Chapter Eleven

The day arrived when we is to give our little play in Professor Quackenbush's class at Harvard. The scene we is to do is when King Lear an his fool go out onto the heath, which is like a marsh or a field back home, an a big storm done blowed up an everbody run into a shack called a "hovel."


Inside the hovel there is a guy called Mad Tom o'Bedlam who is actually a character name of Edgar disguised up as a crazy person on account of being fucked over by his brother, who is a bastid. Also, the king is gone totally nuts by this time, an Edgar is playin a nut too, an the fool, of course, is actin like one. My part is to be the Earl of Gloucester, who is Edgar's father, an sort of a straight man for them other stooges.

Professor Quackenbush have rigged up a ole blanket or somethin to resemble a hovel an he has got some kind of wind machine to sound like a storm - big electric fan with clothespins holdin pieces of paper to the blades. Anyway, here come Elmer Harrington III as King Lear, dressed in a gunnysack an wearin a colander on his head. The girl they got to play the fool has foun a fool's costume someplace, with a little cap that has bells tied to it, an them kinds of shoes that curl up in front like Arabs wear. The guy playin Tom o'Bedlam has foun hissef a Beatle wig an some clothes out of the garbage an has painted his face with dirt. They is takin it all very seriously.

I am probly the best-lookin of the bunch, tho, cause Jenny done set down an sewed me up a costume out of a sheet an a pillow case that I am wearin like a diaper, an she has also made me a cape out of a tablecloth, just like Superman wears.

Anyway, Professor Quackenbush start up his wind machine an say for us to begin at page twelve, where Mad Tom is tellin us his sad story.

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"Do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes," Tom say.

An King Lear say, "What? Have his daughters brought him to this pass? Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?"

An the fool say, "Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had all been shamed."

This shit go on for a wile, then the fool say, "This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen."

In this, the fool is correct.

Just bout this time, I am sposed to enter into the hovel carrying a torch, which Professor Quackenbush have borrowed from the drama department. The fool call out, "Look! Here come a walking fire!" an Professor Quackenbush light my torch an I go across the room into the hovel.

"This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet," Tom o'Bedlam say.

"What's he?" the king axes.

An I say, "What are you there? Your names?"

Mad Tom say he is jus "Po Tom, that eats the swimmin frawg, the toad, the tadpole and the newt..." an a bunch of other shit, an then I sposed to suddenly recognize the king, an say:

"What! Hath your grace no better company?"

An Mad Tom, he answer, "The prince of darkness is a gentleman - Modo he's call'd, and Mahu."

The wind machine be blowin hard now, an I reckon Professor Quackenbush have not considered that I am six feet six inches tall when he built the hovel, cause the top of my torch is bumpin against the ceiling.

Mad Tom, he is now sposed to say, "Poor Tom's a-cold," but instead, he say, "Watch that torch!"

I look down at my book to see where that line come from, an Elmer Harrington III say to me, "Look out for that torch, you idiot!" an I say back to him, "For once in my life I am not the idiot - you is!" An then all of a sudden the roof to the hovel catch on fire an fall on Mad Tom's Beatle wig an set it on fire too.

"Turn off the goddamn wind machine!" somebody shout, but it is too late. Everthing burning up!

Mad Tom is hollerin an yellin an King Lear take off his colander an jam it on Mad Tom's head to put the fire out. People is jumpin aroun an choakin an coughin an cussin an the girl playin the fool gets hysterical an commence to shriek an cry, "We will all be kilt!" For a moment or two, it actually looks that way.

I turn behin me, an damn if my cape ain't caught on fire, an so I thowed open the winder an grapped the fool aroun her waist an out we leaped. It was only from the secont story winder, an they was a bunch of shrubs down there that broke our fall, but it was also lunchtime an hundrits of people was wanderin aroun the Yard. There we was, all a-fire an smolderin.

Black smoke come pourin from up in the open winder of the class an all of a sudden there is Professor Quackenbush, leanin out an lookin aroun, shakin his fist, face all covered up with soot.

"Gump, you fuckin idiot - you stupid asshole! You will pay for this!" he shoutin.

The fool is grovelin aroun on the groun an bawlin an wringing her hans but she is okay - just singed up a bit - so I just took off - bounded across the Yard fast as I could run, cape still on fire, smoke trailin behin me. I didn't stop till I got home, an when I get into the apartment, Jenny say, "Oh, Forrest, how was it? I bet you was wonderful!" Then she get a peculiar look on her face. "Say, do you smell somethin burnin?" she axes.

"It is a long story," I say.

Anyhow, after that I did not attend the "Role of the Idiot in World Literature" no more, as I have seen quite enough. But ever night I an Jenny are playin with The Cracked Eggs an all day long we is makin love an takin walks an havin picnics on the banks of the Charles River an it is heaven. Jenny has written a nice tender song called "Do It to Me Hard an Fast," in which I get to take bout a five-minute ride on my harmonica. It were a splendid spring an summer, an we went down to New Yawk an made the tapes for Mister Feeblestein an a few weeks later he call up to say we is gonna have a record album. Not too long after that, everbody be callin us up to play in their towns an we took the money we got from Mister Feeblestein an bought us a big bus with beds an shit in it an go on the road.

