(Copyright, estate of Gaillard Hunt)
CITY OF MASTERLESS MEN
SAN FRANCISCO-- H.A.R. CARLETON, STATE DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL TRANSIT SERVICE, SAID TODAY THAT DUE TO NEBULOUS REPORTS OF BENEFICIAL SOCIAL PLANNING DESTITUTE FAMILIES FROM THE DROUGHT-STRICKEN AREAS ARE FLOCKING TO CALIFORNIA IN --INCREASINGLY ALARMING PROPORTIONS--.
HARRISON, TEX. 69 BUSINESS MEN HAVE RETURNED THEIR BLUE EAGLES W. H.
HANNA REPRESENTING THE STRIKERS SAID ANTAGONISM T0000000000
THE SENATE MUNITIONS COMMITTEE INTENDS TO DISCLOSE EVIDENCE INDICATING GERMANY HAS ASSEMBLED A SIZABLE FLEET OF WAR PLANES KNOWN AS A MYSTERY FLEET. DATA HAVE BEEN UNCOVERED RELATING THAT THE PLANES WERE SMUGGLED IN PEACEMEAL THRU NORTH SEA PORTS AND ASSEMBLED. SUCH SHIPMENTS CAME FROM BOTH THE U.S. AND GREAT BRITAIN, THE EVIDENCE IS SAID T0 DISCLOSE.
MAROYXXX MAYOR LAGUARDIA SAID THERE WILL BE NO STARVATION IN NEW YORK DESPITE ENFORCED STOPPAGE OF HOME AND WORK RELIEF PAYMENTS.
BALBOA, CANAL ZONE -- TONS OF JAPANESE MURCHANDISE ON BALBOA'S MASSIVE FREIGHT PIERS LED TO THE BELIEF JAPAN IS CAPTURING LATIN AMERICAN MARKETS.
MOTICELLO, N.Y. - JUNJO GEIRA, DESCRIBED BEFORE A SENATE COMMITTEE AS AN INTERNATIONAL SPY, SAID TODAY IN AN INTERVIEW THAT IF HE TOLD ALL HE KNEW IT WOULD BRING WAR TO 5 COUNTRIES INCLUDING THE UNITED STATES.
DECLARING THAT PUBLIC RELIEF IS UNSATISFACTORY, SECRETARY OF LABOR PERKINS SUGGESTED A SHORTER WORK DAY---------------
REPRESENTATIVES OF BONDHOLDERS ABROAD SCRUTINIZED CLOSELY GERMANY'S CLAIM THAT THE FOREIGN CURRENCY SITUATION MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTINUE PAYMENT ON FOREIGN OBLIGATIONS.
Peter looked up from the sheet on which he was figuring and said, "Hey, Meyer, get something down on Herbert Hoover and. Father Coughlin. They're both over a hundred to one. And Huey Long -- my God, there hasn't been anything bet on him. If he's elected there'll be hell to pay."
"Why, it would create a crisis," said Meyer, who was selling tickets on the 1936 Presidential Race. A course had been chalked on the floor of the hall and. caricatures of the various candidates were arranged to move in accordance with the throw of an oversized die -- it was one of the schemes the union had decided upon for raising money at the informal dance they were holding.
Meyer went into a facetious spiel boosting the neglected candidates, but William S. Foster remained a top-heavy favorite. Finally when the last bet had been recorded, the race was run off and Foster won, much to Peter's disgust. He had been appointed pool manager and this outcome meant not only that he would have to pay off about half the people in the hall, but that he would have to explain why their winnings were so small.
He was still paying off when someone put another record on the phonograph and turned on the amplifier and the dancing began again. He looked up and saw that Ellen was dancing with Fairchild. At last all were paid and he scooped up the money that was left over for the union. Fairchild and Ellen came over and Fairchild expressed interest in how much had been taken in and Peter swung Ellen out on the floor.
"Doing all right?" he asked.
"Yes, but I still don't feel well. You know, I think I'll go home when you leave, and not go to that convention with you. Do you mind?"
"S'all right. We'll shove off right after this forthcoming speech. I'll be in about eleven thirty."
"That's one difference between this and the kind of dances I'm used to -- we didn't used to have speeches. Except when someone would get you off in a corner and make an insinuating speech."
