(Copyright, estate of Gaillard Hunt)
CITY OF MASTERLESS MEN
Peter was getting off the elevator in the Patent Office when the bell began ringing and he sprinted the forty yards to his division. He got in the door as the bell stopped --just under the wire. His division chief eyed him and Peter thought that in his stare there was a certain amount of disappointment at not being able to mark him late. He sat down at his desk and picked up a case file. He noticed it was a tough case but its details and ramifications failed to register on his mind, and he continued to look at the case as he lit a cigarette. He knew he would not do any work, that he would continue to keep one eye and both ears occupied with following the movements of the boss until the boss settled down to something, then he would take a file and go out as if he had some business in another division in connection with that case, and he would leave the file with Reade in Division 28 and go get some breakfast. He had followed this procedure almost every day since he had managed to get himself reinstated in the Office four months ago.
Finally the boss settled down, reviewing a case with someone, and Peter went out. He bought a New York Morning Telegraph at the newsstand and went into the drug store and sat at the soda fountain before a clerk who was washing some glasses. The clerk looked up. "How's Mr. Van this morning? he asked as he put some bread into the toaster. Peter did not know how long this Mr. Van stuff had been going on, or which one off the clerks had started it or how many believed it, but just because he turned up every day at the same time without coat and hat and reading a racing paper, one of them had spread the idea that he was Van from the nearby Post building who wrote the "Get in the Van with Van" column.
While the toast was making, he looked at the Telegraph. There was Greta Garbo's picture on the front page as usual, and this time the excuse for it was "No Word from Greata." It took her to make the first page just by laying low. The rest of the page featured somebody or other refusing to renew a contract with Paramount, as if anyone cared. On the inside of the paper he found and read the description of how his horse had run yesterday: "Flying Deere hung at the start, was bumped repeatedly during the running, made a game bid entering the stretch but was shuffled back, then came again in the last sixteenth but faltered." And finished fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length for all the money. He was good to have finished at all. But that was yesterday --a brand new set of races scheduled for today. He folded the paper open to the entries and past performances.
The clerk slid a plateful of buttered toast along the counter and drew some coffee. "Okay, Mr. Van?"
"Okay," said Peter.
Heindricks would be along soon. He hadn't been here yesterday but he probably would today and he would talk mathematics. Heindricks was a nice enough fellow but he was certainly absorbed in his arithmetic, it involved adding up such things as rent, groceries, gas, installments, etc., all figured to the odd penny, and then subtracting the total from his paycheck and it seldom came out right. The conclusion was usually something like, "If I had just sixteen seventy-one more I could make out all right this time." He would also recount in detail just how much he could save by buying headlight bulbs or a can of oil from Western Auto Supply instead of
from filling stations and he sometimes had calculations concerning shirts or socks which would enable him to save two or three dollars that his wife did not know about. He would spend this for liquor to drink when his wife went out to play bridge. Peter used to try to get him to talk about horses but it was no go, because Heindricks never gambled. He would sometimes speak wistfully of big bets and winnings but that was before -- before he got married, and the Government had their pay cut.
As Peter drew his pencil and buried himself in the past performances, he reflected that whatever may be said for gambling it eliminated mathematics such as Heindricks'. It prevented paychecks from being such a deadly absolute.
Heindricks did come in. He sat down and ordered jellyroll and coffee. "What's the boss doing?" asked Peter.
"Having an interview," said Heindricks. "Probably hold him a while. Boy, I'm starved."
"You haven't been very regular here lately. Don't tell me you're getting up in time to eat at home."
"Eat at a hotdog stand out on the highway where they've got a good-looking waitress. Man, she's hot stuff -- red-headed. Seems to be ready for anything, too. I'm sure going to know her better."
"And you a married man."
"Got to get some fun out of life."
"Guess so," said Peter, and he turned back to the past performances. They ate in silence for a while and then Heindricks said, "If I only didn't have to get a tire this time I'd be all right. I can get Goodyear Cords at the Western Auto Supply for $7.89 and they cost $10.50 anywhere else."
"Uh-huh. Here's a colt that's consistent as clockwork and he figures a full second better than anything he's got to beat."
"Six to five, maybe."
"I like long shots."
"Me too, when I can get 'em."
"Yeah, they're all right when you can get 'em."
Late that afternoon Peter was called to the outside phone. It turned out to be Ed Collins, he said he was having an argument with Dupree over the Six Carpenters Case. "Dupree says it depends on the rule of trespass ab initio, but I say he s wrong, it illustrates the rule of de minimis non given damnum lex. Doesn't it?"
