The Project Gutenberg eBook of Round-Up Time

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Title: Round-Up Time

Author: Chester Cohen

Illustrator: John Giunta

Release date: February 25, 2022 [eBook #67498]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Royal Publications, Inc, 1956

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Round-Up Time


Illustrated by GIUNTA

There was madness in Manhattan
when Queerpants came to town!

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Infinity Science Fiction, June 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

My wife don't believe me. That's why she made me come here, and I don't think you're gonna believe me, either, but it's the God's honest truth—and the money's mine.

Hell, I wouldn't never steal. I know there's a lotta fellas in my fix that do, but not me. I always been honest, and always got along okay.

Excuse me, but are you takin' this down just the way I'm tellin' it? Cuz I can't talk so good, ain't had much schoolin', and I want this took down just like I'm tellin' it, cuz it's gonna he hard enough to believe.

Okay, thanks.

The whole thing started yesterday mornin'. I went out early cuz my wife was sick and I wanted to try and get as much as I could by myself, in case there gonna be doctor bills. And it's a lot tougher goin' it alone, counta my wife plays the banjo, and that's a big help.

Well, the subway take on the way up from Brooklyn was pretty poor, so I got off at Columbus Circle and headed for the Park. I figgered, it bein' the Fourth of July holiday, there'd be pretty good pickin's there.

But hell, I never figgered it was gonna be that good!

I had a little trouble gettin' acrost Fifty-ninth Street—you know, where they been doin' all that diggin'?—and I took a bad spill there. My crutches slipped on that damn gravel they got spread all over the place. I don't usu'ly have trouble navigatin' that way, but this mornin' I was still kinda sleepy and wasn't watchin' myself enough.

Yeah, I went right on my ear—that's how I got this cut here. As if I ain't had enough trouble there.

This real nice guy come runnin' over and helps me up. He talked real funny, sorta with his teeth, like. I couldn't make out a thing he said. A furriner, I figgered.

Then when we get to the curb, he takes off like a bat outta hell into the park. That's when I noticed he was dressed kinda funny, too. Like the creases on his pants was on the sides, and his jacket was on backwards, and he didn't have no shoes on. Just some kinda floppy red socks, it looked like, with a lotta yella tassels on 'em.

Must be a character from the Village, I figgered. I seen a lotta queer ducks down there in my time.

Then I forgot about him, cuz I spotted a coupla young kids sittin' on the stone bench near the gate, and they looked like a good touch. So I dusts off my hat and gives 'em a try.

But they was still lookin' pop-eyed towards the park where the funny character went, and didn't give me a tumble atall. So I moved along into the park, and to hell with 'em.

There was only a coupla bums sleepin' on the benches near the gate, and I went on up the grade and around the bend. It was slow goin' uphill, and my leg was hurtin', but when I fin'ly got there, all the benches on both sides of the walk was empty.

I thought, Hell, I'm too early. But I kept on goin', even though my shoulders was startin' to hurt now. I didn't wanna grab a rest till I took in a coupla bucks, at least.

The ground levels off there, and it was easier goin', so I tried to get up a little speed, rememberin' there was a place up ahead where people always sit on the grass and get the sun.

And all the way, the benches was empty and not a soul in sight nowheres. I was thinkin' maybe there was some kinda celebratin' goin' on and I oughta been goin' up towards the Mall. But I knew it was too early for anythin' like that, so I kept on goin'.

And a damn good thing I did. Cuz when I reached that big field—you know, where the road cuts off?—there was a fair-sized crowd standin' around there.

They was all lookin' off towards the middle of the field. But I couldn't make out from where I was what was goin' on, and I didn't care much, anyways, cuz I don't care nothin' 'bout them parades and stuff. So I just started makin' my rounds.

Well, it was the damndest thing I ever seen! All them people started shellin' out soon as I came up to 'em—without even lookin' at me! I thought I was gonna pass out right there, seein' all them green-backs floppin' into my hat.

One guy threw in wallet and all!

Lookin' at these crazy people, I seen they was all talkin'. And they looked like they was talkin' to theirselves, cuz nobody turned a head, just kept starin', all glassy-eyed, like they was doped up.

The old guy that threw in his whole wallet was sayin' somethin' like: "This is the finest performance of scar-laddy I've ever heard. Positively brilliant!" There was a skinny kid standin' next to the old gent, and his lips was movin' fast. "Jeepers!" he was sayin', "real dixieland." And his buddy was standin' there, tappin' his feet and yellin', "Hear that boogie beat! Man! That's Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson at their best!"

A little ways in, a fat guy, standin' on somebody's panama hat, says, "Show-pan! I just love show-pan." His big, flabby lips was slappin' together hard. The big, chesty old lady with him had one o' them little wrinkled-up mouths, and I could hardly make out what she was sayin', cuz her lips didn't hardly move at all when she talked, but it was somethin' like, "Chambah music, my deah. So lovely."

Ev'rybody's mouth was goin'—ev'rybody I looked at was sayin' somethin' about music. And they all looked like they was havin' the time of their life.

And they kept right on shellin' out as I moved along through 'em!

Then I gets to the edge of the crowd, and I spot what they're all starin' at—it's nobody but my old friend, Queerpants, the nice guy that helped me on Fifty-ninth Street when I took that spill!

He's standin' out there in the middle o' the field with his back to the crowd, wavin' his arms around like crazy. Looked just like he was leadin' a band. Queerest thing I ever seen—cuz there ain't nothin' in front o' him, exceptin' trees and grass.

A coupla minutes later, he throws his hands down, like he's stoppin' somethin', and then he turns around towards the crowd and bends over real low.

