(Cantus.) In the darkness, softly. A whisper becoming a tone, the echo of a tone. Doleful, a soft incipient lament blowing in the night like a wind, like the echo of a wind, a plainsong wafting distantly through the windy chambers of the night, wafting unisonously through the spaced chambers of the bitter night, alas, the solitary city, she that was full of people, thus a distant and hollow epiodion laced with sibilants bewailing the solitary city.
And now, the flickering of a light, a pallor emerging from the darkness as though lit by a candle, a candle guttering in the cold wind, a forgotten candle, hid and found again, casting its doubtful luster on this faint white plane, now visible, now lost again in the tenebrous absences behind the eye.
And still the hushing plaint, undeterred by light, plying its fricatives like a persistent woeful wind, the echo of woe, affanato, piangevole, a piangevole wind rising in the fluttering night through its perfect primes, lamenting the beautiful princess become an unclean widow, an emergence from C, a titular C, tentative and parenthetical, the widow then, weeping sore in the night, the candle searching the pale expanse for form, for the suggestion of form, a balm for the anxious eye, weeping she weepeth.
The glimmering light, the light of the world, now firmer at the center, flickers unsteadily at the outer edges, implications of tangible paraboloids amid the soft anguish, the plainsong exploring its mode, third position athwart, for among all her lovers there are none to comfort her, and the eye finding a horizon, discovering at last a distant geography of synclinal nodes, barren, windblown, now blurring, now defined.
Now defined: a strange valley, brighter at its median and upon the crests than down the slopes, the hint there perhaps of vegetation, like a grove of pines buried in the snow, and still the chant, epicedial, sospirante, she is driven like a hunted animal, C to C and F again, she findeth no rest. How many have died here?
The plainchant, blowing through the gloomy valley like an afflicted widow, continues to mourn the solitary city. Overtaken amid the narrow defiles. Continues to grieve, ignoring the gradual illuminations, a grief caught in secret acrostics, gone into captivity. All her gates are desolate. The eye courses the valley to its yawning embouchure, past a scattering of obscure excrescences with bright tips, courses the dark defile to its radical, this pinched and woebegone pit, mourning its uprooted yew, her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted. Gravis. Innig. In bitterness, yes, con amarezza, she is with bitterness.
Beyond this gnurled foramen, crumpled crater too afflicted to expose its core to chant or candle, lies a quieter brighter field, yet one ringed about with indices of a multitude of transgressions, tight with uncertainty and attenuation, and, as it were, mere propylaeum to the ruptured conventicle of extravagance and savagery just beyond, just below. . . .
Ah! What a sight, this wild terrain cleft violently end to end and exposed like an open grave! The light flares and wanes, flutters, as though caught in a sudden gale, as though eclipsed by a flight of harts. Oh woe, her princes are denied a pasture, nature is convulsed, and a terrible commotion, sundered by plosives, sounds all about. Angoscioso and disperato, rising and falling intervals in the tremulous matinal gloom.
Black bars radiate from this turbulent arena, laid on the surrounding hills like the stripes of a rod in the day of wrath, and at the end of the black bars, like whipstocks for the maimed, letters. Flickering neumes: vaginal orifice, labia majora. And not a propylaeum: a perineum. anus: the afflicted pit. Alas, despised because they have seen her nakedness. C to C and F again. Like the echo of letters, the shadow of codes, the breath of labia, yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward, a simple canticle, notations writ on the posteriors of a kneeling woman, this kneeling woman, these posteriors: urethra, clitoris, black indications quavering in this ghostly crepuscular light, the light of the world, the light of a solitary city at the end of night, the coldest hour.
Between the spreading intrados of the massive thighs, below the bitter valley, through a filigree of letters suspended mysteriously in the archway–mons veneris, now sharp, now diffuse–beyond and through all this can be seen the distant teats, hanging in the wind, blowing in the dawn wind, oh, therefore she came down wonderfully, her last end forgotten, heavy teats ready for milking, their fat nipples swollen with promise. They sway in the wind, and something is indeed falling from them, yes, like frozen milk: Snow! Snow is falling, falling from the big teats, snow is swirling in the bitter wind, under the pale corrugated belly of the wintry dawn, blowing out of the anus and the vaginal canal, it is snowing on the city.
O Lord, behold my affliction! A vast desolation, the city, the afflicted city, far as the eye can see, stones heaped up to the end of the earth, lying dead in the winter, dead in the storm; whose hands could have raised up so much emptiness? the enemy hath magnified himself. Yet decrescendo, this, the intervals blurred now by the grinding whine of low-geared motors, for in spite of everything dim towers, ruby-tipped, rise obstinately through the blowing snow, a multitude of lamps blink red and green in fugal progressions down below, chimneys puff out black inversions and raise a defiant clamor of colliding steel, and the snow itself is swallowed up by a million dark alleys, just as their fearful obscurities are obliterated by the blinding snow.
Through the city, through the snow, under the gray belly of metropolitan morning, walks a man, walks the shadow of a solitary man, like the figure in pedestrian-crossing signs, a photogram of a walking man, caught in an empty white triangle, a three-sided barrenness, walking alone in a lifelike parable of empty triads, between a pair of dotted lines, defined as it were by his own purpose: forever to walk between these lines, snow or no snow, taking his risks–or rather, perhaps that is a pedestrian-crossing sign, blurred by the blowing snow, and, yes, the man is just this moment passing under it, trammeling the imaginary channel, the dotted straight and narrow, at right angles. There he is, huddled miserably against the snow and wind and the early hour, shrinking miserably into his own wraps, meeting the pedestrians, those shadows of men making their dotted crossings, at right angles, meeting some head-on as well, brushing through the cold and restless crowds, as horns sound and airbrakes wheeze, sirens wail, all her people sigh–they seek bread–the last whimpering echo of a plainsong guttering like a candle in the morning traffic.
His hat jammed down upon his ears and scowling brows, his overcoat lapels turned up to the hat brim, scarf around his chin, he is all but buried in his winter habit. Only his eyes stare forth, aglitter with vexation and the resolution to press on, and below them his nose, pinched and flared with indignation, his pink cheeks puffed out, blowing frosty clouds of breath through chattering teeth. His mouth, under his mustache, is drawn into a rigid pucker around his two front teeth; my god, it is cold, what the fuck am I doing out here? His hands are stuffed deep in his overcoat pockets, and–poking forth from his thick herringbone wraps like a testy one-eyed malcontent–his penis, ramrod stiff in the morning wind, glistening with ice crystals, livid at the tip, batting aggressively against the sullen crowds, this swirling mass of dark bodies too cold for identities, struggling through the snow, their senses harrowed, intent solely on keeping their brains from freezing.
Oh, my poor doomed ass, I’m in real trouble, he whimpers to himself as he trundles along, tears trickling down his cheeks, teeth clattering, frozen snot in his mustache, up against it, expletives the only thing that can keep him warm, that he can pretend will keep him warm, shouldering his way through a thickening stupefaction, sidestepping the suicides, aching with cold and feeling sorry for himself, sick of keeping it up but scared not to, picking them up, putting them down, there he goes, a living legend, who knows, maybe the last of his kind, seen through a whirl of blowing snow, through a scrim of messages, an unfocused word-filter, lamenting the world’s glacial entropy and the snow down his neck, bobbing along in this cold sea of pathetic mourners, this isocephalic compaction of misery and affliction, the dying city and he in it, sending it all to hell yet refusing to quit, refusing to tip over and get trampled into the slush, and so celebrating consciousness after all, in his own wretched way, the man of the moment, the lord of the leg-over, the star, the one and only: Lucky Pierre.
The swish and blast of the passing traffic modulate into a kind of measureless rhythm, not a pulsation so much as an aimless rising and falling, sometimes blunted, sometimes drawn brassily forth. Subways rumble underfoot, airdrills rattle in alleys, and there’s the thunder of jets overhead like occasional celestial farts. Tipped wastebaskets spill bottles, newspapers, pamphlets, dead fetuses, throwaway cameras and mobiles, coils of black cable, burnt spoons, old shoes. Cars, spinning gracefully in the icy streets, smash decorously into one another, effecting dampened cymbals, sending heads and carcasses flying through their shattering windshields and crumpling percussively into snowbanks. Above the crowds, a billboard asks: what is my prick doing in your cunt, lizzie? Six blocks away and around the corner, a theater marquee replies: fucking me! fucking me! oh so nicely!
A little old lady, leaning on a cane, hesitates at a curb, peers up at the light, now changing from green to red. Her spectacles are frosted over; icicles hang from her nose; her free hand trembles at her breast, clutching an old frayed shawl. The man, our hero, trying to beat the light, comes charging up, but not in time, skids to a stop, glissandos right into the old lady’s humped-over backside, bowling her heels over head into the street with a jab of his stiff penis. There is a brief plaint like the squawk of a turkey as a refuse truck runs her down. Old as she was, it’s still all a bit visceral, but soon enough the traffic rolling by has flattened her out, her vitals blending into the dirty slush, her old rags soaking up the rest.
–Pity, someone mutters.
–Goddamn street cleaners, never around when you need them.
The light changes, the old lady is trampled away. There’s the blur of hurrying feet, kicking, pounding, slogging through the blood, slush, and snow. Thousands of feet. Going all directions. Whush, crump, crump, stomp. Crushing butts, condoms, chewed bones, dead batteries, gum wrappers. Someone’s pocket watch. Film tins and beer cans. Crump, crump, crump, a kind of rasper continuo. Wind-up toys and belt buckles. Lost dentures. Projector sprocket. Used needles. Ticket stubs. All those frozen feet, shuffling along, whush, whush, almost whispering: That’s right, Maggie, lift your arse and–whush, crump, crump–tickle my balls! Oh shit, it’s cold! It’s too fucking cold!
No. Stop thinking about it. Change locations. Think warm, think green. Come on, lift your arse and, whush, crump, give it a try. Think nymphet. That’s better. Behind a tree maybe, peeking out at one side, at the other showing her sweet little buns, blazing in the sunlight. Sunlight! Imagine! At the edge of a meadow, say, there she is, go for it. Hup two three. Through the wildflowers, into the sun-dappled forest–she takes off, her bright tail flashing like a doe’s scut, what a sight!–over fallen trunks, crackling branches, and dry leaves, pick “em up, put “em down, you’re moving now, splashing through a tinkling brook, up warm mossy rocks, keep it going! Some kind of music. . . .
(Front end of a heavy bus, barreling through the city street, spitting up snow, whipping it into black froth: blaaaat! Printed on its destination sign in the grimy front window: the adventures of lucky pierre.)
