semantikon feature literature
May. 2004
Willie Smith
Complete E-BOOK

Willie Smith resides in Seattle, Washington.smith's poetry and writings have been published
by Exquisite Corpse, Black Heron Press.

About Artist:

willie smith, seattle washington, short story, poet, poetry, e-book,submachinegun conciousness, novella, exquisite corpse

submachinegun conciousness Chap 1:

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      It’s one of those nights I’m drinking alone in my basement studio; snapping polaroids of my hemorrhoids, bending over backwards to allow time all the time in the world to kill itself.
     For the moment I’ve convinced the functionaries I’m disabled – unfit to work. Even the therapist has become at my hard head so pissed he last week told me to beat it; leave him alone; go home; subsist off my check.
     I’m faking it. I’m a spy. Insane Welfare recipient my cover. In reality, I’m hip-deep in top secret doo-doo. If I told you, you’d hafta put down this book and steal something else. Suffice it to say it has everything to do with those behind the lines reading between the lines.
     I miss the days of bulb release. Today you gotta set the timer. Get X amount of secs to get into position. Oh, you can program the secs. Once you create a password, override the default, study the tutorial in what to update – but who’s got the time?
     Default seems set for three, maybe five secs. Damn good camera, actually. Picked up in a pawn shop for three months worth of checks – stiffed the rent, skimped on grub, aggressively panhandled; other austerities a spy’s gotta perform to get by.
     With a release, you got all the time in the world to get down on all fours. Balance the drink on the back of your skull. Reach around with both hands. Spread cheeks. Slowly squeeze bulb between teeth.
     I’m actually an artist. Tell myself I’m a double agent working for creatures from space. A ruse to get the subconscious concentrated on art, while my so-called mind art in space, looking for ways to kill time.
     I not only spread, you see: I manipulate the rrhoids. Distort puckers into masks. Tie swellings up into Xmas trees. Flocked and intertwined with scarlet satin ribbon, topped with a tinsel-decked purple angel. Twist ‘em into statuettes of General Grant. Marshall veins into an instrument a kinda cross between a flea circus zither and a cockroach ocarina. Construct Colin Powell voodoo dolls; thrill to stick pins…
     Then a scene from the bar on Bandersnatch materializes. Bandersnatch being a prostitute planet orbiting a black hole in the outermost underarm of the Calcutta Galaxy. I’ve been piecing together this scene all night. Actually, of course, I’m agent Aleph Null, secretly gathering…
      Somebody out in the hall bangs on the door. I spit the bulb out of my mouth. Then remember they don’t have bulbs anymore. Look down at what I actually expectorated: the toothpick I use for fine detail. I contemplate the roundhead Diamond, softened on one end with saliva, thinking: The manager? Not something Aleph Null wants to think, as the manager is a saboteur on the Time Conspiracy payroll…
     Plan is to sidle up to one of these eight-limbed Andromedans installed on a stool, six elbows on the bar. Peddle her polaroids of masks portraying Mary Dolorosa. Art works best when reality breaks in…
That my agent at the door? This Bandersnatch a potboiler intended to keep me in film and toothpicks; prostituting myself to keep going on the side the real art.
     Get to my feet, pull up pants, thinking: Now must moisten new pick, because one on floor stuck to it dust mouse.
     When I – ripped with sudden panic it’s a functionary on an unannounced home visit – open the door…
     My breath catches. Hurries out in a gasp of relief…
     Only Art Rambo, the dealer upstairs, come to sell me an AK-47.
     Art, like most inhabitants of this many-storied slum, doesn’t have a real job. He pretends to be an artist. Sculpts in papier-mache various attempts at lifesize automatic weapons. In reality, Art sells dope. Small time. Enough for his habit, the rent, clothes to arouse the envy of a used-car dealer; claims to have upstairs big screen tv. I’m not sure what kind of dope. I never take drugs. I’m careful even to flush my medication. Trust me, I’ve got the most anti-psychotic toilet in town.
     “Actually,” he anticipates my mistake, “this is not my usual ’47, but a mock-up of the exact Thompson Russian troops packed marching into Berlin. Note the modified flip-up rear sight; this a weapon intended for so much more than simple close-in work.”
     I’m staring at my fisheyed faces on the mirror sunglasses perched on the fat nose above his welltrimmed kinky black beard. Rambo’s head becomes a one gallon aquarium. I tread water – while he blabs – ready to snap up grub.
     He never exhibits in galleries. He is against commercialism. Totally. He is committed totally to door-to-door art. I can have the gun for $25. Tax free. He is totally against tax.
     “Say,” he frowns, eyebrows wriggling like arms rolling up sleeves prior to dipping into the bowl, “you OK?”
     “Well,” he shifts in his snakeskin boots. “I wondered – you never seem to buy drugs. You OK for drugs?”
      Goes on to say, Greg, the poet up in 301, mentioned I haven’t been paying my rent. Rambo is concerned. He knows I’m on State help, getting a regular check. He worries I might have too much money laying around. The neighborhood, this building in particular, totally infested with thieves.