Now there is somethin else durin that period that played a great role in my life. One night after we is finished the first set at the Hodaddy Club, Mose, the drummer for The Cracked Eggs, take me aside an say, "Forrest, you is a nice clean-cut feller an all, but they is somethin I want you to try that I think will make you play that harmonica better."

I axe what it is, an Mose say, "Here," an he give me a little cigarette. I tell him I don't smoke, but thanks, an Mose say, "It is not a regular cigarette, Forrest. It have got somethin in it to expand your horizons."

I tole Mose I ain't sure I need my horizons expanded, but he sort of insisted. "At least try it," he say, an I thought for a minute, an conclude that one cigarette ain't gonna hurt none, an so I do.

Well let me say this: my horizons indeed become expanded.

Everthing seem to slow down an get rosy keen. That secont set we played that night was the best of my life, I seemed to hear all the notes a hundrit times as I was playin them, an Mose come up to me later an say, "Forrest, you think that's good - use it when you're screwin."

I did, an he was right bout that too. I used some of my money to buy me some of that stuff, an before you know it, I was doin it day in an day out. The only problem was, it kind of made me stupider after a wile. I just get up in the mornin an light up one of them joints, which is what they called them, an lie there all day till it was time to go an play. Jenny didn't say nothin for a wile, cause she been known to take a puff or two hersef, but then one day she say to me, "Forrest, don't you think you been doin too much of that shit?"

"I dunno," I says, "how much is too much?"

An Jenny say, "As much as you are doin is too much."

But I didn't want to stop. Somehow, it got rid of everthing I might be worried bout, tho there wadn't too much of that at that time anyway. At night I'd go out between sets at the Hodaddy Club an set in the little alley an look up at the stars. If they weren't any stars, I'd look up anyway, an one night Jenny come out an find me lookin up at the rain.

"Forrest, you has got to quit this," she say. "I am worried bout you, cause you ain't doin nothin cept playin an lyin aroun all day. It ain't healthy. I think you need to get away for a wile. We ain't got no concerts booked after tomorrow down in Provincetown, so I think maybe we ought to go someplace an take a vacation. Go up to the mountains maybe."

I jus nod my head. I ain't even sure I heard all she said.

Well, the nex night in Provincetown, I find the backstage exit an go on outside to lite up a joint. I am settin there by mysef, mindin my business, when these two girls come up. One of them say, "Hey, ain't you the harmonica player with The Cracked Eggs?"

I nod yes, an she jus plop hersef down in my lap. The other girl is grinnin an squealin an suddenly she take off her blouse. An the other girl is tryin to unzip my pants an have her skirt pulled up an I am jus settin there blowed away. Suddenly the stage door open an Jenny call out, "Forrest, it is time to..." an she stop for a secont an then she say, "Awe shit," an slam the door.

I jumped up then, an the girl in my lap felled on the groun an the other one is cussin an all, but I went inside an there is Jenny leaned up against the wall cryin. I went up to her but she say, "Keep away from me, you shithead! You men is all alike, jus like dogs or somethin - you got no respect for anybody!"

I ain't never felt so bad. I don't remember much bout that last set we played. Jenny went up to the front of the bus on the trip back an wouldn't speak to me none at all. That night she slep on the sofa an the nex mornin she say maybe it is time for me to find my own place. An so I packed up my shit an left. My head hangin very low. Couldn't explain it to her or nothin. Thowed out again.

Jenny, she took off someplace after that. I axed aroun, but nobody knowed where she was. Mose say I can bunk with him till I find a place, but it is a terrible lonely time. Since we ain't playin none for the moment, there ain't nothin much to do, an I be thinkin maybe it's time I go on back home an see my mama an maybe start up that little srimp bidness down where po ole Bubba used to live. Perhaps I is not cut out to be a rock an roll star. Perhaps, I think, I ain't nothin but a bumblin idiot anyhow.

But then one day Mose come back an he say he was over to a saloon on the corner watchin the tv news, an who should he see but Jenny Curran.

She is down in Washington, he say, marchin in a big demonstration against the Vietnam War, an Mose say he wonderin why she botherin with that shit when she ought to be up here makin us money.

I say I has got to go see her, an Mose say, "Well, see if you can bring her back." He say he knows where she probly is stayin, on account of they is this group from Boston that has taken an apartment in Washington to demonstrate against the war.

I packed up all my shit - everthin I own - an thanked Mose an then I am on my way. Whether I come back or not, I do not know.

When I get down to Washington, everthin is a mess. They is police everwhere an people be shoutin in the streets an thowin things like in a riot. Police be bongin folks on the head what thow things, an the situation look like it be gettin out of han.

