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Naked Lunch

William S. Burroughs

  ‘Look mister. It cost two hundred francs to suck my corpuscle. Haven’t lowered my rates since the year of the rindpest when all the tourists died, even the Scandinavians.’

  P.L.: ‘You see? This is pure uncut boy in the street.’

  ‘You sure can pick’em, boss.’

  ‘M.I. never misses.’

  P.L.: ‘Now look, kid, let’s put it this way. The French have dispossessed you of your birthright.’

  ‘You mean like Friendly Finance? … They got this toothless Egyptian eunuch does the job. They figure he arouse less antagonism, you dig, he always take down his pants to show you his condition. “Now I’m just a poor old eunuch trying to keep up my habit. Lady, I’d like to give you an extension on that artificial kidney, I got a job to do is all.… Disconnect her, boys.” He shows his gums in a feeble snarl.…“Not for nothing am I known as Nellie the Repossessor.”

  ‘So they disconnect my own mother, the sainted old gash, and she swell up and turn black and the whole souk stink of piss and the neighbours beef to the Board of Health and my father say: “It’s the will of Allah. She won’t piss any more of my loot down the drain.”

  ‘Sick people disgust me already. When some citizen start telling me about his cancer of the prostate or his rotting septum make with that purulent discharge I tell him: “You think I am innarested to hear about your horrible old condition? I am not innarested at all.”’

  P.L.: ‘All right. Cut … You hate French, don’t you?’

  ‘Mister, I hate everybody. Doctor Benway says it’s metabolic, I got this condition of the blood.… Arabs and Americans got it special.… Doctor Benway is concocting this serum.’

  P.L.: ‘Benway is an infiltrating Western Agent.’

  L.1.: ‘A rampant French Jew …’

  L.2: ‘A hog-balled, black-assed Communist Jew Nigger.’

  P.L.: ‘Shut up, you fool!’

  L.2: ‘Sorry, chief. I am after being stationed in Pigeonhole.’

  P.L.: ‘Don’t go near Benway.’ (Aside: ‘I wonder if this will go down. You never know how primitive they are.…’) ‘Confidentially he’s a black magician.’

  L.1: ‘He’s got this resident djinn.’

  ‘Uhuh … Well I got a date with a high-type American client. A real classy fellah.’

  P.L.: ‘Don’t you know it’s shameful to peddle your ass to the alien unbelieving pricks?’

  ‘Well that’s a point of view. Have fun.’

  P.L.: ‘Likewise.’ Exit boy. ‘They’re hopeless I tell you. Hopeless.’

  L.1. ‘What’s with this serum?’

  P.L.: ‘I don’t know, but it sounds ominous. We better put a telepathic direction finder on Benway. The man’s not to be trusted. Might do almost anything.… Turn a massacre into a sex orgy.…’

  ‘Or a joke.’

  ‘Precisely. Arty type … No principles …’

  AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE (opening a box of Lux): ‘Why don’t it have an electric eye the box flip open when it see me and hand itself to the Automat Handy Man he should put it inna water already.… The Handy Man is outa control since Thursday, he been getting physical with me and I didn’t put it in his combination at all.… And the Garbage Disposal Unit snapping at me, and the nasty old Mixmaster keep trying to get up under my dress.… I got the most awful cold, and my intestines is all constipated.… I’m gonna put it in the Handy Man’s combination he should administer me a high colonic awready.’

  SALESMAN (he is something between an aggressive Latah and a timid Sender): ‘Recollect when I am travelling with K. E., hottest idea man in the gadget industry.

  ‘“Think of it!” he snaps. “A cream separator in your own kitchen!”

  ‘“K. E., my brain reels at the thought.”

  ‘“It’s five, maybe ten, yes, maybe twenty years away.… But it’s coming.”

  ‘“I’ll wait, K. E. No matter how long it is I’ll wait. When the priority numbers are called up yonder I’ll be there.”