Cantilena maybe, piped on a syrinx, good. Cissy’d like that, all” antico, right. The nymphet’s scintillating butt luring him, there and then not there, winking like a flickering zoetrope image through the trees and the dappled light, drawing him closer and closer, his breath heaving, his heart pumping, he’s got her, they are thrashing about now, their limbs entwined, no snow, no wind, this is great!–no, she’s scampered off!–no, he has her, she has him, that’s it, keep going, they tumble, keep going, damn it, they tumble in slow motion out of the forest into the soft grass of the meadow, crushing daisies and buttercups, flutes fading, silence drenching now the sunny green space, his heart thumping in his ears, street sounds diminishing to nothing more than a playful whisper in the fading forest–
(Sudden roar of the bus, splattering through snow, blackened with soot, its foglights glowing dully, horn blaring. Sprayed crudely along one muddy side, under the greasy windows: directors’ cut. City streets, buildings, people, traffic, go whipping by.)
Sshh! Getting there! Not just one but nine of them now, a pretty anthology in the sunny meadow, that’s right, nine nymphets upside down in a tight circle, poised upon their little shoulders, back to back, cheeks to cheeks, peachily radiant in the sunlight, legs spread like the petals of a flower. He hovers busily, his limbs churning, stinger in view, high off the ground, admiring the corolla, many-stemmed, each with its own style and stigma, the variegated pappi blowing in the soft summer breeze; then he drops down–here we go!–to nibble playfully at the keels, suck at the stamina, slip in and out of septa. Distantly: the returning sound of muted trumpets–
BlaaaaaaAAAATT! He jumps back to the curb, but too late, a bus bearing down on him–thwock!–whacks his boner as it goes roaring by: He screams with pain, spins with the impact, and is bowled into the crowd, now crossing with the light, spilling a dozen of them. He catches a glimpse of the bus gunning it on down the street, trailing black fumes like projected shadows, an advertisement spread across its rear–i can see her cunt, gussy!– and what looks like the eye of a gaping pig in the back window, staring out at him. The crowds, rushing and tumbling over him, curse and weep:
–What is it like, Nelly?
He hobbles to the edge of the flow, nursing his bruised cock, looking for a reason to go on, looking for something to wrap it in. He finds a bum sleeping under a newspaper and appropriates page one with its banner head: a large hairy mouth sucking his purple dick.
Aw, hey, listen: fuck it. That’s it. No more. Quit.
He sits on the curb, snuffling, huddled miserably over his battered rod, wrapped now in crumpled newsprint, trying to coax green dreams out of his iced-up lobes, trying in vain to recall all the pleasant things he had from days of old, all the delightful things of the pecker and the eye, feeling the cold creep up his ass all the while, no sorrow like my sorrow: bitter snatch of the diatonic aubade. Something seems to leave him, some spring released, a slipping away. . . .
No! he cries in sudden panic, leaping up. Forget that shit, waste those frames! Move it, damn you: hup two three four! He’s running flat out now, prick waggling frantically, stiff-arming the opposition, recocking the spring, leaping the lifeless, goal in view, central heating, hot tub, all that, gonna make it–oof! sorry, ma”am!
–Good morning, L.P.! Oooh! How nice!
–Good morning, love! (whoof!) After you!
–Why, thank you, Mr. P!
–Morning, sir! Thank you, sir!
Ah, damn it, is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
Parallelograms of bright light rotate and intersect kaleidoscopically, in rhythm with a fluttering thump like feet pumping an organ or a propeller blowing in the winter wind, at times almost syllabic: by-aye-aye-aye-aye. . . . Within the shifting planes of flashing light can be seen stabler shapes, real and reflected, the backside of a person in uniform, a recurrent allusion to an infinite series of lighted passageways, the mutating images of drifting automobiles. And beneath the whump and flutter, the steady damp hum of a cave or a vast chamber. Through this whirl, as though projected through it, comes a man, intense, unhurried yet purposeful, his quick stride reflected in the gleaming marble floors. As he mounts the half-dozen stairs of this outer vestibule, a young woman in a natural lamb’s-wool sweater and tweed button-through skirt with beige suede waistcoat, carrying a mobile phone and clipboard, passes him on his right, descending. Another woman crosses left to right in the foreground like a screen wipe, momentarily eclipsing the man from view.
When she has passed, he is seen with his foot poised decisively on the top step. Everything has stopped. Cold. The woman in the suede waistcoat has arrived at the shiny space before the revolving doors, the abrupt stilling of their motion suggested by a luminous blur, and she has turned to glance appreciatively up at the man. The man is removing his dark felt hat, or perhaps is tipping it, glancing off to his left as though recognizing someone, or noticing something important. Backlight radiates in the blond hair of the woman behind him; she has brought a purple felt-tip pen suggestively to her lips.
–Good morning, L.P.!
–Morning, Mr. P! Some storm, eh?
–Fuck me, you can say that again!
–What? Some storm, you mean? Is this a retake?
There is snow still in the rolled brim of the man’s lifted hat and on the shoulders of his stylish herringbone overcoat. His jaw is firmly set, his brows slightly arched above his frozen leftward glance. He seems poised there on the top step as if on the threshold of some grand but unspecific adventure. Unseen high heels click on the marble floors. The fluttering sound of the revolving doors diminishes but can still be heard behind the continuing conversations, though nothing moves.
–Love the coat, L.P.!
–Help you off–?
–Oops! ‘scuse me, Mr. P!
–It’s still numb, but it’s starting to hurt.
–Well, chin up! Or . . . whatever. . . .
The man anchored on the top step, glancing left, has a thin mustache, curled slightly at the tips. His eyes are alert, his face impassive. His right hand lifts the hat with snow in its brim, his left carries an attach” case; both are gloved in kidskin. The wide lapels of his belted overcoat are turned down around a white ribbed cashmere scarf. The head of his penis, poking rigidly out between the rugged leather buttons of his coat, is pale blue–something between robin’s-egg and wisteria–and is brightly ornamented with glittering ice crystals. Past his right elbow, in front of the doors locked in blurry midwhirl, the waistcoated woman with the clipboard continues to smile fixedly up at him, around the purple pen in her teeth, with sly admiration.
–All right, let it run!
There is a sudden unfocused rush toward the elevators in which the man in the herringbone overcoat is momentarily lost to view, but he is soon rediscovered, pushing through the crowd, wet felt hat tipped low over his brow, teeth bared.
–Cold enough for you, L.P.?
–Are you kidding? Hold it!
–If you insist.
–No, I meant–
–But–brrr!–feels like you could have used a mitten!
–Are we shooting The Cunt Auction today, Mr. P?
–Next week, I think. Ask Cissy.
–Ready for the second freeze, L.P.?
–Yeah, hit me.
–Good morning, sir!
The uniformed elevator operator smiles, stepping aside for him to enter. He brushes by, grazing the tips of her proffered breasts, his coat now over his arm. Two young girls board the elevator with him, and the operator closes the doors and begins the ascent, announcing the floors as they climb. The two girls, gazing up at the man as though suddenly smitten, draw together behind him and take deep breaths, their breasts lifting, as he removes his hat and stretches forth his left arm and, without impatience yet with a sense of the importance of the moment, as with all moments in his life, glances at his watch. And, once again, everything stops.
–Fourth floor. Five. Six.
–It’s him, I tell you!
–Yes, step in, move to the back, please!
–H”lo, L.P. You’re looking a bit blue.
–Wow! I’ve never met a real, you know, artist before!
The gesture of extending and bending his arm has hiked the man’s jacket sleeve a perineum’s length above his shirt cuff, exposing a ruby cufflink, vivid as a nipple. His coat is folded ceremonially over his right arm; he carries his attach” case in his right hand, his felt hat in his raised left, the one with the gold watch on the wrist at which he gazes inquiringly, face-to-face, suggesting a kind of dialogue between seen and seer. The suit jacket is a chalk-striped worsted with natural shoulders and narrow lapels, the cotton dress shirt powder-blue with satin stripes. The cavernous drone of the vestibule has vanished instantly with the closing of the elevator doors; there is now a dense weighted hush, almost tangible, and, distantly, a soft rushing whisper, like a muffled whistle, painting the still image with the movement of sound.
–Gosh, look! It sparkles!
–Excuse me! Out, please! See you later, L.P.!
–It’s like a popsicle!
–With an iced plum on the end!
The concealed fluorescent lighting, playing off the teak paneling, suffuses the elevator with a rich ruddy glow. There are sensuous glints of crimson in the gold watch on the man’s raised wrist and in the soft auburn hair of the operator. He wears a burgundy silk tie, which contrasts with the operator’s lime-green one, and the stem of a pipe pokes from one jacket pocket, adding the casual touch. His fixed expression is firm, even cold, bespeaking, like his impeccable taste, a man of power and influence, yet there is a warm glint in his brown eyes, teasing humor in his thin mustache, one brow arched thoughtfully as he stares intently at the round watch as at a navel or a crystal ball. The operator smiles cheerfully with the left side of her face, and presumably with the unseen right as well. Behind her, the two girls with lifted breasts and parted lips peek up over the man’s right shoulder, their heads drawn together, their infatuate gaze fastened upon him as if upon an ineffable mystery.
–What flavor is it?
–Thirty-nine. Forty. . . .
–Don” wush mwe! I fink he’s–awlck!
–Step back, please! Let them out!
–Whoof! Thank you, my dear, I can almost feel it now. . . .
–Thank you, sir! That was delish!
The two girls with parted lips seem enamored of his right ear; his own gaze is locked still upon his watch, as if this steadfast gaze were the mechanism by which its hands, if it has hands, have ceased to turn, his tense inquiry stilling thus the notorious unmoved mover. An illusion of course (such is the very substance of his vocation), for if all else has seemingly stopped, the operator’s inexorable voice-over count continues.
–Fifty-ninth floor. Watch your step, please.
–You going up or down?
–Don’t ask. . . .
–That was yummy, but it was so cold it made my teeth ache!
–You think there’s more?
–There always is. . . .
–Your floor, sir.
–Pull up your pants, L.P. Third freeze coming up!
–Too late, sir. They’re rolling.
The receptionist, just cradling the crimson desk phone, looks up from her desktop monitor as the man, taking a deep breath and dropping his coat behind, his fly gaping and pants unbuckled, exits the elevator, smoothing down his mustache, moistening his lips. He strides purposefully, shaking off his jacket, kicking his shoes aside, toward the receptionist’s desk, watched by the smiling operator in the obscure empty chamber of the elevator behind him. A dark-eyed woman in a tangerine skirt, carrying a file folder, crosses right to left behind him, moving toward the elevator. She pauses, her long brown hair swirling loosely about her shoulders as she turns her head to glance up at the man, perhaps in surprise, or perhaps pretending surprise, as, stepping out of his trousers, he bears down upon the receptionist.
