So Goldy, the cross-dressing, cocaine-snorting, heroin-shooting nun in Himes's Rage in Harlem (1957), does indeed get taken out by the two bad guys, thus restoring everyone, good and bad, to a world of fixed gender norms. It's scene made right for the movies. (Note to self: go find that chapter showing how Wright's The Outsider borrows from films noir that he watched in that period. Himes, I think, takes the scheme about the gold mine in Mexico from Treasure of the Sierra Madre.) But by "made for the movies," I don't mean to imply visually. Goldy is cut "from ear to ear" in a scene that would have the sound engineer doing somersaults:
Goldy's scream mingled with the scream of the locomotive as the train thundered past overhead, shaking the entire tenement city. Shaking the sleeping black people in their lice-ridden beds. Shaking the ancient bones and the aching muscles and the t.b. lungs and uneasy foetuses of unwed girls. Shaking the plaster from the ceilings, morter from between the walls, the cockroaches crawling over the kitchen sinks and leftover food; shaking the sleeping flies hibernating in lumps like bees behind the casings of the windows. Shaking the fat, blood-filled bedbugs crawling over black skin. Shaking the fleas, making them hop. Shaking the sleeping dogs in their filthy pallets, the sleeping cats, the clogged toilets, loosening the filth.
About every twenty pages or so Himes has a paragraph like this that pulls the emergency brake on the forward motion of the narrative. There is a similar one where a guy enters a room, but his progress is slowed to a halt while the long paragraph circles around and around the finer points of his clothing. It's kind of a circle that we get from Goldy's scream, or more like concentric circles rippling outward and across the city. It takes another chapter for the sound to reach Jackson, and then another chapter after that for the circle to reach Imabelle. Interestingly, the sound of the whistle blowing "like a human scream" hits her at the exact moment that she slashes an attacker several blocks away. Does that make it a synchronic narrative, at least for these three chapters? I'd say yes, with Himes artfully suggesting that the three characters have no way to move past the violence and filfth of the original paragraph. It's their world, there is nothing new under the sun. All agues are contemporaneous--at least in the modern city.

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