to discredit me at the grocery store had completely discredited him among his fellows.  One might say that the years had been unkind to Michael, if Michael hadn’t been so unkind to himself.  His brow was black with the remembrance of the candy bar.  He specifically wanted to avenge that.

     The Duke turned off the Dixie unto the street that led past the great Buick assembly plant; the scene of the fabulous sit down confrontation between the Commies of the CIO and General Motors in 1937.  I was unaware of it at the time but the Duke made the same comments everytime he brought his family to Flint.  In an offhand manner he gestured to the right to remark:  ‘Yep, there’s where Billy Durant got his start.’

     I nodded in my space between Skippy and Cappy in the back seat.  They both turned inquiringly toward me.  The Duke tilted his head back as though to answer my unspoken question.  I picked up the cue:  ‘So, who’s Billy Durant?’

page 450.

 

A Novel

Far Gresham

Vol. I

by

R.E. Prindle

Clip 8

     When the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933 the struggle between Nazis and Semitists was already in progress within the constext of Judaism and Communism.  On the eve of the Nazi ascension the Semitists were already crying for the isolation and boycott of Germany.  The Semitists were distributed throughout all the nations and states.  They now tried to erect an international cordon around Germany.

     The Germans fought back.  Germans, too, were distributed throughout the countries of the world.  Just as the United States had the largest Jewish population outside Europe, perhaps in the world, so it also had the largest German population outside Europe.  The Nazis hoped that German solidarity was not entirely dissolved; they therefore sent agents into the United States to arouse the German population to the sacred collective cause of Germandom.

     Thus the two national religious groups of Jews and Germans joined battle on American soil.  But that doesn’t mean there were any American Nazis.

page 351.

     Ben had heard of the international Jewish conspiracy but as usual he was ill-informed; it was something that he vaguely thought might exist and something which he vaguely feared if it did.  He just didn’t know.

     In Arthurian terms the international situation might be explained thusly:  The knights of all nations wore mantles on which were their national symbols, they carried a matching shield.  They were also confined to a geographical locality wherein their lord was sovereign.

     Mixed among all the knights of all the nations were a group of knights who wore mantles that were white with a blue Mogen David on the breast.  They however carried a contrasting shield that bore the symbols of the knights of the various other nations.  Thus no matter which shield they bore, and they exchanged them with each other as the need arose, they appeared to represent a different ideal than the other knights, which did not further the interests of the other knights lords but seemed to further their own interest at the expense of the other knights and their lords.

     Indeed they did, for they knew what they believed and salvation lay with them as their prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, said.  When the other knights challenged them, saying that no man could serve two masters, that they must choose between the nation on their shields or the Mogen David on their mantles, they put on the magic ring that made their shields and mantles match and cried:  ‘Ah, but this is only our religion; just as you have yours we have ours and every man is entitled to believe as he chooses concerning God.’  Then they took off their ring and their shields took national forms.  Thus they appeared to be working at cross purposes with the nations.  Indeed, it has been wisely said in the Bible:  No man can serve two masters.  Thus the Semitists were accused of conspiring against all the nations in the furtherance of their own belief system.  Yea, verily, and it was so.

page 352.

     Immediately as the Nazis tried to arouse Germans in the United States to their international destiny, the Semitists, in 1934, began to agitate for a congressional investigation of un-American activities.

     This was couched in language to seek out and expose anti-Semitists.  Semitism was to be made the official belief system intolerant of all others.  Four years the Semitists toiled.  In 1938 the House Un-American Activities Committee was established using almost the identical language that the Semitists proposed in 1934.

     The Semitists feared Fascism as their mortal enemy.  They interpreted the term broadly to include all those whose beliefs put them in opposition to Semitist beliefs no matter how innocently and legitimately those beliefs were held.  It was not in the interests of the United States to become embroiled in the European War.  Because of the Nazis’ attitude toward the Semitists it was in the interests of the Semitists to embroil the United States in the European war for their sakes.  Now this is where Ben became confused.  If the International Jewish Conspiracy didn’t exist then why should Americans who just happened to be Jews care about what happened to Jews who just happened to be Germans or French in Europe?  The Big Fella scratched his head.  Thus American nationalists who sought to keep America out of the European war were defamed as Fascists and anti-Semitists.  Many of these people had formed the America First Committee to agitate against American entry; their careers and reputations were sacrificed to Semitist goals.  They were defamed and ridiculed, discredited as mere cranks.  The United States did become embroiled in the ‘just’ European war.

page 353.

     The purpose of the House Un-American Activities Committee had been intended solely to expose the enemies of the Semitists not their allies.  When the Americanists were given control of the committee they lashed out at all enemies attempting to destroy American tranquility, Fascists and Communists alike.

     Now the Communists who, like the Semitists themselves, were an organization of international, rather than national solidarity, found it impossible to affiliate honestly with national organizations.  Communist interests were similar to Semitist interests.  Hence the membership of the Communist party was composed predominantly of Semitists; which is not to say that the Semitists were predominantly Communists, only that the majority of Communists bore the mantle of Semitism while carrying the Communist shield.

     Thus, while the Semitists were death on Fascism they were benevolently inclined toward Communism.  They made the enemies of Communism their own enemies.  So when the Radio Priest condemned Communism he was baited into anti-Semitism.  Secure as an anti-Communist he was vulnerable as an anti-Semitist.  Semitism was socially, if not legally, protected.  So the Semitists pursued all the anti-Communists, defaming and belittling them.

page 354.

     After the War it became apparent that Communists had been much too coddled.  While no Fascist had ever been a threat to Ameica, Communists were now found tohave infliltrated every aspect of governmental service, education and, it was feared, religion.

     Americans became hysterical about Communism.  In the wake of the war the Committee hauled up gobs of Communists.  Needless to say the overwhelming majority of these Communists were also Semitists.  But the Semitists successfully hid behind their American shields, claiming the benefits of the United States Constitution which they despised as human while still pursuing their own ‘God given’ Law.  This time, learning from the Radio Priest the Committee refrained from mentioning Jews.

     The battle raged through 1954 when a tacit agreement was reached that the Semitists would abandon Communism while Americanists would abandon ‘Fascism.’  As there was no Fascism the Semitists got the better of the deal.  Thus Semitism became the backbone of Americanism.  The nation’s ribs hung from the spine of Semitist desires.

     For Ben this was all a whirl that spun his head around and around.  Politics had nothing to do with coal.  All he wanted to do, his entire system consisted of selling coal.  In his way Ben knew what he believed as well or better than any Semitist.

     As simple minded as Ben’s hope was it was as good a belief system and certainly less destructive than that of the Semitists.  For Semitism is based on a false prophet.  Just as Nazism was based on the false premise of innate Aryan racial supremacy so Semistism is actually based on a belief in the innate racial superiority of Semitists.  This belief has been converted into religious terms but those religious tenets contradict objective truth.  Hence Semitists say that they prefer God over Truth, which indeed they must.  So also they must be the most intolerant of people; they must viciously suppress all other belief systems and objective inquiry, lest the fallacy of their beliefs be exposed.  Just as the Pope relying on the revealed word of God compelled Gallileo to deny the reality that the earth revolved around the sun.  History itself must be revised and falsified to allow only Semitist beliefs.

page 355.

     While they decried the Committee for suppressing intellectual beliefs it was only because their ox was being gored.  They raised their American shields to their breasts to conceal their Mogen David and demanded American rights that the Mogan David would never grant in a like situation.  As soon as they vanquished the competing belief system in 1954 they began to practice the very methods they had condemned.  All independent thought was condemned as anti-Semitism.  Men, women and careers were destroyed by the simple whisper- ‘anti-Semite.’  Actors and actresses found it difficult or impossible to find work if they took an independent view.  It had been only  yesterday when the Jews had cried: ‘Fie, fie, for shame on the blacklist.’

page 356.

     Ben didn’t care.  His digestion was bothering him.  As the post-war years passed he knew his coal business was in trouble.  Trouble after trouble piled atop him.  Communism at home, Communist triumphs rolled up in Asia.  Even what religion he had rose up to trouble him.  Millennarians were proclaiming the imment second coming of Christ.

     In about 1650 the Jews who had been expelled from England three hundred fifty years before were seeking legal readmission, the argument had been used that when Jews were dispersed throughout the world then Christ would return.  Rumor had it that the American Indians were descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel giving proof that Jews were everywhere else but England.  If Jews were readmitted to England then conditions would be satisfied for the Savior’s return.

     The Bible, which is capable of many wondrous  conflicting interpretations now prophesied, or so it was said, that when the Jews were gathered in Israel once again, then would Christ return.  In 1948 the State of Israel had been established so now good Christians were singing hymns down by the riverside awaiting his return.  Ben quaked.  He didn’t believe it but he couldn’t be sure.  When Jesus didn’t appear the reason given was that Israel had indeed been reestablished but all the Jews hadn’t returned yet.  There were still some in the United States.  The great day was put off to some future generation or, perhaps, eon.  As the gas lines passed Warden’s house that fall costing Ben another couple dozen customers the result became clear to Ben.  There wasn’t going to be any coal business.  Ben got down on his knees beside his bed to pray to the Lord of Hosts, the God of the Jews, the God of the Christians, the god of Coal.  He had devised an elaborate plea but he just broke down sobbing:  “Please God, let me sell coal until I die;  Please, God, let me sell coal until I die.’  The pleas would have been perfectly answered if Ben had died then, but he didn’t.

page 357.

      Now, if one believes such things, God happened to be sitting idly on the edge of his bed at this exact moment clipping his toenails to perfection, listening to the odd prayer as his capacious mind was able to see all and hear all at one time, when Ben’s plea reached his ear. Yeah!  God couldn’t believe his ears.  His lips twisted into a smile at the ridiculous plea.  He suppressed a giggle. The giggle burst into a laugh.  The laugh became a bout of hilarity.  God rolled on the floor in merriment clutching his sides.  ‘Please God, let me sell coal as long as I live.’  Was anything as ridiculous heard since Sir Gareth asked Arthur to sleep in the kitchen?

     Barely able to stand from laughter, God scooped up his beard so as not to put his knee on it and tear it out, rose to his feet and went to his liquor cabinet for three fingers of manna.  On earth manna is called usquebaugh, although some style it Irish tea.  God strolled out amongst the gathered angels chuckling sipping his drink and guffawing:  ‘Please God, let me sell coal until I die.’

     Ben’s God didn’t answer his prayer.  Ben’s troubles were only beginning.  Solomon and David Hirsh’s were already well developed.  As 1950 was about to dawn Sears had cut deeply into Hershey’s business.  The fat part, the part that develops after you’ve met your expenses- the profit- had subsided beneath the paper thin level.

page 358.

    Solomon and David were fighting back as best they could.  They resorted to all the standard retail sales tricks, some which they had said that they would never use, but the post-war retail rules had shifted, at least temporarily, beyond the Hirhes ken.  Intense, even insane, competition  from massive over-expansion was only beginning.  Rather than being a grand seigneur dispensing  the right to shop to patrons, retailers would have to learn to be suppliants begging for their customers custom; in the years to come retailers would actually have to debase themselves before their customers.  Some called it a retailing revolution.

     Stores would now have to adapt their operations to the customers needs and wishes.  Hershey’s, and they were definitely not alone, had always pleased themselves.  They had closed Monday through Saturday at 5:30; they had closed on Sundays, some both Sundays and Mondays.  Like downtown merchants everywhere they resented extended hours.  Sears aggressively stayed open till nine weekdays while they were open after church, twelve to five, on Sundays.  The response was instantaneous; people who worked till 5:30 found the hours advantageous.

     Hershey’s made the weak counter of being open till nine on the ‘busy’ days:  Monday and Friday.  Shoppers interpreted the new rules against them.  Business continued to decline.  Cost cutting measures had reduced the staff, eliminated departments, even closed a floor.  In desperation about a year after that last load of coal had been delivered to the Wardens, David made a fatal move.  The Hirsh women were asked to help out at the store in yet another economy move.  Beverly Webster Hirsh took her place behind a counter.  A shop girl.

page 359.

     An electric thrill tingled the nerves of certain of Ben Webster’s friends who delighted in giving him bad news under the guise of informing him of what he should know.  Even though Big Ben was a common man with what he called the common touch, he didn’t want the Webster women associating with the common people.  He hadn’t approved even of Beverly’s having been present at the Christmas party at Fortress.  He had been molified, and only surlily at that, because it was ‘charity’, in Biblical parlance, ‘a good work.’  Beverly’s marriage had been serious and stressful business for him.  He would have preferred that she marry Christian, but of the choices available David Hirsh had seemed the one with the most inviolable future.  The Hirshes were bidding fair to become a Valley dynasty.

     Ben reacted to the news by catching his breath, his face went blind, his posture stiffened.  Ben couldn’t see his informant taking the greatest pleasure in his discomfiture.  The informant, his arms akimbo, the two fingers of his left hand resting on his chin, gave a little bow, a barely perceptible leaning forward of the torso and cooed:  ‘Just thought you should know, Ben Webster.’

     In his agitation the little insult or gibe flew through his conscious mind into his subconcious.  He wouldn’t ever remember it but it served to increase his agitation against David.  Ben felt betrayed, betrayed by everyone.

page 360.

     His country was in the grip of the Commies and the last days of the world might be imminent.  Everything seemed to be going wrong at once.  Gas mains were interlacing the city; convenience of use and hatred of Big Ben Webster found everyone accepting metered service.  Ben didn’t feel so big anymore, he felt superannuated.  Ben had already shut down the subsidiary yards distributed throughout the city.  At the main yard he was only using half his bins, the ones closest to where his rail spur left the line.  Ben still maintained the yards in super repair and excellent condition but he was only marginally profitable.  He could see the deficits coming.  Now his precious baby, Beverly, stood behind a counter like a common shopgirl.  How much should one common man be forced to stand?

     Ben didn’t bother to check up on the rumor, he knew it was true.  He went home and worried about it.  He had a couple drinks to help him worry.  Now, Ben should have taken his wife and gone up to his cabin in the woods at Tawas Bay.  He should have sat around for a week or two and sorted things out.  He should have, but he didn’t.  His frustrations descended on him hard, with a crash; he worked himself into a towering rage.

     Ben phoned to have his son-in-law and daughter visit him that very night.  Michael answered the phone to say they were at a dinner engagement but that he would leave the message to call.  Ben should have stopped drinking but he kept a head on all through the next day.

page 361.

     In his rage Ben cursed David Hirsh for having failed in his manhood; how could he put Ben’s baby girl to work waiting on her social inferiors.  Ben huffed and puffed, he roared in anguish.  All his anxieties came together to dance on the head of the pin of his fears.

     Now, believe me, what follows is painful for me to relate, for I too am a 100% American, but two generations later than Ben, so we have different reactions to the same situations; besides I know what I believe; Ben didn’t.  As little as I owe to people like Ben Webster and David Hirsh, my grudge is personal not genetic.  So was Ben’s actually.  I don’t want to defend Ben before you but what he said would never have been said in different circumstances.  Besides their dissimilarities had been accentuated by David himself.  He had called attention to their religious differences.

     David had responded to the shock of the Nazi extermination camps by reaffirming his Jewish beliefs.  This act necessarily entailed his withdrawal from the Christian community.  He ceased attendance at Fortress Of God.  Beverly followed him into the synagogue.  Whereas David had straddled the Jewish and Christian belief systems he now wholeheartedly embraced the Jewish belief system.  Just as the fear of Communism was making Americanists hysterical with fear, so the Nazis drove the Jews into hysteria.  David and his fellow Jews began to suspect that Americans were plotting to destroy them.  Whereas before the War they had fantasized a huge Fascist conspiracy in American they now created a huge Nazi organization waiting in the shadows for the moment to arise and devour them in ovens.  The anti-Communist activities of Americans were seen in this light.  Americanist anti-Communist fears reached such a fever pitch that in 1953 concentration camps had actually been constructed in an anticipated roundup of Communists.  To round up Communists was in essence to round up Jews.  Once the Communists were rounded up it was a short step for David and his fellows to imagine that an extension to round up Jews as Jews would be next.

page 362.

     Thus a certain coolness developed between the Hirshes and the Websters in the post-War years.  They began to distance themselves from each other.  A little picket fence arose between them.  Dave and Mike, as they had been affectionately known to the Websters, became David and Michael of a more sombre religion.  The two families had begun to find fault with each other.

     David and Beverly had responded to Ben’s request for attendance.  Beverly who had called her father back had heard the quavering urgency in his voice.  As both families were battling serious and grave economic problems Beverly was quite naturally apprehensive that some disaster had befallen her father; she had communicated that apprehension to David.  David’s mind was then occupied with the possible economic problems that might have befallen Ben.  Neither associated Beverly’s clerking at Hershey’s as the problem, but both had highly strung nerves as they drove over to Ben’s.

     Ben was half-stewed as he stood at the window watching for their arrival.  He saw the car turn into his driveway and stop.  He had intended to get them into the house where he could confront David with the accusation; or rather begin to berate him as a failure as a man; Ben was going to start in the middle where it hurt the most.  He hadn’t planned to take it further than that; he didn’t know what he would have answered to David’s objections, nor probably would he have given David an opportunity to object.

page 363.

     The two were halfway across the lawn when Ben impetuously burst the front door open, standing with one foot in the house, one foot on the porch.  His pride was shattered.  He assumed his most imperative posture.

     Internally Beverly said:  ‘Oh, jeez.’  Ben was wound tight.  His voice was incredible at any time but now his capacious diaphragm pushed the air over his thick wide vocal cords with typhonic force.  Glowering at David madly, his emotions rushing through his mind like Niagara over its falls, Ben bellowed:  ‘Get into this goddamned house, you Jew.’  But David, in his state of heightened anxiety had heard:  ‘Get into this house you goddamned Jew.’  He would swear forever that that was what Ben said, but Ben didn’t.

     Ben had always been peremptory so his manner didn’t offend David, but Ben’s words as he heard them did.  David stopped in mid-step as Ben’s blast reached him,  his foot hung suspended on a step of air.  His mouth dropped open, his breathing stopped and he went blind while his blood surged through his brain obliterating the universe.  Perspiration immediately soaked his clothes.  Memories of every event he considered anti-Semitic that had ever happened to him or to the Jews in general; every anti-Semitic thought that he believed anyone had ever harbored against him flashed through his mind.  Through this traumatic melange of memories and fears exploding in his mind wound the thread that his own father-in-law was an anti-Semite; the anti-Semitic conspiracy had reached into his own home.

page 364.

     It wasn’t true.  Ben had meant the term merely as a mild form of disapprobation, temporary at that; an ejaculation made in the choler of the moment.  Ben had meant it only as he would have called one of his own a brat.  Ben was perhaps a trifle insensitive, but David had been his son-in-law for fourteen years.  He thought he had a right to be familiar, besides, of late, David had constantly reminded Ben that he was a Jew.

