Gideon Planish, by Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 30

Governor Blizzard’s New York office, with its red carpet and weighty mahogany desk and steel engraving of John Quincy Adams, suggested a State capitol.

He had summoned Dr. Planish, who found a changed man. For years, in active State politics including biting and eye-gouging, Tom Blizzard had hidden the fact that he had been graduated from a university, magna cum laude. Of recent years, living in New York, he had played up the degree, and joined the National Arts Club. Today, in January, with the war five weeks old, Tom Blizzard had flopped back, and he was trying again to be the roughneck politician who loved silos, split infinitives and votes.

“Doc, I’m going to get out of this town and go back to the United States of America. This is the time for it. I think maybe I’m the guy to put up against FDR at the next Democratic National Convention, and till then I want to just set in Waskeegan and get the garlic and Chanel smells off me.

“I don’t really savvy this Venusberg, and among other things I don’t get is your organizations. Pressure groups. One half of you, all this past year, trying to make us stay to hell out of the war and the other half trying to get us in, and both sides forgetting we still have got a popular body called the Congress. What you’re trying to do, all you uplifters and organizators, is to set up an Invisible Empire that’ll be higher than the elected Government. You want to re-christen this country ‘The Organized States of America, Inc.’!

“Now you, Doc, you’re fairly sane, personally. I don’t believe you believe your own spiels about what crooks and weather-vanes and foot-kissers we politicians are. You know damn well that politicians, at their worst, can be checked and thrown out by the popular vote, whereas you self-crucified Messiahs only have to keep on the right side of some philanthrobber and you’re in for keeps. You are only a little cuckoo; you take care to hold down your job and play Charley Marduc’s records.

“But have you ever noticed that nearly every one of the semi-honest uplifters and crusade-leaders and rousers of the masses, including the Communists and their brothers the evangelists, is anywhere from a neurotic with the hives up to a complete lunatic? Of course any man that deliberately sticks his neck out and goes into politics is a LITTLE crazy, but compared with all you self-appointed Galahads, Huey Long was a man of modesty and remarkable horse-sense.

“Yep, I’m reverting to Main Street with some of the fastest reversion you ever saw. Six weeks from now I’ll have my feet up on the table with some honest ballot-box-stuffer, and forget all you unfrocked preachers and crayonless professors and newspapermen that couldn’t make the grade and women that made it too fast.

“But I might be able to use the lowdown on the virtuous shenanigans that Marduc and that bed-hopping daughter of his may pull from now on. My bank will be sending you — at your home address — a check for one hundred dollars, every month, and I’d like you to keep me informed on whatever that enlightened pair get away with.”

Dr. Planish gasped, “You don’t mean you want me to SPY on Colonel Marduc?”

“Sure I do!”

“Oh! Oh, I see. Well —”

The publicizing of the Marduc Plan was interrupted by the most strategic idea Dr. Planish had had for a year. He saw a way in which, even during these troublous times, the DDD might be kept alive and useful no matter how wartime finances might go.

He felt that the citizenry were in a surprising and rather shocking mood; they were listening to the President and the Army and to airplane manufacturers, and not to the standard professional prophets, not even to those who were so inspired that they had been getting $1,250 for a lecture. The invitations to Colonel Marduc to attend public dinners had so diminished that he was accepting all of them.

The aureous life-blood of all organizations was, to Dr. Planish’s public rejoicing and private worry, flowing into war bonds and Red Cross subscriptions, just when he had to pay the installments on Peony’s new near-diamond and semi-sapphire bracelet. He knew that the other organizations must be suffering from the same anemia. Why not save expenses by combining all of them — with Dr. Gideon Planish as the executive secretary of the lot? The idea was simple and brilliant, he felt, and Colonel Marduc approved it.

The word “co-operation” had long been one of the most valuable in the organizational treasure-house, but nobody had ever done much about it, because each organization had its paid secretary, and that secretary did not want to be co-operated out of his salary. But now, with the young secretaries being drafted and the old ones being starved, Dr. Planish felt that he could move in on them as easily as Hitler had moved into Poland — though, naturally, with an entirely different treatment of the office staffs.

He knew a good deal about the others. Using the names of Bonnie Popick and Flaude Stansbury and his other clerks, he had regularly sent for the “literature” of every new private circumlocution office as it was blithely set up. Now, with Bonnie, he began to list all the national welfare and educational organizations with headquarters in New York City.

He stopped when he had listed two thousand of them, mostly with titles containing the words American, National, Committee, Institution, Guild, Forum, League or Council. Even Dr. Planish had not realized that there were so many bands of light.

He arbitrarily picked out every hundredth league, called a taxicab, started out to co-operate the twenty he had chosen — and quit his crusade at 4:37 that afternoon.

