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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
ec chair poetick kultur anti-amthropomorphism
gallery zounds the making and unmaking of person
new economics of late capitalism
diaries and memoirs translation and her retinue
working class sweat
the corpse reads classics letters the book of revelations and epiphanies
the making and unmaking of person
The Making and Unmaking of Person

Three Stories
by Willie Smith

Dracula Meets Jesus

Lenny Bruce was right: Bela Lugosi was a junkie. An appropriate twist on the cinematic Dracula--the bloodsucker needing his fix every day; twice a day; every hour. Lugosi standing arms outstretched, cape splayed, brilliantined hair, pencils of light dazzling his pupils, high on morphine sulphate purchased with Hollywood geld.
      But forget that for a moment. That's all hokum started by a neuraesthenic Irisher named Bram Stoker at the turn of the Nineteenth Century. What we are going to view here is the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, a power to be reckoned with during the latter half of the Fifteenth Century in what is now Romania. Although the concept Romania--land of tourism, Communism, televised Revolution and the Ploesti oilfields--has no more bearing on this story than Lugosi's junk habit.
      Let's whisk up to the Seventh Empyrean and roll camera:
      Jesus was pacing the Milky Way, bored as a snail in a bathtub. He was awaiting the Second Coming. But meantime there didn't seem to be anything else worth doing. Out of desperation, he threw an I Ching. The Ching advised him, for once, to stop persevering and go visiting.
      "OK," Jesus muttered to himself, packing away the yarrow sticks, folding the coins carefully into the pockets of his bathrobe. "But where? I've been all over hell, explored the universe, did my thirty-three years on earth;"
      The Holy Ghost, in the form of a swollen comet, hove into sight. Jesus contemplated the Ghost silhouetted against the blackness of space. The "comet" described--skywriter style--an arrow with a figure-eight beside it, then vanished. The runic equivalent of TM. What was the Ghost trying to say?
      Yawning, he glanced at his watch to see the time. That was when it dawned on him: Time.
      God the Father had given him a time machine for Christmas. It was only a few days after Epiphany, and Jesus hadn't gotten around to trying it out yet. The Godfather's gifts were ordinarily so boring and impractical.
      But, if that's what the Ghost was advising--what the hell? Why not give it a whirl?
      No sooner did the thought enter Jesus' mind than he sat at the controls. He keyed in 1461, because the digits in that number added up to twelve, and he still had fond memories of the days when he and his twelve disciples traipsed Palestine and reaped the kudos of miracles performed.
      Cheap as they were. One corpse raised. A little wine made out of water. A few lepers cleaned up. An endless supply of fish sandwiches one afternoon.
      Jesus flipped the dial over to A.D. He disliked thinking about what might have transpired before his birth.
      But land where? T--well, that could be;
      He opened an atlas to the index and scanned the T's, stopping arbitrarily at TIRGOVISTE.
      Tirgoviste, in 1461 A.D., was in Wallachia.
      "OK," Jesus muttered. "W is M inverted. Just like the Ghost to get things mirror-imaged or whatever. Also, Moldavia starts with an M, and I see by the map Moldavia is a province just north of Wallachia." He slammed the atlas shut. "Targoviste it is!" Then keyed in the appropriate data and was shot faster than light towards the target: plain old ordinary earth five hundred years ago.
It was snowing. Jesus was anything but dressed for the climate. He hurried shivering over the narrow cobblestone street till he came to a door. He banged on it, snow gathering on his eyebrows, his nose red with cold.
      The door cracked open. Two eyes set in a rough peasant face peered out into the snowy dark. A lengthy exchange ensued. Finally the oddly-dressed stranger was let inside and led to the hearth, where he turned his back to the fire and set about warming himself.
      The peasant, who was actually a tradesman, a cobbler named Dinu Butculescu, explained to the stranger that it was rumored certain spooks walked the streets these winter nights. Thus had he been reluctant at first to open his door to someone knocking so late.
      Jesus, chafing his arms and shivering, asked if perhaps he might have a bite to eat.
      Sadly Dinu Butculescu regarded the plank floor of his apartment. Times were hard. The harvest had failed. He could offer only the dregs of beet soup left in the kettle on the long wood table.
