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Authors: Norman Spinrad

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The Children of Hamelin

BOOK: The Children of Hamelin
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THE CHILDREN OF HAMELIN

 

 

by

NORMAN SPINRAD

 

 

Published by
ReAnimus Press

 

Other books by Norman Spinrad:

Bug Jack Barron

Experiment Perilous: The 'Bug Jack Barron' Papers

The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde

Staying Alive - A Writer's Guide

Passing Through the Flame

Fragments of America

 

© 2012, 1991 by Norman Spinrad. All rights reserved.

 

http://ReAnimus.com/authors/normanspinrad

 

 

Licence Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Portions of this book were originally serialized in slightly different forms in
The Los Angeles Free Press
and
The Staff.

 

1 - Junk

 

Greenwich Village, New York, Mid-1960s...

 

Ted’s broad, handsome face, across the kitchen table, seemed to blur in focus as he spoke, one of the few heroes of my youth seemed suddenly diminished, and I had to try very hard not to think of him as pathetic.

“Come on,” I said, “two hundred dollars a month? Where you gonna get the bread? You’ll have to give up eating.”

Beside Ted, long-suffering Earth Mother Doris had a glazed intense look in her usually-soft-brown eyes that seemed way out of character. The two of them, snug in the kitchen of their messy East Side pad, suddenly reminded me of something I wanted to forget: those six months when Anne and I and smack were a cozy little threesome.
Two hundred dollars a month. Where you gonna get the bread? You’ll have to give up eating. Memories

“Christ, that’s trivial, man,” Ted said with that old-time enthusiasm in his alive blue eyes. “Got my bike shop, gonna start painting again as soon as I can find the time, and Doris is making a hundred a week now. Fifty bucks a week between us is all it takes—look at it that way, Tom.”

“Anyone shelling out fifty a week for therapy
really
should have his head examined,” I said.

“Jeez, the Foundation isn’t just
therapy
,” Ted said, “it’s a complete way of life. Harvey’s really into something big.”

“I’ll bet he is. How many patients does he have?”

“Members,
not patients. It’s not that kind of thing.”

“Whatever,” I said. “How many?”

“Forty or fifty,” Doris suddenly said in her soft sure voice. Yeah, it figured she would know. Looked like Ted was sucking her into this bag the way Anne had sucked me into the smack bag; she seemed to be at the point where she was about to stop doing it for him and was about to get hung up on the thing itself. Maybe she
wanted
to hear me put it down.

“Lessee,” I said, “fifty suckers a month at a hundred a month per... is five thousand a month, sixty thousand a year. Yeah, I’d say old Harv is really into something big.”

“Shit, you’re thinking like a...” Ted caught himself short. Like a Great Dane puppy, Ted may have hurt a lot of people in the process of blindly doing his thing, but he never did it willingly, and there was guilt in his eyes for what he had been about to say. I smiled a genuine nonuptight smile because now I could afford it. That whole scene was over.

“Like a junkie,” I said. “It doesn’t uptight me—relax. Bet your ass I’m talking like a junkie—cause that’s where
you’re
at. This Harvey Brustein’s got you hooked on his Foundation for Total Consciousness junk—and it seems like a pretty heavy habit, money-wise.”

“Bull-shit,
man! You’re just putting it down because you’re only half-conscious like everybody else.
That’s
what Harvey’s into. Total Psychotherapy isn’t just something to make you not sick, it’s the only way to wake up into Total Consciousness.”

“I’ve heard that crap before,” I said. “From various junkies. From Anne. Even from myself.”

“Well sure! Junkies are looking for Total Consciousness too, just like everyone else deep inside. Difference is, heroin is the wrong place to look and the Foundation is the right place, is all.”

I knew it was pointless to argue. Ted was sucked totally inside this latest bag, the way he had been sucked into Orgonomy, Macrobiotics, Scientology, Health Foods, Nudism, one total answer after another, always looking for the master key that would open all the doors. When I was nineteen and Ted was twenty-three, it mystified me. Ted had been everything that I wanted to be: tall, blond, built like a blacksmith when I was thin and wiry and medium-everything; had more chicks than he could handle (was even cheating on his second wife with his first); could write a little, paint a little, had a way with machinery, could play guitar and drums; was a center of the action in the circles we both moved in in the Village. So why should a cat who had everything going for him up front always be searching for some Cosmic All to give him what he had in the first place?

“Look, Tom,” Doris said, “the Foundation is having an open party Friday night. Why don’t you come with us and see for yourself?”

“A party in a looney-bin?”

“Christ, come on man, it’s not just a
party,”
Ted said. “Harvey’s gonna give one of his lectures. It’ll turn your life around. And there’ll be chicks and beer and it’s free.”

Come on kid, I thought, the first one’s on the house. It always is. The first one is.

“Please,” Doris said, and I thought I heard something plaintive in it. Doris always had a funny thing for me I could never quite figure out, not even sexual really, more like she sensed I felt a spectrum of vibes Ted was blind to. Maybe she wanted to be saved, maybe she wanted to see me put down this Harvey cat in the grand manner. Maybe if I could turn her off it, she could wake Ted up. She’d done it before.

“Okay,” I said. Maybe I
was
doing it for Doris. Maybe I was doing it for Ted. Maybe I could pick up a chick there who was looking for an answer and would find a better one in me than in Harvey Brustein—things were awfully dull lately.

Yeah, and maybe it was the challenge, too. I had been a strange junkie when I was a junkie and I was a strange ex-junkie too—never been so far into a bag that I pulled the hole in after me. When I finally decided I had had it with smack, I just threw Anne out on her ass and quit cold. A few days’ agony and it was all over. I could do it because I
knew
could do it. So maybe when this Foundation-junk was waved under my nose, I had to dare a taste or wonder whether I was hungup in the ex-junkie bag—and heavy antismack is junk too, as you’ll know if you ever meet any Synanon types.

