"They're still not fucking listening."
II.2.1. This second book of the noble deeds and sayings of Cosmo di Madison was written in order to provide further matter for those who were so taken by the initial collection, now known as Book I. Book II is thus to be understood as a continuation of the general work--an advance in the understanding of the Cosmic doctrine, if you will. When the texts gathered herein were complete, I had the choice of publishing a second, larger edition of Gospels from the Last Man, a single collection embodying both the earlier and later texts, or of simply gathering all the later texts into a second collection. I opted for the latter, realizing that seventy or so readers had already bought Book I, and wouldn't want to buy it over again as part of a second edition. I leave it to the academic publishers and their booksellers to rob people in this manner. Eric Mader-Lin, September 1992, Madison
II.2.2. Late in the afternoon of the day I released Book I of these Gospels, Cosmo di Madison sauntered nobly into the cafˇ, ordered a double cappuccino, and sat down to read through the text for the first time. Needless to say, I was a bit on edge, hoping the Man himself would accept my presentation of his life and views, and would not demand that the twenty-some copies I initially made be shredded for Security Purposes.
Cosmo di Madison left without a word. What was I to think?
An hour later he returned, stepped directly up to me with a calm smile upon his lips, and said in a tone of unwonted warmth and seriousness (unwonted, at least, when he is in the limelight at the front counter of his favorite cafˇ)--
"You did alright, doll. Really, it is a classic. There are a few things that need to be changed before we go to hardcover, but most of it is correct. I just finished it over at my place, and my advisers are reading it this very minute."
"I'm very glad that you accept it," I replied, as we shook hands over our success.
"It's a classic," he said. "It's one of the most important books ever written. Ya hear me?"
"I hear ya, doll. I'm so happy you think so. I've already sold twelve copies. Your Word has been given to the people. What do you think we need to change before we go to hardcover?"
"Well, first of all there are a couple of errors with dates."
"You wrote that Martin Luther died in 1972. I never said that. It needs to be changed. He died in 1970. I should know, after all. Who do you think it was that killed him? Psssh!"
"It was you, wasn't it?"
"You know it, pumpkin." He drifts into his nastiest southern drawl: "Jis put a li'l ol' bit o' lead right there b'tween the eyes o' the ol' Devil hiss-self. --KERPOW!-- Baaaahhhhaaaaahh-hhhaaaaaahhh!"
"I'll change the date in the next draft," I said, immediately making a note of the required change and folding it carefully into my pocket. "Anything else?"
"Make it another double."
"Double cappuccino. For here."
"No, I mean about the book."
"Oh, don't worry. I'll go through it with you later. I don't want to talk about it now. The book is a classic. It'll be read for a thousand years. Ten-thousand eons make it! . . . Has Bush been in to buy one yet?"
"Not today yet."
"He'll be here, don't worry," insisted Cosmo di Madison, glancing out toward the street as if expecting the presidential limousine to pull up any minute. "He'll love it! I just hope he doesn't want me to run with him next time. I've got enough stuff to deal with already. If too many people read that book, they'll want me to be president. You know it, don't you?"
"You don't want to do that, believe me."
"You know it! If they force me to, I'll have to send one of my wives to the White House and run things through her by phone. I'm not leaving Madison. I can't. If I left Madison, the whole world would collapse. It'd be like Pandora's box--much worse even. Psssh! Don't worry, though. Bush knows I'm needed here. Why do you think they stationed me here in the first place?"
"Why did they?" I ask offhandedly.
"To deal with the fucking hoodlums! What have I been telling you! People don't know it, but there is more international espionage going on in this city than any other city in the world. More stuff is going down here than in New York or Berlin put together. Everybody comes here eventually. It's a tough city because everything is here. They need me to keep an eye on it. Otherwise we're all fucked.... Double cappuccino, doll. C'mon."
II.2.3. Cosmo di Madison, echoing the old political slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste": A mind is a terrible thing. Baaaaahhh-hhhaaaaaaahhhhh!
II.2.4. We knew that Cosmo di Madison was an authority on the ancient history of the midwest, and so when Aska Jankowska, Susan Kim and I decided to visit the ruins of the Amerindian city Aztalan, we invited Cosmo di Madison along as a guide to explain the site.
Aztalan is now a state park preserving a handful of pyramidal mounds and what seem to be lookout mounds. The city was built on a strategic site and is flanked on the lower side by a river. The size of the pyramidal mounds led the early European farmers to believe that the already abandoned city was perhaps built by one of the lost tribes of Israel, which belief did not stop them from farming right on top of the pyramids, thus wearing them down and rounding them off over time.
Pat Benetar is the only living descendant of the tribe that founded the city, which, according to Cosmo di Madison, is clearly an Egypto-Phonecian settlement. Scholars, in an attempt to muddy the truth, claim the city was probably founded by Indians of the Mississippi group. A large wooden fortification wall around the city suggests that the city was at war with its neighbors. Archaeology shows the wall to have been finally burned around 1200 A.D. Evidence suggests that cannibalism was practiced by the city-dwellers, which may account for the need for lookout mounds and the protective wall. Perhaps the neighboring tribes themselves preferred fishes and ducks, roots and berries, grains and deer, and did not take kindly to, and did not exactly appreciate...and so on. Perhaps the neighboring tribes attacked and burned the hated city of cannibals.
Another scenario suggests itself. In this second scenario, the neighboring tribes, hostile to the new culture in their midst, laid siege to the city, which siege led to the cannibalism within the city walls, which walls were finally burned down in a decisive attack--the city dwellers then being slaughtered like the foreigners and invaders, arrogant cosmopolitans, they may well have been. It is this second scenario that appears the more probable. The people of Aztalan were immigrants from a more advanced culture in the South, and would surely have been resented by their neighbors. This kind of conflict is not hard to imagine. In fact, one can still hear a citydwelling Burgher, three months before the Great War, rebuffing a local boy suing for his daughter's hand--a local boy from one of the surrounding and more rustic tribes--:
No way, and no how! The thought of it! You think my daughter is gonna marry a punk like you? Hah! Just look at those hands of yours! You're a root grubber is what you are. Your parents probably ate the whole fish. I can smell it on you too. Eccch! So don't even think of it. My daughter would never have you. And what did you think? The girl studied fashion design three years in Chokakia! I'll bet you don't even know where Chokakia is. Psssh! Couldn't even order shrooms in their mellifluent, lubrizzly language--their language of cultivation and culture--their soft, noble language in which my daughter composes her...her poetry. Ahem! And you come here.... And you, you even presume to imagine a match with such a girl? You probably couldn't even find the main mound in Chokakia if they gave you a map! No. You listen to me, boy, and listen well: I want you to git your smelly grubbing ass off my plot of land this very instant! And don't you let me see your inbred face around here again! You hear me? [The father walks away muttering and spitting:] Bloody ruffians...shouldn't even let 'em in the gate.... Things are falling apart round here since Spinning Feather.... Back in my day.... Etc., etc.
It was doubtless scenes like this, oft repeated, that led to the consolidation of the neighboring tribes against this demi-civilized City on a Hill, which consolidation in turn allowed for the siege and final destruction.
"It was the Sandinistas attacked this city--you can be sure of it." Thusly Cosmo di Madison lays to rest all scholarly fluff and nonsense concerning the fate of Aztalan.
(Note: Aztalan is forty minutes east of Madison on 94, just past Lake Mills. There is a small museum there containing artifacts found at the site. Turn off at Lake Mills exit and ask directions.)
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita....
--Inferno I, i.
II.2.5. We had been walking along together, calmly discussing matters of importance to the cafˇ. As we passed Bethel Lutheran church, however, Cosmo di Madison burst out suddenly and with such furor as to startle me from the sleep into which I had lately let myself drift. As if hawking a headline of most scandalous and timely import, he proclaimed his message for all to hear: "Satan in the Church today! Yes people, Satan himself! Who will beat the bastard back to Hell! Who of you dares?"
He glared in defiance at the tubby and summerdressed ladies exiting the church, seeing clearly the guilt in their eyes. He turned to me and continued in an only somewhat milder tone: "It makes me fucking sick how they put these things up! It's fucking crazy, ya hear me?"
"What's that?" I inquired, being always willing to learn from Cosmo di Madison, the source of nearly half my knowledge.
"What do you mean, what's that?" he snarled in obvious disappointment. "Look at this fucking thing!"
I obligingly surveyed that neo-Renaissance hodgepodge in white Anglican brick that is Bethel Lutheran. It somehow looked just in place with the stoplights and stinking rush-hour traffic wrapped around it.
"They build 'em prefab overnight in underground rebel strongholds. Then they truck 'em out here and claim they're five-hundred years old. It's fucking sick!"
For a moment, as we stood there in the heat, I thought Cosmo di Madison was perhaps referring to the clutch of grey-haired, summerdressed ladies now waiting on the corner for their walk light. But no, of course not. Cosmo di Madison was referring to the church!
I myself--I was dumbfounded. I was shocked to learn of this insidious rebel tactic to undermine our architectural authenticity. To show solidarity, and to let Cosmo know of my fury, I agreed with him strenuously that--"Yes, it is fucking sick how they put these things up!"
We walked on together in near despair, too angry for further comment. The nation had surely gone to the dogs.
But as it was toward the downtown that we were headed, walking in fact to that street upon which one may find the cafˇ so often mentioned in these writings, as this our Destiny was established as it were by the Heavens above, we soon came within sight of Holy Redeemer Catholic church, and Cosmo di Madison's fury was suddenly, and visibly, broken. He stood next to me as if transfixed in contemplation of the simple beauty of that Irish Catholic temple.
"Now look at Holy Redeemer here," he said. "Some of these Catholic buildings are thousands of years old. You know it, don't you?"
And how, reader, how could I not know it? For I am just as thoroughly educated in the history of the Church as any of you may be--be sure of that! After all, I wasn't raised Lutheran you know. I wasn't. I swear.