      Jesus went over and sniffed the inch of sludge. He almost turned up his nose, but quickly prevented any show of ingratitude by clearing his throat and hurrying back to the hearth, this time leaning his face down over the flames.
      "Look, Dinu," he said. "How would you like to have more food than you and your family and friends and neighbors could possibly eat?"
      Standing behind him, nervously eyeing the kettle the stranger had snubbed, the short stout cobbler said nothing.
      Jesus took the silence for humility; which it partly was. He liked it when the poor felt embarrassed. That always gave him an in for playing the Savior Role. He bent further towards the fire, rubbed his hands and whispered, "Go and examine your larder, Dinu. I believe you will find an installment on the cash value of your earthly suffering, O blessed child of My Father."
      The cobbler's suspicions multiplied. Nonetheless, he tiptoed out to the pantry. Lit a candle. Looked around for he knew not what; saw the stranger still bent over the fire, his shadow reaching as far as the cobwebbed butter churn; then yanked open the plank door to the larder.
      Such a spectacle of hams, chops, beeves, bacon, chitterlings, sausages the cobbler had never before seen! He stuffed a bratwurst into his mouth; grabbed off two tenderloins, intending to gulp them on the spot. He hadn't eaten meat since August, when the last cow in town died of anthrax.
      Suddenly his thoughts turned to the others. Raw steak in hand, he raced upstairs to the loft; awakened his wife, sister, brother-in-law, grandmother and their accumulated nine children.
      "Food!" the cobbler screamed. "Meat! We've got it! All the goddamn bloody meat we can eat!"
      Jesus smiled--warmed both by the fire and the handsome return on his beneficence. He sat down at the head of the table. Fourteen starving humans stormed downstairs into the pantry. Content to wait till someone brought him a bite, Jesus folded his hands and reflected how usually it was fish. But since this was inland Romania and the dead of winter, the rivers frozen; besides, he knew what really satisfies: good fresh meat.
      There came a scratching at the door.
      Ravenous, but happy others were feeding themselves, Jesus got up and opened the door.
      A lean gray wolf staggered in and collapsed at the foot of the table. Compassion flickered over the coals of Jesus' heart. He went out to the pantry in search of a bite for the wolf.
      The candle-lit pantry teemed with gnawing, smacking, chomping people. Nine children and five adults tore at the sausages and raw meat jamming the larder.
      Clearing his throat, Jesus asked if perhaps he could have a tidbit.
      The furious eating continued unabated.
      There being no response except smackings and gulpings, Jesus wandered back out into the main room of the lowceilinged hovel. The wolf lay where he had fallen, tongue hung out like a prayer. Jesus couldn't bear the pitiful sight. Outside, wind howled like trumpets at Judgement.
Meanwhile, in his palace, Dracula was eating pheasant. Half-a-dozen burghers lay impaled six feet over his head as he applied fork and knife to that part of the fowl known as the pope's nose. Dracula chewed then swallowed the morsel with all the restraint appropriate to a hyena of the ruling class.
      He belched; sat back in his chair. Viewed one of the burghers--Hans Schirach, a money changer of immigrant Saxon origin, who had been caught cheating a peddler in the public square. The other corpses were all his identifiable relatives. A daughter, a father, two male cousins, a gypsy concubine. It wasn't much. But sufficient to keep him amused at supper. He sat up. Carved thigh from back.
      And yet Schirach twitched. Dracula was fascinated by the electricity haunting the hour-dead flesh. The wonders of nature ever amazed Vlad the Impaler. He thought back to that afternoon he had taught the Turks a lesson about nature--the nature of court etiquette, that is. His byzantine mind--as he munched thigh meat--labyrinthed around the incident.
      From the Pagan's newly acquired Constantinople, Sultan Mohammed sent ambassadors. Five young fellows. Ruddy complexions. Scimitars. Upturned slippers.
      Refused to remove their turbans. Claimed it customary in their land, when bowing before a superior, not to unwind the headgear. Said I'd encourage adherence to such a custom. Called in a few attendants with hammers.
      Lush! those nails piercing turban, scalp, skull, brain! Thought of the skush! enough to make me eat a quail whole!
      Then that boyar, another time, up north in Brasov. That's Hungarian soil. But the Saxons and other nonindigenous pikers up there were being recalcitrant, refusing to pay tariffs, obey trade laws and such. A punitive raid proved necessary. As had the impalement of a few thousand of the Germanic thieves on a hillock outside the city.
