the footsteps grew. first louder. then softer. at last only audible in memory. louder again. then softer. approaching and receding. each time disappearing only briefly before returning at the same measured pace. pacing. a longer hall. by the sound of it. than any i was familiar with. at some point. though i wouldnt hazard to say how long. the sound of dragging feet would reach its peak. then stop. abruptly. interrupted by the clatter of key after key. on a massive ring. chained to a fist. and dragged along with heavy boots to gracelessly begin the interview. stomach. bladder. kidneys if i turned my back. and ribs. then face and throat. bloodied toes extracting teeth no longer needed. taking pleasure. dragging fallen bits away. my expectation. the door would open of its own accord. at last id understand. the book. it was all about the book. did i have it still? there was nothing in the room to hold a book. or hide a book. had it fallen to the floor? been kicked beneath the bed? i rolled on my side. on my paunch. grabbed the bedframe. pulled myself toward the ground. when my head was near enough the floor to know how little the bed concealed. i found i had no way to pull myself together. so i slid. head first onto linoleum. landing a summersault that left me on my back. staring once more at a featureless ceiling. the footsteps stopped. and then came the expected clatter of keys. but i was hardly well positioned to observe the arrival. from where i lay the bed obscured all but the last few inches of door. and to see even this required an awkward bend of the neck. so my glance was brief. revealing only a slender pair of ankles. white ankles. protruding reedlike from white leather oxfords. and what is this? an odd question rising from the marsh. clad in a chirrupy soprano. what is this. indeed. a clever question. and what sort of answer would suffice? a table. i replied from the floor. and the interview ceased. replaced by footfalls. no longer muffled. that carried slender ankles to the lee side of the bed. transfigured sound into a kneelength skirt. white. and blouse and unlined skin: a younger woman. a black knit cardigan buttoned nearly to her chin. boyish hair crowned by a cap. or capped by a crown. no. neither cap nor crown. but something else. rising plumelike from her head. and for all the modesty of her dress i was unsurprised to observe. gratified in fact. to see. from my position on the floor. that her skirt concealed a pair of scarlet panties in a most immodest style. her dark eyes were large and round. the better to see me with. pushed far apart by the foothills of a roman nose. held in an awkward mantis grip was a clipboard. filled with secrets. questions and answers: and what is this? she unfurled an arm. and hauled me from the floor. onehanded. long arms. short legs. she hardly bent to reach me. grabbed me by the belt. tossed me on the bed. and in the same motion turned and strode from the room. the door shut its eyes behind her while i stared once again at a featureless ceiling. wondering where the dream began.
i lay it all like crumbs at the feet of henry van der kalk. well not exactly. i hardly knew the prick. but thats how it is with people. you dont know. even if you do. it doesnt matter. you dont even have to be on the same continent. no stranger for the separation. its called chaos. just dont ask me to prove it. none of it matters anyway. all i wanted to point out was that van der kalk was at the center of it all. even though i hardly knew the prick. just noticed him out the corner of my eye. while doing my route near the prince william. believe me: a fucking place you wouldnt wanna take a lady on a first date. filled to the rafters with riffraff of every stripe. too broke to pay for their nicotine. and too deranged from lysol and gasoline to scavenge butts from the sidewalk. half of them slumped over their tables in a stupor. vacuuming up secondhand smoke. the other half shouting drunken nonsense at each other. taking turns puking in the urinal. taking turns submitting to unspeakable perversions in hidden back rooms. well i see van der kalk holding the door open. peering inside. jacket and tie. neatly trimmed mustache. hell of a hat. and a look you would expect to see on a respectable face confronted with. frozen. i could tell he was lost. and i said so. goddam it if i wasnt right. looking for the williams coffee pub. what luck. ended up at the prince william instead. pretty fucking harebrained. but i could tell from his accent that he wasnt local. native i mean. so i supposed he had an excuse. suddenly he sticks out his hand and