     He means the apartment manager – Greg, the fifty-something recovered alcoholic; known upon occasion to put entire coffee shops to sleep with recitations of rhymes detailing his experiences with women at AA dances.
     Agent Aleph Null draws from the pocket of his soiled flannel shirt a toothpick. Lodges same between incisors. Softly closes door on dealer, who continues barking dully through the flimsy wood, “A collector’s item, an investment! Look, I’ll give it to you for twenty; toss in – you don’t tell anybody in the building – half a rock. I’m talking cocaine, man. What – you fucking crazy?”
     I drop trou. Shuffle over between the mirrors. Settle back down on elbows and knees.
     Reach around with the Diamond. Start to etch protruded veins – inspired by the moment – into a Tommy gun. Painstaking replica, down to flip-up rear sight. Can hardly wait to set the timer, take of end product couple snaps.
     Staring into mirror staring into mirror, guiding the pick, pain bursts. Van Gogh’s ear got nothin’ on me!
     Then the phone rings. I don’t own a phone. But sometimes inside my head explodes a ring like a bulldog followed by a string of ladyfingers. I pick up.
     It’s Sideways Eight, Aleph Null’s boss. He’s congratulating Null on how exquisitely Time is getting killed. He promises time off soon. Maybe vacation secret identity Southern France; Arles, if desired.
     Thing is, even though I hold the phone in my mind’s hand, Sideways’ ebullience distracts me from the pick – scratching final touch on a flash suppressor. This a Thompson ideal for night sneak attack.
     BANG! The door flies open.
     SPLAT! The chain lock – ripped off the frame – crashes into the opposite wall not ten feet away. $80 a month, even Section 8, doesn’t buy a lot of space in this town.
     Art barges in, screaming, “I won’t leave you alone with all that MONEY! Something could HAPPEN!”
     Rambo stands about five-seven. Thick wavy hair. Weighs maybe two hundred. The body, not the hair. His entrance me shook up. I jump off the floor. Nearly trip over pants around ankles. Swarthy complexion. Arab, Jew, Greek, Hispanic – I forget. I hardly know the clown. Just a building fixture. Figure he thinks the same of me.
      His jaw drops. He’s speechless. I neglect to pull up the pants. We’re both boys. This is my house. If I make no move to cover myself, maybe he’ll stay mute long enough for me to figure out how he figures in – time conspiracy shock troop? Bandersnatch pimp? Something I ate, or rather didn’t, as I do now recall nothing to eat since that yesterday morning dumpster bearclaw…
     He sniffles. Causing my faces in the sunglasses to jiggle. Pinches his nose. Glances – drawing away hand – at the bloody, white-powder-dotted slime on his thumb. And I begin to realize this character might in reality be Sideways Eight. Null has never met Eight – they just talk on the phone inside each other’s heads.
     “Uh…,” Art slaps the snot off on a seam of his plaid polyester slacks. “You OK?”
     The Andromedan resembles Mona up in 307 – the pre-menopausal waitress who is the model for Carla in so many of the manager’s meandering lyrics. The bartender is Null working undercover.
     Now, thanks to the break-in, I can work Art in as Mona’s pimp; which, in reality, when she can’t come up with the coke money, he likely indeed does do for.
     Actually Mona is a folk singer. Waitressing at the Edgewater her day job. She hasn’t played a gig since last year that time in the coffee shop when Greg interrupted with a sestina and she threatened to kill him with
her guitar.
     Although her exoskeleton gleams obsidian black, and her body recalls a six-foot, upright vinegaroon, she does have Mona’s long narrow face, defaulted to the expression of an early medieval Dolorosa.
     I saw her smile once, fleetingly, when some cop busted a goth jaywalker out front. And I hear her features sprang into a wolfbitch snarl when she came after Greg with her Gibson.
     I never talk to anybody, you understand. Null gathers all this data from the manager when I send Aleph up to pay the rent, and the exdrunk holds forth, trampling out the vintage of the grapevine to any ear not totally detached.
     I’ll have Rambo sell me – in the character of the bartender (played by Null) – the Andromedan. I always wanted to make it with some spineless stinky space bitch.
     She blew vinegar smoke in my face. Lolled pincers at the zinc. Muttered in guttural extragalactic coloratura, “307,” rendezvous for the transaction.
     “What are you doing!” blurts the real Art – the pusher under the sunglasses.
     Null pushes me aside. “Look!” he spits at the bearded face. “I’m photographing my asshole, OK?”
      “What?” Art steps back. Cheeks flush. Brow sweat beads. His boots squeak. The coke changing gears, ripping out the clutch. “Oh, sure. Yeah, uh, like… you a photographer?”
     Null wags a finger inches from the silvered lenses. “I’m an agent fighting time. I hate time. I hate people who DON’T hate time!”
     Rambo grins, “I knew you were some kinda artist. Dude like you make any money off that camera?” He points to the polaroid mounted on a cinderblock between full-length mirrors leaned against facing walls.
“I don’t do ART!” Null screams. “I KILL TIME!”
