KIM HERZINGER is a Pushcart Prize-winning critic and writer on minimalism and other contemporary literary phenomena. He is the official biographer of Donald Barthelme and editor of three of Barthelme’s posthumously published books, Flying to America: 45 More Stories, The Teachings of Don B. and Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews. Herzinger is also author of D.H. Lawrence in His Time and the owner of one of the fine used book stores in New York City, Left Bank Books. He teaches at University of Houston-Victoria.
Bim Was Sad
“In 1920, Bim the Clown was shot by the Cheka (political police), in the middle of a performance, for making anti-Bolshevik jokes.”
–Richard Vinen, A History in Fragments
Bim the Clown tried never to walk home in costume. He had done it once, yes, not long after the October Revolution. It had become wretchedly cold in Moscow that November and there was no coal for the stove in his dressing room, so he took to the streets straight from the theatre. He wore his wig, with its stiff, black, greasy hair uncoiling straight up from the top of the head, and on it was a tiny hat, a musty black bowler too small even for a child, with two holes in it that allowed patches of hair to corkscrew upward. He had on his motley coat, far too small for him, made of old carpet and faded rags and sewn together with large childish yellow stitches, and also pants that were entirely too large for him, held up with rope in the place of suspenders, with a billowing seat that had been polished until it shone even in the dark Russian night, and blue and green patches on the knees and one for goatish good measure at the top of his fly. His boots were both too large, too, but not at all alike. One was brown leather and crusty with age, the other was a made from some form of bilious rubber, and looked as if it had been painted many times—red, black, blue, green—but had now settled for a kind of mottled bloody gray that looked like a miner’s lung. It was so cold that night that he had even kept on his nose, bulbous and streaky and the color of a new bruise.
As he stopped to wait at the corner of Krappak and Plotz, slapping his sides to keep warm, Bim noticed a group of workers standing around a small fire in the ruins of a demolished church. They looked at him but did not smile. Their eyes glistened in the firelight and Bim thought he could see in their faces a kind of anger, a determined kind of disgust.
Then it came to him. They think I’m making fun of them with my unwashed and unkempt hair, Bim thought, and by wearing clothes that I might have pulled from a garbage heap, in whatever size and whatever condition, wearing whatever boots I can muster from scrap; with a nose red and huge from too much cheap vodka and beer. And then there’s this stupid hat, as if wearing a hat—any hat—is a last faint attempt at being a gentleman. I look like an aristocrat’s nasty dream of the proletariat. I might as well have just come from performing a satire for the pleasure of the Whites. The clown is a perverted caricature of the working man, stuck together with phlegm and glue, dirty by choice and habit, going in several crazed directions at once.
Bim went home that night swearing allegiance to the Party, so when Felix of the Cheka had asked him to clown on the Party’s behalf, he thought that this was indeed a way he could contribute. He would become, he thought, a new kind of clown, a clown who knew what clowns were, a clown who would reverse the damage done to the people by hundreds of years of clowns, a clown who would reveal to the working class a picture of themselves that they could laugh out of existence.
But now Bim was sad. He had been sad for a long time, but recently his sadness had almost interfered with his act. The jokes the Cheka had given him to deliver weren’t funny, and the audience, which once seemed to enjoy jokes at the Party’s expense, now sat silent, coughed self-consciously, or craned necks to look around the room.
Bim felt trapped. When Felix Dzerzhinsky had first approached him, Bim thought anti-Party jokes would be just the thing to make his name, to give him—as it were—a distinct presence in his profession. And Dzerzhinsky had convinced him that the Russian people needed a little lightening up after the difficulties of the Revolution. “Times have been tough for some of them,” Dzerzhinsky had said. “It hasn’t been a very long time, but some of the people foolishly thought the Worker’s Paradise would come into existence as soon as the Tsar was dead and the Bolsheviks were in power. When that didn’t exactly happen they became a little restless. You can help, Bim, you can give the Party a human face by showing the people it is aware of these temporary shortcomings.”
