The Wilentz Family History
you're finally up. It seems I have to do everything for you." and
"It's around one." said Vanessa. "About ten to I
think. When you fainted I thought it was just a delayed reaction to Roget
bursting into the apartment, but when I touched you, you had an incredible
fever. I took off your shoes," (
to the counter and removed a bowl that was covered by a tea-towel and brought
it over to
"Oh, it isn't mine. I snatched it from Ms. Van P---."
"What? How did you do that?"
"Well, when you collapsed I had to find a thermometer. Aquilla wasn't home, and I didn't think you would want to talk to Lucian. Then I realized that I had the skeleton key that Giles gave me last Sunday, and I thought I could go in and sneak around Ms. Van P---'s room. They weren't home, but I didn't actually look around very much. The place was filled with booby-traps, and I think I heard snakes hissing somewhere in the room. But there was a bathtub where they kept the marigolds in brine, and they had a thermometer there measuring the temperature of the bath water. So I borrowed it."
"Won't they notice it's missing?"
if I replace it." Vanessa grabbed a chair and put it in front of the
couch. She placed the thermometer back in its case and stepped on the chair
and stuffed the thermometer through a hole in the ceiling. As she did she
"You're looking up my skirt, aren't you?"
"Of course not." he said indignantly. "Besides, I already know what's up there."
"Don't be crass,
"I suppose not, but it's not something I worry about."
"You're almost anemic."
"Your skin is as white as a vampire's."
"Well how many vampires do you know die of skin cancer?"
"Do you get this sick often?"
"No, not really. Sometimes I get colds, but they're not serious. I've never lost consciousness like this before. It's a completely new sensation."
"How's the soup?"
"Fine, I suppose. It's not something I ordinarily eat, but it's fine. It does seem to be restoring my appetite. Considering I haven't eaten for about eighteen hours is there something else to nibble on?"
"Here, have a yellow phallic symbol." and she got up and tossed him a banana. He ate it ravenously, dipping it in his soup, and when he finished, she took away the dishes. "Actually, I didn't mean to say your skin was repulsive. I'm sure if you had a little sun, and if you weren't so repressed, and if you were more patient in bed, you'd really be very handsome."
"How kind of you to flatter me so."
"When I say it, it isn't flattery. After all, everyone knows I'm sarcastic, in a distinctively Jewish way. It's a very good alibi really. There are virtues to being gratuitously nasty."
"Don't flatter yourself. That's my job." And he leaned over to kiss her, but she was farther away than he thought. As a result, he did it so very awkwardly that she had to lean forward to kiss him. "How emaciated do you feel right now?"
"I'm sure I could be very patient right here on the couch."
probably wouldn't, but I'm sure practice makes perfect. And it would
annoy a large number of psychotically repressed Catholics. If we pretended
they were Communists we could say fucking was a moral imperative."
But just as
straightened themselves out quickly, as Tyrone knocked on the door.
"Good afternoon, Miss Wilentz." said Dramsheet. "I
hope you aren't too busy, but we have to talk to you about some truly urgent
matters." But then he noticed
"Umm, Constantine Rudman, this is Louis Dramsheet, Q.C. He's investigating those strange letters I've been getting. Louis Dramsheet, may I introduce you to Constantine Rudman, one of my friends."
"He seems to be ill. How long has he been here?"
"He came by--this morning. He collapsed from a fever, but he's recovering nicely."
Dramsheet nodded. "Very interesting. You hesitated when I asked you the time he came around here, which means you must be prevaricating. Which means he did not come here this morning, but he must have been here several hours, since he would not have come if he was so ill he had to lie on the couch. So he must have come here last night, which means he probably slept with you."
blushed, while Tyrone was clearly shocked. "Is this true?" he said
"Umm, well yes it is."
Tyrone did next was completely unexpected. He walked over to the couch
"Ummm, I'm not really her boyfriend yet."
"Naturally, that's what you think. You probably think this is just another example of meaningless casual sex between friends. But this is how some of my best Protestant friends got together, they casually fornicated themselves into marriage. Some of them didn't know they truly loved each other until menopause, which was actually a very good time to find out. So I hope you too will have a simply wonderful relationship, and that you will get married, and that you will have lots of children, or very few children, or no children if that's what you want, or better some children, since it would be wrong to have them all aborted. Personally I have a very dim view of pre-marital sex, but it would be useless to expect people like you to try to live up to my high Catholic standards. And I'm sure Jews are much more permissive in these matters, but that's all right, I can allow myself to be tolerant and offer my sincere congratulations, because it really would be better if you two stuck together, instead of completely forgetting each other, which is what a lot of irresponsible and unpleasant people do these days."
