Penguin books - səhifə 56
"You killed my lemming!"
"Let go, idiot." A tug-of-war among the blurry patches of sun and shadow in the alley. "It isn't a lemming, it's a gray fox."
Ludwig stops yelling long enough to look. "She's right," Slothrop points out.
"I'm sorry," Ludwig snivels. "I'm a little upset."
"Well, could you help me carry these as far as the church?"
They each take an armful of furs and follow her through thebumpy gassen of the town, in a side entrance, down several flights to a subbasement of the Michaeliskirche. There in the lamplight, the first face Slothrop sees, inclined over a Sterno fire tending a simmering pot, is that of Major Duane Marvy.
D D D D D D D
YAAAGGGGHHHH— Slothrop hefts his armload of coats, ready to throw them and flee, but the Major's just all smiles. "Hi there, comrade. You're just in time for some o' Duane Marvy's Atomic Chili! Whyntcha pull up a pew 'n' sit down? Yaah-ha-ha-ha! Little What's-her-name here," chuckling and copping a feel as the girl deposits her delivery with the enormous stash of furs that occupies most of this room, "she's kind of indiscreet sometimes. I hope you don't feel like that we're doing anything illegal, I mean in your zone and everything."
"Not at all, Major," trying for a Russian accent, which comes out like Bela Lugosi. Marvy is out with his pass anyhow, most of which is handwritten, with here and there a seal stamped onto it. Slothrop squints at the Cyrillic handwriting at the bottom and makes out Tchitch-erine's signature, "Ah, I have coordinated with Colonel Tchitcherine on one or two occasions."
"Hey'd ya hear what happened up in Peenymunde? Buncha 'suckers just come in hijacked Der Springer right out f'm under the Colonel's nose. Yeah. You know Der Springer? Bad ass, comrade. That 'sucker got so many arns in the far don't leave much for free-enterprisers like me 'n' old Bloody Chiclitz."
Old Bloody Chiclitz, whose mother, Mrs. Chiclitz, named him Clayton, has been lurking behind a stack of mink capes with a .45 aimed at Slothrop's stomach. "Say he's O.K., buddy," Marvy calls. "Y'all bring us s'more that champagne why don'tcha." Chiclitz is about as fat as Marvy and wears hornrimmed glasses, and the top of his head's as shiny as his face. They stand there with their arms around each other's shoulders, two smiling fat men. "Ivan, you're lookin' at 10,000 calories a day, right here," indicating the two paunches with his thumb, and winking. "Chiclitz here goam be the Royal Baby," and they both collapse with laughter. But it is true. Chiclitz has actually figured out a way to cash in on redeployment. He is about to wangle with Special Services the exclusive contract for Staging the equator-crossing festivities for every troop ship that changes hemispheres. And
Chiclitz himself will be the Royal Baby on as many as he can, that's been written in. He dreams of the generations of cannon fodder, struggling forward on their knees, one by one, to kiss his stomach while he gobbles turkey legs and ice-cream cones and wipes his fingers off in the polliwogs' hair. Officially he is one of the American industrialists out here with the T-Force, scouting German engineering, secret weaponry in particular. Back home he owns a toy factory in Nutley, New Jersey. Who can ever forget the enormously successful Juicy Jap, the doll that you fill with ketchup then bayonet through any of several access slots, whereupon it flies to pieces, 82 of them, realistically squishy plastic, all over the room? or-or Shufflin' Sam, the game of skill where you have to shoot the Negro before he gets back over the fence with the watermelon, a challenge to the reflexes of boys and girls of all ages? Right now business is taking care of itself, but Chiclitz has his eyes on the future. That's why he's running this fur operation, with the Michaeliskirche serving as a depot for the whole region. "Retrenchment. Got to get capitalized, enough to see me through," splashing champagne into gold communion chalices, "till we see which way it's gonna go. Myself, I think there's a great future in these V-weapons. They're gonna be really big."
The old church smells of spilled wine, American sweat, and recently burned cordite, but these are raw newer intrusions that haven't done away with the prevailing Catholic odor—incense, wax, centuries of mild bleating from the lips of the flock. Children come in and go out, bringing furs and taking them away, chatting with Ludwig and presently inviting him along to check out the freight cars down at the marshaling yards.
There are about 30 kids on Chiclitz's payroll. "My dream," he admits, "is to bring all these kids back to America, out to Hollywood. I think there's a future for them in pictures. You heard of Cecil B. De Mille, the producer? My brother-in-law's pretty close to him. I think I can teach them to sing or something, a children's chorus, negotiate a package deal with De Mille. He can use them for the real big numbers, religious scenes, orgy scenes—"
"Ha!" cries Marvy, dribbling champagne, eyeballs bulging. "You're dreaming all right, old buddy! You sell those kids to Cecil B. De Mille it's f'damn sure they ain't goam be singin'. He'll use them little 'suckers for galley slaves! Yaah-ha-ha—yeah they'll be chained to th' oars, just haulin' ass, rowin' old Henry Wilcoxon away into th' sunset to fight them Greeks or Persians or somebody."
"Galley slaves?" Chiclitz roars. "Never, by God. For De Mille, young fur-henchmen can't be rowing!"
Out at the edge of town are the remains of an A4 battery, left where it stood as the troops fled south, trying to escape British and Russian pincers. Marvy and Chiclitz are going to have a look, and Slothrop is welcome to come along. But first there is the matter of Duane Marvy's Atomic Chili, which turns out to be a test of manhood. The champagne bottle is there within easy reach, but drinking from it will be taken as a sign of weakness. Once Slothrop would have been suckered in, but now he doesn't even have to think it over. While the two Americans, blinded, noses on fire and leaking incredible quantities of snot, undergo what the authoritative A Cheapskate's Guide to the Zone aptly describes as "a Götterdämmerung of the mucous membranes," Slothrop sits guzzling champagne like soda pop, nodding, smiling, and mumbling da, da now and then for authenticity's sake.
They ride out to the site in a green, grinning Ford staff car. Marvy soon as he slides behind the wheel turns into a fanged dipsomaniac— eeeeerrrrr leaving rubber enough to condom a division, zero to 70 before the echo's died, trying to run down bicyclists right 'n' left, stampeding the livestock, whilst Bloody Chiclitz, whooping happily, a champagne bottle in each fist, urges him on—Marvy bellowing "San Antonya Rose," his fav'rite song, Chiclitz screaming out the window admonitions like "Fuck not with the Kid, lest instead of fucker thou become fuckee," which takes a while and draws only a few bewildered Fascist salutes from old ladies and little children at the roadside.
The site is a charred patch becoming green with new weeds, inside a copse of beech and some alder. Camouflaged metal stands silent across a ghostly crowd of late dandelions, gray heads nodding together waiting for the luminous wind that will break them toward the sea, over to Denmark, out to all points of the Zone. Everything's been stripped. The vehicles are back to the hollow design envelopes of their earliest specs, though there's still a faint odor of petrol and grease. Forget-me-nots are growing violent blue violent yellow among the snarl of cables and hoses. Swallows have built a nest inside the control car, and a spider has begun filling in the web of the Meillerwagen boom with her own. "Shit," sez Major Marvy. "Fuckin' Rooskies done stole everthing, no offense, comrade." They go kicking through green and purple weeds, rusted food tins, old sawdust and chips of wood. Surveying stakes, each with a tatter of white nailed on top, still chain away toward the guide-beam transmitter 12 kilometers away. East-
ward. So it must've been the Russians they were trying to stop. . . .
Red, white, and blue winks from the dusty deck of the control car. Slothrop drops to one knee. The Schwarzkommando mandala: KEZVH. He looks up to see Marvy giving him a sly fat smile.
"Why shore. I shoulda known. You don't have no insignia on. Sheeeee . . . you're-you're like th' Soviet CIC! Ain'tcha." Slothrop stares back. "Hey. Hey, who're you tryin' to git? Huh?" The smile vanishes. "Sa-a-a-y, I shore hope it ain't Colonel Tchitcherine, now. He's a good Rooskie, you know."
"I assure you," holding up the mandala, cross to vampire, "my only interest is in dealing with the problem of these black devils."
