"You haven't seen me because I've been working late."
II.3.1. The texts in this third Book cover the years 1993-1994. I've tried to present them in a rough chronological order. As I was no longer working at the cafŽ during much of this time, I necessarily encountered Cosmo di Madison less frequently. Our meetings took place in a wider variety of contexts, and thus the matter of this third Book centers less on the life of the cafŽ, and more on the life of Cosmo di Madison as he lived it in the city at large.
I must admit that after the completion of Book II of the Gospels I thought that my work in writing the Doctrine was finished. There was a period during which both Cosmo di Madison and I felt content with the teachings as they'd been recorded. But then Cosmo came forward with his complaint: "They're not fucking listening, honey. They're still not fucking listening." And he began explaining again things he'd said earlier, and clarifying teachings he could see remained obscure even to me, and I realized I was being called upon to take up the writing once more. And how, in any case, could I leave anything in silence? If he was telling it to me, it was certainly for a purpose. He was not--I think you will agree with me on this--the kind of man who just liked to listen to himself talk. No, I couldn't allow these new teachings to drift into oblivion. There was the world to think of, the future. I have a responsibility. For I recognize as well as anyone that the current generation is unused to reading the important texts of the tradition, with the obvious result that it is sorely in need of exempla to follow in both spiritual and worldly matters. And Cosmo di Madison is a fountain of such exempla, as you have certainly remarked in your reading of Books I and II. Luckily here in Madison--here where Isaiah, Augustine, Eckhart and Villon are no longer read--luckily here we have Cosmo di Madison, a voice crying out in a veritable wilderness of bozos and slackers. A wilderness? It is a jungle, reader. The canopy teems with Lutheran sympathizers, moneygrubbing workaholics, MTV brain-dead teens, illiterate teaching assistants, wide-eyed Internet perverts, mall strollers, spare-a-dime Rainbow Gathering derelicts, gender Stalinists, beer-swelled fifty-year-old frat boys, pallid quantum-mechanical geeks, jittery theory enthusiasts from some post-structuralist cartoonland, floribund state-employed lithium pushers, post-doctorate waiters and waitresses and taxi drivers and day-care workers--and this, this is only the beginning, only the very merest beginning of a taxonomy of our jungle. Who is there to address such a ragtag crowd? From whom can they receive the truth? There is Cosmo di Madison. And who else? Who?
Though I repeatedly petitioned Cosmo di Madison during these years to bring me along with him on one of his missions overseas, my requests were continually, for whatever reason, denied. This is a weak point in my book, one I fully acknowledge. For I can still make no claims to being a first-hand witness to his various actions in Bosnia, Iraq or Japan, and am constrained to present all facts relating to these missions according to Cosmo di Madison's own narration of them. Hopefully in reading Books I and II the reader has recognized Cosmo di Madison's scrupulous adherence to the truth in these matters, and will not feel that my work suffers too much through my having been continuously grounded here in Madison while my subject traipsed about the planet righting wrongs, undermining dictatorships, and generally "maintaining the proper ossivant of the balance of worldly powers." You have trusted us this far, reader. So boldly march on, glancing neither to the left nor to the right. Eric Mader-Lin, Madison, 1995
II.3.3. In the nook set aside for them to create those marvelous cakes, pastries, liquored puddings and--yes--chocolate-chip cookies so enjoyed by the riffraff that talks postmodernism and gender for hours on end in our cafŽ--in this nook I overheard one day two of the bakers--Amy and Chris--challenging each other to tell, respectively, the strangest place they ever had sex. They weren't really coming out about this, however, as I was standing there listening to them. (Aureurism, my field of study.) I suppose they suspected that were they to reveal "the strangest place [they] ever did it" while I was standing there cleaning the cocoa-dispenser and listening in obtrusively--they suspected their adventures would end up in a book of the scandalous kind I am known to promote.
Then suddenly, to relieve them of their burden, Cosmo di Madison stepped into the bakery and demanded doughnuts--this for the 400th time in my hearing alone, for though Cosmo di Madison knows full well that the bakers have never and will never make doughnuts, he continues persistently to demand them nearly every morning, for Cosmo di Madison--I believe this is his point--is not about to bow to the obstinacy of the hired help.
"I would like doughnuts!" he intoned, briskly thumping the baker's table with his fist.
"But Cosmo, we don't make doughnuts!" replied Amy all singsong.
"Doughnuts or nothing!" insisted Cosmo.
"Cosmo," said Chris, "where is the strangest place you've ever made love?"
Cosmo di Madison glanced at his fingernails in a gesture of modesty, and then began to laugh in a low, almost sinister tone. "Heh heh heh heh...."
"C'mon, Cosmo," chimed Amy. "You can tell us. The strangest place you've ever made love."
"The strangest place?" asked Cosmo.
"Yeah," said Amy.
"You really want to know?"
"Yeah, tell us!" said Chris. "C'mon."
Cosmo di Madison leaned toward Chris and fixed her with his eyes. In a low and steady voice, one which sent a chill even down my spine, he confided: "It was in a freshly dug grave."
Then deliberately dipping his index finger in a bowl of flour, he came forward and began gently to draw a white stripe down Chris's cheek, fixing her with his eyes. She recoiled in horror.
Turning on his heels, Cosmo di Madison stormed out of the bakery, holding the flour-dusted hand before him like a claw and declaring in full volume for the whole cafŽ: "Doughnuts, I tell you! Tomorrow! Or else! BAAAAHHH-AAAAHHHH-AAAHHHHH-AAAAAHHH!"
II.3.4. CAFƒ COSMOS --Service is our 58th name--
II.3.5. During the Spring of 1993, Cosmo di Madison's early morning phone calls to me became more and more frequent. These calls would usually occur between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m., with the result that by the following day I had usually forgotten the details of what he had related. Was my fidelity to the cause being tested? From what Cosmo di Madison told me during those early morning communiquŽs, I could gather that there was some kind of forced drugging campaign going on at the cafŽ. Two members of the staff, one Craig and one Dean (alias "Monkey Butt"), were involved in this pernicious business. Given the gravity of the situation, I decided to leave a tape-recorder by the phone, so that next time I received one of these calls I could verify what I'd heard by listening to the tape the following morning. Any course of action of mine would then be based upon correct information, and not merely upon vague, nightmarish memories.
To give the reader a better idea of this illicit activity, I have typed up a segment from one of these 4:00 a.m. monologues:
...You can tell they're lying. You just stare into their eyes, putting on a little ossifated telepathy, and ask them in a steady voice: Did you put barbiturates in my iced coffee? Psssh! They'll pinch their lips together and look at the ground: Naw, it wasn't me, Cosmo! I shore di'n't do it. It shore wasn't me! That's the way it is--the fucking losers. I never saw such a sorry performance in my life! Who do they think they're dealing with here, Mr. Rogers? Psssh! That Monkey Butt and that Craaaaig are takin' funny money from Henry Kissinger--you know it, don't you? I don't even wanna see that Monkey Butt any more. He's fucking drugged me prob'ly fifty times by now. And that Craaaaig thinks he can fool me with that smile of his. Oh, hi Cosmo! Here's your iced coffee just ready and waiting for you! We just put a little FUCKING BARBITURATES in it--hope you don't mind. We need to make a little money too now and then--on HENRY KISSINGER'S FUCKING PAYROLL--YOU KNOW IT, DON'T YOU? I want you to talk to Mark about this first thing when you get there. Are you opening today?... Well, just talk to him when you get there then. If he knew his FUCKING EMPLOYEES were putting barbiturates in people's coffee, he'd have them skinned--ya hear me? He doesn't go for that kind of funny business....
I feel no need to reproduce more of this depressing story, which, if it has any value at all, should stand in these writings as a testimony to the corruptibility of youth in this money-grubbing and secularized nation of ours. Suffice it to say that the situation was soon resolved, but that for some time after this Cosmo di Madison would only trust certain members of the staff in the preparation of his iced coffees.
II.3.6. On Baristas. A man at the counter, fumbling for change.
"Shit. I'm on my last leg here. This is all I've got 'til my next check."
He puts down 95 cents, a mere nickel more than the price of his coffee.
Cosmo di Madison pipes in from the side: "Tell me about it."
"So you're broke too, huh?" the man asks Cosmo.
Cosmo di Madison: "I had to buy new rosaries for 4,312 of my kids. You bet I'm fucking broke. Blacklisted in America too. The fucking CFR. Psssh!"
The man looks to me, obviously puzzled.
"Yeah, go ahead!" Cosmo snaps at him. "Pretend you don't know what I'm talking about! Psssssssh!"
Cosmo di Madison steps away indignantly, his glass of iced coffee clutched proudly to his chest.
"I suppose I shouldn't complain," the man winks at me. "Just look at that guy!"
"Don't think you can fool me," I reply deadpan.
"As if you don't know what he's talking about! Psssh!"
The man finally wanders to his table, shaking his head, unsure whether to grumble or laugh. But I have no such uncertainty in me. In fact I go right to the machine and make myself another double espresso, for I, as you have probably gleaned by now, am an espresso jerk.
"An espresso jerk?" you ask. "What is an espresso jerk?"
You may wonder, reader. What, indeed?
Perhaps we should put this question to the Man himself. For it was Cosmo di Madison who best characterized us espresso jerks when he said: "An espresso jerk is like a soda jerk, except more of a jerk."
I have to admit the truth of this definition. It covers all the essentials. Given the sheer volume of our caffeine intake during a day behind the counter. Given the heat of the machines. Given--more than anything--the slackjawed, often desperate character of the clientele. Like a soda jerk, except more of a jerk. Which is to say: like a soda jerk armed to the teeth. Like a soda jerk with teeth sharpened to nasty little points. Sharp little teeth, nasty little teeth, ready and waiting . . . to bite you.
II.3.8. CAFƒ COSMOS --Because you deserve us--
II.3.9. The Modesty of Cosmo di Madison. It is time to remark in these writings the supersubtle nuances of Cosmo di Madison's modesty.
Though I'd been downtown since morning, I hadn't yet encountered Cosmo di Madison. Finally, around 4:30, I heard from a friend that he'd been seen being carried along the street by an unknown and very muscly little man, and that the man was carrying Cosmo because he had a cast on one leg. The scene was apparently memorable not simply for the cast, but because Cosmo di Madison, while being carried along by the shorter man, was seen to be holding his crutches in one hand while taking rather aristocratic puffs from a cigarette in the other, his head held back imperially. The story must have been true, because later the same day I heard from someone else that Cosmo di Madison was in a cast and that, upon being asked what had happened to him, claimed that he had twisted his ankle when he tripped down the stairway of his apartment building the previous morning.
"He tripped down the stairway!" I asked in surprise.
"Yes," replied my source.
