f u g u e   s t a t e    p r e s s
p.o. box 80, cooper station
new york, ny 10276
212-673-7922
208-693-6152 fax



from Cistern Tawdry

by Eckhard Gerdes







The opposite of liberation is deliberation.

Everything is opposition.

To ravel is to unravel.

Flammable is inflammable.

And so, they first stop at the get-off, hoping Billy with the X goes rolling on to destination train.

Next thing he knows, Billy's ditched and wondering where his companions went.

They wind down the road without him, surrounding around the sound of a hound with a mound of significant clowns still before him. He'll lick 'em and bite 'em and they'll say he's all mean despite the fact that for once they are clean.

He's drumming along Quagmire Street on a float, wishing he'd remembered his overcoat. Or that he'd brought his goat, for he was hungry on Thursday in Turkey and thirsty a half-day later in Hungary.

Then he saw a face:

             +----+
         +-++-+-+-+
       ++ ++
      ++__ __++
      ++  *   * ++
      +-++  *    ++-+
      +   *    +
      ++       ++
      +-+           +-+

And he was scared. Who wooden bee? Lumbering through the prosody, I found calamity at the shootin' gallery, pushing her luck as usual. A weasel was watchin'. A sneeze was catchin'. Horton was hatchin' a who? A you? I knew. I knew.

A clue.

"Ew, so you do know. Where did you find the body?"

"The body?"

"Yes, the dead man."

"Who?"

"Case Dupin Glassen. The Zeta spirit."

"What do you mean? He's gone?"

"I thought that's what you were saying. Weren't you?"

This rouses Choledoch from his slumber. "Zeta is dead?"

Yeah, that would mean your attempt to break up the reunion would be superfluous, thinks Billy, so it's safe to end your pretense.

You think I can't hear your thoughts? replies Choledoch. You think I've been out of it? I've been listening. I've been spending time on a plane you'd never understand.

Billy hears the thoughts coming back and has no idea how to respond. Was it real or his imagination?

He looks at Choledoch.

"Choledoch?"

"Yes!" exclaims Choledoch, staring at him with insane intensity, eyes so aglow with inner fire that the flames lick out a foot from his face.

"Delicious, what?" Otor emphasizes.

"What?" replies Choledoch.

"Come with me," says Otor to Choledoch. "We'll go get Case Dupin Glassen and bring him back."

"He's dead."

"Ah! So, we'll cross Styx and Phlegethon and wrestle Cerberus to get him. You game?"

"I-I guess." Choledoch seems to be hesitating because he isn't sure if he wants to remain sane if Case was returned. Billy feels his heart sink when the two disappear.

Choledoch and Otor reappear inside a pub. Otor is now wearing a long navy pea-coat and a dark blue Prinz Heinrich cap. He has a calabash in his mouth, from which the distinctly sour aroma of Perique emanates. Choledoch has on a tweed overcoat, a monocle in his right eye, a bowler, and a brass-knobbed walking stick.

"These aren't the Orkneys," says Choledoch.

"Shetland, you mean? No, not yet. But our search begins here. Shepherd's pie and a pint of Hardy's," he says to the barkeep.

"The same," says Choledoch, trying out a Northumbrian accent.

The barkeep calls to his helper in the kitchen, "Bring me another case of pint glasses!"

"Did you hear that, Choledoch? He alluded to Case Dupin Glassen already. Obviously phrased what he was saying to pique our interest."

"All right. But where does it lead?"

"Wait and find out."

The barkeep shows up with the pints. "Sorry for the delay, gents. We've been quite busy today and have had to break out new glasses."

"What happens to the old ones?"

"They get chipped and we ship them off to a Salvation Army resale shop."

"What? You have Methodists up here?" asks Otor, feigning indignation.

"A few. They're the only ones who seem much interested in the damaged. The COE only wants the goods."

"We're in England" Choledoch whispers to Otor.

"Of course," Otor replies in an aside to his companion before responding to the barkeep. "We-my friend and I-are glass collectors ourselves and have been looking for a case of old Dupin glass. Have you seen one, by chance?"