Bim was flattered. There were, after all, so many clowns these days, but none of them would be making their living by telling jokes that demeaned the Party. And clowns were everywhere. The Tsar’s court had loved clowns, and had hired them for every occasion. The Tsar himself had made it known that he wanted variety among his clowns. His five children ran the gamut in age, from 14 to 23, and Alexandra herself seemed to have a warm spot for different kinds of clowns—jugglers and magicians of course—who didn’t love jugglers and magicians?—but it was bandied about around the network of clowns that what Alexandra liked most were jokes and skits that actually made fun of her rank. Many of the clowns were still around that once made their names condescending to Alexandra and amazing her kids with their juggling prowess. And then there were all the new clowns, dressed in Constructivist costumes and wearing their hats at rakish angles, doing skits that featured Nicholas and Alexandra dressed in pompous eighteenth-century clothes and ordering death with the flick of a finger.
At first, Bim made up most of his own jokes. Laughter erupted, for instance, when he told the one about the Tsar and Lenin. “Why did the Tsar wear shoes while Lenin wears boots?” he asked the people. “Because in the Tsar’s time the shit was only ankle-deep.” The people had loved that one. But one night a few months ago, when he told the same joke, a man stood up in the middle of the auditorium and yelled, “The Tsar wore boots, too!” He was adamant, this man, and spittle flew from his mouth as he spoke. The crowd murmured assent.
In fact, this joke was one of the few left over from the time, only a year or so ago, when Bim had felt real independence about performing his own material. After all, he thought then, abortion and divorce and free love are now officially allowed, our artists are turning art upside down, the churches and monasteries are being leveled—now everything is permissible. But after saying what he wanted for a few months, the Cheka began to insist that he use their jokes. At first, he objected, telling Dzerzhinsky that their jokes just weren’t funny. Dzerzhinsky countered by saying that he thought they were. “I laugh,” he said. “The people will find funny what I think is funny. I know this because I am a man of the people.” He had raised his eyebrows in such a way as to imply that perhaps Bim was not a man of the people.
That very night Bim struck back at what he thought was Dzerzhinsky’s rude attempt to limit his independence. He wrote a new joke just before going on stage.
“In England, what is permitted is permitted, and what is prohibited is prohibited.
In America everything is permitted except for what is prohibited.
In Germany everything is prohibited except for what is permitted.
In France everything is permitted, even what is prohibited.
In Russia everything is prohibited, even what is permitted.”
The people had laughed, and Bim imagined that his revenge might be complete. But Dzerzhinsky had met him in the wings. His face was red and the veins in his neck stuck out from above the lapels of his gray suit. “That,” he said, “was not funny. Not at all. From now on you will limit yourself to our contributions to your act.”
“But Felix,” Bim said, “they all laughed. Didn’t you hear them?”
“I heard nothing of the sort,” said Dzerzhinsky.
“Nothing? Where were you standing?”
“I stand with the people,” said Dzerzhinsky. “Always.”
Bim said nothing, as there was nothing to say. Finally though, Dzerzhinsky smiled and held out his hand. “Perhaps we can resolve this issue. Have you eaten?”
Just then, at the wrong moment, Bim later thought, anger had gotten the better of him.
“I haven’t eaten since 1917,” he said, and started to walk away.
He did not turn around when he heard Dzerzhinsky say, “Just now I am thinking of withdrawing my gesture of friendship, Comrade Clown. And with it, of course, would be a withdrawal of trust. Remember this.”
In his dressing room, as he removed the shock-haired wig that had been provided him by the Cheka, Bim began seriously to consider the possibility that Felix Dzerzhinsky might revoke his license to clown.
Things had only become worse since then. Bim had sent his own jokes into exile, and now was doing material prepared exclusively by the Cheka. No one would have argued with Bim if he told them that the Cheka had no sense of humor, but he knew this was true in a way no one else did. For the most part, during his act the people just sat uneasily in their seats and waited for the girls to come sweeping down on their trapezes. There was a time when the girls would grab his hat while he flailed at them stupidly, lunging from one side of the stage to the other, and the crowd roared in sympathy with him, the flummoxed man in a stumbling attempt to regain his dignity after losing it to the sparkling girls, who glided far above him with mocking laughter and streaming hair. But now the people applauded for the girls alone, and they whistled the clown off-stage, relieved at his exit. He could feel this change, and it wounded him.