As we walked on, Cosmo di Madison adopted a more didactic tone. He pointed out that it was safe to send one's daughters to Holy Redeemer, but with those Lutheran churches--"They'll probably end up drugged and starring in porno flicks with Bill Fucking Clinton! Pssssssh! Ya hear me? They'll be praying in there and the fucking bastards'll suddenly lock the doors and pick the whole church up off the ground and cart it away in one of their camouflaged trailers. Off to Porno Disneyland, little girl! They have the technology for that kind of thing. Their churches are made of fucking fiberglass--you know it, don't you? Up one day, gone the next."
Adopting the shrill and all-too-familiar tone of brazen Protestant hypocrisy, Cosmo di Madison is led to mimic the defense of these Lutherans before a Special Investigative Committee: No, we are right sorry, Mr. President, but we have no record that one of our sacred Lutheran churches was ever located at the address you indicate, and we deny any connection with the said girls in question. Ahem.
He gazes at me speechless, as if in disbelief that they would dare speak this way given all the evidence against them. Then he concludes: "Psssssh! Fucking Lutheran rhetoric shit!"
--A word to the wise.
II.2.6. Referring to the cafˇ: "If it weren't for me, this place would be totally overrun by crazies. You know it, don't you?"
II.2.7. Five words to add to the lexicon of our tongue badly in need of rejuvenation.
The one was coined au cafˇ in relation to the behavior of a certain employee seen to be frequently and reverently on the heels of a certain regular, following this regular up and down the stairs, in an out of the cafˇ, all the while scribbling with a writing tool of foreign make on a single goatskin or several small goatskins, clearly in an attempt to preserve the utterances of said regular through said scribblings. Thus the first word, a nearly inevitable one--COSMOLATRY.
The second was coined au cafˇ by a musically dilettantish customer unused to attending to lengthy performances on classical guitar. Cosmo di Madison was on stage and was about ten minutes into "a very afficated piece [he] wrote for classical guitar" when the dilettante next to me brazenly coined the term--COSMONOTONOUS.
The third is almost not worth mentioning. Someone suggested that we give the Man an office in Van Hise, making him the chairman of a new department--yes--COSMOLOGY. Well....
None of these terms evinces the kind of philological subtlety found in the utterances of Cosmo di Madison himself. Get him on the subject of etymology, get him to speak for even a few minutes thereon, and folks will gather round to listen as if it were Pierce, Saussure, and Shklovsky (mostly Shklovsky) rolled into one. And so, upon being asked where we derive our term infantry, Shklaussure himself remarked: In New Glarus, Wisconsin, a few years back, there was a sort of secret club, made up of babies only--only babies were allowed to join. They would gather together on the weekends to climb trees. They would climb them in little gangs. This is where we get the word infantry. [i.e.: "infant-tree"] --Oh, reader! Have you never been to New Glarus? Have you never seen this little village of Swiss immigrants with their gingerbread houses on the green hillside, their big vicious dogs, their swimmingpools and even a few Mercedes? If you have never been there, you cannot appreciate the hilarity of the fact that some years back there was a secret club of their babies who would gather together to climb trees--their diapers getting stuck in the branches as they tried to climb higher; teething rings dropping now and again from twenty feet up; the mothers pleading to come down, the fathers standing behind, muscular, silent, proud.
Also: Decaf Ed (you've all seen him: loud, pestering sort of fellow with a moustache and cokebottle glasses ) suggested recently that chaos theoreticians and anthropologists could have a sort of field day studying Our Man under the rubric of "Coz and Effect."
The fourth and fifth words come straight from the Academy. One William, professor of Spanish letters, noted that many of the employees at our cafˇ had adopted certain COSMISMS as part of their everyday speech and behavior. He claimed to have noticed the frequent usage of "Psssh!," "Pumpkin-Lover," "Doll-Face," and often even truncated versions of Cosmo di Madison's celebrated Baaaahhhhaaaaahhhhh! These and other Cosmisms were attested even when the Man himself was not present in the cafˇ.
William: "This is clearly indicative of a kind of not-too-salutary Cosmosis."
II.2.8. The Maha Rouge. Through the persistence of my questioning and the repeated and earnest manifestations of my deep political sympathy, Cosmo di Madison has finally leaked to me various concrete details concerning his military actions. Until recently, I have had to keep my mouth shut concerning these things. But now that a sufficient mum period has passed and now that the events in question have thoroughly vented themselves, I am finally able to record here bits of military history not previously available to the public. I hope the reader will trust in the veracity of these things as coming from only the most reliable possible sources: first, Cosmo di Madison, and secondly, myself.
Cosmo di Madison--yes, our very own Cosmo di Madison--is the founder and current leader of that deadly global fighting force known as the "Maha Rouge." The recent actions of the Maha Rouge read like a menu of the military conflicts currently wreaking so much havoc in what would otherwise doubtless be the smooth functioning--the day to day joys--of World Trade under the fine principles of the Bourgeois Revolutions. And so....
It was the Maha Rouge, led by Cosmo di Madison, that prevented Deng Xiaoping's communist army from murdering millions of democratic students in China after the June 4th crackdown. Quick and lethal intervention kept the slaughter to a minimum. What's more, Cosmo di Madison had a personal stake in this conflict, because many of these democratic Chinese students are actually children of Cosmo di Madison, be it through "orphelation," or, as in not a few cases, "immaculate conception."
The Maha Rouge moved from China to Iraq, and ended up winning that one too. There are still snags in the Iraqi conflict, however, snags which keep Cosmo returning for what always seem to be "23-hour secret shifts." In other words, when we don't see Cosmo di Madison at the cafˇ for more than a day straight, we are certainly not to be judged in the wrong if we imagine that he is at the moment in Iraq, in some kind of Iraqi peasant garb, or Iraqi uniform, scouring the countryside on camel's back if need be while directing secret operations through a frightening array of sandresistant high-tech communications gadgets.
I asked Cosmo di Madison about Yugoslavia, when would he settle the war in Yugoslavia.
"Don't worry, we'll do it. I can't say when at this point. Security reasons. You know."
But two weeks later Cosmo di Madison revealed more to me concerning the Yugoslav crisis.
"The Maha Rouge is an elite fighting force, smooth as silk and 99% effective," he pointed out. "Basically, we win everything. Right now my troops are being flown to Yugoslavia in transport planes. We still had some cleanup in Iraq to take care of, because that Saddam Hussein is a tenacious fucking bastard if ever there was one. You know it, don't you? We've had a lot of trouble with this thing--let me tell you."
"Where are your troops landing in Yugoslavia?" I asked cautiously, as if it weren't a very serious question, just a little query of sorts, trying to avert by such means a prudent rebuff in the interests of Security.
"I can't tell you that, honey. What do you think? Lives are depending on this. I was just there yesterday. We're currently parachuting into selected strategic points. Actually we don't even need parachutes. We're so tough we just jump out of the plane. There are already almost a dozen squadrons in. I lead Squadron 501: we're the smoothest and most deadly fighting force on the whole planet. They named the buttonfly jeans after us."
"On what date will the Maha Rouge make its move?" I ask, nervous for the outcome of this current European crisis.
"C'mon, Doll Face, that's TOP SECRET! What have I just been tellin' you here? Basically we're gonna to beat back both sides. This war is fucking stupid! They're fighting over nothing! We're gonna kill off all their leaders and give a lot of their land back to people who will know what to do with it. We'll be bringing in groups of American Indians. The American Indians weren't fucking stupid like all these bat-faced generals in Yugoslavia. The Indians knew how to keep peace in the land: they could make the land fertile for everyone. These Serb commanders aren't even real Serbs! They're just a bunch of fucking bats who invaded Yugoslavia from the North and the Northeast. They were led by Ghengis Khan and Mongolian intelligence operatives, and were funded by who do you think? Martin Fucking Luther, who else? Psssh! You know it's all true, doll. It's just the cover-up keeps people from finding out about it."
Thusly spoke Cosmo di Madison on the recent events in Yugoslavia. And what can one say? If there were only more peacekeeping forces like the Maha Rouge, the world would probably be a place of peace and harmony and global environmental preservation of all kinds. In short:
When will humanity join hands in peace and love and fucking learn, the stupid fucking bastards?
I ask you that.
Cosmo di Madison would not comment on where the Maha Rouge acquired its name. But one can presume quite a bit based on what we know of Cosmo di Madison's biography. In other words, the Maha Rouge is probably a fighting force ideologically situated somewhere between Mahatma Gandhi and the Khmer Rouge. This explains the terror the Maha Rouge inspires in its enemies. For even the most serious students of modern history would be hard-pressed to come up with a more lethal ideological combination--though it's true, of course, that many have come close, while others continue to do the best they can.
II.2.9. The Doctrine of the Man-Baby. Several months following the initial visit to the ruins of the city of Aztalan, Cosmo di Madison and I decided to return there, just the two of us this time, to make a second, more rigorous visit.
"I would like to inspect things a bit more carefully," he told me. "I don't want any bimbos along this time. Alright?"
Cosmo di Madison and I drove to the site, but finding that the summer heat was too oppressive to spend time in the open field that used to be the center of the city--the area, in short, where one could sit upon the remains of the Aztalan pyramids--we wandered down to the riverside and talked in the shade. Cosmo pointed out how well suited that section of the river was for a trading port, and indicated to me precisely where the Egypto-Phonecian quays were most likely built.
"Those archaeologists are fucked when it comes to explaining central Wisconsin. You know it, don't you? This city was much larger and much more flourishing than they try to tell people. They want you to think there was hardly anybody around here before the Lutherans and Han Christian Heg and all the other finks and hoodlums arrived. Pssssssh! It's fucking sick!"
Because of the heat and the depressive mood induced by thinking upon Luther and his followers, Cosmo and I decided to return at once to Madison, regardless of the fact that we had only been at Aztalan twenty minutes and had doubtless not accomplished the more careful inspection intended.