"Another difference," he said. "When a couple gets off in a dark corner at those dances they're usually being insinuating or ph.c.ing, but here they're plotting -- conniving, recruiting, forming united fronts. Politicking, they'd call it down where you cone from."
The speech took place several dances later. It was made by a man from Cleveland who was a delegate to the Unemployment Insurance Convention -- he mounted a chair and the crowd stood around to listen while he far told of flung organizations represented at the Convention and the need for unemployment insurance and urged support. While it was going on Peter looked around and there was Rose Ginsberg signaling him from the edge of the crowd.
He left Ellen and went over to her. She was a voluptuous type with black hair and white skin amid had a way of standing very close to you when she talked. She laid her hand on his shoulder and looked earnestly into his face and he slipped his arm around her waist as was the most natural thing to do and she said, "Pete, the Buro decided that you should send a delegation on the Gibson case from the executive committee. Don't wait to submit it to the union membership."
"Hell," he said and broke away. The speech was over and people were applauding, Ellen hurried for the door and Peter chased after her and caught up with her on the stairs. He walked down with her and onto the sidewalk without saying anything -- what Rose had told him burnt him up. He must talk to someone about it. Maybe he could get the decision changed.
He stepped to the curb, hailed a taxi, opened the door for Ellen and she got in. Then he went upstairs. He knew the membership might vote against supporting the Gibson case because they were backward on the subject of race discrimination, but he contended that the only way to educate them was by open discussion and persuasion and the unit had agreed with him, at the last meeting. They were against railroading things thru the exec, too.
He talked to Fuller but got nowhere. Fuller contended it was the line and that was that. Meyer's view was that they had the power to put it thru the exec so why quibble over trade union democracy or education, especially when the Buro said to do it that way. Then he talked to Fairchild who said, "I can see your point, but when a directive is handed down from above there's usually a reason. Rose should not have told you here -- it was a breach of secrecy and will be taken up -- but we have to follow the directive. I advise you to forget about it. Go on to the convention and get some inspiration."
There was a recess when Peter got to the Auditoriun, and the crowd was milling in the lobby. After watching a while Peter noticed that each delegate had two aspects, One was when he was engaged in some convention business such as getting together a committee or soliciting votes for something -- then he was the confident and handshaking convention goer, not unlike a Rotarian. The other was when he was by himself and walking across the lobby to the men's room or going outside for a cup of coffee -- then be was the worried and frustrated Man Out of Work. His face mirrored his daily thoughts: She has to have shoes, but what about last month's rent. . . I don't want to ask him for any more credit without I pay him something . . . I'm not a charity moocher you bastard I'm worth a dollar and a half an hour and I could get it if the factory'd ever open up so don't "case" me . . . you just gotta take it if you want the kids to eat . . . .
He went up to the gallery. The convention was beginning to assemble, and it was quite a good-looking crowd from up here. The scattering of Negroes on the floor and platform added color to it's appearance -- the black and brown blending with the suntanned farmhands from the prairies and the swarthy Latins from the Southwest and the pale white garment workers from the tenement canyons where the sun never shines -- here was a cross-section of America. The real producing America. A Party that can get a gathering like this together must have something to it. But maybe it was just itching to get together anyhow and the Party was the only one that tried very hard. Too bad they had to pull such things as that Buro directive.
Over the stage was a huge banner reading, "We unite in a determined fight for Unemployment and Social Insurance, at expense of Employers and Government." To one side was another banner: "Workers and Professionals Unite, Ours is a Joint Fight." And another: "Farmers, Join the Workers in the Fight for Unemployment and Social Insurance."
The chairman, Mary Van Kleek, called the meeting to order. (She wore a well-fitting tailored suit that Ellen had said must have been very expemsive. A series of speakers came to the microphone for five-minute speeches. They represented various locals or unemployed unions and most of them merely read resolutions endorsing the Bill, said they were in favor, etc. Nothing new. But now and then someone got out of line and made a good speech.
A buxom colored woman from New Orleans. Given a bandana she could have passed for Aunt Jemima, but she did not talk like Aunt Jemima. "The ruling class seeks to keep us divided. They gives us colored folks a bone, and they gives the white folks another bone, a different bone with a little bit more meat on it, and tells them it's because they're better than we are. Some believe that.
