The Charlotte News

Tuesday, December 20, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Since no particular note comes to mind from this date's editorials we thought we would call our friend in the Caribbean and see if we could negotiate a pre-Christmas offering from that storybook he created back there several years ago. As usual, he refused and hung up on us, telling us, "Write your own damned story." Well, after we called back three more times and begged and placated, we finally got him to listen to our plea, explaining our special need right now for some solid input. So, though we're at our word not to disclose the terms of agreement, he very reluctantly gave us special permission after more hard bargaining, just as at Halloween, to put one more little scene from his book here. This one, he tells us, was written October, 1992, also written from his little Caribbean shack there by the sea from which he never leaves. In fact, just to get in a phone call we had to make connections through four foreign countries and finally via a special satellite connection relayed over twine and tin cans to his palm tree just outside the open window of the shack there. We've tried to find out more from the natives as to his identity and what he does most of the time, but all are mum on it. So we have to be satisfied with what we have received by special delivery here. This little bit cost us a fortune to obtain. So don't expect us to continue to foot such expense on a regular basis to provide further excerpts from this mysterious work. The author says that this is written up in the style of a roman à clef. We have no idea.

A man in the booth in front peered over his shoulder and nodded with a slight one-sided grin. Wilbur acknowledged the skinny fellow with the full face and dark, receding hairline by slightly bumping his head toward the man's direction.

The man craned harder over his shoulder. "Mind if I join you?" The man spoke in a low, somewhat quavering, almost inaudibly surly voice.

"No, no, of course not."

"Hi, I happened to overhear you say something about writing a book. I admire writers."

"Well, I'm just trying to. Very slow and frustrating right now. Should have been finished years ago. Probably won't sell a copy now."

"Oh, well, I... I wouldn', I definitely wouldn't say that." The man stuttered slightly and chuckled as he spoke the words in seeming admiration of Wilbur's self-effacing remark. "I...I didn't get your name."


"Wilbur. Well, you can... Most of my close friends just call me Gus. I'm pleased to meet you." He suddenly, blindly thrust his hand across the table for shaking. The man had an irritating habit of looking directly at Wilbur when neither was talking and looking everywhere else when either of them said anything.

Wilbur looked away self-consciously as he found himself uneasy with the younger man's seeming awkward timidity.

"Well, here you are, Mr. Cash."

"Thank you, Libbie."

"Can I get you anything else, sir?"

"No, no, Lydie, I'm alright. The coffee was quite, quite--really terrific." Gus smiled broadly and lit up like a pol soliciting votes, seemingly proud that he had fumbled around to reach something about which to issue a compliment to the woman. Libbie looked at Wilbur with a knowing grin and slight roll of her eyes as she turned away. Wilbur upended the stoup full of Pabst and washed his palate in cooling liquid.

"Nothing better at the end of a day than a good, cold beer, ay Wilbur?"

"It hits the spot sometimes."

"Well, I don't usually drink myself but came in here since I'm laying over here for a plane until...well...until tomorrow morning."

"Oh, where are you going?"


"Havana? What takes you down there?"

"Well, I'm thinking about relocating...aaaa...starting up my law practice down there." Gus's voice tightened and lowered with this utterance. He looked down at the table and began nervously fingering his coffee mug. He paused a moment as if struck by some sad thoughtstream.

Wilbur thought of mentioning his own year in law school but withheld because of the seeming hesitancy with which Gus spoke of his legal career.

Looking back toward Wilbur as if examining whether Wilbur had caught his moment of melancholy, Gus smiled. "Haven't ever been but I hear it's an exciting place to be. I could take up smoking cigars, I hear." He concluded with an over-grin at his auto-suggestion.

"Yeah, cigars... You live around here, do you?"

"No, Wilbur,, I'm just passing through--had to get a couple of references from old professors, you know. I have trouble attracting much attention from the big boys without a couple of good Harvard or Yale graduated references." He took a long gulp of coffee and carefully allowed his eyes to follow the mug as he meticulously replaced it on the table coaster. "You know, Wilbur, they all hang together. I went up to Wall Street a few years back, right out of law school, good credentials--very good--no one would hire me. No one..." Again, Gus dropped his head and fingered the mug with both hands in momentary silence. A bead of sweat began to glisten from his upper lip.