  ‘It was K. E. put out the Octopus Kit for Massage Parlors, Barber Shops and Turkish Baths, with which you can administer a high colonic, an unethical massage, a shampoo, whilst cutting the client’s toenails and removing his blackheads. And the M.D.’s Can Do Kit for busy practitioners will take out your appendix, tuck in a hernia, pull a wisdom tooth, ectomize your piles and circumcise you. Well, K. E. is such an atomic salesman if he runs out of Octopus Kits he is subject, by sheer charge, to sell an M.D. Can Do to a barber shop and some citizen wakes up with his piles cut out.…

  ‘“Jesus, Homer, what kinda creep joint you running here? I been gang fucked.”

  ‘“Well, landsake, Si, I was just aiming to administer our complimentary high colonic free and gratis on Thanksgiving Day. K. E. musta sold me the wrong kit again.…”’

  MALE HUSTLER: ‘What a boy hasta put up with in this business. Gawd! The propositions I get you wouldn’t believe it.… They wanta play Latah, they wanta merge with my protoplasm, they want a replica cutting, they wanta suck my orgones, they wanta take over my past experience and leave old memories that disgust me.…

  ‘I am fucking this citizen so I think, “A straight John at last”; but he comes to a climax and turns himself into some kinda awful crab.… I told him, “Jack, I don’t hafta stand still for such a routine like this.… You can take that business to Walgreen’s.” Some people got no class to them. Another horrible old character just sits there and telepathizes and creams in his dry goods. So nasty.’

  The bum boys fall back in utter confusion to the brink of the Soviet network where Cossacks hang partisans to the wild wail of bagpipes and the boys march up Fifth Avenue to be met by Jimmy Walkover with the keys to The Kingdom and no strings attached carry them loose in your pocket.…

  Why so pale and wan, fair bugger? Smell of dead leeches in a rusty tin can latch onto that live wound, suck out the body and blood and bones of Jeeeeesus, leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

  Yield up thy forms, boy, to thy sugar daddy got the exam three years early and know all the answer books fix the World Series.

  Slunk traffikers tail a pregnant cow to her labor. The farmer declares a couvade, rolls screaming in bullshit. The veterinarian wrestles with a cow skeleton. The traffikers machinegun each other, dodging through the machinery and silos, storage bins, haylofts and mangers of a vast red barn. The calf is born. The forces of death melt in morning. Farm boy kneels reverently – his throat pulses in the rising sun.

  Junkies sitting on the courthouse steps, waiting on The Man. Red Necks in black stetsons and faded Levis tie a Nigra boy to an old iron lamppost and cover him with burning gasoline.… The junkies rush over and draw the flesh smoke deep into their aching lungs.… They really got relief.…

  THE COUNTY CLERK: ‘So there I was sitting in front of Jed’s store over in Cunt Lick my peter standing up straight as a jack pine under my Levis just apulsin’ in the sun.… Weell, old Doc Scranton walks by, a good old boy too, there’s not a finer man in this valley than Doc Scranton. He’s got a prolapsed asshole and when he wants to get screwed he’ll pass you his ass on three feet of in-tes-tine.… If he’s a mind to it he can drop out a piece of gut reaches from his office clear over to Roy’s Beer Place, and it go feelin’ around lookin’ for a peter, just a-feelin’ around like a blind worm.… So old Doc Scranton sees my peter and he stops like a pointin’ dog and he say to me, “Luke, I can take your pulse from here.’”

  Browbeck and Young Seward fight with hog castrators through barns and cages and yiping kennels … whinnying horses bare great yellow teeth, cows bellow, dogs howl, copulating cats scream like babies, a pen of huge hogs, spines bristling, give a great Bronx cheer. Browbeck the Unsteady has fallen to the sword of Young Seward, clutches at blue intestines spurting from an eight inch gash. Young Seward cuts off Browbeck’s cock and holds it pulsing in the smoky rose sunrise.…

  Browbeck screams … subway brakes spit ozone.…

  ‘Stand back, folks.… Stand back.’

