Archives for posts with tag: Dead Sir

ALL DODGE CITY ACTIVITY THIS PAST MONTH has gone toward prepping for The Second Dodge City Genocide, which the Colonel has made clear on numerous occasions will be known as The First. “The one and only, the best Genocide ever,” as both he and Paul Sweetie have been putting it on all the daytime soaps, in what they openly claim is an effort to create “a kind of week before Xmas free-for-all atmosphere.”

 

Everything’s running smoothly except for the small issue of there being quite a few Torturers left over from The First Dodge City Genocide, some of whom grow piqued at the looming prospect of their life’s work being Denied.

 

And the worst of these Torturers, we soon find out, are in a union: The Dodge City Torturers’ Anti-Defamation League, which starts holding rallies in the Town Square, chanting, “We will not go easily into that good night! We will rage, rage against the Denial of The First Dodge City Genocide!”

 

Many other townsfolk — some of them surely just looking for trouble in whatever form it presents itself in, but still — join the chanting, and soon a series of riots are underway. The human tide swells until it reaches the gate of Pussygrab Palace, at which point the Colonel is forced to take action.

 

The action that the Colonel takes — through his Generals, naturally — is to announce the execution of all the so-called Retired Torturers in the Town Square. After making a speech about how, “As I’ve already told you guys, no Genocide but mine will be recognized in Dodge City from this day forward,” he turns his back as the Generals get to work stringing the numerous Retired Torturers (no one’s quite sure how many, as some of the townsfolk in the crowd squirm in on the action, and some of the Torturers onstage slip away at the last minute) up by their necks, then inviting the lowliest hangers-on in the Pussygrab Regime to whack them with whiffle bats, piñata style, until they’re dead.

 

*****

OR, as we soon learn in an Amazon pay-per-view special (my account’s on auto-play, so I find myself watching it without having chosen to), nearly dead. Their bodies are carted out to Dead Sir, as usual, but before they sink under, the Night Crusher appears and drags their bodies into a clearing in the woods where, along with a small skeleton crew, he proceeds to reanimate them using some sort of Haitian zombie-magic, a ritual that, in Amazon’s presentation, veers between the hokey and the gut-churningly grotesque. “Two parts Nightmare Before Christmas, one part Cannibal Holocaust, as a 3-star review beneath the video window puts it.

 

Suffice it to say that, by dawn, the Torturers of The First Dodge City Genocide are alive and well, or at least certifiably undead. They look on as the Night Crusher (nice to see him working again, I think) begins cobbling together planks from a cluster of abandoned shacks in this part of the woods. By nightfall, he and his skeleton crew have assembled a makeshift Museum.

 

“Someone had to make sure this history wasn’t lost,” he says to the camera, as, in a languid montage, we watch his crew setting up the exhibits, scrawling notes across the lapels of each Torturer that explain his (or her — there are a few Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS-type women in the group as well) role in The First Dodge City Genocide, leaving nothing out. When they’ve finished, they drill coin-slots into each Torturer’s throat, hang a crude wooden OPEN sign across the door, crack a round of Miller High Life’s, and sit back to wait for the children to arrive.

 

*****

AND ARRIVE THEY DO. Over the course of a few sweltering late October weeks (no one knows why it’s so hot, or they do but they won’t say), the Museum becomes the most popular attraction in town.

 

It fills with children like ants on a spilled glass of Hi-C, overwhelming the Night Crusher and his skeleton crew, who lead the Amazon camera-people through the Halls of Undead Torturers while hordes of children feed quarters into the taxidermied slits in their throats and listen to stories of the millions slaughtered in Dodge City during the First Genocide, many of them buried in the Mass Watery Grave (MWG) in the Desert.

 

Others, according to some Torturers, were incinerated, eaten (by sharks, by termites, by crows), dissolved in baths of acid, affixed to papery wings and launched into the sky, and a thousand other means of dispatch, some so purple they beggar belief.