For those who know Cosmo di Madison, who know, in short, the great rigor of his lifestyle--his military daring, his police work and so on--this tale of having tripped down a stairway sounds rather unlikely. It was clear to me at least that Cosmo was just being modest and did not want to go around bragging about the as yet undisclosed heroic feat that most certainly led to his injury.
The following day I didn't see Cosmo di Madison at the cafŽ, but heard that he was incapacitated in his apartment. I was told in fact that he had called earlier requesting someone deliver him a pitcher of icy ("icy" being our cafŽ's special blend of iced coffee--top-grade goods--liable to give you a headache or make you ill if you happen to live on the West side). When the coffee was delivered, and Cosmo di Madison was asked how he'd broken his ankle, our faithful delivery person was told that several ligaments were torn the previous morning when a handful of Serbian punks pushed him down the stairs.
So that was it. I should have suspected as much. The real source of Cosmo di Madison's injury was linked to his work in the Balkans. The Serbian punks, Cosmo admitted, were waiting just for him, hanging upside-down from the ceiling just outside his door. When he went to go down the steps, they jumped him.
Being previously engaged, I couldn't visit Cosmo di Madison that evening to confirm what I'd heard. The following day, however, I was at the cafŽ when he arrived on crutches and in his cast.
"Doll face," I said, "I'm so sorry to hear about your break. Tell me how it happened."
"Land-mine," he said.
"A land-mine? I heard it was the Serbs who did it."
"Well, you heard right," he said, leaning his crutches against the counter. "I was leading some of my units outside Sarajevo and I stepped on a fucking Serbian mine. I'm lucky to be alive. It fucking blew the guts out of three of my best men. Don't worry, though. We've got it under control."
I ask you, reader: Is this the usual bragging military man we have here? Hardly. For three full days Cosmo di Madison stayed shy of the real explanation of his injury, modestly not wanting to acknowledge his role in the recent fighting in the Balkans. But finally the truth comes out.
II.3.10. The day after Bill Clinton was elected, I asked Cosmo di Madison: What now? What would he do now that a Democrat held the highest office? What would become of his forces?
Cosmo di Madison: "I already told you, honey. We'll just have to wait it out. In 1994, everyone will realize that I'm right."
II.3.11. "Doll face."
"You're trying to make me immortal, aren't you?"
"I'm doing my best."
"Good. Someone oughta do it. Ya hear me?"
II.3.13. I recently asked Cosmo di Madison concerning the End of the World, an event felt to be imminent by many, nearly past by others.
"Psssh!" he replied in contempt. "Don't believe that nonsense! The world isn't going to end!"
"But what about what is written in Scripture?" I asked. "What about the Book of Revelation?"
"And what is written in Scripture?" he replied. "Huh? The world is never going to end! We are now in the Fourth Creation, and the Fifth will occur any day. That End of the World bit is just a lot of Lutheran rhetoric. Don't believe it even for a minute, ya hear me?"
And this leads me to a sneaking and even frightening suspicion. A seeming paradox beyond my comprehension may be at work in the Cosmic doctrine. One wonders: Is Cosmo di Madison--the most devout Roman Catholic I've yet met in this city of cartoon post-Marxists, cyberpunk aesthetes and PC Stalinistas--is Cosmo di Madison a disciple of the eternal return? I think not. But how do we explain his refusal of traditional teleologies? This is a problem I've yet to resolve.
II.3.14. Cosmo di Madison: his frame and vision even sharper than Don Quixote's, his laugh and lingo one-upping Sancho Panza's. Cosmo di Madison--is he the two of them in one man?
But best of all, reader--Cosmo di Madison is here in Madison. In short, he is a real man. He walks the street like you and I. You may in fact speak with him any day you choose, he whose adventures never end, whose labors are more than Herculean, whose Beatrice is a hat, or a windmill on the farthest end of the East side, whose Beatrice is an inscribed clay bauble round his neck, reading simply--BAAAAAAHHHHHHAAAAAAHHHHHAAAAAA-AAAHHHHHH!
II.3.15. Cosmo di Madison is the inventor of the world's most advanced heart-resuscitation machine. The government has made it illegal, however, because they don't want any more credit going to this great benefactor of mankind, not to mention profits.
"If the person has been dead less than fifty-two hours, we can bring them back. I myself have brought back many people right around the fifty-hour mark."
Cosmo di Madison, out of humanitarian concern, has performed numerous illegal resuscitations here in Wisconsin and elsewhere. He doesn't charge anything for his service.
"If the person has been dead longer than fifty-two hours, things get difficult. It's sometimes still possible to bring them back up to fifty-five or fifty-seven hours, but the side effects are nasty. The blood starts to rot after fifty hours or so, and then the lungs start to rot. Sometimes when I bring 'em back after fifty-four or fifty-five hours, they will live alright--they'll be able to move around--but they'll have absolutely terrible breath for the rest of their life. You can't imagine. It fucking stinks! So sometimes it's better just to let 'em stay dead."
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
But what we're not taught, according to Cosmo di Madison, is the verifiable fact that in 1492 the ocean blue, being the Atlantic Ocean, was scarcely wider than Lake Michigan is now, five hundred years later.
"In Columbus's day the world was still flat," says Cosmo di Madison, vindicating the older science. "The world was flat, but Chiang Kai-Shek and my grandfather the Earl of Windsor made it round. They had the help of several Catholic bishops. When my grandfather was young, the world was still flat. It's all there in the Continental Divide--you can study it if you want."
A great calm descends on me: I'm hearing something I always knew to be true. The world was flat. But why was the change made? How? I ask Cosmo di Madison to explain.
"Three of the Catholic bishops were also psychics--that was key. The work was necessary for military reasons. The balance of power on the planet needed more water between the nations so each could train their own troops in their own proper sphere. The only way to spread the oceans smoothly was to make the planet round. It will go back, though, at Armageddon."
"The world will be flat again at the end?" I ask.
"The world is never gonna end, doll. How many times do I gotta say it? That's all just Lutheran rhetoric!" insists Cosmo di Madison, clearly disappointed in his star pupil, knitting his brows and gesturing as if to send me away.
"But you mentioned the Battle of Armageddon," I reply deferentially. "It is just so confusing to me. I'm sorry."
"That's OK. I don't expect you to know everything. Let me tell you. There will be a battle, but it doesn't mean the world is gonna end. The Battle of Armageddon will take place right here in Dane County. A lot of people don't know this. The world will re-escoff into a flat surface, and Tibet will move in up near Oshkosh. Vietnam will be down by Beloit. The Battle will happen right in Dane County, and the Tibetans will be on my side. It will be me against the Sandinistas. Don't worry though, doll. We'll kick their asses. Our Fate is to kick their asses into the ground. It's all in the Seals."
"You know what's in the Seals?" I ask in astonishment.
"Hell, we wrote the Seals, honey! What do you thing?"
But I am sworn, reader, not to reveal to you the hints I received concerning the contents of the Seven Seals.
II.3.19. Further discoveries:
He discovered that coffee cures rheumatoid arthritis.
He discovered the current practice of using stale milk to clean up oil spills.
Cosmo di Madison: "If I hadn't experimented with milk on oil spills back in the '80's, the whole West coast would be a fucking tar pit by now. All those baby harp seals choking on crude oil. It was too sad. We had to do something."
II.3.20. Kissinger has recently acquired a residence in Madison. It is actually in Monona. The old widow who had previously lived there wanted too much money for it--she was very attached to the place, having spent the past fifty years of her life there--so Kissinger had her murdered and ate her flesh. Then he moved in. Within two weeks he'd moved in some two-hundred of his Persian cats. He doesn't take care of them, never cleans up after them, and they breed like rabbits. In short, the place smells like a huge litter-box, so much so that people as far as two blocks away are having to move out because of the stench.
Cosmo di Madison: "The whole neighborhood's turned into one big fucking kitty whorehouse. Anybody who complains, he gets his fucking psych-thugs to break their legs, the fucking bastard. Kids are dying over there--from all the cat diseases from the cat piss all over the lawns and the sidewalks and everything else. You don't read about it 'cuz he's already got the local Press in his pocket--he's got so much fucking money from illegally siphoning off my accounts for the past twenty years. The whole scene is totally fucking sick--ya hear me?"
II.3.21. During a chilly autumn visit to the city of Aztalan, Cosmo di Madison informed me that the main pyramidal mound marks "the burial site of Phonecian Zeus." I chide myself for not asking him to elaborate on this, there where he would have been inclined to do so, because now I am left with the question: Who is Phonecian Zeus?
Is Phonecian Zeus perhaps Zeus as saved from the clutches of Typhon by the Phonecian traveler Cadmus? This was my first thought upon going over my notes. After all, the Phonecians have every right to be proud of this tale. But then why does this Zeus, one of the immortals, have a burial mound? It's a question I can't yet answer, as I haven't been able to get Cosmo di Madison out to Aztalan where he would be certain to tell me more. I'll have to wait on this.
Do not lose faith in me, reader. We haven't yet come upon anything like a dead end. For though the classicists, archaeologists and historians of the liberal university wait in dread the revelations that will most certainly put to shame their shallow fabrications and impostures, I am determined to hear more from Cosmo di Madison concerning Phonecian Zeus, and I intend to make the religious culture of the early Wisconsin Phonecians a matter of scholarly record as soon as I am able to do so. Of particular interest in this history is of course the question of when the Wisconsin Phonecians converted to Roman Catholicism. One may even speculate that this conversion has something to do with the fact of there being a burial mound of a pagan deity. But I'm overstepping myself here, and I shouldn't. As the Pseudo-Berosus remarked: "A good scholar doesn't let his enthusiasm for the subject undermine the prudence required by the profession."
II.3.22. It was the Phonecians who taught the Chinese how to make jade. All Chinese jade is an archaeological remnant of this early Phonecian influence, for the Chinese have since forgotten the secret of jade making.
"The Phonecians were one of the earliest peoples to settle in China," says Cosmo di Madison. "They taught the Chinese how to make jade. Basically the Chinese learned it by accident. The Phonecians in China lived in bamboo huts, like everyone else in ancient times. But they knew the secret for making their huts stronger: they would wrap the bamboo in certain species of sea kelp, and then marinate it with a mixture of herbs and oil. When this was done, after a handful of generations had lived in the hut, the hut would have turned to solid jade. The Phonecians taught the Chinese this technique, and the Chinese did it for awhile, but it was forgotten later in the long period of Chinese wars. All the jade in China comes from pieces of these huts, and it is the respectful memory of the years when the Phonecians and Chinese built a perfect empire together--it is this memory that makes jade so precious."
"How did the Phonecians help the Chinese build a perfect empire?" I ask Cosmo di Madison.