  ‘They s
ay somebody pushed him.’

  ‘He was weaving around unsteady like he couldn’t see good.’

  ‘Too much smoke in the eyes, I guess.’

  Mary the Lesbian Governess has slipped to the pub floor on a bloody kotex.… A three-hundred-pound fag tramples her to death with pathic whinnies.…

  He sings in hideous falsetto:

  He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,

  He has loosed the fatal lightning of his terrible swift sword.

  He pulls a gilded wooden sword and chops the air. His corset flies off and whistles into the dart board.

  The old bullfighter’s sword buckles on bone and whistles into the heart of the Espontaneo, pins his unconsummate valor to the stands.

  ‘So this elegant faggot comes to New York from Cunt Lick, Texas, and he is the most piss elegant fag of them all. He is taken up by old women of the type batten on young fags, toothless old predators too weak and too slow to run down other prey. Old moth-eaten tigress shit sure turn into a fag eater.… So this citizen, being an arty and crafty fag, begins making costume jewelry and jewelry sets. Every rich old gash in Great New York wants he should do her sets, and he is making money, 21, El Morocco, Stork, but no time for sex, and all the time worrying about his rep.… He begins playing the horses, supposed to be something manly about gambling God knows why, and he figures it will build him up to be seen at the track. Not many fags play the horses, and those that play lose more than the others, they are lousy gamblers plunge in a losing streak and hedge when they win … which being the pattern of their lives.… Now every child knows there is one law of gambling: winning and losing come in streaks. Plunge when you win, fold when you lose. (I once knew a fag dip into the till – not the whole two thousand at once on the nose win or Sing Sing. Not our Gertie … Oh no a deuce at a time …)

  ‘So he loses and loses and lose some more. One day he is about to put a rock in a set when the obvious occur. “Of course, I’ll replace it later.” Famous last words. So all that winter, one after the other, the diamonds, emeralds, pearls, rubies and star sapphires of the haut monde go in hock and replaced by queer replicas.…

  ‘So the opening night of the Met this old hag appear as she thinks, resplendent in her diamond tiara. So this other old whore approach and say, “Oh, Miggles, you’re so smart … to leave the real ones at home.… I mean we’re simply mad to go around tempting fate.”

  ‘“You’re mistaken, my dear. These are real.”

  ‘“Oh but Miggles, they’re not.… I mean ask your jeweler.… Well just ask anybody. Haaaaaa.”

  ‘So a Sabbath is hastily called. (Lucy Bradshinkel, look at thy emeralds.) All these old witches examining their rocks like a citizen finds leprosy on himself.

  ‘“My chicken blood ruby!”

  ‘“My bleck oopalls!” Old bitch marry so many times so many gooks and spices she don’t know her accent from her ass.…

  ‘“My stah sahpphire!” shrieks a poule de luxe. “Oh it’s all so awful!”

  ‘“I mean they are strictly from Woolworth’s.…”

  ‘“There’s only one thing to do. I’m going to call the police,” says a strong-minded, outspoken old thing; and she clump across the floor on her low heels and calls the fuzz.

  ‘Well, the faggot draws a deuce; and in the box he meets this cat who is some species of cheap hustler, and love sets in or at least a facsimile thereof convince the parties inna first and second parts. As continuity would have it, they are sprung at the same time more or less and take up residence in a flat on the Lower East Side.… And cook in and both are working legit modest jobs.… So Brad and Jim know happiness for the first time.

  ‘Enter the powers of evil.… Lucy Bradshinkel has come to say all is forgiven. She has faith in Brad and wants to set him up in a studio. Of course, he will have to move to the East Sixties.…“This place is impossible, dahling; and your friend …” And a safe mob wants Jim back to drive a car. This a step up, you dig? Offer from citizen hardly see him before.

