Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins. –Mark Twain
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART TWENTY-FOUR: THE FALL
How the Reverend John Otis Cross came to work fist in glove with two of the most pitiful rogues there ever was–Alderman Adam Tyler and Judge Rance Sniffle–is an interestin’ story.
The one who was mixed up in this most was Alderman Adam Tyler. At one time he was a good-looker and made all the ladies swoon with his yaller eyebrows and his yaller mustache and his spats and his cane and his oh-so-Dandy way of carrying himself, but as of late he had gained weight and become a bloated tub of lard with an unhealthy yaller complexion and thinning hair.
Alderman Tyler was very much a man who went looking for, and always found, the main chance.
You should of seen the way he collected graft from every likely business establishment in Noxtown. The bar-man at the Seven Stars would hand him a twenty–a week’s wages for an average workingman. The Cigar Store Man who kept a secret gambling den never gave him less than a hundred dollars a month; the massage parlor as was a front for prostitution also gave him a hundred; and the candy store where they peddled reefers and other dope to schoolkids gave him fifty. Because all were fair game for Tyler’s “collection service.”
Nor was Tyler too proud to “take it out in trade.” The old cobbler would mend his shoes for free. The man with the fruit stand would put aside a half dozen of his best oranges for the old rogue. Even the little shoeshine boy would pop his rag gratis over the sleek blonde devil’s pointy-toed loafers.
And so it was that after the Reverend John Otis Cross–and who knew where he came from or what church that rogue claimed to be a part of?–gave his fire-eating speech, Adam Tyler ups to him and says, “That was some mighty fine preaching there, Rev’rund, best I’ve heerd in these parts on a Coon’s age, and I must say as Alderman of this district, I couldn’t agree more with what you said.”
Y’see, he figured he’d give this troublesome pastor a soft line of soap–some patter– tommyrot and lobscouse, and dandy-funk, and soup-and-bullion–and the Holy Joe would fall into line and eat it all right up, yum. Which is more or less what happened.
Later on, after the newspaper article appeared, Tyler got together with Judge Rance Sniffle in the back room of Feist’s Cigar Store. I just happened to be privy to their palaver, which happened to take place on a Saturday night. “We is got to do something,” said Judge Rance Sniffle, “about that meddling Rev Runt. Hack, kumpf. Who will rid us,” he said magniloquently, “of this turbulent priest?”
“Give the Yob enough rope,” says Tyler, “Give him enough rope and he will assuredly hang himself.”
“Hack, kumpf,” says the Judge. “Well and good, my friend, well and good, but a bad egg like that can upset the whole apple cart. The newspapers in this town–” and he stopped and looked around, as though he expected to see a reporter lurking in the arras–“The newspapers in this town are mostly solid, but that Chronicker rag is desperate to steal a march on the competition, and doesn’t much care what they print, and I haven’t really found a way to get to them, because the crazy new owner is a bald-headed old goat who must come from money because he doesn’t care that the City has yanked all its ads from his lousy birdcage-liner.”
“I’ve seen the likes of his kind. Pretty soon he’ll get bored with his petty little vice crusade. In the meantime, we can help matters along by killing the Reverend.”
“Hack, kumpf,” says the Judge, “Just a minute. I–“
“Killing him…with kindness. The Child of God is not a very worldly man. S’matter of fact, I think he’s a bit off his nut. You know–coo-coo in the head. Queer. Bats in the belfry. I think that all he needs is some tender loving care and very soon he might be induced to come around to our way of thinking.”
“Hack, kumpf,” says the Judge. “Do you think it’s wise to tamper with this, this pestiferous paladin?”
“Listen, Judge, the plan is simple and it’s foolproof too. Give that runty Reverend a taste of the red light district is what I think. Let him see just what kind of a sink of iniquity it really is. I’ve seen this type before. College-edjucated. Thinks he knows it all.Thinks he shits chocolate ice cream. A prig, a blowhard, a smart-aleck and a miserable little frightened man who thinks he’s a dern sight better than me and thee.”
“Hack, kumpf,” says the Judge. “What’s in it for us?”
“There’s a consideration, ain’t it?” said Tyler. “Well, first off, he’ll be obligated to me for this tour of hell. Second off, the sanctimonious son of a bitch is a dead cert to take it into his damn fool noggin to go off on his own head of steam and sample the night-life for his own self. He might even make a crusadin’ fool of hisself by barging into the fleshpots and attempting to turn one of the girls. Wouldn’t that be rich! And wouldn’t just serve him right, too–if he got caught in the toils of his own wide net. I’m telling you, the sap is an idjit–as simpleminded as a child. Gulling that sucker would about as easy as knockin’ a sick baby off’n the piss-pot.”
And so it was that somehow, between the two of the rogues, they contrived to give the good Reverend Cross a tour of all the vice districts so the innocent Sky Pilot could see for hisself the awful depredations visited nightly upon innocent menfolk by the Scarlet Women of Noxtown.
The gen was to set up the Rev with a harlot he couldn’t shake off. They knowed the rozzers would never say Boo to the Vice Racket because they stood to profit from every fish and finger pie. They figured they’d catch the Rev in flagrante delicto and then blackmail and embarrass him into leaving town–the old Badger Game.
