WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART TWENTY-ONE: THE FALL
I think I told you earlier how Smash Conklin was a errand boy and bruiser for the criminal class, and about how they used him for a variety of jobs; to keep guntzels in line and on the straight and narrow; to put the strong arm on petty criminals who worked a territory without permission; to stand straight and tall and look menacing inside the beer gardens and poolrooms where they conducted most of their business.
It was at about that time that I began to get all kinds of peculiar notions in my head about what I might be able to do if I had Smash Conklin in my clutches. Aside from smashing him on the conk with a rock, I couldn’t puzzle out how to get him out of my way. I knew that if I played the beefer and got back at him on the snyde and spread ugly rumors about some of his doings, word would get back to him that I was the source, and he would pay me back manifold. But it was worth thinking about all the same, and it was then that Conkllin began getting into my head and I began thinking about him morning, noon and night. T’was not a consummation devoutly to be wished. Conklin was already half a bakehead. But Tipsy Smith wouldn’t work the Mickey. The Soiled Doves at Red Mary’s were scared silly of him. But I had an in with the hoboes who lived in the jungle not far from the Central Switchyard hard by the Cannery. They all knew him as a one-eyed Connolly; the terror of tramps the country over, from Stew Junction to the Sow Belly Hack Line, from Lousy Anna to Bridgeport, and points East: he would ride the blind baggage and rob them blind on the Broken & Maimed, the Apple Butter Route; and The Whiskey Railroad; he’d frisk a drag and harry them from the Cough and Snort to To Hell and Back; The Bum’s Own; and the John Brown Division. “What Are You Going To Do About It?” roared he when some old Stewbum would plead for a break. As a result, bindlestiffs hated him with a blind passion; even worse than the most poisonous yard bull. He warn’t back’ard; if an appleknocker didn’t have any Pretty Polly or case dough, Uglyface would maul him something fierce and and steal his shoes and hat. Many a barefoot and bareheaded tramp or bundle tosser was known to have gotten the Conklin Treatment. He’d even steal the crum roll from the lowest sort of grease ball or ding bat if he had a mind to, and leave him without’n so much as a dace. He had no mercy for a moocher or a moper and would often give such as he found a kick in the rump just on gen’ral principle.
Nor did this high jacket confine his tender ministrations to heisers or tramps on the road; loochers on the stem knew him for a lush roller and a dead picker. They had all kinds names which were ways of describing him; they called him the fat Bluto; the blubber-belly; the bellerin’ fool; the slubdegullion; the young fool-killer; the black-hearted behemoth; Mr. Strange; The Servant-Girl Annihilator; The Werdlyng. They themselves spread all sorts of strange rumors and legends about him; that he started as a lamb and became a guntsel his own self; that he killed a man in a brawl in Cincy and was on the lam; that he murdered small children in the shape of a wolf; that he iced a few dozen Prostys down in old Mex–but not one of these stories was true, far as I knew. I heerd from a most reliable source that he was in fact the son of a fat and prosperous butcher and a corn-fed milkmaid; grew up on a ranch the first twenty years of his life but fell in with the bad city crowd and became a rounder.
It was there in Noxtown that Conklin fell into the respective clutches of Adam Tyler, the Alderman; Tom Aston, the Police Captain; Beauregard “Beau Nasty” Nash, the vice lord; and Coach Crump, the real-estate man. For Alderman Tyler he would act as a shadow for the toff; also, Conklin would stand out in front at the polling stations at election time to discourage the wrong sort of voter–meaning anyone who didn’t cast their ballot for the machine candidate; he would stand by and listen for any loose talk from the menfolk who frequented the cigar shops which were mostly fronts for gambling hells; he would stand by silently while Tyler got his daily shave at the Hotel Commodore. For Captain Aston he would squelch the play of any outside gangs who was planning a job or would play along and look chickee if the operation was sanctioned. Aston deputized him so as, as the joke went, he could arrest himself for drunk and disorderly, check himself in for the night at the crowbar hotel, then let himself loose in the mornings after sleeping it off. For Beau Nasty the pimp and Coach Crump he worked as a strongarm man and general sort of enforcer and was known far and wide as the terror of Jivetown. You ever hear that song “I’m going back to Jivetown?”
Well, rumor has it that the blues men on the street corners was singin’ that song about Coach Crump, the real estate man, and his general factotum, none other than Smash Conklin.
Picture it, Yob: The cold but not bitter night–the setting sun–the rain-slicked sidewalk–the indifferent crowd–tired adults with their sleepy children–smell of brewing snow—looming chill–clack and shuffle of weary shoes.
I’m going back to Jivetown
I’m going back to Jivetown
Lookin for the bully hound
Lookin for that bully hound
He better stop kickin my old dog down
The people will come from miles around
To see that great ship go aground
Give up the ghost without a sound
And the Yellofs in Jivetown knowed him by many names. They called him The Bad Man; Beelzeblubber; Mr. Bad Jive; Mr. Jive Boodle; The Home Guard; Sir Dog Leg. It wasn’t often that any but the most green Yob would wander weaponless in Jivetown, but such was the reputation of Uglyface Smash Conklin that he could do it and get away with it; no man dast challenge him, left he get on the wrong side of Tyler or Aston or Nash or Crump. They were like an Olympus of bad actors; Aston could call down the thunder and lightning; Tyler could make the deep sea moan; Crump could make the grass grow in the streets and Nash had the power to make men fight each other over women. And Conklin was like their Mercury, spreading pretty little seeds of hate and war. How do you get back at a man like that? One who works for the men who are under the protection of The Big Man? Let me tell you, Yob–you don’t. Even a gay cat such as myself knew that you don’t monkey around in the skunk works and you don’t step on the elephant’s toes or otherwise that’s the last elephant whose toes you’ll ever step on. Remember, Yob: The human heart is never completely free for darkness is greedy. Darkness drags down the soul. Darkness likes prison bars. The passionate heart never ceases to rage. But solitude makes for madness. Silence is the sister of death. And Hate is a reckoning of an ancient evil.
THE ONE WAY STREETS
JACK THE RIPPER
THE HARVARD CLASSICS ONLINE
AN ALPHABET OF BOOKS
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
J.P. MORGAN TWITTER Q&A
6* DAILY UTILITY
SPIN TOP 100 ALTERNATIVE ALBUMS OF THE 1960S
DC VS. MARVEL
Not that I completely agree…but an interesting theory all the same.
16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here
JFK: CIA & NYT ARE STILL LYING TO US
Fiction, Propaganda and the Media : The JFK Assassination
JFK ASSASSINATION FAQ
A WORD IN FAVOR OF JFK CONSPIRACY THEORIES
THE BEACH BOYS
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
All hail the Thanksgiving Day Parade, in which the totemic animals are merely three-dimensional representations of the figures etched upon the walls of the Caves at Lascaux. What is the celebrated Thanksgiving Day Parade, in fact, if not an array of totemic arcana, mostly honoring long-forgotten cartoon characters– many of which originated as childish versions of adult fare, designed to habituate children to accept the conventions of mass entertainment? This grotesque spectacle is, God help us, the closest thing America has to a national carnival, in which figures of great insignificance are promoted to an outsized status befitting legendary figures. In just this way we see that the past century has been primarily devoted to the debasement and commodification of every myth which ever dared us to be great.
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 719.
THE LAST WORD ON THE JFK CONSPIRACY
OK, OK. I confess. I did it. But I was only six, and Oswald had to help me out with the bolt action. As for the shots fired from the grassy knoll, I had nothing to do with that. You can’t pin that on me!