the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Execution of the Sun"
Among the Jellyfish"
of the Manfestation"
Cake and Double Talk"
the Remembered Saints:
My Life & Subsequent Death
off for a bit and try to sleep himself. I don't know.
Yes? No. Never mind. This is hell indeed. But I'm sure
I've mentioned that.
So where were we? Ah yes. But wait a
minute. You've a strange look on your—and you're
As the great Dirk once muttered, It
doesn't smell of sex in here, yet somebody
else has been...
Diddling my readers, eh? Bastard.
Here I'm plugging along, doing my meager
best and feeling the pride of storytelling swell in my
own bony chest like ripe fruit, and then bam: like that,
someone comes up from behind and takes over. So who is
the little shit, eh? No idea? Right right.
You and me both, pal, are in the dark
on this one.
And by the by: thanks a hell of a lot
for sticking with me, you bastard. You're all literate
whores, you are.
think I need some sherry. Didn't think it would come to
this, truly I didn't. Pour me another there, would you?
Little shit. If matters weren't quite what they are, I'd
give you a kick in the ass you wouldn't soon forget, I
can tell you that. You little shit. Stealing a dead man's
audience. Me here dead and minding my own, just amusing
myself with muttering and then there he is, presenting
his naked ass to me and stretching manfully over my prone,
Christ. Et tu, gentle reader?
Another. And keep them coming. I'm just
going to sit here for a while, if you don't mind. But
of course you don't. You're very kind, if somewhat promiscuous.
Thank you very much. Just bring the decanter over here,
will you? Cigar? Yes, I know, but you don't live long
I can't tell you how comfortable this
Morris chair is. Consider the ingenious patented device
(1901) that allows the back cushion to be adjusted to
five different heights while you do little more than lean
forward, as if a nurse were about to slip a pillow under
the small of the back. Second notch now, there we go:
enough of an incline to nestle comfortably into the back
cushion, but not so much that the head is forever fighting
its way back upright. Just before I died, I had the chair's
cushions replaced—a difficult decision, that, turn-of-the-century
textiles being what they are, but a century's worth of
cat piss has its way of making even the most beautiful
cushions seem like the adulterous mattresses of the devil
Only Wilde, I suspect, luxuriated
at the prospect of a good cushion, though, I am quick
to add, that grumpy birch-bender Frost is the only writer
known to have worked from within the comfy confines of
a Cook & Cos. Automatic Chair.
But I digress.
Where were we, then? Ah yes. The bump
on old Arb's orb and what not. Very well, then. We'll
chat about that other matter later then, shall we? So
the meanwhile, Arb being temporarily indisposed (read:
dead, maybe), our man Onion sits idly in his office and,
suppressing the urge to slip open the bottom drawer and
remove yet another concealed Boy Talk Dirty (though
stale by now; thirty sneak previews already), he instead
sets onto his lap the purloined papers for which he'd
expected Arb's arrival and begins reading them slowly
Random notes, mostly. The scribblings
of a mad man, you might even say. Page seven: penciled
half-sentence down the length of the right margin (first
trombone bought from relative; age ten) then a splay
of ink running perpendicular to it (Tex not gay)
and everywhere else the tight script of a man who writes
in the bowels of a library and knows time makes room for
the researcher. (Oh the days and nights I passed in that
entropy-denying stillness: around me endless sheets of
archived info and all the while the world beyond meaningless
and even, for the moment, never having been.) Page
nine: more tight script with sundry-inked marginalia,
in the right corner of which appears the following sentence:
"HM becomes spy for OSS, 10/6/41."
Yes, dear reader, you read that rightly:
our mild, bespectacled Müller was—gasp—an
agent for the OSS!
Granted, it's a bit of a let-down once
you read the third paragraph on page thirteen and come
to understand the position's usually banal responsibilities—too
often little more than ensuring that certain data reach
certain eyes, the regular spy stuff, ho hum ho hum; but
really, though. It's such a charming notion, isn't it,
dear Müller laying down his trombone to advance the
Allied cause? But it wasn't rare, really, even among the
Notables of the Golden Age of Patriotism; they seemed
to think their stature required it. (Quaintly patrician,
what?) A little research might yield much. What, for example,
was John Huston really doing in San Peitro? But,
that, of course, is another story, and already our sly
Müller has slipped out of the club. There's only
time for me to say this: small though his role might have
been, it did require one interesting change in his life...
