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The Streamlined Locomotive

The Streamlined Locomotive

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The Streamlined Locomotive

Longueur:
266 pages
4 heures
Sortie:
Nov 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781644621011
Format:
Livre

Description

The main character, Theopolis P. Bezelbottom, is the scion of a wealthy family of old-fashioned robber barons and leaders of industry. Theo just wants to live an indolent, irresponsible existence, doing as little as possible to maintain his common-law wife, children, and girlfriends in an easygoing life. He expects to inherit the main part of one of the major railroads of the country as well as control of Hawgwaller, an entire county in Appalachia, and he is trying to keep his position while doing the least amount of work. However, the patriarch and boss of the family, Uncle Throckmorton P. Bezelbottom, who controls everything, now expects Theo to take on active responsibility, and his uncle Aloysius P. Bezelbottom fully expects Theo to come up with a streamlined steam engine for the two-bit third-rate feeder railroad the county operates. Theo knows that he will lose his comfortable position in the family unless he succeeds in all the tasks he is now expected to perform. If he does not perform, he lose his wealth and favored position in the family and be drafted into the army just as World War II is about to break out.

Sortie:
Nov 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781644621011
Format:
Livre

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The Streamlined Locomotive - Stephen Lloyd Auslender

The Streamlined Locomotive

Stephen Lloyd Auslender

Copyright © 2020 Stephen Lloyd Auslender

All rights reserved

First Edition

PAGE PUBLISHING, INC.

Conneaut Lake, PA

First originally published by Page Publishing 2020

ISBN 978-1-64462-100-4 (pbk)

ISBN 978-1-64462-101-1 (digital)

Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteeen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

This book is dedicated to

my wife and children,

who have supplied me with many years of love, amusement, joy, and frustration

as is normal with any family

and

Carolee Ross,

my editor and my most enthusiastic supporter in this writing activity.

Chapter One

Foomph!

The flare burst over the sports field, casting a strange white glow over everything and everybody in the arena.

I remember it well because fireworks were kind of hard to come by in early 1942, even in this young part of the war. With the United States finally in the war, the Federal government was buying up all they could find. So the boss, Aloysius P. Bezelbottom, himself, made a phone call and got the local army training unit to appear at the ceremony and supply the fireworks.

The boss, or Aloysius, as he preferred to be called, had those kinds of connections. He had a lot of influence in the county, being the president of Hawgwaller County’s major industry, the Hawgwaller and Western Railroad Company Inc.

Thus, he could order a holiday for this celebration to introduce his latest brainchild, a streamlined locomotive with a matching passenger train.

The Hawgwaller and Western was a small railroad, servicing the coal mines and oil fields in the state. It acted as a feeder for the major railroads that passed though the state on their important way to the industrial centers and major cities of the Northeast United States.

Wholly owned by the Chicago, Pacific, and Eastern Railroad, one of the major railroads in the United States, the H & W was hidden away in Hawgwaller County, a hard to find area in the middle of Appalachia. But the CP & E was a very visible enterprise, ranging over the entire United States from the East coast through Chicago and on to the West Coast.

The Chicago, Pacific, and Eastern Railroad was a family business, owned by the Bezelbottom clan. The patriarch of the clan, Throckmorton P. Bezelbottom, was also the president and manager of the railroad and all its subsidiaries.

There had been a Throckmorton P. Bezelbottom and an Aloysius P. Bezelbottom for many generations. For some reason, the family took the brightest, most determined, ambitious, and most importantly, ruthless character in the family and trained him to be the head of the clan. When the current leader of the clan passed away, the younger one in training changed his name to Throckmorton and took his place in the panoply of giants and rapscallions in the American business scene.

Interestingly enough, the male of the family who, although he was just as intelligent as the Throckmorton, was the least able to make his way in the world also took on another name. He who was the dreamer, the artist of the clan, the ne’er-do-well, was assigned the name Aloysius and was placed in an isolated area of the United States, in charge of a marginal railroad and industry and allowed to play out his dreams.

The rest of the family were allowed to keep their given names and find their own way in the world, if they so chose, backed up by the Throckmorton fortune and influence. Others, if they wished, were allowed to take positions within the family business, as per their talents and desires.

However, those who were a bit too rebellious or free thinking were assigned special places in the Bezelbottom world. This was where I came in. I am Theo P. Bezelbottom. Theo is short for Theopolis, but it is easier to get on in the world with my name being just Theo. As I grew up in Chicago, the family evaluated me and, considering the notoriety and expenses I incurred by my free and irresponsible behavior, assigned to me the career of being my uncle Aloysius’s assistant and sort-of keeper.