Back comes the smile, along with a fat hand on Slothrop's arm. "You all set to go round 'n' round with thim, whin y'r comrades git here?"
"Round, and round? I am not sure that I—""You know. Come on. Why all thim boogies't's camped outside o' town! Hey, Ivan, god-damn 'at's goam be fun. I spint all day today cleanin' my Colt's," caressing the sidearm in its holster. "Goam make me a coonskin cap outa one o' thim 'suckers, 'n' I don't have to tell you what part's goam be danglin' down there in back, do Uh? Hah?" Which tickles Bloody Chiclitz so much he like to chokes laughing.
"Actually," Slothrop making it up as he goes along, "my mission is coordinating intelligence," whatever that means, "in operations such as this. I am down here, in fact, to reconnoiter the enemy position."
"Enemy's right," Chiclitz nods. "They got guns and everything. Only thing a coon ought to have in his hands is a broom!"
Marvy is frowning. "You, you ain't expecting us to go out there with you, now. We can tell you how to git there, comrade, but you're crazy to go out there alone. Why don'tcha wait'll tonight? Scheduled to stort about midnight, ain't it? You can wait till then."
"It is essential that I gather certain information in advance," poker-face, pokerface, good, good ... "I do not have to tell you how important this is ..." a pregnant Lugosi pause, "to all of us."
Well, that gets him directions out to the Schwarzkommando and a lift back into town, where the businessmen pick up a couple of those Eager Fräuleins and go roistering off into the sunset. Slothrop stands in their exhaust, muttering.
Next time it won't be any custard pie, you asshole. ...
Takes him an hour to get out to the camp on foot across a wide meadow whose color is deepening now as if green dye flowed and seeped into its nap ... he is aware of each single grassblade's shadow
reaching into the shadows east of it... pure milk-colored light sweeps up in a bell-curve above the sun nearly down, transparent white flesh, fading up through many blues, powdery to dark steel at the zenith . . . why is he out here, doing this? Is this Ursula the lemming's idea too, getting mixed up in other people's private feuds when he was supposed to be ... whatever it was . . . uh. . . .
Yeah! yeah what happened to Imipolex G, all that Jamf a-and that S-Gerät, s'posed to be a hardboiled private eye here, gonna go out all alone and beat the odds, avenge my friend that They killed, get my ID back and find that piece of mystery hardware but now aw it's JUST LIKE-LOOK-IN' FAWR A NEEDLE IN A HAAAAY-STACK! Sssss—searchinfrasomethin' fulla moon-beams, (Something) got ta have yoooou!
Feet whispering through weeds and meadow grass, humming along exactly the breathless, chin-up way Fred Astaire did, reflecting on his chances of ever finding Ginger Rogers again this side of their graceful mortality. . . .
Then, snapping back—no no, wait, you're supposed to be planning soberly now, weighing your options, determining your goals at this critical turning point in your . . .
Ya—ta-ta, LOOKIN' F'R A NEEDLE IN A—
Nonono come on, Jackson, quit fooling, you got to concentrate. . . . The S-Gerät now—O.K. if I can find that S-Gerät 'n' how Jamf was hooked in, if I can find that out, yeah yeah Imipolex now . . .
—searchin' for a (hmm) cellar full o' saffron . . .
At about which point, as if someone's simple longing has made it appear, comes a single needle-stroke through the sky: the first star.
Let me be able to warn them in time.
They jump Slothrop among the trees, lean, bearded, black—they bring him in to the fires where someone is playing a thumb-harp whose soundbox is carved from a piece of German pine, whose reeds are cut from springs of a wrecked Volkswagen. Women in white cotton skirts printed with dark blue flowers, white blouses, braided aprons, and black kerchiefs are busy with pots and tinware. Some are wearing ostrich-egg-shell necklaces knife-hatched in red and blue. A great cut of beef drips from a wooden spit over a fire.
Enzian isn't there, but Andreas Orukambe is, nervous as wire,
wearing a navy pullover and army fatigue trousers. He remembers Slothrop. "Was ist los?"
Slothrop tells him. "Supposed to be here at midnight. Don't know how many there are, but maybe you'd better clear out."
"Maybe." Andreas is smiling. "Have you eaten?"
The argument, go or stay, proceeds over supper. It is not the tactical decision-making Slothrop was taught in officer school. There seem to be other considerations, something the Zone-Hereros know about and Slothrop doesn't.
"We have to go where we go," Andreas explains to him later. "Where Mukuru wants us to go."
"Oh. Oh, I thought you were out here looking for something, like everybody else. The 00000, what about that?"
"That is Mukuru's. He hides it where he wants us to seek."
"Look, I have a line on that S-Gerät." He gives them Greta Erd-mann's story—the Heath, the gasoline works, the name Blicero—That rings a bell. A gong, in fact. Everybody looks at everybody else. "Now," Andreas very careful, "that was the name of the German who commanded the battery that used the S-Gerät?"
"I don't know if they used it. Blicero took the woman to a factory where it was either put together, or a part of it was made, from some plastic called Imipolex G."
"And she didn't say where."
"Only 'the Heath.' See if you can find her husband. Miklos Thanatz. He may have seen the actual firing, if there was one. Something out of the ordinary went on about then, but I never got to find out what."
"It's O.K. Maybe you can tell me something now." He brings out the mandala he found. "What's it mean?"
Andreas sets it on the ground, turns it till the K points northwest. "Klar," touching each letter, "Entlüftung, these are the female letters. North letters. In our villages the women lived in huts on the northern half of the circle, the men on the south. The village itself was a mandala. Klar is fertilization and birth, Entlüftung is the breath, the soul. Zündung and Vorstufe are the male signs, the activities, fire and preparation or building. And in the center, here, Hauptstufe. It is the pen where we kept the sacred cattle. The souls of the ancestors. All the same here. Birth, soul, fire, building. Male and female, together.
"The four fins of the Rocket made a cross, another mandala. Number one pointed the way it would fly. Two for pitch, three for yaw and
roll, four for pitch. Each opposite pair of vanes worked together, and moved in opposite senses. Opposites together. You can see how we might feel it speak to us, even if we don't set one up on its fins and worship it. But it was waiting for us when we came north to Germany so long ago . . . even confused and uprooted as we were then, we knew that our destiny was tied up with its own. That we had been passed over by von Trotha's army so that we would find the Aggregat."
Slothrop gives him the mandala. He hopes it will work like the mantra that Enzian told him once, mba-kayere (I am passed over), mba-kayere ... a spell against Marvy tonight, against Tchitcherine. A mezuzah. Safe passage through a bad night. ...
D D D D D D D
The Schwarzkommando have got to Achtfaden, but Tchitcherine has been to Närrisch. It cost him Der Springer and three enlisted men in sick bay with deep bites. One severed artery. Närrisch trying to go out Audie Murphy style. A knight for a bishop —Närrisch under narco-hypnosis raved about the Holy Circle and the Rocketfin Cross. But the blacks don't know what else Närrisch knew:
(a) there was a radio link from the ground to the S-Gerät but not
(b) there was an interference problem between a servo-actuator
and a special oxygen line running aft to the device from the main tank,
(c) Weissmann not only coordinated the S-Gerät project at Nord-
hausen, but also commanded the battery that fired Rocket 00000.
Total espionage. Bit by bit this mosaic is growing. Tchitcherine, bureauless, carries it around in his brain. Every chip and scrap belongs. More precious than Ravenna, something goes erecting against this starch-colored sky. . . .
Radio link + oxygen = afterburner of some kind. Ordinarily it would. But Närrisch also spoke of an asymmetry, a load inside near vane 3 that complicated roll and yaw control almost impossibly.
Now wouldn't an afterburner there also give an asymmetrical burning pattern, and heat fluxes greater than the structure could take? Damn, why hasn't he picked up any of the propulsion people? Do the Americans have them all?
Major Marvy, bowie knife in his teeth and two Thompsons propped on either hip, as dumbfounded in the clearing as the rest of the attack party, is in no mood to talk. Instead he is sulking, and drink-
ing vodka out of Dzabajev's bottomless canteen. But had any propulsion engineers assigned to the S-Gerät showed up at Garmisch, Marvy would have let him know. That's the arrangement. Western intelligence, Russian trigger-fingers.
