We die. Mors Certa, Hora Incerta. So how can we be anything? No-one is anything. From the void and to the void, and again and again. Things go on the same. One born every minute. Well more like, let’s see, carry the one. Stop a minute so I can calculate this. Women all over in their life throws. Sss. Dth, dth, dth! They won’t stop so I can count. There’s more born, washing the blood off. All are washed in the blood of the lamb. Not stillborn of course. They are not even registered. Trouble for nothing. Well, I am almosting it. So. So. So far this year there have been 30,275,000 births rounding up. 84 days so far this year. 360,417 births a day, rounding up. That’s 15,018 births an hour. 251 births a minute. Wait a second. That’s, yes, 5 births a second. No point rounding down. How long did it take your eye to move from we die to 5 births a second? Cities of people coming and coming. Lives and lives. Passing away too. In your life were you the Gracehoper or the Ondt? Doesn’t matter, back to the void with you! How many? How many. Wish I had paper. Um. 12,930,000 deaths this year, might as well round up. People die and we don’t even know. Months later somebody smells something. A drip through the ceiling from the tenant above. 153,929 deaths a day. That’s 6,414 people every hour. 107 a minute and every second 2 people die. 1.78 really. One dies and one gets 78% of the way there. Mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. Give it a second. You can’t be mostly dead all day. There you go. Welcome to the void. You have been unmade. It will be the making of you. You were a being. You filled space. Now you are a becoming. Not changing, no, I mean fulfilling. You took a form intended for you all along. That is, your form is gone. Your form is formlessness. I know, death is new to you. You’ll get there. Destruction and creation are simultaneous. Death and rebirth are the same thing spelled different ways. You hungry? Of course not, what am I saying. Sorry. It’s this time of day. This is the very worst hour of the day. Vitality. Dull, gloomy: hate this hour. Feel as if I had been eaten and spewed. Intended. Caught that did you? Well. Well, well.
I, Hedges Eyre Chatterton, being of sound mind and body despite the indifferent care given me by the inflated windbags and weathercocks amongst my nearest and most dear relations hereby declare this document to be my last will and testament thus nullifying all previous versions. The Angel of Death nears and on this the occasion of my ninetieth birthday I note the meanderings of some purling rill as it babbles on its way, tho’ quarreling with the stony obstacles, to the tumbling waters of Neptune’s blue domain, and my thoughts, fanned by the gentlest zephyrs, drift towards a meditation upon this our mortal coil and as I meekly resign my soul to its Creator in the humble hope (thro’ the merits of Jesus Christ) of its future happiness as in the disposal of a Being infinitely good. My body I direct to be decently buried with no damn cross or any other bloody instrument of torture at my tomb but instead at the discretion of my Executor hereinafter named as to such temporal estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me, to provide from said estate a suitably sized angelic statue in pensive posture which shall be placed at my final bed of rest to remind those sad mourners particularly amongst my dearest family that although they might subscribe to the charming principle that all blows over and this too shall pass they ought rather dwell on the far more apt verse from our most holy book being as follows: they who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. As I have left no issue from my certainly most capable loins, and am unlikely to do so as the vernal green of my youth turns toward the the transcendent translucent glow of mysterious twilight, I hereby bequeath the following mortal possessions from this my earthly life to my most dearest ones, and once they get wind of my passing may they trample each other to death with pulling hair and biting to get their filthy hands on it thus consigning their wretched souls to burn forever in the fiery gales of miserable hell in their lust for a windfall the bastards. To the relations of my departed first wife Mary Halloran, because I promised the dear pitiful creature on her dying bed as she lay ‘neath the shadows cast o’er her pensive bosom by the overarching leafage of the giants of the forest to remember her family upon my own sad demise, I hereby remember you. Agonizing Christ! how could I forget such a miserable batch of high falutin bladderbags, and in addition to a reminiscence of your kindness (as most certainly I love you as you love me) to each and every one of you I bequeath a pustulating heartburn on your arse. To my niece Jane Chatterton Steer I leave one dollar for the kindness and love she never showed me. To my nephew the Reverend Eyre Chatterdon I leave ten dollars to buy a book on manners. Make that twenty. To the Mr. Bell who married my niece Rebecca Chatterton Bell I leave my collection of antiques for the service he has done the family in taking a woman no man of taste would have taken. To Mr. Garcia the husband of my niece Susan Chatterton Garcia I leave my collection of aged scotch and other spirits and my crystal collection so he may drink therefrom to comfort him under the affliction of a slatternly wife. I leave my silver tankard to my grand-nephew Abraham Eyre Chatterton, son of my nephew Abraham Chatterton. As the representative of the family I ought to have left it to Abraham himself, but he would melt it down to make temperance medals, and that would be sacrilege — however, I leave my big horn snuff-box to him: he can only make temperance horn spoons of that. I leave all my landed property and furnishings therein to my nieces Mary Chatterton Berry and Martha Chatterton, the former because she is married to a man whom (God help him) she henpecks. The latter because she is married to nobody, nor is she like to be, for she is an old maid, and not market-rife. I wish peace and affluence to all my friends and a piece of effluence to all my enemies. And last and most certainly least I leave the entirety of my monetary fortune to my great-nephew Edward (Ned) Lambert under the condition that he touch none of it, not so much as a penny, but instead hold it safefully for the personal use of Jesus Christ, when He returns.
