TRANSLATED FROM THE ENGLISH BY PETER SCATTERPATTER
(1) Mad fathers
(2) Fathers as teachers
(3) On horseback, etc.
(4) The leaping father
(5) Best way to approach
(7) Names of
(8) Voices of
(9) Sample voice, A B C
(10) Fanged, etc.
(11) Hiram or Saul
(12) Color of fathers
(14) A tongue‑lashing
(15) The falling father
(16) Lost fathers
(17) Rescue of fathers
(18) Sexual organs
(19) Names of
(22) Death of
(23) Patricide a poor idea, and summation
Mad fathers stalk up and down the boulevards, shouting. Avoid them, or embrace them, or tell them your deepest thoughts – it makes no difference, they have deaf ears. If their dress is covered with sewn‑on tin cans and their spittle is like a string of red boiled crayfish running head‑to‑tail down the front of their tin cans, serious impairment of the left brain is present. If, on the other hand, they are simply barking (no tin cans, spittle held securely in the pouch of the cheek), they have been driven to distraction by the intricacies of living with others. Go up to them, and, stilling their wooden clappers by putting your left hand between the hinged parts, say you’re sorry. If the barking ceases, this does not mean that they have heard you, it only means they are experiencing erotic thoughts of abominable luster. Permit them to enjoy these images for a space, and then strike them sharply in the nape with the blade of your tanned right hand. Say you’re sorry again. It won’t get through to them (because their brains are mush) but in pronouncing the words, your body will assume an attitude that conveys, in every country of the world, sorrow – this language they can understand. Gently feed them with bits of leftover meat you are carrying in your pockets. First hold the meat in front of their eyes, so that they can see what it is, and then point to their mouths, so that they know that the meat is for them. Mostly, they will open their mouths, at this point. If they do not, throw the meat in between barks. If the meat does not get all the way into the mouth but lands upon (say) the upper lip, hit them again in the neck, this often causes the mouth to pop open and the meat sticking to the upper lip to fall into the mouth. Nothing may work out in the way I have described; in this eventuality, you can do not much for a mad father except listen, for a while, to his babble. If he cries aloud, “Stomp it, emptor!” then you must attempt to figure out the code. If he cries aloud, “The fiends have killed your horse!” note down in your notebook the frequency with which the words “the” and “your” occur in his tirade. If he cries aloud, “The cat’s in its cassock and flitter‑te‑hee moreso stomp it!” remember that he has already asked you once to “stomp it” and that this must refer to something you are doing. So stomp it.
Fathers are teachers of the true and not‑true, and no father ever knowingly teaches what is not true. In a cloud of unknowing, then, the father proceeds with his instruction. Tough meat should be hammered well between two stones before it is placed on the fire, and should be combed with a haircomb and brushed with a hairbrush before it is placed on the fire. Iron lungs and cyclotrons are also useful for the purpose. On arriving at night, with thirsty cattle, at a well of doubtful character, one deepens the well first with a rifle barrel, then with a pigsticker, then with a pencil, then with a ramrod, then with an ice pick, “bringing the well in” finally with needle and thread. Do not forget to clean your rifle barrel immediately. To find honey, tie a feather or straw to the leg of a bee, throw him into the air, and peer alertly after him as he flies slowly back to the hive. Nails, boiled for three hours, give off a rusty liquid that, when combined with oxtail soup, dries to a flame color, useful for warding off tuberculosis or attracting native women. Do not forget to hug the native women immediately. To prevent feet from blistering, soap the inside of the stocking with a lather of raw egg and steel wool, which together greatly soften the leather of the foot. Delicate instruments (such as surveying instruments) should be entrusted to a porter who is old and enfeebled; he will totter along most carefully. For a way of making an ass not to bray at night, lash a heavy child to his tail; it appears that when an ass wishes to bray he elevates his tail, and if the tail cannot be elevated, he has not the heart. Savages are easily satisfied with cheap beads in the following colors, dull white, dark blue, and vermilion red – expensive beads are often spurned by them. Non‑savages should be given cheap books in the following colors, dead white, brown, and seaweed – books praising the sea are much sought after. Satanic operations should not be conducted without first consulting the Bibliothèque Nationale. When Satan at last appears to you, try not to act surprised. Then get down to hard bargaining. If he likes neither the beads nor the books, offer him a cold beer. Then –
Fathers teach much that is of value. Much that is not.
Fathers in some countries are like cotton bales; in others, like clay pots or jars; in others, like reading, in a newspaper, a long account of a film you have already seen and liked immensely but do not wish to see again, or read about. Some fathers have triangular eyes. Some fathers, if you ask them for the time of day, spit silver dollars. Some fathers live in old filthy cabins high in the mountains, and make murderous noises deep in their throats when their amazingly sharp ears detect, on the floor of the valley, an alien step. Some fathers piss either perfume or medicinal alcohol, distilled by powerful body processes from what they have been, all day long, drinking. Some fathers have only one arm. Others have an extra arm, in addition to the normal two, hidden inside their coats. On that arm’s fingers are elaborately wrought golden rings that, when a secret spring is pressed, dispense charity. Some fathers have made themselves over into convincing replicas of beautiful sea animals, and some into convincing replicas of people they hated as children. Some fathers are goats, some are milk, some teach Spanish in cloisters, some are exceptions, some are capable of attacking world economic problems and killing them, but have not yet done so, they are waiting for one last vital piece of data. Some fathers strut but most do not, except inside; some fathers pose on horseback but most do not, except in the eighteenth century; some fathers fall off the horses they mount but most do not; some fathers, after falling off the horse, shoot the horse, but most do not; some fathers fear horses, but most fear, instead, women; some fathers masturbate because they fear women; some fathers sleep with hired women because they fear women who are free; some fathers never sleep at all, but are endlessly awake, staring at their futures, which are behind them.