"The Phonecians were mainly in the military," he replies. "What did you think? They were mainly brilliant military tacticians. They kept the Chinese safe from invasions from the north and west. They guarded the western trade routes. All those clay soldiers they're digging up now--they're Phonecians. The Emperor had them made to post them along the Great Wall so the barbarians would think the Phonecians were still there."
"So the Phonecians weren't there anymore. But why did they leave if they had a perfect empire? Where did they go?" I ask Cosmo di Madison.
"C'mon, honey!" he remonstrates with me. "Where do you think they went? Psssh!"
"They went to Wisconsin," I say, hoping to cover my blunder. "But did all of them come here?"
"The Phonecian explorers discovered that Madison was the source of the world's fresh water, and their priests told the Phonecian kings that they had a Destiny. They had to leave China to secure the new territory. The kings and lords and priests and their families and children came by ship, and the armies under their generals traveled along the northern land route. They left the empire to their allies the Chinese, and founded the city of Madison around 45,000 years ago. They're still around, but they keep mostly behind the scenes now. Ya hear me?"
"Did the Phonecians in Madison continue to make jade?" I ask Cosmo di Madison hopefully.
"No. There was no bamboo here, and how are you gonna get the right kelp? Some of them may still have the recipe--I don't know. One thing for sure, though. You can't make jade out of hemp like some of the fucking losers around here say. You can tell they're losers anyway. All they wear around their necks are fake African trade beads."
II.3.24. How does this fit in? In the late 1970's, unable to hold him in their low-security facilities, the Dane County mental health authorities illegally transported Cosmo di Madison to a high-security prison camp in Poland. The order to do this came direct from Henry Kissinger.
Once in the camp, however, Cosmo di Madison began working undercover for the Pope as a hitman. His first assignment was to off the camp Commandante, which he accomplished "as quietly as water flows underground--ya hear me?"
In the bureaucratic shuffle ensuing upon the sudden death of the commander, they moved our man to a second prison camp, where, soon after his arrival, orders came through "an underground Catholic spy ring" to off this camp's commander as well. Cosmo di Madison wasted no time in dropping poison tablets into the camp commander's cognac, whereupon, in the confusion, they moved him to a third prison camp. And thus began a pattern.
"They would invite me into their office," says Cosmo di Madison referring to the camp commanders, "and while I was there I'd manage to slip 'em something one way or another. It wasn't too hard because they'd usually have a snifter or an opium pipe hanging out of their face--a bunch of waste-cases generally, ya hear me?--spoiled rich kids who turned out bad. [Cosmo di Madison here mimics the usual dialogue between himself and these camp commanders:] 'So, Cosmo, we hope you will be comfortable during your stay here. We will be injecting you every day with massive doses of poisonous lithium. I'm sorry, but those are my orders. Would you like something to drink?' 'No, thank you, Commandante, but go ahead and have a bit more cognac if you like.' 'I don't mind if I do, Cosmo.' Then I'd go back to my cell and twenty minutes later I'd hear the alarm go off and all the guards running around: 'The Commandante is dead! The Commandante is dead!' 'What happened?' 'Oh, how did he die?' 'We think he had a heart attack.' 'Oh, that doesn't surprise me--he only fucking drank and smoked all day long!' 'Yeah, he ate raw meat and human flesh too!' 'Oh, he must have had a heart attack then.' --BAAAAAAAHHHH-HHHHAAAAAAHHHHHHHAAA-AAHHHHH! Ya hear me? I killed six of the bastards that way! Then I escaped and came back to Madison. They were afraid to try to lock me up here in Dane County after that. But they still keep trying to fuck me over--ya hear me? That's because they fucking owe me $36,000,000 and they're not about to pay-up when they got half the fucking Justice Department in their pocket! Psssh! Don't worry, though. We're starting a Third Offensive."
II.3.25. "You haven't seen me because I've been working late. I just got done pulling off a big drug bust. The biggest fucking drug bust in American history. I've been up 'til four every night lately. I'm fucking exhausted. Fifty-three city police officers, seventeen county police officers, and five judges--I got 'em all held under high security out at the airport 'cause I don't fucking trust the people running Dane County jail. Who would? Ya hear me? Psssh! These were some pretty big fish, but they're just a bunch of fucking losers when it comes down to it. I had to do most of the dirty work myself--to make sure nobody fucked it up and let the bozos escape. Kicking in doors, cuffing--all last night and today until three in the afternoon. I'm fucking exhausted here.... C'mon, somebody get me a icy, will ya?"
II.3.26. Put the names Adam Cadmon and Cosimo de Medici in a hat. Shake the hat vigorously. If you haven't the strength to shake it vigorously, wear the hat, without removing it, for three to five months, depending on the strength of your calling.
Now--remove the remains from the hat--and what name is it you find?
You see? We are not to be messed around with. What?
I.3.27. The laser was invented by Cosmo di Madison in a high school science lab. He built this first laser out of a sun lamp and seven mirrors. The teacher was so jealous that he gave him a C on the project. In revenge, and to demonstrate the military value of his invention, Cosmo di Madison used it to blow the roof off the high school auditorium.
Thus we may say that Cosmo di Madison stands with the sharp, chiseled lines of the Dantescan vision as against the noisy claptrap of the Elizabethan.
The Man-Baby's Magic Word
There once was a King from Phonecia
With 17 wives from Venetia.
Though he was to eskaff
Like Panurge he'd esclaff
But his wives they all worshipped Lucretia.
II.3.29. A sultry summer day on State Street. At the cafŽ's outdoor tables. A lanky, unshaven man in a pink silk shirt and tight violet nylon slacks. Numerous gold chains--half of them rosaries--tangle with the scant yet sweaty hairs on his exposed chest. Black, almost high-heeled cowboy boots. He's nearly finished his fourth iced coffee: his eyes glint and shift, now across the street, now north and south, now at some balcony or through some opening drape or blind. What does he hope to see?
He calls out brazenly to a lovely redhead in a tight black miniskirt: "Hey, honey, let me eat at your snack box? Grrrr! What'd'ya say?"
The woman keeps walking as if she hadn't heard him. The man gulps down the last few ounces of iced coffee.
"Aww, she's not interested. Psssh!... But she doesn't know what she just gave up. Once they get their little bout with my throbbing python, it's a helluva time I have to get rid of 'em--ya hear me? They're out there scratchin' at my door: 'Jis' a li'l bit more, Cosmo. Jis' a little bit more.' 'Oh, alright Honey, c'mon in.' BAAAAAHHHH-HHHAAAAAHHHH-HHHAAAAHHH!"
II.3.30. Cosmo di Madison steps up to our table and begins to pontificate vigorously. Someone there remarks to him that his fly is open, and that his point, whatever it is, would be better taken were it closed.
"Yeah, right!" says Cosmo di Madison. "Psssh! It's like Brother Peter says: 'Flies are for pussies.'"
Cosmo di Madison, not buttoning his fly, pats me on the shoulder as one who wouldn't have made such a remark to him, and steps briskly off to another table he believes will better take his point. This second table, however, is occupied by four lesbians, who had since our arrival been engaged in a quiet and serious discussion. In short, there would be great reason to doubt that Cosmo di Madison's second table of choice would be particularly more receptive than ours to a tall and lanky pontiff with his fly undone. Nonetheless, Cosmo di Madison puts his hand on the shoulder of one of the women, making as if he'd suddenly recognized her, and cries out: "Officer! How nice to see you here! So they give you a few minutes off the beat now and then, huh? I hear ya!"
The women looked to each other wide-eyed, and then two of them looked to me, as being one who, having last spoken with this man, may have some idea what he is up to. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say: I don't know. Just take it in stride.
Cosmo di Madison continued: "Officer, are these your cohorts here? What a bunch! This town needs more women like you! Are you ladies working undercover tonight?"
I was glad at this point to note that one of the four women was by now laughing aloud at the whole scene, as being a charming farce, the other three breaking slowly into smiles.
"C'mon now, you can tell me!" bellowed Cosmo di Madison, his hand still on the woman's shoulder. "My brother-in-law is chief of police here you know. So. Are you all working undercover tonight?"
"Way undercover," said one of the women.
"Ahhhhhh!" growled Cosmo di Madison. "I knew there was something going on. I hope you crack your case--ya hear me? I'm on your side in this. This is a rough town."
By now two of the women were wide-eyed with astonishment at this scene, and at the genuine good will of Cosmo di Madison, clearly a fellow in arms.
To finish his greeting and move on, Cosmo di Madison reached down to shake the hand of the Commanding Officer: "Ahhh! That's what I like! A reeeaal strong handshake! Just like all my wives!" he roared, standing up to his full height. "BAAAHHH-HHHHAAAAAAHHHHHH-HHHAAAAAAHHHH! "
Cosmo di Madison strolled smoothly out of the room, which, you may guess, was by this time completely engaged in the scene, the whole of it having transpired in full and jovial cosmic volume, the fly having stayed open from start to finish in the form, almost, of a steady punctuation.
Like Panurge he'd esclaff
And from icified haze he would greet ya.
II.3.32. At five in the morning the phone rings. Either it's important, or...
"Honey, I need to sell a diamond. I'm out of cash. Can you drive me sometime today?"
"C'mon, honey, it'll only take a half-hour. They're fucking with my checks again. I was supposed to get--"
"Sure. I will drive you. But I'm sleeping now. I'll call you back at nine, OK?"
"I knew you would, doll. I'm gonna ask 'em for thirty grand, but I'll take as little as twenty-six cash. It's a diamond I've had since back in the--"
"Nine o'clock. I'll call you back at nine. I'm sleeping."
And I hang up the phone.
After lunch we drive to the far West side, where I have located a shop that buys jewels. Cosmo di Madison has the $30,000 diamond tucked safely in the pocket of his black leather trench coat, and, what's more, is equipped with his black leather sombrero and various other fashion statements likely to discourage anyone from trying to mug him, should they somehow know of the rock.
"You never know, honey. This whole fucking city is bugged. I want them to know who they're dealing with," he says, taking out a pair of mirror shades and flopping them deftly onto his nose. "Ya hear me?"
We arrive at the shop and Cosmo di Madison jaunts in briskly, myself in tow grinning faintly in anticipation of what is about to take place.
The diamond dealer, fittingly nondescript, is all eyes as he notices who it is he will soon be dealing with. He hasn't time to utter the pre-emptive Can I help you? before Cosmo di Madison is leaning strangely over the counter and reaching into his black trench for the rock. The salesman likewise is suddenly reaching: he is reaching into a desk drawer he's opened, and is holding something therein, without taking it out, his mouth wide in fright as if to say "Uhhh...no...not me.... C'mon now, guys!..."
Cosmo di Madison finally has the diamond on the counter, and declares almost offhandedly: "I would like to sell this diamond."