Driving back through Lake Mills rather pensively, our windows rolled down, we came to a stop sign on the sidewalk. Next to the stop sign there was a very small child on a Big Wheels tryke. I brought my car to a stop and looked here and there, trying to decide if the correct way was straight ahead or to the right. The child, resting on his tryke and with his feet splayed out languidly, looked up at Cosmo di Madison and distinctly muttered the words--
I was a bit put off by the tone of the child's voice. For it sounded as if it came directly from some depth out of keeping with the scene around us: the box houses, the toys and swings, the mowed lawns. As the child said nothing further, I began to pull away from the stop sign. We drove for a couple blocks. Cosmo put out his cigarette and remarked warmly, with a little chuckle-- "Kids always know. Ya hear me?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, eager for an explanation of our uncanny encounter with the child.
"They know I'm the Man-Baby."
I sensed that Cosmo di Madison was about to relate to me something of great importance, something of which I hadn't previously had so much as a glimmer. I rolled up my window, so as to miss none of it, and asked-- "But Doll Face... What is the Man-Baby?"
"Basically, there have been fourteen of us," he began. "The Man-Baby is born old, and becomes younger and younger as he gets older. The Man-Baby doesn't ever die, but he regresses back into his childhood. I am the Man-Baby, and the Man-Baby is I."
"So the Man-Baby regresses back to childhood."
"The Man-Baby begins as a prophet, or elder statesman, and then he gradually regresses back. I am now regressing back: I am returning to absolute childhood. Soon I will be there."
"You will be where?"
"But what will happen to you when you reach absolute childhood?"
Cosmo di Madison rolled up his window. He leaned toward me, as if afraid someone would overhear us (nevermind we were now flying down the On-ramp onto Highway 94, in the stifling heat of a dead summer day, in a Honda Accord with both windows rolled up) he leaned toward me and whispered in a hoarse tone: "I will eskff. What did you think I would do? Psssh!"
"You will eskff," I confirmed. "Yes?"
"Like Moses and Jesus?"
"But what does it mean, specifically, for a Man-Baby--for a Man-Baby returning to absolute childhood--what does it mean for him to eskff? What, precisely, will it look like?"
"In the end I will become larger and larger. I will be larger than buildings."
"Am I to imagine a gigantic sort of baby then? A baby larger than buildings? " I ask him in a tone of mild fright.
"Oh, don't worry, pumpkin! I will just be eskffing. Finally I will fill the sky, I will be larger than Everything--I will be Everything . And then suddenly I'll eskff."
I am persistent in my inquiry. I ask him, hoping finally for a definition: "But what does it mean to eskff?"
"I will ecstatically unite with all Divine Jorphelancy," replies Cosmo di Madison.
"How do you spell that?"
"Just like it sounds."
I take the orange pastel pencil from my dashboard and write the world "jorphelancy" on the face of a Guns and Ammo Business Reply Mail subscription request card that I ask Cosmo to grab for me from the back seat.
"So: eskffing. You will eskff. But what precisely happens to the body in eskffing? Are there any remains? I mean--how can we build your crypt?" [From this point on, the text is based on notes from a later discussion with Cosmo di Madison concerning the Doctrine of the Man-Baby. Whereas above I could only reproduce his answers from memory, from here on the quotes are exact. I asked him again: "What precisely happens to the body in eskffing? Are there any remains?"]
"The energy cell in the body occorphelates an enzyme from a hydrogen dioxide in the atmosphere, and the more the atoms form, and the more cosmic ozone that affacates and occoilantly hits the planet, the more powerful the Man-Baby gets, the more politically powerful his body seems to be."
"Do you mean his body as a fetish, as a sort of relic?"
"Yes. The body of the Man-Baby determines the political agenda. I myself will become so powerful that I will dissipate into a large vat of energy and disappear. But my body will become powerful in another way."
"And if I could be present at the eskffing--"
"I'm not sure that's possible."
"But if I could be present, what would I experience?"
"You would experience another Man-Baby ascending into Heaven."
"I will eskff." Photo of Cosmo di Madison, c. 1960.
"You mentioned before that there were fourteen Man-Babies in history. Is that correct?"
"And could you tell me who they were?"
"Ezikel, Moses, Isaiah, Michael, Jesus, Mohammed, Akine, Buddha, and Immual." [I spelled the names as he pronounced them, unsure of some of them.]
"But--let's see--that only seems to be nine of them."
"That's because I didn't name the Man-Babies currently living."
"Could you name them?"
"It's rather important. How am I supposed to write the canon?"
"There's Ozzie Nelson, Bob Geldoff, Myself, David Sanford, and Nat Campbell."
I asked Cosmo di Madison if there was any connection between the giant final size of the Man-Baby and the stories of giants recorded in the past. In short: were the giants in any way related to the Man-Babies?
"Perhaps there was some connection," he said. "Perhaps. But the giants in the past were mostly women. They were Amazons. Giant women Amazons."
"Really? They were Amazons? I guess I never read much concerning the Amazons."
"The Amazons were total vegetarians. They were very righteous people. You didn't fuck with the Amazons. Ya hear me?"
"I seem to remember reading about that."
"The women in the Amazon tradition would always get very large. But the men wouldn't necessarily get very big. You just didn't fuck around with 'em. Nobody did."
"Where did the Amazons first come from?"
"They came from Tibet, or India. Mostly Tibet. They wanted to get back at the Greeks and the Jews for crucifying Jesus Christ. They were very righteous. Very clean people. Fantastic cooks too."
"The Amazons were good cooks?"
"The Amazons were the best fucking cooks in ancient Greece. And don't you forget it. Don't believe any of these university professors. They don't know what the fuck they're talking about. They're all gonna vote Democrat or join some Communist front group. Eventually you won't be able to learn anything around here because everything will be rhetoric. Ya hear me?"
II.2.10. People are always asking me--"Yeah, but what is the real story of Cosmo di Madison? Do you know? Like--what happened to him?"
Let me tell all of you here, let me tell you one more time so that I won't have to answer it again: This, to the best of my ability, is the real story of Cosmo di Madison.
II.2.11. The Four that Came Back. Following are three accounts of the same encounter with Cosmo di Madison. I faced quite some trouble trying to decide which of them should be considered definitive. Eventually I did decide on one of them as the best, but I also decided, somewhat perversely, to include all three of them in the book, so as to give my readers the chance to choose for themselves.
In short, which of these texts is true? Which of them should go into the canon? (The three Roman numerals do not necessarily imply any chronology of composition: they do not mark a succession of drafts. Neither do they imply which of the texts I myself consider definitive.)
i. On the sidewalk in front of Discount Den, Cosmo di Madison is thoroughly disgusted with contemporary American culture.
"I killed twelve people today because they were fucking stupid," he points out to me, his lips twisted in a sneer and his hand on his hip.
"Sounds pretty serious, Coz. They must have been really stupid."
"Yeah, they were fucking stupid alright. Four of 'em came back."
ii. On the sidewalk in front of Discount Den, Cosmo di Madison is thoroughly disgusted with the moral lassitude of his fellow Americans.
"Americans have lost all of their wits. Try to find even one of them who's thinking clearly. You can't. What is going on in this fucking place anyhow? Look at these people!" Cosmo di Madison says to me, squinting in annoyance at a clique of passing "radical" students; at a bench full of drugged-out high school derelicts; at three tubby and slackjawed bourgeois from the West side. (The latter, it will be noted, even ventured to glance back at Cosmo di Madison and I as if we were the freaks. Hah! The insolence! The gross depravity! How are we to stand it? To have some huge couch potato wrapped in "Wisconsin Pride" sweatgear and makeup dare to look you in the eye as if you were somehow out of place in the world. At moments like this I see--and perhaps you do also, reader--I see for an instant the proud brow of Fidel, and then suddenly, suddenly after this, I see Isaiah standing steady under a desert sun--I see them one after another as if by a flash of lightning! Kerpowww! Then all goes quickly blank: the black void of Absolute Justice. The black void of our Justice of a Billion Earthquakes. Perhaps you also know this one, reader. Perhaps you are in on this too. Perhaps you too say: "The time will come. Heh heh heh.")--
"I killed twelve people today because they were fucking stupid," Cosmo di Madison says to me, his lips twisted in a sneer and his hand on his hip.
"Sounds pretty serious, Coz. They must have been really stupid."
"Yeah, they were fucking stupid alright. Pssssh! Four of 'em came back!"
Do you follow this, reader? In short, these four--they were so stupid that even after he killed them they came back. As if they were looking for more! Can you believe it? This would truly seem to cinch the witlessness of Americans. For you must admit, reader--even though you yourself may be proud to be American--you really must admit--This is, indeed, rather stupid. It is, all of it, almost unimaginably stupid.
iii. On the sidewalk in front of Discount Den, Cosmo di Madison is thoroughly disgusted with the moral lassitude of his fellow Americans. The moment he sees me, he launches into his diatribe: "Americans have lost all of their wits. Try to find even one of them who's thinking clearly. You can't. What is going on in this fucking place anyhow? Look at these people!"
He squints in annoyance at a clique of passing "radical" students; at a bench full of drugged-out high school derelicts; at three tubby and slackjawed shoppers from the West side.
"I killed twelve people today because they were fucking stupid," he says, his lips twisted in a sneer and his hands on his hips.
"Sounds pretty serious, Coz. They must have been really stupid."
"Yeah, they were fucking stupid alright. Pssssh! Four of 'em came back!"
Do you follow this, reader? In short, these four--they were so stupid that even after he killed them they came back. As if they were looking for more! Can you believe this? Have you heard the like? This would truly seem to cinch the witlessness of Americans. For you must admit, reader--even though you yourself may be proud to be an American--you really must admit: This is, indeed, rather stupid.
II.2.12. Cosmo di Madison and I were up in the smoking section of the cafˇ discussing the frazzled moral fiber of today's young people, when a young Arab man greeted Cosmo from several tables away.
"How are you?" said the man.
"Fine," replied Cosmo di Madison. "Who are your friends?"
There were indeed two other Arab men sitting with the first man, but he didn't appear to understand Cosmo di Madison's question.
"What?" he said.
"Who are your friends?" repeated Cosmo di Madison.