The leaping father is not encountered often, but exists. Two leaping fathers together in a room can cause accidents. The best idea is to chain heavy‑duty truck tires to them, one in front, one in back, so that their leaps become pathetic small hops. That is all their lives amount to anyhow, and it is good for them to be able to see, in the mirror, their whole life histories performed, in a sequence perhaps five minutes long, of upward movements which do not, really, get very far, or achieve very much. Without the tires, the leaping father has a nuisance value which may rapidly transform itself into a serious threat. Ambition is the core of this problem (it may even be ambition for you, in which case you are in even greater danger than had been supposed), and the core may be removed by open‑liver surgery (the liver being the home of the humours, as we know). I saw a leaping father in the park, he was two feet off the ground and holding a one‑foot‑in‑diameter, brown leather object that he was pushing away from himself – a sin of some sort, I judged. He was aiming it at a net supported by a steel ring but the net had no bottom, there was no way on earth that the net would retain the sin, even if the father had been able to place the sin safely in the net. The futility of his project saddened me, but this was an appropriate emotion. There is something very sad about all leaping fathers, about leaping itself. I prefer to keep my feet on the ground, in situations where the ground has not been cut out from under me, by the tunneling father. The latter is usually piebald in color, and supremely notable for his nonflogitiousness.
The best way to approach a father is from behind. Thus if he chooses to hurl his javelin at you, he will probably miss. For in the act of twisting his body around, and drawing back his hurling arm, and sighting along the shaft, he will give you time to run, to make reservations for a flight to another country. To Rukmini, there are no fathers there. In that country virgin corn gods huddle together under a blanket of ruby chips and flexible cement, through the long wet Rukminian winter, and in some way not known to us produce offspring. The new citizens are greeted with dwarf palms and certificates of worth, are led (or drawn on runnerless sleds) out into the zocalo, the main square of the country, and their augensheinlich parentages recorded upon a great silver bowl, and their fingerprints peeled away, so that nothing can ever be proved. Look! In the walnut paneling of the dining hall, a javelin! The paneling is wounded in a hundred places.
I knew a father named Ys who had many many children and sold every one of them to the bone factories. The bone factories will not accept angry or sulking children, therefore Ys was, to his children, the kindest and most amiable father imaginable. He fed them huge amounts of calcium candy and the milk of minks, told them interesting and funny stories, and led them each day in their bone‑building exercises. “Tall sons,” he said, “are best.” Once a year the bone factories sent a little blue van to Ys’s house.
The names of fathers. Fathers are named:
Fathers have voices, and each voice has a terribilità of its own. The sound of a father’s voice is various: like film burning, like marble being pulled screaming from the face of a quarry, like the clash of paper clips by night, lime seething in a lime pit, or batsong. The voice of a father can shatter your glasses. Some fathers have tetchy voices, others tetched‑in‑the‑head voices. It is understood that fathers, when not robed in the father‑role, may be farmers, heldentenors, tinsmiths, racing drivers, fist‑fighters, or salesmen. Most are salesmen. Many fathers did not wish, especially, to be fathers, the thing came upon them, seized them, by accident, or by someone else’s careful design, or by simple clumsiness on someone’s part. Nevertheless this class of father – the inadvertent – is often among the most tactful, light‑handed, and beautiful of fathers. If a father has fathered twelve or twenty‑seven times, it is well to give him a curious look – this father does not loathe himself enough. This father frequently wears a blue wool watch cap, on stormy nights, to remind himself of a manly past – action in the North Atlantic. Many fathers are blameless in all ways, and these fathers are either sacred relics people are touched with to heal incurable illnesses, or texts to be studied, generation after generation, to determine how this idiosyncrasy may be maximized. Text‑fathers are usually bound in blue.
The father’s voice is an instrument of the most terrible pertinaciousness.
Sample voice A:
Son, I got bad news for you. You won’t understand the whole purport of it, ‘cause you’re only six, a little soft in the head too, that fontanelle never did close properly, I wonder why. But I can’t delay it no longer, son, I got to tell you the news. There ain’t no malice in it, son, I hope you believe me. The thing is, you got to go to school, son, and get socialized. That’s the news. You’re turnin’ pale, son, I don’t blame you. It’s a terrible thing, but there it is. We’d socialize you here at home, your mother and I, except that we can’t stand to watch it, it’s that dreadful. And your mother and I who love you and always have and always will are a touch sensitive, son. We don’t want to hear your howls and screams. It’s going to be miserable, son, but you won’t hardly feel it. And I know you’ll do well and won’t do anything to make us sad, your mother and I who love you. I know you’ll do well and won’t run away or fall down in fits either. Son, your little face is pitiful. Son, we can’t just let you roam the streets like some kind of crazy animal. Son, you got to get your natural impulses curbed. You’ve got to get your corners knocked off, son, you got to get realistic. They going to vamp on you at that school, kid. They going to tear up your ass. They going to learn you how to think, you’ll get your letters there, your letters and your figures, your verbs and all that. Your mother and I could socialize you here at home but it would be too painful for your mother and I who love you. You’re going to meet the stick, son, the stick going to walk up to you and say howdy‑do. You’re going to learn about your country at that school, son, oh beautiful for spacious skies. They going to lay just a raft of stuff on you at that school and I caution you not to resist, it ain’t appreciated. Just take it as it comes and you’ll be fine, son, just fine. You got to do right, son, you got to be realistic. They’ll be other kids in that school, kid, and ever’ last one of ‘em will be after your lunch money. But don’t give ‘em your lunch money, son, put it in your shoe. If they come up against you tell ‘em the other kids already got it. That way you fool ‘em, you see, son? What’s the matter with you? And watch out for the custodian, son, he’s mean. He don’t like his job. He wanted to be president of a bank. He’s not. It’s made him mean. Watch out for that sap he carries on his hip. Watch out for the teacher, son, she’s sour. Watch out for her tongue, it’ll cut you. She’s got a bad mouth on her, son, don’t balk her if you can help it. I got nothin’ against the schools, kid, they just doin’ their job. Hey kid what’s the matter with you kid? And if this school don’t do the job we’ll find one that can. We’re right behind you, son, your mother and I who love you. You’ll be gettin’ your sports there, your ball sports and your blood sports and watch out for the coach, he’s a disappointed man, some say a sadist but I don’t know about that. You got to develop your body, son. If they shove you, shove back. Don’t take nothin’ off nobody. Don’t show fear. Lay back and watch the guy next to you, do what he does. Except if he’s a damn fool. If he’s a damn fool you’ll know he’s a damn fool ‘cause everybody’ll be hittin’ on him. Let me tell you ‘bout that school, son. They do what they do ‘cause I told them to do it. That’s why they do it. They didn’t think up those ideas their own selves. I told them to do it. Me and your mother who love you, we told them to do it. Behave yourself, kid! Do right! You’ll be fine there, kid, just fine. What’s the matter with you, kid? Don’t be that way. I hear the ice‑cream man outside, son. You want to go and see the ice‑cream man? Go get you an ice cream, son, and make sure you get your sprinkles. Go give the ice‑cream man your quarter, son. And hurry back.
