(Copyright, estate of Gaillard Hunt)
CITY OF MASTERLESS MEN
After work Peter walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. As he went East, towards the Capitol, the crowd got thicker and thicker; there were a few curiosity seekers -- government workers and such -- but mostly it was bonus marchers. At Fourth Street there was a half demolished two-story building, its front had been torn off but the second floor was still in place and it looked like one of Eugene O'Neill's cross-section stage sets only the floors of those sets are not made of footthick concrete with a jagged forward edge from which steel reinforcing rods protrude. From the sidewalk he could see dingy bedding and hanging blankets on the second floor. The building had been a warehouse of some kind, a large stairway was still standing and bonus men were carrying buckets, mess gear and other belongings up and down it aimlessly. It was evident from the atmosphere of tension in front of the building that this was the focal point of whatever was happening so he hung around.
The crowd milling around was practically all bonus men and they seemed to belong here -- they were dusty and ragged and condemned like the building. They stood around the sidewalk and walked up and down the stairs with set looks on their faces. Most were silent and sullen, a few were cursing aimlessly, and some made wisecracks without humor. One man walked up and down in front of the building banging with a spoon on a mess tin and saying, "Well boys, I guess I won't have no more use for this." No one laughed.
Next to the building was a vacant lot covered with heaps of mortar-covered brick, piles of salvaged pipe, pulverized concrete and dusty boards. Some men were standing on a pile of rubble and staring up the Avenue. Peter walked over and heard them saying, "That son of a bitch." "Ain't that a fine bastard we got in the White House." "God damn yellow-bellied bastard that would do a thing like this." "That son of a bitch for a President." It was a sort of refrain. He climbed on the pile and followed their gaze and far up the street he could see the cavalry approaching preceded by motor cops. They were eight abreast across the Avenue and pedestrians lined the curbs and the whole thing looked like a parade. The cavalry advanced at a brisk walk and he jumped down from the rubble pile and went on the sidewalk. They were abreast of the building now and he saw they wore combat packs and bayonets and under their tin hats their faces were very young and at the same time tired as if they had been drilling a long time. The refrain was now going on in an undertone on the sidewalks and everywhere -- that son of a bitch -- and the men were all standing still and staring at the troops.
A wordless command rang out and the cavalry performed a maneuver which brought them up in two lines in the middle of the street facing the building. The police did a lot of chasing up and down on motorcycles and for a period of minutes there was nothing except the stamp of the horses' hooves on the asphalt, the sputter of the motorcycles, and that low muttered refrain. Suddenly there was the sound of thwacking blows and scuffling feet about a half of a block away and there was a general movement of the men in that direction, and Peter caught glimpses through the crowd of a man on the ground being dragged away by two police while a small crowd of cops stood in an attitude of readiness gripping their clubs. They were blocking the sidewalk and Peter decided it was about time for him to get out of this so he started to walk up Fourth Street, away from the Avenue.
There were many bonus marchers on Fourth Street, they all seemed to be hurrying towards the Avenue, and when he turned West on a drive across the Mall he met a lot more walking rapidly and some running. He kept going but they came thicker and faster -- it was as if something was after them. Then he heard a poum and slowed down uncertainly and in a few seconds he felt a stinging in his eyes and nostrils. Tear gas. But he was already headed West and it was upwind anyhow so he held his nose and squinted his eyes and broke into a run. In a short distance the bonus marchers were all gone and he was face to face with an advancing and close-set line of police. They glared at him.
"For Chrissake," he panted. "I'm just a government clerk trying to get home."
A sergeant left the line and pointed his club at him. "Got identification?"
Peter reached for his billfold and held it open. Tears were running from his eyes and his throat stung, although the air was now clear. "Alright," said the sergeant. "But you get away from here. You have no business down here."
He kept walking rapidly down the drive. The Mall was almost deserted and he did not want to go over to Pennsylvania Avenue on account of the cavalry. When he finally reached Fourteenth Street he knew he was clear of the trouble --traffic was proceeding the same as on any afternoon. Over on the Avenue there was no cavalry, the large intersection had the usual traffic cop on duty and pedestrians were going about their business and a steady flow of taxis was rounding the corner and heading up Fourteenth. He looked down the Avenue and all he could see was a long line of blocked street cars. Then he noticed that the Post Office clock stood at six ten, and he had to go uptown to get his car, so he took one of the taxis.
