Archives for the month of: December, 2013

CAVERNOUS, the Editor and I make our way up the Strip, after lunch, to ULTRA MAX, across its empty quarter of parking lot.

 

A few Italian tour buses are parked in the X-Wide spaces – an image that always comes to mind when I dream of this place, though I’m still fairly surprised and gratified every time I see them there for real, as if I’d otherwise have to aspire to mistrust the part of myself that tends to see things before they happen.

 

In through the automatic doors, facing all those crinkly push-pinned sketches of missing children, Cavernous explains his principles of editing – at first he calls them his “6 Principles,” then revises them down to 5, then finally 1:

 

“Just put it in me.”

 

This much, as we’re perusing the Hardcore Knives section, crushing bugs with our sneakers, I promise I can do.

 

ALONG THE VERY back wall, so far back there are no price tags or descriptions on the items (which include a basketful of posters for Peter Jackson’s early alien romp Bad Taste, a title that used to mean more to me than, sadly, it does now), we run into Face & Star Simpson, the moment I’ve been dreading and wondering about since Thanksgiving (and now it’s the day after Christmas).

 

Cavernous seems to know them, exchanging shrewd half-glances like there’s something each knows about the other that neither wants me to know. Like they all did time in the same joint, where things went down that no one wants to talk or hear about ever again.

 

No one looks at me, and I look nowhere.

 

When this glance-lock loosens up, Face & Star Simpson hurry away into the Homesteaders’ Clothing section, riffling through bonnets and aprons like a couple that’s just moved out here on some government grant to raise a couple of kids and till an acre or two, the year 1900 still a long ways off.

 

Cavernous leads me on, shuddering.

 

“Was she pregnant?” he asks.

 

I laugh the question off, to show him how focused on the present and not the past I am.

 

SHE WAS, though. Thoughts of her child, whether sired by Face in the usual way or somehow drummed up by Dead Sir, will stick with me, lapsing out of view and then bobbing back in, inducing in me the sense of myself as a soon-to-be grandfather.

 

Perhaps my failure to responsibly father that baby’s parents can be rectified in my relation to the baby itself – perhaps I’ll find it in me to build a short story, even a novella, around what- or whomever is born, something sturdy and dignified, though, because of the novel, I can’t go there just yet.

 

The actual Knives and Needles are bought with no input from me. I’m sent off into a playland of popcorn and sno-cones while Cavernous, the Editor takes care of it, charging it all to some expense account he appears to have come equipped with.

 

*****

BACK IN MY ROOM, Cavernous lays the tools out.

 

They look different arrayed side by side rather than all conjoined and entangled in the ULTRA MAX bag.

 

“Gather your attention,” shouts Cavernous, the Editor.

 

It looks like it’s work-time already.

 

He pulls my older editing implements out of their Barbicide and chucks them in the trash, then removes his shirt and pants. He is not a young man.

 

“Okay,” he says. “Step A: remove the belly organs.”

 

The thing about our novice-mentor relationship, so far, is that I seem to know what he means.

 

The work gets off to a start. I press into his side with a medium-sized Deer Knife, along the lines of scars that are already there, and find the blade slides in with barely any resistance.

 

Some gas escapes his side, but I find I can breathe it. I find, even, that I prefer to breathe it. It clears the parts of my head I don’t need for this work, and sharpens those I do.

 

It doesn’t sound like he’s breathing at all, but there’s no alarm latent in this lack of sound.

 

I drop the removed organs into the bottles of Barbicide and avert my eyes as they fizz and splutter.

 

WHEN ALL THE GUT-MEAT IS OUT, I take a first handful of novel from behind a loose chunk of plaster in the wall inside my closet.

 

I heft it in my hand, all slippery with moss and hair, like a soft potato that’s sprouted roots after a while submerged in a dank bucket.

 

“In,” whispers Cavernous, hoarse now, and turns to expose the hole under his ribs.

 

I close my eyes, as if there were something I ought not to see here, not quite sexual but private along those lines, and, squeezing past the tendrils of remaining flesh, slip the whole handful in.

 

I can’t quite describe what it feels like to lose it in there. I’m doing it, but, thanks to modesty or simple dearth of vocab., I can’t quite say what I’m doing.

 

Pieces of my novel are disappearing into him, being taken up, like things planted that find the dirt familiar and begin right away to extend roots, punching into the substratum and refusing to be shaken.

 

I order room service coffee, two cups in case Cavernous wants one, though I prepare to drink both and, in short order, I do.

 

*****

WE WORK through the night. Outside, it’s snowing. This reminds me of something, but I’m too busy, for once, to think of what.

 

Soon his gut-carriage is stuffed, and too hot to touch, like his body is combusting the novel slops I’ve been feeding it, living off them, thriving already.

 

N’wonder he didn’t have room for coffee.

 

“I’m nearly full,” he gasps, his accent still decorously British despite appearances.

