Archives for the month of: December, 2012

It doesn’t take long for our Benefactor to appear on the scene, with that Bull having burst clear through our meth-ventilated slaughterhouse (its birthing chamber), newly one-from-many, speaking not Molloy, as is its (their) annual charge, but Malone Dies, already a scandal in the order of things, on its way toward The Unnamable, a full-on travesty (if we ever get that far).

 

Our Benefactor, of course, doesn’t actually APPEAR, per se, but nevertheless comes present, like one of those cloistered studio execs in (not to over-harp my allegiances here, but) Mulholland Dr. He’s here in a manner somewhat akin to that, and he’s not happy.

 

But he has an idea. We listen up.

 

There is to be another amalgamation, by maybe the logic that one good one calls for another.

 

The Bull, meanwhile (or, rather: now), has, after flattening a few houses like tophats, huddled into a hole — part crater, part cave, part junkyard-dog-style junkyard — in the very center of town, which seems to have come up, or down, into being there expressly for this new creature’s accommodation (either that, or we’ve all until now looked away from or suppressed all memory of this bullpen that’s been here all along in our midst). It’s down in there, provisionally settled but still minatory as hell, lowing up lines like (and let me open my Malone Dies here, to make sure I get it right), “That ‘s it, reminisce. Here and there, in the bed of a crater, the shadow of a withered lichen. And nights of three hundred hours. Dearest of lights, wan, pitted, least fatuous of lights. That’s it, babble.”

 

We try to close our ears to this, so as to open them to our Benefactor’s instructions on the amalgamation that’s to occur as this year’s Year in Evil event, scheduled always for Dec. 18. In it (in usual years), we gather up all the evil that’s transpired in the country, and in the world, that year — all the awful, the senseless, the insensate, all the death by metal and gas, temperature and bone — and make as if it all occurred right here, in downtown Dodge City, and all in the span of a week (last week), leading up to today in a hellish reverie whose proportions fester and bloat according to some Boschian annual exponent. By setting it all here, we (for as long as the ritual lasts) spare the rest of the country, and world, the misery and trauma of its having had to have happened there, instead, which every other day, now and forever, it will have to have had to.

 

We bury all those dead, in spirit, in our largest fallow field, at sundown, and confer tears and compassion upon them all to such extent as we are able, which, today of all days, is no small measure.

 

And what’s more, we choose a single perpetrator. One Dodge City citizen, man or woman, chosen not at random but in secret by our Benefactor, appears to us shrouded in black muslin, and wrapped in thick, punishing rope. Professor Dalton condemns this wrapped figure for all the evil it perpetrated this year, beyond all reason and comprehension, beyond even the defining edges of lurid fantasy, far out though they be, and then it is condemned to walk, on and on, out of town, away from the burial field, into the fields in the other direction, where it will never reach another settlement, nor even another living soul. Whether finally it will emerge among its own kind, on the Plane of Evil, or wander forever unaccompanied on this one, where evil visits, and rents, but does not yet live, is not for any of us to say.

 

The bound figure appears before us now, and the usual Shirley Jacksonian titter goes up as we wonder, through process of elimination, who it might be. But our Benefactor intercedes. “This year,” he explains, “something else is to befall this demon. Something that may save us yet.”

 

“What?” we all wonder.

 

Then we see: the demon is to be served up to the Bull as an offering and morsel, to plug its Malone-muttering mouth.

 

On a winch that’s been erected for the purpose (after we’ve all bathed in the freezing river in what we can only term “a certain way,” and dressed ourselves in plush towel-robes), the bound demon is lowered into the Bull’s pit.

 

When it hits bottom, tipping off its feet to lie on its side, we all stand back in anticipation, waiting to see how the Bull will take it.

 

But the Bull does not. Our breath remains held.

 

The Bull looks up at us (and for all the world I swear I see it wink), and then resumes its Malone Dies.

