Fiction

TAURUS IS A DOG

FRANCIS B. WILLIAMS July 1 1948
Fiction

TAURUS IS A DOG

FRANCIS B. WILLIAMS July 1 1948

TAURUS IS A DOG

Fiction

FRANCIS B. WILLIAMS

October 15

DEAR MR. STARGAZER, I am writing to you because I am in a very nasty situation. This situation mainly consists of a girl named Mamie Gebhardt. I meet this girl about six months ago and I plan that by this time I shall be in a very different situation than I am in. In case that sounds confused, if might he because that is the same condition that I am in also.

Here is the doje.

On a certain night I am balling the jack from Duluth to Chicago. At about, elevenforty I park the tractor and semitrailer beside Hank’s Hamburger Heaven, a spot which I make whenever I am pulling a load along that route. I am ahead of schedule, so I look forward to a steak, cottage fries and three cups of Hank’s coffee, which is much better mud than is common among the eat spots along the route. I am about as happy as a guy can he who has a good job and a good digestion.

I stalk into Hank’s and take a stool at the horseshoe, which is not crowded at the time, push my cap hack and inhale the smell of good cooking. Hank’s is as slick as ever. The top of the horseshoe is polished, the ketchup bottle is clean and a fresh pot of coffee is simmering on the burner. The service is somewhat less than jet-propelled, so I rap sharply on the counter with a quarter. That brings a girl bouncing out of a booth in t he hack of the place, with her order pad in hand and pencil ready.

And what a girl! She is about as big as a half a pint of applejack, hut twice the wallop. When she gives me both of them blue eyes, I say, “Turn on the dimmers, you’re blinding me.” But I onote her other accessories, which are strictly de luxe.

She sis*ms to think what I say is funny, cause she laughs. "That ’s cute,” she says. It is not only what she says, hut also the way she says it, which gives me the belief that she don’t say the same thing to each and every guy which comes in.

I tell her about my run, how often l make this run and how that right then I plan to make it steady. She is no doubt the most interesting conversationalist 1 ever met. She listens with all suitable gestures of face and figure, even telling me to keep on as she brings on t he chow.

“You must have the most interesting experiences,” she says. I realize that I do have a few stored up, which I warm over and clean up a little and serve up between bites. I fell her also about the little walk 1 took across Africa and up Italy a few years ago.

WELL, Mr. Stargazer, I leave Hank’s that night forty minutes behind schedule and with plenty of ideas. “Hurry back,” she says as she rings up my check and that is exact ly what I figure on doing. When I hit Chicago, I breeze up to Moynihan, who is chief of operations there, and ask him for the Chicago run steady.

“Thai’s a lousy run,” he says, squinting at me kind of questioning. “You never used to like that one. Got a new angle?”

“Personal reasons,” I says.

“Blonde or brunette?” he grins. “Okay, take the run. But I don’t want the wheels run off them trucks so as you can make like Romeo fifteen minutes longer at some hash house.”

The next run I stop at Hank’s again, on the way to Duluth, hut Mamie is indisposed, so the other girl on duty tells me. “You tell Mamie,” I says, “that Richie Casey will he here tomorrow night in his own private vehicle.”

The next afternoon I tools my crate from Duluth to the town Hank’s place is in. It is a pretty good little bus and I make a nice deal in getting it after my discharge only paying three hundred more than it cost new six years ago. Mamie is not at Hank’s, hut Hank himself tells me where her house

is located. I drive there, ring the front doorbell and Mamie answers the door.

“Good evening, Mr. Casey,” she says.

What goes, I says to myself, that I have changed from Richie to Mr. Casey in the small matter of a couple of days? “Hi, Mamie,” I says, “here I am.” Which she can see for herself. I am not doing so good at that point, maybe on account of the great lack of encouragement she is giving me. “How about, dining, dancing and et cetera?” I ask.

“We-e-ll, maybe a movie,” she says.

“That will he just dandy,” I says, kind of sarcastic, “if it ain’t too exciting. I plan on a quiet evening anyway.” I am more than somewhat put out by the sudden change in weather.

We see the movie, which ain’t nothing buta movie and we drive to a place for some chicken. Whilst the bird is being caught and subdued, I put matters right up to Mamie. “Tonight,” I says, “you act like you learn that I have a wife and six kids in Waukegan. That is in quite sharp contrast to the royal welcome I get the night I make your acquaintance. To put it in the vernacular I don’t get it.”

“It is all on account of my horoscope, she says. “I follow Mr. Stargazer’s column of advice very faithfully.”