But the Arab still didn't understand. "What?" he said.
"Who are the people you're with?" asked Cosmo di Madison.
The Arab raised his arms questioningly, still unclear on the question. But Cosmo di Madison did not lose any of his calm, aware of the problems of dealing with those not fluent in English. So he asked the question in a different manner:
"Who are the two friends you are sitting with?"
"Oh," replied the Arab. "These are my friends."
Cosmo di Madison nodded vaguely, then slowly turned back to me. There was a chilled and serious look in his eye. He glanced round cautiously at several of the other tables, then leaned toward me slowly, muttering in almost a whisper: "This place is full of fucking spies. Ya hear me?"
II.2.13. Bats. For several months now, copies of Book I of these Horrific Chronicles have been on sale at the front counter of our cafˇ. This move to disseminate the word of Cosmo di Madison has led to a number of interesting realizations. For one, I have realized that nearly everyone in Madison knows Cosmo di Madison or knows of him. People I have never before seen come into the cafˇ and begin talking about the man whose face is shown on the cover of the book. They begin talking of him under one or another of the various names by which he has been known over the years, for he has gone by many names in his many branches of work here in Madison. After some time, in fact, I began to be able to assign the speaker to a period in the life of Cosmo di Madison, or at least to a particular stratum in the social world, according to the name by which they knew him. Those who knew him in their capacity as police officers would often know Cosmo di Madison by a different name than those who knew him in their capacity as bartenders, just as those who knew him in the 70's knew him by a different name than those who knew him in the 80's. And what is more, upon hearing the utterance of a name from a period in which I was interested, a period on which Cosmo di Madison had not yet bothered to inform me, I would ask further questions of the speaker such as: When exactly did you know him by this name? What was he doing then? What do you remember of him? The answers would often show me sides of Cosmo di Madison I hadn't previously suspected: talents and concerns of his which he had left behind; projects which he had abandoned, having usually accomplished his objectives; wives and hobbies of which I hadn't previously been given a word. I would hear sentences like: "He was an art dealer who collected only paintings by Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell, and only the paintings of theirs done on black velvet. These two singers went through a period where they painted a lot of motorcycles, farmyards, American eagles, stuff like that." Or: "He would always call me Jane and insisted I was the mother of his children." Or: "He was the secret Dean of the University of Wisconsin. He refused to give me his name, so I called him Dean." Or: "He was called Rock 'n Roll Bob, but his real name was Neil Diamond. He was always a good guy."
An interesting twist on this phenomenon offered itself to me when I had to deal with readers who bought the book hoping to find in it the Cosmo they knew. For I have sold almost 75 of these books now, many of them to people I have never before seen, people, in short, who were on a brief visit to Madison from some other city, who perhaps went to school here in the 70's, or who had worked here for a number of years, but who for some time now had been living in some other city. They happen to come into the cafˇ, and they see a book about their good friend Bob, or Niel, or Dean. Their heart goes back to the Old Days, and they buy a copy of this book, only to find almost nothing of Bob, Neil, Dean, the art dealer, the scientist, the true father of their children, etc., etc. On a couple of occasions they have complained, sometimes on their next visit to Madison: "You don't know him like I did," and so on. I will give you in the following the most fruitful of these cases.
A graduate student in environmental studies came to me with the following complaint: "I used to talk with Cosmo all the time, so I bought the book. But you didn't put anything in it about bats."
"Why would I put anything about bats in it?" I asked.
"What do you mean! All Cosmo talks about is bats! He's obsessed with them. How can you sell a book about him if you don't even know that?"
"But he's never once talked with me about bats," I replied, trying to make the guy's decaf latte. "Maybe he only talked to you about bats because he noticed the resemblance." (This remark went right over his head, however, for he was, as I have pointed out, a scientist.)
"Well, could I get my money back? I mean--I wanted to read about bats," he began to insist, meanwhile pulling his crumpled copy of the book from his bookbag.
"I'm sorry--here's your decaf latte--but I can't sell this copy anymore--it's too damaged--and it was only my business to write about Cosmo di Madison as he presented himself to me. I can't very well write about things he didn't talk with me about, can I? There's a Wisconsin Union mini-course being offered in Genealogy, though. I read about it. Trace your family and all." And once again he missed it. (But perhaps, reader, you think I was being too cruel to him with such sarcasm. I disagree with you. Know that I am one who goes by the motto Warm at heart, mean in the teeth. What's more, you must consider the following: this guy was not only a scientist, he was a decaf drinking scientist. And there I rest my case. My remarks were more than anything part of what we at the cafˇ call decaf mode--a certain manner we have of harassing decaf drinkers--a little shop specialty.)
Curious, however, about Cosmo di Madison's interest in bats, I asked the man what sort of things he said about them. He couldn't give many details, wanted to sit down with his latte, and only told me that Cosmo di Madison claimed to go on yearly bat-hunting expeditions in Bohemia.
This remark rang true. For certainly those who know Cosmo di Madison can imagine him on a bat-hunting expedition in Bohemia. He is dressed all in black leather, with a wide-brimmed black leather hat. The weather is thick and overcast. He is carrying an archaic blunderbuss sort of weapon, riding around in a stagecoach with some hissing Romanian countess who smokes through a long cigarette-holder. He is on a bat-hunting expedition. He enters barns and rotting cathedrals, castle ruins. He has his servant, the coachman, aim a high-powered spotlight up under the eaves of buildings, up into the arches of castles and cathedrals, up into the lofts of soggy barns. And then, as the swarms of bats begin to wake and hiss and bare their teeth at the horrible light, he blows them away by the thousands with the blunderbuss (which, it turns out, is an automatic--if you can imagine such a thing--an automatic blunderbuss). The spotlight keeps going on the blink, the servant rushing and fidgeting to get it fixed, Cosmo smoking in the meantime and cussing: "Fucking Soviet garbage lamps, can't even get 'em to fucking work in broad daylight! Next time we bring a lamp from General Electric, hey doll?" The countess merely grins and hisses: "Mmm. Yess, darlink. Zat vould be much, much better. Vahtever you sink, darlink. I vill be here for you. Only for you--my Cossmoe."
In short, the word of my scientist friend about Cosmo di Madison's obsession with bats stuck in my crop and began to bear fruit. I needed to find out more about this connection, for it was obvious to me that there must be some truth to these bat-hunting expeditions. I waited days, carefully biding my time until I felt Cosmo di Madison was in the proper mood for such a topic. For I had long since learned that there was no getting him to talk about this or that if the rhythms of the day were not suited to such a discussion. One evening, in the haze and mania of the smoking section, I found him railing against Henry Kissinger to an audience of three women. The women soon left and Cosmo di Madison began to speak to me about various subtle disturbances in the planet's weather caused by imbalances resulting from criminally negligent reversals of the proper clatifications or escophancies of bipolar and so on. In short, another weather conspiracy whose technical details I was not quite up to comprehending. And so I broached the subject Bats.
"Bats?" he said. "Psssh! You don't even want to fucking hear about bats. Believe me. Just pretend you didn't see them. We'll take care of it. Don't worry."
And this was all I could expect to get concerning bats.
Weeks went by, and then a month, and finally two months. I hadn't thought to mention bats again.
One night in the mid-summer, this being the summer of 1992, I went to that cafˇ "just around the corner" from State Street, that notorious cafˇ so intimately related to our own. I'd just gotten off work, but hadn't yet had enough of the thirty-some faces I so love to see. Everyone knows that Amy's and our cafˇ share precisely the same clientele. Our regulars, once having finished drinking coffee all day at our place, will usually drift immediately to Amy's to have a bite to eat, perhaps a ratatouille or a Greek Salad. And then, pausing for around twelve minutes for their food to digest, they will begin to order gin-and-tonics, beer, or whatever suits them for the night. The fast migration from our place to Amy's ensures that the effects of their massive caffeine consumption wear off just in time to be replaced by the effects of their slightly-less-massive alcohol consumption. Did I write "slightly less massive alcohol consumption"? Why, yes, I did. For my people, you know, are the movers and shakers. They do not slosh around in the bottom of bar glasses as much as they flit around off the edges of tiny black espresso mugs, gossiping in lousy Urdu or pidgin German. For my people have dissertations to write. They must write proposals for post-grad work; pleas to relatives; love letters to Prague; radical reviews of radical feminist critiques of radical scholarly works based on interviews with actual radicals in the Third World. My people must write these and many other things of similar import. They are not a bunch of sodden beatniks like their Madison forebears: they are wired scholars, not pseudo-taoist drunkards. And they are going to save the world: you can be sure of it.
And so I strolled into Amy's, and noted immediately a table full of my fellow workers from the cafˇ. What's more, one of those at the table was celebrating something and had managed to bring into the bar an absolutely huge bottle of champagne, one of those huge black bottles, and had managed, in addition, to demand from the bartender glassware with which to drink this huge bottle of champagne. The bottle was gone soon enough, but our orders went in for more of this and that, and after an hour or so I had completely caught up with my fellows. It was Steve, Jennifer, Suzy, Jane, Sharon, Cookie, Carrie, Don, and Mary. And then it was Mary-Jane, who, it seems, had been kicked out of the bar some time ago. But Mary-Jane joined us right there at the table in the middle of the bar, and talked on and on with all of us, the bartender ignoring this further infringement for one reason or another, but most certainly not because he (or she: I don't remember who it was) didn't notice Mary-Jane, for Mary-Jane was not to be missed on this occasion. The party went on an on, actually perhaps one of the best times I've had "just around the corner," and finally bar-time was upon us.
