Penguin books - səhifə 66
" 'Ass' is an intensifier," Seaman Bodine now offers, "as in 'mean ass,' 'stupid ass'—well, when something is very backwards, by analogy you'd say 'backwards ass.' "
"But 'ass backwards' is 'backwards ass' backwards," Säure objects.
"But gee that don't make it mean forwards," blinks Bodine with a sincere little break in his voice as if somebody's just about to hit him— actually this is a bit of private fun for the spirited salt, it is a William Bendix imitation. Let the others do Cagney and Gary Grant, Bodine specializes in supporting roles, he can do a perfect Arthur Kennedy-as-Cagneýs-kid-brother, how about that? O-or Gary Grant's faithful Indian water-bearer, Sam Jaífe. He is a white-hat in the navy of life, and that extends to vocal impressions of the fake film-lives of strangers.
Säure meantime is into something like this with instrumental soloists, or trying, teaching himself kind of by trial and error, currently ee-ee-aw-aw-ing his way through some hypothetical Joachim playing his own cadenza from the long-suppressed Rossini violin concerto (op. posth.), and in the process driving the household mad. One morning "Irudi just goes stomping away into an 82nd Airborne mass jump over the conquered city, a million fleecy canopies in the sky, falling slow as white ash behind around the silhouette of her good-by stomp. "He's driving me crazy." "Hi Trudi, where you going?" "I just told you— crazy!" and don't think this wretched old horny dopefiend doesn't love her, because he does, and don't think he isn't praying, writing down his wishes carefully on cigarette papers, rolling up in them his finest sacramental kif and smoking them down to a blister on the lip, which is the dopefiend's version of wishing on an evening star, hoping in his heart she's just off on another stomp, please only a stomp, let it be over inside the day Just one more time, he writes on each good-night's reefer, that's all, I won't ask again, I'll try not to, you know me, don't judge me too hard, please . .. but how many more of these stomps can there be? One's going to be the last. Still he keeps on ee-ee-aw-aw-ing with the Rossini, radiating his mean, lean, living-at-the-edge street-longevity, no he can't seem to stop it, it's an old man's habit, he hates himself but it just comes on him, no matter what attention he brings to the problem, he can't stop drifting back into the catchy cadenza. . . . Seaman Bodine understands, and is trying to help. To set up a useful interference, he has composed his own counter-cadenza, along the lines of those other pop tunes with classical names big around 1945 ("My Prelude to a Kiss," "Tenement Symphony")—every chance he gets, Bodine will croon it to the new weekly arrivals, Lalli just in from Lübeck,
Sandra who's run away from the Kleinbürgerstrasse, here's vile Bodine with his guitar ambling pelvis-wiggling down the hallway after each naughty defector, each choice little sexcrime fantasy made flesh, singing and picking a moving rendition of:
my doper's cadenza
If you hear, a "box" so sweet,
Play-in' tunes-with, a peppy beat,
That's just MY DOPER'S, CADEN-ZA-A-A-A!
Mel-o-dees, that getcha so, •
Where'd they come from? I don't know!
(h-ha) It's just MY DOPER'S CADEN-ZA(A)A-A-A![This is the "cadenza" part—]
Now I know it's not as keen as old Rossini [snatch o/La Gazza Ladra here], Nor as grand as Bach, or Beethoven-or-Brahms (bubububoo[oo] oo [sung to opening of Beethoven 5th, -with fall band]) But I'd give away the fames, of a hundred Harry James
. . . wait, fame? of a hundred Jame? Jameses . . . uh . . . fameses? Hmm . . .
I-hi-hif this little-song, can-bring, you-to-my arms!
Dum de dum, de-dum de dee,
Oh, it's better than a symphonee—
It's MY DOPER'S CADENZA, to yoooouuu!
