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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
Twelve Stories PDF E-mail

Bogalusa

Too young to hold back anything at all, used Japanese sports car, empty bottles of cheap wine and cigarettes butts scattered all over the floor board. Adam, dark-haired and greasy of course, son of a cop, terrible, terrible person, he cost me my favorite 9mm and my left arm, bad-breathed and an endless desire to make sure I was destroyed. Listen to him still; They won’t catch you skipping school when you’re 40 miles north of the parish. They’ll never catch us with these two 15 year olds, one pure red headed and with a strong smell just like you like ‘em Lucas, the other with blue hair and alabaster skin, just like you like ‘em Lucas, perfect, for perfect fucking, and beyond. Drink and drink, smoke this and smoke that, what is it? No one ever dared to ask. Die, die, die, the stereo keeps repeating in a steady thump that sounds like a flat tire, Cromags and MegaDeth, what joy! So, we’re heading straight into the sun, Why Bogalusa? Because we’ve never been there before, world’s largest sawmill glistening in the sun and where practically all the paper in the world is made. The whole city smells like onions, like a giant fart. Got to visit an old aunt of mine there in Bogalusa, Adam is emphatic about visiting this distant aunt, Why? To borrow more money of course. We don’t need any money I say. The two girls in unison exclaim, Yes we do!!! We will always need more money, forever and forever—4 bottles of Thunderbird, 3 bottles of Night Train, 2 stones of crack and sex at 105 miles an hour becomes revealing, in that I can no longer see anymore, see myself. The telephone poles outside the car zip by until they become indistinguishable from one another, and the trees have become liquid and the girls are coming all over the place and Adam is smiling, smiling, smiling. We are not dead but were certainly meant to be and at the aunt’s house, we are served cookies and brownies like at a funeral reception; the city is industrial, black and old, so very old. A year later and I’m sitting in a shrink’s office and I watch outside his window as a cloud of complex heavy smoke and steam is bellowed out from the Paper Mill. The shrink is playing Solitaire and he wants me to break the silence between us, as
he wouldn’t dare do it himself but I have nothing to say, even though I just turned nineteen and just lost an arm and am now sitting in this same city, Bogalusa, that Adam first drove me to a year ago. You would think I’d have plenty to tell the shrink, but all the same nothing comes out, no words leave my mouth. I have an impulse building up inside of me to talk about Bogalusa and the Paper Mill and why those two things fascinate me. Bogalusa is where almost all the paper in the country comes from, the kind of paper used for notebook paper and toilet paper. Finally, the shrink puts down his cards and says in a monotone so stark that his words might as well be made of chrome, finally this shrink who’s last name is Laputa says to me, So, the report says you want to die, that you want to kill yourself? Well, it is my professional opinion that you are right, that you should kill, kill, kill yourself, I’ll help you with the paper work. I want you to kill yourself, this world is not meant for cripples and you’ll just have a long and drawn out existence that will only make you and everyone else around you miserable as hell.

How incredibly right he was, but I walked away from his office more determined than ever to make life pay and pay for my survival.

1989



Between the Pines

He walked over a thousand miles to return to the pine trees of his youth. It was important to him that he walk. He had come back to die, not because there was anything particularly wrong with him. He didn’t have cancer; he wasn’t going through a bad divorce; he wasn’t even quitting life while he was at his best.

He simply wanted to be at home again. He wanted to be at home, forever. That’s important to understand. For these woods where he grew up with his brothers and where he hunted squirrel and birds, where he would camp out for days at a time to hunt raccoon, opossum, bobcats, and panthers, these woods meant more to him than all the books he ever wrote and all the fame he achieved as a lecturer and reader of his work.

He wanted to die in the silence of the woods while there were still woods there that he recognized and knew very well. He’d written everything about life that he knew to write, there simply was nothing else he wanted to say to the world or to himself; there was nothing else he could say about existence that he hadn’t said already a hundred times over; now he would live forever on paper and this thought filled him with a strange peace, strange to know you will still be muttering after you are dead. His words were carved in stone; they rested safely on the shelves of libraries around the world.

He wanted to die in the ultimate silence of his youth; where all those voices from his pristine and deep felt childhood could still be heard; a perfect and complete past, the voices, these amazing hunts. He will lie down now with everything he has ever loved and live forever.

2025



Dwight Maxwell

He was seventeen in the eighth grade, which was the year he dropped out of school forever. He was tall but big boned with wide hips and shoulders; his hair was thick black and wavy—his nose was, well, you could tell just by looking at it that he had more than a dash of African American blood running through his veins, and this was a pretty big deal at a rural school that boasted a Caucasian population of one hundred percent, and where more than a few of its child students were full members of the Klan, just like their Papas, just like their Grandpapas. As for Dwight Maxwell, his ancestry was already a slow death sentence.

