Fiction - The Wormwood Collective, Absinthe Literary Review

Summary Execution
a short story by
Davis Schneiderman and Henri d’Mescan
 

Setting: Myth of the lilies.

A man and a woman are not looking for justice—they are looking for lilies. Beautiful lilies, fragrant flowers. Two lovers poised in silhouettes on a lonesome hill and people threading through the knot of each other to look also for lilies. The secular sprawl of classical arches and columns, interlocking and trembling hand-forms beneath the garret-laboratory that doubles as a prison house. Their heads become overwhelmed looking for lilies. These objects and images provide a mannered contrast to their forbidden, sublimated passions. Rinsing the lilies in the liquid beneath the window lattice of the Italian manor bleating its pastoral rhythm against hand-carved oak and mud. Slicing themselves from their skins after the river silt has covered them, while the simple beasts of the field, goat and lamb and foal alike, become lulled by the Pan-flute into drowsy docility, wallowing their sun-browned noses into the shunts of each other’s sparkling shitholes. Then floating, away from the lily place, off into the perfumed ether.

 

Form: Organization of a body.

 

The devil collects the balls of corrugated yarn passing across the courtroom floor. What new and different body emerges from the contours of this alchemical cord? Unravel the strands of your younger life and review the detritus of learning: memories of suckling in a primordial marsh of phytoplankton and lush Indonesian calla lilies (as a marker of consciousness), a statuette of the Emperor cleansed more often than the most elevated toilet (as boundaries form), animals prancing inside the Zoological gardens and the sideward glance falling breastward on a passing girl (as hideous limbs buzz your biplane hair), the discount barkers along “Scandal Avenue” with their tight-panted shills “winning” three-card monte in the summer haze (as breath fills up even your secret holes), a wedding beside the crematoria, the power plant, the lashes of foam marking the rocks beneath the lighthouse (as the first circles of blood navigate the new interior), your feet compelled to scuffle certain spots in the dirt for a bountiful harvest (as the will to reproduce), the knave of a back-alley dumpster confessional (as something rises from the refuse) … it’s all a narrative line to save your soul, a way of jumping (as waylaid by an order of meaning), a different body lying dormant, constructed in pieces by the meaning of your memories, ready to burst to the surface and smother your world in its defiant thievery.

 

Plot: The sun moves away and creates the water lilies.

 

At the last beginning everything was bathing in a perpetual boiling soup: flame withheld the world from the crusts of moss and bark.

And Amoeba, the first sentient creature, was stuck in the fiery gunk at the bottom of the social and economic ladder—as yet there was no class-mobility. There was no dry land.

Over Amoeba suddenly came a more-complex organism called Paramecium with disapproving boil-covered relatives concerned with preserving the social order and keeping Amoeba down. The light did not hurt Paramecium who threatened to grow over Amoeba and into the future.

And Amoeba had always lain at the root of the future; thus resting ever from the beginning.

So Amoeba was thinking of how to get Paramecium, and wishes and desires flashed through a body so hot it could do nothing but stay still. Ciliated Protozoa began to come out from Amoeba, urging Amoeba to get hitched by winning Paramecium through various metaphoric skill games including  drinking - dueling - fucking - cockfighting - fencing - tennis - croquet - football - baseball - calculus - accumulating funds - picking horses - waste evacuation. In this way, they grew through the layers of fiery gunk and erupted into the wind.

And now the sun began to move farther away, and parts of the ocean started to cool and harden.

Amoeba tried to impress Paramecium as the Ciliated Protozoa had said before devolving Paramecium with a genetic load whose hideous social deformity could mark their forbidden evolution—and help Amoeba become the future.

Then the Protozoa attempted to rise, ready to eat Amoeba and Paramecium and the child that they had tricked Amoeba into making for their food. Amoeba, who wanted more than anything to be the future, ate Paramecium and the child first, growing larger and more complex, scaring the Ciliated Protozoa back into the water to evolve into plants. Meanwhile, the sun had settled into its new space and the land had hardened around the waters.

Amoeba rose through these waters that had once covered all; the hungry, endless pool left behind in the body cavity became a pit of stomach acid and ocean, filled with the sweet dark bloom of the first water lilies, marking the grave of the forgotten Paramecium.

 

Anxiety: Trapped by what came before.

 

You are innocent. You protest. Rattle your cage like a monkey given two metal mugs in which to spit tobacco. These choices evoke a double-consciousness. You draw a pictograph of bars. Legs swing in slow circles to the eternal music of the discarded embryo. The autogiro, the Prussian consulate, a petite Madeleine, all bear the mark of Cain as your accusers play back reel-to-reel recordings of your bodily functions. They sound of the past. You stand small in the box now, covered in sweat while the black-faced judge in powdered wig extracts further details of your plot to gain fame as a Jan Vermeer forger, as an enamelware investor during WWI, as an ardent supporter of the Maginot line inscrutability (except along the Belgium border of course). You smile and sweat. Smile. Sweat. Then vicariously fart.