Hey son. Hey boy. Let’s you and me go out and throw the ball around. Throw the ball around. You don’t want to go out and throw the ball around? How come you don’t want to go out and throw the ball around? I know why you don’t want to go out and throw the ball around. It’s ‘cause you… Let’s don’t discuss it. It don’t bear thinkin’ about. Well let’s see, you don’t want to go out and throw the ball around, you can hep me work on the patio. You want to hep me work on the patio? Sure you do. Sure you do. We gonna have us a fine‑lookin’ patio there, boy, when we get it finished. Them folks across the street are just about gonna fall out when they see it. C’mon kid, I’ll let you hold the level. And this time I want you to hold the fucking thing straight. I want you to hold it straight. It ain’t difficult, any idiot can do it. A nigger can do it. We’re gonna stick it to them mothers across the street, they think they’re so fine. Flee from the wrath to come, boy, that’s what I always say. Seen it on a sign one time, FLEE FROM THE WRATH TO COME. Crazy guy goin’ down the street holdin’ this sign, see, FLEE FROM THE WRATH TO COME, it tickled me. Went round for days sayin’ it out loud to myself, flee from the wrath to come, flee from the wrath to come. Couldn’t get it outa my head. See they’re talkin’ ‘bout God there, that’s what that’s all about, God, see boy, God. It’s this God shit they try and hand you, see, they got a whole routine, see, let’s don’t talk about it, gets me all pissed off. It fries my ass. Your mother goes for all that shit, see, and of course your mother is a fine woman and a sensible woman but she’s just a little bit ape on this church thing we don’t discuss it. She has her way and I got mine, we don’t discuss it. She’s a little bit ape on this subject see, I don’t blame her it was the way she was raised. Her mother was ape on this subject. That’s how the churches make their money, see, they get the women. All these dumb‑ass women. Hold it straight kid. That’s better. Now run me a line down that form with the pencil. I gave you the pencil. What’d you do with the fuckin’ pencil? Jesus Christ kid find the pencil. Okay go in the house and get me another pencil. Hurry up I can’t stand here holdin’ this all day. Wait a minute here’s the pencil. Okay I got it. Now hold it straight and run me a line down that form. Not that way dummy, on the horizontal. You think we’re buildin’ a barn? That’s right. Good. Now run the line. Good. Okay now go over there and fetch me the square. Square’s the flat one, looks like a L. Like this, look. Good. Thank you. Okay now hold that mother up against the form where you made the line. That’s so we get this side of it square, see? Okay now hold the board and lemme just put in the stakes. HOLD IT STILL DAMN IT. How you think I can put in the stakes with you wavin’ the damn thing around like that? Hold it still. Check it with the square again. Okay, is it square? Now hold it still. Still. Okay. That’s got it. How come you’re tremblin’? Nothin’ to it, all you got to do is hold one little bitty piece of one‑by‑six straight for two minutes and you go into a fit? Now stop that. Stop it. I said stop it. Now just take it easy. You like heppin’ me with the patio, don’tcha. Just think ‘bout when it’s finished and we be sittin’ out here with our drinks drinkin’ our drinks and them jackasses ‘cross the street will be shittin’. From green envy. Flee from the wrath to come, boy, flee from the wrath to come. He he.
Hey son come here a minute. I want you and me to have a little talk. You’re turnin’ pale. How come you always turn pale when we have a little talk? You delicate? Pore delicate little flower? Naw you ain’t, you’re a man, son, or will be someday the good Lord willin’. But you got to do right. That’s what I want to talk to you about. Now put down that comic book and come on over here and sit by me. Sit right there. Make yourself comfortable. Now, you comfortable? Good. Son, I want to talk to you about your personal habits. Your personal habits. We ain’t never talked about your personal habits and now it’s time. I been watchin’ you, kid. Your personal habits are admirable. Yes they are. They are flat admirable. I like the way you pick up your room. You run a clean room, son, I got to hand it to you. And I like the way you clean your teeth. You brush right, in the right direction, and you brush a lot. You’re goin’ to have good gums, kid, good healthy gums. We ain’t gonna have to lay out no money to get your teeth fixed, your mother and I, and that’s a blessing and we thank you. And you keep yourself clean, kid, clothes neat, hands clean, face clean, knees clean, that’s the way to hop, way to hop. There’s just one little thing, son, one little thing that puzzles me. I been studyin’ ‘bout it and I flat don’t understand it. How come you spend so much time washin’ your hands, kid? I been watchin’ you. You spend an hour after breakfast washin’ your hands. Then you go wash ‘em again ‘bout ten‑thirty, ten‑forty, ‘nother fifteen minutes washin’ your hands. Then just before lunch, maybe a half hour, washin’ your hands. Then after lunch, sometimes an hour, sometimes less, it varies. I been noticin’. Then in the middle of the afternoon back in there washin’ your hands. Then before supper and after supper and before you go to bed and sometimes you get up in the middle of the night and go on in there and wash your hands. Now I’d think you were in there playin’ with your little prick, your little prick, ‘cept you a shade young for playin’ with your little prick and besides you leave the door open, most kids close the door when they go in there to play with their little pricks but you leave it open. So I see you in there and I see what you’re doin’, you’re washin’ your hands. And I been keepin’ track of it and son, you spend ‘bout three quarters of your wakin’ hours washin your hands. And I think there’s somethin’ a little bit strange about that, son. It ain’t natural. So what I want to know is, how come you spend so much time washin’ your hands, son? Can you tell me? Huh? Can you give me a rational explanation? Well, can you? Huh? You got anything to say on this subject? Well, what’s the matter? You’re just sittin’ there. Well come on, son, what you got to say for yourself? What’s the explanation? Now it won’t do you no good to start cryin’, son, that don’t help anything. Okay kid stop crying. I said stop it! I’m goin’ to whack you, kid, you don’t stop cryin’. Now cut that out. This minute. Now cut it out. Goddamn baby. Come on now kid, get ahold of yourself. Now go wash your face and come on back in here. I want to talk to you some more. Wash your face, but don’t do that other. Now go on in there and get back in here right quick. I want to talk to you ‘bout bumpin’ your head. You’re still bumpin’ your head, son, against the wall, ‘fore you go to sleep. I don’t like it. You’re too old to do that. It disturbs me. I can hear you in there, when you go to bed, bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump. It’s disturbing. It’s monotonous. It’s a very disturbing sound. I don’t like it. I don’t like listenin’ to it. I want you to stop it. I want you to get ahold of yourself. I don’t like to hear that noise when I’m sittin’ in here tryin’ to read the paper or whatever I’m doin’, I don’t like to hear it and it bothers your mother. It gets her all upset and I don’t like your mother to be all upset, just on accounta you. Bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump, what are you, kid, some kind of animal? I cain’t figure you out, kid. I just flat cain’t understand it, bump bump bump bump bump bump bump. Dudden’t hurtcha? Dudden’t hurtcha head? Well, never mind about that right now. Go on in there and wash your face, and then come on back in here and we’ll talk some more. And don’t do none of that other, just wash your face. You got three minutes.