“That statement of policy is no doubt crystal-clear,” I says. “Only I never happen to have made the acquaintance of the gentleman.”

“It. is somewhat involved,” she says. “If I can dredge up the evening paper, I can clarify.” The waitress unwraps the evening paper from about the garbage and brings it to our table. Mamie smooths it out and hunts through it till she comes to a column of pictures, numbers and words—your column, Mr. Stargazer. The pictures are of bulls, fishes, crabs and suchlike flora and fauna, arranged in two rows. With each picture are certain dates and some numbers. Between the rows of pictures are two rows of words, each with a number in front of it.

“To begin wit h, I am a Taurus,” she says.

“Indeed,” I says.

“I mean that I was horn on May first, which makes me being horn under the sign of Taurus Taurus is the bull. Taurus is one of t he Signs of the Zodiac, all of which are neatly arranged here ir columns. I look under my sign here, which I sei contains five numbers. I go to this list of words ir the middle and find the words which have mv numbers in front of them,” she says.

“Yes, indeed,” I says.

“I read the words and they make up my advice for the day,” she

Continued on page 42

Taurus Is a Dog

Continued from page 8

goes on. “For today all Tauruses are advised as follows, ‘Coolness recommended in personal relationships.’ I am therefore acting cool toward all persons today.”

I am beginning to see the direction from which the wind is blowing. “And what did Mr. Stargazer advise on the day I meet you?” I ask.

“He advised, ‘Romance will come into your life,’ ” she says.

This is a low blow, as I see then that it. is not even my personality which makes the impression, but rows of crabs, bulls, fishes, et cetera. The pride of the Caseys is wounded to the quick. The rest of the evening drags to a close, with Mamie shaking hands with me in friendly fashion as she says good-by at the front door.

AND that, Mr. Stargazer, is only the . beginning. I am so mad that night as I drive back to Duluth that 1 think of doing desperate things like going back in the Army. But the next night I am back at Hank’s place and Mamie has out the red plush carpet.

1 am all set to tell Moynihan to change my run when I get to Chicago, but the change in Mamie makes a difference. I would have give something to know what you, Mr. Stargazer, said that day, but I don’t ask.

I 1 would still rather think my personalj ity has something to do with it.

“I will be back through here tomorrow night,” I mention offhand. “That will he nice,” she says.

“I could come down from Duluth later in the evening,” I hint.

“1 will be through at nine tomorrow night,” she says.

When I get to Chicago, 1 try to get ; some advice from Moynihan. He is ordinarily not the kind of guy I would i get friendly with, as he has got a perverted sense of humor and a nasty I disposition when aroused, which is j mostly all the time.

“Moynihan, what do you know about astrology?” I ask.

He cocks a leary eye at me and bites his cigar. “What I learn from the almanac that the liniment company use to send mv old man. Good for man or beast, taken internally or externally,

! but remove saddle before applying. Why?”

“I have gotten to known a certain j party whom is quite interested in the ! subject,” I says, somewhat cautious.

; “In other words, you got a girl which is star-struck,” Moynihan says, in his usual brutal fashion. “In the case of such girls, you gotta be careful, as screwy ideas may prevail. As for instance, you get your temperature way over the boiling point about some such dame, only to be met by a remark that you can't never be but good friends on account of a Taurus cannot ! mate with a Pisces.”

“You mean,” I says, “that it can be j carried out to that point?”

“Indeed,” says Moynihan, “and to points much farther beyond.”

Needless to say, Mr. Stargazer, I am upset by Moynihan’s advice. I stop at Hank’s on the way, to find Mamie feeling the same as the last time. I wheel to Duluth and tie up and hustle about shaving, et cetera, and am back in Mamie’s town well ahead of nine o’clock. She g reeks me real friendly and we adjourn to a local hot spot. I decide to take Taurus by the horns, j “I am informed by sources sometimes j reliable, I says, “that astrology can be the cause of numberless complications.

As for instance, if the party of the first part happens to be born under 'the wrong sign, the party of the second

part must cease diplomatic relations. Is there anything to such rumors?”

“I am also informed,” she says, “that more serious students of the science do arrive at such conclusions. I try a serious study of the matter some little time ago, but I get mixed up in the third paragraph of the simple introduction and drop out. I am now content to rely on Mr. Stargazer’s clear and accurate daily predictions.”

“Indeed,” I says, more hopeful, “so unless Mr. Stargazer tells you to scratch a certain entry, he remains in the running?”

“That is no less than the truth, darling,” she says, real soft and sweet.

