Sunday, October 17, 2010

"To Be the Sun": A story based on "Farmer In the City (Remembering Pasolini)" by Scott Walker, as suggested by musician Steven R. Smith (18/100)

To Be the Sun

Gabe counted the ten-penny nails in his lower lip. There were two rows, like the base of a pyramid: eleven in a line and then, a bit further away from his teeth, ten more. He had woken up seated at his kitchen, his hands bound behind his back and his lower lip nailed to the edge of his giant oak table. The blinds and curtains were open, but the windows were closed. It was dark outside and the lights overhead were dimmed to a dull yellow.

“You’ll start to get some more feeling back in that lip as time moves on,” John said from behind Gabe.

Drool and blood were pooling together in Gabe’s mouth. He kept moving his tongue forward and pushing out loads of the whole mess, where they fell in long, shiny pillars that crawled downward onto the carpet.

“I’m not the brightest, and I can admit it,” John said. “But I do know what a premonition is. And, since you seem like a man refinement, is it fair to assume you know what that means, too?”

Gabe said nothing and John dropped a hammer onto the table. It landed within an inch of Gabe’s lip, and the tiny vibration cut into his mouth.

John pulled out a chair and sat next to Gabe. “Good. I had one of ‘em, once. It was after you killed my daughter.”

Gabe became omniscient. He knew the things he already knew, that nearly two decades ago he had helped two other men kill John’s daughter. He’d been consumed in a fit of restlessness. Extreme restlessness. Still, it was just a magnification of simple, ceaseless anxiety. And in his omniscience he learned new things. His current position—punishment—and what would come. More punishment. Heavy and soon.

“That premonition I had came after y’all killed her. I thought, ‘Hell, this thing came a bit late. All the bad stuff already happened.’ But then it got worse and worse and I figured that the premonition came just in time.” John cleared his throat. “I began to forget everything except that dream, that crazy dream where I see three guys beatin’ her. I couldn’t remember how to run the thresher. I couldn’t saddle a horse to save my life. There was just that dream.” He kicked his feet up on the table, and Gabe felt another vibration surge through his lip, regaining feeling faster now. He both smelled and saw the cow shit sitting thick and green in the treads of John’s boots.

“Farm’s gone now, like everything else. I like to think if I still had her, I’d still have the rest of it. I can’t prove that, though, you know? I can’t prove that you had anything to do with it, either. A dream don’t hold up in court,” John brought his feet down and stood up. “But I ain’t wrong.”

The kitchen lights were dimmed slowly down to nothing. Gabe remained silent. Within a moment John had taken out a large, wide buck knife and rolled the edge of the blade over Gabe’s lip. The sound was like that of a palm slowly gripping a moist sponge, coiling finger-by-finger into a fist. Gabe fell to the ground and began kicking his legs. He didn’t yell out, but he began to nosh his teeth and sputter out moist noises, producing tiny bubbles that ran down his face.

John watched him, would watch him and occasionally feel for a pulse until there wasn’t one. The bottom of John’s stomach was cold and he felt as if it were cavernous, completely empty and larger than his body would allow. He walked over to the window and looked through it for hours until the sun began to come up. It slipped in between the buildings, unlike on the farm, where it hit everything at once, like a new apocalypse every day. I’d switch you places in a heartbeat, John thought, looking at the rising sun. John began to think of the places it would light, the places it would pass over.



Scott Walker is a crazy old genius from Ohio. In the 1960s, he was a part of the group The Walker Brothers. None of them were related or had the actual last name of Walker. They're probably best remembered for their version of the song "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" but I think their best track is "The Electrician" from their 1978 reunion album Nite Flights. Scott put out four self-titled solo albums in the late 60s, each one showcasing his giant voice and, as time went on, his originality as a songwriter. After the completely-original Scott 4 was declared a commercial failure (and later praised as a masterpiece, as is usually the case), he lost whatever self-confidence he had gained and made a couple lackluster albums that were supposed to pander to the masses. Then he started taking about eleven years between albums. But goddamn, it's so worth it. 2017's gonna kick ass!

Steven R. Smith is a highly-prolific and inventive Californian that people sometimes refer to as "the ambient David Lee Roth." His music is occasionally like Jim O'Rourke and occasionally like Stars of the Lid, but more often than not his music is his own and, because of its emotional impact, it is ours, too. His album Cities is the audio equivalent of a Cormac McCarthy novel, the way violence sounds when it's slowed down enough to be beautiful. The rest of his catalog is as wonderfully thoughtful and apocalyptic, and you can order some stuff from it right here.

"Oriel" from 2002's Lineaments

"The Road" from 2009's Cities

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Mike's Love Xexagon" by The Fall, as suggested by writer Thomas Cooper.

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