A Taste of Justice by John Reed

John Reed

A Taste of Justice

Published: The Masses, April, 1913  | via John Reed Internet Archive

As soon as the dark sets in, young girls begin to pass that Corner—squat figured, hard-faced “cheap” girls, like dusty little birds wrapped too tightly in their feathers. They come up Irving Place from Fourteenth Street, turn back toward Union Square on Sixteenth, stroll down Fifteenth (passing the Corner again) to Third Avenue, and so around—always drawn back to the Corner. By some mysterious magnetism, the Corner of Fifteenth Street and Irving Place fascinates them. Perhaps that particular spot means Adventure, or Fortune, or even Love. How did it come to have such significance? The men know that this is so; at night each shadow in the vicinity contains its derby hat, and a few bold spirits even stand in the full glare of the are-light. Brushing against them, luring with their swaying hips, whispering from immovable lips the shocking little intimacies that Business has borrowed from Love, the girls pass.

The place has its inevitable Cop. He follows the same general beat as the girls do, but at a slower, more majestic pace. It is his job to pretend that no such thing exists. This he does by keeping the girls perpetually walking—to create the illusion that they’re going somewhere. Society allows vice no rest. If women stood still, what would become of us all? When the Cop appears on the Corner, the women who are lingering there scatter like a shoal of fish; and until he moves on, they wait in the dark side streets. Suppose he caught one? “The Island for her! That’s the place they cut off girls’ hair!” But the policeman is a good sport. He employs no treachery, simply stands a moment, proudly twirling his club, and then moves down toward Fourteenth Street. It gives him an immense satisfaction to see the girls scatter.

His broad back retreats in the gloom, and the girls return—crossing and recrossing, passing and repassing with tireless feet.

Standing on that Corner, watching the little comedy, my ears were full of low whisperings and the soft scuff of their feet. They cursed at me, or guyed me, according to whether or not they had had any dinner. And then came the Cop.

His ponderous shoulders came rolling out of the gloom of Fifteenth Street, with the satisfied arrogance of an absolute monarch. Soundlessly the girls vanished, and the Corner contained but three living things: the hissing arc-light, the Cop, and myself.

He stood for a moment, juggling his club, and peering sullenly around. He seemed discontented about something; perhaps his conscience was troubling him. Then his eye fell on me, and he frowned.

“Move on!” he ordered, with an imperial jerk of the head.

“Why?” I asked.

“Never mind why. Because I say so. Come on now.” He moved slowly in my direction.

“I’m doing nothing,” said I. “I know of no law that prevents a citizen from standing on the corner, so long as he doesn’t hold up traffic.”

“Chop it!” rumbled the Cop, waving his club suggestively at me, “Now git along, or I’ll fan ye !”

I perceived a middle-aged man hurrying along with a bundle under his arm.

“Hold on,” I said; and then to the stranger, “I beg your pardon, but would you mind witnessing this business?”

“Sure,” he remarked cheerfully. “What’s the row?”

“I was standing inoffensively on this corner, when this officer ordered me to move on. I don’t see why I should move on. He says he’ll beat me with his club if I don’t. Now, I want you to witness that I am making no resistance. If I’ve been doing anything wrong, I demand that I be arrested and taken to the Night Court.” The Cop removed his helmet and scratched his head dubiously.

“That sounds reasonable.” The stranger grinned. “Want my name?”

But the Cop saw the grin. “Come on then,” he growled, taking me roughly by the arm. The stranger bade us good-night and departed, still grinning. The Cop and I went up Fifteenth Street, neither of us saying anything. I could see that he was troubled and considered letting me go. But he gritted his teeth and stubbornly proceeded.

We entered the dingy respectability of the Night Court, passed through a side corridor, and came to the door that gives onto the railed space where criminals stand before the Bench. The door was open, and I could see beyond the bar a thin scattering of people of the benches—sightseers, the morbidly curious, an old Jewess with a brown wig, waiting, waiting, with her eyes fixed upon the door through which prisoners appear. There were the usual few lights high in the lofty ceiling, the ugly, dark panelling of imitation mahogany that is meant to impress, and only succeeds in casting a gloom. It seems that Justice must always shun the light.

There was another prisoner before me, a slight, girlish figure that did not reach the shoulder of the policeman who held her arm. Her skirt was wrinkled and indiscriminate, and hung too closely about her hips; her shoes were cracked and too large; an enormous limp willow plume topped her off. The Judge lifted a black-robed arm—I could not hear what he said.

“Soliciting,” said the hoarse voice of the policeman, “Sixth Avenue near Twenty-third—-”

“Ten days on the Island—next case!”

The girl threw back her head and laughed insolently.

“You —” she shrilled, and laughed again. But the Cop thrust her violently before him, and they passed out at the other door.

And I went forward with her laughter still sounding in my ears.

The Judge was writing something on a piece of paper. Without looking up he snapped:

“What’s the charge, officer?”

“Resisting an officer,” said the Cop surlily. “I told him to move on an’ he says he wouldn’t—”

“Hum,” murmured the Judge abstractedly, still writing. “Wouldn’t, eh? Well, what have you got to say for yourself?”

I did not answer.

“Won’t talk, eh ? Well, I guess you get——”

Then he looked up, nodded, and smiled.

“Hello, Reed!” he said. He venomously regarded the Cop. “Next time you pull a friend of mine—” suggestively, he left the threat unfinished. Then to me, “Want to sit up on the Bench for a while?”


