Blue Monday by Don Duncan (Provincial Review – May 1952)

Running down an endless corridor I try each door I pass. All are locked. A feeling of intense horror pushes me on from door to door in blind panic. Behind me I hear the swelling roar of the mob, growing, growing…God, what a grating sound, literally grinding consciousness back. Freud would have loved that last dream.

Sing your stupid little heads off, you’re free. Monday again and back on the merry-go-round we go. If it was only raining or something it wouldn’t be so bad. A golf ball would roll a mile today. Play eighteen holes and then to the sessions this afternoon. Ted, no he would never get up before noon.

Better go to work anyway or there won’t be a job to go to. If money was only as easy to hate as it is to hate to work for it. It would be wonderful to be a kid again with nothing to do but lay out in the sun. The park was nice yesterday…Horns always sound so big and hollow out in the open. Those stupid funny people…They just can’t understand…’ Play Star Dust, please’.

Jesus, don’t I have at least one clean shirt. Always hiding things…Why can’t they leave them alone? Starch, always starch…They never get it straight… Everybody always wants starch in their shirts…Ought to refuse to pay next time. Shave tomorrow. Better hurry now…Hurry, hurry, hurry, don’t be late or they’ll dock you. Get up by clocks, work by clocks, live like clocks, and think like clocks.

What clean orderly sterile kitchens the American housefraus have… Clean, orderly, sterile like their lives are. Jesus, don’t wake them up or there will be another lecture on sleeping. They want everyone to sleep life away too. How long does it take that thing to work? Go to work, go to work, everybody goes to work…Nobody takes time off to live. Feed those ulcers…Hurry, don’t be late. Margarine symbol of civilization…Eliminate the cow, install a machine and create a few more millionaires. Better get a move on someone is getting up.

What an abomination these clanking, stinking things are. Yellow night-mares that stop and start their way across town in a never changing endless pattern. Each with its gentle effluvia of stockyards and sweating humanity. They all like their jobs but they live on the opposite side of town from them. Always room for one more…Get your dimes worth of room at the rear please.

What is her name? Four years in school with a pretty thing like that and you don’t even remember her name, for shame. Turn off the neon she won’t bite you…Go on say hello.

“Hello”…Sounded a little like a frog croaking but it didn’t hurt at all. She just smiled and no one else even paid any attention…What a fool you are. The starch is out of that shirt now. Read the ads. They’re always entertaining.

Every other ad is a half naked woman…They say Freud is over sex conscious. She’s lovely, she’s engaged, she must have B O because she has to use Lux to get that way. What stupid drivel. Whose idea was it to put radios in these things? Saccharine sweet strains of Guy Lombardo, gentle bouquet of stockyards and somebody standing on your foot…How comfortable…How convenient.

Blind slaves endlessly recommitting themselves to subjection. Continually passing life by for a few empty promises…Security…A bigger car…A more potent whiskey. They call us neurotic, addicts…Just because we won’t surrender to their brand of escape. Death…They’re zombies moving through life in a continual dream of security. Security for what…From what…To do what?

Jesus, everytime anyone looks at you its as if you had been caught stealing from a blind man. You’re not handsome, admitted. Your clothes are clean…All right, so you need a shave. They can’t tell what you think of them by looking at you so stop trembling. Always exhibit A.

Salina, Wichita, Lawrence, Topeka, Timbuktu, they all get the same things. Over and over, around and around…This job takes the mental capacity of at least a two year old.

“Did you see Forest Tucker in that fight in ‘Ramrod’?”

“That was a good one, he’s even better in this new picture that I saw.”

God, over and over…How many times have they told that stupid story? Detail by detail. They never have to go see a picture twice. They see it half a dozen times a day down here. If they tell me the plot to another detective story I’ll hit them with a crowbar. Do they ever see any thing except cowboy pictures? Do they ever do anything except go to the movies? Hollywood the great American institution. Life as you would like to live it.

