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Naked Lunch

William S. Burroughs

  A. J.’s cover story? An international playboy, and harmless practical joker. It was A. J. who put the piranha fish in Lady Sutton-Smith’s swimming pool, and dosed the punch with a mixture of Yage, Hashish and Yohimbine during a Fourth of July reception at the U.S. Embassy, precipitating an orgy. Ten prominent citizens – American, of course – subsequently died of shame. Dying of shame is an accomplishment peculiar to Kwakiutl Indians and Americans – others simply say ‘Zut alors’ or ‘Son cosas de la vida’ or ‘Allah fucked me, the All Powerful.…’

  And when the Cincinnati Anti-Fluoride Society met to toast their victory in pure spring water, all their teeth dropped out on the spot.

  ‘And I say unto you, brothers and sisters of the Anti-Fluoride movement, we have this day struck such a blow for purity as will never call a retreat.… Out, I say, with the filthy foreign fluorides! We will sweep this fair land sweet and clean as a young boy’s tensed flank.… I will now lead you in our theme song The Old Oaken Bucket.’

  A well head is lighted by fluorescent lights that play over it in hideous juke-box colors. The Anti-Fluorides file past the well singing as each dips up a drink from the oaken bucket.…

  ‘The old oaken bucket, the gold oaken bucket

  The glublthulunnubbeth …’

  A. J. had tampered with the water, inserting a South American vine that turns the gums to mush.

  (I hear about this vine from an old German prospector who is dying of uremia in Pasto, Columbia. Supposed to grow in the Putumayo area. Never located any. Didn’t try very hard.… The same citizen tells me about a bug like a big grasshopper known as the Xiucutil: ‘Such a powerful aphrodisiac if one flies on you and you can’t get a woman right away you will die. I have seen the Indians running around pulling themselves off from the contact with this animal.’ Unfortunately I never score for a Xiucutil.…)

  On opening night of the New York Metropolitan A. J., protected by bug repellent, released a swarm of Xiucutils.

  Mrs. Vanderbligh swatting at a Xiucutil: ‘Oh … Oh! … OOOOOOOOOOOH!!!’ Screams, breaking glass, ripping cloth. A rising crescendo of grunts and squeals and moans and whimpers and gasps.… Reek of semen and cunts and sweat and the musty odor of penetrated rectums.… Diamonds and fur pieces, evening dresses, orchids, suits and underwear litter the floor covered by a writhing, frenzied, heaving mass of naked bodies.

  A. J. once reserved a table a year in advance Chez Robert where a huge, icy gourmet broods over the greatest cuisine in the world. So baneful and derogatory in his gaze that many a client, under that withering blast, has rolled on the floor and pissed all over himself in convulsive attempts to ingratiate.

  So A. J. arrives with six Bolivian Indians who chew coca leaves between courses. And when Robert, in all his gourmet majesty, bears down on the table, A. J. looks up and yells: ‘Hey, Boy! Bring me some ketchup.’

  (Alternative: A. J. whips out a bottle of ketchup and douses the haute cuisine.)

  Thirty gourmets stop chewing at once. You could have heard a soufflé drop. As for Robert, he lets out a bellow of rage like a wounded elephant, runs to the kitchen and arms himself with a meat cleaver.… The Sommelier snarls hideously, his face turning a strange iridescent purple.… He breaks offa bottle of Brut Champagne …’26.… Pierre, the Head Waiter, snatches up a boning knife. All three chase A. J. through the restaurant with mangled inhuman screams of rage.… Tables overturn, vintage wines and matchless food crash to the floor.… Cries of ‘Lynch him!’ ring through the air. An elderly gourmet with the insane bloodshot eyes of a mandril is fashioning a hangman’s knot with a red velvet curtain cord.… Seeing himself cornered and in imminent danger of dismemberment at least, A. J. plays his trump card.… He throws back his head and lets out a hog call; and a hundred famished hogs he had stationed nearby rush into the restaurant, slopping the haute cuisine. Like a great tree Robert falls to the floor in a stroke where he is eaten by the hogs: ‘Poor bastards don’t know enough to appreciate him,’ says A. J.

  Robert’s brother Paul emerges from retirement in a local nut house and takes over the restaurant to dispense something he calls the ‘Transcendental Cuisine.’ … Imperceptibly the quality of the food declines until he is serving literal garbage, the clients being too intimidated by the reputation of Chez Robert to protest.

