THE INFORMATION #851
When I consider life, it is all a cheat. Yet fooled with hope, people favor this deceit.–Dryden
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART THIRTY-THREE: KINGDOM COME
Count Victor Justin continued to explain in loving detail the mechanics of the carnival grift and the peculiarities of his confederates.
“Of course, working with a team was a hardship on me, as I had to cut the take four ways, and in some of those tank-towns we hardly made enough to cover expenses. But in bigger venues, at county fairs and the like, we could really rake it in. So it purt’ near evened out. Back in those days, I’s slug away at the flukum when I wasn’t on the job. I ended up spending a good deal of my dosh on paregoric. I’m just lucky that I never developed a coal burner habit. You’d figure we wouldn’t need it just to get to sleep, working as we did up to 18 hours a day, but we did. We were too keyed up after a long day’s grifting to drop off to bed. There was the excitement and stimulation of gambling in that kind of life. Sometimes we made next to nothing…and other times we were in the tall corn.
“One thing I never could predict was how my confederates were going to act. Bertha Moss’s job was to stand around and simper and look pretty. But she was a bit of a dirty puzzle and a top-flight cannon to boot and her fingers itched to get aholt of fat billfolds and tickers and the like. In certain parts of Blowtown I was constantly having to square a pickpocketing beef with the local constabulary because they all knew who she was.
“Strong Boy would of done well to simply stay in the tent and do the heavy lifting, but he had a weakness for drink and would vanish at inopportune moments.Of course, what would happen is that some stranger in a bar would insult him–call him a sawed off runt–and Strong Boy would settle his hash for him, all right, but would end up in the jug on a drunk and disorderly, and it would be my job to extricate him from his self-made jam.
“Chicago Gus also had a weakness for drink, but instead of disappearing, like I halfway wished he would, since there was no hiding him on the premises, as he was a tall drink of water, why, old highpockets would start in to baiting the chumps. Especially when we were running the harmless games in which nobody really stood to lose an awful lot. ‘Can that yap,’ he would say to a chatty female mark. ‘You gas too much, Blubber.’ Now, for all he knew, that was the mayor’s wife he was talking to, but once he got a few snifters of pop-skull in his gullet, he didn’t give a good jolly God-damn. Or he would insolently address a sour-faced farmer–‘What’s snapping at your asshole, you goony-faced geezer? Cheer up, or you can walk your sneery puss on out of here.’ Now, this Savage might have walked into the tent determined to spend twenty dollars just to win a box of shitty cigars, but Chicago Gus just didn’t care, and it was costing me money, and I didn’t like it. Still, I was amused at the casual cruelty of some of the insults he would dish out to the local yokeldom. He had a charming habit of muttering imprecations undeneath his breath, say, if the mark happened to be winning at the Skillo Wheel or some other small-time game. ‘Cross-roads clown.’ ‘Lumpy bumpkin’. ‘Farmer Corn.’ ‘Mr. Alfalfa.” ‘Snaggletooth bitch,’ ‘Fat old bald head,’ ‘Cheerful Idiot.’ ‘Stupid hillbilly.’ ‘Old chaw-bacon.” He could keep a running commentary up for hours when he was stoked on the fumes of some high-powered liquor. ‘Gwan, get out of here, you Goozler. G’wan and beat it, you mucksnipe,’ he was say to one of the lot lice who come in to look and not play. Didn’t matter of the fellow were a big man; Chicago Gus knew all the moves. Especially the one where you press a certain artery on the neck, and down the Savage goes–he doesn’t even know what hit him. The booze made him fearless; plus, he had a mean pig-sticker in his boot all handy-dandy. ‘You’re only fitten to lead blind monkeys to shit,’ he would say to the kiddie who wandered into the tent to bob for floating fish. ‘I don’t care if you won the big prize; you got nothing coming to you,’ he would say, and the kiddo would go out bawling and come back with an angry Pappy, and it was always up to me to square the beef.
“Never mind that; I could talk a Savage out of his long underwear if I had a mind to it. I would gently explain that the prize the Kiddie won was actually not the big stuffed toy on the top shelf but a ‘genuine’ jack-knife or some other gimcrack. What lad of tender years doesn’t covet a jack-knife? So everybody’s happy; the kid spent eighteen cents and the cheap little knife cost me seven dollars a gross. Plus, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the bairn would get up to some mischief with the knife–I could just see him gouging away at a newel post–and having it taken away from him until he turns 21, or something like that. You might have guessed that this was precisely what happened to me the day I brought a jack-knife home.
Seems that there’s some sort of wild devil that gets into boys once they turn about 12 or so, and if they’re not careful, it will plague them their whole life through. A determination, it seems, to get into as much trouble as they can, just for the sheer ornery joy of seeing if they can get themselves out of it again. I suppose it comes from the little wild animals starting to feel their oats. For me, personally, this was not the case. I was a very studious lad in school, and always minded my ps and qs. The other boys, as I have said, didn’t know what to make of me, as I was busy pleasing the masters and did not cut capers in class in order to impress my fellows. I was always clean and well-dressed, and always well-scrubbed. I didn’t loaf in front of drug stores or loiter in soda-fountains. Truth to tell, I wasn’t a boy’s boy. I was a bit stand-offish. But all that was to change when I turned seventeen.
JACKIE WILSON SAID
HEPSTER DICTIONARY OF JIVE TERMS
THE WEDDING TOAST I’LL NEVER GIVE
100 YEARS OF FASHION IN TWO MINUTES
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
COLOR PHOTOGRAPHS OF NY IN THE 1970S
6* DAILY UTILITY
OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC FORECAST
INSIDE THE GOP CLOWN CAR
LIST OF REASONS FOR ADMISSION TO AN INSANE ASYLUM FROM THE LATE 1800S
CBS COVERAGE OF WOODSTOCK (1969)
DON’T SLANDER ME
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
NEW AGE BULLSHIT GENERATOR
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
810. RORY HAYES