Oh, he smells Enzian . . . even now the black may be looking in out of the night. Tchitcherine lights a cigarette, greenbluelavender flare settling to yellow ... he holds the flame longer than necessary, thinking let him. He won 'í. / wouldn 't. Well. . . maybe I would. . . .
But it's come a quantum-jump closer tonight. They are going to meet. It will be over the S-Gerät, real or fantasized, working or wasted—they will meet face to face. Then ...
Meantime, who's the mysterious Soviet intelligence agent that Marvy talked to? Paranoia for you here, Tchitcherine. Maybe Moscow's been tipped to your vendetta. If they are gathering evidence for a court-martial, it won't be any Central Asia this time. It'll be Last Secretary to the embassy in Atlantis. You can negotiate narcotics arrests for all the drowned Russian sailors, expedite your own father's visas to far Lemuria, to the sun-resorts of Sargasso where the bones come up to lie and bleach and mock the passing ships. And just before he rides out on the noon current, brochures tucked between ribs, traveler's checks wadded in a skull-socket, tell him of his black son—tell him about the day with Enzian in the creeping edge of autumn, cold as the mortal cold of an orange kept under shaved ice on the terrace of the hotel in Barcelona, si me quieres escribir you already know where I'll be staying . . . cold at the tip of your peeling-thumb, terminally-approaching cold. . . .
"Listen," Marvy by now a little drunk and peevish, "when we gonna git those 'suckers?"
"It's coming, you can be sure."
"Butchyew don't know the kinda pressure I'm gettin' f'm Paris! F'm headquarters! It's fantastic! There's people in high places wanna wipe thim 'suckers out, now. All's they got to do's mash on a button 'n' I never git to see no Mexican whores again's long's I live. Now you can see what these coons're try'n' t'do, somebody got to stop them 'fore they do, shit—"
"This intelligence man you saw—both our governments easily could have the same policy—"
"You ain't got General Electric breathin' over your shoulder, fella. Dillon, Reed . . . Standard Awl . . . shit. ..."
"But that's just what you folks need" Bloody Chiclitz interjects.
"Get some business people in there to run it right, instead of having the government run everything. Your left hand doesn't know what your right hand's doing! You know that?"
What's this? A political debate now? Not enough humiliation missing the Schwarzkommando, no, you didn't think you were going to get off that easy. . . .
"A-and what about Herbert Hoover?" Chiclitz is screaming. "He came over and fed you people, when you were starving! They love Hoover over here—"
"Yes—" Tchitcherine breaks in: "what is General Electric doing out here, by the way?"
A friendly wink from Major Marvy. "Mister Swope was ace buddies with old FDR, you see. Electric Charlie's in there now, but Swope, he was one-thim Brain Trusters. Jews, most of'm. But Swope's O.K. Now GE has connections with Siemens over here, they worked on the V-2 guidance, remember—"
"Swope's a Jew," sez Chiclitz.
"Naahh—Bloody, yew don' know whatcher talkin' about—"
"I'm telling you—" They fall into a drawling juicers' argument over the ethnic background of the ex-chairman of GE, full of poison and sluggish hate. Tchitcherine listens with only one ear. An episode of vertigo is creeping on him. Didn't Närrisch, under the drug, mention a Siemens representative at the S-Gerät meetings in Nordhausen? yes. And an IG man, too. Didn't Carl Schmitz of the IG sit on Siemens's board of directors?
No use asking Marvy. He is too drunk by now to stay on any subject. "Ya know I was purty ignorant whin Uh come out here. Sheeit, I used t'think I. G. Farben was somebody's name, you know, a fella— hello, this I. G. Farben? No, this is his wife, Mizzus Farben! Yaaah-hn-ha-ha!"
Bloody Chiclitz is off on his Eleanor Roosevelt routine. "The othuh day, my son Idiot—uh, Elliot—and I, were baking cookies. Cookies to send to the boys overseas. When the boys received the cookies we sent them, they would bake cookies, and send some back to us. That way, everybody gets his cookies!"
Oh, Wimpe. Old V-Mann, were you right? Is your IG to be the very model of nations?
So it comes to Tchitcherine here in the clearing with these two fools on either side of him, among the debris of some numberless battery's last stand, cables paralyzed where winch-operators levered them
to stillness, beer bottles lying exactly where they were thrown by the last men on the last night, everything testifying so purely to the shape of defeat, of operational death.
"Say, there." It appears to be a very large white Finger, addressing him. Its Fingernail is beautifully manicured: as it rotates for him, it slowly reveals a Fingerprint that might well be an aerial view of the City Dactylic, that city of the future where every soul is known, and there is noplace to hide. Right now, joints moving with soft, hydraulic sounds, the Finger is calling Tchitcherine's attention to— A Rocket-cartel. A structure cutting across every agency human and paper that ever touched it. Even to Russia . . . Russia bought from Krupp, didn't she, from Siemens, the IG. . . .
Are there arrangements Stalin won't admit . . . doesn't even know about? Oh, a State begins to take form in the stateless German night, a State that spans oceans and surface politics, sovereign as the International or the Church of Rome, and the Rocket is its soul. IG Raketen. Circus-bright, poster reds and yellows, rings beyond counting, all going at once. The stately Finger twirls among them all. Tchitcherine is certain. Not so much on outward evidence he has found moving through the Zone as out of a personal doom he carries with him—always to be held at the edges of revelations. It happened first with the Kirghiz Light, and his only illumination then was that fear would always keep him from going all the way in. He will never get further than the edge of this meta-cartel which has made itself known tonight, this Rocketstate whose borders he cannot cross. . . .
He will miss the Light, but not the Finger. Sadly, most sadly, everyone else seems to be in on it. Every scavenger out here is in IG Raketen's employ. All except for himself, and Enzian. His brother, En-zian. No wonder They're after the Schwarzkommando . . . and. . . .
And when They find out I'm not what They think . . . and why is Many looking at me like this now, his eyes bulging . . . oh, don't panic, don't feed his insanity, he's just this side of... of...
D D D D D D D
To Cuxhaven, the summer in deceleration, floating on to Cuxhaven. The meadows hum. Rain clatters in crescent swoops through the reeds. Sheep, and rarely a few dark northern deer, will come down to browse for seaweed at the shore which is never quite sea nor quite sand, but held in misty ambivalence by the sun. ... So Slothrop is
borne, afloat on the water-leas. Like signals set out for lost travelers, shapes keep repeating for him, Zonal shapes he will allow to enter but won't interpret, not any more. Just as well, probably. The most persistent of these, which seem to show up at the least real times of day, are the stairstep gables that front so many of these ancient north-German buildings, rising, backlit, a strangely wet gray as if risen out of the sea, over these straight and very low horizons. They hold shape, they endure, like monuments to Analysis. Three hundred years ago mathematicians were learning to break the cannonball's rise and fall into stairsteps of range and height, Ax and Ay, allowing them to grow smaller and smaller, approaching zero as armies of eternally shrinking midgets galloped upstairs and down again, the patter of their diminishing feet growing finer, smoothing out into continuous sound. This analytic legacy has been handed down intact—it brought the technicians at Peenemünde to peer at the Askania films of Rocket flights, frame by frame, Ax by Ay, flightless themselves . . . film and calculus, both pornographies of flight. Reminders of impotence and abstraction, the stone Treppengiebel shapes, whole and shattered, appear now over the green plains, and last a while, and go away: in their shadows children with hair like hay are playing Himmel and Hölle, jumping village pavements from heaven to hell to heaven by increments, sometimes letting Slothrop have a turn, sometimes vanishing back into their dark gassen where elder houses, many-windowed and sorrowing, bow perpetually to the neighbor across the way, nearly touching overhead, only a thin lead of milk sky between.
At nightfall the children roam the streets carrying round paper lanterns, singing Laterne, Lateme, Sonne, Mond und Sterne . . . spheres in country evenings, pale as souls, singing good-by to another summer. In a coastal town, near Wismar, as he's falling to sleep in a little park, they surround Slothrop and tell him the story of Plechazunga, the Pig-Hero who, sometime back in the 10th century, routed a Viking invasion, appearing suddenly out of a thunderbolt and chasing a score of screaming Norsemen back into the sea. Every summer since then, a Thursday has been set aside to celebrate the town's deliverance—Thursday being named after Donar or Thor, the thunder-god, who sent down the giant pig. The old gods, even by the 10th century, still had some pull with the people. Donar hadn't quite been tamed into Saint Peter or Roland, though the ceremony did come to be held at the town's Roland-statue near the Peterskirche.