I do hereby constitute and appoint J.J. O’Molloy to be the executor of this my last Will and Testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the twenty-ninth day of February in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve.
Oh sweet God I’m bored. Bored bored bored. Thank you, come again. Nice of them to leave a few flowers. I like daisies. Nice smell. Well, they could smell like shit for all I’d know. Or care. Jesus I’m bored. Nice to feel warm beings near you though. All that warm fullblooded life. That creepy one will be back and with a shovel. Scrape up the earth to get at the fresh buried female. Never mind the corpse rot. Pustules. Bored bored bored bored bored bored bored doo daa doo daa. Wish I could drape myself over some casket like what’s her name over there. What is her christian name? I’m not sure. Next to Emily Sinico, crushed by a slow moving train. Lying there with a bird on her head. Rooks in here a bit ago. And an owl. Looked stuffed. Wish we had one of those what are they called silent towers. Dakhma. Want to see a tower of silence, just stop by here any time you like. Won’t hear us say a damn thing. Wouldn’t mind seeing a Dakhma in action. The buzzards tearing the flesh off. Rotting carcasses touching neither fire nor earth but vulture lunch, no problem. Bon Appetite. Good food good meat good God let’s eat. Bet you I’d smell that. Woof! Well, that’s one way to handle it. Cremation would be interesting too but nobody gets to watch that. Priests against it too. Nothing to raise up at the second coming. Nothing to raise up regardless. Rats. There’s one right under me right now. See it? There. Tail gone now. Corpse is ordinary meat to them. Meat gone bad. Like cheese is milk gone bad. Cheese is the corpse of milk. Wouldn’t mind smelling a nice stinky cheese. Or anything. Rats get that crumbling mush of corpse smell. Would be something. Bored. Flowers. Better to spend the money on the living. More sensible. Are those flowers fake? They are starting to look fake. Great. Never wilting. Expresses nothing. Immortelles. Won’t get to watch them die. Wouldn’t mind seeing a drowned corpse. I hear that is a nice gentle decomposition. Would enjoy watching. Not like here. Plant him and have done with him. Those plague years with open pits and quicklime melting everything away. Now there’s something to see. I would have liked that. Wasn’t a bad sermon just then. We’re here to celebrate the life of. Didn’t look much like a party to me. Let us pray for the repose of the soul of but does anybody really? People looking at their hands. Check the nails. Just looking at them: well pared. He who departed this life, as if he did it on his own. Then leave us with another rock that says beloved father, son and no longer beloved ex-husband of. Well, they always leave that part out. An acre of lies. Here lies an enormous bastard we all hated. Good riddance to the crank who finally kicked the bucket. Irritating bitch beloved by nobody special. And people don’t visit anymore. Dump them in and take off. Well, as you are now so once were we. Ever think of that? Watch out or your dead will come back to the world. I will appear to you after death. You will see my ghost after death. My ghost will haunt you after death. There is another world after death. And thank God for it. Do I want to be brought back to life? Hell no. I do not like that other world. I’ll stay here haunting my statue, thank you, I love it here.
I once was lost I’ll soon be found I’m blind I’ll never see. They will find me at one. Floating in on the tide. Bobbing. Spongy foul flesh salt whitened. I am a bag of corpsegas sopping in foul brine. Minnows flash throught the slits of my button fly. They like me this way. I am becoming them. Easy death soft as this hand of mist. I held my breath. It was a brief holding. I knew. I let go and the water came burning in horrible. Panic. Oh God. Then I heard the music. I’ve heard it before. I recognized it. Can’t describe. And then the water voices. I saw lights. And people talking close to me, shades. Then faces; the faces that come in the dark. It’s ok now. Let it go. All done now. Seadeath the mildest of all deaths. My head is face up on the bottom. Nose hole home to billions. Mouth grinning in my green grave. And the rest bobbing in with the tide. There it is, see it? Hook it quick. Got all of it? Pull. We have him. Easy now, don’t break him up. Haul him over the gunwale. No head. Well, can’t have everything.