 

It thus comes as no surprise that the Colonel, when word of the Museum reaches him via his daytime soaps, denounces it as a complete and utter forgery. “Not one iota of what’s in there is real,” he bellows from the press podium in Pussygrab Palace, reading off what looks like a cocktail napkin. “It’s all made-up. The First Dodge City Genocide is still coming folks, just hold your horses. Nothing like this has happened before. But soon — very soon, believe me — it will have. Then you’ll all have me to thank! You’ll all have to tell me what a good boy I’ve been!”

 

He wipes tears from his eyes with the cocktail napkin, smearing ink across the lids — is the Colonel starting to melt down? I wonder — and wanders off stage, his mic still clipped to his collar.

 

*****

AS IT TURNS OUT, the Colonel’s denunciation only makes the Museum more popular. Further hordes now pile in to see what all the fuss is about, delighting in the made-up stories of the Torturers, who are starting to come apart at the seams, their voices reduced to harsh whistles and staticky hisses. After all, I think, the Night Crusher and his skeleton crew did a pretty hasty taxidermy job. It’s no wonder they’re not holding up under so much attention.

 

In due course, other countries hear about the Museum and begin to donate their own Undead Torturers: Indonesia, Turkey, Myanmar, Rwanda, Serbia … the list goes on and on. Each country sends an XL box full of stuffed Torturers with a note to the effect of, “Here are the perpetrators of the worst so-called Genocides from our nation’s past. We thought your Children’s Fake-News Museum would appreciate the gift. Please make it very clear that whatever these windbags say they did is all in good fun, like dressing up as dragons on Halloween.”

 

*****

WHEN THE MUSEUM OF UNDEAD TORTURERS grows so popular that all of Dodge City is seen there at the same time — the vast majority anyway, since I for one am still in my Room, watching this all on Amazon — the Colonel has no choice but to reverse course.

 

He appears in the middle of the crowd with Paul Sweetie in his white wedding dress beside him, and announces (reading off another cocktail napkin), “Beloved citizens, loyalists, toadies, stooges, turncoats, one and all: I was just kidding before when I said this Museum was a sham! Just having a laugh with you all, ha ha. What it really was — what it’s been all along, of course — is a trailer for the Genocide I’m now ready to kick off! A preview of coming attractions, just to wet your whistles! Now, please join me in a round of applause as we get The Real First Dodge City Genocide up and running!”

 

Everyone — mothers, teachers, cripples, kids — applauds, as Pussygrab gives a signal and is spirited out of the room just as the gas begins to spew in.

 

The camera lingers on the inside of the Museum as the crowd gags, bloats, and quickly succumbs, piling up in enormous, balloon-like blobs, crowding the Torturers until it’s impossible to tell who’s taxidermied and who’s freshly dead.

 

*****

CUTTING BACK TO THE WOODS OUTSIDE, the Amazon special ends with Pussygrab, Paul Sweetie, and his newly appointed Torturers cracking a bottle of champagne and toasting to the official start of The First Dodge City Genocide.

 

“Don’t worry, folks,” the Colonel says, looking straight into the camera with champagne running down his lips and onto his shirt, “you’re all going to get your turn!”

 

Just before the end credits roll, I think I catch a glimpse of the Night Crusher and his skeleton crew running into the woods, but when I try to stop and rewind, an error message says my single viewing has been used up, and that the next Movie is starting in 14, 13, 12 seconds.

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AFTER A WELCOME TROUGH OF ACTIVITY following the Blood Drive, we get shaken up by a group Email.

 

I’d just reached the end of a two week free trial of a popular pay-as-you-go scam called Internet Free America, which promised to “reintegrate my top-shelf attention into my so-called life and re-situate my subjectivity in my given body,” so I was checking my inbox with a genuinely feral hunger, like that which Kinski and McDowell harbor for one another in Cat People, when the group Email came in.

 

“Dear People of Dodge City,” it began.

 

“Your communal Blood Drive results have been analyzed by me and a couple friends of mine, and we have determined enough overlaps in plasma-type and DNA-structure to suggest that you are more closely related, ideologically speaking, than is considered safe for the citizenry of a town of your size to be. If anyone would like to see my sources on this, or the results themselves, just let me know and I’ll forward them to you.