–Good morning, sir!
–Cissy was just looking for you, Mr. P!
The receptionist, in profile, smiles up with dazzling white teeth at the man. Her back is arched, her breasts jutting forward in the classic manner, her golden skirt taut with secretarial attentiveness. The man has stopped dead in midstride.
–Call for you on two.
–I think it’s the Mayor.
–I’ll take it in my office.
He is gazing down on the receptionist, a faint ironic smile playing on his frozen lips, lifting slightly the curled ends of his mustache. His right foot is planted firmly on the tiled floor, his left leg bent at the knee. He carries his attach” case slightly forward in his right hand, like a weapon or an offering. He wears a soft cream-colored undershirt beneath the open blue shirt, snug continental briefs to match, the thumb of his left hand hooked in the waistband. His left toe seems just to have left the floor about a foot behind his planted right heel, and behind the poised toe, all the way back into the paneled elevator which has discharged him: a hasty scatter of rumpled clothing.
–Market reports, sir.
–Who’s that brunette over there doing the filing?
–A new girl, sir. Would you like to break her in?
–In a moment. . . .
The powder-blue shirt, unbuttoned and tails free, is loose and flowing with the man’s forward motion. His hairy belly, partly concealed by the blur of attach” case, is tanned and hard, the briefs below stretched like a flying jib against the rising mast within. Just behind him, a worsted jacket raises one chalk-striped sleeve starchily from the floor as though in greeting, or farewell, or reaching perhaps for the ruby cufflink nailed into the air above it, and a silk tie hovers over his shoulder in midflight like a dark red bat.
This scream is launched at a high soprano squeal but suddenly plummets to a grinding basso profundo. At the same time certain things begin, very slowly, to happen:
The man’s right knee flexes.
His calf muscle ripples.
His left toe rises, his knee doubling.
The silk tie curls like a licking tongue, then sags.
The fingers on his right hand release their grip on the attach” case.
The thumb of his left hand descends with glacial force, pushing down on the waistband of the masted briefs.
The jacket sleeve begins its graceful collapse.
The cufflink arcs away from the sleeve’s yawning reach.
The tangerine-skirted fileclerk behind him brings the file slowly toward her face as though donning a ritual mask, hair lifting, strands stretching.
The operator, still smiling, commences a step backward into the elevator.
The burgundy tie slides downward through the air like a kite on a loose string.
The receptionist’s thighs lift away from the office chair.
The fingers on her right hand stiffen, and the crimson designer phone begins to separate itself from her hand.
The fileclerk’s mouth slowly opens and a low rumbling sound emerges, like that of an old bear deep in a damp cave.
The cufflink falls at her feet with a hollow pop and rises again off the tiled floor. The jacket sleeve ripples softly at the conclusion of its fall.
The operator completes her step back into the elevator. Shadows pass across her face. Her left arm rises slowly.
The rumble gradually augments in volume and pitch as the silk tie crumples to the floor.
The attach” case flies straight ahead. The phone receiver seems to float.
The man’s right knee starts to straighten, as the left leg continues to double.
The receptionist twists gracefully to her right. Her knee comes into contact with her chair as her feet leave the floor, and the chair too begins to lift and sail toward the wall behind the desk.
Papers rise from the desktop; a letter basket begins to tilt, the elevator doors to close. Behind the fileclerk’s roar, there are sounds like the collision of soft metals, the grating of rusted hinges, apples tumbling in a deep barrel.
The man’s rosy erection, springing free at last, rises like a clenched fist.
The cufflink completes its fall and glides into the elevator shaft.
The man’s right hand arrives at the desktop as his right foot leaves the floor. His hips swivel and lift, and his buttocks, bared by the lowered briefs, rise like a floating buoy above the sea of flying paper, canopied by the high fluttering banners of his powder-blue shirttails. The dark-eyed fileclerk in the tangerine skirt, watching from behind, is now screaming in a baritone.
The elevator doors close. There is a deep resonant boom and a thunderous rattle as the crimson phone strikes the desktop, the steel chair caroms off the wall. The attach” case soars out of view. A bronze cast of his famous organ, regally tumescent, lifts away from the desktop like a launched rocket, propelled by the fileclerk’s tenor scream.
The man doubles at the waist, his feet rising rapidly above the desktop, the underpants now nearly at his knees. The receptionist’s face disappears behind the desk; her golden hips arch upward and her thighs spread awkwardly. A garter snaps with a fulminous pop like a jeroboam of champagne blowing its cork. The scream peaks into alto and is cut off as the fileclerk’s teeth clamp down on the file folder, but simultaneously a new cry is heard from behind the desk, a halftone lower than that of the fileclerk but rising rapidly: O-o-o-o-o-o-o-ow!
The man’s left knee has, in midair, doubled up clear of the briefs, but they catch now around his left ankle and right thigh, and he fails to clear the desk–his hand releases the waistband and reaches out. His right buttock makes crushing contact with the desktop and flattens. Papers take off, pens and pencils fly like thrown darts, and a stapler leaps from the desk like a frightened animal breaking from cover. There is, beneath the receptionist’s fading cry, a sound much like that of a rug being beaten, and then a deep bass plaint soaring toward a clear G-sharp:
His buttocks bounce off the desktop like a beach ball, rising above his head. His legs spread, stretching the cream-colored underpants into a narrow taut band between ankle and thigh. He ducks his head to somersault into the wall and fallen chair, grabbing at the desktop monitor as he goes and taking it with him, his shirttails now around his ears, just as the receptionist completes her own flip, her golden skirt now hiked waist high, the popped strands of her black garterbelt fluttering as her otherwise bare bottom slaps the tiled floor. Phone, bronze cock, coffee cup, ashtrays, stapler, monitor, keyboard, and baskets crash and rattle explosively.
The receptionist raises herself on her elbows to watch the man as he bounces off the wall, his legs still tangled in the shorts. He lies there awhile, stretched out, eyes closed, his penis, the real one, dipping and swaying uncertainly.
–Ah, shit, he says in that dull sensuous monotone so beloved by millions throughout the world.
There was a time once. It wasn’t like this. He could soar over trees, if he wanted to. In that time. Groves of trees, whole fucking forests. Buildings too, probably, but maybe there weren’t any. It must have been a long time ago. The skies were blue. There were green meadows. Far as the eye could see. Flowers. Real ones. Two or three running steps, and then: lift! Your body just dropped its weight off like an old coat and up you went! And when you touched down again, it was soft and springy underfoot; this is true, it’s how it really was. Springtimes then. There were dense endless springtimes. Not here, no. Yet . . . it must have been here. Only, it must have been . . . different then. Is that possible? How is it not possible, if he remembers it? Days were all of a piece in that time, and there were fantastic adventures in every direction. Then suddenly it was over, everything started closing in, running down, freezing up. Cleo. Yes. She spoiled it. Not malice, no, she was just a child, it was just her way; it was his fault, as it always was. Last of the superdays. . . . The cool clear water washes over him once again, fills his eyes, swirls round his chest, chills his groin. Her body rippling beneath the emerald-green waters, pale, shimmery, like patterns on an oscilloscope. She wriggles to the surface, flashing her hard young pussy at him, its tight red ringlets, pink shadows–an epiphanic burst of shattered light, then down she plunges again, deeper and deeper, trailing bubbles, her long limbs glowing, down where the water’s a bright blue, deep aqua. Where it’s dangerous. The feel then of her slender waist, the way she thrashes about, the blows striking thickly, pleasurably, against his chest, against his thighs, the springy dance of her wild red curls, the bubbles bursting against his eyes–god, what did all that glory have to do with a coldwater flat? With the goddamn pain in his ass?
He stumbles into his office, alla zoppa, loathing the world. Cecilia follows with the clothes. As he passes, her assistants slap him affectionately on the butt.
–Nice try, sir!
–Whew! Nasty bruise there on your fanny, Mr. P.
–Don’t worry, sir, we’ll edit it out.
–Should we call the doctor, L.P.? She might have something to put on that.
–Not today, Cissy, I’m not up for it.
In his office, he pushes a button and a floor panel slides back, revealing a heated recessed whirlpool bath. The office is paneled in dark cherry and is equipped with built-in audio and film gear, computer workstations, pinball machines and video games, projection screens, an editing bench, bicycle and weight machines, a dropdown kingsize version of the legendary Marvelous Bed (he has the original in his flat), and a real mahogany desk from the old days. Deep jungle-green carpeting has been laid wall to wall around the bath; on the walls, shag shots of himself fucking beautiful women, framed in light boxes, making the glossy bodies seem to glow like fleshy lightbulbs. Mechanized gyro-mirrors are spaced about, giving the room several extra dimensions, and in a couple of them, while his assistant adjusts the dimmer and color switches of the concealed lighting to a softer rosier tone, he examines his bruises.
–Last damned time I’m gonna try that with briefs on, Cissy. I’m getting too old for cockeyed stunts like that!
–Speaking of cockeyed and stunted, L.P., you don’t look your old self up front either.
–It’s been a helluva morning.
Members of his staff enter with correspondence for him to sign, sex manual photos to autograph, project treatments, scripts, and storyboards for his approval: Home Movies, Lucky Pierre’s Fucking Academy, The Bachelor Party, The Maidenhead Xpic, a true-life cliffhanger called The Falling Star.
–Put them over there.
His bed-sized desktop is cluttered with tapes and film clips, black-letter ballads, aphrodisiac samples, publicity stills, ex voti, tobacco tins, desperate epigrams, and a flocculent scattering of diverse pubic hairs. Beside a tailor’s dummy for a cocksock there is a framed photograph of a woman being banged by three hundred masked men at a lynching, which is signed Dearest Lucky, my hero! I miss you terribly! Luv, Cleo. He pushes aside a stack of project folders and video cassettes to clear a space, chooses his quill from the loins of a brass Robin Goodfellow, dips it into the stretched hairless cunny of an ancient Shelah-na-Gig, a gift from Cinecity’s Mayor, signs his magic name a few dozen times, then dick-stamps the rest. In green. Color of the day. Production assistants help him peel off the cream-colored undershirt and minister gently to his backside bruises, while Cissy tosses the old clothes down a chute and adds bath salts to the water. He attempts a few warm-up presses, but he is still frozen up inside, each movement a painful crunching of ice crystals deep in the tendons and near the bone. Something else is moving, though, so not all’s in vain.
–Do you want to work in your PJs today, L.P.?
–No–grunt!–let’s do the shirtsleeves thing, the dress shirt with the cuffs turned up. And the pants with the woolly codpiece.
