GREENFIELD HILL, PITTSBURGH, PA
Alex sat in his kitchen. It was a long day at the clinic.
He had seen every kind of millhunk character muttering their unintelligiblesavage gibberish from whatever shitty old country they were kicked out of. Some were young, some were old, hands hardened by the coke and steel, lungs as black as a good Czech Cigaretu. One patient after another–hairy Gypsies, drooling Slovaks, smarmy Czechs, grotesquely fur-covered Hunkies, Bolschievwik Russians, annoying Croats, bloated Serbians, self-involved Slovenes, stupid Pollocks, creepy Ukies, lanky Latvians, effete Estonians, slobbering Romanians and indescribable Lithuanians.
Alex was still wearing his stethoscope. He read his newspaper, The Greenfield Sun-Times-Post-Intelligencer-Tribine-Register.
“Honey, we have to get ready, you’re singing tonight at Big Joe’s.” His wife reminded him.
He put down his cigarette. It was a good cigarette. One of his Czech patients gave it to him. The gibbering Czech called it a cigaretu. He went upstairs to get changed.
LEYTE ISLAND, JAP-OCCUPIED PHILIPPINES
The Japanse Commandant stood high on a rock overlooking his troops. He wore a white headband with a rising sun emblem. He was dressed in the Ka-ra-te uniform of an imperial Japanese Officer.
One Thousand troops of Imperial Nippon were in perfect formation below him. He stalked back and forth before assuming the Horse Stance.
The soldiers bowed low. Every other rank turned to face the rank behind them.
“You must understand that to control ones’ inner self is the first step to defeating the external enemy!”
The soldiers repeated the count in perfect order, the sound of the Ka-ra-te echoed against the walls of the cliff and reverberated throughout the jungle.
The soldiers punched in perfect, rythmic choreographed order.
“you are Japanese soldiers. The fight for the honor of the Emperor never ends! It is a lifelong obligation and duty of every Japanese to honor the ancient code of Nippon!”
“Is to gain control of the internal self, before one gains control of the outer world.”
“A world filled with enemies. Like the damned shitty Americans who can go to the devil”
“Who we shall defeat…In glorious battle!”
“For the honor…of the Emperor.”
“If you remember nothing else! Achieve final victory with the ancient creed of the Ba-ru-ki-ka-ru!”
With each cycle, the men assumed different instruments of the Ka-ra-te. First, bare hands, then quarterstaffs, then the terrifying Nun-cha-ku, next throwing stars, then swords. The men leapt and jumped like a ballet. When they were done, the men bowed low to the Commandant and they returned to the camp to get back in uniform.
The Rokkoman retired to his quarters. He knelt on the floor. He carefully unwrapped a silk parcel which contained the ancient roaking-pipe of the Ronin. But it was filled with a strange substance. He lit the roaking-pipe and inhaled deeply. Then he grabbed a handful of rice-crackers. Soon he fell asleep, dropping the pipe on the floor.
His aide Lieutenant Hashiri came in as always and carefully removed the pipe and cleaned up the broken pile of rice-crackers. He shook his head as he looked at the sleeping Rokkoman.
“This…is my burden.” Hashiri said to himself. “But it will not be so forever.”
LEYTE ISLAND PHILIPPINES – INLAND
The patrol moved briskly through the jungle. As the Filipino guides hacked away at the thick vegetation with machetes, the men could hear loud chanting coming from the nearby Japanese POW Camp. The patrol arrived at a clearing where there was a small village. Out of a hut came some Filipino resistance fighters. With them was a single American Major, dressed in reasonably clean Khakis of the United States Army.
“Major Pat Joshua. Filipino Assistance Training Team, damn glad to see you!”
The tall officer walked up to the other Major and shook his hand.
“I sure could use one. I haven’t Roaked a good healthy cigarette for a long time. I sure could use some sweet nicotine, my lungs are aching for a good long roak.”
They lit up a Roakanoake brand cigarette. Major Joshua took a deep, long roak and looked at the cigarette.
“Roakanoake brand? I haven’t roaked one of these in a long time. A long, long time. These have excellent tar and nicotine! I hear it’s doctor-recommended.”
“That’s true Pat, Doctor’s love ’em! Major Joshua, I am going to be “blunt”. We are here for the Rokkoman.”
Joshua froze for a minute at the mention of the name. He shuddered, then he took a long roak and slowly nodded his head.
“The…Rokkoman..Shmee. Ah yes. We know him well.”
“You got it Pat. I’m going to take that sonofabitch down. If I have to drag him down to hell with me and you’re gonna help me.”
“Bart, We’ve been slowly running our game here since ’43. I’ve been working the plan.”
“Got it, got it, Roger, Roger” Lorton said nervously. It’s time Pat, it’s just time…we need your help. You know this jungle, but I know the Rokkoman and I know his weakness.”
LEYTE ISLAND, JAP POW CAMP
The Rokkoman walked back into his hut at the POW Camp. The beautiful Chinese girl was now a young woman of 17. She took his robe from him and hung it on a post.
“You are getting quite beautiful child. You have served me well these past seven years since I found you in Nanking. One day you serve me much better.”
