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.”

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