Alarm-Posts and Signal-Posts: (episode sixteen)
“Top-off, Half-gone,” murmured the mouse. “They are such curious names, I cannot but wonder at them.”
“That’s because you are always sitting at home,” said the cat, “in your little gray frock and hairy tail, never seeing the world, and fancying all sorts of things.”
The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership
March 22, 1937. Benjamin Nathan was on the telephone. Kirby, his aide, had entered the office and been motioned to take a seat. Nathan noticed Kirby exhibit shiftings and fidgetings that coincided with pauses in the conversation. During these pauses, a female voice could be heard, her words indistinct.
“So Stauber couldn’t extend his stay any longer?” Nathan glanced up at his aide, who looked hurriedly out the window. “And he never came across that little cousin of his?”
Nathan thought this funny; the woman on the phone thought it funny. Her laughter came through with a sudden clarity. Kirby suddenly stood and paced across the carpet.
The fountainhead of Nathan’s campaign funding and organization sprang from a cluster of Great Lakes industrialists. Nathan liked to call them his Board of Directors; on the golf course, in clubrooms, they enjoyed this insiders’ designation. His Chairman (so-called) owned a shipping company, that moved cargo up the St. Lawrence, through the ports of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Kirby Sr.’s coterie could occlude this artery, or ease the pressure as they saw fit. And of their mechanisms, they disliked scrutiny.
The Chairman spent sleepless nights contemplating Communist influence on the docks; conspiracy-minded, he held a weekly conference by phone with his man in Washington. Kirby Sr. had a theory, for which he found evidence—a collection of newspaper clippings—that America’s economic stagnation had been engineered by the Communists.
“I’m thinking Hollywood. Makes sense—those people got the bully pulpit, don’t they? How many times you heard one of those smart jokes, sittin in the movie house…and you didn’t get it?” He had asked this of Nathan only that morning. “Mayer,” the Chairman said, “or Adolph Zukor.” He threw out these names, paused, and finished his thought. “Code talk. Stuff isn’t meant for the ears of you and me.”
“Well,” said Nathan, “Hollywood…”
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)