The only real laugh he had managed during the whole of the last week came when he changed the script. The Cheka had written a joke about gravity—Bim had argued with Yanov, one of Dzerzhinsky’s lackeys, that the subject of gravity was not generally assumed to be a crowd-pleaser with Russian audiences—but Yanov had insisted, and even threatened to bring in Dzerzhinsky if Bim refused to perform it. Yanov simply couldn’t manage to write anything that really made fun of the Party. So Bim had started going his own way, and a couple of weeks ago had sent Bim out with a handful of jokes making fun of the Swiss. “It’s no use making fun of the Swiss,” Bim told Yanov. “Nobody cares, and besides there’s just nothing funny about them.” And he was right, of course. The crowd sat silent as Bim delivered a number of jokes about economic conditions in Switzerland.
So now Yanov had saddled up another horse, and apparently thought he could get a good ride out of gravity. In one of Yanov’s jokes, Bim was supposed to say, “What the people think is gravity is simply the Party holding tight on the reins.” Bim found he just couldn’t do it. Not that it might not be true, of course, but it wasn’t funny. Even the Cheka had to realize it wasn’t funny. Still, he could see Yanov in the wings, rubbing his hands with anticipation, when he started to say his line. But what he said was, “What the people think is gravity is … is … really just … what’s holding them down is … that the world sucks!”
The crowd laughed, but Yanov was livid. Speech seemed beyond him, and once Bim was in the wings Yanov merely opened and closed his mouth and blinked wildly at him. Bim could not take his eyes off Yanov’s hands. The Cheka’s leading joke-writer had hands like a baby, curling and going rigid like a baby’s hands, jerking spasmodically, clenching and unclenching and missing their mark, except when they suddenly careened through his hair, glistening from the grease in Yanov’s special pomade—his “only concession to the bourgeoisie,” as Yanov had once told him in an intimate moment. The hands were all Bim could see. He didn’t even hear Yanov when he finally sputtered something about how Comrade Felix would have something to say about clowns thinking they could make up their own jokes in a time of crisis.
Back in his flat, Bim sat down to a drink with his friend Pezkov, who almost always visited after working hours. Pezkov, too, was in the clown business, but he suffered every night by having to play second fiddle to the Great Ekkles. Clowns rarely said anything very bad about other clowns, but Pezkov almost always had something bad to say about the Great Ekkles. Bim was in no mood to listen to Pezkov’s complaints, and he thought his friend would surely notice that he was seriously depressed. But Pezkov was off and running.
“Well, Ekkles really did it tonight.”
I’m no longer my own man, Bim was thinking. I’m not the clown I could have been.
“He pulls a girl out of the crowd, you know, the way he does every night. So there he is, smiling that gruesome smile of his—he’s got the chin extender on and everything—and he’s twirling this little girl’s hair.”
Bim was aware of a kind of hard emptiness moving somewhere around the stomach. Fear? Self-disgust? What was it?
“Now this is where I come in and honk at him,” Pezkov went on, “act jealous, chase him into the corner, and hit him over the head with the paper bucket.”
A paper bucket really is outré, thought Bim. What kind of clown would use a paper bucket in these days and times? Even the Cheka was past paper buckets.
“Little candy hearts are supposed to fly all over the place and then he gets down and scoops them all up into his shoe and offers them to the girl with a big watery tear coming out of his eye. The girl always takes the hearts. We worked on this bit together, it was mostly my idea really, and it never fails. Never. True love wins out and all that. They love it. They laugh, they roll, they’re slapping the shoulders of the people in front of them.” Pezkov shook his head and guzzled more beer.
The room was silent. Pezkov put his head in his hands. Bim was thinking about the Great Ekkles still using a prop as outdated as a paper bucket.
“So, what happened?” asked Bim finally.
Pezkov took another swig. “Well, the girl was terrified, see. So I see the girl is frightened and crying and I start honking at Ekkles. He grabs the little girl’s hand and puts the candy in it, but the candy’s sticky and when the girl tries to get rid of it these hearts just stick to her fingers and she shakes harder and harder and the hearts are stuck to her fingers like little pink leaches and she’s really bawling now, and so I start honking at Ekkles and I move at him like I’m going to chase him around the room again and hit him with the paper bucket—“
—“I can’t believe Ekkles is still using a paper bucket,” interrupted Bim.
“No, me neither, but he’s from the old school. Anyway, instead of letting me chase him around, he keeps pressing the girl to eat those candy hearts, he’s stuffing his mouth full of them to show her how to do it, and she’s holding her arms out to her Papa and bawling. When I get up to him, I say, “Take off, won’t you? Start running.” But something got into him, I don’t know, something, and he comes right at me, ruffles flying, his mouth full of pink goo, and he starts chasing me around and grabs the bucket, and the crowd is jumping through the roof.