 

“The upshot here is that tomorrow I’m going to pay you all a visit and examine your ideas, one by one, in private. If you can convince me that your ideas are, in all ways that count, meaningfully distinct and antithetical to one another, I’ll leave with no further ado, and you’ll be free to go on calling yourselves a town.

 

“If, however, as I suspect, your ideas prove more convergent than divergent, collapsing and narrowing down toward a single fiercely held belief, unalienable at the expense of all others, it will be my displeasure to demote your status from town to cult.

 

“Lastly, just so there’s no misunderstanding when I show up, I am an impersonator of the Inspector whom you all hosted on your streets about a year ago. I am a copycat-Inspector by trade, but, make no mistake, this only bolsters my authority; it in no way undermines or invalidates it. I am such an exact copycat, indeed, that you will be unable to distinguish me from the Inspector himself. You may tell yourselves now, as you read this Email, that you’ll absolutely remember, that nothing can fool you or pry you off your certainty, but you’ll see when I show up …

 

You will treat me as the Inspector himself, and I will know very quickly whether Dodge City is in fact a cult.”

 

THE FIRST THING I DO, after reading and deleting the Email, is delete all my correspondence with Internet Free America (all physical letters, naturally, since they deal in clients cut loose from Email), motivated by some medium-grade fear that my entanglement with them is connected to the coming of this copycat Inspector, or that I might at least be accused of this, Witch Trial style, if Dodge City ends up being declared a cult …

 

Which possibility, I think, as I shower off the sweat I worked up shredding the letters, seems a mile or two less than remote. I don’t know exactly what the fallout from being declared a cult might be, but it’s easy to imagine some harsh tax penalty or mass emigration or, more fearsome still, immigration, if we come to be seen in that light.

 

I towel off, shave, and lie down, trying to think what my ideas are, aware that, first thing in the morning, I’ll have to head down to Dead Sir and ditch them all. I can picture everyone I know down there, purging and trashing their entire mental collections like a mass drug dump on the eve of an historic raid.

 

Whatever the truth of Dodge City actually is, I don’t want to be the one to convince the Inspector that it’s a cult. I shiver as I recognize the potential commonality of this idea — if he catches us all thinking this when he comes, I think, he’ll know we’re a cult for sure.

 

It’s rough going as I flip through everything in my head. The combination of withdrawal-agony and cleanse-ecstasy that Internet Free America stimulated the past few weeks returns now, severalfold, as I endeavor to gut out my whole deal, ball it up into some huge, weird boulder and roll it down through the streets to Dead Sir when the sun comes up.

 

I envision myself like the last survivor of a stricken family during the Black Plague, rolling my dead on a cart through the streets of some skanky French village, shunning eye contact with my fellow survivors as we head grimly to the pit or the incinerator.

 

*****

NEXT MORNING, the scene at the diner is madness. Everyone’s nervous before the trip to Dead Sir, trying to eat a heartening breakfast without ordering the same thing as anyone else, lest there seem to be a morning ritual.

 

Infantile cries of “I ordered it first!” and “He’s copying me!” squirt out everywhere, and the kitchen scrambles to combine ingredients in new and, ideally, random ways, to keep from seeming to have a signature dish or even a menu determined by consistent taste.

 

No one knows when the Inspector will arrive.

 

I order a bowl of powdered sugar and, much as it pains me to skip my coffee, a cup of cool lemon tea, as if that’ll deter the Inspector from seeing me as I really am.

 

Gottfried Benn works the tables, trying to shake people down for his usual $60, but no one will acknowledge him, noxious as his presence is.

 

He gets folded into the procession to Dead Sir, everyone tramping out of the diner without paying, the manager too flustered to call us out.

 

We lurch through the streets and into the woods taking care not to march or in any way fall into step with one another. This reminds me of how, in Dune, everyone always had to walk totally without rhythm across the desert so as not to alert the slumbering sandworms to human passage overhead … thoughts of Dune lead naturally to thoughts of Lynch and Jodorowsky, which lead to …

 

NO.

 

I stop myself here, before I get any more carried in the direction I don’t want to go.