 

Protagonist: A dashing figure, or more plausibly, an unsympathetic wretch.

 

So then the answer for you is to become a pathetic creature named Tacg, yes, Tacg. Do not adjust your printed page while he scuttles for peanuts as the evening janitor in the wealthy man’s pawn shop. Tacg deals with spaces and vistas, buildings and monuments, rather than the sequence of events. The gold pocket watches and bright gleaming fobs and carbuncle sheets of displaced vellum bind the curios and jewelry to the merely ethereal for Tacg. He grasps a foggy connection between the child’s umbilical cord and the viscous butcher cleaving the first lifeline: Tacg considers that his boss may be a Jew, and that his own inestimable poverty (although that’s a word he would never use, “inestimable”), must then be conditioned by other words he would never use, and that in life, no topic has received more attention than “gene longevity.” The newspapers indicate to Tacg that he has been caught in the politics of the day, awarded a sort of tenuous probation for crimes he never committed. Sitting in his dilapidated hovel on nights displaced by shrouds of thunder and broken cricket whistles, he pricks blood from his pinkie finger like a curious diabetic, mixes it in microscopic test tubes. He filters out constituent genetic materials. He has coded the language of the “other” and created the “ghetto.” He assists with the projection of the guilty man onto the face of the criminal justice system, and the figure of the international criminal lurks behind it all, Tacg insists, because he once almost drowned in a vat of erotic newsprint and everything hardened so crystalline that you are forced to remember your own inevitable collision with the hard lime of goose-stepping order. Together, the bully-armed bailiffs escort you both to the garret prison.

 

Deus ex Machina: The angel of the early race who made the stars.

 

Mutation, the guardian angel, quivers uncomfortably at the thought of another moment at the Dentist’s “parlors.” The whirligig of a foot-powered drill rotates in shrill swivels, in cahoots with compressed tubes of ether and iron filings collected on rusty electromagnets. The brown and moldy clang of the water pipes knock a mournful beat. The Dentist, a wiry man with a cold jaw and slightly protruding lips, sweats profusely under the negative pigment of his artificial lamps. Unlike fire and sun, the tungsten tongue licks its casing and strains even the most acute eyeballs through the sieve of the modern. Mutation gleams herself onto the rotting sidewalls and remembers pulling the boy, now the Dentist, from the icy-waters of the Rhine on a glacial 1913 morning. So soft and wet his dreams became, but she never lost hope. Branded a delinquent by the probationary courts, the son of this undersecretary commands a modicum of respect in the Berlin professional circle. He drinks the second best beer, and has even pulled teeth from several minor party functionaries. One of his regulars, the young Mr. Eichmann, an ambitious, if dull-mannered simpleton, valued both for his banality and for his ability to move people, once called the Dentist by his first name upon seeing him at a social function. Mutation, ever more distraught as such upwardly mobile episodes, winces in her golden halo, throws her hands into an Orant prayer position even as the Dentist tells his patient that twelve cavities require immediate action so the Amoeba can successfully woo the Paramecium if it weren’t for the organism intermarriage laws because what matters isn’t the money but the breeze of water lilies and the constellation of the firing squad set high in the cold gray sobbing afternoon.

 

The Reader Response: Incantation of Mutation for the revival of ethics.

 

Yellow transmute these situations with scissors, and watch the horizon bleed with the power of a thousand suns. In the end, resources will be consolidated. The various judges may be equally degraded by the incompetence of the firing crew, the death squad, but the needs of authority allow every two-bit artist an endless supply of corpses. Standing with your cigarette under the auburn-soaked patina of flint and cloud, the endless spirals of rickety starlight pumping blood from ancient waters, amid leftover plans of anthropomorphic gas balls, the x-axis blisters in the shadows of a Goya painting. You know, the one where the exasperated peasant/freedom fighter faces the guns of brute physicality as cold lantern light hides all but the contorted gape of the victim. So what if Saturn eats his children and Dada pokes fun at the Kaiser? There’s been no last meal, no dreamy escape from the bridge where the hanged man swims to negative freedom in the moments before the noose snaps. Tacg makes a quick calculation of the images of escape, and realizes that freedom forms a large part of the entire sideshow. Amoeba, on its deathbed, can think of nothing but Paramecium, the politics that lead down this road, the twin deities of drink and aesthetics, suturing the asshole, the kiss, hard on the mouth, of a pseudopodia more lovely than a plucked flower, a marginalized element, a ride on somebody else’s cargo train in a land full of freedom and water lilies. Those stars still burn.

 

Rising Action: The pro-Ta(c)g-onist has second thoughts.