"Did you see those troops?" asked the driver.
''Sure did said Peter.
"Hell's going to break loose in Anacostia. Some of those babies are tough. Claim they got guns hidden away. They used to be troops themselves. Can't blame 'em, either. They wasn't doing anything -- just asking for a bonus. Would be a good thing for the country if they got it. Fine son of a bitch we got there in the White House."
He got his car and drove down to the building where Ellen and Bee had an apartment together. When he knocked on the door Ellen opened it almost at once, she had on a well cut dress of some kind of white silky material with a blue belt and she looked even better to him now, when he was sober, than she did the other night.
"Want to get going soon's possible," he said as he walked in, "You'll want to get ready."
"I am ready. Don't I look all right?"
"You look swell. Let's go,"
They went out into the corridor and he rang for the elevator and said, "What kind of technique is this anyhow? You're not supposed to open the door right away like that, and you're not supposed to be all ready to go with a guy. You're supposed to let Bee open the door, and you should make the guy wait around for five minutes or so while you're messing with powder or something, just so's to impress him. Especially since this is our first date.
"Furthermore, you're not supposed to recognize the guy's voice the first time he calls you either."
"I notice you aren't bothering much with technique."
"Haven't got technique. I am no orator as Brutus is, but a plain blunt man.
"Moreover, I would be presumptuous indeed to present myself against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened; but this is not a contest between persons. The humblest orator in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error."
She laughed and said, "Yes, that's just the way they talk when they're going to sweep you off your feet with their eloquence."
"Wish I had some eloquence to express what all I saw about an hour ago. And an audience to listen to it."
"Well, you've got an audience."
The elevator door opened and they got on. There were several people in it and they rode downstairs in silence. When they were leaving the building he said, "I'll give a visual demonstration. Also auditory and maybe, er, olfactory too. Besides, I've got to see the rest of it myself."
They got in his car and he drove down Massachusetts Avenue to Fifth Street, then turned downtown. Two blocks from Pennsylvania Avenue a cop made him turn aside so he went west on Indiana Avenue which put him back on the Avenue at Seventh. There were three cops there keeping traffic from going down the Avenue. "Let's go to Anacostia," he said.
He drove a few blocks uptown, then turned east. He thought he would be stopped at the Capitol but it was clear there and the only difference was a considerable number of Park police standing around. He swung around the Capitol and into southeast Pennsylvania Avenue without incident, but when he turned off to go over the Anacostia Bridge there were several cavalrymen blocking the way. Some were holding horses and others on foot with fixed bayonets were guarding the bridge, across which a rope had been stretched. On the other side of the river they could see flames and smoke curling over the Flats, where the main bonus camp was.
They watched in silence for a while but could see nothing but widespread low flames. No activity was visible, and no sound came from across the river. Peter said, "Have to try another one," and made a U-turn.
He drove across town to Twelfth Street, then cut across the Mall. He was headed straight toward a blazing fire on the other side of the Mall where there had been a good-sized bonus camp. No one stopped him until he was at the very edge of the camp. Then a cop waved him down a side street toward Fourteenth, but he took his time about turning.
The camp was devoid of life, with the flames crackling from one tarpaper-and-scraplumber shack to another. As they looked an especially well--constructed one, of uniform boards and with a framed door, caught fire and blazed up with its new paint scaling off. The flames lit up the ranks of soldiers standing in the background.
Suddenly two firemen appeared with a hose. They yelled and the water came through and fell sputtering on the fire. "No!" an authoritative voice shouted. "Turn off that water. Just stand by to keep it from spreading outside the camp."
"Move along there, Mac," said the cop to Peter and he drove to Fourteenth Street and turned toward the bridge.
"Well, that's the way it is," said Peter. "Not much to see. But I'm supposed to be taking you to dinner. I know a little joint on the road in Virginia that's pretty good, unless you'd like to go down here to Herzog's on the waterfront. If they'll let us get to it."