 

I try to focus, totally purging my mental space. I picture it like a room filled with boxes and clothes and suitcases and busted furniture all tipped over and piled crooked. Then I start warming up a mental wrecking ball, swinging it in power-hungry arcs just outside the window.

 

*****

I’M WAIST DEEP IN DEAD SIR, along with everyone else in Dodge City — all the Cavernous, the Editors, spitting out the parts of my novel I’ve stuffed them with (so much for editing, I suppose), and Gibbering Pete, Rigid Steve, Fiscal Steven, Professor Dalton, Internethead … literally everyone.

 

I keep losing track of what I’m doing here, looking around at everyone else, ambiently dreaming of checking Email.

 

Cultish forces circle me like hawks, waiting to swoop down and take a bite of where I’m softest.

 

Just don’t stop purging, some way-inner taskmaster commands. Open your mouth, fat boy.

 

I do, and feel my whole collection blasting itself out, spewing up my throat and over my tongue and into Dead Sir (whose name I’m soon to forget), filling in the watery brine around me, thickening it and upping its temperature.

 

Last thing I see before the purge overwhelms my optical nerves is everyone I know ceasing to be everyone I know, becoming scarecrows in some bath that’s getting so hot their skin turns red and starts to bubble.

 

*****

“… right, exactly, they’re all just standing here in this, um, sort of outdoor tank, like a pit they must’ve dug and filled in, and it’s kind of, I think you’d have to say, fulminating all around them …”

 

My eyes drift open and I can see it’s late afternoon and we’re all in the water and someone I don’t know is standing on the shore, talking into an iPhone.

 

I can tell I won’t be able to move until some external condition changes, so I stand where I am and listen:

 

“… totally vacant expressions, that’s correct sir, like dead cow, or sub-cow, eyes, and kind of swaying at the knees and hips … thoroughly entranced. A few are looking in my direction, but I don’t think they can really see me. I told them I was coming. You’d think they’d make at least some effort to disguise their ritual, but I guess not with these folks. Pretty baldfaced cult, gotta hand it to them.”

 

The Inspector — somewhere way back in myself I remember this is his name — continues, “And some are mumbling repetitive sounds like ‘vu vu vu vu’ and ‘tn tn tn tn tn,’ along those lines. And this thing they’re standing in is making sounds too, like a call and response. Uncanny to behold, sir. I don’t like it. They all look similar too, like they’ve taken pains to make themselves outwardly identical. Probably all respond to the same name too, not that I want to know what it is.”

 

I have an instinct to do something erratic right now, anything, just to shake things up, remind me that I’m me and stick my foot in the door that I can see is about to slam shut on all of us, but my body won’t respond. I’ve purged too much of what made it tick.

 

“Any further questions, sir?” the Inspector asks. “I really can’t see any ambiguity at all in this case … great, well I’ll book them then. I’ll let you know once the paperwork’s filed. Speak soon, sir … yup, you too. Give my best to Raquel, and … um … oh yeah, Henry. My best to Henry too.”

 

He hangs up and looks directly at me and our eyes stay locked like that until he turns away, opening his briefcase to extract the paperwork and a pen.

IN CLASSIC FASHION, the buried do not stay that way.

 

That’s the thing about Dead Sir that I forgot to mention, though I can’t imagine who was fooled. Easy enough to hack extra-matter away and dump it in the deep; harder to keep it down there when it wants to come back up and you didn’t want to let it go in the first place.

 

You know the classic scene: a fisherman alone in his boat, motoring across the still waters at dusk, hoping for a dinner catch before midnight, comes across a finger with a wring, a blue hand, a mealy wrist with a still-ticking watch, an arm that doesn’t stop there …

 

The two bodies are soon bunched into the middle of his boat, weighing it down, and he’s speeding back to shore.

 

Less classic about the scene in our case is that this particular fisherman went looking for them directly, rather than finding them by guileless accident while actually fishing for, say, fish.

 

This is his racket: he hauls up what we cast off, gone soft and slimy in Dead Sir, and brings it back to Dodge City to sell.

