Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:46 pm - The Holy City
645 E. 14th St 9E
New York, New York 10009
The Holy City
A Novel by Matthew Paris
This novel was printed under an NEA Grant by Carpenter Press in 1979. It has received much praise for its beauty of language and social vision. Home Planet News has called it one of the great books of the century. This revised version produced by the author in 1994 has attempted to thin out language with the richness of poetry for the more general page turning reader.
The Holy City is the story of Daniel Maggid, a very connected higher up in an Eastern crime syndicate his wars and deals with the Western crimes operations of Smith and Colon. His world is filled with agents, double agents, robots called Wobblies, palaces of pleasure like sophisticated home entertainment systems, and The Holy City, a super-shopping mall on the Palisades. Maggid moves through a world of artifice and sensuality, killing and negotiating his way to a final deal with Smith. In the erotic scenes, he makes love to robots, a car, and lovers whose nature is unnameable. for the general reader the mayhem, violence, lovemaking and weirdness is unflagging,. For the intelligent and selective reader the novel is a commentary on American Materialism and the dark uses of technology. It also has a rather strong Jewish element. The author grew up in the territory of murder incorporated and some of the flash and complexity of that world is reflected in this novel.
This novel should be marketed as a straight science-fiction book. Its obvious similarities are to novels by Jack Vance, Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, William Burroughs, and William Gibson, though it was written without these models, and before William Gibson began his career. The novel never had its optimal audience; it came out ten years before Gibson had established a market for Cyberpunk. There were no video games that established the pop art pedestal from which Gibson persuade editors to buy his work. But it fits in with the criteria Bruce Sterling states are the qualities of Cyberpunk: near-future setting, hero from the bottom, focus on humans affected by technology.
For The Memory of Morris Paris, My Father:
"O gentlemen, the time of life is short!
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour,
And if we live, we live to tread on kings;
If die, brave Death, when princes die with us!
Now, for our consciences, the arms are fair,
When the intent of bearing them is just.
Let each man do his best; and here draw I
A sword, whose temper I intend to stain
With the best blood that I can meet withal
In the adventure of this perilous day.
Sound all the lofty instruments of war,
And by that music let us all embrace;
For, heaven to earth, some of us never shall
A second time do such a courtesy."
What do they mean by the Lord is One? He is complete, beyond Life and Death and this Perfection you search for. One stands in a huge temple, and what are all those walls but gilded death?
As the Torah says, you have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge but not from the Tree of Life, yet your ignorance leads you to impatience with Life.
You abjure it for artifice that will entomb you more prematurely, more richly, more carnally, more totally in a burlesque Paradise.
There are only fools in Eden, navelless in their unconscious fecundity. Adam and Eve, both had eaten the Apple and known wisdom would have inevitably left the Earthly Paradise out of torpor.
The Apple leads out into the wastes to many deaths but Work and Death is the true path. Long, picturesque, convolute, it leads most directly to Heaven.
Rabbi Kalman Bialystoker
The Big Apple
Daniel Maggid stood in front of a row of brine stained barrels filled with pickling watermelon rinds, green tomatoes and cucumbers. Warm odors of potato pancakes rich as gold coin spewed thickly through the open door.
In the back of Fleischmann's, the three men he had been looking for were sipping celery tonic at the usual table. Maggid smiled bleakly and strolled into the delicatessen, appraising the bloody belly of great but anonymous beasts hanging on steel hooks behind the front counter.
Of course, his old friends were watching him. Abe Godol did not miss anyone who ambled through the restaurant. He scanned the people who sauntered in and out of the men's rooms, the Wobbly busboys, especially the redjacketed waiters coming and going from the kitchen. They took him in with the singular gaze with which men view other men. It was watchful, alert with the memories of tigers and deer that moved through the jungle, beyond fear or warmth.
Maggid observed Abe Godol with a similar stare. All of them had gone through the ceremony that had taken them out of the middle class life. after one had killed one man one could never be terrorized by anything short of death afterwards. They were all different from the commuters who were in fear of a stock ascending or plummeting, or a foreclosure on a mortgage. If the bourgeois train riders who shook with panic and a turn in the news or took their reality out of a television set called them criminals because they lacked an army, a showpiece theater for the voters, a battalion of educators, and a cabal of priests to run their interests, Maggid would accept the category. A criminal was better off than a man who shook when his boss strode through the office or thought the police protected him.
Nothing stood between Maggid and his allies and the slammer or a grave but guns and their intelligence. Abe was a master at staying alive. Even a pistol rarely roused him to alertness. He was a beautiful predator. Slouched in his rumpled sharkskin suit, his look was oddly gnomic.
Maggid watched him carve boiled meat on a porcelain plate, slowly dipping it in icy white horseradish. Kid Choco¬late looked directly at Maggid. He was natty but rigid in a yellow silk suit, a tilted blue hat and an emerald tie.
Next to him, Lime Schwartz, ineffably dapper, dipped a sliver of dewy green fruit into his coppery tea. Schwartz was the only one of them that had ever married. Women usually did not like him. He was doubly protected by wisdom and experience against another conjugal error; Maggid had avoided marriage merely out of assessment. With the Wobblies around there was no reason for anyone with a little cash and a car ever to marry. If one wanted a family one did that best by raising haploids.
Maggid sniffed at the salty air and shrugged. The humid atmosphere was palpably perfumed with pastrami, chicken fat, liver. On this holy evening after Yom Kippur men were breaking their fast after confronting their own lives, being born again after the little death. Maggid absorbed the mingled metaphysics and family dirges muttered by behatted peasants huddled over borscht and thick barley soup. He swerved, bumped into tanklike women as he meandered through the asymmetrically placed tables. Epicene, silhouetted at the left of the seltzer fountains, a waiter stood, skeletal as a praying mantis, looking on Maggid with dry irony. He was a Wobbly. In a Jewish restaurant even the Wobbly waiters were expected to be a bit disdainful of the customers.
Maggid stared at the hanging rows of dry pastrami like a skein of longdead bodies in a torture chamber, and marched forward. The lackey who disappeared into the kitchen with a look of awe. As Maggid approached Godol and his gang, an enormous television set embedded on the far wall near the apricot ¬tinted entrances to the lounges erupted into life, a sea of light. Pure inchoate noise hissed at Maggid through the radiance. It was a music to Maggid that promised a night of pleasure.
Maggid listened for a moment to low snarls growling below the white static. They had the impersonal guttural sound of stone beasts. The adamantine music touched him obliquely in a dim whisper. Abe Godol stretched out his hand silently as Maggid approached him.
"You're looking tired, Daniel," Kid Chocolate muttered huskily.
"I'm not," Maggid answered in his melodious voice.
Maggid was not fatigued. The reference was to his recondite lovelife, not his enervated appearance. Maggid felt the icy focus of a jaguar. His brain was abstracted, his body a little fucked out maybe, his spirit addled in a nameless funk from pale blue Queen Mango and her winy hot dolphin's urethra. Maggid was queer for sea-going mammals. They had performed the mucal gavotte slowly and sinuously for hours, his head almost fall¬ing into her wide mouth as they roiled over the empty Colloidal Coun¬cil floor.
"Not at all tired," Maggid said. "Meditative."
"Very Jewish," Kid Chocolate smiled.
"Thinking is a luxury we can all afford," Lime Schwartz said enigmatically.
"What are you thinking about?" Abe asked.
"Time," Maggid remarked.
"Very Greek," Kid Chocolate said.
"We come and go, don't we?" Abe Godol said wearily.
"Fleischmann's was once filled with mammoths and buffalo, Chocolate," Maggid grinned.
He looked beyond the window at the colorless filthy street. The whores were parading down Houston street on their way toward Roosevelt Park where they were picked up by the new Chinese emigrants. The prostitutes were Wobblies. No diseases, no pimps, no muggings, no trouble.
"It was filled with trees. Indians hunted deer where were sitting. The Dutch cut down forests and farmed under your chair. It smelled like horse manure, not pastrami."
"The Indians must have knocked off somebody to run Manhattan," Kid Chocolate said.
"I like deli," Godol said. "You eat it right away. No hunting. It's better than clubbing a deer to death."
"I like Wobblies," Maggid smiled, looking out the window. "Better sex. Nothing ends up in court."
"You're on the fritz from Mongo, Maggid," Kid Chocolate sighed with a slight hiss.
Maggid's romance with the dolphin queen was the talk of New York. The liberals loved him for having the ultimate interracial romantic intimacy. If it were up to them, Maggid reflected, they would make sleeping with vegetables fashionable and banal. Mango was a special case, not a political act; he never did anything to be an amorous model for anyone else.
Maggid had been a lover of the spirit of Mango, not one who stopped at gave her carnal satisfactions worthy of her recondite erotic hungers. He had spewed his oddly maroon orgasm, dyed with Holy Party Of God chemicals, into an artificial amorphous aperture hidden by her back flip¬pers that had been carved in her flesh by one of Holy Party Of God's cosmetic surgeons. For Maggid it had been a clue to the infinite; it had opened doors to empty spaces beyond the world of Forms.
Maggid's well-publicized trysts with Queen Mango had been a strange accident. He had only arrived at the Amalgamated Nations to barter fleshly currency with the Holy Party Of God, to buy a cube of alum from the mystical Queen Mango; it was all business. An odor of reconstituted whalefat had penetrated the entire chamber. After the banquet in the empty room was redolent with yak butter, cinnamon, bean curd, curry, mayonnaise, pig bladders, okra, guava paste, garlic, cloves and spluddip, he had tasted her fishy tongue the cascades of energy in her spiced saliva like ether in darkness.
"Even we come and go," Maggid grinned.
"We''re in the same league as the White people who came here," Godol said.
He looked at a circle of tunafish on the table. It was a chunk of pure utility. It had nothing to do with any fish. The cuisine had no more memory than anything else in America that had happened more than five years ago.
"You're an Arctic explorer, Daniel."
"I suppose," Daniel Maggid said.
Maggid did not think so. He was drifting jetsam in the surging flood of history. he had escaped some of it by avoiding work and marriage. But as the technology made things possible that were formerly the dreams of psychotics the world was imploding and Maggid had been feeling strangled by the global pulverization of all that had walked the earth before the latest mergers with the mineral realm. With Mango he had savored the powerful sexuality between human and dolphin, and had forgotten for a moment his role as manager of the New York crowd for Diamond, Smith who ruled the West and was his old friend and now immortal adversary, the whole cosmic struggle for The Holy City.
"I'm just sexually depleted," he shrugged.
"You walk into the room with a memory, Daniel," Godol said. 'It's very Jewish."
"People buy traditions," Lime Schwartz said. They buy land too."
"What you purchase, you can sell too," Abe said.
"Only love isn't for sale," Maggid grinned.
"You get any new diseases from Queen Mango?" Kid Chocolate asked.
Maggid remembered everything about his assignation with Queen Mango. He had pressed a button behind a nosegay of flags. They fell behind a white divan made of North Pole rat fur. The chamber had become one vast schizophrenic skull, a windy cacophony chanting sere¬nades in nasal rhetoric, records of statesmen and translators braying the dumb wail of politics filling the hall, punctuated by whispers of bargains in Wobblies, ghosts, salty emetics, frozen pterodactyl meat, incomprehensible frogs, minerals for vegetarians a whining divertiss¬ment to define the cosmopolitan geography of their love.
Now, back in the world of forms, it was time to forget his lover, the Antarctic Lost City Moon Queen, her salty amphibian moves, her lascivious aquamarine flesh. He was back in the dimen¬sional vectors below these wet oceanic dreams where the white jewels spewed out colorless light, the babble of voices, one of his refuges to plot the aery war for The Holy City.
"All of them," Daniel Maggid said.
"Not you," Chocolate said. "You're healthy."
"It's a mortal luxury," Daniel Maggid said.
Daniel Maggid drank a glass of celery tonic. He was feeling as though he needed to make a move against Smith. He was not much in a spiritual mood. Mango or no Mango, if he did not crystallize his energies in New York, Smith and his Wobbly androids would fling him into precocious ethereality.
"We have to make a hit," Maggid said.
"You told us over the phone," Kid Chocolate said.
"Jews never forget anything," Abe Godol said.
"We need to keep our turf, Abe," Daniel Maggid said.
Daniel Maggid patted the Ben Schmus pistol, heavy in the shoulder hol¬ster above his heart. It was a habitual gesture defining his carnal iden¬tity. Ultimately he was not a lover. He enjoyed the erotic interludes that fell his way as a warrior but they never touched his core.
It was the thaumaturgy of women to do such alchemy, and many of them were on Lesbos, formerly Mars, where the Astral Feminists had their military base. The world he lived in was not over-rich in femininity.
"You've talked over the Ghost invasion with Queen Mango?" Kid Chocolate asked him amiably.
"The Dead are on our side," Maggid smiled with a swagger. "Also the whales, the qualax and the whole rest of Antarctica."
"What's a qualax?" Lime Schwartz asked.
"They're blind, deaf and dumb, they eat kril and they reproduce under the polar icecap," Maggid said. "That's all you have to know, Schwartz."
"Who needs them" Schwartz asked.
Kid Chocolate reached into his pocket, began chewing a carob coated candy bar with huge vul¬pine teeth.
"Is it sort of like a crab?"
"You've never really been laid till you've fucked your first qualax," Maggid said simply. "You're probably still shtupping penguins, right, Schwartz?"
"You couldn't guess my love life, Daniel," Schwartz shrugged. "If I name names, the celebrities on their knees would bring the country down. If you're playing patriot, Daniel, don't ask."
"I was lining up allies at the Amalgamated Nations," Maggid answered. "Not just the qualax."
"You have been an ambassador to the animal world," Abe Godol said.
It was not entirely true. The sex with Queen Mango had been an exchange deeper than an amorous minuet between intelligent beings, but Maggid had long since given up on trying to explain to others what happened between living creatures when they were open to the miracle of another beyond them.
It was better to talk as if one had made love to close a deal. The politics had established for them a Sahara base for obscure currency, the cornering of the simulated adhesive market. Greenland had volunteered to destroy their entire artisan class to raise the prices in whalebone axes, Peru had agreed to exterminate a tribe of weird mountain homi¬nids and give them for autopsy to medical centers all over the world. The delegates of a central African country had committed some eldritch form of ceremonial suicide.
"We need allies," Lime Schwartz said.
"We've got Julio Sforza, and Maggid's zoo," Kid Chocolate said.
"It's hunting prey in a world of sharks," Abe Godol said. "The barracudas all have a long history of eating up the minnows, and everybody likes shark meat so nobody trusts each other."
"Mango is for us," Maggid smiled.
In this environment, his tryst with Queen Mango was only a magical act in which both lovers had been welded into an alliance against Smith of the West, The Holy City, and the impersonality in their own death. He thought of what he had been through with Mango. was it a glandular imbalance, a fever, a ceremony that mimicked intimacy without ever crossing the borderlands of knowledge of the other? He would never know. The social truth was he had access to an underwater army.
"How's the love life at the Amalgamated Nations generally?" Lime Schwartz asked vaguely.
"I've been fucking stateswomen, not those grass widows you guys keep bouncing on their back at the Supreme Court," Maggid said.
Abe Godol bit into a disk of pastrami laced with black paper and coughed loudly.
"Remember Hollywood, Daniel?" Abe Godol said.
A wan look creased his face. Godol reached involuntarily for his gun as the emaci¬ated Wobbly waiter walked toward him with a glass of sour milk. Abe Godol eased his hand over the old Russian drink as the caramel colored elixir brewed from barley, malt and rye, bubbled softly on the table. Maggid sipped the beverage. Godol shook his head philosophically.
"The girls," Abe began.
"That was another time," Daniel Maggid said with a smile. "How's your boyfriends, Abe?"
"That Apache, Ravi, calls himself Eric, hates me just like my other godchildren, Sandor and big Schlomo," Abe Godol said. "I'm not a cowboy."
"You need a Wobbly," Kid Chocolate said.
"He doesn't like you," Kid Chocolate said, drinking his celery tonic. "That's why Eric lives in Texas."
"I am who I am," Abe Godol smiled. "If I was looking for respect I would have had Sforza make me a judge on the Ultimate Court, a steel executive, or a talk show host."
"Your boyfriends don't believe in God," Lime Schwartz said. "Then they don't believe in you."
"Look, I am Canadian Real Estate," Abe Godol said murkily. "I've managed to con a little justice out of a lousy world, Schwartz."
"You're a longtime fighter for the underdog,"Lime Schwartz said.
"Shit, we're here," Kid Chocolate said. "We're still in business."
"How's the orgies with Aubrey and Sappho?" Maggid asked Kid Chocolate amiably.
"They went to Lesbos," Godol said.
Maggid grinned. Abe Godol tapped the table with a toothpick. "I'm too tired to fuck anymore like the old days," Abe said. "Hollywood was great for me. it spoiled me."
"All right," Maggid said.
Maggid fondled his kvass as though it were a breast. A waiter, a pend behind his ear, a fringe of curly black hair accentuating his baldness, walked toward the table.
"We're hitting him," Lime Schwartz said.
"Fockerella Pagan." Maggid said.
"Fockerella Pagan," Kid Chocolate murmured.
The television set began to shriek with epicene wails. A large blob of pure indigo floated across the screen. Abe Godol picked up a hot glass of tea, stared at it, sipped it meditatively.
Pagan was truly big business. A Panamanian whose habits with robots had prepared him for amorous rites with turquoise pigs at the Opera, Pagan's legendary parties had long en¬deared him to the New York crowd. He was the first to serve baby food next to the cocaine.
"The world will be less colorful," Maggid remarked.
"I'll take the responsibility," Abe Godol said.
Maggid's spies informed him Pagan was betting on Smith of the west in the current war. Maggid knew why. Smith had an epic sense that Pagan liked. Pagan had always wanted to make life into Art; Smith was the sort of shopping mall purveyor of wet dreams that pagan valued in his quest for the quintessential illusion. Pagan was too literary for even his own taste. His aim was to make all mass and energy infinitely malleable and utterly a slave to his capricious will.