Shhhh. Whisper. Keep your voice down. Don’t let them hear us. Here, lend an ear. See them? The living? They are dying but they don’t seem to know it themselves. Shhhh. Not long now. Look at them burying each other, like ants but with coffins. What a waste of wood. Ought to just build one and give it a sliding panel. Thank you come again. Next. Shhhh. Whisper when you laugh or they’ll hear you. How many are they? 12, no, 13. Nice round number. Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? No need to wonder. We’ll know soon enough. Keep an ear to the ground. We’ll remember him when he gets here. We will, anyway. None of the living remember each other for long. Hope you are well, see you in hell. Out of sight out of mind. Shhhh. One of them heard us whispering around them. Pretend to be air blowing in a whisper. Shhhhhh. Whisper. They just don’t look natural, do they? Sure they are alive? Maybe we can smash pillows into their faces, see if they breathe. Pierce a heart or something. Just to be sure. Shhhh. Who wears purple to a funeral? Shhhh. Illdyed. Quiet. Wind. Shhhhh. Be the wind. Wonder when the new guy will show up. It’s nearly closing time.
Molly caught me writing to Martha. Almost killed the whole thing. I wrote the wrong address on the envelope I used to cover the letter. I hope it’s not in a dead letter office somewhere. In the midst of life we are in death. Like John O’Connell. Life among the tombs. Keeps it well, trimmed edges, nice grass. Corpse manure best for plants. Mastiansky said Chinese cemetery poppies make the best opium. Could be a decent trade. Carcasses for gardens. Dig them under when they are green and pink still, decomposing. Then they become a kind of a tallowy kind of a cheesy. Then black treacle oozing. This must be what the plants like. Then dried up deathmoths. How did O’Connell get a woman to marry him, come live at the graveyard? Try dangling that in front of somebody. Courting death. Is thrilling I expect. Love among the tombs. Tantalizing for the poor dead, though, like smell of grilling meat for the starving. Fields of them out there, ground honeycombed with them. More room if buried standing up. Except wouldn’t want a mudslide, head might come up with pointing hands.
My dream of the night before puzzles me. Remember. I am almosting it. I was walking amongst my subjects in the street of harlots, disguised as a carpet merchant. I found there amongst the tanyard smells a young man, quite lost, dressed in rancid rags illdyed black. He looked near starvation so I offered him a melon, but he would not eat. Instead, he delighted in its smell. I led him to an open hallway and showed him the greatest treasure amongst my wares, a piece of tapestry that transports any who sit upon it in an instant to any person imaginable, without being stopped by any obstacle. He asked who? And I said you shall see. But when we sat together on the red carpet it was as if in that instant of transformation I became not the dreamer but the dreamed. I felt not myself. I was not myself. I had become my dark companion and what was left of me existed only as the name Haroun al Raschid within the memory of his dream, now my dream. I sat on a beach watching an inrushing tide. There were other people, but I could see only dimly, an Egyptian man and woman with hennaed faces, the woman’s hair trailing. There was a dog, dead with a creamfruit smell, and a live one too, lightly kicked by the Egyptian for a transgression I didn’t see. I watched as well as I could, the dog sniffing a rock, then lifting a hind leg and pissing against it. Then the dog repeated himself against an unsmelt rock. I cannot be sure as something was terribly wrong with my vision, but I believe I saw the unhappy beast collapse into painful yelping and as his hind paws scattered the sand his forepaws stretched, altering itself into the paw of a leopard. With a shake, screaming, the entire leopard sprung forth from the sand. It was the offspring of a lion and a panther within whose womb, impatient with the delays of time, he had felt burdened by gestation. He had torn and ripped until he was discharged forth into the world, his birth damaged and scarred his mother’s womb forevermore. Horrible now, upon this beach, he roots and scrapes. Scratching. Stopping to listen. Scratching. His merciless bright eyes hungry, scraping the earth. Salivating now, listening. Scratching, then triumphant as a carrion vulture, revealing the carcass of his dead mother.
