Tornado AlleyWilliam S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
S. Clay Wilson
Cherry Valley Editions 1989
© 1989 by William S. Burroughs
© 1989 by S. Clay Wilson for illustrations
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form. First edition.
Tornadoes by Don Williams
Cover designed by Robert Brannaman
Portrait by Mary Beach
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Burroughs, William S., 1914-
Tornado alley / William S. Burroughs
ISBN 0-916156-85-0. ISBN 0-91615684-2
(lim. ed.) ISBM 0-916156-83-4 (pbk.)
For John Dillinger In hope he is still alive
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986
Thanks for the wild turkey and the Passenger Pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts—
thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison—
thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger—
thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcass to rot—
thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes-thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through—
thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces—
thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers—
thanks for laboratory AIDS—
thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs—
thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business—
thanks for a nation of finks—yes, thanks for all the memories ... all right, let's see your arms ... you always were a headache and you always were a bore—
thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
Jerry and the stockbroker
Jerry Ellisor, the retarded boy from next door, went on to harrass timid WASPs from Hew Yorker cartoons, the type of person who doesn't want to get mixed up in things, a passerby on the other side ... here's a girl with both arms cut off, trying to flag him down, he just swerves around something like that and keeps going. (I refer to the case of the 15-year-old girl who had both arms cut off by a rapist, rushed onto a highway, and three cars passed her by before one stopped and took her to a hospital.)
He is also a very ineffectual person. On his West Indian vacation, he hopes the Calypso singers will go away if he just ignores them.
"Don't pay any attention to them, darling."
So here is this youngish exec WASP in a health-food store after a diet lunch of watercress salad and carrot juice. And a youth sits down right at his table, though it's three o'clock and the place is nearly empty. The WASP becomes aware of a horrible odor—like ferrets, only more piercing—that makes his eyes water and his stomach turn. The boy smiles, showing yellow buck teeth.
"I always smell like this, just before ... you know." The boy passes him a card on which is typed in red letters:
"Hi. I'm Jerry. These are my instructions: When it starts to happen, stay calm. Sit down, wherever you are, and quietly inform the helpful person nearest to you that you are going to have a fit—(in my own words).
"When it starts, you will wrap a handkerchief, towel or napkin around your finger and insert it in my mouth to keep me from biting my tongue off. With the other hand you will be loosening my collar, belt and shoes and opening up my fly to relieve pressure on the groin. Erections frequently occur during my spells. It's a fact of nature. (If I have shatted in my breeches, wash me down with soap and warm water and provide a change of clothing.)
"Be careful during my recovery, as I sometimes lash out at people or leap for your throat like a wild animal. God will reward you for your kind act.
"Your humble servant, Jerry Ellison"
Without more ado, the WASP threw some money on the table and ran for his life. But he was too late. With a low, throaty cry the boy threw himself in the WASP's path, tripping him up, then wrapped around his legs like a python. There was a sudden reek of urine and excrement as Jerry voided in his pants. The appalled WASP, seeing a policeman at the door, screamed for help.
"What are you doing with that kid, you filthy pervert."
A night-stick crashed against his skull. Five hours later, trembling and near collapse, he was released from jail after his lawyer called a CIA cousin in Washington.
In the course of a fit, Jerry would sometimes shriek out prophecies, which mostly came true. On Red Tuesday, he rushed into the stock market, eyes glowing, the hair standing up on his head, tore off his clothes and stood there naked in front of the petrified financiers, his body brick-red and steaming off the stink of a hundred polecats. He collapsed on the floor, flopping around and showing his awful yellow teeth as he ejaculated:
"Sell! Sell! Sell!"
It was the worst crash since '29, dazed brokers and speculators later reported.
"It was a voice full of money. You had to believe it."
to talk for Joe the Dead
Doctor Fisher read the article carefully, his face formed into an appraising mask.
"Double slaying ... 32 revolver ... since the woman's purse and the man's wallet were missing ... robbery ... a witness reported seeing a Very tall Figure fleeing from the scene.'"
The witness, Uriah Grunt, who is con-Fined to a wheelchair, explained that he amuses himself by surveying the city with his telescope. "I can read a paper over someone's shoulders twenty blocks away," he boasted.
"I'm right snoopy," he added, smugly, "nothing else to do, 'cept observe what other folks is doing. Don't mind saying I've seen some strange things."
When pressed for a description: "Ah yes," he said, "the fleeing felon, alleged felon at least, or do you call them perps? Well this presumed perp was very tall. Had his coat collar turned up. Couldn't see the face but I did catch a flash of his hands: white, slender, agile, young. He wasn't wearing an overcoat just a windbreaker. Likes cold weather, I guess."
Uriah Grunt is a real scene-stealer, the doctor surmised. Well of course, ... other tall youths around . . . even in the coldest weather his patient never wore an overcoat. Hmmm. Should he call the police without more ado? The therapist's oath? And suppose there was no proof? Then he would be in the middle.
