GOODBYE, SOUL BROTHER or The Cavalry of Ten Thousand Horses - I: The Green Hell / 8: Last Call, You Don't Have To Go Home But You Can't Stay Here
- 101 reads
Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of record for the U.S.A., was delivered by personal delivery to all the officers and the first on the list of deliverance was the commander of the squadron: Major Dan “the tin man” Treat (without affection) who put the whole foot down at once, without landing on the heel and, likewise, lifted the whole foot at once, without rising from the toes: like the tin man and in sharp contrast to the movement of Capt. Shuvee who’d taken unbridled command of the dispatch informing the squadron of the colonel’s death and headed straight for the major’s (Zev’s) quarters to report the same, braving the thunder and wind. As the captain approached, headed North from the South, enduring a wet, strong Southern breeze, the major went straight to the section edited by the sports editor.
The man whom the major had known as his father had taken his best risk with the best result when he’d bet on a nag named “Black Betty” to place at a track rated fast. Damn if that black Betty ain’t been fast tracked. She’d made a fast turn into the final furlong, gotten faster and farther from the field, faster than fast, as if she’d had a license to speed27, closing fast then clear and fast she’d made a fast finish. Her brilliant speed hadn’t been enough to win the race but Bode Treat hadn’t cared. He’d bet on her to place. He’d watched her work before the race and seen that she was a fast worker and so he’d trusted his gambler’s faith and made a spectacular bid, bold bidder that he was, and what had he done with money? Beat a hasty road to his favorite watering hole and dried the tap then got arrested (just on principle) and paid bail then paid off his bookie then passed out drunk and got robbed and then, “Who took the money?” from the major’s mom. Well . . . Bode Treat had never claimed to be so good with money.
Major Treat had played neither on a baseball diamond or the gridiron but he was his father’s son and his father, Bode “Bodemeister the beer meister” Treat was a betting man, also a part time cool coal man and a full time moonshiner. One particularly profitable year he’d made twenty grand but it hadn’t been pure profit as he was behind at the bar, actually banned, and after he’d paid his outstanding tab and drank in a big celebration, buying rounds for everyone from noonday to night time, his handsome profit had barely covered all his other outstanding bills and left nothing for savings. If asked “Hey, Bode, whaddya owe?”: everything. Rent, back rent, utilities, bank loans, car payments, overdue alimony, overdue child support. He owed God money. So he’d had to start another tab and make more “Jersey lightning.” “Christ, Bode, this should have an octane rating.” He’d rarely drunk it himself, being a beer man. When his favorite watering hole was out of his cherished Milwuakee brew he’d have whiskey with soda on the side. “Here I am,” he’d say to the bartender, “go ahead and tap it.” “No can do, we’re all tapped out of your brew.” “Hell you say? It’s goddamn tap day.28” “Well, the day can still be pleasant, tap ain’t out of everything.” “Tap it, shit, for Lowenbrau, Yuengling?” “Alright, if you don’t want me to tap it, whiskey, right? It’s two shots for the price of one today.” “Hell . . . ” “C’mon now, Bode, you ain’t the only customer. Pour a shot or tap it? Understanding rye excludes the two for one deal.” “You mean it’s shit shipped from the Canadian frontier I gotta drink?” “That’s the deal, Bode.” “Shit, you gonna charge me extra for an American ice cube too?” “There’s no surcharge for ice, now what’ll it be?” To tap or not to tap. “Indecent, Zorro29, and rude to make me decide.” But decide he’d inevitably done: whiskey, of course and, after a few shots, he’d become a wise counsellor of whiskey wisdom. “A man can’t make a living working for another man. Work for yourself, that’s the ticket to paradise, being your own man. Goin’ up and down a mineshaft, breakin’ your back to keep another man always in the black. To hell with that. And to hell with coal. I’m gonna have myself a rock, sand and gravel mine, hell, if I’m gonna be bustin’ stones I’m gonna damn well bust em for my own benefit. Mining my own for my ownself, goddamnit.” “That’s some bold dreams, Bode, why stop at rocks and sand? Why not just go mining for silver?” Not much sympathy gotten in a coaltown, especially not in Speightstown whose men spent their lives in a coal pit. A coaltown’s risk was in its labor force and Speightstown had always been one of the riskiest. No risk, no payout. Also, more than likely, no robbery. Bode Treat had risked and been robbed and to his dying day had claimed himself to be no alcoholic.
Major Treat’s mother, a born and bred Jersey girl and no mistake (her joy-zee accent would knock you outta your socks) had taken a genuine risk coming to Speightstown from a moderate city in the mideast where she’d earned her living as a mideast dancer at a dance hall, dancing all night, but all the years of shaking her money maker (here’s some new money, honey, crisp and straight from the central bank . . . never had George Washington so stiff, I bet), of thrusting30 in high heels had worn her out so she no longer had all the right moves and she couldn’t go back to Jersey where she’d fucked her way into ostracism, so she’d made her broken home in Speightstown where she’d seen a HELP WANTED sign on the door of Bode’s favorite watering hole, sauntered in, applied, got herself hired, got herself seduced by Bode Treat who’d married her and adopted Dan who’d never known his real father and so had become his father’s, that is Bode’s, son.
Stagnating in the stink. Smoking and staring. Scanning the sports section as if to make a no limit bid from Fusaichi where the nearly dead came to die, where the almost alive came to barely stay alive and from which Zev had left to become dead somewhere or alive nowhere and at which the dispatch about the colonel’s death was received in the heat and the green and the stagnation and the stink and the major’s mother had never stunk. Drenched herself in a rare perfume as much as Capt. Bodgit doused himself in his vomit-inducing cologne. Not a stink. A strong stench. There’s a difference, goddamnit. She was his mother, goddamnit. His mother: Susan Treat, an aggressive lady, no longer agile but nonetheless strong. Strong and unyielding, possessed of a special smell; she was Fusaichi. Hell, she even had green eyes. And she could shit anywhere whereas most folk ain’t comfortable doing that away from home. Hot, too. Being near her, little Dan Treat had felt as if he were standing by a furnace. The woman felt as if she always had a fever. “Hot-blooded bitch,” Bode Treat had called her. Hot-blooded and hard-headed. As bold and nasty as Fusaichi. Had to give the FuPeg ladies credit: they all behaved as if they’d graduated from an oriental charm school. A little yellow stinking flat-chested geisha, each one of em. If any one of em had been Susan’s girl she would be built like Sarah Lynx and not bashful at all. She would stomp around as if to bash earth.
She’d once been enchanting, Susan. Must’ve been to have made a living dependent upon the judgement of men. She’d once been joyous, Susan. Must’ve been to have had the confidence to expose herself to men. That’d been the toast that time he’d drunk jungle juice, “To men.”
The colonel was beholden to no man.
Major Treat smothered a corporal’s butt in the ash heap and lit another to the colonel.
27Starship Warspeed. She’d shown patches of speed in every furlong.
28What he’d called pay day.
29He called the bartender “Zorro” on account of his black eye patch covering the vacancy where the eye he’d lost in the Great War had been. A veteran of the first war to end all wars, “Zorro” still had one expert eye and he used it to study Bode Treat, measuring him, staring him down into decidedly deciding what the hell he wanted.
30Softly, not so hard as the troopers had thrusted into Fusaichi.
- Log in to post comments