Onion & Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
is a sequel to Reginald Blisterkunst's Among the Remembered
Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death, which was originally
serialized in WAG.
Readers who prefer to begin at the beginning may read
the first book by clicking here.
Fate Would Have It
Eight o'clock and I'm sitting in my room, waiting for
Candy Tabitha to leave. She takes her time, waddling around,
but finally I hear the door shut and I wander down for
breakfast. Not much to choose from, though. So I make
some instant coffee and watch the sun cast rippling shadows
on the tabletop. Then a cloud dampens it all and I make
myself another cup, stronger this time.
—I've got great
news, Woody says, bounding in, as I sit down again.
next door is going up for rent.
it was abandoned, I say, wary.
vacant, Woody says, correcting. I talked to the landlady
this morning and she's ready to show the place to you.
Here's her number. She's a lesbian, by the by, if that
helps any. Poli-Sci professor. You might have met her.
I accept the slip
of paper—on the back, I notice, is written a single
word: WAG—and stuff it into
my shirt pocket.
—I don't have
any money, you know.
to McKratchett, he says. Maybe he could put you on the
exactly, would I write?
me to leave, I say, presciently.
—No no no no,
old man, Woody says, laughing heartily. Just trying to
help you out real-estate-wise.
We share the last
of a box of Cheerios Woody finds behind the stove and
then he leaves to turn in an article on a local psychic
who says she's getting messages from a spirit named Casper.
After washing the cereal bowls, I call the landlady's
a man says. May I help you?
—I glance at
the number again and ask for the woman. A moment later,
she picks up the line.
in looking at a house you'd like to rent, I say.
you in five minutes, she says, ecstatic.
We meet on the house's rotting porch, which groans warningly
under our combined weight. She's wearing a gray suit,
black tie and penny loafers, but aside from the outfit
and the obligatory butch haircut, she looks like any other
normal, rather heavyset academic who wants to dump inherited
real estate onto an unsuspecting ex-colleague.
—Let's go in,
shall we? she says, after the briefest of introductions.
She inserts the key,
turns the knob, pushes grandly, and...
the top panel falls
out of the door with a dust-raising though depressingly
says, blushing. Don't worry. I'll have Ronnie fix that.
He's my local handyman, you know. Fixes everything in
a jiff. Worked for my father too, you know.
We step over the
panel and survey the house.
A long hall extends
around the stairs and down the length of the house, ending
with a glimpse of a canary-yellow kitchen. Beside us,
a door leads into what could charitably be called a front
parlor, and beyond it, another door leads into what I
presume would make a nice dining room for an impoverished
coal miner's family. There's certainly enough soot on
the windows to make you think of coal.
like to see the upstairs?
I eye the stairs,
make a few quick engineering calculations, decide they'll
probably hold our weight if we run up them quickly and
lightly, and nod.
I follow her up at
a distance and try to look anywhere besides the woman's
ponderous, swaying haunches. On the landing, which slopes
precipitously back down toward the stairs (rule out bowling
up here, chaps), we're presented with a bathroom. There
are three other rooms, but given the landing's shallow
depth, the bathroom seems to be thrusting itself at us.
Obligingly, we take two giant steps and crowd ourselves
between the sink and the tub.
—That's a porcelain
tub, she says, admiringly. You don't see them up on club
feet like that anymore.
I agree, nodding.
—And look at
these gas fittings, she says, stroking a tube that sticks
out over the sink at eye level.
As if she were reading
my mind, she quickly acknowledges that the medicine cabinet
is thrown off-center by the gas fitting.
—But, she says,
opening the cabinet, you could always move it, if you
Inside, we find a
single tube of toothpaste, empty, and what appears to
be the top plate of a set of dentures. Startled, she slaps
the cabinet door shut and it responds by disappearing
in the wall cavity. For a moment, we listen as it ricochets
off old two by fours and the odd nail, and then it finishes
its plummet two floors below with a muted crack.
says brightly, after another moment of gawking. First
thing tomorrow I'll send him under the house to retrieve
it. You'll never know it was gone.