His Hampton celebrations had turned a few imported nuclearly atomized atolls into figures of unutterable beauty and horror. He killed baby seals, whales, innumerable avian species that were almost extinct, immediately after he photographed them.
The destruction of an entire form of life struck him as the sort of thing only God and himself were fit to do. He was aware that he was no deity; it made him at times melancholy. Nature was prodigal. He knew his night¬mares were too studied, too artistic.
"He's a gambler," Maggid said. "Maybe he has the edge."
"Gamblers go broke," Kid Chocolate said. "They also get dead. You know how many guys have been iced for not picking up their markers?"
"I can't count that high," Maggid said.
"Smith is a bad bet," Kid Chocolate said.
Smith had herded people in Asia like cattle. He had decimated cities, countries, dreaming of the destruc¬tion of planets, galaxies, universes, with a crudity that made Pagan's rococo style look unnatural.
"It'll be a pleasure," Kid Chocolate said.
"Sidney Brownsville sends his compliments," the waiter said wear¬ily, drifting by the table.
The Wobbly laid a bowl of mushroom and barley soup tinted with green dye on the table. The silicon lackey handed a large sheaf of money to Kid Choco¬late.
"Sid was by an hour ago."
"He's got a strange sentimental side," Kid Chocolate said.
The waiter walked away toward the kitchen. Kid Chocolate looked at Mag¬gid cunningly.
"You need a martyr, don't you, Daniel?" he asked.
"Pagan's a traitor," Maggid said. "It's as simple as that."
"Where do we hit him?" Godol asked.
"At the Opera," Maggid answered, standing up suddenly. "There's a Howard Bruder premiere. One murder more or less won't make a difference. People will think it's part of the music."
"It will be," Godol said. Lime Schwartz laughed. "You got any fancy arias you want us to sing while we do this, Daniel?"
"It's got to be atonal," Maggid smiled.
"Naturally," Lime Schwartz muttered.
"Where at the Opera?" Godol asked. "On the stage?"
"Say, this is a high class crime," Kid Chocolate said. "I hope the money is good."
"You're in on the war against Smith," Maggid said. "We're going after The Holy City. Sforza will talk to you."
"I haven't worked with Sforza since Hollywood," Abe Godol said. "He's a professional."
"He has a competence," Maggid said. "He's an executive now. You remember him as a mere pimp."
"He was a wonderful pimp," Abe Godol said. "He was one of the people that made Hollywood magical."
"He's into nostalgia," Maggid said sardonically. "His whorehouses have real girls in them."
He grinned. Such period piece love had a nostalgic flair to those whose interests were generally archeological. But it never held them very long in the brothel. Real women in a bordello only made money when the sporting house itself were mobile, usually a jet pane, and the customer turnover was volatile.
"If you can prove she's a Wobbly you get your money back," Maggid said.
"Sforza," Lime Schwartz said. "I have him to thank for a lot of pleasure."
"You've got a right to feel grateful," Kid Chocolate said. He looked at Maggid amusedly. "Is it true what I read in the fancy newspapers?"
"Nothing is true," Maggid said.
"Bernie Diamond isn't dead. That's interesting," Kid Chocolate said. "Good. I'm going to the funeral anyway."
"Pagan," Lime Schwartz muttered. "I feel as if I'm doing something better than winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It's an important killing."
"Nothing is important," Abe said."As Daniel says, it all goes down to oblivion."
"Shtummie Putz will get the story in the newspapers," Maggid said offhandedly. "If you kill a Wobbly, Fockerella Pagan will be legally dead."
Abe Godol looked at him.
"I'll be seeing him at the Opera this evening,"Maggid said.
The waiter brought Abe Godol another bowl of mushroom and barley soup. It had the look and consistency of vomit but it warmed the spirit in from the world of winter.
"Sidney Brownsville?" Abe asked.
The waiter nodded and drifted way.
"A strange man," Lime Schwartz said. "He likes the people that try to kill him."
"You can't explain Sidney," Lime Schwartz said.
"He's indifferent to me," Maggid answered. "This is business. We're allies not friends."
"It's mysterious," Lime Schwartz said. "You say he's also allied with Smith?"
Maggid nodded. He had a map in his head of the war zone and the combatants. Unlike the wars between slaves, the warriors were in the shadows, nobody got dressed up, and the sides changed more quickly than the bubbles in a motile chemical brew.
"Along with Exeter," Maggid said. "He's a bigot. The oil game, old money, into South America, Red slavery, Christianity, cocaine, the whole works. He's got a good side though. He's a vegetarian."
"Exeter," Lime Schwartz said. "Do we kill him too?"
"It's precision work," Maggid said. "An assault on Exeter is a military operation, Schwartz. He's the money mogul of The Holy City."
"Banking and credit," Abe Godol said. "If I would have thought of it, nobody would have bought it."
"Exeter," Lime Schwartz said. "You know, Shakespeare could write about this. It's like killing royalty."
Maggid put a fork into a cylinder of stuffed derma. It had the faint spoor of cow turds that added an equivocal sweetness to the cereal and spices in the grain sausage. Maggid tasted the rich fatty gruel. It had a memory. The past with its poverty and its fear of the winter were in this mixture of grease and barley.
"Exeter"s ancestors imported most of Sicily and Poland to work their mills. Smith bought and sold him like a whore. He runs banking side of The Holy City for Smith, He's corrupt in weird ways," Maggid remarked. "You'll like him though, he's photogenic."
"If Fockerella Pagan fucks blue pigs, what does Philip Exeter do to be perverse eat shit?" Kid Chocolate said.
"Goddamnit, why should I tell my children I'm in the Olive Oil business when Exeter's around, Daniel?" Kid Chocolate asked with a comic flair.
"It's all style, cosmetics," Abe Godol said. "They've all got to be after sex, power, money, not in that order, and Smith is the worst of them all because his style is monkish. Exeter and Pagan I like they're crazy enough for me."
"You're a deep one," Kid Chocolate shook his head.
"I have an understanding of killers," Abe Godol said. "They're hunters. I'm a killer myself."
"They're more like Wobblies," Maggid said. "They'll try to move everybody into The Holy City. We'll all be immigrants in a cosmic de¬partment store. That's not why we came to America, Abe."
"The Holy City, the Wobblies, are here to stay," Kid Chocolate said. "We'll have to run The Holy City ourselves afterwards."
"Our way," Lime Schwartz interrupted. "I like it."
"Exactly," Maggid said. "Let's go."
They stood up, laid a few bills on the table and sauntered out, casually taking in the endless greyfaced men huddled over their talk and schnapps. There were no assassins here. They passed through the open door, hit the street and turned left toward a wide boulevard.
"You're an educated hit man," Lime Schwartz said. "It must feel different to take out a guy when you've ben to college, Daniel."
Maggid shook his head. His education and given him the mobility that manners and a common language with men of power can offer a man as tools to produce his own ends. But they tried to train him to be a middleman, a wimp, a lackey who had wealth but not power. The lineaments of freedom without the theater in which he could work his will was not Maggid's way. He had drifted into crime from business. It was a natural move. It was a matter of definition and inevitable. it was hard to say which was more amoral or violent, but what people called crime and criminals did not pay taxes. At least in one way crime was preferable to business. Sometimes if one were lucky one could look out the window and it would be a street, a lawn, a beach that was not built by others to make money for them. In a land of pure utility that view was everything.
"It feels scary and good," Maggid said.
"Yeah," Lime Schwartz said.
Killing made one human being much like another. The gourmets of mayhem were few these days; Maggid had never met any master slayer. He had never seen a torture chamber or talked with Siamese champions of exquisite pain. For the past few centuries most killers with a taste for grandeur did little more than dress up millions of people in uniforms, hand them weapons, and have them slaughter each other till the master gamester imposed an armistice out of boredom. His own century added holocausts by gas chambers, plagues, and ovens but they all had the stamp of oldtime factory efficiency. Maggid was a killer for spiritual reasons. The cosmos was a theater of indifference.
In a deep way Lime Schwartz was right. Daniel Maggid had come to the world of murder armed with philosophy. He was a bit of a Darwinist. He wanted to throw up when he heard anyone talk about the sanctity of human life. There was nothing from one end of the universe to the other that was holy. The cosmos was not accidental trash either; it was neutral. I had the inner truth of a Wobbly in its subatomic dances. It was the central reason why Maggid cultivated the brothels of silicon lovers when he went out to new Jersey.
"But it's reductive," Maggid said. "A man doesn't hunt and kill any differently than a herring."
"Maybe we could learn from a smart herring," Kid Chocolate said.
"I don;'t know any smart herring," Lime Schwartz said.
Daniel Maggid looked down Houston Street with cold blue eyes, a nostalgia soft¬ening the steely toughness in his face. Next to him an appetizing store displayed carrot stews, oily herring in cream, salmon like orange hills, smoked carp gold as Biblical armor, large trays of snowy cream cheese, dried cherries, apricots and prunes, pickles marinating in barrels, glazed cadavers of whitefish.
"Smith and his gang are trying to muscle in on New York," Maggid
"It's not simple," Abe Godol said. "Why did Bernie Diamond fake dying so seriously that he spent a lot of bills to make his funeral fancy?' "That's an important secret," Maggid answered him soberly.
"And what about Fokine, Starker, von Schlossberg, Noguchi,¬ where are they?" Abe Godol asked.
"What about Joe Szechuan?" Kid Chocolate said.
"Joe Szechuan," Lime Schwartz murmured.
"It's not that simple "I'll have to talk to Szechuan," Maggid said. "He's the King of New Jersey. He'll want concessions on salad oil refineries, pizzerias, gambling, roadhouses, whores and parking lots mostly."
"We'll want a few floors of The Holy City," Abe Godol said. "We are in touch with shoes, suits, ties, ice cream and certain natural foods, soy beans, dried bananas, defatted wheat."
"Don't forget the imitation Japanese wholesale line," Kid Choco¬late said. "Fried ants, desalted seaweed, quickfrozen sculptured fish."
"You'll get it," Maggid said. "After we take The Holy City. Smith won't let us just walk in there, Abe."
Maggid heard a low rasping like the sighs of an ineluctable animal. He looked up in momentary terror and saw the church in which imper¬sonal music was hummed by dynamos. Beyond the endless heaps of tenements, the Con Edison building hung hazily in the mica sky, its grim architecture of girders and faceless wags pouring down silt steadily from squat grey towers. Ghosts were screaming with little cries in its maw secrets buried in the sterile insect world. Hawks and gulls wheeled above these vast temples.
"Don't worry," Abe Godol said. "We will be there."
"The Holy City is the Future," Lime Schwartz grinned. "We want at least a couple of floors, maybe even a pavilion."
"Shit," Kid Chocolate said. "America is a real estate gimmick."
"The planet, the universe," Maggid sighed. "Between our bunch and Smith there is only a little matter of chance and luck in the land of oppor¬tunity."
"Smith doesn't know New York," Abe Godol said.
Smith did know New York, Daniel thought. For smith this city was the home of a dusky international army that had never become American.
"Smith has contempt for us," Maggid said. "We're not real Ameri¬cans."
"Only the Indians are real," Abe Godol smiled. "They're mostly dead aren't they?"
They reached the corner of a boulevard. Godol put up his hand to hail a taxi. To their left the old Jewish slum still radiated life, warm and rich at the frontier, the street covered with faceless rows of six¬story tenements, gutters jeweled with cans and orange peel, the sour scent of fresh rye bread filling the air. Maggid let his eye rove over the suit and pants bazaars, the special shops selling blue and white shawls, hoary Hebrew prayers, nationalist pamphlets, fiery Yiddish sermons, the orthodox Jews standing in front of the little bars, arguing in the old tongue with its subtle music under the garish white light.
"One day we'll be dead," Lime Schwartz said.
"Like the buffalo," Abe Godol laughed.
Maggid nodded. To Smith in the West these were shadowy ghosts who languished on the farther shore of the New World. To the Wobblies, even Smith in his machine like austerities was one more stage of the human animal on its way to obsolescence. Maggid could not picture the future cosmic trash heap. He did not believe in Progress it stunk too much of a happy Death.
"You were pals with Smith once," Lime Schwartz said to Maggid.
"We'll be buddies again," Daniel Maggid said. "But he still thinks his people did the job of clearing out the Indians. No us. That makes him American and us cattle."
"We weren't here," Schwartz said.
"We got here to populate the land they had taken from the last of the Mahicans with White people," Abe Godol said."They took everybody- even us. Then Woodrow Wilson closed down the Statue Of Liberty. Too many cattle weren't cattle; they were Reds."
"That's what Exeter's people said," Maggid agreed.
Once Exeter's grandfather had recruited men for the factory, and now men would resist the blandishments of The Holy City, would endure when the insect world was long dead.
"They really wanted Wobblies," Lime Schwartz said. They got us."
"Now they've got Wobblies," Kid Chocolate said.
The wail of rubber tires stopping on the tarry street jangled Maggid's nerves. A cab stopped and the four men piled into the back seat.
"Opera House," Lime Schwartz said to the driver.
"Roger, wilco and out," the android cabby said.
His ocher Wob¬bly head gleamed in the darkness. Wobblies of this cheap nature did not even appear to have thoughts of their own. They spoke in clichés that were at best fashionable, comforting or arch vessels of nostalgia. The taxi took off toward the West Side.
"The Opera is educational for children," the Wobbly said.
"Shut up," Lime Schwartz said.
"Opera is good for you," the Wobbly droned. "Italian and German are beautiful languages. It's hard to play the violin. I like to drink champagne cocktails between the acts, don't you?"
"Shit," Kid Chocolate said. "If I shot you in the head, Wobbly, what would happen?"
"That would be a tragedy," the Wobbly said. "That would be a wanton act of violence, a crime, an act of brutality, a shame, isn't that terrible?"
"God," Kid Chocolate said. "Forget it."
"You'd still have to pay your fare," Maggid said. "Unless you have an axe. The doors close automatically."
"You meet nice people at the Opera," the Wobbly said. "They have more class, a sense of decency, an appreciation of the higher things in life; they're not the crass sort of people one meets every day; they're gentlemen, fine types, you wouldn't be afraid to lend them money."
"Enough," Maggid said. "Listen, we hate the Opera."
"It's silly, those fat girls, those flatfooted tenors," the Wobbly said imperturbedly. "It makes me fall asleep."
"I must kill him," Lime Schwartz said.
"I hate Wobblies myself," the Wobbly said. "What are they trying to do, just because they can work, make love and kill better than us, take over America?"
"I'm going crazy," Lime Schwartz said. He took out his gun and swatted the Wobbly behind the ear. The blow made no impression on the robot.
"I feel better," Lime Schwartz said.
"It's good to be crazy," the Wobbly said. "I feel better too."
The cab turned a corner, drove uptown slowly. A light drizzle fell over the town in an iron mist. Maggid savored the vague sheets of light fleeing down from the sky.
"You like Wobblies, don't you, Daniel?" Lime Schwartz said.
"I don't know," Maggid said vaguely.
Like seemed too strong a word. Maggid had ambivalent responses to Wobblies. But they were all minor and trivial. Wobblies deserved such near indifference; they were the true cattle Exeter's ancestors had dreamt of when they filled the factories with his own people. Wobblies were more than the successors to his own tribe in America. The tragedy of men domesticated like cattle was that they were men. they would revolt, turn to crime, become competitors of the masters who were also men. Wobblies had with a few exceptions like Joe Szechuan the character of perfect slaves. There were all kinds but all were created for pure utility out of a Western science that reveled in armies, discrete reality, numbers, statistics, definitions, and identifying truth as use. It was a species of insanity that needed Wobblies to make it stable and real. Men were the wrong species and gender for anyone who hungered for power.
"I use them," Maggid said.
"What a surprise," Abe said.
"They're like shoes; after a while you throw them away," Lime Schwartz said. Maggid recognized the quote; it was from 20th century mobster and philosopher Sam Giancana. "You can't do that with people."
"You have to kill them," Abe said.
"Or marry them," Kid Chocolate said.
"Only if they're women," Abe grunted.
Many said that women were equally wrong for those who wanted love and intimacy. A Wobbly promised nothing but pleasure and gave exactly what it seemed to offer. Nature breathed in and out of the openended spaces like a barely palpable vapor, though a good deal of it was unreal in the local system of thought, cunning about what made men similar, ignorant on what made them different.
Men of power organized their slaves around vice because an obsession or addiction could be controlled, copied, manipulated. Virtue reinforced the contract between man and God. the present kings of the world were distracting the populace from such cosmic legal covenants with television, jobs that paid too much, and all manner of other magical illusion.
"I wonder what's happening on Lesbos," Lime Schwartz said.
"They're like us," Kid Chocolate said. "They have Wobblies."
Maybe, Maggid thought. Western science was always surprised by Creation and unable to invoke the energies of any singularity or original eccentric. The Wobbly was the dream of the American oligarchs of the 19th century. He was the product of Western science, laboratories, mazes of white sterile rooms in castles like silicon hospitals. He loved clichés the way boozers sucked up cheap wine. Beneath his banalities he was the golem of the local science, the messiah that would redeem the elites from the dross of 18th century humanity.
"Ever visit Lesbos, Daniel?" Lime Schwartz asked.
"Yeah," Maggid said. "Great Wobblies."
And they were, he meditated. Maggid was amused by them, had made love to them, and was vaguely aware that the best of them were the equal of human beings at thought and originality. Joe Szechuan was smarter and more charming than most normal people. Somehow the spirit of life had conched itself in the luxury androids. But he felt the autumnal sense that the Wobbly had made his own species irrelevant if alive as the platypus.
"You sleep with Lesbian Wobblies," Abe Godol said.
"Wobblies never sue you," Maggid said.
