Friday, July 20, 2012

Hobo #17 of 700: Name Withheld

In 1937, the House Committee on Hobo Re-assimilation was given the daunting task of defining an underground nation of transients in order to make recommendations as to how the US government could transition the track-side drifters back into civilized society.  Early on the third day of what had been rather low-key, downright cordial testimony, they reached Hobo #17 on their witness list, and things took a turn.

Rep. Cigar-chomper (D - MN) - Welcome, Mister... (checking his notes)... Mister Number Seventeen on The List.  "Name withheld?"  Do you really feel that's necessary, Number Seventeen?  And who is this gentleman?

#17 - This is my attorney, Judge Roughneck, sir.  He's here to ensure I don't slip, lest I wind up ensnared in some so-called treason of your own invention.

Rep. Fat-cat (R - NY) - Mister Seventeen, this is not that kind of hearing.  You are not charged with a crime, nor are you so much as a suspect in any wrongdoing whatsoever.  Your... "attorney" is completely unnecessary, at this point...

Judge Roughneck (whispered to #17) - [inaudible]

#17 - Just the same, sir, I have a constitutionally-protected right to legal representation at these proceedings.  With all due respect, of course...

Rep. Fat-cat - Suit yourself, Number Seventeen.  We are not adversaries here, today.  By the way - I do believe your legal representation has fallen asleep.  I'm afraid you may be wasting your hard-earned money on this so-called attorney of yours.

#17 - Oh, I'm not wasting any money at all, sir.  Judge Roughneck works... what was that word, again?

Judge Roughneck - Pro-beano.

#17 - Pro-beano.  Yes, that's right.  He works for beans.  He'll take 'em barbecued, but Boston style are his favorite.

Rep. Cigar-chomper - That's fine.  Well, we will not keep you and your esteemed barrister long, Number Seventeen.  We just want to ask you a few questions - questions, the answers to which might point us and our colleagues in the Federal Government in a direction that will be mutually-beneficial to us and to you and your vagrant brethren.  Now, how long have you been a hobo?

Judge Roughneck (whispered to #17) - [inaudible]

#17 - I am not a hobo, sir.

Rep. Pork-barrel-chest (R - IN) - Oh, here we go...

Rep. Fat-cat - Number Seventeen, let me remind you that this is not a grand jury.  You are not even under oath, at this point.  We are here to try to find a way to help you, to guide you and your friends back to the light, back to America.

#17 - Bah - America...

Judge Roughneck (whispered to #17) - [inaudible]

Rep. Cigar-chomper - And sir - if you are not a hobo, then I am Little Orphan Annie.

Rep. Fat-cat - Mister Seventeen, it says here that you ride the rails of Pennsylvania, mostly along the main line from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, as well as the B&O as far south and east as Meyersdale.  What would you say are the biggest obstacles to a man such as yourself finding true love?

#17 - Well, my hygiene, first and foremost.  I mean, a fellow can't just drift into the Priory Hotel in Pittsburgh on a Friday night and-- say, what's the big idea?

Judge Roughneck (whispered to #17) - [inaudible]

#17 - I have never been to Pennsylvania, sir.

Rep. Pork-barrel-chest - Of course you have, you dolt!  The Pennsy Railroad police have a five-page arrest record on you.  Our agents picked you up track-side in Somerset County.  This is an outrage!  Just answer the questions!

Rep. Three-piece Suit (D-MA) - Gentlemen!  Let's not lose sight of the spirit and intent of this hearing.  Mister Number Seventeen - we want to help you find your way back.  We have the backing of the Federal Reserve and the New Deal.  We can have you working and paying your own rent again by next year.  But you have to meet us halfway.  Now, we know you are a hobo.  We know you have been a hobo for at least the past nine years, and we know that your travels have been limited to southwestern Pennsylvania.  Now...  Oh, now what?

Judge Roughneck (whispered to #17) - [inaudible]

#17 - Then why did you ask?

Rep. Fat-cat - Excuse me?

#17 - If you know all of that, then why did you ask?  I appear to be... [leans over to let Judge Roughneck whisper once again into his ear]... superfluous to these... [more whispering]... proceedings.

Rep. Three-piece Suit - Can we lose the hobo lawyer, please?  Sir?  Do you even have a law degree, sir?

Judge Roughneck (looking skyward) - Move to strike?  Badgering!

Rep. Fat-cat - This is not a trial, sir.  And-- wait.  What is that?  Is he urinating?  Are you urinating on the floor of the House of Representatives, sir??

#17 (looking under desk) - Yes, your honor.  Yes, that is what counsel is doing.

Rep. Fat-cat - Page!  Page - get this man out of here!  

Rep. Pork-barrel-chest - Order!  I will have order in these proceedings!  (bangs gavel)

Rep. Three-piece Suit (head in hands) - Number Seventeen - we can't help you if you insist on behaving in such a manner.  Now, I understand your misgivings - your distrust in the men gathered before you.  My brother was a hobo from 1921 until his death in 1932.  We are not here to take away your freedom or your stick and bindle or your cans of beans.  We just want to help.  Help us help you.  What can the US government do to help you, sir?

Judge Roughneck (whispered, from the chamber doorway as he is dragged away) - [inaudible]

#17 - I want what most men want.  I want to be left alone.  I want my belly to be full.  I want to feel that if I should fall, someone will give me a hand and help me to my feet.  Nothing more, mind you - just to my feet.  I want shoes that fit and don't let the mud in.  I want a good winter coat, and some coal for my fire.  What else is there to want, sir?  

Rep. Three-piece Suit - That's what we're here to find out, Mister Seventeen.

#17 - Well, do your worst, you curs - I ain't talkin'!

Rep. Pork-barrel-chest (to a Congressional page) - Get this man something to eat, twenty-five dollars cash and some coal from the boiler room, then take him to Woolworth's and buy him a good long coat and a proper pair of shoes.  Do it now, page.  Unless, that is, there is more that Mister Number Seventeen would like to share with this committee.

#17 (leaning toward the now-vacant space next to him, most recently occupied by Judge Roughneck)  What do you think, Judge?  Oh...

Rep. Fat-cat - He's gone, sir.  Just talk to us.  What else can we do?  Do you need training?  Have you any experience in a trade?  Are you a veteran?  A high school graduate?  There are no right or wrong answers, here.  We have no interest in keeping honest people who are willing and able to take part in the great recovery from doing so.  Please tell us what you want.

#17 - Can I have a shot of bourbon?  I could really use a good belt right about now.

Rep. Fat-cat - Done!  What else?

#17 - Well, now that you mention it, I've always wanted to ride a sled down Capitol Hill on the first December snow...

Rep. Fat-cat - Sir, my page informs me that when he and the Secret Service jettisoned Mr. Roughneck - if that was in fact his real name - from the Capitol, snow was observed falling from the afternoon sky.  I'm told that several inches have already fallen.  Will that suffice, in your estimation?

#17 (smiling) - Yes.  Yes, sir - I think that is just what the doctor ordered.

Rep. Pork-barrel-chest (banging gavel) - This hearing is adjourned.  It's snowing!!

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