Monday, February 21, 2011

Los Ejército de Putas

He lay the Curioso Castigos de Antaño on the table next to his teeth. Having spent 27 minutes reading the first line “i helots hanno nascosto il whore' guanto di s sotto la base vicino ad un pacchetto delle patatine fritte del riso” he couldn’t bring himself to read any further; the glue holding the spine to the boards giving him a headache. His left foot went numb when he stood for too long in one position; the blood and gases sinking to his lowermost extremities explained away as bloodguilt, a pathological condition passed on to him from his great-grandfather who fought in the Great War of Independence. His great-granddad’s side lost to Los Ejército de Putas, General Orotava Canarias’ pince-nez awakening in him memories of his grade seven trigonometry teacher Mr. Keegan who had one glass eye and one that could only make out fuzzy lines and shadows. Pathogens make the man is what his great-grandfather used to say; turns a shrinking violet into a Snapping Dragoon.

His great-grandfather told stories of footslogging marches carrying eight pound haversacks, never once admitting that he rode in a tank and never lost a leg or an eye. His great-uncle Jim lost one; a pine splinter slivering the retina in half. He never knew if you were looking at his bad eye; the one threaded with guck and dried blood. His great-uncle bought his cigars from the Windsor and Maidenhead Tobacconist, ¼ Perivale Council, a stone’s throw from Wheatears’ Apothecary. They sold creams and salves for getting rid of blotches and ugly spots. His great-aunt bought an unguent for keeping her clean down where things lived in pockets of loose flesh and folds of old fat. It made her feel womanly and kept her husband from turning yellow when they went to bed early on Saturday nights.

This was all long before his da’s nightlong visits to the local whore and the not so soothing whirr of the rubber fan that agitated the foul air over his tiny wooden bed. Long before he learned about bloodguilt and first saw the little girl with the hearing-box strapped to her chest and the foul stink of his grandmother’s breath when she smoked too much. Lots happened before he could see over the railing and his ma stuffed crumpled newsprint in the toes of his shoes so he wouldn’t fuss when she pushed too hard and left welts on his ankles. Long before they arrived on the back of a mule-cart carrying their earthly possessions and his da hit the driver for smiling at his misfortune. “...nascosto il whore' guanto di ad un patatine fritte del riso”.

Dejesus met Natty Roche when the two were freshman boys at the O’Athy School, Natty Roche, steeling a look under the sister’s skirts and Dejesus, unable to contain himself, spitting up splodges of pea soup with biscuits, the sister sending them both to see the Mother Superior. Sliab Bladma, a weakly boy with a persistent cough, Demne Máel, know at the school as the boy most likely to meet his end through bludgeoning and Finn Mac Cumhaill, a mucousy boy with a wiry frame, all lived in the same dorm with Dejesus and Natty Roche. The Mother Superior loathed the boys, referring to them as the God’s little ants, the boys taking this as a sign of Mother Superior’s habit of using God in every sentence and her affection for entomology.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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