These days, the tenement is known as Der Platz, and is nearly filled up, all the way in to the last central courtyard, with friends of Säure's. The change is unexpected—a lot more vegetation seems to be growing now in the tenement dirt, an ingenious system of home-carpentered light ducts and mirrors adjusted throughout the day send sunlight, for the first time, down into these back courts, revealing colors never seen before . . . there's also a rain-structure, to route the rain among flumes, funnels, splash-reflectors, waterwheels, nozzles, and weirs to make a system of rivers and waterfalls to play in this summer . . . the only rooms that can still be locked from the inside are reserved for isolates, fetishists, lost stumblers-in out of the occupation who need loneliness like the dopefiend needs his dope . . . speaking of which, everywhere in the complex now you can find army dope of all kinds stashed, from cellars to mansarde floors are littered with wire
loops and plastic covers from 1/2-grain syrettes of morphine tartrate squeezed toothpaste-tube empty, broken amyl nitrite containers looted from anti-gas kits, olive-drab tins of Benzedrine . . . work is proceeding on an anti-police moat around the entire tenement: to keep from drawing attention, this moat here is the first in history being dug from inside out, the space directly below the Jacobistrasse, slowly, paranoiacally, is hollowed, sculpted, carefully shored up under the thin crust of street so the odd tram won't find itself in unscheduled plunge—though it has been known to happen, out in the late night with interior tram-lights warm-colored as clear broth, out on the Peripheral runs through long stretches of unlighted park or along singing fences of storage depots all at once like a mouth pursing MF the blacktop buckles and you're down in some dripping paranoids' moat, the night-shift staring in with huge denizen-of-the-underground eyes, faced not with you so much as with the agonizing problem of deciding is this a real bus, or are these "passengers" really police agents in disguise well it's a touchy business, touchy.
Somewhere in Der Platz now, early morning, somebody's two-year-old, a baby as fat as a suckling pig, has just learned the word "Sonnenschein." "Sunshine," sez the baby, pointing. "Sunshine," running into the other room.
"Sunshine," croaks some grownup morning-voice.
"Sunshine!" hollers the baby, tottering off.
"Sunshine," a smiling-girl voice, maybe his mother."Sunshine!" the baby at the window, showing her, showing anybody else who'll look, exactly.
shit 'n' shinola"Now," Säure wants to know, "you will tell me about the American expression 'Shit from Shinola.' "
"What is this," screams Seaman Bodine, "I'm being set tasks now? This is some Continuing Study of American Slang or some shit? Tell me you old fool," grabbing Säure by throat and lapel and shaking him asymmetrically, "you're one of Them too, right? Come on," the old man Raggedy Andy in his hands, a bad morning of suspicion here for the usually mellow Bodine, "Stop, stop," snivels the amazed Säure, amazement giving way, that is, to a sniveling conviction that the hairy American gob has lost his mind. . . .
Well. You've heard the expression "Shit from Shinola." As in, "Aw, he don't know Shit from Shinola! 'bout that." Or, "Marine—you don't know Shit from Shinola!" And you get sent to the Onion Room, or
worse. One implication is that Shit and Shinola are in wildly different categories. You would envision—maybe just because they smell different—no way for Shit and Shinola to coexist. Simply impossible. A stranger to the English language, a German dopefiend such as Säure, not knowing either word, might see "Shit" as a comical interjection, one a lawyer in a bowler hat, folding up papers tucking them in a tan briefcase might smiling use, "Schitt, Herr Bummer," and he walks out of your cell, the oily bastard, forever ... or Scchhit! down comes a cartoon guillotine on one black & white politician, head bouncing downhill, lines to indicate amusing little spherical vortex patterns, and you thought yes, like to see that all right, yes cut it off, one less rodent, schittja! As for Shinola, we pass to universitarians Franz Pokier, Kurt Mondaugen, Bert Fibel, Horst Achtfaden and others, their Schein-Aula is a shimmering, Albert Speer-style alabaster open-air stadium with giant cement birds of prey up at each corner, wings shrugged forward, sheltering under each wing-shadow a hooded German face . . . from the outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of a small, artificially-graded hill. It has a talent, this Seeming-Hall, for posing up there in attractive profiles, in front of noble clouds, to suggest persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, meltings of snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay . . . but inside the Schein-Aula all is blue and cold as the sky overhead, blue as a blueprint or a planetarium. No one in here knows which way to look. Will it begin above us? Down there? Behind us? In the middle of the air? and how soon. . . . Well there's one place where Shit 'n' Shinola do come together, and that's in the men's toilet at the Roseland Ballroom, the place Slothrop departed from on his trip down the toilet, as revealed in the St. Veronica Papers (preserved, mysteriously, from that hospital's great holocaust). Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for. You see many brown toilets? Nope, toilet's the color of gravestones, classical columns of mausoleums, that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death. Shinola shoeshine polish happens to be the color of Shit. Shoeshine boy Malcolm's in the toilet slappin' on the Shinola, working off whiteman's penance on his sin of being born the color of Shit 'n' Shinola. It is nice to think that one Saturday night, one floor-shaking Lindyhopping Roseland night,
Malcolm looked up from some Harvard kid's shoes and caught the eye of Jack Kennedy (the Ambassador's son), then a senior. Nice to think that young Jack may have had one of them Immortal Lightbulbs then go on overhead—did Red suspend his ragpopping just the shadow of a beat, just enough gap in the moire there to let white Jack see through, not through to but through through the shine on his classmate Tyrone Slothrop's shoes? Were the three ever lined up that way—sitting, squatting, passing through? Eventually Jack and Malcolm both got murdered. Slothrop's fate is not so clear. It may be that They have something different in mind for Slothrop.
an incident in the transvestites' toilet
A small ape or orangutan, holding something behind his back, comes sidling unobserved among net-stockinged legs, bobby sox rolled down to loop under ankle bones, subdeb beanies tucked into rayon aquamarine waist-sashes. Finally he reaches Slothrop, who is wearing a blonde wig and the same long flowing white cross-banded number Fay Wray wears in her screentest scene with Robert Armstrong on the boat (considering his history in the Roseland toilet, Slothrop may have chosen this gown not only out of some repressed desire to be sodomized, unimaginably, by a gigantic black ape, but also because of an athletic innocence to Fay that he's never spoken of except to point and whisper, "Oh, look ..." —some honesty, pluck, a cleanness to the garment itself, its enormous sleeves so that wherever you pass is visibly where you've been . . .).
At that first moment, long before our flight: Ravine, tyrannosaurus (flying-mares And jaws cracked out of joint), the buzzing serpent That jumped you in your own stone living space, The pterodactyl or the Fall, no—just... While I first hung there, forest and night at one, Hung waiting with the torches on the wall. And waiting for the night's one Shape to come, I prayed then, not for Jack, still mooning sappy Along the weather-decks—no. I was thinking Of Denham—only him, with gun and camera Wisecracking in his best bum actor's way Through Darkest Earth, making the unreal reel By shooting at it, one way or the other— Carl Denham, my director, my undying,Carl...
Ah, show me the key light, whisper me a line. ...
We've seen them under a thousand names . . . "Greta Erdmann" is only one, these dames whose job it is always to cringe from the Terror . . . well, home from work they fall asleep just like us and dream of assassinations, of plots against good and decent men. . . .
The ape reaches up taps Slothrop on the ass, hands him what he's been carrying yaahhgghh it's a round black iron anarchist bomb's what it is, with lit fuse too. . . . Ape goes scampering away. Slothrop just stands there, in the glassed and humid rooms, his makeup starting to run, consternation in his eyes clear as marbles and lips pressed into a bee-stung well-what-th'-heck-'m-I-s'posed-t'-do-now? He can't say anything, the contact still hasn't showed and his voice would blow his disguise. . . . The fuse is burning shorter and shorter. Slothrop looks around. All the washbowls and urinals are occupied. Should he just put the fuse out in front of somebody's cock, right in the stream of piss . . . uh, but wouldn't that look like I was propositioning them or something? Gee, sometimes I wish I wasn't so indecisive . . . m-maybe if I picked somebody weaker than me . . . but then it's the little guys got the reflexes, remember—
He is rescued from his indecision by a very tall, fat, somewhat Oriental-looking transvestite, whose ideal, screen and personal, seems to be little Margaret O'Brien. Somehow this Asiatic here is managing to look pigtailed and wistful even as he snatches the sputtering bomb away from Slothrop, runs heaves it into an empty toiletbowl and flushes it, turning back to Slothrop and the others with an air of civic duty well done when suddenly—
KRUPPALOOMA comes this giant explosion: water leaps in a surprised blue-green tongue (ever seen a toilet hollering, "Yìkes!"?) out of every single black-lidded bowl, pipes wrench and scream, walls and floor shudder, plaster begins to fall in crescents and powder-sheets as all the chattering transvestites fall silent, reach out to touch anyone nearby as a gesture of preparation for the Voice out of the Loudspeaker, saying:
"That was a sodium bomb. Sodium explodes when it touches water." So the fuse was a dummy, the dirty rat. . . . "You saw who threw it in the toilet. He is a dangerous maniac. Apprehend him, and there'll be a large reward. Your closet could make Norma Shearer's look like the wastebasket in Gimbel's basement."