Fathers are like blocks of marble, giant cubes, highly polished, with veins and seams, placed squarely in your path. They block your path. They cannot be climbed over, neither can they be slithered past. They are the “past,” and very likely the slither, if the slither is thought of as that accommodating maneuver you make to escape notice, or get by unscathed. If you attempt to go around one, you will find that another (winking at the first) has mysteriously appeared athwart the trail. Or maybe it is the same one, moving with the speed of paternity. Look closely at color and texture. Is this giant square block of marble similar in color and texture to a slice of rare roast beef? Your very father’s complexion! Do not try to draw too many conclusions from this; the obvious ones are sufficient and correct. Some fathers like to dress up in black robes and go out and give away the sacraments, adding to their black robes the chasuble, stole, and alb, in reverse order. Of these “fathers” I shall not speak, except to commend them for their lack of ambition and sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of the “franking privilege,” or the privilege of naming the first male child after yourself: Franklin Edward A’albiel, Jr. Of all possible fathers, the fanged father is the least desirable. If you can get your lariat around one of his fangs, and quickly wrap the other end of it several times around your saddle horn, and if your horse is a trained roping horse and knows what to do, how to plant his front feet and then back up with small nervous steps, keeping the lariat taut, then you have a chance. Do not try to rope both fangs at the same time; concentrate on the right. Do the thing fang by fang, and then you will be safe, or more nearly so. I have seen some old, yellowed, six‑inch fangs that were drawn in this way, and once, in a whaling museum in a seaport town, a twelve‑inch fang, mistakenly labeled as the tusk of a walrus. But I recognized it at once, it was a father fang, which has its own peculiarly shaped, six‑pointed root. I am pleased never to have met that father…
If your father’s name is Hiram or Saul, flee into the woods. For these names are the names of kings, and your father Hiram, or your father Saul, will not be a king, but will retain, in hidden places in his body, the memory of kingship. And there is no one more blackhearted and surly than an ex‑king, or a person who harbors, in the dark channels of his body, the memory of kingship. Fathers so named consider their homes to be Camelots, and their kith and kin courtiers, to be elevated or depressed in rank according to the lightest whinges of their own mental weather. And one can never know for sure if one is “up” or “down,” at a particular moment; one is a feather, floating, one has no place to stand. Of the rage of the king‑father I will speak later, but understand that fathers named Hiram, Saul, Charles, Francis, or George rage (when they rage) exactly in the manner of their golden and noble namesakes. Flee into the woods, at such times, or earlier, before the mighty scimitar or yataghan leaps from its scabbard. The proper attitude toward such fathers is that of the toad, lickspittle, smell‑feast, carpet knight, pickthank, or tuft‑hunter. When you cannot escape to the trees, genuflect, and stay down there, on one knee with bowed head and clasped hands, until dawn. By this time he will probably have drunk himself into a sleep, and you may creep away and seek your bed (if it has not been taken away from you) or, if you are hungry, approach the table and see what has been left there, unless the ever‑efficient cook has covered everything with clear plastic and put it away. In that case, you may suck your thumb.
The color of fathers: The bay‑colored father can be trusted, mostly, whether he is standard bay, blood bay, or mahogany bay. He is useful (1) in negotiations between warring tribes, (2) as a catcher of red‑hot rivets when you are building a bridge, (3) in auditioning possible bishops for the Synod of Bishops, (4) in the co‑pilot’s seat, and (5) for carrying one corner of an eighteen‑meter‑square mirror through the city’s streets. Dun‑colored fathers tend to shy at obstacles, and therefore you do not want a father of this color, because life, in one sense, is nothing but obstacles, and his continual shying will reduce your nerves to grease. The liver chestnut‑colored father has a reputation for decency and good sense; if God commands him to take out his knife and slice through your neck with it, he will probably say “No, thanks.” The dusty‑chestnut father will reach for his knife. The light‑chestnut father will ask for another opinion. The standard‑chestnut father will look the other way, to the east, where another ceremony, with more interesting dances, is being held. Sorrel‑colored fathers are easily excitable and are employed most often where a crowd, or mob, is wanted, as for coronations, lynchings, and the like. The bright‑sorrel father, who glows, is an exception: he is content with his glow, with his name (John), and with his life membership in the Knights of the Invisible Empire. In bungled assassinations, the assassin will frequently be a blond‑sorrel father who forgot to take the lens cap off his telescopic sight. Buckskin‑colored fathers know the Law and its mangled promise, and can help you in your darker projects, such as explaining why a buckskin‑colored father sometimes has a black stripe down the spine from the mane to the root of the tail: it is because he has been whoring after Beauty, and thinks himself more beautiful with the black stripe, which sets off his tanned deer‑hide color most wonderfully, than without it. Red roan‑colored fathers, blue roan‑colored fathers, rose gray‑colored fathers, grulla‑colored fathers are much noted for bawdiness, and this should be encouraged, for bawdiness is a sacrament which does not, usually, result in fatherhood; it is its own reward. Spots, paints, pintos, piebalds and Appaloosas have a sweet dignity which proceeds from their inferiority, and excellent senses of smell. The color of a father is not an absolute guide to the character and conduct of that father but tends to be a self‑fulfilling prophecy, because when he sees what color he is, he hastens out into the world to sell more goods and services, so that he may keep pace with his destiny.
