The first three months of my marriage to Sarah were acceptable but I’d say a little after that our troubles began. She was a good cook, and for the first time in years I was eating well. I began to put on weight. And Sarah began to make remarks.
“Ah, Henry, you’re beginning to look like a turkey they’re plumping for Thanksgiving.”
“At’s right, baby,” I told her.
I was a shipping clerk in an auto parts warehouse and the pay was hardly sufficient. My only joys were eating, drinking beer and going to bed with Sarah. Not exactly a grounded life but a man had to take what he could get. Sarah was plenty. Everything about her spelled S-E-X. I had really gotten to know her at a Christmas party for the employees at the warehouse. Sarah was a secretary there. I noticed none of the fellows got near her at the party and I couldn’t understand it. I had never seen a sexier woman and she didn’t act the fool either. I got close to her and we drank and talked. She was beautiful. There was something odd about her eyes, though. They just kept looking into you and the eyelids didn’t seem to blink.
When she went to the restroom I walked over to Harry the truck driver. “Listen, Harry,” I asked, “how come none of the boys make a play for Sarah?”
“She’s a witch, man, a real witch. Stay away.”
“There’s no such thing as witches, Harry. All that has been disproven. All those women they burned at the stake in the old days, it was a cruel and a horrible mistake. There’s no such thing as a witch.”
“Well, maybe they did burn a lot of women wrongly, I can’t say. But this bitch is a witch, take it from me.”
“All she needs, Harry, is understanding.”
“All she needs,” said Harry, “is a victim.”
“How do you know?”
“Facts,” said Harry. “Two guys here, Manny, a salesman. And Lincoln, a clerk.”
“They just kind of disappeared in front of our eyes, only so slowly—you could see them going, vanishng…”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. You’d think I was crazy.”
Harry walked off. Then Sarah came out of the lady’s room. She looked beautiful.
“What did Harry tell you about me?” she asked.
“How did you know I was talking to Harry?”
“I know,” she said.
“He didn’t say much.”
“Whatever he said, forget it. It’s bullshit. I won’t let him have any and he’s jealous. He likes to badmouth people.”
“I’m not concerned with Harry’s opinions,” I told her.
“You and I are going to make it, Henry,” she said.
She went to my apartment with me after the party and I’m telling you I’ve never been laid like that. She was the woman of all women. It was a month or so later that we were married. She quit her job right off, but I didn’t say anything because I was so glad to have her. Sarah made her own clothes, did her own hair. She was a remarkable woman. Very remarkable.
But, as I said, it was after about 3 months that she began making these remarks about my weight. At first they were just genial little remarks, then she began to get scornful about it. I came home one night and she said, “Take off your damned clothes!”
“What, my darling?”
“You heard me, bastard! Strip!”
Sarah was a little different then than I had ever seen her. I took off my clothes and underwear and threw them on the couch. She stared at me.
“Awful,” she said, “what a lot of shit!”
“I said you look just like a big tub of shit!”
“Listen, honey, what’s wrong? You got the rag on tonight?”
“Shut up! Look at that stuff hanging at your sides!”
She was right. There seemed to be a little pouch of fat on each side, hanging just above the hips. Then she doubled up her fists and hit me hard several times on each of the pouches.
“We’ve got to punch that shit! Break up the fat tissues, the cells…” She punched me again, several times.
“Ow! Baby, that hurts!”
“Good! Now, hit yourself!”
“Go ahead, damn you!”
I hit myself several times, quite hard. When I was finished the things were still there, though now they looked quite red.
“We’re going to get that shit off of you,” she told me.
I figured that is was love and decided to cooperate… Sarah began counting my calories. She took away my fried foods, bread and potatoes, salad dressing, but I kept my beer. I had to show her who was wearing the pants in our family.
“No, damn it,” I said, “I won’t give up my beer. I love you very much but the beer stays!”
“All right,” said Sarah, “we’ll make it work anyway.”
“Make what work?”
“I mean, get that shit off you, get you down to a desirable size.”
“And what’s a desirable size?” I asked.
Each night when I got home she’d ask me the same question: “Did you punch your sides today?”
“Oh, hell yes!”
“How many times?”
“400 punches on both sides, hard.”
I would walk down the streets punching at my sides. People looked at me but it didn’t matter after a while because I knew that I was accomplishing something and they weren’t.”
Things were working, marvelously. I came down from 225 to 197. Then from 197 to 184. I felt ten years younger. People remarked about how good I looked. Everybody except Harry the truck driver. Of course, he was just jealous because he never got into Sarah’s panties. His tough shit.