“But Ekkles, well, Ekkles takes this opportunity to stick his honker in my ear and blast it—I still can’t hear out of it—and whack me over the head with the paper bucket. I look like an ass. I just stand there. I don’t know what to do. I’ve got no role. After the girl runs back into the crowd, Ekkles says to me, ‘You call yourself a clown, you Menshevik screw?’ and then lies straight down on his back and begins to give out these great heaving sobs. After a while he starts clambering around the stage on all-fours, picking up a candy heart, putting it in his mouth, and blinking teary-eyed at the audience as if he’s looking for his long-lost, and he does this until the people start to clap, and, finally, when they’ve clapped loud enough and long enough, he stands up and bows and waltzes off the stage as if he’s holding an imaginary little girl in his arms. I’m still just standing there, until finally I just give a honk and move off. They’re whistling at me, like I’m the villain of the piece. He’s the winner. It was humiliating, I’m telling you, it was humiliating and disgusting.”
Yes, Bim thought. Disgusting. Bad for clowns everywhere.
After a long time, Bim finally said, “Listen, Pezkov, let me tell you something. It’s something I’ve told no one.”
“I knew it! You’re a Buttercup!”
“Sure? A Snuggles? A Daisy?”
“Shit, I thought maybe you were a Buttercup. I mean, no girls. Except maybe for that Elena, the trapeze girl, back in ’16. “
“Elena went home to her boyfriend. He came back from the front without legs. Plus, there was some food out there.”
“Okay, you’re not a Buttercup. So you say. But you did lose out to a legless guy and some turnips. Don’t forget that. Anyway, enough. What is it you want to tell me?”
Bim got up to get another drink. “You and Ekkles, the Great Ekkles, you do your own stuff, right? I mean, you decide what you’re going to do out there and, even when it goes wrong—like tonight—it’s still your stuff, your material.”
Pezkov snorted. “So?”
“Don’t you see,” said Bim, “don’t you see how important that is? If we can’t do our own stuff, we’re going to do somebody else’s.”
“Or do nothing.”
“Not an option,” said Pezkov. “A clown’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.”
Pezkov is not a great clown, thought Bim. Pezkov is a second-shelf clown at best. But even he knows a clown can’t clown on somebody else’s say-so.
“What would you say to a clown who takes his orders from Felix Dzerzhinsky?”
“You mean Party Felix?”
“Everybody gets their orders from Felix Dzerzhinsky. And he gets his from The Man. Since that woman shot at him they’re after everybody who knew her, everybody who knew somebody who knew her, and everybody who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew her. Not to speak of everybody who may have known somebody who may have known somebody who may have known her. Plus all the Mensheviks, all the Whites, and all the Tsar lovers. That’s everybody.”
“Not everybody gets their act from Felix Dzerzhinsky. But I do.”
“How much of it?”
“All of it. Now. These days. Once in while I’ll do something of my own out of anger. . . or boredom. You can tell if its mine. They laugh. But Pezkov, what’s worst isn’t that they’re not laughing at the Party’s stuff, it’s that I’ve been … compromised.”
Pezkov was very quiet. He sat staring at his vodka. He tapped his fingers, still dirty with the dirt of the ring and the stage. Finally he broke the silence.
“I wouldn’t worry about being compromised, Zherkin. I’d worry about getting killed.”
Hearing Pezkov call him Zherkin, his actual name, the name his mother in Peszka had given him, reminded him that he had once had a life outside of being Bim the Clown.
Bim woke up in a sweat. He couldn’t eat a breakfast, and his stomach would not allow bread for lunch either. Outside it was snowing again, and Bim sat next to the coal stove but could not warm himself. Every so often, groups of men carrying long sticks and banners marched down his street and then back up it. He could not quite make out what they were chanting, but they looked determined, and the sound of their words seemed to form into small but sincere blocks of ice that hung in the frozen air until they dropped to the ground while the men crunched stolidly over them.