  ‘Will Jim go back to crime? Will Brad succumb to the blandishments of an aging vampire, a ravening Maw? … Needless to say, the forces of evil are routed and exit with ominous snarls and mutterings.

  ‘“The Boss isn’t going to like this.”

  ‘“I don’t know why I ever wasted my time with you, you cheap, vulgar little fairy.”

  ‘The boys stand at the tenement window, their arms around each other, looking at the Brooklyn Bridge. A warm spring wind ruffles Jim’s black curls and the fine hennaed hair of Brad.

  ‘“Well, Brad, what’s for supper?”

  ‘“You just go in the other room and wait.” Playfully he shooes Jim out of the kitchen, and puts on his apron.

  ‘Dinner is Lucy Bradshinkel’s cunt saignant cooked in kotex papillon. The boys eat happily looking into each other’s eyes. Blood runs down their chins.’

  Let the dawn blue as a flame cross the city.… The backyards are clean of fruit, and the ash pits give up their hooded dead.…

  ‘Could you show me the way to Tipperary, Lady?’

  Over the hills and far away to Blue Grass.… Across the bone meal of lawn to the frozen pond where suspended goldfish wait for the spring Squaw Man.

  The screaming skull rolls up the back stairs to bite off the cock of erring husband taking dour advantage of his wife’s earache to do that which is inconvenient. The young landlubber dons a southwester, beats his wife to death in the shower.

  BENWAY: ‘Don’t take it so hard, kid.…“Jeder macht eine kleine Dummerheit.”’ (Everyone makes a little dumbness.)

  SCHAFER: ‘I tell you I can’t escape a feeling … well, of evil about this.’

  BENWAY: ‘Balderdash, my boy … We’re scientists … Pure scientists. Disinterested research and damned be him who cries, “Hold, too much!” Such people are no better than party poops.’

  SCHAFER: ‘Yes, yes, of course … and yet … I can’t get that stench out of my lungs.…’

  BENWAY: (irritably): ‘None of us can.… Never smelled anything remotely like it.… Where was I? Oh yes, what would be the result of administering curare plus iron lung during acute mania? Possibly the subject, unable to discharge his tensions in motor activity, would succumb on the spot like a jungle rat. Interesting cause of death, what?’

  Schafer is not listening. ‘You know,’ he says impulsively, ‘I think I’ll go back to plain old-fashioned surgery. The human body is scandalously inefficient. Instead of a mouth and an anus to get out of order why not have one all-purpose hole to eat and eliminate? We could seal up nose and mouth, fill in the stomach, make an air hole direct into the lungs where it should have been in the first place.…’

  BENWAY: ‘Why not one all-purpose blob? Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.

  ‘This ass talk had a sort of gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.

  ‘This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriloquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called “The Better ‘Ole” that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?”

  ‘“Nah! I had to go relieve myself.”

  ‘After a while the ass started talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.

  ‘Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy incurving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too,
and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: “It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.”

  ‘After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell. So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have amputated spontaneous – (did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?) – except for the eyes you dig. That’s one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eye on the end of a stalk.

  ‘That’s the sex that passes the censor, squeezes through between bureaus, because there’s always a space between, in popular songs and Grade B movies, giving away the basic. American rottenness, spurting out like breaking boils, throwing out globs of that un-D.T. to fall anywhere and grow into some degenerate cancerous life-form, reproducing a hideous random image. Some would be entirely made of penis-like erectile tissue, others viscera barely covered over with skin, clusters of 3 and 4 eyes together, criss-cross of mouth and assholes, human parts shaken around and poured out any way they fell.

  ‘The end result of complete cellular representation is cancer. Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer. A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotic Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised. Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms. (A cooperative on the other hand can live without the state. That is the road to follow. The building up of independent units to meet needs of the people who participate in the functioning of the unit. A bureau operates on opposite principle of inventing needs to justify its existence.) Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action, to the complete parasitism of a virus.