by dustin hansen
“O.K., O.K., easy. Now what d’ya mean by ‘falling apart,’ Lenny?”
“My insides are falling apart. Coming unraveled. My organs, they’re rotting. Everything in me’s crumbling, deteriorating. You know? — I can’t — I just — It’s . . .”
“All right, O.K., let’s not — Don’t lose your head.”
“It’s right here.”
“That’s right. Good. Now there are people we can see. People who can help you.”
“Sure, Lenny, sure. I know a guy.”
“Sure, Lenny, sure. Bushmann.”
“That’s right. Bob Bushmann. He’s a talisman.”
“You think I should see him?”
“Well you wanna fix your problem or don’t you.”
“My insides, they’re — “
“I know, all right, O.K., Lenny. Let’s just — “
“Well let’s go see him.”
“My insides, Willy. I’m going to be empty. I’m going to — “
“All right. We’ll go.”
“Here, Willy? This is where he lives?”
“Sure. That’s right. He’s a druggist. He has to be incognito.”
“Is that his car?”
“The El Camino? Sure, that’s his. He doesn’t drive though. Now, Lenny: listen — “
“Well Jesus, how could he with it up on blocks like that?”
“All right. Listen, Lenny. He’s got this eye thing. All right? So don’t make any sudden movements, or — you know, weird facial expressions. O.K.? Got it?”
“. . . . . . .”
“Lenny. Did you bring the things I told you?”
“Yeah, I got em. I got em in my pocket.”
“O.K. Don’t move or speak unless I say. Here: put this blindfold on.”
He threads the tube down the throat, plugs the huge tub into the wall. A monotonous but occasionally pitch-wavering humming sound sinks down from the ceiling and brings the walls together into the ears where all the air is out. Poles protrude from the thick sludge in the tub. He speaks in tongues, waves his gloved hands, a bone with the flesh still rotting off: a wand. He beckons above, beckons below; lays his hands upon the patient, whose head is encased in a box. The patient’s arms and legs are strapped to the chair, which is lowered into the tub. The talisman chants, sings three notes as though with three separate voices — one from the mouth, one from the ears and one from the eyes — a stretched out dark wave of interwoven chords.
“What’s happening to him?”
Repeats. Spins the chair, faster and faster in the sludge, a maelstrom. The hum dips into the trough of audibility and evaporates into the gaseous needles in the inner ear. He spins and chants and sings and speaks in enigmatic tongues more and more rapidly, more and more violently.
“Is it working?”
Spits on the patient. Screams at him in alien monosyllabic guttural and nasal whips and howls.
“O.K. I’ll be quiet.”
Now he sprinkles the mummy powder over the spinning boxed head.
He wears a long red cloak.
He is blind yet his eyes can see both ways and his ears speak.
His feet are swollen and engorged.
His hands are stiff, as if arthritic, yet with a grave grace.
His mind is bent.
His hair is thin and thirsty and stiff like a horse’s, clumped with waste and bits of food.
His odor is of absinthe and unnameable chemical colors.
His breath puts hysterical amnesiacs to sleep.
His ribs are visible.
His face is red and glistens.
His tongue is thin and shriveled, protuberant.
His home is empty.
His name is silent.
His soul is draining.
His mind is transmigratory and infectious.
His heart is an open wound.
The hole in his head is God.
The talisman tells Lenny that the drug he has given him will kill off anything left over that does not belong — anything that is not human, not of his essence. He will thus be cured.
The drug is administered twice a day, with cocoa and cream cake, in progressively concentrated doses.
Willy cannot watch. But he listens from the next room.
Parts of Lenny begin to wilt, to shrivel and fall from his strained and blistering body.
His insides are excreted — through his mouth, his pores, his eyes, his ears, his penis.
He excretes himself and disappears.
His skin crumbles and is part of the dust breathed in dim rising mornings.