Sunday, November 28, 2010

Niccolò Falcucci

‘Then that’ll be that’ said his da leaning over the table, his fork moving a mixed bag of organ meats and boiled things around his plate. ‘The end will come and wipe the slate clean; for all and once, my boy’. You mean once and for all don’t you da? ‘Shut your pile! Now move along, damn you!’ His da didn’t take kindly to sass. He was quick with a slap, swinging his hand like a fish mallet, his fist leaving a red weal on a back-talking face. You’re worse than the Inquisition! Prodding and pushing people round like desecrate Jews. Unburying whole families and burning their remains a second and third time. You’re a fucking menace!

She has the ‘French Disease’, the skin around her mouth as hard as a scabbed over knee. Her father read to her from Grünpeck’s ‘Tractatus de Pestilentiali Scorra Sive Mala de Franzos: Originem Remediaqu[ue] Eiusdem Continens’, [published by the in Nuremberg by Kaspar Hochfeder, 1496 or 1497]. When she began to show signs of necrosis, a surfeit symptom of the tertiary stage, common to advanced syphilis, her father summoned the Catastrophist from the village, a tunicate-fleshed man with a doctorate in zoology who was familiar with treatment by Salvarsan, discovered by Niccolò Falcucci and available at the conurbation library under ‘Sermones Medicinales Septem’. [Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1490-1491]. The abattoirist prepared the slaughter-room floor, skimming off the blood and intestines, some tied in bows, the pastime of men with minimal intelligence and weak morals, and laid down a double-sided oilcloth, then, with a wave of his hand told him to bring his daughter to the middle of the floor and lay her next to the trap. He did as he was told and stepped back, the Catastrophist stepping forward, his eyes glazed over like a honey cruller. The Catastrophist swabbed the infected areas with a mixture of ox piss and spirit gum, sourcing the contamination at the font, then applied an oatmeal plaster, tying off the loose ends with brass clips. He lay his hands on her forehead and closed her eyes, like one does to the recently dead, then pried open her mouth with a tool that resembled a bung-tapper, the brassy end riveted with past strikes, and cleaning any debris from her throat, which necessitated sticking his longest finger, generally the middle one, though in some the next to middle, given a mother’s excesses while carrying, dislodged a piece of half-digested meat, a roast of pork or mutton, clearing the air passageway for the trenching tool, which he held like a prognosticator’s wand over her head, and edging the tip of the tool down her throat yanked free the vile pox; the smell of rotting organ meat and bile filling the slaughterhouse air with an offal distemper.

The following day, awaking from plodding dreams, her forehead glistening with an oily sebaceous sweat, she lifted her head from the pillow and exclaimed, ‘I’m cured by Jove I’m cured!’ The dead die and the living die; the trick is in knowing which is which.

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