Fathers and dandling: If a father fathers daughters, then our lives are eased. Daughters are for dandling, and are often dandled up until their seventeenth or eighteenth year. The hazard here, which must be faced, is that the father will want to sleep with his beautiful daughter, who is after all his in a way that even his wife is not, in a way that even his most delicious mistress is not. Some fathers just say “Publish and be damned!” and go ahead and sleep with their new and amazingly sexual daughters, and accept what pangs accumulate afterward; most do not. Most fathers are sufficiently disciplined in this regard, by mental straps, so that the question never arises. When fathers are giving their daughters their “health” instruction (that is to say, talking to them about the reproductive process) (but this is most often done by mothers, in my experience) it is true that a subtle rinse of desire may be tinting the situation slightly (when you are hugging and kissing the small woman sitting on your lap it is hard to know when to stop, it is hard to stop yourself from proceeding as if she were a bigger woman not related to you by blood). But in most cases, the taboo is observed, and additional strictures imposed, such as, “Mary, you are never to allow that filthy John Wilkes Booth to lay a hand upon your bare, white, new breast.” Although in the modern age some fathers are moving rapidly in the opposite direction, toward the future, saying, “Here, Mary, here is your blue fifty‑gallon drum of babykilling foam, with your initials stamped on it in a darker blue, see? there on the top.” But the important thing about daughter‑fathers is that, as fathers, they don’t count. Not to their daughters, I don’t mean – I have heard daughter‑stories that would toast your hair – but to themselves. Fathers of daughters see themselves as hors concours in the great exhibition, and this is a great relief. They do not have to teach hurling the caber. They tend, therefore, to take a milder, gentler hand (meanwhile holding on, with an iron grip, to all the fierce prerogatives that fatherhood of any kind conveys – the guidance system of a slap is an example). To say more than this about fathers of daughters is beyond me, even though I am father of a daughter.
A tongue‑lashing: “Whosoever hath within himself the deceivableness of unrighteousness and hath pleasure in unrighteousness and walketh disorderly and hath turned aside into vain jangling and hath become a manstealer and liar and perjured person and hath given over himself to wrath and doubting and hath been unthankful and hath been a lover of his own self and hath gendered strife with foolish and unlearned questions and hath crept into houses leading away silly women with divers lusts and hath been the inventor of evil things and hath embraced contentiousness and obeyed slanderousness and hath filled his mouth with cursing and bitterness and hath made of his throat an open sepulcher and hath the poison of asps under his lips and hath boasted and hath hoped against hope and hath been weak in faith and hath polluted the land with his whoredoms and hath profaned holy things and hath despised mine holy things and hath committed lewdness and hath mocked and hath daubed himself with untempered mortars, and whosoever, if a woman, hath journeyed to the Assyrians there to have her breasts pressed by lovers clothed in blue, captains and rulers, desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses, horsemen riding upon horses who lay upon her and discovered her nakedness and bruised the breasts of her virginity and poured their whoredoms upon her, and hath doted upon them captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, girdled with girdles upon their loins, and hath multiplied her whoredoms with her paramours whose flesh is as the flesh of asses and whose issue is like the issue of horses, great lords and rulers clothed in blue and riding on horses: this man and this woman, I say, shall be filled with drunkenness and sorrow like a pot whose scum is therein and whose scum hath not gone out of it and under which the pile for the fire is and on which the wood is heaped and the fire kindled and the pot spiced and the bones burned and then the pot set empty on the coals that the brass of it may be hot and may burn and that the filthiness of it may be molten in it, that the scum of it may be consumed, for ye have wearied yourselves with lies and your great scum went not forth out of you, your scum shall be in the fire and I will take away the desire of thine eyes. Remember ye not that when I was yet with you I told you these things?”
There are twenty‑two kinds of fathers, of which only nineteen are important. The drugged father is not important. The lionlike father (rare) is not important. The Holy Father is not important, for our purposes. There is a certain father who is falling through the air, heels where his head should be, head where his heels should be. The falling father has grave meaning for all of us. The wind throws his hair in every direction. His cheeks are flaps almost touching his ears. His garments are shreds, telltales. This father has the power of curing the bites of mad dogs, and the power of choreographing the interest rates. What is he thinking about, on the way down? He is thinking about emotional extravagance. The Romantic Movement, with its exploitation of the sensational, the morbid, the occult, the erotic! The falling father has noticed Romantic tendencies in several of his sons. The sons have taken to wearing slices of raw bacon in their caps, and speaking out against the interest rates. After all he has done for them! Many bicycles! Many gardes‑bébés! Electric guitars uncountable! Falling, the falling father devises his iron punishment, resolved not to err again on the side of irresponsible mercy. He is also thinking about his upward progress, which doesn’t seem to be doing so well at the moment. There is only one thing to do: work harder! He decides that if he can ever halt the “downturn” that he seems to be in, he will redouble his efforts, really put his back into it, this time. The falling father is important because he embodies the “work ethic,” which is a dumb one. The “fear ethic” should be substituted, as soon as possible. Peering skyward at his endless hurtling, let us simply shrug, fold up the trampoline we were going to try and catch him in, and place it once again on top of the rafters, in the garage.