     David had never been able to consider his own responsibility nor did he now.  For David it was a shattering realization that ‘anti-Semitism’ was every where.  It was even in the bosom of his family of which his hopes and fears had nourished the notion that it was the one place he was secure.

     To David’s stricken mind the universe could have begun and ended in the time he had been standing with his foot in mid-air.  Without putting his foot down he spun around and retraced his steps to his car.  Beverly who understood the seriousness of the situation nevertheless waved to her father that it would be all right.  She slid into her seat barely in time not to be knocked down by her door as David shot out into the street in a blind panic.  His feeling of revulsion was intense, he had to get away from there.

page 365.

     It wouldn’t be all right.  It wouldn’t ever be all right again.  David, who had been plunged into the abyss of despair, bobbed to the surface rather quickly under the concerned ministrations of his wife Beverly and her mother.  David visited his father-in-law’s house within a year.  There was no cordiality between he and Ben.  Ben had been hurt very deeply by his opinion of David’s conduct as regarded Beverly.  In his heart he could no longer regard David as a man and this consideration overrode all others.  This was quite as serious to him as David’s reaction to his being called a Jew.  He never had another opportunity to discuss Beverly’s clerking.  He knew that she still worked at Hershey’s.  His shame and degradation were complete but he bore them stoically, however he wanted to hurt David.  He didn’t know that he had given David a wound that would always stay fresh and raw, a wound that would never heal.  David wanted to hurt Ben also.

     Big Ben was soon forced to close down the coalyard.  Something went out of Ben’s life when he did.  He always retained the property in the hope that someday the past would return.  He always maintained the property in readiness to receive the shipments of coal.  The fences were maintained and painted every year.  The signing was fresh; Ben’s little white shack glowed whitely at night like a ghost.  Grass grew over the rail spur; the tracks quietly rusted away.  The future had consumed the past.

page 366.

9.

      I was having a big banana split at Trinkow’s drug store next to the Court Street theatre on Court St. and Caterina.  Trinkow’s apparently couldn’t conceive the notion of ‘banana split’ on their own so they had bought into a banana split franchise called the Pig Trough.  The split was served in a little wooden trough which was supposed to be of brabdingnagian proportions.  It was actually, according to my notions, conceived along more lilliputian lines.  As a reward for eating this supposedly mammoth Pig’s Trough one received a button that said:  ‘I made a pig of myself at Trinkow’s Drug.’  I don’t know if Trinkow thought I would wear such an absurd button but I was given one anyway.  The thing was a heck of a good banana split; its creator understood the finer nuances of ‘banana split.’  I don’t know if I would have paid him money for the information as Trinkow’s did, I could have done just as well with my own unaided faculties.  I guess Trinkow’s couldn’t.

page 367.

     I had had several over the last few weeks.  I had a button each to prove it.  I was now in a dispute with the clerk who was refusing to give me another on the specious grounds that I already had several.  As I paused in the discussion to scoop up some chocolate, which I had carefully segregated from the strawberry and pineaple, saving the best for last, I overheard two men behind me talking.

     One was saying:  ‘Whatever happened to Webster anyhow?’

     ‘Oh, he’s still around.’  The other said.  ‘He’s in the oil business over on Transit St.  Didn’t you know that?  He stands out in front of his shack watching the world go by.  You ought to go over and take a look at him.’

     ‘Hmm.  Maybe I will.’  Was the reply.

     N0 maybe about it.  I would.

     I was allowed to use Skippy’s old bike, an ancient Columbia, so I hopped on and found my way over to Transit St.  The street was on the North side of the Valley, not too far from the coalyard.

     There was Big Ben.  He was a far cry from the Big Ben of old.  He no longer felt important, so that, as he stood there, he seemed contracted into himself; he no longer stood tall like the Big Ben of old.  Instead of the wonderful bustle and noise of the coalyard there was just a big oil tank standing silently in weeds on its four tubular steel legs.  It was like a spent war machine from the War of the Worlds.  He had a couple of greasy trucks for delivery, bought second hand.  Very functional compared to the big clean rigs that delivered coal.  Even the drivers looked foul and sinister compared to the proud way the coal drivers carried themselves.  There was no rail spur or puffing blowing steam engine.  His wholesaler came by in the dead of night to fill his tank.  There was no magic.

page 368.

     Ben was a monopolist at heart.  Dominance was his game.  Cordiality was foreign to him.  They had had to buy coal from him.  He could treat them as he liked; show them who was boss.  He could be Big Ben.

     Now he was only one of a dozen retailers.  He competed not only with the other retailers but the gas main.  He had bought into a small pie of even smaller pieces.  So that was his problem:  Oil was competitive; he wasn’t.  Oil customers didn’t like to be talked to the way Ben was used to talking to his coal customers.  They could go somewhere else where they were treated better.  They did.  Ben was stagnating, running downhill, nearing the bottom.

     When the man in the drugstore said that you should go take a look at Ben a lot of people were.  There was a steady stream of cars turning the corner, then taking a slow driveby as they passed Ben standing on the weedlined sidewalk in front of his little shack.  They still feared him.  They didn’t turn their heads to gawk at him, but eyed him furtively from the corner of their eyes, the drivers leaning foward slightly, inconspicuously , as they hoped, to see round their wives.  The eyes of the little ones stared just above the level of the back windows not knowing what they were looking at but aware that he was a legend.

page 369.

     I rode up turning off the main walk to stop Skippy’s blue bike in the walkway leading up to the shack.  It was one of those temporary looking pre-fab jobbies sitting up on cinder blocks rather than a real foundation.  The thing was a non-descript brownish color with a door in the middle and a large picture window on the right.

     Ben probably thought I was impertinent as I leaned my elbows and forearms on the handlebars and stared up at him.  He looked at the old beat up Columbia, than at my shoes and ill fitting worn clothes.  His lower right lip drooped into a sneer as his upper lip curled to say something when his eyes met mine.  It was one of those rare instances when one’s vision penetrates the plane of individuality and reaches into the brain through the inner eye.  We saw each others contempt for the other.

     A couple of years had passed since I had last seen Ben.  My youthful innocence was vanishing.  I understood the implications of his curling sneer better.  As Ben’s prospects deteriorated he, like some convicted criminal, had turned to Jesus.  The religion of the Book.  The Book that preaches that unfortunates must exist, the poor will always be with us.  As a self-fulfilling prophecy, if the poor don’t exist naturally people must be pushed down to fill the ranks.  Ben’s religion insisted that rather than raising people up it is far better that the will of God be expressed by letting them seek the lower level.

     I was conscious by now of having been and being pushed down.  Ben had long been guilty of the attitude even before he got religion.  The notion was endemic to the belief system with which he had been brought up.  Finance capitalists believed that laborers were the poor.  They had no rights because they were failures in the pursuit of wealth.  God had divined that they must live by the sweat of their brows.  God had written it down himself, with his own hand, as they thought, in his Holy Book.

page 370.

     A young man had grown up in the generation preceding Ben’s who had watched these Biblical devotees with disgust.  The first forty years of his life had coincided with the evolution of finance capitalism, a period roughly from 1865 to 1900.  The period was one of the extension of the railroad networks throughout the United States.  America was a wild untamed country, its people severed from the civilizing influence of Europe were a wild and woolly bunch of boys.  They were uneducated, unrestrained and undisciplined.  Honesty was a concept to be found in a book somewhere.  Law was whatever you could put over.

     The finance captitalists created their own law which was paramount to federal, state and municipal law.  Governments adjusted themselves to the finance capitalists, the capitalists did as they pleased.  A fundamental law of theirs was that labor was a commodity.  The price of labor was the least amount that a man would accept to perform a service.  If only one man could do the job then he could set his own price; if anyone could do the job the finance capitalist set the price.  This was in inviolable article of faith.  The Bible backs up the whole program.

page 371.

     During the exploration of the United States all the great natural resources fell into relatively few hands.  The great mines belonged to them, huge forests, which a few years before had belonged to no one, became the private property of the few who grabbed them.  God’s bounty was taken from the many.  The few dug and cut the wealth of the land forcing labor to work for less than a living wage under execrable conditions.  Any rebellion was treated as a violation of the sacred word of God.

     When asked by what right they claimed the assets that until recently had been the property of all, the finance capitalists looked out and said with a straight face: ‘God gave them to us.’  Must have.  When laborers went on strike a judge screamed with a straight face: ‘Don’t you know you’re tampering with God’s divine order.’  He was right too.  For God, in his own voice, had said that laborers must win their bread, and bread only- no luxuries- by the sweat of their brow.  Luxuries were to be no part of their lives.

     Dissenters to this creed were clubbed and shot down.  They were put on a black list and found it very difficult to find a job.  At the least they had to adopt several aliases.  Then they lived in fear of being exposed and moving on to yet another job.

     In the West, in Colorado, during this man’s middle manhood, a bloody war raged between the hard rock miners and the mine owners.  This man shook his head in shame.  He thought that if he ever had a chance he would change all that.  There was slim possibility of his getting a chance for he was merely an unschooled skilled laborer.

page 372.

     Then too, he saw the stranglehold the finance capitalists had on the money of the nation.  The gold standard created a money monopoly which these finance capitalists enjoyed.  Like all populists he knew that the value of the country, the manufactures, the land, the crops in the ground far exceeded the value of all the gold in the world.  But the gold standard gave them control of the country; they fought furiously to maintain the gold standard.

     As the nineteenth century drew to a close the finance capitalists consolidated their position.  All the industrial resources of the country were under their dominion.  They had a corner on the United States.  Not very many families controlled the resources of the nation.  Companies in the various industries were organized into great trusts or cartels which set prices for their own benefit, not by supply and demand, not by the cost of the article, but for their own benefit.  You didn’t need a college education to see that it was wrong.

     This man tinkered away at building an automobile, thinking all the time that if he had a chance he would show them how to do it right.  He was probably simple enough to think that they would appreciate the instruction.  He was brilliant but untutored and not a little naive.

     He just didn’t think that things had to be the way they were.  For him history was bunk.  It was matter of of human will not divine destiny.  That man’s actions would speak louder than words in a musty book.  That man was Henry Ford.

     Beginning in 1903 when his efforts to form an automobile company began to bear fruit, Henry Ford was more than a manufacturer.  He was a visionary.  His system was not devoid of religious aspects.  In many ways Ford was a prophet.  He threw such a challenge to the system of the Bible Thumpers, Jew and Gentile alike, that they rose as one in their attempt to destroy him.  Ford had been watching them, analyzing their methods, criticizing them and preparing his own positive plan as he matured into a man.

page 373.

     It was clear to him that he had to stay out of their hands.  He had watched the bankers manipulate the railroads, ignoring the public weal, milking the value out of them by a succession of bankruptcies and reorganizations.  The value went into their pockets; the refuse remained with the public.

     It was clear to him that sole ownership was absolutely necessary, for if once he atomized his value by issuing stock to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, his company would fall within the realm of speculation.  Ownership and control would pass from his hands into the hands of men who created nothing but turned the fruits of everyone elses labor to themselves.  Ford’s revulsion to bankers was founded on reality.  It was not a cranky quirk as bankers have always portrayed it.

     It has been aptly stated:  Change is now.  As the auto industry came into existence it marked a change in American business.  The railroads and exploitation industries had reached maturity.  The methods of the international bankers, the finance capitalists, had been appropriate to the great industries of the nineteenth century; they were not appropriate for the emerging industries of the twentieth century.  Success in automobile manufacturing would depend on more intangibles than railroading, mining or lumbering.

page 374.

     They would try the same tactics in the auto industry but would have to adapt themselves to running an ongoing profit making company.  The auto companies were profitable.  They were also self-financing.  Even though bankers intially adopted a hands off attitude in fear of the new product the auto manufacturers devised ways to get along without them.  Cars were in such demand that there were at first more buyers than cars.  Ford and others had sixty day terms with their suppliers while receiving deposits from the dealers with immediate payment on delivery.  Ford learned to turn a car out in days, delivering it to the retailers and having payment in the bank long before his sixty day credit terms came due.  Ford was more careful than most, he never had a public stock offering and never borrowed.  Unlike other manufacturers he was totally independent; he was not subject to the influences of the financial community.

     W. C. Durant, who formed General Motors, was.  In 1910 he was forced to go to the bankers who plundered the company and took control away from him for five years.  In 1910 Durant’s Buick and the Ford were equal sellers; in 1915 Ford’s management had pushed his company so far beyond General Motors under banker management that it wasn’t funny.

     Ford was lucky; he had realized his dream.  In the gestation of the auto industry his vision triumphed.  Ford had envisioned selling a low priced car to millions of buyers when cars were a rich man’s toy selling in the hundreds.  Ford perfected his production methods to the point where he could make tens of thousands of them and then just made them without prospective buyers in sight.

page 375.

     His backers were frantic.  They called him crazy and meant it.  They tried to have him ejected from the company, but the cars sold as fast as Ford could turn them out.  Henry Ford had been right, the buyers were there waiting.  For Ford to have persisted in the face of such opposition took great courage.  Ford had been right, everyone else had been wrong.  Henry Ford thus became inured to criticism.

     The Ford Motor Co.  prospered mightily.  Its value grew astronomically.  It was real value.  Henry Ford called his system service production as opposed to finance capitalism.  Rather than price his car at what the market would bear, regardless of cost, Ford took advantage of economies of scale and actually reduced the price of his car as his sales increased.  Ford was a wild card and a threat to the system.  The finance capitalists shook their heads and eyed him warily.

     By 1915 Ford had succeeded to the point where he could begin to implement his whole plan.  He had watched the manner in which the international bankers had treated labor with disgust.  He had foreseen a day when everyone had enough for necessities with more left over for luxuries besides.  He was creating a day when machines took the heavy work from the backs of men.  Men no longer had to live from the sweat of their brows.  Ford wanted to raise men up, to improve their condition, to make them healthier and happier; he didn’t want to push them down.

     In 1914 Ford violated the most sacred tenet of the finance capitalists’ code.  He refused to treat labor as a commodity receiving the lowest wage that they would accept.  They already couldn’t understand Ford.  He had perplexed them by increasing his profits while lowering his prices.  He had already made all of them look bad through the comparative management of GM and Ford.  Now he voluntarily raised wages to better than twice the going rate for unskilled labor.  The man was a class traitor, he had to be stopped.

page 366.

     But how?  His five dollar day had made him such a national hero that he was untouchable by slander and defamation.  He was financially beyond their reach.  He didn’t need their money; he had cash reserves of over one hundred million dollars.  He eyed them warily too; he knew what it took to stay out of their clutches.  He didn’t intend to be a W.C. Durant.

      He couldn’t be touched competitively; he had over fifty percent of the market.  But there was a joker in the deck that could take the trick.  He could be made to defame himself.  Ford was impetuous.  He was a loner, he hadn’t learned to discipline himself in social situations.  He was something of a wild man in the social sense.  He would say things; perhaps do things.  Ford plans had been visionary.  His notion of making millions of cars that everyone could afford had been so far ahead of the times that he had been told History showed  it was impossible.  Ford had replied:  ‘If that’s so, then History is Bunk.’  They fastened on the phrase: History is Bunk to depict Ford as an illiterate boob who had merely stumbled onto a good thing.  It was a beginning but his reputation was sound.  It would take more.

page 377.

     In the first decade of the twentieth century a General Bingham had been made a reform commissioner of police in New York City.  New York City had always been a great factory  turning out criminals.  Reformers wished to change the situation.  As police commissioner General Bingham published a magazine article in an honest attempt to analyze the situation.  In this article he made the remark that half the crime in New York City was committed by Jews.  This remark was not vindictive or fallacious as time has proven.  It was ill considered, true or not, for the Jews of New York City rose up in wrath.  They denied the facts, of course, but more importantly they got General Bingham fired.  They defamed him as an ignorant bigot.  Bingham was chastened but he wanted his job back.  He still had plans to clean up New York City.  In an effort to show that he had reformed or, at least, gotten the message, a few years later he published a short book on the white slave trade.  The White Slave trade was inappropriately chosen as the Jews were dominant in the trade and very sensitive to criticism on the issue.  Even though they dominated the trade they refused to acknowledge it on the basis that Judaism  had always insisted on purity of morals and the sanctity of the family.  Whenever truth and dogma collides, truth has to give.  In his book, General Bingham showed his intent by never once mentioning Jews.  They were conspicuous by their absence.  None of the names of criminals mentioned even had names that could be construed as Jewish.  All the names had been Anglicized.  The leading criminals were still Jews but it was not to be mentioned.  Oh now, there was power.  Bingham still didn’t get the job back.  He was finished.

page 378.

     Just as the Radio Priest would be lured into attacking Jews at a later date and court destruction, if now Ford could be led into attacking the Jews there would be no way that he could avoid destruction.  Getting someone into a fight is easy.  Anybody who has ever prowled a schoolyard knows how easy it is to involve someone in a fight while putting the onus on the other fellow.  For it was necessary to strike but to conceal the hand that struck.

     All you have to do is get a bunch of guys to surround the victim and tip his hat off from behind.  If that doesn’t get a rise do it again while punching him in the back.  When the guy turns around jump back defensively while shouting to draw public attention:  ‘What’s wrong with you, buddy, I didn’t do anything to you.’  It’s pretty easy.  It wasn’t hard with Ford either.

     Henry Ford had attained the position he had always sought.  By 1914 when he changed the wage structure of American industry Ford Motor Co. had attained a position of industrial security.  Ford’s daring predictions of the industry’s viability had been proven; the future of the industry was clear to Ford.  How own self-confidence in his thinking and abilities was powerfully validated.  He therefore felt confident to express himself in all his beliefs.  Ford, while not a pacifist, was opposed to war.  The Great War had begun in 1914.  Much of the Old Guard was pressing to enter on the side of the allies.  Ford took out full page ads in leading newspapers against US involvement.  It was commonly thought at the time that peace could be negotiated between the combatants.  Thus in 1916 a Hungarian Jew, showed up on Ford’s doorstep with the proposal that he sponsor a peace mission.  Ford was but too enthusiastic; by December he and an entourage were on the way to Europe with the slogan that they would have the boys out of the trenches by Christmas.  His mission was met by general ridicule.  so much so that it looked like it might have been planned.  Aboard the ship, in addition to the Hungarian Jews was another Jew by the name of Herman Bernstein.  Bernstein had connections with the AJC and other Jewish ‘defense’ groups and may be contrued to have been there as their representative and privy to much inside information of Jewish intentions.

     While at sea, as Ford told it, they told him that he was wasting his time as only the Jews could bring about peace.  Bernstein later denied the statement so one is left with the choice of believing either Ford or Bernstein.  Bernstein has a rather shaky record for veracity; I choose Ford.

