Lenard Podgornik

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Lenard Podgornik
Louis Adamič
Izdano: Prosveta 21/262, 268, 280, 285; 1928
Viri: dLib 262, 268, 280, 285
Dovoljenje: To delo je v Sloveniji v javni domeni, ker so avtorske pravice na njem potekle.
Po Zakonu o avtorski in sorodnih pravicah (59. člen) trajajo avtorske pravice še 70 let po avtorjevi smrti.
Za anonimna in psevdonimna dela (kadar ni mogoče nedvoumno ugotoviti avtorja) trajajo 70 let po zakoniti objavi dela (61. člen).

Delo ni nujno v javni domeni tudi v ZDA. Za dela, objavljena pred letom 1978, se v ZDA upošteva rok preteka avtorskih pravic 31. december 95. leta od datuma stvaritve dela, za dela, objavljena leta 1978 ali pozneje, pa 31. december 70. leta po smrti zadnjega živečega avtorja.

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(Reprinted, by permission of the author, from the November issue of the American Mercury, wherein it appeared under the title of "Case History.")

Poglavja I. II. III. IV. V. dno


Soon after I came to San Pedro, five years ago, I noticed a shabbily dressed middle-aged man with a small mongrel dog pass by my dwelling two or three times a day, headed for the eucalyptus grove a stone's throw up the road. In time we came to know each other by sight and exchanged conventional greetings and remarks about the weather. The man obviously was a foreigner, perhaps a Slav.

One day I heard him call to his dog, whose name, it appeared, was Complex; and as I casually remarked on the unusualness of tho title, he explained, laughing broadly, that the dog was an unusual dog: he had a complex. He had acquired him, he said, a few months before from a friend who used to live in one of the shacks in tke grove, and betimes discovered that the trunk of a certain blue-gum eucalyptus near the cottage was, to all seeming, the only object in the world against which ... "Well, sir, it's a somewhat delicate matter," he told me. Three times a day he had to take the dog to the grove, else the poor animal would pass out in agony. It was a problem for psychoanalysis, no doubt, but so far that science had not tackled canine psychology.

Wo both laughed as though the case of the wretched dog was the drollest thing in the world. Then we exchanged a few personal questions and, to our mutual surprise, learned that by origin we were both South-Slavs, hailing, indeed, from the same province. The stranger had been in America over twenty-five years, spoke good English, appeared widely (but irregularly) read, and otherwise impressed me as an uncommon Bohunk.

Before long Lanard Podgornik began dropping into my quarters two or three times a week for an evening's talk or a game of chess, or to borrow a book or share a drink with me. We became intimate in a loose, detached sort of way. He seemed glad te have me to talk with, and I found him a pleasant, interesting fellow; a professional lazy man who, as I learned by and by, had worked hard the greater part of his life and then perceived the unwisdom of labor; a wondering, somewhat befuddled cogitator, the kind that one encounters in the most unlikely places; a quaint blending of bum and gentleman.

He had come ta America at nineteen, and for the first five years worked in Pennsylvania coal mines and iron foundries. At the end of that time ha had saved twelve hundred dollars. A saloonkeeper friend of his urged him to buy an interest in the establishment, but while he was considering the proposition the bank failed and he lost his savings. "Chances are that if I had gone into business," Podgornik remarked to me later, "I'd have lost it too, and perhaps not as neatly." But in those younger days he was less philosophical, and so, returning from work one evening, he picked up a brick lying in the street, went to the bank, and heaved it through the great window on which the name of the wrecked institution was inscribed in gilt letters. The sound of falling glass made him feel good; but paasers-by, thinking he was insane, seized him and called a policeman.

In his broken English Podgornik tried to justify his set, but the judge who tried him reacted unsympathetically to his loss of five years' savings and sent him up for six months. Actually, that judge did him a favor, for except for a few short strikes and a brief illness, this was Podgornik's first rest in America. Moreover, in the lockup he became acquainted with another Bohunk, a young Bohemian poet named John Novak, a Villonesque sort of character who claimed to have a degree from the University of Prague, to be a political exile from Austria, and to be sought, in addition, by the police of Paris, Vienna, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Reno. Just now he was in jail for stealing a few books from a shop in Pittsburgh, and he happened te be released at about the same time as Podgornik.

