His wife came each day to clean up his shrine, removing the debris left by organ seekers and those mystics who craved any vestige of royalty, even a gory prize as of ancient warfare with all its mythic imputations of virtue to the slain. Then, having gathered the scraps into plastic bags, she hosed down the marble floors of the installation where he sat upright, enthroned still, still in his vestments, which she changed each day out of necessity, for they were in shreds after having suffered the ravages of those who sought the True Flesh.
"Here. Check this out," he said just now, clutching up a bloody wad. "It's my appendix. I thought my doctors had taken it. And now nobody wants the Goddamned thing. Do you want it? Here. You are welcome … And this?"
He had reached into a hole in his side and withdrawn a confused tangle of viscera.
"What this is, I don't know. Somebody came by for it once. They acted like a high end spender, you know, not just kicking the tires. 'Give you a K,' he offers. 'K and a half,' you bargain. 'Come on! K and a third.' 'Blow me! Two point five, and not a fraction less.'"
She let him hold forth without protest while she was there, knowing it all couldn't go on much longer. He was a ruin, a catastrophe - the smoking remains thereof.
She said, "You were ambitious - even then."
"One is a king. One only needs to wait. The Dove shat upon our ancestors long ago."
"When we were courting, I mean. In secret."
"I was very alone then."
"So was I."
"We had both been so alone that we thought we had known each other before."
"In another life."
"In another life."
" But it was only …"
There was a long pause in which they settled themselves into the current situation.
Then he said, "I'm sorry for being such a depressive character. It is not good. I tried pills for a while. Actually for years. All in secret. But it is better to be depressed than to be a pill head, is this not true? Here. How you like these sweetbread? They good, no? Sweetbread for your very next meal, OK? Who wouldn't be depressed, Liz? All these people hustling you, selling you your body back! Fokking in-cred-iblay, homes."
"Must you speak in tongues?" she implored.
"Are you, in fact, imploring?"
"Well, yeah. I guess I am."
"Good. Better that way."
She turned now, all j'accuse, on her toes, tottering, even slobbering, hissing in her breath with a shovel scrape, even unto arising on her twinkle toes and flapping her dull wings. "Son of a bitch," she said. "You're just a son of a bitch."
"That is corecto. Bien Corecto. Or is it bueno? I dueno."
He turned on his feet, did some Astair turns, what a guy. Soon enough his feet were quite decidedly bleeding, deservedly so. Then he fell into a gruesome heap upon the floor.
When he was alone in the jungle he lay on his back, listening to Beethoven on a Radio Shack outfit which served his needs. Not your high end fellow here, and definitely a kicker of tires. The rain would beat against his tent, keeping time with whatever he was playing on the machine. Beethoven should be blown through bottles, everyone knows that; and yet he was happiest then, albeit dizzy with loneliness and mad to get his leg over. All he had were the ghosts in the wee hours, crawling over his back and bringing up gooseflesh in their wake. He even dispatched an article back to the shop, telling them to read it and please send along to The Orchid.
"They are indeed merely shells, the outer shape of violent events. They must needs be inspired by the extorted vitality of a credulous witness. For it is fear alone in this case which brings a temporary life to the shells. Even so, the remains of passion are quite strong, and it requires very little of the borrowed Force to dominate that Force completely and shape it to its own needs."
It was good, he felt, and worthy of perusal by the best minds of his generation. One such was Kleindienst, the lobotomist, also dearly beloved for his Key Lime Pies. There's a lad who'd make a Pronouncement, he thought. That boy would have all of the Pacific Coast Highway running with Mustangs and Corvairs, their socks raised on high. Girls, too, little post bebop babies in high white boots and crescendos, bless em, and all the world will know about the life and opinions of Iron Brento, Duke of the Lef Han Corner.
She remembered that period. His decade as a Lit Kid. Fruitless errands to the City to meet with this and that vanity editor. He always came home drunk and defeated; always ate Mongolian Beef, Garlic Chicken, large white rice, wash it down with a fifth and a half of the Australian Shiraz. He spoke sentimentally of blondes who had cut the number of books they read this year into their sweet flesh. Blondes who wrote. Blondes with money who wrote and paid to be published. No, not with pussy! Well, perhaps. He would wake with a hangover and go to the gym. In the evening write some more, write to order for the vanity man at the Inn. The piece would always be rejected. He'd end up publishing it elsewhere.