 

We can all smell the slaughterhouse smoke in the air, congealing into a cloud that may well hover over us for a long time to come.

 

Then, our pulses under our robes quickening to the point where we have to loosen our sashes, the Bull winks again, and leans in, and begins to whisper into the demon’s muslin shroud. It puts its tremendous tongue up to the smooth evil head, and what it says is lost to us. We look around for our Benefactor, to no especial avail.

 

It goes on whispering, telling the story, working toward The Unnamable. It rolls its flank onto the demon, but not to crush it. The gesture is fatherly, or motherly, warm in any case, protective, perhaps flirtatious. For the fun of stating the obvious, I’ll say: We have misjudged.

 

Then — and I feel here like a high schooler on the phone with a playing-hard-to-get crush up in my room late at night on a weeknight, when a parent barges in and abruptly cuts the line — our Benefactor returns with the following edict: “There Shall Be No More Until January 20, 2013. All of you: say you’re going out of town. By the time you return, we will have thought of what to do, or something else will have happened to which we will have to respond instead.”

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Short, shortening afternoons after the Inspector’s departure and the siphoning-off and putting-back-into-the-basement of the Thanksgiving crush that’d been at assembly when last we met.

What is there left to do? Well, we listen to that new Scott Walker record in the silence and privacy of our own homes. It plays on and on, none of us quite sure yet when it’s repeating and when it’s forging ahead into yet more distant territory within its selfsame globe of recorded time. Following the old Dodge City saying whereby a man is said to have said (added wholesale rather than piecemeal to our parlance like something straight out of Embassytown), “I’ve brought my lawn chair in off the lawn so that my pregnant wife might have someplace to sit indoors,” we sit on our lawn chairs indoors, watching the phone for it to ring.

When it rings, it’s our Benefactor. No one knows much about the man, if man he be, certainly no one sees him, but around this time of year he calls us all fairly often (daily), to say, with no small measure of menace wedged into his voice, “I’m gonna get you a little Christmas Present.”

Big Pharmakos and I sit, each on our own lawn chair (having each employed the old saying separately, in order to each get one of our own), and, when it rings, we take turns answering. “He’s gonne get me a little Christmas Present,” each of us reports to the other, in accordance with tradition.

The Christmas Present that our Benefactor is gonna get us (if this year be one of many) is the head of a Dodge City bull that mumbles lines from Molloy. We each get one, each impregnated with a different section of the text, and, as we’ve been told we must, we keep it in a cardboard box by the door instead of mounting it on the wall like a trophy (which, we’ve been enjoined to make no mistake, it by no means is). We tap it lightly with our boot or slipper upon passing by, through the worst of the winter, and it speaks, bullishly, a sentence or two or three of Molloy to us, then falls silent the way the dead head of a Dodge City bull more properly ought.

Once the announcement of our coming Christmas Presents comes, we are to put all of last year’s heads — spat-out now and free of all Molloy — onto the kerb, to be drudged up and stuffed into the compactor by the roving bands of garbagemen, and taken away someplace far (though, in all likelihood, not actually far). We cannot bear to stand on our porches, drawing our bathrobes tight, and watch the bed of that compactor fill with such heads, nor are we invited or perhaps even permitted to do so.

In any case, now’s the slaughtering. Big Pharmakos and I switch on our set, from which it comes through in real time.

IN THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE, all is industry. The slaughterers are arranged vertically, whereby those who are resting and receiving their busymaking  meth are tied up, often quite tautly, against the ceiling, while those who are about to, as it were, step to the slaughter, have been winched back down to ground level by the Rope Operators (sent over from the high school by the National Honor Society) and are donning their rubber smocks, sharpening their kosheresque blades, which, in honor of Molloy itself, are fashioned to resemble the Malaysian Kris.

They huff their meth up there by the ceiling as if suckling on the ceiling itself, drinking in what the vents spew forth, jumping in all the directions of the pinwheel while still fastened tight by ropes and suspenders. They have to work triple shifts because of the layoffs, while all those laid-off, as these things go, stand in the cold just outside, stone cold sober, hoping against hope in laughable vain to be rehired.