      While dining with my retinue amidst the cadavers, who should lift his nose in disgust but this upstart boyar whose family had acquired its fortune down in Bucharest selling slaves to the Turk.
      Ordered an especially long stake prepared. Told him he could perch way up there where the stench wouldn't reach.
      Unable to distinguish the superior agony--the ambassadors with nailed turbans or the boyar impaled high above the forest of corpses--the Prince withdrew from reverie and returned his attention to supper.
The youngest daughter finally brought out a scrap for Jesus, who sat bowed in prayer before the kettle containing the soup dregs. He tossed the sliver of gristle the four year old girl offered down onto the floor beside the wolf.
      The wolf stretched his tongue. Lapped up the gristle. Not much there. But it saved his life. Enabled him to struggle up onto his haunches.
      Smiling, Jesus patted the child on the head. Then strode into the pantry and through the crowd of feasters fast as Moses parting the Red Sea. He brought back and placed at the wolf's paws a ten pound ham. The beast slavered down the ham in three mighty gulps.
      This made Jesus glow with joy. Although still hungry himself, it was divine to be helping others first. He stroked the wolf's scrawny withers. He gazed at the dark ceiling and prayed to his Father that the wolf would henceforth lie down with the peasant and both live in harmony.
      At that point, a bat swooped from the loft. It had crawled in through a crack in the roof, drawn by the scent of meat. The little girl, hands over head, ran shrieking into the pantry.
      The family looked up from their orgy of beef and pork.
      They spied not only the cursed bat, which Jesus was feeding in the palm of his hand, but also the wolf--now on all fours, slowly advancing--eyes glowering--toward the pantry.
      "Festus!" Jesus called. "Come back here and live in the Peace of the Lord!"
      The wolf, caught in a holy whammy, whimpered. Padded back to Jesus. Who was looking attentively at the bat, as it gobbled a strip of raw bacon--squeaking, flexing its wings. Keen delight shone from the rodent face. Another life was being saved.
      Since he had just scarfed ten pounds of ham, the wolf decided--swayed by the Love of Christ--that he could afford humility after all. He curled up at the stranger's feet, sighing like a puppy after its fill of the teat.
      Dinu Butculescu, blood sausage in fist, stepped from the pantry and approached the weird trio in the shadowy room. As the stranger watched the bat slurp bacon, Dinu urged him to ease toward the other side of the table. Hoping he could then shoo away the monsters, while they were still acting so curiously tame; before they tore apart the one in the robe; or, God forbid, attacked his family crowded into the pantry.
      Overwhelmed by the cobbler's garlic breath, Jesus stepped back; put his hand to his mouth. The wolf growled. The bat flapped above Jesus' head. Ashamed at his gesture of revulsion, Jesus explained it was the garlic that caused his reaction.
      "Garlic?" the cobbler said. "You do not like garlic?"
      A long-suffering smile crossed Jesus' face. "It's simply that," he endeavored to apologise, "I find the smell of garlic, uh, unclean."
      The other members of the family began wandering out from the pantry. Their eyes were wide. They licked grease suspiciously off their lips.
      From under her cloak the grandmother flashed a crucifix.
      Jesus stared at the tiny wooden horror and hissed. After almost two thousand years, he still had bad associations with crosses.
      The bat squeaked; burped up a string of half-digested bacon. Long and low the wolf growled, prepared to fight alongside his newfound ally.
      "Please!" said Jesus, coughing into his fist. "Would you mind putting away those two sticks? They remind me of a misfortune that occurred in my, uh; my youth."
      The grandmother snapped together gray gums. Spat on the floor.
      The bat screeched up into the loft. The wolf leaped onto all fours, hackles raised.
      "Now, Festus;," said Jesus.
      "Be nice, Festus, be nice;," Jesus repeated, as he was herded out the door and down the street by fourteen fearful peasants bearing torches, crucifixes and wreathes of garlic.
      The wolf took the first opportunity to disappear off into the snow. Friends with no cojones he did not need.
In short order the throng of torch-bearers flooded into Dracula's hall. By this time the galvanic burgher had stopped twitching. Dracula looked up from the skeleton of his pheasant.
