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Mason starts his book by mentioning Denise, who works at the grocery store at the corner of his block, claiming she is one of America's great unpublished novelists. She had written forty-two romantic novels that were never published, and he claims to have read the 1st twenty-seven of these that she retells every time he buys groceries. Due to his lack of knowledge for literature, he turned to Denise for advice after deciding to write a book, saying he doesn't know where to begin. She told him to start with the saddest thing he could think of to get sympathy, "after that, believe me, it's a walk." Then he dedicated his book to her because he doesn't know how to choose between all the other people.
He explains that while twelve years old his father just upped and left his grandfather's farm in Montana to bring the family to New York. He worked in Vernon's Auto Repairs off of Seventh Avenue in 1928, and made just enough to provide food and clothing for his son, wife, and daughter Liantha. Hollis recalls thinking that his father was enthusiastic about his work solely because he had a thing about cars, but in hindsight he realizes how much it must have meant to his father just to have a job and support his family. His father had many arguments with his father about leaving instead of taking care of the farm, and he must have been proud that he kept his family above the poverty line despite his father's warnings.
During the occasional trips to the auto repair shop with his father, he first saw his employer, Moe Vernon, a man around fifty-five or so who was an opera buff with an old New York face; three chins, a wiseacre cynical curl to his lower lip, a hollowness around the eyes, hair retreating. His office had glass sides to watch his employees and a new gramophone in the corner that would play old seventy-eight recordings as loud as it could manage. He noted that what made Moe peculiar was his sense of humor, as represented by the objects in the top right side drawer of his desk. Besides rubber bands, paper clips and receipts, he had one of the largest collections of tasteless novelty items he had picked up from gag shops or on visits to Coney Island Hollis recalls ever seeing; cheap blue gimmicks, ballpoint pens with girls on the side whose swimsuits vanished when turned upside down, salt and pepper crewet sets shaped like women's breasts, plastic dog messes, et cetera. When someone tried to enter his office he'd always try to startle them with his newest play thing.
The Ride of the Valkyries
One day in 1933, after Hollis' seventeenth birthday, he had gone to the auto repair shop with his dad to fix a busted-up Ford. Moe Vernon had been in his office listening to Wagner, waiting for the mailman with an artificial foam rubber set of realistically painted lady's bosoms. In the mail Moe found a letter from his wife Beatrice that informed him that for the past two years she had been sleeping with Fred Motz, the senior and most trusted mechanic employed, who hadn't shown up that day since Beatrice had taken all of the money from their joint account and with Fred Motz departed for Tijuana. Moe burst open the door to his office with tears while everyone looked his way. He was still wearing the artificial breasts, and Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" could be heard booming from his room. In an almost inaudible cry he exclaimed, "Fred Motz has had carnal knowledge of my wife Beatrice for the past two years." With this everyone started laughing.
Half an hour later someone finally went to apologize and Moe said he was fine, apparently now without music or the breasts and doing routine paperwork as if nothing had happened. That night he sent everyone home early, ran a tube from the exhaust of one of the cars in through the window, started the engine and died from the carbon monoxide fumes. His brother took over the business and eventually reemployed Fred Motz as chief mechanic. Hollis then explains that that's why "The Ride of the Valkyries" is the saddest thing he could think of.
He finishes his chapter hoping that he has the reader's sympathy, and thinks maybe it's safe to explain that he is crazier than Moe Vernon ever was, and although he never wore a pair of false bosoms in his life, he has stood there dressed in something just as strange with tears in his eyes while people died laughing.
|Under the Hood|
|Chapter I • Chapter II • Chapter III • Chapter IV • Chapter V|