Reading Naked Lunch – Chapter 5: The Word

fox-the-magician
The Magician tarot card from the Animal Totem Deck by Leeza Robertson

And here is the previous chapter of Reading Naked Lunch…


As I lower my head into the basin, I stare at the ceiling. There’s a crooked line, a visible crack, where the paint has started to peel. My hairdresser runs cold water on my hair and I close my eyes. The man doesn’t reappear. Nothing. Yes.

On the radio, a girl sings, “It was all just a mad daydream…”

Then I am led back to my chair. My bony butt does not savour the moment when my butt is re-introduced to the cold, hard seat. I look at the book. There it is, the red and yellow standing out in sharp contrast against the black upholstery, its cheery colours almost refuting what I had read earlier. I frown. Strange…it had looked so…inculpable, earlier. Was ‘inculpable’ the right word? I pick up the book again. Shit. A voice, ingratiatingly obnoxious, inserts itself between my ears.

“Real funny, too, at first.” 

The man’s mouth slid forward in a grin, not losing the momentum.

“Did you miss me now, then?”

In place of the gentleman is now a hideously painted two-faced harlequin, ageing face painted half in white and half in black. He steps out neatly from a pile of something that slides around his stockinged feet in the darkness – I peer at the something – then I make out a quarter of a collar belonging to a smooth, crisp shirt – then a dark liquid pooling around his feet – blood!

The knife is nowhere to be seen. But the harlequin sneers at me and casts a mawkish glance at the something. 

“Well, that’s just my old skin! My meat costume, I call it. It hurts like hell – always difficult when you start removing the skin round the balls – but I’ve always preferred myself this way. What d’you think?” He strode forward, clasping my hand in his. Cool and clammy. I swallow.

He smiles, his pale blue eyes twinkling merrily, then drops his voice to a growl. “Don’t give me that squeamish look, you insufferable piece of shit.” He pulls me forward in a crushing hug. Eeew. He smells utterly of junk. The sweet smell of opium perfumes his next whisper, the stench of death nailing my metaphysical coffin shut. “You know very well that I am I, but you are also I…” He forces me to my knees.

“You know you want it.”

Planting his foot on a stone with strange symbols that seemed to have sprouted out of nowhere (they look like…hieroglyphics), he utters the first sentence. A look of spellbound serenity enters the blue of his eyes.

“He had a number he called “The Better ‘Ole” that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?”

Then he paused, possibly for dramatic effect.

“Nah…I had to go relieve myself.”

In spite of my rather unfortunate position, I laugh. Dear god…

He sighs. “I wish I could get you to talk now, but you’ll have to listen to me first.” His mouth twitched.

Then, he mutters: “Pompous bastard.”

“Huh?”

“After a while, the ass start talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time. Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and started eating.”

“Holy shit! What sort of asshole is that anyway – ” but he shushes me. He drones on:

“He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights.”

“Sounds like Asperger’s to me! Or the current state of this world, at least…” I manage to blurt out, before he hits me on the head. “Ouch – fuck off!”

His face slowly slides like the slow, tumultuous motion of melted wax, taking on the mantle of exaggerated tragedy. “It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags – nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth.” He produced a handkerchief with ‘W.S.B’ embroidered on it in gold thread and dabbed at his eyes. When he removes his hankie, it is streaked with black and white. I roll my eyes, as I involuntarily sniff, and dodge the incoming whack from his bony fist.  Then he continues, his tragic visage shape-shifting, mercurial quick, into that of the boy-faced mask of righteous petulance:

“Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: “It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.”

He pauses again, and then takes out a pistol from nowhere (Nowhere at this point now looks like a legitimate place, but just not in front of my eyes), wiping the barrel with his handkerchief.

“Be careful with where you point that thing, boy!” I hiss under my breath.

His face cracks into a smile. “Did you know that I never, ever miss?” At the mention of ‘miss’ his mouth starts to slide down at the corner, taking on a resemblance to a sad clown rather than a cackling harlequin. “Unless, of course, if you count that one, terrible time…” Then his face hardens.


I’m sorry for the delay! This was supposed to be posted earlier this week, but lots of stuff happened this week and I wasn’t able to squeeze in any time to edit these pieces. This chapter describes my first introduction to The Word, which I thought was incredibly funny because it describes how the current world has actually gone to shit.

And here’s the rest of the chapters for your catch-up in the Reading Naked Lunch mini-series. 🙃

 

 

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