Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

Favorite Quotations

Fragments from a 1950s Novel

[MSS probably written c1970]

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves hobbits.
John Rogers? (h/t Millard Fillmore's Bathtub)

[First Fragment]

The man on the sled laughed, “You’re not goin’ anywhere. Stick around.”

“Oh yea?” replied Edless. “I’ll make this bus run.”

The passengers were climbing from the bus and milling around aimlessly, not having anything better to do. The Vomit stood, silent and gray againt the setting sun. A dog howled.

“You need a lift?’ asked the man.

A surge of anger rose inside Willit. “Go to Hell!” he shouted.

“No, I mean it. You think you’re goin’ to Chicago, don’t you?”

“I am going to Chicago!”

“No you ain’t, because there ain’t no motor in that bus, and even if there was, they ain’t no Chicago.”

“How do you know?”

“Brother, I came from there.”

“No, how do you know the motor is missing?”

“I have it.”

Edless Willit did not [know] what happened next; he had fallen against his chair, staring into the dusk; he didn’t know how long he lay there; he only knew that the next time he looked up, they had left him.

He looked out of the bus. “Ticket to nowhere,” the man changed, “Ticket to nowhere. Step right up! Room for all. We gotta keep goin’, cause we don’t know where it’s at. We gotta travel by night to avoid the Washington gang, and by day to avoid the thugs. Hurry up, last chance to buy a ticket to nowhere.” The passengers climbed aboard the sleds as they left.

“Wait!” shouted Edless Willit. “You can’t abandon the Vomit!”

“Ticket to nowhere!”

“It’s too late to back out now!”

“Ticket to nowhere!”

“Come back you fools!” As the last sled pulled out Edless collapsed against the side of the bus. “They’re not going anywhere,” he murmured to himself. He felt like the lone survivor of a wrecked ship who preferred drowing to being rescued by a low-class fishing boat.

Suddenly rage seized him, he leaped into the bus, twisted the wheel violently until it came off in his hands, pulling and pushing levers that failed to respond, trying to coax life into his nonexistent engine. “Go, damn you” his miond was screaming—while he was seeing the neon signs on Skid Row—Go, damn you—while he was seeing the slums under the smoky factory air—Go damn you—while he was seeing the busline across the continent, while he was struggling to force the engine to live.

He was pulling off the knobs, ripping out the useless pedals, while the edge of sunlight cut into his brain. Ann!—he screamed soundlessly—Ann!—This is the best within us. And for this I must start this bus—Ann!—you knew when you said selfishness was everything—but I didn’t then. That is the best within us, grabbing the earth, eating away at its resources—Ann!—that was the thing to defend, and in the name of $elfishness I must start this bus!

He collapsed against the windshield, tired, afraid of his uselessness. Outside, a mongrel dog walked up, and crapped on the side of the bus. He ran screaming after the dog, as if by that action eh could drive off the enemies that were even now gathering in the darkness around him.
He stepped to the side of the bus, and looked at the letters BS. Then he collapsed by the dead bus, and wept.

[Second Fragment]

Ethyl demanded “Don’t you realize that this ‘fairness’ law saying that all busses have to take the same number of people will ruin us?”

“How?” replied John Braggart. “We’ve only been running at half capacity since Western moved in. There isn’t room for two of us to compete here—so they’ll have to cut down, giving more business to us. They’re over-extended anyway, and with the unfair competition tax on them, they’ll have to withdraw.”

“But don’t you realize we need them?” said Ethyl.

“We need them like a hole in our heads. They’re taking our customers from us.”

“But competition is essential to the life of the nation. If you destroy competition you destroy the life blood of the economy. How can we4 survive when competition is destroyed?”

“Better than we’re surviving now,” snarled Braggart, nervously tearing apart a dollar bill in front of him. “Anyway, you’re always prophesying doom. Nothing happened when we passed the busline cooperation agreement—“

“Because I saved you!” Ethyl screamed. “That law nearly drove Braggart Buslines into bankruptcy—but I saved you.”

“Get out of here. You’re too materialistic for me. You’re always putting money ahead of everything else—don’t you realize that the public good comes ahead of money?”

Ethyl looked at John speechlessly. What could she say to this man with no manners, no morals, no mind. What could she say to a relativatist, anyway? She turned and walked out.

In her office the phone was ringing. Dully she picked up the receiver—hoping for some news to relieve the gray nothingness seeping through her mind. Bank Rearend’s voice asked, “Ethyl?”


“It’s terrible—Standly, the slumlord, after the government passed the minimum standard housing bill—“

“That horrible bill designed to eliminate competition in building by demanding that all housing meet certain standards?”


“Don’t they realize that if it weren’t for men like Standly the poor wouldn’t have houses? Don’t they realize that if they pass a bill like that thousands will be left homeless?”


“Don’t they realize that competition is the life-blood of the economy? That i9f they destroy competition they destroy the nation?”

“Ethyl, please listen.”


“Standly, after that bill was passed—“
Horror overcame Ethyl—a gray horror that numbed her consciousness. “What happened to him?”

“He blew up his tenements—and vanished.”

“Another of us gone.”

[Third fragment]

Of the passengers in that bus during the fatal descent when the bus screamed driverless over the edge of the chasm not one saw the light of day again.

There is a school of thought that maintains that these were random victims in a purposeless catastrophe, that there is no relationship between victims and the disaster.

The man in the seat behind the driver was a teacher who taught relativity in the public schools for twenty years

The woman across from him had lived on social security for two years.

The man two seats back from her was Abbie Hoffman.

The man sitting in the back of the bus hated Daddy Warbucks.

The man beside him hated Braggart Buslines. All had expressed views opposed to Ann Rynd’s, and all had received tickets for this particular bus anonymously in the mail a week before.

Who says there wasn’t any cause and effect relationship, anyway?


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