Young Adult Novel, p.1Daniel Pinkwater
by Daniel Pinkwater
Copyright © 2014, Daniel M Pinkwater
Young Adult Novel
Dead End Dada
The Dada Boys in Collitch
(The First Chapter)
Kevin's new social worker was Mr. Justin Jarvis, and Kevin didn't like him one bit. He was constantly smiling, and he spoke in a smooth, soft voice that made Kevin nervous.
Most annoying was the knowledge that Kevin depended on Mr. Jarvis completely. Kevin's mother was in the madhouse. Mr. Jarvis called it a psychiatric facility—but it was a madhouse, nothing else—and Kevin's mother was mad. She had gone mad the day Kevin's father had been in the accident at the methane works—the day he had been deprived of speech, sight, and hearing, and the use of his legs. Dad was in the veteran's hospital now, little better than a vegetable. When Kevin was taken to visit his father, all he could do was sit and stare at the broken form in the wheelchair. His father horrified him, and made him feel angry. How could you leave me like this? Kevin thought.
What was Scott Shapiro, Kevin's father, thinking about in the wheelchair? Was he remembering the day he had been blown into darkness and silence forever by the exploding methane tank? Was he remembering that last morning, before the accident, before his wife, Cynthia, had gone mad? Was he remembering the news that had come that morning, that Kevin's sister, Isobel, had been arrested for prostitution?
As far as Kevin knew, Isobel was still downtown, working the bars across the street from the bus station. He wished he could talk to her. Isobel had always been the only one in the Shapiro family who understood Kevin.
Maybe some day Isobel would be brought in to the alcoholism treatment center where Kevin was staying. There was always a chance of that. Kevin had done his earliest drinking with Isobel.
If the vice squad ever caught her, they might bring her to the alcoholism treatment center. She wouldn't be sent to regular jail—after all, she was only fifteen—just two years older than Kevin.
Kevin felt the wad of money in his sock. He had earned sixty-five dollars that morning, selling pills to the other kids in the treatment center. In addition, he had twenty dollars he had stolen from Mr. Jarvis.
So here was Kevin, a thirteen-year-old alcoholic, pusher, and thief. His mother would probably never get well, his father certainly wouldn't, and his sister, Isobel, was turning tricks on State Street. It seemed to Kevin that there wasn't a chance in the world that he would ever get his life straightened out.
And he was right. So we hit him over the head and fed him to the pigs.
This is Charles the Cat speaking. The sad story of Kevin, the messed-up thirteen-year-old, is one of the pastimes of the Wild Dada Ducks. It is a story entitled Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan. The Wild Dada Ducks tell this story to one another. Each Wild Dada Duck makes up as much of the story as he likes, and the story is always changing. Sometimes Kevin is an orphan, sometimes a juvenile delinquent, a druggie, a lonely child of feuding parents, a social misfit, a homosexual, a weakling who wants to play sports, and any number of other kinds of hard-luck characters.
Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan is different from the novels in the Himmler High School library in that he never solves his problems. Instead, we usually kill him from time to time. Kevin is indestructible. You can kill him as often as you like. He can be brought back to life in the next chapter, which usually gets told the following day during lunch.
In addition to myself, Charles the Cat, the other Wild Dada Ducks are the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico), Captain Colossal, Igor, and the Indiana Zephyr. Those are not our real names—they are our Dada names. We don't use our real names anymore.
There is also the Duckettes, the Wild Dada Ducks ladies' auxiliary, which has no member at all at present. Should suitable females present themselves for membership in the Duckettes, we will consider them, but there have been no applicants as yet. Dada is generally a misunderstood art movement.
It was the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) who first told us about Dada. In those days El Presidente was known as Pecos Bill. When we heard about Dada, we all agreed to devote our lives to it, took new names, and began our historically important work of reshaping culture, righting the wrongs of the past, and producing new works of Dada Art. Starting with Himmler High School, we intend to bring about a world Dada Renaissance. We have already written a Wild Dada Duck Manifesto.
The Wild Dada Duck Manifesto
On this, the natal day of Marcel Duchamp (the first Tuesday of every month at 4:00 P.M.), the Board of Medical Advisors of the Empire of Japan declares that the institution formerly known as Margaret Himmler High School will henceforth become the Municipal Vacuum Cleaner. Teachers will report for reprocessing as diesel railroad locomotives, and students will adopt the appearance and function of electrocomputerized kitchen appliances. Those who choose not to comply with the ruling of the Imperial Medical Board will be required to present a paper cup not filled with cherry pits or gravel at the office of the ex-administrator of unexpected nasal events. All others will be required to present paper cups not filled with cherry pits or gravel at the nose of the official administrator of ex-events. By this simple measure, world peace, brotherhood and unlimited happiness has been secured for all mechanohumanoids.
Fellow machines! Dis-unite! This call to arms, torsos, and feet will not be repeated except by request.
One hundred thousand copies of the Wild Dada Duck Manifesto, printed on black paper with black ink were not made, and were not distributed to the students and faculty of Himmer High. This was the first important action of the Wild Dada Ducks, and it was met, as we hoped it would be, with wild indifference.
