Pg. 17 #6

niag

Shouts of “Shut the dampers!” and then “Draw the fires!” came from somewhere. Fireman George Beauchamp worked at fever pitch as the sea flooded in from the bunker door and up through the floor plates. In five minutes it was waist deep — black and slick with grease from the machinery. The air was heavy with steam. Fireman Beauchamp never did see who shouted the welcome words, “That will do!” He was too relieved to care as he scurried up the ladder for the last time.

*

On the way up, however, distinction without flamboyance should be your credo. And don’t be trapped by your own desire to follow the crowd by wearing the last scream of fashion. Subdue that urge to buy what merchants call a ‘hot number.’ This is the dress or suit that is copied in every price level and winds up in the closet of every third girl in the office.

*

Then you drive over to Suspension Bridge, and divide your misery between the chances of smashing down two hundred feet into the river below, and the chances of having the railway-train overhead smashing down onto you. Either possibility is discomforting taken by itself, but, mixed together, they amount in the aggregate to positive unhappiness.

*

“Hey,” came a voice from the door of his office, “you look like a bear caught with his nose in a beehive.”

*

“Enh.” Johnny waded in again, but the tangle was no fun. The Judas fought with a strange unsureness, like a man who is off his feed. When Johnny closed in on him he clawed frantically, baring sharp teeth like a cornered rabbit. Disgusted, Johnny flung him in a corner.

*

“If that,” he said triumphantly, “is not cast porcelain I will extract all my own teeth without an anaesthetic and swallow them. What do you say, Benton?”

*

‘Now,’ he said, when I was seated, ‘my great day is at hand! And with a smile that freed and relaxed all the long-frozen wrinkles on his face, he declared proudly, ‘I was fired last night.’

*

Selections from the page seventeens from seven books found randomly at my bedside.

A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord; A Day at Niagara, from The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain; How to Dress for Success, by Edith Head with Joe Hyams; The Minds of Billy Milligan, by Daniel Keyes; Judas Bomb, by Kit Reed, from the collection Best S/F Six, edited by Edmund Crispin; In the Teeth of the Evidence, by Dorothy L. Sayers; The Day of the Dragon, by Guy Endore, from the collection Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum.

I was excited to re-acquire the Monster Museum, a book I owned as a kid but never read. Somehow I was disappointed that the pages weren’t as crammed with monster as the front cover. Odd, because there is a genuine monster in every tale, no metaphorical cop-outs. The Guy Endore one is about DRAGONS!

7 Responses to “Pg. 17 #6”

  1. Jeff Gee Says:

    I had “Day of the Dragon” in a collection called ‘Monster Mix’ (1968) edited by Robert Arthur, who was also the editor of ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum’ a few years earlier. He really wanted to make sure “Day of the Dragon” got out there. And rightly so! Endore is definitely a Subject for Further Study– screenplays or stories for “Mad Love,” the Fred & Ginger “Carefree” and the Karloff/Lugosi “Raven.” I have fond memories of his novel ‘The Werewolf of Paris,’ although it’s been 50 years.

  2. Werewolf is pretty magnificent. A faithful film adaptation would be great, but would cost a fortune and they’re not into spending a lot on horror movies these days.

    The Carefree credit makes sense — a story that’s a bit too disturbing to really work for Fred & Ginger…

  3. dbenson Says:

    Old enough to remember “Dress for Success” and other bestselling guides for white-collar advancement. Actually owned a few in the early 80s.

    To me, many of these guides sounded like rehashes of the 1960s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (the book) and business-related chapters in Potter’s gamesmanship series — but presenting their satiric mock advice as serious counsel. Perhaps my youthful taste for outdated humor books ruined my ability to take the latest wisdom seriously. I coulda been somebody.

    Anyway, dressing for success was already on the way out where I worked (PR/Marketing at a great metropolitan newspaper). The cultural shift was from Casual Friday to wearing neckties only when required. Otherwise, showing up in a suit raised suspicions your lunch date was a job interview.

    I did a brief satire that offered training for people who wanted to stay employed. The rising yuppies who read those power books would be on the lookout for potential rivals emulating their strategies; therefore visible servitude and humility were the keys to survival and prosperity in their wake.

    When high-concept management books flourished like sex manuals, my thought was a volume titled “The 5-Minute Lover”. Trouble was, lawyers and the question of where to go after the title.

    Someday I’ll find an excuse to talk about “How to Pick Up Girls”, sold for years in the back of National Lampoon. Practically respectable compared to the toxic “pick up artist” culture that emerged later, but even then mind-boggling. One chapter advised carrying a camera. Then, after taking a photo of a pretty stranger, ask her name and address and phone so you can send her a print.

    Okay. Really have to force myself back to Real writing …

  4. Your comments here couldn’t be any realer!

    I suspect about 70% of National Lampoon wouldn’t be acceptable today…

  5. Jeff Gee Says:

    For the LP version of “How to Pick-Up Girls” ( = “Picking Up Girls Made Easy”) on free downloadable mp3s, swing by the indispensable UbuWeb over here. Pick to click: “The Clothing Store Pick-Up,” which could change your life .

  6. dbenson Says:

    That recording was a hoot, boiling down to this: “Excuse me, miss. I notice you are well dressed and have an attractive body like my sister. I am buying her a sexy blouse, like any brother would, and while I do not know her size I have a precise mental picture of her torso. It matches yours, so would you oblige? … Please socialize with me, and keep this blouse, because you are sexually attractive like my sister.”

    In real life, that would have turned very ugly very fast. I wonder now if the author was being as purposely disruptive as Monty Python’s dirty Hungarian phrasebook.

    At an early age I learned you could not count on a potential pickup — or anyone, really — to hold up their end of a conversation you’d mapped out in your head. In fact, it was tough to force a preplanned quip. A familiar device in fiction is a character anticipating one scene and getting another. It can go down as comedy or tragedy.

    The whole movie “Gambit” was about misplaced anticipation. Michael Caine plans a heist, presupposing not only circumstances but behaviors by a beautiful decoy and the targeted art collector. We see it all played out as he describes it to cohort Herbert Lom. Then the beautiful decoy turns out to be Shirley MacLaine in comic mode and the art collector is nothing like his public image (consequently, his home is nothing like what Caine had planned for). Caine’s perfect heist ends up as a series of improvisations, smooth and otherwise, leading to multiple final twists.

  7. I really liked Gambit, it becomes terrific as soon as the gag kicks in: the first half hour is boring, as everything seems to go Cain’e way, but it’s absolutely worth it as preparation for what follows.

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