THE evening goes on from good to better and bids fair to be a treasured page in memory’s book. Mamie bats them eyes at me at a furious rate. I look deep into them blue orbs and proceed to go down for the third time without a struggle. To wind matters up, she bids me good-by at the door in lingering fashion.

It is difficult to state how much lingering might have went on, only her old man comes home from the pool hall in a jovial mood. He hangs about the porch, making light conversation, till at last Mamie and me shakes hands again. I feel much different, however, ; than the last time as I head for Duluth.

Well, Mr. Stargazer, 1 think that I am then well on the way with Mamie, j but that only goes to show what a kick , in the teeth that Taurus can give. A couple more dates and I am beginning to look over the housing situation in Duluth. Then I run into a situation where Mamie calls me Mr. Casey again. Moynihan is again most helpful, j “The stars follow a pretty strict schedule, which is more than I can say for you love-struck truck jockeys,” he j says. “But one has got to expect even the stars to get behind clouds and run into squalls and such. As long as you are gone on a dame which is smitten with stars, you gotta take the bitter with the better.”

“Pretty much bitter,” I says, “and it don’t get better for very long. Maybe I should be better off with a dame which depends on the weejee board.” “Do not despair, little chum,” Moynihan says, with a evil grin. “Your fate is wrote in the stars.”

It is no later than the day following that the weather takes a real turn for the better and I am again thinking rosy thoughts. The day after that brings cooler and cloudy, but then a warm spell comes along which lasts for a week. Mr. Stargazer, that is the beginning of the worst roily-coaster ride in all of history. One day I am up and the next I am down, then up for a couple days and down for a week as Taurus romps all over the universe with me hanging to his tail.

“Things seem more than unusually upset amongst the heavenly bodies,” Moynihan says. “Maybe it is a product of this here inflation.”

“But Moynihan,” I says, “I am more than a little perturbed by this uncertainty which is due to the antics of an astral cow’s husband. I am not one to sit idly by while such livestock

maps out my future. I wish to have a small part in shaping said future.”

“It is useless to talk of changing the course of the stars,” says Moynihan. “However, each and every man which practices the art of astrology differs slightly on the results of what he sees. It is much like no two men bet a poker hand just the same. Whilst you can’t never influence the stars, you can maybe get your foot in the door of the guy which reads said stars and ask for a recount on so much gloomy forecasting.”

I don’t do anything about Moynihan’s advice for the time being, but keep up the good work with Mamie and hope for a break. For some little time the daily news must be brighter, as Mamie thaws and 1 get my chin off my chest. As a matter of fact, the situation is so much better that I consult a diamond broker.

Mamie seizes upon the ring with shrieks of joy and I draw a sigh of relief,.after some of the schmoosing is ended, as I think that makes it official and an end is come to the backing and filling. But I am wrong about that. I have that ring back no less than four times to date. We pass that hunk of ice back and forth like two guys playing volley ball with a hot rivet.

Now, Mr. Stargazer, here is my problem. This uncertainty places me in a very nasty spot. 1 rent an apartment in Duluth in hopes. On days that you say yes, I have a girl, and on the days that you say no, I have a headache.

1 keep remembering Moynihan saying that some variation takes place from person to person which reads the stars. Is it maybe possible that the cleaning woman which polishes your telescope has left some dust or flyspecks over the part of the glass which points at Taurus? Or maybe could it be that the glass in the telescope has one of them pips in it like my ma’s front-room window has, which makes things look like they ain’t?

A slight checkup of your equipment seems in order since, as Moynihan says, you can’t change the course of the stars. Be that as it may, unless some change comes over the Taurus situation, 1 shall have to grasp fate by the forelock and have Moynihan change my route to running between Peoria and Sandpoint.

Desperately yours,

Richie Casey.

November 28. EAR MR. STARGAZER,

Yrs. of the loth ult. read and contents noted and that is where the trouble really startsnoting the contents. I think I am much better off if 1 had not noted the contents. It is the last sentence that really gets me mixed up. It says, “In spite of the wellknown influence of the stars upon human lives, personal ingenuity can do a great deal. I suggest that you employ ingenuity in the solution of your problem.”

Telling a Casey to use ingenuity is like waving a red flag in front of Taurus. 1 keep telling myself that I am ingenious and the job should be a cinch, as for instance the way I play hooky from school without a breath of scandal and the measures I take for ducking off of duty in the Army are no less than ingenious. Mamie Gebhardt should not be no tougher to convince than a teacher or a first sergeant .