To find a lost father: The first problem in finding a lost father is to lose him, decisively. Often he will wander away from home and lose himself. Often he will remain at home but still be “lost” in every true sense, locked away in an upper room, or in a workshop, or in the contemplation of beauty, or in the contemplation of a secret life. He may, every evening, pick up his gold‑headed cane, wrap himself in his cloak, and depart, leaving behind, on the coffee table, a sealed laundry bag in which there is an address at which he may be reached, in case of war. War, as is well known, is a place at which many fathers are lost, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. Fathers are frequently lost on expeditions of various kinds (the journey to the interior). The five best places to seek this kind of lost father are Nepal, Rupert’s Land, Mount Elbrus, Paris, and the agora. The five kinds of vegetation in which fathers most often lose themselves are needle‑leaved forest, broad‑leaved forest mainly evergreen, broad‑leaved forest mainly deciduous, mixed needle‑leaved and broad‑leaved forest, and tundra. The five kinds of things fathers were wearing when last seen are caftans, bush jackets, parkas, Confederate gray, and ordinary business suits. Armed with these clues then, you may place an advertisement in the newspaper: Lost, in Paris, on or about February 24, a broad‑leaf‑loving father, 6’ 2”, wearing a blue caftan, may be armed and dangerous, we don’t know, answers to the name Old Hickory. Reward. Having completed this futile exercise, you are then free to think about what is really important. Do you really want to find this father? What if, when you find him, he speaks to you in the same tone he used before he lost himself? Will he again place nails in your mother, in her elbows and back of the knee? Remember the javelin. Have you any reason to believe that it will not, once again, flash through the seven‑o’clock‑in‑the‑evening air? What we are attempting to determine is simple: Under what conditions do you wish to live? Yes, he “nervously twiddles the stem of his wineglass.” Do you wish to watch him do so on into the last quarter of the present century? I don’t think so. Let him take those mannerisms, and what they portend, to Borneo, they will be new to Borneo. Perhaps in Borneo he will also nervously twiddle the stem of, etc., but he will not be brave enough to manufacture, there the explosion of which this is a sign. Throwing the roast through the mirror. Thrusting a belch big as an opened umbrella into the middle of something someone else is trying to say. Beating you, either with a wet, knotted rawhide, or with an ordinary belt. Ignore that empty chair at the head of the table. Give thanks.
On the rescue of fathers: Oh they hacked him pretty bad, they hacked at him with axes and they hacked at him with hacksaws but me and my men got there fast, wasn’t as bad as it might have been, first we fired smoke grenades in different colors, yellow and blue and green, that put a fright into them but they wouldn’t quit, they opened up on us with 81‑mm. mortars and meanwhile continued to hack. I sent some of the boys out to the left to flank them but they’d put some people over there to prevent just that and my men got into a fire fight with their support patrol, no other way to do the thing but employ a frontal assault, which we did, at least it took the pressure off him, they couldn’t continue to hack and deal with our assault at the same time. We cleaned their clocks for them, I will say that, they fell back to the left and linked up with their people over there, my flanking party broke off contact as I had instructed and let them flee unpursued. We came out of it pretty well, had a few wounded but that’s all. We turned immediately to the task of bandaging him in the hacked places, bloody great wounds but our medics were very good, they were all over him, he never made a complaint or uttered a sound, not a whimper out of him, not a sign. This took place at the right arm, just above the elbow, we left some pickets there for a few days until the arm had begun to heal, I think it was a successful rescue, we returned to our homes to wait for the next time. I think it was a successful rescue. It was an adequate rescue.
Then they attacked him with sumo wrestlers, giant fat men in loincloths. We countered with loincloth snatchers – some of our best loincloth snatchers. We were successful. The hundred naked fat men fled. I had rescued him again. Then we sang “Genevieve, Oh, Genevieve.” All the sergeants gathered before the veranda and sang it, and some enlisted men too – some enlisted men who had been with the outfit for a long time. They sang it, in the twilight, pile of damp loincloths blazing fitfully off to the left. When you have rescued a father from whatever terrible threat menaces him, then you feel, for a moment, that you are the father and he is not. For a moment. This is the only moment in your life you will feel this way.
The sexual organs of fathers: The penises of fathers are traditionally hidden from the inspection of those who are not “clubbable,” as the expression runs. These penises are magical, but not most of the time. Most of the time they are “at rest.” In the “at rest” position they are small, almost shriveled, and easily concealed in carpenter’s aprons, chaps, bathing suits, or ordinary trousers. Actually they are not anything that you would want to show anyone, in this state, they are rather like mushrooms or, possibly, large snails. The magic, at these times, resides in other parts of the father (fingertips, right arm) and not in the penis. Occasionally a child, usually a bold six‑year‑old daughter, will request permission to see it. This request should be granted, once. But only in the early morning, when you are in bed, and only when an early morning erection is not present. Yes, let her touch it (lightly, of course), but briefly. Do not permit her to linger or get too interested. Be matter‑of‑fact, kind, and undramatic. Pretend, for the moment, that it is as mundane as a big toe. And then calmly, without unseemly haste, cover it up again. Remember that she is being allowed to “touch it,” not “hold it”; the distinction is important. About sons you must use your own judgment. It is injudicious (as well as unnecessary) to terrify them; you have many other ways of accomplishing that. Chancre is a good reason for not doing any of this. When the penises of fathers are semi‑erect, titillated by some stray erotic observation, such as a glimpse of an attractive female hoof, bereft of its slipper, knowing smiles should be exchanged with the other fathers present (better: half smiles) and the matter let drop. Semi‑erectness is a half measure, as Aristotle knew; that is why most of the penises in museums have been knocked off with a mallet. The original artificers could not bear the idea of Aristotle’s disapproval, and mutilated their work rather than merit the scorn of the great Peripatetic. The notion that this mutilation was carried out by later (Christian) “cleanup squads” is untrue, pure legend. The matter is as I have presented it. The excited, mad, fully erect penis should be displayed only to the one who has excited it, for his or her lips, for the kiss of amelioration. Many other things can be done with the penises of fathers, but these have already been adequately described by other people. The penises of fathers are in every respect superior to the penises of nonfathers, not because of size or weight or any consideration of that sort but because of a metaphysical “responsibility.” This is true even of poor, bad, or insane fathers. African artifacts reflect this special situation. Pre‑Columbian artifacts, for the most part, do not.