Below, as well as the Kris-sharpening and the Rope-Operating, are the machinations of the High Priests. They wander among the fatted bulls (no calfs for our Benefactor, please) with their Everyman editions of Beckett’s Trilogy open across their palms, whispering into the bulls’ left ears according to prearranged or coincidental rite.

Ideally, the slaughterers follow behind the High Priests with their Kris at the ready, hacking through muscle, sinew, and bone once the words have entered the bullheads, hacking off said heads at precisely the right moment to seal those words into undying instinct or reflex, bypassing all cortices to bore into the stratum of the biological-inevitable, the same as putrefaction, where they will persist in our Present-Boxes all the way until next Christmas.

This is how it should happen, one head at a time, until there are enough for all of us. But it doesn’t happen that way this year. It might have happened that way this year, like all years, but I think not: I think maybe it’s a losing gamble to tell the story like, “Here’s how everything went according to plan,” when you could just as easily tell it like, “Here’s how everything started according to plan but then turned strange.”

That, to me, is what I’m saying, seems more surefire to titillate, of a winter’s eve.

IT ALL STARTS TO GO WRONG when the slaughterers can’t get control of their weapons, and no one can get through to the High Priests, who are whispering dervishlike into the bulls’ spooked ears. The Rope Operators, themselves spooked now, winch the last of the replacement slaughterers down, and the meth-vents, unmouthed, are left open to the whole of the interior, so fogging the place up so that Big Pharmakos and I at first think it’s a tracking problem on our TV set, and, in trying to adjust it, end up cranking the volume of that new Scott Walker record to nearly (nearly?) unbearable heights.

The slaughterers, all of them on the floor now, are hacking and sawing hard at the bulls’ necks, and the High Priests are reading on and on in Molloy, their fingers sweating through the pages, and nothing’s happening, by which I mean that none of the bulls are turning headless.

They are, rather, it seems, conjoining. The slaughterers saw harder than ever, while, in between waves of static, we see the many bulls becoming several, growing at first proportionately and then disproportionately. Ropes whip all up and down the slaughterhouse, tangling in the horns of bulls that are now …

ONE BULL.

One giant bull, it’s neck sawed-at and distressed but far from severed, tearing through the place on a course that can only lead through the roof. It breathes that meth deep, it’s eyes awakening to a new kind of wakefulness, the High Priests clinging to its ears and continuing to whisper, and slaughterers left now far below, hacking comically at its ankles, as dwarfed as those guards who once received in welcome The Trojan Horse.

There’s little resistance as the slaughterhouse roof comes off. The bull now stands towering over the unemployment line outside, and all of Dodge City beyond. Many of the High Priests have fallen off by now, but some remain, tangled in the rigging that has come tangled with the bull’s enraged and stretched-thin hide. They whisper on and on, and then the bull begins to speak:

“Unfortunately I do not quite know what floor I am on, perhaps I am only on the mezzanine,” it says, into the open air.

All of us are out there before it now, our houses abandoned in mid-usage. Some thoughtful citizen has brought Scott Walker on a boombox, but our attentions are increasingly elsewhere.

“I have lost my stick,” says the bull. “That is the outstanding event of the day, for it is day again,” it continues. “Sine qua non, Archimedes was right.”

For a moment, none of us knows what’s happening. What’s really happening, I mean, above and beyond what’s merely happening.

Then, all at once, our cell phones ring. It’s our Benefactor, speaking to us all, in a rage such as we’ve never heard. “It’s left Molloy and gone on to Malone Dies!” our Benefactor shrieks. “Kill the High Priests! If it’s allowed to reach The Unnamable, Dodge City is finished!!”

He hangs up. We stand there, tiny in ourselves, gazing upon the mass of bull that fills the sky. If ever this town needed a hero, we think.