He reached to touch her face and she drew back.
“I would sooner rot in hell than ever let you touch me you filthy Japanese devil.”
“That can be arranged my dear. That can be arranged.”
The girl was not afraid.
“One day Rokkoman Naoshimi, you will feel the pain and my anger of my people. The blood of my family and the humiliation of China will be avenged.”
“I fear you more than I fear China my dear.”
The Rokkoman reared back his head and laughed his evil, demonic,throaty laugh.
He went to put on his uniform.
The girl’s eyes were angry little black pearls.
“Your time will come” She said to herself in a whisper. “Rokkoman Naoshimi, your time will come.”
SOMEWHERE WEST OF ERIE
They all stood next to the huffing train.
“It’s a dead cow killed. A dead cow killed right on the track. Son of a sackdologizing, rappin’ frappin’ jeezawhomper.” Said the fireman.
The fireman brought out a pack of Kanawha brand cigarettes. The engineer, conductor and fireman each grabbed one, lit up and took a roak in the moonlight as the massive engine idled on the track, belching out thick, sweet, black coal smoke into the night air.
“Heck get a couple porters it’ll take five of us to move this big rassafrasser.”
Cicero jumped down off the train when his friend Curtis called to him.
“Sir, we apologize, no need for a first-class passenger to help us out.”
“Gents, I’m in first class but I ain’t no first-class passenger.”
They all laughed. Each of them took a long roak off of the sweet cigarettes. They pulled pry bars and a shovel from the front of the train. It was short work to free the implements, but the cow was another story. The dead cow reeked horribly. Without the cigarette smoke it would have been intolerable. It was a big cow, the men struggled with the shovels and the pry bar to move it off the rails.
“I need a minute.” Cicero said. As the men struggled with the cow, he walked about a hundred yards to a rural gas station that was closed for the evening. He looked around. The lights were out in the house. An old jalopy was parked in front of the door. He went up to the pay phone. He put a nickel into the phone.
“Yes, how may I help you?”
“I need ERie-5-2368.”
“Person to person or station to station.”
“Station to station.”
“Please deposit 20 cents.” Sam put in four nickels.
“Got it, connecting.”
There was no chance that Jenny would be in but he though he would give it a shot anyway.
The phone rang and rang. Jenny sat up from the floor of the dark office.
“Who is this?”
“It’s Sam, what are you doing there?”
“I live here until I find a place.”
“I need you to do me a favor. Get in your car and drive to Elyria, Ohio. See a guy name of Jim who runs a joint called Krazy Jim’s. Ask him what he knows about a little War Orphan lady and some big Japanese guy.”
“I got no jack.”
“Please deposit 20 cents.” Said the operator.
Sam put in four more nickels.
“Feel under the second drawer on the right side.”
“There’s an envelope with 100 clams in it. Take it. Get gas at Al Junkers all night diner and gas station at West 26th and Plum. Tell Al you need a favor. He’s got a gat and he’ll tell you how to get to Elyria and he’ll tell you the name of your contact.”
“OK, I guess it’s part of the job to go running out in the middle of the night. I hope I don;t run out of gas.”
“Please deposit 20 cents.” Said the operator with machine-like precision.
Sam put in two dimes.
“Good girl Jenny! You’re one heckuva dame!”
“How will I get in touch with you?”
“Call me tomorrow at 4PM at GReenfield 5-2368 station to station.”
Sam walked back up the tracks. With one more heave the cow fell down the embankment and into a fetid ditch.
The men got back on the train.
The vamp was driking an ice cold vodka straight.
She handed Cicero a bourbon.
“Have a nice time with that cow?” She asked.
Cicero lit up another cigarette. He took a long roak. He handed one to the vamp.
“On to Ashtabula I guess.”
He took a sip of the bourbon.
“Tomasz, it’s good to see you agaiwn said a heavily accented voice.”
Thomas looked up and down the street and ushered the man into a dark alley.
The hugged and kissed on both cheeks like Europeans.
“Browscz, how have you beewn? How do you find me here in this shiwtty little towwn?”
“You sent me this lewtter in ’45.” He handed him a small envelope addressed in Hungarian.
“Ah, I think you never get it, how do you get out aliwve my friend?”
“Well, just after I get the lettewr, I think it was May of 1944…”
SOMEWHERE IN NAZI-OCCUPIED TRANSYLVANIA
WHAPP! WHAPP! The thin SS officer briskly slapped Browscz in the face with his gloved hand.
Browscz was tied to a chair in a small room of the Romanian Castle.
The Nazi officer was perfect: a single gleaming monocle, a perfectly shaved head, a starched uniform, glistening buttons, polished boots and a steel-gray 1898 Parabellum TM(c)(R).
“Do you know vy you are still alife?” He asked. “Because I know you personally, UNTERMENSCHEN!”
WHAPP! He slapped the man again with an almost erotic relief that shudderred through his body. The officer composed himself.
“It vas 1918, do you remember?”
Browscz looked up at the thin face and the dueling scar on the right cheek. He coughed blood.
