Willie Smith


                They kick doors down in the night. Round us up – all suspects not on Facefuk. Rip off our faces. Weasels perform the surgery. Blue Doublecross denies for cosmetic procedure. Snakes handle the billing. My life savings wind up on life support. I bleed for months. One foggy morn the bleeding stops.
                I simply get up, breakfast, shower, dress. Okay in the mirror; pimples impossible; wrinkles gone; no need to shave.
                Board the bus. Nobody notices or gives a damn. All aboard giving Facefuk head. Return to, bored to tears, work.
                Harriet, my cube neighb, asks where all this time I’ve been? I answer, through the wall, I’ve been trying to commit suicide, but it didn’t work.
                She says, yeah, TV worse’n ever. Specially, every time ya turn around, all them ads.
                For no good reason, my gonads itch. Rather than, in the privacy of the cube, scratch, I get an attack of the bads. Because crime rhymes.
                Leap to my feet. Lope out of my, and around into Harriet’s, cube. Grab off a graymetal desk a letter opener. Rip open, buttons popping, my shirt. Self-administer a Japanese laparotomy.
                While Harriet dies laughing, I struggle to yell, but no longer possess the guts. Collapse to the olefin. Flop around in steamy gobs of innards arguably no longer mine. Lapse into shock.
                Harriet leaves off giggling. Out of her purse rustles a fin. Steps over my agony. Shoots a blank zombies would die for at the popcorn ceiling. Parades down the aisle be damned.
                Hops nextdoor for a cross-ant, beside a polyethylene spork on a bleached napkin, next to a café au Starfuk. Thanks her lucky stars the event waited till break, as she munches oleo, soy, bleached flour, posting on Facefuk now – just now – in customer service an opening.


                I’m way deep into manholes. Got a manhole jones. Been visiting lately the Sewer. She sports piercings. Needle in each eye. Gives her the look of a double-pithed frog. But, pretty braindead myself, I never point out the resemblance.
                Earlier today the Sewer and I are discussing points of view.
                “Look at light,” she says around half-a-dozen pins clamped between her lips, while she treadles the Singer. “A wave or a particle? Depends on how you look at it. Not to mention, without light you can’t look at anything to begin with.”
                I quibble. Point out without light you can’t see shit. Sure. But you can still look. All you want. We agree to disagree. She gets back to work, sewing up holes in my undershirt. I squat topless, wordless, waiting, watching a floater cross my view of her bare foot working the treadle. As the floater passes over her big toe, I note a pink scratch in the cherry polish.
                Somebody down the block flushes a toilet. A butterfly in Brazil blushes at an offcolor joke. Some fairy imagines a toucan cracking a can of laughter.
                I decide to get the hell out. Climb the iron rungs back up into the daylight. Reminding myself it isn’t really shit until the fat lady sings. Maybe not technically till you wipe. Up to which moment shit is full of you.
                Wipe to right now – up here in the projection booth of my own film. We – the royal we – are watching, back in the Third Grade, an Encyclopedia Britannica film about bees. They are busily oozing royal jelly. A dozen bees huddle around the queen, who is a ringer for the Sewer. They feed her their secretions. We start to salivate, wondering how a stung tongue would taste.
                Taste wood, pinpoints, stinger splinters. The queen’s feelers, in the right light, we see, indeed mimic the needles piercing the Sewer’s pupils.
                The machinegunning Singer at my groin points. Creating in the bladder a need to wee. Feel down there repeatedly getting kneed.
                Wipe to dozens and dozens of bees feeding jelly to babies trapped in hexagonal cells. The Sewer – whom the queen offstage prompts – mandibles chewing syllables – urges us to grab the pass off the hook beside the blackboard, scurry down the hall.
                But Teach insists on being a butt. Demands we remain a prisoner at our desk till the end of the movie officially releases class. Teach looks exactly like the Sewer. Minus the needles. So we pull two out of the blue, jump up, skewer both eyes. Race down the hall. Just in the nick of urine wee properly. After, looking in the mirror, sure enough, it’s just me. The bees are gone, too. Whee!
                Find myself looking at a manhole. Remove and clang the lid onto the curb. Climb down. Relate all of the above to the Sewer. She nods. Hands me, pins still between lips, the unholey undershirt.
                Get back – top all put back together – to work obsessing on streets dotted with manholes, listening in the leaky gloom to the stink. Smell, way down in the cafeteria below, heating up for lunch, leek soup.
