SANDBOX MINUS JOHN
DILLINGER EQUALS WHAT?
Often I return to the cover of Trout Fishing in America. I
took the baby and went down there this morning. They were
watering the cover with big revolving sprinklers. I saw some
bread lying on the grass. It had been put there to feed the
The old Italians are always doing things like that. The
bread had been turned to paste by the water and was squashed
flat against the grass. Those dopey pigeons were waiting until
the water and grass had chewed up the bread for them, so
they wouldn’t have to do it themselves.
I let the baby play in the sandbox and I sat down on a bench
and looked around. There was a beatnik sitting at the other
end –of the bench. He had his sleeping bag beside him and he
was eating apple turnovers. He had a huge sack of apple turn–
overs and he was gobbling them down like a turkey. It was
probably a more valid protest than picketing missile bases.
The baby played in the sandbox. She had on a red dress
and the Catholic church was towering up behind her red dress.
There was a brick john between her dress and the church. It
was there by no accident. Ladies to the left and gents to the
A red dress, I thought. Wasn’t the woman who set John
Dillinger up for the FBI wearing a red dress? They called
her “The Woman in Red. ”
It seemed to me that was right. It was a red dress, but so
far, John Dillinger was nowhere in sight. my daughter
played alone in the sandbox.
Sandbox minus John Dillinger equals what?
The beatnik went and got a drink of water from the fountain
that was crucified on the wall of the brick john, more toward
the gents than the ladies. He had to wash all those apple turn–
overs down his throat.
There were three sprinklers going in the park. There was
one in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue and one to the
side of him and one just behind him. They were all turning in
circles. I saw Benjamin Franklin standing there patiently
through the water.
The sprinkler to the side of Benjamin Franklin hit the left–
hand tree. It sprayed hard against the trunk and knocked some
leaves down from the tree, and then it hit the center tree,
sprayed hard against the trunk and more leaves fell. Then it
sprayed against Benjamin Franklin, the water shot out to the
sides of the stone and a mist drifted down off the water. Ben–
jamin Franklin got his feet wet.
The sun was shining down hard on me. The sun was bright
and hot. After a while the sun made me think of my own dis–
comfort. The only shade fell on the beatnik.
The shade came down off the Lillie Hitchcock Colt statue
of some metal fireman saving a metal broad from a mental
fire. The beatnik now lay on the bench and the shade was two
feet longer than he was.
A friend of mine has written a poem about that statue. God–
damn, I wish he would write another poem about that statue,
SO it would give me some shade two feet longer than my body.
I was right about “The Woman in Red, ” because ten min–
utes later they blasted John Dillinger down in the sandbox.
The sound of the machine-gun fire startled the pigeons and
they hurried on into the church.
My daughter was seen leaving in a huge black car shortly
after that. She couldn’t talk yet, but that didn’t make any dif–
ference. The red dress did it all.
John Dillinger’s body lay half in and half out of the sand–
box, more toward the ladies than the gents. He was leaking
blood like those capsules we used to use with oleomargarine,
in those good old days when oleo was white like lard.
The huge black car pulled out and went up the street, bat–
light shining off the top. It stopped in front of the ice-cream
parlor at Filbert and Stockton.
An agent got out and went in and bought two hundred
double-decker ice-cream cones. He needed a wheelbarrow
to get them back to the car.