THE INFORMATION #828
MARCH 20, 2015
Our logrolling, our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, our Negroes, and Indians, our boats, and our repudiations, the wrath of rogues, and the pusillanimity of honest men, the northern trade, the southern planting, the western clearing, Oregon, and Texas, are yet unsung. Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres. –Emerson
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART TEN: KINGDOM COME
It was just when Count Victor Justin was lathering Musky Dan with the old soft soap that Doc Ketman chimed in with his very own peculiar speech, full of lingo, declamations, incantations and soft words to soothe a trouble soul. Jimmy Ragmop the bearded Polack, looking as thin as a wraith–he was there, as was sullen leather-faced Jack the Painter with his gray ponytail. Both Adam O’Day and his Pappy were in attendance, and, as always, Tipsy Smith was at the bar.
“Jesus, I will arise,” said Doc Ketman.
“Aww, stop your bazoo,” said Adam O’Day.
“Enough with the Jesus stuff,” said Tipsy Smith, as he wiped a filthy glass with an even filthier bar-rag.
“I’ll comb your hair,” said Pappy O’Day.
“Don’t try to come over on me with your stupid prayers,” muttered Jack the Painter.
“Crown Him with many crowns,” sang Jimmy Ragmop the Bar Boy, in his usual quavery baritone that was hard to listen to.
“Enough, already, with the Jesus stuff,” said Tipsy Smith, still wiping the same glass.
“He can’t help himself—he’s plum loco,” said Adam O’Day.
“Loony,” said Jimmy Ragmop.
“A pain in the hinder parts,” muttered Jack the Painter.
“Go fry your face,” said Pappy O’Day.
“Do you know what you’re about?” said Musky Dan, though not in an unfriendly way.
Then Jim Whitey chimed in, only half sarcastic. “Don’t make light of the Doc. He’ll cook the devil in his feathers. Cross him, and you’re coopered. He may sound like he’s speaking Double-Dutch but every word that comes out of his pie-hole is certified magic. He’s no Tom Cony; nor is he frumpish any when it comes to sheer gall. Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair! I may be nothing but a washed-up Funny-Man, but Doc here is the genuine article—a dyed in the wool, blown in the glass prophecy man. I’ll bet he can even tell us what a whole bunch of nines are—can’t ye, Doc? Look at him setting there, and nary a peep out of him. But I’ll bet that if’n he wanted to, he could knock me galley-west. He’s hand in glove with some powerful forces. Not exactly sinister, ner are they as pure and white as the driven snow. No, he’s a slushy sort of character—gives me the wihim-whams to look at him too hard. He’s full of kimbaws and Old Miffy, him. Always making with the Jesus stuff. Don’t you know that’s his talisman?”
“Sanctus Itorius res, call the rest,” said Doc Ketman.
“Ye hear all that sanctified Latin-talk a-drippin’ from his yap? He’s no common magsman or mander, him. No, he’s no lubber from the never-never country. He’s got some book-larnin’, and what he says ain’t no pishery pashery or ribble rabble. Trying to get one over on him is like looking for a pinhead in a load of hay.”
“Howya doin’, Doc? Hey?” said Tipsy Smith. “Can I draw you a short beer?”
“If you wouldn’t mind. I am terrible thirsty. All this talkee-talkee has got me spent. And if thou hast any flowering afflictions, I shall catch them by the wave of my hand. If they be white, brown or red, they shall and must now all be dead.”
“Shit and damnation!” croaked Pappy O’Day. “What kind of talk is that? Grog blossoms are the only flower you’re likely to see in these parts, Yob—you, with your yerbs and berries and suchlike. Garlic and elderberry syrup for a cold! Coltsfoot for a cough, Stinging nettle for a sneeze. Whiskey, tobacco smoke and skullcap to stupefy your baby as has the colic! You see—you’re not the only one who can work the yerbs. Now, it’s all very well and good to have a good yerb doctor around, I’m not denyin’. Where ye been, ye old rogue? In stir?”
“If you wouldn’t mind, I have been sorely afflicted. Physician, heal thyself is the old saying, but I myself have been unwell and no amount of vinegar and honey could set me right. Only fasting and prayer. Jesus, do thou lock my heart into thine. No, I haven’t been in the jail house, though in the course of my rambles I drew mighty near. I have roamed the countrywide and traveled the whole land over, from Salvation Row to Eden Prairie; from Grundy, Mulligan and Geechy to Blackwell, Kimbo, and The Devil’s Crossroad. I have seen the Ascended Masters; have visited with the ministers who say Repent Or Else; have had commerce with the Our Lady of the Salt River. The word of God, the milk of Jesus’ mother, and Christ’s blood, is for all wounds and burnings good.”
“Have another beer, Doc. It’s on the house.”
“I thank you most kindly. If I seem a bit subdued, it’s just that my travels have taken a great deal out of me. Jesus, let my body and my soul be commended unto thee.”
“Y’see?” said Adam O’Day, “He always comes on strong with the Jesus stuff.” Only he wasn’t angry, because he was laughing like a gooney-bird.
“Wild-fire and the dragon, flew over a wagon, The wild-fire abated and the dragon skated,” said Doc Ketman.
“What’s so great about your Jesus, anyway?” said the insufferable Pappy O’Day.
“The Lord was crucified. That is all,” said Doc Ketman, and descended into a gloomy funk as he contemplated the bubbles in his beer. “May God guard my senses that evil spirits may not overcome me.”
It was then that Count Victor Justin saw fit to barge into the proceedings. “I have heard a lot about you, Mister Ketman. I hear tell from the real medical practitioners that you ain’t no Doc at all, but only a common sort of quack. Mind you, I don’t believe all that I hear. I know full well that the Docs hereabouts have a good reason to be jealous of your skills. Far be it from me from spread such lies, even if they have some basis in truth. For I see that you are a man who has both strength and virtue. Because your heart is pure, you can bear the burdens of ten ordinary men. Burdens which would fell a soul less worthy than your own. Your virtue lies principally in the steps which you refrain from taking. But you are a man who only truly lives in your dreams. Terrible yet glorious dreams. You will either find redemption or ruin yourself by means of a duel or some other conflict. This takes place in a large city such as this one. There will certainly be a contest of some sort. There is no question about that. Following that contest, you will be filled with inspiration. You will go on a long journey—longer than that which is normal. While on that journey, you will be betrayed by treacherous companions. But you will also meet with compassionate strangers. I see this cycle play out over and over again. But all I know is what the cards tell me—that someday you will be united with Red Mary.”
Tipsy Smith was so astonished at this prophecy that he dropped the glass he was obsessively polishing, and, as he attempted to pick up the pieces, pricked the entire tip of his finger on a large shard of broken glass.
Doc Ketman roused himself to his full height and made the following pronouncement:”Blood, thou must stop, until the Virgin Mary bring forth another son.”
And the bleeding stopped.
Doc Ketman then went into a trance and delivered up a speech so fantastical it is hard to remember all but the gist of it. Nevertheless, this was the essence of what he had to say: “The devil wipes his tail with the poor man’s pride. And Jesus, do thou accompany me.”
He then vanished into the smoke and left the Seven Stars Saloon to the startled befuddlement of all and sundry.
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