Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13: Fighting a Chicken, Soo Locks, Filet Mignon

At three in the morning on Billy's morphine night in prison, a new patient was carried into the hospital by two lusty Englishmen.  He was tiny.  He was Paul Lazzaro, the polka-dotted cat thief from Cicero, Illinois.  He had been caught stealing cigarettes from under the pillow of an Englishman.  The Englishman, half asleep, had broken Lazzaro's right arm and knocked him unconscious.

The Englishman who had done this was helping to carry Lazzaro in now.  He had fiery red hair and no eyebrows.  He had been Cinderella's Blue Fairy Godmother in the play.  Now he supported his half of Lazzaro with one hand while he closed the door behind himself with the other.  "Doesn't weigh as much as a chicken," he said.

The Englishman with Lazzaro's feet was the colonel who had given Billy his knock-out shot.

The Blue Fairy Godmother was embarrassed and angry, too.  "If I'd know I was fighting a chicken," he said, "I wouldn't have fought so hard."


The Blue Fairy Godmother spoke frankly about how disgusting all the Americans were.  "Weak, smelly, self-pitying--a pack of sniveling, dirty, thieving bastards," he said.  "They're worse than the bleeding Russians."

"Do seem a scruffy lot," the colonel agreed.

A German major came in now.  He considered the Englishmen as close friends.  He visited them nearly every day, played games with them, lectured to them on German history, played their piano, gave them lessons in conversational German.  He told them often that, if it weren't for their civilized company, he would go mad.  His English was splendid.

He was apologetic about the Englishmen's having to put up with the American enlisted men.  He promised them that they would not be inconvenienced for more than a day or two, that the Americans would soon be shipped to Dresden as contract labor.  He had a monograph with him, published by the German Association of Prison Officials.  It was a report on the behavior in Germany of American enlisted men as prisoners of war.  It was written by a former American who had risen high in the German Ministry of Propaganda.  His name was Howard W. Campbell, Jr.  He would later hang himself while awaiting trial as a war criminal.

So it goes.

That is one long passage.  Usually, the sections in Slaughterhouse are just one or two paragraphs.  That's all.  This section goes on for a little over two pages.  So it goes.  Billy is privy to a conversation that he probably wasn't supposed to hear.  He now knows what his future holds:  a trip to Dresden and contract labor.  He also knows that the Englishmen hate their American counterparts, almost as much as they hate the Russians.  Interesting.  Americans and Russians lumped together.  I'm sure Donald Trump, Jr., wouldn't have a problem with that.

But this isn't going to be a political post.  This post is going to try to makeup for my absence yesterday.  I was traveling all day.  While in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, we took the boat tour of the Soo Locks, which truly are a wonder to behold.  Human ingenuity in practice.  At one point, our boat was so close to Canadian soil that I could have simply taken one small step and asked for sanctuary.  I didn't do it, but it did cross my mind.

After the boat tour, we drove to Tahquamenon Falls, the lower and upper.  I haven't seen the falls since I was a kid, and my wife and kids had never seen them.  With all the rain we've had this summer, the water was like thunder as it spilled and tumbled downstream.  It was really beautiful and impressive. 

We ate at a pub located at the upper falls.  My daughter ordered filet mignon.  So did her boyfriend.  I had a vegetable sandwich that kind of blew my mind with how good it was.  By the time we were done eating, night was falling fast.  We got home around 11 p.m.  A long, good day.  No Russians or Germans in sight, although I did hear one family at the falls speaking with English accents.  They said nothing about Americans being dirty, thieving bastards.

It was a really good trip, but I am a little exhausted.  I got about four hours of sleep last night.  This weekend doesn't promise any rest, either.  On Saturday, I am reading with a poet friend at the Carnegie Library in Ishpeming, and my father is having a 90th birthday party.  Then I'm playing the organ for church.  Then I'm going to a wedding reception for a nephew.  On Sunday, I drop my son off at Bible camp for a week, and then we have a birthday party for another nephew.  Like I said, no rest.

By Sunday night, I will probably be ready for a stay in a German prison camp hospital.

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for a clear schedule and the possibility of sleep.

A great trip

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