- American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
- Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
- Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
- Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
- Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
- Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
- Nonviolence by Jim Courter
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
- RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
- Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
- Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
- TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
- Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
- Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
- Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
- Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
- Patience by Ward Webb
- The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
- The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
- Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
- Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
- When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
- Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
- The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
- The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
- Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
- The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
- The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
- Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
- Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
- The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
- Someday Man by John Grochalski
- I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
- Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
- Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
- The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
- Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
- Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
- The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
- How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
- Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
- Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
- Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
- Invisible by Anjoli Roy
- One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
- Storyteller by Alan McCormick
- Idolatry by Robert Smith
- P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
- They Do! by Al Po
- Full TEX Archive
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein
By Tom Bradley
...it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived...
…Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Years ago, fresh-faced and pretty much normal, my favorite cousin, Pynn Barkdull, went on a Mormon mission to Salem, Massachusetts. After serving out the appointed two years, he came back on the Greyhound appearing every bit as wholesome as when he'd left, admirably concealing the fact that he could see and feel fiery blisters erupting from his flesh, and could hear, inside his own skull, the tormented screeches of every witch that had ever been hanged or pressed in that town.
Once ensconced in his parents' house trailer, way out in the middle of the Salt Flats, Pynn took to his bed, and begged to be administered the secret Mormon laying-on-of-hands ceremony. Refused this drastic measure on the grounds that he was "just a tad tuckered out, an' re-quired nothin more 'n a few days snoozin in the ol' fart sack," Pynn took matters into his own mysteriously white-gloved hands.
With a histrionic gesture of his long arm, he scooped the big blue jar of Noxema cold cream and the decorator box of facial-quality tissue off his night stand, and perched his Princess extension in their place. He proceeded to place hundreds of long distance calls to the administrative offices of various sacred denominations represented in the Salt Lake City yellow pages, inquiring as to going rates for castings-out and other such esoteric services.
Scientologists, Rosicrucians and Roman Catholics began chartering small buses out into the white desert, and challenging each other to grotesque showdowns in the purple back bedroom of the Barkdull family's modest mobile home. Such theological measures, combined with various over the-counter downers, brought my cousin a few minutes of sleep when the sun was well up and I was around to hold his shrouded hand. But, judging from Pynn's moaning dreams, it finally became obvious, even to his brain-dead father, that professional medical attention was needed, if not downright custodial care.
Papa Barkdull had no help from his wife, my auntie, Pynn's mama--the woman whom we all secretly called Death Lady. She couldn't handle any emotion other than her own barely sublimated pansexual lust, and spent all her time avoiding her unhappy son at choir practice in the local prayer hall, where she was star soprano soloist on account of her preternatural vibrato. But eventually, Papa Barkdull, unassisted, was able to convince "Crazy" Pynn that he ought to spend some time in Our Lady of Sorrows' psych ward.
"Them cat-lickers, they's used to dealin with deep feelins 'n stuff," explained Papa.
Soon, "Crazy" Pynn got bored in the pastel loony bin and started spilling his guts to the various orderlies and janitors and junkies at Our Lady's. He had a fairly horrible story to tell, which he corroborated by removing the silken gloves he'd worn ever since getting off the Greyhound.
It seemed that Pynnie's companion on the mission--a Vietnam-vet and native of this very desert, in fact, who bore the odd given name Streckfuss--had tried deliberately to drive the poor boy mad through psychological torment and even physical cruelty. Pynnie, with what seemed chillingly to resemble glee, displayed evidence of ritual scalding and shackle blisters on his body. His hands and feet looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon's flippers, the skin melted along the phalanges and solidified in hideous brown webs of scar tissue. When pressed, however, he was unable to produce a single cigarette burn. They were Mormons, after all.
The law was called in, for even a self-effacing old desert hound-dog like Papa Barkdull couldn't overlook a disservice this blatant. They extradited Pynn's companion from Salem, where he had set up housekeeping in a seventeenth-century garret and surrounded himself with adherents to a quasi-religious sect of his own co-devising: a polygamist coven featuring old ladies and orgiastic anal rituals, Streckfuss acting as Prophet, Seer and Revelator.
