Tuesday, April 19, 2016

北京麻雀 - New York - 2

Bessle Bend,
October, 1861

If you point due East with your thumb in about 10 miles or so you would get to the Mississippi, and stare out across the wide open space with swirling eddies and disconnected of the most minute single celled animals, as well as algae and other green ornamentation. Just above you can see Kentucky, with who knows what carries a rifle. If you were a private in the war between the states, it was not assured that they would be your allies. For in 1860, the men on this side were Missourians, and might or might not give friendly way to a group of Kentuckians.

Fortunately, there was a man by the name of Rose, who had an overseer that he was polite to, in that kind of way that meant that though not fast friends, they were polite when seen each other; though neither of them would remember exactly where they last spoke. Which was to say, they knew exactly where they had been, and hesitated to say in front of women want brothel loosened their tongues; and they just tipped their hats to each other, as if to be polite and all. What they did not know, until much much later, was this would grow into a friendship that even lasted beyond the war; because at the time it really was not known that it would be a war - in fact it was several different wars on several different fronts which only summed up to one conflict, with many remarkable anecdotes and adventures that characterized the Central part of the war, which belonged to Grant; as opposed to the Eastern side of General Lee, or the Western side of innumerable characters but no single monumental figure. In other words, people did not trust each other enough to place their faith in one figure.

This was not written in a tribulation; because the men were either fighting and dying, or the men were hiding while concocting deals that they were fighting, and prepared to spin them in a yarn which would believe to be as true as anything that someone who had not fought would believe. But people who knew fighting would not believe it because there was too much action, and not enough doubt intermixed with it. But they would not say anything, first of all there were other things to do, and second of all the first type of man would be hiding, while the second sort of man would be in some saloon.

But in any event, this was the Missouri side and a man called Swift had just been back from Mississippi, and was recounting to his compatriots that there was no motion on the river. It was twilight on a slender day in May, and everyone was jumpy because they knew that Union forces were gathering someplace; and their was no sign of General Sterling Price, has of yet.
It was perhaps unavoidable, because the man who could be called a leader was over to the landward side of things, picking out where they would engage any Union members who might think that there were easy pickings. But it must be assured that in this county with four states there were neither the sheer vanity of men who could write several letters a day proclaiming themselves victors, nor the women folk who could alight such men at their table. And remember it is the fairer sex that writes almost all of the important genealogy and history which will later be subsumed by a man, putting things in to order.

“So I guess we are all accounted for and present, and no one saw anything untoward in their dealings with anyone who was not a member.” That was Swift, who read the Bible almost every day; and by the Bible I mean the King James Edition, with its large words. In your time Bibles are for words that are used on the streets; but in this time Bibles were used for being on the thoroughfares and byways. Every man who meant to amount to anything would know at least some words which would be distinguishable from the plain ones which he had used since childhood.

Everyone nodded at Swifts conclusion, because they had not seen anything - not even the megerist intent – of anything untoward in their vicinity. Not in Missouri anyway, but who knew what was Kentucky or Tennessee's version of events. At least some of the Tennessee would be capitulating how Kentucky really did not have a claim to the bend around the river. One man by the name of Samuel Clemens would do a mock startled lyric on how both members of the Tennessee and Kentucky were part of the same church, known as Compromise; and the rifles were lined up with the close on left and right side, one for Tennesseans, and one for Kentuckians. The name bubbleland was not yet invented, so do not believe any tail which hangs its hat on this detail.

“Has anyone been to New Madrid?” That was on the Missouri and side of the river, and quite frankly full of the itchiness fingers in this part of the country's grip.

At first there was no motion among the hands, but then one raised up tentatively sticking like catfish.

“You do realize that you have made a mistake.”

“What is that?” Though it was spoken in a more plain way than that.

“I have been told that you have missed some, and it is rather important.” He kept his words very very short.

“I do not know, but the Captain will report back to us. But he was very sharp when last I spoke.”

There was grumbling amissed all of the terror that gripped the men. He had obviously waited for this moment to dispatch this into the whirlwind - in fact, it seemed genuinely of a bad nature to exact such unexpurgated horror on the assembled company. Of course everybody looked at him waiting for the other shoe to drop, and their was a deep abyss for it.

“It seems someone has gotten there hands on some Yankee press on General Price's victory in North Missouri the battle of Hemp Bales.”

There was a bit of hemming and other noise about this, except for one figure who was not laughing. In fact, not laughing at all. Not even one little bit.

“In fact, there were details in Harpers Weekly, which could only come from Prices command, and which would be spread by noting the engagement. So what do have to say for for yourself?” looking over at the man had raised his hand. But he was not going to stand still, but was already up and running. And every other man was running after him, because nothing is so gruesome as a traitor.

Except one man, who carefully brushed back the papers he had been hiding, and noted down the names of everyone involved. If the man who had held his arm up was the class clown, this man was the comedian – because it was a ruse to see who was involved in General Price's command. Because the next time they went through day would capture everyone who was sympathetic to the disloyal network in Missouri.

Of course he did not work out that way for three years, which was much longer than people would think this would be going. And the spy? He would be shot in the month's time, dropped with a bullet through the eye. There was a rough and ready kind of justice for Union sympathizers, agents, and provocateurs.