This year, though, it's in jeopardy. Schraub the shoemaker, who has taken the role of Plechazunga for the past 30 years, got drafted last
winter into the Volksgrenadier and never came back. Now the white lanterns come crowding around Tyrone Slothrop, bobbing in the dark. Tiny fingers prod his stomach.
"You're the fattest man in the world."
"He's fatter than anyone in the village."
"Would you? Would you?"
"I'm not that fat—"
"Told you somebody would come."
"And taller, too."
"—waitaminute, would I what?"
"Be Plechazunga tomorrow."
Being a soft touch these days, Slothrop gives in. They roust him up out of his grass bed and down to the city hall. In the basement are costumes and props for the Schweinheldfest—shields, spears, horned helmets, shaggy animal skins, wooden Thor's hammers and ten-foot lightning bolts covered with gold leaf. The pig costume is a little startling—pink, blue, yellow, bright sour colors, a German Expressionist pig, plush outside, padded with straw inside. It seems to fit perfectly. Hmm.
The crowd next morning is sparse and placid: old people and children, and a few silent veterans. The Viking invaders are all kids, helmets sloping down over their eyes, capes dragging the ground, shields as big as they are and weaponry twice as high. Giant Plechazunga images with white stock and red and blue cornflowers woven onto the wiremesh frames, line the square. Slothrop waits hidden behind the Roland, a particularly humorless, goggle-eyed, curly-headed, pinch-waisted specimen. With Slothrop is an arsenal of fireworks and his assistant Fritz, who's about 8, and a Wilhelm Busch original. Slothrop is a little nervous, unaccustomed as he is to pigherofestivals. But Fritz is an old hand, and has thoughtfully brought along a glazed jug of some liquid brain damage flavored with dill and coriander and distilled, unless Haferschleim means something else, from oatmeal.
"Haferschleim, Fritz?" He takes another belt, sorry he asked.
"Well, Haferschleim is better than none, ho, ho. ..." Whatever it is, it seems to work swiftly on the nerve centers. By the time all the Vikings, to a solemn brass chorale from the local band, have puffed and struggled up to the statue, formed ranks, and demanded the town's surrender, Slothrop finds his brain working with less than the usual keenness. At which point Fritz strikes his match, and all hell breaks loose, rockets, Roman candles, pinwheels and—PLECCCH-HAZUNNGGA! an enormous charge of black powder blasts him out in the open, singeing his ass, taking the curl right out of his tail. "Oh, yes, that's right, uh . . ." Wobbling, grinning hugely, Slothrop hollers his line: "I am the wrath of Donar—and this day you shall be my anvil!" Away they all go in a good roaring chase through the streets, in a shower of white blossoms, little kids squealing, down to the water, where everybody starts splashing and ducking everybody else. Townspeople break out beer, wine, bread, Quark, sausages. Gold-brown Kartoffelpuffer are lifted dripping hot from oil smoking in black skillets over little peat fires. Girls commence stroking Slothrop's snout and velvet flanks. The town is saved for another year.
A peaceful, drunken day, full of music, the smell of salt water, marsh, flowers, frying onions, spilled beer and fresh fish, overhead little frost-colored clouds blowing along the blue sky. The breeze is cool enough to keep Slothrop from sweating inside this pig suit. All along the shoreline, blue-gray woods breathe and shimmer. White sails move out in the sea.
Slothrop returns from the brown back room of a pipesmoke-and-cabbage cafe, and an hour's game of hammer-and-forge with—every boy's dream—TWO healthy young ladies in summer dresses and woodsoled shoes to find the crowd begun to coagulate into clumps of three and four. Oh, shit. Not now, come on. . . . Tight aching across his asshole, head and stomach inflated with oat mash and summer beer, Slothrop sits on a pile of nets and tries, fat chance, to will himself alert.
These little vortices appearing in a crowd out here usually mean black market. Weeds of paranoia begin to bloom, army-green, among the garden and midday tranquillities. Last of his line, and how far-fallen—no other Slothrop ever felt such fear in the presence of Commerce. Newspapers already lie spread out on the cobbles for buyers to dump out cans of coffee on, make sure it's all Bohnenkaffee, and not just a thin layer on top of ersatz. Gold watches and rings appear abruptly sunlit out of dusty pockets. Cigarettes go flashing hand to hand among the limp and filthy and soundless Reichsmarks. Kids play underfoot while the grownups deal, in Polish, Russian, north-Baltic, Plattdeutsch. Some of the DP style here, a little impersonal, just passing through, dealing on route, in motion, almost as an afterthought . . . where'd they all come from, these gray hustlers, what shadows in the Gemütlichkeit of the day were harboring them?
Materializing from their own weird office silence, the coppers
show up now, two black 'n' white charabancs full of bluegreen uniforms, white armbands, little bucket hats with starburst insignia, truncheons already unsheathed, black dildos in nervous hands, wobbling, ready for action. The eddies in the crowd break up fast, jewelry ringing to the pavement, cigarettes scattered and squashed under the feet of stampeding civilians, among the instant litter of watches, war medals, silkstuffs, rolls of bills, pinkskinned potatoes all their eyes staring in alarm, elbow-length kid gloves twisted up fingers clutching at sky, smashed light bulbs, Parisian slippers, gold picture-frames around still-lifes of cobbles, rings, brooches, nobody gonna claim any of it, everybody scared now.
No wonder. The cops go at busting these proceedings the way they must've handled anti-Nazi street actions before the War, moving in, mmm ja, with these flexible clubs, eyes tuned to the finest possibilities of threat, smelling of leather, of the wool-armpit rankness of their own fear, jumping little kids three-on-one, shaking down girls, old people, making them take off and shake out even boots and underwear, jabbing and battering in with tireless truncheonwork among the crying kids and screaming women. Beneath the efficiency and glee is nostalgia for the old days. The War must've been lean times for crowd control, murder and mopery was the best you could do, one suspect at a time. But now, with the White Market to be protected, here again are whole streets full of bodies eager for that erste Abreibung, and you can bet the heat are happy with it.
Presently they have Russian reinforcements, three truckloads of young Asiatics in fatigues who don't seem to know where they are exactly, just shipped in from someplace very cold and far to the east. Out of their slatsided rigs like soccer players coming on field, they form a line and start to clear the street by compressing the crowd toward the water. Slothrop is right in the middle of all this, shoved stumbling backward, pig mask cutting off half his vision, trying to shield whom he can—a few kids, an old lady who was busy earlier moving cotton yardage. The first billy-clubs catch him in the straw padding over his stomach, and don't feel like much. Civilians are going down right and left, but Plechazunga's holding his own. Has the morning been only a dress rehearsal? Is Slothrop expected to repel real foreign invaders now? A tiny girl is clutching to his leg, crying the Schweinheld's name in a confident voice. A grizzled old cop, years of home-front high living and bribes in his face, comes swinging a club at Slothrop's head. The Swine-hero dodges and kicks with his free leg. As the cop doubles over, half a dozen yelling civilians jump on, relieving him of hat and
truncheon. Tears, caught by the sun, leak out of his withered eyes. Then gunfire has started somewhere, panicking everybody, carrying Slothrop half off his feet, the kid around his leg torn loose and lost in the rush forever.
Out of the street onto the quai. The police have quit hitting people and begun picking up loot off of the street, but now the Russians are moving in, and enough of them are looking straight at Slothrop. Prov-
identially, one of the girls from the cafe shows up about now, takes his hand and tugs him along.
"There's a warrant out for you."
"A what? They're doing pretty good without any paperwork."
"The Russians found your uniform. They think you're a deserter."