says im van der kalk. just like that. if you can believe it. i took a step back. out of surprise at the gesture. i didnt know what the hell he was talking about. he must have noticed too because he said it again. my name is van der kalk. henry van der kalk. from the netherlands. holland. you see? i have a book. jesus christ i still didnt know what the hell he was on about. but when i heard what kinda name he went by. i nearly. it was almost that funny. almost. i could imagine the attention he would get at the back of the prince william. with a name like that. the filthy animals. but he didnt look the type. for whatever thats worth. just the opposite. those are the ones that catch you unawares. still. a pretty funny name. maybe he thought i was someone else. ive often thought so myself. i explained. but i dont think he followed. because he went on to say how his ancestors were miners. gravediggers. some such nonsense. no. burners of. coke or lime. i think. it doesnt matter. makes no goddam sense. fact is it was a pretty amusing name. for a while anyway. whenever i saw the guy id do variations on the theme: vanderhose, vanderschlong, vanderpeckerwood. then id laugh myself into a coughing fit. while he stood there missing the joke. it was that funny. it really was. then one time after the coughing had subsided the cocksucker says to me: there is a reason why you make those jokes? just like that. the goddam sonofabitch. calling me a faggot. or maybe implying i had a small package. or i couldnt get it up. any way you look at it. it was fucking outrageous. i didnt say anything though. just stood there like i didnt catch his drift. actually. i was still bent over. as i hadnt entirely finished coughing. so he didnt see the look that crossed my face when i added up what hed just said. i dont think he noticed anyway. but you can be goddam certain i never forgot. i hardly knew the bastard. and just as casually as if he were inquiring about the weather he asks if i like to suck dick. but this isnt about that sonofabitch anyway. its about his goddam book really. well not really. yes and no. that book certainly opened my eyes. and not just to the ways of those murderous. thieving. backstabbing dutchmen. no. opened my eyes to the world. ill say that for now. and i dont think im giving too much away if i tell you the author tries to make himself the victim of a wicked conspiracy. but everyone knows. the apple never falls far from the family tree. and thats how he found himself at the prince william. not to escape some family treachery. hed already managed that trick. lived to tell the tale. and got it in writing too. in fact hed arranged to meet someone to negotiate its release. already put it through two printings. maybe three. at his own expense. but never sold a goddam copy. figured he needed a publisher to get it properly distributed. for the exposure he said. but he made the mistake of getting his directions from someone who lived in a shopping cart. moldy piss-stained pallet and all. and who just happened to be heading that very way. welcome to the prince william.
while hes boring me with all his nonsense. he pulls out a copy of the book in question. asks me if id like to read it. right there in front of the goddam prince? i couldnt see myself squatting in the halflight. among the shit at the curb. prostitutes staring over my shoulder. thumbing through his magnum opus. no. its possible though he didnt mean right there and then. anyhow. i hadnt cracked a book since i could grow a beard. so you could see i wasnt interested in taking up the habit with some piece of shit pawned off by a stray hollander. out front of the goddam prince william. damn certain. but all this happened before that vile comment i described earlier. and i still thought he was a swell dutchman. so he pushes the book into my hands and says: here. take a copy. consider it a gift. for being so helpful. helpful. i didnt do a goddam thing but stand there as he rattled on about the zeeland. well ive never accepted anyones goddam charity in all my life. and i told him so. of course if id thought about it more. i wouldve seen things differently. thats the way it is. the longer you think about something the more it changes. i dont know. but you gotta stop thinking about things at some point. and when you do they look different than they used to. and different than they would if youd kept at it. no matter how long you been going. or when you stop. and how things are supposed to appear is anybodys guess. so i try not to give it too much thought. but i was off my guard. and the truth is i already had