I keep telling myself this, but all the way to Chicago 1 cannot get the glimmer of an ingenious idea. In fact, all the way to Chicago I cannot get any kind of an idea. It seems that where Mamie is concerned my brain shifts into neutral and 1 double-clutch

it with some little desperation, but I stall far short of ingenious ideas.

Moynihan sees my pitiful condition and is duly sympathetic. “You looks sick to the stummick,” he says. “Ptomaine, or has Taurus kicked you in the solar plexus?”

“You have guessed it,” I says, “and it ain’t ptomaine. 1 have got to be ingenious.”

“You are, my lad, you are,” says Moynihan. “You have got to be ingenious to get mixed up in such goings on.”

1 then tell him about the letter I write you and the answer I get back. Hé looks at his cigar and then he looks at me. “Richie, my boy,” he says, “the situation demands action. Stargazer does not figure on putting no ring in Taurus’ nose, so you got to fight fire with fire.”

“I am open to any suggestions,” 1 says, “providing that they are ingenious.”

“In fact,” says Moynihan, “what we got to do is fight one astrologer with another astrologer.”

“That is just dandy,” I says, a trifle sarcastic. “What do they do—fire shooting stars at each other at twenty paces and no fair hunching?”

“No, no, Richie,” says Moynihan, waving his cigar in big circles, “you don’t get what I mean. When one astrologer leads with a gloomy forecast, you got to be prepared to counterpunch with another forecaster which predicts favorable for you.”

“You mean that I should hunt up an astrologer here who will give me a horoscope for Mamie which will tell her to get married and cut out the monkey business?” I says, hopeful.

“We-e-U, that wouldn’t be too bad,” says Moynihan, “but the personal touch will be what puts the thing on ice. 1 have got me a much better idea than that. You know Corrigan?”

“Corrigan?” 1 says at the peaks of my lungs. “Corrigan, do 1 know him? That lush?”

“That may be as you state,” says Moynihan, “but lie has his good points and his heart is in the right place.”

“His good points and his heart, if he ain’t pawned them yet, will be pickled in alcohol along with the rest of his carcass,” I says with some little heat. “There is a Civil War veteran who claims to remember back to a day when Corrigan was sober, but his memory plays tricks on him. I don’t want to have no part of nothing which has to do with Corrigan.”

“Now, now, Richie, leave us be objective about this,” says Moynihan. “The fact that Corrigan might have nicked you for a spare fin or two should not blind you to his good points. I f we was to coach him in enough of the astrology lingo so as he could get by, then send him to this town in which your girl resides, it might be the ticket. We could rough out the general gist of what he is to tell her, such as he is a astrologer and she could feel sure the stars tell her to marry you. Then we could leave it to his ready wits to fill in the details.”

“I would be worried that he is a lot handier with his elbow than he is with his wits,” 1 says.

IN SPITE of my doubts, 1 hunt up Corrigan, whom I find under his usual table at his regular bar. I pour him into a cab and siphon him up into a rooming house where I leave him guarded till my next trip. Then I take him down to where Moynihan and me can discuss plans. He is a tasty-looking specimen, with ten days of whiskers and the galloping shakes. Moynihan sketches out the situation, but 1 can’t tell if Corrigan shakes his head yes or just shakes his head.

“Will you do this little thing for Casey?” says Moynihan.

“Yes yes, I will,” says Corrigan, sounding like the bass lead in the frog pond. “For good old Casey I will, but now I have to get a drink.”

“No drinks,” 1 says, “while you are on this mission.”

“In that case,” says Corrigan, “loving you likt» a brother will not be enough. It will cost you ten bucks for the wear and tear.”

I take Corrigan with me on the way north and he gets more jittery by the mile. Fairly soon he is doing a rumba from one side of the cab to the other, but I don’t change my mind about having the drink.

Just before we get to Mamie’s town,

I stop the truck and get Corrigan in costume. It mainly consists of a turban, prewound for the purpose, a ring with a blue stone in it. as big as a robin’s egg and a brass telescope.

This last touch is my own idea, which I figure should be a convineer. It sets him off as a astrologer, as else there is nothing to show he might not be a palm reader. Then 1 drop him off a ways from Hank’s and take off for Duluth.

When 1 stop at Hank’s that night on the way back to Chicago, right away 1 suspect that something is wrong. I see Mamie in the back of the place, so I give her a friendly wave. I think that she is waving back at first, then I see she is winding up and she comes over with a overhand pitch that is a beaut.

I duck from habit and the cup smashes against the wall.