Or maybe I was looking for a different brand of junk, like Ted. It comes in all shapes and sizes.

 

It was one of those stinking-cold New York November nights that make you want to find a warm hole and crawl into it. Walking in the dingy east Twenties with Ted and Doris, hunched forward in my toggle-coat, shivering, wanting only to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, was all too much like other nights, with Anne, the whole slimy make-the-connection scene, shivers, damp, and all the talk about the score to come. Always smack, smack, smack—we ate it and slept it and talked about nothing else. Sometimes I think it wasn’t any real strength of character that finally made me chuck the whole thing, but just the endless hassling and shivering and waiting and the sheer stupid boredom—with Anne and pushers and junkies with their endless junk-talk.

And now I was getting the same scam from Ted and only the name of the junk was different: “Man, really into something... no phonies... you can feel it, how the people who’ve been around longer are really into it... really lay it on you... Total Consciousness... Harvey says... where it’s really at...”

Just a cold, shivering, going-to-meet-the-Man drag. Endless dank streets and endless junkie gibbering. Put me back in the last place in the world I wanted to be. Total Consciousness, ultimate reality—crap! Any junkie knows where all that ultimate reality shit is at: like death is the ultimate reality and when your nerves are scraped raw coming down off junk, you can’t help remembering that and the only thing that’ll let you forget it is more junk. And it comes in all shapes and sizes.

So it was really a relief when we stopped outside an old loft building with a small-but-fancy brass plate beside a plain metal door that said
Foundation for Total Consciousness.
Ted pressed a buzzer set into the doorframe, there was a hesitation, then the doorlock buzzed back and Ted pushed the door open. System designed to keep undesirable terminal junkies from flopping in the hallway, dig?

Up a long flight of stairs, getting warmer as we ascended, and party-noises drifting down the stairwell from the open door at the second floor landing, almost as if old Harv had planned it that way. Ted led us out of the cold and into the warm like a trapper stomping into the Malamute Saloon.

Into a long, narrow, dimly-lit hallway lined with closed doors, and way down at the far end, yellow light and the vibes of a big room filled with people.

Suddenly a woman emerged from behind one of the doors (sounds of plumbing in action, must’ve been the john); maybe forty or so, nothing figure in a schoolteacher dress, black hair in a bun, a face like your Aunt Clara.

“Ted!” she shouted, gave him a big hug, grabbed for his crotch—but so uptight you knew she would’ve fainted if Ted hadn’t moved aside and made her hand close on air. But you knew Ted
would
step aside like the whole thing was choreographed.

“Ida, you dirty old nympho, you!” Ted made a grab for her ass, which, of course, also missed its mark.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen! I thought, looking sidewise at Doris who had stuck with Ted through endless
real
numbers like this which had ended up with Ted off somewhere balling the lady in question. Doris, though, was smiling like a smug female Buddha, sensing that this was just a walk-through, a castrated, let-hubby-have-his-little-fantasy scene. Doris was secure. I suppose it should have been groovy—but it was more like something had died.

“Ida, this is Tom Hollander,” Ted said. “A friend of mine from way back.”

“Welcome to the Foundation,” Ida said. “If you’re an old friend of Ted’s, you can see what a difference the Foundation has made even better than we can. I hope you’ll
... dig the scene.”

I choked back something nastier, said: “Main thing I figure I’ll
dig
is the free beer.”

Ida grimaced, scandalized. Ted gave me a vaguely dirty look. Doris seemed to be making an effort not to be amused.

“Harvey isn’t here yet,” Ida said, deciding to ignore the heathen. It figured. The Man is never on time.

 

I must admit that the big room at the far end of the hall was kind of cozy. Very floor-oriented: a scattering of folding chairs, a table at one end with a lot of beer cans and a bowl of potato chips on it, musty yellow light from a ceiling fixture, a low dais against the far wall with a single folding chair on it looking like an empty throne, the floor and the dais completely covered with dusty-beige institutional carpeting.

It was pretty crowded, people sprawled on the floor or standing around in clots, something over thirty altogether. An odd assortment of loser types: City College cats in clean Levis and skirts and peasant blouses; East Villagers in raunchier editions of the same suit; chicks in mumus; some middle-aged housefraus; one token Black in an Ivy League suit; seedy semi-Madison Avenue types; a hawk-faced biddy in a too-sexy black velvet dress; a red-nosed Irishman in a shiny blue suit with cuffs on the pants. Like that. An uptight, Subway kind of crowd.

Ted stomped into all this—in his red-checked lumberjack shirt, straight blond hair, black chinos and combat boots—a big smiling figure larger than life, drawing people into his wake like a whirlpool, thumping guys on the back, hugging chicks: a typical Ted Clayton party entrance. But there was something...
off
about it. The kind of parties we used to make in the old days were open-house, bring-your-own-bottle-or-grass, drum-thumping unfoldings of the infinitely possible; this was a turned-inward, closed, almost family kind of scene and the back-slapping, girl-hugging, grinning stuff that used to come off as someone vital making a grand entrance seemed like the arrival of Good Old Uncle Charlie. Instant turn-off.

Then faces and names in a meaningless blur as Ted introduced me around—”Mike O’Brien” (the Irishman in the out of date suit), “Hilda Something-or-other” (the creature in the velvet dress), “George Blum” (an average professional student), “Myra” (a blond that might’ve been interesting if she sweated off about twenty pounds of blubber and did something about her acne)—and then Ted was off sitting on the floor near the dais engaged in some silly-ass conversation about somebody named Rhoda’s penis-envy.

BOOK: The Children of Hamelin
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