It’s Dear Brother #9, in which our heros visit a Hell House and live to tell some unpleasant stories about it afterwards.
I read in the newspaper where there was a shootout in Anderson Country, and they found two Pinkertons dead alongside a busted up trailer. They did not give any more news than that but that was enough. It made me worry a bit because while I do not worry any more about you than you worry about me, Ma is a different matter. But I called Cousin Lily who works down at Graceland, and she said you left Ma with her, so that is all good.
I also hear you met with that Sonny Mundo and the Suicide Kings. Well, I guess the storm clouds are coming. All the bikers are talking about how the chariot has a new engine and I know what that means too. I guess you are on your way in this direction, which is probably a good thing because Danny and me are hurting after John Moses and his boys tortured us.
Or the street says the Suicide Kings are going on down to a hobo convention, so maybe you are with them and we will meet up there. I am thinking that it might be a good move to go visit the hobos, after Ben talked with Tucker and what we are finding out about Grandpa Dan. We will need friends to make this drive. But I should write about things you do not know instead of things you do, so I will.
After Ben got us out of that meat packing plant, he took us back to that woman’s place with Sue and her lot. I never know where to put my hands or what to say in a place like that. I am pretty sure Sue was looking at Angie and I wanted to say Angie is a good Southern girl who is not going to be looking back, but then I realized that Angie has not been making eyes at Ben at all and he is a good boy, so who knows? And besides I did not know how to say it.
Anyhow, Sue gave Angie some videotape and said we could call her the Good Witch of the North, and that made me feel more relaxed somehow. We drove out looking for a place to get patched up and to get out of Chicago for a little while. Now, Blind Joe was doing some things during all this and since I found out what they were later I will write about those now.
We were damn surprised when he showed up again with that Joey Dell who did a wrong to Angie. Neither him or Joey would talk much about how that came to be, but if you listened hard to both of their stories, you could feel around in between them until the backtrail made sense. I am pretty sure Blind Joe was trying to have some dealing with the Devil again, and I think it is maybe so that Joey was too.
If Joey was not such a skinny white boy I would wonder if he was not related to Joe somehow, with the music and the bargains and the name and all. Maybe he is anyhow. It is hard to tell when the hoodoo is strong.
So Joe and Joey and maybe the someone else wound up in a diner talking over pancakes, and there was no doubt some heavy bargaining, and if it happened anything like I think the Devil got the better of it. You can tell that because both Joe and Joey looked pretty unhappy, and anyone knows that the Devil always gets the good side of the deals. So who else could have been on the other side of the bargain?
But the strangest thing of all is that Joe had his eyes back. I hate to think what he must have given to get that.
Meanwhile me and the rest of the boys and Angie were stealing a car in Skokie. It is a good place for freedom, because that is where those Nazis marched. I have no good in my heart for them, but it is a place where America said you can say what you want even if it smells rotten, and that is a powerful thing to say.
We drove the car on south looking for signs, and we saw a big one that said “Judgment is Nigh,” and it went on to say that the Rock of Zion Pentecostal Church was the only year-round Hell House in Illinois. That was not so much the sign I wanted, but there was something about it and I do like a good church and in the end we decided to stop.
Which is where you drove up after you picked up Joe and Joey. Now, I am going to write something a little strange that I do not understand all the way around, but sometimes roads do turn left when you don’t expect anything of the kind. By all rights I would be done with this letter right around now, because you already know the rest, but I am not. It is like writing these things down makes them clearer in my mind, which is the sort of thing college boy Ben would say but true despite that. So I guess I will keep writing and maybe I’ll just show you the first page. It has gotten to be a habit and it is a long way better than pills and bad women. Cheaper, too.
Now that I have written down what I do not understand, I will write down the rest. We went into the church. I do not know about anyone else but I was hoping maybe the pastor knew some healing ways, because there was something about the place that rung true. He did not want to talk about any healing, though, for he was too excited about that hell house of his. He said his name was Robert Preston.
