Puns that lead to something other than more puns, and it’s quite the trip down a garden of weathered walls. I have no clue what’s happening half the time I’m reading this, but that “What is this?” feeling is like the perfect flavor to fizzyness ratio in a beer for me.
i’m walking around in that same old rain
each tired drop splats a fresh cliché
i’ve been so scared for the longest time
but, really, can i shrink any more?
when i’m hung out to dry, how small will i be?
isn’t this all just a bad dream?
this can’t be the world we live in
breathe it in, boy, the sun at your back
sun kisses, you fool, sun kisses for you
the sun kisses her shoulders too
i’m a stranger burning beneath a fake sky
where there’s smoke there’s chimneys
she’s got a severe case of the chiminy changas
and i’m not supposed to notice that, but…
so help me, i do
The only patrons reclined at neither damask flung tables nor the bar, but a faintly corpulent bartender in a checked suit and a dwarfish man in a formal suit of cream and black nodded at Marshall Dhamfhyrd. Bielding returned to the end of the bar when Dhamfhyrd did not return their sign. The bartender slid up to the bar with an ease that belied the lines creasing the face behind his shadowed locks. “Bielding’s been at the wrap-over salon, what a hair maneuver”. Genetrix was a can on the street in comparison. Dhamfhyrd accepted the drink and sipped, not without the trembling calves of trepidation. Bielding waited expectantly. “You paint outside the lines and don’t know it” , croaked the smaller of the pair , seating himself beside the seething Dhamfhyrd at the lacquered wood of the Angled Bar.
- "Asperium, grows hair more'n anything else, and no need worrying your liver anymore"
– said the smallest man with mirthful grey bordering his skippably bald pate. He kicked his gliding step at the bandstand. They sprung the clarinet, worn from days in chambered sleeves, the gamelan singer. The soccer blonde in strapless gown, languid in silk, her ringlets like calligraphic leaves in the hushed summer nights, leaned on her divan, and the Marshall with tremulous vigor returned the smile tumbling from her lips. “Where can I find that Troupe, not exactly a patron of landscape painting, that fellow Brigge” said the Marshall. “Honey, you talk like an off-duty bookbinder I knew. What’s a man in your field if he’s too sore to loosen his tie once in a while?”
The little man’s pupils stay in focus, the scales on his lids. Marshall Dhamfhyrd could see the rest of the nearly bald man’s body shrinking and telescoping upwards in the reflections of the tipsy waiter’s arrival. Nothing changed in his direct visual field, not even the folds of the man’s cream suit in the bar’s unobtrusive air. The selection of beverages was at hand on the uncovered platter. “I’ll take the bottle service” said Dhamfhyrd.
Prosthetic fingers gleamed in a phosphorescent cubicle, the booth’s panes the same hue as a green Asperium tumbler. He sees rising trails of scorpion whisps on ancestral wallpaper, and ads for glandular treatment in the upper ticker. The feed out is reading differently– economical fictions cross the glacial walls, and Marshall Dhamfhyrd swipes against the curtain of velvet ropes. The unfurling lengths glisten with dry sweetness and he apprehends the architectural blonde’s outlines. The velvet curtains brushed against his skin like plastic eyelashes, carrying the other into the desert’s gem quarry.
My sumptuously bleak interlude was interrupted by the appearance of a man I recognized from many hospitals, but not that hospital up to the moment he stood over my window bordered gurney. “Manuel Duade, Technical Supervisor. You’re probably whirling about in there, under those bandages and nano-salves. Don’t grunt, we can tell just fine from your EEG monitor over there. ” Yes, I saw the chop happy meter. It was doing assemblages in spirals over the flexing green waves and I focused on it like drifting splinters in a shipwreck. Anything to blot out his wavering, desert canyon carved face. His silver rimmed wire spectacles caught the glimmer of the monitor read-out , and I shared the unfortunate camaraderie of a simultaneous wince.
“Yes, it’s the kind of anomaly we live for, quite what composes it, well, I’m certain your employers would give whatever passes for a liver in your line of work to know what it’s been doing. Especially now that you’re being treated in a facility equipped for external vitals. You ought watch your back outside these walls, despite what you’ve seen. Ask the nurses for something to help you rest”.
That curly bastard, putting it on like he was a licit and practiced doctor when he was practically bleedin the words “Technical Supervisor”. And asking? This was a place where they gave by filling your neck like an idling trolley, and there is nothing in this world without its reception waiting in turn– El Jefe Brigge was informed on these matters. So I kept from jawin when the nurse, smartly attired against her bronzed figure, inquired of my pain. It wasn with that monitor screen loping and projecting its parabolic confabulations across the back-screen of my bandaged lids. And when sleep took me in her serene whirl and the dancing dots on the otherwise blank window of the monitor ceased abruptly like the grade of highways into cornfields, the sturdy face of the hard paneled chair, Commandante Brigge chortled his easy going instructions.
