20 September, 2009

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Life is a game of chess being prosecuted in a room-sized industrial oven by a pair of glowering maniacs with sweating teeth and dirty fingernails. And don‘t imagine that they know all the rules. The chessboard—just look at it there, with its cheap veneer peeling and adhering to the undersides of passing shoes—is Washington DC, fair and flaky capital of this Proud Republic. As for me, I’m the red queen, she of the telescopic neck and unpredictable moves. I’m like a kung-fu monkey with short-term memory loss. Oh, and did I mention that there’s been a revolution? That’s right: even the communists are on my tail; this town ain’t big enough for the half of me.

This is going to require a concession on my part. More than one, even. I begin by divesting myself of the incriminating materials: the not-so-silver-anymore spoon goes southwards at the station entrance, which I leave behind like I was never there, sailing over the turnstile with movie-star panache. One problem: my sheer inherent gravitas makes lying low an all-but-impossible proposition. Wherever I go, there I am, usually making some kind of God-awful scene and working the clear-eyed, clean-limbed onlookers of Americaville into a toxic lather. Speaking of which, this fellow here, the one propping the door open, fits the bill like he was the original model: aerodynamic, government-approved haircut; a suit that looks like it was fashioned by human hands, rather than shitted out by a cloth-eating monster from the sewers; and a smile as wide and white as the jawbone of a killer whale. I spit something not quite blood-coloured on his Italian loafers and his teeth swell up like concrete water wings.

Some lab-coated narc is on my tail, shouting unintelligible threats and brandishing what appears to be a bloody corkscrew, at least from the back of my head, where my vision isn’t as keen. I tell him to go lose himself somewhere; I have an appointment in the desert in one hour and if I’m late they’ll flood the place with radiation—the kind that makes your extremities shrivel up and die, leaving only a torso and a deflated football for a head. He doesn’t even try to get the picture. Sensing an impending altercation, I leap across the tracks, just in time to catch onto the back end of a passing train, which tears me away down darkened tunnels at a speed that defies scientific explanation. The narc calls after me, but the only noise I hear is the frenzied rending of stale subway air. The next stop is home; it has to be.


John Everyman said...

Whoaaa, I like this. The peeling veneer of Washington DC feels synchronous with the original intro, but stands as a great turn of phrase/ metaphorical insight within this. And the bombastic yuppie putdown is totally nailed. Looking forward to having a go at this!

Roland said...

This is fantastic, Al! Genuinely one of my favourite things you've ever written, oddly.