Women are made to be loved, not understood.–Oscar Wilde
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART FORTY-ONE: KINGDOM COME
“Watch out,” said Count Victor Justin. “Once you begin caving in to the demands of a woman, it never ends there, with just a couple of dresses. Which, after all, she needs. And you need your moll looking sharp. After all, what kind of reflection is it on you if she don’t? But then it gets warmer from there. First, the jewelry. Just a little jewelry, mind you. Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and other such fripperies. Then: Fancy dinners at swell restaurants. And: ‘Maybe we should buy a horse and carriage.’ These things add up, you know. If it wasn’t for the doxies the grifter wouldn’t have to work so hard. Oh, I’m not saying that all women are p’ison. They have their uses. They’ll hide your swag and weapons for you. And some of them are pretty good at boosting and whoring when a grifter is on his uppers. But for the most part, dames will drag you down and keep you down, or, at the very least, they’ll keep you from being the big-time grifter you know you ought to be. But without a dame, you think, who am I trying to impress? Where’s the use of it? That’s the joke that the Creator plays upon us all. Women need us, but we also need them. Oy! Better maybe you should buy a dog, as they say in vaudeville.
“All this talk of women might seem quite raw, but it’s the truth as far as I can tell, and I’ve been in the grifting game a long time. Money is a way of keeping score; and the bigger the score, the more she’ll demand of you in the way of little luxuries. Soon it escalates–from simple bangles and hoops to diamonds and furs.”
“And there’s no getting rid of her. Just try–and first thing you know, she’ll be off to the gendarmes to rat you out, and quicker’n you can say Jack Robinson. And then you’re trapped. Sucker. Maybe you do marry her. Try to retire from the grifting life and go straight with a stake you’ve managed to squirrel away. Good luck. Once you’re in the know, it’s hard to live on the straight and narrow, and be a chump, and suffer all the ensuing tragedies you’re bound to suffer, at the hands of people who are younger and wiser, even though you were once that fellow.
“If only there was some way to manage the business. If only you could say something to her that would guarantee that you will never see ner hear from her again. Other than going to stir. Or croaking. If there’s some kind of magic incantation, I would sure like to hear of it. Most women of my acquaintance, once they got their hooks in you, that’s all she wrote. You can give her a whole long explanation about why you and her can’t be together–she won’t hear of it. Who knows–maybe that’s why there’s so many murders. How else to dispose of a lady who will stick to you like glue?
“I sometimes think that if there were a way to get out of this life with my dignity intact, then I would take it. But it’s a hard row to hoe. You have to have enough money so you can maintain a certain standard of living, but not so much that people are drawn to the idea of trying to take it all away from you. And how can a grifter stash the ooftish after a big score? You can’t count on banks to keep your plunder safe. Real estate might be a good investment, but it’s no guarantee. Stocks and bonds? Most of the stockbrokers I ever took down were even bigger crooks than me–allus looking for a sure thing–like, something in the way of a crooked horse race. That’s why the wire works best on them.”
“Still, it’s kind of humiliating to realize that elevator operators and shoe shine boys are making more money off’n the stock market than you are. The temptation to speculate is mighty strong; but I never bit. I was always afraid of putting a foot wrong. Maybe if I had, I would be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. More likely, I’d be stony cold broke. Like a horse racer. Or a Riverboat Gambler. Riverboats? Yaas, they were big, some 40 years ago. Now, the youngster here is asking, why should he be interested in stuff that happened 40 years ago. Well, Sonny, if you live to be my age, you will be very interested in remembering back to what things were like when you were a Yob. I still have relatives down south who, every year, send me pecans. Now, this is a nuisance, as they are hard to take from out of the shell. But there’s nothing like fresh Pecans. Maybe that’s the answer. Make a tidy little bundle, then retire down South. It’s paradise, for a Southerner. For a Northerner, it can be a living hell. They’re very suspicious of carpetbaggers, down in them parts. Even 40 years after the fact! And that’s no lie. If you ain’t some kind of kin to them, why, they ain’t got no use for you. That’s the dirty secret of the south, you know. Not race-mixin’, although there’s plenty of that. They even coined a fancy word for it, I believe. Instauration? I disremember. No, the dirty little secret is that everybody down there is practically related to everyone else. And they marry young down there, too. I knew a man who was his own grandfather! Don’t ask me how that works. No, the south is heaven for weather, and hell for people. Seems as though all the nicest people live in the most insalubrious climates. Maybe the perfect place to live would be in a mountain shack in West Virginia, in a place where nobody would ever bother you. But it would get mighty lonesome, after a spell. I hear tell that California is the place to live. I hear they got so many orange groves there that a man need never starve. But that’s sucker bait, for sure.
“You think a newspaper reporter is cynical? Newsboys ain’t got nothin’ on grifters. I’ll tell the world!”
DREAD IN A BABYLON
CONTRA CONTRA OBAMA
DUMB SCHOOL SIGNS
Pooch on hooch! Man blames dog for drunken driving rap
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
7 NEW BREEDS OF DOUCHEBAG
TOP TEN DOUCHEBAG FASHIONS
STYLE EVOLUTION OF THE DOUCHEBAG
6* DAILY UTILITY
how to form a new religion
ROBERT CRUMB HATES YOU
MYTHS ABOUT PIT BULLS
SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS: EARTH’S CLIMATE IS WARMING
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
SOVIET ACCIDENT PREVENTION POSTERS
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
818. Operation Bumblebee stings psychic medium Chip Coffey