 

Guilty abandoners and regretful onetime stewards that we are, we buy it back every time.

 

He doesn’t sell any other type of fish. Anyone into that kind of thing around here belongs in a grocery store several towns away.

 

When he brings them in they look like Joseph Beuys in Siberia, wrapped in wolf-fat and fur, or by wolves in man-fat and skin, depending on your version. I’ll always remember where and who I was when I first got told about Beuys going down in his fighter jet or bomber or scout plane over the ice flats or steppe or tundra, in WWII I believe, and being nurtured there in the wild for a good decade by wolves before returning to Germany as a kind of transhuman maniac superhero to take the Art World by storm.

 

Which is not to say that Face & Star Simpson are galvanized on this level; just that their blocks of fat are similar (that’s where I got the idea).

 

The fat is translucent, like aspic, so the inward-warping bodies can be observed, in some slow rotation, a churn. I stop in to check them out. I wonder if the material has grown out of their bodies in autoimmune response to the Dead Sir environment, or accreted from that environment onto them, like simple pond scum.

 

They sit in the shop a few days and nights, on ice and sprayed with the fish-mist hose every hour, but, still …

 

They start to stink and then it’s someone’s idea to invite them to Thanksgiving. “They’re all alone,” is the reasoning, common enough this time of year.

 

There’s agreement in town.

 

So the call to the fisherman is made and Face & Star Simpson are ordered up, either as guests or as entrees.

 

*****

THIS TIME LAST YEAR I lived in a house, but now that I’m back at the Hotel, the Function Room downstairs is home to the only dinner I’m likely to find out about.

 

Various guests — Big Pharmakos, Professor Dalton, the Silent Professor, Gottfried Benn, whoever else — arrive in stages, the best ones toward the middle.

 

Amongst us is the baby sired by Stokoe Drifter in that old guy Murph’s protruding intestine a few weeks back. Some stand-in parent types bring it in, done up in a onesie, and let us know they’ve named it Ferttle.

 

OK.

 

We lean our heads into the baby’s POV, trying not to telegraph our disgust at its Origin Scene, since, we know, the facts of one’s parentage are no one’s fault.

 

Ferttle, at this point, may be the Only Child in Dodge City. I forget what happened to the last one.

 

We all sit, palming nuts and sesame sticks, beers, waiting for the two Dead-Sir-flavored-fat-blocks to arrive.

 

I don’t know if I should admit to this group that Face & Star Simpson started out as characters of mine, sideliners in what was and is maybe still known as ANGEL HOUSE.

 

A bout of thinking, another beer, some olives, and I’ve decided not to. Let someone else or the world at large claim them.

 

THEY ARRIVE. Someone signs the fisherman’s order sheet, scanning us with one eye to gauge by expression who’s likely to help split the bill.

 

I couldn’t guess what they cost, a lot or a little.

 

The fisherman, in his baseball cap and windbreaker, looks glad to be rid of them. He leaves in a hurry to get on with his (I’m guessing) other, tamer plans.

 

The Hotel staff brings in the standard Thanksgiving set, turkey and all, but the twin blocks of fat in the corner, sitting on metal ice-sculpture stands, dominate our attention.

 

They dominate mine anyway — enough that I can’t speak for anyone else.

 

I have no other appetite.

 

So, though I would’ve been happy not to be the first, I take up a plastic butter knife and a paper plate from the buffet table and go over to the blocks and invite a little of each onto my plate.

 

The slices look like those thick jiggly rice-pasta rolls you get at Dim Sum, or used to get.

 

They even have reddish brown roast-porklike flecks worked in.

 

I taste one and then the other.

 

It’s warm and salty, a little bloody, a little rank.

 

I swoon.

 

Others file in behind me and start slicing as well, powerless before my example.

 

Soon they’re swooning too. We all are.

 

The blocks shrink inward toward their centers; everyone stumbles around, lips greasy, jaws and gullets working hard and automatic in gross ritual.

 

I see someone shoving spoonfuls of it down Ferttle’s throat. The baby wails for more.

 

In the hustle for seconds and thirds, there is no pause for wine.