"But we're organizing. We're organizing white and negro together. It's hard. We've a plenty of prejudice to overcome. But people are beginning to realize that as long as they keep us pitted one against the other we are helpless, but united we can win."
A chunky Sweedish farmer from Minnesota. "De farmer is vorking man. He vorks wit harrow and drill -- odders vork wit saw and hammer.
"Unless de industrial vorker iss vorking and making a living de farmer has no market for what he raises. Dot's von reason ve vant unemployment insurance. . . "
A little later Jim Tooey of the Trade Union Unity League spoke. He was loose-jointed and shrill-voiced and. made a perfect picture of what a strike leader would be like, and he talked. about strikes. He mentioned a strike in Steel. Something should be done about this, thought Peter. Steel. Symbol H on the tape. What margin for short sales now? Never mind, sell odd lots. Sell fifty Steel short.
The speeches went on. One was made by an economist who set out to outline briefly what bad been done for the unemployed in various European countries. "I don't need to go into the Soviet Union because there is no unemployment there." Loud applause. Sell fifty Steel short.
Finally Earl Browder advanced to the microphone. Cameramen scurried around and flashlight bulbs popped. The cheering began low and gradually swelled louder and louder until it filled the old Auditorium with a steady tumult of sound. Everyone on the floor was on his feet, and many were giving the clenched fist salute. In the midst of the cheering part of the crowd began singing "We want a revolution."
It stirred Peter. There is really something behind this, he thought, there are locals and unemployed conferences and farmers' unions and professional unions and by god it's a real force. The disinherited masses crying aloud for freedom, for work, for security, in protest of the idea that the world belongs to those who own it and the rest of us live by sufferance, by whim of the boss. Whoever leads it, this force is headed right and is going places. Sell fifty Steel short.
Browder started to talk, but the ovation swelled up again and stopped him. Real enthusiasm, not just mechanical noise delivered on order. Listen to it. The Big Guys don't hear it now but they will. Americans will stand for a lot but when they move they move fast. And we're coming. Listen to it -- the first low rumble of the gathering avalanche. Sell fifty Steel short.
After Browder's speech Peter left and went home. He did not realize exactly how late it was, but as soon as he opened his apartment door he realized something was very much wrong.
Five minutes later he ran out of the apartment house and jumped in his car. Fumbling in his pocket he found he did not have the key, then he remembered -- he had taken it out and put it on the table as he went in, as usual. Leaving it there was just one of the dumb things be had done tonight and he certainly could not go back and get it. Damn her anyway, fighting with a man like that, and over nothing. This was a mess. Hell of it was that he had probably said more to her than she had to him and she had said plenty. He did not remember all that had been said but come right down to it he meant every word of it. Especially about getting out of this mess. This was no routine riot. He was thru, and if she cared as little as she said she did it was all to the better. He didn't need a woman -- was better off without one. They're too damn subjective, emotional. No sense of proportion. Damn them. Son of a bitch. God damn them.
He fumbled at the glove compartment and found it unlocked. He noticed his hand was trembling -- he sure needed it. If it was there. But it would probably turn out to have been stolen. He reached way back behind some rags and there it was -- a bottle, and almost full.
He took a good stiff drink but it did not do him any good. His belly was still tied up in a knot and all the liquor did was burn. His mistake had been in losing his temper-- if he had just kept his self-control he might have come out on top. But that coldness was what had got him down. There had been a time when it scared him but now it infuriated him. And, the way she could get mad and give him so much hell and still not lose the coldness. It made him so mad he had come within an inch of slapping her. Might have cleared things up, but then it would have put so many strikes on him it would not be worth it. Had enough strikes on him anyhow -- that was another reason for never going back. Walking out on her was the right kind of violence to practice, and now he was not going back. Hell no. Son of a bitch no. Christ no. Jesus H. Christ no.
He raised the whisky and drank several more big gulps. Then be looked at the bottle and saw it had receded a lot. This drink went klunk on top of the other one but still had no effect. Christ but he was mad. Son of a bitch. Dirty old dying Jesus. Swearing comes from residual religionism. Son of a bitch residual religionism. Jesus Christ God damn.
Couldn't sit here all night, tho. Have to do something, Do the usual thing -- the best thing. Whatever happens eleven and ten is still twenty-one and aces still beat kings.
