I look towards the door. I think of her.
I think back to the drawer, that little piece of paper.
Something like reality. Grainy and full of pulsating life –
buzzing flies, little black and white stars; nestled among the curling papers.
Then he closes the drawer, before I can make out the full word.
And about those words. euryewreyrsjdhg. Wait, what again?
I don’t get it. I open my mouth. Her face turns stormy.
Then she turns back towards the windows.
I wish he would tell me. I can’t read what’s between those eyes.
encapsulated into being:
an A, an E, maybe a D
or, perhaps, two Ts:
You grow into your name,
or maybe you don’t know
what it means. Google tells you
that you’re a “child of God”,
or “the Messenger of Angels”.
But I don’t want empty titles, or
non-definitive purposes. Neither am I
a word lost in the passages
of light, or meaningless verses.
The story spills, rolling about
from the dregs: pale pastures of bitter coffee.
Of two really bad wines –
a glass flute lies casually on its thinly, curved side.
A discarded button lies on the floor,
reflecting a pale bluish Singer hue.
Ethereal grandmother eyes, sandwiched
between ancient, jovial mischief
now sparkle as she takes to the tale:
“80 years of strife,
and of withered family life –
of the seas and of many lovers,
drowned in the jungles of Malaya.
A man that disappeared off the coast,
taken by two khaki-clad men:
who is to say, or say afoul
of these dangerous mice
that masquerade as men?”
Somewhere in between
the halogen lights
rests the slight pause
of her dexturous fingers,
the shadow looming
in the form of benign presence,
all in all, right in front of me –
she who wears them all,
inpalpably woven in her blood:
she, half-hidden by the light
of the lamp, who gently
pokes the needle through the cloth,
humming the medley under her breath.
“I took you to the fortune teller
and he took a look at you –
and he named you right there, and then.”
But what does it mean, Mum?
She continues to sew,
the silence punctuated
by the scrape of the key.
The door creaks open
and a stilted gasp of light peers in.
It dances on her face,
illuminating buttonhole dimples,
tracing soft-worn wrinkles
and lifting her face
from somnabulant monsters.
“I don’t know, honey –
count it as a blessing from the gods?
But what you make of it:
that, I can say, such will be.”
I notice the twitch marring his inscrutable expression, an ugly crack in a porcelain jar. But, before I can ask him about it, he’s already off, red-hot on his invisible mountain trail. Whatever anger he could have worked up earlier now simmers in his eyes, glowering softly in the near-darkness, two transparent eels traversing the black waters with nothing but their luminous tantalizers dangling surreptitiously off their sloping heads.
“After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body.”
He paused to clear his phlegmy throat.Then, beginning again, a stop-starting engine nestled in his wrinkly throat: “He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell.”
The knife falls from his trembling hands. I nearly jump from the sudden sound of the metal clattering against the floor. In such a setting, that sound could have stopped everything in its path, I reckon. Perhaps, even time itself. Had he done it on purpose?
Not wanting to admit my skittishness, I immediately think up of something to say. “Well that was pretty interesting, Bill. Did you know that they have the potential to grow into malignant tumours? That’s what stopping them from using it legitimately. And it sounds a lot like Ditto’s function. Do you know what Ditto does? It’s the amorphous whorehouse of the Pokemon world. It’s apparently sexless. Isn’t it fascinating? You should play Pokemon some time soon.”
I tap his foot impatiently with my index finger. “Do they have video games over here? How the fuck does one come here, anyway?”
He gives me a “well, I never!” sort of look, almost pausing mid-sentence to ask me what the hell a Ditto could possibly be, but his eyes narrow and he chooses to continue his tale.
“So, finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have have amputated spontaneous — (did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?) — except for the eyes you dig.”
“Well, you ain’t seen anything yet, you young fool.” he rasped.
“That’s one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off.”
He picks up the knife, humming under his breath. Polishing it again with his hanky, he continues, pale blue eyes seeming to glow with an unearthly effect. A horizon that offers nothing to me, the keen follower, but the bright, blue sky –
“For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.”
Then, without any warning, he flings the knife, which whistles past my ear and hits a giant checkerboard now hanging on the wall – the same shades of black and white as his mask. For the first time, I catch a glimpse of a little black teardrop tattooed below the right eye, smoky iris crouched at a far end of the portico. I turn back to see where his knife has landed.
And I hereby come to the conclusion of Reading Naked Lunch! I’m not very good at writing legible reviews (if you see this attempt over here) so this was my way of compensating somewhat! I wanted to capture the feelings I had when I was writing this, and feel that I could have done better, but this may well become a springboard for future projects.
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.”
“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. 🙃