Friday, August 12, 2016

games, part 9

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

and the wild card was rosie…. drunken rosie, who had seen it all, who had been born in a penthouse and been blown into the gutter… and who knew every trick in the book… or did she?

night had fallen over the jungle.

it was almost deserted. many of the boes had already left because winter was coming on, and most of those who had hung around had cleared out ahead the approaching storm.

the three who were left - the montana kid, susquehanna sal, and roadster rosie - watched a can of beans as it began to bubble over the little fire.

the montana kid was known as the montana kid because he claimed to be from montana, even though he was really from cuyahoga, new york.

susquehanna sal called herself susquehanna sal because she liked the sound of it.

and roadster rosie had earned her moniker because when she was tipsy she often spoke of her childhood when her grandfather had given her rides in his “roadster” . the other bums found this expression quaint and amusing and the name stuck to her.

the beans continued to bubble slowly. the montana kid gave them a stir with a little whittled stick.

“stir ‘em right down to the bottom, “ sal reminded him. “get that heat through the whole can.”

“i know what i’m doing,” the kid mumbled.

sal did not bother to reply.

“it’s quiet,” the kid said after awhile. “too quiet.”

as soon as he said it he regretted it, because his comment seemed to penetrate to rosie, who had been half asleep on the crate she was sitting on.

rosie could go for days without saying anything, but when she did start to talk there was no stopping her.

“quiet?” she said now. “you think this is quiet? you call this quiet?”

“quiet enough,” the kid answered mildly. “like it usually is before a storm.” he looked back toward the highway, which was dark and deserted.

“the kid was just making an observation, like,” sal added. “he didn’t mean no harm.”

“you call this quiet?” rosie went on. “i’ll tell you where it was quiet. it was quiet in frankenstein’s cellar, that’s where it was quiet. you could hear the worms digging their way to china under the earth, it was so quiet in frankenstein’s cellar when roosevelt threw me in there, threw me in there with charles p dawes and al capone and john dillinger because we told the truth about him. you could hear the worms so good in those long dark hours you learned the language of the worms… the language of the worms… that was real quiet, let me tell you…”

“and what was the worms saying?” asked sal.

“look here, get your plates ready because these beans are just about done,” said the kid.

“you sure about that?” asked sal. “you sure you stirred them up good, got the heat all through them?”

“they are hot as they are going to be,” insisted the kid. “hold them plates out if you want some.”

the storm and frankenstein and the language of the worms were forgotten as the kid spooned the beans on to their tin plates and they started shoveling them down their throats.

“hot enough for you?” the kid asked. sal just nodded with her mouth full.

suddenly a gust of wind sprang up.

“lordy, here it is,” exclaimed sal. “maybe i should have caught that freight with maxie and toledo.” she shook her head. “or maybe just not been such a sinner.”

“it ain’t here yet,” said the kid. “plenty of time to finish them beans.”

rosie laughed. “yes, here it is. judgment day, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.” rosie sometimes used words like “facsimile” whose meanings were obscure to her companions, but bums with extensive vocabularies were no rarity on the road, and sal and the kid paid it no mind.

rosie finished her beans. “yes, sir, judgment day is here. too bad it’s not here for those that truly deserve it, like roosevelt and his henchmen.”

“now, rosie,” the kid said. “mister roosevelt is dead and in his grave, these twenty years, leave him in peace.”

“i think it is only five or six years,” put in sal.

“five or ten or twenty, it’s all the same,” said the kid.

“i told you before, roosevelt isn’t dead,” said rosie. “he is just hiding. with his pals hitler and william jennings bryan and carole lombard and the kaiser. when my grandfather was alive he kept those bastards in line … yes, he did…”

another gust of wind came along, shaking the rods the can of beans had been hung on.

rosie took a rag out of her pocket and scooped up some sand and ashes from around the fire and began scouring her tin plate.

the other two finished their beans and started doing the same.

“and i’ll tell you what else,” said rosie.

“what else?” asked sal. “what else, rosie?”

“you two bums can get blown away by this devil’s wind, but i got an ace in the hole. yes, sir, an ace in the hole.”

“you don’t say so,” the kid answered in his mild voice.

“yeah, an ace in the hole. i got a pal, see, who will let me stay with her. a good kid who will take me in. maybe just in her cellar, but she will take me in. while you two bums are having the clothes blown off your miserable carcasses in this tornado or whatever it is.”

“well,” sal ventured, “if this pal is such a pal of yours, maybe she will take in a pal of a pal, if you get my drift.”

rosie stood up. she put her plate and her tin fork in her coat pocket and checked the pockets. “i don’t think so. she’s got class, see, just like i used to have myself. she wouldn’t have any use for the likes of you.”

“it wouldn’t hurt to ask, would it?” sal persisted. “i don’t got no place else to go, let me tag along just in case.”

rosie shrugged. “yeah, you can tag along for all the good it’s going to do you. but i’m not making any promises.”

sal stood up too. “gee thanks, i won’t forget this. you got a good heart, rosie, under… under… you got a good heart, i always said so.”

the montana kid pulled a pint bottle out of his pocket. “you ladies want one for the road?”

“i thought you would never ask, you cheap bastard,” said rosie.

“now is that any way to talk?” asked sal.

“yes, rosie, is that any way to talk?” said the kid. “i think my offer is a generous one, considering you didn’t offer to take me along to your friend’s cellar. but go ahead, take a swig.”

“you hear that, rosie?” sal exclaimed. “you got a heart of gold, kid. i swear you must be john the baptist walking the earth again, if not saint peter himself.”

rosie took a generous swig from the kid’s bottle and handed it to sal. “yes, we will all gather at the river, some fine day. all of us except roosevelt, that traitor to his class. ” she bowed to the kid. “thank you, kind sir, i won’t forget this. indeed, i won’t.” she turned to sal. “well, let’s shake a leg, if you’re coming with me.”


jenny lay back on her bed in her little room in the attic of the boarding house. she knew she wasn’t going to get to sleep.

she had given cindy the books she owned but she had a book from the library - night has a thousand eyes, by george hopley - and she tried to read it, but could not concentrate.

she was thinking about the storm, but even more about the three new guests. especially cindy. jenny started daydreaming about somehow going away with cindy - just the two of them, leaving cindy’s two crumbbum men friends behind - going away to some place like new york or frisco or hollywood….

suddenly she heard a couple of clicks against her window.

then another.

somebody with a practiced hand…

she got up and stood in front of the window for a few seconds so whoever was down there would see her silhouette and not toss up any more stones.

she opened the window.

part 10

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