                The Sewer brags she is related to Dylan Thomas. Every drop of blood in her veins Welsh. When she is not sober, she loves to drink. She also, when drinking, between drinks, loves to sing.
                I bet the Sewer a dollar she welshes on the bet. She sighs. Refuses the odds. Takes her foot off the treadle. Lets the Singer idle. Points out I’m being, once again, self-referential.
                I refer to no such thing.
                Sure enough, the Singer flatlines. I’m thrown down through a black hole of dumb shit to the foot of Persephone’s throne. Who won’t get off the phone, laughing with, on the other end, the Sewer, about how funny I look. Asks if that Hercules shirt done yet? Nods. Chuckles. Nods a few more times. Finally, the Queen of Hell ends the call. Tucks the cell into her bodice. Shoots me an icy glare.
                I try to return a funny look. But, face it – dead manhole maniacs boast no faces. Not a man. Not a hole. Not even the odd crazy. I wave at a last particle of thought. The film loses its loop. Accordions off the sprockets. The whole hive blurs. The voices wobble through basses into quiet. I, the Sewer, Persephone, the royal wee, into the invisible audience plop.
                A toucan, without meaning to, gulps the butterfly, while his beak punches open a can of Budweiser.
                Persephone pitches into the pitchdark a pomegranate. Heaves in the direction of the bounces a pitchfork. Climbs into the booth. Rewinds, then restarts, the same old goddamn reel.

                Down in the sewer I hunch, passing, in the leaky dark, the time of day with the Sewer. She is sowing seeds of unrest in a dead rat. As she pokes her needle through a black beady eye, in my memory flares, like a magnifier focussing the sun onto the head of a kitchen match, last night’s dream:
                The Inquisition is forcing me to eat my eye. The orb sits looking at me on the plate. A fork in my left, in my right a steak knife.
                They have planted in my head electrodes. A baritone voice advises me to slice the ball into quarters. Easier to chew. They only wish to simplify the process.
                I finger the socket where the eye up to a few days ago lodged. Healing nice. They really are being nice. Especially considering what must have been the depravity of my deeds. Whatever they might have been. The Inquisition has, thoughtfully, surgically removed from my memory any recollection of whatever horror I did or said that wound me up strapped to this chair before an iron table in a grungy dungeon they keep reminding me is directly below the sewage treatment plant; so I can just imagine what must comprise the brown liquid that drips viscously onto my scalp, my shoulders, the floor, the table, the plate.
                A drop bull’s-eyes the pupil pointed up at my remaining eye.
                “The longer you wait,” intones the priest, “the more excrement you need to ingest.”
                “And they speak not,” the Sewer bites off a thread, “in jest?”
                I relate, ignoring the crack, how I grudgingly quarter the eye, ocular fluid squirting my face at each knife scritch. Fork into my yap an orb frustrum. Bite down on the gristly gobbet reminiscent of boiled beef heart. Heart pounding, wake – chewing – to the ceiling of the basement studio apartment from which later this morning the sheriff finally evicts me.
                “So you plan on,” the Sewer tongues a fresh thread, “moving in with me? You’re welcome to do so,” she squints, angling through the eye the moistened thread. “But, I must warn you, you’ll be required to put up, down here, with even more shit than in the world above.”
                “How so?” I watch her sew another invisible seed through the pelt’s other eye.
                Nobody can see the seeds because they are dead peoples’ memories. If she didn’t sew the memories into rats like this, the people would never be reborn. She’s the only Sewer responsible for all of Seattle, so she has her work cut out for her. Today not as busy as some, though, as only five humans in the metropolitain area croaked yesterday.
                “You’ll hafta,” she gropes inside the mouth, fingers curling up toward the back of the pharynx, as one might in a similar cavity probe for the G spot; feels and then tugs out the thread; careful to leave the seed stuck between the buck teeth, “earn your keep.”
                “How so?”
                “I have an opening.” She bites off the thread. Flips the flat stiff corpse into my lap. “I need someone to sterilize the memories. Seattle’s population is booming. More people than ever before dying. I can’t keep up. I need all the help I can get. You can start with that one right there.”
                “What does sterilization,” I frown down at the seedy remains, “entail?”
                “You bite off the tail. Knot it around the neck in a cute little bow. Pop the result in your mouth. Gobble it down quick as catch can.”
                “Won’t that make me sick?”