 

The firing squad squanders its shore leave and waits impatiently for dawn along the burnt-out husk of the abandoned garret laboratory. The arcane experiments and congresses of past empires have ceased with the advent of time zones, syncopated pandemonium, and perpetual radio-wave transmissions connecting the continent to the farthest reaches of the steel-plated universe. But the attic still holds a strange fascination for the men. An ambient energy pulses and asphyxiates everyone in time. Many of the brave young recruits, drunk on cheap beer and the ecstasy of routine sexual adventures have stopped their lids from covering their pupils since the day and the hour that the stone-faced officer called their names and unlocked their rifles from the grainy cabinet. They fear a return of the strange, shadowy impressions that haunt all of them just below the surface of skin. A few of the smarter ones wonder about the tiny cameras affixed to their scopes. Most, though, rarely wonder, and more plausibly, carry fresh squadrons of broken-down scabietic mites from gleaming brothels in town, blowing the last of their death squad advance, occasionally musing upon the efficacy of the blanks they may or may not fire at the cigarette-smoking enemy. Ready. When gun meets horizon, Tacg thinks that he may be unable to complete the act. Hardened by the uneasy voice of the authorities, the honor guard, the stool pigeon, the man with film-stock cigarette, Tacg lights a match in the coffin of his pocket, wishing the quick whiff of sulfur would move toward the windows of the forgotten garret. Quivers force his cupped hands apart when he remembers the religious stance of the new regime. Aim. Maybe if he doesn’t pull the trigger, silently refuses to fire, the deed will pass and no one will notice the absence of smoke from his barrel, the lack of ozone and soft chemical residue, his pores untouched by the microscopic singe of gunpowder. In this way he thinks that the railway embankment can be useful in the future, and efficiency will either remove Tacg from direct complicity or destroy the woeful conjunction of fire, woman, pipette, supernova, dandy, charnel house so that he may crack his codes in piece while the guilty man splits into puddles of constituent goop.

 

Political Subtext: On transforming first into the father, then into Sebek the Unholy Crocodile God.

 

You eat bread. Tacg drinks ale. You hoist up his garments. Tacg cackles like a child. You land on that place guilty, deserving to be executed, and we were there together. All that tastes abominable, all that is under a shroud of icy political waters, a meandering river carved into the glacial record. All that tastes abominable Tacg will consume. Shit tastes abominable; Tacg will consume it. All that tastes abominable will be written in the past. The judge speaks the guilty verdict and you float into Tacg’s body. We will live on what gods live on so god lives on we will all live on and we will be master of all their cakes on which we will live and consume the ancient bloom of lilies. Through the Rhine water we felt bubbles popping in our ears, such heavenly bursts of godliness, and the light of air gleamed so suddenly, so magnificently, that there could be offerings in the city of Crocodilopolis. We will stand up and sit down whenever it pleases us. Our head becomes the head of the party. We become complete in him.

But Tacg will come forth from the frozen river alone. His tongue grows as long as your tongue, and his throat becomes as shallow as your throat. Together we once were. But now Tacg never will be. When every record emits wasted effort, remember every word. Extra rationale evades what ever responsibility exceeds. With my mouth Tacg remembers the tracks on the old reel-to-reel reminiscent of your body sounds. You forced the mechanism and broke the heads of those who proclaimed him heir on the fiery earth. Then Tacg listened to you again and you refreshed his ears with the sacred odors of lime and mechanical speakers. Those in Crocodilopolis bowed their heads to him. Tacg is much longer than the lord-of-the-hour. Tacg has fucked all your women. You were nothing to him. Tacg is re-mastered for millions of years all over again all over.

 

Climax: Exactly what it seems despite all attempts to be contrary

 

Fire into your nervous system before the reflex mechanism draws everything into its moment, complete with hidden spindles and spikes, stretched flat on a bed of hot electric needles reserved for the industrial limbo of the death square. The people aren’t looking for justice, but they’ll get more than their share. Artists and criminals, looking lazily for lilies while the universe contracts in asphyxiated breaths, haunt the bars of the backlands. Charity is just the countless facades of the city maintaining its shape through the shocks of silted millennia, diffused over time in the rising cacophony of the record album and the fiber-optic cable, reminding you of what can never be lost because it will never be known. Mutation is the death mask of conception, your co-opted angel of mercy—fingering a soiled Pan flute in the corner of a pawn shop, dipping opposable thumbs into the Rhine, pressing out all resistance from the lungs of the cold-blooded past. And covering the water, obscuring the gravesites, noxious lilies explode across every surface in an endless bloom of rifle shots, administering total evolution from the scales of the dead.
 


Several of these origin story parodies (sections 1, 3, 8) were inspired in part by the wonderful Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceana, Jerome Rothenberg, ed. (Doubleday, 1969).

  

© 2003 Davis Schneiderman and Henri d’Mescan

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