"Excuse me," asked Vanessa, "But surely you came by for some other reason than to compliment my love-life."
"Quite." agreed Dramsheet. "We are here to inform you that Dr. Oliver Corpse is dead. He was found hanged last night."
"He committed suicide? I suppose that's possible, he was very distressed the last time I saw him, which was ten days ago."
"We suspect it was murder." said Tyrone.
Tyrone was stunned. "How would you know anything about that? I've kept it a close secret."
"Oh. Well, one of our friends talked to a vice-inspector, someone named Monagham, and she told us everything."
"Oh, that stupid woman! I don't care if pneumonia has got her at death's door, I'm going over to the doughnut's man hot tub and drag her back to the station. What else do you know?"
"Umm. I know that there's a semen spot on Veniot's glasses that you can't explain. And I know, not from Monagham, that there's something about a conspiracy to kill someone who's already dead. And actually, the Flannery O'Connor Brigade has been stalking our apartment."
"Oh, they have, have they?"
"Yes. Just this morning Dr. Roget forced his way into our apartment and tried to make Vanessa take a shower at gunpoint. And two weeks ago Ms. Van P--- and her maid forced their way here and left a bug behind." Vanessa went to a drawer and showed the two men the destroyed wiretap.
"How very curious." said Dramsheet. "More and more mysteries. Personally, I think it's very fortunate that I've managed to solve one mystery today."
"And what mystery would that be?" asked Vanessa.
"The identity of the writer of your anonymous letters."
"Oh that. I knew that long before you did."
"What? But you can't! I went to all the trouble to find out who it was; I can't let you discover who it was before me."
"Tough luck. But it's rather obvious."
is?" asked Tyrone. "But of course. It must have been
"Of course not. Do you really think I would have slept with him if he'd been writing those letters to me?"
"Thanks for the endorsement." mumbled
Dramsheet interrupted. "But it's perfectly obvious who the writer is. Blindingly obvious."
"If you're not going to say who it is I'm going to."
"Couldn't we just say it at the same time, so everyone would know that I found out who the writer was?"
"No. Inspector Tyrone--you're the writer."
"Me? How can you say such a thing? I mean, I thought Dramsheet was going to say you wrote the letters in your sleep."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Ignore him." said Dramsheet, "another case entirely."
Tyrone tried to be indignant. "How can you say such a thing? There's not a shred of evidence that I wrote the letters, no handwriting, no fingerprints, nothing."
"It was very simple Tyrone. The letters were abstruse and prolix in the worst possible way. Yet they showed barely any passion at all. Clearly they must have been written by a man, I think we can all agree upon that, and they must have been written by an emotionally repressed man unable to communicate. You are the only person among Vanessa's acquaintances who fits that bill. I reasoned that you wrote the letters to give yourself the opportunity to see Vanessa while you investigated them."
"So why did you do it?" asked Vanessa.
indeed? Why had the most respected member of the
And so he
did, but that was not the problem. His family had been a very Catholic
one; his mother kept her rosary right beside the condoms, and as Tyrone grew up
he fully expected to tempted by the pleasures of the flesh. And indeed he
was, but by the time he was Inspector Tyrone of the
He had no ulterior motives at all, he believed, he merely wanted to ensure her happiness and to ensure that he could experience that and the happiness of so many other people who did not know how the police were trying to make their lives a more happy and contented one. But was there not an element of bad faith in what he was doing? He was too intelligent man to deny himself the possibility, and he would reflect on his peculiar hobby--the term 'obsession' never crossed his mind. These reflections consisted on cogitations on the nature of women. Women are not men. Women are men. Women are men who can get pregnant. Women are men who menstruate and lactate and who can get raped. Women are men whom other men do not want to believe are men. Women are men whom everyone hopes aren't men, because it would be really embarrassing. Women are men who have mercury forced down their throats in attempts to turn them into mirrors. Women are men who do not have castration complexes. Women are poor men with bigger nipples. Women are men who are defined by definitions. Women are men whose tear ducts don't work properly, and everyone refuses to get them fixed. Women are men who should stop whining, because Moslems would always treat them much worse. Women are men who are praised for their sycophancy. Women are men who are forced to act like transvestites. Women are not men at all, they are like poisoned sweets and the only antidote is a learned genial cynicism. Women are like men after all, because both sexes are like poisoned sweets and the only antidote is a learned genial system, and that if your ordered now you could get two novels by Milan Kundera for the price of one. Women are men who upset all of men's lovely theories by being forgotten. It had occurred to Tyrone during all these recitations that all the above statements could be reversed, ie, "men are women who do not have to act like transvestites, etc, etc," but he saw no real reason to probe the matter any further. Had there been any sexual desire in his thoughts, had there been any plans at any level in his mind to seduce Vanessa, and had he been aware of them, he would have killed himself in shame.