                “Sure. You’ll get a humongous bellyache. Heartburn, borborygmus, gerd the flavor of raw rat-turd. But then, after about an hour of agony, relief comes in the form of an immense fart. Which, of course, proceeds to ensoul somewhere some newborn. Memory all fresh and empty and eager to record yet another meaningless life of shit, boredom, turmoil, orgasm, terror, heartache, the usual.”
                I glance up in time to catch her lance the eye of a new rat with a freshly-threaded needle. Inspires a dream ember to spit a spark firing me to remember the Charles Kurrault voice, as I gulp the bolus of eye and spit, purring inside my skull, “Tell the Sewer she’s full of shit – you can’t do that. Is there not something ELSE?”
                “Sure,” she looks up from her task, stares through my eyes, reading the passage just recalled. “You can, through the various passages down here, hunt rodents. Kill ‘em, jerk ‘em, get ‘em ready for seed sowing. My name, by the way, is Elsie. You can call me Else.”
                So that’s how me and my manhole mania come to haunt the sewer – bumblebee-restless on 24/7 rat patrol; not even in my dreams is any beast in the sewer safe.
                Other choice, of course, as the sheriff – fatso with wattles that quiver when he grouses, badge over left tit and a cowboy hat – kicks down the door:
                Unscrew the bulb (left burning all night). Bare hundred-watter. Only light source in the dump. Not now needed, sunlight pouring through the window up near the ceiling. Wet fingers in mouth. Extract – sucking, slurping – digits. Jam same into socket.
                Sheriff stood in the middle of the studio aghast. Just starting to get pissed now he’s got a body to haul...
                “Okay – I’ll take it.”
                That night, if memory serves everything on the menu, I dream I’m a nerve cowboy loping along on my beloved palomino Synapse. Riding down desert rats. Twirling overhead a proletariat lariat. Overwhelming the dialectical with fecal materialism.

                My first catch looks like James Cagney. Short, slight, sour-faced. His buddy – a plump, cigar-huffing Edward G. Robinson – waddles off to safety, while I shake Cagney by the neck, in his face spitting, “You dirty little human!”
                “I’ll have you up,” Cagney blurts through the chokehold, “for Murder One!”
                I look – above the buck teeth – on either side of the conical snout – at the beady little eyes. Begin to have second thoughts. Second thoughts beget thirds. The DRAGNET theme sounds.
                The sewer bad enough. Suppose he’s right, I get caught myself, arraigned, tried, convicted, wind up in the hole at Sing-sing. Is keeping a job worth the risk of hard time?
                Decide, till I come to some kind of decision about Cagney, to stash the jerk in a ziplock. Decide to leave the container partway open, to let in air (what passes for air down here). But he keeps squawking about the law and getting an attorney and he’s got a cousin up from South America big as a house, named Cappy Barra. So I zip the plastic all the way up. Run two fingers along the top, snapping the seal tight.
                “Let him cool his heels on an oxygen count, so I can hear myself think,” I hear myself think.
                The Sewer, you see, failed to explain how I’m expected to kill these things. Or maybe she did, and I was daydreaming, or the details too sordid to recall, repressed the whole mess. Well, if I just stand around marking time, sucking, as it were, plums off my thumb, letting nature run her course, and, as always, the individual lose the race, get so out of breath, just trying to stay alive, as to plum suffocate…
                A just end. Because, if he’d just shut up, I never would’ve zipped up the bag. Teach Cagney a lesson. As if the dead ever learn anything beyond nothing left to learn.
                I’m looking up at the well-nigh invisible wall arched overhead. Hoping against hope to spot the next leak, as I eke along in the dark, so I’ll sport a chance to dodge the next drip, when my right arm reports, to the mush crowding my skull, the ziplock has become suddenly light.
                Next instant my uplifting, forward-stepping foot reports, scrabbling off the shoe, what sure feels like four super-light feet. More correctly, I – progressing down the passage – pause: four paws.
                Shit! A drip splats the end of my nose.
                I forgot – no harder for Cagney to gnaw through the bag than for shit to slick through a tin horn. I start to rush after where my ears detect the scamper, when somebody, sounds like inches in front of my big toe, flushes what sounds like, splatting the concrete, diarrhea. About-face. Hurry into the dark about where I seem to remember Robinson vanished. Swish family Robinson Crusoe.
                Slip on human waste. Wind up face down in more of the same. First day on any job, remind my re-assembling self, never a piece of cake. Wake up, a fullgrown roach invading my snoring mouth. Spit, swat, flail. Sit up.