I don’t remember much about him except that he died. He had a manner about him that was a cross between class clown and school-yard bully. He was clearly stupid, by almost anyone’s standards, but because of his size and sense of humor, he was more or less tolerated, even though it was well known that he had black blood. He was not without good characteristics. Once, he threw a stone through the fiberglass roof of the school’s greenhouse and somehow or another, I was blamed for it. Dwight found out and walked straight past the schoolyard cop and marched into the Principal’s office and took complete responsibility for the incident. He told the Principal that I was an innocent bystander, and I guess because I thought Dwight was borderline retarded, I was stunned to hear the phrase “innocent bystander” come out of his mouth.


One of Dwight’s idiosyncrasies was stealing pencils from the pencil holders off the classroom desks. It seemed to fill him with sheer joy to have dozens of stolen pencils in his ragged school bag. As far as I know, he was never so much as reprimanded for this extreme indulgence of kleptomania, even though everyone, including all the teachers, knew that it was Dwight who was stealing all the pencils from the classrooms. It must have been regarded as a mere annoyance, or perhaps a mild form of amusement. It was somehow comforting in the tired old boring rural junior high school to know that at least once a week in between classes, Dwight Maxwell would take all our shiny #2 yellow pencils. He was never stopped, because everyone knew that stealing pencils was the only thing that kept him going, that kept him in school, that kept him alive even.

Then one day a whole week had gone by and all the pencils were still cradled safely in the pencil holders on the desks. Dwight stopped coming to school. He was said to have dropped out and gone to work for a pulpwood company in Bogalusa. Then, he just disappeared from my childhood. I’d completely forgotten about him until years later when I was home from college on Christmas holiday and an aunt of mine who was deeply entrenched in the gossip of the village where I was raised, told me matter of factly that he had killed himself. I can imagine the scene well: Dwight Maxwell, twenty-three years old, an eighth grade dropout, couldn’t get up in the mornings anymore to work in the suffocating South Louisiana heat. He just couldn’t bring himself to do it anymore; cutting down pine trees all day long and piling them onto huge ugly trucks.

He returned from work one day, the last day he would ever work, to his mother’s house again, from which he would never leave; the father undoubtedly dead from some quasi-rural accident or the father having abandoned the family oh so long ago, or, even further into the depths of despair and cliché, the father wasn’t even known, whatever. Rural days in the utter southern United States are real long, especially if the person cannot read and Dwight Maxwell could definitely not read, nor could he fill his days with busy work, hobbies, or any kind of projects, he couldn’t even play the guitar to pass some of the time away, no, Dwight Maxwell did not even have the brains to play simple “C,” “D,” “E” chords on a $100.00 electric or acoustic guitar. For the Dwights of this world, the days are too long, and the longer they become the older and more intolerable they become, it never gets better only worse, and in their world, twenty-three years old might as well be fifty years of age.

I see a tool shed in his backyard, even if he never knew his father, there was a tool shed in his mother’s backyard. Perhaps it was set up by some “friend” of the mother or some miserable but sympathetic uncle who sort of looked after the boy, his sister’s ridiculous but only son. A shed full of dangerous liquids, pesticides, turpentine, gasoline. Dwight Maxwell had for a long time been sniffing these liquids to obliterate consciousness. For some people, perhaps for many people, the destruction of consciousness is necessary. The longer and hotter the days became, the more he sniffed, the more he put to death his useless mind. After all, Dwight was hardly a Self at all. What difference did it make if this Self existed or not? Then one day, say around 2:00 in the afternoon in the middle of July, Dwight drank some of these poisons that lined the shed wall, not because he wanted to die, not at all, because somehow his type never really wants to die, they somehow love to be alive for the sake of being alive. Knowing they are ruined from the start makes them cling even more to their hideous existence. Beside, he was still enslaved too much to want to leave the world, daytime television, colas and potato chips, and all those wonderfully self-induced orgasms, let’s not forget all those Friday night parties where Euphoria and Death meet and get to know each other real well, and, of course, there was still the mother who was always waiting for him no matter what might happen, or not happen, for that matter, but none of these things could save him from Boredom. It’s important to understand, that Dwight Maxwell loved life, in his own twisted way, but he drank the poisons anyway because he could not conquer or, perhaps, even make a friend of the boredom inside himself; a real working class boredom that is quite different from the luxuriousness of bourgeois boredom.

He drank the Freon first, then quietly he sipped the turpentine and then the beautifully colored weed eater fuel. Then his mind went in several directions all at once and he had never known such certainty, such beauty. If only he could say it to the uncle who found him with the foam still coming out of his mouth and with his eyes as wide as coffee saucers, if only he wasn’t dead and he could say to the uncle, Uncle, please! Understand, that it is good that I’m no more; Death is what I was meant for, in fact, it’s the only thing I was ever good at!

