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November 2008
KEROUAC’S BOY

Scott M Devereux
My roommate, Hippy Tim, had a habit of bringing home strays met on his nightly walks through the decaying urban dreamscape: junkies, poets, runaway teenage brides, disgraced academics, artists.
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All number of colourful clowns and acrobats of life’s high wire act had paraded through the circus tent of our dilapidated apartment unit. It made for eventful nights and some interesting conversation. This latest guy, however, was really starting to make me feel uneasy. He was jaundice yellow, a cracked, decimated complexion with pock scars and scruffs of wiry hair, gaunt eyes, skin two sizes too big for his body after a fourteen days awake amphetamine binge. He had been at our apartment for thirty-eight hours now. We had dared not sleep while he was here, and didn’t know how to get rid of him.

Hippy Tim and I were stone sober and getting sleepy. The guy had drunk every single drop of booze in the place, a sizeable task, smoked all three ounces of Hippy Tim’s stash, produced from his pocket and snorted several small packets of crystal white stuff, and had now started in on the household solvents.

He was a man of worldly experiences. A writer, he said. He had knifed a man in Turkey over a hashish deal gone wrong, taken part in an ancient Mayan cannibalization ritual, toured war zones just to write journals about it, and seen a friend hanged in Dubai for regicide.

The list went on and on, and now here he was thirty-eight hours later and still going. Hippy Tim and I sat on the opposite side of the room just nodding our heads.

‘I was there, you know. I was there on that cold starry night in the Mexican desert when Jack Kerouac’s boy lay down upon those railroad tracks. Everybody said he died alone that night, but I’ll have you know, I was there. I saw it all with these haggard eyes. Those cold Mexican stars starred at us both, and we became one that godforsaken night. He was a writer. Much better than his father, just never given the chance. I got his writings, some of his old man’s that were never published by those corporate whores as well.’

My ears pricked up. This could be interesting, and profitable.

‘You have some of his writings?’ I inquired.

‘Yes. Back at my place. You want to see them?’

This guy had a ‘place’? The idea of going anywhere with this man frightened the life out of me, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and being the man of words I am, how I could not go? Nihil desperandum. I had to push Hippy Tim out the door, but we were on the road, and off to the stranger’s ‘place.’

The stranger’s place was in an abandoned warehouse district. It was prime real estate in a city with ever shrinking living spaces. We climbed over piles of debris, scrambled down mountains of bricks and mortar with rebar tentacles, crossed wooden planks over deep crevasses, and finally ascended through a tunnel that ended at a riveted metal door at least twelve inches thick.

Producing a huge archaic key out of almost thin air, the stranger unlocked the door, and with our help pushed the huge metallic door open.

‘Home sweet home, boys.’

This place was amazing. Two thousand square feet of open floor space, with incredibly high vaulted ceilings: a post-industrial cathedral buried in the unknown, artifice for modern society. Safe. The walls were lined with bookshelves that rose to the ceilings: there must have been thousands of volumes stuffed into them. Books were scattered everywhere else, consecutive volumes and reissues, stacked up on the floor in piles that had collapsed under the weight of their own posterity. The local library had nothing on this place.

A classic wooden desk and leather chair were the only pieces of furniture in the room. Shaker quality; real oak carved by artisans, not fabrication machines. On the desk sat a phrenology bust, a globe, a stack of books, and an open journal.

I was awestruck as I scanned the room, mesmerized by the volumes. This is definitely the type of place I would like to rent when my lease is up with Hippy Tim.

I suddenly became aware of Hippy Tim’s silence. This is the type of place he would have a witty little quip about. I turned to him to see him staring straight ahead. The colour was gone from his complexion. I looked in the direction that Hippy Tim was staring. Books, shelves, more books…

‘Jesus H fucking Christ!’ I now knew what my heart tasted like; it was lodged in my throat. How could I have missed seeing this?

‘Jack’s boy has been busy. He wrote a lot of these you know…’

I wasn’t listening.

By the bookshelf in the far right corner, hung a man. Strung up by a complicated system of hooks and chains, he was a zombie marionette. Chains pierced the stretched-out flesh over his collar bone. His arms, extended but not quite raised, were supported by hooks that went through his wrists, suspended on chains running to the ceiling.

The man was naked save for a loincloth — his head hanging limp, his feet mere centimetres from the ground. Suspended in mid-air, the Jesus Christ walks on water stance.

His torso was emaciated beyond belief. Ashen grey skin that looked as if it had been stitched back together barely covered skeletal remains. Surely he must be dead?

Hippy Tim and I both jumped again as the man zombie lolled his head back. Drool dripped from his yellow teeth, exposed, sneered and twisted by a near gum-less mouth. His eyes were faded grey, but something was still alive behind them. Some spark of light that was yet to be extinguished.

‘Jack’s boy likes you. You can see it in his eyes can’t ya? The writing is all his. Hell I can’t stitch two words together personally. Jack’s boy sings it to me at night. Most beautiful damn voice you ever heard. Poor bastard can’t write much down though can he?’

He roared with laughter.

‘That’s all right thought isn’t it? I transcribe it for you don’t I, Junior?’

Kerouac’s boy moaned a little and drooled some more.

‘Shhsshh. Listen. He’s singing now. Ain’t it beautiful?’

The stranger stared off, almost catatonic.

