Excerpt: My Hands Were Clean
Tom Bradley was kind enough to provide an excerpt from his giddily insane book, MY HANDS WERE CLEAN.
My Hands Were Clean
by Tom Bradley
…my responsibility to the gods was to write as I was inspired; my responsibility to mankind was to publish what I wrote. But it ended there. As long as what I wrote was technically accessible to the public…my hands were clean.
–Aleister Crowley, Autohagiography
I was feeling pretty emotional by now, so I took a deep breath. I was about to say to him, “Have you read anything by Tom Bradley?”
–Kek W., “Interview with the Unknown Science Fiction Writer”
Let’s play this cocksucker from vamp to coda.
At the authentically rustic Telestial Spaw [sic], we humble paid-under-the-table employees are gearing up for the evening shift: rolling up sleeves, squinching ring-shaped muscles, and so forth.
Yonder in the celestial vault, through the gathering gloom, certain scrawny stars are elbowing dowdy planets. I’m no expert, but if I squint my eyes, this conjunction, or whatever it’s called, appears almost significant enough to warrant a special observation here below. The eating of some medium-strength acid might be in order.
And can you guess who just happens to be pinching, between left thumb and forefinger, a dandy blotter? It features a phosphorescent chartreuse goat with tangerine granny teats, rendered in surprising graphic detail for a consumer item so inexpensively mass-produced. You can even see exquisite areolae orbiting the gravitated nipples. That’s quality craftsmanship. I am proud to have bought American.
Slipping a tiny piece of paper into one’s mouth is an inconspicuous act, and can be encompassed under the guise of picking one’s nose (acceptable behavior here at the Telestial Spaw, for employees as well as guests). The pinkie distracts attention by spelunking the nostril, just long enough for the corresponding thumb to prestidigitate between the lips and deposit the payload, which has been pre-inserted under the nail. Slick, literally, as snot.
But I’ve never felt fair abusing controlled substances in the Telestial Spaw Pioneer-Style Steam Buffet where I am enslaved. The Mormon diners flinch so guiltily over their tepid saucers of Sanka. After all, Our Heavenly Father’s original proscription, as revealed to the Prophet-Seer-Revelator in Doctrine and Covenants, was not against caffeine per se, but hot drinks. This entire tourist trap is a whole-body hot drink. Hence the misspelt name. Who am I to compound the turpitude among the trenchers?
On the other hand, something tells me I must not wax entheogenic under the open sky this evening, not with one of those horoscopical thingies topside. It’s the summer of my penultimate year in high school, and, being so endearingly young, I still lean toward the timorous end of the behavioral spectrum.
Judging from the furtive behavior of Mr. Glasscock, my boss, and his “senior employees” (read plural wives plus sundry old acolyte-flunkies), tonight’s astrology must be inauspicious in some fucked way. The celebration of events from which wholesome people flinch is a characteristic of these quasi-Kabbalistic spermo-gnostic Tantric types, who make a point of savoring the End Times, or Latter Days, as they’re known among the locals.
Being genetically fifty-percent “local” myself, I, too, am burdened by this tendency toward ritualism. I can’t resist the innate urge to Eucharize, considering what strange spiritualities might be the neurochemical effect of the substance which my thankful head is about to receive. I need to collate the paper in my mouth with certain gyrations. And, in that context, it’s always best to remember the exhortation of our Real Boss, the Big Mr. Glasscock in the Sky, who, long ago, opened his reverend mouth and taught the multitudes, saying–
When thou prayest, enter into thy closet.
And when thou hast shut the door,
pray to thy Father, which is in secret,
and thy Father which seeth in secret
shall reward thee openly.
So I need to take my act indoors. If not the chow hall, what is the obvious choice–because it is the only choice in this institution of exactly two structures, not counting subterranean steam and cream chambers and their locker room annexes? (The latter are beyond consideration; unlike Mr. Glasscock, I’d rather not be surrounded by naked, sweaty bodies at the delicate psychospiritual moment when that blotter goat succumbs to the enzymes in my saliva.)
Where’s the best and only indoor place to perform the pre-evening-shift sacrament? Why, Shitland Pony Hell, of course. That’s what we vulgar proles have nicknamed the Telestial Spaw Righteous Wrangler Riding Stable. It’s home to a string of odd-toed ungulates whose wretched karma is to crack vertebrae under the anuses of city slickers from down in the valley. The tin-horn dudes among our clientele like to do a little pretend horseback riding before boiling their bodies in the fluid discharge of our salt and tar desert.
Yes, that’s right: salt and tar. Plenty of sulphur and radium, too. My place of employment is damned deep in the sort of godforsaken wilderness about which the prophet Isaiah, hewn in twain by a wooden saw for his efforts, warned us all–
…where demons and monsters shall meet,
and the Hairy Ones shall cry out one to another!
At such an early stage in my half of this flip book, I’m unwilling to commit myself with regard to demons and monsters. But nowhere will you find greater numbers of Hairy Ones than in Shitland Pony Hell. It’s out back behind the restaurant, tucked among the fumaroles, solfataras, mini-geysers, mud pots and other sorts of volcanic razzmatazz that have turned these few acres into something more than just another expanse of extreme occidental zilch. Yellowstone on Quaaludes.
