The Cauldron

[Again, these boyish efforts are unlikely to be of interest to the casual reader.]

The letter writer in this issue became your humble webnecromancer's first steady girlfriend; Karl was already going steady with a certain Bobbie Wheeler. In fact, my reputation at Central High was so bad it proved wise to date only girls from other high schools who'd only heard vague rumors about the boy who slept in a coffin. As I've remarked elsewhere, it took a certain amount of guts for Karl to openly associate with me at Central. But then, he was one of the first American students of the then little known art of ka-ra-te.

The remarks herein about our president Ernie Chile's shyness were intended as irony; in fact we felt, no doubt unfairly, that his self-condence bordered on narcissim. The reference to beer was a joke; we were far too young for our advisor/chaperone Ben Sparks to allow us to drink. However...*


The Cauldron

Vol 1, #5 Cauldron1_2

*...this reminds me of a funny incident at a party a couple of years later with Libby and others we'd met through her and the KJAS. Still too young to drink legally Karl and I decided the time had come to spike the punch. Since we couldn't legally buy liquor we drove to the black district of downtown Knoxville, determined to find someone desperate enough to buy liquor for us for a few coins. This was a long time ago, but our notion of the price of crime was hopelessly naive, even for that day. We drove to a liquor store in an area just east of the city's retail district, on a street named Vine avenue. (In fact, just down the hill from the liquor store there on the South side of Vine was the spot where, back in 1918, an angry crowd of blacks, determined to rescue a prominent member of their community from the Knoxville jail and a feared lynching, had confronted the national guard. The guard's young lieutentant had stepped to the front of his men and warned the advancing crowd to halt or they'd be gunned down. Fearlessly the crowd surged forward and the young man had turned to his men and ordered them to open fire. Apparently, the guard not instructed their officers as to the wisdom of giving the command to fire from behind your troops.) Segregation was still very much a reality in the South and, as we stood there, fresh-faced kids in our new blazers (mine shop-lifted), we realized how out of place we were in that section. As we looked about for someone desperate to earn four bits, a brand new Lincoln pulled to the curb and a tall black man dressed in what appeared to be a tailor-made suit stepped out. We approached him. "Pardon me, my good man; would you be interested in earning fifty cents?"

Fortunately for us the fellow was a good sport and, with a chuckle, suggested we try across the street at the pool hall. The fact that we really didn't belong there became even more obvious when we stepped into the pool hall and all the ribaldry, the cursing and the clatter of pool balls abruptly stopped. Every eye in the place was turned toward us. Karl adopted the strategy of nervously reaching inside his jacket from time to time, hoping the glimpses of his leather eyeglass case would be mistaken for a shoulder holster. One of the patrons approached us and asked us what we were looking for, and, with a sang-froid and a jaded sophistication that were not entirely genuine, we asked him if he would be so kind as to procure for us a half-pint of cherry vodka. We gave him a fiver and stood just inside the doors of the pool hall while he went on his way. The pool-players soon returned to their games, ignoring us.

We lost sight of our hireling and , after several minutes, it began to dawn on us: what's to keep him from just keeping our money and going his way? Just as we'd decided that's exactly what he'd done, and that humanity was more debased than our already cynical young minds had acknowledged, the gentleman returned with our bottle of cherry vodka. Whether we paid him the promised fifty cents or upped his reward to the full eighty cents or so he got in change I don't recall. But I don't think he was doing it for the money. Thanks, pal, wherever you are.

I don't know how much effect a half-pint of cherry vodka had diluted with a gallon or two of fruit punch, but the girls, I'm sure, knew what we'd done, and that gave them an excuse to pretend to be tipsy, which was just as good.