Still eyeing the mug, he began again. "But, I struggled onward--struggled haaard onward." He lifted his right hand and shook his head side to side, involuntarily flapping his cheeks, as he stressed and elongated hard. "Went back home and settled down, went to work for a small practice and did alright--did real well. Hell-of-a job, if you ask me. But, ye see... No, those damn New York lawfirms can have their Cloudcuckoobury. I've got my empyrean in my little hometown."

"Where did you say that was?"

"Oh,'s out west in, it's a place called..."

The man wiped his semi-cupped right hand self-consciously over his upper lip as he seemingly deliberately swallow-garbled the name of the town so that Wilbur only caught what sounded like "t-r".

"Small, but a hell-of-a lot more sociable and of sounder morals than those people in those Eastern ivory towers, if you ask me." He increasingly stressed each word in staccato, stabbing with his right index finger as he progressed through the sentence.

"Well, I don't mean to be impertinent, Gus. But, then why are you leaving to go to Havana?"

Gus thought a moment with a genuinely perplexed expression on his face as if he had never really considered the seeming contradiction, himself.

"You know, Wilbur, you may have something there. See? That's why I like writers. They always come up with some damned clever thought about things of which you wouldn't normally think."

Wilbur continued dryly, "I'm not so sure about that, Gus. I am good, maybe, at stating the obvious. Little else, probably. If you can't do, teach. If you can't teach, write. If you can't write, go play in the sandbox with the snake eggs."

Gus laughed heartily in an overstated, fatuous way.

Wishing to lift Gus out of toadying conformity or self-preoccupied bitterness, depending upon which shift of eyes attended the moment, Wilbur sought to introduce a new level to the conversation. "You mentioned 'Cloudcuckoobury'. Have you read Aristophanes?"

Gus immediately brightened. "Oh yes--even acted out the play a few times in school. I was a hell-of-an-actor, Wilbur. Thought about a career once in Hollywood--being from California, I guess. You know..."

The would-be actor laughed again self-consciously.

"But you know, with this kisser, I guess they would have had me playing opposite Bogart as one of those...those gangsters, I guess. You know..."

As Wilbur managed a faint chuckle, Gus paused and seemed for a moment engulfed in thought as he studied an area of the bar where a slender woman sat using her active eyes to attract her equally flirtatious beau on the stool next to her. Gus quickly averted his eyes from the scene and again looked down at the table, seemingly reverting to depressed thoughts about something.

He now retarded the pace of his speech, adding a noticeably softer penumbra to each vowel as he began to overlay a melodious track to each phrase. "Met a woman last year at the Rose Bowl, Wilbur. My team lost--I won. Fine actress--has a great career ahead of her if she wants it. She's possessed of such beautiful titian hair, Wilbur. She's giving it all up to marry me. I know you probably won't believe that, but it's true."

"Oh, congrats. to you. I hope to be married myself not too long from now. Titian...yes...she sounds lovely."

Appearing preoccupied with his own thoughts, the man barely acknowledged Wilbur's mutual rub. "Yeah, yeah, well good. Wait a minute, I got distracted. I was going to recite... I'll give you a part. You had asked about Aristophanes. begins: 'I am hot to begin, and my spirit within/ is fermenting the tale to declare./ And my dough I will knead, for there's nought to/ impede. Boy, bring me a wreath for my hair,/ And a wash for my hands.'"

Gus was quoting the lines in an arid tongue at first, losing any color or stress on the strain. It was striking Wilbur as completely uninteresting, but he felt a subtle bit of pity creeping for Gus, and even empathy, recalling his own lonely days in Chicago and Europe, just wanting to have a fellow jammerer for a bit. So he patiently listened as Gus paused with a gulp, apparently at the thought of lavation.

"Then another comes in. 'Why, what mean these commands? Is a dinner in near contemplation?'

"Then he comes back, 'No dinner, I ween; 'tis a speech that I mean,/ a stalwart and brawny oration,/ Their spirit to batter, and shiver and shatter./ So sorely I grieve for your lot/ Who once in the prime and beginning of time/ were Sovereigns--'"

Gus began now to gesticulate, appearing to loosen up as he provided his recited exposition to the stranger before him.

"And then he goes on a way about how they've lost their control over the universe and then he gets to it. 'Then first I propose that the Air ye enclose,/ and the space 'twixt the Earth and the sky,/ Encircling it all with a brick-builded wall, like Babylon's, solid and high;/ And there you must place the abode of your race,/ and make them one State, and one nation.'"

Showing increasing excitement with each successfully recalled passage, Gus balled his right fist, tapped his chin as if in deep contemplation of the lines, now. He reached to the air with his left, pointing his index finger for emphasis.