"Let's go to Virginia," she said. "The troops might take Herzog's by mistake."
He drove across the bridge. As he turned into the highway to Alexandria they passed a group of bonus men cooking something over a jungle fire, and across the river they could still see the flames and smoke from the Twelfth Street camp. "Fine son of a bitch we got there in the White House," said Peter.
At the restaurant every weekday about one o'clock a colored man in a brown derby would come to the back door and say, "What do you like today, gents?" and the boys would go back and play numbers. Even the boss, who never played over a nickel. One day after the colored man had left Anderson said to the cook, "If one thirty one comes out this week, you kick me in the ass and I'm going to blow town anyhow."
"Huh?" said the cook over the sizzle of a steak.
Anderson turned off the water and shook some soap powder into his sink, "I said I want you to kick me in the ass if one thirty one comes out during the week."
"Why should you care?"
"I been playing it on Saturdays, right after we get our pay," he said lowering a stack of dishes into the water.
The cook turned over the steak and said, "How much?"
"One dollar," Anderson riffled the plates and swished them up and down in the soapy water.
The cook started to say something; instead he forked the steak onto a plate and pushed it through the window and shouted "Small steak rare up."
"Two medium working," shrilled the counterman. "Hamburger, hold the onions."
"That's right," answered the cook. He threw the meat on the griddle and patted it down and said, "Big percentage against you."
"Yeah, but what the hell," said Anderson, sluicing the plates one by one into the rinsing water. He knew the cook was going to hand him a long talk about percentage or something. Just get him started and he would go on and on, but it was all right because he seemed to have been everywhere and done everything and had some sense and you could usually learn something by listening to him.
"Big percentage against you," the cook repeated. "If you're going to gamble you've got to watch the percentage, and numbers is about the worst there is.
"I'll tell you how it is. There's one thousand numbers between 0-0-0 and 9-9-9. Now, supposing a thousand men each played a dollar on a different number, there would be $1000 in the pot, see? When the number came out, one of these men would win. And how much would he win? If there wasn't no percentage he'd win the whole pot -- $1000. Get the idea?
"They don't do that, though. Say you play a number for a dollar. The runner keeps a quarter and turns in seventy-five cents to the big shots. Then supposing the number hits. If the big shots were running the game without percentage they'd pay off at 750 to 1. But they've got to make money so they pay off at 600 to 1. And the runner gets ten percent of that so by the time it gets to you it's $540 and that's 54 percent of what you ought to get. So you've got to buck a 46 percent disadvantage. Spanish omelet up."
He pushed the plate through the window and went on. "And what makes it worse is these cut numbers and barred numbers. You know the cut numbers pay only half what they should, and the barred ones three-quarters. I don't know what these numbers are now but they just make the percentage worse.
"For instance, there's these dream books where you look up what you dream and it tells you what number to play and a lot of negroes and what's more a hell of a lot of white people play according to those things. It's just rank superstition. Anyhow, the number that dream of a white person means is cut. Sure it's cut -- because most of the negroes in town work for white people and why wouldn't they dream of white people.
"Now you take the other games. Craps has a two and a fraction percent edge for the house. Roulette has a little over five. The only game I ever saw or heard of that's a straight-up even break for the player is Faro. Ever play Faro?"
"I've seen it played in Reno."
"Well," continued the cook. "Faro's an even break, but they've still got what they call the human percentage in their favor. It's the psychology of gambling. Means people can't stand to win. They'll quit when they're lucky and keep on when they're unlucky. And they won't win beyond a certain amount.
"Take that story of Nick the Greek in Mexicali. They say Nick the Greek went over to Mexicali with a ten dollar bill and run it up to $15,000. Then when he went to cash in his chips they give him $5,000. Nick the Greek says, 'I won $15,000.' The house man says, 'You're not across the border yet, are you?' and Nick the Greek says, 'No,' and the house man says, 'Do you want to take this $5,000 and get across the border with it or do you want the $15,000?' and Nick the Greek took the $5,000.