     Ford returned home immediately on arrival, his faith unshaken, although he was subjected to devastating ridicule in the press.  Now, I don’t think there’s a real argument to this: the press was and is controlled by the Jews.  Ford still made no comment about the Jews.  After America’s entry into the war Ford observed and was troubled by the very close association of the Wilson administration and the Jews.  A casual review of history of the period will easily demonstrate the veracity of his view.  He had serious disagreements with the Jewish administrator of the powerful War Industries Board, yet Ford made no comments about the Jews.

page 380.

     After the war, as the twenties dawned, the dominant position of the auto industry in the economy became apparent to everyone.  Even the bankers recognized that the financial future would be dominated by the industry.  The international bankers, the finance capitalists, thus made moves to bring the industry under its control just as the industries of the nineteenth century had been.  The difference was that the auto companies couldn’t be repeatedly bankrupted and reorganized without destroying them.  They had be operated as profitable ongoing businesses.

     W.E. Durant was ejected from control of General Motors in 1920 as renewed pressure was placed on Ford.  Horace and John Dodge, third in importance after Ford and GM, both died in 1920 placing their company in limbo to be devoured at monstrous profit to the finance capitalists five years later.  A board of bankers and Duponts replaced Durant at GM.

     Ford had borrowed money, even the wise do foolish things, to buy out his backers.  He was given a very short time to come up with the money else a multi-billion dollar company had fallen into the hands of the bankers for sixty million.  Ford did pay the debt on time.  But his information indicated that the pressure had come from Jewish investment bankers.  There may have been little or nothing sinister in this fact.  International bankers were international bankers.  The House of Morgan, which was not Jewish, was installed at General Motors.  Perhaps a just division of the industry among the international bankers required Ford to go to the Jewish houses.

page 381.

     But in examining the events from the time of the Peace Ship to the present Ford came to the conclusion that he was under attack by the the Jews, which to all appearances, he certainly was.  The attacks would not have ceased in any event; the bankers wanted Ford Motors.  Ford had no alternative but to counter-attack.  He chose the method of expose.

     This post-Great War period was one of even more intense anxiety than the post-1945 period.  The Bolshevik triumph in Russia had completely unnerved the Western world.  A series of Bolshevik revolutions outside Russia had been suppressed or overturned by counter-revolutionaries.  Hundreds of Reds had been expelled from the United States while thousands had returned to Russia of their own accord.

     It was widely believed that the Jews were behind the Bolsheviks and that the Bolsheviks were part of a Jewish plot to realize an ambition of world domination.  There was intense world wide antipathy toward the Jews.  A large number of books were written exposing Jewish influence in the world revolution.  Thus the Jews were occupied in defusing world wide antagonism to themselves.

     Ford bought a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which he used as a vehicle to propagate his beliefs and expose what the called the International Jew.  He divided Jewry into two groups.  Good Jews who weren’t aware of what the others were doing in their name and International Jews who were the problem makers.  A series of articles demonstrating Jewish involvement in various aspects of American life were printed and later collected into four volumes known by the collective title of The International Jew.  While less scholarly in format than the other expose books, Ford’s articles are nevertheless well researched, accurate and well written.  The books are not vile, indeed, none of the exposes were vile- what the ordinary person means by ‘anti-Semitic.’  All merely present a viewpoint differing from that of the Jews.

page 382.

     Well, Ford had stepped into the maelstrom.  Both Jews and those of the ‘better classes’ reviled him.  Those of the better classes abandoned him.  His reputation had suffered irreparable and degenerative damage.  It was the considered opinion that he was an eccentric addle pate, a manufacturing genius but hopelessly at sea in intellectual matters.  It was suggested that perhaps his egregious opinions were caused by a lack of formal education.

     The notion was that if he had been to college he could never have formed these opinions.  It was said that such opinions could only be held by uncultured, unlettered, ignorant persons.  Well, untrue at any time in history, unless of course one thinks that history is bunk.  Actually Ford was in the best of company in his antipathy to the beliefs of the Jews.  The Roman historian, Tacitus, who has a magnificent reputation as an intellectual, was much more personal in his rejection of Jewish claims to universal dominion.  Even in the time of Christ, considered opinion opined that the Jews were seeking world dominion.  Voltaire, the father of the Enlightenment was much more coarse in the expression of his opinion of Biblical religion, both Christian and Jewish.  He really knew how to express himself too.  The two greatest historians of all times have rejected Jewish claims.  Arnold Toynbee, the lesser of the two is haughtily disdainful of Judaic claims while the greater, Edward Gibbon, dismisses their claims with his usual disdainful bemusement.  Von Treitschke the great…but why go on; lack of a formal education had nothing to do with Ford’s  opinion; he was facing the facts as he and countless others before him had done.

page 383.

      It might be more easily argued that only the most ignorant and illiterate accept the Bible at face value.  In this decade of the twenties the famous Scopes Monkey Trial would be conducted in Tennessee in which the Biblical theory of creation was upheld.  The religious colony of New Zion, North of Chicago was in full flower.  The New Zionists like the Old Zionists made it dogmatic that God had indeed made a flat earth; and flat they maintained it was, even in the twenties.  Bishop Ussher of Ireland using biblical data computed the age of the earth at 4004 years and so publicly announced.  This age was at variance with the Jewish calendar which proclaimed that, in fact, (fact being here understood as their belief) the earth had been created by their tribal god some 5700 years ago.  The Jews hold Bishop Ussher in error by nearly two thousand years.

     How did the Jews account for dinosaur bones and other evidences of greater antiquity?  This ancient Biblical folk assert that God placed them their to test man’s faith.  How crazy was Ford?  Well, in this inane quarrel, it is insane to ask.

page 384.

     Still, a man has a right to defend himself.

     Ahhh, but does he?

     In defending himself against an ism, Judaism is this case, is defense legitimate or is it heresy punishable by law or the ism?  The issue shows that Ford was guilty of heresy, that he practiced ‘anti-Semitism.’  From the point of Judaism this is true.  But according to universalist standards is it in fact a crime?  Remember Ford had developed his own belief system which may be summarized in his term- service production.  His ideology directly contradicted the Biblical ideology of finance capitalism practiced by Jews and goys alike.  Thus the actual battle was between two exclusive systems with Ford and the Jews as point men.  Anti-Semitism has absolutely nothing to do with it except as a red herring.  When in doubt shout:  ‘Anti-Semitism.’  Ford was not obliged to accept the point of view of the Jews.

     Now, all the leading industries of the nineteenth century had been run along the established methods of Biblical attitudes.  The attitude toward labor and its wage policy highlighted the differences between the two systems but Ford had carried the exposure of the fallacy of the finance capitalist system further.  Rather than buying his needed supplies from their plants Ford had built his own system of suppliers.  Each plant showed the bankers how their evil ways could be exchanged for better.  This was in itself a mortal insult.

     The key to Ford’s activities was to improve working conditions.  Primarily he invented machines to take the heaviest and hardest work from the men.  He was a fanatic for cleanliness and order.  He stepped back and looked at each industry to see how its methods of production could be improved.

     He showed them how to better run a steel factory.  Circumstances dictated that he had to buy a railroad whose right of way crossed the Ford River Rouge plant.  The road had been repeatedly bankrupted and was in reorganization when he bought it.  The road had never made a profit.  Ford reconditioned the dilapidated equipment, cleaned up the line, raised wages and made it so profitable that he applied to the authorities for a rate reduction.  The regulators were in the hands of the finance capitalists; needless to say his request was denied.

     When he was compelled to buy coal mines in self defense, he showed how they might be cleaned up and run properly.  The coal miners had been most scandalously used by the famous capitalists.  Ford raised their wages but more importantly he raised the miners up.  He built decent housing for them and painted the houses white.  This was unheard of on the line.  He did the same with the hard rock miners of the Upper Peninsula.  He repeated the efforts for the Timber Beasts in the forests he bought.

     The conditions of seamen were vastly improved on his ore boats that brought the materials down from the North.  Glass manufacturers using antiquated methods were unable to supply the vast quantities of plate glass Ford Motor needed.  Ford bought a glass company and revolutionized glass production. His men had plate glass flowing endlessly down the line.  Do you know who introduced the soy bean crop to America?

page 386.

     In other words, he thought he was demonstrating by example.  The finance capitalists took his efforts as a repudiation of their methods, not that they didn’t adopt his methods.  They didn’t want him to defend himself, they just wanted him to go away.  In 1925 international bankers offered him one billion dollars for his company.  They had learned from General Motors how to run an auto company without an entrepreneur.

     According to Biblical prescriptions an antagonist is not allowed to defend himself.  Indeed he has no possible defense.  Once charged you are considered guilty.  The Biblical peoples are in possession of God’s own truth, all else must be false, hence heretical.  A non-believer has no defense.

     Prohibition which had just been enacted at this time simply outlawed the views of drinkers and made them criminals if they persisted.  A vocal minority had imposed its will on a passive majority.  In America the self-righteous always seek to limit the rights of those they have made antagonists.  In the war against the tobacco industry every attempt has been made to restrict the offensive powers of the smokers.  Certain forms of advertising have been outlawed; had they the strength I am sure the anti-tobacco forces would outlaw the cultivation of tobacco in the United States.

     The anti-abortionists violate all laws in their attempt to outlaw abortion.  It makes no matter what the majority believes; these biblically oriented bigots believe that their views are paramount and are derived from God himself.  Heck they’ve got it in His own writing.

     Thus in Ford’s efforts to present his views his Jewish antagonists believed that Ford should be outlawed, that he should be compelled to silence, murdered.  The American Constitution must give way to Biblical Law.  Their views and their views alone were sacrosanct.  To oppose them was criminal; the crime was anti-Semitism.  They would observe no morality in their opposition to Ford.  The Jewish attitude to opposition and their methods were never more succinctly demonstrated than by the founder of the first Jewish defense organization, the French Alliance Israelite Universelle, Adophe Cremieux.

     At the beginning of the nineteenth century Cremieux characterized his opponents as an insane fraction who appealed to the masses with daring and to the authorities with treachery.  The insane faction wanted to bury freedom of conscience under the weight of a single religion, freedom of the press under censorship.  HIs opponents, so he said, should be tracked down relentlessly, its hypocrisy undermined, it must be attacked in its hopes, its acts, its projects.  The Jews must wage a daily, even a moment to moment war against it.

     Jewish methods have not changed in the two hundred years since Cremieux made his statement.  Ford was depicted as insane.  He may have disagreed as to who wanted to bury freedom of  conscience under the weight of which single religion or who wished to end freedom of the press under censorship but he was subjected to a relentless attack in his hopes, acts and projects.  He was depicted in the most unfavorable light as a bigot.

     Henry Ford was a good, decent, honorable man.  His wish had been only to make his tormentors stop.  The writing collected into the volumes of  The International Jew were immediately disparaged as anti-Semitic, by which is meant irresponsible, violent and mean attacks.  But they were not.  The articles were well researched dealing with viable and realistic criticism of his tormentors.  But there is no such thing in Semitist minds as honest criticism of their beliefs; all criticism is heresy, or in secular terms, defamation of their belief system.

page 388.

     The Jews responded by considering  but then withdrawing a lawsuit against Ford for defamation of their belief system while continuing to defame him.  They invaded the libraries and stole copies of his books to be incinerated.  Of the hundreds of thousands printed the books are virtually unobtainable in libraries today.  As Catholicism had its index of forbidden knowledge so a Jewish index of forbidden knowledge was created.  Ford’s books led the list, followed by books of Dickens and Shakespeare.  The period was one of high emotions.  A few years later the Nazis would institute an index of forbidden knowledge.  They would build a bonfire in the middle of the street into which they threw all the books by Jewish authors.  The Communists too, had their index of forbidden knowledge.  Heading their list was the most Holy Bible.  What did all these books endanger?  Why, simply the foundation of the particular ism.  For in truth, the Truth is anti-Semitic; the Truth is anti-Catholic, the Truth is anti-Nazi and anti-Communist.  All these isms stand as the Pope with a repentant Gallileo before him.  The world isn’t what they would have it.  The earth does revolve around the sun; it isn’t flat.  Dogma cannot change reality.  Heresy is nothing more than the Truth, or the pursuit of it.  What was Ford’s offense?  He pointed out the false basis of Judaism.

     Like all hypocrites and bigots, Ford’s enemies sought to discredit him by his own hand while concealing theirs.  That’s what undermining one’s enemy’s pride, disclosing his false humility and unmasking his hypocrisy means.  When you have driven him to the point of distraction, you point and calmly say:  ‘See, I told you so.’  The amazing thing is that mankind still hasn’t learned to see through the sham.

     Strike! But conceal the hand that strikes.  Ford demanded that the Jews come forth to defend their pants.  He issued his challenge and laid his charges before them.  The Jews would not come forth to defend their pants.  The God of the Flat Earth acted in the stead of the finance capitalists; or at least that is what the sons of Moses and servants of Jesus would have the world believe.

     Strike! But conceal the hand.  Obtain victory but in the name of God, for God moves in mysterious ways and uses strange vessels to obtain his ends.  Avoid responsibility for your actions; put them at God’s door instead.  Plans were set afoot to destroy Henry Ford as though by act of God for Henry Ford’s own guilt.

     Strikes were concocted at the coal mines that fed Ford’s furnaces.  Ford’s coal reserves were consumed as the strike dragged on.  Ford’s mighty empire ground to a complete halt as his coal supply failed.  Tens of thousands of workers lay idle and destitute as the Children of God waged His war against one man.  All must suffer because of their anger at one.  The finance capitalists were so intent on one victim that they would destroy the world in their attempt to subdue him.

page 390.

     The strike was such that it probably could not have been engineered by the Jews alone.  It must have involved the goi faction.  Ford was allowed to see only the Jews.  A counter-attack on his own kind would be dismissed as rivalry.  The strike would be seen only as a dirty trick.  Only the Jews could bring Ford down.

     Ford was a leader, if not the initiator, in the creation of the international business empire.  His plants were in Ireland, England, France, Germany, Italy…Palestine, Japan; Ford blanketed the world.  No one was in a better position to know what was happening financially in the world.  His sources of information rivaled those of the Jews.  Where there were Jews there was Ford; where there was Ford there were Jews.  His interests were opposed to those of the international bankers of whatever stripe of nationality.  He was not part of the money cartel.  When he blamed international bankers for certain things who was in a better position to know?  Yet he was derided by his enemies as a mere crank, a crackpot, a simple minded man.  Could a simple minded man devise a complex innovative international manufacturing firm where none had existed before?

     The truth was quite different.  Ford, once again, showed whoever would see what his enemies were.  Ford was now completely armed against financial attack.  His company was almost totally vertically integrated.  He owned his company lock, stock and barrel.  He once again had a reserve of a hundred million.  Profits in the tens of millions continued to roll in.  Once again Ford was secure.  He had made himself well nigh invulnerable to attack from above, attack by financial methods.

page 391.

     Ford’s enemies were rich in resources and persistent to the point of fanaticism.  Ford had shown himself to them as an unrepetant heretic.  If he had desired it of them, it would have been impossible to obtain release.  Not only would he, as an arch-heretic be pursued to the grave but the goal was to blacken his name for all eternity.  The 614th rule for all Jews is to allow Hitler no posthumous victories.  The same may be said of Ford and all their enemies.

     Jewish resources exist both within and without the nation.  Gois consider it anathema to be accused of anti-Semitism.  They are more than willing to persecute their own on Jewish behalf on no more evidence than a whisper.  Ford apparently did not understand this aspect of his problem.  If he had, one might question whether he might have attempted another avenue of defense, or, perhaps accommodation with the finance capitalists, both Jew and goi. But then to surrender an iota is to surrender the whole.

     One of the resources the Jews tapped was the goodwill of the newspaper and magazine publisher, William Randolph Hearst.  Hearst had been a longtime friend of immigrants in general and Jews in particular.  In the latter half of 1922 the Jews used the pages of Hearst’s International Magazine to publish a series of lurid, shameless articles on Ford titled:  The Inside Story Of Henry Fords Jew-mania.  A prominent goi journalist of the time, Norman Hapgood, lent the use of his name as a by-line; the articles were almost certainly written by a Jewish defense agency as it is improbable that an Anglo would have been aware of much of the information contained in the articles, or have shared the sentiments expressed.  The articles are merely slanderous and defamatory.  They are a confused melange of Jewish fears and hatreds, most of which had nothing to do with Henry Ford, but which were intentionally confused with him.  The content ranges from a fear of the restoration of the Romanov Dynasty in Russia, a ritual murder case in the Ukraine, the killing of a Jewish-German diplomat and the persecution of Albert Einstein in Europe.  Ford’s connection with these events was never explained, indeed, they were non-existent.

     Further Hearst’s International endorsed the articles as policy and offered to lend its pages to the denenciation of any other Jewish opponents.  For all his evidences of good will, Hearst would fall foul of Jewish heresy and like Ford be pursued to and beyond the grave.  No man can serve two masters as the Bible says; Hearst was forced to choose between his Judaistic sympathies and his Americanism.

     Now, the Jews invariably deny any sympathy for or connection with Communism, yet, when Hearst evidenced his disapprobation of Communism he became as marked a target as Ford regardless of his contributions to the Jewish cause.  Heresy is punishable by oblivion.

     Judaism is a collectivist nation.  Jewish values and attitudes are inculcated in the individual from birth to death.  Like carnys in the carnival when the cry of ‘Hey Rube’ goes up, all the carnys flock to the defense of their own.  When the cry was raised against Ford there was no lack of volunteers to punish him in whatever way was available to them.

     The movies were a Jewish business.  By 1920 all the studios, with the possible exception of Mack Sennett, were Jewish houses.  At this time the dominant figure in the movies was William Fox.  The finance capitalists consumed him and his empire a few years later.  He is noted, if not remembered, as the Fox at the end of Twentieth Century-Fox.  There’s a joke in there too.

     At that time Fox had an actual legal monopoly on the right to produce newsreels.  Fox Movietone News was the sole producer of newsreels.  When Fox heard the cry against Ford he set about to find a way to injure Ford.  Defamation.  He attacked him in his pride.  Fox instituted a conscious policy of photographing every Ford car involved in an accident with the intent to demonstrate that Fords were unsafe.

     At the same time the other movie producers banned the use of Ford cars in their movies.  Movie historians may wonder why the number one selling car is never used in the films of the twenties and thirties.

     In terms of a conspiracy there was no actual meeting in a cemetery where a decision was made and directions given to Fox and the other producers.  The movie people were not knowing members of a conspiracy in the accepted meaning of the word.   They were like piranas who, smelling the blood of a stricken victim, move in the direction of the scent to contribute their bit of destruction.  No one had asked them for their bit, but the Volk had been attacked.  Ford had violated the Law; not the law, but the Law, the Law of the God of Moses.  He had been induced to attack the sacred people of God.  He had condemned himself out of his own mouth, by his own actions.  The hand that had provoked him had been concealed.  No one had seen the first offence given to him; they saw only his retaliation.  Ford appeared to be the aggressor.

page 394.