He opened a drawer and took out his Η & Κ Ρ-7 9mm squeeze-cock, cycled the action and eased a round into the chamber. He strapped it to his right hip under his coat.
Unprofessionally, he hated his patient, young Guy Worth —a typical sociopath. The world owed him everything. A natural-born fuck-up, FUs the doctor called them. He hated FUs, and he knew he was wasting him time with them. Once a FU, always a pain in the ass.
In fact, he was disenchanted with the whole profession of psychiatry. He had about decided to quit and get a job as ship's doctor, or maybe a nice practice with the American colony in Tangier, Athens, Beirut, Lima ... general medicine, with a bit of laying on of hands. It could be a nice thing. The doctor was young, slender, handsome, and gay as a carnival.
Fuck working with referral cases, or fuck going to Hew York and building up a Madison Avenue ad exec and publisher practice. One day he would say, "You know something, Mr. Qranfield? There's nothing wrong with you but self-indulgence and an inflated ego. You think your fucking ME is the most important thing in the universe. Well, believe me, who knows: it's boring beyond belief. Besides which you are basically stupid and ill-intentioned. Besides which
I hate your stinking guts."
This, Doctor Fisher decided, looking at his watch, would be his last psychiatric interview—with a murderer, there was no real doubt in his mind, and a murderer who had come to kill him. It was all there in his notes and on the hidden tape recorder. All right, let it come down.
The bell rang. He looked out. There was the insufferable twerp, his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker, a crooked smile on his face. The gun wasn't in the windbreaker pocket—probably in his waistband.
"Hello, Guy. Come in. I've been expecting you."
The youth stepped in. He looked insolently at the doctor, who looked back stone-hard.
He opened the door to his consulting room. (His receptionist had quit a week ago: "Well, doctor. Frankly your practice is a joke. And jokes don't last.")
The youth walked in and pivoted. He was chewing gum.
"Sit down, Guy."
The boy sat down and spread his legs.
"And how is your good health?"
The boy looked startled. The doctor had never said anything like this before. The doctor leaned forward with a lewd leer.
"Had any good dreams lately?"
"Well yes, as a matter of fact, I have. I've been dreaming about you, Doctor Fisher."
"How exciting. And what did you dream?"
"This." He dropped his hand on the gun butt.
Give him time to get his prints on it, the doctor thought. The boy whipped the gun out. A rain of bullets threw him back in his chair, blood spurting from his mouth. A look of utter disbelief on his face, he slumped from the chair, dead. The doctor reached for the phone...
The bullets matched. The doctor was even a local hero, but not to the clinic administrators. An Old West shoot-out, in his consulting room ... killed a patient ... unthinkable. They were more than prepared to accept his immediate resignation.
Doctor Fisher felt good.
dead-end reeking street
"I want to prepare you, Doctor. Well, you see, they have grown something in him. It's alive, it's—"
"Enough of that rot. Where is his tent? You wait outside."
A few seconds later the doctor tottered out, looking like he had just been kicked in the crotch.
"So you've seen it?"
He nodded, shuddering. "Something between a centipede and a plant, growing in his intestines, spreading its roots."
"We could poison it, maybe? With an injection?"
"Ticklish business. It's tapped into Reggie's bloodstream, poor chap. Well, it's either that, or—"
We looked at each other and understood. Luckily, we had some rotenone. The doctor filled his syringe and we went in. The stench was enough to knock a man flat on his ass, it got into your throat and your lungs and gagged you.
Oh God, now we can see it, moving around under his skin. We give him a knock-out dose of morphine and largactil.
A quick slash and a grab with pliers, and he has the horrible red head—the creature was stirring and writhing and roots and heads sticking up everywhere. He shoved the syringe in and drove it home, then the needle was torn from his hand and he leaped back.
"Get out of here, it's spitting eggs!"— and larvae and in fact Reggie lost all human semblance as the heads and roots protruded from every inch of his body, spurting out larvae with transparent needle teeth.
I paused only to shoot Reggie in the head. Then we ran for our lives, but we were too late, we were covered with the larvae, digging into our eyes and nose and every orifice eating their way in...
But we were survivors. We bathed in kerosene which serendipitously was to hand. Like any mutant organism, this was incredibly susceptible to biologic and chemical agents, being without immunity—a whiff of kerosene and my nose is clean. The tent and the ground around it we converted into a pool of cleansing fire. Unthinkable to make camp here.
We walk until fatigue and darkness call a halt. After a dinner of tinned meat, Wilson lights his pipe.
"He must have stumbled onto something."
"You mean that hell-creature was conceived in a laboratory?"
"Afraid so, old thing."
"Then none of us are safe!"
"Afraid not, old bean. You know what makes a jumping bean jump? It's the jumping bug inside it."
"What do you propose?"
"We will find the laboratory and destroy it."
"What with? Three handguns and a shotgun?"
"This complete Shakespeare is impregnated with state-of-the-art implosion agents. Much more destructive than the extroverted, out-going formulations."
