#774 MARCH 7, 2014
Copyright 2014 FRANCIS DIMENNO
O sages standing in God’s holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul. –Yeats
Folks like the Reverend John Otis Cross would say that Doc Ketman was a Witchy Man and worse: a blasphemer, a defiler, and a minor-league sorcerer in league with the devil. But I found him instead to be nearly the opposite: he was profoundly superstitious, but it was in a Christian way–he was always crossing himself, and confined himself to root work–he never casts spells or curses on his enemies or those of other people unless he was supremely provoked, or in self-defense. I know that because one day I asked him a question which set his hackles up.
“What do you think about Cokey Stolas,” I says to Doc Ketman. “What about the Big Man?” And he gets all quiet and serious. Then he starts shooshing me as though he’s trying to blow out a fire that was already crawling halfway up his arm and was about to set his shoulder ablaze. 

“Don’t you mess none with The Big Man. he’s the man who has no soul.” And he crossed himself, feverishly and said “It wasn’t me, I swear by the tree.” And then he incanted:  “Dullix, ix, ux. Yea, you can’t come over Pontio; Pontio is above Pilato.” And he turned to me and began to give me a scolding. “Do ye nae ken, Yob, to ne’er use that name?” So compelling was his fear of Stolas that he taught me “an important spell,” even though he swore he’d never instruct me in his necromancy: “Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown, Christ Jesus’ colored blood, be thou every hour good. God, the Father, is before me; God, the Son, is beside me; God, the Holy Ghost, is behind me. Whoever now is stronger than these three persons may come, by day or night, to attack me.” And he made me repeat it several times, to ensure that I had gotten it by heart.

“Let me tell you about The Big Man,” says he. And old Doc Ketman sat on his wooden horse-drawn wagon and went into a trance, like. “Ye dig down deep into that rascal’s soul and you’ll learn soon enough that it is a great empty pit, such as the bottomless abyss of which the fifteenth century poet speaks, and the immortal Milton. He runs the Citywide Improvement Association–that’s a laugh. The only improvements they ever made is to their own pockets. I can’t even tell ye of half the things he’s up and about in. He has spies everywhere. For all I know, you’re in league with him. But I think not, since ye be Red Mary’s boy, and Red Mary ain’t got no use for him. She’s a Red, you know. A Wobbly. If Stolas caught wind of that ken, he’d be agin her even worse than he is already.” And he crossed himself again and hissed, “Three false tongues have pound thee, three holy tongues have spoken for thee. Old Stolas–Dullix, ix, ux.”