But none of this was what he said to the others. Instead he said something like this. "The letters. The letters. The letters that I wrote. Or I may have wrote. They demand an explanation. Or a confession. They can be defended. If you want them to be defended. If you don't I won't defend them. They were nice letters. Made on very expensive stationery. Well moderately expensive stationery. The sort of stationery that can't be traced. Not that I was trying to hide from you what kind of stationery. I was just being protective. You were very disturbed by the letters, but there was no need to be, since they were just paper. With ink on them. In strange patterns. They weren't love letters, and there was nothing in them that could be confused for being a love letter. When I compared you to the smell of a Chrysanthemum, that was simple cliché, I can't stand cliché, so all the words I surrounded the compliments with were simply meant to bury it, to erase clicheness from language. Textbook Deconstruction--Derrida 101. I could have equally said something completely different; I could have compared to you to a gooseberry bush, except I don't know what colour they are. Blue aren't they, but maybe they're red. I could have talked about something completely different, like Lester Pearson. Pearson's a very interesting person, or was a very interesting person, since he's dead, but arguably he's more interesting dead than many people who are alive, that is the fate of bunny-rabbit statesman, but he's such a nice cuddly corpse, what with electoral reform, immigration reform, and bilingualism. I could have talked about Andre Laurendeau, or about simple forensics, but that could have given me away so I had to compare you to a flower whose appearance I haven't got a clue. When I found out that no-one thinks you smell like a chrysanthemum, or any other flower, or anything remotely pleasant, much less erotic, and that your own brother thinks you smell like a sewer, I was very pleased, because it made sure that my compliment was completely meaningless, as far as I'm concerned the only thing I care about was that I'm not misunderstood, and that nobody cares what I really think. You have to understand that I would talk about the weather, about ionosphere, and climatology and meteor showers, but when I put pen to paper, or ink to carbon-based whatever it is (papyrus, I think) I couldn't remember the words for the science of weather, it's meteorology I realize now, so I had to think of something that didn't mean anything and a completely insipid comparison came to mind, as long as I didn't have to pay attention, so I talked about chrysanthemums, which I can spell, because I won a spelling bee when I was fourteen by remembering how to spell that word even though that was one of the years I had to talk entirely in Gaelic, and not about meteors, which are actually much more interesting, particularly the probability of you, me, or Dramsheet or any individual in particular, or this house, or any other house, or the street, or the whole city, or a mild-sized city state or a toy province like Prince Edward Island, or the entire country or an entire continent of walking down the street, or the continental street for the continents walking down the streets and suddenly being squished by a meteor falling right on your head, that's much more interesting I think, and you mustn't think that there was any attraction, because quite frankly I would rather translate Commonweal or National Review or National Catholic Reporter or any other vaguely Catholic magazine into Gaelic than show any interest in you at all, just so long as you're happy with somebody else."
was stunned. "This is wonderful. Not only am I getting anonymous
notes from a madman, I'm getting them from one who doesn't even find me
entering the living room Peter immediately noticed
"Good. But you have no idea, you stupid little man, how much contempt that I have for you. You have no idea of how much I really hate you, you worthless little worm, I despise everything about you, you're so utterly wretched!"
"May I ask a question?"
"Certainly, you incredible twit."
"Who are you?"
"Oh, you don't know who I am. How could that possibly be?"
"We've never been introduced to each other?"
Wilentz did not like having good answers being giving to his rhetorical
questions, and his contempt for
"You must be her brother Peter."
"Please don't interrupt me. If I wanted you to interrupt me, I would say Please, Interrupt me with your stupid and worthless comments. If I wanted you to interrupt me, I would say please ignore the almost twenty years I have spent as a useful member of society, fully paying my taxes, or fully paying them to the extent those wretched parasites in the House of Commons deserve, and let me defer to your vile and idiotic opinions. Please, I would say, allow me to totally ignore my twenty years of profound and practical experience and let me jettison it all away so that I can be regaled with your fashionable deconstructionist nihilist opinions from a person who has never worked a day in his life. Please, tell me about the latest anti-humanity positions of the cheapest new post-structuralist fashions. Yes, rub my nose in the dirt, I've only been a hard-working accountant who loves God and country, and clearly I'm not qualified to be a fashionable student nihilist who studies literature only in order to rewrite it in order to satisfy black whores and lesbian sluts. What's the latest fashion? I suppose William Shakespeare is a politically incorrect Nazi now."