I must note at this juncture that the bouncer at Amy's is none other than Cosmo di Madison. This is the case for various reasons, but the most obvious of them is to be found in the fact that Cosmo di Madison can be absolutely persuasive when it comes to clearing out a room full of drunks. For Cosmo di Madison has no qualms about raising his voice. And when 2:30 a.m. rolls around and you are sloshed; when the lights go on bright and you see the Man standing before you in the middle of the room with a sneer of contempt in his eyes, a sneer of contempt for your drunkenness and your red eyes and your "radical scholarship"; when--to make matters worse--the Man looks directly into those tired eyes of yours and winks at you almost seductively, grinning with a most strange sort of knowledge, but then suddenly switches his approach and barks out something like "Alright--who in here wants to waltz with ME? BAAAAAAAHHHH-HAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"--and barks this out at the top of his lungs, all the while holding his needle-sharp and sober eyes glued to your own eyes swollen like dead guppies, your own eyes of yellowed newsprint and faded photos of Althusser; in short, when this sort of come-on, and yet more of the same, over and over, is all that you have to look forward to in staying at your table, you will most certainly leave as quickly as you can. I have, in fact, seen you do just that. For it is not to be doubted that when the lights go on bright in Amy's at 2:30 a.m., Cosmo di Madison knows precisely what to do to make the layabouts who refuse to leave feel as if they have suddenly been transported to a bowling alley in Hell. And so it was on the night in question. I can account for it firsthand, in a most firsthand manner. For on the night in question I myself was actually one of those bounced by Cosmo di Madison. I and my table were in such a state that we refused to acknowledge the bar was closing. Imagine how I felt, reader, I the scribe of Cosmo di Madison--imagine how I felt being bounced by him from the cafˇ "just around the corner." The experience made me realize how reliable is Cosmo di Madison when it comes to his professional duties: for he, unlike the bartender on this particular night, is no respecter of persons when it comes to clearing a bar of its drunks.
As we tripped out into the street, Cosmo di Madison followed closely behind. He doubtless wanted to lessen the blow of just having so punctually bounced us, and so he segregated a few of those dearest to him--it was Sharon and Alex and I--and he invited us to come immediately to his place for some tea and music. Still under the spell of his commanding voice and figure, we soon found ourselves mounting the pitch-dark front stairway of the ancient Phonecian building in which he lives, himself leading the way and fulminating loudly about the ring of crack dealers against which he had recently been battling for control of Amy's Cafˇ.
Alex and Sharon were in the living room enthusing over the amenities and decor of Cosmo's place when he suddenly brought out three lit candles, placed them on his altar, cut the lights, and turned on the television with no volume. The room was suddenly dominated by only a handful of things: the Dead Sea Scrolls stacked atop his altar and glowing behind the candles; the flickering idiot images of the silent television screen; the thousand shining black eyes of his five-hundred teddy bears, twinkling in the candlelight; and the face of Cosmo di Madison itself, suddenly animated with a desire to impart something to us--something he suspected we must at that moment be greatly in need of in our wasted state--some knowledge of which our lack must then have been painfully obvious--in short, the right and true knowledge of--yes--BATS.
He leaned toward the candlelight, the bony outline of his face illuminated by both the flame and the fluorescent pixel-light of his television. He began by asking me directly: "You know that bat-skin I lent you? I need it back tomorrow. Alright?" And I suddenly remembered, upon mention of the bat-skin, that back in the previous October Cosmo di Madison had given me an almost frighteningly hideous black leather jacket in collateral for a $12 loan, which money he had then needed to buy milk, vitamins, and cigarettes. (His social security number, you will remember, is "blacklisted": though worth millions, he's unable to cash a $10 check "because they know me." His accounts are doctored so that he can't get to them. It's the CFR that's responsible for this outrage, the latest in their attempts to sabotage his control of the Free World.)
"But you lent me the bat-skin as collateral on some money. Do you have the money?" I asked.
"Listen, doll, you know my situation. I wish I could give you the money, but I just can't. I really need the bat-skin. That's all I can say."
"Of course I'll bring it to you," I said in a conciliatory manner. "Forget the twelve bucks. I'm behind you all the way. You know I am. Besides, I can't really wear the bat-skin: it's not my style."
The bat-skin, all in black leather, has huge black buttons and pointed black collars that actually hang off the ends of the shoulders. If you're wearing it, and you jump up and down, the collars flop almost like wings. The coat hangs rather like a simple raincoat or cape, cut about six inches above the knee.
"So you'll have it tomorrow?" asked Cosmo di Madison.
"Of course I'll have it," I said.
Cosmo di Madison lit a second cigarette and pursed his lips menacingly. He clearly had something on his mind. He was going to tell us what it was, but we'd have to wait until he gathered his words. Meanwhile the television flickered and we waited in silence.
I'm not sure how long we sat in that state, but it seemed like a whole second night transpired there in the living room of Cosmo di Madison. Sometime after the first cigarette, he'd put on some music. I can't remember what. And then there was a brief attempt at conversation on Sharon's part, which attempt was cut short with an almost stony look. Alex kept trying to ask about the Buddhist statuary barely visible in the tangle of plants Cosmo keeps, but Cosmo's responses were calculated to lead nowhere, merely reiterating the sacred character of the statues, while stating clearly his unwillingness on that occasion to go into any details.
When Cosmo di Madison finally spoke, I wasn't in much of a state to remember clearly what he said. I can thus only give you the salient points--those things he stressed or repeated several times. And so I write the following, a terse synopsis of Cosmo di Madison's diatribe against bats, which diatribe not only supplied answers to the questions that had been burning in the back of my mind for months, but also confirmed my darkest fears as to the nature and activities of those creatures whose name I now almost shudder to mention. What, then, are bats?
Bats, it seems, are unspeakably evil.
Bats are hideously evil, fish-flavored insects from outer-space.
What they really are is an evil form of alien life which has invaded the planet, and is out to destroy us.
They pass the HIV virus to cattle and children. They destabilize the weather.
They control all the UFOs, and always have.
If you are stupid enough to order sushi at a cheap Asian restaurant, what you will get, instead of fish, is bat-flesh. Several of the Asian restaurants here in Madison are involved in this despicable hoax, but it is much more risky to order sushi in the big cities.
Bats were deeply involved in the Proxmire government.
Bats are all in the pay of Henry Kissinger.
These statements are what I have retained. Remember, reader, that Cosmo di Madison's diatribe went on for a good twenty minutes, and had us rather mesmerized. For there were the candles, the gleaming of the television, the period of silent brooding before he began, not to mention the rather wasted state we were in. What's more, the diatribe had certain back-up effects to which Sharon and Alex will need to attest, for these were so uncanny as to most certainly provoke disbelief. And so it was that suddenly in the middle of his speech, there on the television before us, his television that remained completely silent.... We were almost stunned.... We were almost frightened to see.... What? I almost can't write it, for fear that you my readers will suspect I am making up the most brazenly silly stoner's myth. But no: it certainly happened. And in fact it happened precisely at the worst possible moment. In the middle of Cosmo di Madison's 3:00 a.m. diatribe against bats, there on the television before us we saw nothing less and nothing other than a good two minutes of clips taken from the latest Batman movie!
Sharon and I glanced to each other, somewhere between laughter and nausea. Cosmo di Madison saw the clips too, and reacted by interjecting something such as the following: "And that fucking bastard! [Pointing to the screen.] That fucking fusion bastard devil! I saved his life once back in the Seventies. I saved him from certain death. And what do you think?"
"You saved Batman's life? You saved Batman?" I asked.
"You know I did! But what do you think he did? What do you think? The fucker turned on me! BATMAN BETRAYED ME! Grrrrrrrrr!"
Cosmo di Madison snarled at the screen, clenching his fists in fury. We could do nothing but watch the clips roll by, one after another, as if on cue, with no sound from the television to explain their being there.
But this was not all. Immediately after the scenes from Batman, and all the while continuing his diatribe against bats, Cosmo di Madison reached behind his chair and took out a toy reindeer doll of around a foot in height. And it was not just any old toy reindeer doll, no, but was rather one which, once you pulled the switch, began a thoroughly annoying performance featuring mechanical walking legs, a red nose flashing on and off, and the music of Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer playing out of a speaker situated exactly where the animal's asshole should have been. I'd never seen such a toy anywhere. Cosmo di Madison held the deer up before him, its legs kicking against the air, and thundered out as if from a burning bridge:
We gotta fuckin' lighten things up in here a bit!
He then placed it on the wood floor, where it began jingling, and jangling, and flashing, and cruising back and forth in the dark, bumping into the leg of the coffee table, into the couch, into this and that, a strong little motor on this little Rudolf, Sharon and myself forced to bring our feet up onto the couch, Alex by now with wide, freaked-out eyes, and Cosmo di Madison the whole time pursuing, as I have said, his horrific diatribe against bats.
But this too was not all. Not three minutes after the Batman clips, and just toward the end of the reindeer crisis, the news program cut to a new story based on the following facts. Somewhere in America there had nested a pigeon: it was near a busy sidewalk somewhere, it looked to be in front of a bank or office building perhaps. And this pigeon was not merely protective of its eggs, but had gone absolutely off the deep end. It was a crazy pigeon. And so the bird would divebomb anyone who walked by: men in grey suits; older women; more women with arms full of shopping bags--we watched them all being divebombed in clip after clip. The pigeon would peck them over and over on the tops of their heads, swooping down from some ten or fifteen feet above. We could hear nothing. But we saw women drop their bags and duck behind newspaper boxes. We saw laughing bankers run along with their hands on the tops of their balding heads. We saw the reporter stick his microphone in someone's smiling face, and the person commenting and pointing to the awning under which the pigeon lived. We finally saw the reporter himself trying to finish his report while the crazy pigeon shot down and pecked at the top of his head a good three times in fifteen seconds. The bird was grey and floppy. Cosmo di Madison didn't like it one bit. Alex, for a moment, had unconsciously put his hand on top of his own head, as if fearing the bird may be there in the room. I was finally laughing hysterically, which fact Cosmo didn't seem to appreciate, for the diatribe was not yet over.
