Fiction - The Wormwood Collective, Absinthe Literary Review

The Denouement
a short story by Frank Pulaski

Since time is an illusion and all events are predetermined, punishment often precedes the transgression. 
– Isaac Bashevis Singer

And I could have been a contender but for your mama’s ass. Science, math, philosophy and religion can’t figure your mama. Your little sister came unto me, and I sent her home. I told her to send back your mama. And like Prufrock, I wept and fasted, fasted and prayed. Yet the dragon set the church on fire, burning the ass off of your mama’s red dress. What a full-hipped mama, what an image of virtue, as she places the seed of whoredom into her Betty Crocker cookies. 

When I read this piece to Doctor Alswanger, he only shrugged and answered, “It is not a sin to go to the whorehouse; the sin is not wanting to come out.” And no one ever told me, not one wise man, not even Alswanger, that the knowledge of today becomes the prison of tomorrow, the cell-block of your brain, and that this so called knowledge eventually distills down to a series of reflexive knee-jerk reactions, one’s repertoire so to speak. And the only constant, the only thing that I had been certain of in my life, was my dick, the anxious dragon between my legs. And death today is a minimalist proposition, very black and white, stripped of all glamour and color, the sparse stage-set of a starving playwright. This emptiness breeds fear in men, and enables drug companies to sell a lot of I want to live forever pills. But for men of antiquity, classical men, men of imagination, death was in Technicolor. It was quite a drama with breathtaking scenic vistas. Heavens and Hells were exploding cornucopias of orgiastic colors, hypnotic purple-haze mandalas. Spirit guides sported plumage, wore armor, rode noble steeds, like the world of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. So how I ended up with a spirit guide like Doctor Alswanger (or Professor Alswanger) an ancient and wrinkled old gentleman who referred to himself as a philo-theologian, Alswanger the Cabalist, a man who some in the cafeteria referred to as a “prick,” and still others as “the professor of shit,” and who Lucy Butarovska, a Polish enchantress and the love of my life, adored as a deep, enlightened spiritual visionary, I will never know. 

My death was rather symbolic: an enraged, jealous son blew my brains out when he caught me fucking his mom. The blast was like fireworks, very surprising, and immediately transported me into a state of warm floating rapture, like an orgasm. And death is anything but black and white. Almost immediately, female forms began rising up out of the darkness, bodies adorned, aglow in neon like Time’s Square advertisements. It was a panorama of your mama’s ass in all its rich and vast variety. And I remembered Alswanger’s teachings, which said that these were phantom images, illusions from my own mind, that lure men back into eternal existence, like Odysseus lured by the Sirens to his near fatal destruction.

Yet even in death I am self-conscious, self-conscious about the hole in my head and its leaking contents. Collective thoughts and personal memories are passing through my disembodied consciousness like food passing through the bowels of a fleshy body, my final mental crap. I am the sum total, the aggregate of all things that I have read. I can only give you pre-packaged, regurgitated, literary digestion. I truly doubt the possibility of original thought (or sin) on my part. My sole source of creativity is my penis. And because my thoughts and ideas were never indigenous to me, they are fragmenting, swirling, departing my blasted skull. So it is quite possible that what Shakespeare wrote I may attribute to Sartre, and what Sartre wrote I may attribute to whomever.

Some call this death chamber the Bardo, some Limbo, some might even call it Hell, whatever. All you can do here is hang around, head pounding, hands wringing, waiting for a movie, and the film department is right in your own head, but you never know when your projectionist is ready to run the clip—the schedule is erratic and impromptu. And that’s all you get, a clip, and the following parts are always out of order. Then there’s the rising and falling action, tumult following quiet, panic following tumult, then finally the swirling-twirling vertigo. I enjoy the porno clips, exciting film shorts about your mama’s ass. My favorite is Your Mama’s Anal Anxiety: Part Two. If only you knew what a whore she was. But Alswanger frustrates everything, interrupts every movie with his irritating sing-song Jewish voice, warning me that these are only bodies of illusion, bad habits remaining from my life on Earth, that I should raise my sights, aspire to beatific visions—on and on he goes. Hoping to inspire me, the ridiculous man quotes Schopenhauer. What a fool. Here, your books cannot save you. 

