Writings

Conversion in a Terminal Subway

By Steve Gerber
(Circa 1971)

Riding the bus with the proles had always been beneath him. He had been a man of power, of wealth, of fame. A potent political voice, standing firm against coddling criminals and criminal codicils. A tireless advocate of more and better, of onward and upward, of mom and pie. Yet now, mouth agape and knees wobbling, he hung from a strap on the Croondock Avenue bus and drooled into the lap of the lady on the seat below him.

This was Ernesto "Tycoon" Deroga.

His fall from power had been sudden, swift, and without ruth. One day, he owned a mammoth factory complex. The next day, he was a broke and broken man.

How did it happen? No one really knew. On that fateful next day, when he went to his factory, it wasn't there. The complex simply had vanished. Just one of those amazing things, you know?

Tycoon Deroga stared aghast at the barren lot where, the day before the next day, his factory had stood. First, he wept. Then he left.

Newspapers, magazines, and chatty grave diggers with time on their hands reveled in revilement of him. Deriding Deroga became a national sport.

Tycoon had once cut a dashing figure, but at the time no one blamed him. After all, the fleeing woman was attempting to steal his most military of industrial secrets. The police removed the knife from the female's shoulder and returned it to Tycoon Deroga with thanks for protecting the national security. Ha! He would never get away with that again, nosireebobalink!

He had become a drawn, pale shadow of the photographed, vibrant shadow he once had been. His perfect posture had degenerated into a constipated stoop. His steel grey eyes had begun to look rusty. Rusty his dog had died. His ebony hair was turning grey. His once mighty arms could now barely keep hold of his cane. Cain, his brother, had been disabled.

And to think -- all this had occurred within the span of one. The true dimensions of human frailty are mostly unknown to us.

And yet, even now, a determination was growing inside Deroga. He hoped it was benign, but it turned out to be malevolent. Ernesto Deroga suddenly swore revenge on the men who had tricked him, the men who had lied to him about his influence, the men who never told him you could wake up screaming from the American dream! He also vowed vengeance on the caterpillar that killed his dog.

Deroga stopped drooling in the old woman's lap. She thanked him as she got off the bus. Deroga cried. "Bus driver!" he cried. "Stop this streetcar and let me off!"

The bus driver slammed on the brakes, and the streetcar behind him did indeed stop. "Thank you, driver," Deroga said, handing him half a Dog Yummie. "I'll remember you for this!"

"Hey-yyy," said the driver, "ain't you -- ?"

"I am Ernesto 'Tycoon' Deroga!" the vengeful ex-industrialist proclaimed.

"Oh. I thought you was Eddie Frounew, a guy I went to school with."

Ernesto laughed a hearty laugh. The driver laughed a hearty laugh. Ernesto's laugh, however, was heartier than the driver's. The driver suddenly had a hearty tack. Ernesto shoved the driver out of his chair and onto the floor. "I'm driving now," screamed Ernesto. "I am taking this bus to the President, where it will do the most good!"

"What about the streetcar?" asked a passenger in the back of the bus.

Ernesto ignored him, saying, "I ignore you, you foul, impudent, cretin of an individual!" With that, Ernesto positioned himself in the driver's seat, took hold of the wheel, and cried, "El Presidente, today you!"

***

The functionator in the President's Offal Office played "Sweet Caroline" into the crawlspace, where, curled up in the feeble position and fearing abortion, the Prixident himself watched the Dallas Cowpokes poke away at the Green Bay Packards.

"Those damn Packards deserve it," the Paroxydent observed. "They never could build a decent automaton."

"Sir, the Buffalo Brills are whipping the Saint Cardinal Louises on PBS," advised a high government source.

"Why didn't you say so earlier?" The Praxident switched stations. "Umh, num," he murmured. "Look at those nice, long vinyl whips. This is my favorite Publicly Broadcast Sadism show...except the war."

"Yessir," the source divulged.

"Adviser, I want an orifice in my office. A leather orifice. Get me one. And don't give me no lip."

"Begging the presidential pardon, sir, but it has been divulged to me that Ernesto Deroga is on his way here now, sir, driving a bus, sir."

"Good! Now we can put Operation: Operation into operation. Is the operating room ready?"

"Ready, sir," the divulger advised.

"Excrement! You've done your work well! Now we must sit and wait patiently for our patient, Mr. Deroga."

"I might agree, sir," di the adverser vulged, "if not for the Wrath."