Well, let me say here and now that I was not too sure then about putting a place of Hell inside a church and I was right. This hell house of his was a bunch of rooms and in each one there were actors playing out the sins of the earth. The first room was a crashed car, with kids who had been drinking, I guess. The second room was a pair of boys who had been with each other like man and woman and were going to hell and torment. The third room was when a woman decides she does not want her baby.
I will not write the details, because they are not any kind of good. I am myself not after believing that people should be doing some of those things, especially that last, but that does not mean it is right to make little plays of them and scare people. You have to choose the right highway because it is right, not because the offramp is dressed up to look scary. That is what choices are about.
Also some of the actors, who were all kids anyhow, looked like they were enjoying the whole thing a little more than they should be. So I was not in any good mood as we went through more of it. Angie went back up to the church, and Joe followed her, and I do not blame either of them.
Still, it is a good thing we went all to the bottom, because when we got to the last room it was dressed up as Hell and there were people getting whipped. And that symbol of the triangle with the cross upside down from the bottom of it was on the walls. Then two devils entered, a man and a woman, and they were wearing robes that did not really hide much of their wrinkled old bodies under them.
This is where and when we found out that Waylan — I mean, you — oh, hell, I will just write down Waylan from now on. That Waylan knew the people with that triangle symbol from back in Los Angeles, which means I guess he knows Lewis Felt too. He went a little angry the way he gets sometimes and went to shoot the devils. Ben and Danny tried to convince him not to for a bit but I know better than that when Waylan is in a mood, so I went over to free the people chained up.
Waylan yelled something about the Black Grail, and in the end he did shoot the woman devil. Well, she was fighting back. We took the other one captive, and the pastor, and drug them back upstairs. It turned out the pastor was just a fake from when this Black Grail went and took over the Hell House.
The other man was named George Thibodeaux and the woman Waylan killed was his sister. They were from the San Francisco branch of this Black Grail, which turns out to be all about the shit and gold that little Lewis Felt talked about. But the surprising thing is that Harry Smith was the man who invented the Black Grail. Well, Ma says there’s only one piece of string in all the world, and I guess she is right.
Meanwhile Joe was trying to convince Angie to help him turn that Judgment Day song of his into Redemption Day. That makes me feel a little more kindly towards him, but not much. I guess Angie felt about the same way because she walked out on him at first, even though she came back and tried to help in the end. She said while she was playing the song it tried to twist back to the Devil’s version. But that is no surprise since they were playing in a church that had been spat on by the Devil.
We did not know what to do with that George and that false pastor, so somehow we came up with the idea to baptize them. Danny did the baptizing, because he has some church in his background, even if it was Sam Lully’s church and part of it was a lie. I do not know if it helped but it could not hurt much.
Then we sat around and argued about Joe and Joey. Well, in the end we decided to take them with us. If Joe can change his song it will be a powerful good thing, and Joey is just too stupid and too much of a trouble to let him wander around the highways without a keeper.
Then we sat around and argued some more about what to do next, and we did not settle that as easy. I guess this is part of why I want to write all about it even though Waylan knows already. He told the Suicide Kings to meet us at this Burning Man, which is some kind of big party for people with more drugs than sense. Well, that is all right, but we need to do something in the cornfields of Kansas because all the signs have said so since back in Memphis.
And Waylan wants to go back into Chicago and mess the Pinkertons up. So do I, but I do not want to be crippled and hurting when we do it. So that will take some more thinking as well.
But now it is late and I am tired and we are almost all in one place again, even that bastard Blind Joe who got his sight back after betraying us. We only need Black, which is another thing we need to do, and that Frank Cairo had best write a will out or he will be caught looking. But it is good to be driving the roads with Waylan again. America will know when we pass by, because the Chevelle SS LS6 is like thunder and I know every road between here and Mexico.
Watch out, you goldbugs. Watch out, you silver-lovers. The League is riding once again.