a few beer in me i put back with my dinner. not that i was pissed up. no. nothing disgusts me more than a shameless drunk staggering around in public. appalling breath. bleary eyes. as ready to laugh as cry. throw a punch and fall down. no. id never sink to such depravity. but i had a few beer in me. and he seemed like a really swell dutchman. so when he told me: take it. i figured he was being charitable. thats the only way i can explain it now. when i look back on it. reverse psychology. if hed tried selling me the goddam thing i wouldve told him to shove it up his. i got that much use for books. but instead i straightened up. the decent sonofabitch that i was. and said: nonono. you worked long and hard. i bet. on that book. and paid out of your own coat pocket. to have it printed up. i pay my own way in this world. ive never accepted anyones. goddam. i insist on giving you your due. well then henry he said. id told him my name was henry. it didnt register for damn near a week that we had the same name. well maybe not a week. that very day. or next. i told the miserable sonofabitch next door about meeting a fellow named van der kalk. he lived alone. my neighbor i mean. in the building next to mine. at the intersection. fixated. for all the years ive known him. on the cultivation of the perfect lawn. his enemies were relentless. and the struggle had made him a bitter man. figured the surly bastard could use the laugh. but he didnt even crack a smile. the dolt. just says: you got the same name. and goes back to tugging at his weed infested turf. i thought. for a moment. maybe he misheard me. i was laughing so hard when i said it. but van der kalk sounds nothing like schreber. no matter how hard i was laughing. and i realized pretty damn quick he was right. same name. stupid that i didnt notice it. but nothing funny about it. nothing at all. and totally beside the point. well then henry he said. van der kalk said. you are a good man. i nodded slightly. in recognition of the compliment. if you insist on paying how can i refuse? you cannot i said. and took the book. i gripped his shoulder and explained: i pay my own way in this. he nodded understandingly. i still had the bag of bread i meant to empty in the park. there was room enough. so i put the book inside. and with my free hand pulled out my wallet. i said: and what is my debt? the dirty jew cocksucking sonofabitch looks me level in the eye and replies: thirty dollars. thirty goddam pieces of silver. for some worthless pile of shit he had to pay to see in print. ten thousand more rotting away in some celler. unread. unsellable. a moldy heap of woodpulp. his children. if any he had. would pay some unskilled laborer to haul off to the dump when he finally expired. thirty goddam dollars. i didnt let on what a lowlife blackguard thief hed revealed himself to be. i said i paid my own way. and i wouldnt let that scoundrel swindler make me a liar. but did i look like a goddam traveling bank machine? a walking target for street crime? i put the empty wallet back in the empty pocket. and explained the obvious: of course i never carried that kind of money on my person. i put on a great phony grin and said: is my credit okay? he flashes a look filled with teeth and ridiculous bonhomie: most assuredly. fact is the sonofabitch never wrung a shekel out of me. but thats a consequence of circumstances that were building. even at that very moment. and i didnt know about those yet. how could i? we planned to meet. the rusty fountain. gore park. certain date and time. and i had every intention of giving that shylock his thirty judas coins. his pound of. damn near nine pounds. at todays exchange. throw his book in the fountain. show my contempt. and leave him there to ponder. but like i said. fate intervened. after saying our goodbyes. stiffly on my part as i was still sore about that sonofabitch burning me for thirty bucks. i headed south to king. then west towards the city core. on any given night the odds are better than even that a yowling fire engine leads the cops on a chase. but not tonight. not yet. at any rate. it was early still. no shortage of tinder. backroom money changing hands. the squatters always find another flop. block after block of boarded up windows and vacant store fronts to choose from. grubby dollar shops and parasitic loansharking operations. and over the rainbow. a bingo hall. at least the chinks arent afraid to set up business in this town. like weeds pushing through the asphalt. pay no heed to the broken glass and litter. gooks too. indifference born of long familiarity with decrepitude.