She takes Slothrop home with her, in his pig suit. He never hears her name. She is about seventeen, fair, a young face, easy to hurt. They lie behind a sperm-yellowed bedsheet tacked to the ceiling, very close on a narrow bed with lacquered posts. Her mother is carving turnips in the kitchen. Their two hearts pound, his for his danger, hers for Slothrop. She tells how her parents lived, her father a printer, married during his journeymanship, his wanderyears now stretched out to ten, no word where he's been since '42, when they had a note from Neukölln, where he had dossed down the night with a friend. Always a friend, God knows how many back rooms, roundhouses, print shops he slept single nights in, shivering wrapped in back numbers of Die Welt am Montag, sure of at least shelter, like everybody in the Buch-drucherverband, often a meal, almost certainly some kind of police trouble if the stay lasted too long—it was a good union. They kept the German Wobbly traditions, they didn't go along with Hitler though all the other unions were falling into line. It touches Slothrop's own Puritan hopes for the Word, the Word made printer's ink, dwelling along with antibodies and iron-bound breath in a good man's blood, though the World for him be always the World on Monday, with its cold cutting edge, slicing away every poor illusion of comfort the bourgeois takes for real. . . did he run off leaflets against his country's insanity? was he busted, beaten, killed? She has a snapshot of him on holiday, someplace Bavarian, waterfalled, white-peaked, a tanned and ageless face, Tyrolean hat, galluses, feet planted perpetually set to break into a run: the image stopped, preserved here, the only way they could keep him, running room to room down all his cold Red suburbs, freemason's night to night. . . their aproned and kitchen way of going evening or empty afternoon in to study the Ax's and Ay's of his drifter's
spirit, on the run—study how he was changing inside the knife-fall of the shutter, what he might've been hearing in the water, flowing like himself forever, in lost silence, behind him, already behind him.
Even now, lying beside a stranger in a pig disguise, her father is the flying element of Slothrop, of whoever else has lain here before, flightless, and heard the same promise: "I'd go anywhere with you." He sees them walking a railroad trestle, pines on long slanted mountains all around, autumn sunlight and cold, purple rainclouds, mid-afternoon, her face against some tall concrete structure, the light of the concrete coming down oblique both sides of her cheekbones, blending into her skin, blending with its own light. Her motionless figure above him in a black greatcoat, blonde hair against the sky, himself at the top of a metal ladder in a trainyard, gazing up at her, all their shining steel roads below crisscrossing and peeling off to all parts of the Zone. Both of them on the run. That's what she wants. But Slothrop only wants to lie still with her heartbeat awhile . . . isn't that every paranoid's wish? to perfect methods of immobility? But they're coming, house to house, looking for their deserter, and it's Slothrop who has to go, she who has to stay. In the streets loudspeakers, buzzing metal throats, are proclaiming an early curfew tonight. Through some window of the town, lying in some bed, already browsing at the edges of the fields of sleep, is a kid for whom the metal voice with its foreign accent is a sign of nightly security, to be part of the wild fields, the rain on the sea, dogs, smells of cooking from strange windows, dirt roads . . . part of this unrecoverable summer. . . .
"There's no moon," she whispers, her eyes flinching but not looking away.
"What's the best way out of town?"
She knows a hundred. His heart, his fingertips hurt with shame. "I'll show you."
"You don't have to."
"I want to."
Her mother gives Slothrop a couple of hard rolls to stash inside his pig suit. She'd find him something else to wear, but all her husband's clothes have been traded for food at the Tauschzentrale. His last picture of her is framed in the light of her kitchen, through the window, a fading golden woman, head in a nod over a stove with a single pot simmering, flowered wallpaper deep-orange and red behind her averted face.
The daughter leads him over low stone walls, along drainage ditches and into culverts, southwesterly to the outskirts of the town.
Far behind them the clock in the Peterskirche strikes nine, the sightless Roland below continuing to gaze across the square. White flowers fall one by one from the images of Plechazunga. Stacks of a power station rise, ghostly, smokeless, painted on the sky. A windmill creaks out in the countryside.
The city gate is high and skinny, with stairsteps to nowhere on top. The road away goes curving through the ogival opening, out into the night meadows.
"I want to go with you." But she makes no move to step through the arch with him.
"Maybe I'll be back." It's no drifter's lie, both of them are sure that someone will be, next year at about this time, maybe next year's Schweinheld, someone close enough . . . and if the name, the dossier are not exactly the same, well, who believes in those? She's a printer's kid, she knows the medium, she even learned from him how to handle a Winkelhaken pretty good, how to set up a line and take it down, "You're a May bug," she whispers, and kisses him good-by, and stands watching him go, a sniffling still girl in pinafore and army boots by the isolated gate. "Good night. . . ."
Docile girl, good night. What does he have for her but a last snapshot of a trudging pig in motley, merging with the stars and woodpiles, something to put beside that childhood still of her father? He impersonates flight though his heart isn't in it and yet he's lost all knowledge of staying. . . . Good night, it's curfew, get back inside, back in your room . . . good night. . . .
He keeps to open country, sleeping when he's too tired to walk, straw and velvet insulating him from the cold. One morning he wakes in a hollow between a stand of beech and a stream. It is sunrise and bitter cold, and there seems to be a warm tongue licking roughly at his face. He is looking here into the snout of another pig, very fat and pink pig. She grunts and smiles amiably, blinking long eyelashes.
"Wait. How about this?" He puts on the pig mask. She stares for a minute, then moves up to Slothrop and kisses him, snout-to-snout. Both of them are dripping with dew. He follows her on down to the stream, takes off the mask again and throws water at his face while she drinks beside him, slurping, placid. The water is clear, running lively, cold. Round rocks knock together under the stream. A resonant sound, a music. It would be worth something to sit day and night, in and out, listening to these sounds of water and cobbles unfold. . . .
Slothrop is hungry. "Come on. We got to find breakfast." Beside a small pond near a farmhouse, the pig discovers a wood stake driven
into the ground. She begins snuffling around it. Slothrop kicks aside loose earth and finds a brick cairn, stuffed with potatoes ensiled last year. "Fine for you," as she falls to eagerly, "but I can't eat that stuff." Sky is shining in the calm surface of the water. Nobody seems to be around. Slothrop wanders off to check the farmhouse. Tall white daisies grow all over the yard. Thatch-hooded windows upstairs are dark, no smoke comes from the chimneys. But the chicken-house in back is occupied. He eases a big fat white hen up off of her nest, reaches gingerly for the eggs—PKAWW she flies into a dither, tries to peck Slothrop's arm off, friends come shooting in from outside raising a godawful commotion, at which point the hen has worked her wings through the wood slats so she can't get back in and is too fat below the wingpits to get the rest of the way out. So, there she hangs, flapping and screaming, while Slothrop grabs three eggs then tries to push her wings back inside for her. It is a frustrating job, especially trying to keep the eggs balanced. The rooster is in the doorway hollering Achtung, Achtung, discipline in his harem is shot to hell, noisy white tumbleweed hens are barrelassing all over the inside of the coop, and blood is flowing from Slothrop in half a dozen places.
Then he hears a dog barking—time to give up on this hen—comes outside sees a lady in her Wehrmacht auxiliary outfit 30 meters away leveling a shotgun and the dog charging in growling, teeth bared, eyes on Slothrop's throat. Slothrop goes scrambling around the henhouse just as the gun kicks off a good-morning blast. About then the pig shows up and chases off the dog. Away they go, eggs cradled in pig mask, lady yelling, hens raising hell, pig galloping along beside. There's a final shotgun blast, but by then they're out of range.
About a mile farther on they pause, for Slothrop's breakfast. "Good show," thumping the pig affectionately. She crouches, catching her breath, gazing at him while he eats raw eggs and smokes half a cigarette. Then they set off again.
Soon they have begun to angle toward the sea. The pig seems to know where she's going. Far away on another road, a great cloud of dust hangs, crawling southward, maybe a Russian horse convoy. Fledgling storks are trying out their wings over the haystacks and fields. Tops of solitary trees are blurred green, as if smudged accidentally by a sleeve. Brown windmills turn at the horizon, across miles of straw-sprinkled red earth.
A pig is a jolly companion, Boar, sow, barrow, or gilt—
Though mountains may topple and tilt.
When they've blackballed, bamboozled, and burned you,
When they've turned on you, Tory and Whig,
Though you may be thrown over by Tabby or Rover,
You'll never go wrong with a pig, a pig,
You'll never go wrong with a pig!