The names of fathers: Fathers are named
I knew a father named Yamos who was landlord of the bear gardens at Southwark. Yamos was known to be a principled man and never, never, never ate any of his children no matter how dire the state of his purse. Yet the children, one by one, disappeared.
We have seen that the key idea, in fatherhood, is “responsibility.” First, that heavy chunks of blue or gray sky do not fall down and crush our bodies, or that the solid earth does not turn into a yielding pit beneath us (although the tunneling father is sometimes responsible, in the wrong sense, for the latter). The responsibility of the father is chiefly that his child not die, that enough food is pushed into its face to sustain it, and that heavy blankets protect it from the chill, cutting air. The father almost always meets this responsibility with valor and steadfastness (except in the case of child abusers or thiefs of children or managers of child labor or sick, unholy sexual ghouls). The child lives, mostly, lives and grows into a healthy, normal adult. Good! The father has been successful in his burdensome, very often thankless, task, that of keeping the child breathing. Good work, Sam, your child has taken his place in the tribe, has a good job selling thermocouples, has married a nice girl whom you like, and has impregnated her to the point that she will doubtless have a new child, soon. And is not in jail. But have you noticed the slight curl at the end of Sam II’s mouth, when he looks at you? It means that he didn’t want you to name him Sam II, for one thing, and for two other things it means that he has a sawed‑off in his left pant leg, and a baling hook in his right pant leg, and is ready to kill you with either one of them, given the opportunity. The father is taken aback. What he usually says, in such a confrontation, is “I changed your diapers for you, little snot.” This is not the right thing to say. First, it is not true (mothers change nine diapers out of ten), and second, it instantly reminds Sam II of what he is mad about. He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that’s not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no, not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it, he is insane because when he loved you, you didn’t notice.
The death of fathers: When a father dies, his fatherhood is returned to the All‑Father, who is the sum of all dead fathers taken together. (This is not a definition of the All‑Father, only an aspect of his being.) The fatherhood is returned to the All‑Father, first because that is where it belongs and second in order that it may be denied to you. Transfers of power of this kind are marked with appropriate ceremonies; top hats are burned. Fatherless now, you must deal with the memory of a father. Often that memory is more potent than the living presence of a father, is an inner voice commanding, haranguing, yes‑ing and no‑ing – a binary code, yes no yes no yes no yes no, governing your every, your slightest movement, mental or physical. At what point do you become yourself? Never, wholly, you are always partly him. That privileged position in your inner ear is his last “perk” and no father has ever passed it by.
Similarly, jealousy is a useless passion because it is directed mostly at one’s peers, and that is the wrong direction. There is only one jealousy that is useful and important, the original jealousy.
Patricide: Patricide is a bad idea, first because it is contrary to law and custom and second because it proves, beyond a doubt, that the father’s every fluted accusation against you was correct: you are a thoroughly bad individual, a patricide! – member of a class of persons universally ill‑regarded. It is all right to feel this hot emotion, but not to act upon it. And it is not necessary. It is not necessary to slay your father, time will slay him, that is a virtual certainty. Your true task lies elsewhere.
Your true task, as a son, is to reproduce every one of the enormities touched upon in this manual, but in attenuated form. You must become your father, but a paler, weaker version of him. The enormities go with the job, but close study will allow you to perform the job less well than it has previously been done, thus moving toward a golden age of decency, quiet, and calmed fevers. Your contribution will not be a small one, but “small” is one of the concepts that you should shoot for. If your father was a captain in Battery D, then content yourself with a corporalship in the same battery. Do not attend the annual reunions. Do not drink beer or sing songs at the reunions. Begin by whispering, in front of a mirror, for thirty minutes a day. Then tie your hands behind your back for thirty minutes a day, or get someone else to do this for you. Then, choose one of your most deeply held beliefs, such as the belief that your honors and awards have something to do with you, and abjure it. Friends will help you abjure it, and can be telephoned if you begin to backslide. You see the pattern, put it into practice. Fatherhood can be, if not conquered, at least “turned down” in this generation – by the combined efforts of all of us together.
Seems a little harsh, Julie said, when they had finished reading.
Yes it does seem a little harsh, said Thomas.
Or perhaps it’s not harsh enough?
It would depend on the experience of the individual making the judgment, as to whether it was judged to be too harsh or judged to be not harsh enough.
I hate relativists, she said, and threw the book into the fire.
The jolting of the road. The dust. The sweat. The ladies in conversation.
Break your thumbs for you.
That’s your option.
Take a walk.
Snowflakes, by echoes, by tumbleweed.
Right in the mouth with a four‑by‑four.
His basket bulging.
I know that.
Hunger for perfection indomitable spirit reminds me of Lord Baden‑Powell at times.
I know that.
Was there a message?
Buzzing in the right ball.
Sometimes forgets and uses too many teeth.
Pop one of these. Make you feel better.
What is the motivation?
I was suspicious of him from the first.
At the launching of his now rapidly fading career.
And in the poorest houses nuts are roasted and sweet brans.
Tattering leather and balding blue velvet.
Where can a body get a bang around here?
Certain provocations the government couldn’t handle.
A long series of raptures and other spiritual experiences.
He was pleased.
Something trembling in the balance.
Codpiece trimmed with the fur of silver monkeys.
He was pleased.
Feeling is what’s important.
A gesture was made.
You were his second wife?
Second or third he lied rather often.
I wouldn’t put it past him.
The child’s interests were not protected.
Fill your face with bubblegum and suck your pacifier.
Saw a unicyclist in a brown hat.
I’m not into disgust.
Thought I heard a dog barking.
Handed him the yellow towel which he stuffed into his trousers.
Nobody ever died of it.
Worked them down over her hips.
Sometimes with music and sometimes with conversation.