‘Savage hobo jungle atrocities. Venture north, oh singer of drunk ship lanterns. Save the rhymes for God’s nurture, rhythmic tale of bodies taught, together, sexual ecstasy cut short by crass innuendo, missing a piece but wanting it all.’

The stranger snapped back to consciousness.

‘Beautiful. The boy’s got talent his old man never had time to tap. His boy here though, well, he has all the time in the world to develop his voice.’

He again roared with laughter at his own joke. Hippy Tim and I stood silently, mortified by the beauty of the verse and the absurdity of the situation.

‘Damndest thing though. Every time Jack’s boy sings he gets a hellacious appetite.’

Hippy Tim and I shot a glance at each other. We knew exactly where this was going. I was suddenly very aware of the cast iron door that had been slammed shut behind us, and the depth that this chamber was buried.

The stranger walked over to one of the bookcases, flipped a latch, and it swung open. The bookcase opened to reveal a huge walk-in freezer. Two human torsos were hanging from meat hooks, along with assorted limbs. A long butchers bench ran the length of the freezer. Blood was strewn everywhere, the bench was covered in giblets of unidentified meats and organs. A cleaver was lodged in the severed head of a woman, her face still frozen in final terror.

‘Jack’s boy loves to eat. This is about a week’s worth right here. I like to keep stocked up though, I indulge myself from time to time. He normally prefers something with titties, but with a mug like mine it’s hard to get the women folks to come voluntarily. Haha.’

He grabbed the cleaver and tried to pull it out, but it was lodged solid in the skull.

Panic gripped me. Hippy Tim completely lost it. He started rubbing his hands together and chanting the Buddhist death mantra. This must be serious. The only other time Hippy Tim had resorted to the Buddhist death mantra was the night Cleft Foot Carl had wigged out on goofballs and started waving a loaded shotgun at me.

The stranger was still struggling to pull the meat cleaver from the decapitated head. Hippy Tim was a pretty big guy for a vegetarian, but a total pacifist. I had a plan.

‘DO SOMETHING!’ I screamed at Hippy Tim and gave him a monstrous shove. He stumbled forward and crashed into the stranger, knocking him away from the cleaver and sending them both sprawling to the floor. As Hippy Tim squirmed and reeled like a fish out of water trying to get up off the slippery freezer floor, his cascade of long beautiful hippy hair fell over the stranger’s face. In the brief confusion I ran over to the desk and grabbed the phrenology bust.

Hippy Tim was up, the stranger staggering to his feet. Hippy Tim ran out of the freezer waiving his arms wildly. The stranger, cleaver in his hand, was right behind him.

The stranger shot by me, focused on Hippy Tim’s demise. The moment he had his back to me I smashed the Phrenology bust over his head. It crashed to a million pieces, and the stranger crumpled to the floor. Motionless.

‘Is he dead, dude?’

Hippy Tim gave the stranger a meek kick.

‘Don’t know and frankly I don’t care. Let’s get the fuck out of here.’

Kerouac’s boy moaned.

‘What do we do about him, man?’

I looked over at Jack Junior. A pitiful sight he was, with his mournful eyes. He was a victim in all this, trapped by the beauty of his words and his inability to communicate them. That rat bastard stranger had exploited him, used him, and wouldn’t let him die. I felt sorry for the poor thing.

‘We should let him go, I suppose.’

‘What if he eats us, dude?’

‘I don’t think we have to worry about that.’

I went over to Jack Jr. His eyes said it all. My fear faded.

‘Look. I am going to let you down, ok? It might hurt.’

I carefully removed all the hooks. As I loosed the last one, he dropped to his feet. I quickly stepped back. What I could only assume to be a smile crept across his lipless mouth. He half winked without eyelids. The corpse winked at me.

Hippy Tim and I backed up towards the door. Jack Junior, on shaky unsure feet, stumbled towards the stranger and fell on top of him.

As we walked out the door and back up the tunnel we could hear the screams of the stranger being devoured alive by Jack Junior.

‘You know it’s kind of funny, dude. You have the low sloping forebrow of a career criminal, and you used a phrenology bust to almost murder a man. Maybe there is some truth in it, after all.’

‘Could be, Hippy Tim.’ I chuckled. ‘Could be.’

• • •

A week later, Hippy Tim and I were at the apartment taking bong hits and listening to Stevie Wonder LPs. There was a wrapping at the door. I opened the door and it was none other than Jack Junior.

Turns out he doesn’t need human flesh if we give him beer. He sat quietly on our couch sipping beer and listening to Stevie Wonder with the tempo turned down while I read Leonard Cohen out loud. He didn’t sing anymore though. Maybe he was all out of ideas, or maybe he was just no longer motivated now he had beer.

He hung out with us for about a week, but Cleft Foot Carl came over one night with a slide-show, and I think he got bored with the whole scene. I woke up the next day and there was a note scrawled on the back of a notebook.

Thanks for everything, fellows. This notebook is my last piece that I transcribed to the stranger. It’s about my dad and the life his art stole from me. I think I can finally find peace now. Enjoy it, but don’t get wrapped up in it. Life is short, art is so very long. The consequences are only as dire as you make them. Look me up if ever you are in Mexico.

Your friend,
Kerouac’s Boy






© Scott M. Devereux 2007
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