"Yeah, you laugh!" he said, sneering in disapproval. "Go ahead! They may have disguised that thing like a sparrow-hawk--I'm not sure why they did--but you can tell by what it's doing what kind of fucking insidious creature that little fucking thing is! That is a fucking bat! It's a fucking undercover bat if there ever was one! Why ya think it's hanging out in front of a bank, huh? Just ask yourself. Why? Maybe there's someone behind this ugly little bird? Maybe--though we won't name any names --someone, say, with a first name like the King of England who had eight fucking wives and KILLED THEM ALL JUST SO HE COULD BECOME A FUCKING LUTHERAN! Hmmmm, you say. Maybe so. Maybe, just maybe, this little fucking bat is run by just such a person with just such a name. And you think all of this is something to laugh about? I'll tell you--You have a lot to learn about fucking bats!"
I tried to hold my laughter in check. Cosmo di Madison, seeing my acquiescence, began finally to lower his tone somewhat. And then the television went off. And the reindeer stopped. Cosmo di Madison, in conclusion, reiterated some of the essentials. The diatribe, it seemed, was finally at an end.
Knowing that I would never have a better chance of getting an honest answer--but rather daringly taking the risk of resuscitating the polemic--I asked Cosmo di Madison directly: "Is it true, Cosmo, that every year you go on a bat-hunting expedition?"
"It is true," replied Cosmo, "but how did you know about that?"
"I read about it in Field and Stream."
"No, actually someone told me about it."
"Someone who bought the book. I don't know his name. But when you're on these bat-hunting expeditions--tell me--what precisely is it that you do with the bats? Are you collecting the bats for zoological research, or what?"
"Are you meaning to imply that I'm working for these fucking restaurants?" he countered, eyes widening with indignation.
"No, no...not at all. I'm just wondering how you deal with the bats on these expeditions. I'm just asking what you do with them."
"I'm not interested in collecting them for museums, if that's what you think. That's fucking sick! The idea of a museum full of stuffed bats! Ecccccch!"
"But what are you interested in? Why do you go on these expeditions?" I pressed him.
"I want you to know," he insisted gravely, "I want you to know--when I'm out there, I don't take any fucking shit from the bats. I want you to know that. There can be a thousand of 'em in a single cave--I don't take any shit."
This still didn't answer my question.
"But what do you do, Cosmo?" asked Alex finally from the other corner of the room. "We just want to know what you do do with the bats."
There was a moment of silence. Cosmo di Madison looked to me, then to Sharon, then finally to Alex. "I gun 'em down like fucking dogs!" he yelled, rising suddenly from his chair and strafing the room with mock machine-gun fire. "Prah-Bah-Bah-Bah-Bah-Bah . . . . Prah-Bah-Bah . . . . I fucking gun 'em down! What do you FUCKING THINK!"
A silence fell over the room as he stood glaring at us. So that was it. The bat-hunting expeditions were pretty much as I expected. He gunned them down like fucking dogs. I had my answer. I questioned him no further. I made my most polite goodbyes, and left immediately. Sharon and Alex, you will imagine, were not far behind.
The next day I had to be at the cafˇ early, and I congratulate myself that I remembered to bring the bat-skin. I held it next to me as I waited at the bus stop, the rain drizzling down. It seemed to stick to my skin, and I felt for an instant that it was bat-skin, and improperly tanned bat-skin at that. The night had hardly worn off.
I worked through the morning in the dense haze of a rather traumatized hangover. I had also to deal with the fact that I hadn't been face to face with Mary Jane for years, and she had suddenly grabbed my attention the night before at Amy's, dragging me away from the others so to speak, while she lectured me about the virtues of the good old days and reminded me of all the times we had spent together during my first years in Madison, times which passed more slowly for me, much more slowly, than for her. Mary Jane's face, her pointed ears, kept forcing themselves on my attention as I tried to do my job on what was turning out to be a terribly hectic day of specialty drinks, decafs and conventioneers from Hell. Where did these people come from?
The bat-skin hung in the back, but Cosmo di Madison was nowhere to be seen. I had suspected, because of the urgency of his request the night before, that he would show up in the morning hours to demand the bat-skin, obtaining which he would storm off to do who knows what sort of dangerous work in who knows what corner of the planet. But the hours dragged on.
At 2:45 p.m. Cosmo di Madison suddenly stepped up to the counter in a huge black leather sombrero, a black rayon shirt, tight-fitted black leather pants, and black boots and belt. He was unshaven, and had obviously not slept.
"Where were you?" I asked.
"Where is it?" he demanded, glancing suspiciously around the cafˇ.
I brought out the bat-skin, which he donned immediately, oddly flexing his arms as if to test out the wings.
"OK, good," he said, "I can see you've kept it in good shape: well-fed. Baaaaahh-hhaaaaahhhhaaaahhh! Now I need a double cappuccino."
"But what are you going to do?" I asked.
"I'm going to drink it."
Cosmo di Madison proceeded to hang-out for a good two hours in the smoking section, talking and smoking, lecturing and laughing, explaining the doctrines and commenting on the staff at his favorite cafˇ. He drank coffee after coffee. He was in a gigantic mood: magnanimous, expansive, ready for anything. And so we did what we often did when he was in such a mood: we requested that he sing a few songs for us. But what would he sing?
There was on this day a young woman sitting quietly at the table above the espresso machines. She had been studying there for hours, and had managed to ward off absolutely the four or so attempts by the various men in the cafˇ to start up a conversation. I had seen each approach, and had watched each defense, and had noticed, what's more, that Cosmo di Madison himself had greeted her with especial warmth from under his black sombrero. After making him his third double cappuccino, I pulled him aside and spoke to him in the following manner.
"You see that woman up there?" I said. "She almost never comes in here, but when she does there is no one can manage to talk to her. I noticed that she watches you every time you walk up the stairs."
"To be expected," replied Cosmo di Madison.
"Well, here's what I think you should do," I confided. "The last time we put in Frank Sinatra and you sang Strangers in the Night in here, people were talking about it for days. I'm not kidding you. It really showed you for what you're worth when it comes to music. So being that you and Frank share a similar sense of the romantic, and being that--"
"You want me to sing Strangers in the Night for her," Cosmo guessed, a smile coming forth through his unshaven lips, a smile shaded further by his huge black leather hat.
"She's been studying here all day. She needs a little cheering up. You're the only man can do it in this den of slackers. Ya hear me?"
"What?... I hear you?" he asked almost indignantly.
"It's me who says 'Ya hear me'!"
"Alright, alright. But that's the point. We want to hear you. So should I put Frank in?"
Cosmo di Madison looked around the cafˇ. He leaned toward me and said: "I'll tell you what, doll. I want you to put in my friend Frank, and I want you to put the volume on nice and soft. I want you to put it to the song Strangers in the Night, because I'm gonna to sing that young woman a song. Ya hear me? Baaaahhh-haaaahhhhaaaaahhhh!"
Cosmo di Madison waited near her table for the song to come on, pretending meanwhile to consider one of the paintings hung in our most recent exhibition concerning dismembered bodies, screams of nihilistic pain, and all the other unspeakable things suffered by young American artists at the hands of Patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, and racism. As the first strains of Strangers in the Night began to flow out of the speakers, Cosmo di Madison stepped up to the woman's table, leaned himself on the railing next to it, and began to sing with great passion--in a deep Sinatran voice--all the while keeping his eyes glued passionately to hers--
Strangers in the night
Strangers in the night
What were the chances
We'd be sharing love
Before the night was through
--and so on. The young woman's response evidenced her deep romantic attachment to the dark and masculine figure of Cosmo di Madison: certainly she had heard of his heroic and noble deeds, and was now rendered speechless by his attention to her. She closed her book, shifted in her chair, and looked around to the cafˇ regulars who, she saw, were watching the scene with interest. She looked then to the staff, myself and one other, who were not ourselves of much help in her plight, as we were transfixed in admiration as much of the voice of Cosmo di Madison as of the dark look of passionate and unrequited love he wore on his unshaven mug. In short, the scene continued as planned, the young woman's cheeks breaking into a blush, and her lips pursing in annoyance: for not only was this man singing to her so passionately, and with such volume, but the entire shop was absorbed in the scene, waiting for her reaction.
I was laughing to myself at the register just below her table, when outside the cafˇ on the sidewalk I suddenly saw walk by at a rather swift and determined pace a man of around six feet in height wearing a full Batman costume. He walked swiftly by, his little leather bat ears erect atop his head, his generous black cape flowing gracefully behind him. I was in pain.
Cosmo di Madison, seeing the same thing, stopped dead in the middle of the song. He fixed my eyes in fury, holding them a good five seconds. His lower lip began to quiver in astonishment as he stood there frozen. The woman to whom he'd been singing, not comprehending the look on his face, defensively raised her hands before her, and had just begun to move backwards out of her chair when Cosmo di Madison slammed down his fist on the wood of the banister and screamed at the top of his lungs, shaking the whole cafˇ--
WHAT! BATMAN? IN M-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y
Cosmo di Madison then strutted swiftly out the front door of the cafˇ, which, because it has a retention rod, came softly to a close behind him.
The reader can perhaps imagine my reaction to this event. I stepped away from the register and began to think, my hand slightly quivering, my head in a soup of conjecture. How was it possible? I phoned Sharon immediately and told her the whole story: how Cosmo was wearing the bat-skin; how he'd been singing to the woman; how Batman was suddenly seen outside on the street; and how, finally, Cosmo had suddenly rushed out to get his vengeance. Sharon didn't believe a word of it. I began to tell the other cafˇ workers of the previous night at Cosmo's apartment, but couldn't manage to narrate a thing. There were too many elements converging at once. What could I do? I took a ten minute break, during which time I began to wonder, not merely Where did the man in the Batman suit come from? but, further: What happened when Cosmo di Madison caught up with the man in the Batman suit?
I will suppose, reader, that you doubt this last event: that you suspect or are quite certain that I fabricated the man in the Batman suit. But I will tell you that next day the man in the Batman suit was back, and that this time I left the cafˇ myself to ask him what he was doing in a Batman suit--in an absolutely state-of-the-art Batman suit at that. It turned out that he was promoting Batman II, which film, unbeknownst to me, had the day before begun its run at the Orpheum theater up the street. He was being paid to wander about and solicit the attention of children, who then, it was hoped, would pester their parents to take them. He was, in short, just a publicity Batman and not the real Batman.