Abe laughed. Trucks behind the taxi switched lanes rest¬lessly; they were obviously not being driven by Wobblies. Light hung in the air, the soft tints of neon streaming down like ectoplasm from the heavy marquees. Ghostly names on billboards floated through the fog. In front of them two trailers moved uptown, horrors of glass, steel and oil moving through the necropolis.
The Wobbly turned a corner in the filthy street. Honking horns struck Maggid with a vague memory. Once this had been an island, a forest bathed in long thick grasses. It jostled Abe Godol.
"Fuck you, Wobbly," Abe Godol said grumpily.
The Wobbly turned around slowly. Its purple eyes glowed with fury. All four men stared at the Wobbly in front of them with dread.
"Sorry," the Wobbly said.
"Forget it," Godol said.
Godol had not forgotten how to be afraid. Fear of Wobblies was not an insane emotion though they had never killed anybody but each other. Their Wobbly virility, their android passivity, had created a bestial coitus between people of all five sexes and the Wobblies that had largely replaced real love with a sort of exalted plumbing replete with carnal ferocity in America. They were sterile, had no sense of Time, gleefully ate all waste products with insane looks, changed in color, looks and lineaments to suit the private visions of satyrs, cooked gourmet meals, made war a humane and ab¬stract game like chess, were imitated by sexual deviants who achieved only the faintest mimicry of their gifts.
"If your life is difficult, have you considered therapy?' the Wobbly asked.
"I'd rather kill people," Abe said.
The Wobbly glanced at him quizzically. Men with their quirky habits, their insular dreams, their bizarre presumptions, their irrelevant lusts, were strange to these creatures neither android nor beast, even though they had assayed real intimacy with these ghostly walking motes of Heaven. Men committed suicide, trapped in the tragedy of a monkey who dreamt of perfection. Others were hardy revelers whom Wobblies emulated in both sexes; a third cabal were lackeys foaled from silicon vats to grace their table service, an eternally erectile valet and nymphomaniacal milkmaid that would fuck each other posthumously forever in a time capsule long after civilization had plummeted into oblivion.
"There is Murder Therapy," the Wobbly said.
"I don't need a therapist to shoot people," Abe said.
'You can always do things better with a guide who's an expert," the Wobbly said.
Abe shrugged. He could never communicate to any android of this class that human action could be taken up out of pure will. The Wobbly was the Ultimate Product, legally not alive, free to be adored, killed or loved; source of brothels, armies and other toys; oblique founders of whole repair industries; door to luxury attach¬ments; workers at malodorous jobs; manner of orgies, indifferent to death, never corrupt in any ordinary way; a source of perfect or perfectible luxury for even the poorest, stupidest, most unimaginative senile syphilitic in America.
If they made everyone crazy by fulfilling their dreams, they cured the hoary problem of poverty. People loved Wob¬blies, especially the young with their fresh fantasy. Even the football teams at The Holy City were all Wobblies when they weren't posh New York authors or paranoid killers out for blood. Smith in the West had created a little country where Wobblies raced, played, killed and tucked each other in a sort of spatial television. Yet everyone dreaded the Wobbly that had become an extension of themselves like their car, their house, their vision a Wobbly made Man feel like an obsolescent animal. Abe Godol hated them because they had replaced the whole proletarian class of workers, upsetting a lot of Ms socialist thought on American politics.
Dammit, you put the cabdrivers out of business, didn't you, Wobbly?" Godol queried him savagely.
Unions are getting too big in America," the Wobbly answered. "Every cabdriver got just compensation."
"Incredible," Lime Schwartz muttered. "Fucking Wobblies."
"You're a bigot," the Wobbly intoned.
"He's just a Wobbly, Schwartz," Kid Chocolate said. "Leave him alone."
"Understand me, I'm not a fighter," the Wobbly said. "Think of me as a lover."
"You don't enjoy love," Abe Godol said.
He patted a small book in his suit jacket. Maggid could not guess what it was. it might have been a bible for all he knew.
"You're a monster out of the Manual."
"You like Wobblies, don't you, Daniel?" Kid Chocolate asked Maggid, lighting a cigarette.
Maggid said nothing.
They slid through the traffic into the old midtown, now a neighborhood infested with glass and steel tombs, porno houses and Asian restaurants. Even the whores and male prosti¬tutes parading the streets were monuments to a long dead city through which legions had come and gone with only an obscure memory of the deep lusts that had brought them to lights and glamour. All of them were dead or fading to anonymity in the suburbs, ghosts untied from the dim shades of dreams, ectoplasmic heroes whose nerves had once danced in this murky extravaganza.
"It's not too different than an interactive movie." Maggid said.
"Or shooting your television set with a shotgun," Abe snorted.
When Maggid had gone to Hollywood, they had already been dead or caged in dreams in the radiant machine whose dark power had finally gilded them in death. But Mag¬gid, watching the spiky skyline, sniffing the sour odors on the harsh barren streets, remembered its vinegary perfection.
"You like to fuck Wobblies, don't you Daniel?" Kid Chocolate repeated. "You're a Wobbly lover, aren't you?"
"Upside down they make me crazy," Abe Godol said. "I like a fancy plumbing job."
"You with your idols of wood and stone," Lime Schwartz said amiably.
"Look at evolution, Abe," Maggid said to Godol. "Even moronic forms of life have a diffuse neural flow that's perfection though by our standards they're half dead. But the further one gets away from Death, the more perverted you can be. And some are.:Like Fockerella Pagan."
"So?" Abe queried.
"We're a baroque monster compared to a clam, a crab or the normal healthy insect," Maggid continued didactically. The moon pushed a cloud away. Maggid thought he could see the red planet Lesbos in the night sky. "The Wobblies are closer to Death and more sane the 18th century philoso¬phers who thought men were machines dreamt of Wobblies though they didn't know it. If we can't be Wobblies, we can make love to Wobblies and pretend we're made of steel."
"You lost me," Lime Schwartz said.
"I don't hate Wobblies, I envy them."
"You're so intellectual," Lime Schwartz said sardonically.
"I went to college, Schwartz," Maggid said. "I didn't come out an Anglican priest."
"It made you a little nuts," Abe Godol said.
"Everyone in the world should have an education," the Wobbly said.
The car floated uptown into the linear architecture hud¬dled against the river.
"College is good for you. It gives you a richness, good manners, a job, it teaches you how to be respected for yourself in polite society. It can make churls into gentlemen."
"Shut the fuck up," Abe Godol said. He turned to Daniel Maggid. "We heard you were in love with a Wobbly: a particular Wobbly."
"It's a rumor," Maggid said. He smiled easily. "I bought the Wobbly from Smith when I was in Hollywood."
"His Wobblies break down after two or three years," Lime Schwartz said. "What did Smith tell you, it was a fancy luxury Wobbly?"
"No wonder you once liked Smith," Kid Chocolate said. "Smith is dangerous; he wants to corrupt people by fucking stones. You should have stuck to women and boys like somebody normal. Hollywood made you a little crazy."
"We're in the business," Abe sighed. "don't complain."
"Love makes people crazy," the Wobbly said. "Easy women, drugs and a sensual atmosphere makes people corrupt."
Kid Chocolate took out his gun. Maggid thought he was going to shoot the Wobbly. It would have been a trivial kill. One could not destroy what was never alive. But Chocolate never worried about grandeur. Maggid had seen him shoot dogs on the street.
"Now Smith is attacking New York," Lime Schwartz mar¬veled. "It'll be a good fight."
"I don't hate Smith," Maggid said. "Killing him will be like cheat¬ing me pure business."
"Killing is my business," Abe Godol said. "I know what you
"Killing is bad," the Wobbly said. "War is good."
"Smith," Lime Schwartz muttered meditatively. "It's almost as if he's challenging you, challenging us."
"So?' Abe asked.
"Medieval plumbing was awful in the middle ages," the Wobbly said. The sky abruptly changed to a green color, filed with constellations Maggid had never seen before. It was perceptual magic. Somebody owned an astral projector normally used to give each home a different view of the universe if they looked out their window. Rogues had stolen the technology and created astral viruses when one drove down certain streets. "The peasants were downtrodden, the vassals were cruel, the nobles were arrogant; the only humanists were the Saints."
"Fuck you and history," Kid Chocolate said.
"You like duels and blood," Maggid said. "You'll like the Opera."
"You'll like the Opera," the Wobbly said. "My favorite opera is Madame Butterfly; it always makes me laugh."
"We're here on business," Abe said. "When I go to the Opera, I do the killing."
Lime Schwartz lit a cigar. It was an artificial leaf that made the smoker constipated for a day. For some reason the product was very popular. Afterwards, the customer was tethered to the toilet for several hours.
"Listen, I've seen people killed and tortured my whole life," Lime Schwartz said. "What could I see at the Opera some new way to fuck or kill somebody?"
"It's not a teaching experience," Kid Chocolate said. "You're supposed to enjoy it."
"I enjoy pissing and shitting," Lime Schwartz said." That's enough."
"Who's Bruder?" Abe Godol asked.
"The Meistersinger," Maggid grinned.
"Pagan's lover," Abe Godol said.
"Maybe," Maggid said. "Pagan is beyond anything so mundane as love."
It was true. Pagan was a technological metaphysician whose aim was to turn the entire universe into an illusion. It might have been no less in the first place but such meditations did not deter Pagan from taking up his cosmic whims. Fockerella Pagan, fatigued by his own efforts to become the first President with a Panamanian accent, had exchanged politics for Art. His initial protege was a PhD who wrote a biography of Ernest Hemingway. He collected pastiches from the Nominal Art School. He ate French food. After sponsoring nationalist operas by Hawaiians, an Apache cell¬ist, and a former Communist who was setting Stalin's complete works to music in the style of Offenbach, Fockerelia Pagan had met Howard Bruder. "And Bruder?" Abe asked Maggid.
"A man with a career," Daniel Maggid said.
"An intellectual leader," Lime Schwartz snickered.
Bruder had already garnered a wonderful Asiatic reputation¬- his both sumptuous and terrifying parodies of Bach cantatas a mania¬cal instrumental line added here and there were played in Tokyo more often than anything of Bach. He had become infamous in the public eye with his ballets: The Vitamins, Inert Gases and The Four directions, all this before his socially conscious period.
The two parts of his massive Woodrow Wilson at Versailles, with its haunting wind music, his Rutherford B. Hayes with its lovely melodies of apotheosis, the charming and epicene Vietnam, were only preludes to his two enor¬mous tone poems, Hanna and the South Korean Battle Symphony.
Pagan's first commission had been characteristic a flute and harp sonata depicting the glorious life of Ernest Hemingway, Pagan's new hero; the martial sounds of this Pulitzer Prize winning piece were played at Pagan's sexual revels as a divertissment. Then came Fisk with its insouciant tuba obligato, the eerily syncopated ballroom scenes, the a capella whorehouse bacchanals, the light touch in the stock market crashes, the opera that had established Bruder as a vocal composer. Finally, Bruder had conquered Vienna with a series of austere dodeca¬phonic recitatives, Filibuster, a setting of the complete Congressional Record to icy music.
"Don't kill Bruder; you'll recognize him. He lies to wear animal skins," Maggid said precisely. "You and the boys don't want to go down in History as the operagoers who killed the composer at his own premiere."
"History will justify you," the Wobbly said. "Opera is really good for you. Like spinach."
"Why animal skins?" Abe Godol asked.
Turn¬ing left, the cab cruised into an aperture carved in a faceless monolith and stopped to get a ticket from a metallic slot. Maggid noted that the Opera was too depersonalized to invest in a Wobbly. He watched Godol reach into his pocket and extract a heap of coins for the cab driver.
Abe Godol smiled. He had a perverse pride in paying for everything. Overwhelmed by the echoing groans of the cars, the cab stopped arbitrarily at a point among the endless rectangles painted upon the concrete.
Maggid opened the door gently. The cars gliding past him sounded like wild bulls wandering blindly in a maze. The floor was glistening with heavy oil. Godol, Schwartz and Kid Chocolate climbed out of the car. The Wobbly drove away without a word.
The trio stood among sections in these stony catacombs marked with incomprehensible letters and numbers. Maggid wondered how to get out of this underground parking lot beneath Thoreau Center he felt infantile terror as he looked for a door. In the corner a bare gateway led them in half darkness to a flight of stairs.
They climbed the steps heavily. Some racial memory of entrap¬ment within the earth made Maggid feel leaden and impotent as if in a nightmare.
The stairway was dark with jism and urine.
They emerged through an arch into the open spaces that led to the Opera. Thoreau Center was a complex of vast hive Re buildings personally designed by Fockerella Pagan to replace the rococo and effete horrors of Lincoln Center. Pagan had wanted a center of Art in New York that expressed the stark mercilessness he had seen and imitated in Nature.
Pagan was a Pantheist. Yet Maggid was always awed by the spectacular lifelessness of Thoreau Center. The stagnant pools with dark magic, the empori¬ums run by androids in a grove of elegantly shaven trees, the slightly tilted concrete meadows with their odd sense of gravity were certainly the perfect setting for the gargantuan temples in front of him, gilt with abstract figures, Babels laved in intricate mathematical cipher.
These kirks were all part of a vaster mixture of restless light, cars, rumbling music, selenic slabs of stone, robots mimicking people but only achiev¬ing an insane blend of arthropods and humanity, a planet like a huge jig¬saw puzzle dwarfing them all, the mindless cogs in an engine.
"You'll pick up three tickets in my name at the box office," Maggid said, star¬ing at an androgynous plumtinted Wobbly walking past them.
The enigma of Wobblies attending the Opera always mystified Maggid. Were they courtesans? Or did they somehow enjoy the Opera? He looked at Godol stolidly.
"Don't forget it's a public death. He'll tumble into the crowd if you hit him right."
"If there's trouble?" Kid Chocolate asked.
"I'll signal you by sticking my own head out of the box," Maggid laughed. "You'll know where to look for Pagan. You won't kill some¬body else."
"If we killed twenty or more people, nobody would know we were after Pagan in particular," Lime Schwartz said.
"Forget it," Maggid said. "We don't kill people indiscriminately."
Lime Schwartz looked miffed.
"Look, one had to draw the line some¬where," Maggid said. "I'm not trying to moralize."
"I know," Abe Godol smiled wryly. "Call me at Fleischmann's in five hours. We'll talk about money and Exeter The Holy City. I'll be speaking to some people I know, Daniel."
Daniel Maggid stood immobile on the stony plain, summoning his endless animal energy for this spectacle. As long as he did not have to think about ultimate ends and means, he was a perfect manager for Bernhard Diamond and his worldwide enterprises. The eldest son of religious folk with a singular incapacity for survival in America, Maggid had industriously trained himself to be a master in the intricacies of love, power and the intellect. Yet this whole holy war against Smith and his gang had almost been too complicated even for him; he wondered whether the extraordinary Wobbly, both Amazon and catamite, that Smith had sold him in his Hollywood days, had been a baroque plot to encapsulate him in a dream no less weird than the fantasies of Pagan.
A fatigue passed through him as he stared at the ceiling. Suddenly he felt a light tap on his shoulder.
"Still obsessed with The Holy City, Daniel?" Temkin drawled at Maggid.
Temkin was over a century and a half old, and at this point in his gargantuan life more Wobbly than human. he was a mass of implants and cunning Swiss glandular infusions. His blonde wig tilted backward and at an angle as though it were a leonine mane. Maggid turned and grinned openly. Temkin knew Maggid's mystical aspect. The Holy City had been the center of his meditations. Esoterically the huge department store on the Pali¬sades was merely the most complete shopping Paradise in the world, not an occult church inhabited by angels and demons, the Mecca of a Materialist cult superseding Socialism as the next dominant world faith. But Creation was not what it seemed. Maggid, ostensibly a sort of public magnet for Anti Semitic steel, parvenu gentleman, killer, dope¬peddler, gambler, was a visionary whose metaphysical speculations were rooted in the physical world. The Holy City, manned by Wobblies, founded and run by Smith and Exeter, had been designed in prototype in 1948, the year Israel was born.
"Hardly," Daniel Maggid said. It was a cult temple. It stood for the corporate dream of acolytes padding through a cathedral where the faithful emulated the endless shopping of the gods. "Maybe it's good enough for the goyim."
"The planet has too many Jerusalems," he sighed. "The whole universe is dotted with utopias of social engineering."
Maggid nodded. The New Jersey colossus had attracted both Jews and gentiles whose attachment to morals had once been a habit in the past, but after a few changes of location to accommodate jobs, or participate in the communal fantasies of suburban paradise, had become whimsically sentimental. Ethically neutral, it had become a court for the new thauma¬turgy: at its most magical when it seemed scientific, crass, banal.
"We're into The Holy City," Daniel Maggid said. "It's business."
"What are your products?" Temkin asked.
"We do the Wobbly erotic exotica,, Temkin," Maggid answered. "Smith does the Wobbly you pick up for a quick one in a motel."
Temkin laughed again. Mag¬gid was being brave, but in truth he was afraid of The Holy City. Its redemptive power made him wary. When younger, he had unconsciously measured his movements upon whether he was nearer or farther from it, not merely in geography but in inner vision. Maggid stared at the winesoaked old Decadent, the mask hid him perfectly.
"The Holy City," the aesthete said dreamily, the words a mantra with an arcane music.
"It's unimpressive" Maggid spat out with bile.
"You look tired," Temkin said in a low voice. "You've got the bloodshot eyes of a weary lover. I use a pure diet of pecans, raw molluscs, insects, food of love."
"What are you doing?" Maggid asked.
The critic Temkin main¬tained himself in a glaze that belied his hundred and fifty or more years of night¬life in New York. Still famed as a lover among gourmets of pickles, sauerkraut and aged steaks, the outrageous centenarian beckoned Maggid toward the Opera. Maggid nodded. He walked beside Maggid with a stiff stride, his white lips atomized in a grin.
"This is an epilogue I'm living posthumously," Temkin said. "After 90 years caged in the bonds of love, I'm finally understanding my own enigma, I dictate memoirs to a red Wobbly. I reveal amorous secrets a Pythoness would have veiled in hyperbole." Temkin whispered in a ghostly voice. "You too have an acquired taste for the operas of Howard Bruder?"