"And then someone else comes in here. 'O Porphyrion! O Cebriones!/ how stupendous the fortification!'

"Then the same one starts again over here. As you can see, I really adore this part." Gus then raised both opened palms to either side of his face as he continued the gravely sincere inaugural. "'When the wall is complete, send a messenger fleet,/ the empire from Zeus to reclaim./ And if he deny, or be slow to comply,/ nor retreat in confusion and shame,/ Proclaim ye against him a Holy War,/ and announce that no longer below,/ On their lawless amours through these regions of yours,/ will the Gods be permitted to go./ No more through the air (to their Alopes fair,/ their Alcmenas, their Semeles wending)/ May they post in hot love, as of old, from above,/ for if ever you catch them descending,/ You will clap on their dissolute persons a seal,/ their evil designs to prevent!/ And then let another ambassador-bird/ to men with this message be sent,/ That the Birds being Sovereigns, to them must be paid/ all honour and worship divine,/ And the Gods for the future to them be postponed./ Now therefore assort and combine...'"

Gus stopped with a broad grin, as if waiting for great thunderous applause.

Wilbur started turning red. "Well, I don't...That's quite wonderful, Gus..."

Appearing not to notice Wilbur's uncomfortable and less than overwhelmingly enthusiastic response, Gus broke in. "I really enjoy keeping all that in my head, Wilbur. Yeah, my acting skills pay off, you know. I know a lot of roles by heart. Why I could recite you Tom Sawyer, you know, where Tom gets Ben to paint the fence for him? Clever industry. I really like that."

"Yes." Trying to find a way to distract himself from Gus's unpleasantly pressing intensity, Wilbur caught Libbie's eye and pointed to his empty Pabst bottle. "Would you like something, Gus?"

"No, no, coffee's fine. You know, Wilbur... Have you ever thought about how to get these rascals tied up in knots... I mean these Commies and Nazis."

Wilbur thought a moment to grab onto something which might settle Gus's seeming insecurity with the world around him. "Just talk about them freely and write about them, I suppose. A little serious analysis mixed with good humor goes a long way in uniting human principles, I think."

"Yeah, well, maybe that, too. Analysis... But, I'll tell you..."

"Here you go, Mr. Cash. Anything for you, sir?"

"No, no Lydie, I'm fine. I'll let you know. Oh, on second thought, why don't you pour me some more coffee." As she obliged, Gus gushed verbally with over-gratitude without bothering to look at the waitress or significantly changing his rhythm in the monologue. "Great, just fantastic, Lydie. That's enough. You'll soak me in caffeine.

"You know, Wilbur, this thing I was getting to here..."

He abruptly stopped short as Libbie walked out of apparent range of hearing. "We'll have to leave a nice tip for Lydie there. She's one hell-of-a waitress. They really don't get their due, you know--having to wait on all these, you know, thugs."

"Yes...I...can imagine."

"But what I was about to say... You know, if you just...if you had a patsy. You know, you have to have someone who wants to climb back into good graces after being down...some thug...some real bastard...a traitor...having done something really foul and repugnant. Then you turn this person on your side. And well, there you have it. Then you can get this person into the inside or get his information, get him or her to befriend the people you're trying to get. That way, you get all the bastards at once, Wilbur. Well, then you've got 'em--all your enemies, trapped, where they belong, pointing guns and propaganda on each other rather than us. It'll confuse the hell out of 'em and I think it'll work, damnit. I'm still thinking this out, you know. But I'm convinced it'll work.

"You drag these people down...these people who masquerade as intellectuals in their ivory towers, who are really--at least, many of them--not all of course--many fine, fine people--but the rest are nothing but Marxists and Nazis...helping 'em every chance they get...tearing down the country. I used to think pretty much of some of them but I'm learning. You don't tell 'em anything. You know old Ari said it best: 'There is no one who knows where my treasures repose, if it be not a bird of the air.'"

Wilbur's bit of discomfort began to change to annoyance as Gus continued the spilling soliloquy. Gus's mouth seemed to be turning into an unregulated sluice in need of a good plumb.

"You know, Wilbur, I just think you have to take action...get these clowns before they take over our land. They're all Reds...the damn, dirty Reds, if you ask me. The Nazis are just a front for them, doing their sewer work. Just real dagger slicing cutthroats. They come on telling you that they're on the side of the little people and then they simply walk right in and begin with their Leftist ideas to manipulate everybody to think the way they tell them.

