A Confederacy of Dunces: extracts (48)

Ignatius looked sternly at the young boy who had placed himself in the wagon’s path. His valve protested against the pimples, the surly face that seemed to hang from the long well-luricated hair, the cigarette behind the ear, the aquamarine jacket, the delicate boots, the tight trousers that bulged offensively in the crotch in violation of all the rules of theology and geometry.

“What’s matter with me? What’s the matter with you? Are you unnatural enough to want a hot dog this early in the afternoon? My conscience will not let me sell you one. Just look at your loathsome complexion. You are a growing boy whose system needs to be surfeited with vegetables and orange juice and whole wheat bread and spinach and such. I, for one, will not contribute to the debauchery of a minor.”

“Someone with decency grab that juvenile delinquent. That filthy little minor. Where is his respect? That little guttersnipe must be lashed until he collapses!”

“Is my paranoia getting completely out of hand,” Ignatius asked the group, “or are you mongoloids really talking about me?”

“My entire nervous system is on the brink of revolt against me for subjecting it to such trauma. Ignore me if I suddenly go into a state of shock.”

They probably derive some sort of pleasure from the spectacle of a poor and struggling vendor’s being publicly humiliated. They probably respect the boy’s initiative.”

“Money? No money was stolen. After all, there was no money to steal, for I had not been able to vend even one of these delicacies. He stole the hot dogs . .  .

“Perhaps he was hungry. Perhaps some vitamin deficiency in his growing body was screaming for appeasement. The human desire for food and sex is relatively equal. If there are armed rapes, why should there not be armed hot dog thefts? I see nothing unusual in the matter.”

“You are full of bullshit.”

“I? The incident is sociologically valid. The blame rests upon our society. The youth, crazed by suggestive television programs and lascivious periodicals had apparently been consorting with some rather conventional adolescent females who refused to participate in his imaginative sexual program. His unfulfilled physical desires therefore sought sublimation in food. I, unfortunately, was the victim of all of this. We may thank God that this boy has turned to food for an outlet. Had he not, I might have been raped right there on the spot.”

Of course no one would help  me up. My white smock stamped me as a vendor, an untouchable.”

“How about making another try?”

“What? In my present condition, do you seriously expect me to take to the streets again and hustle? My ten cents is going to be deposited in the hands of St. Charles streetcar conductor. The remainder of the day I intend to spend in a hot tub trying to recapture some semblance of normality”.