He rises, wheezing, then crawls on his hands and knees over to another button: From a little mahogany stool near the bath there emerges a hand-painted disposable fur-lined chamberpot, a touch of old-fashioned elegance and a reminder of a simpler, happier time. He staggers to his feet, helped by Cecilia, and sits to shit.
–Let’s put some synthetic pasture down out there too, Cissy. My elbow got an awful crack on that tile floor!
–How’s that sequence supposed to end, L.P.? she asks with an expectant smile, taking a note about the carpeting.
–I wanted to melt a freeze frame, that’s all. I thought it’d make me feel better.
–I got that part. But then–?
–Well, then the whole thing is supposed to keep speeding up until the grunts and groans are just weird little spiccato pips of sounds, see, and we’re fucking each other so fast that we don’t seem to be moving, or even seem to be fucking backwards, you know, stroboscopic, like the wheels of a train as it gets up speed.
–Aha, backwards. Nice idea, L.P., but it won’t work.
–You telling me?
On one of the television screens, there are news reports about a thawnow computer virus unleashed by anarchist hackers that is causing a citywide systems meltdown on the circuit, about the increase in film piracy and street theater crimes, and about the use of old film archives to ease the fuel shortage, the Mayor explaining the city’s new genre classification ratings (Burn-1 to X-Burn) and its icon-based energy priorities.
–I see, says the reporter, who is glimpsed briefly in a cutaway shot flashing her challenging white smile directly at him–or at any viewer, for that matter–her green eyes sparkling with her need to know, hard but hot, her head aflame with her wild red hair. He has, if memory serves him (it does, but not as continuity, more like a popping clapperboard that startles him from time to time), a date with her tonight. At their coldwater flat, where it all began, if began is the word in a life like his. To get there, he has to go back out into those blizzardy streets. He must be crazy. Then it’s true, the reporter continues, saliva glistening at the corners of her parted lips. Hierarchies, favoritism, the eradication of lesser genres, the narrowing of dialogue–City Hall is indeed in the grip of a new fundamentalism, as some have argued?
–These are hard times, my dear, replies the Mayor, standing beside her desk under her display case of canes and whips, monumentally regal in her brass-buttoned black velvet jacket and matching wraparound skirt, split to the top of her bold bare hipbone. A sign on her desktop reads pro bono pubico. Such times call for absolute purity of production values and directorial intransigence in their pursuit, she says. The hard core of our society must be protected for all our sakes; heat must be invested in heat. That said, we would like to know–at your convenience, of course, your earliest convenience–the names and agents of your argumentative sources.
The reporter flashes her trust-me grin, which in fact can mean anything, as he knows all too well, and the Mayor responds from on high–towering over Cleo, and indeed over everyone, as she does–with an icy smile, a flash of statuesque thigh, and a cool wink of her own. Seems to be aimed at him, sitting there on his fur-lined pot. This show is probably what the Mayor was calling about. Cora never wants him to miss her when she is on television.
Cissy clicks the set off just as the camera cuts back to the reporter, remarking, not for the first time, that redheaded women are an aesthetic disaster on daytime digitized color transmissions; it was like someone scratching glass with their fingernails every time that woman showed up there. There’s an edgy irresistible excitement about her, true, though he’s learned not to say so around Cissy. Cissy calls up baroque chamber music from the central server, goes over to prepare coffee at the bar, heat up his muffins. And that skin, she adds. Like death warmed over. The least they could do is pancake away the shine.
Though he feels vaguely irritated by her presumption–bossed around in his own domain, as it were–he shrugs it off. She was just following his orders, after all: freedom from the trivia of the daily round, no art possible without it. So, sure, switch it off. What the hell does he care about the bureaucratic mess in City Hall? The Mayor has always been supportive, never questions his budgets, he owes Cora a lot–all of this, for example–but her confusing political problems he can do without. They’d just constipate him. And as for dear Cleo. . . . He bends over, and one of the production assistants wipes his ass with a sponge the size of a stenographer’s notebook.
–I publish this manifesto to man, the historico-political animal! he declaims grandly from his stoop, and Cecilia laughs gaily. She is absolutely the happiest person he knows.
The young woman who has wiped him drops the sponge into the pot like a ballot, and then, instead of flushing it, pushes a button, and the whole apparatus folds odorlessly in on itself and disappears. He steps down into the swirling hot bath.
Oh! Oh my god! Terrific! Oh ho ho! Unbelievable! Yes! Toes, feet, calves, legs, his frosted balls jump for joy when the hot water churns up around them. Where’s the heat coming from? Don’t ask, just sink away, up to the shoulders; this is it, it’s all happening right here, here in this great warm frothing pool, here and now, forget everything else, oh man, soak it up!
–It’s good to be here, Cissy. It’s so good to be here! Let’s stay in this evening and look at old movies!
His eyes brim over with tears of pleasure and thankfulness. Cissy brings him his muffins and coffee, filling him in on the day’s scheduled filming while she feeds him. Now and then she smiles happily at him, and just the joy, the simple grace of that smile, its generosity, sends a shiver up his spine. Her long golden hair is pulled into a knot behind her head, making her seem more bright-eyed and apple-cheeked than ever. She’s wearing rust-colored jersey culottes today, with a black-, silver-, and tan-striped cashmere sweater, short nubbly knit mauve jacket, and matching scarf–a little wild maybe, what with the orange boots, painted buckles, and green streak in her hair (that’s for him), but then that’s his Cissy, his Girl Frig-a-daeg. Certainly the culottes are right for her; must have been invented for just her kind of little soft round fanny, mmm, that classic mass of ass, plump rump, cool cul, his sweet Cecilia. He stretches out in the hot water, watching her move that super crupper. Lotta bottom. Soft croft. Well, a little too soft maybe, a little too soft all over, kind of tummy you can’t help but notice, and breasts a bit over the top for such a little thing, but so what? If she’s maybe not the most beautiful woman in the city, she’s buns down the most beautiful fuck. An artist. She is. And she knows how to take care of a man. When he’s blue. When he’s cold.
–It’s too goddamn cold out there, Cissy. Out there on the streets. It’s just too goddamn cold.
–What are you laughing at? I’m serious!
–You know what’s wonderful about you, L.P.? It’s how you can say exactly the same thing twice and yet get something so different out of it each time.
–No, listen, Cissy, I’m not kidding now, this morning–
–Just a minute, L.P. . . .
He sighs, closes his eyes, sinks deeper, feeling the hot water curl up into the grottos behind his ears. It’s as though, now that the immediate sensations of that bitter walk are past, the real terror of it is finally getting to him. I-I was going to–
–Okay, L.P. Go ahead.
–Quit! My god, Cissy, I was going to quit! It was awful! There were, I don’t know, like voices, telling me to fuck it, like they were projected onto the blowing snow or something, saying there wasn’t any point in going on, I wasn’t going to make it and what’s more it didn’t matter! Oh shit, I don’t even know how to tell you, Cissy, it’s never happened to me before–not just like that, I mean–I’ve had my bad moments, I’ve been down before, but this was terrible. I was walking on this thin crust, like it was my own skin or something, and underneath it was all empty–that sounds dumb, but that’s exactly how it was, this hollow skin, and so fucking cold, the wind, snow blowing down my neck, feet frozen, even my eyeballs locked up. I had to stare straight ahead, and everything I looked at just froze up solid–people, traffic, even the rats–instant statuary! I felt like some kind of goddamn ice-age Midas, a fucking cock-carrying Medusa! Oh my god! What’s happening to me, Cissy? I’m scared! I’m scared to go back out there! What am I gonna do?
–That’s great, L.P.!
–Great? What do you mean, great? I’m bawling my eyes out! It’s awful!
–No, I mean, I just taped it, she says with a warm smile. It’s got a nice ring, L.P. Genuine. I’m sure we can use it. I loved the way you said “that sounds dumb, but that’s exactly how it was!”
–Aw hell, Cissy, he grumps, and rolls over on his belly. Soap my back, will you?
Unnhh. That’s better. Cissy doesn’t simply soap a back, she plays it like a keyboard instrument. The rest of the crew help her lather his ass and thighs, while Cissy runs nimble arpeggios up and down his spine, presses tonics, inversions, and augmented sevenths out of his tensed muscles. Carezzando, martellato, amorevole. She squeezes out the ice crystals, thumps away the bad news, strokes the discords down the drain with the ever-changing bathwater. Uff! . . . mmm . . . yeah! . . . getting clean. . . . What could have put him into such a mood in the first place?
–Well, who did you fuck last night?
–Mmm. Onstage at the Foxy.
–Really? Gosh, I missed it, L.P. I didn’t know–
–Neither did I. I thought she was a young danseuse named Cherie.
Should have known better, name like that had to be a put-on, and besides, she was too beautiful, only one woman in the world beautiful as that. Fooled again: the story of his life.
–I thought we were in the throne room of a deserted palace.
–A palace! Why, L.P., I didn’t know there were any palaces anymore!
–That’s right, there aren’t.
–But then, how–?
–Well, uh, she . . . she showed me this weird ring. She said she was really a princess under a spell, and I–
Cissy leans back into rich mirthful laughter, flipping suds off the ends of her fingers.
–Oh, L.P.! That’s marvelous! You’re so innocent!
–You’re right, Cissy, right again. How is it no one else has ever noticed?
He’d met the girl, the pseudo-Cherie, earlier in the day, interviewing her for the monkey’s role in The Organ Grinder, a successful old caper they were reshooting; it was a great piece of sodomy and bestiality in its day–classic, really–and now Cissy had a lot of ideas for improving on it. Cally had played his co-lead in the silent version; maybe she was upset that he was looking for a new monkey for the remake. More likely, she did it for no reason at all. Cally’s like that, lady of a thousand faces, turns up everywhere–he’s pretty sure she was one of girls in the elevator in this morning’s Fashion Freezes, for example. Whatever, there he was, humping madly away, thinking he was in the throne room with mirrored walls and fat-assed nymphs in the cupolas, fucking the frantic virgin granddaughter of the last king in the world’s memory, when all of a sudden the lights came up and everybody gave him a standing ovation. Probably what did it, all right. That damned Cally.
–The Mayor came onstage after and gave me a dozen roses.
–Oh, L.P., I love it!