I asked him if he had the day before seen a tall man wearing a black coat that looked like a bat skin and a black leather hat. "What do you mean?" he said.
I repeated the question.
"It sounds like me," he said. "Are you sure you don't mean me?"
"I'm absolutely certain. It was somebody who was going to kill you, or who would get revenge because you betrayed him." I smiled. "You didn't see him then?"
"No," said Batman, eyeing me up. "I didn't see anyone. And you...." He seemed at a loss for words. Then: "Well you have a nice day now, OK? And remember, and tell your friends or whoever else you're talking about: I'm just out here to promote a movie. You know? You have a nice day. OK?"
Batman walked off in the direction of the Orpheum. When he was around thirty feet away, he glanced back at me and smiled vaguely. Then he crossed to the other side of the street in three swift strides. We saw him no more.
II.2.14. The Cosmic Lexicon. The following terms all belong to that complex vocabulary already glimpsed by the reader. Most of them are clearly theological terms, but others have a wider range of application or are quite specifically scientific. I present them here as a whole, challenging the reader to define as many of them as he or she can based on the texts of these Gospels. In many cases, I have a rather solid sense of the meaning of this or that theological term, but in others I am still in the dark, and suspect I may long remain so. For example, I cannot tell you what phleffedate means, nor do I now even remember the context in which it was uttered. I only know that I have it written here--here on another of my Ten-Thousand scraps of paper.
The sheet is of white paper, and bears a single fold. It's around four inches by seven inches. In the middle of one side, the inside, written by my hand in black pen, in block Roman letters, rather sloppily however, is the word PHLEFFEDATE.
What is one to do with such a text, when memory has failed? I have boxes full of texts like this, and only a fraction of them relate to Cosmo di Madison.
I believe it is as much my love for accumulating these texts that has led me to write the doctrine of Cosmo di Madison, as it is my love for the doctrine of Cosmo di Madison that has led me to write these texts.
I leave this lexicon to you readers.
affacated (On stage once he referred to a piece he wrote for classical guitar as "a very affacated piece," adding that there should be no talking in the audience while it was being performed. Also: tobacco grown in a drier climate, like that grown in Wisconsin, is referred to as "very affacated tobacco"--words clearly intended to recommend this tobacco to those who can appreciate a good smoke.)
eskff (Pronounced "ess-kaff." The spelling is according to Cosmo di Madison, and is clearly in reference to the lack of vowels in early Semitic writing systems. Cf. translations of tablets in Book I.)
impostation (Pronounced like impostor. Shall I admit that he used the term once in reference to me? He said: "Psssh! You are always practicising impostation!")
mustahfedation (He made reference in the translation of one Sumerian tablet to the prophecy therein of "the mustahfedation of the Holy Virgin Mary." Cf. Book I.)
pfaff (He refers to the "water pfaffs" in Madison, which so attracted the Phonecians and which make Madison the source of all of the world's fresh water.)
plain metic gold (He referred to this once during our discussion of the book of Isaiah, and once in another, similar context.)
II.2.15. Several readers of Book I of the deeds and sayings of Cosmo di Madison (I will mention no names: you know who you are) have been so impertinent and thickheaded as to imply in my presence that my literary efforts towards a canon of Cosmic doctrine would gain greater renown were I to spend more time handling my dictionaries than I do in seeking out the cosmic mot juste. Said one to me: "Il y a le mot juste, oui, mais il le faut nˇanmoins justement ˇcrire." T'be brief: "Sure, there's the mot juste; but in order for it to be like totally juste, it has to be spelled right."
Do you really imagine, dear readers, that I am not learned enough to know the manner in which the scholars spell "Phoenician"? That I have everywhere spelled it "Phonecian" by accident ? That I have done so, in short, because I was too lazy to look it up in some pocket dictionary of the Ancient World, and hadn't previously encountered the name often enough in my reading to know its schollardly spelling offhand? Do you imagine that such a learned man as Cosmo di Madison would ever have entrusted the recording of his teachings to someone as unlettered as all that?
Know, then, that I received the correct spelling of the name Phonecia from Cosmo di Madison himself. Know also that I am aware of the manners in which the Phonecians themselves wrote their name as a people, for I have been inspired by Cosmo di Madison's histories to become a sort of amateur Phonecianist, taking time away from my Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, French, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, and Persian to learn to write soothing hymns, terrifying invocations, and even a few rather tripping Limericks in several of the various tongues or sub-tongues wagged by the old Phonecians.
Perhaps you, reader, would like me here to write the name Phonecia as the Phonecians themselves wrote it. Perhaps you would have me perform this task--perform it here and now--as much for the sake of establishing my scholarly credibility as for the sake of tickling your own unquenchable desire for the oriental and the exotic. There is the Ugaritic then: [ ... ] And there is the High Phonecian: [ ... ]
What's more, Cosmo di Madison has revealed to me a sacred spelling of the name, which spelling I don't merely quote, but which I present in the priestly Phonecian handwriting, as it was masterfully copied for me one afternoon by Cosmo di Madison on a cafˇ notepad. The Phonecians, it seems, had a name for themselves which was used only in priestly writings, and which, like the Tetragrammaton of the Hebrews, could under no circumstances be uttered. The priests wrote this sacred name in precisely the following manner. (For the reader's sake, I have transcribed the name into Roman letters beneath the original priestly letters written for me by Cosmo di Madison. But remember: Do not read the name out loud, for there are still many Phonecians here in Madison, undercover though they be. Your roommate or your co-worker may be a Phonecian: you just don't know. The Phonecians are a serious people not to be toyed around with. If they heard you uttering their sacred name, you would surely die a watery death.)
[ ... ]
Cosmo di Madison: "The Phonecians chose Madison as their site because they knew Madison was the source of all the freshwater in the world. It still is, except that people keep fucking with the natural water pfaffs . If they fuck up the pfaffs here in Madison, the whole world is gonna go." His hand around his throat, Cosmo di Madison begins to make a gurgling, dying, choking sound: "Cth-k--k-khthchch-kk-ch-ch-kth...." For four minutes he continues making this sound, his face turning redder and redder, the scene becoming more and more absurd. People begin to say: "C'mon, Cosmo, stop already!" His reply is: "Cth-kth--k-khth-ch-k-ch-ch-kth...."
Cosmo di Madison: "The city of Madison was built by the Phonecians on top of three giant pyramids. The pyramids are now buried under the rubble of the modern city, and geologists have been paid to deny they're there. Nothing new under the sun. Ya hear me? It's always the same old scam. Psssh!"
Cosmo di Madison: "The Phonecians? It is a tale of mermaids and sailors."
Cosmo di Madison: "The Phonecians are still heavily involved in politics. You don't see them, but they're there."
Cosmo di Madison: "The Phonecians could fly from one place to another, like birds. They could change themselves into any animal they wanted. They loved to be surrounded by water. They wanted water everywhere. They were a beautiful, noble people. It's all in the book by Lentanius." [Lentanius is presumably a Roman writer no longer extant. Though I tried, I could find none of his work, nor could I find mention of him anywhere. Cosmo di Madison doubtless has a manuscript he hasn't shown to scholars.]
II.2.16. I had long wanted to discuss the Scriptures with Cosmo di Madison, and had suggested to him that we begin with Genesis, then work from there through the rest of the Pentateuch, then read Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and eventually the New Testament. I hinted at my dream of doing an annotated version with him of at least Genesis and Luke, perhaps also Job. He showed some interest in this work, but never would agree to an appointed time to begin. Finally he admitted that he was simply too busy with political work to consider anything else, at least for a year or so. And so I set my mind to waiting.
One day, to my surprise, Cosmo di Madison clapped his hand down on my shoulder and said: "Eric, why don't you come over sometime soon so we can talk about Isaiah."
Needless to say, I made an appointment on the spot, and on my next afternoon off I found myself in the apartment of Cosmo di Madison, with a Jerusalem Bible in my bag, waiting to begin the discussion of Isaiah. I say waiting because Cosmo had a guest there already when I arrived, his landlord, who is Frank Sinatra. You needn't flinch at this, reader. I was there myself, and can confirm it. I was there on Cosmo di Madison's olive velour couch, surrounded by his extensive teddy bear collection, drinking orange tea with Frank Sinatra while Cosmo di Madison was in the kitchen boiling more water. Frank Sinatra was there checking up on things before the visit next day of the building inspector. Cosmo di Madison is on very good terms with Frank Sinatra, calls him by his first name, and asks him frequently about his daughter Nancy Sinatra, who lives in Madison and is just about to have another child.
Frank leaves and Cosmo informs me: "Frank is a little worried today. Did you notice it? Nancy's always had to have C-sections with her previous babies, and this time there are some medical difficulties he didn't want to go into. I hope everything goes alright. Nancy's a great kid. We're all pulling for her."
After Frank's departure, I took my Jerusalem Bible from my bookbag and suggested we begin the discussion of Isaiah. I cannot here, reader, reveal to you all of the prophetic utterances brought from Cosmo di Madison in relation to the texts we read together from Isaiah. I will say, however, that according to Cosmo di Madison the text of Isaiah contains as it were a prophetic synopsis not merely of the whole Bible--condensing all that has come before and projecting all that is to come--but of all of human history itself. There are in fact references therein pertaining to the Phonecians; the Continental Divide; the Serbo-Kuwaitian War (sic, of course); the three-headed dragon that arrived with Halley's comet and was killed by Cosmo di Madison in the basement of Amy's Cafˇ; as well as references to the crucial year 1994, when, as Cosmo says: "People will realize that I'm right."
Without reconstructing the entirety of our exegetical discussion--for much of it, I gather, I am not to make public--I will yet reveal various interpretations worthy of the attention of those concerned with the sacred texts of Our Faith. My method was to read aloud a chosen poem in the Book of Isaiah, which poem Cosmo di Madison would then interpret. And so, I read aloud the following passage of Isaiah (I: 11-13):
What are your endless sacrifices to me?
I am sick of holocausts of rams
and the fat of calves.
The blood of bulls and of goats revolts me.
When you come to present yourselves before me,
who asked you to trample over my courts?
Bring me your worthless offerings no more,
the smoke of them fills me with disgust.
Cosmo di Madison did not hesitate to reveal to me the obvious concerning Jahweh's complaint here.
"By this point," Cosmo said, "Jahweh has changed his ways. He's become a vegetarian."
One thus sees the truth of Cosmo di Madison's assertion that Isaiah condenses the general movement of the Bible. Jahweh has here already, in Isaiah I, evidenced a disgust with the practice of sacrifice and a penchant for progressive eating habits, which latter trend will eventually let Jewish Christians sup at the same table as the Gentiles with their sushi and crab salads.
Cosmo di Madison further remarked that Jahweh's newfound vegetarian lifestyle put him in spiritual alliance with both "the Vietnamese and the Hari Krishnas." This latter was clearly intended as a mark of praise, since Cosmo di Madison himself is a vegetarian, as was his celebrated father. What's more, the Hari Krishnas are so beloved of Cosmo di Madison that they frequently visit the Cosmic household to make free vegetarian breakfasts for his many children.
The doctrinal and historical gist of this passage, then, is that Jahweh is already on the right track, while his people--a "stiff-necked people," as he calls them earlier--are still behaving like thugs and Lutherans, defiling the flesh of mammals for vulgar gain.
I also asked Cosmo di Madison to discourse upon Jahweh's response to Moses at Exodus 3:14. This particular passage, as the learned reader knows, has led to much theological consideration already. And so I read it to him:
And God said to Moses, "I Am that I Am. This," he added, "is what you must say to the sons of Israel: 'I Am has sent me to you.'"
What, I asked Cosmo di Madison, is meant by this "I Am that I Am"? The following text is an exact transcription of Cosmo di Madison's reply, for at this point in our discussion we had begun to run a taperecorder:
That He is of the proper jorphelant. The Lord God is a man, and Jehovah is a woman. You have to have a good.... To get the pretense of the whole situation right, you have to be spawned in the same pond with your mate. Jehovah is the Virgin Mary. The God Jehovah is a female angel, a foetus in other words. Jahweh is a man. Christ is Jahweh and the Virgin Mary is Jehovah. Mary Magdalene is an offspring of Jehovah who changed her ways because she loved Jesus and wanted Jesus to be her husband. The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, who is estophant for the plain metic gold for me being able to artificially inseminate people with my mind and to bring forth immaculate birth by just thinking on the subject. I don't have to orphelate a seed into the woman. I can escoff and bring forth immaculate birth.
Every man that is abundantly of wholeness and happiness brings forth and has children to referate and look at himself a whole real burden to oscevate the power and wisdom which he has escoffed with this woman who is his private Virgin Mary. Every man's wife is his Mary. Every man has the tepethy and the power and the m'justidy to become one with Jesus and one with Moses if they want to. If they don't want to, it's very apparent in the way they act and how they motivate their orphelations.
Aware that I have already here recorded enough of Cosmo di Madison's exegesis to provide theologians--particularly gender theologians such as U. Rank-Heinemann--with material for hundreds more chapters of doctrinal argumentation and liberal-humanist jeremiad--and all this while the Persians are at the gates--I will quote no more.
II.2.17. The following text is that of a poster which graced the walls of our cafˇ during the summer months of 1992. Two copies of this poster were displayed: the first--soon stolen--upon one of the yellowed walls of the almost criminally dark and unhealthy upstairs smoking section; and the second just next to the cream and sugar counter downstairs in the bright and virtuous section. Between the first and second paragraphs of the text was to be seen the celebrated Duerr photograph of Cosmo di Madison which can now be seen on the cover of the present volume.
Re: Proper Summer Etiquette at the S 'n B Counter
The Steep 'n Brew committee for customer programming recommends that the more fashion-conscious of our regular customers adopt the following manner when ordering our iced coffee.
FIRST: Saunter up to the counter from any angle, ignoring the other plebeians that may be waiting there in line. (Remember: You are a busy person, crucial to all branches of geopolitical decision-making. Without your constant vigilance, the civilized world would fall into disorder.) SECOND: Stand at your full height and hold out your empty iced coffee glass, your arm at a rigid right angle to your body and parallel to the ground. THIRD: In a tone combining James Dean with a bit of the petulant child, order your iced coffee with a command based on one of the following, being sure to aim your order specifically at one of the S 'n B employees (the nearest or cutest of them) regardless of what said employee may be busy doing. Blurt out briskly something such as:
1) Iced Coffee, Pumpkin!
2) Icy di Frosto, Pumpkin!
3) Icy for the Coz, Pebbles!
4) Icy Pebbles, Doll! On the double!
5) Hey, Doll Face! Whyn't ya jist get me a Icy! C'mon!
6) Hey! One Iced Cwaaffee!
7) Icy, Darling!
8) Once a pumpkin, always a pumpkin. One Icy!
9) Icy Flakes, Pumpkin Lover!
10) One Icy fer da Coz, you Pumpkin Stuffer you!
11) Hey, Darlink! Da lud da ein! Vun Eisenberry fur der Kosmos! Jawohl du Lieberlein!
12) Last Icy, Doll! I'm off on a twenty-three hour shift in Iraq. They're at it again. Psssssh! Seeya.
All of these requests for iced coffee, from one of our most distinguished and Weltgetravelter customers, have been recorded by the S 'n B staff. They ought to be used as a model for those who wish to reform their dull and prosaic deportment at the S 'n B counter. Remember: The request must be blurted out with absolutely no regard for either the nerves of the staff or the needs of other customers. With practice, any customer could surely raise themselves into the limelight of local notoriety within a few days time, silencing all timid protest and perhaps even eventually receiving checks from the government in recognition of their newfound self-importance.
>>>NB: Any regular who is not over six-foot-six in height and under 150 pounds--who does not have both the length, teeth, and laugh of a Chinese dragon--should not dare consider this method of ordering iced coffee in our establishment, as they will probably receive instead a dousing of lukewarm swiss almond decaf for their impertinence. In short, only those qualified need apply. --Staff.
II.2.18. On the day the popular Christian rock band U2 played Madison, I ran into Cosmo di Madison on the sidewalk, mid-afternoon before the show.
"Hey, Doll Face, are you going to the U2 show?" I asked him.
"Psssh!" he said. "I called Bono last night and told him I wasn't gonna play. They fucking suck."
"You called Bono?" I asked him.
"Yeah, I told him they used to be good when they did only my songs, but now they do way too many fucking drugs."
"You used to write songs for U2?"
"Psssh! What'd'ya think? Their first two albums are me."
"What did Bono say?"
"Oh, he could barely sniffle his way through the talk, he's got so much fucking coke up his nose. Finally I hung up. But now he's been calling me all morning, begging me to do it, begging me for old time's sake. I told him I don't go on stage with drugged-out losers."
I asked Cosmo what I should do if Bono came into the cafˇ looking for him. "Tell him I got a better job directing classical orchestras in Vienna. And don't let him have too much coffee. He's way too high already."
II.2.20. I found a box of the candies called Sweet-Tarts up in the smoking section of the cafˇ. Cosmo di Madison happened to be there, so I offered them to him. He held the box out before him as if in horror.
"I don't want these fucking things!" he snapped. "What are ya trying to poison me? Eccch! Sweet-Tarts were invented by John F. Kennedy."
"They were not!" said a woman sitting nearby, a graduate student in American history.
"What do you know about it!" snapped Cosmo di Madison, shaking the box of candies menacingly at the woman. "Inventing Sweet-Tarts was Kennedy's major action in office."
The woman pretended to go back to her book.
"You won't ever catch me eating these fucking things!" said Cosmo di Madison to a man reading the paper. "They're fucking sick! They cause brain damage!"
"Sweet-Tarts cause brain damage?" I asked him, with a vague note of skepticism.
"Psssh! You know they do! Look what happened to Kennedy in the end."
The man put down his paper and knit his brows in a look of thorough confusion. The woman could barely hold back her laughter: she held her hand to her mouth while her body shook convulsively. Cosmo di Madison glared at her in silence. I myself--though I have kept pace with Cosmo di Madison through thick and thin--even I had to think this one through.
Somewhere between Zeno and David Lynch.
II.2.21. "Psssh! They're always trying to talk to you about psychosis, as if they knew. If you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, you should just keep your mouth shut. That's what I say. I'll tell you what psychosis is. Psychosis is two dalphations of a sequence not jaffating in the proper atamant. All they gotta do is read my books--the fuckin' losers."
II.2.22. Is it true that Cosmo di Madison has a tunnel leading from the basement of our cafˇ to the basement of Amy's? Of course it is true. And what is the purpose of this tunnel?
Cosmo di Madison: "I have my reasons, doll. Top secret."
II.2.23. A man at the Counter: "I remember the good old days when refills were only thirty-five cents here."
Cosmo di Madison: "Yeah, the good old days. The cold war. I'm missing it already. You too, hey Doll Face?"
Myself: "I'm missing it already, honey. Missing it worse every day."
II.2.24. In precisely the same manner that musicians sit with mouth agape in wonder during the performances of Cosmo di Madison--in precisely the same manner and to precisely the same extent are the more learned of them known to stare in awe at the musical instruments he plays at these performances. For Cosmo di Madison is certainly the only Madison musician to possess a Stradivarius acoustic guitar. In fact, if my reading on the history of the various Cremona makes serves me right, he may very well be the only American musician ever to possess a Stradivarius acoustic guitar. One is naturally led to wonder how he came upon this prize possession--
This guitar is really quite old, replies Cosmo di Madison. It was given to Pope John Paul I when he was twelve. He died at age four-hundred-and-forty-seven, when I acquired it. He gave it to me on his deathbed, because he knew that I have been thinking, and using my head, and practicing a lot of very intense theology all of my life. It is this theology which the Pope respected in me, and it is because of this theology and my way of living that he gave me this guitar.
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