“Hey, Mamie,” I holler, “there is some mistake.” Hut she shies a soup bowl that misses me even closer than the cup. I can see that she is in no mood for arbitration, so I leave just ahead of a meat platter to look for Corrigan. I find him and I see at first glance that he had forgot to duck. He wears the turban wound so as to hold a steak in place over his eye and he bears other marks of conflict.

“Where is the telescope?” I says.

“She busts that over my head,” he groans.

We drove quite some ways with Corrigan sitting quiet in the cab, except when he touches a tender spot and lets out a yelp. “Honest to gosh, Casey, it was an accident,” he says at last.

“Oh, I thought she done it on purpose,” l says.

“Aw, l don't mean that,” he says.

“I mean how it happens in the first place. 1 think to myself that before I go in to stage the act for your dame, maybe 1 should be in better shape. So I buy a drink—just one, Casey. I am getting along swell, I recognize your doll right away, and have all her ears when it hits me zowie! Right away 1 am schnozzled and I get confidential and I spill the beans.”

“The whole works?” I says.

“No less than the sum total,” he says, gloomy as I feel.

So there is the situation in a nutshell where i’ll belong if this keeps up.

F ven Moynihan can’t suggest nothing, except the run from Peoria to Sandpoint. 1 am not having any part of that, as the fighting blood of the Caseys is now aroused. I will fight it out along some line if it takes forever. If you cannot do something about this situation, then I don’t want to hear no more advice, especially if it has to do with being ingenious. The next time I am ingenious I might forget to duck.

Courageously yours,

Richie Casey.

December 12. FAR MR STARGAZER,

l am dogging about in a low-

frame of mind for some little time. I

try Hank’s a time or two, once Mamie is gone and the other time she starts her windup, so I don’t go back. It ain’t that I am afraid of a cup or a plate, but 1 don’t want Mamie forming the habit of throwing bean balls at me. Habits are sometimes tough to break.

I start getting my coffee at Joe’s, across t he street from Hank’s, which is strictly a quick and dirty. There is a redhead at Joe’s which calls me honey, but 1 am not interested. It is strictly from hunger that I stop at floe’s, as I often tell myself as 1 stand at the window and look across the street at Hank’s.

Moynihan lays off me, which makes me feel funny. When he rides me it seems natural, but when he don’t it makes me feel like he is sorry for me, which he is.

One evening as I am getting ready to leave Joe’s, the redhead peels off her apron and comes from behind the counter. “Honey,” she says, “you go south from here, don’t you?”

“That’s right,” I says.

“It will be a big help if you could give me a lift to my old man’s place.” she says. “It is about five miles south of town.”

“We-e-ll. 1 ain’t supposed to take no riders in the truck,” I says. What 1 really meant was that if Mamie catches sight of me taking redheads in the cab it will be the bitter end. Hut she is not one to discourage easy and she climbs in the cab and bangs my ear for five miles. It is all about how fresh most men are which come into Joe’s, but how I have never acted that way so she felt safe in asking me for a lift.

“Your reading of character is perfect,” I says.

“Thank you,” she says, though I think she looks a little disappointed.

This is not bad enough, but four or five times more the same thing happens and I know my goose is cooked beyond all recognition, because even if Mamie don’t see the redhead going with me, in a town that small she is sure to find out.

To my surprise 1 climb in the cab one night and there is Mamie. 1 look and then I duck, but she says, “I ain’t armed, Richie.”

I just sit and look at her, not daring to say anything even if I can think of anything to say. “Do you have to wait to get married in Chicago?” she says.

“I think I don’t—maybe—” I says real intelligent like. “Do you mean it, honest?”

She nods her head.

“What difference does it make?” I says. “Moynihan knows a judge which can take care of the waiting part.”

After some of the talk is over, I get a horrible thought which I spit right out. “What about Mr. Stargazer?”

1 says.

“Mr. Stargazer is very accurate on all subjects except affairs of the heart,” she says. “There are several things which make me come to that conclusion. For one thing, my father says that anybody which will drag a lush clear up from Chicago with a turban and a telescope must love me. He further states that if 1 don’t marry you he will beat me over the head with a pool cue.”

“Letis be understood.” I says, “that 1 will not marry a girl which is forced to marry me on account of threats from her father.”

“Have no fear, darling,” she says. “It was not threats which decided me, but it was the way you made me feel by taking out that redhead. It made meso jealous that I knew it was really love.

“The way you did that, darling, was —it was ingenious.”

Joyfully yours,

Richie Casey. ★