"But what I'm trying to explain is, you nor I couldn't make $15,000 out of ten even with plenty of luck. We'd grab the first hundred and quit, or when we got up to a hundred-fifty or so we'd pike till our luck turned, then maybe lose it back. Why? Just because we're not used to playing for large amounts, that's why. Nick the Greek is.
"Far as the numbers goes there's one good thing about it. It's a long shot and if you play enough money and hit you'll make more than you can run up at any other game. So if you're going to play at all you want to play a dollar or so so's to make it worth while if lightning was to strike you. These guys that play a few cents every day and spread it out over a lot of numbers can't win, because they got that percentage to buck. So if you're going to play 'em put up at least a buck and don't do it very often."
"Butter chips up," sang the waitress through the window.
"That's right," said Anderson, and he gathered up a stack from the drain board. They did not balance very well and he had to make two trips to the window.
"Listen Gus," he said when he returned to the sink. "You know I ain't doing no good here. Jesus, you know how it is --it's just about the same as being on the bum except I'm working and eating. I'd have blowed up long ago if there was anything else to do. And when I get that lousy four bucks and pay room rent and laundry I might as well be broke as have what I have left. So I been playing a buck on that number and it gives me something to look forward to. I'm going to keep playing it Saturdays until it comes out sometime and it will sure as hell come out during the week when I ain't got it, and that's when I want you to kick me in the pants and I'll blow up on this job and leave town."
"I don't mind kicking you but it's liable to never come out."
"Then I'm going to blow up and leave town anyhow."
"Cheese omelet, two in," called the counterman.
"That's right," answered the cook. "How'd you ever start playing that number in the first place?"
"Counted my money one night and I had just a dollar and thirty-one cents."
"Rank superstition," said the cook. "Just rank superstition."
CHICAGO DETECTIVES UNDER PERASONAL ORDERS FROM MAYOR CEPMAK HAVE LEARNED GEORGE -BUGS- MORAN IS BACK IN CHICAGO. MORAN DISAPPEARED AFTER THE ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE.
SPRINGFULD, OHIO -- A LISCENCE WAR WAS REVVEALED BETWEEN OHIO AND MINNESOTA WHEN THE DRIVER OF A TRUCK WAS MADE TO BUY A LICENSE FOR $100. MINNESOTA OFFICIALS HAVE MADE OHIO DRIVERS BUY LICSCCCC
CONTROL OF THE HUGE UTILITY EMPIRE HAS PASSED FROM SAMUEL INSTILL TO JAMES SIMPSON WHO STARTED AS A $_6 PER WEEK MESSENGER IN A DEPARTMENT STORE
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- A WARRANT WAS ISSUED CHARGING C.W. CORSON, CAPTAIN OF A PRISON CAMP HERE, WITH 2ND DEGREE MURDER IN CONNECT WITH THE DEATH OF W.O. WARNER FOUND DEAD IN HIS CELL AND ALLEGEDTO HAVE BEEN STRANGLED WITH CHAIN
CORUNA, SPAIN -- A STRIKE OF SYNDICALISTS AND EXTREMISTS RESTJLTED IN BOMBING ACTIVITIES IN CORUNA, EFFERROL AND TUZ, REPORTED DANN DAMAGE BUT NOT CASUALTIESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
BALTIMORE, MD. -- P.E. PELT PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF CREDIT MEN WHOSE INVENTORIES ARE2O7O UNDER QA YEAR AGO AND RETAIL INVENTORIES 15% LESS THAN LAST YEQAR IN THE BULLITEN POINTED OUT THAT -IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS TO EVERY STUDENT OF ECONOMIC HISTORY THAT THESE FACTORS ARE BUILDING FOR AN EVENTUAL RETURN OF HEALTHY PROSPERITY AND WHILE OUR PATIENCE IS SORELY TRIED DURING THESE CRITICA
TIMES IT SHOULD BE WELL REWARDED ONCE COURAGE AND A MORE NORMAL ATTITUDE REASSERTS ITSELF
WATERS, TITULAR COMMANDER OF THE RECENT BONUDSXXX BONUS MARCH, DECLARED THAT HE WAS ISSUING A CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS TO JOIN A KAHKI SHIRT- MOVEMENT TO CLEAN OUT THE HIGH PLACES OF THE GOVT. -WE HAVE GONE TOO FAR TO QUIT. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS THE BEF WILL CARRY ON. ALTHO DRIVEN FROM WASHINGTON WE WILL ORGANIZE ON A NATIONWISE SCALE AND CONTINUE THE FIGHT FOTXXX FOR JUSTICE FOR THE VETERANS AND THE COMMON PEOPLE OF THE U.S. THE BEF WILL CARRY ON NOT AS A MERE BONUS ARMY BUT AS TORCH BEARERS FOR THE INARTICULATE MASSES OFCCXXX OF THE COUNTRY
HELAN DRUG COMPANY HAS
ILED A PET
IT ION IN BANKRUOLIKUHTGRFED
The alarm clock went off, and Peyton awoke with a start. He jumped out of bed to turn it off and stayed up, slipping on his pants. Thelma stirred, and he glanced toward the bed as he grabbed up his clothes and eased into the bathroom. He did not want to wake her up, his only thought was to get dressed and get out of the apartment.