Transcribed: Sally Ryan for marxists.org in 2000

The movie Reds is about John Reed:

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Shatnerquake, Shatner on Shatner Action

Jeff Burk’s Shatnerquake is the finest story ever told containing multiple William Shatners. Lesser authors have been shackled before now with writing only one role for Shatner. This is understandable, in the field of television and film, for logistical reasons. However, this has never been the case in the literary realm and Burk has led the way here with both great panache and bloodletting.

Unsatisfied with a single Shatner, Burk here provides a wall of Shatners. A smorgasbord of Shatners. Indeed, every possible variation of Shatner is set upon onlookers, each other, and the reader. No one is safe, let alone Shatner.

While some people have, in the past, mocked Shatner, deriding his skill as a thespian, song stylist, or margarine spokesman, Burk has shown that the problem has never been one of too much Shatner, rather too little. Free of casting limitations the literary form allows for full Shatner on Shatner action. At last Shatner is presented on a level playing field, where characters are of the same caliber.

With Shatnerquake, Burk has solved the Shatner dilema, which has plagued man since 1951, and he shall be remembered forever for this.

Denny Crane!

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Questions About Cake

by David Raffin | from Rhyme or Treason (hard fought illusion of choice) 

Why are there no funeral cakes anymore? Why is this event not commoditized by the baker’s guild?

Cake is a standard at every other event. Did bakers find it was unwelcome to price gouge on the cake served at a funeral? When funeral cake was discontinued did the price of wedding cake rise?

I understand the Amish still serve funeral cake. They are set in their ways. They still mix it by hand. They make it themselves, bypassing the commercial bakeries altogether.

Was the cake discontinued for lack of choice? Did the mourned get to choose the color, shape, and flavor—stipulating such in a will or codicil, or were these choices thrust upon the mourned by a powerful subset of the mourners? Did someone finally wise up and say, “Who died and made you God?”

Did funeral cake enter disfavor when it was linked, intrinsically, with culinary fascism? Did Mussolini have a funeral cake? Was there enough for everybody? Is that what sullied its reputation the world over?

When Marie Antoinette famously said, “Let them eat cake!” was she talking about her funeral?

My research indicates that funeral cakes may have been somewhat akin to giant cookies. Presumably because it was disrespectful to let the flour rise.

What about funeral pie?

Are cream pies somber enough? Fruit? Pecan?

What about a funeral pudding?

Funeral cotton candy? Made at the funeral in a funeral cotton candy machine?

What about fondue? Which is more appropriate? Cheese, chocolate, coconut, honey, caramel, or marshmallow? Again, who will choose?

Milton Snavely Hershey’s body was dipped in chocolate, then caramel, then rolled in coconut. However, there was no dessert served at the reception. He forgot to leave his dessert instructions.

This is not the sort of thing people like to think about. That’s why people die without wills. That’s why people die with wills but failing to stipulate their final dessert wishes.

Today if you attend a funeral and you want cake you are best advised to keep it to yourself. If you stand and say, “Hey, where’s the cake!” people will think less of you.

Do not even think of sidestepping the problem by bringing a cake to the funeral. People may cry.

You don’t want to be known as the one who ruined the funeral.

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A David Raffin Sampler is also a free download at http://davidraffin.com

Current Work in Progress Excerpt

It was nice in the clouds. But for the ear-splitting din. That terrible din. The sound of a horn resounding. Unrehearsed.

An angel approached another.

“Did you blow the vuvuzela horn?” asked the approaching angel.

“Not I!” said the angel holding the vuvuzela horn.

“You know if the horn blows it’s the beginning of the end.”

“How well I know! It’s a big thing to blow the horn. And you can’t practice because you can’t blow the horn. It’s so aggravating.”

“You blew the vuvuzela horn, didn’t you?”

“I did not. All I’m saying is, what will an unrehearsed horn do? No one really knows.”

“It will be the end of all things.”

“No, it will be the beginning of the end of all things. Who knows what form that will take?”

“I heard that horn blow.”

“We’re wasting a lot of time standing here arguing about who blew what.”

The approaching angel just stared at the other angel, who was still holding the horn.

“For the last time, I didn’t blow it.”


Scenic Cesspools

My book “Scenic Cesspools & other indignities” came out May 1.

Scenic Cesspools

Scenic Cesspools

Scenic Cesspools is a tragi-comedy about work. With just enough time travel. And a bucket of grease which has something to do with free will.
Possibly everything.

Scenic Cesspools is the story of a kid who is pulled into his high school disciplinary office to be chastised for achieving some of the highest test scores in the school while still managing to almost flunk out. Upon graduation, there is nothing left but to venture into the workforce.

Working at a paper mill he discovers the industrial site is an alien landscape filled with green noxious liquids, held in open surface containers, outgassing into the atmosphere. It’s a place where death is as close as a misstep and the air smells a little like poison every day.

He learns that sales is a religion. A religion based on morning motivational meetings, chanting, and believing. If you are “money motivated” all you need do… is believe.

Leasing low income housing is difficult when your supervisors dislike poor people. Especially when they hate deaf people, because “deaf people make trouble.”

He learns there is nothing like selling flowers on the street from the back of a pickup; except selling perfume on the street from a cardboard box, or working for Ralph Nader.

Characters float in and out, sometimes challenging perceptions of time. They are obsessed with nuclear war in Vietnam, sex, Canadians, and unearned heroism.

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