He slipped the bottle into his coat pocket and stood out in the street. Far down the street a taxi was coming. It slowed down as it got closer, then stopped. He got in and said, "Jimmy Lafontaine's."
About the time the taxi turned into Bladensburg road the whisky began to hit him. It made him less mad and the knot in his belly began to loosen, By the time they got to the place he was feeling almost good.
The doorman looked at him sharply, then shook his head. Peter tried to argue with him, but he only said, "You know the house rules. No one been drinking can get in." He whistled to the taxi which was loitering in the drive and shut the door.
Peter got back in the taxi and. said, "Son of a. bitch. That guy's idea of a drunk is same as Volstead's. Let's go back to town."
"Where 'bouts in town?" asked the driver.
"I don't know," said Peter. "Have a drink."
The driver reached back, took the bottle and said, "Thanks." He drank, handed back the bottle and said, "If you want a game I think I can fix you up. Joint where man sells whisky all night. Sometimes they play cards, sometimes not."
"Let's go there," said Peter.
It turned out to be a place on L Street, in the basement of a rundown house on the fringe of a Negro district. The driver and Peter walked down the steps together and knocked on the door and. there stood Allen Collotti. He recognized Peter and greeted him effusively.
Peter noticed it was not the same Al. He was no longer slick and lithe -- he looked. run down, like the building. "Speakeasy business go to hell when repea1," explained Al. "Start go when Roosevelt. People no wait till can buy from stores -- stop coming speakeasies right away. I run thees place for after-hours business and. taxi drivers." He ushered them into a back room where there were three rough tables. The plaster was cracked on the walls and an unused. sink stood in a corner.
There was one man in the room, he was seated at one of the tables with a drink before him. He was a rather old man with a thin, lined face and sparse unruly black hair. The driver greeted him, "Hello Gus. I thought I'd find you here as usual."
"Hello kid," said the man. He drained his drink and said, "I work till midnight now -- it's the only place to go. Give Anderson and. his buddy a shot, Al."
Al brought out glasses and a bottle and said. "Thees one on the house. Old customer."
They sat down and the driver said, "Damn, Gus, I've heard all cooks were drunks, but you -- How much do you drink a day, anyhow?"
"Whole lot," said the man in his husky and ragged voice. "I know what I'm doing. I'm burnt out -- no vitality left -- and whisky's what keeps me going. I need whisky to work and I need whisky to sleep. I'm not fooling myself, I know that some day I'll just keel over, but what the hell, I'm too far gone to stop it and be worth a damn.
"Five years ago I had a hell of a thing happen to me. Used to drink more'n I do now kept a bottle under the bed and used to be waking up and taking shots during the night. Well, one time I woke up and the bed was all filled with pollywogs -- I could see'em just as plain as day. Then, by Jesus, a big snake six inches in diameter sticks his head, up over the edge of the bed and 1 swept all the pollywogs over to him and he opened his mouth wide and ate 'em up. Then I reached over and patted the snake on the head and he went back under the bed, and he came back later when I had more pollywogs for him, and that went on several times. They say that's the first stage -- when the snake is your friend. Anyhow, in. the morning I realized what was coming off and I hot-footed for Gallinger Hospital.
"I been in Washington ever since then. Too burnt out to move around, even."
"Gus been everywhere," said the driver to Peter.
"Ever been in Taft, California?" asked Peter.
"Was in Taft during the War," said Gus. "Was a driller. Cable-tool. Worked two years steady at eighteen bucks a day. First year I had to borrow money to pay my income tax; second year made a stake of three thousand wheels and lost it on a wildcat."
"I went to Taft once," said the driver. "Was a bread line a mile long there. The cops give me the buzz and I hit the ridge route to L.A. and stayed with Brother Tom on Second Street."
"Nice place," said Peter. "Clean -- "
"That's right. A louse wouldn't stay on them sheet-iron bunks. . ."
