Issue 7 :: Spring 2005  
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Sam Lipsyte

From his newest book, Home Land:

Tuna Melt Deluxe

Fuck me, Ostrokitties.

The next batch of FakeFacts is due to Penny Bettis in a week. Landlord Pete will be knocking on the door soon, too. Whither all my bank, Catamounts? Rent, utilities, a fifth of Old Overholt, a few tacos, booml (Message to the Old Overholt folks: how about a case of your fine rye for this excellent product placement in Catamount Notes?)

But I'm not bitter. It's my bed and I'm going to make it. Or, to quote Captain Thorazine: You must bide your time until your time comes, knowing full well, of course, your time may never come. That's the bitch about biding it.

These FakeFacts are killing me, though. When I agreed to this gig I figured the possibilities for cola mythography were endless. Maybe they are, maybe it's me who's reached the frontiers of invention. I'm no genius, after all, just sorry-ass Teabag. But still, since I started writing these updates, I've felt godly hum in the gut. It's all I've got.

Maybe it beats what Stacy Ryson has, which is two hundred-odd pounds of pud-headed malevolence to call honeycakes, or such appeared to be the case last time I saw her at the River Mall. I'd hopped a bus out there to perv on rich wives from Tobias Hill drop in on Roni's mother at Slice of Life, cop snatches of what contemporary amnesiacs call punk rock on those consoles at the record outlet.

Also, I'd found myself in the market for a battery operated pencil sharpener. There's a top-notch Manila Mo's at the mall. This might seem funny because Manila Mo's is a chain, but good management makes all the difference. Those dreadlocked anarchists who follow the G8 around like it's a legendary acid band are right about how we've all crawled up to die in anus of the oligarchy,but don't listen to them when they carp about corporate homogeneity. Go get some Taco King in Nearmont, then get some at the mall, you'll see what I mean. There's a jalapeno fetishist in Nearmont who's going to maim a child with his pepper juices someday.

But back to matters Rysonian and cruel. I'd just slipped off my Music Mania in-store headphones after subjecting myself to the bloated plaints of Spacklefinger—yes, Catamounts, I do mean that Spacklefinger, the one fronted by our very own Glave Wilkerson, pseudo-poet of Eastern Valley, purveyor of arena rock in deserted clubs near a decade now, whose major label debut, Sporemonger, arrives not a moment too soon, as Glave, who might have been an okay dude in high school were he not such a monumental suckass and sister-pimper, is beginning to resemble the very dads his anthems of teen disaffection rebuke—when lo and/or behold, there was Stacy Ryson, strolling down the concourse in mutual butt-grope with a big goon in designer glasses. I cut them off near a potted fern.

'Stacy,' I said.

She turned, stood, unnerving in her yogic rectitude. I smiled, gave big teeth. They're not pretty, my teeth, kind of pointy, butter-colored, but then I hardly tend to them, not since Gwendolyn left. It's tough brushing alone.

`Do I know you?' said Stacy.

Her goon struck a pose of high moral alert. His head was shaved, shaped like a cut dick, his eyes sealed in smug eyeware.

Damn if it wasn't Philly Douglas.

From The Subject Steve:

Provisionally, Steve

There was a new man at the rail. He had hair of wavy silver, thick country arms, wore dungarees, a dirty dress shirt. He looked like a midwestern math teacher, a professor with a hobby garden. I knew at once it was Heinrich, and not just by the voice. Some calm of the high ordinary pulsed out of him, soft, metronomic, a charisma of reduced noise.

