And the Hippos Were Boiled in their TanksWilliam S. Burroughs
AND THE HIPPOS WERE BOILED IN THEIR TANKS
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of William S. Burroughs
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AND THE HIPPOS WERE BOILED IN THEIR TANKS
William S. Burroughs
Copyright © 2008 by the Estate of Jack Kerouac and the William S. Burroughs Trust
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ISBN: 978-0-8021-9889-9 (e-book)
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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
Afterword by James W. Grauerholz
AND THE HIPPOS WERE BOILED IN THEIR TANKS
by william Lee and John Kerouao
Will Dennison chapters Written by William Lee, Mike Ryko chapters by John Kerouso
THE BARS CLOSE AT THREE A.M. ON SATURDAY nights so I got home about 3:45 after eating breakfast at Riker’s on the corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue. I dropped the News and Mirror on the couch and peeled off my seersucker coat and dropped it on top of them. I was going straight to bed.
At this point, the buzzer rang. It’s a loud buzzer that goes through you so I ran over quick to push the button and release the outside door. Then I took my coat off the couch and hung it over a chair so no one would sit on it, and I put the papers in a drawer. I wanted to be sure they would be there when I woke up in the morning. Then I went over and opened the door. I timed it just right so that they didn’t get a chance to knock.
Four people came into the room. Now I’ll tell you in a general way who these people were and what they looked like since the story is mostly about two of them.
Phillip Tourian is seventeen years old, half Turkish and half American. He has a choice of several names but prefers Tourian. His father goes under the name of Rogers. Curly black hair falls over his forehead, his skin is very pale, and he has green eyes. He was sitting down in the most comfortable chair with his leg over the arm before the others were all in the room.
This Phillip is the kind of boy literary fags write sonnets to, which start out, “O raven-haired Grecian lad ...” He was wearing a pair of very dirty slacks and a khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up showing hard muscular forearms.
Ramsay Allen is an impressive-looking gray-haired man of forty or so, tall and a little flabby. He looks like a down-at-the-heels actor, or someone who used to be somebody. Also he is a southerner and claims to be of a good family, like all southerners. He is a very intelligent guy but you wouldn’t know it to see him now. He is so stuck on Phillip he is hovering over him like a shy vulture, with a foolish sloppy grin on his face.
Al is one of the best guys I know, and you couldn’t find better company. And Phillip is all right too. But when they get together something happens, and they form a combination which gets on everybody’s nerves.
Agnes O’Rourke has an ugly Irish face and close-cropped black hair, and she always wears pants. She is straightforward, manly, and reliable. Mike Ryko is a nineteen-year-old, red-haired Finn, a sort of merchant seaman dressed in dirty khaki.
Well, that’s all there were, the four of them, and Agnes held up a bottle.
“Ah, Canadian Club,” I said. “Come right in and sit down,” which they all had anyway by this time, and I got out some cocktail glasses and everyone poured himself a straight shot. Agnes asked me for some water which I got for her.
Phillip had some philosophical idea he had evidently been developing in the course of the evening and now I was going to hear about it. He said, “I’ve figured out a whole philosophy on the idea of waste as evil and creation as good. So long as you are creating something it is good. The only sin is waste of your potentialities.”
That sounded pretty silly to me so I said, “Well of course I’m just a befuddled bartender, but what about Lifebuoy soap ads, they’re creations all right.”
And he said, “Yeah, but you see, that’s what you call wasteful creation. It’s all dichotomized. Then there’s creative waste, such as talking to you now.”
So I said, “Yeah, but where are your criteria to tell waste from creation? Anybody can say that what he’s doing is creation whereas what everybody else is doing is waste. The thing is so general, it don’t mean a thing.”
Well, that seemed to hit him right between the eyes. I guess he hadn’t been getting much opposition. At any rate he dropped the philosophy and I was glad to see it go because such ideas belong in the “I don’t want to hear about it” department as far as I’m concerned.
Phillip then asked me if I had any marijuana and I told him not much, but he insisted he wanted to smoke some, so I got it out of the desk drawer and we lit a cigarette and passed it around. It was very poor stuff and the one stick had no effect on anyone.
Ryko, who had been sitting on the couch all this time without saying anything, said, “I smoked six sticks in Port Arthur, Texas, and I don’t remember a thing about Port Arthur, Texas.”
I said, “Marijuana is very hard to get now, and I don’t know where I’ll get any more after this is gone,” but Phillip grabbed up another cigarette and started smoking it. So I filled my glass with Canadian Club.
Right then it struck me as strange, since these guys never have any money, where this Canadian Club came from, so I asked them.
Al said, “Agnes lifted it out of a bar.”