"Dupin? I can't say I recognize the name, but the Salvation Army collector might know. He's down the street on Mockingbird Lane. Ask for Asbury."

"Wonderful. Thank you.

"Should we go, Otor?"

"No-let's wait and have our pie. I'm hungry. Here's mud in your eye," Otor says, raising his glass to Choledoch.

They enjoy their pie and pints and head out to find Asbury.

As they are buried, they look up to see the dirt being shoveled on their eyes. Their eyes dart about the place. Asbury picks up their eyes and gives them back. Attack! They skewer him with anguish and retaliate with freight. A respite from fright! That's all I ask!

How to keep on without giving up.

It was decided the day after yesterday that what was necessary for the successful movement of narrative from place to place in a concise manner was exposition.

"Oh, no!" screamed a blue-haloed frog-skinned six-armed crocodile-faced boy the way he had when his mother used to beat him. "It's characterization!"

"You're wrong," said someone else. "It's dialogue."

I was thinking it was interior monologue, but what is interior monologue anyway? Yellow-it's yellow in aura, but what does it do? Frank was eating yellow corn candy yesterday and was wearing a yellow down vest. Does he always color coordinate his food and clothing?

I don't know, I replied, but I was thinking it was interior dialogue myself.

A gun shot! "It's crisis!" cried Sis.

"Rising action," offered an oil rigger, but his comment was too slippery to get ahold of.

"You're all wrong! The heart of fiction is conflict! Only conflict! I don't want to hear anything to the contrary!"

"It's denouement," suggested the man on the windowsill before he leapt. "Falling-actiioooonnnn-" SPLAT!

Other voices chirped in from the woods: "thesis statements," "topic sentences," "coherence," "unity," "development," "singleness of effect," "plot points."

"What's a plot point?" asked a quizzical. They killed him and buried him on the spot.

"`They' or Asbury?" asking will Choledoch if.

"Know," replying will Dupin if. If wonder change nothing yes off too? Quest you non-asunder swim matron bannister with pony sale tourists. Brief shave locks click on shoes.

"Duffel," shuffling will Otor by if.

"What's in the bag?" asking will Choledoch if.

Clam noses knows is clams.

Element one: H. Heroin of course. He is two, though he's not sure why. Lies are three. Thus existence precedes deception. Addiction precedes all. An addiction to the procreative act sets creation in motion. However, before one draws too many conclusions, one must note that four is to be, so while existence precedes deception, being follows it. What, then, is the difference between existence and being? Existence, it seems, is the masculine principle, in which duality is inherent, but which is not fully multidimensional until doubled. Being is the addition of the female principle, which is a doubling of dualities and a complete entity in time and space, thus four dimensional. This is simplified in five-"be" becomes "b"-boron's for morons. Step six is step back and see. Seventh is night-the stage of rest. O, to wake up and eat! If Nena, my gal, sips Clark casks while watching TV; if creams in fecund ice cubes using gauges as a broker aged Sid in sin; if the subtext I examine ekes ballast per node poems from muses or God, then body-hour-time will change yellow to blue and you'll have to wrestle Osiris for part of an augur. He'll go till the pub by the poets around France acknowledges the pawns' pew. I am come back. Suffice it to say, its form made no law.

"The table is in the bag?" asking will Choledoch if.

"Once memorized I," replying will Otor to if.

"It's the body as buried," someone-ing will brief spot. "See the dye oozing out?"

"Over experimentered," fowarding mystering.

"The body is lost to us," vulcanizing clamp bald spots.

"De-textized," texasizing taxonomized.

"Poisoned?" worshipping groupthunked.

"Expertiments punished be will!" jimmying will blazers.

"Trade dishin' is banquet rupt," forking will carjan rushsomeone.

The body of text being fought over is dead.

The right hand demanded its construction so that the left hand could of darkness knock it down. Damn lathes. My grade school typing dictator, Ursula K., had sympathier instinx. Standing under bee dams, I im, ex, de, op, re, suppressed myself.

Who killed the text? Where is the plot it was buried in? Exhumation is necessary to find the cause of death.

"Is it dead or have you been duped in?" cohering will Asbury methodize out.