"The Opera is educational," Maggid said.
"I have to see Focker¬ella Pagan."
"Pagan," Temkin said mildly. "I'll be at the funeral."
"You'll be at mine too," Maggid smiled. "You've a genius for sur¬vival."
"We traverse the steel spokes to the hub we dance in the light we are swallowed by the sun," Temkin muttered.
They strolled through the clusters of New York intellectuals, orange birds waving amorous plumage, their bantering conversation a communal stew eaten and continually regurgitated in some obscure bovine style. The ideas were old but they were newly gilt with bizarre fragrances, iridescent colors. Maggid superficially despised their manic talk, their barking, chirping cavatinas, but when the rest of America was entombed or flooded by the shadowy dreams of television, they were bright tigers who wandered through the jungle of Creation as though it and they were still a massive entertainment. Philip Exeter passed them by without saying hello.
"Our prince," Temkin said.
"He's going," Maggid remarked.
"I'll be at the his funeral too," Temkin said.
Maggid particularly disliked Exeter. He was everything Maggid was educated to be and had no more chance of aspiring to than being the next Pope. To be a prince without power was intolerable to him. A gun evened things up between people. the class system and racism was invented to keep the outs from being the ins. It also defined the violence and corruption by which the outs became the ins anyway. Maggid had been trained by his education to be a timorous wimp turning overweight in the suburbs, reading whimsical magazines on the railroads to cut the stress while he wondered when the men in power were going to take away everything from him. A man who was not a slave could not bear to feel like a wealthy but helpless mendicant. Exeter could count on armies, the police, and media voices calling his actions just wars and the violence of others crimes and perversions. Maggid had allies like himself, White ethnics cut out of the chance to make armies do their will, and a gun. He was admired by most people because he was not cannon fodder, a shill for ghostly hustles, or a customer. The people who wanted to put him away in the slammer had tried to make him a slave but they had created an enemy.
A group of hermaphrodite dwarfs on stilts passed them, fondling the nude organs of their Wobbly lackeys openly. Shards of radiant looks, pickled wit, feral perfume as¬saulted them as they sauntered toward the fountains.
A Wobbly glitter¬ing like a glass jewel kissed Maggid on his eyelids, then levitated away into the sky.
"Death links us, life unto life, like elephants with tails in a ring," Temkin began. "This you do not know this is the mystery. I know. I met an angel at a private party almost a century ago thrown by Dia¬mond Jim Brady and the de Rezske brothers for Mahler and Toscanini. The busboy was the adolescent James P. Johnson. 0. Henry, Joplin, Frank Harris, MacDowell and Griffes lived downstairs. Horatio Parker had already tried to sell me life insurance. The Trotsky triplets had come by for pea soup and pretzels. Keynes and Daniel de Leon were talking dirty about somebody or something, I never found out who or what. George Lymon Kitteredge was squatting on the floor eating salted peanuts. Enrico Caruso prepared the pasta. Teddy Roosevelt was barfing and farting something terrible. He usually went crazy over a lot of fettucine and cheap wine. But this time Caruso served an icy black tripe in a succulent marshmallow sauce, garnished with cherries and endive, which was, by the way, delicious. The angel with its reve¬lations had still not arrived, but Mahler and Hoffman were playing cha¬rades with a bald victim of satyriasis who looked a little like but was not D'Annunzio. Toscanini was playing a turgid cello sonata. Sousa and both Gish sisters were absurdly drunk. Victor Herbert had asked Donald Francis Tovey a question about a Neapolitan sixth and Tovey sort of explained it. Feruccio Busoni and Dvorak were there for the food but said nothing but epigrams stolen from the Goncourts' Journals to anybody. Teddy Roosevelt had brought his mother and they were both eating vigorously."
The fountain sprayed the atmosphere with long glassy ellipses in sterile counterpoint to a statue of Venus standing upside down on her hands at the core. The water poured down her thighs like jism.
Maggid felt a cold deadness in the air like wind on a lifeless planet. In the mid¬dle of this watery display, three Wobblies hung from gibbets, revolving slowly like puppets in the pulsing and sputtering jets, their nacreous mimicry of flesh silhouetted in the benzine night.
One of them, a simu¬lacrum of Smith but a parody, corpulent as a balloon, swung lightly in the steely atmosphere. Passivity radiated from his square face. In a peculiar way, he looked the apotheosis of dignity. The second Wobbly was oddly skeletal in death, a rivulet of blood trickling down his pale staring face, his body an arrangement of bones masked by skin. Mag¬gid looked indifferently at this aping of Philip Exeter. Temkin grinned at him impishly.
"I'd imitate anybody but Exeter," Daniel Maggid said.
"That's your power, to know that, Daniel," Temkin said. The Wobblies would probably end up mimicking their bettors because they were lnescapable than the previous set of cattle in America in inventing a departure. Exeter was at the top of the vertical strata of a social order that has not changed any of its racist ideas since Maggid's childhood, but had discovered that if it created two classes with more wealth but not power they could terrify the bottom into submission with more efficiency. These were the Welfare class with its artificial monsters and the suburban elitists.
The first group were enticed into the web by being told absolute sanctity of human life, how they were special, valuable, how the state loved them, how a skein of benign agencies would escort them from birth to death at no charge and support their lives with endless checks and food stamps. The second bunch where hustled into going into debt to pay for cars, tract homes with lawns, and orgiastic shopping binges often reveled in on the religious holidays of bingo-playing daemonic ceremonial cults. In either case, the American managers under Exeter had made of human beings a communal horror language itself had not caught up with: something lower than slaves and cattle.
Maggid hated Exeter not because he had been himself relegated to a criminal. Being a hitman in a society like this was tantamount to being a warrior. It was as free as one got without an army and a preisthood. Your gun and your friends with guns were both your Constitution and Bill Of Rights. He didn't hate Exeter either for his understanding of human weakness.
Nature created animals like Exeter to read such vulnerability. The talent allowed them to dominate those who survived without cunning. It was Exeter's racism that attracted his ire. In the arena of power, if you were a Jew you looked like everybody who was White more or less, and were allowed in the room as long as you imitated Anglo-Saxon manners, ran the carnal industries, and never complained when the bar was full but the banquet table only had process cheese and stone crackers. It was better than being frightening or invisible like the colored ethnics in America.
"You're going to ice him," Temkin said.
"It's a reality he deserves to know about," Temkin said.
The third Wobbly was muscular, the face goodlooking in its dead way as it swung from the gibbet. Daniel Maggid felt a moment of pure terror. The Wobbly was all too recognizable. It was Maggid himself, a mirror and a burlesque of his image, his soul. Temkin drew Maggid through grey islands of electrical equipment away from the fountains.
"Bet on it," Daniel Maggid said.
"It's a joke," Temkin said. "I smell death, and this is a madhouse of enchanters where death is one more fashion. But you're too canny for your own good, Daniel."
"I can't be immortal," Maggid said. "My own good is a lost cause, Temkin."
"You'll survive beyond Smith," Temkin said. "I can sniff energy in you, Daniel. Death is a most solemn alchemy a magic trick."
"Tell me about the party," Daniel Maggid said.
"The angel was Emma Goldman," Temkin said. "She dropped in with the Tafts, Annie Besant and Scriabin they were drinking some peculiar green slivowitz she told us ecstatically about Paradise."
"A joke," Maggid said. "A bad joke."
"The dance of celebrities," Temkin murmured. "It was a great party, even if Robert Ingersoll didn't come."
"Paradise," Maggid said. "Nothing but a wheel of dreams."
"Like this one," Temkin answered. "It's been a circus, Daniel, dismantling governments with Jack London and Upton Sinclair, arguing with Father Knox about chastity, eating dessert with Henry James, eat¬ing much too much shoo fly pie and getting sick with him, guzzling California wine with Stephen, Philip and Hart Crane, drinking fiascos with Papa and Proust at La Coupole, spiking the sarsaparilla with Mark Twain, smoking various chemicals with Jean Cocteau and Andre Gide¬- by the way very good dressers attending two black masses Jean Genet held in prison, fighting Chiang Kai Chek and Mao Tze Tung as colonel of an obscure revolutionary group, loving the working class with Bunny Wil¬son and Malcolm Cowley."
Maggid shook his head with awe at Temkin. In Hollywood he had been well known for odd ama¬tory habits. He ate pickled tongue sandwiches while making love, doused women in brine, insisted on toasting now obscure celebrities with mugs of ice cold vinegar. Who could fathom the tastes of such a man?
"I ate dogs in the last world war. In Hong Kong, you can pick out a St. Bernard; they'll fry it up for you. During the 1950s I went to India with Eisenhower and had eight spasms of pure enlightenment he and I went to a lot of bizarre parties. Most people thought he was President at that time but don't always believe the history books, Daniel. They say I was the first man to fuck a ver¬milion Wobbly and it isn't true but what does it all mean, Daniel? It already exists for the Future as a fiction. It's one more color in the spectrum of inanity. It has the stench of a corpse."
"Temkin, you've survived for a hundred years," Maggid said with a laugh. "That's progress."
"So?" Temkin asked.
"That's our goal. The ones that aren't turning into Wobblies through operations in The Holy City," Maggid ruminated. "To survive like you."
"To be old to die," Temkin laughed. "What else could it be?"
"What's the point?" Maggid asked Temkin.
Temkin shrugged, stepped out of the way as people filed into the huge glass doors in front of them. It was a premiere. Lights flashed downward upon them from the brilliantly lit lobby.
"Times change," Temkin said. "Today Mozart would be in mathematics, atomic physics. Dante would be writing advertising jingles, Shakespeare dabbling in underwater real estate brochures, Michelangelo scribbling in the sub¬ways, blind Homer on Welfare, silent, watching television. We're all moving toward perfection along with the lampreys and the amoebas toward Death."
"Shit," Maggid said. "You've no stake here. No wonder you're a critic, Temkin."
"I smell Death," Temkin said.
He bowed at Maggid with a rococo flourish and walked into the crowd.
Daniel Maggid ran his hand abstractly over the huge marble stair¬case to his left. There was David Halevy, Brooklyn Chassid and chair¬man of famed Baal Shem Airlines, dressed in an illfitting black suit, square shoes peeking out from enormous blue rubbers, a rakishly tilted fur cap, a narrow but floral tie.
Maggid approved of this outfit it was clear that Halevy had a certain disdain for fashion. Some were made uncomfortable by his thick blond beard, long reddish hair and the dis¬tinguished European style of his dress, but this passed and one was left with his charm and honesty. Diamond had joked that Halevy's rigid spirituality, his unbending ethical attitudes in business, and his ata¬vistic adherence to close family ties even to third cousins, his marital idealism as predictable charity in all situations were bizarre ploys to establish himself as a reputable airlines mogul. Maggid and Diamond both knew better. Halevy had an intimate relationship with God a contract.
DeWitt Carp, master of The Red Heaven, journalist Shtummie Putz, and legendary brothel mavin Julio Sforza were all chatting with David Halevy, the talk inevitably about rapid and disgraceful retreats from Afric and Latino palaces, hurried exits of generals who had made wrong bets, priests whose victims had turned to their own heart for character, industrialists who fudged secret wars, educators looking for a peaceful epilogue to their etudes in holocaust, physicists tired of inventing ways to annihilate certain things and everything.
Baal Shem Airlines, besides doing well on regular travel, the corollary of charging a moral price for services, ferried such statesmen as Pagan, Sforza, Exeter, Carp and Mag¬gid himself in private ships stocked with their favorite foods, wines, friends and Wobblies, always ready for instant flight.
Maggid approached the conversing group, wondering abstractly whether Halevy had armed his ship for a quick move to Venus were his whole enterprise to fail. Mere paranoia, he thought.
As Maggid neared them, Halevy walked away from DeWitt Carp, Sforza and Putz and bounded across a red rug. He gave Maggid a Slavic bearhug, kissing him on both cheeks. To many people Halevy was a peasant; the last thing they wanted was emotional closeness with one whom they eventually would try to kill, rape or use with more gnostic obscurity. Anglicans frequently took this immediate intimacy both ursine and religious in quality for poor manners.
"Did you find God?" Halevy asked.
"I'm not looking for him, Maggid said. "I want to survive."
"Sometimes he looks for you," Halevy remarked.
"I'm not religious," Maggid said. "I don't know."
"Of course not," Halevy smiled. “You think the Torah is a book that described what happened to your great grandparents, not you."
"Am I wrong?"
"You are," Halevy answered. "The Torah is eternal."
"Where is Egypt?" Maggid smiled.
"Daniel, there has never been a time on Earth when there has not been an Egypt," the Chassid answered. "Or marketplaces. Or men giving credit, kings, brothels, coups of power, and cities with walls and shadowy men lurking at the gates. This Egypt we live in is global. Its walls are the atmosphere. its technology is oppressive and produces artifice. But it is nothing more than a dream of a pharaoh. And pharaohs are eternal."
Halevy did not want to keep anyone at a distance. He treated people always as members of the family. He was filled with love. This relic lived in a world in which nobody was an object. His Wobblies were respected, he was incapable of understanding the dead world Maggid lived in, the mental process by which Maggid was free to kill Pagan because he was a historical statistic and not a human being would seem Evil and perverse to this naive fossil. Halevy, ebullient and incandes¬cent, brought out in Maggid childlike qualities buried during his assimilation into decent American life. "You're in it," Maggid said.
"The deserts where a man can vanish in a sandy hollow are in the very maw of Egypt," Halevy said. "It's to my advantage to seem to be a slave and be free."
"Who gave you the money?" Maggid asked. "Smith and Colon."
"Freedom is taken, not given, Daniel,' Halevy said. "Money is another matter. It's totally invented, magic, invisible. people can give me nothing and I don't swoon with generosity."
Amiably, Maggid put his hands on Halevy's shoulders.
"You're nuts," he said.
"Remember, you are a character in the Torah," Halevy answered. "You are living in Egypt."
"You must hate it," Maggid remarked.
"I love Creation," Halevy said..
"Tell your cousins Putz and DeWitt Carp I'll see them at The Red Heaven," Maggid said. "I love Creation too."
Thinking of Fockerella Pagan he wandered toward the scarlet stair¬way. Pagan, a wide eyed mystic, had even hung Wobblies from the gold threads hanging on the Opera windows. It amused him to wonder whether Pagan in life had been a traitor or a martyr. Such men were not legion no ferocity, no perverse horror was exotic and awesome as the terrifying visions Fockerella Pagan merely muttered in his tabletalk. Pagan had showed the way to bestiality, had made it a commodity but even now his agents were found dead in zoos after engaging in batrachian caprices which broke their spinal cords like a garotte.
By some bizarre technique, Pagan had found a method of fucking Money. Before that he had been the scourge of morgues, a goat in bird sanctuaries, a chevalier who had frigid sex with the most beautiful stones in rock gardens. It had taken the other Pagans Judge Pagan and Sebastian Cardinal Pagan some years to entertain Fockerella's notions about politics.
In a room oddly rank with perfumed animals armored in beaten gold, they had seen the mathematical elegance in his impecca¬ble logic they had joined three nightmare countries, colonels, priests and victims to his Amalgamated Nations, a conspiracy dedicated to odorous hyperbole, illegal parking and cocaine, whose breadloaf archi¬tecture was filled with revels involving coitus of countries in magical acts that were beyond the ken of Pagan himself. While meditating on ways he might fuck the planet, Pagan drilled for offshore oil and mined coal, seeking to violate the souls of fossils, but secretly hoping to make the Earth come in a lava holocaust.
With a pincer move he had cor¬nered every hospital, funeral home and cemetery on the East Coast, had dickered with the American Medical Association so that no man or wo¬man under his aegis could die without a license; moving West he no doubt had to deal with Smith, was possibly allied and betraying him simultaneously.
To kill Pagan would in some ironic way inextricably tie him to Pagan's escapades. Maggid sped up the red carpet stairs of the Opera, almost bumped into a covey of Japanese drinking champagne near the bar, nodded to three androgynes who he realized too late had used cosmetics to mimic a trio of Hollywood stars he had once tucked, ducked past a few friends of Diamond he did not want to talk about Bernie tonight.
Turning to the left hand corridor past the bar, he strode toward the end of the huge horseshoe of boxes, stopped, turned the fur lined handle, listened to a flatulent horncall announcing his en¬trance. The door opened and Fockerella Pagan stared at Maggid sagely.
Pagan, known to be warm and sentimental among his intimates, was wearing his infamous suit wrought from the skin of leathery proto¬zoa. His costume suggested both disintegration and reptilian lust.
Pagan was sitting in a zebra striped chair flanked by two porcine horrors with light blue gums, amethyst claws and mauve feet, their fur decorated by pale orange bristles. Once they might have been boars now they were a Babel of complex transplants. The box, a curious affair with its stolen Tiepolo murals of some vast but forgotten hunt, its ivory idol of Mithra, the smaller icons of lo, Anubis and a pellucid emerald Gany¬mede, was a subtle counterpoint, not to Pagan but to Howard Bruder.
The composer, fondling an aquamarine Wobbly intimately, was as bald as any cheap Wobbly; he gestured at Maggid vaguely with a plastic club. Decadent in his illfitting ebony suit, he had the walleyed look of one tucked out by too much intercourse with machines.
Maggid sauntered to the box ledge to look for Godol, Schwartz and Chocolate. They were sitting uncomfortably on the near side of the orchestra but tow¬ard the back. Next to them a trio of Ethiopes were smoking patchouli they were nearly lost in a cloud of ocher perfume.
One of the ani¬mals in Pagan's box made a bizarre screeching noise. Pagan scratched his genitals lazily with serrated gold dyed fingernails. He turned to Maggid with a dreamy smile. Daniel Maggid found his gaze a gateway to subtle terror but met the look with his own steely stare.