Sometimes I think that Alswanger is the mythical Wandering Jew, sentenced to witness eternity. Where he came from—some say Poland—and what he really is, no one is quite sure. I met him years ago at Manny’s Cafeteria. I was still in my late thirties. Even then he was old, thin and brittle, with perpetually tearing eyes. He enjoyed throwing the idea of God into peoples faces, as would any good devil’s advocate. He wanted to test and challenge you, see how you handled abstract reasoning. He asserted that “God-thinking” was the original bedrock, the referent, of all ensuing philosophical, scientific and imaginative thought, and that every writer on these subjects, from the Renaissance on, especially the Existentialists, were plagiarists who refused to accept and take into account this fact. Therefore, no plausible truth could ever be arrived at. “I am not selling you God,” he once said, “I am only stating that they were and are full of shit!” 

To understand Alswanger, and me for that matter, you have to understand cafeteria life. The closest comparison today would be coffee-house culture, the difference being that with cafeteria life you had arrived and didn’t want to be anywhere else. Whereas, a coffee-house is a place where one sits and contemplates an ultimate transition, a future successful life. At that time, around 1980, there was still a remnant literary life outside of universities. The cafeteria was that place. For me, it was a refuge from my string of bars, a place I could live out my secret book life, a place to read and hide, a place to overhear and sometimes join interesting conversations. There I met Alswanger and his group, Lucy Butarovska was part if it, and I knew that I had arrived. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Day and night, for years, I was in that cafeteria. We were growing old together. Then the kid blew my brains out, right when I had it in his mom’s ass. In my opinion, he was too old for such jealousy, about twenty-two. Dead and disoriented, I went directly to the cafeteria, and no one could see me. I was just in time to hear Alswanger recite an appropriate eulogy for me before I slipped into the death chamber. He regarded my case as an unfortunate truth, one that he was unwilling to accept, and his eulogy was the symbolic nail in my coffin.

I am speaking of his anti-rationalist philosophy. This philosophy is the big problem, the big trouble. It is a sad truth that will not take no for an answer. We are speaking of an extreme hedonism which sees in eroticism The Thing in Itself. So that in his way of thinking, reason was seen as the lowest form of being. All things from a grain of sand to the Godhead itself are copulation and union. So now you must see that his suffering was nothing more than a negative expression of eroticism. And that Frank, through error, was forever searching for sexual salvation through his perversions.


“The love song of J. Frank Prufrock”


My name is Pancho, I work on a rancho

I make thirty pesos a day,

I go to Lucy to get some pussy

She takes all my pesos away.

I do not know whether it is day or night. My head-projectionist has chosen a rather obscure film clip from the past, when I was just a child. I was raised with my aunt and uncle and their nine kids, like the army. Our neighbor, Lucy Lopez, was an attractive, full-figured Mexican woman, maybe in her early thirties. Her boyfriend’s name was Hector, Hector Lopez, no relation. I see him now outside her window, like in the past, crying, drunk, crooning a very melodic and very dramatic love song. He stretches her name out, Lucy, into a lyrical expression, into an incantation, intoning over and over again, until the name and attending words become mesmeric, enrapturing: Luuuuuuuuu-cy, give me some Puuuuuuuuus-sy Lucy, over and over again, through tears, Lucy Lucy, give me some pussy Lucy. It was and is the most genuine display of erotic emotion that I have ever witnessed. The Gods should have taken pity on Hector, as they so often do, by transforming his sorrow into a constellation, the constellation of Hector Lopez. 

