Jul 1997

Around the Bend

by Kevin McGowin

Threatening Skies by Vincent Van Gogh

Threatening Skies by Vincent Van Gogh

There once was a child who was either Divine, or artistic, or both. I never knew what sex it was; divinity and art are prone to androgyny anyhow, if it matters. It didn't to me. It would cry and howl out with some ungodly screech, day in and half the night—and when awake and not in tears, it would mess with my things. It lived with me because it always had—and who's to question what's always been? Anyway, it cried too much, and it was meddlesome. This is, I suppose, why I killed it.

It had to die from day one, even if that day was the dawn of the world. I smothered it—choked it with a pillow, I think, to muffle it's stupid cries. Fitting, don't you think? I don't really remember much more of it all than that—only that I killed it, and it was gone. The little fucker disappeared as quickly as it had seemed to appear, and that was that. Sure, I was a bit loaded when I did it, but who in hell cares? Killing children is easy when you're loaded, I suppose, especially artistic ones.

What in fuck's sake do I mean you may ask? Well, there's two things of mine you just don't fuck with: my booze, and my music. I've quite a collection of both, and collectors, I'm told, are really artists. And I believe it. My music (opera, usually, or my booze. You don't mess with either, whoever the fuck you are, especially some damn kid who has neither a name nor a sex. Or a mother or a father, to speak of). So I fucking got loaded and smothered the bastard and that, as they say, was that.

More, you say? What is it you want to know, for God's sake? I love my work. Collecting, that is. And I know I've been called an alcoholic, but I'm really not, and I've been called plenty of other things, too. Queer, for one. But I rarely go down on anybody and I drink only wine. White wine, well, red on special occasions, once under a purple moon. But I know my wine and I don't fucking want any little assholes drinking it. I'm a collector, I'm no fucking alcoholic, but it's the principle of the thing. Anybody ever heard of a goddamn principle anymore? Not this kid, I'm telling you.

And all that goes for my music, too. Damn brat trying to sing it, shit, it fried my nerves. Damn kid woke me up at night trying to sing—and I know what good singing is, even the potential for it—and the fucker woke my up screeching like Callas on a bad night. No, worse than that. Now me, I love a bottle of chilled chardonnay and a Tebaldi Traviata, a Manon: no Giaconda, no Wagner, none of this happy-assed Rossini shit when I'm winding down. Sure, I have it, but like I told you, I'm a collector. Like if Luke, my friend, drops over and can he have my copy of Flagstad's Gotterdamerung or Callas's Medea, I'll probably let him have it. The tapes. I told him too, honey your taste is fuck-diving atrocious. How about some Lisa della Casa in Mozart, for the love of God? But nooooo. Luke doesn't particularly love God, or Mozart either. And he drinks nothing but red. Alcoholic Callas fag, red wine, what do you expect?

So I get home and go to sleep, I can't remember exactly what time it was, and the kid's howling away at "Una Voce Poca Fa" in the next room and my head hurt. I said listen, goddamnit, not that. But it wouldn't stop, so I stopped it. Simple. Or so I thought at the time.

I started having these dreams. And I never dream. I never remember them, at least. Dreams of bodies older and more odious, of songs more and more jarring, and the little shit was dancing around my bed with a carafe full of shit and pouring it on me and I couldn't get up or move. I went to see the doctor. Gave me Xanax and told me not to drink. Well, he should've just as well said don't sleep, because when I did the images came back.

I went back to the shrink and got referred to a neurologist. I had a brain scan. I took drugs, and I hate drugs, kids these days...well, that was when the neurologist let me go. Washed his hands of me. So I went down to the bar and picked up a boy. And I never pay for it, that's the thing, so I must've been desperate or something. We got real mowed on burgundy and he asked did I have a condom. Right here, I said. He started sucking me through the condom and singing when he came up for air. Sick, sick boy.

And that's when I noticed his face—well, actually I was on him by this time but my headboard has a mirror and he looked up into it and it was that bastard, that child. And he started to sing. I was limp so he started to sing, and walked out to the porch and just kept right at it, and looked back at me and still it was that child. And this time the voice was a man's, darker, no opera this time: and the face was like a man's but all shrivelled up like a baby's or a nursing home patient. And I was scared; I admit it. I said, "Hey, I paid for your little ass, not that horrid sound," but he just kept on:

"There's a place up ahead and I'm going
Just as fast as my feet can fly!
Come away come away if you're going;
Leave the sinking ship behind..."

And the way he sounded, it was primal, it was chlythonic, like all the beginnings and ends of the world. And then I sickly understood: I understood, sickly. I can't sing—I screamed, "Una Voce Poca Fa... The sweetest voice I ever heard... " And my voice was not my own. It was pitched, high and in tatters, across a stage of nothing between this figure and me. My voice shimmering in the croaking air as he disappeared, my lungs gasping. My face in his, flowing away. It's all fucking mine. This is what I screamed after myself. My opera, my booze, my hate, my limp cock hanging there in the darkness. My pillow. His death. My life.