      The Prince demanded to know why the intrusion.
      Scuffing snow off his boots, Dinu got down on his knees, removed his fur cap, bowed his head. He wailed that the populace had discovered a vampire. He related the entire story. His reluctance at admitting the stranger into his apartment. The magic meat. The appearance of the wolf. The bat. The stranger's uncanny aversion to garlic, his repugnance at the sight of the cross.
      "Magic meat?" Dracula said. "Butculescu, my loyal subject, I must see proof of this wild tale you tell."
      Dracula ordered a dozen of his attendants into the hall and at once had the cobbler and his family disemboweled. Wads of half-chewed meat spilled out along with the reeking guts.
      Dracula was impressed. He knew nobody outside his own palace had touched meat since last August.
      He had six of the family hoisted up diagonally across the impaled burghers, thus forming six St. Andrew's crosses of corpses. Four more stakes were erected before the Prince's table and three further St. Andrew's crosses created--the fourth stake impaling the mother with her four year old daughter buried in her scooped-out womb. It was a hard winter, and the Prince was making every effort to conserve fire wood.
      Dracula leered at the fourth stake. Then at the stranger. Then back up at the single-beamed stake. Jesus stood dumbfounded in a welter of guts, blood and chewed meat.
      "So you are one of the undead," Dracula smiled, when he tired of the eye game. "Is it not enough that you stalk the night and terrorize my subjects? Must you also put before them quantities of flesh which their stomachs are ill-suited to digest?"
      Jesus hung his head. He didn't have any answers. The efficiently-perpetrated horror had thrown him into confusion. He failed to understand why the peasants had dragged him here, who this prince was, why the slaughter. He didn't even know what vampire and undead signified. He wondered if perhaps he wouldn't be better off up there on that stake flopped across the mother-daughter combination. It would involve a lot of pain, but at least the symbolism would be correct. He'd know from experience how to act.
      Outside, snow fell. Inside the huge drafty hall the candles guttered. Smiling vaguely, like the jack of spades, Dracula was doing a little thinking himself.
      He could use an acknowledged spook in his household. Too cynical and educated to be superstitious, he was nonetheless cognizant of the hold such hokum had on the masses. Even among the boyars and papal nuncios there were those who walked in fear of nosferatu--the unholy bloodsucker who murdered in the night. This longhaired gypsy came readymade for the part. In fact, honest townfolk had already fingered him as such.
      Dracula began planning to have the fourteen victims removed from the stakes and sneaked back to their apartment. Strew the corpses in appropriate places--the populace would likely attribute the massacre to the work of a vampire.
      Then, when some damned emissary from the Turk was proving intransigent about collecting the annual tribute; he'd know of the Tirgoviste vampire by rumor. Even a description of this bearded wino in graveclothes--or whatever that ridiculous robe was--would circulate;
      The stranger appears in the emissary's bed chamber at the stroke of midnight. Scare the gullible Turk silly. He'll run naked through the snow all the way back to Constantinople. Take a good six months to send out another. Six months is a lot of credit with the usurers back in Buda;
      "Look, son," Dracula broke the silence of the cold and the flickering candles. "How'd you like a job?"
      Jesus looked up, startled. He had been on the verge of speaking, ready to offer himself up for sacrifice on the stake, even though it was too late this time to save anybody. I-I, I," he stammered. "All I know is a little carpentry. There's not really very much I can do--for anybody. I mean, unless God the Father;," Jesus caught himself. He wasn't allowed to reveal secrets while on earth. He hung his head in silence.
      Dracula grinned under his waxed moustache. He was a handsome autocrat of thirty years--unaccustomed to being refused. He ordered Jesus thrown in the dungeon. Attendants dragged off the bewildered Savior. For dessert Dracula had imported sherbet washed down with Hungarian tokay, while officiating at the impaling of a recalcitrant boyar and twenty-five members of his immediate family.
      Down in the dungeon, there being nothing else to look at, Jesus meditated on the spiders. He marvelled how cleanly they sucked a victim's blood, leaving only a husk in the web. A spider's religion, Jesus came to speculate, might be the cleanest of all. They ingest only the fluid of life. They have before them no graven image of vegetable, meat or bone.