“People,” he said quietly now, “I have something to impart to you. A fable, if you will. It concerns a lonely zookeeper and the beautiful, fiercesome tigress who fell into his charge. When I say lonely I mean lonely, okay? The zookeeper, I mean. So picture it, an anonymous little fellow, no friends, no family, no love. Nothing. Picture a poor schmuck whose most intimate conversations take place over cash registers, at salad bars, or in the bathroom mirror. Are you picturing it? It’s important that you picture it. This is what we call in the biz guided imagery. It’s still very big in the biz right now, this guided imagery thing. So, picture it, okay? Loneliness. Loneliness of the unrelenting variety. Understand, I’m telling you all this not to embarrass this man, who exists only on the plane of parable, anyway, but rather in what you would have to grant is an honest go at character development. Because I believe in character development. People, you should never consider me not in agreement with the idea of character-driven image-guided parable. But we’re off the beaten track, here, really. We’re far afield the ground-down path. What I want you to picture, really, for parable’s sake, is this lonely zookeeper whose only companion is the beautiful and fiercesome tigress who has fallen into his charge. Because, and this is important, the motherfucker couldn’t take his eyes off that cat. Motherfucker was in love with that stripey bitch. Unnatural? Okay, sure, unnatural. I don’t even know what natural is, people. Not in this world. And I sure as hell am not going to lay a moral trip on you. Oh, I know, morality is so important these days. Our society, it’s fracturing and fissuring and fragmenting and all the other f-words, too, all because of a lack of moral structure. Well, not on this mountain, people. You want slave morality, that’s the next mountain over. This is Mount Redemption. This is my fucking mountain. Got it? Good. So, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled parable. When last we left, our lonely zookeeper was lusting for the tigress who’d fallen into his charge. And let me tell you something, a lust like this makes room for calculation. So one night he shoots her with a tranquilizer gun and climbs into her cage. He gets down and holds her drugged-up head in his arms, kisses her, whispers in her ear, works himself up into a lather, a slaver. Do you like slaver better? Let me know. Drop your suggestions in the suggestion box. But in the meantime, listen to me. This zookeeper. He unzips his trousers, dig? He whips it out. He whips it out and does the deed. The deed. He does it. Dig?”

“We dig,” called Old Gold.

“Okay, then,” said Heinrich, his voice rising. “Deed done, the zookeeper sets his watch alarm to coincide with the duration of the sedative and snuggles up beside the cat. He sleeps a sleep he has never known before. A golden sort of sleep, the deep, dreamless slumber of the unvanquished. Unvanquished, as in yet-to-be-vanquished. Am I laying it on too thick? Maybe I’m laying it on too thick. But when, tell me people, when is it ever really thick enough? I’ve never once seen it thick enough. It’s always too thin, isn’t it? Too damn thin.

“Anyway, back to our sympathetic bestialist. Because a story like this depends on sympathy, so I advise you all to sympathize. Or empathize. Which is more sympathetic. Back to the zookeeper’s frequent and clandestine mountings. Back to the unvanquished thickness of our golden empathy and the zoo-keeper’s feline humps. Repeat once nightly for, oh, a week.

“So one evening the zookeeper is thrashed awake by the newly roused tigress, who lets loose a howl that could serrate the stars. You like that? Serrate the stars? I made that up. That’s not in the original parable. But that’s how these things work. Thousands of years of revision, refinement. I’m storytelling, here. We’re gathered around the cookfire here. Fire, man. Pretty fucking exciting. Now the tigress, she howls, she leaps, and the zookeeper, he just barely rolls away from her wet snapping jaws, wriggles himself out of the cage. Just barely. Witness the zookeeper, bruised but intact. Intact, but scared out of his mind. Picture scared, people. Picture load-in-your-skivvies scared. Visualize, visualize.

“Whew! Can you say that, people? Whew? You can bet your ass the zookeeper said it. Whew!

“Never again, he vows. Never again. But the next day, hosing down her cage, she appears to him almost coy, lazing there in the afternoon heat, and it seems to him that with those sultry squints of her tigress eyes, those drowsy paw strokes on her smooth belly, that sexy way her feline spittle ropes out of her mouth, maybe she’s... well, it’s just a hunch, but maybe, I mean couldn’t she actually be acknowledging their tryst, or, can you believe it, assenting to it! Why not? thinks the zookeeper, which I say for the sake of fable, for in truth no man can say for sure what another thinks, especially someone who doesn’t exist. Still, hell, why not? Their love is forbidden in her kingdom too, right? It’s probably just as thrilling.”

“The zookeeper, however, is not unwary, so that night he returns to her cage door with a double dose of cat tranks locked and loaded. He draws a bead on her exquisite rump, but finds himself unable to pull the trigger. He shudders to imagine the shock of the needle piercing her hide. He dreads that baleful look on her face as the chemicals creep through her system and shut her down in stages.”

“We are lovers now, thinks the zookeeper, we have built a trust. Or at least a tryst. So Zoo-man tosses the gun away and strips off his uniform, enters the cage armed only with his otherworldly tumescence. Do you all know what a tumescence is?”

“A tumessens!” called Old Gold. “That’s a boner!”

“Nothing but, young Avram,” said Heinrich. “Nothing but. So here we got Mr. Lonely Zoo-man with his parable-derived, parabolic boner looking down on the object of his love, the winsome, ferocity-graced tigress.”