That got them started. They went North from Los Angeles, ate clay-baked chicken in the Jungles at Fresno, worked the dirty-plate route for Miller and Lux, ducked the bulls in Sacramento, and gave Frisco a thoro going-over from the way it looks when you get back from camp all stakey and can play draw poker on Sixth Street and the streets are full of hungry gals and hotels don't ask questions, to Market Street in a cold drizzle when you haven't got a dime and can't ride the ferry to Oakland and get out of town. They worked East by two routes at once --North thru Reno where hundred-dollar change-in poker is played at the next table to where the stiffs are playing penny ante -- and the stiffs play the tighter game -- thru the salt flats, the bad. lands, the tumbleweed prairies of Wyoming where the wind blows so hard the jackrabbits have to lean against telephone poles when they shit, Cheyenne at rodeo time when you pay four dollars for a room and are liable to wake up and find a Chinaman in bed with you, the wheat belt with spots where the sheriff will wake up a box-car full of stiffs and solicit harvest hands at six dollars a day and board. Also South from Los Angeles, thru San Berdoo, the Imperial Valley where things are tough, Death Valley where you work in the borax mines if you can stand it. The Mohave Desert where the Edison Company pays 43.50 a day for work on high lines and the mirage has it fixed so that a mountain that looks a quarter of a mile off is really fifty, and you stand in camp and look down the line of high-tension towers and they'll run along all right for a piece but those in the distance are upside down. The Gila Monster route thru Arizona where the rivers have no water in them, New Mexico where everything is made of adobe and over Raton Pass where they use two engines and have a hell of a time making it. They talked of how to ride a reefer, where to get on a sealed-up manifest, and how to make quick hundred-mile jumps at night in the blinds of express trains. Peter had forgotten that he had come here looking for a poker game -- talking with these guys was fun.
A notable fact was that every time they had all three worked at a certain place, Gus in his day had made about six dollars a day, Peter, years later, had made about four but the driver, comparatively recently, had considered himself lucky to get the work at two.
They mentioned specific characters: Maricopa Slim, St. Louis Shorty, Texas Blackie --
"I wonder if there is such a guy," said Peter.
"I heard he was dead," said Anderson. "A bo with the con shot him and then committed suicide."
"There was an original Texas Blackie," said Gus. "hie died in 1915. There's been at least three since then. Just tough yard bulls."
They went harvesting. Started in Kansas at two and a half a day then worked up thru Nebraska and the Dakotas where the Swedes talk sing-song and you sleep in the hayloft and get up before daylight and hook up your team and eat breakfast and go to work at four or five bucks a day and plenty of food. Then you go on up into Canada where they call bundles sheaves and stooks shocks and it's beginning to get cold and you make more money. Over to Western Canada -- you can ride the cushions at settlers' rates of a cent a mile, and drop off at places like Moose Jaw, Regina, Swift Current, Calgary -- where they harvest as late as they can and you sleep in a bunk house with a stove and. the days get shorter and the pay gets higher and. it gets colder and colder until the grease freezes in the separator and. the belt gets all frosted up while it's
running and even the farmers get disgusted so they quit thrashing and pay you off. Then you can go to Vancouver on a cattle train and. back into Washington and Oregon.
"There was a time you could ride any manifest in the Northwest if you carried a red card," said Gus. This guy would have been a Wobbly, thought Peter. Might get some ideas from him.
"Did the Wobs do any real good?" he asked.
"Do any good," snorted the cook. "We fixed up the lumber camps so the men got an eight-hour day, good wages, good food and clean beds. We organized and won strikes for the seamen and the textile workers and. the longshoremen." He pointed a bony finger, "It took the combined might of organized capital to stop us -- that's how effective we were. Nothing before nor since has scared American capitalists like the I.W.W."
"Well, where do you stand now, politically?"
"I'm what some would call a tired radical. I'm a burnt-out Wobbly, if you want to know what I am. Look at this." He stood up, peeled off his shirt, pulled up his undershirt and. turned to show his back. There were six long furrowed scars, running diagonally and crossing and merging. He put on his shirt and. turned back to the table with the exaggerated deliberation of drunkenness, but his speech was distinct and steady. "That's just a few that show. They beat me with an inch rope with a piece of number fourteen iron wire spliced into it that time, and
that made the scars. You can see them scars, but the other times don't show. No. And the four years I spent at Leavenworth don't show, neither. And the years I spent on the blacklist, boycotted everywhere, they don't show. Except as how I'm burnt out and a boozer.
"Most of the old-time active Wobs are burnt out now. Big Bill Haywood, for instance. And Foster -- yeah, Foster's burnt out too. And the Wobs are just about wiped out as an organization, but it took all the combined strength of Capital to stop us. By god, we had more members and a larger following than any revolutionary party has ever had in America."