"Oh, certainly!" says our salesman stepping back from the drawer and visibly taking a deep breath. "Sell a diamond, huh?"
II.3.33. A half-hour past midnight at the bar just around the corner. Cosmo di Madison orders another iced coffee. He surveys the crowd, then shakes his head.
"You know why all these fucking people are in here, don't you?" he asks me.
"Why are they here?" I ask.
"They're here for my protection. They got kicked out of every other bar in town, and they know they're safe here--at least when I'm around. But look at 'em. They're all just a bunch of fucking drugged-out losers."
"Why do you protect them then?"
"I just protect the bar, and they come in here. They know it's safe in here. I let 'em come because I've got a big heart. They know that too. But look at these bozos. Sometimes when I look around in here, I think it's time my big heart started running out. You know what I mean? I mean, there are still some honest people who come in here, but every year it's getting worse. Look at 'em. One of these days I'm probably gonna have to come in here and fucking blow 'em all away. It's sad, but it'll probably happen. Nothing can be done. Just start over from scratch. That's how things are getting' around here, ya hear me?"
II.3.34. Who is R.J. Melia? I have yet to learn.
Cosmo di Madison: "Maybe there was a little conspiracy going on? Steal some money? Just maybe?"
It all has something to do with the odd fact that no one in the family has any photographs of Cosmo di Madison between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine.
Cosmo di Madison: "Makes ya kinda wonder, doesn't it?"
II.3.35. Cosmo di Madison: "One of my grandsons is gonna be another Ivan the Terrible, except this time Roman Catholic. I can tell you now, doll, there will be none of this fucking monkey business under him. If you don't like to follow the rules, you'll just get your head cut off. Thwoppp! Just like that. He's gonna be into keeping people honest."
II.3.35. His recent birthday. Everything was going well. But then somebody--"probably one of the Kennedys' people"--tried to poison him. They put it in his icy. Not your usual Monkey Butt barbiturates, no. It was rather an "anti-titanium gel for mixing three dossifoid oxternal chemicals." That's right. This gel is apparently tasteless and odorless--a little sweet if anything--but once it gets in the stomach--or after a few hours rather--it synthesizes into "abolic acids"--three abolic acids in fact, each of which does something, and none of it pleasant. Imagine extreme heartburn.
Luckily he knew what to do. But he still suffered the worst aneurysm he ever had.
II.3.37. The sins of the fathers refers to masturbation, or ipsation as they call it in the fold. According to Cosmo di Madison, it is the only safe means of keeping money-hungry, fish-smelling bitches who are spies away from both himself and high Church officials.
The sins of the fathers are visited unto the sons refers to orphelation, by means of which, after exterminating the death camp commanders in Poland and founding the Solidarity movement, Cosmo di Madison populated the streets of Poland's cities with young thugs in black leather, his offspring, born unto thousands of milky-white Polish virgins in whom the orphelant seed had been planted, and attaining late puberty in a matter of weeks, in order to rid Poland of the communist bureaucracy through a steady guerrilla war of pranks, battery, cussing, and general toughness.
Each of these sons had one silver tooth, by which they could be identified, besides bearing a remarkable resemblance to their father.
The sins of the fathers then, which is masturbation, refers in the case of Cosmo di Madison and various other top clergy to an added dimension: the spinning of simulacra.
Cosmo di Madison tells me that he, in turn, will probably eventually be made Pope.
"They'll probably want me when I'm in my eighties. Then my theology will have settled enough, and my wives won't need me for the usual, so they'll be made into Mother Superiors. I'll have the tightest network of Mother Superiors you ever saw, ya hear me? Every one with PhDs in science and thirty years of spying under their belts. Nobody'll mess with the Church then, ya hear me? Ya hear me, don't ya?"
II.3.38. A recent name on the cafŽ's Purge List: the Casanovite. As I haven't been frequenting the place, I don't know this guy. Cosmo di Madison explains: "Psssh! He's a fucking kook! The guy looks like he's twelve-years-old! He's got red hair like a little Ron Howard, and freckles, and everything. He sits down with every beautiful woman who comes in, and talks his bullshit until they tell him to fuck off. It's fucking pathetic. Go back to grade school, punk! Ya hear me? I'm glad Nancy got rid of him. Yecch!"
(The Purge List: a list of those customers whose behavior has gotten them permanently kicked out of the cafŽ. Needless to say, one has to be pretty inventive to actually make it onto this list. Nancy: current cafŽ manager.)
II.3.39. In the early 1970's Cosmo di Madison was the surgeon called in to remove a dangerous tumor from his own mother's uterus. It seems the good woman had some time previous to that been trying to convince her son that the oral medications forced on him by the Dane County authorities were not as fucking poisonous as he knew them to be. To prove it to him, she even, gravely mistaken, swallowed one of his pills herself, gulping it down with a bit of skim milk. Soon after this she was taken ill, and the tumor being diagnosed, there was only one surgeon deemed capable of removing it properly. What else could be done?
Cosmo di Madison shows me a photograph from this period. It is apparently Christmas, and all the family is assembled in a living room. Mrs. di Madison, or Mrs. Garland, as you will, is not there. The lens is taken up instead by a plethora of relatives, almost all of them, oddly, male, and almost all of them smiling and dressed as if they had just returned from winning a bowling championship. Cosmo di Madison can be seen sitting in the background pensively, in a grey three-piece suit and thick-rimmed glasses, the only one not looking at the lens.
"Look at their faces," he says. "Mom's dying in the hospital and all they can fucking think about is money. Look at those smiles. They got money written all over them. What the hell is wrong with people? It's fucking sick."
Need it be said that the surgery was difficult? The womb had to be removed and even turned inside out to get at the tumor. The tumor was of a gelatinous substance, but no, it was more like a rock you would find in the field with crystals growing in it. The womb was put back in, and Mrs. di Madison recovered after only several days thanks to certain Vietnamese herbal medicines whose preparation and application has become almost unknown in these parts since the invasion of Hans Christian Heg and his fucking Lutheran Enlightenment retinue.
II.3.40. A "phosphorous burn" on his left finger. Sarajevo. Forty-three hour shift.
II.3.41. Cosmo di Madison: "What we're trying to do is install a strict Roman Catholic origin all around the world so that people will recognize their true origin and allow themselves to be oskiphoided by a Roman Catholic clergyman at least once a week."
II.3.42. Cosmo di Madison: "The proper phlaff of theology is invested in everybody's heart and soul, that they must find a goal in life. Hopefully the goal they will find will be estophidated and estophant on their offspring and their children that they would raise them to be kings and queens and top clergy in churches to help people of acute sciences and people that are underprivileged to reach a goal of existent [word unclear]."
II.3.43. When the women who lived in the apartment adjoining that of Cosmo di Madison noticed their phone was dead, and that in addition they had for some time that afternoon been hearing Cosmo di Madison in his own apartment laughing in a rather more sinister manner than usual (the simile they used, in fact, was that of Dr. Frankenstein), they decided that, rather than try to use another neighbor's phone to call for service, they would knock first on Cosmo's door to inquire if, perhaps, he knew something about their dead phone.
Upon knocking they heard a sudden shuffle inside and the music was turned off, then silence. But no one came to the door.
They knocked again, but still no one came.
They knocked a third time, this time calling out: "Cosmo, can you come to the door?"
Finally the door was opened a few inches, though it was not unchained, and Cosmo di Madison himself, through the crack, inquired of them: "What can I do for you ladies?"
"Cosmo," said one, "our phone is dead. Is there anything wrong with the phone in your room?"
"I can't let you in," said Cosmo di Madison. "I'm doing secret experiments for the CIA."
"But can we just check if your phone is working? We'll just dial our number, OK?"
"I'm sorry," said Cosmo di Madison. "The experiments are electromagnetic and have obviously fucked up your phone. But they're Top Secret and you can't come in. The first stage should be finished in about half-an-hour. Then you can call who you want."
"Cosmo," said the other, "we're worried about you. You have to be careful you don't electrocute yourself."
"Aww, c'mon honey!" remonstrated Cosmo. "I've got three PhD's in Classified Sciences. I won't get electrocuted!"
The women, seeing it was no use, went to another neighbor's and called the phone company, stressing their worries as to what may be going on in our man's apartment. In other words, they compromised State Security in the interests of their charming neighbor, for it was obvious to me in talking with them that they had greater love for Cosmo di Madison than for any CIA project he may have been working on at the time.
The two never found out, however, exactly why their phone was out. All they could tell me was that the company arrived quickly and the line was restored. Being myself discreet about these things, I haven't asked Cosmo di Madison to confirm or deny any details of what may after all have amounted to an embarrassing breach of security.
II.3.44. It is common knowledge that Cosmo di Madison is a strict vegetarian. Thus it should be no surprise--given the seriousness of the man in all matters of conviction--that he has never been seen to eat the flesh of any animal. What is remarkable, however, is that many of those who frequent the places he does--those who thus see him several times a day on several days of the week--have never seen Cosmo di Madison eat the flesh of any vegetable either. This is to say, reader, that most people who know him have never seen Cosmo di Madison consume anything of any sort! How explain this? The rigorous secrecy surrounding Cosmo di Madison's diet has given rise to various theories over the years, most of which are not even worth the effort to refute. Photosynthesis has been suggested, and vampirism, and various other possibilities. I myself--I who for some years now have been laboring to trace out every crease, every rumpled corner of Cosmo di Madison's manner of living--even I had to admit my defeat in the face of this mystery. For how was I to understand the fact that I had never seen Cosmo di Madison actually sit down to lunch? And how was I to explain his complete indifference to my repeated invitations to join me either for lunch or dinner? His refusals were always categorical, and he would give no excuse. He never accepted these invitations, not even once. What's more, this was true even though I had often offered to bring him where he could be sure of ordering only vegetarian dishes, explaining to him the reputation of the restaurants in question for their vegetarian cuisine.
For some years, the most substantial thing I had ever seen Cosmo di Madison consume was a handful of green vitamins, which he downed with iced coffee. What were they? All he would say at the time was that they were "dragon pills," and that it wasn't easy to find authentic ones. The rest of his explanation of the virtues of these pills had to do mostly with various chemical compounds and certain atmospheric pressures or dimensional waves. But I took no notes at the time, and my memory is not up to the complexity of Cosmo's interdisciplinary scientific vocabulary, thus I cannot reproduce his explanation here.
The reader can perhaps imagine my feelings then--a mixture of relief and vague disappointment--when I walked into Amy's late one evening and found Cosmo di Madison at one of the tables eating a huge salad. He was gazing glassy-eyed out the window, chomping down huge mouthfuls of this salad as if he hadn't eaten in days. He paid no attention to the noise and carousing going on around him. I myself, who'd never seen him eating before, didn't know how to proceed. For here he was eating in a crowded public place. What was I to do? Frozen to the spot, I mulled over my options. Should I approach him and point out rather impertinently that he was eating, and that it was the first time I had ever seen him doing so? This was clearly a bad idea. Should I turn around and leave that very moment, for fear of intruding on what may be a kind of secret ritual--though it was, to be sure, taking place in a crowded bar? Or should I pretend not to be at all surprised, saying simply: "Hey, doll, how's the salad?"