* * *
Maintenance Pete, who was a bullet head and a Temp, drew the Crucifixion duty for Iron Brento. He could handle it with a couple three Mickey's for lunch, din't bother with any food. Food compromised the trip associated with alcohol. Alcohol is a specific for anxt from the Beehive Era. Pete knew he was playing with himself, having heard just these words in the Alcoholic Rooms, in discussion, even though there was no discussion, it was more like Witnessing in the Church of Holy Jesus Christ God Almighty.
"So, how you gonna do it?" asked a coworker.
"Get pissed," he said horsely.
"No, I mean with what's left of him, how you gonna git it to hang?"
"Figure I'd double up in places, use some corporal cement, that failing."
"Ew, gross! You hear about this, William of Quark?"
That worthy sharpened a stick, intent upon it, doing right by his Posturage. "Not yet," he said. "I do look forward, though. Share with us yer thelonious truck."
"Well, the King of Prior Texts is to be strung up, what remains to him, and they all put it off so long here at Western Living, the job goes to the temp."
"Well, he does it fine, a job awaits. Permanent employ, benefits, a crack at Roger's secretary."
"So, what are the charges?"
"None. None whatever. The cat's always wanted to git strung up. He dreamed of it as a child, drew pictures, acted it out in his yard on axtual beams he had his da fit up as a junior cross. Kids persecuted him. Walked him down the Dolorosa, all the while they scourge him with whips. He called them assholes and told them how they'd get theirs in the Next Room. They figured he was delirious or something, he started all this. He told em God started it; God set him up for a Fall and so he took the plunge."
NEWS OF THE EXQUISITE CORPSE
It "sighed balefully" on at least thirteen occasions, "teared up" twice, employed every conceivable substitution for "said", e.g. "exploded", "thundered", "blared", "blunderbussed" (!), "objected", "wondered", "wanted to know". After coming too soon it apologized with a "squirt": "'I am desolate,' he just managed to squirt, as with the last drops of his spunk, having spent the rest in the Black Hole of Desire …", while she "limply whispered", "It's OK."
"We weren't very good together," she … what? … sighed? simpered? smoothly soothed? Dunno. C'lom Fliday.
"The first night. Wow!"
"Wow!" she concurred.
In the distance someone crowed, "Here! Here's a piece, here. What does the piece say?"
[What the piece says, which is deleted]
"Please go on. If you will please go on."
WITNESS TO THE EXECUTION
They're bringing him out. He looks as indifferent as before, although bruised. He is the Man with a Plan. You refused it. Bad on you. Had yer chance, so there! I cannot tell you how weird this is. I cannot tell you how weird this is. He's … becoming transparent. Either he's going for an early Ascension or the whole thing's a shuck. Like him to use an Arian Projection, fokking heretic in the end, himself. Just like him. Just like him. To cancel everything out with post modernist theater. Constantine tried to end all that, of course, but it keeps bursting forth with renewed maleficence. Leave it to Brento to introduce it again as a joke on himself … Dang, though, he is just evaporating here, dissolving into liquid air. Shut my mouth but can't we spray him or something? Freeze him up for History? We must save something of all this, some limp, trivial record which, like a melting watch, flaps in the wind and goes WHEEEE! Gentlemen, surely! Let's get it together here, 'pon the hour of our immaculate dismemberment and final resolve into drool, we, heroes all, witness this, his dissolution, ours as well, for we, as a whole, as a body, join in this, his mysterious last flapping in the breeze - Oh, how like a bleached sock on this obsequious occasion is he! How like a bird, a pissoir seen by a whore as the client suffers the Little Death, which is always capitalized, damn my eyes if it ain't, a receptacle for our miserable piece mirabilis, mouth's kiss to it, glugglugglug! Hey! Mysterioso, mon! Final, last gasping, fruitpie hurling, fingerfucking, malapropist, reverse Marxist assholery.