Unless credited to someone else, all poems, prose and writing are to be understood as the intellectual/creative property of Mike Thorn. All poems, prose and writing are not to be altered in any way. All poems, prose and writing of any kind are to be understood as completed on the posted date by Mike Thorn. Please contact me via email or ‘Ask’ link if you’re interested in publishing any of my works in a physical or digital format (aside from reposts).
01. Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. 02. Moby-Dick or the Whale by Herman Melville 03. Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin 04. McTeague by Frank Norris 05. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs 06. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 07. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski 08. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald 09. It by Stephen King 10. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
He’s as good a conversationalist as any. He’s oblivious to mercy and in no mood to talk. Well-dressed. Wearing a fedora and pulling it off. A Bogart kind of guy. Eyes forward, reading bottle labels or remembering heartbreak. He orders two shots and a beer.
“Put it on my tab,” you say.
“I’m not going home with you tonight, friend,” he says.
“Too bad. I could use some love.”
“You could use a shower.”
You laugh, finish your drink and extend your hand. He doesn’t shake it.
“Why do I get a free round while that poor bastard spends his daughter’s college funds on swampwater?” you ask, nodding toward a guy sitting a few stools over.
The guy is sweating discounted whiskey. Stubble beaded with liquor. Lazy violence peering from a fat face.
“You got a fuckin prollem?” fatass calls over.
“Oh, you heard me?” the stranger says.
“Yeah, n I axed if you got a fuckin prollem!”
“Only ninety-nine of them.”
Fatass wobbles to his feet. The bartender wipes a glass and watches with passive interest.
“You wanna take this outside, mister?”
The stranger continues staring ahead, reading symbols in space. Downs his first shot. Hisses quietly. “Don’t go home all bruised up again. Your wife might work up the guts to divorce your flabby ass. Here,” he pulls out a 20, waves it at fatass. “Take this. Get out of my sight, you sack of shit.”
Fatass wrenches his features into a wet pink ball of fury. “No one talks to me like that.”
“Yes they do. Everyone talks to you like that. That’s why you’re here alone, drinking whatever they wipe off the bar. Now go buy some toothpaste and a new shirt. A 20 should meet your standards.”
Fatass sways, damp and defeated, for an endless minute. Finally, he takes the money and nods hard. He waddles out the door. The stranger takes his other shot and drinks half his beer. For a moment you wish you’d taken your conversation elsewhere.
Then you reconsider. You imprint bravery on this stranger’s face. He tells it like it is. A real James Cagney. Classic Hollywood. The kind of man they don’t make anymore.
“That guy’s tail is so far between his legs, it’s tickling his stomach,” you say with a laugh.
“With that much stomach hanging down, the tail wouldn’t have to go up very far.”
You laugh again. “So do I get to know your name now?”
“No, you do not get to know my name. If you buy me another shot, you get to know my secret.”
“Heavy shit, brother. You ever read The Catcher in the Rye?”
“Suck my dick, friend.”
You both chuckle, a social performance.
“Get him another shot of that,” you tell the bartender.
The shot comes. He slugs it back.
“Okay, you got the shot. Now I get the secret.”
“I think they call that a compromise. I’m not very good with those.”
“It’s called a deal. Any man who’s not good with those isn’t worth shit to me.”
His gaze peels from space and drifts to you. There’s danger in those eyes. “Here’s my secret: after you’ve been down there—down there, I mean, where all of them come from—you are free to do anything.”
“The demons, that’s who. I’m not talking Scripture here. I’m talking about the whiskey in that shitbag’s guts. I’m talking about your need for conversation. I’m talking about the rotten, diseased whore that some corporate lawyer is fucking somewhere in this city right now. I’m talking about the thing that kills us. Once you come to want something enough, it comes so you need it. And once you need something enough, well shit… Once that happens, you might as well say sayonara to everything else. And I mean everything else.”
“You’re talking about addiction.”
“It’s more than that. Monomania. Demons. The Captain Ahab condition.”
“Obsession. The danger of dreams. I’m not just saying I’ve looked death in the face. I’m saying I’ve ripped the curtain away and I can laugh at the screaming girl in the shower. Because I’ve done it. It’s not just that I’ve pressed a hot fire poker into a man’s arm until he screamed. It’s the fact that I didn’t pull it away. No matter how much he screamed and begged and pissed himself, I kept that thing scorching until it touched his bones. Until it burned his insides.”
1. Clandestine hustlers strike out at night on the tip of a match while undercover whores and do-up dolls trace the alleyways and track marks of street gang vigilantes wanting nothing more than to fuck you up. No one is to be trusted here—a shadow play begins. 2. “Typee or Happar?” I ask, delirious with Melville hallucinations. The surrounding denizens smoke themselves out and banter violence at an impossible volume. I repeatedly question them: “Typee or Happar?” to no response. Gun barrels prod at my ribs, clatter against my molars, impose on my theories. This is no natural wasteland. This is some furious form of urbanism. 3. He shapes a torrid composition along the ridges of her spine, spraying black iniquity on the slope of his windshield. Her wails merge with a timeless melody spattering romantic across the landfill. 4. She remembers laughter and solitude and losing faith and finding it again in the good intentions of others. He remembers solitude and boredom; violent images pour down his skull as the taxi speeds away through torrential downpour. 5. “Dance” she said, draining another gin & tonic. Take strobe lights for gluttons and watch the oscillating light illuminate her every gesticulation. Dancing gestural and performative. The cobwebs in his brain tremble as he feels sex and murder pushing through. 6. These avenues are characters themselves, cluttered with all the lowlife potential of disenfranchisement embodied, the streets bleeding clarity into manholes. This is the location I use for personal gain. 7. I remember a disregard for general cleanliness. I remember stacks of suicide romance in paperback form. I remember her, posed beside a turntable, persuading me to initiate. 8. I remember her bleeding in the rain. Everything washed away in the flood was never meant to be. I fled the scene for tropical weather and room service. HOTEL CABANA. I fled my body, left it imprisoned, to carry out the story a few more lines. 9. My mind is basking in fantasized sunlight while my body undergoes dripping cannibal surgery in some gray-shaped back alley dumpster. Traffic-scarred hands pry at my ribcage. My fingers manipulate a word processor. My eyes have been popped like concord grapes. Nevertheless, I’m able to shape a plot outline. 10. “Nothing so absurd” the Typist agrees. I pry my ribcage free, under her direction, while she types on a word processor: 11. The highwater mark has been steadily increasing. All reports indicate disaster. 12. This is hardnosed detective fiction at its finest. His hat brim darkens his eyes as he scribbles “Covenant” on a rain-wrinkled notepad. “This bitch got fuckin totalled,” he says. Onlookers laugh. There’s a scattering of applause. The investigation begins. 13. The investigation begins in the wrong place: there was no murder this time. Two ghosts haunting their last days again and again, each ghost dreaming the next—dreaming, desiring the death of the other. 14. There was a narrative crawling along her contours, disassembled by the locomotive weight of truth. Standing over shattered beauty, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the fade-out of my favourite Bob Dylan song. 14.5. This is the separation of two participants: a man and woman sweating sincerity and smoking a joint on the night of their respective murders. 15. The flood has arrived but we’re too impervious to metaphor to notice.