 

He nods toward a giant pair of bone shears we haven’t used yet, and I understand it’s time to open his chest cavity.

 

I take a nap first – he doesn’t seem to mind, or notice.

 

WHEN I WAKE, clotted in meaty runoff that’s hardened into a kind of shell or crust, I grab the shears and, overcoming squeam before it has a chance to build up, crack his sternum and crunch through ribs two at a time.

 

He doesn’t so much scream as pant, but I can tell he feels it. I remove the heart, Temple of Doom style, and drop it into a fresh bath of Barbicide, where it shrivels like a slug into the size of a kidney.

 

His chest open, I use the same shears to chop into a fresh section of wall in my Room, and remove an untouched pile of novel, ranker than anything before because I haven’t once looked at it since the first draft all those years ago in Germany. An artifact from a previous life just about, something undead.

 

Prime heart material for an Editor like Cavernous, I think.

 

Holding so much it leaks down my shirt, I pitch forward and shove it into the chest cavity, holding my hands in there as his body reacts, fresh arteries snapping out of remission and connecting up.

 

He moans with relief and passes out.

 

So do I.

 

A WHILE later, maybe a great while, Cavernous, the Editor, barely moving his mouth, mutters, “Please, I need to make a phone call.”

 

I see that he’s put his clothes back on, though his torso is so bulbous and misshapen his dress shirt no longer buttons shut.

 

I hand him my cell phone and he uses it to make a please step outside gesture, so I do.

 

When I come back, Cavernous, the Editor has his shoes on and his briefcase, tremblingly, in hand.

 

“I am full up,” he says, both sadness and pride in his voice. “I will repair to a sort of camp to process what you’ve put in me. I’ve called for a reinforcement. See you around.”

 

*****

WITH THAT, he’s gone.

 

I take a long shower. The Room feels draftier with less novel in its walls.

 

There comes a knock at the door. I know who it is, but still I shout, “Who is it?”

 

No response.

 

When I open up, there stands Cavernous, the Editor.

 

His reinforcement, that is, who looks like a pretty good if not a spot-on rendition of the pre-surgery man I knew.

 

I let him in and he says, “So, tell me about this novel.”

 

We talk. Then the tools come back out.

 

LIKE SO a routine is established.

 

Each Cavernous stays until he’s full up, always with the heart last, and then calls for a reinforcement.

 

The removed organs keep shrinking in their bottles of Barbicide, so that now the older ones are barely the size of almonds, and probably just as hard.

 

I enter my debit card info into Barbicide’s website so they can keep sending me fresh bottles on a rolling basis, and use it to order more coffee and Chinese food as well.

Advertisements

After the Holiday, we are: BACK TO OUR LOTS IN LIFE.

 

No one speaks of the return of Face & Star Simpson, nubbed down by Dead Sir but alive enough still. They’ve been redistributed into our daily lives like some unexpected substance that bubbled up to the surface of a pot and was then stirred back in rather than skimmed off.

 

By which I mean they’re out there somewhere, close by, but I haven’t seen them yet. Maybe they’ve already taken on the guises of nondescript strangers, or else they’re lying low, feeding on delivery and hasty takeout.

 

I don’t know whether they hate me, nor I them. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be that way; perhaps it does.

 

I’M BACK AT my novel, tools out, rubber gloves on, knives and scissors and other slicing tools floating in bottles of those glass bottles of blue disinfecting liquid that barbers use — which, when I bought my first few from the barber here in Dodge City, I remembered from my earliest days in the barber’s chair (trying to delineate, in nonstop 4-year-old chatter, some hard difference between PG-13 and R) was and is called Barbicide.

 

Barbicide keeps my implements clean, allowing me to draw them out one at a time, slice away at the carcass on my desk, all for the sake of isolating one strip of viscera out of a great many, praying for there to be enough spare life in the universe to animate one muscle or limb of this thing at a time, so that, once liberated from the great crush of all the hungry, half-born others, perhaps the sync-up into actual life will become possible.

 

Or at least the thing will be shorter, which would be nice too.

 

It’s getting grim though, these days, cutting through gut and heart, swapping tools in and out of the Barbicide almost interchangeably, the blue liquid turning orangey with all the blood and fat and skin that clings to the blades I put away, even after I wipe them with gauze.

 

Like Mach3 blades, they go dull, and I go on using them a while, abrading what I mean to incise, and then I throw them away, into the same bucket of slops that houses everything I’ve cut, none of which I have any logistical or psychic strategy for throwing away.

 

The slop bucket sits there festering throughout the early winter, letting off the usual meat-reek along with something more generative — a close-quarters sex-smell of new copulation, the sliced-off pieces bobbing up and down on each other, mixed up and tangled, beginning to engender.

 

*****

TODAY’S THE DAY that the smell and — now that I think of it, a certain whining, gasping sound as well — becomes unbearable.