By nightfall they have entered a wooded stretch. Fog drifts in the hollows. A lost unmilked cow complains somewhere in the darkness. The pig and Slothrop settled down to sleep among pines thick with shreds of tinfoil, a cloud of British window dumped to fox the German radars in some long-ago raid, a whole forest of Christmas trees, tinsel rippling in the wind, catching the starlight, silent, ice-cold crownfire acres wild over their heads all night. Slothrop keeps waking to find the pig snuggled in a bed of pine needles, watching over him. It's not for danger, or out of restlessness. Maybe she's decided Slothrop needs looking after. In the tinfoil light she's very sleek and convex, her bristles look smooth as down. Lustful thoughts come filtering into Slo-throp's mind, little peculiarity here you know, hehheh, nothing he can't handle. . . . They fall asleep under the decorated trees, the pig a wandering eastern magus, Slothrop in his costume a gaudy present waiting for morning and a child to claim him.
Next day, about noon, they enter a slow-withering city, alone on the Baltic coast, and perishing from an absence of children. The sign over the city gate, in burned bulbs and empty sockets, reads ZWÖLFKINDER. The great wheel, dominating the skyline for miles out of town, leans a little askew, grim old governess, sun catching long streaks of rust, sky pale through the iron lattice that droops its long twisted shadow across the sand and into the plum sea. Wind cat-howls in and out the doorless halls and houses.
"Frieda." A voice calling from the blue shadow behind a wall. Grunting, smiling, the pig stands her ground—look who I brought home. Soon a thin freckled man, blond, nearly bald, steps out into the sun. Glancing at Slothrop, nervous, he reaches to scratch Frieda between the ears. "I am Pokier. Thank you for bringing her back."
"No, no—she brought me."
Pokier is living in the basement of the town hall. He has some coffee heating on a driftwood fire in the stove.
"Do you play chess?"
Frieda kibitzes. Slothrop, who tends to play more by superstition than strategy, is obsessed with protecting his knights, Springer and Springer—willing to lose anything else, thinking no more than a move or two ahead if that, he alternates long lethargic backing and filling with bursts of idiot razzle-dazzle that have Pökler frowning, but not with worry. About the time Slothrop loses his queen, "Sa-a-a-y, waita-minute, did you say Pökler?" Zip the man is out with a Luger as big as a house—really fast guy—with the muzzle pointing right at Slothrop's head. For a moment Slothrop, in his pig suit, thinks that Pokier thinks that he, Slothrop, has been fooling around with Frieda the Pig, and that there is about to be a shotgun, or Luger, wedding here—in fact the phrase unto thee I pledge my trough has just arrived in his brain when he realizes that what Pökler's actually saying is, "You'd better leave. Only two more moves and I'd've had you anyway."
"Lemme at least tell you my story," blithering fast as he can the Zurich information with Pökler's name on it, the Russian-American-Herero search for the S-Gerät, wondering meantime, in parallel sort of, if that Oberst Enzian wasn't right about going native in the Zone— beginning to get ideas, fixed and slightly, ah, erotic notions about Destiny are you Slothrop? eh? tracing back the route Frieda the pig brought him along, trying to remember forks where they might have turned another way. . . .
"The Schwarzgerät." Pökler shakes his head. "I don't know what it was. I was never that interested. Is that really all you're after?"
Slothrop thinks that over. Their coffee cups take sunlight from the window and bounce it back up to the ceiling, bobbing ellipses of blue light. "Don't know. Except for this kind of personal tie-in with Imipolex G. . . ."
"It's an aromatic polyimide," Pokier putting the gun back in his shirt.
"Tell me about it," sez Slothrop.
Well, but not before he has told something of his Ilse and her summer returns, enough for Slothrop to be taken again by the nape and pushed against Bianca's dead flesh. . . . Use, fathered on Greta Erdmann's silver and passive image, Bianca, conceived during the filming of the very scene that was in his thoughts as Pokier pumped in the fatal charge of sperm—how could they not be the same child?
She's still with you, though harder to see these days, nearly invisi-
ble as a glass of gray lemonade in a twilit room . . . still she is there, cool and acid and sweet, waiting to be swallowed down to touch your deepest cells, to work among your saddest dreams.
D D D D D D D
Pokier does manage to tell a little about Laszlo Jamf, but keeps getting sidetracked off into talking about the movies, German movies Slothrop has never heard of, much less seen . . . yes here's some kind of fanatical movie hound all right—"On D-Day," he confesses, "when I heard General Eisenhower on the radio announcing the invasion of Normandy, I thought it was really Clark Gable, have you ever noticed? the voices are identical. ..."
In the last third of his life, there came over Laszlo Jamf—so it seemed to those who from out in the wood lecture halls watched his eyelids slowly granulate, spots and wrinkles grow across his image, disintegrating it toward old age—a hostility, a strangely personal hatred, for the covalent bond. A conviction that, for synthetics to have a future at all, the bond must be improved on—some students even read "transcended." That something so mutable, so soft, as a sharing of electrons by atoms of carbon should lie at the core of life, his life, struck Jamf as a cosmic humiliation. Sharing? How much stronger, how everlasting was the ionic bond—where electrons are not shared, but captured. Seized! and held! polarized plus and minus, these atoms, no ambiguities . . . how he came to love that clarity: how stable it was, such mineral stubbornness!
"Whatever lip-service we may pay to Reason," he told Pökler's class back at the T.H., "to moderation and compromise, nevertheless there remains the lion. A lion in each one of you. He is either tamed— by too much mathematics, by details of design, by corporate procedures—or he stays wild, an eternal predator.
"The lion does not know subtleties and half-solutions. He does not accept sharing as a basis for anything! He takes, he holds! He is not a Bolshevik or a Jew. You will never hear relativity from the lion. He wants the absolute. Life and death. Win and lose. Not truces or arrangements, but the joy of the leap, the roar, the blood."
If this be National Socialist chemistry, blame that something-in-the-air, the Zeitgeist. Sure, blame it. Prof.-Dr. Jamf was not immune. Neither was his student Pokier. But through Inflation and Depression,
Polder's idea of "the lion" came to have a human face attached to it, a movie face natürlich, that of the actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge, whom Polder idolized, and wanted to be like.
Klein-Rogge was carrying nubile actresses off to rooftops when King Kong was still on the tit with no motor skills to speak of. Well, one nubile actress anyway, Brigitte Helm in Metropolis. Great movie. Exactly the world Pokier and evidently quite a few others were dreaming about those days, a Corporate City-state where technology was the source of power, the engineer worked closely with the administrator, the masses labored unseen far underground, and ultimate power lay with a single leader at the top, fatherly and benevolent and just, who wore magnificent-looking suits and whose name Pokier couldn't remember, being too taken with Klein-Rogge playing the mad inventor that Polder and his codisciples under Jamf longed to be—indispensable to those who ran the Metropolis, yet, at the end, the untamable lion who could let it all crash, girl, State, masses, himself, asserting his reality against them all in one last roaring plunge from rooftop to street. . . .
A curious potency. Whatever it was the real visionaries were picking up out of the hard tessitura of those days and city streets, whatever Käthe Kollwitz saw that brought her lean Death down to hump Its women from behind, and they to love it so, seemed now and then to have touched Pokier too, in his deeper excursions into the Mare Noc-turnum. He found delight not unlike a razor sweeping his skin and nerves, scalp to soles, in ritual submissions to the Master of this night space and of himself, the male embodiment of a technologique that embraced power not for its social uses but for just those chances of surrender, personal and dark surrender, to the Void, to delicious and screaming collapse. ... To Attila the Hun, as a matter of fact, come west out of the steppes to smash the precious structure of magic and incest that held together the kingdom of the Burgundians. Pokier was tired that night, all day out scavenging for coal. He kept falling asleep, waking to images that for a half a minute he could make no sense of at all—a close-up of a face? a forest? the scales of the Dragon? a battle-scene? Often enough, it would resolve into Rudolf Klein-Rogge, ancient Oriental thanatomaniac Attila, head shaved except for a topknot, bead-strung, raving with grandiloquent gestures and those enormous bleak eyes. . . . Pokier would nod back into sleep with bursts of destroying beauty there for his dreams to work on, speaking barbaric gutturals for the silent mouths, smoothing the Burgundians into something of the meekness, the grayness of certain crowds in the
beerhalls back at the T.H. . . . and wake again—it went on for hours— into some further progression of carnage, of fire and smashing. . . .