“Here comes Pat. Better get that Salina stuff next.”

Always sneaking around. Having trouble…Need some help…What are you looking for? If he asks me once more I’ll tell him to take this job and shove it. Sure I will, just like I’m going to the sessions this afternoon. Put that shackle on and just keep right on polishing it.

“How you coming on that order, will you finish today?”

“Sure Pat, easy, unless something is short.”…That’s it, apologize for not having it done all ready. What do they expect, miracles?

“Let me know if you run into trouble.”

Two number J23485’s plus three number J23485’s makes five number J23485’s. You are a mathematical wizard. Now check those tags that’s how errors are made. There might be a J23484 mixed in that bin. Errors slow up production and production means security…that’s what the movie they showed you said. Security is bigger guns and bigger bombs and more dead people. Ten J33428’s and five TM29444’s…Keep it up and eventually you can retire and starve on your old age pension. How much longer is this day going to last?

“Sure that was William Boyd he–”

“–Bob you just don’t know anything.”

“Who is William Boyd?”…Always the same thing. Don’t they ever get tired of those childish cowboys.

“You’re kidding, you know.”

“What does he write?”…That got him…He looks like somebody had taken his candy away.

“Don’t you ever go to the movies?”

“Tell us a story, you haven’t told one all day?”

Tell me a story…Tell another story you never did get around to writing. They live in one big story and you never finish any. All outlines…Nothing but outlines. If there was only time…Work, eat, sleep, round and round we go. Its hopeless.

“Its too close to coffee time.”

“Tell a short one.”

“Let him alone Bob, you’re just trying to keep from losing the argument.”

“Prove it wasn’t him.”

Prove it, go on I dare you. My father can lick yours, can not, can too. They’re just about the right age for this job…Nine or ten somewhere along in there. Everything is a movie. That’s one way out. At least they seem to be happy. God, how do you shut your mind off and not kill yourself? They’re dead… Just walking dead men with movies for brains.

“Come on its coffee time.”

They’re dead…All of them are dead. A year, two years…each day dying a little more…”Fred is your old lady still working”…never wife, always old lady …they’re old…old and dead…” should have seen his face when I went past” …Faster and faster…bet your life on speed…what have they got to lose?…”told her to get out and walk”…very funny…laugh you poor dead…

“Hey, wake up and live.”

“What?”…Is he reading my mind…What with?

“You better get some sleep kid, you’re going to kill yourself.”

“Its only faster this way.”…What’s the use of getting old if you die young? Did he ever want anything out of life? Day after day the same thing…eat, sleep, work…And die a little piece at a time.

“You young punks never learn, but you’ll get old and then see if you don’t regret it.”

What emptiness. Nothing is as empty and haunted as a joint in the afternoon. Rows of tables still cluttered and disarranged from the session …Ghosts of happiness. God, Jim doesn’t even have a good beat anymore. How low can you sink? If people would only leave you alone…He had so much promise. Parents…What insensitive stupidities they perpetrate on their children. They may mean well but what ways of showing it. Who is that tenor man? He should be ashamed to even be on the same stand that Alf has played on.

No one here now…All out getting on probably, I’m always just too late. That should be my epitaph. There’s Patty…That makes things look better. She’s a good chick, for a chick. Too bad she isn’t better looking…She could be singing with a good band.

“Patty girl, how are things?”

“Hi man, swinging session today, Alf and Frank were both down.”

“That’s enough, and I had to make that stupid day slave.”…First time in months that they blew together and I’m beating my brains out on that stupid job. Its not fair…That’s kicking you when you’re down.

“You’re eating regularly aren’t you?”

“Yeah, but my back is aching.”…Sometimes she is just as bitchy as other chicks are. God, if only you didn’t have to eat.

“That bum Jim, he was on the stand all afternoon.”

“He used to be good.”…Jesus she hates him…”Can you pick up for me?”

“Sure…Two caps, you must be flush?”

“Hurry back girl my back is aching.”