"I've heard you've been talking to Smith," Maggid said. "Can it be that you're tired of pigs, Pagan?"
"Celebrities can keep their finances secret," Pagan noted, swiveling his head in a feline gesture. "Why are you so solicitous about my love¬life? I am the first divinity to be intimate with a pig. Zeus rogered a flower, a swan, a cow, several youths and a tree. I fuck a pig and I can't keep out of the newspapers."
"Are you working for Smith?" Maggid asked.
"I am the employee of Fockerella Pagan," he said with a gimlet smile. "I'll tell you the truth, Daniel. I want revenge on your country. Three of my four grandparents were Panamanians. You damned butch¬ers cut my fatherland in half to make a canal. You educated our colonels at Cambridge and West Point, corrupted our women with witcheries. Smith has adapted the interior anatomy of the porcine gut to my own gross amatory habits, gross to me, but they are my gateways to Heaven. Who am I to begrudge Mephistopheles anything? I have Howard Bruder writing a Te Deum to these monsters, freezing forever my longing for Paradise."
"My religious works gild the sinner with their pastel sentiment. Fockerella likes that," Bruder muttered in a basso profundo. "I prefer Opera there you're God for three hours. It's still not long enough."
"I take refuge from Nature in love, sports, cellular mysticism, spirituality, Opera. Why not banality?" Fockerella Pagan laughed.
He looked down languidly at the stage. The lights in the Opera were lower¬ing as though to prepare the mind for some dreamy event.
"My good friend Bruder finds Creation the raw material for duos, trios, solos, cho¬rales. Smith is also more civilized than us. He doesn't exterminate his victims till they are too dead to appreciate his mastery. He floods them, engulfs them in The Holy City like cooked meat. His prey are worse than slaves, corpses, eunuchs or catamites they are the Future, Daniel dim motes whirling in a gut. I like Smith, Daniel."
"Shut the fuck up, please," Howard Bruder said.
He pointed with a blue taloned hand to the pit. The conductor, a crimson Wobbly de¬signed like a gigantic starfish, flopped onto the podium, raised its pro¬tean boneless arms imperiously in the half darkness.
The indigo Wob¬bly string players tuned their throats they chanted like violins. Silver¬tinted brass Wobblles spat out strange dissonances into the air. The grasscolored wind ensemble carminated low glissando harmonies that awed Maggid like a black labial rip in the dimensions.
"The Nature of the Universe should be my penultimate opera," Howard Bruder mut¬tered. "What next, I ask myself what next the stars are jism the merging of nebulae love at absolute zero the Neanderthal girl in act two."
"Do you want to join Smith, Maggid?" Fockerella Pagan asked. "You hate Opera. Have you come here to ask me that?"
Maggid shook his head.
"You joined Felicia," Bruder smirked, looking at the stage. Eleven Wobbly bassi, gifted with the splendid sexual lineaments of the legend¬ary seventh sex, liquefied into each other in the ultimate coital position. Their antics were fierce as protoplasmic grapplings but more complex, and self destruc¬ted in pale blue fire.
"You fucked Smith's daughter in a way, it was like fucking him."
"Smith and I are like God and Satan. Enemies but friendly," Mag¬gid remarked.
They were amiable from a distance. They had suffered through the characteristic misunderstandings between Christian and Jew in America. Before Israel most true Americas claimed Jews could not fight. After Israel some of them quietly realized they had not given the Jews they knew much to fight for. Risking death in a foreign country to be a pariah at home later was not much of a deal. Ask any Black man.
In the late 20th century Jews were brought into the fold grumpily as allies against the Americans of color. Jews, Italians, Armenians and Greeks had it easy for awhile thanks to the spectre of others. Maggid knew perfectly well that when the time came to dump the White ethnics, they would be dismissed and told to return to the ghetto. Americans were true racists, not the grumbling tribal wags mixing and working with people from strange places, and ventilating about human vices in a candy store without doing anything about it.
You could not be a genuine racist in New York unless you were Philip Exeter. You met a stranger from a different corner of the universe on every street. American racism meant no jobs, no power, an education to be a slave and lynchings. This national politics inspired Maggid to mistrust Smith. Maggid at times had distant personal manners, he was stoical and frank about Creation and its crimes, he was multifaced, not twofaced, ruthless, moral, mystical, carnal, adolescent. Personally, he had spent much time with Smith and found himself amused by the prince from the land of survivors.
On the other hand, the dour Janus faced Smith with his real guilts and non sensory argot, his paranoia, sentimental etudes in nostalgia, mechanical obsessions and insect like vulgarity sometimes drove Maggid crazy. Smith was discomfited by how much women liked and yet feared these urban emigrants from the East. Maggid's affair with Smith's daughter had been both intimate and an erotic comedy, for both of them an incomprehensible blend of hysterical physical outpourings; luckily their lust had outweighed these handicaps.
Maggid had given her intolerable and eerie pleasures while she had been the equally freeing redeemer in his multi-cultural dream. Maggid and Smith discovered that for diverse reasons they were natural allies against Exeter. There was no true aristocracy or nobility in America. Exeter had come ultimately from an old mercantile family running run, sugar and cotton from Jamaica to New York. But he had the airs of a provincial patrician or god. Smith was from a family of Alabama dirt farmers. he knew perfectly well his future with Exeter was no different than the one Exeter had with Maggid. ¬
"I'd rise as high as a basement janitor if I joined Smith, Pagan," Maggid remarked. "But the rich have more money than I do, or the power to be banal. That's this country. We're all a shadowy people."
"Yes," the Opera Impresario said, a touch of Panama in his voice. "And you smoke the peacepipe on your desert reservations and wait- ¬like the Iroquois in Death Valley."
"I've got a great idea for a tax write off," Bruder said solemnly. "Get this. We run a foundation giving food and clothing to Apaches."
"Why don't you write a Grand Opera about a Foundation?" Mag¬gid queried.
"It's hard to think of an aria sung by a bureaucrat," he said.
Maggid treated Bruder with a mixture of respect and scorn. It was okay for Jews to be composers, novelists, painters, philosophers, economists, and stand up comedians. None of these disciplines were taken seriously by anybody in power. They give a few people a living because in a provincial way they were often entertaining. Artists were whores here. They were admired as courtesans. When people tried of their spirit and flesh they were farmed out to stud at the colleges, or left to die in a cheap rooming house. The sign that Artists were trivial in America was that they were free to do and way whatever they pleased, and nobody killed them. They were thus the toy department of the great shopping mall of American life.
Vast blue tinted jelly writhed on the stage like glue, its creamy wrinkles shimmering in the sulfuric light. Little explosions on its mucal surface imploded marshmallow fluffs within the glutinous emulsion. Maggid turned to Pagan.
"Philip Exeter is expendable," Fockerelia Pagan smiled laconically.
Maggid glared. It sounded as though Pagan were a conduit between himself and Smith. Was this a garbled offer from Smith to operate not only Diamond's celestial enterprises, but his own New Jersey colossus? Pagan gestured lazily with his left hand. "Even Bruder is becoming too tucked out to be a proper harper."
"Love is a vice infinitely more diverting than Art," Howard Bruder sanded, his face darkened with apoplectic emotion. "Whores what is that piffle at best odalisques, courtesans, what are they jeweled rock candy, icy wives, what use are they made for? Armpit fucking perhaps, or something luxurious like mitosis or necrophilia. But a dolphin, gen¬tlemen, and aquarian royalty to boot that, as Mozart would say, is a true divertimento."
"Queen Mango," Maggid said evenly.
His face showed nothing. In¬wardly he was ferreting out his emotions like a diver plummeting boldly into his own soul. On a primitive level Maggid felt angry, hurt, sud¬denly unconfident, violated, even betrayed. He was guessing how Bruder compared with himself as a lover. He wondered whether a sensi¬tive and creative intelligence like Bruder had felt the parallel ecstasy or a delight totally incomprehensible an itch beyond his analytical pow¬ers, also some cynical element in him confirmed that Mango was one more fuck in blackness on the way to the void.
There would be many more fucks after this fucks of less intensity, fucks that would make his thrashings with Mango seem like a jejune bagatelle. Had he not been convinced that his acne ridden tenement assignations had been an apotheosis, that his Hollywood gambolings with Felicia Smith among cartoons wrought from dreams would bring on the revolution, if not the apocalypse, that the Havana madmen he had assembled under Tyrone Tincture would together make the sky fall in? Yes he was a sucker for Love, not the usual cunt hound but a humorless pilgrim while fucking whose masochistic instincts led him inexorably into magic.
Love did him in continually as politics never could do. Love deceptively brought the floral world into focus, and what was this insanity, an infantile intimacy sheath within sheath no wonder it was hidden in darkness.
Yet, with all this nihilistic anger fo¬cused on Mango, he could still not explain why this furry creature had elevated him beyond the World of Forms as no other lover had done. Perhaps Bruder, a visionary Character, had gone even further into a nameless Eden, with Mango as his engine. Howard Bruder could turn Love into an Opera. He turned to Bruder with a healthy smile.
"I hear she's a good lover," Maggid grinned, leaning unsteadily against the box wall.
"This is Love. Love, as you must be aware, is something quite dif¬ferent," Howard Bruder said with a mischievous smile. "In the realm of pure Fuck, Mango is adequate but I've had better at White Nirvana, Joe Szechuan's brothel. Shit, that's what I call unspeakably pleasurable Sex, what you call Love, Maggid."
"Well. Will you join Smith, usurp Exeter?" Pagan put in. "There may be a few betrayals, more shuffles, but you'll manage The Holy City!"
"I have my loyalties, Pagan," Daniel Maggid answered.
A chorus of Wobbly demons armed with vermillion javelins floated from the stage into the orchestra, singing an eerily modal tune. A lobster Wobbly sang an aria, his golden curls dancing in and out of the black cleft creasing his head. Each of his limbs ended in a barking, clicking insect mouth. Something in his demeanor excited Pagan's pigs. Their eyes flashed and dimmed with dense ebon lights. Froglike Wobblies hopped into the center of the stage, changing shrilly, raucously, and vanished in puffs of brilliant violet smoke.
"I could forget them, but Smith is a bad beta loser."
"You can keep your sentiments," Pagan said. "You're comfortable in your nightmare. You understand Terror as a physical phenomena, the pain in The Holy City strikes you as picturesque and comical, and there in the stony city whose architecture echoes the graveyard, where there are no doors or windows, only products the joke roars out its agony in private and nothing is heard beyond the distorted mirrors but silence. This is a theater of baroque pain, Daniel. Take this as holy truth from one from Panama."
"What makes you think I'd like all this?" Daniel Maggid asked saturninely. "I prefer Hollywood."
"You are a man of power," Fockerella Pagan said. "You love Pain."
"Talk, talk, talk," Howard Bruder said. "You people must despise the Opera."
"Suffering is based on false hopes, Pagan," Maggid said. "I hate it."
"You and Diamond," Pagan answered. "Is he dead?"
"Possibly," Maggid said. "It may be a Wobbly mimic."
"If he were our clandestine ally," Pagan lisped. "Would you join us, too?"
"I know Bernie," Maggid said.
He stared like an animal into the emptiness of the stage. It was time to kill Pagan. He looked for Godol, Schwartz and Chocolate they were busily arguing about something, not unnerved by the androids wandering through the orchestra.
A Wobbly, her beauty like armor, her fiery magic pure trick to the quick¬ened blood, stared up at him from the first row. Daniel Maggid felt a septic lust rising in his groin with mystical eyes he saw her atoms like jewels and threads. He wanted to dive into the orchestra, bury himself in her plastic bosom, sniff the musky gloss in her thick ebony hair.
He thought of The Holy City there one could buy forever, make love to monsters undreamt of by the earthly carbon life forms, join the cir¬cus of Time, hunt down shadows in a forest of light and darkness. The lunacy fell away. Godol, Schwartz and Chocolate were not staring up.
Maggid reached for his gun, drew it and turned to Fockerella Pagan.
"So you don't like the Opera," Bruder said to Maggid.
"This is not a criticism," Maggid answered. "Vamos, Bruder."
"Si, senor," Bruder said,
He vanished through the door to Pagan's box. The androgynous Wobbly that had stood there silently through the whole conversation with Bruder's hand massaging its genitals looked at Maggid stolidly. He gave the creature a grim smile.
"I have a vision of the Future animal priests from a tropic isle, perfumed groins, the bacteria, the viruses fucking. But beyond that, a veil is drawn," Pagan smiled, standing up from his zebra striped chair. "Who knows? Lovemaking of hydrogen atoms?"
"Clown," Maggid said, grinning in spite of himself. Suddenly the blue pigs raised themselves on their jeweled claws.
"Get him, Rover, Fido,"
Pagan snarled at the porcine catamites. Maggid turned toward them. They squealed eerily and hurtled towards the androgynous Wobbly.
"Sic him Ganymede," Fockerella Pagan barked,
He snapped his gilt fingers. Maggid grinned and cut down the pigs with stuttering shots as they leaped at the Wobbly's throat. "Fuck," the impressario said.
Maggid dropped to the rug. This epithet was a classic android signal. A Thorwaldsen lo near the corner lifted its bovine head lazily, a silver radial robot leaped like a mineral frog from its neck, spitting bullets from nine purplish guns. Pagan glared at Maggid.
"Bastard," he hissed, his spittle lightly spraying a wild boar of Tiepolo.
"Shit," Maggid growled.
He ducked behind Arshile Gorki's Canadian Monolith. He saw Pagan shuffling heavily into the darkness. With the old reflexes of a gun man, Maggid rolled toward a genuine Aristide Maillol Acis and Galatea, twisted, and caught the starfish gunsel with two quick shots into its bald head.
As the Wob¬bly dropped, Maggid whirled on Fockerella Pagan. the impresario had slipped into the entrance. Maggid rushed to the door of the Opera box. The corridor was empty.
The Green Idol
"This is Bernhard Diamond," Maggid said in a sober voice.
"Are you Diamond's executor?" the Black detective grinned. Framed by the Greek columns, the corpse keeled over putridly in the old Trinity Church graveyard, the mottled skin on the leathery hands sodden with moss.
Maggid was very comfortable with the cop. They worked for him. Some thought they preyed upon him by taking a cut of anything he did. it was their salary. They made sure he was left alone to do the things that made both of them money beyond any realm of taxes or other legal pillage. Near them, a Wobbly from The Holy City, green and skeletal as a preying mantis, gilt in a velvet robe, apricot tinted slip¬pers, a cummerbund of iridescent turquoise and chocolate colored glasses, muttered a sermon lauding Diamond as a good family man.
"Yep," Maggid said, handing him an envelope. The cop deposited it in his pocket like a suave magician. Maggid speculated that much cash and flowed into that little sleeve of darkness.
"I'll take your word for it," the cop said.
"Don't even think about it," Daniel Maggid said.
Each game of Diamond had an oblique nudging meaning but Mag¬gid could not guess why his boss had chosen this hierophant for shaman at his own funeral. He kicked the cadaver casually. Could anyone know the heroes and dwarfs hovering over jeweled troves, the invented facts like a series of contrived bankruptcies, the eerie ghostliness in the masque?
"We don't have to report it at all," the cop said. "Most bodies get fed to the sharks. Your choice, Maggid."
"We want the newsprint," Maggid said,
As though he were imitating the bizarre style of Diamond's jokes, Maggid placed another large carbuncle of bills into a mintnew Sunday Times and handed the package to the cop. The detective took the Times with a shrug, his angular cheekbones glazed with the sun, a glass stare of a mutilated doll in his queerly elliptical eyes.
"I may need a job at The Green Idol when I quit," the detective said.
"Good. Join the funeral," Maggid said.
The rank spoor of oil and sludge from the Wobbly monk flooded him for a second. Some elec¬trical short circuit Diamond had insisted upon was searing the android with sulfuric havoc. "You'll like the mausoleum. It's Chinese Gothic."
"I love sukiyaki," the detective said. "That, and a little horserad¬ish."
He thrust a card embossed with gold in Maggid's right hand. Maggid liked this cop. America was tough on Black people but when one rose to the local challenge they were self-inventive like nobody else. This policeman had the smooth style of a man who had been born again artificially and was his own mother and father. As a Jew, Maggid always looked upon Blacks as even more remote from the capitols of power than he was. The sheer distance between the Black world and the princes of the nation allowed one to take up freedom undistracted by the constraints of white suburbanites as long as they did not watch too much television. The cop shook Maggid's hand firmly.
"You're the college educated hitman, right?"
"I got a good no frills training in how to be a wealthy slave," Daniel Maggid said.
"You fucked a lot, buddy,"the policemen said "Don"t knock it."
"If I had your job I would have fucked even more," Maggid smiled.
"Yeah, but for us a fuck is a fuck," the policeman said.
"In college it's romance."
Maggid laughed. He thought of what he had learned at the university Of Michigan. History was the study of who and tried to conquer the universe. Warlords who were truly great came close to running their locale or the planet. Culture was what these mandarins found entertaining away from the bedroom and battlefield. Music was an amusement that served as background to their judgments before they toppled over from strong wine. Astronomy was the study of places men would control later.
Physics and chemistry infallibly produced drugs, weapons and surveillance systems. Sociology organized people to be cattle while one enslaved the cosmos. Psychology conjured illusions that were cheaper than terror in organizing an army or an optimal market. Humanities were filled with poets who talked of medieval England as the apogee of human civilization, novelists who wrote whimsical evocations of the suburbs, and essayists certain that melancholy was intelligent.
"I prefer fucking," Maggid said.
"Many mature men do," the cop said.
"What's your racket?"
"I'm a musician," the policeman said.
"You look like an Artist," Daniel Maggid said.
"I play weddings, banquets, diets, birth or death; my orchestra and I come right to the hospital. No worry if you need brushes, cosmetics, male prostitutes, no problem. I sell life insurance too."
"You're no longer into rates," Maggid said.