The judge, in pronouncing his verdict, observed that this sort of heretical behavior was a rapidly growing trend among Mormon proselytizers throughout the world. He cited the recent misadventure of the young missionary stationed in England, who claimed to have been followed clear across the Atlantic, forcibly chained down for weeks on end, and repeatedly raped by a certain Dairy Princess from Centerville, Utah. And, when a reporter from the National Enquirer asked, "How on earth does a female rape a male? How does a man get coerced into intercourse without at least his consent, if not his cooperation?" the boy explained, "She used her mouth first." And everybody went, "Oh." Next question.
Well, the judge (not surprisingly a good Brother of the Church himself), said that he'd decided to make an example of Pynn's companion, this young Streckfuss, to put a stop to these lurid shenanigans that were interfering with God's work all across the face of the earth and so embarrassing the General Authorities. He put Streckfuss away in Utah's for-real insane asylum: not a ferny upstairs ward staffed by bleeding-heart mackerel snappers, such as the place where Pynn went, but the bona-fide, thorazine-steaming, state-run clink in the uncharted outskirts of Provo.
Actually, the depiction of "Crazy" Pynn as pure victim might have been more useful to the Barkdulls' lawyers than it was accurate. Nobody seemed to notice that Exhibit-A, the original copy of the Massachusetts coven's bizarre charter, was not only written in the "victim's" florid penmanship, but in his fancy-shmancy rhetorical style as well. Where had Pynnie gotten his webs on all that empurpled vocabulary, that architectonic syntax? From the same dark, grisly, potent place where children in exorcism movies derive their British accents, maybe?
In any case, the court elected to penalize the culprit's father as well, just for good measure. Coincidentally a "Bishop" of the church, this old gentleman was reputed to enjoy dim and peculiar ties to the Barkdull clan. (This was not all that astonishing, as everyone was dimly and peculiarly tied through plural marriage.) Streckfuss' father was forced to pay my cousin a dozen or so thousands of dollars, plus court costs. There were whisperings that the "Bishop's" elevated, yet shadowy, ranking in the sacred hierarchy had helped him get off so lightly.
With the small fortune in emotional damages, plus a couple bank loans, "Crazy" Pynn was able to open up his Hollywood Monster Hobby Shoppe in Salt Lake. It turned out to be quite a successful experiment in creative entrepreneurship. And while it stood, the Shoppe was neither bombed or boycotted, nary a Mormon booger wiped on the plastic cobweb-festooned front window. Evidently, the "Bishop" was too ashamed, or too busy, or had simply forgotten, to wield his influence to wreak retaliation on the snitch who got his son Streckfuss in such Dutch.
In his locally famous store, "Crazy" Pynn stocked easy-to-assemble scale models of the Blob, icky rubber tarantulas, etc., all those witchy things that make children wince a bit, but don't hurt them or give bad dreams from which they can't readily awaken. My favorite retail items were the hundreds of monster masks which my cousin stacked and strung everywhere. I used to loiter near the cash register and watch these things writhe with their own animation, like a plague of toads and locusts, a spontaneous generation of morbidity.
They were the expensive kind, shaped to cover the whole head and neck, molded every conceivable vomity shade and texture, with tufts of real human hair embedded at odd spots, sprouting rankly from the sides of these disembodied noggins. The masks must have been designed by medical students with minds sickened from extended intimacy with cadavers. They looked like the portraits in the Syphilitic's Museum in Liverpool; or the pregnant corpses you can sometimes see discarded in north African mule pens; or the bubonic plague victim crumpled in the lower left corner of Grunewald's "Temptation of Saint Anthony," with his rictus-smile, blue epidermis, and exploding scarlet navel.
Supreme harelips throve and blossomed beyond mere oral cavities, splitting whole noses into single-nostriled tubes of plastic monster-snot. Graying, greening skin sunk around empty orbits with blackened lids flapping loose. Wormlike veins erupted from the underbellies of eyeballs that hung on red strings over cheeks bursting with custardy matter. These were clinically accurate representations of the penultimate state of all flesh, the transitoriness of connective tissue, the religion-engendering horror of impermanence, caught for all eternity in non-biodegradable latex. They were time machines that gave me a look at my future self.
Here in my cuzzie's store resided timeless art that would be slippery, resilient and whole when the Isenheim Altarpiece was carbon jam between the toe-claws of some post-World War III gamma mutant. These rubbery false faces heralded the demise of Homo sapiens as a species, its mongrelization, its miscegenation, its regressive breeding into swamps and tar-pits.
