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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