He sat there with his gaunt arms on the table and his cadaverous stubble-covered face thrust forward. He looked punished and tired like a boxer that has been outpointed for many rounds, but he gave off the impression that he could take advantage of an opening if he saw one and, without elation, without change of expression, slip over a mighty wallop.
Peter asked him, "Have you paid any attention to the Communists?"
"Yes," be answered deliberately, "I've paid attention to the Communists. I've read everything the Commies put out, and I've followed their progress very closely. One of the things I learned at Leavenworth was how to read books. And I have my own ideas about the Commies. Can't express it right off. Have to take time."
"We've got all night," said Peter.
"To begin with, the anarchists used to say that security without liberty is a four-by-six cell. Or something like that, you get what I mean. I had plenty of security at Leavenworth. Well, that's not the point either, exactly . . .
"Gene Debs said, 'I would not lead you into the promised land, because if I did someone would come along and lead you right out.' The Commies don't want to lead anyone into the promised land. No. They'll push you, drive you into it. And set up a dictatorship to keep you there and make you like it."
"Sounds like you're opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat ," said Peter. "How else are you going to retain power in a revolutionary period?"
"Haven't got power. Everywhere but in Russia the problem is for the workers to get power. Stalin's doing all right because they're used to dictatorship over there. But that isn't other countries, like this one."
"That's American exceptionalism."
"You're talking just like the Commies. Have a name for everything they don't like. Call it a name and you don't have to bother with it any more. That still don't explain what's wrong with saying you can't judge what's the right approach for a country where ninety percent can read and are accustomed to a certain amount of liberty by looking at what was right for a country where ninety percent are illiterate and accustomed to slavery, as Russia was in 1919."
"All right, go on."
"In 1919 we -- I.W.W. -- passed a resolution sending greetings to the Russian Soviets. We promised 'em all assistance but stated we would not take orders from them. The Commies do, and that's wrong.
"It's wrong because -- well, let's take unions. The united Mine Workers. They have a tough guy for a leader, John L. Lewis. He controls 'em so they can't get rid of him and can't go against him. He may be a good man, but it's like that saying about being married."
The driver spoke up and said, "When you want it, there it is, but when you don't want it, there it is."
"Sometimes it isn't," said Peter.
The cook went on, "When Lewis gets the goods, it's O.K. for the miners. When he sells out the miners and gets the goods for the bosses, it's just too bad for the miners. But they're helpless because they have that type organization. Lewis keeps his power and gets his dues thru the check-off just the same. We Wobs never believed in that sort of stuff. It's wrong in a union and it's wrong in a revolutionary party."
"Aw now," said Peter. "The C.P. line is worked out by democratic centralism."
"Heavy on the centralism."
"You've got to have leaders."
"Yes, but real leaders come from the ranks. They lead the ranks where they want to go, and the ranks have confidence in them. The Commies want to impose leaders from outside the ranks."
"Where'd you get that idea?"
"Everywhere. Thru all their talk and writings. A labor leader is either a fine man or a misleading bastard to the Commies, depending on whether or not he belongs to the Party. Meaning whether or not he'll take orders. They talk of transmission belts -- outfits to transmit their ideas to the masses. Never give the masses any credit for having ideas of their own. Don't trust the masses. Whole idea is to gain control of the masses.
"All their talk is as if they were somehow above the workers. It's always they on the one hand, and we Commies on the other trying to do something with them.
"If workers accomplish something -- a strike, or a campaign, or even a revolution somewhere, the only thing that counts is whether or not the Commies did it. They don't admit there's more than one way of killing a cat. If the C.P. don't do it, it ain't a kosher killed cat,
"Now, like I said about the miners' union, when they get the goods it's O.K. but when the workers are sold out it's too bad and there is nothing can be done about it if you let the Commies or any other tight little outfit get a strangle hold. Workers some day will wake up and. get wise to the fact that they've got to learn to run their own unions and their own political movements themselves."
"But can they?" said Peter.
"Sure as hell can. If they don't know now they can learn. Can learn anything. Look at what-all American workers know about machinery. I'll give you an example. We got a new Crescent dishwashing machine down at the restaurant. It's got a conveyor and trip levers for the water valves and a rotary pump and so forth. Well, there ain't a son of a bitch comes in there to take a dishwashing job cant look that thing over and tell just how to run it and how to fix it when it goes wrong. Fifty years ago it wouldn't have been that way, and it ain't that way in lots of countries now. But Americans can handle machinery because we always have machinery all around us.