I thought I heard a toad whispering into my ear. That is how the dream began. It was a strange dream or nightmare, I do not understand which, of a place I have never seen and people looking unlike anybody within the walls of our dear abbey. I sensed that the toad was most troubled. I have spoken with many creatures but never with a toad, so I am not certain of his words or meanings, but he had a fluent croak. Werburgh. Werburgh. My name came forth from his bulbous throat most naturally. I am uncertain, but I believe he may have shifted his appearance, for at times I thought he resembled a bulldog. Or a sheep. Even a rook. Oh the things he showed me disturbed me greatly. I saw a coffin and mourners, but they were strangely dressed and the poor deceased had not a full mass, merely the absolution and that was all for to send the dear pitiable creature to our eternal Father. Oh how I shall pray for that sweet soul! The toad then whispered into my ear a most grievous vision; a man of dour countanence, not of our faith, improperly kneeling and unable to pray. Within his thoughts he held such little understanding of the sacred rites we hold so dear, and he occupied his mind most shockingly with the flesh of his wife puffed with air. I can hardly bring myself to see it. Then most dreadfully he imagined the light which might come from igniting air released by the desecration of tombs long sealed! I grieve greatly for the everlasting soul of this wretched man who damages himself with his thoughts. How I tremble for the future of our existence as I believe this was the purpose of the wise dear toad. He showed me such disturbing revelations of what is surely to be the second fall of man so that perhaps with piety and prayer we can change the miserable lot of our wretched future bretheren. I see now my friends the wild geese in their pond. We shall cook the fat one in a pie this evening and tomorrow I shall gather its feathers and bones and resurrect the dear creature. That is, if the rest of them give me their solemn promise to stay out of the cornfield.
I asked if Paddy was insured and he was, but his policy was heavily mortgaged. Martin Cunningham is getting up a collection for the boy, Ned Lambert trying to do something too. Great blow to his wife. She has the laugh now. No more of his bullshit, his parenting, his secrets, his drugs, his crack whores, his attacks on her peace, her mind, her normalcy, her justice, her safety, her money, her forward, her backward. She got burned. She got so burned. It was a damn bad hand she got dealt and what’s worse, in her universe time cleaves here. Everything will be about before it happened and after it all went down. And her boy. God only knows what. There’s no. I just. Oh god that sweet boy. Not yet. I can’t say it yet. But she might marry again. Me? No. Him? And Molly marry again? No. Him? Yet who knows. And then. And then. Somebody has to go first, underground. Lie no more in her warm bed. Here’s a cold one for you. I hope you’ll soon follow. Well, he is more dead for her than for me. Condole with her. Your terrible loss. Nobody to haggle with over the boy. My day, your day, you are late, he needs this, drop him off when. And then ineffably worse, what will this do? Oh that sweet boy. What does he understand? How much of this is he taking on? When we look at this kid down the road, what will be naked for all to see and then incomprehensible, what will he show only when he trusts, when he is most naked? He was there with his father dead. Three days alone. Both unconscious. Then wake up Daddy. Wake up. Nothing. Nothing for three days. But not nothing. I can’t. For three days bodies don’t do nothing, they do plenty. And the boy too little to know what to do. Please wake up Daddy. Here, I’ll open your eyes for you. Daddy? Did Paddy know? Did he lighten at the last moment? Did he recognize all he might have done? Could he see? And all for a shadow of nothing. Stop.
He looks a bit like Shakespeare, or so they say. I see it. He’s an intelligent man, doesn’t deserve his cyclical life. Drunk wife, dancing around in a kimono with an umbrella that time, pawns furniture, he buys it back. She sells it again Friday and he starts again Monday. Sisyphus without the rock. Would wear the heart out of a stone. It was just after we saw the tiny coffin, white, Martin tried to turn the talk away from. Poor little thing in that coffin. Well out of it as Dedalus said. In the midst of life we are in death. And we all understand what that means perfectly well. Don’t we? I mean, I always believe. At least for me. Take Rudy for example. Sweet little dwarf body weak as putty. They say a mistake of nature. Meant nothing, better luck next time. He doesn’t have to. Or at least he will never. Hell with this, what was I saying? Death in the midst of life. Yes. Nabokov said the cradle rocks above an abyss. You see? Life is a pinpoint of light surrounded by eternitites of darkness. Where we came from, where we are going: the same place. Oh they look on suicide badly enough, greatest disgrace to have in a family, cowardly, temporary insanity was Cunningham’s charitable view. But I don’t know. It is a route at least. It’s one way to get there. Poor Papa. He was in a room with hunting pictures on the walls. At his hotel. The bottle was there and they said they thought he was asleep at first. But then saw the yellow streaks on his face. I didn’t want to look and see him differ from. And the letter. For my son Leopold. No more pain. Rattle his bones. Over the stones. He’s only a pauper whom nobody owns. Nobody owns.