Here is yet another excerpt from my new Burroughs novel Blew the Shot. It is the first draft and I completely understand it is in dire need of editing. This particular entry relates when Burroughs first meets Lewis Marker. What I am finding difficult, especially with this chapter is attempting to stay true to the source and not simply copy Burroughs' prose from his novel Queer. When I set out to write this book, I never intended it to be a straight biography, but a 'fucked up' love story about Burroughs and Joan. Though I am basing it on factual events culled from relentless research, a large part of it is dramatical. Especially the chapter Queer, balancing the meticulously detailed account written by Old Bill himself and then rewriting it in my own style. (I previously stated that "Queer" is simply the working title for this chapter and certainly will change by time of publication.) I hope you enjoy it. Or not. I really don't care.
excerpt from Blew the Shot, Chapter Five, Queer
On a bright and clear day in early April, William walked into the Bounty. His habit, in which everyone who frequented the bar was well aware of, was to arrive punctually at five in the afternoon. He briefly faltered in the entrance when he noticed Lewis Marker slouched on a stool at the counter with Arnold Copland, that loud-mouthed alcoholic and one of the most ignorant, foulest bastards he had encountered south of the border. On the other hand, when not inebriated, Copland acted nice enough that William could endure his intelligent, albeit simple, conversations. Apparently, he was sober now.
Healy smirked when he noticed him, however the real attention grab came from the brief glance of recognition he received from Marker. William was wearing scratched, two peso sunglasses and a yellow scarf. He casually ambled up to the bar next to the youth, removed the glasses and scarf, placed them on the counter, and miffed in theatrical tones toward Healy, “A hard day at the studio. A rum and coke, por favor.”
“You betcha, Bill.”
Healy continued his conversation with Marker as he retrieved William’s order, “She asks me why I drink. What can I tell her? I don’t know why.” He flashed a knowing glance at William. “Why do you have the monkey on your back? Do you know why? There isn’t any why, but try to explain that to someone like Jerri. Try to explain that to any woman.”
William nodded sympathetically. “Joan’s continuously saying to me, why don’t you sleep more and eat better? I can’t explain it. Nobody can.”
Healy placed William’s drink in front of him, Marker sulkily watched out of his peripheral vision. Healy said, pointing to William, “Hey, Marker, here is another student from the MCC. You know him?”
“No. Not as such. I’ve seen him around, though.” Marker said a bit put off.
“Bill, this is Lewis Marker. He’s down from Florida. Bill’s taking anthropology classes or something. Arrived from south Texas. Used to own a farm or oil field or some kinda bullshit.”
William extended his hand, Marker unenthusiastically shook it.
“I always wanted to be an oilman, bet I could make some real money.” Copeland interjected.
Lee looked him over and shook his head. “I’m afraid not. You see, it isn’t everybody qualifies. You must have the calling.” As if dictated from ethereal dimensions, William droned in his monotonous drawl a long and originally humorous routine concerning the oilmen trade of South Texas. His audience chuckled, albeit nervously, as he regaled them with outrageously cartoonish characters like Old Man Scranton, Clem Farris, and Roy Spigot. His impromptu tale, laced in dark humor and homosexual innuendo entertained and amused his captive audience, especially Marker. As the alcohol continued, as did William’s monolog, he gauged the young man’s reaction. Appalled and confused at first, the ice eventually was broken when the boy began laughing heartily at the absurd tale.
John Dumé walked over toward William from the back of the cantina. Dumé, a tall, thin, well-dressed man, associated with a small clique of queers who haunted a beer joint over on Campeche called The Green Lantern. Dumé wasn’t obviously homosexual, but the screaming queens at the Green Lantern certainly would not be welcome at the Bounty.
Dumé stopped and slurred somewhat intoxicated to William, indicating Marker with a wave of his beer bottle. He states in a jesting tone, a smile wide on his face, “How ya like this little shit, Bill? He comes to me and has the downright audacity to ask, ‘You one of the Green Lantern boys?’ So I says to him, ‘I am.’ He wants me to take him around to some of the gay places here.”
Marker glanced over his shoulder, turned and said, “Hey, John.”
“How are you, my young man?” Dumé smiled back, coyly.
William knew Dumé held a reputation of keeping his gossipy fingers elbow deep in the gay expat trough. There was nothing he did not know and nothing he did not divulge.
I hope Dumé told Marker about me, William thought. He loathed the dramatic “something-I-have-to-tell-you” routines put down by so many other desperate fags, the difficulties of the casual come-on: “I'm queer, you know, by the way.” More than likely, they pretend to not hear. Or the tired double entendre: “If you were as queer as I am, dearie.” The other aloofly changes subject and you’re left with whether he understood or not.
“Will you push off, you fucking fag.” Copland growled.
“Fag?” Dumé smiled.
