the lightly salted caul didn’t taste too bad – the side-dish of sauteed pickled punks smelt pungent, but he was sure it would be great. the monkey brains drinking establishment was a wonderful discovery, one he hardly credited with being true some days – was it that he was always drunk when he sat down to eat in here?
when sober he was sure he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone how to reach this place – not that he really wanted to share it with anyone. he was glad that he was rarely sober and seemed to be possessed of a rather formidable context dependent memory.
just under the surface of the drink swam the bugbears he had not managed to drown yet – they gathered to themselves all the moments of insecurity he suffered, and they grew bigger and as they increased in size they became hungrier.
he was trying to paint in the hours he was awake but this diversionary expedition to get food was a necessary stepping stone to productivity. when the hunger ravaged him he could hardly string together a thought – he became angry and if he had his knife to hand he might go on prolonged bouts of slashing at his canvases. last week, the alcohol level in his blood particularly high, he had cut, pissed on, and set alight to five works which his dealer had been telling him were the best things he had done in an age – now all that existed of them were the prints of the photographs always taken as a precaution now. he had almost died trying to extinguish the flames but he had not heeded a single warning from any of the many opinionated bastards who it was his misfortune to meet that day.
he started upon the pickled punks and was surprised at how they just came apart with no effort, how they melted on the tongue – they tasted great; he would have to leave a good tip for both the waiter and the chef.
as he finished, paid, and stepped out on the street, the sky gave up brooding and let loose with fury. for a moment, for a small moment, he felt blessed by the call – felt able to dance between the raindrops … and then he sank back down into himself. misery was the best fuel for his brooding nightmare landscapes, for his umbral portraits, for his geometric shatter of abstraction. he sighed, he smiled, he shrugged, he reached his studio’s front door and went inside.

mr precedent

‘so why was this one picked?’
‘well, he can read without stumbling,’
‘ah, yeah, i remember the last one.’
‘yeah, he started a war by means of dyslexia …’
‘with a great big dollop of stupid too.’
‘well, that goes without saying, doesn’t it?’
‘i suppose. i do have to say though, this one’s not very good looking.’
‘no, he’s fucking ugly, but it has exactly the same effect – they spend more than half their time pondering his scary face instead of questioning what he’s saying. he turns them all into rubberneckers.’
‘what about his mother? i heard she’s a problem.’
‘oh, you mean the feminist intellectual who likes to mouth off about how her dumbass of a son shouldn’t be in control of a plastic spoon let alone the country?’
‘not a problem.’
‘how so?’
‘we dug up some interesting dirt on her.’
‘what? sexual perversion? drug history?’
‘yep, worse.’
‘what could be worse?’
‘ah …’
‘yep, best way to hang a liberal – hoisting them by their own petard.’
‘so, i heard there was a big plan to shoot this one?’
‘yeah, it’s the biggest event in a long time – we have everything in place to ramp up his public profile as a do-gooder (there are lots of pet perverts that the public wants to see helped at the moment) and once he is seen as almost saintly then – BANG, we blow out the back of his skull, and have a changing of the guard.’
‘you have someone in mind?’
‘oh, of course – this one is going to be hardline. the way we’ve been juggling it through the years is – we have a liberal president who gets them all happy and sells them a lifestyle which includes all these so-called luxury items, then we have a hardline ball-buster who comes in and uses all the backdoors in those luxury items to push greater control on the populace.’
‘i’m not sure i qquite get that.’
‘oh, ok – well, during this presidency we’re getting everyone interested in having their skulls embedded with RFID tags because its the easiest way to control their media devices – so they grab it all up like elective surgery. then president b comes in and using the electronic backdoors which we require to be fitted as standard in these chips he increases surveillance; turns every fucker into a camera. we call it operation deep penetration – we go live and have the whole country in the bag; there isn’t a thing we won’t know.’
‘impressive, eh?’
‘so what was he saying?’
‘who cares? you think i listen to that shit?’

the death of botulism smith

‘ah, it seems writers make good fuel,’ offered cyril prognost.
‘well, botulism always was a fat bastard, cyril.’
‘that’s not very appropriate, mr entwhistle, is it, at the poor bastard’s funeral?’
‘jenny, i didn’t really mean anything by it. but damn – spontaneous human combustion …’
‘a myth-making heap of bullshit being put about by thomas carnegie, the journalist who has his new biography of botulism out this week.’
‘so then, jenny, what is it that happened?’
‘well, botulism had been working on his new novel …’
‘called 666 i believe?’
‘yes, cyril, that’s correct. it is – not to give too much away – a novel of 666 parts, each 666 words long, about 666 individuals who are responsible for the end of the world.’
‘and he was writing this at the time of his death?’
‘well, he was resting between typing sessions.’
‘yes, and he sat down next to the electric fire and went to sleep with a whiskey in his hand.’
‘wait a minute – an electric fire? who really uses those anymore?’
‘well, botulism did, why? because he believed it to be cheaper.’
‘did he finish the book?’
‘oh, yeah – i mean just an early draft as things go, but yes, it was complete – this was the first transcribing from pencil to type.’
‘pencil, and you said type as if he was using an actual typewriter?’
‘yes, entwhistle, when was the last time you saw him?’
‘a while back i suppose – i just assumed he would have moved with the times given his success.’
‘not really – he would buy the strangest things with his money, which i suppose was his prerogative.’
‘strange, how, jenny? i mean you probably knew botulism better than any of us, and there wasn’t really anything normal about him, so what do you consider to be strange?’
‘he had a thing for shrunken heads and he liked frogs too – little china frogs.’
‘oh,’ said three in unison.
botulism had a respectable number of column inches as epitaph and a sudden surge in booksales explainable by the curiosity of his case as presented in carnegie’s biography. rumours of a movie circulated. when 666 was released botulism fever reached its apex and began a slow steady decline thereafter.