"Well, let's see. Wellesley, Wesley, Westerly. West is the setting sun, symbol of death. Yes, it is."

"It is, or it is dead?"

"It is dead is an oxymoron."

"Oxyboron, you mean."

No speakers, the turntable plays silently. Anapestic innergroove. Dada dumb. Dada dumb. So real you can see time melting. It's a pipe! A pipe dream! Watch a french fry kneel. Watch the French fry Neil. He interspersed neologisms in Paris! Oh, Neil! Your pipe dreams are over. Hickeys around your neck-never meant affection. I see.

Maybe Dupin was caught in a love triangle and killed himself out. The last case. Raise your glass in a toast to him. Buttered on both sides, I hope. He deserves butter on the other side now as he had it in plenty here. Corpulent Case, we called him. He's not corpulent anymore, I'll wager.

The way gerbils burrow was the way he dug for clues. If he were here he could find out about his death.

The plot, damn it! Where's the plot?

If we knew that, we could exhume the body and find out what happened.

I don't expect you to go out on a limb, but can you finger the killer?

Relic ate rain if you knacked up Milano to go to Texas node one.

Reversal of fate.

A tuffel as reiver. Receiver for the British invasion of the Faulkner Islands. 'S no part of a novel that's not news. Stop reading conventionals, damn it! They're worse than TV. They get under your skin and tell you life should be neat and plotted and well-characterized and tidy, but it's not. They set you up for failure. They set you up, then they knock you down and take your money. Good god, you're being robbed by snake oil salesmen who think, because they bought the snake oil in Iowa, they actually know anything about anything. Truth is, the snake oil's not even made from snakes-it's made from the cum of New York editors who will ultimately reject this novel because it doesn't cow to them, doesn't let them fuck it in the ass, doesn't let them dictator it into literary Auschwitz. If it gets published at all, it's a testament to my power, not theirs. But I tell you, they have their people everywhere. If New York can conquer Iowa, the only place that's left is Europe, and Europe is very savvy. The Europeans see the petty maneuvrings of New York for what they are. The other worlders think New York matters. Europeans laugh at New York as an untrained, diaper-clad buffoon. New York culture is an oxymoron to Europe. To the rest of the world it should be too. New York cannot represent Europe to America and it doesn't represent America to Europe. It is alone, solipsistic, narcissistic. Parochial. The most parochial city in the world. What a great claim to fame. Maybe I'm just jealous I don't know. I want to be recognized, but not for the beauty of my castration or circumcision or the varying degrees along that continuum-I used to think the two were different, but now I see they are pretty much the same. It's not a question of kind, it's a question of degree. The hostility that leads to the one is present in the other. To perpetrate the one symbolizes a deep-seated desire to perpetrate the other. And women who demand their sons being circumcised are man-haters and should be excised first. The violation is unforgivably evil. Why would these parents enjoy playing with their sons' penises so much anyway? Twisted. They're twisted. Gacey Gein Daumers. No better. Pedophiles without philos. Pedophobes.

Where's the novel?

What novel?

The story.

The plot? Buried.

Oh. Who killed it?

An editorial board consisting of three old women and an old man who decided the author's prose was no good.

Thank you, old women and man. Who were they?

If I tell you, I'll be immortalizing them. Let them immortalize themselves. They were trying to circumcise me. What they don't know is I've already been.

Been what?

I've already been.

Oh. But they can't be that bad.

Who said bad?

You said evil!

I meant the drive to circumcise is evil. It's the same as the drive to kill your son on a slab of stone. That wasn't God speaking. That was Satan. Abraham was so stupid he couldn't tell the difference between God and Satan. God is good. Good doesn't ask for literal human sacrifices in whole or in part. A baby needs neither to give up life nor limb, nor foreskin. Anyone who says otherwise is worshipping Satan, hopefully through ignorance and not through hatred of male children, but the result's the same.

The bris-

is a Black Mass of sorts. A turning on its head of all real spiritual value. A mockery of God and faith. What kind of a God would ask a parent to mutilate his or her child? No God worth a damn would ever ask such a thing.

How does that fit in with the New York literary scene? Are you saying all the editors are Jewish or something?