One night on the scales I was down to 179. I said to Sarah, “Don’t you think we’ve come down enough? Look at me!” The things on my sides were long gone. My belly hung in. My cheeks looked as if I were sucking them in.
“According to the charts,” said Sarah, “according to my charts, you’ve not yet reached a desirable size.”
“Look,” I told her, “I’m six feet tall. What is the desireable weight?”
And then Sarah answered me quite strangely. “I didn’t say ‘desirable weight’,” I said, ‘desireable size’. This is the New Age, the Atomic Age, and most important the Age of Overpopulation. I am the Saviour of the World. I have the answer to the Overpopulation Explosion. Explosion. Let others work on Pollution. Solving Over population is the root; it will solve Pollution and many other things too.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked, ripping the cap off a bottle of beer.
“Don’t worry about it,” she answered, “you’ll find out.”
Then I began to notice, as I stepped on the scales, that although I was still losing weight I didn’t seem to be getting any thinner. It was strange. And then I noticed that my pants cuffs were hanging down over my shoes—ever so slightly, and that my shirt cuffs were hanging down a bit over my wrists. When I drove to work I noticed that the steering wheel seemed further away. I had to pull the car seat up a notch.
One night I got on the scales. 155. “Look here, Sarah.”
“There’s something I don’t understand.”
“I seem to be shrinking.”
“Oh, you fool! That’s incredible! How can a man shrink? Do you really think that your diet is shrinking your bones? Bones melt! Reduction of calories only reduces fat. Don’t be an idiot! Shrinking? Impossible!” Then she laughed.
“All right,” I said, “come here. Here’s a pencil. Now I’m gonna stand against this wall. My mother used to do this with me as a kid when I was growing. Now put a line right there on the wall where the pencil hits after you place it straight across the top of my head.”
“All right, silly,” she said. She drew the line.
A week later I was down to 131. It was happening faster and faster.
“Come here, Sarah.”
“Yes, silly boy.”
“Now, draw the line.”
She drew the line, I turned around.
“Now see here, I’ve lost 24 pounds and 8 inches in the last week. I’m melting away! I’m now five feet two. This is madness! Madness! I’ve had enough. I’ve caught you cutting my pants legs, my shirt sleeves. It won’t work. I’m going to begin eating again. I think that you are some kind of witch!”
It was soon after that the boss called me into the office I climbed into the chair across from his desk.
“Henry Markson Jones II?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Well, Jones, we’ve been watching you carefully. I’m afraid you just don’t fit this job anymore. We hate to see you go like this…I mean , we hate to let you go like this, but…”
“Look, sir, I always do my best.”
“We know you do, Jones, but you’re just not doing a man’s job back there anymore.”
He let me go. Of course, I knew that I would get my unemployment compensation. But I thought it was small of him to let me go like that…
I stayed home with Sarah. Which made it worse—she fed me. It got so I couldn’t reach the refrigerator door anymore. And then she put me on a small silver chain. Soon I was two feet tall. I had to use a potty chair to shit. But she still let me have my beer, as promised. “Ah, my little pet,” she said, “you’re so small and cute!”
“I’m not a duck, I’m a man!”
“Oh my little sweet man-y-man!” She picked me up and kissed me with her red lips…
Sarah got me down to being 6 inches tall. She carried me to the store in her purse. I could look out at the people through the little air holes she had poked in her purse. I will say one thing for the woman. She still allowed me to have my beer. I drank it by the thimble. A quart would last me a month. In the old days it was gone in 45 minutes. I was resigned. I knew that if she wished to do so she could make me vanish entirely. Better 6 inches than nothing. Even a little life becomes very dear when you near the end of life. So, I amused Sarah. It was all I could do. She made me little clothes and shoes and put me on top of the radio and turned on the music and said, “Dance, little one! Dance, my dunce! Dance, my fool!”
Well, I couldn’t collect my unemployment compensation so I danced on top of the radio while she clapped her hands and laughed. You know, spiders frightened me terribly and flies were the size of giant eagles, and if a cat ever caught me it would torture me like a small mouse. But life was still dear to me. I danced and sang and hung on. No matter how little a man has he will find that he will always settle for less. When I shit on the rug I would get spanked. Sarah put little pieces of paper around and I shit on them. And I ripped off little pieces of that paper to wipe my butt with. It felt like cardboard. I got hemorrhoids. Couldn’t sleep nights. Feelings of inferiority, of being trapped. Paranoia? Anyhow, I felt good when I sang and danced and Sarah let me have my beer. She kept me at an exact six inches for some reason. What the reason was, it was beyond me. As almost everything else was beyond me. I made up songs for Sarah, that’s what I called them: Songs for Sarah:
“o, I’m just a little snot, that’s all right until I get hot, then there’s nothing to stick it in except the fucking head of a pin!