 

*****

BY THE TIME IT’S OVER, we are passed out on the Function Room carpeting, the cleaning staff waiting by the door, perhaps unsure as to what they’re looking at.

 

Through one eye I fight to keep open, I watch the two exposed bodies stand up from their globular casing, bits of it still sticking to them. They waver on their feet, look about to tip over, and then right themselves, somehow strengthened.

 

They don’t look fully awake, but they zero in on the table and walk over to it, running their hands through the buffet spread.

 

Hands is an overstatement: the ends of their arms are worn down to tips or caps, and the arms themselves are just lengths of generic fleshy material, like hose or tubing cut from an endless roll at a hardware store.

 

Dead Sir has worn them so similar I can’t tell which was which, not even along M/F lines. They could be clones. Their faces have been smoothed over, hair and eyes washed away, skin pulled taut over bones that look hollow and soft, genitals rounded out to geometric templates.

 

After prowling a few times around the table, they plop into adjacent chairs and haul over the cold turkey and mashed sweet potatoes by pulling the tablecloth.

 

The forms that were once Face & Star Simpson fall to chewing and swallowing, thighs and wings, rolls and mugs of wine.

 

The buffet spread diminishes. They don’t look ravenous, but they eat steadily for a long time, their sides bulging outward.

 

They are characters in the most basic sense now, undeveloped, free for any story that’ll have them. My stomach boils the fat down to a narcotizing punch and I pass out to the image of them splitting a pumpkin pie.

IN THE GRIP OF A NIGHTMARE about my fingers having been shaved off and sold back to me at a markup, I slop over in my nightshirt and cap to answer the knock at the door.

 

Fingerless, I hug it open.

 

There stands the Night Porter, dressed in his usual cloth with a black plastic poncho stretched over and lashed around his waist with a bungee cord. He’s a lean man, but it’s pulled so tight a few rolls of flesh pop out above and beneath it.

 

“Wet out there,” he mumbles. “Been to Dead Sir twice already and it’s only — ” we both look at the clock to see what time it is. It’s early night. Last I’d known, it was afternoon. I must have acquiesced to lie down for half an hour following a spell of exhaustion that I couldn’t cut with coffee and face-washing, and fallen beneath the rest of the evening.

 

He holds up a maroon cardboard cake box and I don’t need to think to know that my fingers are inside, arranged in two layers of five with ice in between.

 

A moment of black humor where he pushes the box toward me with one hand and, holding up one of those digital package-receipt signature machines with the other, says “Sign here.”

 

We both giggle like What do we have to lose?

 

At this point I kind of lose clarity. It’s not an unusual feeling, that of the Nightmare wearing off like some drug in my system, being slowly filtered out through my pores. I know better than to expect to recognize the point at which I am again “fully awake.”

 

Certainly, the Night Porter is here for real, and my fingers — no ambiguity on this front — are gone, nestled nicely in the box he wants me to sign for.

 

Down in the blear, I ruminate on Dead Sir … a place I haven’t let myself ruminate on in a while. A bog or pit just outside of town where we go to submerge our undesirables, watching them sink and be held by a sub-world whose contours we believe ourselves free not to picture.

 

Unwanted children, impure thoughts, damning proof of indenture or indemnity, skins we’ve shed …

 

The Night Porter too … he hasn’t crossed my mind in long enough for his footprints to have been covered over by fresh leaves and snow.

 

He makes the rounds after we’re asleep, gathering up our stuff — stuff we’ve left in public, like the Hotel lobby and lobby restrooms, and also coming into our bedrooms (the knocking is just a courtesy … he can easily let himself in), to round up what’s not battened down, anything lying on nightstands or coffee tables, vanities, bureaus …

 

Then he either sells it back to us at 1.5x its value, or leads us out to Dead Sir (in classic style, only he knows the way), to dispose of it. He charges us for this service as well.

 

I’ve been shaving down my novel, ANGEL HOUSE, pretty relentlessly of late. My Room is filled with knives and razors, bandages and Nu Skin for all the places where I’ve cut into it, rank with the lardy smell of slashed excess and a body’s endlessly disturbed efforts to heal.

