after language, the novel that isn't Part 28
Written by William Kherbek on Monday the 17th of October 2011
Watson sweating in
the leather caul. Wound's reopened, he tastes it: sweat-blood: salty as
tear-blood. Misrule. He initiates a count.
Not even token attempts to avoid double count-out. The bell rings and
rings again. The toll, it seems is for the Ref.
Roger, fake-unconscious or real
unconscious. Impossible to tell.
Crazed Fan slugging it out with
Ludwig. They reenter the ring. It can't be-of
Just before he lost consciousness,
before Ludwig swung the ring bell against his jaw, and the world reddened then
darkened, then rang, he knew.
Of course, the step-overs. Way more
than there should have been. The Weird had come for Watso-
The desert forgets easily. He envied
it as he rode along with the Tuaregs. They'd found him, fucked and stumbling,
so sun-bled he was barely human. After language. Grunts and growls.
Throat-ripping, winded hisses. Why had they not finished him where he stood?
What waited for him over the loess hills, over the scrubland and mountains?
Tender mercies: Harsh in the the mind-eating climate. He would have gladly died
then, knowing it was all a lie. Knowing he was nothing but aging and betrayed,
to have watched the seared indifferent white of the blank sky. To have died
there, quiet as a sirrocco...
But they didn't finish him. He
remembered nothing of his 'rescue', should that be what this proved. Why
bother? Dusty laws of hospitality? Common feeling? Fear of a white corpse too
near? They drove him through the worst of it, every pore ached with
dehydration. Days he lay in the saddle, swaddled to the man in front. Names
meant nothing, either to him or the Tuaregs.
When they dropped him they asked
nothing. They rode on. Urban life crackled nearby. He waved but only to their
backs. He made his way into the city, his skin a strange kind of red-white,
beyond burnt, beyond comfortably human. In another age he might have been a
god, in our mercifully profane present he was a patient. Nuns floated. Algeria.
Tout parlent Francais...
Highfill observes the proceedings.
His lawyer: cuts an anachronistic figure in court. Highfill cups his hands.
Opening statement: The charges against my client are most
grievous, the murder of two German citizens, complicity in a the overthrow of
an independent nation. If true, they would be stomach turning. The evidence we
have heard against my client would indeed be most damning. I would be a most
incompetent lawyer if I were to break off my opening statement there.
The long pause. Highfill thinks for
a moment: You are a most incompetent lawyer.
Resumption: But this is not the
case. Indeed, the charges against my client are not as airtight as they appear.
I invite you to consider with me the nature of our understanding of the crime
my client is said to have undertaken. An extensive plot, hatched in a country
with most unfriendly relations with Herr Highfill's country of origin, the
creation and maintenance of a secret military, the detonation of a bridge in
the capital of Mali...all very explosive charges. Unfortunately they never
Even Highfill gasps.
Resumption: The age in which we live
demands a spectacle, ladies and gentlemen, if no spectacle is provided, then it
is the mandate of the society to produce periodic spectacles the order of which
the society demands. I present to you that the media construction that has
occurred both in Mali and in Germany, indeed also in France, has not occurred
at all in any Euclidean space which we may identify. Our perceptions have been
cruelly managed, the families of the individuals involved have been deceived
and an entire structure of simulation and falsehood has emerged. What happened
in Mali was not a coup, indeed, not even the prosecution would argue that a
coup occurred. No, indeed what happened was that in the absence of a coup,
perhaps an expected coup, perhaps an internally engineered coup, a spectacle
was produced to distract attention from greater criminalities.
I will demonstrate to you that a
terrible truth is not merely possible, but it is in this case necessary. The
spectacle, as it is the quintessence of the unreal over events in what is
referred to as reality drains the reality from the component material
structures and relations which underpin it. Your Honour, the events that
compose the spectacle, every aspect of their relations if real in the
conventional sense, become unreal in their realization, thus the spectacle, the
event which places Herr Highfill before us, becomes even more unreal if it
Beyond even this, the basic
culpability with which Herr Highfill is charged cannot be intelligible. We
think of this spectacle, this massive geopolitical structure, that once set in
motion cannot be stopped, cannot even be comprehended, necessitates the
displacement of the capacity to act. All must stand frozen and panicked before
the manifestation of the spectacle, Herr Highfill is no different. Should a
plan, a plan, speaking purely in the realm of the hypothetical the composition
of which included Herr Highfill, be made real in the world of objects, at that
point, it effaces all its antecedents, it wipes the memory of all involved, it
defies reducibility. How can a man, any man be blamed for a monolithic and
transcendent event whose consequences, indeed the nature of which, he cannot
even claim the most basic understanding? I submit it is not unlike blaming the very
atoms that compose an atomic weapon for its destructive capacity!