"Actually, I don't study literature."
"Well, of course you don't, you pathetic marrano fashionalist swine. What could be a more ludicrous concept; the idea that all these Marxists, Freudians, deconstructionists, feminists, Leninists, Levinasists, structuralists, nihilists, anti-Jewish Jews, third worldists actually read literature. All they do is copy each other's opinions, then they swarm over books like maggots leaving excrement and dirt behind. You don't read books, you simply copy the professor's opinions, and if that's too difficult you whore yourself to the professor. Either sex will do, because they're all Derridaist degenerates and they have complete control of the media. Have I ever told you that my pathetic sister has whored herself to every professor she ever had?"
"Really? Even with Chelmnickon?"
"Of course not! When I said 'every professor' I clearly did not mean every teacher she's ever had. I only meant the meretricious concept of a Canadian Professor. Clearly compared to these timeserving, Gulag-loving bastards, Chelmnickon is a saint, and if she ever tried to seduce Chelmnickon, he would stab her to death in perfectly just outrage. In fact, if my sister tried to seduce him, and he had no choice but to kill her, I would be the first person to raise bail money."
"But I'm not in literature at all. I study mathematics."
"Oh yes, mathematics, a ripe breeding ground for nihilists. With non-Euclideans in complete control of every faculty."
"Peter, why have you come rampaging into our house and spreading gross libels about me?"
"Gross libels? I never spread gross libels. Only nihilist deconstructionist Derridaist professors..."
"Peter, you know bloody well I don't give a damn about any of my professors."
"My darling stupid sister, I didn't say you slept with your professors, I only said you whored yourself for them. Clearly, anyone who is in the same room with these meretricious swine, and who does not immediately attempt to strangle them for the general good is prostituting himself. But of course, you are such a superficial and literal girl, you thought I was accusing you of being a literal pervert. How fatuously vain can you get? Clearly you are such a sour and ugly and unattractive woman..."
don't find her unattractive at all." interrupted
I say you could interrupt?" shrilled Peter, threatening
Vanessa sighed. "Peter, why are you here?"
"Why am I here? Well our parents decided to invite me for lunch in the university area, saying we should see each other more often. Naturally I agreed, but then as we were coming over here, I decided I just could not bear to be with my utterly horrible parents, so I decided I would do the next worst thing, and come over and visit you. And naturally, you're just as repulsive as always, and your new found lover is even worse."
"Must you keep pumping that." said an aggrieved Tyrone to
"Strong you say, strong?" asked Peter. "You want to know
why I always bring
"Excuse me Peter, but he does have a name. And I have known him for a couple of years now."
"So what's his name anyway? If he had any will and presumption and spine at all, he would say his name right now, he would leap up and burst into song about the glories of his name, he would shout...."
"My name is Constantine Rudman."
"Did I say you could interrupt me? I asked you a specific question, and that question was not what your bloody name was, but what do you think my sister smells like?"
"Well right now I happen to have a cold, but..." and he leaned off the couch and sniffed Vanessa's arms. "You smell rather nice, Vanessa."
"Excuse me," said Peter, "but you're talking to me, not to my
sister. So you think she smells nice. Naturally you do, naturally you
think so, that's because you want to get into bed with her again, and you'll
tell any lie to be able to do it. But think carefully you hideous
sycophant, think carefully, does not the smell seem even vaguely familiar, does
it not remind you of a certain scent in a certain
"Oh, so you've forgotten. You've completely managed to conveniently forget it what it smells like. But how could you forget that smell, particularly after you slept with my own sister? I'm sure you indulge in that smell everyday, but you've completely forgotten it, clearly the sign of a weak and impotent intellect."
"So what is the smell?"
"So you want to know what the smell is? Now you want to know what the smell is. Now you have a question and only poor derided repressed conservative honorable old fashioned Peter Wilentz can tell you what it is. So you want to know what the smell is? It's the smell of semen, you imbecile!!"
"That's odd. I can't smell a thing." said Dramsheet.