 

[What is the Night Porter doing while I’m thinking all this?]

 

There are piles of shavings on all the surfaces in my Room. Some are just little aggregations of hair and fingernails, while others are meatier, folds of skin and sinew stuffed into envelopes of one another.

 

In one corner, in twin burlap COFFEE, BRAZIL sacks, lie two entire characters that I hacked out earlier this week: Face & Star Simpson, lover-proprietors of a demon circus that, in the early drafts, came to my town and enticed my children out of their minds by offering them access to a “genuinely angelic landscape” in which nothing else could reach them. These were the days before I’d accepted (or even quite known) that people like Joe Hill and Will Elliott had beaten me to those punches, and recently too.

 

So now Face & Star Simpson, not dead but badly cut, lie entangled in their sacks, propped on wads of paper towels to soak up some of whatever fluid runs through the rough burlap.

 

The Night Porter, still in my doorway, looks at them, then at me, assessing the big picture.

 

“Hold on,” he says. “Let me get a hand truck.”

 

*****

First, we reattach my fingers. I tell him, optimistically, that I can pay for everything at the start of next month. He puts my word in his ledger.

 

We sit down at my bathroom counter and spread all ten out, painting the stumps with superglue like we’re applying false fingernails.

 

“I only shaved them down a little,” he says, consolingly, maybe guiltily, as if my fingers had been slight ungainly protrusions and not full, finger-length extremities.

 

Once attached, I hold them down by my side and wait for the glue to dry. They feel more like things I’m carrying than things that are me.

 

*****

The Night Porter compresses all my shaggy novel detritus into several plastic trashbags, then loads Face & Star Simpson in their burlap onto the hand truck, and shoves his way out the door.

 

I follow behind, feeling the Nightmare recede further and the glue on my knuckles start to bind with skin flaps and exposed bone. I shuffle along behind him like some kind of gimp henchman, unable to help.

 

As we make our way out to Dead Sir, I ruminate on why the Night Porter took my fingers tonight.

 

Perhaps, I think, he’s telling me to slow down on the cutting. “Put the tools away, son,” he’s maybe saying. “Let the poor thing heal. Process what you’ve cut before cutting any more.”

 

I smile to remember the feeling of logical thought, the assumption of a universe governed by comprehensible laws, as if it were possible that some things had tangible relations to other things. Ha.

 

WE ARRIVE.

 

Fuck, I think. This is why no one can remember the way to Dead Sir. If I’d just paid attention to the path instead of slipping into reverie, I could start coming here on my own, without ever paying him again …

 

It’s dark in all directions, thick with trees until you get right down to the bank.

 

After we push through, the Night Porter clicks on a flashlight. I notice that he’s removed the bungee cord lashing on his poncho, and used it to lash my bags to the hand truck.

 

“Ready?” he asks.

 

I hesitate, then nod yes.

 

He pushes the hand truck’s wheels right up to the very edge of Dead Sir, unties the cord, and tips it forward. The trashbags and COFFEE, BRAZIL sacks roll off, down, in.

 

I watch them break the surface and earn entry into a liquid as thick as oil.

 

Goodbye Face & Star Simpson, I think, their final bubbles popping in the dark. I appreciate your coming this far with me and I’m sorry I couldn’t take you farther.

 

The Night Porter has his back turned and headphones on, giving me privacy.

 

Looking up after the sacks have sunk all the way down and the ripples have stopped, I see a few other writers on the far banks, trying to keep themselves from my view as much as I am from theirs. All emptying their sacks, ridding themselves of ideas they’ve had and loved but can no longer live with.

 

Do we truly believe they will not resurface? Right at this moment, maybe we do. And maybe we deserve to — maybe that’s what we’re paying the Night Porter for.

 

The sun beginning to rise, we trudge away, back into the woodland lining Dead Sir’s edges, to be alone with the enormity and relief of what we’ve done.

 

More likely than not, we’ll all end up eating breakfast together at some Outskirt diner in an hour or so, looking down at our salt shakers, pretending not to be seen.