Within the Wobbly the occipital neurons blazed in an orange fire. It turned a pale beige. Maggid looked at the eyes as though he were watching a laser light show. If they did not offer emotion they and a sere pellucid beauty.
"We need you."
"I deal in human bodies for private parties, experiments, whatever you people need them for, Maggid," the detective put in dryly. "If you're entertaining," he paused, "it sure beats Wobbly meat."
"i pickle my Wobblies in anise," Maggid said. "The odor of lico¬rice penetrates from the feet to the brains."
"I like to pour maple syrup on the Wobbly kidneys and sweet¬breads. I'm half Canadian my boyfriends tells me," the detective said.
Maggid noted the deep insect dye staining his impassive face. "My wife is Black she likes Wobbly chitterlings but I still taste too much heavy oil in the guts pisspoor Wobbly shit I call it."
"Strong words. You drown an android in sauce," Maggid suggested. "The recipe books suggest cheese, curry, tomato puree, yogurt."
"What about this stiff?" the policeman asked.
He shoved his shoe into the neck of the dead man.
"The bastard's no good for food. We'll have to burn him or bury him. You don't need him for the funeral, do you Maggid?"
"No. This is for the papers. Shtummie Putz will be down here with the photographers," Daniel Maggid said. "After the ceremony, dump this slug in the East River."
"I've got a genuine Hindu pyre available. You might want a little cremation when you hear my price, Maggid," the policeman said.
He grinned ferociously at the silent Wobbly priest.
"Burns like a dream," he said.
"Strew his ashes next to Moshulu Boulevard, near the quince trees"' Maggid said, winking ironically at the detective.
"You're the educated hitman the thief with two degrees," the cop said gruffly. "You know nothing from fancy funerals. Shit, from the money I make from a good Hindu rite, Maggid, I can live on my sal¬ary.
"I get the point," Maggid said. "You want your pension now?"
"Yeah, plus," the policeman said. He grinned. "I'm satisfied. With the money I get from this caper, buddy, I'm going to The Holy City. Not with my wife either. With nothing, in fact, but a pack of instant aphro¬disiacs."
"The brothels are magnificent," Maggid answered. "I go there mostly for the imported wine."
"The wine," the detective muttered. "You're talking bozo talk. Wine and asparagus causes cancer. It'll kill you."
Maggid wondered whether the policeman had been listening to the Wobblies. They were always quoting new diets. wobbly evangels would come to the door of apartment dwellers on Sunday and try to persuade them to take up a cuisine of rare and bizarre quality.
"I can't keep track of the health news," Maggid said. "I should but I'm too busy."
"Fuck it. You're never too old to die, babycake," the policeman said seriously. "Love keeps you healthy. People who ski, fuck and shit three times a day live forever. Look at this book."
Maggid remembered the line from an advertisement in the book review section of the local paper. Most of the books pushed hard by publishers were about diets, crime, Hollywood scandals and conquering depression. The cop shoved a huge volume at Maggid's face entitled The Joy of Doing Nothing by Hypolitte Le Madrilene, a planetary bestseller.
The tome praised the virtue and health in subtle variations in color and texture produced with pumice, indigo dyes, gelatins and sulphur hydroxide. It suggested 278 major defecatory positions, a variety of Asian bubbly enema fluids, and a diet of nutritionally empty but naturally fibrous vegetables. There were pictures in it of furlined urinals. It was illustrated with inner topographical maps.
The policeman stared at Maggid as though he were a potential convert.
"I used to¬ spew the usual crap like some sort of primitive before I picked this up at The Holy City, Maggid. It caused an inner revolution. Shit, what a fucking library they got at The Holy City. You always get the latest there. Not one book over two months old."
Maggid nodded. He reminded himself never to write his memoirs. It would stay on the shelves for ten minutes if he were lucky.
"Of course, most of these fucking authors are fags, vegetarians, Holy Party Of Gods, suicides, jerkoffs and usually can't even make a living," Fokine said. "Anybody who turns out a book has nothing better to do with himself.
"You like the Koran," Maggid said.
"That's literature. The Koran has already happened. We have pterodactyls around for a hundred million years but enough is enough. Before I'd do it, I'd commit suicide. Sodomy is nothing," Fokine said. "Writing is the real crime against nature. But what the fuck, who am I to judge these poor motherfuckas? No¬body's perfect. Hey you, get the fuck out of here!"
The detective kicked a thin sorrowful android with shoulder length hair, white robe and bare feet, the legendary Instant Jesus. The robot, muttering a surly consummatum est under his breath, slunk away.
The robot priest cane from Smith's neo Christian period when The Holy City was dealing principally in religious articles. it sold sacred statuary including the Ultimate Idol: the walking, talking, bleeding, redeeming Jesus. It begged people to go shopping to celebrate its birth. The luxury models actu¬ally flew around the sky like pterodactyls. They bled all over customers who made love to them.
The cheaper Jesuses had no warranty, fell apart after a weekend in a motel, when left to themselves, wandered around graveyards and Art museums, blessing everything or dying for the sins of whatever or whoever put a quarter or more in their slot.
"There should be a god¬damned constitutional amendment against Jesuses like that. It's sacrilegious," Fokine said. "Where was I? Yeah, reading. I read a Holy City biography by Joe Giggly about you. Is it true?"
"You act as though I know something," Maggid said warily. "Do you insist on sodomizing women?" the policemen queried him.
"Only if they have rectums," Maggid said.
"Is it true about you and Felicia Smith?'"
"What?" Maggid asked.
"You only screwed her in the mouth?"
"I can't remember," Daniel Maggid said.
The fanciful tastes his own publicists attributed to him in the bedroom always amused Daniel Maggid. it was a kind of triumph to have privacy because people believed you were a pervert and monster. His own esoteric existence, his past, his sexual habits, his family, his eco¬nomic raids, were not fabrications. He had lived a physical life.
In The Holy City reality was a mannikin one dressed up as anything from a panda to a snake. Lying was an irrelevant concept. They were currency for obscure business pursuits. Most Wobblies were more successful than he was. They were ciphers for Money dreamily simple the perfect product.
"I'm just a throwback," Maggid said.
"You mean in the Ice Age everybody acted like you?" the cop asked sardonically.
"There were a few sexual eccentrics but they were ritually killed," Daniel Maggid said with a lipless smile..
"I think you;'re bullshitting me," the policeman said.
"These books make me an honest man," Maggid said.
"So it's a lie you sleep with all those beautiful women," the detective grinned, shaking his head.
Maggid thought about Felicia Smith as well as he could without opening up a lacerating wound in the large scar that entombed his feelings for Smith's daughter. Maggid did not like to think of his own vulnerability. If one made love as many celebrities did to be adored, or to be serviced, one got nothing from the closeness. It was hardly worth being proximate to anyone for such trivial fare. Felicia Smith was the last human being he had made love to. At this point making love to anyone of one's own species seemed vaguely homosexual. he wondered whether he had lost a certain focus by avoiding his on species in bed. The detective patted his wallet pocket with a narcissistic caress.
"It's all bullshit, except this."
"You know about Law and Truth," Maggid laughed acerbic¬ally. "Our lawyer will be here. When Bernhard Diamond dies. It's got to be legal," Maggid added.¬
The day was momentarily interrupted by a red sun, a bright green sky, and three crimson daylight moons at the zenith. A rogue astral projector, Maggid thought. Maggid stared through the horse chestnut trees, azalea bushes and maples at a skeletal figure in front of the pseudo Venetian palazzo across the street. His ash blonde toupee was tilted rakishly across his angular face.
Fokine of the Blue Purgatory had arrived for his appoint¬ment. Apostle for Holy Party Of God in New York, he had made the Blue Purgatory a Wobbly whorehouse vying with Smith for lovers seeking an extension of their own visions in sex. Operating a brothel exclusively selling androids designed and constructed by humorless Russo Chinese technicians, Fokine had gradually built up a clientele of leftwingers ob¬sessed by Wobblies with virtue. Saith's robots tended to look like any¬thing from human beings to fantastical horrors in a nightmare.
"Why do you bother?" the detective asked.
"The public needs to have a reality," Maggid said.
"You have to make sure it's an illusion," the detective smiled.
"My illusion," Maggid said. "Not just any illusion."
He looked at the panorama of edifices beyond the cemetery gate. The Blue Purgatory was a magnet for certain customers who had neoclassic ideas about perversion. Diamond had remarked that both Fokine and Smith put the New York crowd in a retrograde light, dealing in stocks, underdeveloped countries and human females for whores was truly Neanderthal activity but his own midtown Red Heaven dealt in dreams in a way that eclipsed any neural revolution by any rival.
"You're a college guy," the cop said. "You know how to lie with the big hustlers in town, Maggid."
"You're an innocent," Maggid said ironically.
All the mendacity had a mass and a direction, he thought, Perhaps, Mag¬gid speculated, the answer to all political problems lay in locking not only Smith but all men in The Red Heaven's taped dreams, guarding the huge hive with Wobblies of a singular mindlessness. Now it was time to settle his alliance with Fokine.
"You need an army to be a major player in this town," the policemen said.
"I'll give you a call when I could use one," Daniel Maggid said.
He walked away from the detective toward the end of the necropolis and strolled past the old marmoreal vaults of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, through the shattered and effaced gravestones of men who had lived and died in another America and emerged onto a Broadway filled with clerks, brokers, peddlers, beggars, Wobblies and a few Hawaiian whores. The Wobblies were of variegated colors, red, mauve, orange, beige, green and silver. Most of them were cheap mod¬els casually aping the obsolete human working class of sainted memory, but a few, wrought for the eerie lusts of the gourmet, had no precedent whatsoever in animal life. Cyclopean Wobblies stood on trucks covered with bunting of red, white and blue, a skein of limousines and floats blending into the city as one more dream of artifice, the androids puff¬ing the virtues of democracy with a droning music while they glided be¬tween glass and steel monuments.
It numbed Maggid. He looked bleary eyed at the windows jeweled and glinting, an army of gold tigers with feline energy staring into the night. From the grey hives with mirrored doors like an acrid joke, near the deceptively angled glass, Fokine stood where the sky narrowed to a mathematical cleft.
Maggid passed the stony temples, the rust colored bridges to the city hunched but burning in the distance. He hardly no¬ticed the grey suited serfs, the vermin hunting down vermin, entering the linear zoos stretching upward like Babels of light.
There was Fokine, an alien and agent of The Holy Party Of God in New York, waiting for Maggid. Bony as death, the dour boredom in his grey and ashen face accentuated a mute suffering that had not quite been hidden by his fixed smile. The Holy Party Of God was in dialogue with David Halevy, both of them arguing animatedly. The Chassid bowed, sanded in an enig¬matic way and walked through a crowd of immense wasp Wobblies toward Maggid.
Maggid looked up, saw Halevy strolling through a chamber universe of red and gold atmosphere. They were placed on the street by evangels from perceptual bombs manufactured on the tenth moon of Jupiter, offering a taste of their private worlds for free. Halevy greeted Maggid with his usual intimate bearhug. Fokine stood a hundred feet away, his angular face a gaunt silhouette.
"I hated the opera," Halevy said, his blue eyes radiant.
He nodded at the skeletal figure he had just left.
"Pagan had to go," Daniel Maggid said.
"He has a son from a male lover," Halevy said. "It's a biological triumph."
"Tell him to get an American education," Maggid said. "He'll make it. It's inevitable."
A flock of android flamingoes floated over their heads, courtesy of Fockerella Pagan. Like most national moguls, he wanted to be known for his charity. The flamingo had been his per¬sonal bird. In an epiphany he had even dyed his own genitals flamingo, had hired DeWitt Carp, The Red Heaven master, to design his tropical calling cards to chew blue phalloi as they glided effortlessly into the New York sky.
Maggid had a genius working for him in The Red Heaven mandarin. Carp had been inspired. He had told Maggid the commercial was the last religious art form. Now the birds were simulating animation if not alive, and Fockerella Pagan was very dead.
"Next year on Venus," Halevy laughed.
Maggid grinned, walked toward Fokine through buzzing clots of insect Wobblies with concave eyes. Maggid was not astonished to hear that Fokine had claimed to be a Jew, a Zionist. He had posed as or had been everything else, male, female or indifferent. Each image, though more horrific than the last, was more real than he was, a cartoon that hid him like a face in a nightmare.
Maggid had once met Fokine at a plankton dinner at the Amalga¬mated Nations, while chewing slime to a symphony orchestra, Fokine had talked feelingly about decadence in socialist nations as flaccid in degeneracy as they had been ant like in their prime. Maggid who hated socialism because it lacked theatrics. Western religion of all kinds was nothing but sentimental theater. It could not even make piety and genocide interesting. But he and been moved by Fokine's rhetoric.
At the Blue Purgatory, where Fokine's brothel featured international Holy Party Of God imports, this enameled diplomat had introduced Mag¬gid to certain lowlife pleasures pentagonal lovers in ivory beds, masked with huge cancerous growths, an orgy of lubricous hydraheads covering Maggid with a glutinous paste taking him a week to remove ¬skeletal, fleshless delights one mounted on a set of cone like gilt mir¬rors, love deaths with artificial phalloi made in Bulgaria oscillating with jagged stone knives, minions languishing on mysterious floral couches, ¬androgynes, their miniature genitalia white and smooth, deep violet, or gilt in iridescent peach phosphorescence hermaphrodites bathing in a sour amniotic fluid vaginal motes swimming in an alabaster fat.
Later that evening Fokine began to talk to Maggid in a weird tongue filled with whistling sounds. Maggid realized he was completely insane. It made Maggid distrust socialism even more. He walked past a bank decorated like a Neapolitan palace and touched the immobile Fokine on the shoulder.
"Maggid, I need an army," he sighed, as though nothing less than an army could erotically move his character. "We're allies but, any double agents next to Smith?"
"Anybody next to Smith is a double agent," Maggid smiled. "We're not bothering with betrayal. We need a whole lot of Chinese Wobblies, Fokine."
"We've got a sale on them," Fokine said. "The smiling warriors we can't sell we're converting to lovers."
"They'll be a drug on the market," Maggid joked badly. Both men were collectors of such jokes. "Put them all into the war against Smith."
"Smith is like you," Fokine remarked. "Why don't you make a pact with this Hollywood caliph? Give them a market and save yourself all those dead Wobblies."
"Smith doesn't want it," Maggid said. "He wants to kill us and take over."
"Yes. he's a patriot," Fokine said with a ghastly smile.
"Smith has a T.S. Eliot Wobbly; I've met him," Maggid said. "It's an army of them really; they're infinitely copiable, of course. They show up at the colleges. the heavy hitters love him there; they treat him as though he wrote the Bible. And he did: their Bible. The Eliot Wobbly's got this philosophy it sounds too crazy to believe he wants everybody to go back to the Middle Ages, to England. He thinks America is a big mistake, that the world is run by swinish Irishmen.¬ Jews are a sort of monster in his racist imagi¬nation. He's already dominating the colleges. Eliot himself did it in the mid-20th century. It's deja vu. Kids are being taught this."
"Impossible," Fokine snapped. "Professors are too smart."
"He wants to be the bishop of a new Anglican Church that will teach Americans they are phantasmal," Maggid said. "He hates democracy. For this Harvard gave him an honorary degree, Sweden threw him the Nobel Prize. Smith thinks he's amusing, but beyond his ideas, he's bring back the old vertical class world."
"Incredible," Fokine said. "What does he look like?"
"Like what he wants," Maggid said. "He invents Reality."
"Don't say that," Fokine muttered. "It makes me sad, Daniel."
Maggid did not want to inspire Fokine to be melancholy. He secretly thought it was a good idea to resurrect Eliot as a Wobbly. After fifteen years of listening to the original Eliot, the educated classes took up sex, drugs and dancing to get away from the arid monkish depression that colleges were purveying as a sign of intelligence.
It was almost calling card of the major players that one covertly controlled one's supposed enemies. Daniel Maggid, in fact, had been the clandestine wholesaler that brought the Eliots to Smith and his court.
"Perhaps you'd prefer Fockerella Pagan?" Maggid asked. "Smith doesn't run a little stage for four and a half hours. Let's give him credit for a greater vision, and more style."
Fokine made a face. He did not like Smith.
"I heard you iced Pagan," Fokine said.
"I have to keep in practice, Maggid said.
"I guess Smith is next, Daniel,"Fokine smiled.
"And Exeter," Maggid said.
Fokine smiled. Maggid was feeling fatigued by all the mayhem ahead but it had to be or he and the boys would be garbage in an alley somewhere. That was the law of the world of power. On a Tuesday a barracuda might be an ally, but on Thursday he would remember he was a predator and go after you. The American sharks who took over the thirteen colonies were quick to expand into Louisiana and Ohio; they dumped Mexico out of the southwest, and kept on going in the next century consolidating China, the Philippines, Guam and Japan. They had lost some of their Darwinism by then.
Maggid reflected that if you wanted to conquer the universe you had to do it quickly before you got tired. Exeter's ancestors weren't willing to exterminate the Asians as they did the Indians. They weren't up to putting the cattle they had imported like Maggid's ancestors into the ground either. They built artificial paradises for the descendants of the slaves and let them fester. They allowed the cattle to become other kinds of animals in the entertainment world. But they were on the other side of the ceremony that had made Maggid, along with his friends and enemies, in a major league. They were afraid to kill.
Eventually they got tired. Empires classically do. They had to take their Christian missionaries and drug businesses out of the other rim of the Pacific Ocean. They were White, racist, and sanctimonious, but they were a respectable bunch. The strenuous life was a good life. Maggid thought of himself as a disciple of Teddy Roosevelt in that way. Darwinism had its bloody moments but it wasn't as lethal as Christianity.
'You can get the Walt Whitman Wobblies at The Holy City," Maggid smiled. "They're not allowed in the schools."
"Good. He was a bum," Fokine said.
"Even worse, he liked being a bum," Maggid said.
Fokine frowned. His people hated Walt Whitman. Anybody who was optimistic, pantheistic, and for the sacredness and virile beauty of human life at the bottom was his kind of devil.