They had taken a liking to each other, and when Podgornik remarked that he guessed he would see if he could not return to work, the vagabond-poet advised him strongly against such folly. Why not come with him? He was going West. So they became partners, bumming through the West, and working occasionally as farm-hands, as saloon porters or as laborers on construction gangs; now and then the resourceful poet even pulled a job which temporarily put them on Easy Street. One night there was a brawl in a salon in a mising-town in Montana and Novak caught a stray bullet in his chest. He died saying something in Latin, which Podgornik, having had but two years in the Gymnasium, did not understand.

Having buried his partner, Padgornik moved on, but soon discovered that bumming alone was not to his taste: he could not hope to find a partner to take the place of Novak. He drifted to Sunny California, and in Los Angeles he heard of the breakwater that the Federal government was building at San Pedro harbor. He went to the port and found work on the trestle, rolling boulders off flat-cars into the Pacific.

San Pedro; although not one-sixth the size it is now, was even then a lively town, with Front street a solid row of saloons and Happy Hollow a place dedicated to undisguised sin; but Podgornik's tastes, while not of an ascetic nature, found little satisfaction in that direction. He missed John Novak and his crazy, highfalutin talk. Among the people with whom he came into contact he found no one to take the poet's place. He knew a few Dalmatian Croats, but he could not bring himself to enter into intimate friendship with any of them. As for tho dagoes, the squareheads, and the native Americans, they were out of the question.

Podgornik was lonesome. Ha resubscribed to Glas Naroda, a Slovene newspaper published in New York, which he had been getttng in Pennsylvania. One day he noticad the wife-wanted ad of a Slovane workman in Colorado, and it occured to him that maybe it was time he thought of marriage himself; he would soon be thirty, and at that age one should settle down. So he composed and sent off a little advartisement announcing his wish to correspond with a "good, diligent Slovene maiden or young widow without children," and, hinting delicately that he inclined to matrimony, suggested that applicants enclose their photographs.

To his dismay, several hundred Slovene maidens and childless widows all over America answered the advertisement and most of them enclosed their pictures. Lanard spent two months reading the letters and looking at the portraits, comparing the girls' virtues as described by themselves, and classifying them under various headings. At the and he sifted the problem down to six applicants whose virtues appealed to him about equally, and dumped the pictures and letters of the rest into the Pacific. Then he donned his best clothes, went to a barber-shop, and thence to a photographer, and a few days later mailed a copy of his likeness, with a polite request for further particulars, to eaeh of the half-dosen Bohunk maidens. Four of them answered, and in about six weeks, after he had given yet more thought to their merits, as set forth by themselves in greater detail, Podgornik wrote to Agnes Judnick, of Cleveland, Ohio, to come to California as soon as she saw fit, and invited her, if it turned out to be agreeable to har, to become his wedded wife. She need have no fear, he assured her: true, he was no angel, but in fairness to himself he must say that his habits were fairly regular, that he had a steady job on the breakwater, which would take two more years to complete, that San Pedro was a nice place to live in, right next to the ocean, with the sun shining nearly every day, and that if she made him a good wife, which he thought she doubtless would, he would treat her right.

According to the best testimony, matrimony was a gamble; and Lenard figured that parhaps this was as good a way of getting a wife as any.


They exchanged a few more letters. Agnes was a prudent, circumspect girl. His letters were convincing enough, but how could she be sure the man was not a scoundrel siming to do her evil? Four more months passed, and Podgornik, in his lonely singleness, developed a great longing for a sight of his unknown picture-bride-to-be and finally sent her the fare to California. Agnes decided to take a chance and Lenard took a day off and met her at the station in Los Angeles. A week later they were married in the Christian manner.