By the way, it turns out that the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) had not made Dada up in his own head. It is a real movement, and Marcel Duchamp was a real person. I found that out only after being a Dadaist myself for months.
At this point I would like to describe the members of the Wild Dada Ducks. The Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) is tall and thin. The Indiana Zephyr is tall and thin. I, Charles the Cat, am not tall, and thin. Captain Colossal is tall and not thin. Igor is not tall and not thin. Because Dada is a serious movement, we try to remain dignified in expression and dress. We laugh as little as possible, at least in the presence of others, and we always wear neckties. My favorite necktie is black with red plastic fish about five inches long attached to it with miracle glue. The Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) has a wheel from a baby carriage which he wears on a chain around his neck, over his tie. Igor has a banana on a string which he wears around his neck. He talks with the banana, whose name is Freddie, and also uses it as a mock microphone and make-believe pistol. Captain Colossal and the Indiana Zephyr are also stylish, but they do not have one favorite kind of attire—they alter their appearance from day to day.
This brings me to the response to the presence of the Wild Dada Ducks on the part of the other students at Himmler High. I am sorry to say that a great many of them are hostile to our Dadaistic expression of our innermost feelings. I am even sorrier to say that many more of the Himmler students are not hostile. They are totally indifferent. As far as I know, the Wild Dada Ducks have no active supporters in the school—not even any sympathizers. In a nutshell, they don't care about us, or they hate us. This includes teachers.
Of course, being resourceful Dadaists, we have decided to capitalize on the situation as it exists. Our every move as Wild Dada Ducks is calculated to make people ignore or detest us all the more. In this way, the population of Himmler
Of course we don't take any of the indifference or abuse personally. It is not as individuals that we are hated and ignored, but as Dadaists. What is more, we recognize our responsibility to educate and enlighten the people at Himmler.
And so, we are very busy Wild Dada Ducks. Some examples: In the main hall of Himmler High there is a large glass display case. It has electric lights in it, and was formerly used to display trophies won by the school's teams. Some time ago vandals opened the case and stole the trophies. There was a big uproar about it. As Wild Dada Ducks, we approved of this—feeling that the vandals might be groping their way toward Dadaism—and wrote a letter to the school paper saying so. The letter was never printed. The Wild Dada Ducks discussed this, and decided that the school was unable to deal with our clear-sighted philosophical analysis of the theft because it was grieving over the loss of the trophies. As a humanitarian gesture, we decided to give the school a new trophy, a better one than all the ones that had been stolen.
It was easily done. First we went to a junkyard and bought a fine used toilet—just the bowl, without the tank or seat. This we lovingly cleaned and polished until it was very beautiful, and looked much better than new. The only difficult part was getting access to the empty display case—but since there was nothing in it, it wasn't particularly closely watched. With a giant pair of pliers Igor smashed the dinky cheap lock on the case. We then placed the shining, lovely toilet in the case. (We had smuggled the art object, wrapped in brown paper, into the school the day before.) We turned on the electric lights. Then we replaced the dinky cheap lock with a new, beautiful one, made of brass, and very shiny. To prevent future vandals from getting into the case, we left the keys for the lock inside, next to the beautiful toilet. We had polished them too.
The total effect was wonderful! The toilet bowl gleamed in the warm electric light, and made all the Wild Dada Ducks very proud and happy. Now all the people at Himmler would be able to take pride again. Now there was a trophy even finer and more significant in place of the cheap ordinary ones that had been stolen. What was more, now all the people at Himmler would have a chance to think about what a beautiful object a toilet is! We had done a heroic thing.
And was it appreciated? Of course not! There were only two opinions expressed by all who saw our work of art. Some thought it was terrible, and some thought it was funny. However, everybody came to see it, and nothing else was talked about for the two days the toilet remained in the case, shining like a beacon of truth in the main hall of Himmler High.
The principal had our magnificently polished lock removed with a hacksaw, and the art work was removed and discarded—it would wind up on the same dump we had gotten it from.
Everybody suspected that we were the artists, but we remained silent. After all, we did not do what we did for credit, but for the benefit of mankind.
And now a word about Dada music. The Wild Dada Ducks are happy to note that there's a lot of very acceptable Dada music being performed these days. This is the only area in which the kids at Himmler show any signs of culture. Some of the groups approved by the Wild Dada Ducks are the Slugs, the Yeggs, the Noggs, and the Yobs.
Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan, Chapter One Thousand Fifteen:
Kevin didn't want anyone to see him thinking about Aunt Lucille, because whenever he thought about her there was a good chance he might cry. It made Kevin feel all soft and weepy when he remembered sitting in front of the huge stone fireplace at Red Oaks, Aunt Lucille's great house in the Kentucky bluegrass country. There, Kevin had had his own little room up in the attic, and his own Thoroughbred horse to train and ride. Winky was the name of Kevin's horse, and he had fed him and cared for him from the time he was a little colt. It had looked as though Winky had a great future as a racer, and Kevin was going to ride him in the Kentucky Derby.