"Far as I remember."
"Furthermore, it couldn't be trespass ab initio because it took place in a public tavern. Didn't it?"
"Yes," said Peter, but the telephone was directly behind the Chief's desk so he added, "I'm busy right now. Suppose I see you after work -- it's only twenty minutes."
"You bet. We're downtown in a drugstore and we'll meet you outside the main entrance in the Ford."
"Right. 'Bye." He hung up relieved. Ed had sounded as if he had a bottle and if the call had continued the boss might have got the idea it was other than essential business briefly disposed of.
Outside it was a bright, warm afternoon and cars were lined up two and three abreast on Fourteenth Street, motors rumbling, drivers with necks craning -- wives waiting for husbands and husbands waiting for wives. Peter spotted Dupree's Model A down near the corner. As he got in he said, "Notice you've still got that knock in your engine."
"Hell yes," said Dupree. He looked more Irish than usual -- he always did when drinking. "Knock goes with the car. Gonna' keep it." He put it in gear and made a U-turn, missing a couple of pedestrians by a small margin. He drove to the intersection of Fourteenth and Pennsylvania Avenue and started across in the center lane, signaling for a left turn. "Hey, you can't," said Peter and at that moment the traffic cop noticed and blew his whistle and waved frantically, and Dupree got the idea and turned right causing cars in the outside 1ane to stop with squealing brakes, and went on down the Avenue. The cop whistled again and Peter turned around expecting to see him waving them to the curb, but it was only the lights changing. He turned back and said, "For God's sake, Dupree."
"Now you lay off my friend Dupree," said Collins. "He's a swell guy and his driving is all right."
"As long as everything keeps out of his way. But where are we going?"
"Down on the speedway and get drunk."
"Not me. I've got to go somewhere. Did you get those carpenters straightened out?"
"Hell with arguing about law cases," said Dupree. "We're going down on the speedway and get looping."
They were approaching Twelfth Street and Peter said, "Now make a right turn and try not to hit any old ladies."
"Hot damn," said Collins. "Protecting old ladies. Flower of Southern chivalry. Like your pal Sartain. What can Hilda see in that guy anyhow? I want you to tell me, Peter, what do you think of him?"
They were in the middle of the Mall now and Peter said, "Turn right and go straight up this drive -- "
"Doesn't lead anywhere but to the Monument," said Collins.
"The foot of the Monument is the best drinking spot in town," said Peter.
It was closing time when they got there and a group of tourists was coming out of the small black door at the bottom of the sky-reaching stretch of stone and filing to a sightseeing bus, "Park around in back," said Peter. It was deserted back there and the bare green slope of the hill stretched away to the speedway crowded with outgoing cars. Collins uncorked the bottle and handed it back to Peter. "Now maybe you'll tell me just how much you think Hilda is going for this Sartain guy. He's a married man, you know."
"Yeah," said Peter.
"It's a hell of a thing. Really a hell of a thing. I feel deeply about it. Just what is your opinion anyhow?"
"Haven't got time to explain. Have to go over to the Armory."
"What reserve outfit you in?" asked Dupree. He lifted the bottle and took a couple of large gulps and added, "I'm in the National Guards. We drill once a week."
"Marine Reserves," said Peter. "Drills aren't compulsory but I want to go this aft to shoot a subcalibre machine gun."
"Come on you guys," said Collins. "I want to discuss something I feel deeply about. What do you think of Sartain?"
Peter did not answer, and Dupree got into an argument with Collins over the number of drinks each had taken out of the bottle. But for various reasons Peter did not want to answer. Sartain was in town often, doing some research on a thesis, and he hung around the Manns' constantly, and Peter did not know just what to make of him. He was not exactly a phoney but at the same time everything people gave him credit for turned out to be a fluke. For instance, he and his wife associated with young instructors at Charlottesville and were generally accepted as of the faculty. Peter had first thought he was an instructor, and when he found that was wrong, a fellow. Now he knew he was only a postgraduate student and his wife's father was paying his expenses. He had spent a year in Oxford and everyone took for granted he was a Rhodes Scholar but it turned out that his father-in-law had given him a year abroad as a wedding present. And he seemed to have no immediate prospects of getting anywhere in particular, either. At Charlottesville he was said to be a good scholar but unreliable. When it came to an examination, for instance, he would start out saying he couldn't pass and get depressed and turn up late for the exam and flunk. Or if he had to have a paper in by a certain time he was likely to go on a big drunk and not have time to finish. None of which seemed to bother him much. His wife was a glamorous dark-haired girl named Bobbie who thought he was about perfect and their house was the center of a stimulating faculty clique and everybody thought he was interesting and attractive. He came originally from Mississippi but had been at Charlottesville long enough to pick up a strong Virginia accent in which he could expound at length on the virtue of the aristocratic principle of the South and similar subjects, and he was somewhat interesting to talk to. But the trouble was that Peter knew Collins based his opposition to Sartain not on his phoniness, but on his sectional pride, and on the idea of aristocracy anywhere -- even an ephemeral aristocracy that existed mostly in talk. Peter was not in favor of Sartain but he did not want to listen to Ed pan him from a Big Bill Thompson midwestern middle-class viewpoint, so he tried to change the subject.