In the afternoon, Bim began to prepare for the evening’s performance. Having nothing to wear is not usually a clown’s complaint, but Bim found that nothing he had seemed right. He greased his hair and pulled it up into electrified points, then twirled it until it looked like a child’s drawing of a frightened man. In the end he simply mashed it down until his hair stuck to his scalp like a patent leather helmet. His costume, the same one he had worn so long ago when he decided he would clown for the glory of the proletariat, the same he had worn since he began his life with the Cheka, simply would not do. He felt small inside it. In his closet he found the clothes he had worn when he walked to Moscow from Peszka, the day his mother had cried when she said goodbye to him and had given him some chestnuts and the family icon. When he put it on it seemed funereal, somehow, formal wear for a serf’s wake. He put on a tie, not the ghastly oversized clown tie he wore when he skewered the aristocracy during the best days of his act, but the thin trite tie once worn by his late uncle to a provincial fair where he was going to receive a ribbon for the fantastic girth of his chickens.
Night fell early, and now the men moving up and down his street were no longer singing. He could barely see them through the scrim of the thick snowfall. Their dedication had turned to the single-minded task of hurling their hunched bodies and long coats ahead, moving themselves inexorably toward some distant goal. Petersburg, perhaps, Bim thought. Those lamps. But he did not know for sure, he could not really tell.
On his walk to the theatre, his usual clown costume in a bag he carried over his shoulder, no one took any notice at all.
Yanov was already there when Bim arrived, and gravely handed him some new material for his performance. In the hallway that served as a dressing room to the entire troupe—a juggler, a magician, gymnasts, trapeze girls, and two Constructivist clowns who dressed as The Big Dipper and The Eiffel Tower—Bim read Yanov’s first bit about the foibles of Estonian independence and then carefully folded the rest and put it in his pocket. Even though Bim’s performances had been anti-climactic for well over a year now, he would still be the last to take the stage. He had plenty of time to think.
The theatre was jammed. Winter snow had not stifled the crowd, and during the magician’s opening act he could hear that it was a particularly lively one. The Party had provided theatres which suffered from erratic heat some large banners which read “Let Your Comrades Keep You Warm,” and tonight it seemed that such a thing might actually be necessary. They cheered the magician and the juggler, moved their feet and clapped respectfully when the two Constructivist clowns did their comic take on the dynamism of three-dimensional planes and walking towers, and went absolutely wild when the theatre manager took the stage to announce that moving pictures would be added to the program as soon as the correct equipment was examined and released by the Central Committee. Bim had long thought that moving pictures were a threat to his profession and his livelihood, but had contented himself by thinking that at least the people would no longer have any use for Constructivist clowns once they were shown that moving pictures could do with ease all of the things that the Constructivists struggled to demonstrate as theoretical possibilities.
The crowd reached a peak of excitement during the performance of the trapeze girls. The girls had long since stopped coming out during Bim’s act, which always came next; the Cheka had decided that they were a confusing diversion, the manager thought they were redundant, and the girls themselves were happy to be able to leave the theatre a little early. By the time Bim took the stage, the crowd was stamping its collective feet and calling for more at the top of its collective lungs. In the wings, Yanov was standing next to Durstoff, a Cheka goon hired to watch for inappropriate laughter from people in the crowd, and beside him was Felix Dzerzhinsky himself, his arms crossed and smoking a cigar which had somehow made its way out of Germany to Moscow, where it was passed out as a favor by the Central Committee. “Finally,” one of the Committee members had said, “our share of the reparations!”
When Bim stepped onto the stage the crowd immediately went quiet. Yanov and Dzerzhinsky stepped up to the mouth of the wing and stared. Yanov was gesticulating and stamping his foot. “Where’s the clown?” someone in the crowd finally shouted. “Where’s Bim?” He was wearing his uncle’s gray suit and brown tie, and the crowd did not recognize him. When he took off his hat, though, laughter erupted. “He’s plastered it on!” someone else called out. From the back of the room, someone else roared, “He’s from the Cheka all right. Look out for your children!”
“It’s going badly for old Bim,” someone else shouted, “look how much weight he’s lost!”
“He eats sawdust sausage like the rest of us,” yelled someone else.
“What’s a sausage?” chimed in another.
With this, Durstoff stepped out further, pulled out a pad of paper and wrote something down.
Bim felt slightly drunk, and felt himself sway a little. “I have some news from Estonia!” he roared. He pulled the packet of Yanov’s Estonian jokes from his back pocket. “Listen to this, listen to this,” continued Bim, and then he read the first joke on the page. “Estonia wants its independence from Russia because Estonians think relations are more interesting outside of marriage!”