The US Government issued our man Müller
a Double, the spitting image and no mean trombonist (and
a Norwegian, no less), to make the occasional club
appearance in Müller's stead for, shall we say, special
occasions? And that, dear reader, will soon prove
O, rather frazzled by now, becomes alarmed at the sharp
crinkling sound my notes make in his otherwise silent
house and—with a paranoia worthy of a teenaged,
tea-haired boy couched uncomfortably with a loudly chugging
hookah in his childhood bedroom and the parents a mere
twenty feet away—poor O, as I say, reaches out and
clicks on the TV to muffle the rustling. Happily, as it
turns out (strange how this happens again and again, isn't
it?), the channel he allows the TV to show us is just
then about to broadcast a rather significant movie—one,
in fact, that sends chills down O's bony spine—and
he has just spastically, breathlessly shoved a tape into
the machine and hit record when the phone beside
For O, then, a white-world moment of...in
a word: terror. Ice-veined, the plaster walls and
blood-filled heart likewise as glass: see-through, brittle,
breakable. Another ring, and then a hand somehow lifts
itself, hypnotic, swings slowly toward the receiver and
lifts it to bloodless O's ear.
—Blurblip heh heh blurhehblip.
O: What's that again?
—Blurblip heh heh blurhehblip.
O (shutting off the TV and, for some
reason, squinting): Eh? Come again?
O: Woody? Is that you?
O: What's wrong with you? Where have
—Him me. Who you?
O: It's Onion, you oaf. Who do you think?
—Ehhhh. Don't know. Phone number—don't
know. Came somehow: Voice from Above. Blurblip heh heh
O: Christ. Look, you're not going to
believe what Blister—no. Not on the phone. Not
on the phone. Where are you now?
O: Where are you now?
—Floating over a cardboard
—Outside Candy T. Nipples. Apartment.
Wahoowa. Quarter: chinkchinkdial. Then you: hello?
O: Right. Stay there. Do you hear? Don't
move. I'm on my way.
O: Christ. Just stand where you are,
Then: bang goes the receiver, up springs
Onion—and out onto the street with a bang himself.
By the by: a bit rough there on poor scrambled Arb, weren't
we, old O? Remind me to get you ruffled up a bit in the
next transmission. Teach you a little empathy, what? You
back to the Arb—for what wondrous work has the malign
stroke wrought since last we heard his babble? For does
not our hero, now joined by the notes-clutching O, pose
mendicant-like under the street lamp's illuminated cone,
he and the Onion like two Masonic brothers exchanging
wordless bits of occult knowledge?
—What is divinity, says
Arbunkle finally, sighing,
if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
From brother Charlie: nothing; gawking.
—Shall she not find in comforts
of the sun, continues the Arb,
In pungent fruit and bright, green
wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the
thought of heaven?
—Wallace Stevens. Sunday Morning.
—I thought you hated poetry.
—I make exceptions.
Onion: I see. Quite. On this murder
charge you're facing, I've some rather important—
Arb: I wonder by my troth, what thou,
Did, till we loved? were we not
weaned till then,
But sucked on country pleasures,
Or snorted we in—
Onion: I think they're a few things
you ought to see. Old Blisterkunst wasn't so daft as we
—Vex not his ghost, interjects
Arb, finger lifted. O! Let him pass;
he hates him
That would upon the rack of this
Stretch him out longer.
Well said, dear Arb, well said. On the
rack indeed, dear boy. O that I too had received merely
the tap-tap on the back and found myself likewise different,
rather than lifeless dead. A demented, muttering king,
perhaps, spouting poetry and soiling his trousers on the
odd day out to the mall.
O (lifting papers): I think it might
help your case if you perused these a bit.
Beatific smile from the Arb and then:
Very well. Let us go then you and I.
Right right, from the O. Let us go and
hear the sirens sing each to each. Sure. You know, I liked
you better before.
Half-Step Below Perfection
good time, then, dear Arb, head clearing within the rather
stern confines of a Scandinavian chair in Herr O's stark-white
living room, takes up the proffered stack of notes and
steps lightly onto the surprisingly brief paper trail
leading, in good time, to your humble's murtherer. Nodding
occasionally, oohing and ahhing, even, and then he looks
up to Charlie:
—I see. A double then. Makes sense.