They explained that my duties were to keep Aloysius out of trouble as much as possible. I also had to repair and cover over as many of my uncle’s gaffs, errors, and outright crazy plans and ideas as possible. I was also to see that the company would not lose too much money in the funding of Aloysius’s crackpot ideas. But mainly, I was to be the efficient doer and expediter partner of Aloysius. The boss was allowed to dream and create, and I was there to see that they were carried out with the least amount of damage and, if at all possible, to actually earn a profit for the family.

There ran through the family a streak of rebelliousness, a very basic, albeit childish notion, that life should be play as well as work. Play involves fantasy and is valued for two aspects, the sheer pleasure that is to be derived in the act of playing and the freeing of one’s imagination that play enhances. In a business sense, play frees the mind to see alternate possibilities in life. This enables the more business-minded and practical (read that as ruthless) characters in the family, those that run the companies, for example, to see new ways of making and running successful ventures. Throckmorton was the best suited to the ruthless businessman role in the family.

The acceptance of the play aspect of the human being is what drives the characters who direct the family to value and nurture the other extreme example of the play trait. Thus, we had Aloysius, who was as imaginative and intelligent as Throckmorton but lacked the essential ruthless streak that made a leader of industry successful.

However, some of the crackpot ideas that Aloysius came up with had been taken over by the practical leaders of the family and turned into money-making operations. Also, the projects that ultimately failed simply served as tax losses for the family accountants. Either way, Aloysius paid his own keep!

Then we had characters like me, Theo, who was there to see that the more extreme of Aloysius’s projects would not bankrupt the family.

In this capacity, I was the second-in-command of the H & W Railroad itself and all the family owned industries in Hawgwaller County. At first, nobody really took me seriously. All the departments of the industry were run by very responsible, hardworking, rather serious managers and they all knew what I was supposed to be doing so they humored me. I was hidden away in the table of organization. I like to think it was because I could learn more about what was really happening as a sort of free agent, but it was because they trusted me and my judgments just about as much as they trusted Aloysius’s. Except I was not the dreamer; he was, so I was a bit more responsible.

In a way, it suited me. I was really a rather lazy coward and wanted only to live a nice, safe, easy life, play with my children, sleep with various beautiful women, and die in bed after I passed the age of eighty. I did not mind solving small problems and conflicts that arose in my work; they made life interesting. But I did not want to have to make really important decisions. I was scared of any real responsibility. So I was satisfied with my life here in Hawgwaller.

When assigned this post, I asked why, if I was such an irresponsible character, I would be assigned the responsible position of watching over Uncle Aloysius. Uncle Throckmorton explained that by earning my doctorate at Yale University, I had demonstrated that I could act responsibly if I wished to do so. Thus, it was thought that there was hope for me and that I deserved a chance to develop my sober, functional traits. Perhaps I could grow into a more responsible member in the clan and finally take a higher position in the hierarchy.

I thought about this for a whole ten seconds and then agreed to accept whatever challenges they assigned to me. By this time, I was getting older and was growing tired of my own childish horseplay. Besides, I knew very well which side of my bread was buttered, and I had no intention of throwing away my soft life.

I once inquired of Uncle Throckmorton why we kept Aloysius in a position of power, limited as it was, where he needed a nursemaid like me. Throckmorton looked down at me, straightened his back, lowered his voice an octave or two, and proclaimed, It is a family tradition. The family has to take care of all members of the clan, especially those who are as inept as Aloysius.

Besides, I added, his losses were a very good tax dodge and have saved the family many millions each year.

Throckmorton deflated a bit, looked down at me, smiled, and said, Your impertinence, as well as your efficiency, intelligence, common sense, and perspicacity, makes you the perfect candidate to be Aloysius’s majordomo.

So I was asked to give up my home in Chicago and my penthouse apartment in New York City and move, lock stock, and barrel to Hawgwaller. I did not lose anything in creature comforts by this move as I had the use of the smaller of the two family-owned antebellum mansions in Hawgwaller. Aloysius and his family lived in the larger manse, and I had all the perks of being second in charge of a real, operating railroad. Still, it was quite a comedown from the fast life and sinful though elegant joys of Manhattan and Chicago.

My sort-of wife, PeggyMaeSue, had had enough of my philandering and took this change as an opportunity to leave me. She had installed herself, our children, and her mother and servants in my antebellum mansion. That wasn’t all that bad as we parted as good friends and we could get together with the kids whenever we needed to act as a family. My irregular schedule as general factotum gave me a freedom of movement and time scheduling, so I was able to be a father, of sorts, at least two days a week, sometimes more often when needed. As the second highest official of the H&W RR, I moved into the penthouse apartment in the Hawgwaller Towers, the tallest office building in Hawgwaller. That wasn’t saying much as it was the only office building in the entire county.

