#771 FEBRUARY 14, 2014
Copyright 2014 FRANCIS DIMENNO
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART THIRTY: THE FALL
He was a dreamy fella, was Peter Ketman the medicine show man, with flaxen red hair and a scanty red beard like the Underwood Devil on the canned ham label, always after invoking the fire of the sun and also the other spirits, usually Christian, generally by way of exclamations including God’s Word!, Jesu’s Blood!, and Mother’s Milk of the Holy Virgin Mary! These were not profane ejaculations but heartfelt spells. “Many people in Noxtown,” said Ketman, “believe in neither hell nor heaven, but among my tribe such men are few.” He would also intone such invocations as Abraxa Catabax! and Potmat Sineat! and Pontio Pilato! When I asked him the significance of these, he said they had none–“in the hands of an unbeliever. But a person who is in touch with the spirit force may, with words and gestures, draw down the spirits of the sun, the moon, and the blue sky itself to assist him.”
His return saw me once more kow-towing to the “Doc” and I was like a crazed barber with a hot towel looking art the master’s wants and needs and generally making a gobbling nuisance of myself when around him, and putting the kibosh on my usual back-sass and generally acting as though he was the greatest personage to grace those precincts since Teddy Roosevelt, and that every word that fell from his lips was like unto the Manna of the antient Hebrews.
Ketman had an animalistic look about him, and small wonder–folks say he had the right eye of a wolf sewn up in his right sleeve. I know for a fact that he also had various small but gaudy tattoos, of supernatural significance, which he took great pains to show to me. These, as I recollect, depicted on his right arm a green dragon, a crown, and a crucifix; on his right arm a lion, an elephant, a bearded man, and a sphinx; on his right leg a corpse, a dagger, and a globe; on his left leg an all-seeing eye, a phoenix, and a bell; and on his back from bottom to top he had a spider, a tiger riding in a one-hoss shay, a bear on a unicycle, a woman embracing three lengths of chain, a skull in a cobra’s basket, a mermaid, a coiled rattlesnake, and a pair of circling ravens on the back of each shoulder. “I have only to touch one of these emblems,” said he, “and wondrous cures and hexes can be effected. I don’t claim to cure cancer, but I can ease toothache with the sign of the cobra and soothe teething pains in babies with the sign of the elephant. Note the broken tusk? Like attracts to like, they always say. Homeopathic cures is good for those as believes in them, says I, but all I had to do is tell the widder woman on Lonely Street that she is under the protection of the sign of the bearded man–I don’t even have to show him to her–and, quick as a wink, she’s fast asleep for the first time since her hiccups and insomnia started, three days back. I don’t often show my flash to mere lads. These are powerful icons. If I thought you were setting up to be my enemy, I would never let you so much as even look at them.”
Me, personally, I wasn’t really quite that taken in by Ketman; I knew that as a root worker he was a bit of a phonus balonus, but I had a scheme to get back at Uglyface Smash Conklin and if that fraudulent Yellof Ketman could help me in any way I was willing to make a consarned ee-jit of myself. It was easy–Ketman had a yen for Red Mary and was ever the sly red fox allus looching about the henhouse where the ladies of pleasure, not yet biddies, clucked and strutted and transacted their venereal bidness.
I done all this–mooching around with Ketman–because I did promise myself–by all the imaginary little audience of angels that sat in bleachers applauding or booing my every move–and by all the devils on my shoulder tempting me to intemperate deeds–and by all the spirits of the woodland and the ghosts of the city and the tempestuous presences of the abandoned woodlots and farmsteads–that I would put paid for Smash Conklin. To do that, I would watch everything that Ketman done, and learn what I could.
When it comes to protecting those they love and depend upon, a kiddie of twelve is scarcely more than an animal, after all, ranging the whole world wide in search of vengeance. Walk lightly on a little Yellof’s thoughts; they are pregnant with the spring-tide of his youth. It’s enough to make a cat laugh, how solemnly a little fellow goes about the serious business of his play and his fancies. Hanging about with Ketman, he learned me. The little fellow has got to learn every day the consequences. Of loving the wrong girl. Of not tending to his bidness. Of neglecting his studies, such as they were for an inveterate player of hooky. You can’t swing on a shadow, though. Ketman told me that children must not pick up dead things–they have a power of their own. He put great stock in the power of caraway and sunflower seeds, which he was always nibbling at like a vain and dainty little fox. “Many a yellof has fallen because he wouldn’t learn from those who work the roots and herbs,” said he. In Noxtown he would range from door to door dispensing potions and powders and pills and he never was afraid of no bad Dog–“Me He made, thee He suffers, hound,” he would say to every slavering and vicious brute, and he would make three hidden signs, and the animal would become suddenly meek and shy, quivering all over, with teeth chattering and his tail between his legs.
He had the opposite effect, it seems, on cats, who would approach him by slinking up to him gradual and purring—even to the most snarling wild and unkempt article. Sometimes he almost seemed to be part cat himself, with his green eyes and his sly and secretive way of rubbing his hands together. (But…I didn’t mention that to him.)
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 729.
THESE COLORS DON’T RUN
I am adamant that the entire world know that, in my opinion, my country’s military does not consist of cowards.
JUST SAY NO
Children: Implausibly resist peer pressure encouraging your illegal use of contraband pharmaceuticals through acts of sheer will power.
MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT AT…
I an so neurotically proud of my child that I feel compelled to boast to indifferent strangers about his obscure scholastic achievements.
I ♥ MY DOG
I strongly identify to a very public and almost maniacal degree with certain purebred canines.
I am strongly committed to preventing the very ecological degradation which, incidentally, my car is helping to cause.
GLAD TO BE GAY
I am not only an avowed sodomite, but I am also anxious to reveal my sexual orientation to the entire world.
IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU’RE TOO DAMN CLOSE
I dread, and yet, nonetheless, simultaneously–and paradoxically–invite your scrutiny of my declaration that you are needlessly tailgating.
BABY ON BOARD
I fear your erratic driving, for I have successfully fostered hapless infantine progeny who may currently be riding in this vehicle.
YOU CAN’T HUG YOUR CHILDREN WITH NUCLEAR ARMS
I prefer physical contact with my children to paying taxes to purchase atomic weaponry, and I would like to gently remind you of that fact.
My special status as a woman who has given birth lends added moral force to my admonitions regarding the operation of potentially lethal transportation devices while under the influence of intoxicating beverages.
GOD IS MY COPILOT
Not literally, perhaps, but in a figurative sense, I am willing to publicly affirm that this vehicle is in part also being piloted by a jealous deity first worshipped by a tribe of Semitic nomads several thousand years ago.
IF GUNS ARE OUTLAWED…
If my ready access to firearms (which I fearfully cling to as a secure raft in a storm) is in any way impeded, I am convinced that this country will become a nightmare land in which armed criminals roam free to commit their felonious assaults with impunity.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
Because I am avowedly an alcoholic, I feel the strong need to attest, publicly, to the need for a diurnal approach to the myriad stressful exigencies which plague the quotidian existence of sensitive addicts such as myself.