True, Agnes was not the good-looker represented in the photograph, but she was a healthy and competent young woman. She had been in America only two years, working as a milliner in Now York and Cleveland, but, as Lenard soon perceived, she possessed considerable information about America. After they had become better acquainted, she told him that the reason she had answered his advertisement in Glas Naroda was because she had heard so many wonderful things about California (which, Podgornik reflected, had doubtless been the motive of his otker correspondents), adding, however, that she had nothing to regret.

By and large, Agnes made Lenard Podgornik, a good wife. She was resourceful and industrious, and possessed most of the other virtues she had specified in her letters. Indeed, she was well-nigh everything that a poor man's wife should be. Although her English was still none too fluent, she found a job as a waitress in a lunch-room almost immediately and worked at it until her first child was born.

Lenard worked on the breakwater till its completion. They managed to save a little and presently bought a lot on part-payments and built a house. From the breakwater Lenard went to longshoring and, although work on the docks was irregular, he managed to keep up the payments on the property and provide Agnes with good medical attention in her annual confinements.

Some lie beneath the churchyard stone, And some before the altar.

Just before the war he took out his citizenship popers and in the wartime, although an Austrian or Bohunk by origin, he worked at the shipyard in East San Pedro, making big money while Agnes raised the children. He joined the Elks, cleared the indebtedness on his property, and as the family increased, put up an addition to the house and, a shed for the Ford. He listened uncritically to four-minute speakers and bought Liberty Bonds till it hurt.

The war over, he stayed in the yard at a smaller wage, which, however, yielded him enough to provide for his family according to American standards and now and then put a little by. San Pedro was booming, and Lenard and Agnes, lying in bed at night, spent many an hour discussing how they might best take advantage of the boom. They had three thousand dollars in the bank and another thousand in Liberty Bonds. Agnes favored buying a corner lot on Pacific avenue; she had heard that a Jewish merchant downtown had recently acquired several, which surely was a sign that something was soon to happen. Lenard, on the other hand, was inclined to consider a proposition he had been let in on by a fellow named Joe Miller, whom he knew in the yard. A certain ship master, Joe, and two other men were getting together to acquire two lumber-schooners that lay anchored in the Outer Harbor and were for sale dirt cheap; they proposed ta start carrying lumber from Puget Sound It was a big thing; after they got going they would all be making money hand over fist, for there was no doubt that a boom would soon strike the whole of Southern California, with the result that shiploads and shiploads of lumber would be quired for building.

Podgornik had three days in which to consider the proposition. On the third day Joe Miller happened to pass by him. Well, had he decided yet to get in on the deal or not? Lenard hesitated. Joe shrugged his shoulders; it was immaterial to him one way or another; he could do as he pleased; they could get all the money they wanted is Los Angeles and Long Beach; he had merely suggested it because Lenard was a permanent citizen in San Pedro, and they wanted to give the home folks the first chance.

At lunch-time Podgornik went to the bank, withdrew twenty-five hundred dollars, which was the minimum Joe Miller would consider taking, and, in exchange for a receipt, handed it over. That was the last he ever saw of either Joe Miller or the cash. Two weeks later he learned that the whole thing had been a bunco scheme, whereby eight or ten other workmen in the yard had been similarly swindled out of their savings.

Agnes, of course, was furious. She told Lenard in forceful terms what she thought of him, and he silently agreed with her. The bunco outfit had no window into which he might hurl a brick, and he brooded over his folly. At home he scarcely ate, or spoke in the yard he hardly knew what he was about, At times he walked in a dase.

This was the beginning of a streak of ill-luck. The week before Thanksgiving, soon after they had lost the twenty-five hundred dollars, Agnes won a live turkey in a raffle conducted as an advertising stunt by a grocery-store downtown; and on the eve of the holiday she sent Lenard to fetch the bird. He set out immediately, intending conscientiously to comply with the command, but on returning he met a fellow he knew who lured into taking a drink out of his bottle. Prohibition and bootlegging were then still in their infancy and the rotgut which Lenard imbibed presently put him in doubt whether he was going or coming. He menaged to walk, but in doing so he held the turkey by its legs, so that its squawking head dragged on the sidewalk.

