The factory is a large, barn-like structure that houses bolts of fabric, cutting tables, massive sewing machines, and furnaces that provide the steam for pressing. The total effect is rather surreal, especially when one sees Les Africains moving about attending to their tasks in this mechanized setting. The irony involved caught my fancy, I must admit. Something from Joseph Conrad sprang to my mind, although I cannot seem to remember what it was at the time. Perhaps I likened myself to Kurtz in The Heart of Darkness when, far from the trading company offices in Europe, he was faced with the ultimate horror. I do remember imagining myself in a pith helmet and white linen jodpurs, my face enigmatic behind a veil of mosquito netting.

The furnaces keep the place rather warm and toasty on these chill days, but in the summer I suspect that the workers once again enjoy the climate of their forebears, the tropic heat somewhat magnified by those great coal-burning steam-producing contrivances. I understand that the factory is not working at capacity currently, and I did observe that only one of these devices was operating, burning coal and what looked like one of the cutting tables. Also, I saw only one pair of trousers actually completed during the time that I spent there, although the factory workers were shambling about clutching all sorts of scraps of cloth. One woman, I noticed, was pressing some baby’s clothing and another seemed to be making remarkable progress with the sections of fuscia satin which she was joining together on one of the large sewing machines. She appeared to be fashioning a rather colorful but nonetheless rakish evening gown. I must say that I admired the efficiency with which she whipped the material back and forth under the massive electric needle. This woman was apparently a skilled worker, and I thought it doubly unfortunate that she was not lending her talents to the creation of a pair of Levy Pants… pants. There was obviously a morale problem in the factory.

I looked for Mr. Palermo, the foreman of the factory, who is, incidentally, normally only a few steps from the bottle, as the many contusions that he has sustained from falling down among the cutting tables and sewing machines can testify, with no success. He was probably quaffing a liquid lunch in one of the many taverns in the vicinity of our organization; there is a bar on every corner in the neighborhood of Levy Pants, an indication that salaries in the area are abysmally low. On particularly desperate blocks there are three or four bars at every intersection.

In my innocence, I suspected that the obscene jazz issuing forth from the loud speakers on the walls of the factory was at the root of the apathy which I was witnessing among the workers. The psyche can be bombarded only so much by these rhythms before it begins to crumble and atrophy. Therefore, I found and turned off the switch which controlled the music. This action on my part led to a rather loud and defiantly boorish roar of protest from the collective workers, who began to regard me with sullen eyes. So I turned the music on again, smiling broadly and waving amiably in an attempt to acknowledge my poor judgment and to win the workers’ confidence. (Their huge white eyes were already labeling me a “Mister Charlie.” I would have to struggle to show them my almost psychotic dedication to helping them.) Obviously continual response to the music had developed within them an almost Pavlovian response to the noise, a response which they believed was pleasure. Having spent countless hours of my life watching those blighted children on television dancing to this sort of music, I knew the physical spasm which it was supposed to elicit, and I attempted my own conservative version of the same on the spot to further pacify the workers. I must admit that my body moved with surprising agility; I am not without an innate sense of rhythm; my ancestors must have been rather outstanding at jigging on the heath. Ignoring the eyes of the workers, I shuffled about beneath one of the loud speakers, twisting and shouting, mumbling insanely, “Go! Go! Do it, baby, do it! Hear me talkin’ to ya. Wow!” I know that I had recovered my ground with them when several began pointing to me and laughing. I laughed back to demonstrate that I, too, shared their high spirits. De Casibus Virorum lllustrium! Of the Fall of Great Men! My downfall occurred. Literally. My
considerable system, weakened by the gyrations (especially in the region of the knees), at last rebelled, and I plummeted to the floor in a senseless attempt at one of the more egregiously perverse steps which I had witnessed on the television so many times. The workers seemed rather concerned and helped me up most politely, smiling in the friendliest fashion. I realized then that I had no more to fear concerning my faux pas in turning off their music.

In spite of all to which they have been subjected, Negroes are nonetheless a rather pleasant folk for the most part. I really have had little to do with them, for I mingle with my peers or no one, and since I have no peers, I mingle with no one. Upon speaking with several of the workers, all of whom seemed eager to speak with me, I discovered that they received even less pay than Miss Trixie.

In a sense I have always felt something of a kinship with the colored race because its position is the same as mine: we both exist outside the inner realm of American society. Of course, my exile is voluntary. However, it is apparent that many of the Negroes wish to become active members of the American middle class. I can not imagine why. I must admit that this desire on their part leads me to question their value judgments. However, if they wish to join the bourgeoisie, it is really none of my business. They may seal their own doom. Personally, I would agitate quite adamantly if I suspected that anyone were attempting to help me upward toward the middle class. I would agitate against the bemused person who was attempting to help me upward, that is. The agitation would take the form of many protest marches complete with the traditional banners and posters, but these would say, “End the Middle Class,” “The Middle Class Must Go.” I am not above tossing a small Molotov cocktail or two, either. In addition, I would studiously avoid sitting near the middle class in lunch counters and on public transportation, maintaining the intrinsic honesty and grandeur of my being. If a middle-class white were suicidal enough to sit next to me, I imagine that I would beat him soundly about the head and shoulders with one great hand, tossing, quite deftly, one of my Molotov cocktails into a passing bus jammed with middle-class whites with the other hand. Whether my siege were to last a month or a year, I am certain that ultimately everyone would let me alone after the total carnage and destruction of property had been evaluated.