"You know, these Liberals in Washington bother me now--wanting to extend the Federal government into our lives so much. Jefferson never intended that--couldn't foresee a time like now with the automobile and so forth where so many people could really use freedom responsibly without being so subject to government intervention. I can't buy that. I used to buy that more, back when I was in law school. Well, I don't know. Oh, now don't get me wrong. I believe in the Constitution. We have to have that or we haven't got anything. But I met some friends who talked me out of it--taught me really what that stuff is all about--that other business, I mean. They're opening the floodgates for a revolution by crooks..."

Gus flung his left hand upward and then reposed it against his upper lip. "...You know, among the workers and the young people coming up now, I fear. Nothing wrong with the workers, mind you. I came from a working family, you know. But it takes time to give people any real sense of power. They have to be first trained to handle it responsibly. We have to build roads first. I can't buy it, otherwise. It's all these...these, some of these, Eastern intellectuals with a big 'C' in the middle that bother me. They think you can just give 'em the car and let 'em go off on their own wherever they want right away with no law or rule to guide them--just government interference with the ones trying honestly to guide them.

"You know, you get these Johnny-jump-ups, these son-of-an-ambassador types, cloaked in their jingle-shells of 'public works' and 'performing arts', come-a-cropping their Hobson-Jobson jimson-weed to all the young people--their Marxist colportage offered as comfits--and what do you think you're gonna get eventually?"

Showing a look of incredulity at his own rhythmic inquiry, Gus lowered his neck down into his shoulders and seemed especially to enjoy a coup de main thrust of both hands simultaneously into the air on either side of his shaking cheeks as he spoke the last of it.

Wilbur, finally sensing an entry point, offered, "Not really like the nightshades, though, Gus. It's not like that, I think."

Fumbling a moment in seeming surprise at the discerning obliquity, Gus paused and stroked the moisture from his lip and chin. "Well, I don't know."

He looked somber for a millisecond or two and then smiled with special delight as a thought formed. He took his right hand from his mouth and pointed his index finger at Wilbur as he spoke. "They'll ne'er lick nor haul a real man, Wilbur. My saintly mother said that the air was..."

"I don't mean to kick at your 'harlequinade of phrase', to recoin a tricky one, Gus, but I think we've enough webbed stompers of histrionicus, histrionicus quacking from Herliquin, Hellequin already and..."

Just as the Pabsts were beginning to have their effect in loosening Wilbur's reserve with Job's comforter, wonderful news interrupted in gentle tympani. "Hey Cash, sorry we're late."

As the familiar voice came closer with each passing word, Wilbur turned around, deliberately snipping the increasing frenzy of the man sharing his booth. "I thought you'd never show. Come on and join us. This is..."

Just as Wilbur turned back to introduce Gus, he saw him unsociably heading away, toward the rear of the bar.

"Who was that, Jack?"

"Strange bird. Messenger of the lower ords and ladies, it seems. Some fellow from California getting ready to open a law practice in Havana. You got me. Apparently, one of Buck's buttered graduates."

Drawback To Liberalism*

Young Governor George D. Aiken of Vermont has somehow acquired the reputation of caustic sage to the Republican Party. Whenever National Chairman John D. M. Hamilton does his best to demonstrate that within the party all is harmony and sweet agreement, Governor Aiken, a Presidential possibility himself, sounds off on a cynical note, and dissension breaks out audibly again.

His most recent jarring pronouncement is to the effect that the last election really didn't produce an outstanding candidate for the GOP nomination, and that it wouldn't do for the party merely to profess its new liberalism; it had to have the goods if it wanted to get anywhere.

This will set all good Republicans to soul-searching and to analyzing the genuineness of their synthetic liberalism. And we hope for their sake that they pass the self-inspection, but we hope for the country's sake that, Governor Aiken to the contrary notwithstanding, they qualify the definition of liberal currently in vogue and delete from it any requirements of profligacy in public expenditures.

In fact, it might be good politics for the Republicans to come right out and admit that where spending is concerned, they are frankly conservative. If they really meant it, that is.

A Politico's Future

"We talked about the past and the future..."

Thus Governor Olin D. Johnston of South Carolina, in reply to the inquiries of the reporters as to what he discussed with the President, and a conference described as "lengthy," at the White House yesterday.