At base of course, the greatest
criminality of all, is that of our own ignorance ladies and gentlemen, the
disastrous consequence of our ignorance permits a man like Herr Highfill, a man
so victimised he can scarcely be said to exist, a man like Highfill must sit in
the dock, charged with crimes which never occurred, simulacra which were, if
they existed at all are merely a function of our own national neuroses...
A gavel bashes. Maybe in Highfill's
mind, maybe in real life. Ich weisse nicht...
"You're one funny guy, Alan. Who is
this clown, your fucking chiropractor?”
"Todge, Todge, you've got me all
"Alan, this isn't a fucking game.”
"Todge, everything is a game. Life's
a game. Nobody ever told you that? I'm proud to be the first. Truly honoured. Besides,
I was reading the paper, what's it called The Welt or something, sounded pretty
convincing to me.”
"It's a shame they don't let you
have newspapers in there Todge, you should see how much coverage you're getting
over here. You can't buy this kind of publicity, trust me, I'd know. The
hoi-polloi is eating it up. The blue-noses all pretend it's not happening but
it gets in there too, they've got letters columns. Thank God for the tabloids
,that's all I'll say. They're going to have to rename it the Nathaniel Enquirer
if they aren't careful...”
"Let's get back on topic, Alan. S-"
"It's fucking brilliant stuff, too
Todge. I'm learning all kinds of interesting facts and factoids about you. You've
got a love-child, too, Todge, did you know that? I sure didn't. Makes me think
of you differently, Todge. In a good way of course. Humanises you.”
"They're withdrawing the deal, I
hope you know. I'm calling that kid back, the kid from Humboldt, Professor
Woolly Nuts needs to go back to...back to...”
"Yeah, Todge? I would have thought you'd have been practicing it all
"...back to Planet
wherever he's from. Next thing he's going to argue is that the coup couldn't
have happened because it's not even the 20th Century...”
let you have calendars in there, Todge...”
"You know what I fucking mean...”
The Bell Dream
She would come to him like this. Her
face forms slowly, feature by feature, eyes first, lips, the blunted oval of
her cranium, that sharp fierce little beak fit to peck at his wounds...Heart-bellows:
swell with joy upon seeing her coalesce. Then the sinking. Where/When/What is
Sinead has arms, maybe they're arms.
Hands. She's stroking his hair with something. Watson doesn't venture to look.
"Is it really you?”
Then, softly, "Call me Bernadette.”
"You remember me?”
"Present at your withering.”
"What happened, to Emile...”
"He remained material.”
"What happened to you?”
"Why are you here?”
"Here...I'm here because you're here,
"Don't flatter yourself. It
was a purely philosophical assessment of our predicament.”
Sinead's real now, the shine
of interior lighting on her cloud white flesh. Living eyes burn and bore.
Watson's breath normalizes. Somehow they're in a furnished room, somewhere
grand study lots of books and wooden railings. Squares of sky fall over them.
Cosine cornices intrude in from shadows in corners. Sinead takes a chair, bids
Watson do same. Watson slump: arrested by harder seat than he expected. The
pain of it: evidence that it's real.
"I thought I'd never see you again.
Or maybe I never thought I'd see you again...”
"The shining beard of the
Reference to Watson stubble? Sound
advice post lip-zipping. Silence between them. Sinead's shapeless dress
"Have you been watching?”
"Pull your nose from Revelation.”
"Zoloft wrote a song, or several
songs for you...”
"I can Myspace.”
"You won't return?”
"Where is there to return?”
Deep Watson-Heart estuaries: knows
it's true. Every thing they lived with then is gone, like shadows finally
blending into encompassing night. Tries to reassemble Zoloft's flat in his
mind, there's nothing, just scattered things, bookshelves, clothes, Sinead-boots.
Watson takes a look: boots obscured by the muumuu.
"What are you going to do now?”
heartens Watson, thoughts of Sinead in Jamaica. When he thinks of her-more
often now than he'd realized, she is herself an island, untethered,
unisthmused, neither living nor dead exactly, as he'd first known her: a
disembodied voice from a speaker, now that he's seen her, touched her, been
with her, now that he sees her across from him, her hidden boots having
disarranged the pattern on the Persian carpet between them, he knows she is
still as separate from his as ever. Had they ever connected? Was she material
when he...when...He chases it away and it comes back, settles beside him this
bestiary of loss. Then it occurs and knifes: they never touched. Sinead sees I,
as she must.