Then a large automobile drew up alongside and he heard himself adressed by a severe female voice which for the first half-minute he was unable to distinguish from the turkey's yapping. The lady in the car appeared to object strenuously to the manner in which he carried the fowl. That seemed strange to Lenard, and, uncomprehending, he walked on. But presently the dame's Negro chauffeur came after him and led him back to the car. Meanwhile the dame had ordered an urchin to hunt up a policeman, and when the latter appeared, she informed him that she was Mrs. So-and-So of Pasadena, wife of Mr. So-and-So, the financier and philanthropist, and second vice-president of the Southern California branch of the of the Humane Society of the United States. She was also a deputy sheriff of the county of Los Angeles and, opening her beautiful beaded handbag, she produced a gold badge. She had arrested this inhumane wretch, who, on top of hie shocking treatment of the turkey, was also drunk: would the officer kindly take him into custody? She was in a hurry for a dinner engagement at the Yacht Club, but would later call at the police headquarters and attend to the case. Lenard spent four nights and three days in the San Pedro bastille. What became of the turkey remain a mystery; instead of turkey meat, Agnes and the children had boiled beef and potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner; end when Lenard returned home, he found, to his relief, that his wife's anger had reached the point of speechlessness.

He returned to work in the yard and for days his fellow-workers kidded him about the turkey, for his adventure with the humane Pasadena dame had been duly reported in the Daily Pilot. Lenard was annoyed, but tried to appear to take their jibes good naturedly. He moved about in a sort of self conscious stupor and one nice day he stumbled going down a narrow gangplank, fell, landed on a fender-log between the dock and the ship, bumped his head against a pile, and then rolled into the water. They fished him out with a broken leg, two fractured ribs, and a cut on the side of his head.


He was laid up for three months, and had his second rest in America. Agnes toned down her reproaches; the children were told to let him alone, and now and then a few of the fellows from the yard came to see him in the evening or on Sundays. One of them, Jim Culley, a timid-looking, smiling Irish rigger who, if he knew one, liked to "talk about ideas" and was on that account often suspected of radicalism, brought him a little packet of literature, as he called it, suggesting that Lenard give it the once-over.

Podgornik had not been much of a reader. Years before Novak had stolen books from public libraries and bookshops and made him read them, but he had enjoyed only two or three, and these only moderately. Perhaps Novak's tastes in books had been too high for him. He was getting the Los Angeles Examiner, the San Pedro Daily Pilot, and the Slovene-language (Glas Naroda from New York, and occasionally he bought the Literary Digest or the Saturday Evening Post, to sort of keep up with events, although not infrequently he had a sneaking notion that things were happening in the world that were not mentioned in these prints; that, indeed, everything was not as it seemed; that although he was an Elk and the father of five children and had a document to show that he was a citizen of the greatest country under the sun, he was but a paltry bit of nothing within an elaborate scheme; and that this radical talk one heard from Jim Culley and other fellows possibly was not all hooey, as some of the men thought. He felt all this confusedly without ever molding the feeling into the silent formulae of thought. He had little time for reading and less for thinking. Evenings he was too tired, or there was an Elk meeting; on Sundays, if he had nothing else to do, the kids wanted him to explain the funnies, or take them to the beach and play with them.

Ha glanced at the titles of Jim Culley's booklets. One caught his eye - "The Rights to be Lazy," translated into English from the French of one Paul Lafargue, Podgornik read it. It was a learned Socialistic tract, full of footnotes, references to and quotations from Tacitus, Salvianus, Descartes, Plato, Monsignor Le Play, Saint Matthew, Napoleon, de Villerme, Goethe, and others, most of whom Podgornik had never heard of, unless it was that Novak had mentioned them to him years ago in his discourses on the road, which somehow had failed to touch him very deeply. He read it again; then put it aside and looked at the ceiling.