1990



The Janitor

He liked the silence of the halls at day’s end, and the sweet smell of newly polished floors. He liked the school best, deep in the night when he could read for hours what had been written by them all during the day and thrown onto the floor or into the garbage or left on top of their desks.

He couldn’t understand it really.

He couldn’t understand why all the teachers and children were really very much like ghosts. In fact, they bore little resemblance to reality until the last one was gone for the day—it was then that he was able to put faces to names and could hear their voices.

Why are schools so like empty caves?

Why was the vibrancy of young flesh so incomprehensible and ultimately without meaning?

His ragged body. His dark uniform, the perpetual limits of disappointment and ambiguity did not harm him. What destroyed him by degrees was how far away everything and everyone was becoming to him, even during the morning and at noon, which he thought was his favorite time of day.

He wanted to know why even the pathetic looking pine trees that lined the school made him sad, and the closer he walked to them the sadder he became. Why was it that at fifty years of age he understood less than what he understood at ten? Was it his career that was doing this to him? He somehow doubted it. He knew better than anyone that those at the bottom have knowledge and a peace that outstripped the ones on top.

At home deep into the dark night, he pushes his pen across the thick brown paper taken from the school’s bathrooms. He presses hard on the paper and creates and destroys worlds all at once. He hasn’t the heart to show his work to anyone—yet,

Yet, his insides are torn to shreds with silence, and if it wasn’t for his written words, that silence within silence, he wouldn’t know how to go on at all….



Apt Pupil

My Master read the sonnet I wrote for the day’s lesson. He shook his fist at me like a fool and turned all red in the face, as if the poem was poisoning him. He said, STICK TO THE REAL!!! That was the last straw. I told him I’d rather believe in God than be loyal to the Real. He took a swing at me and I reached into my gunny sack and came up with a thick bladed knife and stabbed him in the neck. He fell down hard on the sand and died after a few minutes of heavy panting.

I took my notebook out of his clinched fist and left him in the desert for the buzzards and coyotes.

As I walked away from my dead Master, I felt light and overwhelmed with Intelligence and Joy.



Apotemnophilia

He is strange to the extent that he would prefer to be his dog’s teeth rather than himself. He would like to kill himself but he doesn’t know how. He can’t understand his caged birds and this sometimes leads him to masturbate; he doesn’t understand his sperm and this leads him to cut himself all over with an extremely heavy and sharp knife.

He asked his doctor to amputate all his limbs and the doctor said he wouldn’t perform such an operation. Nowadays, he spends all his time stalking good looking amputees, male, female, or otherwise.



Herisson

The clocks are dead and a mean thought enters the room; namely, you are your father even though you’ve hated him from day one; a hard father who is in the habit of strangling large fish with his bare hands as he would strangle you and mother if he wasn’t afraid of going to prison as much as he is afraid of losing power over the only two people in the world that he controls. A large father in which flowers expire as he passes and lakes go dry.

The sky goes dead in his presence.

Even fish burst into flames should he as so much as touch the surface of the water and trees turn to blood—don’t you understand? The clocks are dead because your father has defeated everything, has left nothing to chance. Don’t you understand that everything including the very molecular structure of nothingness is under his command?

There is no God but there is father—

Who has turned into a doll for his own desires—you a doll—in a world without content—you only see yourself in nightmares—amazing life, but ever so painful.

A race of fish-men and purple women—you can kill me dear Father, but I will never surrender to you, please forgive me—there is rebellion within rebellion that not even you can comprehend—

I see myself reflected every where and I am frightened.

We shall bake you tonight, Father, like the fish: I will whisper into the lemon sauce, there is no I. Who wants life if there is even one moment of pain?

You are hard Father, I would prefer it no other way—you are so dark too, no other father has been so dark before—yet, I am proud of your darkness.

My father is a fish. I am the happiest child in the world.

We are so intensely, intensely large—we have sacrificed many birds together, in order to keep ourselves alive—

How I hate the Middle Class, Father, just like you Father, how proud I am of you for destroying me for thirty years but which feels like twenty centuries—Father, you have earned special recognition for destroying me with no political motivation.

Dear Father, never cast you darkness off and I will be your everlasting bride, I will lie down next to you and will fill your ear with the new scientific dialectic that will anoint your wonderful mind with pure blue—

All those days in the fields making other people extremely wealthy is making good on a future payment in which the rich will never be able to afford.

We will never die; the plows are quickly turning into scrolls and swords—

And midnight is teaming with life

—and—

—and—

Father, most of all I wanted to assure you that the Revolution is about to have a name:

{ANAXIFORMINGS}

Can you hear it, Father? I can’t believe how lucky we are!!!