Speaking of which, a certain amount of nepotism soon crept into the administration of the Hollywood Monster Hobby Shoppe. Though I hadn't quite yet fully blossomed into the magnificent stature which I enjoy today, Cousin "Crazy" Pynn came up with a way to employ the six-foot seven-inch, two-hundred-and-eighty-three-pound, fifteen-year-old me.
In response to a waking dream he experienced one afternoon in the stock room, my new boss inaugurated the very popular Marauding Beastie Service ("Hire 'em out! Scare your loved ones dead!"). He gainfully employed a downright regiment of burly, immature dope fiends such as me, a whole generation of junior Karloffs, Lugosis and Chaneys. Pynn used to pump us full of that good old-fashioned Purple Haze and make us available to working-class Mormons with poorly developed senses of humor who wanted family members traumatized. It was sort of an escort service to and from hell, and I turned out to be one of the more sought-after Frankensteins.
This job, as one may well imagine, involved the pubescent me in a zillion zany, madcap misadventures, to be sure, which I am unable recall at this very instant—except to say that the most memorable of these gigs provided me not only with my first in-person glimpse of labia minora, but also with a hairline crack in the base of my skull which still sometimes twinges a bit when I—
But, here. Allow me to demonstrate.
I'm the patchwork corpse, jerry-rigged, galvanized, and duly dispatched by The Modern Prometheus. Layers of barf-green latex slide along cold sweat. My huge jacket smells of mothballs. I'm standing in the dark willowy back yard of a stranger's duplex, which is fastened, cystwise, halfway up the side of an oversized mountain that rims the Mormon "Zion."
The house key in my hand writhes like a centipede. Through the lace curtain I see a squared circle glowing orange and turquoise. Howard Cosell's mouth is bobbing up and down; and, coming out of his mouth, trilling, perfectly in synch, is the squeaking voice of an electric meter drilled into the red brick wall beside my ponderous green head.
I see a lady's robed legs cross and uncross in front of the TV—a Mormon plumber's mother-in-law whom I've been assigned to scare to death. If she loses control of her bladder and bowels both, there'll be a tip in it for me, and maybe even a nice bonus. Pynnie's got some Clear Light back at the shoppe. I take a growling breath—
And then, all at once, the wiseacre razzer, the color announcer to my ball game, my logorrheic consciousness, shuts up. All verbiage is cleared away from a yellow sky, for the length of time it takes to blink once.
I snap to, flat on my ass in a Doberman pinscher's horse meat-reeking supper dish, all four limbs and twenty digits cold and numb, tingling, no circulation.
Before I can say "Huh?" or "Who's minding the store?" my boss cousin reaches into his pocket and produces something trim and metallic. "See my new toy?" he says, holding up a tiny piece of electronic equipment, a genuine Sony micro-cassette recorder. He cradles it in an ungloved web, and coos, "I'm real proud of it."
He clicks the thing on, and it makes sounds that might be tentatively identified as emanating from some sordid zoo's chimp house at feeding time. But, no, Pynn explains that the recording was made in the master bedroom of a certain particle-board mobile home in the middle of a nearby wasteland.
"I concealed this apparatus, secret and nifty, in my parents' laundry hamper," says Pynn over the ape noises. "Smell?"
It is offered up to my nose, but politely declined.
"Turn it down." I whisper. "What if the plumber's mother-in-law hears?"
"Weren't you paying attention?" snickers Pynn, turning it up. "She's already scared dead. Forget about her. Listen to your auntie and uncle instead. They're getting comfortable."
At the time this recording was made, Mama and Papa Barkdull seem to have been playing the gamy-wamies of middle-aged people who can no longer do a whole lot of bona-fide pair-bonding.
"Where'm I gonna pinch?" yowls Death Lady over the one-inch speaker dangling by a strap from her son's disfigured wrist.
"Don'tcha do that to me nope-nope-nope," replies my uncle.
"Crazy" Pynn has the whole routine committed to heart. Mr. and Mrs. Barkdull's shared moment of connubial pleasuring is preserved for posterity not only on micro-cassette, but in the kinesthetic memory of their sole spawn and heir. He mouths their grimaces, and pantomimes the otherwise unimaginable actions that must've produced the fleshy splorts and rubbing sounds. He throws himself into one, then the other character, like a borderline-non-compos-mentis TV comic. "Laugh at me, or I promise you I will die," he shrieks in ear-splitting body language. He squawks and squirts and grunts along with his fons et origo.