So they all leap on the poor protesting Margaret O'Brien devotee, while Slothrop, for whom the humiliation and (presently, as the arrival of the police grows later and later) the sexual abuse and torture were really intended (Gotta hand it to ya, Pop!) slips away, loosening as he nears the outside the satin ties of his gown, dragging reluctantly, off of his grease-chevroned head, the shining wig of innocence. ...
A moment of fun with takeshi and ichizo,
THE KOMICAL KAMIKAZES
Takeshi is tall and fat (but doesn't braid his hair like that Margaret O'Brien), Ichizo is short and skinny. Takeshi flies a Zero, while Ichizo flies an Ohka device, which is a long bomb, actually, with a cockpit for Ichizo to sit in, stub wings, rocket propulsion and a few control surfaces back aft. Takeshi only had to go to Kamikaze School for two weeks, on Formosa. Ichizo had to go to Ohka school for six months, in Tokyo. They are as different as peanut butter and jelly, these two. No fair asking which is which.
They are the only two Kamikazes out here at this air base, which is rather remote actually, on an island that nobody, well, really cares much about, any more. The fighting is going on at Leyte . . . then on to Iwo Jima, moving toward Okinawa, but always too far away for any sortie from here to reach. But they have their orders, and their exile. Not much to do for kicks but go wandering on the beaches looking for dead Cypridinae. These are crustaceans with three eyes, shaped like a potato with catwhiskers at one end. Dried and powdered, Cypridinae are also a great source of light. To make the stuff glow in the dark, all you do is add water. The light is blue, weird multishaded blue—some green in it, and some indigo—amazingly cool and nocturnal blue. On moonless or overcast nights, Takeshi and Ichizo take off all their clothes and splash each other with Cypridina light, running and giggling under the palm trees.
Every morning, and sometimes evening too, the Scatterbrained Suicidekicks mosey down to the palm-thatched radar shack to see if there's any American targets worth a crash-dive, anywhere inside their flying radius. But it's the same story every time. Old Kenosho the loony radarman who's always brewing up a batch of that sake back in the transmitter room, in a still he's hooked up to a magnetron tube in some fiendish-Nip way that defies Western science, every time the fellas show up this drunken old reprobate starts cackling, "No dying today! No dying today! So solly!" pointing at all the blank PPI scopes, green radii sweeping silent round and round trailing clear webs of green shampoo, nothing but surface return for more miles than you
can fly, and of the fatal mandala both hearts would leap to, green carrier-blob screened eightfold in a circle of destroyer-strokes, nothing . . . no, each morning's the same—only the odd whitecap and old hysterical Kenosho, who by now is on the floor gagging on saliva and tongue, having his Seizure, an eagerly awaited part of each daily visit, each fit trying to top the one before, or at least bring in a new twist— a back-flip in the air, a gnaw or two after Takeshi's blue-and-yellow patent wingtips, an improvised haiku:
The lover leaps in the volcano!