      It took Jesus weeks to formulate this theory. He was not one for snap decisions. Even under the duress of incarceration. But then, once the spider thesis had settled into his cosmic mind, he began to reflect on the term undead, which he had heard so often the night of his imprisonment.
      He thought back to that awful weekend in Palestine. The crowd, the yelling, the curses;
      The nails had avoided vital spots. He contemplated his wrists and ankles in the gloom. The scars were still there. To be sure, someone had jabbed a javelin in his side, but that wouldn't be a mortal wound either. Jesus lifted up his head and gazed at the stone ceiling. Perhaps those peasants were right after all. Had he never died? Only gone to sleep out there on Golgotha? That would explain why he woke up in the tomb feeling fresh and eager to go down to hell and kick ass.
      Slowly, as the days turned into weeks, and February and March melted away, he worked up a thirst for blood. His mind kept returning to the riot he'd had harrowing hell. What fun! Guts of dragons, demon eyes and monster gonads flying every whichway! The Antagonist himself staked into the ice! Old whores, faggots, witches, wizards with broomhandles rammed up their fundaments; apostates wallowing in their own blood; infidels and pagans castrated by the Son of Man! Mermaids, madmen and anarchists flayed with the Scourge of Christ! Vindictively defiled like smalltown cheats covered by the mob in buckets of shit!
      Christ was getting pissed. And enjoying it.
      But he had to contain himself. Violence contradicted the Commandments. In his circle, turning the other cheek comme il faut. Still, he had to admit, those spiders evinced an awfully pure ethos.
      For yet another month he squatted on the earthen floor, watching the spiders worship their victims. He grew obsessed with arachnoid behavior. Changes crystallized inside his undying flesh. Corrupting his brain into a weird prism distorting the teachings of the Father.
      One evening, as the village idiot was bringing him his ration of flour and rainwater, Jesus could bear it no longer. Bloodlust teased the roof of his mouth like ground pepper.
      Jesus spat on the handful of moldy flour. Kicked over his water. Fangs issued above his lower lip. He commanded the idiot to fetch his master.
      Dracula was in the midst of displaying the flayed skin of a prostitute. With much babbling and contortion, the idiot persuaded the Prince to leave the tacking up of the suit of flesh to a henchman and come instead at once to the dungeon. Dracula twirled his moustache, smiling quietly as he followed the gesticulating idiot down the winding staircase into the bowels of the castle. He figured it was about time his longterm investment in the bearded wino payed off.
      Christ swore, right off the bat, he was ready to play ball.
      Dracula coyly refrained from discussing terms. Instead, he walked to a dingy corner of the oubliette and invited Jesus to listen to a parable.
      "As you must realize," he began, "food has been scarce this winter in Wallachia. Hundreds of beggars roaming the streets, seeking the refuge of courtyards. Last month, about the time of Easter, I made it known throughout Tirgoviste that I was preparing a banquet to succor the poor. Well over a thousand turned up."
      Despite the changes he had gone through locked underground, a tear of admiration clouded the eye of Jesus. He was ever a sucker for stories where the starving were suddenly allowed to gorge themselves.
      "With great difficulty we managed to accommodate them in the dining hall I had ordered built specifically for the feast. All afternoon and well into the evening they wined and dined. I fed them from my personal supply of game, sweetmeats and fresh vegetables, such as were available at the time. They consumed a dozen barrels of my finest zinfandel.
      "Shortly after moonrise I put in a personal appearance. Standing at the rear of the hall, I addressed the multitude. I was many time prevented from continuing by spontaneous cheers, applause, drunken lays shouted in praise of my name and fame. I at length succeeded in bellowing above the uproar: 'Do you now wish to be free of care and lack for nothing in this world?'
      "Choruses of 'Yes! Yes!' went up from a thousand greasy mouths under bloodshot eyes blazing inside the mobbed hall.
      "I backed out saying, 'Excellent!' and at once had my attendants board up the door and windows and set fire to the structure. None escaped the holocaust.
      "Do you know the moral?'
      Too shocked to think, Jesus mumbled. "The meek shall inherit the earth;?"
      "About six feet of it," Dracula grinned. "No. Those people were filth. Vermin infesting my streets. The devil's own brood. Their existence was but torture not only for themselves but for the rest of us as well. Thus in a single stroke I both cleansed the realm and liberated over a thousand beggars from their earthly misery. The moral is: Always deliver precisely what you promise.
      "So; are you sure you're a vampire?" Dracula's grin died like a monk. "I don't want any sissies for this job."
      Cleanliness, wine, torture, poor people, the devil: Jesus' mind whirled. In an effort to stop the world and get off, Jesus showed his fangs and hissed that yes! yes! he was anxious to suck blood!
      Dracula touched his lip thoughtfully. He hadn't expected rabid enthusiasm. Still, in this case, dementia could do no harm. Perhaps life in the dungeon was a bit harsh;
      Eager to demonstrate sincerity, Jesus kissed Dracula on the neck. Vlad the Impaler's eyes bulged. His head fell back. From his own canines fang burst forth.
Since there was little use for him up in Heaven, Jesus wasn't missed for a long time. He was finally recalled when the Ghost spotted him sacrificing virgins in London, late in the 1880s. A squad of angels subsequently staked him out in the neighborhood of Orion. Finished cleaning him up just about the time he came back into synch with his initial departure from the time machine. Which was fortunate, because he would have looked pretty silly presiding with fangs and a bloated face on Judgement Day.
      Nobody knows for sure the end of Vlad the Impaler.
      Lenny Bruce died on a toilet from an overdose. Lugosi lives on in celluloid. And that's the truth. About toilets, junk, poverty, time and Dracula meets Jesus.

Slop First the Cannibal

Yanked open fridge. Removed torso. Banged onto counter. "I'm home, dear," called the hunter to the doe. Hefted load from kitchen through living room into can.
      Drew hot bath. Eased torso shoulder-first in up to rump. Floated nice; barely submerged. Inserted rectal thermometer.
      Wandered into bed chamber. Disrobed. Painted in fancy--climbing into bath robe--the treat.
      Been a hard day of suppressing sex; to keep the job on the brain; to maintain flow of bread into the checking account. To secure the week ahead.
      Happened into living room. Activated television.
      Caught a moment of the news: paranoid found in own backyard; welfare mom starved into bank shootout; moon discovered bathed in X-rays; on movie set, dog bites android.
      Came a commercial obsessed with gas. Killed volume.
      Drifted back into can. Broke out KY. By which time the mercury hovered at the yay between ninety-eight, ninety-nine.
      After putting in a day of input--putting it out on the keys--number numb, letter nuts, word perfect--the mind felt like, as per usual, putty in the hands of a brat. And now I stood at last ready to put it literally in.
      Raised the baby from the bath water. Hustled into the chamber. Flopped her onto the bed. She looked oh-so fetching--cornfed butt, beefcake trunk; no arms, no legs, no head.
      No matter what sex. Always enter backdoor. Because anus in Latin means ring; and God knows when I come home from downtown hell, I need to ring the goddamn bell.
      Clasped both sides of ribcage. Locked onto target.
      Sphincter violation--every machine's electric dream. If silicon could sing, it'd up the butt hum truncated jingles for the birds. And still none of us could sit still but to put it in; microcircuitry having brained the soul the way a rapist guts a job.
      So now I am destined on this date here on the sheet to settle a score deep inside unknown bowel; putting personal data in.
      Then brush teeth. Retire early plaque free. Sleep like life on ice. Tomorrow first thing, on way out, put another out from locker to thaw.
      Down disposal Tuesday's baby.

The Wet Nurse

Dreamed I owned a wet nurse. She stood by, deep in the bowels of the library, as I pored over oversized volumes of photographs of mummies. I was searching for my missing grandmother. Pondering X-ray skeletons decked with enough jewelry to buy a Lexus or put the down on a five-bedroom; turning pages like knights defeated in tourney after tourney. I was skimming a black-and-white--taken over fifty years ago--of a heap of mummified cats, when it dawned I was parked outside across the street in front of the Y. With a finger pop I sent the nurse out to feed the meter.
      Nobody ever knew my mother's mother. Her father was my grandfather. He lusted after offspring. But his crippled wife (a childhood polio victim)--after they married--refused. Grandpop was a stubborn Dutchman--euphemistic for pigheaded Kraut. He sneaked out and got somebody pregnant. Nine months later--in late November of 1915--came a knock at the door.