i walk with my head down. deaf to the pleas of panhandlers. and other solicitations. and i was still trying to figure out how i let my pocket get picked for thirty bucks. so i was unprepared for that great obese niggerpimp bouncer who guards the foxes den to heave his bulk onto the sidewalk. and for what purpose i couldnt say. but i had to make a very quick stop to avoid coming into contact with his greasy black hide. its no secret that i speak my mind. but im not so impulsive that i would have endangered my life by giving voice to the repugnance that suddenly rose up from my stomach. left its foul taste in my mouth. not a word. you can be sure. so what followed was in no way due to any provocation. not on my part. i merely stood there. waiting for that reeking rhinoceros to step out of my path. let me on my way. i could almost hear the screech of chimpanzees in the foliage. no doubt disgust was plain upon my face. but that illiterate cur was incapable of reading anything subtler than the baring of teeth. and like i said. i kept my mouth shut. and hands out of sight. but rather than step out of my path that gorilla dinosaur looked down at me. for he was tall as well as wide. and let loose a slow thick stream of virtually unintelligible slaver: wthfcksyoprobmassho. if i am to be indicted it is for unconsciously curling a lip in disgust. and carelessly exposing a tooth or two. no more than that. but still i said nothing. gave nothing away. till at last he took a step to the side. hardly enough for me to turn myself edgewise. and squeeze past without treading into the gutter. or rubbing up against his odious paunch. but i was grateful for the opportunity to continue without incident. so i hurried forward. as he stood there. hand raised in mocking imitation of an infant waving byebye. but then. without warning. he flicked. my hat. off my head. and onto the sidewalk. my god i saw red. never. in all my years. of all the affronts. and right there. in the center of town. illuminated by the vulgar lights of a strip club. a laughingstock. for crackwhores and squeegeeboys. my best hat. if id been carrying a machete idve hamstrung that uncouth sack of shit. id have brought him to his knees. and taken full satisfaction. as it was i offered only an impotent shrug. and when his mocking eyes caught mine. i sent my foot between his legs with so much force i broke three toes. landed hard on my tailbone. oh. but that piece of shit went down in a heap. i quickly grabbed my bag of bread and book. stood up. and put some weight on my injured foot. it would get worse. but i would be able to go some distance before the pain became unbearable. it was my turn to look down. and what i saw was hardly human. the once mocking eyes were rolled back into their elephantine skull. mucus ran from every opening. and each tortured breath came in great strangled gasps. he was damaged alright. the last of his line. and i wouldve liked to see whether or not his heart would give out from the sudden trauma. but i was in danger. there was no guarantee that he would stay down. and his cohorts would be coming to his aid. already a crowd had gathered around us. the pain would only grow worse. i had to get away while i could still hobble. i turned north on james to get out of their line of sight. it was my best goddam hat. i would never be able to find another one like it. i made my escape east along king william. and after a few blocks followed catherine south. the birds would have to wait. crossing king again was a risk. but id take the chance. return by way of the usual route: south on catherine to augusta. but first i stopped on the other side of king. and from the shadows looked toward the foxes den. remnants of the crowd were still milling about. occasionally pointing in the direction i had fled. that broken pimpcocksucker was sitting up on the sidewalk. he didnt seem to be on the threshold of death. but he was yet to gain his feet. someone retrieved my hat from the curb. and to the hilarity of his companions started prancing around with it. i could bear to look no longer. i held my breath and propelled myself onward. i bit my tongue. not all the way i admit. not even enough to draw blood. i havent the taste for it. besides. there wasnt a tyrant near enough to spit it at. but the stink in the air told me he wasnt far. and i expected to see him emerge from every shadow. so i held my breath and kept my tongue in reserve. i walk with my head down. and watch my toes fall near the gap between successive sidewalk slabs. i never grumble when they cross the line. i seek out winter morning puddles with the thinnest crust of ice. that break like glass. that shatter. with a tiny crash. autumn offers up the dead. or nearly dead: the leaves that fall or blow on to the sidewalk. solitary lives. dried out. curled up. that end their span beneath my foot. deliciously. with a sound like: ouch.
