The following is a draft excerpt from my novel in progress, Housebreaking the Muse. Here, Ubu peeks into the state of mind of Jacques Rigaut, who has just received a letter informing him of the death his very close friend, Maxime Fraçois-Poncet, killed while serving at the front near Boudry.

Plunged into the gritty nebulae that menace our secret universe, we scour our phrasebooks like desperate tourists and willfully ignore the paralysis seeping from impromptu glands lodged in the bony prominence at each side of our pelvis. It seeps both north up our spine and south through our legs, switching off our nerves and shackling us in a mortifying pose. The eyes of others no longer lend us an existence. Fleas emerge from eggs secreted in the seams of our uniforms and begin to drain us of the blood whose warmth allowed their birth in the first place. In our torpor we can hardly be bothered, but out of habit we peel back our clothing and drip wax from stars we mold in our fists, sealing the unhatched eggs and scalding the living parasites with milky hot ribbons that trace a map of fate across the blotchy epidermis. Our skills blossom in the incompetence of the slapdash masters of naphthalene. I will not write this. You cannot mark my words. I have been split by a poleax. Like the greatest poets of history, the ones who never set their verse to paper, I upset my ink pot and vanish beneath an indigo veil. When you lose the will to breathe, you starve the brain of oxygen. It’s fact. But the body makes its own compensation and even as you tingle in the glorious effervescence, the tumult in which you atomize–there amidst the gasses and dust of the unclean nebulae of your own making–the body betrays you through maneuvers autonomic and you wake up later in a place as mediocre as the one from which you began. Thumbing the phrasebook we find no answers, just page after page of deceitful words. One letter separates moral from morale, amoral from moral, mortal from moral, moral from oral, royal from oral, loyal from royal. I am a moral person. Haha! Quick-switch loyal to alloy and cast a tin ear bent to hear the drop of a tear shed out of fear we must allay. And so the dust and gasses out of which we mortals are composed and into which we disintegrate join and obscure the dead space called time. Doused in naphthalene, we move our limbs and adjudge our condition. No my friend, the masters of naphthalene will never rid us of our fleas. And listen, allow me to be the first to remind you: You have to squint a little to adapt the eye to infinity. All roads lead to Rome. All roads lead us to roam. All roads. All the roads. All the roads lead us to Rome, and we need not double check the phrasebook: we know quite well how it translates. And so to Rome half of me has roamed. Tué à l’ennemi. Tué à l’ennui. Tué à l’ennemi sud-ouest de Boudry.

One thought on “J.R. Learns of the Death of His Friend Max — Excerpt from Housebreaking the Muse

  1. NNaphthalene is a wonderful adhesive remover, just ask Heloise. Why, I remember once when my preconceptions were inadvertently stuck to all of my sensory organs, ‘ol Hellie fixed me up right quick with a big mess of moth flakes in aspic. Right tasty.
    Unfortunately, my preconceptions retreated, to lurk deep within the slimy vestiges of my medulla oblongata, now and then shooting like St. Elmo’s fire to the Sylvian fissure so that I bark out vague Gnostic imprecations like one afflicted with Tourette’s. No amount of crystalline aromatic hydrocarbons can help me now.

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