     Every Jew would move in to do his bit.  There were no ‘good’ Jews and International Jews, there were only Jews.  Reversing the procedure of ants bringing their little bit to the anthill, each would take a little of Ford’s anthill and carry it away thus realizing God’s will on Earth.  Ford had been excommunicated, he was now legitimate prey for theft, slander, cheating, even murder.  He was outside the protection of the Law.  It was the duty of every communicant to interfere with him in whatever way possible.

     Oh, the big organizations would be hard at work on the observable side; now that Ford had showed what kind of guy he really was their actions were now justified.  The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Committee would make the big plays, the obvious moves, the visible ‘defensive’ acts, the hard hits to bring Ford to his knees.

     The cry had gone out:  ‘Is there no one to help the sons of the widow?’  The education of centuries began to express itself.  The mother had been struck.  The collective body moved into action.

page 395.

     They stood beneath the blue and white of their flag.  Blue to represent their most high god; white to represent the supposed purity of the chosen people.  There was no color to represent the Truth, nor was their need for any; for God was more important than the Truth.  Truth must conform to God and not he to it.  Which was more important?  Truth is irrelevant, reality is immaterial, God is all.

     Like Hearst, Fox did yeoman work for his Jews.  His activities were of no value to spare himself when the finance capitalists stole his company and dumped him in the trash can of history at ten cents on the dollar a few years later.  The remnants of Fox’s empire went to loyalists like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Twentieth Century-Fox.

     Jews led boycotts against the purchase of Fords.  Ford’s reputation carried him over their attempts although he was being increasingly seen as an eccentric crank.  No man’s reputation can withstand such relentless defamation.  His innovations began to be turned against him.  Ford was actually the first promoter of what has since become one of the largest cash crops in America: Soybeans.  Soybeans are a versatile crop; Ford used the product to make plastic door handles; others have used the beans to fabricate steak or crab.  At any rate his effort to establish the crop was now ridiculed rather than approved.

     More importantly, as secure as he was financially, he was just as vulnerable in his work force.  Legions of troublemakers entered his plants to sabotage production.  He was forced to discontinue much of his benevolent policy.  He had to take more of a protective stance.

     His son, Edsel, proved incapable of understanding the nature of the battle.  Ford therefore turned to a man named Harry Bennett who was tough, ready and able to defend Ford’s interests.  As Ford turned to Bennett, his enemies had turned the tide of the battle.  Ford had lost the offensive, the rest of his life would be spent on the defensive.  Confusion and consternation ruled Ford’s workplace.

     Then followed the Great Depression.  On the eve of the Depression Ford had been paying eight dollars a day which was a source of great pride to him.  The Depression forced him to halve it in the struggle to survive.  Tension in the plants increased.  It was aided and abetted by the Communists.  The Communists had survived the reaction of 1920.  They were now a legal party.  they had regrouped and were becoming a powerful subversive force.  Stalin had consolidated his position in Russian by 1928.  He was now directing the world revolution.  Part of the plan was to disrupt American industry.  In 1932 in the dead of winter Communists led a march on Ford’s River Rouge plant.  Had the march succeeded the Communists would have occupied the plant and sabotaged and destroyed the machinery.  The resultant unemployment would presumably have aggravated social unrest to bring about the Bolshevik revolution in America.

     The marchers were met by the police who turned fire hoses on them:  shots were fired; Communists died.  Ford was blamed.  Ford was completely defamed as a wrong headed man, a contemptible crank.  In America there is only one side to any story; the newspapers were not controlled by Ford; his side of the story was never told.

page 397.

     Ford’s great brave dream of a world in which men were bettered rather than battered was all but lost, buried in the realms of darkness.  Ford could see the light but he didn’t have the prophetic skills to transmit it.  He could see a glorious future but he couldn’t reveal it enough to others to make them want it.  As always they were victims of Communist charlatans.

     Oddly enough the most serious blow to his reputation came from a most unexpected quarter.  There was one man who saw what Ford had actually accomplished.  In the peculiar way of futurists he was extremely conservative.  He disapproved of Ford’s dream, or at least his method.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was released in the early thirties, just about this time.  Huxley perceived the religious underpinnings of Ford’s activities.  In his novel, Huxley dated time B.F. and A.F., Before and After Ford.  He referred to Ford’s contribution to the advancement of civilization as only a conservative, perhaps even a reactionary, can.  In gentle and pernicious satire he belittled and ridiculed Ford.  Even Huxley’s human beings were turned out on a Fordian production line.

     Oh, I suppose if Ford had followed the Jewish method he might have sued Huxley for defaming his belief system.  He might have sought an injuction against the publication of the book.  He might have looted libraries of their copies as the Jews had done him.  He might have, but Henry Ford was an intelligent man; he was decent; he was good.

     Henry Ford was growing old.  The Wars came; his son died; Henry Ford retired.  He left behind the Ford Foundation.

     Henry Ford had never been big on charity.  Charity was the way finance capitalists did business.  First they ground the working man down, then they gave the excess profits taken from the workingman’s hide as charity for their own greater aggrandizement: put their names on streets and buildings.  It worked too.  People forgot how the money was acquired while lauding these fellows as benefactors of mankind.  Rockefeller and Carnegie on the goi side left hundreds of millions.  Jacob Schiff, Julius Rosenwald of Sears, the Guggenheims and others on the Jewish side of finance capitalism gave and left millions for the benefit of the Jews.

page 398.

     Had Ford embraced finance capitalism or even classic supply and demand capitalism he might have made billions more than he did which he could have distributed as ‘charity.’  For those of you who have never received charity, you may believe me when I say that it is indeed better to give than receive charity.  Charity elevates the given while depressing the receiver.  But then, you see, that’s the way God planned it.  The poor shall always be with us.

     Instead Ford devised his system so that he doubled prevailing wages, giving men pride rather than despair.  He lowered the cost of his automobiles to the point where everyone benefited.  His largesse was as a matter of course, accepted, but ultimately unappreciated.  Ford still left more behind than Rockefeller and Carnegie combined.

     But now on the eve of death Ford’s companies were beset by many enemies.  Ford was struggling to survive.  The finance capitalists thought they had victory in their grasp.  Truly the Lord moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,  Man proposes; God disposes.  One might say that the God of the Bible gently removed Ford Motors from the grasping fingers of Ford’s enemies and placed the company in the hands of the very capable and appropriately named Henry Ford II, Edsel’s son.  One might say that God willed that Ford Motors should survive.  Why did not his putative adherents accept his apparent will?

page 399.

     According to Biblical methods one’s fate is determined by adding up one’s good works and balancing them against one’s sins.  Surely Henry Ford’s virtues far exceed his faults.  Surely there was a place in Biblical heaven for Henry Ford.  If flights of angels be, may they have carried the man who wanted to raise mankind from poverty to a juster reward to that great auto plant in the sky.  There is surely a place in bliss for God’s Own Manufacturer.

     Big Ben had been opposed to Ford along with the rest of his ilk.  Why pay bums more than they were willing to accept?  Push ’em down.  Push ’em down.

     Our gazes were interlocked as we saw into each other’s mind.  My feeling of contempt for Ben and what he stood for welled up from my mind and found outlet through my eyes.  Ben and I dueled it out in the beam of light between our eyes.  My contempt waxed stronger as I realized the brutality of Ben’s outlook.  The strength of my contempt dashed against his, driving him steadily back until he gave up.  He broke eye contact, viewing my person with fear.  The big belly rotated to the left as Big Ben turned to flee to the security of his shack.

     He ripped open the door, slamming it behind him as he plumped into his seat in front of his picture window.  He didn’t look at me again.  He clasped his hands before him as if in prayer, staring as though into the future; or perhaps he was seeking a vision of a past that could never return.

     Of course I had not backed down Big Ben Webster of the Immaculate Coalyard; I had only backed down his shadow, Big Ben of the Weedgrown Oil Tank, who was sunk in despair.  I studied him through the window for a moment while he studiously avoided further eye contact; then I slipped my foot up onto the pedal, turning in a wobbling arc through Ben’s weeds and off down the street.

pages 400-401.

A Novel

Far Gresham Part I

by

R.E. Prindle

 Clip 7

     In their sullen resentment at Americanization they had reversed the roles.  They now claimed that immigrants had built America.  There would be no America had the Irish, Slavs and Italians not shoveled it into existence.  They now wanted revenge for having lost language and national culture.  They weighed their advantages and disadvantages and found that their disadvantages tipped the scale.

     Nevertheless the mores of the Founding Fathers predominated.  The Ango-Americans retained political control if not cultural control.  The country shifted further from English ideals toward a multi-culture splintering.  The ideals of the Melting Pot promoted an ostensible tolerance of all beliefs though each group strove to impose as much of its culture as possible.  Vengeance had to be a little more surreptitious.

page 301.

     Thus my selection as victim, as well as serving David Hirsh’s need for personal vengeance satisfied the needs of my immigrant scouting fellows.  Gresham was an eminently English name.  I was an American, even though I bore an English name my ancestry carried as many elements of the Melting Pot as anyone else and more than most.  Legally because my grand-mother was Jewish, through my mother I was more Jewish than Michael Hirsh.  Michael was legally not Jewish at all as he came from a shiksa mother.  I was Polish as that was the State my mother’s ancestors had lived in.  I was German through my mother’s father who was Pennsylvania Dutch.  I was English or Scottish through my father who bore his father’s name, but his mother had been a French-Irish hillbilly from Kentucky.  There were numerous permutations on my father’s mother’s side also.  I was Far ‘World’, or perhaps better, Far Melting Pot.  Yet I bore an English name; these ingnorant common men saw no further than the end of their noses.

     Cahallan was selected for vengeance on the Anglo because he was Irish.  The Bible says that no man can serve two masters.  In law it’s called a conflict of interest.  Cahallan was ‘pure’ Irish.  His family had married Irish on both sides since arriving on the New Island.  The Cahallans considered themselves patriotic Americans; indeed they might be called super-patriots in the mold of Joe McCarthy, yet, James Cahallan, John’s father, contributed a fair part of his income for arms for the Irish Republican Army.  He helped foment rebellion or rioting i

n North Ireland.  James was in conflict with his 100% Americanism.  It was not American policy to foment trouble in Ireland.  The truth was that Irish Americanism was an alternate nationalism from Anglo-American nationalism.  The Irish-Americans favored Ireland; the Anglo Americans favored England.  It always had been so; yet both sides considered themselves patriotic Americans while pursuing opposing policies.

page 302. 

     Mankind is mankind.  One faction is always trying to dominate the other.  The Cahallans had emigrated during the Potato Famine of the 1840s.  The war between the English and the Irish preceded that date by hundreds of years.  Cahallan and his Irish fellows brought the war with them to America.  In America they found the English and their customs had preceded them once again.  They fought the English in Ireland, the Ould Sod, as opposed to the New Island.  Irish rebels retreated to the United States when it became too hot for them in Ireland.  American money and men flowed across the water to finance and man the rebellion.

     In New York during the eighteen forties and fifties the Irish seized the government of New York City from the Anglos.  The Irish claimed bigotry when the Anglos of the Native American Party protested the Irish appropriation of the police department, their seizure of Tammany Hall.  But then defamation is the way battles are fought against the Anglos in the New Secular Order.

page 303.

     Fresh from the militry experiences of the War Between The States, the Irishers organized a military invasion of Canada from the United States in a wild hope of separating that nation from the British Commonwealth.

     The 1920s were to bring them joy on the one hand when the Irish Free State was proclaimed, crowning the efforts of hundreds of years; on the other hand they were plunged into despair by the triumph of Communism in Russia.

     The Irish were and are truly Catholic.  They cherished their Catholicism all the more as the English were Protestants.  Communism- atheistic Communism- was the avowed foe of the Mother Church.  The Irish were therefore anti-Communistic on the one count of their Catholicity and on the second count because of their Americanism.

     The Church was engaged in a world wide or international battle against Communism.  The Church fathers believed that their intransigence toward workingman’s unions had lost them the faithful of Europe during the nineteenth century.   The Church now faced the intransigent and powerful foe in control of European soil.  They were determined not to lose the battle in the New World.

     Radio became an important cultural force in the 1920s.  With the rise of radio rose the Radio Priest, Father Coughlin.  Coughlin broadcast from just down south of Detroit.  Detroit was a hotbed of Communism in the United States.  The Irishman, Father Coughlin carried the banner of the Holy Mother Church against the infidel hosts.  The Papacy, as every Protestant has always feared, was attempting to direct affairs in America.  The Radio Priest was fiercely anti-Communist.

page 304.

     As an anti-Communist he locked horns with another immigrant group that was just as fiercely pro-Communist.  Their size was only a small fraction of the Catholic population but they were well organized and single minded.  Too, they bore an inveterate hatred of Catholicism learned in the old countries they had just vacated.  The Radio Priest could have castigated  Communists till the cows came home and Americans wouldn’t have cared.  But the Jews, who were pro-Communist, forced the Radio Priest to make adverse comments about them as the impelling force behind Communism.

     Communist baiting was alright but Jew baiting wasn’t.  No apatering les Juifs.  Bourgeoisie yes, Juifs no.   Communism was not a recognized religion. Thus the Jews protected Communism through their own immunity to criticism.  ‘Bigotry’ cannot be condoned in a multi-cultural State.  The Jews got the Radio Priest off the air while thoroughly discrediting him.

     At about the same time the House Un-American Activities Committee was established.  The original notion of HUAC was contributed by the Jews in 1934 in the wake of Hitler’s election to the Chancellorship of Germany in 1933.  The notion of HUAC was part of the international Jewish fight against the Nazi Party, which fight had been in progress for years already before 1933.  Already by 1938 anti-Semitism had been made against the law in France and had almost succeeded in Switzerland.  The purpose of the House Un-American Activities Committee according to the needs of the Jews was to root out anti-Semitism in America, in other words, make it illegal, to establish Judaism as a protected State religion.  By 1938 they had succeeded in establishing the Committee, but failed to obtain the chairmanship.  HUAC then turned not only against their bete noir, the Fascists, but also against their favorite, the Communists, which is to say in so many words, the Jews.

page 305.

     Father Coughlin had been driven from the air but the Irish Catholics had not given up, they returned to the charge at the head of HUAC.  The Committee languished during the Wars but sprang back to life as hostilities ceased.  An Irish Catholic, J. Parnell Thomas, secured the chairmanship.  Thomas did not conduct himself along the lines of Anglo-American tradition, with which indeed, he was in little sympathy and had little understanding, but more along the lines of Rebel Irish and Catholic inquisitorial methods.  Thus the ‘American inquisition’ acquired its name from Irish Catholic torchbearers.

     Thomas tore after the Communists of Hollywood, which is to say his indictments were preponderantly Jews.  The Radio Priest had already come to grief over Communism; Parnell Thomas was to be no exception.  Within a couple years he was out of office and in prison.  In America defamation is the best weapon.

     The Church could not rest with their enemy in the field.  Shortly, a few months hence, a new knight would enter the lists for the Holy Mother Church who cast a spell over America for decades- Joe McCarthy.

     The Church was not concerned with my boxing with John Cahallan.  The bout was merely a symbol in the minds of the Sokolskys and Hirshes of vengeance on the ‘injustices’ perpetrated by Anglo-Americans on the immigrants.  For David Hirsh had not only suggested the bout but he and Michael were there.  As I had my gloves laced tightly on the Hirshes took places behind the kitchen window where they could see clearly into the Sokolsky’s backyard but could not be seen behind the screens.

page 306.

     I knew I was being set up; but I couldn’t devise a way out.  Some girls who I didn’t know, or couldn’t remember, had shown up and now stood waiting in gleeful anticipation.  The other Scouts could barely suppress their grins, in fact, they didn’t.  As Mrs. Solkolsky was carefully tightening the strings I told her again that I knew how these bouts were fixed.  I asked her again point blank not to lie, not to betray my trust in her.  She had the integrity of a snail.

     Reluctant as I was, based on her assurance, I went ahead in good faith.  We were blindfolded, or I was, and I was spun around several times.  I had no idea where my opponent was.  I struck out several times, in the hopes of finding him to the merriment of all.  Then the blows started landing on me thick, fast and hard.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that I had been betrayed; that Mrs. Sokolsky was a liar.  Mrs. Miller should have extended her condemnation of men as liars, sneaks, cheats and thieves to have included her own sex as well.

     I cried out that I knew.  I told them to stop.  Cahallan redoubled his efforts; the laughter went from shrieks to gales.  I tried to get the blindfold off but they had put it on too tight.  Boxing gloves have no fingers and the thumbs are useless for gripping.  They laughed and laughed and laughed while Cahallan pommeled me as fast and furious as he could.

     The gloves were laced so tightly I couldn’t shake them off.  Mrs. Sokolsky had acted in cold blooded, determined premeditation.  Finally in desperation, I placed a glove between my knees and tore my hand out of it, taking the blindfold off in the same motion.  I took out after Cahallan who, now that my blindfold was off, lost his taste for battle and backpedaled guiltily trying to avoid my blows.

page 307.

          Mrs. Sokolsky grabbed me from behind.  I was thrown down on the ground as the other scouts piled on to hold me down.  David and Michael Hirsh had enjoyed the scene so much they were actually rolling on the kitchen floor in laughter.

     Mrs. Sokolsky was saying:  ‘Now listen, Far, now just listen.  It was all just a joke.  Listen, now calm down. It was just a joke.  It could have been played on anyone.’

     ‘No, it wasn’t a joke, it was a lie.’   I yelled back.  ‘It was a dirty trick and you’re a dirty, dirty liar, Mrs. Sokolsky.’

     When I called her a dirty liar she recoiled a few steps as the truth of her actions slapped her face.  The consequences of her affirmations hit her.  She was a dirty, dirty liar.  Shame overwhelmed the other scouts too.  As Mrs. Sokolsky reeled back they relaxed their holds on me and sat back.  Cahallan quickly took off his gloves and threw them behind a bush.  He pushed his guilty hands in his pockets while pretending to study the peeling paint on the garage.

     ‘No, it wasn’t a joke.  It was a dirty trick.  I told you what you were going to do Mrs. Sokolsky and you denied it.  You swore on your Holiest of Holies you weren’t going to do it and you lied.  You all lied.  You’re all going to rot in hell as dirty liars.’

     I turned and fled through the back gate calling out:  ‘Dirty liars.’ over my shoulder one more time.  So they were; so they acknowledged themselves to be with deep shame.  In the scenario of the event that they had devised, because of the tight blindfold which couldn’t be removed with the gloves on and the fact that they had tied the gloves on so securely that it was only with difficulty that I was able to tear my hand out with considerable violence, I was to be so defenseless  that I would be driven to my knees, shoving my head in the dirt while covering it with the gloves begging for mercy, abasing mayself beneath the continuous pommeling.  I would be what they had known all along, a dirty sniveling coward.