It seems Al and Agnes were standing at the end of the bar in the Pied Piper having a beer when Agnes suddenly said to Al, “Pick up your change and follow me. I’ve got a bottle of Canadian Club under my coat.” Al followed her out, more scared than she was. He hadn’t even seen her take it.
This took place earlier in the evening and the fifth was now about half gone. I congratulated Agnes and she smiled complacently.
“It was easy,” she said. “I’m going to do it again.”
Not when you’re with me, I said to myself.
Then there was a lull in the conversation and I was too sleepy to say anything. There was some talk I didn’t hear and the
n I looked up just in time to see Phillip bite a large piece of glass out of his cocktail glass and begin chewing it up, which made a noise you could hear across the room. Agnes and Ryko made faces like someone was scratching fingernails on a blackboard.
Phillip chewed up the glass fine and washed it down with Agnes’s water. So then Al ate a piece too and I got him a glass of water to wash it down with. Agnes asked if I thought they would die, and I said no, there was no danger if you chewed it up fine, it was like eating a little sand. All this talk about people dying from ground glass was hooey.
Right then I got an idea for a gag, and I said, “I am neglecting my duties as a host. Is anyone hungry? I have something very special I just got today.”
At this point Phillip and Al were picking stray pieces of glass out from between their teeth. Al had gone into the bathroom to look at his gums in the mirror, and they were bleeding.
“Yes,” said Al from the bathroom.
Phillip said he’d worked up an appetite on the glass.
Al asked me if it was another package of food from my old lady and I said, “As a matter of fact, yes, something real good.”
So I went into the closet and fooled around for a while and came out with a lot of old razor blades on a plate with a jar of mustard.
Phillip said, “You bastard, I’m really hungry,” and I felt pretty good about it and said, “Some gag, hey?”
Ryko said, “I saw some guy eat razor blades in Chicago. Razor blades, glass, and light globes. He finally ate a porcelain plate.”
By this time everyone was drunk except Agnes and me. Al was sitting at Phillip’s feet looking up at him with a goofy expression on his face. I began to wish that everybody would go home.
Then Phillip got up, swaying a little bit, and said, “Let’s go up on the roof.”
And Al said, “All right,” jumping up like he never heard such a wonderful suggestion.
I said, “No, don’t. You’ll wake up the landlady. There’s nothing up there anyway.”
Al said, “To hell with you, Dennison,” sore that I should try to block an idea coming from Phillip.
So they lurched out the door and started up the stairs. The landlady and her family occupy the floor above me, and above them is the roof.
I sat down and poured myself some more Canadian Club. Agnes didn’t want any more and said she was going home. Ryko was now dozing on the couch, so I poured the rest in my own glass, and Agnes got up to go.
I could hear some sort of commotion on the roof and then I heard some glass break in the street. We walked over to the window and Agnes said, “They must have thrown a glass down on the street.”
This seemed logical to me, so I stuck my head out cautiously and there was a woman looking up and swearing. It was getting gray in the street.
“You crazy bastards,” she was saying. “What you wanta do, kill somebody?”
Now I am firm believer in the counterattack, so I said, “Shut up. You’re waking everybody up. Beat it or I’ll call a cop,” and I shut off the lights as though I had gotten up out of bed and gone back again.
After a few minutes she walked away still swearing, and I was swearing myself, only silently, as I remembered all the trouble those two had caused me in the past. I remembered how they had piled up my car in Newark and got me thrown out of a hotel in Washington when Phillip pissed out the window. And there was plenty more of the same. I mean Joe College stuff, about 1910 style. This happened whenever they were together. Alone, they were all right.
I turned on the lights and Agnes left. Everything was quiet on the roof.
“I hope they don’t get the idea to jump off,” I said, to myself, because Ryko was asleep. “Well they can roost up there all night if they want to. I’m going to bed.”
I undressed and got into bed, leaving Ryko sleeping on the couch. It was about six o’clock.
I LEFT DENNISON’S PLACE AT SIX O’CLOCK AND started home to Washington Square. Down on the street it was chill and misty, and the sun was somewhere behind the East River piers. I walked east along Bleecker Street after going into Riker’s to look for Phillip and Al.
When I got to Washington Square I was too sleepy to walk straight. I went up to Janie’s apartment on the third floor, threw my clothes on a chair, and pushed her over and got into bed. The cat was running up and down the bed playing with the sheets.
When I woke up that Sunday afternoon it was quite warm, and the Philharmonic symphony was playing on the radio in the front room. I sat up and leaned over and saw Janie sitting on the couch with only a towel on and her hair all wet from a shower.