 

I creep around back of the Hotel and take the metal lid off a trashcan, and creep back in and clamp it down over my slops bucket, silencing the incursion of all that I’ve cut (a whole new novel taking shape in the dark down there, perhaps), basking my Room in a rare and unsettling silence.

 

This spells the end of my workday, so, as it’s early still, I figure I’ll go outside and roam the streets in a — it strikes me thus as I’m looking forward to it — classical British mode, like a gentleman lurker in the dank of the 19th C. London of a Peter Ackroyd or an Iain Sinclair.

 

I shave with nice almondy cream and a sharp razor (yes, an editing tool also, but one I haven’t dulled yet), and pull on a wool cap and scarf, slapping on two palmfuls of spicy, citrusy aftershave, and prepare to go outside and ruminate in peace while my novel-runoff fucks itself into new forms in its bucket without me.

 

BUT WHEN I OPEN THE DOOR, a different set of plans veers out of the unknown to hit me: Big Pharmakos with a gaunt, pale fellow by his side, as if they’d been waiting a long time.

 

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” says Big Pharmakos. “But we didn’t want to barge in while you were … working.”

 

I can tell they’ve been standing here listening to the copulation sounds from my slops bucket and doubtlessly believe they’ve heard me masturbating at length.

 

It strikes me, looking the pale fellow over, that he is somehow the embodiment of the 19th C. London fantasy I’d constructed for myself, as if I hadn’t been fully wrong to envision that as part of today’s agenda. Various theories of occult British psychogeography poke around the middle-interior of my attention for a minute before abating to let me hear what’s being said:

 

“Ever since I went on WTF w/Marc Maron,” Big Pharmakos is saying, “things around here have changed. There’s been an influx of media professionals, unprecedented interest … promotors, agents, scouts …”

 

“Most of that interest is in me, of course,” he continues, “but there’s been some overflow, runoff … more than I can take advantage of, my comedy career having already obliterated the human scale.”

 

He looks up at the ceiling of the Hotel hallway where we’re all standing now, as if expecting to find his head way up there, in a hole through the ceiling and even the roof, perhaps.

 

Then he looks over at the man beside him, who isn’t looking at either of us or at anything at all as far as I can tell.

 

“This is Cavernous, The Editor,” says Big Pharmakos. “He came to town on the same wave as all the others, looking for a piece of me, but I can’t use him. My shit’s too tight.”

 

Cavernous, The Editor doesn’t look aware that he’s being talked about. Big Pharmakos shoves him hard in the side and his hand crunches through The Editor’s coat and into his skin. Big Pharmakos recoils and yanks away, wiping grease on the flowery Hotel wallpaper.

 

Now at least everyone has everyone’s attention.

 

Cavernous and I are formally introduced. Tentatively, unsure if it’s going to fall off, I meet his outstretched hand halfway. It stays on its wrist, though it feels hollow and I barely squeeze.

 

Big Pharmakos averts his eyes. “Anyway,” he says, backing toward the elevator, “I thought maybe he could help you with your, you know, novel edits. I know you’ve been spinning your wheels. Figured it’d be worth a try …”

 

THE ELEVATOR DINGS OPEN and bears Big Pharmakos away.

 

*****

I CLOSE MY EYES for about thirty seconds, centering. I figure that if Cavernous, The Editor is still there when I open them, he’s the man for me.

 

Turns out he is.

 

Still standing in the hallway, I start telling him about the novel and my dark experience of editing it.

 

He inclines his capped head toward me, mouth open, a smell of cardboard and kindling on his breath. His teeth flap and flutter.

 

Inside my Room, me still talking, I look over and see him taking my knives and tools out of their Barbicide, one by one, drying them on a flannel cloth, holding them up, putting them away with a disappointed expression.

 

I stop talking when he cuts a line down his forearm, straight through his dapper coat. We both stand back and watch the blood seep up, a weak liquid like barely-brewed tea.

 

“These won’t do,” he says finally. His voice is somehow both grave and childish, fraught with an intention out of keeping with its physiology, like an instrument forced to play a tune it wasn’t designed for.

 

“If you want me as your editor,” he continues, “you’re going to need some other knives. All my clients cut me, and stuff the cut material in, removing my organs as need be … ” here he rucks up his coat and shirt and shows me a brutal array of scars, bruises, and stitches crowding his belly, sides, and back, like one of those dotted-lines body outlines in a medical textbook, “but I only permit the usage of certain tools. Need to be careful. Is there a good hardware store within walking distance? As I came to town in a caravan of other editors, I have no vehicle.”

 

I think it over.

 

“ULTRA MAX,” I tell him. “About an hour up the Strip if we stroll.”

 

“Very good,” replies Cavernous, The Editor, sucking at his cut forearm. “Let’s stop for some red meat on the way. Once we get down to real editing, I will subsist on the excised matter you stuff into my organ housings, but, until then, two steaks and a burger will keep me lucid enough.”

Sometime around two years ago, I was born.