The idea comes to me from Lucy Butarovska. She said so many interesting things. That love was a limbo of sorts, a compromise between heaven and hell, an autism. That the Coleridge poem “Kubla Khan” was a metaphor for violent creation, the fertilization-life with the blood-death of others. But her most inspiring idea was her constellation idea. She made a poster of Marcello Mastroianni, an old Italian film star, with an essay-poem attached. It was titled:

In Perpetuity, The Eternal moment of Marcello”

Marcello’s car rides the vista del Roma, the party ride, the club scene,
Always on the way but never arriving, because the event of arriving
Would consummate and thus end the scene. It happens. To continue
Marcello must step back, stand outside of himself, like a motion picture
Camera, and imagine himself driving and riding, almost ready to 
Arrive, which in actuality perpetuates, for all time, his riding the vista del
Roma. Like Hamlet, Marcello is now a literary model, rather a literary 
Constellation. Love exists in this context and cannot in any other. As
Marcello must never arrive, love must never consummate.

By profession, Lucy was a cleaning lady, a scrub-woman, a literary office cleaner. For a woman in her forties, she was a knockout. Full hips, small waist, full thighs, and a full solid ass, plump and buoyant. She was very dark with short black hair. She had the high oriental cheekbones of a Tartar woman and the black eyes of a Sephardic Jew. She had a thick Polish accent. Imagine, a cleaning lady with literary aspirations. Yet this is what she was. The very idea that she was a scrub-woman excited me beyond belief. I’d pay her to clean my apartment. It was our private little lust game. She’d show up with rollers in her hair, wearing a ragged floral scrub-woman’s dress. I bought her expensive, sparkling spiked heels, pedestals of delight. I’d watch her clean, bend, and stretch reaching, showing pieces of ass and thigh. Eventually I’d say that I suspected that she wasn’t a cleaning lady at all, because only a whore wore shoes like she wore; and because of the rips that she had in her dress, the peeks of exposed flesh, she had to be a cheap whore at that. They say that Napoleon didn’t want Josephine to wash, and the same was true for me. The more she would stink, then the more she was even a cheaper whore. I can see Lucy now in her apartment with her son. And now I am Hector Lopez, crying, as he cried, tears streaming down my cheeks, and intoning, as he intoned, my love song to Lucy Butarovska. I do not want to die. I do not want to go away. I want to stay locked up with Lucy in some love constellation, forever and for all time. I understand why her son was so crazy for her, and can even forgive him for blowing my brains out. I can see him now, sharing her bed, submerged, as a song-writer put it, in her warm black hair. The sight of them together, in fact, turns me on.

Alswanger is pissed! He’s read my thoughts. He’s on a rant, shouting that there will be no eternal moments, no such constellations, that everything, all illusion will one day be erased from the Book of Life, that time eats everything. He’s preposterous, a magician of sorts, opening a portal and revealing a scene. It’s the dust bowl, Kansas, during the depression. There’s a bunch of hicks standing around, guys come up off the farm to see the carnie show, the circus acts and the hoochy-coochy girls, just like in old Rome. These hicks are fascinated, mesmerized, hypnotized, drooling their asses off, backslapping, blushing, chanting golly golly golly, golly golly golly. The can’t get enough golly. They keep wanting the circus man to do it again— to play it again, Sam! I’m getting a show like Scrooge got, but it’s not Christmas.

“And how then, my friend,” he says turning to me, “are you any different? I will tell you now, unequivocally and un-categorically, that from the beginning of time until your last syllable of recorded time, that man, call him cave-man, classical-man, Renaissance-man, mass-man, computer-man, artist-man, and finally you, ass-man, was, is, and always will be, a HICK! nothing more, nothing less. HICK! MESHUGAH! Who is not captured by, and a prisoner before, his own phenomenon? Does not the artist golly before his work? Does not the stock market man golly before his profit sheets? Does not computer man golly before his computer screen? How about the soldier at his war? One is transfixed, like you, and would golly for all of eternity. This you call a life? Your eternal moment is the idea of a HICK! And who then is this mama you are seeking anyway, and how big must these buttocks be? MESHUGAH!”

I have always sought comfort in your mama’s ass. True, I was an orphan of sorts. I never saw my mother’s face, not even a photo. She up and went. Marriage was not for her. The issue of a father unresolved. I was passed around the family. My grandmother took me in and then an aunt. Both were kind, caring loving people. I was sent to school, educated. In fact, I never had a shortage of sympathetic women. I was the poor abandoned child. Women would squeeze me into their breasts. Yet you know what any Psych 101 student would say. But this answer is too easy. Perhaps, ultimately, this student’s judgment might be correct. But there’s another part to the story.