"You know, The Holy Party Of God invented the first Holy City. We called it the Worker's Para¬dise, a grandiose but mildly accurate title. We smiled until our jaw muscles broke. We know Politics is the ultimate Art Form. Unfortunately, Holy Party Of God plumbing did us in," Fokine said.
His facial topography twisted in a na¬creous grin.
"You're an expert," Maggid said.
"We know all about The Holy City racket. We invented names, people, cities, Uzbek farmlands, the Past, the Present, the Fu¬ture, enemies, allies. I'm not a chauvinist, Daniel, but can you guess offhand how many martyrs we had in our prime? It comes to millions those were our volunteers, the ones we educated, killed or enslaved, maybe a billion, maybe more. We found the planet a disorganized system of loony bins. It disgusted us, all that waste it was unscientific. One world, one Babel like nuthouse was our motto. We never paid off the plumbers, and poof so much for Dialectical Materialism. We had dreams, big dreams."
"You were great," Maggid said. "The Holy City has the cleanest bathrooms in Creation."
"It's better than shitting in the open air with the Cossacks," Fokine said.
"Maybe," Maggid said.
"I love The Holy City," Fokine interrupted. "The Frozen Food counter, the pies, ice creams, fruits marked ARTIFICIALLY FLAVOR¬ED, the strange iridescent dyes. Food, Daniel, is an Art more intimate than politics, more carnal than fucking, Ultimate Food from soybeans¬. I mean, you can't internally drain existence from your lover and turn him or her to shit, can you? I mean, that's intimacy."
"What's so good about intimacy?" Maggid asked. "Your Holy Party Of Gods?. You're like one big political orgy."
"You're a mocker," Fokine said almost abstractly.
He stared at the Mercurial Perverts walking by them. Mercurial Perverts were androids guaranteed to play unimaginative and predictable roles in the usual sexual variants. One of them had a tiara wrought from old shoes, another wore legs composed entirely of silk stockings, a third looked and stank like a not too fresh cadaver. The others, about 20 strong, were drenched with plastic blood.
Fokine tugged at his Holy Party Of God made collar. It tore at the seam with a loud noise.
"But you'd like to run The Holy City, wouldn't you?"
"I want to live in peace," Maggid said. Any response to this remark from Fokine was hidden in his enameled decadence. "You talk as though there's no alternative. I can always quit the New York crowd. Emigrate to Israel, Baal Shem Airlines is waiting. Eventually The Holy City will die out."
"The Holy City is eternal. Very old. It appeals to people by taking their Reality away from them," Fokine said. "Redemption is attrib¬uting your own character to the devil and your reality to the next world," Fokine said wryly.
He glared at an obese purple pervert with toothmarks on its neck.
"Everything else is shadowy, irrelevant or dia¬bolic," Fokine said. "I consciously flee The Holy City, Daniel. You don't understand your own lusts as I do. For me, each catamite is a parody of The Holy City."
Solemnly he lit an elegant mauve tinted cigarette. The Holy Party Of God product fell apart at the first puff. It floated in jagged clumps to the cement.
"How's the Smith New York war going?" he asked, deliberately changing the subject.
"Like nothing," Maggid said. He smiled. "It's war."
"It interests me," Fokine said mildly. "The sheer inaptitude of Smith and the New York crowd is very Holy Party Of God. I like it. We are Masters of the End, Daniel."
"Good," Maggid said. "Let's walk."
"To the Blue Purgatory," Fokine joined in. "I've got some new Wobblies from China I'd like to show you."
Maggid nodded amiably.
They strolled toward the river. The Green Idol stood in the distance, a translucently green pyramid with a rosy tinge at the tip, its plumtinted antennae impaling the sky.
Among the jumble of Greek and Florentine palaces Diamond's base on Wall Street had an enigmatic took. The street was a baroque maze of cordu¬roy jackets, ebony shirts, turquoise hats and capes of green leather. White plastic bags fell through the air. A world with its deepest night¬mares and purities intact, Maggid loved the city at its most bizarre and grotesque.
It was here that the potentialities for life could be made real by the consummate acrobats of New York. The desperation of Nature could be blunted for a moment.
They wandered through the glittering abstractions of light at the bottom of the Federal Treasury Building, walked past the statue of George Washington standing among clerks eating tortonis, sauerkraut and buttermilk, his dark eyes flickering vio¬let and apricot.
Maggid turned to Fokine and pointed at the Holy P¬arty Of God Wobblies sitting on the fenders of orange cabs, all leading to the Blue Purgatory. Gleams of deep blue fire in the mauve whorls on their genitalia exposed their Holy Party Of God origin. They were chewing steel poly¬hedrons, a tropical bauxite of red flecked gold and crimson candles. Nasal melodies like chants in a vast nave from their pale bluish lips touched both men with a nameless melancholy.
"It all leads to Death, to its perfection, to implosion of atoms, to the ultimate black star. Then, a New Creation," Fokine said. "That's why I'm a Holy Party Of God acolyte, Daniel. All life is reactionary. I think of the future."
"Has Smith contacted you?" Maggid interrupted.
"Yes. Through his agent Exeter," Fokine said sardonically.
"It's hard to say who's working for whom," Maggid said.
A Wobbly with silver eyelids winked at him. He was wearing a blue polo shirt.
"He sent me a Wobbly crusted with jewels as a gift."
"Dumb," Maggid said. "You don't need Wobblies."
"Nearly all Wobblies make me feel as if I'm swimming in mineral oil," Fokine said.
Androids like youths stood in a doorway of white coral, crucibles of static adolescence. Fokine watched them with a reptilian fascination.
"Most Wobblies are chill reptiles to me. They kill like a shark in a lake of cologne."
"You can love them," Maggid said. "And love, as you would say, often leads to the earth¬ly paradise."
"It's a picturesque route," Fokine agreed. "I hate Smith he's a jackal."
Sapphic robots guzzled an opaque licorice drink, their bald heads kohl shadowed, their fat legs gilded with icy intestinal juices.
Maggid looked contemptuously at these androids. He had coupled with the expensive Lesbic androids, their heads covered with plastic feathers, known for their refinement.
"Smith is a creature of utility," Maggid remarked. "He has not past. You love the Future."
"I have unpleasant racial memories. Fleeing through banana jungles, climbing trees, gibbering insanely over rotten papayas, eating stones," Fokine said with an ashen grimace.
He bowed ironically at the Holy¬ Party Of God Embassy set between a florist shop, anomalous in the prevailing grey and black colors of the town, and a Protestant chapel; it was an orange phallus, a flamingo castle with ebony turrets bound by a rock garden. It had visionary power. One stared at the building and sometimes felt a momentary humility.
"Allow me one lifetime away from the verities of existence. Philip Exeter has a wonderful Wobbly collec¬tion from us. By the way, do you know Exeter socially, Daniel?"
"Nothing personal," Maggid said. "I'm going to kill him."
"Naturally," Fokine said. "That's politics."
They passed a truck¬stop diner filled with disconnected flashes of huddled men ingesting apple pie, meat loaf and sausages, the meal washed down with bitter coffee.
"Where do you want these Chinese Wobblies, Daniel?"
"Call Sforza," Maggid said. "He's the general in the attack on The Holy City."
"Of course," Fokine said. "Can I offer you a Wobbly for your own use? I could use some stock tips, a little land in Connecticut, some information on pork belly futures, Daniel."
"We need Russia and China to be neutral in the battle," Maggid
"They love neutrality," Fokine said.
Dockworkers wearing leather coats and thick plaid shirts slunk like rats near the walls of the streets as they neared the East River. Their alloys had protecting artificial flesh against water Wobblies generally tended to rust.
"Can you get word to your leaders, Fokine?"
"What are you offering them?" Fokine asked. "These are high
class types, Daniel."
"We'll build them a Red Heaven," Maggid smiled. "We'll give them a direct neural connection to paradise. What else could they want?"
"Holy Party Of God revels make people crazy," Fokine said. "Their aridity would astonish you. Technological pleasure seems tepid to them. They may not want The Red Heaven."
"Then, tell them to go fuck themselves," Maggid said, irritated. Fo¬kine gave Daniel Maggid a frosty look.
Clouds hovered above them like a grey tapioca sea. Pigeons in wheeling formations above them glided through the neon flares like angels, naked and nubile, swimming in the vast halls of fire. Hawks soared above the narrow rectangle of sky.
"What do these Holy Party Of Gods want, anyway?"
"Manual corruptions," Fokine told Maggid.
An aery Wobbly rolled down the street slowly by them. One fucked gas when one entered these puffy but vaguely simian courtesans.
"You see the smiling Chi¬nese warrior Wobblies I sell, everybody makes their Wobblies the Ideal. Daniel, what kind do you want?"
"Something simple, with a year's guarantee," Maggid said.
Fokine laughed at the throwaway line. He was not about to tell Fokine such deep secrets. To know what Wobbly a man has secreted away from the world was to fathom his character utterly.
"I'm going to stop at The Green Idol," Maggid drawled.
They passed a gaggle of Wobbly beggars, odd androids in straw robes and belts of pale lavender.
"I haven't got time for dalliance, even at the Blue Purgatory."
"Hey, captain," one of the beggars said to Maggid in a hoarse voice.
Daniel Maggid moved quickly out of his concentration on Fokine, his right hand gliding habitually toward his gun. He did not trust a mendi¬cant Wobbly. In this city of strangers, a Wobbly might be anything from a lover to a homicidal maniac.
This Wobbly stumbled and veered drunkenly, his hands shaking as he approached. Spittle poured down his spadelike chin, a speckled tongue licking his blistered lips, eyes bloated with a dead dream. "Spare some change?" he asked.
"I'll give what I can," Maggid answered.
"I love children," the Wobbly said. "I adore their innocence. I only wish adults ware like kids. They are so much wiser than we are. I think the Messiah will be a child. God is a child; I'm sure of it. I am trying to find the child within me."
Maggid felt nauseous from the clichés. These particular banalities offended him more than most of the Wobbly truisms. Children and become a cult object in his century, possibly because so few people and them. He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out two old tickets to a Broadway musical and handed them to the Wobbly.
"It's starring Milton LeVin," Maggid said.
"Who is Milton LeVin?" the Wobbly asked with a noxious stare.
"You," Maggid said. "Aren't you Milton LeVin?"
The Wobbly shrunk away from him as though he were a pyre. Then he began to talk to other people on the street about the superiority of progressive education. Listening to the Wobbly babbling about lack of stress and healthy motivation, Maggid and Fokine strolled into a maze of old and crusty streets. The continuous sound of bacchanales from the old docks at the foot of the East River reminded Maggid that Julio Sforza was busy at tidelands and offshore schemes around this area. A ghostwriter had attributed a manual on saltwater perversions to him. Underwater orgies were Sforza's main contribution to revolutionary love.
"They think they're human," Fokine said.
"So do we," Maggid said.
Fokine laughed. They turned a corner and were treated to a vista of The Green Idol a few blocks away. Its green pyramidal structure with its oddly pink top gleamed garishly in the midst of trapezoidal real estate offices. Rhomboid manholes in the gutter were gilt with bright colors, doors of the Parasites and the Rats, two competing religious sects that lived in the sewers of New York City.
"You've lined up everyone?" Fokine asked. "There's a rumor that certain Wobblies are more complex than humans, more human than us, and they're living in New Jersey."
Maggid shrugged. Joe Szechuan would create such beings if there were any on Earth. It would be to his interest to have such an army to expand from New Jersey to the far reaches of the cosmos. Maggid decided there would be no way he could confront Szechuan directly.
"What do you know?" Fokine asked.
"I'm calling on Szechuan and Tyrone Tincture, Fokine; Szechuan he was our main drug man when we were all deep into the Caribbean. He alone developed Latin America as a colorful investment area in old age homes years ago. We don't lose track of money, Fokine."
They walked past an immense sponge Wobbly, a headless and limb¬less fleshly mass punctured with apertures a solace for those who could not afford a private Wobbly. Exhibitionists liked the impersonal love in this creature. Maggid sniffed at it warily.
"He and Joe Szechuan have New Jersey and a part of Delaware. Nothing happens in the East they don't know about."
"Good," Fokine said. "But why is Diamond moving against The Holy City now? What's the big plan? Where is he?"
"On Lesbos," Maggid said.
They wandered past an outdoor statue of Santa Claus, his imperious bulk carved from crimson Italian marble, his massive coat gilt with ivory and obsidian. Its half closed turquoise eyes glowed in an impassive face of alabaster. He looked down at the street from a gargantuan throne of black oak, his elves flanking him, their faces frozen in maniacal laughter.
At his feet were heaps of sandstone, granite and pumice. "Here's The Green Idol," Maggid said wearily.
"Ambassador to Lesbos," Fokine said. "I like the idea of Lesbian Wobblies Daniel, these lovers, they beg, they hint, they blow out amorous¬ words, they are canny and tireless exquisites in immortal banalities under the celestial tent. They wrestle to a climax, a feu d'artifice, they kiss good night delicately. There is money to be made in this sort of fantasy."
"Bernie's really on Lesbos," Maggid said. "It's not a metaphor."
"Maybe that's why he's moving against Smith," Fokine said. They approached the concave glass doors of The Green Idol. "I'll talk to Julio Sforza."
"Good," Maggid said. He nodded, left Fokine at the door and strolled into The Green Idol.
The lobby was solemnly decorated with torture revels, miracles and the sundry Hells of all important religions; murals of Aztec and Mayan ceremonies dripped blood, dark blood over martyrs from the less theatrical faiths. The ceiling folded into itself like a huge anus.
On the floor, salesmen were selling maple sugar New York skylines, as¬sorted stale candies, colored stones from the moon, a few stone eagles and liquor distilled by Japanese monks. The elevators, set like jewels be¬tween shimmering glassy columns filled with light. They moved vertically within a panoply of radiance. The wall in front of him glowed, a white polyhed¬ron of florescent fire. Maggid crossed the floor of amoeba like green and blue blotches and waited for his car.
To him, the faint whirring in the elevators, the soundproofed rooms below and above him suggested artificial dimensions without length or breadth, a world without suns, planets, moons, stars, the deeper horror of The Holy City. Maggid knew that Diamond had built The Green Idol as a parody upon Smith and his architecture, but the jest was lost in the homage stated in the imitative nightmare.
Bernie was a genius and a philosopher. Maggid had learnt from him that the programming in all education in any empire is in skills of acting like a slave. There were wealthy slaves, comfortable slaves, sexually depleted slaves, and poor and miserable slaves. Only the last group ever threatened the masters. The criminal and hitman was the only group of sanity in such a world besides the masters. Bernie liked to parody the patrician style of the mandarins. But where did the burlesque begin, the mimicry end in Diamond's mischievous skull? Maggid listened to the offkey disso¬nances in the faint pale music filtering through the lobby. The door to the elevator opened with a glissando sound. A sole figure stepped out into the lobby. It was Fockerella Pagan. He stared at Maggid with stark terror.
"All right, Pagan," Maggid said.
He drew his gun before he could be stunned by the coincidence. Opening fire, he shot the fleeing Pagan six times as he ran toward the door of The Green Idol. Fockerella Pagan fell down dead in a pool of green and blue whorls, a trickle of brains spilling out onto the marble floor.
Utilizing his feline responses, Mag¬gid jumped into the elevator, pressed a button, shoved the door shut. In a moment, the chamber plummeted down into the maw of The Green Idol, an atom descending in the void. A panel on the wall blinked mauve, violet and pink, blurring in Maggid's eye. The steel cage hum¬med like a sleeping animal. He glimpsed transparent mazes through its triangular window. Finally the car stopped.
Maggid stepped out of the elevator into the executive offices of Bernhard Diamond. Ebony skinned West Indian brokers were talking to two slim and voluptuous courtesans of the red Wobbly variety, show¬ing off their gilt bodies.
The room was ornamented in a Pompeiian style lit with the glint of steel. Next to a rhomboid door crusted with rhinestones, Brian MacLevey was having his shoulders licked by the pink mucal tongue of an odalisque. He looked up, his red hair, freckled skin and pudgy body still a domino of innocence. The chief broker in Diamond's ticker tape juggling act that was still bedazzling Wall Street, he was looking a little bit lost without the boss.
Maggid sniffed at the air. The acrid odor of sex had blended with attar of roses in sugary counterpoint. Though MacLevey was the perfect steward for Diamond of his stock, bond, grain, and gold operations, without Diamond he might be cavorting forever in a drugged Oriental daze impeding his managerial skill. He had an Irish audacity Maggid liked. Once most of the Irish emigrants had been brought up to hate and persecute Jews.
MacLevey had a vague and amusing memory of being told by nuns and priests that the Jews had killed Jesus. At the time it seemed to MacLevey that the Hebrews had gotten rid of a very unpleasant fellow and for good reason. If the life and death of this Jew was the linchpin of whether one were saved or damned, the mission of this savior trivialized and diminished his own solo pilgrimage. As the Catholic Church waned and the Whites in America had to worry about enemies who were not White men, the new generations of Irishmen tended to like Jews. They were both descended from old tribes who looked more or less like Americans but had no easy route to power. They were possibly related from Neolithic times; both had some similar names and a genetic tilt toward red hair. The Irish women knew they would not be beaten up by a Jewish husband or lover. MacLevey was married to a Jewess. He said he liked complaining better than fighting. He greeted Maggid with a languid, tucked out glare.
"Daniel, you're looking worse than I feel," Brian MacLevey said.
He approached him across a rug woven into a baroque design that hinted at subatomic entities and supergalactic beings flowing through a pink haze. He pointed a finger at a glaze of soft lights, ochre, crimson and bright silver in which one rosy whore bathed, crystallized sweat on her white thighs, a bacchante with a spiritual look on her face. A white Wobbly, one built for mindlessness, grinned at MacLevey and shook her head.
