« Michael T. Fournier, The Minutemen: Double Nickels On the Dime | Main | Not Fade Away »

"Are you going to be on our side?"

Another terrific Algren passage from The Last Carousel, this time from "I Guess You Fellows Just Don't Want Me." It's unclear whether the piece is a short story or personal anecdote, which is of course a moot point when the writing is this great.
Ipso's draftboard was a bit startled when he materialized at the induction center. Being three inches over six feet, weighing only 129 pounds, and the manner in which his head was set on his shoulders wouldn't have attracted special attention had it not been for the tiny American flag waving from the left lens of Ipso's tortoise-shell specs. The pin holding the frame had been lost; so Ipso had inserted the stem of the tiny flag to keep the glasses from falling off. Removing the flag from its stem would not only have been unpatriotic, Ipso explained, but would also constitute a felony.

All the inducting officer could think to ask was, "Are you going to be on our side?"

"I'd like to die for my country," Ipso announced, "but I have bad teeth."

"That's all right," the officer decided, having recovered from his first surprise, "we don't want you to bite the enemy."
I can just see the priceless look of incredulous disbelief on the officer's face when he first took sight of this goofball. This is certainly a varied collection, but one that I'm thoroughly enjoying.

January 8, 2010 in Books | Permalink

Comments