For as long as I can remember, a woman had to be married or have children in order for me to have an interest in her. Somewhere in time I had gotten it into my head that giving birth was a woman’s initiation into the mysteries, that a woman with children, a married woman, could take you into a world that an uninitiated female couldn’t dream of. Thus I became a predator for your mama. I went so far as to take a job as a staff writer for a small newspaper, The Home Journal, circulation 20,000, just so I could cover neighborhood PTA meetings and The Woman’s Rotary. I was twenty-two and hot, at the peak of my form. I did my job well, showed concern, did up-close personal interviews. Went out to the house to get the story, an in-depth look at your mama’s social concerns. God did I score. I was the fox in the chicken coop.

And here’s something I never understood. It was so very important to me that your mama cross a line, that she consciously violate some sacred trust, some secret understanding that she shared with you, be it as a son, husband or daughter. It was essential that she be duplicitous. I was at a wedding. Your mama was crying, giving away her only son, cleaning her lipstick off of your cheek. The scene made me almost explode with lust. For I knew that in a few hours your mama would be running in front of me in sparkling spiked heels, pedestals of delight, naked, ass jiggling in the wind, screaming, “Monster, you monster!” And if you are thinking that I disrespected her, you are wrong. Even as I aged and she aged, I was true and was never distracted by younger woman. I needed her, loved her, but in the context of the comfort of her evil. And one thing that you must know: Your Mama swallowed; she did not spit. 

Alswanger’s here. I can tell by his expression that it’s time to buy a ticket, make choices, time to move. We walk together, solemnly, towards the summit to witness an event he calls The Great Work. How strange that in life this man inspired me but here he’s a pain in the ass. 

“You witness today, my friend, the erection of man’s salvation,” he says beaming. 

We are elevated, a vast panorama is spread out before us in black and white. Below there is a tremendous rift, a very deep division in the Earth. At its center there is a large cleft, cunt-like in shape. Beyond it, there is another elevated summit like ours. Butarovska is there, all the women gathered round her. She sits in their midst, with her sparkling spiked heels, crowned in laurel, their queen. They show no emotion, have cold, hard expressions. On our side, directly opposite the women, are all the noted philosophers, mathematicians and scientists of history. They are to construct a bridge of reason to cross this cunt-like cleft to Lucy and her horde. And in so doing, for once and always, reconcile the penis with mathematics. I think this means that they want to teach my dick to use reason. This then is The Great Work, and has all the makings, I suspect, of a great dime show. This is nothing like the Devil taking Christ to the summit.