"These damned Wobblies need time to recover. The sperm rusts the neurons. What about a black Wobbly, Daniel? They have natural rhythm."
"I just killed Fockerella Pagan," Daniel Maggid said.
"I know," MacLevey said. "We'll pay Godol, Schwartz and Chocolate and celebrate. I've got something for you; you won't find her this side of the Arctic Circle."
"Forget it," Maggid said. "You talked to Smith?"
"i think he doesn't like New Yorkers," MacLevey said. "He was none too pleasant."
"We'll be exchanging martyrs with Smith," Maggid said. "Some of our buddies have a ticket to Heaven,"
"Death is an Angel," MacLevey shrugged. "Luckily now it's mostly Wobblies who die. That's civilization." He grinned. "It doesn't matter who wins."
"It's crazy," Maggid agreed.
"A Wobbly dies, you trade it in for a new one," MacLevey said.
A powdered vessel of flesh, an abyss in the fragrant night, approached Maggid. Her black eyes shone like gnarled nuts at the core of a fire, she looked like an ivory lover beckoning Mag¬gid to a white saccharine Hell. A silver Wobbly, her moondrenched limbs hinting at the most mystical languors, she had renounced the starry hunt for golden prey for more lacquered revels.
Maggid shook his head. She shrugged and walked away. "We'll all wind up in a peace treaty," Maggid said.
"Peace, corruption, torpor, manias," Brian MacLevey answered with a leer. "Peace all leads to The Red Heaven."
"I'm stopping at The Red Heaven," Maggid said. "Carp says he has a surprise for me."
"Felicia Smith," Brian MacLevey smiled. "Smith's daughter."
"That changes everything," Maggid said. "The Holy City for Feli¬cia. We can make a deal if he wants her back." Maggid looked at Mac¬Levey suspiciously. "He loves her, doesn't he?"
"There are complications," MacLevey began.
He listened to the ticker tapes punching out their messages in code. They commented upon the more shadowy manipulations among gargantuan institutions handling city bonds, multinational real estate and utility issues; the gnomic holocausts of various wars; new perversions; mining statistics; the absolute value of any currency; the seemingly eccentric pattern of games in resorts; the feet of top American generals, Senate antics, the madmen of Power who dehumanized their victims with contempt, their prey obsessing them, completing them like a dream; the capes and dominoes of villains of the imagination; the flow of sewage; winking starlight in the universal sea; races between horses, dogs and men. One saw in this alchemy digits turning into counterfeiting of money, birth certificates; subtle flanking movements in hemp, gold, silver and oil painting; the twists in theology among spirit¬ual hierophants in the hinterlands.
In a dry style these computerized communications expressed Creation in a reductive but elaborate formula. It was the hardedged language of the West. All discrete ideal integers, a world of hard-edged and copiable monads, a reductive imposition into an endlessly shrinking point of midnight darkness. One day Maggid himself would be a cipher hummed down like a mathematical ideal into the world of computers.
"If he loves her, he may not want her around," MacLevey said. "Too much pain."
"A good point," Daniel Maggid answered.
He sighed. Even among those of Smith's ilk family relations could make one vulnerable and tragic. Maggid preferred the world free of biological memory. One was a hunter, one visited a hearth, stayed for the night, and departed with the faint light of the East. A woman gave of herself in a way in the hot midnights that unloosed a hunger for revenge. It was not against the man; it was not ever that personal. It was a need to balance passion with fury. All her reptilian instincts cried for her to trumpet her indifference.
"Did people have children much in Hollywood?" MacLevey asked.
"Not that they knew about," Daniel Maggid said.
It was not just the delight in variety that made those he knew while working with Smith utterly promiscuous and addicted to Wobblies and whores. The relief from the inevitably naked egotism of another was the main charm of such an amorous existence.
"Everybody is working hard," Maggid said, surveying the West Indian brokers.
"You know credit. It's all invented. Magic out of the head of some banker you never see. These guys all help to make something out of nothing," Brian MacLevey said with a smile.
Maggid nodded. They all lived on thaumaturgy. Certainly the ebon brokers, the lilt of their Carib accents punctuating the growl of air con¬ditioners, were already speculating on the future of the universe like prophets. Ultimately the sacred data arrived in cuneiform no less abstract than any mathematical topog¬raphy tapped out by a machine. The brokers were a vestige of the money culture that had replaced racism in the last century after World War Two. In the old system one's skin or tribal memories usually put one at the bottom of a vertical ladder. Although those at the top were prone to call all those communists who were not happy with life in the gutter, they had taken up in spite of themselves a life of master and slave in which the tool of being one or the other was money. It was not how much one had or could make; it was who printed the money that gave one master or slave status. That was the hidden key. Even that system failed and the world was slowly being inundated by Wobblies at the bottom.
"It's all meaningless," Brian MacLevey said.
"I prefer horseracing," Daniel Maggid said. "It's all fixed, but you can see the horses."
"Horses exist; you can't fix them as well," MacLevey said.
Maggid nodded. He looked around the office vacantly. the instinct of a hunter told him he should now who was in any chamber he entered. There were no women in the room. For them, to the left of a bronze computer, there was a way out of the puzzle: the photograph of Lesbos on the wall. The crimson planet shone in its darkness like a chancre.
"I sense Smith is a tragic man, Daniel," MacLevey said.
"He feels anguish; it's a sign of having a personality," he said.
Flanking this framed simulacrum were prints Diamond had sent back from his explorations. Maggid himself did not know what corner of the universe had been the watering place where Bernie had discovered what he needed to know to heal his spirit. Maggid had not been about to understand them. In one, a thick ebony void pricked itself with infinitesimal punctures of light, a sloth in a velvety black ether. The eyes were both static and restless, folded in sleep. In another print billions of indigo eyes seethed on an ivory field, tendrils like turquoise blobs wandering through polar ice as though it were water.
"It's a weakness," Maggid said.
"Are you ever sentimental?" MacLevey asked.
"As much as God is," Maggid answered.
"The Angel of Death," MacLevey smiled.
A third print showed blots like fatty emulsions, floral patterns like a twirl of the genes on a darkly colored tapestry. Other photographs suggested multidimensional beings that had no place in a flat picture. Maggid saw colloids, protozoan horrors, gauzy crea¬tures, crabs, particolored spores spread against a curtain of fire. How this Lesbian world would help them all murder Smith and conquer The Holy City Maggid could not guess.
MacLevey gave Maggid a bleak smile.
"It's not Lesbos. Bernie got the photos there though," MacLevey mut¬tered. "That's our first problem."
"It's not Venus," Maggid said. "It's not Earth, either."
"It's Zelto, the ninth planet in the Andromeda galaxy or the tenth planet if you count Kloelt, the inhabitants of which had colonized Lesbos when we were jerking off into fertility figures in caves," MacLevey said pedantically. "Although somehow the Phoenicians have been there, maybe the Babylonians too but don't get me off the track, Daniel. Zelto has been having a war with Tflti and Phlogo, the eleventh and thirteenth planets of one of the Pleiades."
"Which one?" Maggid asked.
"You think I know the difference?" Brian MacLevey snapped. "I'm a broker not an astronomer." Maggid nodded. "Listen to this. Tflti and Phlogo were originally having a war between themselves, not so much a battle as a bloody life style, which was interrupted only momentarily by the Intergalactic War. They were fighting over sand and dust, rare elements on Tflti, Phlogo, and elsewhere it seems. Their immediate solar system was pure energy; nothing had converted to mass. Then they found out Zelto had an infinite supply of dust, sand and original Lesbian guano on Lesbos, so Bernie's been dealing with Tfiti and Phlogo for Zelto. But the Zeltoids have attenuated atoms; one can move right through them without knowing they exist, while the Titians and the Phlogistons are ultra submicroscopic mineral constellations, a common life form in the Pleiades. They war with and eat each other, but don't get me confused, Daniel. Bernie's got us the Zeltoids and maybe more from this whole farrago in Space for our local war against Smith."
Maggid shook his head. he never could follow the intricacies of astral politics.
"Allies," Maggid said. "Bernie's getting us help. What's the com¬plication, Brian?"
"Several. Tilti is having a civil war. They're quintuple sexed, so every civil war means the planet splits up into five camps," Brian Mac¬Levey said. "Sometimes, but not this time, each side splits into five parthenogenic progeny over and over again indefinitely."
"I'm sorry, or glad, to hear that," Maggid muttered. "But what has all this pentagonal trouble to do with Earth? Are we taking one side, three sides or all sides?"
"Ask Bernie. I don't make policy," Brian said. "But two sides of Tilti and all of Phlogo have contacted Smith."
"Where are the Belchi?" Daniel Maggid asked. "Were the Belchi all killed by the Zeltoids?"
"No. They're on Mars. They were here but the oxygen content infected them with a weird satyriasis. The original Venusians were a viral sea that came to Earth and became us," MacLevey said. "A rem¬nant of the human race escaped to Mercury long ago according to the Zelti."
"Zeltoids," Maggid said. "But what is Smith going to do with all those damned Tiltoids and Phlogoids? They're ultra submicroscopic. How can they fight us, give us a cold?"
MacLevey made a face. He had majored in astral politics in college.
"No, they're too granite based to do that. They're allergic to car¬bon moleculed beings. It gives them some sort of igneous diarrhea. Don't ask me to explain it. In fact, Smith had to invent a submicro¬scopic Wobbly race as special diplomats to Tilti and Phlogo. He doesn't know about Zelto," MacLevey continued. "None of which makes Joe Szechuan happy, as you can imagine, Daniel."
"Don't worry. Szechuan is Bernie's partner in cornering New Jersey night life," Maggid said.
"New Jersey is not the galaxy," MacLevey said.
Maggid sighed. In truth the cosmic reverberations in the war with Smith did not interest him much. he listened because they were factors in a local war. Life for him was local, private; he took a dour pleasure in assaulting The Holy City, and not because it falsely redeemed peo¬ple by making them motes in a vast legion of buzzards. It was energy of pure action like a storm in the core of a star that intrigued him. What did he know or care about other planets, other stars? Bernie spoke about these things. He had a taste for the cosmic and apocalyptic. It was in Bernie's character to trumpet out apocalypses even when he was eating a quick breakfast.
"What is Szechuan worried about? These Phlogians and Til¬tites can't do any worse than termites," Maggid said slowly."Let them join the other bacteria in the New World. They can kiss the Statue of Liberty and give her syphilis if they're looking for trouble, we'll kill them with penicillin."
"You don't understand, Daniel," Brian said. "They can infect Wobblies. That's the cause of Geudosis."
"I never had it," Maggid said.
"It's the ultimate disease," Brian said. "No symptoms. No sign you have it at all. You live a whole lifetime and you never know it exists."
"Some diseases are good; others are meaningless," Daniel Maggid said.
"People don't like to be sick, even if they don't know it. Smith sold us the Wobblies but infected them," Brian said.
"Have our scientists invented an antitoxin to kill off the Tiltoids and Phlogocytes if they become our enemies?" Maggid asked.
"I never thought of that," Brian said.
They stepped thorough a heptagonal door, passed into a corridor filled with Wobbly janitors. A reliquary of American racism, black dust poured down from their ears while they swept the floor. A blue jelly fell slowly from their teeth; thick red sweat descended from their geni¬talia like blood. Their eyes discharged a cloud of ebony.
"Nothing is invulnerable," Maggid said. "It's what we share with bacteria."
"Nothing but you," MacLevey said.
The Wobbly mural cleaners were sitting on purple ottomans to the right of a Hercu¬lean etude ornamenting the walls the icy revels of nuptial octopi in positions of love like mathematical symbols. These stationary Wob¬blies radiated an Apache caste. Their flaccid lips dripping blue snow, red slime dripped from their eyes, their teeth exploded occasionally in sanguine auroras.
They passed through a marble archway into an immense foyer of elevators, desks and piled metal.
"How's your love life, Daniel?" Brian MacLevey asked Daniel Maggid.
"It's not Hollywood," Daniel Maggid said casually. "Frankly, I've been fucking too many Wobblies lately. It's a habit, like television."
"You want to get back to the old fashioned way?" Brian MacLevey said. "We're all parodies of our own Ideal."
"No, the Ideal is a parody," Maggid answered. "I used to say, life is a prelude to a universal graveyard."
"I want the world to be my nightmare," MacLevey said. "One gets stupid from pleasure."
"There are worse ways to be idiotic," Maggid said.
"Isn't that good?" MacLevey asked.
Maggid shrugged. It was true that delight and anguish made one smart as a jungle animal. One tried to garner joy and avoid pain. Satiety was preferable to hunger. They reached a high window set in the corridor and looked down upon a huge mass of paper floating in a grey jelly at the floor of what looked like an immense library. The shelves were empty, the Wobbly clerks gone, and the whole paraphernalia of identity that had once been Dia¬mond's most stylish source of income were soaked in a steely glop. Certificates of all kinds were heaped against the corners of the room.
"You have a hobby," Maggid said. "You collect paper."
Stocks, bonds, contracts, college degrees, deeds, money, fictional biog¬raphies, genealogies, show tickets, holy books, star charts, track results, passports, birth and death certificates, their calligraphy and ink fading, were mashed together in piles where the Wobblies had thrown them in their last frenzy. As for the androids, there was no mark of dreams, their days and nights in the glistening molecular jelly below. MacLevey looked at the debacle coldly.
"It's under galactic attack," MacLevey smiled.
"Phlogos and Tiltites break Wobblies down through atoms to subatomic charges of energy," MacLevey said. "That they can eat; the ink and paper is vegetable. It's too molecularly complex for them."
A Wobbly with dark violet eyes and thick ebony hair walked toward the two employees of Diamond from the other end of the corridor. She had the looks of one who knew she was stunning and was sued to stopping the breath of whomever entered a chamber and was proximate to her presence.
"One of the help," MacLevey said.
"We can all use it," Maggid said.
He heard a musical sound from the ceiling. It was a West Indian religious anthem. it was very rhythmic, very African. Maggid, with his gunman's feline instinct, turned first to handle what¬ever might happen. His hand straying toward his pistol. He looked at the Wobbly. It was the girl he had seen in the orchestra of the Opera. Not a woman at all, he thought. An android who was an impeccable copy of a woman. But unlike most of the robots in mass production, she was indistinguishable from humanity. One would never guess her origin in the immense factories where mineral races were born. In a moment of vertigo, Maggid wondered who else in the New York Crowd was secretly of the mineral persuasion.
"What were you doing at the Opera?" Maggid asked her. "Does Joe Szechuan have offices there?"
"I'm Zerk," she said. "That wasn't me, that was another Zerk. She's also named Zerk, you understand."
"Not really," Daniel Maggid said.
He grabbed her shoulders, and drew her into a chamber universe in the corner of the room. It was a world of olive green and gold with a couch, a table for wine, and nothing else. It was the usual place for one needing a delicious moment or two to get one through the office day. He eased her to the floor of the soft pocket world. Such tiny labyrinths for ses were available in every office. Maggid looked at her. She was female. There was a hard truth in her being beyond sex or the elaborate energy charge in carbon life forms. he felt the back of her neck. Titanium and nickel alloys in their neural endings gave a heavy stillness to their amorousness. Love to their consciousness was a baroque ritual probably it was not even that. In moments like this Maggid realized the intimacy he could have with the mineral world in the arms of a firstclass Zerk. He blended into her to the faint sound of the music from the world outside the discrete chamber reality. When they both had mutual orgasm as all good Wobblies did, Maggid could feel the flood of chemical knowledge enter his skull like a waterfall of black light. Sex with a Zerk was like making love to the interior of a green moon.
"No courtship," the Zerk sighed.
"I don't like ceremonies," Daniel Maggid said.
"Then neither do I," the Zerk said, kissing him.
"It's useless stuff," Maggid said.
Maggid pressed the usual buttons under her left armpit. She reached for his loins as they floated downward into a dream. He unbuckled his belt, pulled down his pants, untightened his tie a little, and then pulled up her own dress of woven platinum thread, a warm hand under her fleshcolored beryl¬lium buttocks. He licked her icy genitalia, rubbing a labia and clitoris redolent of cloves and myrrh.
"Do you know what excites me?" the Zerk asked.
"It doesn't matter," Maggid said.
Maggid wondered for a moment whether he were on an Arctic expedition that led to snow and tundra. He had felt in every wobbly some sign of the hydrogen atom that was the dust and fire of the cosmos. They had within them the neutrality of Creation. Human love was an illusion of charity that was dispelled in a matter of time by the first domestic war, the postlude in court, the contracts that Maggid and his friends took out on such recalcitrant lovers. But perhaps his destiny as a human being had been to learn what a man learns by meditating upon such tawdry theater.
"I can guess what makes you happy," the Zerk said.
"You might be right," Maggid answered.
Forgetting for an instant with what or whom he was dealing, he bestowed upon her a deep navel kiss he had perfected in Hollywood. She was massaging his groin. Already her silicone breasts and blue rubbery nipples were hard. Laughing aloud at this absurdity, he entered her posterior chlorine innards with two brutish thrusts, shiv¬ered while he twisted and writhed within her icy sheath. After a mo¬ment, a cold white jelly flowed slowly over his loins from Zerk, an end¬less river of Wobbly orgasm. Her ears dripped a grey mucus.
"You like beauty," the Zerk said.
"It could addict you," the Zerk said.
Maggid plummeted into her perfumed womb. He penetrated sanctums deep in her coppery urethra, settled into her, programmed screams and all, hop¬ing to relive in this wild loveplay the ferocious ecstasy he had known first in Hollywood, then in the Havana bordellos, then with Felicia Smith and a love that momentarily and seemed both perfect and effortlessly amiable. She began to change into a turquoise carving with a gloss like snow. The past was dead and the laving paid an homage to their yesterdays with memory and hunger to discover the lovers who would repeat what was already a black bone in oblivion.
"Not me," Daniel Maggid said.
Maggid turned to the lover that was before him. Zerk met him with her Wobbly's perfect talent for love, her blue icy smile.
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