Friday, December 30, 2011

Part Fourteen, Chapter Two - The Healing Power of Song

Heller reaches the bus station and finds a black man tidying up the place.  Well, I say "black man," but Hubbard prefers "the black."  Not a black man, not a black person, just a skin tone.  Even when discussing the lesser races of the Voltarian Confederacy, the narration was nice enough to call them a "yellow-man" or the like.  No such courtesy here. 

Not even half a page in and I hate this chapter.

"The black" comments on the still-blazing courthouse fire, and Heller agrees that it's "purty big."  "The black" asks where Heller's going, and rattles off a list of possible destinations.  Heller perks up at the mention of Atlanta due to that whole Prince Caucalsia headache.

"Oh, that's a fahn town," the black said.  "Plenty white ladies, yallah ladies, black ladies.  Any coluh you got a wishin' fo'.  A real fahn town.  Or maybe you'd lahk Buhmin'ham.  Now that is the fahnes' town you evuh hope to see, man."

Heller tells "the black" that he's heading towards New York, and learns that the next bus will come around midnight, in about an hour.  Then "the black" continues sweeping, and unexpectedly bursts into song.

Hark to the story of Willie the Weeper, 
Willie the Weeper was a chimney sweeper.
He had the hop habit and he had it bad.
Oh listen while I tell you 'bout the dream he had!

Notice what's missing?  Somehow crooning an old Louis Armstrong number cured him of his unplaceable mouth-mangling accent.

After four verses, "the black"'s musical number is interrupted by two policemen hauling a frantic woman into the bus station.

Tears were cascading down her cheeks.  Perspiration beaded her forehead.  She was probably only about twenty-five but she looked thirty-five--deep bags under her eyes.  Except for that, she was not unpretty.

The woman's putting up quite a fight, but the burly cops are determined to run "Horsey Mary Schmeck" out of town on the next bus.  Mary protests that their "(bleeped) chief wasn't talking that way when he got out of my bed last week!", and that one of the cops sold her a "nickel-bag" recently, but the officers reply that the situation has changed - a "Fed narco" has moved into the area as is running out the opposition, like the drug-using prostitute Mary, until he gets his share of the drug money.  Mary pleads for one last fix before she goes, but the cops tell her that the whole district is out of the "big H."

I never knew rural Virgina was dominated by the heroin trade.  Maybe it's really cleaned up since the 80's.

Mary collapses into a pile of despair and withdrawal symptoms.  The cops take her purse for fare money and help themselves to the rest (to buy drugs with, of course), punching her in the jaw when she protests.  But Heller objects to this level of police brutality and demands that the cops give the nice lady her money back.  And so we get another tepid fight scene, in which Heller kung-fu's the crap out of the pair of lawmen, breaking bones and sending their guns flying out the doors of the bus station.

Heller hands Mary her money, but the girl urges him to flee, since one of the downed officers is the sheriff's son.  She pulls him after her as she runs to a place they can get a car.  And now, for the chapter punchline:

The black man was looking down at the smashed cops.  "An' Ah jus' cleaned the flooah," he said sadly.

Chapters without anyone commenting on Heller's stupid clothes: 2.

Back to Chapter One

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