Herr O nods, a little disappointed that
it's come to that, three phrases rather casually delivered
with three periods to mark the rests, but still...there's
the trump card to play, and he strips the notes from Arb
and turns to the TV but—must I do everything around
here?—nudge nudge drift, a tiny note breaks free
from the papers and glides serenely floorwards.
—What's this? says O, stooping.
Charlie O tilts the note lightwards
and discovers in the margin a witch's brew of a script,
full of seeming nonsense:
GSRMP ZODZBH LU GSV WLFYOV. Z HSZWLD
YILPVM OLLHV ZMW XLNV GL PROO RGH KILTVMRGLI. (ZMV, NZBSZKH,
NV?) R SZEV VRHXLEVIVW Z GIFOB NZIEVOLFH KILLU LU GSRH,
DSRXS, SLDVEVI, GSV NZITRM RH MLG OZITV VMLFTS GL XLMGZRM.
Arb: I say, coffee was a bit off that
O: It's a code.
What ho, dear O. You've got it exactly.
Carry on, then, old man.
—Let's see now, he says, leaning
over the script with earnest zeal.
fully two hours have passed with the Hardy Bros. staring
myopically dense and then, finally, here's the pay-off:
O shrieks and wakes me from a fitful nap with a cry of:
—I've got it! Look!
Oh, don't look so self-satisfied, Onion.
It's a simple code, and you, an ex-philosophy major, should
have recognized it by reputation, if not by deduction,
for the great Ludwig Wittgenstein—like Heinrich,
a transplanted German-Austrian; like you, Herr O, a closet
homo—used the same code, merely the alphabet turned
backwards (a=z, b=y, c=x, etc., for all you English majors).
I used it, as did dear Witty, when I feared others might
casually glance Blisterwards. Never guessing, of course,
that vengeance für meinen Mörd would depend
on a pair of idiots. But that's neither here nor there
now, I suppose, for look: our heroes are leaning back
from the transcribed message which, emerging from the
detectives' stooping shadows, now reads:
THINK ALWAYS OF THE DOUBLE. A SHADOW
BROKEN LOOSE AND COME TO KILL ITS PROGENITOR. (AND, MAYHAPS,
ME?) I HAVE DISCOVERED A TRULY MARVELOUS PROOF OF THIS,
WHICH, HOWEVER, THE MARGIN IS NOT LARGE ENOUGH TO CONTAIN.
But what, pray tell, did I mean by that?
—Mean anything to you?
—Nope, says Arb. The fag was loopo.
That's about all I'm getting.
Oh, the pain you bring me, dear straight-arrow
—Well, then, that was a waste,
what? says O, or something like that, I suppose, though
I, freshly stung, don't hear it all so well right now,
as you might imagine. (Teasing, teasing man! I will think
no more of you.)
And so, discombobulated (what
a delicious, decadent word, though, what? Truly, a Wildean
fraud-word, best muttered while supine on ornately carved
fainting couches), our heroic duo begins putting papers
away, shuffling and straightening the stacks like lost,
haunted souls, until O, with blinding speed, slaps his
forehead with a skin-crackling kirsmack.
—Cripes, says he: I almost forgot
the trump card.
—You're not going to believe this,
says O, beaming, but just as I was leaving to meet you,
I noticed that Forgotten American Classics was going to
be running a—
Wait a minute, says Arb. I'm bonked
blind and you're watching cable?
—It was on in the background,
says O. Anyway, check this out.
O hits play and sits back with
a canary-eating grin. Static from the screen and a glimpse
of some limp wrist introducing the film and then, fade
title over sounds of a band warming up:
Credits roll over a plain, striped background,
almost like a curtain, with the words appearing in tasteful
O: I think he did some work with the
Credit background dissolves into the
OPENING SCENE with the camera TRACKING stage left and
discovering various musicians warming up playfully against
a simple white wall in what we soon discover is a recording
studio. Third man in—Lester Bristow—beats
out a strutting, boastful beat and sneers street-tough
at the camera, then the camera finds a trombonist warming
up but no—it's not Müller, nor his Double—and
still more tracking and then, obliquely, from the camera's
right shoulder, comes our man, gliding into frame with
the tiniest smirk and lifting the ungainly instrument
as salute. Not to us, mind you, for we are invisible,
as far as Müller's concerned, but to the band itself,
who nod and wave enthusiastically as only people in forties
movies can. But my, what a confident stride he has for
such a plain, studious man. Enough to re-think one's fundamental
notions, what? So masculine! A German Elvis? No, no, I'm
afraid not. But perhaps, methinks, something better? After
all, it's the ones who keep themselves secret—harboring
secret dreams—that are most interesting.