Rambo backs toward the door. Clears throat, swallows dry spit. “Cuz if you do, and you need a manager – I’m up in 105. I know photography totally. One of my regulars is an agent buys for all the galleries downtown. Got some killer blow – y’innarested?”
     Null and I, and whoever Null in fact is, draw ourselves up to our full six-foot-six. We customarily stoop down here in the studio. Even though the ceiling is a good seven feet high.
     We tense the face into what shrinks call alexithymia. Textbook says you gotta be clinically nuts to be able to do this. But I practiced. I’m good.
     Sculpted alexithymia once onto a rrhoid. Dubbed it The Mask of Death. Got the photo around here somewhere. But it’s blurry. I was so excited at the accuracy of the mask, couldn’t hold still for the shoot. Art’s like that: emotions choke it.
     “Oh.” Art’s bushy eyebrows arched above the glasses betray the widening of his chickenshit eyes. “I totally understand.” He whirls on heels. Disappears through door dangling on hinges.
     The phone is ringing. It’s Sideways Eight. He wants to know why I hung up. I hand the device to Null, who explains he had to attend to an urgency. Sideways mumbles something, then states audibly – suspiciously Rambo-like – how, if I never tried cocaine, can I know if I’m truly crazy?
Null and I stand dumbfounded. Sideways chuckles, hangs up.
     “Because,” I mutter, closing the broken door, “Section Eight is military for crazy, and that’s what they call this housing program I’m on because I’m crazy: Section Eight.”
     Maybe it’s an inner psychic echo, or actual mice inside the real wall, but think I hear, in response, Art’s sarcastic sideways chuckle. I listen to the taunt slowly fade, till I can’t tell which came first: me the chicken, or him egging me on.
     Well… I could hock the camera. Get the dough buy enough coke get so strung out really crazy. Compare that state to this, where I know I’m sane (secretly sane). Sane as… that righthander pitched with Warren Spahn… Boston… ’47… Johnny Sain! There… my memory is intact – I’m Sain.
     My eye wanders to the cinderblock – makeshift camera stand – beside which I left the aqua plastic drinking glass full of tomato juice and rubbing alcohol. A roach has crawled in; died. The inch corpse floats bellyup in wavelets people upstairs stomping about create.
     No matter. Just a prop. The Andromedan’s bloody Mary. Bitch upstairs now with a customer. Short stocky greaseball – sunglasses, Morroccan leather jacket, rattlesnake boots; on R&R from construction of the flywheel. The galacticwide effort to tap the black hole’s energy for commercial purposes. The millenial project to erect a wheel nearly three lighthours in diameter. The rim to pierce the planet’s core. So Bandersnatch will orbit the hole like a bead on a titanium bracelet. Thereby providing an outpost not only amply stocked with prostitutes, but also doing yeoman service as a repository for the silenced imagination of the universe.
     I don’t drink. For the same reason I avoid drugs. Alcohol upsets the mind; alters the personality. Besides, I’m on duty – pretending to be Null working his cover at the Space Bar, while in reality creating art with the rrhoids.
     The Space Bar purports to be a writer’s hangout. A port for any typist. Bandersnatch lousy with keyboard junkies. There’s one over there – in the mirror. Tall lanky goof with the stony stare, cadaver cheeks, pursed alabaster lips.
     They exiled the scribblers here. After synapsectomy. Cut brain connections between tongue, fingers, throat. So each sits alone at the bar or at a table out on the darkened floor, thinking compulsively plots, scripts, scenarios; forever frustrated in word.
     Other orbs orbiting other collapsars (other name for black holes) hold the sterilized artists and musicians; the cosmos free now of lies, myths, fables. Nothing out there but frigid fact.
     And these writers, and the likewise surgically-silenced painters, folk singers, sculptors, so forth – orbiting other collapsars – so goes the plot – slave toward one unified goal: the extinction of time.
     Null, masquerading as laconic bartender Johnny Sain, takes the Andromedan’s untouched drink into the kitchenette. Dumps the bloody Isopropyl into the sink. Grins to himself, giving the glass a rinse, stacking aqua plastic cylinder in rack: Without stories, music, images – time withers. Art the only barrier between today and eternity. One slays the Muse on the threshhold. Oh – whither goest thou, Johnny?
     “Creativity,” Sideways butts in, voice crackling from a bug inside a spigot, “is the art of remembering the future.”
     Himself a pitcher, Johnny thinks, eyeing the buckled legs of the dead roach caught in the drainbasket: Why not fix in advance a pitcher of bloodies? (Take a picture?) Improve the Mary? Substitute for tomato V-8, maybe Snappy Tom; back there a bit use M-80 for bulldog (re-image fuse)? Or wait for that prisonship full of poets scheduled – at the end of Chapter Eight – to arrive without warning?
     With so many choices, he decides on nothing. Wanders back out into the living cubicle, lit by bare bulb overhead. Pops into mind, nature calls.
     Steps into dwarf bathroom. Raises seat. Unzips. Cradles unit. Allows flow to commence, thinking:
     Null turns back into the scaled-down model for the Space Bar, thinking: The end of art is the end of art. The end of time – the start of space.
     Wordlessly they decide
to themselves – above plashing urine – to send out to pawn the camera Johnny Sain.

>>> go to chapter 2