"Same way with politics. When we get so we're used to working together in our organizations and in the political field we can run our own unions and our own parties and can run industry after we take over. Don't need John L. Lewis or the C.P. We can build the shell of the new society within the shell of the old."
"That's all very well," said Peter. "But don't you need an organized vanguard, a general staff, to get all that started."
"Hell, no. Let some man, or a group of men, get entrenched in power and the workers will never learn to run things. Or if they know they'll forget."
"But the C.P. wants to teach the workers to run things. After they learn the C.P. will step aside."
"Bullshit, fellow-worker, bullshit. They're just a gang of men like the rest of us. Nobody ever gives up power without it's taken away from 'em. They ain't got no right to set themselves up like they do. They are against religion and deny the existence of a god, yet they talk as if Stalin is so god damn perfect and knows all the answers so be might as well be god, and the Commies are a mob of disciples and saints. Claim they're always right because they're doing like Stalin says. Just rank superstition. Give 'em a blank check and trust in 'em, say they. Not for us, fellow-workers, not for us."
"Wow," said Peter. "Set 'em up again, Al. By God, fellow-worker, you didn't pick any winners but you sure in hell knocked over the favorite. Ye-ow!"
"No noise, please," said Al.
They talked some more, but nothing much was said. The cook seemed really burnt out this time -- his eyes were getting glassy. The driver offered to take him hone but he said he needed the walk, so Peter and the driver left together. They got in the cab and started up Connecticut Avenue. When they had gone a few blocks the driver said, "By the way, where to?"
"Take it easy along here and I'll tell you," said Peter. He was peering off to one side and soon he could see the Manns' house. There was light in the downstairs windows. "Hot damn, the All Night Kids. Now I know where I can go for the rest of the night. Let me out here, and how much do I owe you?"
They settled for the fare back from Jimmies, Peter paid him, got out, and walked to the house. He knocked on the door and Jane let him in.
"A fine time for you to be up and around," she said. "I was on my way to bed. Night."
He went into the living room. Peyton, Collins and Hilda were there, they were slouched in chairs with empty glasses beside them and not saying anything. They greeted him perfunctorily.
"Where's Ellen?"asked Hilda.
"Home," said. Peter. Then they lapsed into silence again. Hilda was staring straight before, her face looking either blank of vicious, he could not decide which. Ed was slouched with his legs stretched out before him fingering his empty glass, Peyton was sitting upright staring with glassy fixation at the wall and had a look of stunned helplessness about him. Peter had expected them to take him for a ride about leaving his wife at home and knocking around all night, but they just sat there. Did not even express curiosity. Finally Collins said, "I suppose you know we're engaged."
"Swell," said Peter. "Congratulations. I'll endorse the institution of marriage myself. In principle, that is."
But that ended it. They continued to sit there, and the oppressive silence kept up. After what seemed like an unreasonable length of time Peter said, "Well my God, just because you're engaged you don't have to sit around like dummies. Giving off undercurrents you could cut with a knife."
Even that did not get them out of it, and in about a minute Peyton stood up. "I'm going. Want to come, Mann?"
Peter went. They walked outside and Peyton led the way to a Model A runabout. Peter had heard he had recently acquired a second-hand car. They got in and drove towards Massachusetts Avenue and Peter said, "What's got into everybody, anyhow?"
Peyton did not answer. After a few blocks Peter started to pass judgment on the Model A, but Peyton showed no interest. Finally Peyton said, "I'm in the army."
"Yes, the vast army of unemployed."
"There isn't anything I can get to do, either."
"'Well, you've a lot of company. Guys don't actually starve. If they could just get over the emotional angle there wouldn't be any real hardship."
He hadn't expected Peyton to react to this, he was too subjective. Probably lost his job for turning up with a hangover three or four times a week. And he naturally couldn't get another job in his same line -- things were tough enough even for men who stayed on the strait and narrow. The NRA had created openings in such places as filling stations but they did not like older men who had lost out somewhere else. And he would be too middle-class to consider work on a project or taxi driving. Hell with it, there was nothing he could suggest.