Cautiously moving closer, I could see that the salad had cucumber slices, mushrooms, green peppers, a huge pile of alfalfa sprouts, and Amy's own red Ranch dressing. Finally I walked up next to him.
"Cosmo," I said.
He didn't notice me.
But still he didn't notice. I watched him for a moment. He looked as if he were in a kind of chrysalis state. That was the comparison that came to my mind. He was like a butterfly wriggling slightly in its shell, preparing to come forth, but not yet ready. It seemed as if he and the chomping muscles of his jaw and his salad were all three hermetically sealed beneath a transparent covering that protected him from the sound and smoke of the scene around him. All that broke into this shell was the red neon glare of Amy's window sign, illuminating his rapidly thrashing jaws and dormant eyes in a manner that suggested a much more macabre scene than the bar where I'd spent my college years. There was a drop of red Ranch dressing running down from the corner of his mouth. Before I had time to think about this, I reached forward and jostled his shoulder, upon which he turned to me and stared mutely, as if in confusion. He was trying, but he couldn't manage to recognize me.
"Hey, doll!" he finally exclaimed. "Have a seat! I'm just getting a little bite to eat here."
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"I never once saw you eat here," I pointed out. "That's the largest dinner salad I've ever seen them make."
"Huh?" asked Cosmo di Madison. "I usually don't eat here," he agreed. "Only sometimes. Only when Otis is working. Otis was in my training camps back in the Seventies. I had him learn a little cooking."
"Yeah, I guess he also learned how to pile up a three-pound dinner salad," I remarked, pointing to the dinner salad.
"Dinner salad?" asked Cosmo di Madison, his brows knitting somewhat. "You think this is a dinner salad?"
I'd maybe made the mistake I feared. Cosmo had stopped chewing. He put his fork down, looked at the plate in front of him, and then looked to me, obviously waiting for a reply.
"Well, sure," I explained, "it's got a lot of Ranch dressing on it, and a lot of alfalfa sprouts, but, why not, it's a dinner salad--isn't it? "
Cosmo di Madison remained silent a good fifteen seconds, as if waiting to see if I had anything else to add. Finally he spoke.
"I want you to know, doll. This dish"--he held up the large bowl as if it were the Sacred Host--"is the only dish I will eat in this place. And of the people who work here, only Otis knows how to make it for me."
"What is the dish called?" I asked, truly eager to know.
"It's Vietnamese lasagna, my favorite."
"Vietnamese lasagna? I never knew--"
"Listen, doll. Don't you go telling anyone Otis can make it, alright? He has enough on his hands already with all the fuck-ups that come in here. I want this just between him and me. Do you get that? I don't want all the college kids coming around here looking for fine Vietnamese cuisine just because I told you about Otis. Let 'em go to the West side. Ya hear me?"
"I hear ya, doll."
II.3.45. Realizing toward the end of September that I had not seen Cosmo di Madison in a suit for some two or three weeks, I finally brought myself to ask him about it.
"I can't wear suits lately," he said. "Madonna's been coming over again."
"Madonna?" I asked in surprise.
"Yeah," he said, "she was coming over three nights a week back at the beginning of the month."
"So Madonna doesn't like you to dress up for her?" I asked. "That's why you haven't been wearing your suits?"
"No, you don't get it, doll," he said. "Madonna's a classy lady. She wants me to wear my suits."
"But why haven't you been wearing them then?" I asked.
"I was wearing them back at the beginning of the month when she was coming over. But she rips the crotches out of 'em as soon as she sees me. Finally she ruined all of 'em, so I had to send 'em off to the tailor's to be repaired."
"All your suits are at the tailor's because of Madonna?" I asked, astonished that Cosmo di Madison would not have kept at least a suit or two in reserve.
"Yeah, it's rough, I know," he admitted. "My tailor Guido was pissed, ya hear me? A dozen $5,000 Italian suits with the crotches all ripped out. He almost didn't wanna do the work. He was fucking pissed! 'Madonna again?' he said. 'Yeah, Madonna.' BAAAAHHHAAHHHAAAAAHH-HHAAAHHHAHHHHHAHHH!"
II.3.46. I was discussing with Cosmo di Madison the recent arrests in Europe of black-marketeers carrying plutonium samples probably of Russian provenance. Certainly he knew about this.
"Plutonium is not as hard to get as most people think," he informed me blandly.
I assumed his statement was meant to point to what one would only expect, given his stature in the world's military circles: namely that Cosmo di Madison himself wouldn't have much trouble acquiring plutonium were he to need it. But this is not what he was getting at.
"It's because there's really a lot of plutonium around, honey. More and more of it in fact."
When I asked if he could explain why this was the case--if it would not be a breach of Security to fill me in--he took a deep drag from his cigarette, rubbed his eyes briefly, and relayed to me the following without hesitation.
"All plutonium is dead angels, the flesh of dead angels. Angels are initially diamonds. The diamonds never break down. Their minds are diamond ophate until they are adolescents, when their minds become their own and they have to decide to go with God or the Devil. Plutonium is made from hydrovaric crystals. If the angels make the wrong choice and go with the Devil, their bodies break down into hydrovaric crystal, they become this crystal. But if they stay with God, they remain diamond. Plutonium is not such a big deal: it's available. There's too much of it in fact." And later: "Plutonium is made from the dead flesh of rebel angels. Nerve gas and plutonium are both made from hydrovaric crystals. In the tradition radiation is called the rot. What does it say in the Scrolls?"
Cosmo di Madison leans his head back and closes his eyes, trying to remember. "Let me try to translate," he says finally, offering me the following translation from a text called forth by memory:
And they drink the bad wine and espond the body of the rot, and are into their inventations of their own ways and don't care about others or any mahvent.
II.3.47. Slouched against the bar at Amy's late on a Thursday evening, I ask Cosmo di Madison about technology, whether, to be specific, technology is evil. Luckily I have my goatskin with me.
"Evil?" he smirks. "It wasn't meant to be evil. You just gotta take it over. Just fucking take it over! "
This is, of course, the perfectly articulated Roman Catholic response concerning the problem of technology.
"But how," I ask him, "are we supposed to take it over?"
Cosmo di Madison: "You've got to sub-metaphate the incolant, high-altolant vive to ontolate the frequency to change division. The best way to go about this is to hydrolate the ground and resolidify the circuits so you can get dossolant metaphate out of consolant."
I had him repeat this response slowly, so that I could make sure I got it right. It is, of course, a perfectly orthodox response concerning the proper praxis when it comes to anything having to do with the jeeve.
But what, again, is the jeeve? I couldn't get him to repeat what he'd said about the jeeve. In time, reader. In time.
II.3.48. Cosmo di Madison speaks dolphin. In fact he is part dolphin.
II.3.49. An afternoon visit to the apartment of Cosmo di Madison. The silent television in the background parades images from a soap opera, apparently a dinner party. The camera pans from one acidic, glamorously dressed woman to another. Each woman will make some utterance, after which she will pause to consider attentively the effect of her words on her interlocutors. Even without the sound, one can hear the plotting and hypocrisy in the women's gestures. Three of five of the women wear evening dresses that reveal most of their breasts to the audience of bored housewives. Cosmo di Madison finally turns to me, disgusted.
"Television has become such a fucked-up system--ya hear me?"
I can only nod my assent.
"It's all trash, all of it!" he continues, pointing an accusing finger at the mute screen. "My father didn't invent black-and-white television for this kind of shit! Pssh! You know it, don't you?"
I inquire as to why his father did in fact invent black-and-white television.
"Why do you think, doll? He invented it for the real scary stuff, the stuff that terrified people into going to Church--where they belonged! Psssh! Ever since they added color and the fucking mafia and CFR started absconding my bank accounts in the '70's, all it's been is this democratic nonsense. Look at this stuff! Endless mansions and swimming pools full of Hollywood Lutheran bimbos with fake tits and coke spoons up their noses--ya hear me? And what else do the people want? I mean look at this fucking garbage! It's fucking sick."
II.3.50. After his unfortunate recent collapse on stage, Frank Sinatra, Cosmo di Madison's landlord, was forced to hand over the management of his Madison properties to his daughter Nancy. Even the small odd jobs--changing lightbulbs in the stairwell, repairing the spin function on the wash machine, pulling out the saplings taking root along the edge of the building--even these things were deemed too much for him.
"Frank wasn't the man he used to be," admitted Cosmo di Madison. "Things were starting to go to hell."
Worse than the managerial negligence of Frank's last few months as landlord, however, was the fact that his daughter Nancy wanted Cosmo di Madison out. It seems Ms. Sinatra found him too much of a security risk for the other tenants, what with everything of every sort always going down on every sidewalk within shooting range of Cosmo di Madison's front stoop. There was a sort of give-and-take in this: on the one hand Cosmo di Madison's apartment attracted enemy operatives from North Korea, Bosnia, etc.; on the other hand it was only Cosmo di Madison's presence that kept the whole area from being overrun by forces whose evil intentions were so dark as to be barely describable. Nancy Sinatra, the ingrate, took the risk that her property could survive without the actual occupancy of Cosmo di Madison.
He has been predicting that she will go back on her decision, but in the meantime--and it has been some eleven months--he is forced to reside elsewhere. Forced to vacate a building offering the comforts only Phonecian design can provide, where could he stay? Unfortunately, he and his collections--his art collection and his sacred manuscript collection--are presently crammed into an efficiency. Yes, a run-of-the-mill Madison efficiency! Nevermind that he has hit up all his former business and banking associates to help him out while he waits to return to his former flat: they of course have been busy talking their way out of doing anything for him--the same old shit. The ball sits in their court, rainsoaked and gaining upon its lime-green fabric surface a second, richer green fabric of mold. [Did you follow that, reader? The poetic development of the idiom the ball is in their court by means of the corruption of the lime green fabric of a literal tennis ball? Did you catch it? Of course you did. And you were much enchanted by it, no less! For the agudeza of my prose would have delighted even a Graci‡n. I am the G—ngora of this tired tongue. A tiny scribe with eyes of jet and sharpened ivory teeth, my torso jointed ebony, my nails of burnished gold, I skip and fly through the night on the back of a raging Sea-Storm. In my right hand I clutch a bamboo stylus, in my left a blood-red candle that burns without a flicker as I traverse the Night--burning steadily in the heart of the storm--in the heart of my storm! Onward I ride high above the waves! Plunging and swirling on the neck of the Hurricane! Onward I ride! Onward to ravage the British Armada! The sea-birds and sharks they heed my call. It is I who...] But let us listen to Cosmo di Madison: "They owe it to me, ya hear me? I mean, it's something they owe me. A man who's got forty-seven billion dollars in accounts from Japan to Jerusalem, and they keep me living in a goddamn soapbox! It's obscene!"