"Semen. My parents reek with it, and even my sister is infected with
their foul odors. So I have to have
started in the fall of 1944 and Franz Wilentz had spent the past two years
hiding from the Germans, when he came across one of the last circuses left in
Franz turned around and saw what looked like a very old man, though he was only in his late sixties, who looked very Jewish. Indeed the whole tent was like a Jewish shrine, with only the smallest concessions made to world outside. The old man had a very long beard, and Franz could still see where they had cut off the sidelocks, and his nose was full of bumps like special Passover buns. He was dressed in a long robe, though he wore his kipa inside out, and the star of David he wore was in an awkward necklace that could be converted to a swastika by pulling a few chains. On his face was an expression of infinite benevolence and tolerance, which could have been confused with useless senility. "Please sit down." and Franz did so. "Do I know you?" he felt compelled to ask.
"No. But as a cabbalist it is my duty to know that your name is Franz Wilentz. Do not mind the colonel, he is merely one of the governor-general's aide de camps, and has no brains for the actual brutality."
"That's Frank's assistant out there. And you just sit here? You must be mad."
"No. I am, merely safe. The aide de camp is responsible, among
other things, for ensuring that there are enough things in
"But surely they would have searched it for Jews?"
"Oh, they have. Several times in fact, but the manager hides me whenever there's a roundup. And even if he didn't, I would have my own ways of hiding." Looking closely at his face Franz realized that a few, but only very few, of the bumps on the old man's face were actually disguises. "But my fate is irrelevant. It's your fate that's important. You must consider it an act of destiny that we two should have met each other. And you must hope the war will end shortly."
a few months time. April, actually. Well, it will be May by the time
the Germans officially surrender, and it won't be until August, or is it
September, when the Japanese give up. And come to think of it, it would probably
be wise not to stay in
"Oh really? What happens to them?"
"Well, actually it's not that impressive either. The most obvious
ones commit suicide, some others vanish. But they'll hang the commandant
"That's all very well, but I'd rather have some way of getting out of this alive."
"But that shall not be a problem for you at all. You will survive this war, and will have a very special purpose in the new world that follows. Your survival is guaranteed. Your family has been devastated: I see of all the relatives in your mind, the only one alive is your sister."
I have a brother in
"Really? Well I suppose working there is better off than being dead. Still it must be very risky, with the German overseers and those treacherous capos."
I'm terribly sorry.
"Why do they let you stay here?"
"The simple answer is alchemy. I can convert lead into gold, and I use that to bribe the manager into keeping me here."
"If you could do that, surely you could you use your magic to do much more for us."
"Ah, but there is a price for my alchemy. First, I can only use a certain sort of lead. When angels appear on the earth lead comes to cloak their wings. I can only use that lead when I summon the angels to appear before me. For the past two years it has been my privilege to summon the angel that is the warden of the court of the Lord, our God. The second thing is that the alchemy slowly poisons me. I shall be quite dead in less than three years, and the longer I use the alchemy the less time I have. Alchemy was not meant to be used for the young. But I see another image in your mind. It's an image of a young woman; her name is Rebekah Kafka. You are in love with her."
"Yes, but she must be dead. She was sent to Treblinka."
"Ordinarily that would be true. But in fact, she is alive. Now ordinarily there are only a handful of escapees, and it would have been extraordinarily unlikely for her to escape. But one day, after eighteen hours on her feet keeping the death camp in good condition she collapsed with exhaustion into one of the enormous barrels that are used to take food to the guards. The barrel was taken away, with her inside it, and when she woke up she was in a truck a hundred miles away."
"But that's incredible!"
"Yes, and if it wasn't for the special spells that were cast that made everyone in the camp forget about her, and made the truck drivers completely oblivious to her presence, it would have been impossible for her to get away. But she got away because she had been selected for a special duty."
"Wait a minute. If you could use spells to get her away from Treblinka, why didn't you use spells to destroy all the camps?"
"Yes!" shrieked Peter. "Why didn't the cabbalists use their spells to save all the people who were in the camps? Why did they just save one person? Because all the true cabbalists, all the ones who had learned the true secrets of Jewish mysticism, the ones who learned the truths that were to be hidden from all unbelieving eyes, all these true cabbalists had one thing in common. They were all over eighty-five years old! They were all senile! They were so busy using my parents for their special spells they forgot to save themselves! All those truths completely wasted by their forgetfulness! Of all the fruits of their labor only the spell used for my parents still existed. And do you know what that spell was?
shan't waste my time going on what the old fool in the circus tent said to my
worthless imbecilic father. I will just conclude that my father and my
mother had been selected for a very powerful spell. Consider my family,
for a moment. I have a cabinet minister for an uncle, I have another
uncle who is a national hero of the Czechoslovak republic. In my blood,
and I suppose in my stupid sister's blood, lies the blood of rabbis, mystics,
prophets, philosophers, great merchants, educators, doctors, and, of course,
accountants. But what special goal are my stupid parents supposed to
fulfill? Have they been chosen to find the secret of life, to bring in
the new messiah, to bring in the old messiah? Of course not! Not merely
are they not going to bring in the world-savior, they don't even get to cater
Rabbi Akiba's week-long visit to
see, it was simple. One day, seven senile sorcerers decided that the best
solution to the destruction of European Jewry was to have more Jewish
children. What a stupid thought, but they went with it anyway. So they
chose one healthy looking couple, or as healthy a looking couple as you could
find in a country where the gentiles are only allowed three hundred calories,
so you can imagine what we got. My parents were going to have children.