He had started with “The Get Together Alliance,” which had one pink and golden room in the Gyro Building, and proved to consist entirely in a Mrs. Willoughby Eck, who was a tailored fifty but enthusiastic. It was her notion that the cure for every world evil was for everybody to keep on shaking hands with everybody else all the time, falling on them whenever you could catch them off guard, in subways, at theaters, at bars and prayer-meeting. Mrs. Eck gushed, “The Rotarians have the right idea — good fellowship — but why should the Rotarians have all the fun? Why don’t us moral leaders also recognize each other’s humanity by the touch of hands? Let me give you my little leaflet, Reverend.”

But the Doctor had fled, without even trying to cooperate with Mrs. Willoughby Eck.

By 4:37 P.M., the innocent Doctor had been shocked by the whole business of organizationality. He had found that the National American Eclectic Institute for the Advancement of the Popular Principle in Education was one large, gray old gentleman who had a small desk in a corner of a public stenographer’s clattering office; that its rival, the Society for the Humanization of Higher Education, did have rooms and rooms and pamphlets and pamphlets, but was, all the while, just another league for attacking union labor; and that another rival, the Institute of Investigative Consideration of Education, was nothing at all but #3 Telephone in a row of twelve telephones upon the desk of a backroom real-estate dealer, which desk was equally the headquarters of the Mount Celestial Cemetery Corp., the Fig Leaf Publishing Co., and the League for the Protection of Home and Marriage.

He had also found that an association of poets headed by a lady who looked like Emily Dickinson, a drama league mothered by an insurance-man’s wife, and a sharecroppers’ defense society, were all of them strangely like Communist fronts.

Dr. Planish returned to his office, and left the world to darkness and to philanthrobbing. He was so sunk that for a moment he thought of going back to work, of taking a school job so that some younger teacher might be released for enlistment.

But, he snorted, what percentage was there in being a professional Light to the Toilers if you merely became a toiler? That would be as silly as for a professional evangelist to go to somebody else’s mission and get saved, with not even a look-in on the collection-box.

No, he would go on with his co-operation, but he would perform it with sound, reliable organizators, the ones he already knew personally.

Next morning, at 11, he was in the anteroom of the Anti–Racial Youth Committee for the Organization of Global Co-operation, waiting to see its managing secretary, Professor Goetz Buchwald.

He had to wait, for the Professor was “in conference” with another warm friend, Dr. Christian Stern. The waiting-room was comfortable enough; it even had a touch of splendor, with red-leather armchairs, rare volumes in Bantu, Hindustani and Hebrew, and handsome blown-up photographs of Youth Groups from sixteen different countries, all wearing shorts and horn-rimmed spectacles and all looking exactly alike, except that the Chinese and Palestinian groups looked more so.

Into this room militarily strode still another friend: Commander Orris Gall, executive director of the Zero–Hour American National Committee on Anti–Totalitarian Defense, which even since Pearl Harbor had gone right on in a surprised way telling the country that Adolf Hitler was no real friend of America.

“Well, well, well, Dr. Planish, this is swell finding you here. This will save me a trip to your office. I phoned you, but they said you’d just left,” said the Commander. “I’ve got a perfectly revolutionary idea. Like this. I needn’t tell you how the sources of philanthropy are threatening to dry up. So why don’t a lot of us that have a common ideology join up and economize on expenses and efforts? Let’s co-operate!”

The Doctor glowed, “Why, that’s what I was going to suggest to you! I suppose you’ll be going back into the Navy.”

“No, not — exactly. The new people that are running it claim that because I belong to the old tradition, I haven’t kept up to date. Imagine that! But I am going to take a key post with one of the most important manufacturers of naval equipment — in the public relations department. Right away.”

“So that’ll leave your ZANC without a director. I’ll be glad to take it over —”

“That wasn’t exactly my idea, Doctor. The fact is, my wife is going to continue my work — she’s really a lot more capable than I am — a very remarkable writer, too; you ought to see some of the fiction she dashes off — and what I was thinking was that since your DDD has always merely covered the same field as ours, like exposing scoundrels like Zeke Bittery — and after all, it was I who first showed him up! — why, Marduc and you might like to put the DDD under Mrs. Gall’s supervision and you could — well, you could go on to something else, don’t you see?”

Dr. Planish was staring at this insolence when out of Professor Buchwald’s office glided Dr. Christian Stern. He bubbled as he saw them:

“Well, well, boys, this IS a coincidence! I was going to call on you both this afternoon, but I guess this ‘ll save me some taxi-fares, ha, ha! What I want to talk to you about is — You know how busy I always am, with my big institutional church, but somehow this crisis gives one superhuman energies, and I was thinking I might be able to combine your DDD and ZANC with Professor Buchwald’s ARYC, and serve, or shall I say function, as executive secretary of the whole caboodle — and, practically speaking, at no extra salary, say just thirty-five hundred beyond what I’m getting now — and thus release you boys for war work. I regret to say that Buchwald can’t see it my way. If there’s any co-operating, he wants to do the OPERATING and let us do the CO! But you boys are more like practical men of affairs, and so — Let’s co-operate!”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38