If All our Yesterday’s were Tomorrows

He’d spent two days in a row leaving behind $6,232 dollars worth of dental work performed within the boundaries of the tallest city in the world.

His teeth were exquisite and none compared to them that he knew of.

On the way home, he was hit in two different directions by two mid-size economy cars.

When it was all said and done, his teeth were not teeth anymore, just a mass of gruel where his anus used to be.

How stupid of anyone to talk about tomorrow, or to spend so much time and money on one’s teeth.



Spy Wednesday

I hadn’t seen a human face in ten years when a man walked out of the sun and came to me and said, I am hungry, feed me. I fed him snails and he vomited up crabs. Then, because I was quite hungry myself, after all, I’d been wandering through the desert for over a decade, I ate the crabs and vomited up snails.

The man’s name was Judas, and I told him that it was a beautiful name and that I had always loved that name and had even masturbated to it, as it turned me on so. Judas explained that he was from another space/time continuum but I stopped him before he could go into all of that, as I’m opposed to science as much as mysticism. I told Judas to shut up about time traveling or whatever he called it.

Silence between two people makes me nervous so I said whatever came to mind without thinking about whatever I said, without thinking about it at all, no matter how stupid my words were, etc. I said, for example, that I was obsessed with goats. I went on to say that I was obsessed by many things, esp. goats and crabs. I was not, however, obsessed with snails and that, really, I thought they were terrible things to have come into existence. I don’t understand why snails have to be here at all, whereas I can’t imagine a world without goats and crabs. Judas said he understood and that snails were no good in his book as well, even though his last name had a similar sound to the French word for snail.

He thanked me for my honesty and returned to the sun. He did not interest me at all and I hope to never see him again.

His first and last name, however, still fulfils me sexually.



Heidegger Playing with Children
(A Seaside Story)

Gather ‘round me boys and girls; see, this is not a fish. This is definitely not a fish and if you look above, you’ll see that there is no sky there, nor has there ever been a sky.

The only reality is ash. Jewish ash and stardust ash.

Ash is an image that keeps me up late into the night. Some nights, I never sleep a’ tall.

This ball, children, this ball is too much of itself. This ball is too much reality. Gravity is a sin against my philosophical efforts—


Do you understand, children?

I will dance with you, yes, we will dance and dance in the lovely meadow with the Charnel factory smoking in the distance, but, first, I must ask you, don’t you loath the color green? Don’t worry, one day you’ll understand the essence of this question better than I do.

Questions are the highest piety of thought…but, remember well, this is not a fish; this is most certainly not a fish and that Sun, if only I could crush it—

And put it into a glass tube, or into the very filaments of a telephone.

You need to understand that the reality of this world is only ash, Jewish ash and stardust ash.

Now, children, drop that ball and go home and read The Complete Works of Plato and come back tomorrow and tell me what you found there.



Polichinelle

You have taken my bones, yet charge me with the crime—then laugh at me because I walk funny; failing to mention the extraordinary willpower I exercise in order to walk without bones—

Then, you want me to forgive you, after these biological predeterminates prey on your conscience, for your psychological crimes—my response—

BURN IN HELL—

Crippled, undaunted to the bitter end, willful, prodigious—I will become a bird—a genetic bird—

You are an aspic—

There are absolutes of which your kind always fails to understand—there are circumstances that are irredeemable for the victims of those circumstances and the crimes of the perpetrators can only be remonstrated through the shedding of

Their blood—

Your blood—

There has never been a judge who wasn’t guilty of judging—there never was a teacher who didn’t sacrifice her students—

There is no world without oppression and only the crippled posses any notion of truth at all—

But admittedly there is Progress of Events—one day the tortured will become large winged birds, they will seek their prey—

Illimitable justice at the End of Everything—

The birds are about to take flight.



The Baby

I shot a dogre out of the blue sky. With its wing blown off, it swam in circles for a very long time before I rowed out and picked it out of the water. When I got back to the wharf, I cradled the little dogre in my arms. It had a black head and blacker eyes. It had a white ring around its bill. It was not a handsome duck, but for a moment, it captured my sympathy. It looked sad, liquid death drained from its eyes. You look sad, said I to the little duck. It replied, I am a dying baby, why don't you kill me? I said, I am a one armed man, why don't you kill me! It said, I am a one winged duck, why don't you kill me first then kill yourself? I told the dogre that I did not want to die, but that I would be happy to do it in if that's really what it wanted. The little duck said that it very much wanted to die. I tied a brick to the dogre's tail and threw it overboard into the green water. From above, I could see it flapping its only wing and the dogre grew sadder and sadder as it sunk. I could read its lips, it said, fuck you before it died. I said to myself that god was a duck and I drew out my shotgun to shoot some more.
 
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