  Sample Menu:

  The Clear Camel Piss Soup with boiled Earth Worms

  The Filet of Sun-Ripened Sting Ray

  basted with Eau de Cologne and garnished with nettles

  The After-Birth Suprême de Boeuf,

  cooked in drained crank case oil,

  served with a piquant sauce of rotten egg yolks

  and crushed bed bugs

  The Limburger Cheese sugar cured in diabetic urine

  doused in Canned Heat Flamboyant.…

  So the clients are quietly dying of botulism.… Then A. J. returns with an entourage of Arab refugees from the Middle East. He takes one mouthful and screams:

  ‘Garbage God damn it. Cook this wise citizen in his own swill!’

  And so the legend of A. J. the laughable, lovable eccentric grew and grew.… Fadeout to Venice.… Gondoliers singing and pathic cries swell up from San Marco and Harry’s.

  Charming old Venetian anecdote about this bridge, it seems some Venetian sailors take a trip around the world and all turn into fruits they fuck the cabin boy already, so when they get back to Venice it is necessary women walk over this bridge with their lungs hanging out to arouse the desires of these dubious citizens. So get a battalion of shock troops up to San Marco on the double.

  ‘Girls, this is O.A.O., Operation All Out. If your tits won’t stop them bring up your cunts and confound these faggots.’

  ‘Oh Gertie it’s true. It’s all true. They’ve got a horrid gash instead of a thrilling thing.’

  ‘I can’t face it.’

  ‘Enough to turn a body to stone.’

  Paul spoke wiser than he know being a really evil old shit when he talk about men lying with men doing that which is inconvenient. Inconvenient is the word. So who want to trip over a cock on the way to a cunt, and when a citizen get the yen to hump a gash, some evil stranger rush in and do that which is inconvenient to his ass.

  A. J. rush across San Marco slashing at pigeons with a cutlass: ‘Bastards! Sons of bitches!’ he screams.… He staggers aboard his barge, a monstrous construction in gilt and pink and blue with sails of purple velvet. He is dressed in a preposterous naval uniform covered with braid and ribbons and medals, dirty and torn, the coat buttoned in the wrong holes.… A. J. walks to a huge reproduction of a Greek urn topped by a gold statue of a boy with an erection. He twists the boy’s balls and a jet of champagne spurts into his mouth. He wipes his mouth and looks around.

  ‘Where are my Nubians, God damn it?’ he yells.

  His secretary looks up from a comic book: ‘Juicing.… Chasing cunt.’

  ‘Goldbricking cocksuckers. Where’s a man without his Nubians?’

  ‘Take a gondola whyncha?’

  ‘A gondola?’ A. J. screams. ‘I put out for this cocksucker I should ride in a gondola already? Reef the mainsail and ship the oars, Mr. Hyslop.… I’m gonna make with the auxiliary.’ Mr. Hyslop shrugs resignedly. With one finger he begins punching a switchboard.… The sails drop, the oars draw into the hull.

  ‘And turn on the perfume whyncha? The canal stinks up a breeze.’

  ‘Gardenia? Sandlewood?’

  ‘Naw. Ambrosia.’ Mr. Hyslop presses another button and a thick cloud of perfume settles over the barge. A. J. is seized with a fit of coughing.…

  ‘Make with the fans!’ he yells. ‘I’m suffocatin’!’ Mr. Hyslop is coughing into a handkerchief. He presses a button. Fans whir and thin out the ambrosia. A. J. installs himself at the rudder on a raised dais. ‘Contact!’ The barge begins to vibrate. ‘Avanti, God damn it!’ A. J. yells and the barge takes off across the canal at a tremendous speed overturning gondolas full of tourists, missing the motoscafi by inches, vee
ring from one side of the canal to the other (the wake washes over the sidewalks drenching passersby), shattering a fleet of moored gondolas, and finally piles up against a pier, spins out into the middle of the canal.… A column of water spurts six feet in the air from a hole in the hull.

  ‘Man the pumps, Mr. Hyslop. She’s shipping water.’ The barge gives a sudden lurch throwing A. J. into the canal.

  ‘Abandon ship, God damn it! Every man for himself!’ Fadeout to Mambo music.

  The inauguration of Escuela Amigo, a school for delinquent boys of Latin American origin, endowed by A. J., Faculty Boys and press attending. A. J. staggers out onto a platform draped with American flags.

  ‘In the immortal words of Father Flanagan there is no such thing as a bad boy.… Where’s the statuary, God damn it?’

  TECHNICIAN: ‘You want it now?’