They were going to have no less than twenty in fact. So a special spell
was cast in order to ensure that would take place. My mother, the
granddaughter of rabbis was going to be an earth-mother, like some vulgar
Guatemalan whore, she was going to have one child after another while carefully
tending her work in
"From her thighs to her legs to her uterus, everything was arranged so that
my mother would have one pleasant pregnancy after another.
"Excuse me," interrupted
"But of course, Vanessa is my only sibling. That's the most wretchedly ludicrous thing about my parents! For the sorcerer's gifts didn't stop with the easy pregnancies, and the beautiful looks and the easy money. Oh no, the sorcerers made so sure that my parents could never claim infertility, and that's where the semen came in. Enormous amounts every time, enough to fill half a bottle of champagne! Bursting condoms like balloons! I would hear them going off like rifle shots when I was five years old! So much semen in fact that it completed smothered any eggs, with so much force that most of the poor cells were completely stunned and drowned. So, no children. Which didn't stop my stupid parents from trying. Trying twice a day, at least, more like three times, although I don't have any evidence I'm sure it was more like seven times, they didn't even keep the fasts, even on Yom Kippur, the dirty rutting sensualist pagans, who were probably vile Arab camp guards who stole my parent's souls and took my real parents' bodies and wanted to take my dear uncle's money, not my parents at all, but stupid filthy Arab sensualists who probably believe in female circumcision just to be gratuitously cruel, just the sort of people who don't believe Edward Said should be butchered to death, vile Mohammedan worms who pretend to speak Yiddish, to practice chanukah, Purim, Tish be'av, Passover, Sukkot, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Israeli Independence day, it's just a plot so that they could catch me unaware and drink my blood for whatever cakes they bake on Ramadan they'd do it just so they could blame Sharon for the blood libel Montserrat keep pumping!"
Dramsheet was surprised by this outburst. "You seem to wish that your parents hadn't conceived you at all. Were they cruel to you in some way?"
"Ha-ha-ha, my conception. Cruel to me? How can your parents be
cruel to you? If my father had beat me every day of my life up to my
forty-second birthday I would respect him. I would respect my mother if
she whored herself for all the monetarist economists in the world, I would
respect her. I would respect them if they were bigots, foaming Christians at
the mouth, sadists, and butchers. I'd respect them even if they were
Unitarians! But no, they couldn't be that. I couldn't be that
lucky! They were nice to me! They were always kind! And even
though I had to help set twenty places at the dining room table in the futile
hope that it might encourage the other children to come, they never forgot I
was their only child! No, for the first five years of my life I went five
days a week to the local library where they worked, I learned to read before I
was three, and every weekend they took me to other libraries, to zoos, to
museums, to art-galleries, to intelligent and profound people like my dear uncle
Ignatius! They introduced me to worthless meretricious sentimental
thick-horrible garbage like Dickens, and Hardy and Stevenson and Sartre and
Conrad and Shakespeare and Schiller and good lord Goethe! They made sure
I learned all my religious and Hebrew letters, they always helped me with my
homework, and every Sunday afternoon, without fail, without delay, my father
would play games with me! If one of us was sick we would play chess, if
one of us was very sick, we would play checkers, and if one of us was really
really sick, my father would tell me a saccharine worthless lullaby, which was
supposed to be good because it happened to Maimonides' favorite lullaby! As if
that meant anything, as if the man was an accountant! And every summer
Sunday afternoon we would play ball together! As if the man had never
heard of an Oedipus complex!!" (Which indeed Franz Wilentz hadn't,
because he had spent his formative years trying not to be brutally
murdered.) "And as the years grew on, and as no children came, my
mother would sometimes go into a little side room, and start to cry. Can
you imagine anything more stupid?! more pathetic?! more ridiculous?! what could
be more utterly absurd than Rebekah weeping her children?! Now you
understand! What could be simpler, less worthy of our time, hideously,
ludicrously, absurdly easy than stuffing your house full of rousing little
brats! And they couldn't do it! My mother wanted to be a worthless
sow, like some French Catholic pig, like some Brazilian moron, like some cheap
African slut! I can't imagine, I certainly wouldn't want to give birth to
eighteen children, but for some reason she did! And she couldn't do
it! She tried for half of her life, and she couldn't conceive more than
two children! My poor horrible aunt conceived twelve, fifteen, if you
count the miscarriages, all at the worst possible moments! Surely, you
can only hate some that utterly incompetent! It was only premature
ejaculation that allowed them to have two children at all! One was then
they first met each other in
"Did you say Marvellax shampoo?" said a stunned Tyrone.