Sarah would clap her hands and laugh.
“if ya wanna be an admir in the queen’s navy just be a clark for the fuckin’ nark,grow 6 inches tall and when the Queen goes to pee you can peek up inter drippin’ pussy…”
And Sarah would clap her hands and laugh. Well, that was all right. It had to be…
But one night something very disgusting happened. I was singing and dancing and Sarah was on the bed, naked, clapping her hands, drinking wine and laughing. I was putting on a good show. One of my best. But, as always, the top of the radio got hot and started burning my feet. I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Look, baby,” I said, “I’ve had it. Take me down. Gimme a beer. No wine. You drink that cheapass wine. Gimme a thimble of that good beer.”
“Sure, sweetie,” she said, “you put on a wonderful show tonight. If Manny and Lincoln had acted as nice as you, they’d be here tonight. But they didn’t sing or dance, she brooded. And worst of all, they objected to the Final Act.”
“And what was the Final Act?” I asked.
“Now, sweetie, just drink your beer and relax. I want you to enjoy the Final Act. You are evidently a much more talented person than Manny or Lincoln. I do believe that we can have the Culmination of the Opposites.”
“O, hell yes,” I said, draining my beer. “Now give me a refill. And just what is the Culmination of the Opposites?”
“Enjoy your beer, little sweetie, you’ll know soon enough.”
I finished my beer and then the disgusting thing happened, a most disgusting thing. Sarah picked me up and placed me down between her legs, which she spread open just a bit. Then I was facing a forest of hair. I hardened my back and neck muscles, sensing what was to come. I was jammed into darkness and stench. I heard Sarah moan. Then Sarah began to move me slowly back and forth. As I said, the stench was unbearable, and it was difficult to breathe, but somehow there was air in there—various side-pockets and drafts of oxygen. Now and then my head, the top of my head bumped The Man in the Boat and then Sarah would let out an extra-illuminated moan. Sarah began moving me faster and faster. My skin began to burn, it became harder to breathe; the stench became worse. I could hear her panting. It occured to me that the sooner I ended the thing the less I would suffer. Each time I was rammed forward I would arch my back and neck, tilt everything of me into this hooking curve of a thing, bumping The Man in the Boat. Suddenly I was ripped out of that terrible tunnel. Sarah held me up to her face. “Come, you damned fiend of a thing! Come!” she demanded. Sarah was totally drunk on wine and passion. I felt myself being rushed back into the tunnel. She worked me rapidly back and forth. Then suddenly I sucked air into my lungs to increase my size and then I gathered saliva intlo my jaws and spit it out—once, twice, 3 times, 4, 5, six times, then I stopped…The stench increased beyond all imagination and then, at last, I was lifted out into the air. Sarah lifted me into the lamplight and began kissing me all over my head and shoulders.
“O, my darling! o, my precious little cock! I love you!” Then she kissed me with those horrible red and painted lips. I vomited. Then, spent in a swoon of wine and passion, she placed me between her breasts. I rested there and listened to her heart beat. She had taken me off of her damned leash, that silver chain, but it didn’t matter. I was hardly free. One of her massive breasts had fallen to one side and I seemed to be right over the heart. The heart of the witch.
If I were the answer to the Population Explosion then why hadn’t she used me as more than a thing of entertainment, a sexual toy? I stretched out there and listened to that heart. I decided that she was a witch. Then I glanced up. Do you know what I saw? A most amazing thing. Up in that little crevice below the headboard. A hat pin. Yes, a hat pin, long with one of those round purple glass things at the end of it. I walked up between her breasts, climbed her throat, got up on her chin (after much trouble), then walked quietly across her lips, and then she stirred a bit as I almost fell and had to grab to a nostril for support. Very slowly I got up by the right eye— her head was tilted slightly to the left—and then I was up on the forehead, having gone past the temple, and I was up into the hair—very difficult, wading through. Then I stood and stretched—reached up and just managed to grab the hat pin. Coming down was faster but more treacherous. I almost lost my balance several times, carrying that hat pin. One fall and it was over. I laughed several times because it was so ridiculous. The outcome of an office party for the gang, Merry Christmas. Then I was down under that massive breast again. I laid the hat pin down and listened again. I listened for the exact sound of the heart. I determined it to be at a spot exactly below a small brown birthmark. Then I stood up. I picked up the hat pin with its purple glass end, beautiful in the lamplight. And I thought, will it work? I was 6 inches tall and I judged the hat pin to be half again longer than 1.9 inches. The heart seemed closer than that. I lifted the pin and plunged it in. Just below the birthmark. Sarah rolled and convulsed. I held onto the hat pin. She almost threw me to the floor—which by comparative size seemed a thousand feet or more and would have killed me. I hung on. Her lips formed an odd sound. Then she seemed to quiver all over like a woman freezing. I reached up and jammed the remaining 3 inches of the pin down into her chest until the beautiful purple glass head of the pin was up against her skin.