No-good God, no. Being Jewish or not is irrelevant. There are many beautiful and wonderful elements to Judaism. Circumcision isn't one of them. There are also base and vicious elements to Christianity, such as the belief in original sin, for example-the belief that children are born evil is Christian. What I'm getting at is that much of the New York literary establishment expects writers to write according to those New York expectations, to become part of their literary covenant. In order to effect that, the writer is symbolically circumcised. The tip of the individual is cut back so that the adherence to the group formula can be underscored in a permanent way. Tell me how circumcision is any different from the tattooing of concentration camp members.

One only punishes males.

True, but there are "cultures" who practice excision, which is the female equivalent, and the same argument holds.

Let's change the subject, okay?

I'm making you squirm?

Yes. This makes me hurt for my own missing foreskin. I had no idea my parents hated me so much that they wanted me mutilated.

They may not have been thinking at the time. A lot of parents blindly follow what they're told, no matter how it hurts the babies. Epidurals cause blue babies. Blue babies aren't breathing, so they are turned upside down and spanked to get them to breathing. Being turned upside down in the first seconds of life, according to Leboyer, causes lifelong vertigo. Spanking causes lifelong mistrust and emotional trauma. Silver nitrate drops given in the infant's eyes cause myopia. All these abuses of children are perpetrated mostly out of ignorance. The ignorance must end.

"Hey, Daddy-O!" Otor interrupts. "What's filling your head? You've been too long quiet and too late schmart. You're not becoming comatose again, are you, Choledoch?"

Choledoch focuses back in. "No, Otor. I'm here." Choledoch shakes his head. "Where are we?" "Outside that Asbury guy's house."

"Going in or coming out?"

"Damn, dude! You've been out of it for a while! We're going in, buddy. I just pressed the buzzer and he's coming down to get us. Come on, pull yourself together. Fix your collar." Otor reaches over and folds Choledoch's coat collar down.

Yeah, my collar. My dog collar. My yoke. Mustn't let my yoke get messy or the masters will beat me.

"Here he is."

The master?

"Asbury?" Otor asks the stout white-haired man who comes to the outside door and lets them in. He's wearing a blue pinstriped three-piece suit, and his vest buttons are straining to hold back his burgeoning midriff.

"Hello, hello?" he bellows, blowing forth in deep belly-laugh register but counterpointing tones of suspicious questioning.

"Are you the Salvation Army collector?" asks Otor.

"Collection times are posted at the office. Go by there tomorrow."

"We're not dropping stuff off."

"Well, store hours are tomorrow as well."

"We're not here to buy, but we do need your help. The barkeep at the pub told us you might be able to help us locate a case of old Dupin glass."

"Ah!" Asbury pauses, unmoving, as he stares off blankly and considers the request. "Dupa Ass."

"Dupa Ass?"

"What we used to call it on the continent. Never mind."

"The Wildweeds?"

"?"

"Nevermind. Vanguard Records, 1970 or so."

"Yeah?"

"Got it inside a box of potato chips. A 45."

"Yeah? I remember getting Lothar and the Hand People's Comic Strip/Every Single Word at a movie theater--a Capitol theater actually-back in '68 or '69.

"I remember getting a Charlie Louvin 45 back then at a Capitol theater. Drive Me Out of My Mind/I Forgot to Cry. Great stuff."

"Excuse me, pardon me, pardon me, excuse me!" In barge the poetry police. "Heard you were holding Ashbury in here. He's a dangerous man and we're here to take him downtown for questioning."

"Not Ashbury. Asbury. And he's not in here," says Asbury.

"Oh. Well, okay, carry on then, but not more country-and-western quotes, or we'll be back." The police leave.

Otor looks at Choledoch. Choledoch looks at Otor. They both look at Asbury. Otor asks him, "So, Daddy-O, where d'ya got this Dupin cat stashed? We need him to help us get some Papa Beboppa's humpty dumpty uncrackified. We're the king's horses and the king's men and we need ol' Zeta the Case back again so the Papa Beboppa can save his daughta as he oughtta."

Asbury says, "Don't call me Daddy-O, or Papa Beboppa. Call me Case."

