Popular culture tells you that schools and parents don’t know what’s going on, the police are dogs, politicians are all liars and scum, and any crime that’s not committed by the Mafia is done by the CIA.–Stanley Crouch
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART TWENTY-EIGHT: KINGDOM COME
“I was talking of Police Captain Tom Aston.” said Count Justin Victor to Pappy O’Day and Tipsy Smith. “Now, Cap’m Aston is no genius—he grew up rough, and his early years was full of misfortunes. His father was a barkeeper of a flatiron. Now, politicians and booze go together hand in hand. It’s a fact of life that at least half the people who are now in politics were the sons or the grandsons of saloonkeepers and suchlike. Saloons is where the wardheelers like to meet, and, of course, a great many of their constituents frequent such habiliments and congregate there.”
“Now, the one solace that poor people have is to drink, but the teapot-suckers and the goo-goos, who are allus going on about keeping the Sabbath holy without even knowing themselves why it should be thus in the land of the free, why, they agitate for saloons to be closed on Sunday, and all sorts of other flabberdegaz, and the Mayor agrees, and he so directs the legislature if he can, or else he alters the city laws, and he tasks the higher-ups on the police force to carry it out, and they do, only not too enthusiastically, of course, because the Mayor, like most pols, is in thrall to the big liquor interests. Nobody wants to rock the boat. To make matters even more interesting, criminals and strong drink also go hand in hand. Most people in the liquor business started out as businessmen with shady reputations. Furthermore, booze makes men do things which the police are called in to stop. Booze helps in its way to keep the policeman in business. The hooch-bucket is not a foe, but rather, a friend of disorder. The policeman is there to regulate disorder. Two sides of the same coin, says I.
“Anyway, Tom Aston’s Paw got shot by a reel-pot in a drunken brannigan—go and figure–and his maw had to take in wash and early on at about the age of twelve Tom had to quit school and take a job as a delivery boy. Even then he had an eye for the main chance, and it wasn’t too long that he beefed up real good and got a job as a scrapper and an all-around headbreaker for some of the crew that the Gib Yellof surrounded himself with. Lucky for him, too, that his Paw once knowd a precinct captain who owed him a favor, and so he favored the boy and when it came time he got him a job on the force. No examinations or police academy or any of that newfangled nonsense—just a uniform and a nightstick and a willingness on day one to crack some skulls. That’s all it took to become a policeman in those days. No genius; just luck. And connections.
“Tom Aston is one of those boys with a sixth grade eddication, which means he was a lot smarter than most of the peelers who hadn’t even got that far. Means he knows how to read and write, and kin add and subtract and cipher to the rule of three. He also somehow picked up some albejar, which makes it handy when it comes time to figure out how much rent he should charge on his slum palaces, every one of ‘em a death trap. There’s better conditions in most jailhouses—some of the goo-goos has seen to that.
“No, Aston ain’t that smart, but he’s smart enough. He is got the most important kind of brain there is to have in his racket—he gets it. He knows the score. He’s with it and for it. If there’s money to be made, all of a sudden the guy you would swear is no smarter than a common mutt is like a canary who can sing Caruso—he is a rare one. A boy wonder for smelling out opportunities. He always knew the right tools for the job, and that’s very important. Y’see, young men don’t get this. Listen: He was the Yob who first threatened to break the fingers of organ grinders and street violinists if they didn’t pay up. He was the Yellof who first installed those newfangled gumball machines in City Hall. He had the contract to supply the city jails with curds and whey, which he used in place of giving the boys in stir their daily bread. Get this—even the cows from the dairy were fed with runoff from the breweries. Which he was also busy shaking down. Except the plutes, of course. And the big brewers.
“The wealthy brewers could pave their own path to prosperity, because they had the crooked politicians firmly in their favor. Due to graft—and lots of it. They also weren’t averse to sending out some headbreakers during election time, neither. They only have to growl—and the politicians take heed. Some of the holiest men in the city—men seemingly dedicated to doing good works—the ones who ally themselves with the goo-goos who are allus crying out for reform and never getting it—yes, you guessed it, some of the slickest Holy Willies in the town are actually secretly working fist in glove with the Pluty-crats. Don’t ask me how I know this, but I do. And the Pluty-crats are, a good many of them, members of the liquor trust. You ever notice how nobody wants to use that word—“liquor”? It’s always “fine spirits” to that lot. But poison liquor is what they peddle, and it don’t do the poor wretches who are trapped in the thralls of Demon Rum much good to call it anything else than what it is.
“No, Tom Aston ain’t no genius. But I have to admit, he’s crooked in a new and exciting way—he’s admirably corrupt. A real dazzler, if the truth be known. He’s friends with every man, it seems. He likes you, and you just can’t help but like him, even if he is shaking you down. The only kind of man, it seems, that he has no use for is a man who takes it on the square–an honest bum. And those are rather thin on the ground here in Noxtown. Fathers beat their sons if they’re inclined to be stupid about seizing a man chance and failing to steal what isn’t nailed down, and even what is—ain’t that what a claw hammer’s for? By an honest bum, I mean, of course, someone who is mostly too stupid to seize the main chance but simply drudges along, month after month, year after year, like some sort of pack animal bearing the stings and whiplashes that life dishes out without even once ever turning on the masters. And thus they wend their long and surly way to the boneyard!
36 CHEAP AMERICAN BEERS, RANKED
AWFUL FOOD PHRASES
OBAMA NIXES DRUGGED SEX
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
Homosexual dining tips.
6* DAILY UTILITY
7 Things You Must Take Off Your LinkedIn Profile Immediately
FAN THEORY ABOUT JEOPARDY
THE GREAT AMERICAN BAND
WORST PLACES IN MASSACHUSETTS
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
WHO GET OLD BEFORE THEY DIE
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
805. 16TH ANNUAL GATHERING OF THE JUGGALOS