The dobie pinscher into whose supper dish my ass is wedged begins to howl and snarl from the shadows in which it is, with any luck, securely chained.
Soon enough, the locutions of my auntie and "unker," inarticulate enough under less passionate circumstances, degenerate into pure white noise. In response, Pynnie dives to his belly on the patio flagstones and slithers like a jack rabbit partly squished on a salty highway. He sizzles saliva froth all over my Frankenstein-booted insteps, and makes his beautiful golden face as ugly as the less popular monster masks, with gawks intended to impersonate each of his parents in turn.
"Cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood," says Leo Tolstoy, but in a different context.
Pynnie even looks up once and shoots me a chillingly accurate imitation of the trademark sneer which Death Lady produces while soloing at Sunday meetings in the prayer hall, a rictus of greasy rut that nearly puts the fear in me. He shoves a few fused fingers into the corners of his rosebud mouth and yanks masochistically down.
"Isn't this almost too disgusting?" he laughs, and snaps the micro- cassette recorder off just as my uncle starts making ejaculation sounds. Pynn gets up off this perfect stranger's patio, sets his hair straight, and dusts himself off.
At this point I feel I simply must demur. From between my brown-painted cadaver-lips I say, "But, Pynnie, Those sorts of gamy-wamies are what made you."
After a stunned pause, he murmurs, "Sweet Jesus, I never thought of it that way." He hunkers back down next to me, and tries to say more, but his voice cracks. He turns and looks, glassy-eyed, at his reflection in the doggy's water dish, then at his shiny red shoes.
"You have a cousin," Pynn says absently. "I mean besides me. An honorary cousin, I should say. Not a blood cousin, but a milk cousin. Suckled at the same blessed paps that suckled me. Did you know? My former missionary companion? Streckfuss?"
Pynn gives off a look of offended piety.
"Tell the truth," I say.
Pynn takes on a homiletical tone of voice. "What a 'Bishop' wants," he informs me, "a 'Bishop' gets."
"And he wanted your hideous mom's nipple sauce curdling in his only son's belly?"
"It's well-known fact. Local lore. If you didn't spend all your time hulking around Gomorrah in full make-up, you'd already know this."
"Well, yeah. But rental tits? I thought that was just way down south, back in the old days, with former slaves—I mean, you know."
Pynn leans against the plumber's fly-screened porch door and says, "Are you ready to hear what that old hireling milch-cow used to do to the 'Bishop's' boy? I remember this, even though I was just a small child myself, because she always made me watch and even assist sometimes. You know the old line: 'Hand me the Handi-Wipes, Pynnie, our wee-wee Streckie-boy spilled!'
"You see, she had contractually obligated herself to the most powerful Mormon around, but Mama was too busy with sacred church work and choir practice to fix the baby solid food. So she kept him nursing far beyond the weaning time prescribed by our northern industrialized culture. This had the added advantage of extending the pay period. Plus she liked the twitches it gave her uterus to have a little man tugging away at her areolae. 'Tightens me up for your ol' Papa's salami,' is what she used to sizzle in my face as she suckled the customer, and I couldn't figure out what in the world she was talking about, lunch or what?
"And li'l Streckums was thinking about lunch, too. He was a growing boy, hungry for some solid meat for his bones and muscles to develop on. Sometimes he forgot himself, lulled two-thirds unconscious by the breast anyway, and he sank his razor-sharp rattler teeth into the Death Lady.
"And she screamed the filthiest words I have ever heard. She never, ever swore other times, because she was such a good religious woman, the first-string soprano soloist in the prayer hall choir. But at feeding time it was 'Why, you filthy li'l rim-jobbing, smegma-gulping clit-twirler!' And she raked my future missionary companion's cheek with her fingernails until he opened his mouth to cry and she could slide her teat back out to the safety of her under-wire bra, bleeding, and that would be the end of Streckfuss' nurture for that particular day.
"She'd supplement this jejune diet with saltine crackers. That was his only solid food besides wrinkled dug-flesh, and he'd only get them when Mommy was sure he was cutting a new tooth, a ragged hole in his gums. He would jam that salt cracker in his little rosebud mouth, my client baby brother, and scream in agony, but couldn't stop chewing because he was so ravenous. And mama would watch with no expression at all on her face. Sometimes she'd press a hand or two between her thighs and glance at me.