     For this was the way the immigrants perceived their entry into the United States.  The symbolism involved depicted the misery that they, or rather their parents felt and transmitted to them.  This is not to say they were conscious of their intent; rather the idea flowed from suppressed wellsprings of discontent.  The form of the revenge merely reflected the substance of their imagined injury.  In their subconscious the great Anglo-American bully had been paid back in kind.

     These were not subtle people; these were common men; they had not thought through the possible reactions.  As the sons and daughters of serfs and peasants they could have no alternative but to return to the scene of their abasement.  They thought that I would return the next week to the next meeting.  Unaware of the seriousness of their offence to me they thought to assuage their own now apparent guilt by being extra-special nice to me for the duration of the meeting…most of it…the first few minutes…well, their greeting at the door…possibly.

page 309.

     For my part I was absolutely destroyed.  All the fantasies I had entertained at the Home of beginning live anew were dashed.  What they had done to me was something they would only have done to someone toward whom they had the deepest contempt.  Had they triumphed and I had returned, I would have been reduced to mere beggary.  I would have been suffered only on bare tolerance.  David Hirsh had known this; it had been his plan.  He went away deeply disappointed.  He felt himself failed again.

     The following week Mrs. Sokolsky and the scouts had intentionally prepared themselves to greet me.  When I didn’t appear their guilt was profoundly deepened.  They began to prepare defensive measures, for they feared that I would expose them, or in their terms, defame them.  Consequently Mrs. Sokolsky telephoned Mrs. Warden to ask why I was not in attendance.  Of course as I could expect no support from the Wardens I hadn’t even bothered to tell them about the incident.  Mrs. Sokolsky was quite relieved to hear that Mrs. Warden knew nothing.  Mrs. Warden promised to learn why I was not in attendance.

     I expected nothing from the Wardens so I just told her I didn’t want to be a Cub Scout.  Mrs. Sokolsky, in possession of the information, took further steps to protect herself.  She and the scouts and the girls then slandered me so as to get their story first before the interested public.  As an outsider I had no one to tell, nor would I have anyway as I considered the matter closed by quitting the troop.  I was unaware that I had been defamed or that people who knew or didn’t know me had formed an adverse opinion of me.

     Though they had sought to protect themselves, their actions only added to their shame and guilt which continued to gnaw at them demanding expiation.

pp. 310-311.

5.

      As the incident of the cub scouts had been a result of the trip to Reuchlin Park so a reaction was set off in the mind of Jack Warden.  Warden was of that type, which is the most common, that seeks to impose their fantasy of life on reality.  In all cases it is an ill-fitting match, the two views seldom go together.  If one is fortunate enough to get a match for a brief while, reality ever changing, slips beneath the fantasy leaving it merely a monument to vanity.

     Thus Warden made no attempt to understand me or the environment from which I came and compare it with his own.  He simply attempted to impose his fantasy on me and my own vision of reality.  He was not sprung from noble stock, his ancestry was in no way related to Richard Couer De Lion.  He had only a romantic attachment to that king.  His sons were not patricians; they bore no resemblance to Lancelot or Percival.  I was not Sir Gareth of Orkney.

page 312.

     The only element of his vision of himself that he was prepared to alter was my status in his vision.  He had been sorely disappointed in my performance at Reuchlin Park.  He considered, he put his two broad fingers at the side of his nose and flicked them against his skin.  He made a decision firmly as a man of imagined royal lineage should.

     One morning not long after my sledding adventure I was ordered into Skippy’s presence early in the morning.  It was demanded of me that I stand and watch him dress.  Skippy fixed a disparaging eye on me from the front while his father stood arms folded behind me harrumphing.’     Skippy doffed his pyjamas.  As I stood at attention, as it were, he pulled on his shorts.  God, what an odious memory to carry through life, would that there were some psychic blotter to remove such mental oppression.  Skippy stood looking down at me with a perverse leer on his face that metaphosed into a perverted grin as the waistband caught under his penis and flipped it up.  He stretched the waistband out releasing his thumbs.  The waist band hit his stomach with a snap.

     Jack Warden harumphed a scoff behind me as if to say that I could never be such a man.  Warden was such a jerk.

     Skippy continued.  He put on his shirt, studying me with a contemptuous air while he slowly buttoned each button patting it against his body as he did so.  He grabbed his pants thrusting in his legs one at a time.  I noted that was the identical way I put on my pants.  He buttoned the top button; then turning full face with his mouth gaping in a lascivious leer he snapped the zipper shut in my face in a quick move of satisfaction.  He and his father walked away laughing, he buckling his belt, his father patting him on the back appreciatively.

page 313.

     ‘You’re quite a young man, Skip, my son, you’re quite a young man.’  He looked back at me with contempt.

     This incident coupled with the subsequent boxing match dispirited me a lot.  Still, I was growing; my capacity for understanding was increasing.  I was able to devleop some defensive measures although they were weakly defensive contributing to eccentricity rather than strength.

     By the time I reached the sixth grade I had succeeded to some extent to reconcile the Children’s Home mentality with middle class mores.  I did rise to the Challenge.  I was not wanted in the first reading and arithmetic classes by the students.  I quickly perceived that the teacher, a Mrs. McMahon, spent most of her time with the first class, less with the second class and virtually none with the remainder of the students.  Their performance was commensurate.  They were left behind.  I also noticed that the first class contained only the affluent children of the class, those of privileged families while the members of the second class came from less affluent homes while the remainder came from homes where the parents had no status at all.  I spent the first half of the year alternating between the first and second groups.  The students in the first group refused me admission but I practiced and persisted.  I petitioned Mrs. McMahon for admission into the first group with such force that she could hardly refuse.  The others still refused to permit me among them so I was compelled to sit behind them all as a member of the second class but a participant in th first class.  Still I succeeded in partaking of the most and best instruction.

pp. 314-315.

     6.

     Jack Warden had acquired me to shore up his fading fantasy.  He could be powerful against the helpless.  He was becoming increasingly helpless against the the more powerful forces of his own life.  I hadn’t been in the household for more than a month before I realized who Warden was and his relationship to his world.  His career was over; he would never be promoted.  He was seen somewhat as a blowhard in the neighborhood.  Amongst people who were all putting on airs he was seen as putting on airs.  No one accepted him at even an approximation of his own valuation.

     His insistence on his descent from Richard Couer de Lion had subjected him to ridicule.  As a result, just as Skippy snapped his fly shut in my face, Big Ben Webster was about to do the equivalent to Jack Warden.

page 316.

     Big Ben was the father of Beverly Webster, the father-in-law of David Hirsh.  Big Ben was the patriarch of the Webster-Hirsh family.  He owned the coalyards that were called Webster’s.  Big Ben was the big man in town.  Had he been a little more intelligent he might have made the town his own.  As it was he was forced to share dominance with two or three other families.  Still, he considered himself the lord of the manor.

     In the way that people are known in small cities, Jack Warden had his place in the pecking order.  His family had been in town as long as anyone could remember.  His father had had a decent reputation.  Warden’s place would ordinarily have been in about the eighty-second percentile, weighted average.  But he had been indiscreet while younger in asserting primacy because of his supposititious relation to Richard Couer de Lion.  He had been entirely too vocal about it, hence he had called ridicule down on himself.  Had his competence been equal to his claims he might have overridden the scorn, but Jack Warden’s talents were sadly lacking in conspicuity.

     People now took a certain delight in baiting him.  He had found his way to Big Ben’s list; Webster got a good laugh tormenting him.  Thus all Warden’s coal deliveries were made troublesome for him.  Big Ben always humiliated him in some way.

     In those days when coal was the universal fuel, Big Ben with his monopoly called all the shots.  At that time the coalyards were full from August to February.  They were allowed to deplete during the late winter, spring and early summer.  The rail cars started arriving in late July to begin another season.  Ben extended a discount to those who bought in August.  Jack Warden prided himself on his farsightedness and economy.  He had a standing order of August 1.  Somehow Big Ben always forgot to give him his discount; Warden’s delivery invariably was billed at full price.

 page 318.

     Nor would Ben refund his money or give him a credit easily.  Warden had to work for a couple months to get an acknowledgment.  Even then Ben wouldn’t give him a refund, only a credit.  ‘You’re going to buy another ton later in the year aren’t you Warden?’  So the game was played out every year.  Ben tickled himself at Warden’s torment; Warden simple enough to believe that he had triumphed yet again.

     Ben caused Warden no end of irritation.  Other little problems twitched at the back of Jack’s mind.  Jack’s mind was always anxious and sullen on coal delivery days.  He believed that Ben shortweighted him.  Ben did.  Ben couldn’t help himself, he was just that way.  With everybody.  The coal industry was founded on shortweighting.  Miners at the minehead had to deliver twenty-six hundred pounds of coal to be paid for mining a ton.  While the coal was in transit hoboes in the jungles stole coals from the cars for their fires.  Ben himself was shorted a hundred pounds to the ton.  A wise man he said nothing and incorporated the shortage in his pricing.

      You didn’t take advantage of Ben; if some wiseguy tried to nick him for more than the customary he would say something, but his reputation in the industry as a tough customer and a right guy protected him.  Not only did Ben have the walk, the talk and the right gestures, he knew what a tight rope act was;  he walked the wire and never fell off.

page 319.

     Ben never gave full weight except to some few families who could punish him in return.  Jack Warden couldn’t punish Ben; Warden was always shorted a hundred weight by Ben.

     The delivery men took another fifty to one hundred pounds.  One of the advantages of working for Ben was that you got your coal free.  Ben didn’t give it to them but they got it free anyway.  Except since the introduction of the unions Ben had hired immigrants to whom he paid as little as possible.  Ben thought of himself as clever, or perhaps a better word might be knowing.

     He had always hired men of as many different nationalities as possible.  They couldn’t talk to him but they couldn’t talk to each other either.  He hired Anglo-Americans to indicate an amount more or less.  The Anglos also communicated with his customers.  The system had begun to break down with the cessation of immigration.  The unions had brought it to an end but the system lived on in Ben’s mind.

     The system was also remembered by his employees who maintained a lingering resentment.  Since the Wars they had taken to sabotaging the company in earnest.  They also resented their situation in relation to Ben as well as their situation relative to the prosperous people they served.  In dealing with Ben and his employees coal deliveries could be traumatic.  They usually were.

     Thus short deliveries were the norm.  Warden knew he was being shortweighted; everyone knew they were being shortweighted.  They had no scales to prove it.  And as Big Ben Webster combatively put it:  ‘What are they going to do about it?  Go without coal?’  That had, indeed, been the alternative.

page 319.

     For me the coal delivery was great excitement; it was fun.  I was out front waiting for the truck to arrive.  It was a clear hot August day with the humidity in the nineties.  The air was still; the trees stood like statues; there was no movement or mumur of the leaves.  Geli’s bank of flower’s wound around the porch to the edge of the house at which was located the coal chute.

     The Warden’s coal room was against the front foundation of the house.  There were no windows in it in order to prevent the theft of coals by less provident neighbors.

     I saw the truck rumbling up the street.  The cabin sat high above the road on huge rubber tires.  The bed of the dump truck was awe inspiring to my young inexperienced eyes.  The truck carried four tons, metal dividers separated the tons into compartments.  Ours was the first delivery so the truck was fully loaded.

     The driver was as skillful as he wanted to be.  If he liked you he did his job as neatly as he could; if he didn’t he did you as much spite as possible.  It was possible to do a great deal of spite.  The gleam of spite was prominent in the driver’s eye as his assistant watching the addresses pointed out the house on the corner.

     The mighty vehicle ground to a stop across the intersection while the driver studied the layout.  It would have been a simple matter to have turned the corner and backed into the driveway.  The driver laughed as he eased the truck around the corner and began backing up.  He didn’t try for the driveway.  Backing abreast of the coal chute he brought the black leviathan over the curb across the little stretch of grass between the curb and the sidewalk leaving deep ruts in Warden’s lawn while cracking the sidewalk.  With the engine still running, belching scorching clouds of vapor into the hot August air, he and his helper said:  “Damn.  Sorry about that.’  The driver grinned at Geli Warden.  His helper released the bed and directed the driver back a few more feet over the driveway and signaled the driver to raise the bed.  All of a sudden Geli realized the drift, raising her hands before her she shouted in a panic:  ‘No. No.  Wait. Wait.’

page 320.

     The waiting was over, the coal slid out the back into her flower bed against the porch.  The driver hadn’t even tried for the chute.  They hadn’t even dumped the coal in the driveway against the chute.  they had destroyed her flower bed.  The assistant looked at her with a wry smile and repeated:  ‘Oh, damn.’  The driver shoved a pencil and delivery receipt at her as he arched spit into the heap.  ‘Sigh here.’  He said with a suppressed chuckle.  Geli signed numbly, hardly aware of what she was doing.

     The driver leaped into the cab and lowered the bed.  The helper secured the bed and gave a taunting look at Mrs. Warden as he secured the back gate.  the truck bounced over the curb widening the ruts in the lawn.  Even over the roar of the engine, the clank of the body, I couold hear the two laughing uproariously.  I never have liked slapstick.

page 321.

     Geli Warden very nearly had tears in her eyes as she surveyed the damage to her flowers.  I stood looking alternately at the flowers and the departing truck.  I thought it was pretty chicken of those guys to do that to a woman.  It would have shown something, but not  much, to do that to Jack Warden while his two sons were standing around, but Geli Warden had no defense against two sinister looking swarthy men.  Not that being swarthy was bad but Geli Warden had found swarthy men more fearsom than fair ones.  Besides, modern sensitivity to the word ‘swarthy’ was not yet so prominent.  If the actual truth were known, yes, it’s true, Geli Warden was prejudiced against Greeks and Italians.  Not that she was spiteful to them, or to anyone, but their culture was different from hers.  To be different was to be inferior, or at least to be beneath consideration.  The Greeks and Italians thought the same of her.  After all, they had dumped the coal on her flowers to do her spite.  They had proven to her that she was right; they weren’t decent men.

     She was beside herself in grief at the loss of the her flowers.  When Jack Warden came home he was beside himself with rage.  Not only had Webster’s people destroyed his flowers and left him with the daunting task of shoveling a ton, or rather, eighteen hundred pounds, of coal down his coal chute but Webster had sold him nothing but dust and crushed bits left at the bottom of the bins when the big chunks had been shoveled out.  Big Ben had done him again.  Ah, life’s little pleasures and frustrations.

page 322.

     His mind was a turmoil of chagrin and loathing as he and Skippy and Cappy shoveled the coal dust down the chute.  He stormed and fumed seaching for an alternative to get out from under the dominination of the Big Fella.  He could have gone to oil but oil was smelly and dirty.  But as he stood up in the heat and terrific humidity and wiped a black stripe across the sweat of his brow he looked down Froide and saw the casings of the gas line snaking up the street toward him.  He stared while a glimmer of recognition of deliverance flickered across the top of his brain like an itch.

     It wouldn’t be long before he could connect up.  By God, he decided he didn’t care what the cost was or if he had to borrow money to do it, he was going to connect up.  So was everyone else.  Apart from ridding themselves of dependence on Big Ben Webster there were solid advantages.

     With coal the fire had to be banked at night so it wouldn’t burn out.  Then in the morning in what were often sub-zero temperatures it had to be stoked up.  It might be an hour before the house warmed up; then it was either too hot or not warm enough.  Every couple of hours you had to go down and shovel more coal on the fire.  Then, once again it was too hot until the coals burned down some.  The temperature couldn’t be controlled.  With gas the thermostat kept the temperature even.  When you got up in the morning you simply moved the lever to the desired temperature.  The house was warm immediately.  The delivery was metered.  Big Ben and his offensive drivers were a memory.

      Warden thought of this but as he shoveled another thought obtruded into his image of resentment and hope.  He might not have to endure this particular humiliation at the hands of Ben.  He looked down the street at the casements laying on the ground.  He set the shovel before him and leaned on the handle looking down the street as though into the future.  This was only August, cold weather wouldn’t set in until November.  August, September, October.  They might very well have gas to him by fall.  If not, if necessary, what with this delivery and his reserves he could probably  make do over one winter without Big Ben.  He decided to challenge the Big Fella, to clear his gut of anxiety and resentment, to give ease to his heart.

     He called Ben up on the phone.  Complained to him about the quality of the delivery.  He explained that he didn’t want to pay full price for inferior coal, Ben had a reputation to keep up.  Ben stifled a laugh, said there wasn’t anything he could do for Warden, take it or leave it.  Ben was astonished by Warden’s answer.  Warden said to come and get the stuff.  the enormity of his gas problem began to sink into Ben.  The Big Guy knew he was wrong in charging full price for the dust.  He knew a third party would judge against him if it came to that.  He did the gracious thing.  He offered to eat his profit.  Jack Warden thought that meant a fifty percent reduction to which he assented.  Ben then explained to him that no, that meant ten percent, his net profit, after taxes of course.

     Warden was flabbergasted.  He said nonsense.  Come and pick up your coal.  Ben didn’t want to pick up that dust so he consented to fifty percent.  That was no longer good enough for the Duke.  He said he wouldn’t even keep it at twenty-five percent of the billing.  Ben blinked and said alright he could have it at twenty-five percent.  Jack Warden accepted with alacrity.  He had won.  The first round.  He sent Skippy to Ben’s office the next day with payment to seal the bargain.

page 324.

     I learned from that confrontation that manhood had nothing to do with innate qualities, it had to do with who had who by the short hairs.  When Ben had had the upper hand he treated Warden with contempt, but now that Warden had the leverage Ben had done as he was bidden.  The Duke was very happy with himself.  After many years of humiliation he’d gotten Webster.  If necessary, with his reserve and his fresh delivery he could economise his way through th winter while switching to gas late in late winter or early spring.  He’d foxed the fox.

     But the fox was not so complacent.  He wouldn’t have minded giving up fifty percent which still left him a slight margin but he considered that Warden had stolen the other twenty-five percent from him.  He wanted it back.  He had a dirty deed he wanted done dirt cheap.

     Anyone who can strikes but conceals his hand.  Whenever possible commit the crime but direct other peoples’ attention to the innocent party.  Ben had done this many times before.  He didn’t need a plan or a blueprint.  He called ‘Whoa Tom’, the fellow who had officered the incident in the barber shop and at the fence of the Home and explained his needs.  Whoa Tom understood and undertook the deed.

     A few days later Warden walked out of the plant at closing time carrying his brown paper paper lunch bag under his arm.  As he approached his car he noticed a bash in his front door.  He raised his hands to his hips in consternation as his brown bag fell to the cement.  ‘What the hell?’  He ejaculated.

page 325.

