Robbie by Sinclair Beiles

BOMB 6 Summer 1983
006 Summer 1983

Robbie: There! Go for it. Eat your food in a corner like a dog. You’re no detective. You’re a betraying cur. No meat for you either. Breadcrusts. You saw her leaping onto a bus and you didn’t follow her because you didn’t have the fare. She would have paid the fare when she saw she had the world at her feet. Or if you’d told the story to the bus conductor he would have directed the bus right here. Everyone on the bus would have given anything to come along here and witness the great union. O you knew it. You simply decided to let me down. You’re dragging this out because you think that when she’s found you’ll be out of a job.

I’m your only client. Yes, Mrs. Pargiter, I’m his only client. He’s not like you. You have many clients. You are an excellent washerwoman, otherwise you wouldn’t have answered the advertisement. I advertised for an excellent washerwoman and if you weren’t you wouldn’t have answered the advertisement. Now Mrs. Pargiter, you’ve got to know who you’re washing clothes for. My name you gather from the card. Just call me Robbie til the big day I turn the world upside down.

Now Dick Tracey you’ve had your lunch so turn your attention to where she might have been going when she lept onto that bus and continue the search and find her before it’s dark, or no food for you. What sort of detective do you think he can be Mrs. Pargiter, when all he works for is his bed and board. Well I have to put up with him. The work is a little irregular. I simply couldn’t find anyone else.

Mrs. Pargiter, my clothes must be clean, clean, clean. There mustn’t be a spot on anything when she’s brought before me. And as you can imagine. The first thing she looks at when she wants to settle down with me is my clothes.

As you can see, Mrs. Pargiter, my leg is in a cast. I broke my leg. It was during the great fog. I crossed the street and was knocked over by a car and then I had to drag myself all over London on crutches. She was opposite me on a tube train. We looked at each other and we knew. She was bewildered, stunned poor girl. She couldn’t even smile poor girl. She seemed to fall a little faint. I was dumbstruck. I should have clutched her to my bosom there and then. O yes, I should have. My clothes were clean, clean, clean.

She stood up at the next stop. I dragged myself to my feet on my crutches and followed her out into the fog. Perhaps she was frightened. Yes she was. She thought she was an apparition. She didn’t turn round. She turned up her collar and walked rapidly into the fog with her head down. I dragged myself along after her on my broken leg and I couldn’t catch up with her. She just disappeared into the fog. My voice was caught in my throat. It just wouldn’t come out. My voice seemed dirty. Like a dirty piece of washing. I just couldn’t let it fly out of my mouth. Could I, I Dick Tracey. You’d let anything fly out of your mouth. Sometimes I suspect he actually finds her and turns her away by swearing at her. One day you’ll be arrested Dick Tracey!

Mrs. Pargiter. I make plans. I work out the possibilities. I work out the statistics. That’s the only way to find missing persons. I’m sure she’s looking for me too but her task is hopeless as she’s sure not to know statistics. How could the queen of the world know statistics? All she has to know is that things are clean, clean, clean.

Poor thing. How she must be suffering. All the clean snow is gone. There’s just grime and sludge in the streets. And Mrs. Pargiter you must see that my leg cast is clean. You must scrub it every morning. I’m paying you as much as a qualified hairdresser gets to rinse hair. Perhaps I should have advertised for an excellent clothes rinser not a washerwoman.

Alright, Mrs. Pargiter. Alright. Don’t cry. I can’t understand it. Everyone I talk to simply bursts into tears. Not at my predicament, O no. At some imagined predicament of theirs.

Yes Mrs. Pargiter it is difficult to get a job these days. I can assure you, you have got this one until she’s found. Then she decides. Perhaps you could help with the detecting. Not for spots. She’s spotless. I can give you a description of the clothes Dick Tracey has seen her in and you can drop in at the drycleaners whenever you pass one by. We might just find her by chance.

O there’ll be a reward Mrs. Pargiter. A big reward. Off with you Dick Tracey. Be sure to study the schedule for this afternoon. I want to talk to Mrs. Pargiter privately. Dick Tracey is up to something new Mrs. Pargiter. Maybe it’ll come to something. Maybe he just wants to laze away until the Spring. He’s taken to prophesy. He reads prophetic books and has come to the conclusion that he’ll find her in Spring sitting under the first cherry tree that comes into blossom on Hampstead Heath. It sounds a bit romantic doesn’t it Mrs. Pargiter?

O Mrs. Pargiter, your hands are so clean, clean, clean and so smooth. I suppose you put almond oil on them. They smell of almond oil. They say almonds contain a deadly poison. I hope you don’t lick your hands too much. You can lick them a little. I like women who lick their hands. But don’t lick them too much. I don’t want you to die on me. Ha ha ha. Die on me.

You’ve got a bit of Erma inside you. Yes, Erma. I call her Erma. Not Miss Erma. We’re too close for that. Her name came to me in a dream. I saw an article. Her underwear in my dream. It was clean, clean, clean. And on it was written, Irma. At an angle across the back. Irma. Written on gaily only for intimate sight. Gaily as if on a tee shirt.

Do you like Spring Tee shirts? Mrs. Pargiter, are you feeling faint? Here sit down. I’ll get you a vodka. It looks like water or poison. I assure you its vodka Mrs. Pargiter. O Mrs. Pargiter, I’m having so much trouble. What with the lady murderer going around London hunting out innocent ladies and killing them in the strangest ways. Dick Tracey is having a lot of trouble getting information. When he knocks at a door and asks for a young lady they just clam up these days. He’s been at it since the great fog. It’s a wonder my detective hasn’t been questioned yet.

Isn’t it lovely Mrs. Pargiter. You are lovely Mrs. Pargiter. Perhaps I need not look any further. I get the feeling Irma is inside you Mrs. Pargiter. Radiating through you. That you’re just a great big mummy case like a plaster cast and you brought Irma here wrapped away inside Mrs. Pargiter. O I feel like opening you up Mrs. Pargiter. Yes I will Mrs. Pargiter. I was a bit of a surgeon in my youth Mrs. Pargiter. O Mrs. Pargiter. You’ve fainted. Tracey. Tracey. Her heart’s stopped beating. Tracey. Tracey.

The end.

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BOMB 6, Summer 1983

Kathy Acker, Jene Highstein, Mark Pauline, James “Son” Thomas, art by Anthony McCall, Judy Pfaff, Julia Heyward, and more.

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006 Summer 1983