And the crowd goes nuts. Their mouths are wide open, screamin' and yellin', and they're clappin' their hands like they was at a circus or somethin'.

Queerpants bends over a couple times more, then he swings around again, sorta taps the air in front o' him, stretches his arms up over his head for a second, and then starts slingin' 'em around again.

Right away, everybody shuts their traps and goes to starin' again. They all look like they been cryin'—but happy like.

I'm standin' there, tryin' to figger how maybe it's some kinda gag, and there's maybe a band hidin' back in the trees or somethin' like that, when outta the corner o' my eye I spots this cop comin' towards me.

I ducks back into the crowd real fast and starts stuffin' all the dough into my pockets. Soon's the hat's empty, I takes a peek back through the crowd, and there's the blue-coat, rockin' back on his heels with a big grin spread on his fat face.

This, I hadda see, so I moves over, real quiet like, and his mouth is goin' like sixty. "It's the old Killarney," he's sayin', "Bejasus! Oi've niver heard the like. Me poor old mither should be here now. God bless the man!"

And all the time, the crowd's gettin' bigger and bigger. Cars stop along the road, a couple people ride over on horses, two women with baby carriages pushes in, and a big guy with glasses, carryin' about ten books, drops them on the grass and starts clenchin' his fists.

Now I see Queerpants is takin' a bow again, and ev'rybody's beatin' their hands.

All of a sudden, Queerpants jumps around and takes off towards the woods, hoppin' across the grass like a rabbit, and wavin' his arms around again as he goes.

Lucky I'm on the outside, or I woulda been trampled. It was like somebody yelled "Fire!" in a movie. The whole mob beats it across the grass, knockin' into each other, ev'rybody tryin' to get ahead.

I let 'em go and went back to the sidewalk. I know where that woods lets out; it leads right back to Central Park West, and it's the long way around. I can easy beat 'em by goin' up the sidewalk.

And I do. I'm already waitin' outside when Queerpants comes hoppin' out with the whole mob runnin' after him. Looks like they picked up lots more people on the way, cuz now there's hundreds followin' him.

I damn near chokes when Queerpants jumps the red light. But traffic just stops dead for him, brakes jammin' up and down the street for about a mile.

He's headin' straight crosstown towards the river, it looks like, and I'm thinkin', damn, this I gotta see. But I can't figger no way to catch up with 'em.

Then I see the traffic on the other side of the street is startin' to turn right in after the tail-end o' the mob. And the same thing starts on my side, ev'rybody tryin' to go down that side street at the same time. And ev'rybody punchin' their horns like crazy.

About four cars down from where I'm standin', there's a taxi in the line. So, neat as you please, I goes down, opens his door and climbs in.

The cabby don't even see me. In his mirror, I can see his face is red as a beet, and he's yellin' and cussin' and beatin' on his hornbutton.

Well, I pulls the door shut and make myself comfy. Then, all of a sudden, we start movin'. As we cut around the corner, I see how we got our break—there's two cars locked bumpers in the other lane, holdin' up the whole line.

Now we're goin' straight crosstown at a pretty good clip. At Amsterdam, we swing uptown, up a big hill, and when we get to the top, I can see the crowd still racing along like mad.

Way uptown, somewhere near a Hundred and Twenty-fifth, we turn west, run down under the Express Highway, and end up in front of a beat-up old dock.

There's hundreds of cars parked all over the place with their doors open and their engines runnin', and ev'rybody's racin' toward the river.

My driver was out before the cab hardly stopped. It took me a little while to get out. Then I had to be real careful navigatin' that old wharf. It was full of holes and big cracks and piles of junk lyin' around.

Slow goin'. I was pretty beat by the time I reached the mob near the end o' the wharf.

They was two long lines of 'em, movin' along slow. Up ahead, they was all goin' up a big red ramp that went up into the air off the dock and into a great big thing that was hangin' in the air over the river. The thing looked like a big banana made outta glass.

When I got nearer, I could see right into the thing.

Inside it, there was a lotta little stalls, and people was all crowdin' into 'em, about four or five to a stall. As soon as they got in, a kinda door dropped down and I couldn't see no way that they could get out.

But it didn't look like anybody was tryin' to get out.

There was a big round table in each stall, with a lotta food on 'em, and the people was standin' around just eatin' like pigs in a sty.

All the time I was watchin', people kept pilin' into the thing, lookin' like they was singin' their heads off. Some was clappin' their hands and throwin' their arms around, like they was doin' some kinda dance.

For about an hour, people kept marchin' up that ramp, until fin'ly the end of the line came, and they all got in—exceptin' the last one. A real skinny old man with a cane.

Just as he got up to the top of the ramp, the hole in the side of the banana closed up, quick as a wink.

All of a sudden, the thing starts to go straight up into the air, leavin' the old man standin' there at the edge of the ramp, wavin' his cane.

Next thing the old man goes over the edge and drops into the river.

The banana-lookin' thing keeps goin' up into the air, goin' faster and faster, and shinin' like a mirror. Smaller and smaller it gets, and then—bop—it's gone.

Goin' back to the street, I was feelin' sick. It was like ev'rybody in the world was crazy except me. I felt lonesome.

And all those cars, parked ev'ry which-way, with their doors open and their motors runnin'—it was real scary.

Well, I got outta there as fast as I could go and took the subway home. And my wife wouldn't believe me when she seen all that dough.

But it's the truth, and I figger the only reason they didn't get me, whoever they was, is because I'm stone-deaf and couldn't hear that guy's funny music.

Do I get to keep the money, Yer Honor?