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Under Hellsong Pipes
Act 6: Tyke of the Orphan Pipes
© 2023 James LaFond
Dusk, Caesarsday, Second Day of Sepulcher
“What in ‘ell, a giant at the gate lettin’ in an art school o’ Japs?” mumbled Tyke, eight years old now and a full lad. Intent on carrying his weight in this battle—and battle it was as Crimp Pipe could be heard gurgling out his life below while Tim Pipe, their herald, did not disappoint and insulted the foe up and down the bawdish list of insultry until he groaned low as something crunched, them moaned far and away as something smashed and finally cursed, “Fuggin’ Scot Mop!”
Then something snapped and the two ready gatemen had been silenced.
Check bawled: “Bigs at ‘im! Twigs o’er ‘im!! Gigs away!!!” [1]
Check raced down the make shift wire and slat stairs, from pallet to pallet. A pot crashed on a grunting thing beneath them and it roared, a brick heaving up past Tyke as he looked down, crashing through a slat, and mashing in the face of Plug Twig, who had dropped the heavy pot of nails and now pitched down after it, crashing through the slat rail across from Tyke, getting hung up by the arm, dangling, then the hand coming off, falling to a crippling landing, a landing which crushed a little Jap sketch artist below.
A flame lit in Tyke, “I’ll butcher that bull o’ bully men!”
“No you won’t,” snarled Check, who reached into an emergency slot box in the brick work and handed Tyke an oiled leather pouch. Tyke took the pouch and looked at Check who answered, “Darts—Big Gig ‘ill hold ‘im en we race ahead to Horseshoe Alley.”
They did so, traveling across the second floor, that first level of pallets which had drop wire ladders between every second and third wire suspended pallet.
Gigs were scrambling for the roof.
Twigs were dodging above and behind the intruder, hurling stuff down on him, slowing his progress.
Bigs were racing ahead gathering at the end of the alley.
Only one Big dropped down, ten pallets in: Big Gig. Big was bigger than a man but had the mind of a Gig, or rather a slow boy of 7 to Tyke’s fast mind of 8. Gig was called “retarded” by those uppity ups of the boss-minding kind who thought a person was born to the world to learn from it rather than to be taken from it. Even bigger than a man, Gig was the Thunder of Pipes, wielded a four foot long steel, not mere iron, pipe of two inches width, what the foundry bosses kept their steel doors barred with. [2]
They had raced out ahead of Big Gig, where he roared down below, and they had to stop and watch their hero trade blow for deadly blow. This was done by lying down on the chest and hanging head so that they saw the combat upside down.
As Big as Gig was, he was a head shorter than the gladiator and half his girth. Lit by shadow, lantern, greasy cresset and sparks, the battle was brief and surreal. Followed by a half dozen knobs of nosy Japan, scribbling away in their white jackets, and pants or skirts depending on whether they were boy or girl, the gladiator limped furiously at Big Gig who let loose his best screaming swing. That pipe was caught in the brass manicad hand of the gladiator, wrenched free and the mallet like right fist of the gladiator smashed into Gig’s Big soft head and ended that idiot life forever, dropping Big Gig straight away dead.
There was awed silence among the jabbering Twigs and the bantering Bigs. Only the sound of the Japs sketching and scribbling could be heard above the hissed inhalation of the giant who seemed to look with sadness upon the stilled form in on the alley floor before him.
The man looked up at their hanging heads, their dropped jaws, their wide eyes and cursed, “Ye retard ausin’ brats! Ye cruds set ME! To fence a dimwit...I’ll skin ye all fo da Devil collect yer souls.” So he roared, sizzle-like, stalking forward one mad step, then stopping, as if some higher-minded, more cold, calculating soul had taken back possession of his progress.
With those words, seeming to conjure a hatred in molten ore for their entire tiny race, only to have it chilled to cold steel, the man leaped upward with the steel pipe in both hands, caught it between two pallets and yanked, and yanked!
Slats cracked.
Wires whined, snapped and whipper-wawled.
He leaped from the hanging mess of wire and board, leaped higher and back and yanked and tore, his arms seeming to propel him like Twig legs did lesser beings of the upper stories.
Slats cracked and boards popped.
Wires snapped and pallets tilted—and he yanked, returning to his molten fury, howling like a king of apes.
Twigs began to fall, to grasp slat, wire and board, and be turned side-loose and whipped against the wall.
Pallets tipped and fell and more Twigs and even whimpering wee Gigs fell from higher yet, some being hung up in the wires by arms, legs and a one by his wee neck!
This was a one man slaughter of lads and tykes.
Those that fell to the hard concrete gutter were stomped by those huge boots.
Some few of the stoic Japs were slain or maimed in this mess. Yet, some of them mounted the remains of the hanging pallet floor and moved forward, sketching from there.
Check looked at Tyke and said, “We need some Japs! If we get out of this, get we some Japs, wee ones, like these, you being the Marshall of Tykes!”
“Yes, Boss,” said he, as he swung down, and his boss following his lead and signing the rest to do likewise, the entire strength of them, Tyke and about eight Bigs, ran for the corner of Horseshoe Alley while the enraged retard-killing gladiator slaughtered Twigs, pallets, Gigs and wee Japs too.
Continued in: The Brawl of Pipes
-1. Bigs were man size or near so, generally youths of 13 and older. Twigs were lads between 8 and 12. Gigs were younger lads. Lads younger than 8 were directed to seek hidey holes at such dire times. These were called by outsiders “brats,” their presence obscured to prevent bratnabbers hunting them.
-2. Two men tried to waylay the author with such a pipe in about 1983. But thankfully the drunk one tackled me between his boss and that ready pipe. We used it for a pallet pry bar when a pallet taken crookedly on the forks was setting down on the legs of the stand behind lift, getting hung up before resting on the floor. Knight Alley is heavily inspired by my time in stockrooms using pallets, pipes and bailing wire, as well as hunting for night clerks hiding and sleeping among the racks and stacks. -JL, 11/8/23
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