the last time we crossed swords was at an iron monument to Stonewall Jackson

“I represent Mr. WS Burroughs,” he repeated.

CM said, “Aw, Viv, let me grease this fucker.”

“Wait,” I said strangely curious, I felt destiny’s hand on my shoulder.

We were on the lawn at CM’s summer place off Echo Park. He had a bunch of damn gangsters running around the place and didn’t tell me and I was there without a gun and all of the sudden here’s Burroughs’s attorney. I had a forty of Coors Extra Gold in my hand and my shirt off. I never felt so prone in my life.

“Why?” I asked the man’s suit because it looked like a better person than the man, “What’s in it this time?”

“Mr. Burroughs,” his suit ignored me, “is willing to offer his controlling stock in –––––––––– and he is also willing to include his entire personal supply of that company’s product.”

“All his ––––––?” said CM, “That’s preposterous. It’s a lie, Viv. Don’t talk to this fucker anymore.”

The attorney produced papers, gave them to me and said, “This spells it out. He will give you all the –––––– he holds in stock and personally at his own home. You are granted unlimited inspection rights to verify he’s turned it all over should you win.”

“I see.”

“Horseshit,” CM said to no one in particular.

“What if I lose?”

“It’s all in the papers.”

“I’d prefer to hear it,” I said.

“Your hair.”

“What?” CM practically yelled.

“If Mr. Pond should lose he will be required to provide his hair, in a neat single braid, at the feet of Mr. Burroughs. It’s all in the papers.”

“A draw?” I asked.

“You will both be required to take your own lives in that event. Mr. Burroughs realizing that you are younger makes provisions in the papers from his estate for your children in the event of a draw.”

“I’ll take a look at the proposal.”

“You have one hour to accept or the offer is void,” he said and disappeared taking his suit with him.

CM tried to talk me out of it. He told me what Burroughs had done to Márquez on a widget. He pleaded with me to let time have my hair and not that old man.

I put my hair up in a braid and went to the site as specified in the papers. CM went with me. He wasn’t helping my confidence a bit. I was wishing I’d left him at home.

We got there. I expected a crowd but it was just him and the attorney. There was a yard-sale card table with what looked like sex stains contradicting the thing’s flimsiness. He was sitting at one of the two chairs. He didn’t stand when I sat down. There was a straight razor on the table. I presumed it was for my hair. There was a box of dueling pistols. I presumed that was in the event of a draw.

It was to be as a true fight. I expected it to be like a chess match. But it was like a real fight. A couple of nasty shots, a lot of surprise and pain. I sure didn’t expect that.

“I’ve never read one of your books,” I said, going for the balls casually, as I pulled up my chair.

“I knew your mother,” he countered primitively. He’d miscalculated too. I chortled.

“You look more like a Warren than a Billy,” I said, trying to outflank.

“Is that so?”

Weakness?! my brain screamed.

My mind raced. I thought perhaps the –––––– had finally gone to his head. It had been too long and he had too much. The toll had been collected. I was 49% right again.

“I read one of you books,” I dangled.

“Was it The Matador or The Thermadore?”

“It was Tarzan and the Ant Men.

His face sunk like a battleship full of red pegs behind a blue screen. I was drunk on power. What was going on? How could I possibly be kicking this old man’s dick with such facility, with the same hold twice? I should have backed up to reconnoiter but I was drunk on power. There was blood in the water and I was that obsidian shark of legend.

He never even raised a hand to fight it off. I hammered one after another at him: “I’ve got a college degree more absurd than you are.

“Peter Weller being cast in your movie was more absurd than the actual film.

“Coffee and vanilla are both beans!

“My home town is so lacking in credibility that the CIA alternately leaves it out the World Fact Book and glossily attributes its territoriality to Mooselvania circa 1963.

“Nixon ran for President three times no matter what you say.

“It takes a long time to live forever!

“Your X-height so exceeds your descender that your M-squares are typographically inept and you wouldn’t know a good ellipsis if it dropped outta your ass like rabbit turds.

Na–ked!? You wouldn’t know naked if it wore the Emperor’s New Clothes.

“I know of a well documented almost-aquatic venomous non-viviparous mammal twice the absurdity of you giving Christmas presents to the Lindbergh baby on Kwanzaa!”

He trembled. I didn’t care. Time to kill the King. Nothing mattered. It was the crossroads and maybe he was my dad but I was gonna kill him and roll on into Thebes for some gambling and screwing.

I leaned close to him. I whispered right into his ear: “My pecker wouldn’t spit on your asshole if it were the last orifice left in the game.”

He put his head down on the table and slapped out of it. I released him. He wouldn’t look up at me.

“I’ll be by to collect my –––––– on Saturday,” I said, wrapping a towel around my neck. CM followed me out.

“That was weird,” he said, “You did it.”

“I did it.”

“Every punk in the West is gonna come gunning for you, you realize.”

“Let ’em.”

I got home and was glowing with gloat. Thinking about all my ––––––. What I was going to do with it and how I was going to do it. Maybe fill a moat with it. I replayed the day with Burroughs. Over and over.

On Saturday I collected my ––––––. Burroughs wasn’t there. I thought he couldn’t face me. He left a note: Enjoy it. You deserve it. I gloated more. At home I had some and got in the bathtub.

The bathtub is the best place in the world to think. There is simply no way to touch the quality of thought that you can indulge in while skipping stones on –––––– and soaking in hot water. I got to thinking. The thinking began to get to me.

I had been using –––––– recreationally two or three times a year when I could afford it: fiscally, emotionally, and physically. Now I had all the –––––– I could possibly use if I invited every applicant at every Methadone clinic in the western hemisphere over.

It was a trap.

He wanted me to win. That was the only answer. That I didn’t see it at the time was his finally victory. His consummation of the courtship. He was trying to divest himself of his –––––– like the Tin Man trying to empty his breast of hollowness. He gave it White Elephant in a White Dress away.

Now I know. 20/20 in the rearview larger than objects really are. Tremendous Grasp of the Obvious. He did it to me again.

I never beat him. Never even had a pin. Never caught him on the chin. Never scared him for a moment. I was a cripple and he was a bored healthy kid with a mean dad. Not once did I get in there. I wasn’t up to it. I never will be and if the day comes when I am it will be too late because he will be a dead old man then and he will probably have himself cremated so I cannot dig him up like Lizzy Siddal to continue our argument when I’ve thought of the perfect thing to say. He goes to his grave with my testicles in his teeth. Perhaps there is a wife out there for me who will not mind that I have no testicles anymore. I don’t think that old men are impotent more often then young men. They just don’t mind talking about it.

I have solace. Solace should not be important to young men. It is all that is important to me now and for all time. My solace is that I like to imagine someone once got the best of Burroughs, thoroughly, and that was the reason he had to bite off my balls. Because he was mad that someone had beaten him like a stepchild. It can be nothing but true. Maybe I have no balls now but I think he had his taken too. Mine won’t do him a bit of good because he had his taken away too. I’m sure of it. I like to imagine it anyway. Somebody hurt him so bad he could never quite walk out of being ever so slightly bowlegged forever.

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