He intoned, “The first is God, the Father, the second is God the Son, and the third is God the Holy Ghost.” 
I shivered.
“He has a way of looking straight into your eyes, he does, and once you do, ye be caught up in his net and he can make you do his bidding without so much as a whisper.” Ketman mumbled, “They will give you blood and flesh, peace and comfort. Flesh and blood are grown upon thee, born on thee, and lost on thee.”
A violent chill ran up and down both my arms and through my jaw as I recalled how one time Stolas had stared at me while I was in the Seven Stars Saloon. 
“If you enter his lair, he will drug you and tamper with your mind and make you do his bidding in that way. It is said he controls two thirds of the pharmacies in Noxtown, and sells supplies to the other third.” Ketman muttered, “If any trample on thee with his horse, God will bless thee, and the holy Ciprian; has any woman trampled on thee, God and the body of Mary shall bless thee; if an servant has given you trouble, I bless thee through God and the laws of heaven; if any servant-maid or woman has led you astray, God and the heavenly constellations shall bless thee.”
And he crossed himself. And I shivered again. 
So much for my notion of getting back at Smash Conklin using knock-out drops. Stolas was the likely supplier of all the chloral in town. Conklin was probably already under his influence. 
“They say that the Big Man has powerful tattoos on his own body that protect him from charms and also give him strange powers.” He murmured. “Heaven is above thee, the earth is beneath thee, and thou art between.”  And Ketman crossed himself furiously.“Ye don’t want to cross him. Hardly a sparrow falls down dead in this town that he don’t know about. Don’t you know he’s behind the Death Show at the Roxy, with real corpses–and the Murder Train–where the prosties get on and never see their mammies no more?” He made the sign of the cross over me three times. “I bless thee against all tramplings by horses.” “I seen the tattoos. I seen ’em. He has a flaming dragon, a bearded pharaoh, and a pair of circling sharks. He has a monkey’s paw clutching a jewel, a tiger with bloody paws, and three lengths of chain, and on every link there’s uh Jesus’ name. He’s got Christ tattooed on one shoulder, and Moloch on t’other.” Ketman whispered. “Our dear Lord Jesus Christ walked about in his bitter afflictions and death; and all the Jews that had spoken and promised, trembled in their falsehoods and mockery.” “They say that if you cross him or even look at him the wrong way, he’s got spells and charms that can make you act crazy.” Ketman then said, in a dry and dusty croaking voice, “Look, now trembleth the Son of God, as if he had the itch, said the Jews. And then spake Jesus: have not the itch and no one shall have it. Whoever will assist me to carry the cross him will I free from the itch.” He looked at me in terror and then he made the sign of the cross over me three more times. “In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
And he hoarsely whispered. “Amen.” And then he turned away, having done all he could to protect me, but leaving me with the feeling that Stolas, too, had powerful magics, and that Ketman’s efforts were probably not enough to save me.