Phillip was sitting on the floor with only a towel on and a cigarette in his mouth, listening to the music, which was the Brahms’s First.
“Hey,” I said, “throw me a cigarette.”
Janie walked over and said “Good morning” just like a sarcastic little girl and gave me a cigarette.
I said, “Jesus, it’s hot.”
And Janie said, “Get up and take a shower you bastard.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Don’t what’s the matter me. You smoked marijuana last night.”
“It wasn’t good stuff anyway,” I said, and I went into the bathroom. The June sun was all over the room and when I turned on the cold jet it was like diving into a shady pond back in Pennsylvania on a summer afternoon.
After, I sat in the front room with a towel and a glass of cold orangeade, and I asked Phillip where he had gone last night with Ramsay Allen. He told me that after they had left Dennison’s, they started out for the Empire State Building.
“Why the Empire State Building?” I asked.
“We were thinking of jumping off. I don’t clearly remember.”
“Jumping off, hey?” I said.
We talked along for a while about the New Vision, which Phillip was then in the process of trying to work out, and then when I had finished my orangeade I got up and went into the bedroom to put my pants on. I said I was hungry.
Janie and Phillip started dressing, and I went into the small alcove we called the library and thumbed through some things in the desk. In a slow sort of way I was getting ready to ship out again. I laid out a few things on top of the desk and then I went back into the front room and they were ready. We went down the stairs and out on the street.
“When are you shipping out again, Mike?” Phillip asked.
“Why,” I said, “in a couple of weeks, I guess.”
“The shit you are,” Janie said.
“Well,” Phillip said as we crossed the Square, “I’ve been thinking about shipping out myself. You know I have seaman’s papers, but I never have shipped out. What would I have to do to get a ship?”
I gave him all the details briefly.
Phillip nodded in a satisfied way. “I’m going to do it,” he said. “And is there any chance of our getting on the same boat?”
“Why yes,” I said. “You suddenly decided all this? And what would your uncle say?”
“He’ll be all for it. Glad to see me do a patriotic turn and all that. And glad to get rid of me for a while.”
I expressed my satisfaction with the whole idea. I told Phil it was always best to ship out with a partner in case of trouble onboard ship with the other members of the crew. I told him that sometimes the lone wolf was liable to get the shit end of the stick, especially if he was one who liked to keep by himself all the time. That type of seaman, I told him, inadvertently aroused the suspicions of the other seamen.
We went into the Frying Pan on Eighth Street. Janie still had some money left from her last trust-fund check. She came from Denver, Colorado, but she hadn’t been home in over a year. Her father, a wealthy old widower, lived in a swank hotel out there, and occasionally she got letters from him describing his good times.
Janie and I ordered plain fried eggs with bacon, but Phillip ordered two three-and-a-half-minute boiled eggs. There was a new waitress behin
d the counter and she gave him a sour look. A lot of people resented Phillip’s exotic appearance and looked at him suspiciously as if they thought he might be a dope fiend or a fag.
“I don’t want Allen to know about my shipping out,” Phillip was saying. “The whole point of the idea is to get away from him. If he finds out, he’s liable to gum up the works.”
I laughed at this.
“You don’t know Allen,” Phillip said seriously. “He can do anything. I’ve known him too long.”
I said, “If you want to get rid of the guy, just tell him to get off your tail and stay away.”
“That wouldn’t work. He just wouldn’t stay away.”
We drank our tomato juice in silence.
“I don’t see your logic, Phil,” I said. “It seems to me you don’t mind his hanging around you too damned much, providing he doesn’t make a pass at you. And he can be convenient sometimes.”
“He’s getting inconvenient,” Phil said.
“What would happen if he found out you were shipping out?”
“Any number of things.”
“What could he do if he found out only after you’d actually left overseas on a ship?”
“He’d probably be waiting for me at our foreign port, wearing a beret and cracking shells on the beach with five or six little Arab boys at his feet.”
I laughed at this. “That’s a good one,” I said.
“You don’t want to let that queer in on anything you do,” Janie was telling Phillip.
“That’s a good one about the beach, all right,” I said.
Our eggs had now arrived, but Phillip’s eggs were absolutely raw. He called the waitress over and said, “These eggs are raw.” He illustrated the point by dipping his spoon into the eggs and pulling it out with a long streamer of raw white.
The waitress said, “You said soft-boiled eggs, didn’t you? We can’t be taking things back for you.”
Phillip pushed the eggs across the counter. “Two four-minute eggs,” he said. “Maybe that will simplify matters.” Then he turned to me and started talking about the New Vision. The waitress snatched up the eggs and swished herself off to the slot where the food comes through from the kitchen: “Two in the water four minutes.”