He ran out into the arena and knelt down on the sand with the cape swirled out in front of him. I told him, yes, I was pushing junk, and he bought ten caps. Even in Egypt he refused to appear in public without this superfluous outer garment, and, though the African sun had turned the threadbare cape almost as yellow as the desert sands, he was not to be separated from it until he had picked up another in some charitable institution of the city. The light illumined and horribly distorted his face, so that his eyes looked like coals of fire and his mouth stretched joylessly back upon the gums. There were hundreds like him, beachcombers, castaways, drunks and gentlemen, gentlemen drunks who never go back-old-timers, landlopers, birds of passage, bums and remittance men, sons of parsons, dodging the police, peddling drugs on the waterfronts-lazy fellers boozing in the sun. Together we skirted the ragged confines of the festival in the half-darkness of the hot night, and at last the Magzub came to a long broken wall of earth-bricks which had once demarcated gardens now abandoned and houses now derelict. "Good, good. Come on in. I've seen you driving your car. You must have an interesting job." Ventriloquism. His hand was now golden in dashboard light, reaching for a pint of Old Crow, amber as pine pitch. The sun came up slowly over the bare mountain ridges. The country was flat and desertlike. There was not a tree as far as we could see. It looked like west Texas. I was prepared to sit politely while he skidded us off the highway and we rolled and smacked at seventy miles an hour through the cactus and desert clay. "Lock the windows," he said, engrossed in pressing the button which raised the canvas top. His kit dropped onto the Chevy's floor, spider wise his lisp lost twice now his hand touching the mannikin's thigh, "I love the human race." I felt a kind of diffidence in him, as though he had done wrong, though unwittingly, and were ashamed. "I'll be back by suppertime." It is nightfall in the small town and the air cools a little as you sit in the back seat of the Chevy with its dusty stink of upholstery that scratches your bare legs: when one takes a hand one must play the game....
Comprised of lines from the work of Barnaby Conrad, William Burroughs, Harry A. Franck, James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, Lawrence Durrell, Peter Benchley, Robert Roripaugh, Ernie Pyle, Norman Mailer, F. A. Nettelbeck, W. Somerset Maugham, Flora Durham, and Joseph Conrad.
4 days ago