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ERB’S BIBLE BLUES:
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Get ready for more gangster slang, for Danny “Gunner” Patrick is awakening
from his coma, with a faulty memory. What’s going to happen to him? We are about to find out.
Chapter Twenty-One: An Awakening
Danny “Gunner” Patrick opened his eyes and stared up at the blue African sky. Slowly consciousness returned and with it the realization that his head pained severely. He raised a hand and felt of it. What was that? He looked at his hand and saw that it was bloody.
“Geeze!” he muttered. “They got me!” He tried to recall how it had happened. “I knew the finger was on me, but how the hell did they get me? Where was I?” His thoughts were all back in Chicago, and he was puzzled. Vaguely he felt that he had made his get-a-way, and yet they had “got” him. He could not figure it out.
Then he turned his head slightly and saw lofty mountains looming near. Slowly and painfully he sat up and looked around. Memory, partial, and fragmentary, returned. “I must have fell off them mountains,” he mused, “while I was lookin’ for camp.”
Gingerly he rose to his feet and was relieved to find that he was not seriously injured – at least his arms and legs were intact. “My head never was much good. Geeze, it hurts, though.”
A single urge dominated him – he must find camp. Old Smithy would be worrying about him if he did not return. Where was Obambi? “I wonder if he fell off too,” he muttered, looking about him. But Obambi, neither dead nor alive, was in sight; and so the “Gunner” started upon his fruitless search for camp.
At first he wandered toward the northwest, directly away from Smith’s last camp. Tongani, the baboon, sitting upon his sentinel rock, saw him coming and sounded the alarm. At first Danny saw only a couple of “monkeys” coming toward him, barking and growling. He saw them stop occasionally and place the backs of their heads against the ground and he mentally classified them as nutty “monks;” but when their numbers were swollen to a hundred and he finally realized the potential danger lying in those powerful jaws and sharp fangs, he altered his course and turned toward the southwest.
For a short distance the tongani followed him, but when they saw that he intended them no harm they let him proceed and returned to their interrupted feeding, while the man, with a sigh of relief, continued on his way.
In a ravine Danny found water, and with the discovery came a realization of his thirst and his hunger. He drank at the same pool at which Tarzan had slain Horta, the boar, and he also washed the blood from his head and face as well as he could. Then he continued on his aimless wandering. This time he climbed higher up the slope toward the mountains, in a southeasterly directon, and was headed at last toward the location of the now abandoned camp. Chance and the tongani had set him upon the right trail.
In a short time he reached a spot that seemed familiar; and here he stopped and looked around in an effort to recall his wandering mental faculties, which he fully realized were not functioning properly.
“That bat on the bean sure knocked me cuckoo,” he remarked half aloud. “Geeze, what’s that?” Something was moving in the tall grass through which he had just come. He watched intently and a moment later saw the head of Sheeta, the panther, parting the grasses a short distance from him. The scene was suddenly familiar.
“I gotcha Steve!” exclaimed the “Gunner.” “Me and that Tarzan guy flopped here last night – now I remember.”
He also remembered how Tarzan had chased the panther away by “running a bluff on him,” and he wondered if he could do the same thing.
“Geeze, what a ornery lookin’ pan! I’ll bet you got a rotten disposition – and that Tarzan guy just growled and ran at you, and you beat it. Say, I don’t believe it, if I did see it myself. Whyinell don’t you go about your business, you big stiff? You give me the heeby-jeebies.” He stooped and picked up a fragment of rock. “Beat it!” he yelled, and he hurled the missile at Sheeta.
The great cat wheeled and bounded away, disappearing in the tall grass that the “Gunner” could now see waving along the path of the panther’s retreat. “Well, what do you know about that?” ejaculated Danny. “I done it! Geeze, these lion ain’t so much.”
His hunger now claimed his attention as his returning memory suggested a means of appeasing it. “I wonder could I do it?” he mused, as he hunted around on the ground until he had found a thin fragment of rock, with which he commenced to scrape away the dirt from a loose heap that rose a few inches above the contour of the surrounding ground. “I wonder could I?”
His digging soon revealed the remains of the boar Tarzan had cached against their possible return. With his pocket knife the “Gunner” hacked off several pieces, after which he scraped the dirt back over the body and busied himself in the preparation of a fire, where he grilled the meat in a sketchy fashion that produced culinary results which ordinarily would have caused him to turn up his nose in disgust. But today he was far from particular and bolted the partially charred morsels like a ravenous wolf.
His memory had returned now up to the point of the meal he had eaten at this same spot with Tarzan – from there on until he had regained consciousness a short time before, it was a blank. He knew now that he could find his way back to camp from the point above the raiders’ village where he and Obambi had lunched, and so he turned his footsteps in that direction.
When he had found the place, he crept on down to the edge of the cliff where it overlooked the village; and here he lay down to rest and to spy upon the raiders, for he was very tired.
“The lousy bums!” he ejaculated beneath his breath, as he saw the shiftas moving about the village. “I wish I had my typewriter, I’d clean up that dump.”
He saw Stabutch emerge from a hut and walk down to the horses. He watched him while he talked to the blacks there and to the headman. Then he saw the Russian loading two saddled horses back to the hut.
“That guy don’t know it,” he muttered, “but the finger is sure on him. I’ll get on the spot some day if it takes the rest of my natural life. Geeze, glom the broad!” Stabutch had summoned Jezebel from the hut. Suddenly a strange thing happened inside the head of Danny “Gunner” Patrick. It was as though someone had suddenly raised a window shade and let in a flood of light. He saw everything perfectly now in retrospection. With the sight of Jezebel his memory had returned!
It was with difficulty that he restrained an urge to call out and tell her that he was there; but caution stilled his tongue, and he lay watching while the two mounted and rode out of the gateway.
He rose to his feet and ran along the ridge toward the north, parallel to the course they were taking. It was already dusk. In a few minutes it would be dark. If he could only keep them in sight until he knew in what direction they finally went.
Exhaustion was forgotten as he ran through the approaching night. Dimly now he could see them. They rode for a short distance upward toward the cliffs; and then, just before the darkness swallowed them, he saw them turn and gallop away toward the northwest and the great forest that lay in that direction.
Reckless of life and limb, the “Gunner” half stumbled, half fell down the cliffs that here had crumbled away and spilled their fragments out upon the slope below.
“I gotta catch ‘em, I gotta catch ‘em,” he kept repeating to himself. “The poor kid! The poor little kid! So help me God, if I catch ‘em, what I won’t do to that -------- if he’s hurt her!”
I assume from that extra long dash that ERB meant for the reader to insert a curse word of his or her choice, likely “bastard” or “ sonofabitch” or even more likely, “mother- f...er.” It’s your choice.
On through the night he stumbled, falling time and again only to pick himself up and continue his frantic and hopeless search for his little golden haired Jezebel who had come into his life for a few brief hours to leave a mark upon his heart that might never be erased.
Gradually the realization of it crept upon him as he groped blindly into the unknown, and it gave him strength to go on in the face of such physical exhaustion as he had never before known.
“Geeze,” he muttered, “I sure must of fell for that kid.”
Short and sweet was that chapter, and so is the next one as our adventure begins to wind to a close. Will the “Gunner” get Stabutch since he has the “finger’ on him? One hopes so.
ALL THE WOODROW NICHOLS FEATURES IN ERBzine
COMMENTARY by WOODROW NICHOLS
ERB'S BIBLE BLUES :: TARZAN TRIUMPHANT
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