WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART FIFTY-ONE: KINGDOM COME
The drunker he got–and that was by no means an easy feat to accomplish for such an experienced toper–the more confidential the tone adopted by Count Victor Justin. Especially when talking about….
“Cokey Stolas. In case you’ve been living under a rock or on the far side of the moon? Yah, he’s the one they call The Big Man, the Gib Yellof, or the G.Y. for short. But did ye ken that other folks here in the near and far parts of Blowtown, which, as we all know, is the lowest slum in all of Noxtown, have different names for him, according to their nationality? I’ve heard them. In whispers they call him Starry Bog, Old Prussa, Mr. Big Gut, The Big Tuna, Master Rain, Mr. Go-Easy, Sir Jubinal, Poochie Cammy. Our colored brethren call him Mr. Butch the Hepicat…and even that Eskimo from the far North who they had on display at the Museum of Natural History had heard of him, and referred to him as the Great Fetivo.
“Every Christmas time, in the rookeries and the alleys, in the festering slums and airless tenements, and in the bowling alleys and gambling hells and bath-houses, all the wised up Yellofs–members of the criminal underground–gather and discuss among themselves the latest doings of the diabolical G.Y. The mind of an old man does wander, but, although he is in his middle age, the brain of the G.Y. is razor-sharp. Who else would think to dress the hateful Smash Conklin in Santa Claus clothing and have him go from door to door distributing live turkeys to all the hopeless degenerates living in hallways and kipping on rooftops and in filthy alleys? I should snicker! Oh, but it goes well beyond that. What does he expect, in return for all those useless birds? Loyalty. One hundred per cent.” (Here he pounded the table.)
“Let me go off here. There are people who, no matter how smart they are, they Just. Don’t. Get. It. That’s because they’re not with it and for it, nor will they ever be. Please note that I do not count myself among that number. But the wised-up yobs–and I hope I’m not mistaken, Pappy, in including you in that charmed assemblage–the wised-up Yellofs–they may be few in number, but they know things that all the others can’t, including, when it comes right down to it, what a game of chance the world is, and how it’s contrived to swindle those who aren’t already hipped to all its bunko schemes. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to heap such scorn on Christmas. Yobs like the Gib Yellof…” (Here he rubbed his belly.)
“Yobs like the Gib Yellof will always ensure that the world is like a Christmas Hell. Surely, there must be such a place. Where the children of the poor are tantalized by bloated visions of tops and rocking horses which they can never have. Where the poor parents are forced to endure the heart-rending cries of the kiddies as nuts, apples, and gingerbread men are wrenched from their hands and even their very mouths. Where the generous souls who gave with all their might are pelted in the head with heavy gifts by demonic Mr. Saint Nicholas his own self. Give your wife an iron? Have an iron dropped on your head–for all eternity! And worse! Gluttons are forced to feast on Turkey and Ham–until their blubber-bellies burst! The apple-cheeked lad with the brand-clean velocipede will be forced to ride it in ever-widening circles–for all eternity! Beneath the hellish Christmas tree, decorated with skulls and shrunken heads, all topped by a big glowing devil’s head, bear-traps and vicious wild animals are hidden, ready to snap off your foot, and worse. Festive stockings are stuffed with fizzing dynamite and other high explosives, which blow off your hands and reduce your head to a smoldering ruin! And who can forget about being forced to roll a burning Yule log up and down the cobblestoned streets–with your nose! All these torments and more await the Yobs who place too much stock in December 25th and, upon their demise, immediately land in Christmas Hell.
“Here on earth, we have places like this very beer garden here to remind us that all is not well with the world. But I don’t suppose we at the Seven Stars Tavern would care very much to inhabit the precincts of the wealthy plutocrats. Those people are boring, always yammering on about how Roosevelt is a damned cowboy who ought to be in jail rather than the white house–all because he invited a colored man to dine with him, what? several years ago? At least the loudmouths in a bar like this can be gentled down by their chums. The rich have no such compunction. They think their superior financial standing also gives them a superior moral and intellectual standing, and I’ll tell you from personal experience that this is very far from being the case. Just as the blowhard fills the room with the fumes of his dollar cigar, so he also fills the air with hateful and ill-informed comments about life. He mistakes his reality for that of everybody else, and that makes him among the most profoundly stupid of all men. That, perhaps, is why he is so easy to swindle.
“Oh, but let the rich toffs have their Miracle Mile on the south side of the River, where all the pricey brothels and taverns and drinking clubs be. In Blowtown, all the underworld elite who are with it and for it would meet at Junky’s Arcade, at the corner of Poor Street and Desperation Road. Who was the original ‘Junky’? The world has long forgotten, just as it does with most matters deserving greater scrutiny. But The Arcade has a great deal to offer the Yellof who isn’t above a bit of slumming. Sure, the rubes and hicks who happen to stumble in there are quickly divested of their purses bulging with pretty polly–I never said the place was safe for the likes of them. But if you’re a poor or loony bum or brum and need a place to roost or a score to take or settle, then The Arcade is the place for you. Many an aspiring cannon has perfected his trade…and many a young whore has made her successful debut there–and in no other place.”