She is hard as nails. No wonder, with her father calling her a good for nothing slut and all the guys in town condemning chicks the way they do. It must be terrible to be a woman…especially in show business. What a fouled up mess this whole world is. Makes you laugh so hard you get sick to your stomach.

God, what a foul rhythm section. Three beats all going in different directions. They all quit at the same time at least. Jim’s got that give me look in his eyes. If he would only change shirts or get his hair cut once in a while. He looks like somebody’s spaniel that hasn’t been fed regularly.

“What’s happening Jim?”

“Whose drink is this, Patty’s?”

“Yeah, she said Alf was down.”…What difference does it make whose drink it was, he would have taken it anyway. He could at least clean his fingernails.

“Frank too, sure was good to play with somebody who could really blow.”

“I had to work.”…What a farce he is. At least he’s got guts enough to practice what he preaches. Suffering gives you soul…Maybe, but it sure doesn’t help his beat any.

“How is the book coming? It should be the most authentic thing out.”

“Still just outlines, I don’t have any time.”…Sure outlines…When was the last time you picked up a pencil? Its hopeless. You work to live and then don’t have time left to live.

“Hurry up and finish it, you can use my name if you want to.”

“Sometime.”…This must be the intro to the touch. What will it be…Haven’t had a meal…Want to buy a shirt? Or just, give me a taste?

“Look could you loan me two bucks? I’ll pay you back tomorrow sure.”

“Its a long time till payday.”…He probably owes more money than the First National. When are you going to learn to say no? Patty’s right you always cater to these guys…afraid to say no, they might put you down.

“Please man, I’m sick, I need a taste bad.”

“Okay, but I’ll need it tomorrow.”…And I’ll get it then too, just like I got all the rest. Sometimes it makes you sick to see yourself as a spineless jellyfish who just can’t say no. Have to get rid of him some way…Patty hates his guts.

“Thanks man, see you later.”

He didn’t even pretend to make arrangements to meet me and pay me back. Patty’s right, he’s just a bum…He used to play good though. He lives for only two things now; to play and to get on. The one messes up the other. She made a quick trip this time.

“That was fast, everything all right?”

“Where do you want to go to get on?”

“I don’t know, would Joe be home?”…The eternal problem. Damn all laws and all law makers…Talk about freedom. You can’t even be happy.

“He would want a taste, the Street Hotel is the only place–”

“–God I hate that scene.”

“You want to get on don’t you?”

God, what a filthy dump…puddles all over the floor and not even a trash basket for the paper towels. I hate this scene more everytime I have to come here. Coming through that lobby is like running a gantlet. Everybody staring at you as if you were in a zoo…Expecting the long arm of the law to tap you on your shoulder every step. Patty is all ice. She always acts as if she owns the place. Cook it up faster girl.

“You first, you look as if you need it.”

“Thanks girl, save a good taste for yourself.”…She’s a good kid…too bad life has to be so rotten to her. God, that feels good …Just like coming home. Flow heroin flow…Goodbye backache… Mouth feels like the Gobi desert.

“Better sit down, this is good stuff.”

“Jesus, You’re not kidding.”…If only there was some way to turn everybody on just once…That would slow things down. Delicious feeling…Every cell expanding and getting warm…Peace and relaxation. Off the merry-go-round now.

“Let’s get out of here.”

“Easy girl, easy. There’s no hurry now.”…Peace, its wonderful…If only everyone could find this out…Even this filthy hole looks all right now. Stare damn you…Stare you poor slaves. If they just knew what happiness is …Wrinkled, dried up faces and minds. At least they aren’t running around in their circles quite as frantically as the whites. The air smells good…That damp dry smell that comes before a rain…Like musty hay in an old barn loft. Soft flashing neons and hurrying cars…The street is waking up for the night…People down here only seem to really live at night. What was it Langston Hughes called them? “Night people”…That’s them. That’s me too. People of the night…You can wake up and live at night.

 

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