But it backfired because the Rev was a not as dumb as he looked. I’m thinking he must of been a bit of a rogue his own self who wasn’t born yesterday and so the Rev was maybe wise to that gaff and accused Sweet Molly of solicitin.’ Which was when all the fuss with Tyler and Red Mary and the police sergeant came about.
And that’s when my sorrows truly began.
MAP OF SEVEN DEADLY SINS IN AMERICA
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
CONCENTRATION OF AMERICAN WEALTH
6* DAILY UTILITY
ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY
WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE TO A SOCIAL NETWORK
What was the creepy snowman doing so close to the house? Looking for the finest life he could find.
THE HIDDEN RHYTHM OF EVOLUTION
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
BERT SKIPNY TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
I love me some TV, it’s a lot like America
So loud and full of brass and buy now
Pay later, or never at all. We’re paying now.
We adore images, we like the spectacle
Of speed and size, the working of prodigious
Systems. So on television we watched
That terrible indebtedness, hanging over us
Like a dull roar of riot police
Dispersing the riff raff from the premises.
The terrible spectacle, repetitiously gazing
Until we were sick not only of the sight
Of our prodigious systems turned against us
But hey presto! Guess what! We are the riff raff
And next time it’ll be us. There will be no warning.
There is no firmament. The next time is now.
But of the very systems of our watching.
The date became a word, an anniversary
That we inscribed with meanings–who keep so few,
Because let’s face it–we’re a bunch of hogs.
Chow-hounds, liver lips, greasers, inveterate
Consumers of declasse fried foods, vulgarians.
More likely to name an airport for an actor
Or athlete than “First of May” or “Fourth of July.”
In the movies we dream up, our captured heroes
(Present company excluded.) Who am I?
It’s just that little old unacknowledged legislator, me
Turning profundities into banalities…
Tell the interrogator their commanding officer’s name
Is Colonel Donald Duck–he writes it down, code
Of a lowbrow memory so assured it’s nearly…uhh…
…And vice versa. Have I got the yahoos suckered? Uh-huh.
Some say that animals in a forest fire run into the flames.
Well, I say they’re crispy critters and I say to hell with them.
…Aristocratic. Some say the doomed firefighters
Before they hurried into the doomed towers wrote
Their Social Security numbers on their forearms….
(You see, in spite of my mandarin pretensions,
I’m plain folks–Just like you. You shall
Know me by my trail of pop culture references….
…Easy to imagine them kidding about it a little,
As if they were filling out some workday form.
Will Rogers was a Cherokee, a survivor
…Rondo Hatton. Efram Zimbalist, Junior. Dagmar.
Am I a smart guy, or what?) I was born
65 years after Lincoln died and 65 years ago today….
…Of expropriation. A roper, a card. For some,
A hero. He had turned sixteen the year
That Frederick Douglass died. Douglass was twelve
…Spooky, huh? Walt Disney said he loved Mickey Mouse
More than any woman he had ever known. When I quote these facts
They are meant to be perceived as profound….
…When Emily Dickinson was born. Is even Donald
Half-forgotten?–Who are the Americans, not
A people by blood or religion? As it turned out…
…Don’t you get it? I am the quintessential American.
The broken rhythm of this verse is meant
To symbolize this great land sundered…
…The donated blood not needed, except as meaning.
And on the other side that morning the guy
Who shaved off all his body hair and screamed…
…(Fancy word) by tragedies of our own making and some
That the other fellers made. You know. Those dark races.
The Arabs the British swindled out of their oil….
…The name of God with his boxcutter in his hand.
O Americans–as Marianne Moore would say,
Whence is our courage? Is what holds us together…
…Why us? We ain’t got no dog in this fight,
As Mark Twain said, or maybe it was Huey Long.
One of those guys. It all blurs together. I know too much…
…A gluttonous dreamy thriving? Whence our being?
In the dark roots of our music, impudent and profound?–
Or in the Eighteenth Century clarities…
…And remember too little. Such is the price we pay
For erudition, we men of letters. This is one
Long poem. Maybe I’d better condense….
…And mystic Masonic totems of the Founders:
The Eye of the Pyramid watching over us,
Hexagram of Stars protecting the Eagle’s head…
…Founding fathers. Mystic chords of memory.
Home of the free. I lift my lantern.
Pay any price, bear any burden. Nuts….
…From terror of pox, from plague and radiation.
And if they blow up the Statue of Liberty–
Then the survivors might likely in grief, terror
Pretty cheap trick, I know. But when the master does it
It’s brilliant. Don’t call it plagiarism–
It’s bricolage–a post-modern device…
…And excess build a dozen more, or produce
A catchy song about it, its meaning as beyond
Meaning as those symbols, or Ray Charles singing “America…
…That I, most brilliant of the poet laureates
Am boldly introducing to the genre of occasional verse.
Lift up your hearts and sing. There’s flies on you…
…The Beautiful.” Alabaster cities, amber waves,
Purple majesty. The back-up singers in sequins
And high heels for a performance–or in the studio
There’s flies on him. There ain’t no flies on Skipny.
Sure, I’m something of a bunco artist, I admit it.
And therein lies my greatness and my charm. Amen.
…In sneakers and headphones, engineers at soundboards,
Musicians, all concentrating, faces as grave
With purpose as the Harbor Statue herself.
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 722.
Caspar, The Friendly Fetus probably wouldn’t have made it as a concept.
“But to all those scofflaws of God it would have proved that the Unborn have souls.”–RMS