It's ten feet deep,
as the two pilots mug, giggle, and jump around trying to avoid the grizzled old radarman's thrashings—what? You didn't like the haiku. It wasn't ethereal enough? Not Japanese at all? In fact it sounded like something right outa Hollywood? Well, Captain—yes you, Marine Captain Esberg from Pasadena—you, have just had, the Mystery Insight! (gasps and a burst of premonitory applause) and so you—are our Paranoid . . . For The Day! (band burst into "Button Up Your Overcoat," or any other suitably paranoid up-tempo tune, as the bewildered contestant is literally yanked to his feet and dragged out in the aisle by this M.C. with the gleaming face and rippling jaw). Yes, it is a movie! Another World War II situation comedy, and your chance, to find out what it's really like, because you—have won (drumroll, more gasps, more applauding and whistling) an all-expense, one-way trip for one, to the movie's actual location, exotic Puke-a-hook-a-look-i Island! (the orchestra's ukulele section taking up now a tinkling reprise of that "White Man Welcome" tune we last heard in London being directed at Géza Rózsavölgyi) on a giant TWA Constellation! You'll while your nights away chasing vampire mosquitoes away from your own throat! Getting blind lost, out in the middle of torrential tropical downpours! Scooping rat turds out of the enlisted men's water barrel! But it won't be all nighttime giddiness and excitement, Captain, because daytimes, up at five a.m. sharp, you'll be out making the acquaintance of the Kamikaze Zero you'll be flying! getting all checked out on those con-trols, making sure you know just where that bomb-safety-release is! A-ha-hand of course, trying to stay out of the way, of those two Nonsensical Nips, Takeshi and Ichizo! as they go about their uproarious weekly adventures, seemingly oblivious to your presence, and the frankly ominous implications of your day's routine. . . .
Strips of insulation hang up in the morning fog, after a night of moon brightening and darkening as if by itself, because the blowing fog was so smooth, so hard to see. Now, when the wind blows, yellow sparks will spill away with a rattlesnake buzz from the black old fraying wires, against a sky gray as a hat. Green glass insulators go cloudy and blind in the day. Wood poles lean and smell old: thirty-year-old wood. Tarry transformers hum aloft. As if it will really be a busy day. In the middle distance poplars just emerge out of the haze.It could have been Semlower Strasse, in Stralsund. The windows have the same ravaged look: the insides of all the rooms seem to've been gutted black. Perhaps there is a new bomb that can destroy only the insides of structures ... no ... it was in Greifswald. Across some wet railroad tracks were derricks, superstructure, tackle, smells of canalside . . . Hafenstrasse in Greifswald, down over his back fell the cold shadow of some massive church. But isn't that the Petritor, that stunted brick tower-arch straddling the alleyway ahead ... it could be the Slüterstrasse in the old part of Rostock ... or the Wandfärber-strasse in Lüneburg, with pulleys high up on the brick gables, openwork weathercocks up at the very peaks . . . why was he looking upward? Upward from any of a score of those northern streets, one morning, in the fog. The farther north, the plainer things grow. There's one gutter, down the middle of the alley, where the rain runs off. Cobbles are laid straighter and there aren't as many cigarettes to be had. Garrison-churches echo with starlings. To come into a northern Zone town is to enter a strange harbor, from the sea, on a foggy day.
But in each of these streets, some vestige of humanity, of Earth, has to remain. No matter what has been done to it, no matter what it's been used for. . . .
There were men called "army chaplains." They preached inside some of these buildings. There were actually soldiers, dead now, who sat or stood, and listened. Holding on to what they could. Then they went out, and some died before they got back inside a garrison-church again. Clergymen, working for the army, stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation. It really happened. It was quite common.
Even in a street used for that, still there will be one time, one dyed afternoon (coaltar-impossible orange-brown, clear all the way through), or one day of rain and clearing before bedtime, and in the
yard one hollyhock, circling in the wind, fresh with raindrops fat enough to be chewed . . . one face by a long sandstone wall and the scuffle of all the doomed horses on the other side, one hair-part thrown into blue shadows at a turn of her head—one busful of faces passing through in the middle of the night, no one awake in the quiet square but the driver, the Ortsschutz sentry in some kind of brown, official-looking uniform, old Mauser at sling arms, dreaming not of the enemy outside in the swamp or shadow but of home and bed, strolling now with his civilian friend who's off-duty, can't sleep, under the trees full of road-dust and night, through their shadows on the sidewalks, playing a harmonica . . . down past the row of faces in the bus, drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt. . . .
At least one moment of passage, one it will hurt to lose, ought to be found for every street now indifferently gray with commerce, with war, with repression . . . finding it, learning to cherish what was lost, mightn't we find some way back?
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