The crowd groaned. A few whistled. “Fuck the Estonians,” one yelled out. “Estonians aren’t funny,” yelled another. “Funnier than this so-called clown,” roared a third, while the crowd whooped its agreement.
“Yes, I agree, the Estonians are not funny.” Bim went on. “And also they are wrong when they say they want their independence because they disagree with the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks are right when they tell us we are very close to being in Paradise. We are! Here in Russia men and women have no clothes to wear, live without a roof over their heads, and have but one apple between them.”
Now the crowd shouted with laughter. “And snakes too!” somebody yelled out.
Durstoff was on the edge of the stage now, writing furiously.
Bim held up his hands for quiet, then pointed at Durstoff. “Don’t worry about him. He’s a passing fad. When real Communism is built in Russia we’ll have no police, no Cheka.” Instantly, the crowd was back on its feet. “No Cheka! No police! No Cheka! No police!”
Durstoff scribbled more names. Dzerzhinsky finished his cigar and rubbed it into the boards with his foot. Yanov held his head in his hands. His eyes were perfectly round.
Bim again raised his hand. The crowd waited. The loud chanting and the stamping of heavily shod feet ceased. This particular clown, this Bim, had something to say and he was about to say it.
“There will be no reason for police, no reason for the Cheka,” he finally said as he crossed him arms. “Because by then all of you will have been taught to arrest yourselves.”
At first the crowd was quiet, then slowly, from the back of the room, the chanting and stomping rolled forward. “No police! No Cheka! No police! No Cheka!”
Durstoff looked at Bim and growled. “But we have not reached the stage of real communism yet,” Bim shouted into the crowd, pointing again at Durstoff. “Look at him! His opinion of the Bolsheviks is the same as mine—that’s why it’s my duty to arrest him!”
The crowd roared even louder, “No police! No Cheka! No police! No Cheka!”
Bim’s ears were ringing. He staggered perilously close to the edge of the stage. He slapped the hands of the men in the first row, he held his arms above his head and clapped to the rhythm of their chant. He felt a kind of vertigo, the top of his head seemed to be coming unscrewed, and he could hear himself talking without knowing what he was saying. When Dzerzhinsky started walking towards him from the side of the stage, he appeared to come forward in a flickering wave. Instinctively, perhaps, Bim began to move away from him, lurching this way, then that, still talking to the men in the first row, who continued to clap and chant.
Bim had reached the other side of the stage and in his head there was a sort of chugging, as if the air itself was being chopped and hammered. But even through the shuddering going on between his temples, above the waves of the crowd’s hot breath, he could hear laughter, wonderful pure laughter, like it had been before the Cheka, like it had been when the trapeze girls swooped above and mussed his hair, like the way he had imagined it when he left his mother in Peszka to walk all the way to Moscow to become a clown for the people.
The crowd pointed and roared with laughter when they saw what looked to be another red-faced clown in Cheka dress emerge from the wings with outstretched arms, stumbling awkwardly as he chased Bim around the stage. Now this was funny! This was what they had come for. It was worth trudging through the snowdrifts and enduring the freezing weather to see these two clowns bumble about in a parody of pursuit and fear.
Bim was flat on his back at the edge of the stage, his head cocked at a crazy angle, and his blood dripped through the boards. The crowd probably hadn’t heard the shot, but they had seen the smoke rise from the barrel of the gun. And they had seen Bim jerk back and hold onto his neck; they had seen Dzerzhinsky walk away with his back towards them, grab Yanov, who was swaying with faint, and pull him off into the darkness. What an act, they thought at first, far far better than Bim’s recent performances, in which he had made uninteresting jokes about Switzerland and the Ukraine and the bad cooking of some of the wives of some of the members of the Bolshevik Central Committee.
Bim’s last thoughts drifted quietly, then lodged somewhere around the bridge of his nose. He was thinking of the Great Ekkles and his paper bucket. How ridiculous, he thought, how silly to think you could get by with a paper bucket in these advanced days of clowning. The people will no longer stand for such rubbish. He blacked out for good with the image of himself wagging a finger at the Great Ekkles, abashed and on his knees before him, in the midst of a promise never again to compromise the dignity of his profession.