     A couple of Whoa Tom’s thug’s were standing by to get Warden’s reaction and relay it to Ben who was too busy to park unobtrusively in the vicinity to get it himself.

     ‘O, hey, fella, that’s too bad.  We seen it happen.  Feller, George Hocher, swinged open his door and banged it up.  Just got in his car and drove away like nothing happened.  Didn’t leave a note on your windshield nor nothing.’

     ‘Hocher, huh?’  Warden said casting them a contemptuous disbelieving look.

     ‘Yeh, Hocher.  We seen him do it, didn’t we Jack?’  He said to his companion  ‘Not more’n half an hour ago.’

     Jack Warden didn’t believe it.  Hocher worked in accounting with him.  Hocker was a precise, maybe even precious, individual.  Hocher didn’t bang up other people’s things, accidentally or on purpose.  Warden would check Hocher’s car on the morrow and his door wouldn’t show any damage.

     Warden knew that Ben did it.  He knew Ben was trying to pass the buck to Hocher.  Jack didn’t  know why Ben was after Hocher but he knew Ben was trying to use him as a dupe or foil to take out vengeance for himself in Jack’s own name.  Ben could then sit back and chuckle as the two fought it out.

     Ben had underestimated Warden’s perspicacity.  Jack knew his Arthur backwards and forewards.  Ben could only intuitively act out his.  Warden had read it eight times.  One might almost say that the was always in the process of reading it.  He knew all the little deceptions; the rings that changed colors, carrying someone elses shield to disguise oneself, someone giving you a ‘better’ shield before a joust so one would be mistaken for someone else.  Jack was armed and guarded.

page 327.

     He knew Ben would strike back; he just didn’t know where or when the blow would fall.  So this was it; Ben would damage something of his so that the expense would be as great or greater than the cost of the coal.  Warden didn’t know what to do next.  He was cut off from retaliating against Ben because, if found out, he would appear to be the aggressor.  Ben hadn’t atually done anything to him that anyone else could see.

     He did talk with a certain amount of bitterness about it that night at dinner.  We all listened with sympathy but Skippy gave a little nod of the head as he listened and ate that left me with the impression that Skippy would mete out justice for the Duke.

     Skippy was almost sixteen.  He was what is euphemistically styled ‘high spirited.’  In other words he walked a line between immorality and criminality.  Like the knights of Arthur’s court if he needed  a horse he didn’t mind knocking the unwary off theirs and appropriating it.  ‘Methinks I need thy horse, Sir Knight.’ was explanation enough for Skip.

     Among his friends were a couple of tough late seventeen year olds.  They used to come over and spend evenings discussing desperadoes and famous criminals.  Skip and these guys weren’t exact scholars but they knew all the names and most of the legends, even if they didn’t always get them right.

page 327.

     These guys would come over, Skip would shut the upstairs door with his Do Not Disturb sign on it as a warning to his mother and father and these guys would get into it.  Cap and I sat respectfully listening as we were too young and dumb to participate.  The only things I knew came from the G-Men, T-Men, Revenuer, This Is The FBI comic books that Cappy and Skippy had by the hundreds.  The period was the golden age of comics.  At ten cents each both kids spent at least a dollar a month.  Just like the library at the Home, I had acess to all the comics.  Plastic Man, Captain Marvel, the Heap, Green Lantern and Green Hornet, the Blackhawks, the Daredevil, Skippy and Cappy bought them all.  Tales From The Crypt.

     Skip and these guys read books and magazines too.  TV didn’t hurt the movies at all but it wiped out publishing.  Hundreds of magazines became obsolete.  The entire pulp genre disappeared.  All the Western story magazines that Skippy had by the dozens.  Skip had all the men’s magazines before men’s magazines became synonymous with porn and pictures of nudes.  These magazines were endlessly telling of the adventures of Johnny Ringo, Singular Smith, Bonney, the Youngers, the Daltons, Frank and Jesse James, Butch and the Kid through Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Dillinger.  Skip and his friends could talk all the Western Badmen.  Tales of the Texas Rangers, Riders Of The Purple Sage.

     Their interests also ran to the immigrant Jewish and Italian gangs of the East from New York to Chicago including one in Minneapolis.  They could discuss, with a very knowing manner Monk Eastman, Dopey Bennie Fein, Arnold Rothstein, Lepke and Gurrah, some guy named Johnny Torrio, Lucky Luciano.  They even knew Luciano’s real name.  His first name was Chuck.  I forget his real last name.  They knew tales of the Purple Gang in Detroit, the Mayfield Road Gang in Cleveland.  Of course they could go on for hours about Capone.  See, the imprtant thing there was that the Jewish gangs were important in all the Big Cities except Chicago.  In Chicago it was the Irish and Italians.  When Capone knocked off Dion O’Bannion that was the end of the Irish.  But the Jews could never get a foothold in Chicago.  Skip and these guys could speculate on that for hours.

page 328.

     They even went so far as to study the methods of Brooklyn, Inc. and Murder, Inc.  Murder Incorporated was a hot topic at the time.  Even the perverts around the Oprphanage used to talk about Lepke Buchalter and Gurrah.  So Skippy and these guys already had the theoretical knowledge about casing the scene, plotting the hit and escaping.  To this point they had only talked about these things but now Skip said:  ‘We got to help the Duke.’  The other guys were ready.  One look at Skip’s model airplanes would show you that he was a very meticulous guy who paid attention to detail.

     He even made a model of the streets around Ben’s coalyard so that every step would be imprinted in their minds.   Then, just like Murder, Inc.  they drove over the route several times.  Skip thought they were ready.

page 329.

     About two-thirty that night they went and hot wired a car they had picked out in a driveway.  They drove it into an alley to take off the license plate, then cruised on over to the coalyard.  There was a night watchman to look after Ben’s coal.  First they came up behind the yard to drop off a guy who was to make noises like he was stealing coal to get the watchman to run down to the backend of the yard.  Then they drove slowly round to the front.  When they saw the watchman run for the back of the lot they pulled abreast of the gate and Ben’s office shack.  One got out of the back seat to throw red paint, Skip had the idea that red stood for Stern Justice, all over Ben’s whitewashed gate.  As he finished Skippy got out of the passenger’s seat and leveled a twelve gauge across the roof emptying both barrels through the windows of Ben’s shack.

     The watchman caught flatfooted heard the shots but was in no hurry to get back to the front until he saw the dark blob of the car turn the corner.  Skip and his confederates were cool.  They didn’t peel out bur drove off slowly and majestically.  They pulled into another alley put the plate back on and left the car in nearly the exact position as they found it.  Skip considered it a good night’s work well done.  He thought Brooklyn, Inc. would have given him a pat on the back.

     The guy whose car they borrowed had no idea that it had been used.  He couldn’t explain the ashtray full of cigarette butts that weren’t his brand so he accused his wife of infidelity.  That one ended up in a divorce.  Well, life is like that sometimes, isn’t it?  If you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen.

page 330.

     At breakfast that morning Skip gave a smile to the Duke:  ‘Hey, Dad, did you read in the paper where Webster’s coalyard got shot up last night?’  The Duke looked through the paper but couldn’t find it.  Indeed, the paper had been put to bed before Skip shot up Ben’s shack.  ‘Well, maybe I heard it on the radio.’  Skip said with a mischievous twinkle.  ‘That radio hasn’t been on this morning.’  Geli retorted.  The Duke gave Skip, who was quietly shaking with laughter, a sharp understanding look.

     A slight look of alarm passed over his face.  He said quietly:  ‘The night has a thousand eyes, Skipper.’

     ‘Yeah, but the shadows are dark and deep.  It takes sharp eyes to separate black from black.’  Skip snickered in self-appreciation.

     Jack nodded an approving look and went back to reading the Free Press.

     The shadows may indeed have been dark and deep.  The hour had been in fact late but the night is argus eyed.  They had been seen and identified but no one wanted to help Ben.

     Ben stood surveying the damage without a clue as to which of his enemies might have done it.  It never occurred to him to suspect Jack Warden.  Ben thought his hand so well concealed in the damage to Warden’s car that Warden had no suspicions.  Ben had no idea how transparent his deception had been.   Thus the matter was closed in the minds of both parties.

     It had cost Ben as much or more as though he had forgotten the discount he had had to give Warden.  Still Ben could afford the extra cost much more than the Duke could so that in the exchange Big Ben would have to be accorded the winner.

pp. 331-32.

7.

       I had watched the contest between Ben and the Wardens with interest because, as improbable as it may seem, I actually knew Big Ben Webster.  Oh, we never shared a baloney sandwich or anything like that but still I knew him other than as one who has seen him from afar or as one knows a movie star seen on the silver screen.  We had had an encounter.

     We met at the very coalyard, down by the river, that Skippy and his friends shot up.  Ben had his main yard plus several subsidiary yards distributed throughout the city.  The main yard wasn’t probably as big as I remember it, yet it was an impressive affair.  Ben had imbibed industrial cleanliness from Henry Ford.  As Ford’s plants were spic and span, so incredibly was Ben’s coalyard.  A white slat fence enclosed the yard; Ben kept it freshly whitewashed at all times.  His little office shack was spotlessly white.  The North side along which the rail spur ran, Ben’s own rail spur, the length was divided into several bins, much like the bins that lined the wall at Longfellow.  Ben had guys out washing the slats after every delivery and on the inside every day after the last truck had been loaded.  The yard was swept everyday so that no coals or dust littered the yard.  On the South side was a huge hopper that scintillated in the sun.  I couldn’t ever get to that side so I don’t know the purpose of the hopper.  The yard was Ben’s little kingdom.  It done him proud.

page 333.

     Delivery time was magic.  A little four wheel switch engine huffed and puffed and chugged the gondolas back down the spur.  The couplings clanked, the wheels ground and slid to a stop while the men shouted and clambered onto the coal to begin shoveling it down chutes into the bins.  The noise, the bustle, the motion was magnificent.  There was romance there enough to warm any boy’s heart.  The hissing and blowing of the locomotive was the epitome of power; the activity of men and machines was the acme of activity.  I loved it.

     Big Ben stood outside the door of his shack surveying his kingdom with a soft glow of satisfaction  adorning his face.  The Big Fella was only five-six but he filled out his entire form.  He was passing through his fifties into old age as the world wheeled through the nineteen forties.  Five-six with a barrel chest that slipped into a big round stomach without a break.  The fringe of hair on his balding head pointed up like Dagwood’s.  Ben had a resonant baritone that didn’t require electrical amplification to be heard.  Even with the steam engine roaring, the coal cars clanking, trucks coming and going, a dozen hands shoveling coal and the hopper discharging a load into a truck, Ben could be clearly heard anywhere in the yard from his ofice in the right front corner.  He was a spectacle for eye and ear.

page 334.

     I can still hear Ben in that situation bellow at a loader he thought was slacking, or perhaps he did it just for practice:  ‘Come on Sherman, get the lead out.’

     Ben had a primitive quality of hyper-genetic masculinity.  He was not educated beyond high school and had no, nor had he ever had, any intellectual interests.  He despised the notion as so much ‘bushwa.’  I never really knew what ‘bushwa’ was but I imagine that it was derived from the word Bourgeois, which Ben and his ilk had never seen in print, or if they had they didn’t recognize it so their ear picked up the French pronunciation as bushwa and as they had no meaning for it they gave it one of their own as they picked up the deprecatory tone of the word.  As they used the word it had a derogatory feel that Ben and his ilk feeling put into the phrase:  ‘That’ so much bushwa.’

     Ben inhabited a sphere where sane and insane were not specifically distinguishable.  He lived in a world of pure masculine rage.  Everything was a force sent against him to be destroyed.  There was no love or hate involved, just a triple distilled primoridal need for possession, dominion or destruction.  Like some ancient proto-human at the dawn of civilization in whom the intellect was already clear, old and sated, while the emotions were like a young wine straining to burst the bottle, was the way Ben dealt with the problems of life.  The changing pulse of American civilization had subdued the expression of his passion since 1910, when to speak curtly to him was to have the hurricane of his wrath descend on your head.

page 335.

     I had come to his attention one day as I stood watching his operation with mouth agape.  I had wandered over to that section of town to escape the Home.  Chunks of coal lay outside Ben’s realm.  The truck drivers jolted out of the yard as hard and fast as they could.  The bounce over the sidewalk often dislodged chunks of coal from those piled high on the beds, that clattered unto the sidewalk and into the street.  The slats of the fence were wide enough apart for chunks to fall through; also inevitably chunks fell off the gondolas or chutes.  The people of the neighborhood thought these their rightful plunder, they thought that once the chunks were outside the coalyard they were public property.  Ben, of course, was of a differing view.  Thus adults didn’t dare face Ben’s wrath.  They sent their little children.

     The more improvident bought their coal by the bucket rather than the ton.  Ben really appreciated these people because he could really sock them.  They paid three times the going rate for a ton.  When these kids walked up to the yard it was impossible to tell whether they were going to buy or pick up stray chunks.  When they came in groups of three their intent was a giveaway, but still you couldn’t tell.  Just to confuse the Big Feller they would sometimes buy.  Most often they scooped up whatever chunks there were then ran off as Big Ben came bellowing up to the gate.  Wow, what a voice.

page 336.

     I was leaning on the fence by the gate with my arms through the slats watching the activity in the yard.  Ben was in his pose, the barrel of chest and stomach out, hands in pockets, legs spread wide when he broke pose and made a dash for the gate bellowing at a couple kids behind me.  I looked back with a certain amount of interest; I wasn’t involved so I remained leaning unperturbed.  The baby bull chased those two little runts away.

     Ben must have been impressed because I hadn’t budged.  But in the Orphanage days I believed that I had acquired certain rights when they placed us outside the law.  I believed we had our own set of rules that they had to honor.  I don’t know whether they accepted my view or not but as I had no parents to complain to I was generally left alone and ignored.

     Ben sucked in a lungful of air and bellowed at me, and I mean bellowed; swear to God the sound roared past me in particles you could see and didn’t focus into intelligible words until several yards behind me.  ‘Well, what are you doin’ standing there?’

     My rights, which were clearly defined in my mind, were being violated.  I yelled back, if it may be called yelling in comparison:  ‘You can’t tell me what to do.  I’m from the Children’s Home.’

     My answer stunned him into silence.  Perhaps the logic escaped him; nevertheless he calmed down and just said:  ‘You can’t be takin’ them coals there, they’re mine and I don’t want no argument.’

     ‘I don’t need your stupid coals.’  I said.  ‘We’ve got tons of them.’

     He looked at me quietly, not at my clothes and shoes, but at me, my eyes, then he snorted and walked away blowing a fart at me as he turned.  We noticed each other after that whenever I hung around the coalyard although we never spoke again.

     Thus when Jack Warden cursed Ben, I knew who and what he was talking about.

pp.  337-338

     8.

      At the time of the fight with Warden Big Ben’s troubles were beginning to take definite form.  The relentless extension of the gas lines eroded Ben’s situation on a daily basis.  After his family having been in the coal business for more than sixty years as the Valley grew and the business expanded, Ben was about to lose his place.

     Ben had come to maturity in 1910.  He had been born of New England Puritan stock through both grandparents.  It was primarily for that reason that Solomon Hirsh so readily acceded to David’s choice of Beverly.

     Ben’s grandfather had moved West just in time to take advantage of the Valley lumber boom.  The area had previously been covered with white pine and swamps.  There was a story that some folks told that I classed with the legendary snowstorms, but it was alleged that in the days when the Indians ruled the country from their birch bark canoes that it was possible during the spring floods to paddle your canoe from the arctic ocean over the Northwest, down the Ohio on to the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico.  Of course you had to cross the straits of Mackinac somewhere.

page 339.

     This was a very prevalent legend; the perverts along the fence of the Children’s Home debated it.  I objected that the Indians would have to get out of their canoes somewhere to make a portage.  I was told I was ingnorant of how slight a draught birch bark canoes drew; apparently they could be successfully paddled over wet grass.  The notion was always improbable to me but, who knows, if the Indians had been told in 1800 that the Cuyahoga River would one day spontaneously burst into flames they would have laughed themselves silly; yet one day the Cuyahoga river did spontaneously burst into flames.  I don’t know how you put a river out though.

     When I was a child the canoe trip could no longer have been possible as the swamps had all been filled in; the River never overflowed its banks in the Valley.

     A further legend I found it hard to credit was that the swamps had been filled in with the sawdust from the mills cutting the white pine.  Whenever a chuckhole mysteriously appeared in the street some one would say that the sawdust underlying the dirt was rotting away.  I pointed out that the houses never sank but I was waved away.

     Nevertheless all the stands of white pine were cut and the swamps were filled in.  There was no longer a lumber business in the Valley.  Nothing daunted, Ben’s grandfather and father turned from lumber to coal.  Ben’s grandfather and father started the coal business; Ben and his father consolidated it; Ben now was to find that he would have nothing to pass on to his son.

page 340.

     The economics of the coal business required a large base.  Ben and his father had driven the other colliers out of business to establish their monopoly.  Nor did they do so merely by being more competitive or minding their own business; they resorted to what is called ‘low cunning’ and dirty tricks.  They had been aided by the Great Depression of the thirties which finished off their last competitor.

     Ben had had the best of lives as a child and young man.  The American Ben had grown up in had been an Anglo-Saxon America.  The immigrants had been fodder for the mills and factories; human cattle to be used and discarded when broken and worn out.  Ben had been raised to view them as human scum.  Well, that’s not quite right.  They just didn’t have enough human qualities to be part of humanity; they talked funny, dressed funny and would work for next to nothing.

     Ben considered himself a member of the quality.  The quality may be viewed as a sort of Arthurian knighthood.  When the Cavaliers of Virginia, who were second sons of the English nobility, arrived here they found it difficult to give up the ideas that they were inherently better than the rest of humanity.  So they devised the notion of the quality and the equality.  The quality represented all the virtues of humanity while the equality represented the vices.  Thus as soon as an American made a little money he considered himself the equivalent of an English duke.  If he made a lot of money his daughter might actually marry an English duke.  Thus, in a sense, knighthood has always been in flower in the United States.

page 341.

     Ben, ignorant as he was, thus considered himself a prince among men.  He despised not only the immigrants but Americans who were common laborers.  He accorded a grudging respect to college professors, lawyers and doctors, and skilled persons and skilled laborers in general but only if they acknowledged his superior manhood.  Manhood was no joke to Ben.

     The years from 1910 to 1915 were the halcyon years of Ben’s life.  He had been the cock of the walk.  No one or no thing stood in his way.  The yards made money, the immigrants worked cheap, Ben’s superiority was manifest.  The Great War was troubling.  Political events took a sour turn when the war ended.  The glorious prosperity of the New Era ushered in by the twenties obscured Ben’s increasing malaise.