Cissy is laughing too hard to continue the backrub, so he rolls over on his back once more and sinks away, under the surface, letting the hot water push up against his ears and nose, spread his hair, soothe his eyes, help him forget the stuttery freeze-and-dissolve start to his day. While the production assistants work away at his pectorals, practicing their scales, learning proportion and the subtle art of dynamics, Cissy projects a series of shifting abstract patterns down from the ceiling and orchestrates the lights, tinting his visions with cerise, azure, emerald, and topaz. Soft hands lift his butt for the traditional cock-washing ceremony, speaking ritual fuckwords over him as they soap him up, manipulate his adductors, stroke him erect. Numbers flicker before his eyes; then Cissy plunges him into a deep cyaneous whirl, far below the surface–and yes, there she is, she or her virtual image, lying at the bottom, her golden hair floating free now from its simple knot, nearly green in the bathyal blues, her bared rippling flesh aglow, her sweet smile drawing him, drawing him, deeper, deeper: his true love and soulsister Cecilia, plump and complaisant, responding to his profoundest yearnings, making the world beautiful for him. What more could he ask? Slowly, majestically, he floats by, bloated with pent-up desire and gratitude, and explosively yet effortlessly looses his seed upon her: it feels for a moment like his whole body from crown to loins is joyously rent apart as though an egg were being cracked, then made whole again, healed, sealed up, renewed. As the first of the seed trickles down upon her like the trailing sparks of a fireworks display, her mouth opens, her eyes close, her limbs begin to writhe and twist. Her body seems to be trying to catch the falling seed, or to escape it, but there is no escape; the denser spray reaches her now, settling over her like the fall of snow, like those imitation snowfalls in the little glass balls: she throws her head back and thrashes about, ever more wildly as the seed cloud covers her, overwhelming her with terrifyingly relentless serial orgasms, her whole body pitching and lurching now as though plugged into an electrical circuit or thrown on a frypan, the water turning murky and turbulent, heaving him about, upending him; he’s lost his bearings, he can’t see, the water’s in his eyes and nose and mouth and there’s nothing to grab hold of–help!
He beats his way to the surface, squawking, gasping for breath, but the storm waves crash over him, submerging him again; he no longer knows which way is up or where shore might be, knows only as he is swept under, swallowing seawater, that suddenly, unexpectedly, it is all over. How can this have happened? What went wrong? Where the hell’s the stuntman? He waits, foundering inside the raging sea, for his whole life to flash before his eyes, thinking: I might at least know at last, if too late, who I am! But with water filling his nose and throat, he cannot even remember two minutes ago, much less a lifetime; how did he get here and where’s here? He seems to recall a cruise ship at sea, the captain’s tower, he had one hand on the wheel, if he remembers rightly, the other up the skirts of a doe-eyed melon-breasted lady passenger, an heiress of some sort, or a princess, wildly beautiful, and with the other he was ripping his fly open and pulling his rampantly tumescent cock out–ah, that’s right, so which hand was on the wheel? Probably how he got in trouble, not for the first time, if, alas, the last. His memory of the lady passenger, her breasts popping from her gown as though spring-loaded as his hand navigated her thighs (and what happened to her when the ship went down? has he just seen her, her luminous body barnacled with royal jewels, wriggling wraithlike below him in the tatters of her million-dollar gown, blowing bubbly kisses at him?), revives him momentarily and he battles his way to the surface once more, buoyed by his faith in happy endings and confident of his scripted prowess and resilience–or perhaps he is only dreaming that he is battling his way to the surface, just as his memory of the lady passenger may be only a dream, the dream of a drowning man, a man washed forever from the frame, lost at sea, one now, out of focus, among the unseen millions of dead and dying, sinking like a stone into watery oblivion.
A barren landscape, sparsely grassed. Near the sea, for waves can be heard softly lapping an unseen shore. Slow dolly over the crest of a pale hill to view the narrow bay below, clogged with tangled dark algae and what might be a limbless waterlogged body, rising and falling with the tidal ebb and flow, its head buried in the thick mass of floating seaweed. Giant hands appear, gliding tentatively over the hills and valleys but shying from the shore. One of the hands moves inland from the bay past a shallow sinkhole or animal burrow and over an arid ridge toward a tiny muddy mound imbedded in dark wet weeds. One finger touches the top of the mound delicately, moves it from side to side.
–She’s beautiful! So furry!
–Especially under her nose!
–But, look, Euterpe! Her breasts are crushed!
–The poor thing! Is she still alive?
–I think so. Help me pull her out of the water. We’ll take her to Calliope.
The pale terrain, now seen as the torso of a lifeless castaway, is dragged out of an algae-clotted bay not unlike that between the unfortunate creature’s hairy thighs by eight comely nymphs, naked except for bits of wispy translucent material that flutter about their glowing bodies like swirling mist.
–Be careful, Polyhymnia! She’s been stabbed by something between her legs.
–Is it something living?
–It might have been, but I think it must have drowned. Watch out, though. It may still have its claws in her.
The nymphs spread the castaway out to dry, arms outflung. They slap and stroke the body, hoping to bring it back to life again, pumping the knees back and forth against the chest, kissing the gaping mouth, blowing in the ears and nostrils.
–Look! There, under that thing that’s stabbing her!
–It’s her breasts! They must have fallen!
The nymphs touch their own breasts, trying to imagine this calamity, then, doubling the castaway’s knees back, joggle the fallen breasts.
–Careful, Thalia! They might fall off!
–Do you think they just slid down or were they there all the time?
–Maybe her mother was a cow.
–We could try to push them back up again. . . .
–First let’s see if we can pull that wormy thing out. Maybe it’ll help revive her.
–Ick! It’s disgusting! Like a dead sea slug!
–Easy, Erato! Don’t break it off! We’ll never get it out!
A few of the nymphs tug on it gently, trying to work it free, while the others worry with the displaced breasts.
–Look out! The thing’s still alive!
–It’s growing bones inside!
The nymphs squeal and fall back, watching the strange apparition rising before their eyes.
–It must be some demon!
–Is it eating her?
–See how big it’s grown!
–Maybe it’s feeding on her fallen breasts!
–That’s why they’re so tiny!
–What do you think it is?
–I don’t know, Melpomene, but it sort of looks like a woowallah!
The nymphs titter nervously and edge closer, reaching out with their fingertips to poke at it.
–Do you think she was playing with her woowallah and it got stuck inside her?
–It’s not so cold now!
–If you tip it over, it just stands up again!
A redheaded nymph, more brazen than the rest, squats over it and slowly takes it inside her. It feels like a woowallah, she exclaims, only nicer! She rises off it, then lowers herself again.
–Clio! You shouldn’t do that! It might bite!
–It may get stuck into you like it’s stuck in her!
–You may get stuck together!
The rash nymph rises and falls upon the woowallah-like thing, slowly at first, then with increasing abandon, gripping it at the root with one hand, pinching her own nipples with the other, gasping and whimpering as though in sudden terror.
–It’s already got hold of her!
–It’ll kill her!
–Someone go get a knife!
–Throw yourself off, Clio! Save yourself!
–Here! Help me! Let’s pull her away before it’s too late!
The nymphs tear their screaming companion off the strange tuberous beast between the castaway’s thighs just as a thick sap spurts from the tip of it.
–We saved her!
–In the nick of time!
–It’s spitting venom!
–Excreting it, you mean!
–Yuck! I got some of it on me!
–Wash it off! Quick!
–Are you all right, Clio?
–Of course I’m all right. It was great!
–Great . . . ! the castaway echoes faintly, eyes still closed.
–Clio did it!
–She pumped the bad stuff out!
–Killed that parasitic thing, too! Look how squishy it’s gone!
–But what’s wrong with her voice?
–It must be her fallen breasts!
–Or maybe she got too much water in her throat!
–Hello? Hello? Oh no! She’s gone again!
–Maybe we ought to pump her out again like Clio did!
–Don’t fight! We can all have a go!
A handsome silver-haired nymph, beating out the others, plants herself astride the castaway and attempts to stuff the limp noodly creature up between her legs. It doesn’t feel like a woowallah at all, she complains, and she takes it out again to look at it, doubling it back and forth between her fingers. I think it’s broken.
–Maybe you have to pull on it again, Urania.
–Rub it in your hair!
–Squeeze the breasts underneath!
The other nymphs crowd around to help.
–Watch out for the sticky stuff!
–It’s no use. Its bones are gone. Clio ruined it.
–And the poor dear’s asleep again.
–She’s suffered so much!
–But at least she’s breathing!
–You can say that! She snores worse than you, Terpsichore!
–Perhaps she’s under an evil spell.
–That would explain the hair on her face.
–Let’s take her to Calliope. She’ll know what to do.
As the nymphs lift the unconscious castaway and wend their way up toward the nymphaeum at the center of the lush tropical island, making celestial music as they go, there is a commercial break, so he takes the occasion to order up another drink, sitting by himself there on a stool at the neighborhood bar where he often goes to escape the ceaseless hassles of office and studio, or so it says in the script. On the old-fashioned nine-screen television over the bar, a trio of pubescent beauties are demonstrating the hymen-cracking virtues of three different “new improved” Lucky Pierre dildos: tumescent, semitumescent, and knotted. He can see the logic of running a dildo ad in the middle of all this girlish chatter about woowallahs, but, as the condition of his own woowallah when last seen was none of the above, there is an implicit suggestion amounting to a joke at his own expense that annoys him, and he makes a mental note to speak to Cissy about it. How many of the millions watching right now have the least notion of how difficult it is to perform that sort of cued limpness? And hold it? How many even noticed that, as Cleo was pulled off him, it dipped, according to the script, “as though to nuzzle in the fallen breasts once more”?
–I’ve got one of the old ones, says a woman at the other end of the bar. What’s improved about the new ones?
–It’s the action, says the bartender. Unbelievable. It’s like the real thing.
–Oh yeah? What real thing?
The bartender winks at him, pours him another. He should be getting back, but outside the snowstorm has worsened, and anyway his hair is still wet. That film reminds me of my childhood, the woman at the other end of the bar says, and she comes over with her drink and hikes herself up onto the stool beside him, crossing her legs with a flesh-on-flesh shush. When I was six years old, my grandfather was dying. He said he was suffering from a terrible triangulated pain whose points or angles were on each side of his groin near the hipbones and in the hole between his old gray withered cheeks below.
–Uh, yes, well, if you don’t mind, miss–
She unzips his pants, reaches inside, and pulls out his cock, effectively taking it hostage. Shouldn’t have been inside there anyway, but he was trying to keep it warm.
–He asked me to stop up the bottom hole with my finger and then to suck the pain out of the tube in the middle of the triangle, she continues, clutching his organ tightly in her fist and thumbing its head rhythmically to focus his attention. He said it had to be done to a certain steady beat, which he marked out by slapping my bottom. Sometimes, even feeble as he was, he hit it so hard I cried, and then he’d kiss it, for he truly loved me and meant me no harm. What terrified me at the time was that I couldn’t imagine, if I should suffer some day as my poor grandfather did, how I’d ever get the pain out without one of those tubes, and when I sobbed out my fears to him one day, he said to dry my eyes, sweet child, he’d give me his. But he died trying, so it didn’t stay. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for one that would, she says, squeezing, and, free hand between her legs, crosses them the other way.