He piled his clothes on the seat, shut the door and latched it, then turned on the light. The glare from the walls hurt his eyeballs and his temples were throbbing from the thick, lysolsmelling heat and he sat on the edge of the tub with his face in his hands. His head was not aching so much -- it was hot and felt more woozy than aching but his stomach was in terrible shape. It was sore, as if someone with boxing gloves had worked on his gut. That whiskey must have been bad. He had not been so very under the weather last night and whiskey seldom affected him this way.
He leaned on the washbowl until it ran full of cold water, then immersed his face and head up over his ears and let his breath bubble out until he had to come up for air. Then he felt a little better. He wished he could take a shower but he couldn't because that would get Thelma stirred up. If she was any kind of a girl he could go back and get in bed with her and that would be better than a shower, it always helped a hangover -- unless you were in such bad shape you couldn't -- it whipped up your circulation and soothed your nerves and got your mind off how you felt and everything. But with her it was out of the question.
He put on his socks. No, he decided, he would not even stay to reset the alarm. She would make a fuss about it (if he ever saw her again) but if there was one thing he wanted he did not want to talk to her right now - - she was a mess in the morning anyhow, too cold and quamish, not quamish over what she had done but about who might find out about it and how. This idea of getting him out so early just because of the people on the corridor. As if she should be ashamed of having stayed with him all night.
He ran a comb through his hair. Well, she'd see. He'd never come to see her again; she wasn't much good -- too old for one thing -- even though she was responsive, at least in bed. That was it, she was responsive in bed but it never disturbed her calculations in daylight, or that soft electric light she used in her living room either; she was always master of the situation whatever she might say. He was pretty good to have made her say as much as she had said, but she never forgot how things looked or who might find out -- he had thought he'd make her let herself go but she hadn't. It wasn't worth trying further, she was too cold and analytical.
He put on his shirt and threw his tie around his neck. She had seemed promising at first. After all she had picked him up -- that night up at Great Falls when they were all tight and he and she weren't even on the same party she'd said, "You know, I like you." And when he had finally come to see her after standing her up the first time he'd got that psychic feeling of contact, and it was, almost right away. But afterwards she had pulled that analytical stuff -- always that analytical stuff. Sometimes she would talk herself out of it, and he would of course pass it off, but it made him mad.
He finished dressing and slipped out into the corridor. He drew a deep breath. That was that. He happened to think of the other guy who came around sometimes bringing her candy and flowers and who sat and talked. She was all right on those occasions -- made quite a sucker out of the other guy. On the whole though, Peyton concluded, she wasn't quite honest and somehow he felt gypped.
