THE INFORMATION #874
My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.–George Washington
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART FIFTY-SIX: KINGDOM COME
Count Victor Justin held court at the Seven Stars, though, strangely, he seemed to be talking less to Pappy O’Day, who didn’t even seem to be paying attention any more, and more to me. Though why he wanted to pontificate in front of a thirteen year old is a solid mystery. Maybe he just had some things he needed to get off his chest. The Count seemed troubled. He was beginning, in these short winter days and long cold nights, to look remarkably seedy. His neat suit was frayed at the elbows, his boutonniere was wilted, and no longer did he wear his fabled derby. Even the white hair on the top of his head was beginning to grow in wild.
“In spite of what you may think, I don’t hate women. I’m all for women. If they like you, they’ll let you. If they love you, they’ll help. I’m all for women, even though they’re all a bunch of faithless whores. All except for one.”
“Mater, Mammy, Mama, Mamma Mia–call her what you will, but your Mother is always going to be your best friend. You’re part of her, and she’s a part of you, for always. Face it–Mammy is the only living being on earth who will always forgive you–the only creature on God’s green earth who gives a damn, or is worth a damn, even though sometimes even she has her doubts–as I have mine. I know it was that way with my own dear Mee-Maw. When I think of how ignorant I was as a youngster, and how I caused her pain–it was almost enough to make me want to reform. But I didn’t. Of course.Because even when I was bad, she still seemed to like me. And that made all the difference.
“Mother is a guilt machine. Better to not tell her about any of your many enterprises, old or new–she’ll only worry. Mother wants only what’s best for you. But let’s face it–she may be an angel, but she’s mostly an ignorant old woman–not well-versed in the ways of the world–much less in the habits of menfolk in their natural milieux–thoroughly credulous–in other words, when it comes to her son, she is a dupe. Sonny Boy can do no wrong. Sonny Boy doesn’t even have a life of his own, as long as she’s concerned. Sonny Boy is always just Dan-Dan-Dandy. Whatever Sonny Boy Wants, Sonny Boy gets. Baby cries; mama buys.
“Every mother is Doctor Frankenstein–and every father is the angry villagers.
“And where does Good Old Dad fit into this picture? He mostly doesn’t figure. He is like a lost God–aloof and mostly unseen. Standing alone on a tall cliff. Wind whipping his hair. Craggy profile lit by the setting sun. Once a man has a boy-child, his race is pretty much run. Who needs another old man, cluttering up the landscape? The world has a duty to the future only; not shuffling duffers from the dead and dusty past. Old and cold–truer words were never spoken. Tradition is trash–it’s only what gets in the way.
“Now, if a man is a jackass, he will be actively conned into the whole nest-building racket. His legacy. Build a house for his son, all that claptrap. I don’t give a fart for none of that. It reminds me of a busy squirrel, running up and down a tree with an autumn leaf in his mouth, the better to feather his nest. And what for? The first strong wind to blow will reduce it to rack and ruin. I say, let the four winds blow.
“Besides, a man who has children is in a mighty tough spot–especially if he cares about the opinion of the world, as every decent man is trained to do. Lucky for me that I had all my most decent impulses beaten out of me–at a young and impressionable age. I ain’t dumb no more! Prison is the best thing that ever happened to me. I met a great crew of like-minded felons–I mean fellows–and we quickly went to work completing my education as a grifter. “Don’t pay nothing for nothing” is the first thing I learned. There are ways to avoid paying for just about anything. Mother would have a fit if she knew; but, then again, I am her son, and I can do no wrong.
“When circumstances land you in the midst of a bunch of crooks, the only thing to do for it is to rely upon the criminal morality. You might think you’re too good to associate with common criminals, but life will hand you a long ass-kicking, and you’ll change your tune quite soon enough, Yob.
“Honor among thieves–not so’s you’d notice, but there are certain protocols among the wised-up citizenry that any rapidly aging stripling would do well to remember.
“First and foremost, it practically goes without saying that you must never peach on another man. Your story is always going to be that you saw nothing, and know even less. Less than nothing–mathematically impossible, but a practical fact here in the practical world of by-your-leave and without specified limits. Because nothing is lower than a rat.
“Second thing you’ve got to know is that you must always repay a favor. No man has to have to, but you have to. Always. Nothing is free. There is no such thing as the goodness of one’s heart–not even among the holiest of the civilian population, much less among those of us who are with it and for it.
“Another thing you learn in the jailhouse is that you got nothing coming. Everything you get in life is gotten with your own sweat and muscle, whether you use your own or you’re slick enough to hire someone else to do the job for you. It all goes back to doing a man a favor. All things come to those who wait? Bull! Nothing comes to those who wait. Prison is a remarkable example of that. What if you serve twenty years, with two years off for good behavior. All you got is two years of extra freedom, which ain’t free; and most likely you’re a broken-down galoot. You can’t just serve your time; you’ve got to make your time serve you. Make friends. Influential pals who can interest a high-priced shyster lawyer into getting you sprung, or maybe even arrange for a pardon from the Governor. These are the kinds of friends who are far better than a father to a grifter like me. Maybe your father would like to help you; but he’s got his own fish to fry. Besides, if he’s the kind of softy who would lend you a helping hand, then what good is he? It sets a bad example, is what. Bairns need to learn by experience; otherwise, they grow up to be weak fish and sob sisters.
“No; the kinds of pals you meet in the clink are the kinds of eminently respectable citizens who will serve you far better than dear old Mammy, who, on her best day, might be good for a double sawbuck at most. Cold calculus, mayhap–but ask yourself–don’t it have the ring of truth?”
AMY SCHUMER: JOKE THIEF?
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