It sounds a little like Alice. The past is a very long time, indeed, stretching as it does all the way back to the time when the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the future, we are told, is going to stretch out at least as long as it will take the Hitlers to lead the race into suicide, or until a roving star forgets the rule of the road and plunges head-on into us. But, of course, it was really not that past and that future the Governor and the President discussed. The Governor was only trying to be cryptic when he said it. But really there is little enough that is mysterious about it.

The past they dealt with didn't even go back to Governor Johnston's warlike activities in his dispute with the South Carolina highway boards. It only concerned itself with the fact that Olin has consistently yessed the New Deal, and that this year he ran against Cotton Ed Smith for the Senate, with the tacit blessing of the Administration, and got beat. And the future they dealt with was only so much of the future as is concerned with the fact that, come the first of the year, Olin will be at the end of his term as Governor, and he is going to need a job--and will get one.

Maybe it will be that judgeship vacated by the death of Lyles Glenn. But in any case the future that Olin was talking about is that, as a result of his past, he is going to get a nice fat job.

Still A Mystery

The investigation division of the WPA, which had the buck passed to it by the FBI, which in turn had got it from the Mecklenburg Grand Jury, has handed it right back to that Grand Jury again. The title to that cotton which was supposed to go into mattresses for the poor and for the sick at the Mecklenburg Sanatorium, and didn't, had already passed from the Federal Government, the WPA [indiscernible word], and so there the whole question goes back into the lap of the Grand Jury.

And that being settled, it is plainly up to the Grand Jury to go into the case much more thoroughly than has yet been done. The previous investigation by that body simply turned up the fact that somebody connected with the blind association factory adjudged the cotton unsuitable for use in mattresses and sold it, and that somebody claimed to have spent the proceeds for "suitable" cotton, ticking, and labor. But that isn't enough. The things the public is clearly entitled to know about this case are these: (1) exactly who made the decision that the original cotton was unsuitable; (2) exactly who made the decision that the cotton bought in its place, described as consisting of floor sweepings, trash, splinters, and cottonseed hulls, was "suitable;" (3) exactly how much money was received for the original cotton, and how much of it was spent for the "suitable" cotton, the ticking, and for labor; and (4) if all of it was spent that way, and if not, what became of the surplus.

Bumble Reneges

Mr. Bumble isn't going to let Czechoslovakia have more money, after all. When he was arguing to the Parliament and England that the Munich deal was really only a very reasonable settlement which would guarantee the continued existence of the little Central European country as an independent sovereign state, Bumble undertook to demonstrate his faith in that proposition by handing over a loan of ten million pounds, with an all but explicit declaration that as much more would be forthcoming before long.

But now there is to be no more, just as those promises that Britain and France would formally guarantee the new Czechoslovakian borders, once the Sudeten cession was made and Hungary and Poland were satisfied, seem quite unlikely ever to be fulfilled. Bumble wants a good prospect of collecting someday when he lends British money, and he doesn't want to fight Germany. And whatever he believed in September, not even Bumble can really think now that Czechoslovakia is to remain a sovereign state. The Germans in the little country--numbering about 35,000 altogether--are being organized into a Nazi party under orders from Berlin. The next step will probably be the dissolution of all other parties--which is to say that, since only Germans can belong to the Nazi party, these 35,000 Germans will take over the government. To attempt to guarantee the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia under such circumstances would simply mean war. And to lend it money would be to give it away to the Nazis--for it is a cardinal principle of Nazi policy not to pay the debts of the countries they absorb.

A President's Family

Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt, the ubiquitous First Lady of the land, spoke out feelingly at her press conference yesterday about a President's wife and his family. What brought the topic up was her becoming a director of Roosevelt & Sargent, Jimmy's insurance firm which has been in the news before. What did the American people want, she asked: a President's children who don't care to be bothered with earning their own living? And do they expect a President's wife to cast aside all the interests and activities she has acquired in a busy lifetime, and languish, so to speak, on a chaise lounge in the White House?

There has been a lot of ribald criticism of Eleanor Roosevelt, springing mainly from the ill will many people bear her husband. Mistrust of Son Jimmy, however, traces to an uneasiness that he is not above capitalizing on his father's position at least to obtain entree to big accounts which would be denied him as an ordinary neophyte insurance salesman.

And as for Mrs. Roosevelt's becoming a director of Jimmy's firm, which she explains requires no real knowledge of the business but only that she vote Jimmy's stock as he suggests--why, to come right down to it, doesn't Jimmy vote his own stock? Why doesn't Mrs. Jimmy, to whom he gave half interest of his holdings in order to avoid income taxes, vote it along with her own?

We'd really like to know.


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