Then Sarah was still, I listened. I heard the heart, one two, one two, one two, one two, one…It stopped. And then with my little killer’s hands, I clutched and gripped the bedsheet and made my way to the floor. I was 6 inches tall and real and frightened and hungry. I found a hole in one of the bedroom screens which faced east and ran from ceiling to floor. I grabbed at the branch of a bush, climbed on, clambered along the branch to the inside of the bush. Nobody knew that Sarah was dead but I. But that had no realistic good. If I were to go on, I would have to have something to eat. But I couldn’t help wondering how my case would be evolved in a court of law? Was I guilty? I ripped off a leaf and tried to eat it. No good. Hardly. Then I saw the lady in the court to the south set out a plate of catfood for her cat. I crawled out of the bush and worked my way toward the catfood, watching for animals and movements. It tasted worse than anything I had ever eaten but I had no choice. I ate all the cat food I could—death tasted worse. Then I walked over to the bush and climbed back into it. There I was, 6 inches tall, the answer to The Population Explosion, I’m hanging in a bush with a bellyful of catfood. There are details I don’t want to bore you with. Escapes from cats and dogs and rats. Feeling myself growing bit by bit. Watching them carry Sarah’s body out of there. Going in there and finding myself too small, still, to open the refrigerator door. The day the cat almost caught me as I ate at his bowl. I had to breakaway. I was then 8 or 10 inches tall, I was growing. I even scared pigeons. When you scare pigeons you know that you are getting there.
I simply ran down the street one day, hiding along the shadows of buildings and down beneath hedges and the like. I kept running and hiding until I got outside a supermarket and I hid under a newspaper stand just outside the entrance to the store. Then, as a big woman walked up and the electric door opened, I walked in behind her. One of the clerks at a checkstand looked up as I walked in behind the woman: “Hey, what the hell’s that?”
“What?” a customer asked him.
“I thought I saw something,” said the clerk, “maybe not. I hope not.”
I somehow sneaked back to the storeroom without being seen. I hid behind some cartons of baked beans. That night I came out and had a fine feed. Potato salad, pickles, ham on rye, potato chips and beer, plenty of beer. It became about the same routine. Each day, all day, I hid in the store room and at night I’d come out and have a party. But I was growing and hiding was becoming more difficult. I got to watching the manager put the money in the safe each night. He was the last to leave. I counted the pauses as he put the money away each night. It seemed to be—7 right, 6 left, 4right, 6 left, 3 right, open. I went over to the safe each night and tried the numbers. I had to make a kind of stairway out of empty cartons in order to get up to the dial. It didn’t seem to work but I kept trying. Each night, I mean. Meanwhile I was growing fast. Perhaps I was 3 feet tall. The store had a small clothing section and I had to keep going into the larger sizes. The population problem was returning. Then one night the safe opened. I had 23 thousand dollars in cash. I must have hit them the night before banking time. I took the key the manager used in order to get out without the burglar alarm ringing. Then I walked down the street and got a week’s worth of lodging at the Sunset Motel. I told the lady I worked as a midget in the movies. It just seemed to bore her.
“No television or loud noises after ten p. m. That’s our rule here.” She took my money, gave me a receipt and closed her door.
The key said room 103. I hadn’t even looked at the room. The doors said 98, 99, 100, 101, I was walking north toward the Hollywood Hills, toward those mountains behind them, with the great and golden light of the Lord shining upon me, growing.
|Charles Bukowski – The late great poet laureate of our lowlife American Dreams. Original Contributing Editor in our early ‘80s incarnation. His classic SPLASH can be found at (http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=3431). In 1982 he began a new installment of his infamous Notes Of A Dirty Old Man in Smoke Signals, with attack on Norman Mailer for his part in the Jack Abbott debacle. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/books/review/harrison.html?_r=2&ref=books&oref=slogin&oref=slogin|