"She'd pump the stranger full to bursting with that awful red sugar-water from a baby bottle. Then she'd swathe her head in a brown terrycloth imitation animal hide with bottle caps tinkling all over it, and prance around our mobile home, making noises and faces intended to mock our daddy, who was out steadfastly operating his backhoe somewhere in the wilderness. And she'd make my baby un-brother laugh and laugh until he peed that red sugar water all over his diapers. And then she would encourage me to help her heap scorn on Strecky-Wee-Wee for being a pants-pissing baby, followed by more salty things for the wounds in his mouth. 'Breakfast for Streckfuss! Breakfast for Streckfuss!' she'd warble at full vibrato.
"And when he got constipated from all this malnutrition and turmoil, Mommy sodomized our patron's son with a Vaseline-coated pencil eraser. 'To get them ding-dang contractions going,' is what she explained while making me watch.
"You know, just the standard behavior that females engage in whenever we're haplessly placed in their charge, the basic mewling and puking stuff, the usual monster-making that only a poorly toilet-trained fag like me and a connoisseur of unattractiveness like you would care to bring up in polite company.
"She used to walk bare-naked in front of my li'l Streckums and me. She'd scratch herself and bend over, pretending to pick up something. She'd have us lie in bed with her and play rub-the-backs. Neither of us learned to wipe our bummy properly until seventh or eighth grade, and only then by trial and error, 'cause Mama always did it for us. She deliberately misinformed us just to see our little eyes widen in amazement: she told us that the daddy peed in the mommy's belly button and then there was a baby. And she'd massage her bosoms like we weren't there, cuz. She used to have us three bathe together, me and my pseudo-sibling and her. And, pretending to teach us personal hygiene, she'd pull our foreskins, which were never removed like all the other boys' in gym class. She swore up and down it was for laudable anti-Semitic reasons, but it was actually just so she could tweak them twice a week for nearly a decade and a half. That's why she named me, her first-born, like she did. You know, to sound like 'penis'? I, at least, must have enjoyed it, because I always called, 'Mama, will you bring me a towel?' clear up until I was seventeen, even after she'd stopped pulling my pynnie 'cause I was a man with hair of my own and she was religious and in the choir. She's the soprano soloist, you know? First string, of the whole prayer house choir? I think that shows a certain amount of serious application, don't you?"
He looked imploringly out of the corner of one eye.
For some peculiar reason of my own, I suddenly felt like laughing in my cousin's face. But I didn't. That would be cruel--but not cruel enough. Not for the Marauding Beastie, not tonight. So, instead of laughing, I delved deep into myself and conjured up an ultimately cynical, latently queer notion to utter in an undead voice, to make things even more difficult for my poor blood-cuzzie. I loved this guy, always had. But, you know, what the hell?
"Pynnie," I said, taking the golden forearm and gazing into the clear, bewildered eyes. "We are all of us sprung from feces. We are like those mushrooms I got growing in my bathroom: rank things, sprouted temporarily in a hard white place that was intended just for defecation."
I was about to add, "We're just waiting in this laundry hamper of an earth for a giant angel to come pluck and gobble us for his own recreational purposes, which have nothing to do with us as persons," or something anticlimactic like that--but, at that moment, Pynn's thumb made a little spasm and flipped on the Sony micro-cassette recorder, just long enough for us two tall youngsters to hear the splatter and plop of Mama Barkdull's cackling, orgasming and singing the first few bars of "Whoa Promise Me."
"Shit is what we're sprung from," I insisted. "Unlovely and unloving shit."
"I know," choked Pynn in despair.
I celebrated this conceit, and such a pithy, almost aphoristic expression thereof, with a few death-embracing lungfuls of the most common combustion-supportive air pollutant in modern urban zones, adulterated liberally with the world's major greenhouse gas.
As for Pynn, he actually started crying. Quiet sighs and hiccoughs. Catching his tears like little black lagoons in the webs of either hand, and wiping them away, bravely, like a sad, pretty girl, he cried, Pynnie did. And I felt like a hireling mutant whore.
"I know," repeated Pynnie, much more firmly. "It's okay." He understood, better than most people would. He smiled, and offered me a tiny windowpane, a bonus.
A note from the author—
The key is in the epigraph from Mrs. Shelley: "It became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived." That is, of course, Doctor Frankenstein describing the monster he has made. Or, rather, not describing it.