  A.J.: ‘What you think I’m doing here Furthucrisakes? I should unveil the son of a bitch in absentia?’

  TECHNICIAN: ‘All right … All right. Coming right up.’ The statue is towed out by a Graham Hymie tractor and placed in front of the platform. A. J. presses a button. Turbines start under the platform, rising to a deafening whine. Wind blows the red velvet drapes off the statue. They tangle around the Faculty members in the front row.… Clouds of dust and debris whip through the spectators. The sirens slowly subside. The Faculty disengages itself from the drapes.… Everyone is looking at the statue in breathless silence.

  FATHER GONZALES: ‘Mother of God!’

  THE MAN FROM Time: ‘I don’t believe it.’

  Daily News: ‘It’s nothing but fruity.’

  Chrous of whistles from the boys.

  A monumental creation in shiny pink stone stands revealed as the dust settles. A naked boy is bending over a sleeping comrade with evident intention to waken him with a flute. One hand is holding the flute, the other reaching for a piece of cloth draped over the sleeper’s middle. The cloth bulges suggestively. Both boys wear a flower behind the ear, identical expressions, dreamy and brutal, depraved and innocent. This creation tops a limestone pyramid on which is inscribed in letters of porcelain mosaic – pink and blue and gold – the school motto: ‘With it and for it.’

  A. J. lurches forward and breaks a champagne bottle across the boy’s taut buttocks.

  ‘And remember, boys, that’s where champagne comes from.’

  Manhattan Serenade. A. J. and entourage start into New York night club. A. J. is leading a purple-assed baboon on a gold chain. A. J. is dressed in checked linen plus fours with cashmere jacket.

  MANAGER: ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. What’s that?’

  A. J.: ‘It’s an Illyrian poodle. Choicest beast a man can latch onto. It’ll raise the tone of your trap.’

  MANAGER: ‘I suspect it to be a purple-assed baboon and it stands outside.’

  STOOGE: ‘Don’t you know who this is? It’s A. J., last of the big time spenders.’

  MANAGER: ‘Leave him take his purple-assed bastard and big time spend some place else.’

  A. J. stops in front of another club and looks in. ‘Elegant fags and old cunts. God damn it! We come to the right place. Avanti, ragazzi!’

  He drives a gold stake into the floor and pickets the baboon. He begins talking in elegant tones, his stooges filling in.



  ‘Utter heaven!’

  A. J. puts a long cigarette holder in his mouth. The holder is made of some obscenely flexible material. It swings and undulates as if endowed with loathsome reptilian life.

  A. J.: ‘So there I was flat on my stomach at thirty thousand feet.’

  Several nearby fags raise their heads like animals scenting danger. A. J. leaps to his feet with an inarticulate snarl.

  ‘You purple-assed cocksucker!’ he screams. ‘I’ll teach you to shit on the floor!’ He pulls a whip from his umbrella and cuts the baboon across the ass. The baboon screams and tears loose the stake. He leaps on the next table and climbs up an old woman who dies of heart failure on the spot.

  A. J.: ‘Sorry, lady. Discipline you know.’

  In a frenzy he whips the baboon from one end of the bar to the other. The baboon, screaming and snarling and shitting with terror, climbs over the clients, runs up and down on top of the bar, swings from drapes and chandeliers.…

  A. J.: ‘You’ll straighten up and shit right or you won’t be inna condition to shit one way or the other.’

  STOOGE: ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself upsettin’ A. J. after all he’s done for you.’

  A. J.: ‘Ingrates! Every one of them ingrates! Take it from an old queen.’

  Of course no one believes this cover story. A. J. claims to be an ‘independent,’ which is to say: ‘Mind your own business.’ There are no independents any more.… The Zone swarms with every variety of dupe but there are no neutrals there. A neutral at A.J.’s level is of course unthinkable.…

  Hassan is a notorious Liquefactionist and suspect to be a secret Sender – ‘Shucks, boys,’ he says with a disarming grin, ‘I’m just a blooming old cancer and I gotta proliferate.’ He picks up a Texas accent associating with Dry Hole Dutton, the Dallas wildcatter, and he wears cowboy boots and ten-gallon hat at all times indoors and out.… His eyes are invisible behind black glasses, his face smooth and blank as wax above a well-cut suit made entirely from immature high denomination bank notes. (Bank notes are in fact currency, but they must mature before they can be negotiated.… Bank notes run as high as one million clams a note.)