                Realize, slow as fingers fishing for keys in an unreachable pocket, still a few hours left before the sheriff comes to pitch yours penniless out onto the pavement. Behind sleep-frazzled eyes glimmers the hope I land not too far from a manhole, or some similar opening requiring waste experience plus skills with darkness and decay.
                “Else” my mother’s name. The slut who popped me into this world of shit and taxes. She right now down on her knees shooting craps with Persephone. Winner hold the phone. Loser take the call.
                “There must be something ELSE,” I sob to the Sewer. “Something else besides the call – the Call of the Sewer!”
                “Yesh, my shun,” she lisps around the pins, tying a cute Windsor for Mickey Jesus Rat. “Hunt down that roach. Pop the critter in your piehole. Chew it up good, get the spit to flow. When the sheriff pounds, open up. Spit in the pig’s flabby face, get him to employ his snub nose to add you to my list.”
                “List,” I say, groping on all fours, in my ratty undershirt and invisible boxers, focussing on a two-inch roach paused on a chair leg; quivering feelers; cussing me in wigwag. “List – oh, list!”
                The list from which no ship dare write.


                Slipped myself a Mickey. Right mouse clicked delete. Boarded Steamboat Willie. Took a powder inside a keg over Niagra down to Pluto.
                Popped – a la John Glenn – out of keg. Hopped the ferry that pulled alongside. Flipped the pilot a Kennedy half. Bumped at length against the far shore. Scampered off to locate Minnie.
                We had just been married. Cake still on lips. Strolled through the garden, trading gold futures. Till a snake bit her foot. Now up to The Mick to foot the bill if we ever again to coo.
                For what seemed days, in a daze, I followed the urine brick road. At last came upon the City of Dis. Sneaked under Dat Gate. Hustled down Dese Avenues. Darted across Doze Plaza. Entered, as if being interred, the F-Word Palace, where Dis discovered Himself on a throne of iron gilded with rust – from the many, many tears.
                The wizard’s lidded eyes watched the intruder. I glimpsed mirrored on the pupils only my little black-and-white self; the hundreds of attendants crowding the chamber being beings incapable of reflection.
                “Holy cats,” Dis finally exclaimed. “We got rodents!”
                Persephone, seated beside Him costumed as the Witch of Endor (it was Halloween – always down there Halloween) farted. From a distant room Pluto barked. The stink fought for recognition above the brimstone.
                “I’m here,” I squeaked up at the obscenity slouched on the twisted throne, “to reclaim my wife. I pose no threat. Represent no colonial iceberg tip. No flesh and blood in its right mind would ever dream of infesting this shithole. Give back my wife, and your turnips, caviar, pomegranates, whatever you goblins gobble, stay untouched.”
                A harmonica leaped into my little white fist. “Here – lemme blow a tune to melt your heart.”
                Persephone belched ozone. Predicted the fall of Israel. Then motioned I toss the harp. Nobody in hell a follower of anything not discord.
                “I can blow that, too!”
                Dis shrugged, “Take the bitch. P in the A anyway. Scatters her scat all around the kitchen. Only use for her is to chew the cheese off my frenulum. But, hey, watch it – don’t look back; not till you reach topside.”
                He rooted a finger up a nostril. Winced. Yanked. Contemplated on the tip – in the torchlight – a sooty booger the size of enough plastic explosive to bring down a jet. “So turn around. Scat!”
                I did. Weaved through the slavering attendants garbed in rags of goldshot silk; the bonier specimens leering at my round black body.
                For days I hiked through gloom along the urine path, hearing at my back my every step dogged. Trek the psychic equivalent of an orgasm in reverse. All the while the wheels of cogitation spinning, digging ever deeper the following rut:
                If I fail to look back, I believe Dis; show faith in hell. On the other appendage, the devil being the devil, he’s lying; what’s behind is a fake – a zombie knockoff or some giant insect made in Japan. Minnie still back in the toilet, mind overflowing with rot.
                I can’t play the dupe. Even if I am Mickey Mouse. This is the Big Tent. Anchored to the pole that turns the stars. Too much contradiction for my dick.
                I whipped around – ready for either rage or ecstasy – first ray of dawn not quite hit – and it is Minnie, who bursts into tears, waving to me a last paw, as she vanishes into the mouth of… Pluto… yapping at the morning paper flung out front on the concrete.

Willie Smith videos can be found at YouTube
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