He winces, nods at the bartender, who snaps his fingers, and two bouncers come over, haul her skirt over her head and knot it, and throw the woman out the door. For a moment: a bone-chilling draft. Hard to tell what time it is out there. Daylight, but dark with the clouds of snow whipped up by the whistling wind.
–Sad stories, says the bartender, as the doors close and the wind’s howl fades. I guess you hear them every day.
–She was storyboarding, he replies, hunched over his drink. Palming off a treatment. One of the hazards of the trade.
–I get it, says the bartender. You mean she probably never even had a grandfather.
–Or if she did or does, he’s most likely her agent.
On the multiple video screens overhead, the interrupted desert island flick has returned. The nymphs’ wise leader has explicated the esoteric mysteries behind their treasured woowallahs, and he, or at least his appendage, is now being received as a god by these creatures who have never seen a man before. He is evidently not displeased by this. Palms sway in the breeze. The music of flutes and lyres and the sound of waves softly lapping a shore ride in over the dampered stormwinds at his back, the clink of bottles and glasses behind the bar. Would that he might find such simple peace and happiness again!
–Oh man, what a life, sighs the bartender, following his gaze up to the screens, which look like an oversized tic-tac-toe board, crossed with O’s and X’s of flesh. Beautiful! But what I don’t understand is where in this day and age they found that island.
–About six blocks from here. We built it in the studio.
–No kidding! But all that water–?
–A windowed pool and a few optical effects. What you do is–
–Okay, please! laughs the bartender, I don’t wanna know! It’d just spoil the magic! But when are they gonna start digitizing this new stuff of yours and putting it out on the circuit? There’s some old pirated classics out there we can download and jerk off on, but–
–Never. No continuity out there. No discipline. Television is sloppy enough. It’s the movies I love. And the movies love me.
When asked, he tells the nymphs his name, whereupon the one to whom he’s been carried, Calliope, announces: Then he is our Father Pierrus, and the nymph Euterpe adds solemnly: And we are his little Pierrodies! Well, more or less solemnly. Cissy can never play a scene like this one completely straight; she always looks a bit like something’s about to crack her up. But if her acting is sometimes undone by her natural gaiety, as a filmmaker she is always deadly serious, no matter how frivolous or self-parodic the script.
As the nymphs, guided by their new deity’s instructions, proceed to use him in a variety of amorous ways, Cecilia mirrors her opening sequence by exploring the topography of the desert island as though stroking a living body, and indeed it does seem to breathe and undulate as though feeling itself stroked. His own body, possessed by nympholeptic bliss, is similarly caressed by her cameras as it was when it first washed up on shore, and when the nine nymphs bow down in front of the temple to worship his erection it appears almost to calcify, to become a kind of lingam of stone or marble, rising mightily above their quivering buttocks, aglow in the golden tropical twilight. Each movement is intricately choreographed, each shot angled and furnitured immaculately and studiously framed. At one point, Cissy/Euterpe cups her hand around his penis and blows across the top of it as though it were a flute or a bottle, making a strange whispery music, and the creamily lit pucker of her perfect lips at the edge of his pouting corona has a balanced asymmetry of shape and color so stunningly beautiful it brings tears to his eyes.
–She really knows how to toot a skin-flute, says the bartender. I’d love to get played like that! Are they releasing a single?
–Sure. In a virtual-reality version with gender-specific tactile effects, if you want them.
–Hey, you bet I do! I’ll pick one up on the way home!
On the screen Father Pierrus, also known as the Great Woowallah, is now nestled between the sleek sinewy thighs of hairless Polyhymnia, played silently by Cassie, bestowing his godly blessings upon her, while Clara, as Urania, wearing her woowallah strapped on with a thonged hip harness, penetrates him from behind.
–Wow! laughs the bartender. With nine of these nymphos, the possibilities are almost endless!
–That’s true. In fact, the director’s original idea was to include every conceivable combination and order, but the variations were so numerous it actually would not be possible to witness them all in one lifetime, even if watched twenty-four hours a day on fast forward, much less to film them all or to do that much fucking.
–Hey, I believe it. All but the last. The bartender winks again, pours another.
It’s the way Cissy approaches filmmaking. So soft and pliable in so many ways, she is uncompromising when pursuing the aesthetic implications of her films. There are no details too small to escape her artist’s eye. Even her title sequences are intricately designed works of art. He loves her for it: for her professional rigor, her integrity, her craft, her boundless energy and imagination. He loves her body too, of course, so alive and bounteous, inexhaustible in its creative gestures, and he sometimes thinks that to be able to pass one’s life exploring it and being explored by it should be enough for any man. Yet, he finds it difficult to connect deeply with Cissy, to get lost inside her, fascinated more by her professional enthusiasm than by her essence, in love with her as one might love a beautiful object or that object’s ingenious conception.
What’s most endearing about her and her films is how, almost miraculously, she makes everything new again. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, she shows you what you’ve just seen, and not for the first time, and yet you know you’ve never seen it before. She has made all her films over and over, and over and over they are a fresh delight, just as her body, revisited, is always new again, as though reinvented with each exposure.
Take The Nuns’ Gardener, one of her early masterpieces. It had a simple theme, the release of pent-up desire, the subject and theme of many such films before it, mostly forgettable except for a star turn or two. But Cecilia made it all so startlingly original and exciting it was as though no one had ever fucked a nun before. Just the way the veiled novice and the young itinerant monk, working in the nuns’ garden in exchange for his meager repasts, penetrated each other with their desperate and furtive glances when they could do no else, the way they touched themselves through their heavy garments with tentative, almost imperceptible strokes (but they did perceive them, each the other), even the way the tonsured gardener feverishly worked the furrowed soil or the nun washed and peeled the glossy vegetables for his supper proved to be so stimulating that few viewers in those days made it into the second reel without popping off. At one point, the nun, terrified by her own aroused desires, is praying her rosary in solitude before a brutally crucified Christ, whose cruel wounds have already received Cissy’s sensuous treatment. Remotely, as throughout much of the film, a hollow Gregorian chant, haunting and sober, enwraps the images like a prophylactic seal. In the poor flickery light, there is a saintly glow about the little sister’s upturned face; tears glitter in the corners of her eyes, and her silently murmuring lips tremble with an inner anguish–a chiaroscuro head shot that became one of the classic stills in cinematic history. Slowly, very slowly, her lips part, her eyes close in ecstatic contemplation. In shadowy close-up, one sees her fingers tugging at her rosary, which seems to be resisting her prayer as though in condemnation of her sinful thoughts, each bead held back as if by a divine fingertip, released only reluctantly, one by one, to her pious devotions. As the camera, slowly, meditatively, guided by the lugubrious plainchant, glides in across her kneeling thigh, it discovers the glistening rosary emerging from the damp nest between her legs like an anchor chain being hauled up from the deep, the restraining fingertip her aroused clitoris, rubbing or being rubbed by each bead with a jerking motion reminiscent of the old link-and-claw mechanisms of early film projectors. The wounded figure on the cross meanwhile is gazing down upon this sight with sorrow and pain (his hands and feet hurt) and gaping jaw but without condemnation–indeed, with a certain worshipful gratitude, as expressed principally by his little beanpole erection, poking out like a clothes-peg and gleaming as though with a high varnish. One seems to hear, perhaps as part of the cantus firmus (his wooden lips do not move), a voice whisper: Kiss me, O my beloved! (Or perhaps, Bless thee . . . or me . . .)
This is a film Cissy has remade, infinitely varied, many times over, and recently she has even, daringly, reshot the original classic, frame by frame, arguing that a camera is an eye without a memory, that nothing has ever happened before its gaze before, it sees everything, opening ever anew, as if for the first time, and thus the remake, though identical to the original in every detail, must be an entirely different film. This is, as she has often said, the magic of fuckfilms and why they have outlasted all other genres, in spite of the obvious theatrical limitations of living pricks and cunts–which have been the only performers in some of her more avant-garde films, wherein, having begun with the filming of a simple party-game frolic with blindfolds called Randy Recognitions, she has since boldly taken on all the genres and reshot the classics, often with the original scripts, but with nothing on-camera but genitalia. This fresh angle utterly revitalizes old movie bromides like “Look down there–it’s not so hard, is it?” or “Whoever he is, our killer’s disguise is both clever and cunning!” or “Get away from that lever or we’ll all be killed!” The great historical epics have been especially amenable to this creative re-casting, but Cissy has also produced a number of low-budget art-house P&C gems, such as Weenie Wisdom, Crotch Destinies, Cuntemplations, The Loving End: Fandangles and Butt Ballads, and the wittily syncopated Lap-Clapping: Twat It’s All About, which is one of her own favorites and something like a personal manifesto.
If Cissy is the artist, then he, L.P., is her long-playing star, her Cineman of Cinecity. It is he who has washed up on her desert islands, suffered heart-stopping freezes, got his dick caught in revolving doors, chafed by haircloth, used as a percussion instrument, or blown like a hornpipe, all in the cause of Beauty, or Cissy’s pursuit of it. He has captained slave ships and space ships, been both doctor and patient, valet and master, fucked his way through harems, school playgrounds, fan clubs, and subway riots. Often she is at work on several films at the same time, so he is obliged to pick up a trio of randy hitchhikers, buttfuck the new girl in the office, get silly with a monkey, and play a cunt-sniffing detective in one of her cocks-and-rubbers movies, all on the same day. First he’s mooning over the girl next door, then he’s an emperor throwing an orgy. And sometimes all these things in a single sequence, as in one of Cissy’s current projects, The Adventions of Lucky Pierre, a self-ironizing sequel to her Idventures, which, with a rhythmic but discordant intercutting of old clips with new, attempts to empty his life of conventional meaning, replacing it with a purely aesthetic one, which she thinks of as liberating–as might he, were it not such a harrowing ordeal.
Now, for example, in an Adventions clip from the silent classic The Master’s Piece, he has just dipped his prick in a pot of crimson paint and is approaching a virgin canvas when he realizes that what he is walking on is a high diving board and below him is a pool with naked leg-kicking water sprites swimming in seductive formation. He is about to dive into their midst when he finds himself not on a diving board but on the ledge of a skyscraper, high up in a wintry wind. He grabs the edge of the icy ledge in the nick of time, but as he dangles there a window opens below and someone commences to suck him off. It’s a race between coming and going, but just as his fingers slip from the ledge the scene changes and he falls through a skylight onto a bed full of masturbating women. This is a clip from Peeping Tom; he recognizes it and knows what comes next, but it doesn’t. Instead, the bed becomes a professional wrestling ring wherein he is about to meet a beautiful masked opponent known simply as Ballbuster who gets a grip on him before he can even stagger to his feet. It is not supposed to hurt but it does. Ow! he exclaims, and a voice-over, moving to the beat of the film’s visual rhythms, says, His is not to reason why but to reenact the divine phylogeny of his tribe! He is a word charged with holy appetite! He is the postulate of fortuity!
