Goetleib, the undisputed arbiter of taste and opinion, was sitting cross-legged in his armchair with a book clamped open in his left hand. He licked at his elongated snout with the thin whip of his tongue. His brow wrinkled suddenly, severely, and he mused out loud
– Gah! I wish Mancuso hadn’t used dashes instead of quotation marks, no, oh my, no, no, no, no…
He turned another page in the book with a flick of his foreclaw and turned to type up what he just said aloud – ‘I WISH MANCUSO HADN’T USED DASHES INSTEAD OF QUOTATION MARKS…’
Very soon (20 pages in, in fact) he became bored of Mancuso’s book, distracted by more of his own puerile thoughts, thoughts about tearing open termite mounds and feasting on the juicy worker bugs inside – and then he remembered he wasn’t allowed to eat insects anymore and the mudhook of sadness sunk itself deep within him.
He sniffed his hose-nose hungrily and braced the book shut before tossing it on the crackling hearth. Goetleib then went about justifying himself to the empty room.
– Poorly copy edited, too much supernaturalism, yes, no unity of effect, no sense of the swelling, impending terror or suspense I’ve come to expect, and then there’s the dashes instead of proper punctuation, no, no, no Mancuso! But the main problem with this book, yes I’d say its main fault, above all else, is that it isn’t written the way I wanted it to be written…
He gave a leonine stretch and was left amused and content by his own corrosive tone – after all, his career was over before it had even begun and he had nothing to lose.
Goetleib had an urge to interfere with himself but remembered that he wasn’t allowed to masturbate anymore either. He suffered from a retrograde disorder that meant when he ejaculated his bladder-sphincter would contract and release semen through his urethra, the path of least pleasure. Goetleib’s dry orgasms were frustrating and made him irritable and rather irrational. This went some way in explaining his scathing condemnations of almost everything he was asked to review.
There was a colony of ants obstructing his ejaculatory duct. They’d survived digestion and set up camp in various pockets of Goetleib’s lower abdomen. The irony was not lost on him, the near-constant pelvic distress serving as casual reminder.
It seemed poor Goetleib wasn’t allowed to do any of the things he enjoyed most, apart from ruining the reputations of writers and musicians that is! He was left cooped up in his deciduous forest home. It was a tragic life in a way.
He often felt the insects milling around inside him and when he thought about the amorphous domes and the supercolony of undigested ants, the desire to masturbate subsided.
He strolled around the grasslands of his estate still very pleased with how he’d dismantled Mancuso’s book so clinically. The anticipation of seeing his critique published gave Goetleib a strange rattle of joy in his testicles. He went up to an easel where he’d been painting non-descript images with his own smeared faeces and took in a smug lungful. His eyes were bathed in tears. Goetleib knew he was a genius.
Around mid-day, his frustration would intensify. It would become too great to ignore, Goetleib decided he would go about committing suicide. Killing himself at this stage of his career would set him in good stead for the future. People might even come to the conclusion that Mancuso’s book had driven him to self-eradication. Goetleib hoped that this would be the case.
He hurried to the drawer in his kitchen and pulled out a long wire extension. He lassoed one of the overhead beams and yanked on the chord until it went taut. Goetleib then mounted his chair and placed the wire over his head. It drooped loosely around his neck. He tightened the ligature and kicked away the chair.
Old Goetleib hung for around 20 seconds, swinging back and forth like an insane ant-eater shaped chandelier, but his hardwood neck refused to break. He felt his penis hard and was suddenly very aware of just how hard it had gotten, before the weak slipknot in the wire unfastened and sent the desperate critic crashing to the floor.
He nursed his garrotted throat for a moment then felt something happening between his legs. Goetleib felt lactescent sperm rise in him, through a different tunnel, a different path – a path of pleasure! – and he collapsed again as it gushed forth in an ridiculous cascade. The ants had been dislodged from his ejaculatory duct and were now parachuting from the widened and raw japseye. Goetleib looked at the puddles of screaming ants in their milky pools of DNA. He leaned over a tiny troupe of disorientated insects and sucked them up through his hose-nose. He sat on his rump and savoured the taste of the ants and cherished his voided testicles. Goetleib found that now he couldn’t stop thinking about Mancuso’s book…
In the late spring of 1939, Weldon Kees, his wife Ann, and his parents, John…