  ‘They keep hatching out all over me,’ he says shyly.…‘It’s like, gee, I don’t know how to say it. It’s like I was a Mummy scorpion carrying those little baby notes around on my warm body and feeling them grow.… Gosh I hope I don’t bore you with all this.’

  Salvador, known as Sally to his friends – he always keeps a few ‘friends’ around and pays them by the hour – got cured in the slunk business in World War II. (To get cured means to get rich. Expression used by Texas oil men.) The Pure Food and Drug Department have his picture in their files, a heavy faced man with an embalmed look as if paraffin had been injected under the skin which is smooth, shiny and poreless. One eye is dead grey color, round as a marble, with flaws and opaque spots. The other is black and shiny, an old undreaming insect eye.

  His eyes are normally invisible behind black glasses. He looks sinister and enigmatic – his gestures and mannerisms are not yet comprehensible – like the secret police of a larval state.

  In moments of excitement Salvador is apt to lapse into broken English. His accent at such moments suggests an Italian origin. He reads and speaks Etruscan.

  A squad of accountant investigators have made a life work of Sal’s international dossier.… His operations extend through the world in an inextricable, shifting web of subsidiaries, front companies, and aliases. He has held 23 passports and been deported 49 times – deportation proceedings pending in Cuba, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Yokohama.

  Salvador Hassan O’Leary, alias The Shoe Store Kid, alias Wrong Way Marv, alias After Birth Leary, alias Slunky Pete, alias Placenta Juan, alias K. Y. Ahmed, alias El Chinche, alias El Culito, etc., etc. for fifteen solid pages of dossier, first tangled with the law in NYC where he was traveling with a character known to the Brooklyn police as Blubber Wilson, who hustled his goof ball money shaking down fetishists in shoe stores. Hassan was charged some third degree extortion and conspiracy to impersonate a police officer. He had learnt the shakeman’s Number One rule: D.T. – Ditch Tin – which corresponds to the pilot’s KFS – Keep Flying Speed.… As The Vigilante puts it: ‘If you get a rumble, kid, ditch your piece of tin if you have to swallow it.’ So they didn’t bust him with a queer badge. Hassan testified against Wilson, who drew Pen Indef. (longest term possible under New York law for a misdemeanor conviction. Nominally an indefinite sentence, it means three years in Riker’s Island). Hassan’s case was nolle prossed. ‘I’d have drawn a nickel,’ Hassan said, ‘if I hadn’t met a decent co
p.’ Hassan met a decent cop every time he took a fall. His dossier contains three pages of monikers indicating his proclivity for cooperating with the law, ‘playing ball’ the cops call it. Others call it something else: Ab the Fuzz Lover, Finky Marv, The Crooning Hebe, Ali the Stool, Wrongo Sal, The Wailing Spic, The Sheeny Soprano, The Bronx Opera House, The Copper’s Djinn, The Answering Service, The Squeaking Syrian, The Cooing Cocksucker, The Musical Fruit, The Wrong Ass Hole, The Fairy Fink, Leary the Nark, The Lilting Leprechaun … Grassy Gert.

  He opened a sex shop in Yokohama, pushed junk in Beirut, pimped in Panama. During World War II he shifted into high, took over a dairy in Holland and cut the butter with used axle grease, cornered the K.Y. market in North Africa, and finally hit the jackpot with slunks. He prospered and proliferated, flooding the world with cut medicines and cheap counterfeit goods of every variety. Adulterated shark repellent, cut antibiotics, condemned parachutes, stale anti-venom, inactive serums and vaccines, leaking lifeboats.

  Clem and Jody, two oldtime vaudeville hoofers, cope out as Russian agents whose sole function is to represent the U.S. in an unpopular light. When arrested for sodomy in Indonesia, Clem said to the examining magistrate:

  ‘’Tain’t as if it was being queer. After all they’s only Gooks.’

  They appeared in Liberia dressed in black Stetsons and red galluses:

  ‘So I shoot that old nigger and he flop on his side one leg up in the air just akicking.’

  ‘Yeah, but you ever burn a nigger?’

  They are always pacing round Bidonvilles smoking huge cigars:

  ‘Haveta get some bulldozers in here Jody. Clean out all this crap.’

  Morbid crowds follow them about hoping to witness some superlative American outrage.

  ‘Thirty years in show business and I never handle such a routine like this. I gotta dispossess a Bidonville, give myself a bang of H, piss on the Black Stone, make with the Prayer Call whilst dressed in my hog suit, cancel Lend Lease and get fucked up the ass simultaneous.… What, am I an octopus already?’ Clem complains.