     Ben plunged into the great stock market rise of the twenties.  In the delirium of that great bull market Ben realized the Capitalist’s dream.  The rise proved what American businessmen have always said:  All Americans could be millionaires.  There was no reason to upset the apple cart with all that union crap they would just spoil things; invest in the market and be rich like them.  Their genius was providing wealth for all.  Up to a point.

     It wasn’t a bad dream, but it was a dream.  In October of  ’29 Ben was looking at a mountain of debt and a molehill of assets.  He didn’t lose his nerve, somehow he got credit arranged to allow him to keep his firm assets.  The thirties conspired with him to remove his final competitor.  Ben had what he had always sought, a monopoly.

page 342.

     Ben didn’t accumulate money during the thirties.  His debt load and the growing expense of maintaining and educating his maturing family prevented his saving much.  It was only in 1946 that his losses from 1929 had been liquidated.

     The years after ’29 had presented small opportunity for accumulating riches.  Property values were stable, interest rates were low and few were willing to trust the stock market again.  As the imminent loss of his business approached now Ben had money in the bank but not as much as everyone thought he had.  Ben viewed the future with trepidation.  Money was not the worst of his problems; he really feared the loss of his status.  Dread of the future was beginning to give him anxiety attacks.  He had chest pains; it was his mind, Lord, not his heart.  He was foolish enough to talk about it to family and associates.

     Ben’s persnoal affairs were cause enough for anxiety; adding to his woes was the apparent danger to his country.  Ben had never been fully aware of it but his lifetime had been one of fantastic evolution in politics.  The immigrants he so despised had unobtrusively been pulling the ground out from under his feet.  The addition of all those millions had been altering the demographic complexion of his dream.  He and his kind were about to realize the toppling of that dream.

page 343.

     Ben didn’t recognize the fallacy of the Old Guard’s immigration policy until that watershed year of 1920.  One shortsight of the Old Guard was that American was a land of unlimited physical resources; like a boy with a quarter in a penny candy shop they saw no limit to fulfilling their desires to the end of time.  They raped and plundered the continent; waste was endemic.  In 1920 Henry Ford stood the lone industrial sentinel proclaiming conservation of resources.  His fellows proclaimed him eccentric.

     Because the Old Guard saw the land as one of unlimited riches they thought it could support an unlimited population.  Because they wanted an unlimited amount of lucre they encouraged immigration to provide more hands to rip it out of the earth that much faster.  Modern lighting enabled them to get at it twenty-four hours a day.

     They foresaw no social problems because, as they saw it, as soon as an immigrant set foot on American soil he became a ‘new’ man.  An American with American mores who had miraculously shed his national antecedents.  As the social evils piled up some few voices were raised calling for a reappraisal of immigration policy.  Some efforts were made to limit immigration but the Old Guard only came face to fact with the problem with America’s entry into the Great War.  It was at that time the issue of hyphenated Americans became a problem.

     The Old Guard assumed that the East and South European peoples had imbibed Old Guard attitudes and prejudices, wasn’t that what ‘new’ man meant?  The Old Guard was pro English and French in its Great War attitude.  Their notion of solidarity with the immigrants was shattered when they found strong sentiment in favor of the Central Powers among them.  The Irish, German-Americans and the Austro-Americans tended to side with the Central Powers.  The Jews were reluctuant to cooperate with the Allies because of the inclusion of Czarist Russia in the alliance.  Suddenly America seemed to the Old Guard as little more than an international boarding house.  The loyalty of the immigrants was no longer assumed.  The immigrants hadn’t become ‘new’ men at all.  They were the same as they had ever been, only richer by America.  The Old Guard thought their generosity had been betrayed; actually it was only that they had a faulty belief system; they hadn’t thought things out properly.

page 334.

     A crash Americanization program was begun.  The Old Guard frantically tried to instill their beliefs into the immigrants.  Once again Henry Ford had preceded them; he had been patiently trying to educate immigrants to American mores for several years.  Once again he had been ridiculed for his foresight.

     Just as the Old Guard was in the midst of its Americanization program the fatal blow struck; the Red Revolution was successful in Russia.  The efforts of the previous seventy years were bearing fruit.  the French Revolution, then the European Revolution had become the World Revolution.  The Reds said they would not stop at Russia but would revolutionize the world in their own brutal image.  They were serious about it too.  This was no joke.

page 335.

     Needless to say Ben became, or had always been what was known as a 100% American.  The reaction was worldwide.  In opposition to the Red Revolution 100% Europeans were known as Fascists.  the Western world was divided along the lines of us and them.  Modern Times had arrived with a vengeance.  Ben had never taken the time to investigate the Reds although like the rest of the Old Guard he knew they were dangerous and opposed to everything he believed in.  The Reds first gained a foothold in America through the immigrants who left Europe in the wake of the predecessor of the Russian Revolutions, the abortive revolutionary attempt made in 1848.  Anarchists and Socialists had flooded into the United States.  By the time Ben was old enough to notice things, anarchism had ceased to be a political force although the tradition lived on in other movements.  To the Old Guard the anarchists wielding bomb and pistol had been the spearhead of the movements.  The great events; the Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Riot, the Homestead Steel strike were recent history for Ben.  These events lived on at the dinner table and the country club.

     Ben chose sides and chose the right side, the Old Guard side.  It had never been proven that the anarchists had started the Great Chicago fire but Ben took from his elders that it could hardly have been coincidence that the fire just happened to start and rage while a fierce North wind drove the flames furiously East and South over the entire city.  Maybe so, I’m sure I don’t know, but Ben thought he did and so did everyone he knew.  It was an unrelated but undeniable fact that an anarchist had shot President McKinley.  Somehow one proved the other for Ben and his people.

page 346.

     Not only that, but the Reds were always agitating for labor unions.  Plus during their parades behind Red flags, just the American flag wasn’t good enough for them, they wore little American flag pins upside down in their lapels.  Plus…well, there were a lot of plusses.  Ben had his reasons, some good, some not so good, but all supporting the right side.  Overall Ben was right in the direction of his political beliefs.  He loved his country; he wanted it to survive.

     By 1920 History had shifted from nineteenth century mores to twentieth century mores.  The lines were drawn.  Capitalism or Communism.  Ben hadn’t been clear in his thinking before but now the waters rose way over his head.  Ben would never have the least idea what was happening for the rest of his life.

     With the Russian Revolution all societies were organized along collective lines.  The liberal indivualism of the nineteenth century was replaced with collective political units.  The world was polarized along the Biblical ideal of us and them.  On the one the side were the Semitists and Communists; on the other were the Fascist and National groups.  In America it was the Semitists and Communists against the Old Guard Americanists.  The Semitists used the Communists as a front while they managed to class all dissenters as Fascists.  Properly speaking there were no American Fascists.  The Old Guard had no idea how the term applied to them.  Ben was certainly puzzled when his nationalist American views were labeled as Fascist.

page 347.

     In the twenties and thirties he, along with a lot of his fellows, had the sneaking suspicion that the Jews were behind it.  Henry Ford had bought a newspaper and openly proclaimed that the Jews, not all Jews, Ford divided the Jews into good Jews and International Jews, were behind it.  Indeed the Jews had invented Semitism, they were the original collective political body; a tight little group dedicated to bringing the light of their tribal deity to the world.  How could they deny it?  The Bible proclaimed it.  Communism, Fascism, Nazism were all modeled after the Biblical ideal.  Heck, the Semitists could only be influential in internationalist organizations like the Communists.  There was no place for Jews in competing National organizations like the Fascists, the Nazis or even for that matter the America First Committee.  The ideals of all the national groups fostered only benefits to their respective nations.  The Jews as a nation were outsiders in all other nations.

     The Bible proclaims it boldly:  No man can serve two masters.  The Semitists could not serve their God as well as a nation.  Their law, as they asserted, had been given to them by their God; how could they possibly subordinate their Law from their god to the law of the nations which was only formulated by men.  It wasn’t an unsolvable problem; one side or the other had to triumph.

     In the Arthurian cycle a knight is given a shield on which is portrayed a knight standing one foot on the head of King Arthur, the other on the head of Queen Quinivere.  Mallory explains that the symbol represents the dominion of the knight over both the King and Queen.

page 348.

     Before 1920 in the golden age of movie theatres, a magnificent theatre was built in NYC with beautiful decorations.  The ceiling was a magnificent replica of the night time sky, a magnificent deep blue spangled with stars.  Descending toward the stage from the apex, a large Mogen David sat in splendid isolation.  Beneath the Star of David lay a row of national flags of the world.  The theatre had been constructed by Jews.  Ben and his fellows had their own Mallory, Henry Ford, to explain to them what it meant but they didn’t seem to comprehend.  The symbolism was quite clear.  The blue sky of God covered all.  God had made the Semitists the custodians of His truth- the Law.  The nations of the world were beholden to the Semitists for the light of their tribal deity.  The nature of the struggle was clear for all who had eyes to see.  All the chit chat just took up time.

     During the surging prosperity of the twenties the problem seemed less important than making money.  Then too, the Old Guard had acted promptly and severely to suppress the Reds.  For a brief time the Communist Party had been outlawed.  But the Semitists and Communists had reacted savagely to discredit and suppress the 100% Americans, successfully castigating them a bigots.  Ben had at that time thought discretion the better prt of valor.  He still maintained his nationalist beliefs but tended his business while quietly viewing with alarm.  He didn’t understand what was happening anyway; why be too concerned.

     The Crash of  ’29 brought Ben’s fears to the surface again, especially as the Roosevelt presidency began.  All hell broke loose in Ben’s mind.  He couldn’t explain the system that was being destroyed or the system that was replacing it but the collectiveness of the Semitists began to displace the individualism that Ben cherished.  Roosevelt made the corporate State a reality in the United States.

page 349.

     The European reaction to collectivism had first surfaced with Fascism in Italy.  At the exact same time that the collective State of the Semitists arrived in American the collectivist State of the Nazis that was modeled after the Semitism of the Jews triumphed in Germany.  The world was polarized into two camps acting from the same philosophical point of view.  The war was on.

     The choice was between the ‘living’ water of the Semitists and and that water that would make ye thirst again of the rest of the world.  For the Semitists believed that their religious system was Truth and all else false.  Their prophet, Jesus of Nazareth had said:  ‘Ye know not what ye believe, but we do;  for salvation lies with the Jews.’  There could be no more succinct an expression of Semitist goals than that.  Salvation could only mean the triumph of the Star of David over the flags of the nations of the world.

     The Semitists did know what they believed; all their energies were directed to realizing their beliefs.  Those beliefs they believed were the absolute truth, sacred in the eyes of their god.  All other belief systems were false.  They must be destroyed.  For several years in the United States the Semitists had secularized the religious belief of blasphemy.  They had turned the notion of blasphemy around to the notion that one could defame, be legally responsible here in the New Secular Order, for criticizing a belief system.  They claimed it was an actual crime to decry Semitism in favor of another belief system.  Thus the notion of anti-Semitism was popularized as a criminal act.  The Semitists not only believed in the sacredness of their belief system but wished to pass laws against its ‘defamation’, thus establishing it as a State religion.  They thus wished to subvert the Constitution of the United States.

page 350.

 

A Short Story

 The Price Of Freedom

In Both Lira And Dollars

by

R.E. Prindle

 

From The Archives Of

Yesterday’s News Service

Our Motto:  Real News Never Goes Stale

 

     Lincoln Adams sat quietly sobbing in the dark.  He now realized what he had done.  His best intentions had been turned back on him.  He wasn’t thinking but his actions passed in crowded review through his troubled mind.

     He remembered the proudest day in his life when he and Ginnie Wolfe had exchanged vows.  He had taken the vow to protect quite seriously.  Thus when a few days after returning to work from his honeymoon his boss had told him to clean out his office and leave he had been devastated.  He then found that his former employer was blackballing him.  So-called theft.  Not a charge that he could defend himself against as he was never publicly accused but a mere hint that there were irregularities in his accounts.  Unless he got a lucky break he either would have to leave Chicago or accept a laboring job.  He didn’t want to declasse himself.

     He sat on his bench hunched forward his eyes turned upward as though expecting help from above when a kindly looking fellow appeared, a well dressed and groomed gentleman sat down beside him.  He was holding the help wanted section of the Tribune in his hand.

     Clearing his throat gently he said:  ‘Tough times.  Jobs aren’t easy to come by.’

     ‘You don’t know the half of it.’  Link groaned out half tearfuly looking over at the man.  He saw a kindly handsome face that was unseamed given the man’s apparent advanced years.  The man seemed genuinely concerned about him.

     ‘Oh, I think I do.’  He said, quietly oozing commiseration.  ‘When I was your age I might have been in the same situation myself.  Might have been?  I was…’

      ‘I’ll bet it wasn’t quite the same.  You don’t…’

      ‘Oh sure, your boss fired you to cover up some cash shortages and now he’s blaming it on you, out of consideration for you of course he’s not pressing charges.  Now you can’t get a job.’

     ‘How did you know?’

     ‘I didn’t know for sure.  I just guessed.  These things are so common.’

     ‘Yeah?  What do you do about it?’

     ‘I may be able to help.  You see, I believe in you.  I don’t know what it is about you but you just seem like a man who deserves a break.  That looks like a wedding ring on your finger.  Just get hitched?’

     ‘Yeah, three weeks before I got fired.  I don’t know how I’m going to take care of her like she deserves.  She’s the most beautiful girl in the world.  Now I’ll probably lose her.’

     ‘Now, now.  I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that.’  He smiled benignly, reassuringly.  Just looking at him restored your confidence.  ‘I should introduce myself.  I’m Richard Cole, you can call me Dick.  What would you say if I said I could get you a job, a good job, this is in the bookkeeping field though you might have to take some night classes…’

     ‘I’m an accountant.’  Link blurted.

     ‘CPA?’

     ‘No.  Just an accountant.’

     ‘You might be perfect.  This is a good job, good pay and most importantly you don’t ever have to worry about being fired.  If you take it it’s a lifetime job.’

     ‘Who’s it with?’

     A firm called Statistical Tabulating Company.  It’s not an ordinary company.   They take a real interest in the lives of their employees.  Would you like to talk to them?’

     Lincoln Adams did talk to them.  He accepted the job.  The first thing they had done after a six month probationary period was to transfer him to St. Louis.  Link didn’t like it but he was in no position to refuse.  He had to take care of his Ginny.

     She was worth caring for.  She was a beautiful young woman just coming into her full womanly perfection as she approached the magical age of twenty.  She was truly in love with Link too, until…

     Through his muffled sobs Link heard a car door slam.  He looked at the clock.  Four-thirty in the morning.

     He went tothe door, opened it to find his beautiful Ginny staggering up the walk, drunk, dazed and confused, in a highly excited condition so blind she couldn’t actually see where she was going.  Link reached out to guide her.  She pulled her arm away in instinctive revulsion, growling under her breath.

     It was then that the full weight of pain, of self-loathing, of self-hate, oh god, oh god, it was as though a sledgehammer fell from the sky crushing the right side of his brain nearly paralyzing the right side of his face.  His Anima had also been assassinated.

     Pain!  There’s the excruciating pain of breaking bones, of crushing blows, of screaming anguish and then there’s the pain of psychic wounding.  The enervating, paralyzing numbness of knowing you have damaged and been damaged in ways that can never be repaired.

     For three days Ginny didn’t get out of bed or say a word.  For three days Link sat in his chair paralyzed as he sobbed quietly.  Physical pain could heal…but this?

     Then on the fourth day the doorbell rang.  Barely able to rouse himself Adams dragged himself to the door opening it a crack:  ‘You!’ He exclaimed.  ‘What do you want?’

     ‘May I come in?’  Dick Cole asked in his quiet controlled manner pushing the door open as he did.  ‘Are you alright?’

     Lincoln Adams looked at his recruiter through tear bleared eyes.

     ‘I came down from Chicago right away when they said there might be some problems.  Can I help?’  He cooed as though, no, he was,  he was  genuinely concerned.  He was a kindly man.  That’s why he had been chosen; he was the right man in the right job.

      ‘I…I…I don’t want this lifetime job anymore, Mr. Cole.  I’m turning in my resignation.’

     ‘I don’t think you understood properly, Link.  this is a lifetime job.  It’s yours for life whether you will or not now.’

     ‘I don’t want it for the rest of my life.’

     ‘There is no rest of your life beyond the tenure of this job, Link.  You have a lifetime contract.  Contracts are sacred in America.  The day you violate the contract they will exercise their option and terminate your life.  That’s what lifetime means.  The termination of your life is in their hands where you placed it.  Voluntarily I might add.  You didn’t have to take this job.’

     ‘But nobody told me that I would have to let them use my Ginny, my beautiful Ginny, as a prostitute.’

     ‘Well, there may have been certain details overlooked at the time but it’s so hard to mention everything.  Besides you must have realized there would be strings attached to guaranteed lifetime employment?  There’s no such thing as a free lunch, young man.’

     ‘But they must have done horrible things to her.  You should have seen her and now she won’t even recognize me.  She just turns away and stares at the wall.’

     ‘I know, I know.  It’s awfully hard on them the first time but they get used to it, learn to enjoy it.  If it’s any comfort to you they really liked her.  They thought she was beautiful too.  After an injection and she was relaxed I can assure you she seemed quite gay.’

     ‘Injection?’

     ‘Yes.  A little heroin make them more pliable and, of course, a habit guarantees compliance.’

     ‘A heroin habit?  My Ginny?  Besides we can’t afford that.’

     ‘We’ve taken that into consideration Link.  There’s no reason you should be burdened by the expense.  I’ll tell you what we’ll do.  We’ll take Ginny off your hands taking the financial burden ourselves.’

     ‘What?  You’re going to take her from me?  But she’s my wife, you can’t just take her.’

     ‘You’re right Link.  That would be theft.  Here, I’m authorized to give you two thousand dollars for her to make everything legal.  I’ll just go get her.  And Link, you’re expected to be back on the job tomorrow.  Be there or be square.’  Dick Cole said with a chuckle.

     Lincoln Adams was too stunned, too confused, too paralyzed by guilt to object as Dick Cole led Ginny past him from the house.

     Ginny passes out of the story now.  Several years later in 1962 Link and the whole St. Louis office was transferred from St. Louis to San Francisco.  Tabulating cards were not becoming passe as the new computers muscled in on information storage and retrieval.

     The Outfit was always on the cutting edge of technology.  Oh yes, If you haven’t already guessed Lincoln Adams was employed by the Chicago Mob, the Outfit.  The organization was now fronted by the most repulsive of its thugs, Sam Giancana.

     Just as Dick Cole had learned to accommodate himself to his enslavement by the Mob so Lincoln Adams had attempted to sublimate his enslavement.  For that is what the lifetime job meant.  Both men had sold themselves to the Mob in the exact same way an ancient Greek debtor sold himself into slavery.