He feels himself flattening out into a computerized image projected onto a wallscreen, tickled by the roving cursor arrow as the voice-over continues:
–He quickens the rhythm of our desire! He sutures the wound! He relieves the unrelieved monotony of the world of night! His aroused blue veins are thoughts of heaven. The two cheeks of his ass signify the active and contemplative ways of life–
But even as the voice carries on, it becomes a lecture in a classroom, he standing at a lectern in frock coat and garters, admired by a roomful of infatuated high-breasted coeds in miniskirts and penny-loafers, all trying to crowd into the front seats to touch if they can the hairy seat of wisdom. Scrawled on the blackboard behind him: Phone for you, L.P.
–Hello? Oh, hello, Cleo. . . . I know it’s our anniversary, love, how could I forget? It’s always our anniversary. . . . No, I can’t, I’m into something right now, something good, we’re pretty excited about it. . . . Yes, with Cissy. . . . Now, that’s not very generous, Cleo. . . . Well, I’m sorry, why don’t you use that big black mike with the telescoping boom you were playing with in your interview this morning? . . . Sure, I caught it; you were terrific, as always. But, look, I really must get– . . . Yes, yes, I promise. . . . Right, same place, same time; I’ll be up there, you know I couldn’t stay away if I wanted to. (But why couldn’t he, damn it? Why couldn’t he?) I have to go now, Cleo. There’s someone knocking at the door–
There is a young girl at the door, smiling hopefully, dressed in a pinafore with full skirts, a buttoned blouse, and high-button shoes. Over her soft curls, she wears a lacy bonnet, tied under the chin. The man, pale, hollow-eyed, ramrod straight in his black tuxedo, scowls down at her. She curtsies, her head bowed. Words appear:
You are late!
O mercy, Sir! I am all alone in the world!
My Mummy and Daddy are in Heaven
And I must care for all the Little Ones!
Please do not be harsh!
He grimaces coldly, unappeased. He snaps his finger silently, and meekly she follows him.
They enter an ornate music room with high velvet drapes and thin patterned carpets. Daylight filters grainily through net curtains, falling on the highly polished surface of the grand piano. Bookcases and dark paintings in heavy gilt frames line the somber walls, half lost in dense shadow. On the mantel of the tiled fireplace, reflected in the gilded mirror above, are gleaming brass candlesticks, a small comport encrusted with flowers and cupids, a walnut mantel clock, a set of ivory elephants, and two china figures: a lady and a gentleman seated on couches. Bellows and a brass bedwarmer with a five-foot handle hang nearby. Along the near wall: a row of cushioned chairs with fluted legs and high scalloped backs. On two of them sit small girls, a glitter on their young cheeks as though of tears. A third child stands by the piano, wiping fresh tears from her eyes. There is a metronome on the piano, an oriental vase with dried flowers, and a polished birch rod, which seems almost to glow against the dark wood.
As the new girl enters, the girl by the piano leaves her place and joins the other two, rubbing her eyes with one hand, her bottom with the other. The new girl, watching this, glances apprehensively at her professor, at the gleaming birch rod on the piano. He sits on the piano bench, tossing his tuxedo tails behind him. He stiffens his back and with a flourish strikes an unheard chord, then nimbly runs the gamut with long white fingers. He turns to the new girl, standing uneasily beside him, still wearing her bonnet, her hands clasped nervously at her child’s breasts, smiles perfunctorily under his thin waxed mustache. He strikes a key and indicates that she is to sing the note. She purses her lips into a small o. He shakes his head, shapes his own mouth into a broad O, doubles his chin, holds his hands palms up at his diaphragm, and moves them slowly up and down as though lifting some weight. Again, he strikes the key and she attempts to sing the note, but the professor is still dissatisfied. He rolls up a quarto of music, stuffs it in his mouth, slowly withdraws it, holding his lips in the rounded position fixed by the rolled quarto. She attempts to imitate this. No, no, no! He stands, motions her to open her mouth, and pokes the rolled music into it. He shapes her cheeks around it with his fingers, as though modeling clay, ignoring her gagging. He withdraws the music carefully. Though her chin is quivering and there are tears in the corners of her eyes, she holds her lips in the molded position–but as soon as he strikes the note she is to sing, her mouth pinches reflexively into a smaller o once more. He leaps up; she clutches her mouth in guilt and fear. He pulls her hands away, stuffs the rolled music in her mouth, withdraws it partway, thrusts it in again: out, in, out, in, and finally, very carefully, out altogether. He nods, gestures encouragingly with upraised palms–hold it, just like that, dear–sits quickly, and strikes the key: success! He smiles. She smiles faintly, almost afraid to relax her mouth. He pats her hand.
The professor proceeds to climb the scale, note by note, twisting his dark lips broadly around each of the solfa syllables of the heptachord, she imitating him, anxious to please, terrified to fail, though all that can be heard is a faint staticky crackle. On the subdominant, he claps his hands over his ears and grimaces. She shrinks away, clutching both hands to her mouth. He lowers his hands, clenched in anger, glowers at the girl, then forces a grim smile on his chalky face. He commences the scale again, urging her to try harder. She takes a deep breath, once more stretches her mouth around each of the syllables–and again, on the fourth note, she offends him. He leaps up in rage and grabs the polished hickory rod. He orders her to lie down across his knees. She shakes her head, seems about to run. He smiles cruelly and repeats his order, his eyes glittering in their dark sockets. Too frightened finally not to obey, she kneels and leans tentatively forward, keeping a suspicious eye on her voice teacher. He shoves her brusquely across his lap and, holding her down by force, strikes her smartly across the skirts with his rod. She starts to rise, momentarily breaking free, her face showing confusion, astonishment, indignation.
Abruptly, she is across his legs again, her wrists bound to the bench feet; it is as though something has been passed over. Her skirts are up now, and her bottom, receiving new blows, is protected only by a pair of linen drawers. The man signals to the other pupils, and they pull the drawers down to her knees. Smoothing down his mustache, the man gloats unabashedly over his view of this smooth plump bum, still thrashing about rebelliously. Then man and bum vanish, displaced by:
What a delicious Expanse
of snow-white Bottom!
How I long to cut it into Ribbons
of wealed Flesh & Blood!
The girl is now being held face down over the piano bench by the other girls, the drawers abandoned altogether, her pinafore unlaced. The professor, standing over her with a long limber switch, wets his fingers with spittle, marks a damp spot on one cheek, and brings the switch down on it with a sharp stinging stroke. The girl writhes and plunges, but there is no getting free. Again and again he brings the willow down on her flashing buttocks, dark stripes slowly emerging there like secret writing.
–That’s great, L.P.! It looks like she’s been striped with musical staves!
–Makes you ache for a zoom lens, though, doesn’t it?
There is a pronounced bulge in the man’s tuxedo pants. One of his pupils unbuttons his fly and releases the throbbing instrument trapped within. The little girls kiss it, nip it with their teeth, and strike at it with little whisks from the bowl of dried flowers, as he administers his punishment to the girl across the bench, the stafflike welts on the horsed girl’s bottom and thighs now intricately crossed with bar lines.
–Look at that timing!
–Mmm. Those were the days when you just turned the cameras on, and if anything was going to happen, it was entirely up to the actors.
At the professor’s signal, the girls unbind the victim and turn her over on her back on the bench. She resists but feebly, exhausted with pain and fruitless struggle, though she still tries vainly to hide her pubis from view. He slaps her hand away, snaps the willow switch at her thighs and childish mound tauntingly. Her face is streaked with tears; she seems to be wailing mournfully, tossing her head back and forth.
–It’s almost tangible, isn’t it, L.P.? I mean, not being able to hear–
The other girls strip her of her pinafore and blouse, draw her chemise up under her armpits. He flicks her pubescent breasts with the tip of the willow to bring the dark little nipples erect, as the girls drag his trousers down, lift his tuxedo tails to bite his hairy bottom, snap his garters. The switch disappears. His shoes, pants, the chemise. His pupils clap their hands and peer closer as he inserts the tip of his engorged organ between her legs. A final resistance: the girl rears up, kicks, strikes out at him, seems to be screaming. The others hold her down, kiss her breasts, double her knees back, exposing her striped thighs and bottom, dazzlingly white against the dark piano bench, lick at her wounds, kiss and fondle each other excitedly. The victim’s eyes roll back, and her tongue lolls out of her mouth. He shoves and butts, but she is too tight. The girls reach in with their fingers, trying to create an opening, moisten his penis with their saliva. At last, with an enormous effort, the girls pushing from behind, he bursts through; blood gurgles out of the girl’s mouth and dribbles darkly down her cheeks and into her lacy bonnet. Her eyelids flutter briefly, then cease, showing at the end only the filmy whites of her eyes. A halo seems to form around her bonnet. After a moment, there is sudden darkness, a flicker of scrawled numbers and letters, and then light again as the film’s tail rattles out of the projector.
–That’s wonderful, L.P., how she wears her boots and bonnet right to the bloody end!
–Mmm. In those days, we fucked with our socks on.
–Never knew when you might have to make a quick exit?
–No. The floors were cold.
Cissy brings the office lights up to a soft amber and threads the film for rewind, glancing briefly at the ident trailer. He rises slowly, moved by this vintage flick of his, more moved than he’d like to admit, and goes to mix drinks at the bar.
–That’s right, says Cissy with a light laugh. You never see people balling on the floors in these old Peter Prick steamers, they always get up on something.
–Besides, you could get slivers.
Eighteen minutes of his life: how to judge them? And how judge the eighteen minutes just spent watching them? Or these passing ones, reflecting on reflections? With tears in his eyes . . .
–Wasn’t that Cally playing one of the other girls?
–Yes, the one biting my cock there, early on, and with her finger up my butt at the end. She was just a child then but already a great actress, already very beautiful. I thought that film had vanished. It was like seeing it for the first time. Where’d you find it, Cissy?
–At an auction. I couldn’t resist.
He hands her a drink. Dry nostalgic scent of cellulose nitrate in the air. Yes, some things change. Technology. Certain performance standards. But . . . ? He feels strangely insecure, as though he might have surrendered some of his own self-confidence to that music teacher he once portrayed. Or seemingly portrayed. Seemingly, once. But weren’t he and Cally child stars together? Well, the past. Random film clips.
–Did you . . . did you like it?
–Of course! I love everything you do, L.P., she says beside his shoulder, smiling up at him.
–Well, it’s not very good, he admits, gazing down into those absorbent blue eyes. I made it before I met you.
