Archives for posts with tag: Face & Star Simpson

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.

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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.”

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.