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The Bloodshot Eye

Cabbages & Kings

By Harry K. Schwartz

There were three, maybe four people at the bar. The booths were empty, except for one where an old man sat, sipping beer and talking occasionally to an even older colored woman in the chair beside him. The bartender, a balding man with a limp and a hearing aid, rested his back against the counter, his eyes fixed on the television set in the far corner of the room. From time to time he would pick up an empty beer glass and fill it from the tap marked Kruger. The bar was speckled with little pools of beer and small change, mostly dimes and quarters. Nobody was talking.

Mister Chairman. Now, Mister Chairman. Can I please have the Chair's attention. Mister Chairman . . .

"Mistah Chairman, Mistah Chairman." A red-faced man in work overalls was mimicing with a screechy, beery voice. The colored woman turned to him, then turned back to the television set.

"I tell ya, it don't amount to nothin', nothin'," she said.

I think this is a very important matter, Mister Chairman, and it seems to me that if we permit this kind of obstructionism, if we allow Communists, and Fifth Amendment Communists, Mister Chairman . . .

"McCarthy's a liar. They're all liars. They oughtta hang 'em all." It was the mimicer talking. "That Welsh now. He's from Boston, but he's no good. A Republican, that's what he is."

The Chair will recognize his colleague from Arkansas . . .

"He's against McCarthy, the one with the glasses." The bartender had leaned across the bar and was whispering confidentially to a bloated looking man in a felt hat.

"It don't sound like it."

"He is. Not now. But I been watching him, and he is. 'Nother one, Deacon?" he called over to the old man in the booth.

"Sure. Ya know, I'm pretty drunk. I been sitten' here all day drinkin' beer, but I still ain't as drunk as him."

The Deacon pointed an unsteady finger at the flickering face of Senator John J. McClellan (D-Ark.) on the television screen. He turned to the old woman beside him.

"They're all doin' it for the money. I'm gonna be eighty-three years old next Friday and I got connections with the government, and they're all in it for the money. That one with the glasses, see 'im, scratchin' himself, he's makin' a lot of money. Notice the way he talks so slow."

"Shut up Deacon, you're drunk." The mimic was at him.

"Maybe so, but I ain't so drunk I can't see what's goin' on. They're tryin' to fool the American people. That's what Barnum said, the American people likes to be fooled. Can't trust anything you read in the newspapers, all printed upside down. Them words they're usin', that's just to confuse people. Why in hell can't they say it in English?"

Three of the stools pivoted away from the television set towards the Deacon. Sensing the power of his eloquence, he lowered his voice, became secretive, toying with his audience.

"It's costin' a lot of money, you know. I got it on the grape vine, I got friends in the government, they're gonna take off the hearings in a couple days."

The bartender broke in. "There's the kid!"

"Kid? Who?"

"Kennedy. See there, behind . . . He was right back there."

"That's Cohn. He ain't no Kennedy. What a greasy looking . . ."

"No, not him. Don't you think I can tell?"

Now I will ask you whether or not you can tell this committee the date on which . . .

The old colored woman tottered to the bar, an empty shot glass in her hand. "It don't amount to nothin'," she said.

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