I trudge behind her
obediently from one room to another, nodding and smiling,
and then I ask her how the house is heated.
—Gas, she says.
I say, looking and not seeing.
in each room, she says. The house doesn't have them right
now, but I could get you a couple wood stoves if it gets
too cold, to tide you over until spring.
I follow her back
downstairs, through the kitchen (again: slanting floors
and cabinetry and that seems poised to tip back into the
walls and disappear like scuba divers dropping backwards
over the sides of a boat) and into the small, fenced-in
backyard where, to my delight, I find the first sign of
life for the house: a small garden, neglected, it's true,
but a garden none the less. As fate would have it, the
sun is just now shining through the trees and casting
a wonderful golden glow over the garden's early-flowering
weeds, and as I stand among them, with my back to the
house, I feel suddenly, in a word, at-home.
it, I say.
—It's a year's
lease, she says, warning.
—Fine, I say.
I'll plant a garden for next year.
She beams and grips
regret it, she says.
We walk back through
the house, now growing dim and somber in the dying light,
and in the hallway, emboldened by my taking the house,
she lowers her voice and says:
—I heard about
you, you know. And I just want to say, I and my fellow
Lesbians for Outed Professors support your decision one
I mumble. Quite.
On the porch, she
hands me the house's keys and comes close to hugging me
out of solidarity, I suppose, but then she thinks better
of it and merely tells me that rent is due no later than
the second week of every month. I stand on the porch,
waving at her as she drives off, and then I turn back
to face the house, which is now, I notice, pitch-dark
After Woody comes back, we carry the boxes down from
the guest room and he hands them to me across the porch
railing. Books and papers, mostly, plus a few extra pairs
of pants and my computer.
Tabitha tell you about Cindy? he asks, passing over a
box of Milton studies.
I shake my head,
saying it's Mao's.
I grunt and climb
over the railing to get the computer. There's a group
of men gathered around the Bare-Ass Rooster Bar &
Grill across the street, watching us work.
Six, maybe seven
of them, all looking identical, like test-tube rednecks:
greasy black strands of hair falling on the dirty collars
of their flannel shirts, sweat-stained T-shirts beneath
swelling over their middle-aged, beer-nursed paunches,
jeans legs pulled down tight over the tops of scuffed-up
construction boots. Good old boys, leering at the pair
On the way back for
the monitor and printer, I notice they're pulling long
deer rifles from the trunk of a thirty-year-old beige
Dart, and as Woody and I struggle over the railing, the
tallest of the rednecks points his rifle at me and sights
down its barrel, trigger-finger in place.
—Jesus, I whisper.
They're going to shoot us.
them, Woody says, glancing riflewards. They're harmless.
We set the computer
up in the front room on a table I borrowed from Woody.
Afterwards, I pull the door closed on the room and watch
it swing open again, ghostlike.
—I'd lock that
door, Woody says, in this neighborhood.
—There is no
—Get a padlock,
man. Welcome to the neighborhood.
—Right, listen, I need a chupa pronto pronto, my good
man, understand? Chu-pa. C-H-U-P-A. Cccchhhuuppa. That's
right. The little thing with the burning light. Christ.
Well, the natives are restless tonight, and a little of
the zip-bang-stench might quiet them. Not that it's any
of your business, by the by. Who's top dog in this quadrant,
after all? There we go. You know which side of the bread's
Look, forget all
that, right? I say chupa pronto pronto, and that's it.
Don't give me—all right. Fine. But it had better
be before midnight. I want to catch the city editions.
Well, just buzz the military outposts if you have to.
That'll get their attention.
Yes yes. Good day
to you as well. Ta ta, snotty Cheez-Its and all that.
1 | Part
2 | Part 3
| Part 4
5 | Part
6 | Part 7
| Part 8 |
9 | Part