Monday, December 26, 2011
Ruth Hart Breaker (Steve Gerber's biker chick who found a real life)
“Ruth Hart Breaker”
She rode into town with trouble, and found herself into yet troubles more. A swamp’s a strange asylum in which to turn one’s self around, but Ruth Hart’s looking for salvation now, not trouble- and any place can turn out to be quicksand, when you’re not mindful of your path.
Supporting characters come and go, sometimes with vocal fan support or enmity, sometimes by creative fiat. It just might be, however, a good writer knows when to listen, and by no manipulative design of his or her own, a character brought in for a story might stick around, might decide to go, might even return in another story---it’s a sign of life.
That’s how you know you’re a loser: the best girl you can meet has a gang of bike toughs on her tail, and your best friend’s not even sentient. At least, that’s how you know you’re Richard Rory. In a way, you can’t really afford to lose this time, or someone’s going to die---but what can YOU do about things? No, the loser card was dropped for you the day the doctor dropped you on your newborn behind in the floor. When you gave your fiance’s mom a heart attack while wearing a Halloween fright mask just to be funny, you just might feel you can do nothing right. Being fired from your job and then buying a map that deposits you in a swamp with no gas is really just another day in the dark night of the soul. Surely the day something goes right would have to be the shortest one of the year (like today when I write this).
But here’s this woman, looking for adventure (and whatever comes her way), double-crossed by a boyfriend she knew in her heart didn’t really love her, and now he’s set her up for stealing the bike gang’s money, with which he’s actually purchased heroine, while telling the other two guys and their bitches they can track her down and get it back, along with her life. What she was doing in company that goes by the name “Skullcrushers” is a little hard to justify, but “Snake” is President of the Skullcrushers, and they’re not in a mood for democratic compromise. What could you expect, though, from a dude who insists on carrying a thick chain around everywhere he goes? Named Snake? A year of riding with him and loving him has left her in tearful despair of her life.
“Gee, a gang of speed-freak hog-riding anarchists---with a president. Don’t tell me he ran on a Law and Order platform!” Richard retorts. Ruth’s completely serious.
She’s already in touch with the instincts of a new life; she bandages Richard, who she finds unconscious, his life freshly saved from a ‘gator by the Man Thing, empathic, mindless muck monster at large. Admittedly, she does this knowing she’s got to find herself help---if not a savior. Still, she couldn’t have known what Richard would be like upon awakening; it may be karma, it may be a new appreciation of the fragility of life. Maybe she was always the nurturing type and just over-looked the rough edges of her free-wheeling friends. At any rate, she keeps the one piece of Snake she’s got---his gang colors, on his denim vest…maybe a piece of psychological power…”Because it means something to HIM, I guess…! All he cared about were his colors---his chain---his bike--! I Was just something to DO at night.”
Richard can’t do much one-on-one with the bikers---he nobly takes some roughing up in buying her time to book it---but he’s a good listener, and funny---she loves funny. Accusing the guy sitting on top of him of his wrong doings in front of his gang shows an awful lot of guts. But then, Richard may consider his life an unending parody of hopes and dreams set to really good music, but we care about him because he’s willing to think of more than simply his own skin, and is as brave as a man who doesn’t have a lot of fighting skills or a sizeable death wish could be.
Ruth happens to run straight to the place developer F.A. Schist and his engineering mad crony attempt to kill the Man-Thing, with an early 70’s sci-fi flavored death trap. Snake meanwhile mixes his chain up in the Man-Thing’s muck beforehand, so while Ruth’s troubles follow her straight to the death trap, the chain’s handy for the Man Thing’s reflexive use, smashing his way free. Then the mentally-submerged former chemist in a monster’s body relaxes, casually throwing the heavy chain straight into the bullying Snake’s head. To him, a meaningless victory in a meaningless life---ever the Man-Thing irony. For Richard, it’s irrefutable proof: his luck’s finally going to change. Ruth’s blunt: “You silly fool! It was all in your head from the start!” “No—NO!” Richard gratefully insists; “I’m FREE now! For the first time in my life---“
Dream ON, Richard. Dream until your dreams come true.
Ruth runs through just enough further adventures with Richard for you to begin to get comfortable with the idea she’s here to play the female lead…and we’ll crack open those adventures in part two and see how they might’ve led her to the conclusion to discard that entire status quo idea. Ruth Hart is a search for real life---a fugitive from the middle class concerns considered so swallowing when those conditions seemed inevitable---and so she can never simply do things just to remain part of a serial story line.
She learns something she needs to know, she tries something she rather likes, but maybe the danger in her previous transgressions magnifies in her a need for the straight and narrow she just can’t find in a bizarre life shared with a small town Florida disc jockey (in those pre-automated station days) who has a scary, reeking best friend who burns people that feel fear. She doesn’t use the get-myself together reason when the Fool Killers and Dead Clown Theater have made life all too-interesting, in a way you just have to roll with to even hope to understand.
No, it’s not him, though, she explains, it’s guess-who. (Not to be confused with the Guess Who, hit rock band of the times.) There’s no sugar tonight, Richard. It’s not the swampy shacking. She’s just not ready to play house.
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