All that changed the day Kevin was sent to Lexington with Simms, the handyman. They had driven over in Aunt Lucille's Rolls-Royce to get a new silver snaffle for Winky. How could Kevin have known that something would go horribly wrong at the nuclear reactor in Cogginsville, just two miles away from Red Oaks ? How could Kevin have known that Aunt Lucille and Winky, and all the other horses, and Red Oaks itself would light up with a strange blue glow, and that the entire place would be put off limits, and quarantined forever by the Atomic Energy Commission? Kevin would never see Winky and Aunt Lucille again—and how was he to know? Still, Kevin felt that somehow it was all his fault.
Another artistic project of the Wild Dada Ducks was our play, Chickens from Uranus, a science-fiction thriller. We made wonderful posters to announce our play. They had pictures of heavy machinery and really nice angular lettering that Igor does. It's almost illegible.
We put the play on in the lunchroom. Here it is:
Chickens from Uranus
Adapted from Macbeth
by William Shakespeare
Tick and Tock, two Roman emperors
Lord Buddha, a rock star
Henry Ford, a teenage starlet
The Devil, the devil
(All the characters appear wearing paper bags over their heads. The bags are decorated with cutouts of pictures of bulldozers, tractors, military tanks, automobiles, and chickens.)
TICK: Moo! Moo! Moo! Moo!
TOCK: Arf! Arf! Arf! Arf!
BUDDHA: Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo!
H. FORD: Meow! Meow! Meow! Meow!
THE DEVIL: (Whistles like a bird)
ALL: (Leafing through a deck of cards) Three of clubs. Jack of diamonds. Two of clubs. Ace of diamonds. Five of hearts. Queen of spades. Two of spades. King of clubs . . . (and so on until all the cards have been read).
ALL: (Hum) Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
It isn't much of a script in terms of length, but the actual performance took a good twenty minutes because we spoke extremely slowly, and moved very slowly, like robots. It was a great performance, and to prove it, nobody paid any attention to it. The best actor was Captain Colossal, who had the part of Henry Ford. It took him almost half a minute just to say "meow."
Amazingly, we were summoned by the Lord High Executioner (that's Mr. Gerstenblut, the vice-principal), as a result of our performance. He said that Himmler High School did not approve of our activities. He said that we had disrupted the lunch period by putting on an unauthorized play. Naturally, we thanked him for praising us, at which point he got angry. He shouted at us. He also told us that we were in violation of the Himmler High School Dress Code by wearing fish and baby-carriage wheels around our necks. And lobsters. On this particular day the Indiana Zephyr was wearing a very large red plastic lobster which we all admired.
Mr. Gerstenblut told us that if we didn't shape up we'd be in trouble.
Even though the Wild Dada Ducks are pacific, peaceful, nonviolent, and even ultra-nonviolent, we will not run from a fight if there is no other way. It was clear to us that Mr. Gerstenblut was making an ultimatum which could lead to only one response. War.
Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan, Chapter Six Thousand Four Hundred and One.
Kevin's head was swimming. Could it be? Was it possible, after only doing it once? Of course, he'd heard of it happening to other kids, but somehow he had never considered it as something that could happen to him. After all, Brenda knew what she was doing—she had told him so. She had said not to worry. Kevin had believed her. He had trusted her. He knew Brenda wouldn't lie, but now, here he was, looking at the doctor's face, which loomed as large as a face on a movie screen. The doctor had a kindly expression, but it all seemed like some kind of horrible nightmare. "Yes, there's no doubt about it," the doctor was saying to Kevin, "you are two months pregnant."
The most aggravating thing the Lord High Executioner said to us was that since the Wild Dada Ducks was not an officially sanctioned Himmler High School student activity, as far as he was concerned, th
We held a council of war. It was decided that we could not overlook this insult. Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) made a stirring speech. Igor and the Indiana Zephyr wanted to engage in prolonged terrorism, but Captain Colossal reminded them that any action we might take should be in keeping with our Dadaist principles.
There was some discussion of flooding the library and holding war canoe races there as a gesture of indifference to Mr. Gerstenblut's illmannered remark. While everyone agreed that the idea had merit, and it would be worth looking into for some future activity, it was generally felt that our response to Mr. Gerstenblut's insolence should be expressed more directly, even though that would not be the most Dada approach.
Finally, it was decided that since the Lord High Executioner had questioned our existence, the appropriate response would be to bring his existence into question.
It was agreed that we would issue a public statement of Mr. Gerstenblut's lack of reality, failure to be, and nonpresence in the world as we know it.
Captain Colossal printed up several hundred cards in the print shop. To make it classier, we printed them in French.
Since less than three percent of the kids at Himmler take French, there was considerable interest in the cards. People didn't know what they said. Also, we distributed them in an interesting way. We put stacks of them in the bathrooms of both sexes. People picked them up when they went to the bathroom, and handed them around.
Not only did we have revenge on Mr. Gertenblut, it was also the most successful work of Art so far undertaken by the Wild Dada Ducks. That is, it was the first thing we had done in which people had taken such an active interest. We were a little sorry we hadn't printed something about Dada on the card.
Young Adult Novel by Daniel Pinkwater / Young Adult / Humor have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes