Thursday, April 07, 2016

boys in the backroom

Here is another unedited excerpt from my current novel based on William Burroughs and Joan Vollmer's stay in Mexico City. I just finished typing this out and I realize it is in dire need of editing. It is from the chapter titled Queer in which Burroughs meets Marker and they take the trip through Central America. I know...I know...Queer? I'll think of another title, don't fret. It is also obvious to the well read of such subject where I lifted sections from the source material. That will be re-written, also. I,and perhaps my readers, will enjoy to look back on these notes and see how long and arduous the writing road is from initial idea to finished work.

excerpt from chapter five of Blew the Shot:

Everything constructed in this shitty country falls apart, William morosely thought as he sat at an empty table in the Bounty nursing his third beer and casually examining the blade of a stainless-steel pocketknife he recently purchased. As if made of silver paper, the chrome plating was peeling off. Holding the knife up to his face, he slowly picked at it with dirty fingernails. Wouldn’t surprise me if I scored for a boy in the Alameda and his…
   A beefy hand slammed a beer bottle down in front of him. William wearily glanced up and noticed a large, flabby man with a politician’s red Irish face dump several bundles of bagged goods into the opposite chair. Flopping into the empty chair next to William, he wiped the rim of the beer bottle with his sleeve and drank in a loud, singular gulp. He emitted a sigh afterwards. It was one of the American expats named Joe Guidry.
   “So, Joe, wattaya know?” William asked.
   “Nothing new, Bill, except that some asshole ripped me off for my typewriter and I know exactly who it was. That Brazilian, or whatever the fuck he is, you know, that Maurice character.”
   “That wrestler you had last week? The one you went on about?” William folded the pocket knife and placed it into his jacket pocket.
   “No, not that one. You’re thinking of Louie, the gym instructor. Please try to keep up. This is another one. Louie decided sex with men is all of a sudden wrong and explains to me that I am going to burn in hell, but he is the one going to heaven.”
   “Dead serious.”
   William took a sip of his beer. “Those fundamental types. Always want to drone on about God but are never in a hurry to meet him.”
   “I heartily agree. Anyway, whether he likes it or not, Maurice is as queer as I am.” Joe belched loudly. “Excuse me. If not queerer, you understand. But the macho fuck won’t come to terms with it. I do believe lifting my typewriter was his way of demonstrating to me and himself and probably God that he is in it for all he can get. As a matter of fact, he’s such a mincing queen, can’t stand him. Who the fuck am I kidding? When I see the little shit again, instead of stomping the hell out of him, I most likely invite him back to my apartment for a mercy fuck.”
   Bored of this dreary babble, William leaned his chair back against the wall and glanced about the bar. A man was composing a letter at the next table and if he overheard Joe’s rant, he gave no inclination of caring. Healy stood behind the bar silently reading the bullfight section of the paper, spread out on the counter in front of him. A silence peculiar to Mexico seeped into the room, a vibrating, soundless hum. Joe slugged down the remainder of his beer, wiped the back of his hand across his unappetizing mouth, and with crimson-tinted blue eyes gazed at the wall.
   Though William was attempting to act nonchalant, he actually was straining to overhear a conversation by two young men who sat with an American girl with dyed red hair and carefully applied makeup in the corner of the bar. Amid various empty bottles and a chess game spread across the table top, sat a more frequent patron of the Bounty was a young American from Florida, twenty-one year old Lewis Marker.
   William recognized the young man from the MCC. He never spoke to him before, but William was immediately infatuated with him. In William’s eyes, the boy had a slim youthful look, actually the sort of helpless look of a baby bird about him, this innocent slightly surprised look. His eyebrows were like pencil lines and black whereas his hair was almost blond. His eyes were almost brown, thin nose, small face. He was six feet tall and weighed about 125 pounds, but very healthy and surprisingly confident physically.
   Marker was a gawky, lanky, graceless gringo whose motto in life was “Get rich, sleep till noon, and fuck ’em all.” He resided at 122 Monterrey, sharing the apartment with John Healy, Louis Carpio, and an American couple, Glenn and Betty Jones. After arriving in Mexico, Eddie Woods lived in the same flat with these four denizens of the Bounty, where he went quite often to drink rum and Cokes.
   At age sixteen he’d enlisted in the army and spent three years in Germany collaborating with the gringo counterintelligence services (during that time J. D. Salinger was doing the same thing in France). Back in Florida and fed up with military discipline, Marker applied for the GI Bill and in 1950 went to study at Mexico City College. In August 1951, Eddie Woods, a childhood friend, with whom he’d played hooky, stolen cars, and disobeyed military orders, caught up with him. In mid-1951, while recovering from a flying accident, Woods, who had remained in the air force since his enlistment at age fifteen, decided to get together with his old friend.
   William remained stoic as he listened to the inebriated Marker relate his tale to an attentive Betty Jones as Eddie Woods sat slumped in the booth opposite her. “…when Eddie and I were in Jacksonville and a barroom drunk started an argument with Woods and began getting aggressive. I pretended to drunkenly stumble against this man, who yelled, “Hey, get away from me, skinny!” I hooked my finger in the man’s belt, holding him down, and brought the heel of my hand up under his chin, dropping him to the floor. I then stepped on his face.”
   The two friends laughed, lit cigarettes and settled into their beers.
   The silence seeped into William’s body, and his face went slack and blank. From his vantage, William could see his reflection in the large mirror behind the counter. The sullen face was ravaged and vicious and old, but the clear, green eyes were dreamy and innocent. His light brown hair was extremely fine and would not stay combed. Generally it fell down across his forehead, and on occasion brushed the food he was eating or got in his drink. How to approach the boy? His main tactic was wordplay: the spiel, cooked up and served in small doses, of a thirty-six-year-old man aware of his scant sex appeal, sure of his intellectual superiority to the youth, practically a teenager of twenty-one.
   William thought he had that innocent very American look, but something really cold and fishy behind it. Very cold person, a real agent type. He was receptive to a point, he was unshockable.
   Joe emitted a sigh, rose, and grabbed the shopping bags from the chair. “I need to get going.” He nodded to William and flashing a fake smile soaked in resentment and walked out, his half-bald head silhouetted for a moment in the sunlight before vanishing from view.
   William yawned and picked up a comic section from the next table. It was two days old. He put it down and yawned again. He glances over just as Eddie Woods got up and left. At that moment, William and Marker’s eyes met. William endeavored to pull off a greeting at once both friendly and casual, designed to show interest without pushing their passing acquaintance. William stood to bow in his dignified old-world greeting, instead there materialized a leer of naked lust, wrenched in the pain and hate of his deprived body and, in simultaneous double exposure, a sweet child's smile of liking and trust, shockingly out of place; mutilated…hopeless.
   Marker was somewhat taken back. Perhaps he’s got some sort of tic?
   He decided to remove himself from contact with William before the man did something even more distasteful. William looked at him helplessly for a moment, then turns back to his beer, defeated and shaken. William finishes his the drink. When he looked around again, Marker was playing chess with Betty.
   “Why waste time here?” William bitterly thought. He pays and walked out. A young Mexican boy passes by William and looks at him. He motions to William and walks off. William follows.
   Marker glanced up and watched William exit the bar. It was Marker’s move and Betty noticed Marker’s concerned look as he sat staring at the now vacant entrance to the bar.
   “Who was that?” Betty asked.
   As if shaking off an ominous shade, Marker shrugged and returned to the game, “I have no idea.”

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