Issue 35, Fall 1965
The proud red glow was gone and for a terrible moment Henry thought the gateway to the west had been wiped out in the night. Then he reached for his field glasses, sighted along his secret tunnel off 95th Street, out over the river, over the folded layers of laminated shale (known to the dumber guys as the Palisades) and closed his eyes. In his head he filled in the space above the water. When he was good and ready, he drove his eyelids apart and stared with all the stored-up power of history, geography and manifest destiny. WHEW. The old combo had worked again; against the new day the dim, spidery grayness hung limp but unmistakable: ALCOA. WHEW. You never knew what you would wake up and not find these days. Satisfied, he slid his glasses into the case, threaded his way over Ezzard (still smiling over his latest hook shot) and slipped into the bathroom. As he brushed and flossed his teeth, he could see out the window, near the gateway, another corner of the western plain, where brave young Hamilton, bright as ALCOA at midnight, had been lured to that fatal shootout. Poor sonuvabitch. If only a guy like Henry had been around to clue Ham, Aaron the Burro would have got his shit kicked out all the way from Weekend to Princeton Township. A mouthful of toothpaste-water finished old Aaron and spun him down the drain like a nothing cockroach. Henry walked back to his room and whipped into his A.M. Assembly clothes: white shirt, red tie and navy bluejacket. As he wound up the double Windsor knot, he previewed the day, bigger than any damn Assembly with its General Electric crap or dumb-ass trampolines. Finishing with a quick cuff of each shoe against his trousers, he walked into the kitchen and sat down before the piled up books. The all-important permission slip lay in his history, next to the page about the stupid-ass Hessian. He drew it out and curled it up just a little, figuring on a quick shove and pull away between toast and coffee and a play It dumb request. Not that he anticipated trouble, but with the old Spray gun, you never knew. Today could be his day; then again, lo Spray might wanna preach. Maybe the slope of the curve, which hadn’t been preached since he got 82 in first quarter arithmetic. (“Why you a 98, son. God dam that curve got to slope up.”) He unfolded the slip and focused on the Princeton part, which was the real slope, up the hill from the Delaware, out past the ALCOA gate and laminated shale, far beyond any god dam 98 in arithmetic.