“Yeah. Fag.” Copland snapped. “You’re a fucking queer.”
Dumé glanced over to Marker, “You need to upgrade your associates, young man. Refine yourself. See you later, kid.”
William watched Dumé return to his booth in the back of the bar where a young Mexican man waited. “Dumé’s not a bad character.” He flatly stated.
Copland retorted, “He’s a queer and you aren’t, Bill. You just go around pretending you’re queer to get in on the act.”
“Who the fuck wants to get in on your tired old act?” William said.
“To hell with this faggoty shit. I have better things to do.” Copland snarled. He gulped the remainder of his beer and stormed out of the bar.
In the passing and somewhat awkward silence, William noticed Marker was slightly drunk. The youth’s eyes were tinted a hazy crimson. He ordered himself and the boy another rum and coke. Then another. William knew the game. As time passed and Marker allowed his defenses down, he began relating a story of his experience with the Counter-intelligence Corps in Germany, articulating in a very fast, high voice of a young child. As he gesticulated enthusiastically about an informant who had been giving the department false information, William sat sincerely attentive as Marker continued, displaying inhuman gaiety and innocence.
“What about the accuracy of information?” William asked. “How did you not know ninety percent of what was told by these rats wasn’t fabricated?”
“To put it frankly, we didn’t. Not a clue. Misinformation occurred more often than I care to remember. We did cross-check all information with other informants and, we did of course have our own agents in the field, but this particular character made all of it up. He had our agents running around looking for an entire fictitious network of Russian spies. So, when the report comes back from Frankfurt—it’s all a bunch of fabricated shit. Instead of clearing out of town before the information could be checked, the dumb fuck returned with more. At this point we’d had enough of his lying bullshit.”
“What did you do?”
“We locked the asshole in the cellar. The room was completely bare and freezing cold, but that was all we could do. We were under orders to handle prisoners carefully after the war. In lieu of all we did, he kept typing out these confessions; enormous, elaborate things.”
This story delighted Marker, who kept giggling as he went on. William sat utterly captivated by his combination of intelligence and childlike demeanor. Marker was friendly now, without reserve or defense, like a child who has never been hurt. He switched the subject and began telling another story.
As Marker spoke, William scrutinized the boy’s delicate hands, the exquisite eyes, the ruddiness of exhilaration on the boy’s animated face. William felt the throbbing agony of desire in his chest with each rasping breath. Imaginary fingers caressed Marker’s ear, phantom thumbs smoothing the young man’s eyebrows, pushing the hair back from his face. As Marker continued his story, William’s imaginary hand intimately brushed down over the lean ribs, the flat stomach. William’s mouth was open a little, revealing yellowed teeth in a half-snarl of a bewildered animal. His white tongue licked thin, chapped lips. He honestly loathed this sexual frustration. He saw the constraints of his homosexual desires as bars of an abhorrent cage. He had learned as an animal learns, always peering out through the invisible bars, watchful, alert, patiently awaiting the keeper to forget the door, the loosened bar…constantly waiting, eternally suffering in despair and without consent.
William snapped back from his revelry as Marker continued. He was slouched over and slurring his words, “I went to the door and there the asshole was with a damn branch in his mouth.”
“A branch in his mouth,” he said, then added coyly; raising a fey eyebrow, “Was it a big branch?”
The overt pun flew right past Marker, “It was about two feet long. I told him to go fuck himself, then a few minutes later he appeared back at the window. I picked up a chair and chucked it at him. From the balcony, he leaped down into the yard. About eighteen feet. Very nimble. Almost inhuman. It was rather uncanny. That’s why I threw the damn chair. I was terrified. We all assumed he was faking it to get out of the Army.”
William took a puff from his cigarette, blew a billowing plume toward the ceiling, “What did he look like?”
“Look like? I don’t know, around eighteen. Like a clean-cut boy.”
“Really? Hmm.” William cooed. “Go on.”
“We tossed a bucket of cold water on him and left him on a cot downstairs. He began having convulsions, but he didn’t say anything. We decided it was an appropriate punishment. They took him to the hospital next day.”
“You think it was pneumonia?”
“Maybe. Maybe we shouldn’t have thrown water on him.”
Marker placed his hands onto the counter, steadied himself and exhaled, “Oof, I think I’d had enough. I’m going home.”
“I’ll accompany you.” William smiled.
“Okay.” The boy said sliding off the stool.
William walked Marker at the door of his building.
“You live here?” William asked.
William said good night and walked home. After that, he met Marker every day at five in the Bounty. Marker, who seemed accustomed to choose friends from people older than himself, looked forward to meeting William. William continued the absurd and elaborate conversational routines in ways Marker had never heard. He felt at times coerced, as though William’s seemingly constant presence shut off everything else. William’s infatuation became relentless.