No, I did not spend much time there as I had my own little house that I had purchased with some of the money from the sale of my Chicago house. My new home was located on the edge of town. I valued my privacy.

My best friends in Hawgwaller, JJ Johnson and BillyBobBob, and I were discussing my philandering one day while we were on JJ’s back porch, sitting on the swings and drinking homemade corn likker.

I was saying, It’s not my fault. Women, for some strange reason, are attracted to me. I do not understand it. I’m a normal-looking guy, maybe five feet eight inches tall, slender but with a small paunch developing for lack of exercise. Medium complexion, black hair, black eyes, I look like most everyone else around here. Except for the long sideburns some of the young guys wear and the long beards the older men all sport, I look like just about every other male in hill people’s country. At that, you and I could almost pass for brothers. Of course, our friend BillyBobBob here has taken up with a wife that is too good of a cook, and he is fattening up like we get a turkey ready for Thanksgiving.

BillyBobBob started to protest, but JJ interrupted.

Theo, you are different from the rest of us clod hoppers. I’ve been watching you, and when you talk to a woman, you actually listen to her. You act as if you cared what she is saying. That, plus the fact that you are wealthy and educated and are a high executive in the railroad make you prime meat on the hoof to the ladies of this county.

Well, yes, I replied, women do interest me. They are so different from us men. They think differently than we do. They come to different conclusions than men when faced with the same set of circumstances. They seem to have a different set of values. Also, they are always changing everything. They change the furniture. They change their entire look with different clothes, makeup, and hairdo, whatever. But we men are resistant to change. So all we can do is sit there when the women express their frustration at our inability to alter who we are to meet their new expectations.

Yeah, Theo, you said a mouthful, replied JJ. Then our wives get so mad and frustrated with us that they turn off the sex. Next, to add insult to injury, they get mad when we go out to get some loving from some other woman. Our wives attracted us with their loving, and then they wonder why we keep insisting on more after we live with them through a bunch of years and children.

BillyBobBob was the most philosophical of us when he sighed and said, Oh, just pass me the jug. You fellers think too much.

Anyway, I digress. When the festivities started with the discharge of the first flare, I was sitting at a table in the Posh Room, the rooftop restaurant of Hawgwaller’s largest hotel, the noted Hotel de la Swank. When Aloysius had this grandiose monument to elegant high culture built, he had absorbed all the superficial upper-crust terms of the roaring twenties. Also, his stint in the army in World War I in France gave him an appreciation of the French language and all its clichés. On occasion he had used all the trite terms of these two eras to name certain trains, buildings, airliners, and other sundry things.

The railroad’s workers and the townsfolk were all at the arena this afternoon to witness the appearance of this streamlined locomotive and its train. The upper-middle-class folk of the county and railroad were up here in the Posh Room for the festivities.

With me this festive afternoon were PeggyMaeSue, her current fiancé, JimmyBobJoeRoy Jr., and the lady whose bed I had been but was no longer sharing, SarahMatilda Mayfair.

Sarah, who had once considered us to be engaged and was now taking control of the life of another well-to-do male resident of the area, was remarking about the subject of the celebration, Hawgwaller & Western’s new and only streamlined locomotive.

Sarah declaimed, I just don’t understand how Hawgwaller can get a new streamlined locomotive during this war with all its restrictions on the use of war material. We are about to go to war, and it is our solemn duty to make do with what we have until the final victory over the forces of godless evil.

PeggyMaeSue just had to open her mouth and said, "I swear, SarahMatilda, you can make the simplest comment sound like a Sunday sermon. I know your papa is a preacher, but really, do you have to sound like him every time you say something?

SarahMatilda’s back straightened up a bit, which was surprising considering how she normally stood, sat, walked, and slept as if she had a broomstick stuck up her butt. SarahMatilda’s daddy was also a US Marine Corps chaplain, where he was addressed as the Cunnel. Both Sarah and her ramrod rigid father shared much in posture and narrow-minded attitude.

Theo, SarahMatilda said, turning her regal head toward me, how can you let that woman say such things to me, being as I, until recently, was your intended wife and bearer of your future children?

SarahMatilda, I replied, "I haven’t been able to tell PeggyMaeSue anything since she seduced me when we were both at the tender age of twelve. She has always run me the way she wanted, although I did not realize that until I was well into my teens, and by then, it was too late to change anything.