The right to be lazy! The right! ... Podgornik understood the brochure only in spots, and these were far apart; but as remotely as he perceived the writer's argument, he experienced the inner excitation. A vague thrill passed through his entrails. In view of the arduousness and grimness of his labors in the past and the loss of his savings on two occasions, the philosophy of laziness struck him as very charming and worthy of one's thoughtful consideration. His labors, he suddenly realized, had been unproductive for himself of any beneficial results: here he lay, an old man at forty-one, tired, his body broken, his savings gone. No wonder he had lost his money; no wonder a woman could get him locked up for three and a half days for carrying upside down a turkey that had been raised to be killed and eaten! He was stupid. His endless labors had made him stupid, a fit object upon which crooks and busybodies might practice their arts. Suddenly he rebelled against work.

Later he told me: "I was so keyed up over this new notion that I sat up and felt no pain in my injured parts, although I was not supposed to move violently. My mind seemed to be flooded with a light-as if the Holy Ghost himself had come over me. I decided that I'd never work again - that is, hold down a job like I used to for twelve or fifteen years. I'd be lazy! Let the others work; they didn't know any better. I laughed out loud. Agnes came in wondering if I had gone crazy or what. I told her to get the hell out, shut the door and let me alone. I was a bit surprise at my own boldness, talking to her that way, and laughed some more. She was sure I had lost my mind and for a while treated me not alone with caution, but with gentleness."

Lenard had Jim Culley bring him more literature, both from his own collection and from the public library. He read Upton Sinclair's indignations about the stockyards , high life in New York, newspapers, and the religious business; Plutarch's lives, Lecky's "History of European Morals," Plato, Gibbon's "Rome," Schopenhauer, Dreiser, Nietzsche, Santayana, and St. Augustine. He read anything and everything.

Long afterward he said to me: "Although I understood hardly one-third of what I read, I felt like a new man. The more I read, the more I understood, or thought I did. My English was still very limited, but Jim got me a dictionary; and sometimes when I found out the meaning of some word and all at once things sort o'cleared up in my mind, I experienced a kind of holy thrill-oh, laugh, I don't care!" he exclaimed, laughing himself. "It occurred to me that I was just beginning to live. Jim Culley, who was a sort of poet, insisted that my soul was reborn; Agnes, on the other hand, contended that I was just queer because in falling off the gangplank I had bumped my head. In fact, she believes to this day that a screw was loosened in my cranium - which for all I know may be correct."

From Agnes's viewpoint, Lenard's queerness manifested itself in increasingly deplorable ways, the most appalling pf which was his announcement, soon after his much delayed recovery, that he would not return to his old job, waiting for him at the yard. He left the house at eight-thirty in the morning and returned toward evening, having spent most of the time at the library or in Jim Culley's shack in the eucalyptus grove, reading everything from "Susan Lenox" to "The Winning of Barbara Worth," from the Atlantic Monthly to the Smart Set; or sitting in the park on the bluff overlooking the harbor, walking around, dropping into pool-rooms, talking with Jim Culley's friends, most of whom, like Jim, as Lenard learned, were I.W.W.'s, and, by and by, became his friends too. He liked to listen to these fellows and occasionally put in a word of his own newly acquired book wisdom.

"I was beginning to live," he said to me three years later, "live, if you know what I mean. I was getting at the underside of life. And I heard and saw things I had not even dreamed of before, although they were all around me. I could watch flying sea-gulls by the hour. I went on the breakwater with bags of stale bread and fed it to the birds; in time they recognized me before I even opened the bag and flew screeching about me. Or, going over to Jim's shack, sometimes I imagined those those eucalyptus-trees to be living beings, as they actually were, moving, waving their arms, assuming all sorts of shapes in the changing light. My faculties seemed to be keyed to a higher pitch. I was living."