Indeed, the field of brainpower is impressive. I swear to you, they are all here: Newton, Kepler, Euclid; Hegel, Descartes, Kant; Einstein, Oppenheimer, Fermi and more. Corporate interests are also in attendance. The major drug companies are consultants to the project because all sexual fear, guilt and anxiety are to be gulfed by this bridge. They will add medication to the equation that Einstein works on, smooth over any rough edges. How fast they work, cranes, booms, gigantic machines, man’s total historic mental and industrial capacity being put to the test. Einstein and Euclid merrily clicking away on calculators. Oppenheimer and Newton, the blueprint men. What a strange structure. It resembles a giant, distorted cock. The whole Goddamned thing is creaking and trembling. It moans. A group of Arabic engineers are getting nervous. “Too much stress, too much stress!” they warn. Guess what, Freud has shown up. He’s pissed. “Why was I not consulted?” He’s going to kick the shit out of Oedipus. Kant is on a rant, “Fucking loafers, harder work harder!” he shouts. Alswanger, too, is getting edgy, sticks his two cents in, “There is much here, at stake, do not falter.” The drug company guys are offering pills, “Calm calm remain calm.” Fucking assholes. The metal support crossbeams, under what would be the testicle section of this bridge, are too heavy, are coming loose. The lost weight, the counterbalance, is driving the bridge higher up into the air, like a raging hard-on, instead of across the cunt-like cleft. The whole structure is vibrating, violently. Butarovska and her crowd are having a hoot, laughing, shouting, mocking. “Hey Einstein!” she shouts, “do some great work on this!” She’s exposes her cunt, lewdly squeezing and fondling it. “Oy oy oy!” Alswanger’s laments. Lucy unleashes her forces, a surprise attack. They flash their asses, showing off their cracks, farting, snarling, grinding and humping. The scientists, seeing this, lose it; engineers go haywire; Freud’s all fucked up. The work force is masturbating, whacking off, shouting in anger, “Whores fucking whores!” Then suddenly, from the cleft, the dragon rises up, shooting fire flame passion! You can see that he’s piping hot. The women blow kisses, “Hey, hot stuff—over here!” And with one giant roar, one tremendous breath of flame, the dragon brings down The Great Work, and the feminine horde cheers. Human reason has collapsed under the weight of its own balls. Screw it. I cross the moist, wet cleft below to check out those ass-cracks. I will climb up unto the other summit to the heights of unreason. “Lucy Lucy,” I call. Alswanger’s trying to stop me. I tell him to fuck off but he won’t. He’s still on his salvation kick, urging me to higher vistas and visions of myself. Lucy’s getting away, her massive ass jiggling, in her sparkling high heels, her pedestals of delight. Alswanger’s got me by the cuff. He’s fucking things up. I turn and crack his skull with a stone. It will be his last “Oy oy oy!” I’ve got this incredible urge to serve Lucy, literally serve her as if she were deity. 

Disembodied consciousness is no fun. It is too volatile, erratic, like unstable chemical substances, like floating in the ether. It’s an acid trip, at first good and then bad. And then there’s the fragmentation. Each part of yourself that breaks off is accompanied by tears, loneliness, a traumatic sense of loss. I believe now that all mental qualities are extraneous, peripheral to The Thing in Itself, and The Thing in Itself is most certainly the cock. And death then is nothing more than a distillation, a shedding, part by part, of mental qualities, until you arrive at your prime substance, sex, the fire breathing dragon.

The Yiddish writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Alswanger’s favorite, once said that “The Messiah will not come until all Earthly passions have been consummated.” So how long do you think this will take. Surely some mathematician worth his salt should be able to come up with an estimated arrival time. Go figure, Mister Math, how much cunt, cock and ass will satisfy the reasonable human being. The variables would be those with sexual eating disorders, large and voracious dragons, but still a date can be figured. The same wise man who postulated the Messiah Theory also said that we are always seeking shortcuts, that somewhere in time the reason and purpose of existence will be revealed. Thus the man and woman who chant Om Om and Om are seeking a shortcut, an easy way out. They are terrified by what’s between their legs. Like Saint Marcos of Leon, they want to avoid the disgrace of the dragon.

Alswanger’s right, this eternal moment concept, is just a subterfuge, a hideout, a progress halting autism. Hamlet and Marcello can go and fuck themselves. They can stay frozen in time and imagination for as long as they want. I’ve had enough. I’m going for the brass ring. I’m going to get out of this mess. I’m no longer going to put off the inevitable. I’m going to finally burn your mama’s ass out of my system, the hard way, the only way. Maybe I can knock a couple of million years off of my eternity sentence.

In this final denouement, here in this death chamber, this beautiful but sparse Bardo plane, I’m waiting to cross the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, there to be embraced by Morpheus, the god of dreams. I can see my future life. I am experiencing a barbaric rapture of sorts. I am to undergo an archetypal journey to the heart of creation—to a realm that Goethe called the Realm of the Mothers, a journey both terrifying and mystical. There to melt into a sea of warm milky numbness, to be reabsorbed into a womb. It will be a chthonian epiphany. There is a blonde bombshell standing on the opposite bank. She is to be my mother. Her name is Lucy. And when she was young, the men called her Juicy Lucy. I’ll tell you this: when I reach the age of thirteen, my father is a dead man, and my public name will be Oedipus.

Om Om Om and Om, creeps in this petty pace ...

Om Om Om and Om, and I want to live forever.


© 2003 Frank Pulaski

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