On the way home, by tram and foot, his wife bitched at Pokier for dozing off, ridiculed his engineer's devotion to cause-and-effect. How could he tell her that the dramatic connections were really all there, in his dreams? How could he tell her anything?
Klein-Rogge is remembered most of all for his role as Dr. Mabuse. You were meant to think of Hugo Stinnes, the tireless operator behind the scenes of apparent Inflation, apparent history: gambler, financial wizard, archgangster ... a fussy bürgerlich mouth, jowls, graceless moves, a first impression of comic technocracy . . . and yet, when the rages came over him, breaking through from beneath the rationalized look, with his glacial eyes become windows into the bare savanna, then the real Mabuse surfaced, vital and proud against the gray forces surrounding him, edging him toward the doom he must've known he couldn't escape, the silent inferno of guns, grenades, streets full of troops attacking his headquarters, and his own madness at the end of the secret tunnel. . . . And who brought him down but matinee idol Bernhardt Goetzke as State Prosecutor von Wenk, Goetzke who played tender, wistful bureaucratic Death in Der Müde Tod, here too running true to form, too tame, too gentle for the jaded Countess he coveted—but Klein-Rogge jumped in, with all claws out, drove her effeminate husband to suicide, seized her, threw her on his bed, the languid bitch—took her! while gentle Goetzke sat in his office, among his papers and sybarites—Mabuse trying to hypnotize him, drug him, bomb him to death in his own office—nothing worked, each time the great Weimar inertia, files, hierarchies, routines, kept saving him. Mabuse was the savage throwback, the charismatic flash no Sunday-afternoon Agfa plate could ever bear, the print through the rippling solution each time flaring up to the same annihilating white (Piscean depths Pokier has cruised dream and waking, beneath him images of everyday Inflation dreariness, queues, stockbrokers, boiled potatoes in a dish, searching with only gills and gut—some nervous drive toward myth he doesn't even know if he believes in—for the white light, ruins of Atlantis, intimations of a truer kingdom). . . .
Metropolitan inventor Rothwang, King Attila, Mabuse der Spieler, Prof.-Dr. Laszlo Jamf, all their yearnings aimed the same way, toward a form of death that could be demonstrated to hold joy and defiance, nothing of bourgeois Goetzkian death, of self-deluding, mature acceptance, relatives in the parlor, knowing faces the children can always read. . . .
"You have the two choices," Jamf cried, his last lecture of the year: outside were the flowery strokings of wind, girls in pale-colored dresses, oceans of beer, male choruses intensely, movingly lifted as they sang Semper sit in flores/ Semper sit in flo-ho-res . . . "stay behind with carbon and hydrogen, take your lunch-bucket in to the works every morning with the faceless droves who can't wait to get in out of the sunlight—or move beyond. Silicon, boron, phosphorus—these can replace carbon, and can bond to nitrogen instead of hydrogen—" a few snickers here, not unanticipated by the playful old pedagogue, be he always in flower: his involvement in getting Weimar to subsidize the IG's Stickstoff Syndikat was well known—"move beyond life, toward the inorganic. Here is no frailty, no mortality—here is Strength, and the Timeless." Then his well-known finale, as he wiped away the scrawled C—H on his chalkboard and wrote, in enormous letters, Si—N.
The wave of the future. But Jamf himself, oddly, did not move on. He never synthesized those new inorganic rings or chains he had prophesied so dramatically. Had he only remained behind in the trough, academic generations swelling away just ahead, or had he known something Pokier and the others didn't? Were his exhortations in the lecture hall some kind of eccentric joke? He stayed with C—H, and took his lunchbucket to America. Polder lost touch with him after the Technische Hochschule—so did all his old pupils. He was now under the sinister influence of Lyle Bland, and if he was still seeking to escape the mortality of the covalent bond, Jamf was doing it in the least obvious way there was.
D D D D D D D
If that Lyle Bland hadn't joined the Masons, he'd still probably be up to those nefarious tricks of his. Just as there are, in the World, machineries committed to injustice as an enterprise, so too there seem to be provisions active for balancing things out once in a while. Not as an enterprise, exactly, but at least in the dance of things. The Masons, in the dance of things, turned out to be one of these where Bland was
Imagine the fellow's plight—got so much money he don't know what to do with it all. Don't go screaming, "Give it to me!" either. He's given it to you, though in roundabout ways you might need a good system of search to unsnarl. Oh, has he given it to you. By way of
the Bland Institute and the Bland Foundation, the man has had his meathooks well into the American day-to-day since 1919. Who do you think sat on top of the patent for that 100-miles-per-gallon carburetor, eh? sure you've heard that story—maybe even snickered along with paid anthropologists who called it Automotive Age Myth or some shit—well, turns out the item was real, all right, and it was Lyle Bland who sprang for those academic hookers doing the snickering and the credentialed lying. Or how about the great Killer Weed advertising campaign of the thirties, who do you think worked hand-in-glove (or, as grosser individuals have put it, penis-in-mouth) with the FBI on that one? And remember all those guy-goes-to-the-doctor-can't-get-a-hardon jokes? Planted by Bland, yup—half a dozen basic variations, after having done depth studies for the National Research Council that indicated an unacceptable 36% of the male work force weren't paying enough attention to their cocks—not enough genital obsession there, and it was undermining the efficiency of the organs doing the real work.
Psychological studies became, in fact, a Bland specialty. His probe into the subconscious of early-Depression America is considered a classic, and widely credited with improving the plausibility of Roosevelt's "election" in 1932. Though many of his colleagues found a posture of hatred for FDR useful, Bland was too delighted to go through the motions. For him, FDR was exactly the man: Harvard, beholden to all kinds of money old and new, commodity and retail, Harrirnan and Weinberg: an American synthesis which had never occurred before, and which opened the way to certain grand possibilities—all grouped under the term "control," which seemed to be a private code-word—more in line with the aspirations of Bland and others. A year later Bland joined the Business Advisory Council set up under Swope of General Electric, whose ideas on matters of "control" ran close to those of Walter Rathenau, of German GE. Whatever Swope's outfit did, it did in secret. Nobody got to see its files. Bland wasn't about to tell anybody, either.
He had gotten to be buddies, after World War I, with the office of the Alien Property Custodian. Their job was to dispose of confiscated German interests in the U.S. A lot of Midwestern money was involved here, which is what got Bland embroiled in the Great Pinball Difficulty, and so into the Masons. Seems that through something called the Chemical Foundation—cover names in those days had no style to them—the APC had sold Bland a few of Laszlo Jamf's early patents, along with the U.S. agency of Glitherius Paint & Dye, a Berlin firm. A
few years later, in 1925, in the course of being put together, the IG bought back 50% of American Glitherius from Bland, who was using his end of it as a patent-holding company. Bland got cash, securities, and controlling interest in a Glitherius subsidiary in Berlin being run by a Jew named Pflaumbaum, yesyes, the same Pflaumbaum Franz Pokier worked for till the place burned down and Pokier went back out on the streets. (Indeed, there were those who could see Eland's hand in that disaster, though the Jew got blamed, fucked under by the courts, attached till he was bankrupt, and, in the fullness of time, sent east along with many others of his race. We would also have to show some interlock between Bland and the Ufa movie-distribution people who sent Pokier out with his advertising bills to Reinickendorf that night, to his fateful meeting with Kurt Mondaugen and the Verein für Raumschiffahrt—not to mention separate connections for Achtfaden, Närrisch, and the other S-Gerät people—before we'd have a paranoid structure worthy of the name. Alas, the state of the art by 1945 was nowhere near adequate to that kind of data retrieval. Even if it had been, Bland, or his successors and assigns, could've bought programmers by the truckload to come in and make sure all the information fed out was harmless. Those like Slothrop, with the greatest interest in discovering the truth, were thrown back on dreams, psychic flashes, omens, cryptographies, drug-epistemologies, all dancing on a ground of terror, contradiction, absurdity.)