Agnes, naturally, could not be expected to appreciate Lenard's new interests. She raised hell. How did he expect the family to exist? Had he no pride? Wasn't he a man? Who would provide for their support? There was but a few hundred dollars left in the bank, the taxes on the house would soon be due, the children needed clothing, she had nothing decent to wear, and he himself walked around shamefully like a tramp. It was a disgrace for a family man to behave that way. Didn't he want to see his children started out right in life?

Podgornik knew that Agnes was right, but he said nothing: just then he was excited by Dr. Freud's findings, or it may have been by Walt Whitman, the poet of loafing, or by Jurgen, the poet-pawnbroker. But when, some time later, Agnes informed him that the bank balance was less than one hundred dollars, he began to look for a job. He drove an ice-wagon for a month, but gave it up in favor of the milk-route of a creamery concern, which suited him better; he did most of the work early in the morning and then had time for loafing and reading-living. But the young man who delivered milk for a rival company was a go-getter and soon took most of Lenard's customers. Subsequently Lenard tried lobster-fishing in the bay, running a cigar-stand, operating a pop-corn machine, and so on: in one way or another, in the three years following the accident, or the "rebirth of his soul," as he called it, he managed to earn enough to keep Agnes and the kids in food and clothes, to pay taxes and insurance dues, and to still find time now and then to "live" - that is, to read, loaf, feed the gulls, catch the ships, the changing light on the bay, the color of the sky at sunset, and stroll in the eucalyptus grove, smelling the perfume of the trees.

As to Agnes, to his children he was queer; the older boy, indeed, was a bit more drastic and on occasion declared him goofy, while the girl, who was going to highschool, one day came home crying because some urchins in the neighborhood had shouted after her that her old man was a Bohunk and a nut.

This jogged Lenard considerably. He obviously could not be himself and do as he liked: he owed the children a duty, and promised that he would do something.


Six months before I met him, his fortune suddenly taken a brilliant turn. Favorable circumstances had got him on the good side of Nick Velikanovich, a Dalmatian-American, ostensibly a fisherman, owner of a sizeable smack and a set of purse selnes, but really an enterprising member of a booze-running outfit operating a fleet of speed-boats from San Pedro. Lenard suggested that he would like to try the game, and Nick gave him a long look and said O.K.

For three months Lenard drove a prehistoric Ford truck bearing the legend "Fresh Fish-Caught Yesterday." delivering the stuff to Nick's customers in Los Angeles. It was an ideal job. Ordinarily Lenard made his deliveries by noon and spent the rest of the day in the public library or his favorite bookshop next to the police-station, where he met bookish fellows in shabby clothes whose pockets bulged with pamphlets and papers, and who now staggered him with their erudition and then caused him to question the soundness of their minds. Occasionally he took in a matinee or a lecture, or mixed with the crowd of musty old atheists and anarchists in Persing Square, arguing with young students from the Bible Institute.

The "fish business" had in it an element of risk; but then, Lenard understood that Nick Velikanovich had considerable drag, which he used if one of his people go tinto difficulties. It was interesting work, like reading a good, honest book; indeed, far more revealing of things-as-they-were than the works of America's foremost muckrakers. Almost weekly he came upon some eye-opener. In a bawdy-house which was among his best customers, for example, he once saw the ladies not otherwise engaged sitting in the reception-room folding the campaign literature of the candidate for reelection as district attorney.

It was, moreover, the most remunerative occupation Podgornik had ever engaged in. But then, just as Agnes's hope that they might yet own a corner lot on Pacific avenue was reviving, he strayed again into trouble.

In the Spring of 1923 the I.W.W. longshoremen of San Pedro organized a strike and, tying up the port, gave the shipping interests on the Coast a good scare. Scarcely a vessel moved for two weeks and the gogetters were getting panicky. The situation was a tense one. Policemen, uniformed and in plain clothes, almost outnumbered the strikers.