"In several ways. If captured and facing ... you have but to say: Out! Out! brief candle, or the book can be activated by remote telepathic control."
"Do you know where the laboratory is located?"
"Of course. I have my orders, and the co-ordinates."
"Well, let's go."
We set out at dawn. End of a dead-end street—that is what we are looking for.
1) Three leads. High walls. A sort of face on a bladder.
2) A museum. I was in a room with exhibits—no exits. Look down to my right and I see an open space ahead, and a sunlit wall about one hundred feet away. Something wrong about the wall. It is a painting. A painted wall. It is not really ouside the museum.
3) The dead-end reeking street, stinking of rotten time and light.
The old householder is awakened by someone beating on his door.
"Oh God," he moans, "another drunken Indian." He slips on his army jacket and drops a snub-nosed Charter Arms revolver—the one that killed Lennon—in the side pocket. He leans against the wall for a moment, feeling a sharp pain in his left arm and shoulder.
"Go away. I'll call the police."
"Won't get here in time to do any good. You ruined my daughter."
"We'll be there right away, sir." The door is about to give way. The householder stands about eight feet away from the door, gun leveled. Sirens approaching.
The door gives way. The Indian rushes in with a baseball bat, his eyes wild, like an enraged horse. The squad car screeches to a stop outside. The householder shoots the Indian in the leg. The Indian falls, groaning, and rolls on his side.
Door bursts open and wild-eyed cops rush in, guns drawn. Seeing a man in an army-type jacket Officer Mike assumes it is the intruder. He doesn't waste time. Pumps three shots in. Householder clutches his chest and falls. Mike turns away, grimly holstering his gun.
"We got him."
"Are you badly hurt, sir?"
He puts a solicitous hand on the Indian's back. It's good P.R. Slowly the Indian turns toward them, his face blank with pain and shock. They start back in horror. "Oh God," they moan in unison. Marv, the older partner, gives the agreed-upon sign. Ambulance siren in the distance.
"Let me handle this; just back me up."
They help the Indian into a chair.
"You're a hero!"
"He was a communist."
"Good thing you shot him, and we are deputizing you."
The cop shoves the gun into his hand. Sirens getting closer. The Indian looks down at the gun with stupid incredulity. Cops helping me into a chair? Handing me a gun? Ambulance turns the corner, two houses away. Slugs rip into the Indian's chest. Πο time for finesse. They kick over tables, pull over a bookcase. One tosses a chair through a window as the ambulance screeches to a stop.
"It was hairy, Boss, real hairy. The Injun went bonkers, grabbed Mike's gun and shot the householder. As God's my witness, he had the strength of twenty men. I warned him that we were police officers, but he leveled the gun at us and I was forced to shoot."
"The Chief will see you guys now."
"Is this your report?"
"Yes Chief, that's it."
"Stinks like buzzard puke."
"What's wrong with it, Chief?"
"Well for starters, nobody could have done what you say happened. Bullet angles are all wrong."
br /> "Aw, Chief
"Besides, the householder didn't die."
"Didn't—" He caught himself in time. "Well, that's marvelous," he said with a horrible smile. "Guy shot in the chest like that could get things all twisted around."
"He was wearing a bullet-proof vest. He had a heart attack, but he's all right now and screaming for your blood: 'Not only do I have to protect myself from drunken Indians but also from insane fuck-up cops—fucking FUs!'"
"Chief, I swear to fucking Christ I saw a drunken Indian standing there with a gun in his hand, clear as I'm seeing you now."
"And what else did you see? The gates of heaven? Jesus fucking Christ awarding you the Golden Prick for bravery? Well, you two clowns have had it this time. You're nothing but FUs, the both of you."
"Well Chief," says Marv, smiling and wriggling to ingratiate himself, "sure we're FUs; that's why we got on the force in the First place. A gun and a badge can cover a lot of FUs."
"All right, boys. I'm going to give you a chance to square yourselves."
"We'll do anything, Chief, anything."
"It's hairy, boys. One big drug bust. On this one, it's shoot first and remember, dead men tell no lies. Ketch?"
"Running with it, Chief."
"You can pick up what you need at the arsenal. I suggest Ithaca pumps with number four shot."
The FUs exit. The Chief smiles. He is taking out a columnist who's been riding his ass, and a roomful of liberal bleeding-hearts, vocals by Joan Baez.
Will the FUs get a third chance? Will the FUs strike again?
Book of Shadows
Doctor Hill picked up a slip of paper and cleared his throat.
"You don't have to beat around the sagebrush with me, Doc. It's cancer, isn't it?"
Afternoon sunlight through Venetian blinds fell on the speaker, like prison bars ... a slender, elderly man in a shabby gray suit, a heavy cojoba-wood cane between his thin knees, a senior citizen like you see sitting on park benches or playing shuffle-board. But the eyes behind steel-rimmed spectacles glittered with disquieting gaiety, with a remote, chilling happiness. The man smiled.