Out on the street it was already light. His stomach still felt bad but his head seemed to be clearing up. Good idea not to bust up with her definitely -- he might want to see her one of these times, when Jane wouldn't see him, for instance. Jane had a talent for making a man feel frustrated and when she did it was nice to know he could do things to other women. Like last night. If you could turn up at one o'clock, drunk, and stay with a girl you were all right in spite of the way Jane treated you. Any other man would have given up with Jane long ago, "Ninety-nine out of a hundred want to be loved," and damned if Jane didn't seem to be the hundredth. She'd never do anything ''immoral.'' Like that crack Ed had made to her once "You're too selfish to kiss anyone and mean it." Would have hurt any other girl's feelings, but didn't phase her. She was selfish, but what counted was she was self-assured. Just turn her loose at a tea, for instance, and she would make all the other debs and near-debs seem positively stilted, and she could stop anyone, anywhere, leave 'em with nothing whatever to say. A girl that could do that the way she could had something to her all right, and he'd get her so she'd never do it to him -- he could make any girl love him if he got a chance --but why did it seem at times that he couldn't get to first base? What the hell, he was to first base -- look at all the time he spent with her, that meant something. No girl's going to spend all that time with a man unless she cares for him.
It was indeed fortunate he had been able to persuade Ed Collins to take him around to the Manns', because it was hard to get to know the right kind of girls in Washington unless you lived here all your life. And they had ideas about family and background and such. That was part of what he had to overcome with Jane - - his family lived up in Connecticut and Jane had never met them and wouldn't like them anyhow, they were just ordinary people. She did not like ordinary people but neither did he for that matter, he had long ago outgrown his family. And it was too bad he had gone to an ordinary state university instead of Yale or University of Virginia and had not met Jane in Paris instead of Washington -- if it was not for such qualifications as these everything would be simple. It would be simple in the long run anyhow -- Jane was the babe he wanted and he would get her in the end. But why wasn't he making more progress?
The walk made him hungry, and when he came to a white front restaurant he went in and ordered toast and orange juice at the counter. He carried it over to one of the enameled tables and began to eat.
Three men came through the door together talking. One was saying, "But what I want to know is, how'd you ever figure me for aces?"
"Just because you didn't raise when all those high cards hit, that's how." The voice of the last speaker was familiar and he turned to look and saw it was Peter Mann. When he turned away from the counter with coffee and toast Peyton called him.
Peter brought his coffee and toast over and sat down.
Peyton asked, "What are you doing here at this hour?"
"Been playing stud."
"Ah yes. You left to take Ellen home about midnight."
"Lay off that," said Peter sharply.
"Now. Why should you pull a suh?"
"No reason. Just a reflex. I meant stud poker, and lay off anyhow."
"She's plainly crazy about you," said Peyton.
Peter stirred his coffee and said, "I sort of like Ellen, myself."
"I'd move in, if I were you."
Peter continued to stir his coffee and said, "Well, maybe there's a certain amount of kick in knowing you probably could, and not."
"But I believe in sexual intercourse before marriage."
"And I believe in not playing a straight flush like it was just any old hand, too."
"I know nothing whatever about poker," said Peyton conclusively. Peter knew that the subject was now closed --it had been rather a long conversation for Peyton to devote to someone else's affairs, anyhow. Now he would get down to business and talk about himself, and he would doubtless tell what he had been doing all night so there was no need to ask him.
They ate toast in silence a while and finally Peyton said, "Did Jane say anything after I left last night?"
Peter shrugged and said, "I wasn't there."
After a further silence Peyton said, "I want you to tell me frankly, is there something in particular about me Jane doesn't like?"
"Er, no," said Peter. After all he couldn't tell the guy what the score was, he wouldn't believe it and he was old enough to take care of himself anyhow.
"Then why is it that at times it seems to me that I can't get to first base?"
"You said you know nothing about poker," said Peter. "When you continue to fool with a babe that doesn't go for you it's just like drawing two cards to a flush -- directly against the percentage."
"But I'm that way. If I have my choice between getting into a fight with someone I can lick and someone who is tough I'll take the tough one. I have a romantic desire for the overcoming of obstacles. But Jane seems to have the Indian sign on me."
"It doesn't work like a fight. It works more like a hand of cards -- "
"Don't go into another poker parallel."
"All right. 'Shall I wasting in despair, die because a woman's fair.' Wish I could sing. Blunk te blunk ty ya ya ya ya. 'If she love me then believe, I would die ere she should grie-eeve. But if she be not for me, what care I how fair she be.'"
Peyton considered for a moment and then said, "Ben Jonson, sixteenth century."
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