After the Pflaumbaum fire, lines of power among Bland and his German colleagues had to be renegotiated. It dragged on for a few years. Bland found himself in Depression St. Louis, talking with one Alfonso Tracy, Princeton '06, St. Louis Country Club, moving into petrochemicals in a big way, Mrs. Tracy dithering in and out of the house with yardage and armloads of flowers, preparing for the annual Veiled Prophet Ball, Tracy himself preoccupied with the appearance of some individuals down from Chicago in flashy pinstripe suits, two-tone shoes and snap-brim fedoras, all talking in accents staccato as a Thompson.
"Oh, do I need a good electronics man," Tracy moaned. "What do you do with these wops? The whole shipment was bad, and now they won't take it back. If I step out of line, they'll murder me. They'll rape Mabel, they'll go back to Princeton some dark night a-and castrate my kid! You know what I think it is, Lyle? A plot!"
Vendettas, jeweled gauntlets, subtle poisons come infiltrating this well-mannered parlor with the picture of Herbert Hoover on the piano, the pinks in the Nieman-Marcus bowl, the Bauhaus-style furniture like alabaster slabs of a model city (you expect little HO trains to come whirring out from under the davenport, cans 'n' reefers on and on across the carpet's ash-colored lowland . . .). Alfonso Tracy's long face, creased either side of the nose and on around the mustache line, dragged down by worries, thirty years without a genuine smile ("Even Laurel & Hardy doesn't work for me any more!"), morose with fright in his easy chair. How could Lyle Bland not be touched?
"Got just the fella," sez he, touching Tracy's arm, compassionate. Always good to have an engineer on tap. This one did some just top-notch electronic-surveillance designs once for the then-fledgling FBI, on a contract the Bland Institute landed a few years ago and subbed part of out to Siemens over there in Germany. "Have him in tomorrow on the Silver Streak. No problem, Al."
"Come on out and have a look," sighs Tracy. They hop in the Packard and drive out to the green little river town of Mouthorgan, Missouri, which is a railroad station, a tanning factory, a few frame houses, and dominating the area a gigantic Masonic hall, not a window on the whole massive monolith.
After a lot of rigmarole at the door, Bland is finally allowed in and led through velvet poolrooms, elaborate polished-wood gambling setups, chrome bars, soft bedrooms, on to a large warehouse section in back, which is crammed ten high with more pinball machines than Eland's ever seen in one place in his life, Oh Boys, Grand Slams, World Serieses, Lucky Lindies as far as the eye can reach.
"And every one is fucked up," sez melancholy Tracy. "Look at this." It's a Folies-Bergères: four-color lovelies doing the cancan all over it, zeros happening to coincide with eyes, nipples, and cunts, one of your racy-type games here, a little hostile toward the ladies but all in fun! "You got a nickel?" Chungg, boing there goes the ball just missing a high-scoring hole, hmm looks like a permanent warp there ahnnnggghk knocks a flasher worth 1000 but only 50 lights up on the board—"You see?" Tracy screams as the ball heads like a rock for the bottom, outside chance get it with a flipper zong flipper flips the other fucking way, and the board lights up TILT.
"Tilt?" Bland scratching his head. "You didn't even—"
"They're all like that," Tracy watering with frustration. "You try it."
The second ball isn't even out of the chute before Bland gets another tilt, again without having applied any English. Third ball gets stuck somehow against a solenoid and (helphelp, it's hollering, wounded high little voice, oh I'm being electrocuted . . .) dingdingding,gongs and racing numbers up on the board, 400,000, 675,000 bong a million! greatest Folies-Bergères score in history and climbing, the poor spherical soul against the solenoid thrashing, clonic, horrible (yes they're sentient all right, beings from the planetoid Katspiel, of veryvery elliptical orbit—which is to say it passed by Earth only once, a long time ago, nearly back at the grainy crepuscular Edge, and nobody knows where Katspiel is now or when, or if, it'll be back. It's that familiar division between return and one-shot visitation. If Katspiel had enough energy to leave the sun's field forever, then it has left these kind round beings in eternal exile, with no chance of ever being gathered back home, doomed to masquerade as ball bearings, as steelies in a thousand marble games—to know the great thumbs of Keokuk and Puyallup, Oyster Bay, Inglewood—Danny D'Allesandro and Elmer Ferguson, Peewee Brennan and Flash Womack . . . where are they now? where do you think? they all got drafted, some are dead on Iwo, some gangrenous in the snow in the forest of Arden, and their thumbs, first rifle inspection in Basic, Gl'd, driven deep back into childhood as little finger sweat-cams off M-l operating handle, thumb pushing down follower still deep in breech, bolt sshhOCK! whacks thumb oh shit yes it hurts and good-by to another unbeatable and legendary thumb, gone for good back to the summer dust, bags of chuckling glass, bigfooted basset hounds, smell of steel playground slides heating in the sun), well here come these cancan girls now, Folies-Bergères maenads, moving in for the kill, big lipstick smiles around blazing choppers, some Offenbach galop come jigging in now out of the loudspeakers that are implicit in this machine's design, long gartered legs kicking out over the agony of this sad spherical permanent AWOL, all his companions in the chute vibrating their concern and love, feeling his pain but helpless, inert without the spring, the hustler's hand, the drunk's masculinity problems, the vacuum hours of a gray cap and an empty lunchbox, needing these to run their own patterns down the towering coils, the deep holes with their promises of rest that only kick you wobbling out again, always at the mercy of gravity, finding now and then the infinitesimally shallow grooves of other runs, great runs (twelve heroic minutes in Virginia Beach, Fourth of July, 1927, a drunken sailor whose ship went down at Leyte Gulf. . . flipped up off the board, your first three-dimensional trip is always your best, when you came down again it wasn't the same, and every time you'd pass anywhere near the micro-dimple you made when you fell, you'd get a rush . . . sobered, a few, having looked into the heart of the solenoid, seen the magnetic serpent and energy in its nakedness, long enough to be changed, to bring back from the writhing lines of force down in that pit an intimacy with power, with glazed badlands of soul, that set them apart forever— check out the portrait of Michael Faraday in the Tate Gallery in London, Tantivy Mucker-Maffick did once, to fill up a womanless and dreary afternoon, and wondered then how eyes of men could grow so lambent, sinister, so educated among the halls of dread and the invisible . . . ) but now the voices of the murder-witness coquettes grow shrill, with more of a blade's edge, the music changes key, pitching higher and higher, the ruffled buttocks bumping backward more violently, the skirts flipping redder and deeper each time, covering more of the field, eddying to blood, to furnace finale, and how's the Katspiel Kid gonna get out of this one?
Well, wouldn't you know it, just as things look worst, Providence plants a short—statatatah! the lights go out leaving a diminishing red glow on the shaven cheeks and chins of the two operators cringing before the girls' destroying kooch-dance, the solenoid jitters to silence, the chrome ball, released, rolls traumatized back to the comfort of its friends.
"They're all like this?"
"Oh, was I took," groans Alfonso Tracy.
"It comes and goes," consoles Bland, and here we get a reprise of Gerhardt von Göll's "Bright Days for the Black Market," with allowances made for time, place and color:
There'll al-ways—be another dollar,
Any way it hap-pens!
If they catch ya nap-pin',
Wake up-with, the dew on the grass
'n' you can hand 'em their ass—
You can make another dollar,
Third eye up on that py-ra-mid,
Oh give a listen kid,
It's just winkin'at you, singin', "Piss on through!"
There's a will, there's a way,
Doesn't happen, ev'ry day,
But if ya got-the-brains, those mid-night-trains
'11 never whistle your dreams away, hey—
Just flip another dollar, Heads or tails it'll be all right, You can lose the fight, but
That ever-lovin' War goes on and on, ya know, Just follow that dollar and vo-dee, o-do-do!
All the baggy-pants outfielders, doughboys in khaki, cancan girls now sedate, bathing beauties even more so, cowboys and cigar-store Indians, google-eyed Negroes, apple-cart urchins, lounge lizards and movie queens, cardsharps, clowns, crosseyed lamppost drunks, flying aces, motorboat captains, white hunters on safari and Negroid apes, fat men, chefs in chefs' hats, Jewish usurers,
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