my route takes me west. augusta to john. augusta and john. the intersection. my lot in life. i pulled up short to catch my breath. and see if constantino wasnt lurking in the shadows. it appeared he had retired to the livingroom. where he slept. fitfully. every night. windows open. in case a passerby should try to cut across his yard. i could hardly hobble the last fifty feet to my door. but i reached the walkway. and set myself down where the frost had heaved the leading edge of a paving stone an inch or two from the ground. an awful hazard. a crippling lawsuit. i whistled a few notes. tunelessly. then screamed. the tears came as a surprise. constantino threw his head out before the scream had fully cleared my throat. it took him longer to find me groaning on the sidewalk. clutching my foot. satisfied his property was undisturbed. he shuffled over to inquire into my condition. i expected to see him fully dressed. prepared for landscaping emergencies. but he came up in corduroy slippers and terrycloth robe. the last of his hair clinging in a closecropped fringe around the dome of his skull: friar tuck in search of a leg of mutton. heroically i raised a hand. in warning. watch your step i cried. you watch your own he replied. the unfriendly prick. i pointed to the paving stone. and groaned. he said nothing. can you help me up i asked. he had already turned to go. but he took my arm. and pulled me to my feet. i think i broke my foot i said. he was already halfway to his door. and didnt respond. it wouldnt be easy getting up the stairs. to my room. but i awoke. fully dressed. in my bed. it seemed id made it up somehow. the evidence was circumstantial. the door was open. invitation for a thief. a disappointed fucking thief: nothing in the room but me. and he wouldnt get much for my hide. the book was there as well. an expensive book at that. and not one you could find just anywhere. a used bookstore might offer half a buck for it. it was on the floor next to the bag of bread. i could reach it from where i lay. sprawled on the mattress. i slid it over. saw the title and realized for the first time that it wasnt written in english. thirty goddam dollars. teach you to pay attention. denkwürdigkeiten eines nervenkranken. with the dots on the u. not even a picture on the cover. i opened up and read:
ein theil der "kleinen teufel" war auch bei einem oft an meinem kopfe wiederholten wunder betheiligt, das ichbei dieser gelegenheit nachtragen will. es war — neben dem engbrüstigkeitswunder — wohl das abscheulichste aller wunder; der dafür gebrauchte ausdruck war, wenn mir recht erinnerlidi ist, "kopfzusammenschnürungsmaschine".
i stared. the alien words were seductive. hypnotic. meaningless. i learned nothing of the dutchmans childhood tragedy. i woke with a start. and the overwhelming urge to shit. i jumped from the bed and dashed to the toilet. down the hall. it was locked. i stumbled down the stairs. to the first floor toilet. locked. the bath was locked. i was growing desperate. back upstairs i ran. everything was shut tight. in my room i grabbed the bag of bread and emptied it on the floor. dropped my pants and squatted. oh. my god the relief. the pleasure. radiated up my spine in a paralyzing wave. crashed against my skull. knocked me over. washed me out to sea. i was dead. decomposing. plaything of the devils. god as their accomplice. swollen black and putrid with the plague. soulmurdered. no. the dead are dispossessed of pain. and my anguish still had not been silenced. it demanded recognition. drew me back from an alien world. spoke to me in the language of. reminded me of. desire. and breakdown. the communication traveled like a telegraph signal through my bones. up my spine. screaming: wanton slut! i could see the ceiling. recognized it as my own. and pulled myself upright. i didnt try to stand. slut. slut. slut. the accusation pounded through me like a heartbeat. then a deep and guttural blow to the back of my skull: bow your head. it nearly bent me double. i was on the floor. beside the bed. pants crumpled around my lower legs. bag of shit filling the room with the reek of death. and at my feet: the birds. one perched on my ankle. pounding its beak into my shoe. it had broken through the leather. and every peck conveyed the same shrill accusation to my softened brain: slut! at that moment the sun exposed herself with blistering intensity. a goddess. god. my god. my eyes were streaming. tears. sweat and tears erupted from their pores. i didnt look. i didnt want to see. my eyes were closed. rolled up in their sockets. shielded by my hands. forearms. all so much futility. evasion merely served to magnify those penetrating rays. revealed the mind of god. uncomprehending. disconnected. pure and misdirected passion. youre a whore i screamed. the suns a fucking whore. my ordeal awoke the neighborhood. so many faeces. veiled by curtains. flocked to see the spectacle. the execution. soulmurder. but the landlord. lady. ms bojaxhiu. agnes. sister agnes of the sunken cheeks. rushed to my side. before the cops could come. and pulled me off the sidewalk. beneath her