So when it comes to fighting with PeggyMaeSue, you are on your own.

SarahMatilda gasped, pulled her head back and up so she could look down her rather long nose at me, and said, Well, I never!

PeggyMaeSue then said, ever so sweetly, with the usual slight smile on her face, SarahMatilda, you never what? You have been milking boys’ manhoods since you were fourteen, and I know because I watched you and JimmyBobJoeRoy Junior here going at it back then in the organ loft of your daddy’s church while he was giving a sermon on the evils of fornication.

SarahMatilda’s face turned almost as red as JimmyBobJoeRoy Junior’s. He had turned as red as a beet and looked like he was going to explode or do something just as foolish.

SarahMatilda was putting on her angry look—how she could be haughty and angry at the same time was one of her more interesting traits. She turned to me and demanded, Are you going to do anything about this, this insult to me, your very own ex-betrothed, by this cheap hussy?

Unfortunately, by this time I was helpless with laughter. It was my silent laughing mode, where I could laugh as wildly as I wanted but make almost no noise—one of the social skills I developed under the tutelage of Uncle Throckmorton way back when. But physically, I was helpless, leaning back in the chair, my hands and arms just hanging down from my shoulders, my mouth wide open and tears running down my face.

My helpless position was taken advantage of by PeggyMaeSue, who had her shoeless right foot up in my crotch. Her toes were doing her thing to stimulate my manhood. When she heard the words cheap hussy, PeggyMaeSue gave an inadvertent jerk forward and upward with the heel of her foot and proceeded to verbally attack SarahMatilda. That inadvertent jerk brought real tears to my eyes as the pain registered over the laugher.

I’m a cheap hussy? PeggyMaeSue retorted with a rise in the level of her voice. How about you servicing that entire busload of draftees as they left town on their way to army training last week?

At the beginning of this battle between the two ladies, JimmyBobJoeRoy Junior started to protest. He started sputtering, but when he heard that last thing about SarahMatilda, he really turned red.

JimmyBobJoeRoy Junior tried to interrupt, raising his voice so he could be heard over the commotion the two genteel ladies were making, So that’s where you were at when we were supposed to try out my new mail-order French ticklers.

Since PeggyMaeSue was supposedly engaged to JimmyBobJoeRoy Junior, she turned in a fury toward the guileless boob and opened her mouth, but before she could get a word out, SarahMatilda took them both on and proclaimed, It was my sacred solemn duty as a patriotic, red-blooded American woman to support those wonderful, virile, young men who will soon be in mortal combat against the godless foe in Europe and Asia!

At this point I staggered up in a crouch and painfully made my way to the men’s room to get a cold wet towel to put on my painful family jewels. I really did like PeggyMaeSue, but loving and living with that person were two entirely different things. That beautiful young lady did tend to forget herself, and I usually ended up getting physically damaged in the process.

As I limped into the men’s room, I was greeted by Robert E. Lee Washington, the colored attendant, who greeted me with a cold, wet towel in his hand and a sympathetic smile on his face. There were five other fellows sprawled about with their trousers down and holding cold, wet towels in their swollen crotches.

Ah, sees yawl a commin’ in a limpin’, boss man, sos ah gots me a towel all a ready for yo. Yore PeggyMaeSue shore is a feisty filly, Yousah!

Oh, stop the darkie talk, Bob, and gimme that towel. As I gratefully applied the cold cloth to my family jewels, I looked over to him and said, How’s the doctoral dissertation going, Bob?

Robert replied, Like you predicted, Theo, the dissertation is the most difficult part. How did you know?

It was the main obstacle to my doctorate, I replied. But after enough rewrites, I wore them down and got mine. It’s simply an endurance contest, just don’t give up. I never tell anyone I have the degree, though. It ain’t nobody’s damn business. Let them think I’m just a stupid hick.

How many cereal box tops did you have to mail in to get that snazzy uniform, Theo? Robert asked with a smile on his face.

Don’t ask, Robert. It’s a long, involved story. I was not insulted by Robert’s attitude to my US Army colonel’s uniform. He and I had grown up together, although he was a few years the younger.

Robert had attended the local college in Hawgwaller at the railroad’s expense. Later we had supported him during his master’s degree work and, finally, for his doctorate at Harvard. The railroad, under the leadership of Uncle Aloysius, was quite forward-thinking in many respects. Paying for the education of its smarter residents, irrespective of color or religion, was one of uncle’s pet projects. But since I got my PhD at Yale, Robert and I would

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