Archives for posts with tag: Silent Professor

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.




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.


Now that Blut Branson is hard at work on his novel down in the time capsule we buried him in, everyone in town is summoning their shit back together.

Big Pharmakos announces his plans to rebuild his menagerie.

“Remember,” he starts in, “I’m still this town’s main pimp.”

To tell the truth, I’d forgotten. Or just about.

He’d been into various things in the time-peaks and -troughs of the past however long.

“I did the Silent Room for a while,” he fills us in like we’ve all been under sedation for years and years and no one thought we’d ever wake up, “but all who ever came was the Silent Professor, and no one liked not knowing what his deal was.”

The answer to the question “What was The Silent Room?” would have been found in the grassy shadows at the far back of the party tent implied by the word “Brothel,” so to speak. It was as far from being that as something could be while not being closer to being anything else.

The main thing was the Silence. That meant no talking, no giggling, japing, carousing, gaffing, singing, bellowing, belching, etc. No noise or sound of any kind. You came in, paid for your person, and off you went, across rubberized noise-canceling floorboards.

No surprise, I’m thinking, that the Silent Professor was the only taker.

“I had a few good employees,” Big Pharmakos continues, addressing what he seems to take as a group of people although, far as I can tell, it’s only me.

“But they all said the same thing. They said, ‘The Silent Professor comes into the rooms with us and just sits there, totally Silent, not moving, not looking at us, certainly not touching us … but, soon enough, we start to feel weird. Like something isn’t right, maybe physically, maybe in some other way. Like we’ve woken up wrong from naps that went on too long, you know, and we can’t tell how long we’ve been asleep or even how awake we are now, whether it’s as awake as we’re going to get or if it’s still low down on the scale of waking up, and we have a lot more still to look forward to, or to fear … ”

Then the Silent Professor would rub himself down, head to toe, with Purell (from a bottle in his suit pocket, although there was a free dispenser on the wall), then leave.

“They claimed,” here Big Pharmakos lowers his voice, “that he had something Noboru Wataya-ish about him, the whole way he made them feel in there, the whole deal he put them through after he’d paid up front to do whatever he wanted.”

There’s a collective shudder and then some, what you might call, finger food comes our way.


The curtains draw tight. The lights go down.

“Shh,” says Big Pharmakos. “Moving on … ”

I start to feel weird and don’t know why until I allow myself to suspect that the Silent Professor is behind me.

I feel confirmed in grounding what I’d hoped would not remain groundless.

The screen lights up.

There are no trailers.

After the opening salvo a title lets us know we’re watching “Dispatch From a Bag of Mucus Lost Somewhere in California.”

Whether it’s a short film or a feature I cannot yet say.

It’s images of animals being crushed in the shower.

They’re in there showering — like geese, giraffes, lizards, voles — until, all of a sudden or on cue, Big Pharmakos (or an actor portraying his better self) busts in with two big hands and a heart pumping blood and smashes the little things against the soapy tiles on the side farthest from the spigot.

It’s not as gruesome as you’d expect. He cracks them only until a nice seam opens up and then he peels their skins or shells away to reveal not gory viscera but a smaller, younger, healthier version of the same animal inside.

These renewed animals he collects in a pen. They look away from one another; it’s like they know where this is going.

It becomes clear that the film is an advertisement, or more like an informercial, for Big Pharmakos’ new venture.

The voiceover:

I won’t quote it verbatim, but it basically explains that he’s been collecting the youngest, lithest versions of all possible animals, two of each — the Ark references are neither egregious nor subtle — and is planning to put them on offer to the citizenry in what he euphemistically terms the Dodge City Latter-Day Petting Zoo.

At this Petting Zoo, customers are invited to do what they please with one animal of the pair while the other watches, in sympathy or in terror, according to personal taste.

COMING SOON! it concludes, atop a montage of showering animals, now in the shower stalls at the Petting Zoo, as if to imply that the flow of customers has already begun.


“Any questions?” Big Pharmakos asks.

“Yeah, where are the sloughed parts? You know, the old skins. You scrape ’em out of the shower or just leave ’em around or what? That’s the shit I dig.”

I picture these skins breeding slowly in a landfill along the strip of highway between Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT.

I miss Big Pharmakos’ actual answer.

“Any other questions?” he asks.

“Yeah, what’s with the title? Where was this ‘Bag of Mucus’ we were all waiting for?”

“A concession to the director.”

One eye looks a little wistful, a little wry. The other scans the audience, like what wiseass just asked me that?