Here is yet another excerpt from the Burroughs novel I am working on. Though it may be switched by time of publication, this is the opening to chapter three: It's Kind of a Glow focusing heavily on William's and Joan's current relationship, a mutual but somewhat unstable truce. William had just began his cure from dope and is beginning to drink heavily. This chapter also introduces The Bounty Bar with all the expat regulars. Once again, this is a first draft, so...
For the Cris sake do you actually think that laying a woman makes someone heterosexual? I have been laying women for the past 15 years and haven’t heard any complaints from the women either.* What does that prove except that I was hard up at that time? Laying a woman so far as I am concerned is O.K. if I can’t score for a boy. But laying one woman or a thousand merely emphasizes the fact that a woman is not what I want. Better than nothing, of course, like a tortilla is better than no food. But no matter how many tortillas I eat I still want a steak.**
“You got a kick out of that, didn’t you, Joanie?” William asked with an almost imperceptible smirk. He sat typing at his desk. Joan lounged on the sagging couch grasping a glass of tequila in one hand and the letter to Ginsberg in the other.
She chuckled from her editorial comments written with a pencil on the typed letter. By the first asterisk she scrawled: “Correct!” By the second: “Around the 20th of the month, things get a bit tight and he lives on tortillas.”
“At least a bit of a laugh I think on Allen’s end.” She said.
William loudly snorted, clearing his sinuses. “Joan, though tolerant of my personal sexual preferences, I realize you cannot remain unaffected by the irony of our mutual situation.”
She gulped a shot of her tequila and pointed with yellow stained fingers at the letter in her free hand, taking a drag from a cigarette, she added, “What’s interesting about this is it reveals to dear Allen that you and I do have sex, at least sporadically. And that, apparently, is my only kick.”
“Indeed.” William droned. He reached for the chilled martini next to his typewriter, sipped it. “Tortillas, I have found, are an acquired taste. Unsavory and somewhat tasteless to the palate but serves to sate ones hunger.” Before Joan could utter a retort, William loudly removed the paper from the machine’s roll carriage and quickly continued, “Here is my current dispatch to Jack. Tell me, what do you think?”
He passed her the letter. She scanned it with crimson eyes. It read: Mexico is an oriental country that reflects 2000 years of disease and poverty and degradation and stupidity and slavery and brutality and psychic and physical terrorism. Mexico is sinister and gloomy and chaotic with the special chaos of a dream. I like it myself, but it isn’t everybody’s taste, and don’t expect to find anything like Lowell…No Mexican knows any other Mexican, and when a Mexican kills someone (Mexico DF has about the highest murder rate of any city in the world), it is usually his best friend. I guess they find a friend less frightening than a stranger.
Joan handed the correspondence back, “This aggressive ambiguity you feel toward Mexico seems quite apparent. Tell me, how true was the sentence: “I like it myself, but it isn’t everybody’s taste”? Are you actually attempting to affirm your irrefutably underground identity? Evidently with Mexico being an underground country compared to stateside, isn’t it impetuous of you to write it off or reject it out of hand? The truth being, in my humble opinion of course, despite the sordidness and uncivilized behavior of Mexican society, Mexico still remains alluring to you, and again, it is simply my respectful observation, there exists a certain empathy between the two of you, a distant yet genuine communicating vessel. I believe you have found your time/space location.”
William sat brooding at the typed letter, marked with corrections and additions in pencil on the yellowed onion paper. He emitted a resigned sigh. “To be honest, Joanie, I actually do not know how much longer I will be around Mexico City. As you are fully aware, the money from Texas is still pending. When I do receive it, we certainly will be taking off for points south.”
She curled up with her feet onto the couch, propped herself on the arm, clutching a fresh glass of tequila. She coyly smirked, “I am thrilled you said we, Bill. We as in myself and the children or we as in whatever adolescent infatuation you have snared at that given moment?”
He didn’t answer her. Instead, he retrieved a folded letter from a small pile next to the over-flowing ashtray. He glanced over it and commented in a dry monotone, “Did I mention to you the latest concerning Allen and Huncke’s current dramatic fiasco? As a result of allowing Huncke to flop in his apartment to stash stolen loot, and then getting busted, Allen, in lieu of a jail term, apparently landed himself in the Columbia Psychiatric Institute.”
“Our wayward muse in the nuthouse once again? Whenever will he learn?” She gulped the tequila down, grabbed the bottle, refilled it.
“On my end with this dire debacle, as I continue to write Junk, I am now dealing with Allen, Lucien being out of the picture as my agent, by the way. I have been forwarding revisions of the manuscript, uncluttering any theoretical references quoted by Wilhelm Reich. In his last letter, Allen arrogantly replied he is under the impression that the manuscript is simply a justification of my habit. I retorted in turn what in the name of God did he mean by saying the book is a “justification” for junk or myself taking junk? I don’t justify nothing to nobody. As a matter of fact, if I may say so myself, the book is the only accurate account I ever read of the real horror of junk. I never meant it as justification or deterrent or anything but an accurate account of what I experienced during the time I was on junk.”
Joan took a long drag from her cigarette, blowing billowing gray plumes into the already dank room. “Will you be including any of your current escapades with Old Dave? I imagine it would constitute an interesting contrast of New York compared to Mexico City. Give it an intercontinental slant. And on that note, where is Old Dave? I haven’t smelled him of late.”
“We…don’t talk.” William mumbled.
He had purposefully kept away from Dave Tesorero. Old Dave owed William three hundred pesos lent to him so he could sell a share of dope and give back five hundred. Dave wasn’t seen for weeks after the deal. It didn’t matter. William knew he could kiss those pesos goodbye. He didn’t need Dave around, anyway. His cure was going as planned and certainly did not want Old Dave schlepping around having an adverse effect on him. Although he had stopped shooting heroin and reduced his alcohol intake to three martinis a day, William did smoked opium once a week, considering the narcotic harmless.
Joan clumsily attempted to roll off the couch and to go relieve her bladder. She lost her balance and fell onto the floor. William apathetically glanced at her. He returned to his typing as if she was not in the room. Bumping the end table, she accidentally knocked off the tequila bottle. The clear liquid soaked into the already stained throw rug.
“Oh, hell.” Joan muttered.
With much effort, she tottered to her feet and smiled. “Well, Bill, it’s nearly five. You want to grab the kids and head down to The Bounty? Get out for a bit?”
He stopped typing. Glanced at the near empty martini glass on the cluttered table. William’s lower back was sore from sitting at the desk all afternoon. He stood and grabbed the remainder of the martini, gulping it down. “I could use a break. Certainly. Round up the brats and I’ll wait for you down in the courtyard.”