"You?"

"Had to hide somehow."

"But what about your--"

"Foreskin?"

"No, actually, I was going to ask about--"

"Asbury? He's the one who's dead. Or, more accurately, he never existed."

"That's all interesting, but what I was going to ask was what happened to the--"

"Case of old Dupin glass?"

"No."

"The Orkneys?"

"No."

"Zetland? They're still there, but there's no real reason to pollute them with this story. It'd just bring tourists, like Bloomsday in Dublin, you know."

"No, no, no. Let me speak!" demands Choledoch, unwilling to hear anything other than that which he is willing to hear. "What happened to the denouement?"

"Impatient, aren't we?" replies Dupin. "Okay, then, let's go. Tell that Romeo Alpha to meet us."

"And where's Iris?" asks Choledoch, continuing.

"Who? There's a restaurant on one of Electra's moons. Let's eat at Eta's. Will you tell Alpha?" Dupin asks Otor, because Choledoch isn't listening.

"You got it, bub."

"All right, then. Choledoch and I will meet you there.

Otor punts away. Choledoch watches him for a while, then turns back to say something to Dupin, but Dupin is gone. He ran away. Unbelievable. Now I'll have to find him again, and without Otor's help. You'd think Dupin would be happy to go to Electra, but perhaps he's never had a daughter. Meanwhile, the perils of the Waiting-to-Be-Born continue. I should never have delayed Cistern myself-the baby needs us! Now, where would an irresponsible but august detective go? To Boston on January 19th? But really, I was thinking--

"-of Chantilly?" asks Choledoch of himself. "Like the Big Bopper said."

"The Big Dipper?" asks his other self.

"No-more like the islands of Shetland after all. Telling us he didn't want to be there made it certain he could."

"Choledoch," he says, "this is beyond my comprehension. Just lead on, and I'll follow you."

"Okay, well, do you remember that barkeep in the fish and chips pub?"

"Yes."

"What if that case of pint glasses he had brought out was the case of Dupin glass? Then Otor's inquiry about the Dupin glass may have alarmed him. The barkeep may have thought we knew he was using the Dupin and that our signal to him was intentional. Of course, in reality, we didn't know it was the Dupin. There it was, in plain view. To conceal the glass, therefore, the barkeep resorted to the trick of not concealing it at all. When we happened to mention the glass at the precise moment that he happened to receive it from his helper, he concluded we knew what was going on. It was he who must have alerted Dupin, who then developed the Asbury disguise to throw us off the track. Very clever."

"Or not. We found him."

"Yes, but we've lost him again."

"So-where do you think he's gone?"

"I think he's off up to Up Helly Aa, to hide in the crowd. Or to Muckle Flugga, to go as far away as possible. or to Foula, for the isolation."

"Well-let's go see."

Today, the fourth Tuesday in January, a thousand people bearing torches and wearing Viking helmets and dress drag a Norse longship through the streets of Lerwick, "the muddy bay" town that serves as Shetland's capital. As they set the longship ablaze in the town center square, Choledoch combs the unkempt crowd but cannot find Dupin. He picks up a local map of Shetland and notices something. He looks up at the sky and finds the constellation Taurus. He finds the constellation's seventh brightest star, Eta Tauri. Eta Tauri is also known as Alcyone, which is the brightest star in the Pleiades cluster. Comparing the map of Shetland to the Pleiades, Choledoch detects a one-to-one correspondence between the major islands of Shetland and the major stars of the Pleiades cluster: Atlas and Pleione correspond to Unst and Fetlar, Alcyone to Yell, Merope to North Mavine, the twin stars of Asterope to Walsay and the Out Skerries, Maia to the Mainland, Celaeno to Foula, Taygeta to Bressay, and, most significantly, Electra to Papa Stour. The connection between Electra and her Papa Star/Stour is significant, and that is where Dupin must be. And that is where Choledoch catches up to him.

"Well done, old man," says Dupin upon Choledoch's arrival. "I was counting on you to find me here. Shall we?"

"Yes."

And they head off towards Electra to meet up with the others and to find Eta for the completion of the reunion.

order this title

return