I find the address of the place Jenny might be at, an go over there, but ain't nobody home. I waited on the steps for most of the day, then, bout nine o'clock at night, a car pull up an some folks get out an there she is!

I get up from the steps an walk towards her, but she turn away from me an run back to the car. Them other people, two guys an a girl, they didn't know what to do, or who I was, but then one of them say, "Look, I wouldn't fool with her right now - she is awful upset." I axed why, an the feller take me aside an tell me this:

Jenny has done jus got out of jail. She have been arrested the day before, an spent the night in the women's jail, an this mornin, fore anybody could get her out, the people at the jail done said she might have lice or somethin in her hair cause it so long an all, an they had all her hair shaved off. Jenny is bald.

Well, I reckon she don't want me to see her this way, cause she has done got into the back seat of the car an is lyin down. So I crawled up on my hans an knees so I couldn't see in the winder, an I say, "Jenny - it's me, Forrest."

She don't say nothing, so I start tellin her how sorry I am bout what's happened. I tell her I ain't gonna smoke no more dope, nor play in the band no more on account of all the bad temptations. An I say I'm sorry bout her hair. Then I crawled back to the steps where my shit is, an looked in my duffelbag an find a ole watch cap from the Army an crawled back to the car an stuck it on a stick an polked it thru the winder. She took it, an put it on, an come out of the car, an say, "Awe get up off the groun you big Bozo, an come into the house."

We set an talked for a wile, an them other people been smokin dope an drinkin beer, but I ain't havin none. They is all discussin what they is gonna do tomorrow, which is that they is a big demonstration at the U.S. Capitol at which a bunch of Vietnam veterans is gonna take off they medals an thow them on the steps of the Capitol.

An Jenny suddenly say, "Do you know Forrest here done won the Congressional Medal of Honor?" An everbody get completely quiet an be lookin at me, an then at each other, an one of them say, "Jesus Christ have just sent us a present!"

Well, the next mornin, Jenny come into the livin room where I is sleepin on the sofa an say, "Forrest, I want you to go with us today, an I want you to wear your Army uniform." When I axed why, she say, "Because you is gonna do somethin to stop all the sufferin over in Vietnam." An so I get into my uniform, an Jenny come back after a wile with a bunch of chains she has bought at the hardware store, an say, "Forrest, wrap these aroun you."

I axed why again, but she say, "Just do it, you will find out later. You want to make me happy, doesn't you?"

An so off we went, me in my uniform an the chains an Jenny an the other folks. It is a bright clear day an when we get to the Capitol they is a mob there with tv cameras an all the police in the world. Everbody be chantin an hollerin an givin the finger to the police. After a wile, I seen some other guys in Army uniforms an they was bunched together an then, one by one, they commenced to walk as close as they can get to the steps of the Capitol an they took off they medals an thowed them. Some of the fellers was in wheelchairs an some was lame an some was missing arms an legs. Some of them jus tossed they medal on to the steps, but others really thowed them hard. Somebody tap me on the shoulder an say it is my turn now. I look back at Jenny an she nod, so I go on up there mysef.

It get sort of quiet, then somebody on a bullhorn announce my name, an say I is gonna thow away the Congressional Medal of Honor as a token of my support for endin the Vietnam War. Everbody cheer an clap, an I can see the other medals lyin there on the steps. High above all this, up on the porch of the Capitol, is a little bunch of people standin aroun, couple of cops an some guys in suits. Well, I figger I gotta do the best I can, so I take off the medal an look at it for a secon, an I be rememberin Bubba an all, an Dan, an I dunno, somethin come over me, but I got to thow it, so I rare back an heave that medal hard as I can. Couple of seconts later, one of the guys on the porch that is wearin a suit, he jus keel over. Unfortunately, I done thowed the medal too far an knocked him in the head with it.

All hell break loose then. Police be chargin into the crowd an people be shoutin all sorts of things an tear gas bust open an suddenly five or six police pounced on me an commence knockin me with they billy sticks. A bunch more police come runnin up an nex thing you know, I am handcuffed an thowed in a police wagon an hauled off to jail.

I am in jail all night long, an in the mornin they come an take me in front of the judge. I has been there before.

Somebody tell the judge that I is accused of "assault with a dangerous weapon - a medal - an resistin arrest," an so on an han him a sheet of paper. "Mister Gump," the judge say, "do you realize that you have conked the Clerk of the U.S. Senate on the head with your medal?"

I ain't sayin nothin, but it look like I am in serious trouble this time.

"Mister Gump," the judge say, "I do not know what a man of your stature, a man what has served his country so well, is doin mixed up with a bunch of tuity-fruities that is thowin away their medals, but I will tell you what, I is gonna order you committed for psychiatric observation for thirty days to see if they can figger out why you has done such a idiotic thing."

They took me back to my cell after that, an a wile later load me on a bus an truck me off to St. Elizabeth's mental hospital.

Finally, I am "Put Away."

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