"You should at least have a house on the lakefront or something."
"On the lakefront? Psssh! On the lakefront at least! Do you know how much money forty-seven billion dollars is, honey? Do you have any idea how much these corrupt fuckwads owe me?"
II.3.51. Cosmo di Madison feels he is coming to the end of his rope. He is tired of dealing with Americans who still fucking think that hamburgers are good food. He is tired of watching the planet slowly turning into a fucking dump because people have not adopted the living installations he designed for them decades ago. He is tired of being famous too. Sometimes he would just like to lose his name and move out into the middle of the woods and live in peace and quiet and let people trash everything to their own heart's content until they fucking learn better. He's sick of doing all the work and not getting paid for it. For example, the recent massive snowstorms on the East coast. What really happened was that two Polaris nuclear missiles misfired and exploded over the North Pole causing an imbalance in the weather system and if he hadn't seeded the right chemicals into the atmosphere at the right time it would've just kept on snowing and then it would have started sleeting and then it would have started raining and finally everything would have been under three feet of oozing mud and that would have pretty much been "the end of the show for North America--no Disney World or nothin'." But are they going to pay him for stopping it in time? They aren't gonna pay him a dime.
And as if all this weren't enough, the oxygen on the planet is running out and soon most of the life forms will die. Well too fucking bad. He's sick of getting no funding for his experiments and having the losers who live downstairs from him steal packages that were clearly shipped to his apartment and that contain high-technological equipment necessary for his work but which they just take out of the box and fucking break because they're so fucking stupid they don't know what it is they've got in their hands but they won't give it back either so they just fucking break it out of sheer stupidity and nastiness. And it wouldn't make much difference if he got more funding either because all the money's counterfeit and it's getting hard to find real money no matter how far back you look. Even Spanish doubloons are counterfeit if you want to know the truth of the matter. Cosmo di Madison:
Spanish doubloons aren't even real money. What they are is birth records. They're birth certificates. When the Egyptians were born, they'd get a certificate to wear around their neck, and they'd wear it all their lives, and it would be wrapped into their mummy with them when they died. It would be on their chest, and the mummy wrap was done right over it. The Spanish graverobbers came down to Egypt and started ripping the certificates out of the mummies' chests, and soon when they realized how many mummies were around they started stealing certificates left and right and filling up whole ships with 'em. This is no joke either, it's a weird fucking trip is what it is. It's fucking sick, and it's getting worse all the time, and I've had it trying to get these stupid people to fucking think about money and what it really is. I've fucking had it with these people, ya hear me? You'd be tired too.
Now Hegel--bear with me, reader--wrote that every science must have a very difficult beginning. Following this lead, Marx began Das Kapital with a truly difficult philosophical consideration of money, founding in this way his science of capital. Though Marx's science itself is no longer as widely studied as it used to be, most educated people have a general idea of the political ideologies founded on this science, and of the historical fruits brought forth by these ideologies. Looking back over the past hundred years, we can only wonder how our century's history may have turned out differently had Marx known of the mummy connection. Marx may have gotten a few pages of his thoughts down on paper, and then he may have simply given it up, aware that his plan for a science of capital was just a chimera, aware that the only thing to do, given the circumstances, was to get as many of those doubloons back onto those mummies as possible before things got any weirder.
II.3.52. Kobe. "There are some pretty fucking corrupt engineers out there. What do you expect?"
"Cosmo! How fine to see you! Where have you been?"
"Psssh! I'm exhausted, doll. I can hardly stay awake."
He swigs a third of his iced coffee, then continues: "I just got back from a seventy-two-hour shift in Kobe, leading a rescue team, digging poor old people out of collapsed buildings that only collapsed because they were built by American fucking losers with counterfeit degrees. I told the Japanese back in the '70's, but they wouldn't listen."
"You were in Kobe?"
"Where did you think! It's hell over there! The only buildings standing are the ones I drew up blueprints for in the '70's. I had a contract to finish the skyline, but the mobsters and cement companies squeezed me out. Nothing new under the sun--ya hear me? And now that the quake hits, who do you think they call to lead the rescue operations? Psssh! My back is killing me, doll. I gotta sit down."
Cosmo di Madison sits down, knits his thick brows and slowly shakes his recently shaved head. "Fucking bozos..."
II.3.53. Cosmo di Madison: "I'm into praying and researching and thinking things out. This goes back to my early childhood. I was designing mephecotes at age seven. At age nine I was building the first spy satellites. If they hadn't found me in grade school, you'd probably all be speaking fucking Russian right now. Dose feet on ya. Ya hear me?"
II.3.54. Little did I know. I thought Cosmo di Madison had maybe a few Picassos in his collection, and I knew of one Monet. But as it turns out, there are, in his apartment alone, three Picassos, two Monets, one da Vinci, one Benetar, two Angelos, and two Rembrandts. What's more, in the kitchen is a still life of some fruit on a table by Jesus. Yes, Jesus the Savior. There are also three works taken from digs in Egypt, from crypts, surprisingly similar in color scheme, style and subject matter to paintings by well-known European cubists.
In his bedroom Cosmo di Madison has one self-portrait by Mohammed. Yes, the Mohammed.
There is only one portrait, alas, and Mohammed is its painter.
II.3.55. i. Cosmo di Madison: "One of these days we'll bring a bunch of kids into town and dig up State Street like it used to be."
Myself: "You mean uncover the Phonecian city underneath?"
Cosmo di Madison: "I mean show what our buildings are really like. Some of those buildings are seven to ten stories tall. Two stories my ass!"
In other words, it's not simply that the remains of the Phonecian city are buried as rubble under the modern city. It is rather that, in many cases, the top two stories of actual Phonecian buildings are still being used. The bottom seven stories were filled in by the Lutheran-Hegian invaders, doubtless in order to make 19th century Madison look like the other towns built by these swine. This is the cover-up.
Madison, Wisconsin: the modern city clings like a blanket of muck or manure around its true and ancient foundations. Only occasionally do traces of the sacred character of the City glimmer through. Who among us can read these traces?
ii. I believe I have identified the locations of the three pyramids buried under Madison as we know it. The neoclassical capitol building was built on top of one of the pyramids. Bascom Hall and the early liberal university were built on top of another. The apex of the third pyramid is doubtless buried an unknown number of meters beneath the intersection of Gilman and Pinkney.
Unable to make use of the tops of the pyramids as he had with the tops of the other Phonecian buildings--moreover unable to disguise their true architectural character as pyramids--Heg's men had no choice but to bury them outright. We may consider the manual labor necessary for this act of historical deception to be a particularly pernicious case of the Protestant work ethic in action. The disgusting grandeur of this deception does not surprise me, as it should not surprise you. Before these researches are finished, entire volumes may need to be added to Max Weber's far-too-timid thesis.
In a fallen world, much can be accomplished by the uncannily productive forces of onanistic fucking Lutheran rhetoric. But these nefarious and satanic accomplishments--in the end they will all crumble before the devastating power of the Word.
II.3.56. "You won't believe what fucking happened Sunday. They shot my lawyer! Psssh! It fucking pisses me off. That was the third lawyer they shot this month."
"What was your lawyer up to?"
"My case was going before the Supreme Court, finally."
"What case! You know what case, honey. To revoke my blacklisted status so I can open a bank account in the United States of America--that's what case. Now I'm gonna have to get another lawyer to do it, and it won't be easy, even for me, since the bastards killed three already in twenty-one days."
II.3.57. For Those who would Delve Further. Hmmm. There is the Bat Creek Inscription, or the Bat Stone. Look into that one: I think you'll find some rather unsettling nominal suggestions: anomalies even.
There is the Parajaibo Stone. Worthy of mention.
And then there is the following title page, which may be considered acceptable from the orthodox position, as it gives us a rather solid lead should we seek to identify the real Gotham City. It is from a work written by one Stephen Batman in the latter part of the 16th century--that most decisive century of our history--:
warning to all men to
Wherein are contayned for the
most parte all the straunge Prodigies
hapned in the Worlde, with divers
secrete figures of Revelations
tending to mannes stayed
In maner of a generall Chronicle,
gathered out of sundrie approved
authors by STEPHEN BATMAN
professor in Divinitie.
Imprinted by Ralphe Nubery
assigned by Henry Bynneman.
Cum privilegio Regali.
This book is available in our own Memorial Library, for any of you who suspect I am making it up. Go check it if you need to. I will hold no grudge. I can understand that certain people will not want to accept it that Batman was a Renaissance theologian. And finally, of course, there is Erasmus' encomium of Thomas More (Moriae Encomium), a text that I for one would almost be inclined to add to the Biblical canon.
II.3.58. An Esclaffic Cryptonomy. I have confirmed my suspicion: his nanny back in Laos was French.
But such suspicions--they are amusing, yes, but we have had enough of them.
Or to put it another way: from here we could begin a thousand works: taper ˆ la machine.
II.3.59. Cosmo di Madison is not at all content with the people who've moved in across the hall. It is obvious that they are only there because he is there. He has good reason to be upset: he has evidence they are attempting to poison the ancient Phonecian well that supplies the building's water. What's more, they're North Korean intelligence operatives. Doubtless trying to pick up military intelligence in "the best fucking place in the country to get it"--across the hallway from his apartment in other words. Cosmo di Madison: "And if they're going to run an illegal fucking abortion clinic in their living-room the least they could do is take their fucking trash down the stairwell and not leave it fucking rotting in the hall!"
II.3.60. Cosmo di Madison, the Man-Baby, the Paidariogeron.
II.3.61. Leaning on the counter au cafŽ, gazing out at the street and at the line of regulars waiting to be served, Cosmo di Madison looks me in the eye and asks me mournfully: "Psssh! Have you ever seen so many losers in one place at the same time? I mean it--this is really getting serious around here. Look at these people!"
II.3.62. The cafŽ's phone rings. A newer employee picks it up: "Hello, Steep 'n Brew." A man's voice on the other side replies: "Good afternoon, this is Cosmo di Madison. And who may I say has the pleasure of speaking with me?"
II.3.64. Cosmo di Madison: "I've been talkin' this rap for almost forty years now, and I don't see a single person listening, ya hear me?"