      "Here, this belongs to Fred!" shrilled some stranger--probably not the mother--shoving my newborn mother into her stepmother's arms.
      Well, Grandpop Fred's wife grew jealous. Soon consented to bear what became my half aunt. But that's irrelevant to the matter at; and I realized the nurse had been gone a long time.
      Returned the tome to its coffin in the stacks. Wound my way up switchbacked escalators to the slightly-less-claustrophobic ground floor. Threaded ceiling-high labyrinthine bookshelves till I popped out the front door. Trotted across the street to my car, which was actually a something-less-than cherry skateboard.
      Sure enough, there stood the nurse--breast jammed in the meter. I tried endless tricks to squeak her free. Usual dream stuff: coathanger, toothpick, rose thorn, library card, popsicle stick--nothing worked. Till I recalled spit.
      I leaned over. Licked and drooled all over the perimeter of areola protruded from the as-it-were wringer. Then planted a palm on her sternum, gave a shove--outta slot nipple pops!
      Inspecting the watermelon of flesh, checking out the dented, purplish pap, I began to no sooner have than act on an idea. Layed hands on her mauve polyester slacks. Hiked up; mounted her buttocks. Got comfortable on the pelvic shelf. Reached around, popped out of her peasant blouse the other boob. Fell to milking.
      In my day I've milked beaucoup goats. This no different. Except I never milked a nanny riding her bareback. Fortunately the nurse was an old broadbeamed quarter-ton model jampacked with enough dough to choke the Philly mint, so it was easy to burrow in my knees and hang on, while my forefingers and thumbs pumped teats. Pretty soon nickels and dimes sprayed the sidewalk.
      Yuppies on their lunch passed by--noses in the air. But the bums, beggars and single parent paupers quickly developed an interest, especially when the quarters started to flow.
      They were peaceful, if a tad frantic, down on all fours, milling around, scooping coins, muttering prayers this no dream. But one stinkpot--a wino from the bus stop down the block--had holey pockets, and when some other loser grabbed at the change dribbling from the derelict's pant legs, an argument broke out. This seemed to foment other territorial disputes. In no time fist fights sputtered, threatening to reach the critical mass of a fullblown riot.
      Figuring I needed to get the yuppies involved--maybe their swell duds and deodorant be a sobering influence--I squeezed harder, pistoned faster. Panted with the effort, teeth gritted, eyes squinted, knees dug into the fat pillowing the nurse's kidneys.
      Sure enough--first twenties, then fifties, then hundreds spurted.
      When next I looked down, half-a-dozen suits were scouring the pavement, jamming Grants and Franklins into vest pockets. If this was jazz, they jumped in the kitchen with the cook. If this was shit, they were hot and they were it.
      A bevy of lawyer bitches crawled in--briefcases agape. A couple buck realtors appeared outta nowhere with dustbusters. A gaggle of brokers waving fannypacks materialized. I even glimpsed--snatching at the edge of the cycloning greenbacks--two radiologists, a plastic surgeon and a chiropractor.
      These yuppies were tough. They worked out. Belonged to gymns. Jogged. Rode bikes to work so they could drive the SUV all weekend up the mountain. The poor didn't stand a chance--shoved aside like so much red tape. Till one bum--an obvious wildeyed streetnut--reached in his chinos, produced and clapped onto the heads of about five busy yuppies a handful of fresh movement coated with oxygen-rich blood.
      The beshat turks, and a few associated females, headed back routed to the office. But the majority of suits stayed put, efficiently gobbling legal tender; while the poor gawked--clinking what change they had gleaned. For years they'd been missing meals. None possessed any movement to spare.
      Besides, the medicos on the edge--who must've spotted the action from their clinics high up in The Tower Formerly Known As See First--freely advised the indigent they were too ill to sustain the strain of diving for the bills--better hang back, watch it.
      Higher yet I cranked pistoning, pinching. Thousands of hundreds blizzarded scrambling yuppies. The street looked to belong utterly to big business; when--took just one--some bum remembered: hey, the insolvent can still make water.
      He was a funny little squirt--moustache, frayed jogging suit, taped-together trifocals--not an alkie, not a schizo, no hillbilly stuck on the street with a failed pimp dream--maybe a sliver of shrapnel from last year's dot bomb. Anyway, he's peeing on this doe insurance agent, splattering her No Nonsense, and suddenly, like a hundred skunkdrunk monkeys, down to the tiniest pockfaced runaway, the rabble is goldshowering the bumblebee yuppies; squatting above toupees, targeting Brooks Brothers, hosing white collars.