housecoat: blueveined curds that seemed to drip like suet from the bones. are you insane she cried. its the crack of dawn. you must be drunk. and what a stink. her wrinkled nose said: what a stink. my foot i said. she looked. my shoe was on the grass. my sock was bright with blood: the birds. youre hurt she screeched. and pushed me. forcefully. inside. i found the strength to help her drag me up the stairs. she was panting. we were panting. from the effort. the smell of sleep was heavy on her breath. beneath the housecoat i could see the dew fall from her sapless glands. the arid folds that once attracted eager lips. and teeth. desire. my door was open. but she didnt stop. she led me to the bathroom. you must wash she said. and turned the taps as far as they would go. air and water. and finally steam. gushed out. a rubber stopper blocked the flow. kept the water from the drain. she turned her back and said: ill find a towel and some clothes. then whispered: karol was just about your size. and left. i opened buttons. as the mirror vanished beneath a fog. i saw the wilderness. the craze. st john the baptist in my eyes. i dropped my trousers. and a rising stench consorted with the steam. at last i stood there. naked. withered. covered in shit. an aching erection. a bloated foot. infected. behold the man. behold your king. i climbed into the tub. it was scalding. restorative. an ordeal: trial by water. i pulled myself beneath the surface. and awaited judgment. the lord is not accustomed to conversing with the living. even the flesh of his flesh. man. not only in his image made. but of the very fibers of his being. god incarnate in the world. remains a mystery to the divine intellect. he is surrounded by the dead. the infinite forecourt of heaven: a necropolis of the chosen and the damned. and so it is that one must tread the limits of mortal existence. to be understood. and understand. i stood beneath the sun no longer tormented by her rays. shrouded in her womb. her hidden darkness pouring in. prepared to take my place at the forecourt of heaven. but the birds returned. i could see them through the veil of shit that floated on the surface of my pond. out of the mist they came. their talons pierced my scalp. pulled me from the waves. dropped me back into the world of pain. another bird. a bird? a hand. came flying at my face. again. again. it landed with a stinging clap. flew off. and turned to strike the other cheek. i tried to dive for cover. but the water had receded. i was stranded by the hair. i begged for mercy. the assault broke off. my vision cleared. i saw a woman bending redfaced over the tub. one hand held me by the hair. the other kept her housecoat closed. she had satisfied herself. i hadnt drowned. she turned the shower on. said only: rinse. before she closed the curtain i could see her on her knees. redfaced. scrubbing at the filth id brought into her home. she was gone before i finished. but i found the clothes. a faded fit. and limped back to my room. the door was open. my key was on the bedside table. shoes beside the door. the bag of shit was gone. the bread swept from the floor. i tried to find the dutchmans book. but it wasnt in the room. i went downstairs in search of the landlady. she was gone. i went out front. there were bloody footprints. halfprints. hoofprints. on the walk. but not a crumb. not a book. not a landlady. not. not. nothing. i went over to see if that miserable sonofabitch had any answers. i stood in his yard and threatened. with a booming voice. to piss on the rosebushes if he didnt step outside. but the property was abandoned. i wouldve pissed anyway. but i saw him turn the corner. carrying a bag. of food. of seed. for the grass and birds. and when he saw me standing in his yard he nearly collapsed from the worry. i waited till he was in shouting distance. then demanded to know if hed ever seen a book by a fellow named vandershaft. that gave me a good laugh. but i was careful to observe his expression. i have an eye for deception. but he replied with some nonsense i didnt pay much attention to. sonofabitch probably never opened a book in his life. the imbecile. told me once that john would take me up to king. or back from king. i dont remember which. called my route the runaround. the roundabout. i think. just about as harebrained as anything id ever heard. but i tried it. him waving me on with pruning shears. cutting me short with: just try it. north on john. took me up to king alright. the sign said king. but whose king? not mine. and catherine too. and james and john. and all the rest. the same. the same to him. just blades of grass. and dandelions. i wandered streets as full of filth as any id ever seen. but why was i there? why did i have to endure another world as loathsome as my own? and more pressing: how would i get home? i finally found my way. but only after days of wondering. wandering. and not to any apologies from a discredited constantino. no. but to a selfcongratulatory sneer. did you not think he asked. of turning around and taking john back to augusta? such is the idiocy of men who never leave their gardens.