"Sweet Caroline" ended with an unexpected pizzicato. For a moment, the office was quiet, save for the occasional whine from some unmanly gridiron flagellant. As the Repsident considered his options, the functionator piped "All You Need is Wood" into the crawlspace.

The Prosthident stood up and faced his advisor squarely. From all four corners he asked, "Do you truly believe the Wrath can stand in my way?"

The adviser dodged the question. It caromed off a concave wall. "Mr. Prexo, your game on TV isn't over yet."

The Pregnadent quivered. "Oh, yes, that's right. The Buffalo Brills are still whipping the Saint Cardinal Louises...with leather...real leather!"

"It's vinyl, sir."

"It certainly is. The vinyl score is Brills, ten welts, Louises, two welts. The Brills always did suffer better, didn't they?"

"I'm not qualified to speak to that issue," advulged the diviser.

***

The functionator went silent as the Pepsodent turned off his televersion. The hot line phone rang. The adviser picked it up and screamed into it: "You filthy, dirty commies! Who gave you this number? We ain't gonna believe a word you say, anyway, so call somebody else, nerdsky, you got the epoxy!"

From the other end of the line, Premier Brashnoff spoke quietly. "Divulge yourself elsewhere, you capitalist swine. I want the President."

"You can't have him, commie rat-grab! The last time he slept with you he told me you wouldn't even kiss his left knee!"

"Die, vulge! Let me speak to him personally!"

The adviser hung up.

"Hung up again, adviser?" asked the Proxident.

"I sure am," divised the advulger. "But that's not important now. Now, we must worry about Deroga!"

At that very moment, the hijacked Croondock Avenue bus driven by the hate-crazed Ernesto "Tycoon" Deroga crashed prissily through the barriers epoxied around the executive mansion. Halfway across the lawn, another amazing thing happened. Suddenly, the bus disappeared from around Deroga's astonished body. He fell to the sod, and he shouted at the Prissident's office: "Come out here and fight like an ape, you creep thingo of vast ineptitude, and bring your shoe polish with you! I'll wipe your carcass all over the veranda, you rhythmic punk!"

The Pheasident smiled out the window. The adviser stood a long side from him. "Well, adviser, the Wrath is not yet upon him," said the Prex, unvexed.

"Yes. We shall proceed with Operation: Operation as planned." The adviser took a step back, tossed back his head, curled his hands into fists, and repeatedly thrust his arms forward and back for no reason. "Open the door!" the adviser yellowed into the multitude at his axe.

The Why House lawn yawned open under Deroga, and the vivid ex-financier fell onto an operating table in an underground operating room. A doctor looked down at him, answering his no question with but one word: "Transmogrification."

"Never!" cried Deroga. "You'll never do that on me!"

Suddenly, Ernesto's face turned orange. His eyes turned purple. His lips turned green. His head turned around. The doctor recoiled in horror. "It is the wrath!" the medic screamed. "Get me a pair of medical personnel! No, wait, it's cheaper to use one paramedic than two pair of medics. Get me both, quickly!" A nurse ran out of the operating theatre and into the movie theatre next door, where two pair of medical personnel and one paramedical person, Al, were watching Pandro Noschidt's new picture, A Smoking Hawk Never Dies Alone.

"Hurry!" she screeched. "The Wrath! The Wrath! We'll have to kill Deroga with wrath poison!"

All three jumped up and tore off Al's pants. Al didn't seem to mind. Then they all sat back down, curled their hands into fish, and repeatedly crossed their arms in front of their faces for no reason. The nurse rushed out of the movie theatre and tore into the operating room. The room made no attempt to defend itself.

But it was too late. Deroga met her at the tear and grabbed her. He swiftly, savagely removed her left beast, which was artificial.

"Why?" she moaned. "Why are you leaving me with just one?"

"So you can keep a beast of developments," he yelled viscously. "Now to either impeach or impugn the President, whichever comes first!"

Deroga ran upstairs to the Offal Office and stuck the left beast in the Pashadent's right eye. "Chew on that, epoxy!"

Deroga turned to the adviser, stooped, and drooled on his shoes. A drop fell on Deroga's own saddle oxfords. "Nutballs! That's why I wanted the shoe polish! Nevertheless, my revenge is compleat!"

"All You Need is Wood" ended with an unexpected mezzo-relievo. There was a moment of silence; then the functionator blasted "Sunshine of Your Epoxy" into the crawlspace.

"Well," vised the addivulger, "that's entertainment!"

 

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Text Copyright © 2001 Steve Gerber. All rights reserved.