His confident face became lined and sallow in the reflections of the days events until it was like that craggy bastard who’d been one of many uninvited visitations in this hospital. Our hospital, where all were willing visitors, and none stayed with any longing for its age-gilt fixtures that swayed in matte black etherics.
“Most Americans, if given the choice, would take being a rich black over being a poor white. To put it more simply, most Americans would rather be rich than poor, whatever other details were involved. ” – Marmalade
. . .
I awoke to the abominable gyrations of pumps and whirring machines. That hospital on the further outskirts of Shinsplint Central. The placard across from the gurney read in digital glyphs– “Steve Mackyre. Severe abrasions, catatonia, miasmic discharge”. Those nurses I recognized, I could place them in some distant, dingy cafe, the windows slowly acquiring the sooty glamour of antique boulevards. Exactly the locale I would frequent, if I weren’t trussed to the gills by that dream I’d been under too long. Everything I didn’t ask for. Morphine, omega-kappa stimulants, they gave me all that and more. And I was still looking through those lenses, her lenses. And I saw myself on that gurney, in that hospital, my body under the ministrations of those nurses.
Now this was some deal. No set up, nothing anticipated in the wicker containers El Jefe passed off as envelopes. When I’d pilfered the top shelf in the crumbling wharves in the city of ancient vice, and carried away the barroom beauty’s final gasp of architectural wonders, safely tucked in the most inconspicuous paper baggie — El Jefe had one pretension, I’ll give him that– He takes it in public, like an elegant wino. He treats the worn benches outside the office district, across from the burner headset shacks like they’re the seamless divans in some courtesan’s upper apartment– I’d been under the impression that this was an arrangement. Rules, not clear cut perhaps, but certain embankments and guide ropes that would mark the precipice. So I could carry out my assignment. My arrangement.
And I wanted to intervene, to wade into the whole stinking mess and put an end to it. I could do that much. I was equipped, poised, and lacked the churning in my stomach that sent me gunning for those artists, and former artists in the trades, all for the white-out promised by El Jefe. “First taste”, he’d said through greasy vocal chords,” you’ll have what’s necessary”. He could be reliable. The stuff blotted out the thistle-like prickling that neatly coincided with the heaving ruminations of my stomach’s inner lining.
I was falling, into an ice skating rink where the expanse was flat, but the floor was completely wrong, divided like piano keys. I saw myself hitting those keys with fingers and feet, not exactly Debussy or Fats Domino, but swinging it to the pulse I shouldn’t have heard in my bloodless skull. The thing that finally pushed my fingers onto the jarring notes was what I saw around the ice rink. No audience. Not for me, or were they the performers? The bottle hard blonde, the queers from the nautical haunted lanes, the actors, those hideous impressionists who could escape the canvas. And I was watching El Jefe, the man who took me in and trained me in every disciplined art, with the salt and pepper mustache of the burn ward’s doctor, moving his hands like a guddamn conductor, and no honest trolley conductor at that. He was adjusting them, came the soft voice that often spoke in dreams, from the circling alcoves in my head. “He’s adjusting them into place.”
Then I was screaming, and someone was quietly telling me not to yell so loud. I could recognize the voice, an old lady who lived on the edge of Central, sold woven furniture. I could scream, and that was about all I could do, so I continued till they fixed me with a shot to the jaw. It was that hospital after all, I thought, sinking into the sleep of seabed foragers.
. . .
I was the master Aertes’ medium and single assistant, though I had little comprehension of his necromancies and antediluvian plunges into the abyssal kingdoms that would dazzle and reduce to groveling the techniques and strivings of our time’s preminent Sorcerous Judges .
And it was well that I comprehended so little, for I could see the dark pall cast beside his own shadow, though he derided me for my presumptuous warnings to put away the odd Green Box of jade grille we found in the ruin of an ancient vessel dashed on the rocks beneath our towering abode in the waste stretches of Yondath.
Our supplies were meager, such as they could be counted. The azure paste we consumed daily throughout the darkly shadowed stretches of our immaculate pursuit into the heresies and repulsively odoriferous rites that haunted the AnteSignore’s chartered district were the source of our favored position in the marble twisted antechamber that once housed our consigned quarters. Tempers began to fray in the Abbess’ regard , and we repaired to the high beamed halls which adjoined the Signore’s much dreaded anthric shod irregulars, who brought no chewing of the vaporous cannabis vines that could only be absorbed by gum and pitted tooth, and we were at first relieved by the absence of the ungainly spittoons carried and uncouthly rung with the excreta of their uncouth and wiry bearded lips.
Their only apparent vice was the wine they splattered from overripe berries similar to those wild thorn-less bushes rumoured by crones who dwell in the outer scaffold district to be the harrowing vultures of trees and their indwelling spirits. Those warriors on perpetual mission in the lucrative city of the Holy Palazzo, themselves crushed their own prepared harvest with feet unshod, revealing thickly veined and hairless , rough skin , surely worn from the many journeys through unchartered regions of spirit and skin corroding abomination.
Aertes dubbed me his squire for the tasks he was most fond of finishing. “Art, poetry, music– these are not, perhaps, the most disgusting of blights upon the human element, but they are the most perverse. Distortions and envisioning, dreaming in delusion, the kindled likenesses of plum’ed harlots and cretinous whores of the multitudes, swaying man away to depravity. It must be wiped clean, Tulemon! We are charged with this task. Like lacerating beams of the purifying sun, we will desecrate their temples of inquietude. Their contagion of delusive lures and animality that knows no bounds, their unseemly iniquitous stirrings of the furious elements that must be stilled in youth, or folly rules the earth.
Nothing, Tulemon, nothing could be more desired by man, than to cease his labors, his ridiculous strivings to depict yet another bullfighter’s barmaid as some goddess to lead humanity astray. To nothing, we will reduce, them, after a time.””If every man, woman, and precocious prying child were shown the true nature of these charlatan’s devices, the earth would be purified, Tulemon! Those priests of the revealed portrait, the stewards of all vain. They must be cleansed from existence, all existence!”
I knew, or suspected, all too well what Aertes refered to in his exhortations. The final proclamation, pungent with the filtered wine I required in fortitude to enter under the rude straw thatch that was the only vended upholstery within our assembled monastery of scavenged bones from eaglets and the curiously undulating hawks lured by our rickety seminary in the distant hills bordering Yondath. The final proclamation. It filled the marrow behind my heart with foreboding, but not little thrill. We were going beyond the flimsy cerements of this cast off, dusty and crumbling world. For our quarry, the enemies of man’s peaceful rest across all the world and the end of time-laden strivings in silent agony, that would require us to plunge into the ante-voids that were not voids, but worlds we glimpsed in the shadowy reflections of our alembic and black jade tablets.
“Deigning no longer to hold the shape of mundane beasts, even those most deeply riven into the chasms of human fear from untold eras past, the seeming apparitions of Yondath began to take on forms more true to their astral likeness, only resembling the prowling beasts of jungle and plain in grotesque parody, though their deadly appendages strengthened far beyond those capable of being carried by even the monstrous tigers of Uutthom, who feed on the rapidly enriching bulbs of the Crimson Juniper , rendering their claws and the sinews that wielded them so massive that they could sweep an entire brigade of shield bearers like house cats idly flicking at toy birds”.
I’d take my assignments as they came, and hoped to kiss the lower illness away forever. And as I watched the nurses siphon poisonous accretions into fluid tubes, and apply dressings where my skin was eaten into black asphalt flesh from the gas fires on that Summer day by the curb, an idea arrived, fully formed, unbidden. I’d forgotten him. That sporting captain of the drama squad, long since passed into orbits of the unfathomably successful. He’d quit the showbiz long before I could get to him, merging into the realm of acquisitions.
He wore the blue pinstripes and bottle pink ties with the same ease as he’d put on the black cloak of Macbeth or the entire wardrobes of outsider princes that grace the stage. And he was there, not in front of me, but behind, though I could only glimpse the slightest movements of his practically manicured gestures as he spoke to the doctor. The doctor who’d given me the strength and the will to execute my arrangements, in the manner given to me. And when they both turned, and gave me the sign with their eyes, not quite a wink, I could feel my footgear sinking into the orange light that permeated every nightmare I couldn’t wake from as a boy, not with screams, not with rapid punching motions, the light that burns and doesn’t grant the reprieve. Has been, well I never?
After they pried me loose from my stint in that hospital, during which my mind remained in its chronological temper– I could discuss comics and showtunes with the nurses young and primed, and digressed to the most disgusting of come-ons, bullshit I wouldn’t try in the lowest dive. My game with the doctors, however, didn’t play out in the manner I’d intended–to outdo their chemical expertise and strike against the modern mind as a willing casualty of the most reckless war in existence. I spent my first weeks of freedom devising intricate tortures for the doctors whom I’d swindled into testing all manner of chemical interventions on my ruined carapace. Who struck the first blow? Me, of course, and it was not without consequences.