my route takes me west on augusta and north on james. i left constantino worrying over his crabgrass and took this wellworn course to the center of town. even from a distance i could recognize the dutchman. still in his white jacket and fine hat. seated near the fountain. legs crossed. one arm casually stretched along the back of the bench. a man at leisure. someone mustve remembered to feed the birds. maybe the dutchman. they were milling about. at his feet. snatching up bits of bread and retreating to her majesty the queen. their loyalty to the throne was my achievement. every night i took a bag of bread. sometimes two. if i hadnt eaten for a day. from the bin behind the pricechopper. like the piper of hamelin id lead the birds to her late majesty in the park and throw the crusts at her royal feet. it was quite a following. bread and fishes. loaves and circuses. gleefully i watched her grow a coat of restless feathers. with satisfaction saw her imperial personage covered in caustic streams of birdshit. the dutchman saw me coming. as i approached he stood and tipped his hat. a real gentleman. i waved. and said: ah mr vanderwang i presume. that was funny enough. but the expression on his face. when he corrected. jesus. that had me doubled over. and it was a long while before the coughing subsided. he waited. and i told him i had bad news. bad news he asked? well first of all i said. i couldnt read a goddam word of your book. because i dont spraching zee dutch. he wore the same befuddled look. maybe always had it. i couldnt tell. so i said it again: i dont read your language. you should have told me it wasnt written in english before i agreed to buy it. his smile returned and he said: worry not my friend. the whole story is written in english. well not my copy i said. maybe hed given me the wrong one. the moronic expression reappeared. i was starting to question his intellect. but i went on. just to get it out of the way: cant seem to find it anyway. its been lost. maybe stolen. otherwise i would have returned it. and squared my debt. he absorbed this for a moment. and then his smile returned. i think you are confused he said. you left the book with me. along with your bread im afraid. but i gave it to the pigeons. i hope you dont mind. now hed managed to confuse me. left the book. with the birds? have you forgotten he said: you insisted on paying before taking possession. but not to worry. i have it here. and as youll see. its every word is english. he handed me the book: legacy of treachery. by henry j van der kalk. i turned it over. at the back was a photo of the author in his best suit and hat. posing casually on a park bench. and just as he had claimed: every word was english. and very familiar. i set it on the bench and said: you gave me a book written in dutch: denkwürdigkeiten eines nervenkranken. it was called. van der kalk kept his smile and replied: but thats not dutch. its german. perhaps you received it from another friend. the sneaky cocksucker was up to something. i could tell. another friend he says. as though this stinking ghetto were swarming with foreign writers. and all of them eager to have me do a book review. i got up and started backing away. i have to go i said. as nonchalantly as i could through clenched teeth. he looked alarmed. wait he said. but i grabbed the book. and made a quick escape. i finished my route in record time. climbed the stairs. and was about to unlock my door. when the handle turned. and agnes stepped. we gasped. she blushed. i heard her whisper: karol. with a sigh as i retreated. a step or two. to let her pass. your clothes she said. then fled. brushing my shoulder with her hair. on the way by. i locked the door. the clothes were lying on the bed. folded up. and probably washed. maybe even mended. no longer mine. i kicked them on the floor. pulled the dutchmans book from my pocket. looked inside. and.
stared. a sickness rose from my bowels. rushed from my mouth. a flow. i was choking on entrails. hollowing myself. disintegrating. lost in a nightmare world of poisoned words and images. but god took pity on me. reconstituted desiccated skin and bones. and sent the sun to chaperone. day after day. it unfolded much the same. the dutchman. still in white. and fine. and seated near the fountain. legs. crossed. arm casually stretched along the. man at leisure. feeding birds. that milled about. his feet. that snatched at. bits of. no longer loyal. and when he saw. hed stand and tip. remind me of. if i was interested. but no. i didnt want. i couldnt stand. the birds. no longer loyal. edgewise stared. with malice. flew. the niggerpimp had spotted. screamed. his jungle violence. ran. the birds. a decoy. run. i ran. from every side. the looks. and screams. the sirens. pointing. fingers: there he goes. i go. evicted. exiled. waiting. hiding. running. forecourts. open up. for m