Advice for Playwrights
The Essential Mae Brussell: Investigations of Fascism in America
You cried when Salty Brine’s collie Jeff died.
You remember when Art Lake and Salty Brine had dark hair.
You remember Sara Wye, Franz Laubert, Mort Blender, and Jay Kroll.
You remember Jack Comley and Dick Pace doing talk radio on WJAR.
You remember the Outlet Company at Christmastime: Toyland in the basement and the Christmas windows.
You smile wistfully when you think of the names Shepards, Woolworths, Grants, Peerless, Gladdings, and City Hall Hardware.
You remember Newberry’s downtown.
You remember when they turned Westminster Street into a mall.
You remember when Kmart was still Kresge’s.
You bought your books at Read-All or the Paperback Bookstore on Weybosset Street.
Before you went home from a trip downtown you bought some fruit or groceries from the Market Basket.
You once ate at the Ming Garden or the Waldorf Cafeteria.
You remember when it was the Sheraton Biltmore.
You were assured by classmates that the Industrial National Bank building was the same one as in the opening of the Superman TV series.
You remember when they used to show all the Disney films at the Majestic Theater.
You remember the RKO Albee, the Loew’s State, and the Strand.
Your mom wouldn’t let you go near the Strand ’cause they showed “dirty movies.”
You remember that neat paperback bookstore cattycorner from the Outlet having so many books and rock posters that the cashier had to sit up in a little booth.
Being bussed to the Rhode Island Philharmonic once a year for a special concert for schoolchildren.
You remember when that big pyramid that became Apex went up in Pawtucket.
You remember when WPRI was WPRO.
You remember neighborhood bakeries and all the great pastries they carried: lemon squares, New Yorkers, cornets, zeppoles, and sfogliatelles.
You know what a hermit is (and it’s not a strange old guy who lives alone in the woods).
You remember when Garden City was just about the only shopping center out in that direction.
You remember when Garden City was just about the only thing out there besides farms and houses and how at Christmastime when they put up their light display you could drive to the top of Laurel Hill Avenue and see it shining like a beacon in the distance .
You remember the coal tipple that used to be on the north side of Sakonasset Road at what’s now the “back end” of Garden City.
You remember Child World.
Your parents would threaten to “send you to Sakonasset” when you were particularly bad.
Your mother would say, when you made her crazy, “You’re going to drive me to Howard!”
You remember Reservoir Avenue when it was only two lanes.
You remember driving north to Massachusetts before there was an interstate, on Routes 1 and 128, or maybe out Route 6 to the Cape, or up 146.
You have fond memories of Rocky Point, Crescent Park, and Jolly Cholly’s.
You remember when Rhode Island Mall was Midland Mall . . You remember when Midland Mall opened.
You remember the junkyard that used to be across from Fiore Pontiac (and you wondered if the old trade-ins went there).
You used to love the Cranston Drive-In.
You wondered if they gave out free samples at the Eclipse syrup plant.
You remember free parking at the beach.
Your mom grocery shopped at Almacs, Stop and Shop, Finast, or the A&P.
Heck, when your mom shopped at a neighborhood supermarket like Food Town.
You remember Warwick Shopper’s World, Niantic Mills, and the Ben Franklin Store.
Your parents still referred to Warwick Shopper’s World and Ann & Hope as “mill outlets” and going to one of these stores was “going to the mill.”
Your parents still referred to the airport as “Hillsgrove.”
You remember when the section of Cranston at the intersection of Park Avenue and Gansett Avenue was called “the Speedway.”
You know what a “superette” and a “spa” were (and that the latter had nothing to do with health clubs).
You remember when Bald Hill Road was almost all farms.
You remember the big old buildings in downtown Newport waterfront before they remodeled it.
You remember when there wasn’t a McDonald’s in Rhode Island.
You remember Burger Chef and Jeff.
You bought a small Del’s Lemonade for only a dime, Hershey bars for 10 cents, popsicles a nickel, and penny candy–for a penny!
You remember going to Stamp’s Farm for eggs and Highland Orchards for apples.
You passed the Narragansett Brewery on your way downtown–and people were working there.
One of the big landmarks on Post Road was the Scholes roller rink.
Every time a hurricane was forecast your mom and dad or grandparents would immediately talk about the Hurricane of 1938.
Heck, they’d take you downtown to show you the high-water plaque on the Providence Journal-Bulletin building.
You remember Trifari and Coro being two of the biggest employers in town.
Instead of getting your chickens from the supermarket, your mom or dad went to the chicken man in Silver Lake.
Your parents took you to the Slater Zoo.
You remember Bosco and Maypo.
You remember the old Calart’s Christmas display.
You remember the big rivalry between Old Stone Bank and Citizens Bank–especially between the kids who had savings accounts with either bank in school.
The moment you drove out of Rhode Island no one had coffee milk or coffee ice cream any longer.
You still have nightmares about “Choo-Choo” on the Railroad Salvage commercials.
Come live with me and be my love, 
I’ll even come and help you move. 
Whenas in silks my Julia goes, 
I hope she owns some less expensive clothes. 
This is the month, and this the happy morn 
Our dish begins to pick up cable porn. 
Call for the robin redbreast and the wren, 
I’ll be watching wrestling in the den. 
Mortality behold, and fear, 
We’re almost out of bottled beer. 
Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part 
There’s never been an argument you wouldn’t start. 
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, 
I figure I’ll go drinking with the guys. 
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
And now it’s time to squander all my pay. 
It was a fearful and a dismal night, 
My nose was broken in a drunken fight; 
Sleep, angry beauty, sleep and fear not me! 
I’ll come a-sneaking in at half-past three. 
How sleep the brave, who sink to rest 
Too drunk and sick to get undressed. 
Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers? 
It comes from drinking gin from plastic tumblers. 
Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year’s pleasant king, 
And Sammy, Frank, and Dean go Ring-a-Ding-Ding.  
A note of explanation for those not familiar with late 70s/early 80s Kirby: As Scott Shaw has observed, Kirby the only artist who, when you mention he created a fighting fetus, you have to say “Which one?” (The first was in his adaptation of “2001”; the second was in “Captain Victory & The Galactic Rangers” and was named Paranex, “a giant armored fetus who is a member of a band of intergalactic pirates.”)

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