      The lion's share of Fifth Avenue--shrieking, cursing--leaped to their wingtips and medium-heeled pumps. Scurried off to get back to tightening screws on the universe, really just a few thousand bucks apiece ahead.
      A scant half-dozen obese accountants and corpulent corporate execs lingered, garments sodden with homeless piss, hunkered snaring dollies fast as dammit; running, after all, not their strong suit; thoroughly accustomed anyway to heads drenched in waste.
      Amazingly, when these swine finally arose to waddle off each to his own separate skyscraper, not one large denomination remained. Just a few wrinkled singles that oozed out at the dregs of the dugs.
      I worked my knees as if masturbating fifty years ago on a hobby horse. The nurse giddyupped. Cantered in her clogs across the street back into the library. Behind us the salt of downtown catfought over a dozen dollars in paper, plus maybe half that much in change dotting the gutter, the sidewalk, the cement steps up to the Y.
      Back down in the bowels, the tome pulled out, plopped open on a table, I'm about to dismount, get back to work--like the rest of the city above--when the nurse's head swivels about; turns on me eyes large and brown as those of a wellfed Bessie. Holy cow--Nefertiti! A Mona Lisa smile cracked her limestone mug.
      In dreaminsight--leaked like milk--I apprehended Mona to have been all along in reality a ventriloquist; hence the ambiguity of her lip twist. Drawn by the noise of a throat clearing, I looked down at the dusty volume.
      "Of course," spoke Plate 86--an X-ray skull of some pharoah's never-unwrapped half sister, "you know nothing of Asquiver; of whom it is said, 'If her quiver be kept full, then the populace fare well.'"
      My silence assented to the pronouncement. I was anyway too shocked to talk; although not shocked at the shock--a whole Hoover Dam of juice charged the air down in that dehumidified sub-basement.
      To facilitate communication, I swiveled the nurse's head back around--so as to face the plate. Judging by a slight creak, the rotation seemed centered on the final cervical vertebra, which shares a disk with the first ribcage vertebra. Only then did I realize why the nurse wore no bra: such tools back in the day of Akhenaton not even dreamed of.
      "Asquiver," the shadowy X-ray jiggled teeth and jaw, "was the Norse Goddess of Massed Firepower. Each hip mounted an array of microscopic crossbows. With a pelvic shimmy she could launch per second over a million bolts tiny as plague bacteria. No enemy could withstand this fully automatic banshee. She was the Dream of all Germany."
      Nefertiti's quixotic ventriloquizing stopped. The skull stilled. The rest I got telepathically from the nurse's backbrain.
      My job, it seemed, was to incarnate Asquiver. A miracle I would perform by climbing back outside, leaping on my skateboard in the midst of the moneypickers and executing The Twist.
      I was simultaneously to shout a debasement of the finale to Invictus: "I am the captain of my shit,/ I am the master of my bait!"
      Everybody up above would die quick as a cup of Qwik. A terrific waste of life. But the corpses would scatter so as to spell out the identity of Granny. Allowing me to complete my genome; thereby tell the future.
      But would the revelation justify the massacre?
      "Well," the skull appeared one more time to speak, "quest after truth trumps ethics every time. Why do you think we violate tombs in the first place? Which to prefer: clean conscience or good science?"
      Mona Nefertiti (speaking through her X-ray dummy) was right. Right as a forest fire aping a raindance. For is it not our duty to battle to the death cancer?
      I vitally needed to uncover my stats.
      Leaving the obvious unanswered, I brought the nurse about like a boatload of chocolate. Headed her for the corrugated steel fountain of the ever-rising escalator. While it sank up and down, ankle through spine to crown: Asquiver was the name of my nurse. And although she drooped for the moment dry, her ass quivered--armed to the teeth.
      And I awoke mouth parched with wrapped-up linen lost over 3,000 years in the sand. Different day, same dollar. My mother's mother forever removed from the computer's tit. Or is that--like a dream refreshed in memory--backwards?
      If this was art, I began to feel confusedly a part.




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