"Why don't you write a bloody napkin
poem about it? Or better, why don't you write something about me lower
"I told you to call me Bernadette. I
might have known you'd be like this, maudlin and soppy. You're a
soggy-trousered philosophe, Herr Watson, you know that don't you? You should
write a tract: Being and Sogginess: A consideration of the inherent sogginess
of the human condition, never quite solid, liquid or gas, a bloody goulash of
everything. You'd fancy that wouldn't you? Look at you, crying in your soggy
little leather mask...”
She's right of course. Somehow he's
inside the mask again. The tears mix with the aged sweat. Cradles the Watson
cheeks in the wash.
Sinead thrashes her head no-no-no
style. She's scary in the light, six eyes, more mouths. Watson closes his eyes.
She's too beautiful and terrible. She stands over him, he can smell the same
soap the same dusty sweetness on her neck as she inclines over him. She takes
his head and holds it against her, her mouth moving toward the ear-holes in the
mask. She's going to tell him something. He chokes in tear-snot and bucks-up
best he can. She runs a long finger down the mask-cheek. Watson waits for
She zips his mouth shut.
"Don't talk to me.”
"Herr Highfill, I believe it is the
lawyer's prerogative to counsel silence.”
"You've been fired for weeks now.”
"Herr Highfill, you must excuse my
boldness, but I do not, in the fiduciary sense, work for you. Any difficulties you
have with my rhetorical style must be addressed to the consortium.”
"Great. So who are you calling as
witnesses for me, Foucault? FW Murnau?”
"Herr Highfill, there are many
people who would be delighted to testify on your behalf. The thesis we have put
forward is very attractive for a number of reasons, the estrangement that is
felt from the workings of power by ordinary citizens, it is entirely in your
favour. Even if you should lose in the courts, you have triumphed with the
masses, you will emerge a leader of men, Herr Highfill.”
"There he is.”
"Entschuldigen Sie Mir, Herr
Highfill. Guten Tag Herr Vorsichten.”
"Guten Tag, Toby. Herr Highfill, am
I to understand that you feel that this beardless youth can represent your
interests with the sophistication and authenticity I have demonstrated?”
"I hope not. Come on, kid, tell me
what you've found...”
"I will depart from you now, Herr
Highfill, but as I said, our relationship has not ended. Good day, Toby.”
"Why is he calling me 'Toby'?”
Highfill in the exercise yard.
Shuffling the perimeter. Exercise: pretty exalted for what he does. Spends the
hour counting his footsteps as he moves along the border of the fence, perhaps
to prove they're his. At first they thought there might be an escape plot
behind it now, no one cares. He's seen
her in Plotzensee, clipboard in hand, remonstrating with the Warden. He asked
Oskar. Oskar played or was ignorant.
"It is not good for my job to ask
Generally true. Highfill's made some
inquiries though, knows "FO personnel” will be around today. Has to mean her,
they wouldn't have told him. "They”: Laundry people. Makes a difference if
prisoners look good when the Higher Ups float their way. Highfill firmly
downstream. Could he see her? If only he could explain...
Long shuffle. Steers clear of the
General Population, in this way, prison: much like the rest of the world. Can't
shake the miserable feeling in his stomach. Court date looms. Vorsichten and
the kid will duke it out. Highfill almost doesn't mind. Thinks of himself
posthumously now: "Highfill watched as his attorney, Lothar Vorsichten, as he
showed a photograph of a telephone, then a photograph of an ear to the jury.
Saying nothing, Vorisichten yielded the floor. Highfill was visibly shaken...”
watches the General Population as they go about their exercises. Tough nuts
weightlifting. Oldsters sit at tables. Can't shake the resonance, took him two
months to stop calling it the 'playground'. Highfill the loner, the fat kid,
tracing the border between freedom and compulsion. He sees the trees over the
vast weight of the walls. It's so peaceful today, the sun warms the cloth on
his shoulders. He could sleep (in theory).
Watson waking. Oddly beatific, then
his head rings. Maybe the bell exchanged atoms with him. Maybe the bell dreams
of Rosario now...After the initial where-am-Is he recognizes the plasma coloured
light of the Stronghouse kitchen. Roger in the kitchen reading them Morgenpost: