“We’re all cheats and liars, really. And the novelist can show just how and why.” —James Jones
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART ELEVEN: THE FALL
Back when I was your age, Yob—about thirteen—a punk kid–I was getting on to be quite a young man, and of course I thought I knew better, and I paid me no heed to women folk as said I ought to be good and go to school and steer myself clear of bad companions and all that palaver.
When you get to be that age, as you probably well know, growed-up people appear stupid and almost less than human, and the rot that seeps from out of their pie-holes seems pitiable and always always wrong. Why WOULDN’T any red-blooded boy want to hang out with the low-lifes, the rebels, the cripples and the queer ones? They were the most interesting people around, and at that age you have a strong hankering to see the world in all its glories and defeats and learn its ways, however rotten and riotous. The one thing you don’t want ner need is to hang about with the sanctimonious crew, with their Bible-thumping and watered-down ginger-beer and their holier-than-thou preachments. Little mummies, they be; old men in training; silly cardboard people who play with paper dolls instead of going out into the world and viewing life as people live it.
I didn’t know then that to hob-nob with the underworld people would mean a bad reputation and that folks will allus talk and a lad can be a bit of a tearaway and people will wink but that if you spend too much time with the bad crowd then pretty soon you begin to adopt all their outlook on life and your mind is crippled with bad thoughts and you have no faith in any man but only see them for what they do–through the lens of what’s in it for them–and pretty soon your own actions become What’s In It For Me.
But this don’t happen all at once. The mind is a terrible thing, Yob; it can fool its owner–you yourself–much more easy than it can be used to make a fool of another different man. You can tell a lie and never get caught only to yourself alone.
So you tell yourself, well, I’m only hanging about with The Bad Crowd so I can put the skids on Smash Conklin, because he has gone back to plaguing Red Mary, who for all her faults, her terrible drinking and her scary madness, was the closest thing to a mother I ever had.
I must have been slowly going mad myself, when I think back on it. Early in the morning when nobody was looking I had taken to polishing off the half-finished drinks of the sporting men and whoremongers and all too soon I had developed quite a taste for the hard stuff myself. Now, back in them days, most every kiddie took a sip or two of Paw’s beer when he rushed the growler on Saturday night; nobody thought much about it one way or t’other; t’weren’t no big thing, but not many small boys was in the habit of knocking off shots of raw whiskey like I grew to be.
It was a different world back then; most everyone was on the dope in one way or another. Never me, though; for a reason I’ll tell you later. But the Ladies of Joy in the whorehouse was all a slave to one kind of bad habit or t’other, though Red Mary tried to get the girls to show some restraint and use the stuff only in the privacy of their rooms. When you set out to stupefy yourself, I learned, t’was always best to have some form of privacy anyway, because that’s when you’re at your most vulnerable. It wouldn’t surprise me if when cavemen got foozled they would go all the way to the back of the cave and snooze it off while they was out of the eyeshot and the clubbing range of the other drunken Club Men.
Many of them gals back then was very fond of chloral. They’d be unable to sleep on account of they drank so much, so they would take chloral to knock themselves out and before too long they wouldn’t be able to sleep at all without them taking larger and larger doses of the awful stuff.
One or two of the more fortunate whores grew very fond instead of Piso’s Cure, which was a tincture of cannabis indica, and was generally strong enough to knock ‘em right out after a hard night of whorin’.
Some of ‘em took to the chloroform, and others, still worse, to the ether, though mostly they sniffed it; very few actually drank the stuff, and if they did, they didn’t last long; Red Mary hated the stuff because you could smell an ether user clear across town and snuffing it just once made you uncommon stupid; like a drunkard, only ten times so. The whores on ether would start out with red cheeks and shiny hair and looking for all the world like bright and beautiful maidens. Once they truly started in, however, their faces would grow blotchy and rugged-looking and you could start to see to the bones of their skull ‘neath the hollows of their haunted black eyes. Something of the fury in those lively eyes was taken away for good and all once they started using the nauseating stuff, and they would present only a dull and lifeless face to all their clientele.
You see, whores was none too smart to begin with, else they would of found some Square John who would feed and water ‘em–and quit earning their living on their backs—and many of the smarter ones did—but the ones who got sunk in drink and dissipation was doomed to a tragic and early end, and for many of them the end came because they wanted it to and not out of any accident.
You would think that growing up in such a place would make me want to go to school and learn my lessons and the rule of three—but there you would be mistaken. The darker the world around me was revealed to be, the more I liked it and the more I wanted to learn about it—the darkness of it most of all. And it wouldn’t be too long before I’d get my wish—in spades.
BOOKLESS LIBRARY OPENS IN TEXAS
1899 HORSEY HORSELESS
DC’S WAR ON EVERYBODY
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS YET TO COME
6* DAILY UTILITY
12 MOST AWFUL PRODUCTS MADE MY MONSANTO
FOURTEEN ODDBALL REASONS YOU’RE NOT DEAD YET
HITLER IN HOLLYWOOD
CARTOON GUIDE TO ASSAD
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
MAD MEN, SEASON SEVEN
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 709.
THE FRENCH HUGUENOT MENACE!
Far too little mention has been made of the French Huguenot menace. The DuPonts, who dominate chemicals and Delaware? HUGUENOTS! The Purdues, who run the military-industrial-battery chicken complex? HUGUENOTS! Who were responsible for importing South African wines into the United States? HUGUENOTS! Apartheid and Krueggerands! Free Nelson Mandela!! And–most sinister of all–who dominates the Irish Lace industry? HUGUENOTS! And who were the Kennedys? Lace-curtain Irish! Proof positive that HUGUENOTS were behind the Kennedy assassination!