A Walk on the Wild Side

Free A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren

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Authors: Nelson Algren
Tags: prose_classic
fifty-six pounds apiece!’
    Not even Byron knew where he got his figures.
    ‘Papists rapists – the fiend’s agents already are amongst us, preparen to seize the White House. A real person the
ex
-press image of Satan! – the
Pope
of Wall Street!’
    Several looked suspiciously at Byron. Fitz’s eyes followed – and the movement sent the whole crowd into a single trance-struck shout—
In solemn delight I survey
A corpse, when the spirit has fled:
In love with the beautiful clay
And longing to lie in its stead.
    Byron couldn’t bear hymning and to him this was the most dreadful of all—
This earth is afflicted no more
With sickness – or shaken with pain;
The war in the members is o’er
And never will vex him again.
    ‘O
God
,’ Byron answered all like a cry – ‘O God who scorns the shoeless – forget our daily bread but hasteth thy vengeance! Hasteth! Hasteth!’
    ‘Who the hell’s side is he on
now?
’ somebody wondered.
    But before anyone could make a guess, Byron had turned and was lost in the dark. Yet his father’s voice pursued him.
    ‘Friends, I reckoned when I told you, a minute ago, about the invasion of lepers ’n hailstones weighin’ fifty-six pounds ’n flame-throwen cavalry two-hundred million strong ’n a rain of toads big as cats ’n mothers eatin’ their new-born ’n wind stavin’ in walls of brick ’n steel ’n a river of burnen blood up to the horses’ bridles, that you were heading for a bit of trouble. Now I have to tell you your real troubles won’t begin till Antichrist get worken on your sinnin’ hides.
    ‘Already he is spreadin’ the
Doc-treen
of evolution, the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Already the Wall Street labor unions are armin’ to help him, preparen for the day when no man will be able to earn his bread by the sweat of his face unless he has the mark of the beast – A-F-L – upon him. Neither will he be able to buy or sell. City unions teach you that Chinamens are your brothers!
Ay
rabs! Mexes!
    ‘
You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country. You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold
.’ – He leaped straight up and came down barking like a gibbon—
‘The cross! The cross!
The bloodstained cross!
The hallowed cross I see!
O the blood! The precious blood

That Jesus shed for me!
Upon that cross in crimson blood
Just now by faith I see—
    ‘—O! Look yander! Comen down the streets of gold! I do see a great bloodwashed throng all robed in white!’
    A dozen heads turned quickly to see God only knows what, but all they saw was Dove Linkhorn looking forsaken. As though wishing his poor crazy pappy would come down off the courthouse steps. When the crowd’s eyes moved toward him he turned away to follow his brother into the dark.
    He passed the little movie where Thomas Meighan was being featured in ‘Young Sinners.’ But paused in front of the curio shop to admire the little fringed souvenirs festooned there, pretending to be made of buffalo hide and to be engraved with a branding iron.
Out where the smile’s a little longer
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger
That’s where the West begins
    Byron had read the words to him long ago. All over town were signs and posters, legends, warnings and invitations Dove had learned by heart. Now it was his amusement to stand making his lips move with his memory, so that some passerby might get the impression that he was actually reading. He even frowned now and again to pretend he’d hit one that was tough enough even for an educated boy like himself.
    Passersby paid little heed to the

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