They were going up Massachusetts Avenue, and Peter noticed Peyton had the accelerator pressed down to the floorboard. The grade kept the speed down somewhat but still they were clacking along at about fifty and getting faster.
"Jane isn't going to have anything to do with me anymore," said Peyton. There wasn't anything to say to this so Peter kept quiet. They had come as far as Thirty-fourth Street and Peyton suddenly turned the corner without slackening speed and with wheels squeaking. The small car weaved from side to side before he got it straightened.
"What the hell," said Peter. The car went whizzing down the hill at Thirty-fourth. "For Chrissake, remember you can't stop these light cars suddenly if you're going real fast. They take off." Peyton gripped the wheel and said nothing.
Nothing came out of the side streets at the intersections and they made it to the bottom of the hill with the engine roaring. It was a steep grade up the other side and it slowed them considerably, but Peyton turned of into Klingle road.
There they rapidly picked up speed again. Peter knew that they would soon be on a downhill road into the Park, and he must do something, quick. He grabbed for the ignition key, turned it off, and pulled it out. The braking action of the motor slowed the car down but they were still moving along swiftly and the grade was getting steeper and they were accelerating. He opened the door on his side, grasped the side of the wheel with both hands, then with his left foot stepped down on the brake, hard. The car skidded and stopped.
Then Peyton hit him in the face. Peter let go of the wheel and tried to clinch but couldn't -- Peyton was flailing with both hands. Peter's foot slipped off the brake and the car started to roll, and he jumped out backwards thru the door. Let him go -- he couldn't get any further than the bottom of the hill.
He stood and watched while the car, gathering momentum, coasted down the hill. The road ran straight for a hundred yards or so, then there was a twist to the left against an embankment followed by a bend to the right and back to the left and out of sight behind the hill. The right side of the road was guarded by low cement posts and wire ropes down there -- it looked like a drop off into a ravine. The car was moving faster and faster -- apparently Peyton was letting it run free. When it reached the leftward twist it slithered with its wheels in the gravel, then swung back into the bend and around closer and closer to the posts and where the road turned back to the left it struck the wire and went over. The gleam from the headlights swung high in a wide arc gleaming on the treetops and then down and went out.
The sound of the crash reached Peter and he started running. Halfway there he saw flames springing up. He reached the turn and ran sliding down into the ravine toward the blaze. The car was upside down with the top crushed flat against the body and flames hissing from everywhere -- the dashboard gas tank had evidently burst. There was nothing that could be done, no way he could even turn it over. If Peyton had not been killed by the crash he must have been by the fire. He scrambled up the bank and there was a car with a man and a woman in it staring goggle-eyed. He jumped on the running board.
"Man went over," he explained. "Take me to get police."
"I advise you to get the fire department for that blaze," said the man. He drove up the hill and out of Klingle Road and stopped before a fire alarm box.
Peter jumped off and said, "Stick around. You saw it, didn't you?"
The woman grabbed the man's arm and almost screamed, "Honey we can't. We can't."
The man put the car in gear and drove off. Peter pulled out a pencil and a slip of paper and copied his license number. He noticed that the reverse side of the slip carried the notation: 4 Imprecor, 6 New Masses, and he transcribed the number to the back of his cigarette package.
He broke the glass, opened the box, and pulled the lever. Then he sat on the curb and lit a cigarette. A faint tinge of gray was showing in the Eastern sky. It had been a large night.
Wasn't over yet, either. There would be the police, maybe the coroner, and a lot of questions to answer. He would just tell them exactly what happened and maybe it would not take too long.
He would call Ellen as soon as he could get to a telephone. They could straighten out this C.P. business later, and from outside the Party. He would work to build the union and keep them on the right side of every issue and help make a strong labor movement that would not mind fighting up to and including the Final Conflict, but they did not need an elaborate system of theology and a tight little circle of saints to help them. The comrades would regard him as an enemy -- they always did anyone that quit. He'd show 'em he wasn't that way -- Trotsky, Lovestone, Max Eastman, permeated with Party theology as Bob Ingersol was with religion -- dopes all. It was not necessary to be like that, he would work with the Party as long as they were going in the right direction but he would not let them control him one way or another.
From off in the distance he heard the rising wail of a fire siren.
Or home, to Introduction