Lenard was not a radical in the conventional sense of the word. He shared the wobblies' antipathy to work, but was attracted to them chiefly because his friend Jim Culley was one of their leaders. The idea that then intruded itself most insistently on his mind was that life was a futile, elaborate muddle, but vastly interesting as a spectacle-indeed, beyond improvement. In the three years since his "rebirth" he had achieved a jovial sort of cynicism, and had no great difficulty keeping himself from taking sides or getting violently indignant over things.

Sometimes he sat on some wharf in the Outer Harbor or on the breakwater watching hell-divers and pelicans dive for fish, and somehow he could not help thinking of the I.W.W. The bird shot down and in a moment came up with a helpless fish wedged in its beak. That was life: bird ate fish, somebody else ate bird, and so on. Among the animals, members of one species did not, as a rule, feast upon their fellows because the law of the survival of the fittest tended to equality, which in turn led to mutual respect. In human society, however, the weak were preserved and propagated; there were classes among humans that had nothing in common with the classes on the opposite extreme; the go-getting capitalist and the poor working stiff belonged to two different species as widely separated as the hell-diver and the fish. Lenard thought there was nothing that could be done about it: the fish, it appeared, were unable to develop any understanding of what the hell-divers and pelicans were doing, or any means to stop them. The I.W.W. movement was merely analogous to the wrigglings of the fish in the bird's beak.

But he liked Jim Culley above anyone else under the sun. Jim was the midwife who had attended at his "rebirth"; and, besides, Lenard thought that they had a good deal in common. At times he suspected that Jim was only a wobbly agitator out for mischief, fort he sheer thrill he got out of stirring things up, rather than a man of deep conviction. It was the Irish in him. Several times before and during the strike he tried to make Jim admit that that was the case.

One night in the second week of the strike Lenard sat him in the letter's shack. They talked of the situation.

Jim smiled wrily and said: "Well, I'll tell you, Len-far as I can make out, and strictly between you and me, we are striking fort he hell of it, showing off out power, going through motions. You had me figured out right. I know that at present it's like throwing rocks at the moon."

Lenard stared at his friend and was about to let out a whoop of cynical delight when the door was pushed abruptly open, admitting four detectives of the Radical Squad who, after placing both Podgornik and Culley under arrest for being Reds, ransacked the shack and seized the small library, everything from the wobbly songbook to Wells' "Outline of History," as evidence.

Two hours later they were in a tank at the Los Angeles city jail. Lenard stayed there three weeks and barely escaped being railroaded, along with Jim Culley, to San Quentin.


Meanwhile, Agnes gave the Daily Pilot an interview in which she denounced the I.W.W.'s in no uncertain way, came out in favor of American institutions barring none, suggested that all those who didn't like this country go back where they came from, and regretted powerfully that her poor husband, once a loyal American citizen and faithful breadwinner for his family, had strayed among these obscene radicals. She blamed his misstep, however, not on his innate evil nature, but on the fact that three and a half years before he had suffered a severe bump on his head, which resulted in his berating queer and not entirely responsible for his actions. She made no effort to get him out of jail; indeed she later admitted to him that she had hoped they would keep him in as long as possible: he was worthless, anyhow.

Instead, she went to Nick Velikanovich and arranged with him to take over her husband's work. And-to make a long story short-by the time that Lenard emerged from the lock-up, Agnes was doing five times the business that he had done.

Free again, the first thing that he did was to comply with Jim Culley's request to go to the vacant shack in the eucalyptus grove, find his dog and take care of it until Jim came out of San Quentin. He found the animal the second day and took it home. But he soon discovered that the mutt had the unfortunate and unmentionable complex already referred to, and re-named it accordingly.

It was soon after this that I made Lenard Podgornik's acquaintance. We became friendly, as I have said; he told me of Agnes's flourishing business and confessed to assisting her on her busy days; and he seldom visited me without bringing a sample of his best goods. I enjoyed his quaint ways and his talk. Later, one day he took me to the house and I met Agnes, a strapping, capable woman who spoke fairly good American. I came into her confidence and it was amusing to hear her tell me what a wonderful man Lenard had been before and during the war, and propound her bump-on-the-head theory of his present queerness.