II.3.65. My intention in this Afterword is to relate to you the events of 1995. Early in that year I arranged to spend the coming summer months teaching English in Asia. I regretted having to leave Madison, given that such important events were soon to be unfolding here, and also given the fact that Cosmo di Madison had not yet managed to acquire a lease on his original apartment, the only dwelling in the city properly equipped to provide both his person and his art collection with the necessary security (what with the satellite uplinks, surveillance cameras, fireproof walls, secret escape routes, etc.). Nonetheless I had to leave, because I was low on money, and going to the East to teach English was one way to make a lot of it quickly. I could return to Madison in the fall, and resume my reading and writing then.
I had left for Taipei at the beginning of May, planning to return by September. By the end of July, however, I began to have the creeping feeling that something was going wrong in Madison, that I was needed there. This was not at all surprising to me, except for the fact that in this instance the feeling was much stronger than usual. I'd had similar ungrounded forebodings before, and might even say that in my case they go along with travel. It often happens that when I leave the States for any extended period, I begin to feel, a week or so before coming back, a particular anxiety. It's not that I'm simply eager to return, or that I fear something will go wrong during the passage back--a hijacking, say, or a sudden encounter with an armed taxi driver wanting my money and passport. It's rather the case that I fear something will have happened in the place I'm returning to, that it will be suddenly unlivable for some lurking and sinister reason. Some change will have taken place that I could have prevented had I been back earlier. Irrational as it may be, I start to fear something could be getting its claws into my home while I'm gone, some process I will discover well under way by the time I am back. By then it will be too late.
In Taipei I did nothing about this foreboding, and tried to push it out of my thoughts. I even refused to make the few telephone calls that would have allowed me to check up on the people close to me. After all, I thought, why should I credit such fears, when this kind of paranoia had hit me more than once before, and had always proved groundless in the end? What's more, my circumstances on this trip more than warranted skepticism toward any creeping feeling that I should leave Taipei earlier than planned. I was living alone in a foreign capital, an Asian city constantly congested with traffic and whose humidity level approached that of the Amazon basin. Given the low-rent apartment I'd chosen, my life there was not exactly comfortable. The bed was too short for my legs and the small wooden desk in the corner had a patina of mold on it. Trying to memorize Chinese phrases while the sweat stung my eyes and dripped off my nose, protected from the elements by an air-conditioner that sucked in humid, smog-saturated air at one end and blew out humid, fish-scented air at the other, I was bound to hear Madison calling me back. And so even though I sensed something was amiss back home, there was never any question of leaving Taipei before my contract was up, for I hadn't gotten any news that anything was actually wrong. I held to my plans with teeth grit.
September third I was back in Madison, as planned. The downtown showed no signs of catastrophe, though everything did seem lighter and emptier. I saw whole sections of street without cars on them, and on the sidewalks there were wide, uncomfortable spaces between the people. In only four months I'd become accustomed to the teeming surfaces of Taipei, and now Madison seemed strange. The air particularly struck me: for a while I was conscious of my respiratory organs, conscious of their movements. The air seemed supernaturally thin and clear, as if Madison had been relocated to some peak in the Himalayas. Of course it was only the normal Madison air I was breathing. It was just that I'd gotten used to that humidified mass of exhaust fumes the people in Taipei experience as air. But it wasn't only the act of breathing that seemed new. My visual perceptions were different too. The trees, the buildings, the shop-fronts--everything in Madison had a kind of crystalline clarity and brilliance about it. Here I could see things clearly at some distance away. In Taipei any structure further away than two blocks appeared veiled in a greasy haze. I'd gotten used to living under a blanket of smog. Of course I was glad to be back. As I walked the streets, I began to feel my fears of doom were proving, once again, entirely groundless. I was in for a surprise.
For whatever reason, finding Cosmo di Madison wasn't the first thing I did upon my return. I assumed I'd run into him sooner or later. When I didn't see him by the end of the second day, I thought I'd try visiting his apartment, but then decided to wait at least one day more. Finally, on the third day, as I was heading out of the cafŽ to get some lunch, there he was, approaching me swiftly on the sidewalk. He seemed perturbed. Before he even reached me, I noticed he had a black eye.
"Doll, what happened?" were my first words.
"Where have you been?" he said.
"I've been teaching English overseas, to make some money. What happened to your eye?"
"Oh, you've been teaching English," he sneered. "I suppose you were working for the Church. Next thing you'll tell me you were building hospitals for the poor in South America. Tell me about it."
I was stunned. How could I respond? I'd never heard such a tone in him. Or rather, of course I'd heard such a tone, but it was never me who fell under suspicion. I had to find out what he knew.
"Doll!" I began, "I was teaching English in the East. I told you I was going there when I left. Where did you think I was?"
"I don't even wanna fucking talk about it," he snapped.
"C'mon," I remonstrated. "There's obviously been some mix-up. Where did you imagine I was?"
"I'll tell you where you were," he said, cocking his head to one side and adopting the sneer I knew so well, "I'll fucking tell you where you were. I was here barely holding things together and watching my babies get slaughtered left and right while you were in some fucking cat house in Thailand with an opium pipe hangin' out of your face and a twelve-year-old on each knee. That's where you fucking were and don't you try to fucking tell me otherwise, 'cuz my boys got eyes on the bottom of their feet and we're settin' up surveillance cameras all over the Internet and I could fucking see you!"
I realized suddenly what was behind my anxieties in Taipei. I'd been gone too long, way too long. There had been some kind of attack by enemy forces, and I hadn't been in Madison to help. The clean, open spaces concealed what I didn't want to see. The enemy had gotten a foothold while I was gone. I had to make it up somehow.
"But honey, I was in Taiwan, not Thailand. I was teaching English in Taiwan to make some money so I could come back and finish the book about you, so we could finally--"
"Don't even start on that song and dance," he moaned. "I'm not in the mood, not at all. I'm not fucking in the mood for it, ya hear me? So don't even try it. Just tell me one thing while you're on your visit to Madison. How does it fucking feel to have money? Huh? Just tell me that."
"What do you mean?" I asked, sincerely perplexed.
"I know all about the book, Eric," he replied, waving his arms dismissively, as if to stifle any excuse I may try to make. "You must've thought I was fucking stupid. But I know all about it. You've been selling it hardcover in every city in North American except for Madison because you don't want me to see the final edition so I won't know you've been fucking raking in twelve to fourteen million dollars a year on my story. So don't even try to give me this BS jive about finishing the book, alright? I'm not in the fucking mood. You wouldn't be either if you were being betrayed by the only people you thought you could trust. Ya hear me?"
"Who hit you?" I asked, hoping to change the subject.
"Oh, right! Onto that again! Whoever could have hit Cosmo?" he began in the mock voice of some flippant bystander, as if asking a question worthy only of the most vulgar, uninformed public. "Who could it be?... Let's see now... Who do you fucking think it was!" he asked, finally addressing me in his own furious voice. "They've been stalking me for weeks, the fucking bastards! They've pushed my whole family out onto the streets, my babies are starving, my wives are nowhere to be found, and now Henry Kissinger's trying to pick me off once and for all because he fucking doesn't want to pay me the 270 million dollars he owes me! I'd be fucking dead by now if it weren't for my elite guards who've gunned down thousands of them. And where were you, huh? Teaching English to a bunch of Vietnamese Lutheran child prostitutes, that's where you fucking were!"
"I can't believe this," I say, trying to keep our discussion on the black eye.
"Oh, you just can't believe it, is that right? Well, I've only been fucking telling you about it for five years now. But you still don't seem to quite get the seriousness of the situation, because you can't manage to stay around Madison when things are really hot. Always gotta be stepping out of the scene when the real heavy stuff starts to come down. My boys are fucking pissed too."
"C'mon, doll," I remonstrated. "If I knew things were this rough for you here, I'd have caught the soonest possible flight."
I tried to take him by the shoulder, tried to get him to meet my eye. But he pulled away, continuing with his accusations.
"Well, maybe next time you'll get here sooner than five months later. Maybe next time. But then again, maybe next time you'll go off on a fucking pleasure cruise with money you got from my story and leave your friends here in Madison to die in the fucking gutter. Maybe you'll write about it from the Shanghai fucking Hilton--who knows? Pssh!"
It was the book again. I was sunk. I wasn't prepared for any of this. I began to make more excuses. I insisted vehemently that I'd never tried to publish the book outside Madison, that the book wasn't long enough in any case, that I was still working on it. But it was no good. He wouldn't listen to a word of it. Finally I gave up, fearing that if I continued too long I'd merely be crystallizing the mistrust in him. I thought it might be better just to wait and try explaining another day. I told him I was worried about what was going on and that he could depend on me for anything now that I was back.
"Yeah, I can depend on you making millions off of me and not giving me a cent," he said.
I tried to give him the money in my wallet--unfortunately it was only seven dollars--but he wouldn't take it. We parted.
I saw him again two days later. He was in the cafŽ joking with someone I didn't know. He hadn't seen me enter. As he wasn't actually seated, I thought he'd probably finish with the man and move on. I took a seat across the room from them and waited.
He was clearly in a fine mood. I could see it by his gesturing and by the laughter of the man he was talking to. If my hunch was right, he'd be more willing to listen to me than the last time we met. When he finally turned around with his empty iced coffee glass and began walking down to the counter for his refill, I gestured and called out to him. He actually stopped, stepping up to my table. I asked him how he was today, if things were looking up from the day before.
"I'm alright, honey," he acknowledged with what seemed to be a bit of remorse. "I'm alright now. I was pissed at you, but don't take it so hard. Things have been rough on me. I've been working fifty-six-hour days, my kids have nothing to eat, the fucking CFR--"
"I know it's been rough," I said, surprised at this turnaround. "I should've been here to help."
"You know you haven't been straight with me, Eric."
"Well, I've done my best," I said, not sure whether he was thinking about the book or about Thailand.
"There's a lot you don't tell me," he continued, "and I don't fucking like to hear about it from other people first. Ya hear me?"
"I hear ya, doll. And all of this has taught me something, you know?"
"What's that?" he asked.
"I realize that if I'm going to stay fighting on your side, if I'm going to have any claim to being in the inner circle, from now on I'm going to have to keep you informed of just where I am and just what I'm up to. It was all my fault. I should have checked in regularly. It won't happen again."
"Well, I'm glad you realize it," he said, visibly content with the seriousness of my tone. "I'm glad you finally realize what can happen around here. Madison is nothing to fuck around with, ya hear me? It's a fucking killing field. I forgive you, though. You were never properly trained for this kind of work. You'll do better next time."
And off he went to get his refill.
Needless to say, this brief conversation set everything straight in my mind. I finally felt that I was back, back in the actual Madison. Some of the things he'd said, however, both on this day and the day before, made me wonder if it were possible that someone had been slandering me to him while I was gone. After all, there was no counting the people who might be jealous of my privileged position next to this important man. I knew that history was full of examples of coups d'Žtat effected in the absence of the one in charge. So why could it not be likewise with the court scribe? I'm sure it has happened before. The court scribe goes down to Paris to select new parchments and inks, and upon his return he finds the young Thorsgeld seated next to his Highness, already wearing the scribe's green robe, already jotting things down in that crooked script of his! Could this be my fate as well? I had to recognize it as a possibility.
