WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER NINE: PART FOUR: THE MAYOR OF HELL
As Cadger Tandy and Doc Ketman sat at a table of the Seven Stars,
the Doc pointed at a nondescript middle-aged man who was busy
wiping down the bar early in the morning for the 10am opening time.
“The Word God; God Bless You. Žodžio dievas telaimina jus dievas! It would take
a top Dick from the A-1 Detective Agency to puzzle out the
story of Jack the Painter. Believe me when I say I do not understand
the Yellof. Note how he is got his gray hair tied in a rat-tail like a Chinee
or a Jack Tar just off the boat. Note how he never cracks a smile.”
He yelled across to Jack: “Why so sad, Rubin?” Jack grunted and said,
“I don’t care to go beyond any but the social niceties.” Then with a grunt he
resumed his work.
“Look at him–book-larnin’ dripping from his mouth, and him a dog’s body.
He looks allus like he was just turned away from the Garden of Eden.
And the Good Lord protect him from the creeping spasms. He treats his
job as the handyman hereabouts as if he was a cat toying with a
mouse. Poor Jack the Painter! Who wouldn’t be sad? Cleaning up after
drunks. Trapped in the room the size of a Lion’s Den and smelling ten
times worse. What a waste of all his hopes and dreams! Did he fancy once
he would be a Doctor, or a Railroad Lawyer, or even a streetcar
conductor? You know, Yob, that no kiddo ever grows up and says I want
to be a stool-pigeon, or a librarian. Could it be that under cover he’s
the head of the Anarchy ring that’s been setting all them bombs on
Wall Street and the like? No–just to look at him you would doubt he had it
in him. Our dear Lord Jesus Christ had a great many biles and wounds.
And yet he never had them dressed. I guess his Pappy fought in the
Great War on behalf of the losing side and it left him bitter and
twisted inside–Sic Semper Tyrannis, the South Is Avenged, and like that.”
“Funny, I don’t have him pegged as an assassin either.
I think he’s just got a case of the yips. His wounds, they did not grow old,
they were not cut, nor were they ever found running.
You know, Yob, what becomes of a Yellof as has got the
melancholies? The Kid with the Saturnine Countenance? Everything,
even the simplest action, is so damn HARD and he does it so slow–like
mopping up the spew of the town weakfish–some Yellofs can’t hold
their drink a-tall. Jonas was blind, and I spoke to the heavenly child,
as true as five holy wounds were inflicted.”
“I guess that at one time he had a job as a master locksmith for
a big hardware concern. Heerd he was high up in the Masons, too.
But he fell on hard times due to a fondness for drink. Well, this is one place
where you never have to wear a clean white shirt with a starched collar.
Who knows but that maybe he has a great soul. But the world is not kind
to such critters. I dinna ken why. Or mebbe I do.”
“Here’s the problem, the way I see it. There comes a time when a
Yellof gets sick and tired of having to be responsible for every dirty
chore. It’s enough to make you lose your sense of purpose. You get a dreamy look
about you in the eyes, but the corners of your mouth are turned down
like you hate everything, even the Lord. ‘Specially the Lord. But man
has a divine spark which is imperishable. It cannot be extinguished; it
can only burn low. Like turning down the gas on a stovetop. Like I
always say, I Am the Great I Am. And I Am Forever. So you sleep for
most of the night and you live in a nutshell and count yourself a
king of infinite space but you have bad dreams that leave you feeling
like a limp dishrag. Every morning you tumble from your lumpy mattress
and slog yourself to work. You take an eye-opener or three, just to
make yourself feel human. A tap-room is a good place or a drunkard to
make his crust. You won’t never go thirsty in a tavern. You could stay
good and drunk on the leftovers alone!”
“Žodžio dievas telaimina jus dievas! I’m no doctor–
not a real doctor–ner an Alienist–but working the
Medicine Show as long as I have, I know a neurasthenic when I see one.
What causes this? The grace of God and his benevolence be with thee.
I see in Jack the Painter hardly any vim at all,
save a mildly puzzled look which clouds his pan at all times of the
day and night. He shall now ride or walk out.
He looks like a Yellof who notices everything, from the
bluebird of happiness to the puke in the sawdust, and he treats one
much as the same as he would treat t’other. And
He will gird about his loins with a sure ring. Like an animal, with those
big black staring cow-eyes of his’n. So it pleases God, the Heavenly Father.
He looks at a problem from all sides and stands there with his
mouth open like an eager hog, but he’s so down in the dumps
that he never has the get up and go to actually do anything about it.
He will protect him, his flesh and blood.That’s why there’s been a
crack in the sunshine window over the bar since God was a Pup.
And all his arteries and during this day and night which he has before him.
Do you think that Jack the Painter would actually get up off’n his skinny
ass and fix the damn thing? And however numerous his enemies
may be, they must be struck dumb. It lets in the snow in the winter
and the bugs in the summer, and is an all-fired nuisance, though
I will admit that it provides us all with a much-needed gasp of fresh
air from time to time. And all become like a dead man, white as snow,
so that no one will be able to shout, cut or throw at him, or to overcome him.”