This is a story about monster-making. Streckfuss makes Pynnie's hands into Creature from the Black Lagoon-type flippers. Pynnie turns his cousin into Frankenstein's monster. And, of course, Auntie Death Lady is the champion original source of monstrosity. She is the mother-werewolf who starts it all, with her pair of nurslings.
Mother Nature is not a "host of golden daffodils." She's an abyss, a fanged maw. Get too close to the lip, and lose everything. The catamite clergy of the Syrian goddess Atargatis lived under the divine compulsion to hack away at themselves in public with swords and knives. The orgiastic sisterhood of Bacchantes went into such frenzies that they could dismember wild animals and uproot trees with their fingernails. One of their club, Agave, tore her own son's head clean off. And let's not forget the sorceress Medea, who diced her own brother and slaughtered her children.
Dante pictured Hell's denizens fearlessly and well. But, as it says in the epigraph, even he could not have "conceived" (procreational pun intended) the monsters in this story, because he lived in pre-psychoanalytical days. Freud, for better or worse, placed squarely and explicitly into our awareness the concealed hellaciousness of the nuclear family.
There's no regulating this delicious, horny hell, which we face every night at the dinner table, no imposing orderly relationships upon it. Even the presumably sun-drenched Olympian deity Hera was sibling to her own spouse. Hercules, being Zeus' son, must be Hera's nephew, even while serving as her stepson. And then Hera adopts him and gives him her daughter to wed—who is, obviously, his cousin. These are the disorderly undertones of procreation itself, which our monotheistic tradition has tried to hide under the stainless robe of that confirmed bachelor, Jehovah.
But my story doesn't take place in Judeo-Christendom. It is set in Mormondom, which is not the same thing at all. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, in making his presidential bid, protested too much. He kept saying, "It's not a cult," pleading wholesome Protestantism, lying through his capped teeth.
When Streckfuss' dad, the Mormon "Bishop," is first mentioned, we are told—
"...the old gentleman was reputed to enjoy dim and peculiar ties to the Barkdull clan. (This was not all that astonishing, as everyone was dimly and peculiarly tied through plural marriage.)"
We are in a waterless place, populated with religious fanatics whose lawless "family romances" intertwine and writhe in dark knots, like snakes with their tails in their mouths. The precise relationship of Streckfuss and Pynnie is unclear, and it's not unlikely that the "Bishop" did more than merely pay Death Lady to let the little creature gnaw on her withered dug.
It's no coincidence that my sophisticated literary Jewish friends at the University of Utah called this suburban desert region "Bum-Fuck Egypt," and refused to go anywhere near it.
Salt Lake City itself suppurates on the shores of a Dead Sea, just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Get in your car and drive more than an hour in almost any direction, and you are in the middle of a landscape indistinguishable from the wilderness where John the Baptist gagged down his locusts, and Christ got buttonholed by Satan.
Have you ever seen "Carnival of Souls," the cult flick made in the early sixties by Herk (I've forgotten his last name)? It's about a woman who drowns and goes to hell. Where did he choose to shoot it? On the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
As you can see, we are in deep waters here: prehistory, the Age of Isis, when people lived in the full awareness of Nature's cruel, chaotic might.
Poor Pynn and cousin, with their male crania full of quaint Purple Haze and Clear Light! They bravely try to scare the Mother (in-law) dead. They do the work of Abraham and his sons: drawing some order out of this cyclical flux, by fastening a linear penis of grammar and syntax onto it. They have to impose words and logic on this gargantuan mother's sheer appetite, by talking about her. Our narrator gets his windowpane bonus at the end, because he has listened to Pynnie's narrative of infantile trauma, like an analyst to his analysand.
Our boys have looked into the abyss, and faced down snake-haired Medusa, and not been turned to stone. They have gotten perilously close to being sucked into the ravenous anarchistic lubed-up snatch, the vagina dentata of that cannibalistic thing known as Mama and Auntie and Wifey and Wet Nurse. The very patio to which they cling is fastened like an uterine cyst to a big mother mountain that overshadows the Mormon "Zion." But with words they save each other. Toward the end our narrator makes an explicit declaration of love for his gay cuzzie. Pynnie finally stops crying, and smiles and speaks in a firm voice.
Excerpted from Tom Bradley's Hemorrhaging Slave Of An Obese Eunuch
© Tom Bradley 2010