Who could have been slandering me to Cosmo di Madison? I wondered about this for awhile, but finally gave it up. After all, it didn't much matter one way or the other, as long as Cosmo was beginning to trust me again. Tradition was on my side, and if almost four months of absence wasn't enough for my would-be replacement to take over my office, he certainly wouldn't be able to now that I was back. This final realization eased my mind.
I tried to visit Cosmo's apartment the following day, and though all his lights were on and the television was on, no one would come to the door and I could see no sign that he was actually in his apartment. There was nothing out of the ordinary in this, however, as Cosmo always left his lights and television on when he was out. The next day I didn't see him downtown, but made no attempt to catch him at his apartment either. On the third day, then, I returned to his apartment to find him, but found instead that all his lights were off and the television was off as well. I was shocked. I'd never seen the like. I immediately began to worry. Something was going on.
For the next few days I could find out nothing from anyone. No one had seen him anywhere, and none of the people close to him had any idea where he might be. I knew that if he had gone overseas on some mission, he would surely have left at least his television on. But things remained the same--that is to say dark--at his apartment. Finally on about the fourth day I went into the cafŽ, and one of the staff people took me off to the side and told me that Cosmo had been arrested and was being held at the University Hospital.
I went home and got on the phone, trying to find out just where they were holding him. I learned finally that they had him in the Psych Ward. It was just as I'd feared. I waited as they transferred me to the desk. A woman answered. I told her calmly that I wanted to talk with him, claiming I was his brother. Much to my surprise, it was less than a minute before they had him on the phone.
"Is this my lawyer?" is the first thing Cosmo di Madison said.
"It's Eric," I told him. "Tell me what happened."
"I wanna talk to my lawyer," he insisted.
"Look, I'll help you get your lawyer," I said. "I just heard today that you were arrested. Are you alright?"
"I'm not saying a thing 'til you get my lawyer in here," he repeated.
"It's Eric, Cosmo! I'm your friend, remember? You gotta tell me what happened."
"Doll!" he came back. "They got me! The fucking bastards got me!"
"They got you, yes. Are you alright though?"
"I was just sitting in my apartment boiling water for tea," he continued frantically, not pausing to register my question, "and suddenly I hear this rumbling noise and I go and look out the window and there's one tank coming up the street and another one coming down the other way and all of a sudden--BKKKKKKK! BKKKKKCHCHCHCH!--they blow the piss out of the building next to mine and there's shrapnel and bricks flying everywhere and ladies screaming and blood and civilians running for cover like scared fucking mice and--Whhhaaaahhh!--I start to head to the closet for my Uzzi, but next thing I know there's six SWAT guys in my apartment and they throw me on the ground and fucking spill my water for tea all over the kitchen floor, and then they fucking gas me with some oxternal oxide gas and throw me in an armored car and I fucking wake up in here. The bastards! They finally pulled it off. They must have got my boys too because--"
"How is it in there?" I interrupted, raising my voice in hopes of getting a response. "Are you alright in there, doll?"
"Oh, yeah, it's just a fucking school picnic in here! Cake and everything. What d'ya think! Psssh!"
"C'mon, doll. Tell me straight," I said.
"It's like a fucking concentration camp!" he groaned. "The food is terrible. They won't even let me smoke. They got a bunch of fake nurses who are really ex-Soviet commandos. They can hire 'em cheap ever since we dismantled the Russian Empire, ya hear me?"
"I hear ya," I replied, picturing in my mind a burly Russian nurse with a giant syringe in her hand and a Lenin pin peeking out from under her smock.
"I gotta get outa here, honey," he whined. "I'm going fucking crazy in this place. They won't let me smoke, there's no coffee, they put barbiturates in the food, there's--"
"Are there any visiting hours?" I ask. "I'll come and see you."
"Three to four this afternoon. Be here. And don't try anything either. These bimbos are serious, ya hear me? They'll fuck you up."
"I'll be there," I promised.
"And while you're at it, bring me a six-pack of diet 7-Up and a six-pack of root beer. No, make it a six-pack of cream soda. Forget the root beer. Get the cream soda with no fluorochlorines, the ones in the specially sealed military bottles. You know the ones."
"I'll do my best," I said, running through the different makes of cream soda in my head, trying to picture the bottles.
"I don't want any of those canned cream sodas, ya hear me?"
I said goodbye and hung up.
After the shock of discovering that Cosmo di Madison was actually in the hospital, and after the trauma of learning the details of his arrest, my visit that day turned out to be rather uneventful. Cosmo's room was in fact only a bit smaller than the efficiency he'd been forced to live in the previous Spring. I was surprised at how comfortable this hospital set-up seemed. He had his own phone, a window and his own bathroom. Everything was impeccably clean.
I learned that Cosmo had no plans of escape, but was going to use his lawyers to get him out. He also showed me his secret stash of cigarettes that some previous visitor had given him. He informed me with a glint of satisfaction in his eye that he'd already managed to smoke one and a half of them. He was obviously proud of this blatant infringement of the rules.
"If those ladies found these," he said in a whisper, "they'd fucking kill me. They're butchers. They'd fucking cut my balls off and send 'em down to the kitchen and have 'em half made into spaghetti before I even knew what was fucking missing. You know it, don't you?"
"Just don't let them smell the smoke," I cautioned.
"You think I'm stupid? I have a Method, doll. It's foolproof. They won't catch me."
We talked about old times and soon the hour was up. I left feeling less concerned than when I'd arrived. But still the situation hadn't changed. On what grounds were they holding him, and how long could they do so? When would he be getting out?
During my visit I'd been wise enough to get his mother's phone number from him. Here was someone who might know the legal implications of what had been going on. I tried also to get his lawyers' phone numbers from him, but he didn't know the numbers by heart, and the psych police had taken his wallet and black book during the arrest.
"Most of my lawyers are probably on the bottom of Lake Mendota by now," he informed me sadly.
I called Mrs. di Madison that very evening. The dear woman was worried sick about the whole affair, was particularly concerned about her son's health, and informed me that unless a court order could be obtained to hold him longer, he would be released in only six days. She gave me the schedule of his visiting hours, and told me she'd already been to visit him several times herself.
"God bless you," she said, thanking me for my concern.
Once again I resisted the temptation to ask her if that was really her playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
As it turned out, no court order was obtained, and Cosmo di Madison was released as a matter of course, the authorities having established no grounds for holding him longer. Apparently at least some of his lawyers had survived the putsch. Thus it was that only a week after my first visit to the hospital, Cosmo di Madison was standing next to me at the cafŽ counter, demanding that long-awaited first iced coffee, the very taste of Liberty. In a festive mood, one of the new staff members offered to top it with whipped cream for him, as a mark of celebration. Cosmo di Madison looked to me with the face of a seven-year-old being forced to eat creamed spinach. He looked back to meet the mendacious and silly grin of the new employee.
"Eccch!" is all he said.
So there was no whipped cream on that first icy.
With the release of Cosmo di Madison, we are approaching the time of this writing. Here in Madison the leaves have long since started to take on their autumn hues. The city is awash in brilliant yellows, rich oranges, hearty reds. The old farmer has already begun selling his pumpkins in the parking lot he rents down by St. Bernard's. Rosy cheeked, the children wander around the lot with their parents, pointing out which pumpkins they want to carve, insisting on how many pumpkins they want to buy, trying to lift them up to show Mom or Dad, and sometimes finding the pumpkins too heavy for their small arms. With the approach of winter, the air has become cool and even crisper, and the squirrels have begun tearing apart garbage bags and ferreting in dumpsters, trying to fatten up for the hard months ahead on whatever they can find: a half-eaten pizza crust, fried-chicken bones with foil stuck to them, a tampon.
After Cosmo had finished his third icy and I had finished my second cappuccino, we decided to take my car to Picnic Point and walk the trail out to the end, from where we'd be able to view the whole of the downtown across the water of Lake Mendota. As we walked along, I pointed out to Cosmo the group of burial mounds one comes across after having walked around halfway, an archeological feature I was sure would provoke some worthwhile discussion. I was right about this. Cosmo informed me that the peninsula called Picnic Point is not in fact a merely natural formation, but is rather the buried rubble of the base of a Stairway to Heaven the Phonecians had attempted to construct at the peak of their empire. In other words, the whole mile-long peninsula of Picnic Point is actually a Phonecian ruin. I was astonished by the massive scale of this ruin. How many times now had I walked on it, never suspecting a thing?
"The archeologists know it's true too, ya hear me?" said Cosmo di Madison.
"Do all of them know?" I asked, hoping for some clarification concerning the extent of this particular cover-up.
"At least the older ones know," said Cosmo di Madison. "They've known all along because they do their work and they're not a bunch of lazy-ass drug fiends like most of the younger ones. But even if they know it, you won't find it in any of the books, 'cause they know if they tell the truth they'll end up getting their fucking heads cut off, and all their books'll be taken off the shelves and shredded, so no one will be able to read about it anyway. So they pretty much keep quiet."
I mentioned Heg's invasion, and remarked on how much work it must have been to bury such a massive structure, to actually bury it and plant a forest on it and make it look like a natural formation. But Cosmo informed me that the Lutherans had nothing to do with the destruction of the stairway, that it had been ruined long before the arrival of Hans Christian Heg. In fact the peninsula called Picnic Point was the only part of ancient Madison that was already in ruins when the European invaders first arrived. By that time itr was already covered with trees. The Phonecians recognized it as sacred ground, and even refused to walk on it, except for certain High Priests, who conducted secret rituals there.
"This is the most sacred ground in the whole area," Cosmo informed me. "I can feel the energy here. You have to be very respectful to walk in this place. It is like a baby's finger of divine ossivants."
Cosmo di Madison put his finger to his lips to prevent me from saying anything in response. He closed his eyes and leaned his head to one side, clearly listening for something. He muttered a few syllables I couldn't make out, as if in response to someone who was addressing him. Finally he opened his eyes and we continued along the path.
Upon reaching the end of the Phonecian ruin so drably named "Picnic Point," we paused to consider the modern city of Madison spread out before us. Cosmo di Madison was clearly in a good mood, regardless of his recent arrest and regardless of the thousands upon thousands of flakes and corrupt propagandist fuckwads that were that very moment, we knew it, working their half-baked evil in every building on the skyline.
"It's been a long haul, honey, but we'll make it yet," he said. "The Third Offensive is well under way, ya hear me?"
This, reader, was the perfect time to ask him about the Third Offensive.
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