Removing with a shout of triumph a whole live chicken.
He’s not bad‑looking.
I’ve noticed that.
We couldn’t have been happier.
Mountain goats posing with their front legs together on the filing cabinets.
Feeling is what’s important.
What was the room like?
Gray and the ceiling white.
What was the room like?
A shrug and a burst into tears.
Long gowns to the floor one yellow‑white and one cooked‑shrimp colored.
Something trembling in the balance.
Content to suck on a black tiptoe.
I applied for more time spreading the documents out before them.
I thanked the large black woman and withdrew.
Would have pissed elsewhere out of my sight if the conventions were then as they are now.
It’s her own gut she’s after.
He said I respected you when you were younger.
That’s normal for cellists.
Got her a Rostropovich peg for her birthday.
She exhibited gratitude, blinked three times.
Printed circuits reprinting themselves.
Did you let him see yours?
I assumed a brusque but friendly tone.
Probably afraid that she would drop it.
Got him right between the shoulder blades.
From such combinations in ancient days were sprung monsters.
This is not like me.
Wake up one dark night with a prick in your eye.
That’s my business.
Approached it with a charming show of fastidious distaste.
That’s my business.
Years not unmarked by hideous strains.
The letter a failure but I mailed it nevertheless.
That’s your opinion.
Quite. That’s my opinion.
Cracked half haired puckerfaced creature.
Asked if I wanted to play. I noticed that all of the pieces were black.
I read about it in Le Monde.
He doesn’t know what he’s in for.
Sender of the sweet rain.
Keeps the corn popping.
The bourgeois press told stories.
The incredibly handsome waiter had been listening.
Carbon paper under the tablecloth all the while.
Knits the power grips.
Eats his kids they say.
Her red lips against the bone in my nose.
I can make it hot for you.
What is your totem?
The credit card.
When you are an old person you live in a small room small but neat and you don’t have any cymbals any more they’ve taken your cymbals away from you.
It’s a dirge not a dance.
Stop being petty, stop trying to cut each other’s throat.
Always quick to call another woman beautiful.
Definite absolute negative influence.
And never does so if it is not true.
Hoping this will reach you at a favorable moment.
Some use camel saliva.
Teeth in dreams flaking away like mica.
They like to suck.
They do like to suck.
Sitting on some steps watching the tires of parked cars crack.
Shame, which has made marmosets of so many of us.
Mandrills watching from the sidelines with their clear, intelligent eyes.
Very busy making the arrangements.
Appeals to idealism.
Grocers wearing pistol belts.
It’s perfectly obvious.
I was astonished to discover that his golden urine has a purple stripe in it.
It’s no mystery.
A few severed heads on stakes along the trail.
Polished tubes carried by some of the men.
Not sure I understand what the issues are.
String, quartets don’t march very well.
Whip her britches into a white foam.
I didn’t want to join, particularly, but felt it, in the last analysis, important.
Not wrong to be critical.
Has a trickle‑down effect on the brain.
Blushed like a blue dog.
Yes, after the war. I don’t deny it.
You must have studied English.
That’s one way of looking at it.
Wigwag me when you get a moment.
Never got the hang of it.
He’s an excellent pianist.
We remind him at every opportunity.
Throwing our caps in the air.
The beatings were long ago and not irregular.
A truck or horses could have been used.
That’s your opinion.
That’s your opinion.
Elegant way of putting chairs here and there.
I don’t think it’s so damned elegant.
Walks along placidly thinking his own thoughts.
Remembering, leaving, returning, staying.
Look at the parts separately.
Get an exploded view as they call it.
Tea on the lawn then.
Villains from the right, heroes from the left.
When he was again in their company he could not help remembering what he had seen.
A boiled brain and a burnt one.
Millions of birds have accepted.
Darkening the skies above the walkers.
The main thing is to get moving.
Outside bright sunlight on the snow.
I can eat a good meal and look at a street.
You’re safe with me.
Sometimes a picture or two in a museum.
I don’t mind hotel rooms.
Soldiers, horses, peasants, naked girls.
Playing a guitar.
He plays very well.
Hundreds of people squatting in a great half circle.
Throwing our caps in the air.
Control is the motif.
He made short work of them.
Is that a threat?
A vast barracks in very poor condition.
Carrying off caskets of municipal bonds.
Hers was a pretty fakey number.
Because the world’s peoples are choking.
Dead infants fishermen found in their nets.
Blood Clot Boy, Water Jar Boy, all the heroes of the past.
Stumble at noon as in the twilight.
What they say in town is, he wore elevator shoes.
Wrote things on her in colored chalks.
Her eyes seemed to be scanning the company searching with a furtive yet sincere interest.
Sicker than Pascal himself in the opinion of some.
Drinking vodka from paper cups.
She had a flight of the imagination then.
Even I liked the faint memory.
What stories is she telling herself?
Said he had a board in his chest.
Dr. Margaux corrected what Dr. Elias could not.
Sometimes with music and sometimes with conversation.
The cello leaning against the wall.
What is it?
Handed him a yellow towel which he stuffed into his trousers.
I applied for more time spreading the documents out before them.
A thing he had done for the love of me.
Will you let him see it?
Hours in this position thinking I would suppose.
Except for rats and insects, woodworms and squirrels.
I noticed a tall young man who was speaking to your husband.
Got him right between the shoulder blades.
When I try to speak to her about it she turns the conversation, yawns or giggles.
Parts of hero all over.
He made short work of them.
Scratches her ass, good ankles.
Anything else of that nature?
Hanging by the hair.
There was a man walking on the tops of cars.
Some way to save the situation.
True love affairs of a lifelong character.
Anything else of that nature?
Wake up one dark night with a puckle in your eye.
That’s my business.
Then perhaps he regards you kindly.
Series of failed experiments.
You have performed well under difficult conditions.
Animals in which the brain strangles the esophagus.
Years not unmarked by hideous strains.
Willfully avoided gathering to myself the knowledge aforementioned.
And when not surly, pert.
The letter a failure but I mailed it nevertheless.
It’s wonderful and reduces the prison population too.
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