Foremost, and dearest to me was the large increase in muscle mass from steroidal treatments, aided by the blot-out stimulants they gave me in the hoot academy. Weight gain, probable side effect. Its proven most useful in my new line of work.
“We’ll remake you, scrubbed clean through every pore of your being”. “Energy Sculpting at Barry Twillwaite’s Review Spa”
New blood, clean out the arteries in the Internal Affairs. Well, I sure had a clean up on my hands with the rickety -trunk- I was brought to handle. These artistic types– easy pickins for a maintenance man like myself. They had their rooftop, and not quite a pigeon roost you understand- a studio out in the clinging muck of that ancient city– boils my blood seeing all those tinkly operators with among the crowds of bosoms and fresh sorority sundaes doing their morning splits in the Bourbon suite district.
So I clipped em– nabbed em behind the chilli pepper and sausage truck, works like a charm when Laski pushes our Fat Carriage past 90 over the cobblestones– They tried clammin stone on me– must’ve been hard on them, all teeming yang and nowhere to hock up the burning snot for my own mug.
We put em through the grease mill at our office, and when that didn’t crack any lines other than the ones on my mitts, I dragged em to the locker room myself. All I got were these cracked whispers. I’d ask “Whats the score on this high wired outhouse you bastards got cooking?” and all they said was “we don’t cross our teats on time”. Puns are wonderful in small doses, but I knew we’d keeled the big haul when they started in on my shoes. I was sure happy when Brigge gave them the grilling, and their nostrils wicked away like candle wax on sleepless nights.
Now I’m particular about my laces, brush em under the rim of the dress boot– I don’t tank around with regulation tailoring, I have em stitched special, no steel in the heel and you may as well forget about serving the Committed Union, which conducts deals and mergers with the outrageous and insolent types that clog this oily guttering lantern of a world– and you’ll be lining your stuffing for Tipsy Earl or some other fish-eyed loon faster than I can chew this pouch of tonic leaf I have in my gums– on any street, any day I leave the company apartments. Those ginseng formulations really dance around the upper ticker after a while.
What kind of foople knows the art of savatte? That one did, after he told me I’d better polish my brand of– you don’t need the details, I put my daydreams into motion, hunch it? It was a wring-out, but after we’d hung em up to drip on the wrought iron balcony, the one where the Company brass have a pretty nifty view from the verandas if they’re higher than the weather and struck by the mood, we could all light up spares and inspect the top shelf I’d shipped outta their fancy button studio.
More assignments, how am I supposed to offload this bottle I found behind those nosy foops’ laquered cabinet? Can’t always be a Boy Scout, not if you want the medallions to sparkle. Brigge made that clear after he launched me into temporary employ, close to starving like the involved and dramatic figures we are duty bound– more compelled, as any foople would scribble in an improvised notebook– to render into more stationary fixtures in this shipwreck of a world. I couldn’t believe I’d been pegged an irregular for over half the theatrical season. And what about the – paint-chip – opera circuit?
She was more than a little bright for a revue gal in the arcade districts. Suspicious, naturally, when I asked her “How ya doin, that’s a mighty pretty picture you’re working on. What’s that you sign it with?”. Miss architectural metallurgist, retired from painting, such a typical ploy. She’d employed those fooples in an anyhow pictures revue for an art galley, nothing like a twin table cafe for her and the slippers to the office crowd she was semi-rutted in.
Distant architect, secret sculptress, I found her later in a tiled cafe of an – unusual – sort. The chrome wall displays were deceptive. Beneath the glasses of the waitress was that bored and understated stare beyond my jaw line, certainly to to the circulations of my superiors rummaging the streets in a humming rolltop– I thought we’d been made, but her stare went across the pristine empty chrome, just waiting for some pointlessly skewed Tailor’s showpiece– the sort of thing we can’t touch, but who can anticipate the whims of the vaporific types we rightly bring to their senses? The rolltop was to be my raise if I returned the favor, back to Brigge’s graces. Well, it’s worth an apartment in the suburbs of Oneiricarn.
I slunk into the booth where her impressive dossier of sketches and layouts was like a Chinese cheeba parlor. Open all Fridays. That was one pretty picture– when she asked what branch firm I thought I was running, and what was I doing here anyways, I wrung the tasseled -lace- over both her slender, inviting collar bones. That perfect top shelf doesn’t only run neck-ways, and I scooped the twining dusk tickets from her widening gasps into the paper baggy I’d brought for this cafe meeting — now here was something that wouldn’t spoil, for change on the bottle. Remember when the Abbots ran the asylum? That was the -swinging heyday, and you bet I took the -pictures-. What else were those stumble drawers down the precinct gonna handle? None of those boyos could , the tool raggers.