“Žodžio dievas telaimina jus dievas! Why would such a
man waste away his life in such a hellhole? He is
always there. It is his hospital, his church, and his graveyard. He
ain’t got no other home. Lives in a room off the back there. Free
watchman and bodyguard. If he ever leaves the place in the daytime the
sunshine must be blinding to him. When he closes his eyes before he
goes to bed he must see rainbows. Does he ever really sleep at all? Or
does he lie there in a half-daze? His rifle shall go off like lightning,
and his sword shall cut as a razor. We can’t all be kings, that much is
certain. But what of a man who might of been a great soul, if only
somebody had loved him? Look–here’s the skinny on Jack the Painter.
He is got the look of a penitent who is only guilty of having
too much in the way of feeling and is dying to feel nothing at all. He
feels empty inside by both day and night and a Niagra of booze would
only start to wash away that feeling. Then when our dear lady Mary
upon a very high mountain; she beheld her dear child standing
amidst the Jews, He is a man who lives in the desert.
His only oasis is mindless work. His only fun in life is
managing somehow to stumble his way through a mindless day. Having
established that he is master of the glooms, he attracts the gloom to
him and lives in a miasma of its stink. Harsh, very harsh. He uses
every trick he knows to make sure the job he has to do will
last him all the live long day. Not for him the decisive swipe of
the bar-rag! Because he was bound so harsh.
No–when called upon to do some cleaning he will boil towels and
scald himself red as a lobster to do the job up
brown, but all it gets him is the scornful stares of drunks who look
at him and say ‘Jesu Christu, Old Chappie–whatever happened to you?’
Because he was bound so hard. He spares practically no effort in
making an extra swell project of a job that’s
hardly worth the doing. A college perfesser couldn’t hardly be any
more circumspect. And for what? He has no belief in God. So it must be
that he does what he does because doing it is what he does. And
therefore may the dear Lord Jesus Christ save him from all that is
injurious to him. He struggles like a great beast awakening and
all so that he can smash rocks into pebbles and play with his marbles
in the dust.”
At that, Doc Ketman crossed himself three times and intoned the word “Amen.”
“Stop yer prayin’ over me!” shrieked Jack the Painter from over in the corner.
Doc Ketman ignored him.
“Satan Himself must of parceled him out resentment to react with anger in the wake of
the punishments of God. Jesus, he will arise. He hates his situation
because it can never change–he will toil like the man who must roll
his rock up a hill that never ends. Jesus, do thou accompany him. He has no sense that some things are poor and some things are mighty, for they are all the same to him
from where he stands, which is in quicksand. Quicksand!”
“Žodžio dievas telaimina jus dievas! So every day is like a
day in a dry hell in which he dies a thousand small
deaths. Jesus, do thou lock his heart into thine.
Small obstacles are like immense boulders in his path. He
constantly thinks, if he thinks at all, “If only”. Jesus let my body
and my soul be commended unto thee. No wonder he’s so full of
sadness! These are serious thoughts for serious times! He will never
surrender living behind his wall of fear. He will defend his personal
prison to the last battlement. He will be irrationally unhappy in
preference to having no feelings at all, for these are his only two
settings. The Lord is crucified. It’s a terribly bleak existence–and
when you look at his sad face…May God guard his senses that evil
spirits may not overcome him…it’s just about enough to make your noggin sting.
In the name of God the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen!”
Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies
Garbage Man Blues
How Not To Kill Yourself With Household Items
MARCH MADNESS: THE TOURNAMENT OF UPPER-MIDDLE-CLASS AFFLICTIONS
“Freeze!” I shouted. “Hand over the money and nobody gets hurt.”
Trouble is, I wasn’t in a bank. I was standing in the middle of the
street. And I was naked. Needless to say, I didn’t get the money.
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How Facebook is Quite Possibly Becoming the Biggest Scam in Marketing
and Advertising Ever
THE 101 MOST INSANE THINGS THAT HAVE EVER HAPPENED IN FLORIDA
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Take Me Back to That Old Carolina Home
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
THE SERENITY PRAYER
I hate the Serenity prayer! It makes me angry!
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
736. DOWN THESE MEAN SAVANNAHS A CAVEMAN MUST GO
She was the kind of cavegirl that would make a Shaman think he had
just drunk a gourd full mushroom-flavored reindeer urine….
“Look at bright boy here. Thinks he just discovered the wheel. Listen,
bright boy. The Head Man don’t need nobody snooping in his business.
Stick to gathering nuts and berries and keep your nose out of the
tribal councils of the meat-eaters.”
“He conked me on the noggin with a wooden club. My skull was so thick
I hardly felt it. With the strength of rage I fended off three of the
bearskin-wearing bruisers, but they were joined by others and soon
their fists and clubs had knocked me to the floor of the cave, and
when I woke I was bound hand and foot by rawhide thongs.”
“No wonder he always responded to my questions about the killer with
grunts! He wasn’t being rude! That’s how he communicated–because he
had yet to develop the power of speech! But just before he died me
managed to lead me to a clue which tipped me off to the real killer.
It was a crude drawing of a man–a man wearing the hide of a wolf!
Only one man wore that kind of costume–The Shaman!”
“…and I would have gotten away with my plan to poison the Head
Man…if it wasn’t for that knuckle-dragging shamus!”