"We got a couple of subcalibre machine guns," he said. "They're experimental, not adopted officially yet, but they're cute as hell. Shoot belts of .25 automatic bullets for indoor practice."
"I'm going to be a lieutenant next year," said Dupree.
"Hell with commissions," said Peter. "They involve work. I'm interested in that fifteen days military leave. Also machine guns, when they come up."
"Nuts to you guys," said Ed.
"I have to be going," said Peter. "Thanks for the drink." He jumped out, walked rapidly around the Monument and caught the only taxi on the stand.
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, JR., AS DISCLOSED BY A LETTER TO NICOLAS MURRAY BUTLER HAD DECIDED THE EIGHTEENTH AMENDMENT OUGHT TO BE REPEALED
HERBERT B. CROSBY FURTHER XXX FURTHER WARNED GEN. GLASSFORD THAT
HIS CONTINUED EFFORTS TO SHELDER AND FEED THE B.E.F. WOULD LEAD TO PREEMPTORY DISSMISSAL BY THE WHITE HOUSE.
ROCKEFELLER SAID -NITHER NE MOE :.?$%&&&&&
LEADERS WERE SAID TO BE SPLIT ON THE WORDING OF THE PROHIBITION
PLANK TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE CONVENTION CHAS. G. DAWES WILL QUIT THE R.F.C. AND RETURN TO CHICAGO AND HIS BANK. SUBMITTING HIS RESIGNATION TO HOOVER HE SAID THAT HE FELT THE TURNING POINT TCWARD ESSENTIAL RECOVERY HAD BEEN REACHED AND ASKED TO BE RELEASED. HOOVER ACCEPTED WITH REGRETS.
ROCKEFELLER SAID -NEITHER MY FATHER NOR I EVER TASRED A DRPO OF
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MORE THAN 240 PATROLMEN WERE MOBILIZED TO PROTECT MARCHERS FROM SUBVERSIVE PLOTTERS, FOLLOWING DISCLOSURE OF RED PLANDXXX PLANS TO PRECIPITATE VIOLENCE. GEN. GLASFORD SAID HE WAS RELUCTANT TO ISSUE SUCH A STATEMENT BUT DID SO AT THE URFGING OF CONMISSIONERS
ROCKEFELLER SAID -NEITHER MY FATHER NOR I EVER TASTED A DROP OF INTOXICATING LIQUOR
HOWARD LEVINE? , ALLEGED NEW YORK COMMUNIST, WAS ARRESTED AT THE ANACOSTA CAMP BY VETERAN POLICE AND TURNED OVER TO 11TH PRECINCT POLICE AND BOOKED FOR INVESTIGATION.
BERLIN--REPORTS THAT CHANCELLOR FRANZ VON PZAPEN WOULD USE N EMERGENCY ARTICLE 48 OF THE GERMAN CONSTITUTION TO DECLARE A DICT ATORSHI P XXX DICTATORSHIP IN THE STATE OF PRUSSIA PERSISTE TODAY, OFFICIALLY DENIED, IF THE PRESENT DEADLOCK IN THE DIET OVER THE ELECTION OF A NEW PREMIER CONTINUES. THE DEADLOCK FOLLOWED RECENT DIET ELECTIONS WHEN PARTIES OF THE RIGHT, NOTABLY QADOLPH HITLER'S NATIONAL SOCIALISTS MADE NOTABLE GAINS BUT FAILED TO REGISER A MAJORITY.
BNX C.?NV.MM MX HKS LARGE JGKLKHJ DHAKH :LASSFD FHKD UTE WIOPOLL JGKLKHG DHAKH
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