"Don't interrupt. And, Montserrat, don't stop pumping! But the worst thing about was that after all the money and the good looks and the perfect bodies corrupted away, they still loved each other, they still lusted for each other. That hadn't been part of the original spell! So I'm stuck with it until they drop dead! That shouldn't have to happen! Your parent's sexuality is something you're suppose to repress and ignore and pretend doesn't exist! And they still do it! Every year, on the anniversary of my conception they go back to the Henderson Insurance Company Building, and do exactly what they did so many years before. It's disgusting!"
"But the Henderson company went out of business years ago." said an increasingly upset Tyrone.
"Yes, but the building's still there. It's a hotel, I think. The Castlereagh hotel, I believe. In fact, they went there only a few weeks ago."
"They wouldn't have gone back there, three weeks yesterday evening?"
"Now that you mention it, almost certainly. Why would you care? Of course, there's that ludicrous way they wear those silly Groucho Marx disguises and the way they sneak into the building after midnight. When it was still the Henderson building they would have to bribe the guard."
"Oh no!" Tyrone was shattered.
"What's the problem? It's none of your business."
"Oh, but it is." said Dramsheet. "Three weeks ago was when Senator Veniot died. He fell down an elevator shaft, and there was a spot of semen on his eyeglasses. But if Mr. Wilentz had that much... It could have dripped on the floor and on to the spectacles below. And the spectacles were right under the elevator, while Veniot's corpse wasn't, which would explain why only the glasses had semen on them."
"No, that can't be it!" shouted Tyrone.
"And Marvellax shampoo would have removed all the semen in the elevator cabin. Of course."
"No, that can't be it. The semen is the only proof we have that any of these people were murdered! It cannot be some freak explanation by two stupid librarians." Tyrone was absolutely crestfallen.
"Look," said Vanessa, "I have to tolerate this crap from my brother, I'm not going to take it from you two."
"We better leave at once. I should get back to the station."
"Yes. And I better telephone the station psychiatrist to arrange an appointment over these letters."
The two of them left, while Peter wore a rare smile of triumph having related his family's misfortunes. As Ignatius Wilentz once said to his younger brother on learning the whole story, "Franz, if magic had any sort of reliability, it would have been patented by now."
Having had his triumph Peter Wilentz turned to leave, with Montserrat following right behind him. By now Constantine felt well enough to get up from the couch and was actually able to stand, walk to the refrigerator, walk back to the couch and not feel the least bit faint. "I think I should get going. Ummm."
"I suppose...we should meet again."
"Well we are meeting tonight for this get-together with Charles. We've got a lot to tell them."
"Actually, I meant when we could meet each other alone. Or as more than fond acquaintances."
"Good question." Vanessa concentrated. "Naturally, the Flannery O'Connor Brigade does put a pall over us. Perhaps we should wait until tonight before we make future plans."
But just then there was a knock on the door. Constantine proudly strode to it, and when he opened it, he got a burst of paraquat in his eyes. "I'm terribly sorry," said Montserrat. "That's what I'm supposed to do to Mr. Wilentz's sister."
"What are you here for?" asked Vanessa.
"Peter Wilentz, on learning that his sister has a new boyfriend, has cordially invited the two of you to the Charmley-Teachout cafe tomorrow night for dinner. His treat. We are all to gather at your place, Mr. Rudman, at six-fifteen exactly. So, if you could please give me your address."
Montserrat gave Constantine Peter's card, and Constantine wrote down his address. As he did so, he looked into Montserrat's youthful face and a great question appeared to him. "There isn't anything between the two of you is there?"
"You must be joking. The man barely gives me a tip. You don't think he's going to give me a blowjob as well."