And so, trombone to lips, our man Müller
stands as the lower point of a trombone triangle (the
other two trombonists—see them there, at the top
corners of the frame?—long forgotten, sadly) winds
up the band inside an elaborate swing number while the
cameras move around fitfully for odd angles (look at that
one, Karl: a bit too artsy-fartsy, eh?). Then comes the
vocal track, with the camera sliding stage right and finding—good
God, yes—the Siren caressing the cantaloupe-sized
microphone with a single, soft touch and then from within
the confines of a heavily starched canary-yellow dress
and an awkward, Hollywood-botched platinum perm, comes
the voice of an angel.
—Good Lord, says O. Who's she?
—I said, uh, mumbles Arb, transfixed,
I think I said, um: I don't know, sport.
—Heavenly voice, says O, his face
warm with the first tears trickling down his cheeks.
—I say, Arb says. What not, eh?
—Blip, agrees O.
big-boned, beefy saxophonist—Tex, actually—wearing
a crazy-patterned Hawaiian shirt breaks ranks and joins
the Siren for a bit of a duet, though it's as if a light
switch is being turned off every time he takes over. By
the time the song ends, after a lengthy and fairly good
trumpet solo, our heroic twosome's in tears and feeling,
for all they're worth, as though the world is timeless
and that the Siren herself stands before them in the flesh,
smiling down at them beatific and caressing their wet
cheeks with the warmest and softest of hands.
It is enough, I dare say, to make Herr
O swear off Boys Talk Dirty, if only for the rest
of the day.
But wait—a dumpy man with no hair
calls out from the engineering booth that the trumpet
peaked out too high and that they'll have to do it all
again, and our two cringe, knowing that beauty and perfection
can never be duplicated and is that bald bastard going
to ruin it all?—but no: good old Heinrich, knowing
the vagaries of art, merely shrugs his bulky shoulders
and says, in a rather heavily German-inflected English:
Vell, next time point your
horn avay from the mic.
And thus: stiffly, having descended
into the ranks of Hollywood extras, the brilliant, golden-voiced,
swaggering musicians gather music sheets and try their
best not to look at the cameras because dammit, this could
be their big break, you know, sure it's a shit movie,
but they wouldn't have gotten the gig if they weren't
already pretty big, and Heinrich is telling them that
this could make them colossal if they play it right, let
Hollywood make you look like a stiff a few times if they
have to, but boys: no more hot-plated sauerkraut and potatoes
if we hit the Hollywood big time.
Our Heinrich's right, of course: the
rest of the movie is a forgettable lump of coal. Or, in
a word: shit. Bad acting, pedestrian story line, etc.,
and worst of all...no more Siren. Why, precisely, is unrecorded.
Perhaps the director feared his crew couldn't hold up
against another performance. Who knows. Beauty is like
a rainbow: it gains presence by its rarity. However that
may be, our heroic twosome, cheeks dried, wait in vain
for her return and find nothing to catch their attention
(except one line that burns through O like a hot arrow:
You were crazy to get married. Companionship is all
right, but there's no point in carrying it to extremes.)
until the last scene, when the band returns to the recording
studio and after a final, jaunty tip of his trombone and
a single, strangely prescient shrug that seems to accept
Fate in all its death shrouds, our man Heinrich begins
a sad Norwegian love song—the last thing, you must
admit, you'd be expecting here in celluloid-deep Hollywood,
but then again, within hours of wrapping the shoot, poor
Heinrich will be airlifted to Scotland under the cover
of leading the auxiliary Army band and begin training
for a fateful—or is it fatal?—flight into
Norway, and thus, under the circumstances, perhaps the
mournful song of Norway deserves our attention, even when
it's played by a band of thugs and tough guys who, without
their Siren, just happen to be a half-step below perfection...
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late Reginald Blisterkunst was a college professor whose
areas of expertise were Milton and the Metaphysical Poets.
Among the Remembered Saints was his first novel.
He also co-wrote Pluto Wars with Charlie Onion,
a frequent WAG contributor.