“I remember you Mein Kapitan…I remewmber well….Squadron XXVII…It was schreiben on your plane…I vas mitt Austrian forces near Metz.”
“I owe you mine life, dass ist true…”
The German paced slowly around the hairy, sweaty, gypsy all the while taking a large sensuous roak from his thin Jaguru brand cigaretu.
“Herr Kolonel, is dawt a Czech Cigaretu?”
“Vy yes, Gypsy, would you like one? Diese are sehr gut cigaretu! I rekkomend dem highly.”
The German lit a cigaretu for Browscz.
Der cigaretu is gut, ja gypsy? I vould have burned to death in the wreckage had you not saved me. Yet, it disgusts me. But I find it curiously…arousing?” He shudderred again with sensuous relief. You are dirty, hairy, like ein *heiss* Animal!….GYPSY!” WHAPP!
“You may go because I owe you mine leben. But you will do a service for the Vaterland!” WHAPP! He struck him again drawing his eyes closed and stiffening his entire body.
“You will go to Sarajevo…you will take this message to a young man named Tecbe. Aah..young Tecbe…soft and weak like an old woman, the pliable weiss Fleisch, Ja! WHAPP!”
He shuddered and struck the man again. Yet the cigaretu stayed firmly in Browscz’ grotesque, hairy mouth.
“He vill help you get out of Europa, but you must follow his instructions precisely. GYPSY!”
WHAPP! The officer shuddered again.
“Diese are your papers. Do not fail or the consequences could be, how should I say, …unfortunate?”
The German took one last roak and waved his hand.
Browscz was led downstairs to a small washroom. He washed the blood off of his face with water from a bucket. He was let outside by the guard. Browscz looked up at the castle. He walked first, then ran down the lane to the train station. He pulled out the papers. Among them was a gold coin with a two-headed eagle. He flipped it over then put it back in his pocket. A mistake? he thought.
The German Officer called in Tomascz to his office.
“Hello, young…GYPSY!…You vill take over for Browscz. He ‘managed’ the girls fur mein Officer Korps.”
The German took a long roak on his cigaretu. He handed one to Tomascz. He lit Tomasz’ cigaretu.
“You..gypsies are very good at handling the girls.”
“This is one goowd cigaretu! Czech brand?” Asked Tomascz.
The German nodded. He reached his hands toward Tomascz as if to caress his face, then WHAPP! He slapped Tomascz smartly in the face. Then the German shuddered violently.
“You vill do vell here my little Gypsy! You are much…prettier?.. then Browscz?”
DOWNTOWN, ERIE, PA
Thomas walked back downstairs and out the back door to avoid the girls. He strode swiftly across the street. He picked up the receiver on the pay phone. He dialed RUn-5-2368.
“Operator-person to person or station to station?”
“Station to station.”
“Please deposit twenty-five cents.” He put in five nickels.
The phone rang at Big Joe’s. The waitress went over and picked it up.
“Big Joe’s can I help you anat’?”
“Can I speawk to McGlory?”
“You a bill collector?”
“No tell him is old friend calling from Erie.”
“Please deposit twenty-five cents.” Said the operator.
He put in five nickels.
Padraig picked up the phone.
“Paddy, is me Thomas.”
“How are ye me bye?”
“A man by the name of Cicewro is coming into town tomorrow. You tell him what you can, maybe put him up.”
“Is it about the girl?”
“Aye, but he OK, he work for her.”
“Please deposit twenty-five cents.” Said the operator dryly.
He put in five more nickels.
“OK, but we have to be careful.”
Padraig went back to his piano.
The crowd had filed in, millworkers, ballplayers, students, union reps, the usual crowd. A rough crowd.
The sax player got set up.
The tall bass player warmed up.
“P.J. you ready?”
“Sure am E.I. I’m ready to be-bop”
Alex lit up a cigarette. He winked to a blonde lady who sat at the far edge of the bar.
The piano player started in and Alex began to sing into the microphone cigarette in one hand and martini int he other.
“I can’t stop thinking about you ba-by,
I can’t stop roaking these vile ciga-rettes,
I can’t stop drinking this nasty rot-gut,
But I’ve only got one re-gret.
That you’re gone and I’m here,
Now isn’t it queer,
with a shot and a beer,
I’m wishing that you were near.
“I can’t stop thinking about you ba-by.
Can’t stop roaking these vile ciga-rettes
Can’t stop drinking this nasty rot-gut
But I’ve only got one re-gret.
I’ve been standing under the streetlight,
at the corner of Smithfield and Nine,
and evr’y night I look for you,
and I wish that were still mine.
“I can’t stop think-ing about you ba-by.
I can’t stop roak-ing these vile ciga-rettes
I can’t stop drink-ing this nasty rot-gut
But I’ve only got one re-gret.
Some people get high from schmieffer,
Some get high from a good cigarette,
Some get high from cocaine, doing lines in the rain
But your love gets me high the best.
(c) Botendaddy 2008 All rights reserved, TM (r)(c)
There was loud standing applause from the crowd. All were still wearing their hats and roaking cigarettes.
Alex bowed, then he sat down at the bar with his wife.