Vivian Chelmnickon was in his office, having finished conducting one of the most successful seminars of the year. His mind was now remarkably clear, his appetite was fully restored, and he was now sociable enough to accept the condolences of his colleagues in a properly respectful but gregarious manner. For the past half an hour he had been reading the essays on Jaspers, concluding the one on Jaspers and Deconstruction and his mind was in unusually fine form, full of pregnant insights and penetrating thoughts. Just then there was a knock on the door: Vivian had no reservations when he asked whoever it was to come in.
It was Franz and Rebekah Wilentz. Having been stiffed up by their son for their luncheon date, they decided they might try to find their daughter. Having learned that she had a class today they went to her teacher to see if he had any idea where she would be. After introducing themselves and their predicament to Vivian, they were asked to sit down.
"Your daughter wasn't in class today, actually. I received a note from the secretary that she called in sick."
"Oh dear. Then it would probably not be a good idea to visit her." said Mrs. Wilentz.
"Chelmnickon." added Mr. Wilentz. "You must come from Poland. That's rather surprising, really. So do we."
And so began a talk on their respective pasts. This made Vivian very uncomfortable, for it kept reminding him of his wife, and he kept trying to change the subject, and although he did so with great tact and reasonable success, suddenly Mrs. Wilentz would think of something that was incidentally related to his wife and would shift the conversation to within only a few questions of Mrs. Chelmnickon. Added to the stress of this trying chat, was a strange something in the atmosphere, a pungent odor that reminded Vivian of the smell of sweating, rotting bacon. And it was clearly emanating from the Wilentzes. The harder he tried to ignore the smell, the more it infiltrated into his mind, and the more it became vile, disgusting, intolerable. And Vivian had to keep on a genial smile, not daring to hurt the Wilentzes' feelings, not daring to say he could not possibly be interested in their suffering and their annihilated family and their ungrateful son and their kind questions. But they just sat there, and they didn't move at all, and they kept asking questions, and even though Vivian kept dropping tactful hints that perhaps they should leave, they kept asking more questions, and the conversation turned into an interrogation, because Vivian had lost the wits to ask them questions back, questions that would get his mind off the horrible evil smell than was madly omnipresent, but which the Wilentzes completely ignored or couldn't even begin to sense, and as Vivian began to start to shuffle miserably in his seat the Wilentzes suddenly got up and moved towards the door. It was a miracle and Vivian could not repress the joy as he tactfully got up and gracefully bid the Wilentzes goodbye, and pleasantly showed them out the door, he could not repress the joy as he took a deep breath in satisfaction at their leaving, and then nearly collapsed from the foul air he had just swallowed. For the air was fouler than before, it had doubled its presence, the scent seemed to drip off the pens, making even essays on Karl Jaspers seem clammy and dirty. Vivian staggered over to the window, and as he opened the curtain he felt salt and saliva covering his tongue, and he tried to swallow to get rid of the taste, but every time he did so, the salt and saliva returned, fouler and more horrible than before, and he couldn't bear to stand, he couldn't bear to think, he didn't have the strength to open the window, and he felt himself stagger and his legs give way, and as he did so he accidentally closed the curtain again. As he stumbled across the room, as the books enclosed him more than ever before, he could feel a lacquer of sweat, of something worse, covering everything in the room. He could not think, he could not do anything, the smell had sneaked inside every part of him, and once again he swallowed his own saliva and there was the unbearable feeling of nausea. He could only protest, Bad air! Bad air! But such protests did nothing, and he fell to the floor, he was too weak to get to the door. He tried to concentrate, tried to gather his strength, so he could get up and walk to the door, and open it and feel the fresh air outside, and even just drag himself to the door and open it and feel the stale life-giving air of the mediocre air-conditioning. He could not start immediately, for if he did, he would be too weak to get there, but the longer he stayed there the weaker he felt, so he tried to take refuge in childhood memories, confused memories where he saw Oliver Corpse years before their first meeting playing in the fields near an imaginary river, and he dreamed of real kites and false chocolates, but the smell was so strong, so overpowering, so invincible that it dispersed his memories like the fog, turned them into figments of the air, so that there was only one thing that Vivian could do, and that was to call on God, to yell for God at the top of his voice, to shriek as hard as he could as if he was the only person in the university, and he did this just before he could not take anymore and fell into unconsciousness.
And then he awoke. The room was filled with the cold air of the winter afternoon, and Vivian realized that the books that had seemed to suffocate him before were no longer there, or not there as strongly as they had been, for their appearance was made irrelevant, unimportant, by the appearance of a figure in shimmering white who filled the room with her beauty, dwarfing any other sensations in the room.
"Come," said the Angel, "We have many things to do."
next: A Gathering of Forces
previous: The War of the Omelettes