He doesn’t know if that’s true or not. It doesn’t matter. They kiss. She sucks his tongue gently, pushes her soft breasts against him. The projector, rewinding, hums and flutters.
–It’s beautiful, L.P.! she whispers into his mouth. So true to life! I love it! It brought back all my own lessons at that age. It’s just brutal! A classic! And it has that something special. Integrity! It’s what makes you great!
She squeezes his buttocks as though to squeeze his doubts away, then smiles, releasing him, and he moves to the window, away from the explosive old film, to light his pipe, an ancient habit that on this occasion does not reassure him. The snow has stopped falling, but down in the streets it is blowing still. Is this the city that men call the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth? The day is fading, and the endless streets are filled with homebound masses, butting against the wind. Distantly: a couple of fires.
–I don’t know, Cissy. Something not quite right about it. It’s left me feeling–how can I say?–as if I’ve left something of me behind in that film, and now it’s no longer what it was. Nor am I. It’s like it’s left me with an itch I can’t quite find.
He suddenly feels, as he says this, that he’s been here before, or knew he’d be here; that he’s making some vast impossible connection, as though the world has come sliding up behind him and picked him up. He knocks his pipe out, gazing down upon the statue of the Mayor in the square. The girl’s line, Cissy will–
–Maybe it’s the girl’s opening line, L.P. Maybe it’s a bit much.
He smiles wryly out upon the city, sips his drink. In sync. For a moment.
–Yeah, probably. But she really said that. I had to use it.
–In the interview before. When we were casting. She had the innocent girl-next-door quality we were looking for, only in her case it didn’t seem to be an act. When I asked her why she’d answered our ad, that’s exactly how she put it–Mummy’s gone to heaven, the whole spiel and then some–you’d have loved it! I decided not to tell her what the film was about, she’d never heard of Peter Prick, probably thought it was an animal fable for kids. On the set, just before the shooting, she even prayed for success!
Cissy laughs, returning the film to its battered old can.
–Oh wow! I thought her acting was too good to believe!
–I suppose, nowadays, I wouldn’t put it in dialogue like that, I’d just tape the interview and use it as voice-over, maybe later, during the rape.
Cissy contemplates the possibilities.
–But I don’t remember seeing her in any other films, L.P. How come she didn’t go ahead and make a career of it?
–I don’t know. She might have died.
–Yes. In the film. I think that was real life.
Cissy laughs, claps her hands.
–You’re kidding! That’s wild, L.P.! But then, how was it supposed to end?
–I don’t remember. I don’t know if we had an ending for it. Some kind of orgy probably, fuck the sadistic old master to exhaustion or something, you know.
–That’s wonderful! Now I’m going to have to have a slow look at that ending on the editing table! Besides, I want to see how you got that weird halo effect at the end.
–The gloriole. Funny. Like maybe her prayers were being answered or something. Actually, that was an accident too. It just happened we’d got hold of a piece of film without any anti-halation backing, and we picked up some refracted light from the whites of her eyes. Normally, we’d have thrown the film out and shot the scene again, but as I recall she was not available for another take.
Cissy smiles, admiring him with misty blue eyes. Sends a sweet warm flush through him, easing for a moment his troubled heart. She kisses him.
–You’re a genius, L.P.!
–I’m just an actor, Cissy. My part was easy.
–Easy! You were the one who chose the girl, weren’t you? And who else was mixing documentary techniques with scripted movies in those days? Then there’s that whole music lesson apposition with all the fantastic associative ironies; you were the one who set that up. I don’t even mention the subtlety of your own performance, those delicate shifts of expression, the minute muscular twitches, your incredible vocabulary of eyebrow movements, your sense of command.
She nudges up against him.
–And, love, whose cannon but yours could have pulled off that ending? She gives a soft tug on it, bone-hard for all the doubts and vague anxieties that assail him. No, L.P., confess: You were the reason the medium was invented!
He smiles, his unease deflected somewhat by her bubbling enthusiasm, his doubts and confusions becoming absorbed, as always, into her rich aesthetic. He has no choice. He is he who ceaselessly desires.
–Too bad, though, that you didn’t have good recording gear back then. You could have used that weird interview with the girl throughout the rape, and then, let’s see . . . maybe an unanswered question at the end, plus maybe, you know, a panegyric on the beauty of music as pure art, scrambled and scattered through the whole track!
–And all, I suppose, in the key of Fuck Minor–
–Or just A Minor!
–Ha! With a heavy beat–
–Cane Sharply on Ass Flat! And maybe a nice dry humdrum lecture on solmization and the guidonian hand as a bass continuo! Use that hymn to John, you know, that ut queant laxis thing.
–Or even melodies derived from anagrams of the scale! Like B-E-D or D-E-E-D!
–Right! D-E-A-D! B-A-B-E!
Cissy pushes a button. A panel slides away and an electric harmonium rolls into the room. She fingers the melodies they invent, working improvisations on them.
He drums on the edge of his tumbler with his pipe stem, moves to the bar to play the bottles: A BAD DADDEE! AGED CAD! A DECADE ABED! FAGGED BAGGAGE!
Cissy programs the harmonium with a progression of automatic chord changes, flicks on flashing strobelights, pops a tape of random sound effects on a DAT recorder, moves to a sound synthesizer at the workbench. She throws off her heavy sweater: DD cups uncupped. Her face is flushed with excitement now; there is sweat on her brow and between her breasts, loose locks of blond hair bobbing. He connects a tapedeck with delayed relay to a radio with a wandering tuner, puts a videotape of the history of syllogistic music on a color receiver, and sets them to sound like the drones on a bagpipe. He trains one video camera on Cissy at the workbench, programming it with alternating black-and-white switching tones, uses a second one to scan a Victorian pornographic novel, which fills the holes of the first camera’s tearing images with fractured histories of serial orgasms. The resultant image appears on a wall-size plasma crystal monitoring screen mounted behind the workbench–and thus in the first camera’s scope–producing an infinity of diminishing illusions.
Cissy dances in front of the synthesizer as she plays, bringing their improvised melody-codes to life in an orchestra of citharas and rebecs, fl”gelhorns and quint-fagotts. Her bare tits slap softly; sweat gleams on her pale freckled back. He turns film tins into cymbals and bins into drums, sets mirrors gyrating. The music history tape is on backward, proceeding from percussion and brass, through winds, to strings, from the twelve-tone dead ends back through the industrial orchestra-machine to the innovations of the postmedieval individualists. At the synthesizer, on the wallscreen, and in a thousand whirling reflections, Cissy bounces rapturously, abbandonatamente, blending crembalums with sackbuts, psalteriums with fifes, from C to C and back again: alla camera exercises on her way out of time and tonics. While there’s still any signature left at all, he yanks her culottes down, slaps her perspiring ass, her gleaming stromento da fiato, in syncopation with the wild imbroglio of percussive effects already vibrating in the exploded office. Oh fuck! he thinks. I’m alive!
–Yes, yes, L.P.! Smanioso! Fuocoso!
Whoppety-clap, giving her cheek to him that smiteth it! He smacks her multitude of glistening grundbegriffe with half his hands, rips his own clothes off with the other half. Pucka-pucka-pucka-pucka-pucka-pucka-puck! He raps her resonant ass, her back, belly, bridge, and ribs, anteludium and coda, bell and groove: he, Tubal the mighty, discovering movement, and she giving it back, a quattro mani, all of it multiplied and augmented a thousandfold, clappety-whop-whop, pucka-pucka-puck!
Still plugging into the screaming circuits their diatonic messages–ABBA! DADA! CACA! EGAD!–Cissy kisses him, tasting his lips, his uncertainties, then stoops and, multihanded, takes out his organ, that primitive ur-instrument, ancient bagpipe, regal mechanism, that original open diapason. She admires its prospect, vibrates his foundation stop, flicks the dust away between pallet and groove to stop the howling, unsheaths his draw-stop rod, blows out his flue-pipe with a blast that sends a brace of demisemiquavers rumbling out his waste-pallet and sets his cymbelstern afluttering. She takes a grip on his manubrium knob and, applying her bellows to his pipework, runs serial mutations off all his registers. Whoopee! She plays it so well, you’d think she invented it! She modulates his root, double-tonguing, while transforming, metamorphosing the pregnant themes, distorting the elemental notes, wrenching them out of their old assembly-line functions in the manufacture of progressive sound systems, destroying them as unique entities, creating a whole new sonic domain, a new geography of aural activity. B-E-A-D-E-D! C-E-D-E-D! C-A-B to C-A-F-E and F-A-D-E again! F-E-E-D again!
–And A-C-C-E-D-E, L.P.! B-E!
Meanwhile, their ghiribizzo is counterpointed with inverted dogma on the resolution of dissonances, the nebenthemas of newscasters, the spastic plaints of apocalyptics, and it’s not the words they hear but the click of alveolars and plosives, the hiss of fricatives. She lifts one thigh to commence the main exposition, and he fingers her f-hole, sets her plectrum quivering, her valves hopping, her rosebud resonating. Frantic zoom shots of their duodrama surround them on six sides, infinitely mirrored and refigured, presided over by a four-gun video image of Monteverdi jacking off backward: the broadcast semen is sucked back up his instrument and his flushed face turns pale and cold, the art of instrumentation now just a gleam in the father’s refocusing eye. Cissy frets with his capotasto, while he blows a jubilant blast up her pipeworks; it sets her golden belly quavering, then comes rumbling brassily down her windway: poop-titty-poop-poop-WAAAH! Hey! He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so there may be hope! BLAAAAT!
Then, volti, into her a punto d”arco, probing her arriswise, as she lowers her own membraneous reeds over his jack, his quill, his pomposo piccolo, an allegro di bravura movement full of executive difficulties, cadenza d”inganno worthy of a virtuoso–thy breach, my love, is great like the sea!–oh, he knows they’re watching, knows the whole world is watching, all that pass by clap their hands at thee, knows and revels in them, hello folks! yes, and knows he’s good enough: the master! He vibrates in her tits, her ass, her mouth, her pussy, T-A-M-P! T-A-M-P!, runs the body-gamut up and back again: TAMP! TAMP! TAMP! The ur-beat, arsis and thesis, recte et retro, ductus circumcurrens, stroking her to Helicon and back! Oh goddamn, he’s blowing jism everywhere, but he’s really up, up to stay, per omnia saecula saeculorum, man! over and over, their canon perpetuus, their fa plagal doxology, missa anti defunctis, their canticum canticorum: he thundering out the dux in his intrepid baribasso, I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath; and his love responding in her sweet antiphonal
who can heal thee?
discant . . .
Excerpted from The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Directors’ Cut
©2002 by Robert Coover. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.