As a booticienne Agnes was a vast success. In a year she was in position to buy a large apartment-house in Los Angeles. So she moved with her family, except Lenard, to the city, and thereafter conducted her operations from there, and with even greater profit.

Lenard remained in San Pedro. He had no particular love for Los Angeles. Besides, there was Complex, who had to be taken to the eucalyptus grove three times a day, which would have been impossible had they taken him to the city. Having promised Jim to take care of him during his sojourn in San Quentin, Lenard was unwilling to turn him over to anyone else. And then, too, he felt that Agnes was just as happy, if not happier, without him. He would have to have been blind not to see that she and Nick Velikanovich had become great friends.

He lived in the old house on the bluff, took walks on the breakwater to feed the gulls, bootlegged just enough to make his living expenses and buy an armful of books whenever he went to Los Angeles, played billiards in his favorite downtown hang-out, saw that Complex was happy, and came to see me.

One day Complex was run over by an automobile, which saddened Lenard considerably.

Soon afterward Jim Culley returned from San Quentin, and I met him. He was not quite the gay young Irish-man Lenard had described to me. He seemed a bit abrupt, distrustful, bitter, impatient; only now and then did his jovial Irish nature come to the surface for a while with the aid of a few drinks.

He told me he had enough of America and was planning to go to Mexico as soon as he had made a stake. He had lived there throughout the war, dodging the draft, he told me; he had learned the language and found the Mexican manner of living, especially in the small, out-of-the-way places, most charming. People there were still human. They lived simply, spontaneously, believed in sin and song. Mexican women knew how to love, and the men were not all wrapped up in business and work.

Then, for some time, I saw very little of either Lenard or Jim. As I learned later from Nick Velikanovich, they were going hot after the shekels, making a stake. One afternoon they came to say goodbye.

"Yes, I'm going with Jim to Mexica," said Podgornik. Jim tells me it's a real place where a man can live. A man with a soul. I believe him. We'll be partners. If I like it, maybe I'll never come back. Don't say anything to Agnes, though, if you see her. I told her I'm going to Mexico, but she doesn't know I may not return. I don't want to make her too happy all at once. She and the kids will be better off without me. They're Americans. Agnes is, too. She has the American idea. Some day she'll be a rich woman. I-I don't know what I am. I'm nothing, I guess; not even a Bohunk any more. Jim used to say that I have a soul. I don't know … Well, adios! You see,« he laughed, "I habla Espanol already, Adios, amigo!" Evidently, he had had a few drinks.

That was the last time I saw Lenard Podgornik. A while later I received a short note from a place in the state of Sonora. "Boy, I'm living!" he wrote. "Everybody here hates work. People here are wise without knowing it. I'm getting younger. Don't say anything to Agnes if you see her. Jim sends regards."

One day not long ago I ran into Agnes on the boulevard in Hollywood. She did not appear particularly happy at meeting me, but I was interested and asked her to lunch. I learned that she had given up bootlegging for more respectable pursuits. She had been caught, but man-aged to get out of it; and then, as it came to me from another source, he had quarreled with Nick Velikanovich … But she was reluctant to talk of her past. The children were just fine, thank you. The oldest girl was in a school-for-girls in Pasadena. The oldest boy was taking up law. And so on.

"I guess you know that my husband is dead," she said with amazing casualness. "Yes, I got a report from Sonora, Mexico. Official report. A snake bit 'im." We finished our lunch. "Say, what do you think of theosophy? I think it's wonderful, don't you? You heard of Krishnamurti, didn't you?"

I had; but I was more interested in the date of Lenard Podgornik's decease as reported by the Mexican authorities. She told it to me. Later I examined the letter I had received from Sonora. I was undated, but the postmark, although slightly blurred, shows that it was mailed five days after Podgornik's "official" death.

Mexican officials are most obliging. I'd not be surprised to hear from Lenard again.

The End.