     However his betrayal and the loss of Ginny was like a knot of asphalt forever lying in the pit of his stomach.  His feeling of guilt and shame was too immense for him to psychologically digest.  He wanted to vomit it all over someone else; pass the monkey from his back to another’s.  Intellectually he believed this psychologically impossible feat was possible.

     At the beginning of 1963 Dewey Trueman walked into the office of Stat Tab looking for a job.  Lincoln Adams took one look at Trueman and recognized the man he intended to dump on.  There was something in the sorrowful hangdog expression on Trueman’s face, that in his posture that expressed a resigned hopelessness and a muted fear that indicated to Adams that he would be successful in passing his burden on. 

     He controlled his excitement as he casually interviewed him.  He asked Trueman if he was married.  When Trueman replied no but that he was engaged with the marriage set for September when he would need time off for a honeymoon.  Adams actually relaxed closing his eyes as he leaned back in his chair in relief.

     The applicant got the job.

     Trueman went to work attempting to settle into the job.  He was taken back by the mysterious way the company did business.  His office headed a long row of cubicles on each side of an aisle not unlike a prison block.  I guess if you’re in the Mob certain architectural details you’re familiar with stick in the mind.  The cubicles were occuped by ten ‘salesmen.’  All Anglos.  As salesmen however they never left the office to sell nor did they ever obtain any sales.  They merely sat at their desks waiting.  From time to time one, two or three phones rang and the corresponding number of salesmen got up looking very tough, adjusting their clothing, then marching out in a very determined way not exactly befitting a pesuasive sales demeanor.

     As an accountant Dewey was mystified how a company with so few accounts could maintain such a large staff.  Even then he was never able to find any of the accounts in the phone book.

     Even the computer technicians seemed peculiarly inept acting almost as though they’d never seen a computer before.  Of course, in those days computers were a new phenomenon.  Few people had any experience with them while fewer still could be said to have an intimate knowledge of them.

     Dewey was pondering all this one day as he sat eating his lunch in a nearby hamburger shop.  San Francisco had a knack with food, even simple food like a hamburger, which couldn’t really be found anywhere else in the country.  Even though he was not well traveled Dewey knew he was getting hamburgers such as he would never enjoy again.

     Back to the point, having finished his lunch he stepped out from the door from which he could see the entrance to his office.  As he looked he saw Capt. Richard Walker leaving the building with a satisfied air.  Walker had been Trueman’s employer at Overseas Shipping, his last job.  Dewey had left voluntarily but with indications that he was no longer wanted.

     Capt. Walker had visited Stat Tab to tell them that Dewey had absconded with $20,000.  This was an absurdity as well as a lie as Trueman had stolen nothing and wouldn’t be working at Stat Tab if he had.  Twenty thousand was a lot of money in those days.  Four or five times Dewey’s annual salary.  What Trueman had done was uncover a scheme in which about $20,ooo a voyage was being skimmed from overcharges by Capt. Walker and his clique in the office.  That was $20,000 a voyage and overseas ran twenty-two voyages a year.

     Capt. Walker fearing exposure although none in fact was possible from Dewey’s quarter was intent on hounding Trueman out of San Francisco.  His intent at Stat Tab naturally was to get Trueman fired.

     Unaware of the situation that Stat Tab was a Mob front and unaware that Trueman’s situation as he told it now exactly paralleled that of Lincoln Adams, his interview had the opposite result he intended.  As Adams and his boss believed Capt. Walker who was a very impressive man well practiced at appearing impressive as any sea captain must Adams now could feel Trueman was in his power.  He realized now that it was impossible for Trueman to quit.  Thus he formulated a plan.

     For his part Trueman gradually came to understand that he was employed by the Chicago Outfit.  His contact in the Chicago office was none other than Dick Cole.  Cole was the same genial man with a confidence inspiring manner of speaking.  Still, there was something guarded in his manner while he would never answer the questions that puzzled Trueman.

     Then it was announced that the owner, Luigi Bigwini, was to make his annual inspection tour on June 18th.  This was a big deal.  The Mafia was able to get labor to do what they objected to anywhere else without a complaint.  On the key day Trueman and the salesmen were stood at attention outside their cubicles as though soldiers on parade.

     Bigwini himself was out of central casting; in fact he might have been rejected for being too authentic, nearly a caricature.  He was a short homely Mafioso wielding a big cigar- big fat long cigar- almost as big as he was.  He spoke in that gruff throaty tone like any good fella of the movies.  Strangely he projected a strong aura of someone who wanted to be liked.

     Dewey responded to this stepping forward to pat Bigwini on the shoulder.  The salesmen’s head turned in amazement while Adams and his boss, Ralph Schlesinger, gulped in anticipation of Bigwini’s response.  Trueman was still on the outside.  He worked for Stat Tab but wasn’t on the payroll of the outfit.  Bigwini was flattered by the response marking Trueman as a possible comer in the Dick Cole mold.

     After Bigwini’s visit things changed for Trueman .  Bigwini on his return to Chicago recommended Trueman to Dick Cole.  Cole’s attitude change to Trueman reached Adams.

     Emboldened by he belief that Trueman was a thief who couldn’t affort do quit he began demanding that Trueman stay on the job until seven-thirty at night while demanding he come in on Saturday mornings.

     Trueman lived in the East Bay city of Hayward which was an hour and a half trip by bus so working late would eliminate his chances of seeing his fiance during the week while ruining his weekend.  Dewey complained that he wouldn’t be able to see his girl but Adams only smiled.

     Dewey knew he couldn’t quit but for different reasons than Adams thought.  His previous job had lasted only nine months while his job before had been two years.  He realized that having been referred to a company like Stat Tab by the employment agency meant Capt. Walker had already sabotaged his reputation.  He knew he was in deep but hoped that if he held on for two years he would be able to move.

      As his wedding date drew near word came from Chicago to offer him a lifetime job.  Since June 18th Dewey had put a lot of twos together, he was well beyond four.  He now realized why the salesmen never left the office to sell.  He understood the grim look on their faces as they went off to persuade their victims.  Both Vegas and Stateline as well as Reno provided a number of people who had to be persuaded to pay their gambling debts.

     Trueman had made a very good impression on both Dick Cole and Bigwini so they realized that the offer of a lifetime job wold have to come from someone other than the basic thug.

     They selected a member named Herb Allen.  Herb was a literary type who was writing a crime novel.  He now became friendly with Trueman.  If he could succeed as a recruiter that would give him more stature and security within the Outfit.  He himself was more hangdog than Trueman with the reason Adams had.  In time he might have become as suave as Dick Cole.

     Aware of his own precarious situation Trueman listened with bated breath as Allen outlined the lifetime job.  Over the years the Outfit had become a little more sophisticated outlining some of the pitfalls.

     ‘If you accept,’  Allen said.  ‘You’ve got to remember you have to give something for something you get.  Once you’re in you can’t quit.  You belong to the Outfit for life.’

     He cast an inquiring look at Trueman.

     Trueman’s immediate response was no but he wanted to make it look like he was deliberating so after looking at the ceiling for a few moments, inspecting each corner of the room he said:  ‘Hmm.  Sounds interesting.  Can I think about it for a day or two, talk it over with my fiancee?’

     ‘Oh, and one other thing.’  Alled ruefully said.  ‘Once you’re in your wife is in.  They might want to borrow her for an evening every now and then.’  Allen passed his hand across his brow rubbing the left side as he thought of the times his wife had been ‘borrowed.’

     Dewey looked at him reflectively for quite a while as he let the enormity of the suggestion penetrate his mind.  Slowly he realized that he was to allow his wife to be protituted.  That he was to be his own wife’s pimp.

     ‘That’s out of the question, Herb.’  He said sotto voce realizing the extremely dangerous situation Capt. Walker had gotten him into.  He realized there was no difference between Capt. Walker and Luigi Bigwini except the surface sheen.  Bigwini was probably the better man and more honest.

     ‘Well, you think about it, Dewey.’  Herb said.

     ‘I don’t have to think about it, Herb.  It’s out of the question.  I don’t want a lifetime job.’

     When his reply got back to Lincoln Adams Link sat quietly rearranging his plans.  In his mind’s eye he had seen himslef taking first dibs on Trueman’s wife.  He wanted to see Trueman suffer the same anguish he had suffered.  He didn’t want the guilt and shame of selling Ginny anymore.  He wanted to pass it on, he wanted it shared.  He was disappointed that Trueman had declined the lifetime job but he should have quit at the same time.  Adams therefore still had a card up his sleeve.

     Trueman married, honeymooning on Mt. Lassen at the South end of the Cascades.  The Outfit had connections everywhere.  Adams had one of his men siphon battery acid out of the battery of Trueman’s car.  On the return trip the battery meter fluctuated wildly from discharge to charge.  Pulling into a dealership in Eureka Trueman was fortunate enough to find an honest repairman who put water in the battery sending him on his way with no charge.

      Adams had hoped and Trueman had feared the cost would break him.  On the day of Trueman’s return Adams nailed Trueman as he entered the office telling him he was fired, just turn around and leave.

        If Adams had expected Trueman to beg for his job thus allowing Adams to bring him into the control of the Outfit he was mistaken; Trueman just turned around and left.

     As he had been in the same situation as a young man Adams slandered Trueman unmercifully but that has nothing to do with our story.

     The story resumes two years later at the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  For whatever reasons, the outfit had the San Francisco ofice of Stat Tab closed at the end of 1964 with the lifetime employees being dispersed.  Lincoln Adams was reassigned to the Cal-Neva.

     While Gus Russo in his book ‘The Outfit’ describes the Cal-Neva as some sort of very profitable plum it was nothing of the sort.  The resort is situated in the perpetual shadow of mountains both East and West.  The place was grim and foreboding.  Further the place was situatied at the North End of Lake Tahoe to which there was no other reason to go.  Harrah’s and Harvey’s at the South End were the places to go followed by the invasion of the Las Vegas mob with the erection of the Sahara about this time.  The Sahara was so obviously mobbed up that it stood a poor third to Harrah’s and Harvey’s.

     Adams himself was bumked up in a huge Mafia compound on the East Side of the lake a few miles above the South End.  Large numbers of mobsters were coming and going at all times from the compound which blighted the East Side if not the entire lake.

     Adams might have been able to settle in without too much discomfort but for the fact that Chuckie Ulsio took a visceral dislike to him.  Chuckie thought that for an Anglo Adams put on airs.  Chuckie decided to put Adams in his place.

     Now, these mobsters not only had a license to kill but being more enamored of the physical rather than the intellectual they took advantage of body building methods to become not only big but bulked up with bulging muscles.  If as Arnold Schwarzenegger said:  A good pump is better than sex some of these guys were well prepared to forego women.

     Chuckie’s sidekick Angie Penisio although only five-five had shoulders and chest nearly equal to his height.

     So, one day Chuckie blocked a door Adams was trying to pass through; ‘Back inside punk.’  Chuckie sneered.  ‘We got somethin’ to talk about.’  Angie followed him in closing the door behind him.  Adams gulped being now confronted by the Incredible Hulk and the Near Incredible Hulk.

     ‘I don’t like your attitude around here, Adams.  I mean, you don’t show enough respect.’  Chuckie said planting the very broad expanse of his trousers on half the desk while angie stood leering cracking his knuckles.

     ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’  Adams began ass though talking man to man rather than slave to man.

     ‘That’s it, Adams.  Your tone of voice ain’t submissive enough.  You don’t cast your eyes down to the floor.  You walk around here like you won the place rather than being here on sufferance.’

     I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I work here.  I’m not a slave.’

     ‘What did you say?  You’re not a slave?  Then why don’t you try to quit your job?  I’ll tell you why.  Because we own you.  You give us any shit and they won’t ever find even the nail on your little finger.’

     Adams opened his mouth to say something but found he had nothing to say.  He realized that he was a slave.  Still he seized the hips of his pants hoising them up with a defiant:  ‘I’ve got my rights.’

     ‘No, you ain’t got no rights.  You’ve got obligations and duties whatever I say you do you do and you better hope I’m in a good mood when I say it.  Let me give you a little history lesson, Lincoln Adams.  Let me show you where the real power in this country lies.  Adamses may have founded this country and Lincoln may have freed the Negro slaves but we Sicilians have taken this country over and enslaved you pussy Anglos with all your stupid laws.

      Whe we Italians came to this dumb country, I mean America, you Anglos had the whip hand.  You treated us Italians, especially us Sicilians, like we was dirt beneath your feet.  We got all the shit work, the pick and shovel crap, while you Anglos kept all the cushy jobs in those big high rise offices to yourselfs.’

     Adams was going to interject that the Sicilians were illiterate and not qualified for anything but pick and shovel but then thought better of it.

     ‘But there was a flaw in your system.  You thought people are better than they are.  You tried to keep people from their natural tastes like gambling and whoring.  Prohibition.  What kind of fools do you think try to keep people from doing what they want?…That’s the question Adams.  I need an answer.’

     ‘I don’t know.’

     ‘The correct answer is:  Dumb shit Anglos like us.  Say it.’

     Adams writhed but with an eye on Angie said:  ‘Dumb shit Anglos like us.’

     ‘Yeah.  That’s right.  Dumb shit Anglos like you.  We ain’t as dumb as you think just because we don’t waste the best yers of our lives shut up in stupid schools that don’t teach you nothin’ about livin’.  You left the field wide open and we stepped in.  We got the money and power and we call the shots.  I’m going to tell you something few people, even in our world, know.  You think some loony named Oswald shot Kennedy, don’t you?  Uh huh.  It was us.  You know why?  Because those asshole Kennedys double crossed us.

     In 1959, Joe Kennedy, the old man, comes to Chicago to inplore our boys to get his boy Jack elected President of the United States of America.  We thought it would be the next best thing to having one of ours in the Oval Office.  If Jack Kennedy then why not Bill Bonano, huh?  That’s what we couldn’t figure out.  What makes Kennedy legit and Bonano not.  Figure that one out, hey?

     So we got this bootlegger’s son elected.  We voted the graveyards so many time in Chicago those old bones turned to dust.  We provided that asshole with his margin of victory.  So what does the little shit do?  He sics his brother Bobby on us.  Makes him the Attorney General.  What a double cross.  But we got him good.  Not only does he catch a couple slugs but before he does we humiliate him so bad he almost pushed the Red Button in anger.  The asshole didn’t know whether he was coming or going.’

     Adams interest was piqued.  He raised his eyebrows inquiringly.

     ‘You ever heard of Marilyn Monroe?  Well Jack and Bobby was both fucking her only I don’t know if Jack knows Bobby’s getting some too.

     You remember when Monroe goes on TV singing that breathy Happy Birthday, Mr. President?  Well, Sam sees it too.  He gets an idea.  He says:  ‘If she’s good enough for the President of the United States she’s good enough for me.’

     So, the Rat Packers are a little off form now but then they were in top form.  Two of ours, Frank and Dean run this pack with the Jewboy, the one-eyed nigger and this Anglo pimp and gopher who they let hang around named Peter Lawford.  What’s this guy Lawford ever do but stand to one side either being ignored by the immigrants or being abused by them, his mouth hanging open waiting for orders just like you Adams.

     But this guy Lawford is married into the Kennedys so he’s some sort of pimp or go between between this Monroe broad and the President.  You see how good we are.  We share Lawford with the President of the United States and he knows to do what we say or he ain’t such a pretty boy anymore.  He’s our slave just like you, just all them tushes walking around makes you drool so much.  All Anglos, no Italians among ’em.  All Anglos tush.  We buy and sell ’em, trade ’em like baseball cards.  You know what I mean?’  He said looking at Adams sharply.

     Adams held back a guilty retch.  He knew.

     ‘So Sam and Frank have this Lawford guy bring this Monroe broad up here to the Cal-Neva for a fun weekend.  The Anglo pimp brings up his Anglo whore.  Get it?  Ha, Ha.  That’s funny.

     If Sam is sore at the Kennedy’s Frank is very unhappy too.  I mean, both these bust their ass to get this son-of-a-bitch elected.  Imagine Frank Sinatra pulls out the stops, brings Sam Giancana in, even organizes balls a and this…this more than a son-of-a-bitch says Frank can’t even attend the party because he’s a political liability.  Sam is so totally embarrassed y this thing that he has to do a real song and dance with Accardo and Ricca to survive.  For a minute there it looks like old Frankie boy is going to take a hit.

     Then Sam sees this Monroe broad singing Happy Birthday Dear Mr. President and it’s like a light bulb goes on in his head.

     Like eveybody knows Frank’s got Lawford by the hangers so he has ‘Petah’ bring Monroe up for the weekend.

     Before she even knows what’s happening they got her so zonked on downers she’s just a puppet.  I don’t personally approve of doing this to no broad myself figuring a good backhand to the chops gets the same results and they’re alert enough to put their hearts and souls into it or else but then Sam and Frank have got their own ideas.

     Jesus Christ, you should a seen it.  It was like they was banging the President himself.  Sam is banging her in the ass screaming:  ‘Take that you double crossing bastard.’ while Frank is laughing like a maniac shouting out:  ‘How does it feel?’  The poor broad is out of her senses so loaded with shit she can’t stop puking, later they had to pump her stomach to get some of the shit out there so she could go on breathing.  All in all Sam and Frank have themselves a very rewarding and entertaining evening.’

     ‘You sound almost like you seen it.’  Adam said ruefully.

     ‘I did see it.  Me and Lawford both of us.  Petah took the pictures they sent to the bastard.

      ‘How could you do that?’

     ‘Oh, you’re new here yet.  There is underground passages connecting all the huts, peep holes, doors in closets whole thing.  So we make Lawford watch this whole thing, take pictures, then send him back to tell Jack and Bobby with the snapshots.

     They go crazy, Jack especially.  A seek later this Monroe broad is back in LA but she is in depression like you wouldn’t believe.  I mean, she is destroyed.  She calls up her boyfriends to tell them to do something about it, like, you know, hit Frank and Sam, but they send this Lawford shit to tell her she is disgraced and they don’t want to have anymore to do with her.  Who could face life after that?  Maybe somebody does kill her, I don’t know.  But for myself I don’t see how she has any choice but to kill herself.  In a way I feel sorry for the broad.  That was a lot to take.

     So you see, Lincoln, I tell you these things so you know your position among us.  Think!  He was dishonored through his broad, Jack Kennedy took a shot a couple years ago.  None of our boys have been accused and they never will be. We elect Presidents by the ‘democratic’ process and we kill them with impunity.  Sam’s doin’ OK; Frank sings to sold out auditoriums.  Kennedy’s in his grave.  Know your place.  I don’t want to hear no more of this Chuckie crap.  I’m Mr. Ulsio to you.  Same goes for Angie.  Now get the hell out of here before I mop the floor with you.  Move!’