"'Come to Daddy,' zookeeper coos.”

“But does Tigress come to Daddy? Does Tigress bend to Daddy’s whim? Fuck no! Tigress leaps! Tigress pounces! Bitch munches him up!”

“And as the zookeeper lies bleeding to death, he sees it, his tumessens, if you will, now a pale tiny thing pinched in his pawed lover’s maw.”

"‘Why?’ moans the zookeeper. But as he twitches there in the corner of the cage, he remembers another ancient and oft-cited ditty about a frog and a scorpion and a not dissimilar breach of trust, and suddenly he knows perfectly well why.”

“It’s a fable within a fable!” said Old Gold.

"Avram Cole Younger Gold, we have college boys here who aren’t as sharp as you. You’re damn right. Fables within fables. Wheels within wheels. Such is the way to wisdom. And to madness. But back to our story. The zookeeper remembers this other little number about a frog and a scorpion, or a tarantula and newt, or a salamander, it doesn’t matter. And the zookeeper, now in his pulped puppet-y death throes, now in what the Teutons might call der Todeskampf, the zookeeper says, ‘I understand, my love, I understand, I know why you did this. It’s because you’re a tiger. That’s why, right?’”

“Now the big cat leers at him, her flat eyes coins of a darker realm. You like that? Coins of a darker realm? I’m still tweaking that. But anyway, the tigress she looks at him, this dying zookeeper, she levels her leveling gaze at him.”

"‘Listen, punk,’ she says, ‘the fact that I’m a tiger’s got nothing to do with it. It's just that you got stingy with the good stuff.’"

I laughed. It was hard to tell if it was okay to laugh. I guess it wasn’t okay.

“People,” said Heinrich, “I want to welcome a newcomer among us. His name is Steve. Get up, Steve.”

“I’m Steve,” I said, and stood.

I waited for welcome, for hugs, finger gongs.

Nobody said a word.

“I’m Steve,” I said. “Provisionally, I’m Steve, and I’m dying of something. Nobody knows what it is, but it’s killing me. I don’t want to die. That’s about it. Thanks.”

“Sit, Steve,” said Heinrich.

Trubate tugged me to the ground.
“Seen worse,” he whispered.

“There you have it,” said Heinrich. “Provisionally Steve. A provisional man afraid to confront the truth. Pretty damn pathetic, ask me.”

FAQ #3:
Why Does Steve Deny His Name is Steve?

He hated his name. There was nothing to his name. There was taunt built into it because of its nothingness. It sounded something you wiped off your shirt. Everyone was supposed to be special but how could you be special if your name was tantamount to lint? He stayed in his room and read books. He stayed in his room and read the beginnings of books, until there was mention of a breast heaving, or a groin tightening. Then he’d put the book aside for a few minutes. He could do it over and over again, for hours. He’d skip school to do it.

He knew what was special.

His mother used to say he was too shy. His only friend was Cudahy. They used to burn trees. Sometimes he’d sit by himself in his father’s toolshed, study the lawn mower blade in his lap. He’d run his thumb over the rust, up to the toothy crack near the tip. Something might scuttle in the rake bin behind him. Field mice, his father called them. Field mice ran free in the fields. They had freedoms we couldn’t dream.
They had no names.

What he’d seen his father do with Cudahy’s father, there was a name for that. That wasn’t anything, though. Kids did stuff like that all the time. It was weird, was all, like seeing your old man on a moped.

He got more Steve years on him. It was time to be in the world. This was what people did. The world was like God or some fucked-up dragon. You couldn’t look at it all at once or you’d go nuts.

He fell in with a woman who believed in falling in love. They made a creature together. People made creatures to pass themselves onward, but that’s not how he saw it. He wanted to stop the Steveness. He needed a family to destroy him, his Steveness. Someday he’d make a new name for himself. Before he died he’d have a new name, or no name.

It wouldn’t be the name his mother used to call him when she called him in for dinner from the stoop.

“Stee-eeve!” she used to call.

Once, his buddy Cudahy grinned.

“Tell her fuck you.”

They’d been wrestling in the grass. Greco-Roman. American. Fake American.

“Fuck you, Mom!” he called across the yard.

He had to eat dinner on his bed. The penalty for insolence is room service. He couldn’t eat, though. He couldn’t get it down. It was because of the guilt. He said it was because of the broccoli.

(Previously published in taint.)