Two Extracts from Fredy Neptune
The following two short extracts are from Prop Sabres, the third book of Fredy Neptune.
A Postcard of The USS Los Angeles
We had a decent crossing. Storms in the Tasmin, then calm
right to Hawaii. Off Diamand Head, waiting to sail in,
we sighted this swollen skyscraper lying down in the sky,
shining like foil, getting huge, coming on over us.
The crew ran to look. It had engine-houses out on sponsons.
Diesels beating away. It had the Yankee red spot
on a white star, and sailors in gob caps waved to us
from the bridgework underneath. That's the Los Angeles,
our skipper said. Like a windjammer with its sails inside it.
They have these gas bags, and men inside rigging them.
Is the hull made of tin? I asked. No. Sailcloth, metal-painted
over an aluminium frame. A German idea they are. Zeppelins.
So this was an airship, like flew to east Africa. I'd heard of them,
and stared after this one a long time as it shrank
among the landward cloudbanks. I imaged men belaying down
on lines like spiders in great skeleton rooms.
Liners upsidedown. Did they make the gas they rode on?
The skipper explained it all, laughed, said I should sign on one
and never knew he was a prophet ...
.. One evening away fishing down a gorge
Sibling told a mob of us about the time he got hung.
He know the Governor had turned him down when the deputies
brought him a steak dinner and sent in Irma from the cat house.
After she'd cried, and held him the longest time, and gone,
the preacher came and churched him up good, and at daybreak
they led him to the room with the beam and the little stage
he had to perform on, and he choked out a few dopey words
to the sheriff and reporters. He wasn't heavy then, and resolved
to stiffen his neck hard. But the drop was like a sledgehammer
and he found himself on a timber bridge going teetery out
over a ravine above the green trees, with people
and horse-riders hurrying past him, most hiding their faces
as if ashamed. The bridge was long, and took a turn
over a dark lake. It seemed to be more of a pier
stepping out and on out, over shallow greeny-brown water
and then deep blue water. He sat down, and got afraid
because of that deep water, and the pier had no more rails
for a long while, then did again. He looked back, but the land
had disappeared in haze. But it was okay. The pier had
started floating. It was a big raft going on
no longer out on piles but sitting sweet on the water.
Then he and all onboard came to the steep of the sea
where it went down over the world, and there was country
just over beyond, break of daylight country, and crowds
with people he'd known but were dead now standing over there
showing no sign of death. They and others like them
were rushing out across on just a green in the air
and leading the rest from the raft home to that country,
but someone beside him, who made his heart turn over
just to be near, and that he never quite looked at,
told him he would come by a different road another time
to that same shore. He was too early now
and would have to be fat first.
That's what it put in my head. That I'd have to be fat
and lean again, before I crossed over into safety.
Now I understand life and I got no fear in this world.
When he crept back to life in his grandfolks' house
up a hollow in west Virginia
he reaked of camphor and rubbing alcohol, and his neck
hurt so bad he carried his head under his arm
for weeks, it felt like.
Back at Saint John I made the mistake of yarning with
Fay Rees the Englishwoman, Iron Rees's wife,
tall blue musical woman, who talked in her posh accent
with a sort of mouth-full relish, as if words were chocolates.
Nice woman. But I paid for it. One day in an upstairs corridor
I must have heard something underneath my hearing
and spun round in time to dodge a long-handled fighting axe
Rees had unwired off the wall in the suits of armour room.
It buried in a newel post, and he laughed this laugh,
I only wanted to see if you'd re-join
if I split you, like. And we were into it.
I was fighting in my own division now, for my life,
but his holts on me didn't hurt and mine on him did
and my punches did. I got the upper hand gradually,
pictures and ornaments going smithereens in all directions.
Then women came running yelling and one of them hoyed
water all over us, that must have been hot. Rees screamed
whopping it off himself. We both had blister-skin hanging
like wreckage of wings. I decided to get out of Saint John.