The Telestial Spaw Righteous Wrangler Riding Stable’s ass-end has been wedged and tacked against an arc of the largest geothermal formation. Shaped, colored and even textured exactly like the lid of a colossal human skull, dominating the otherwise featureless landscape for miles around, this half-buried gargantuan noggin is our trademark. In a similar way another skullish outcrop advertized Golgotha.
Our giant cranium is composed of a precipitate stone which geologists from the local land grant college have designated travertine. It’s the very material Nero caused to be quarried in grotesque quantities when he felt the whim to corrupt Rome with a similar den of crowded, diseased, smelly social resort. Up from deep within oozes our colossal Spaw Gawd’s hot spinal fluid, our saleable commodity, whose ostensible salubriousness has prompted four generations of entrepreneurs to chase away the Uncompahgre aboriginals and charge admission to everyone else.
The chartreuse blotter goat starts butting its tangerine titties against the ridges of my thumb print. My teen-boy salivary glands respond with hunger, and commence dragging me toward the riding stable, lower jaw first, like a prognathous gorilla. I must hurry, as the evening shift is about to commence. That mustn’t happen without my head well on the way to fucked-uppedness.
Supposedly in the eighteen-sixties, or the nineteen-thirties, or some unimaginably antique epoch like that, our strange old stable was cobbled together from such cellulose as this life-loathing ecosystem allows. After nourishing the neighborhood Uncompahgres for 500 years with beautiful, fatty pine nuts, the precious few pinyon trees were “harvested,” their timbers chopped to size, creosoted, and sandwiched Lincoln log-style with native juniper limbs. I suspect the early owner-proprietors in those frontier days were no less Tantric than the current Glassy Cock, if they so systematically denuded their homestead of juniper. My injun confidant assures me that particular conifer, when green, oozes an antiseptic and pesticidal resin which repels demons, monsters and Hairy Ones as effectively as bugs and bacteria.
The sole remaining relic indigene is Augie the Stable Master. Though a convert to the faith of Brigham Young, and despite having his chief traditional source of fat denied him, Augie the Uncompahgre has been deemed by Mr. Glasscock unfit to work near food, and has been enslaved as ostler instead, because his hands are browner than mine. He’s my pal, and lets me slink among his swaybacked charges and do my bad head rituals in exchange for Winstons, which he esteems more highly than any derivative of ergot. Augie’s people are staunch peyotists and don’t trust any nostrum from which sand needn’t be scraped.
This outbuilding was semi-countersunken into the hot volcanic side of our Golgotha as an economical and ecological means of preserving the livestock from the horrid sub-zero temperatures which our local mercury absolutely never sinks to. This misapplied architectural trope was a Northwestern Euro-atavism on the part of the Scandinavian converts whom the Mormons enticed across the Atlantic in the nineteenth century. The great blond beasts could never be reconciled with the fact that they’d allowed themselves to be duped into peopling a desert, and today the tiny pinto beasts must suffer for it. Their perpetual state of foamy perspiration, either being ridden or bound in a sauna, explains the ponies’ etiolated condition. Augie the Stable Master, on the other hand, was bred to thrive under sweat lodge conditions.
If you stand back with him and me and survey this horsey hoosegow and the planetary pimple against which it stands, you might be inclined to suspect it serves an esoteric function beyond, or rather beneath, its obvious utility. What is the real reason for a structure to be so oddly suction-cupped against a bone-white convexity of weirdly warm travertine like a cork plugging a black hole?
If, for some hideously unimaginable reason, you were to waste as many evenings of your incarnation hanging around the Telestial Spaw as I do, you’d notice, on certain muggy dusks when the underlying vulcanism seems especially malignant, a shadowy procession filing into the Righteous Wrangler Riding Stable. This parade of mumblers and chanters will comprise far more individuals than there is room for, considering the ranks of sentient beings whose space they are invading. And they don’t leave–unless it is to creep out into the light of some ostensible sick dawn which even juvenile I am too wise to linger and witness.
Augie the Uncompahgre will have ushered in the leader of this procession with greater obsequiousness than the more famous porter showed the thane of Fife. But, like his predecessor, our redskin pal gives the impression, even through the sulphurous steam, that he considers his job to resemble that of Hell’s gatekeeper. You might be forgiven for wondering if this rickety old barn is the vestibule of Perdition’s rumpus room.
Now hear why your narrator hovers near the entrance/exit of Shitland Pony Hell and rarely dares penetrate deeper. Triple digits of years ago splinter-Mormon pioneer hands gouged a semi-secret chamber in the back wall, and deep under the floor. The base of our Spaw Gawd’s occipital bone was trepanned, right where the perforation of his vertebral canal would be, to tap nothing less than our squalid establishment’s Talu Chakra (whose seed syllable is–you guessed it–aum). Soul-lethal suction is capped by a stout door of imported oak, bound by iron bands.
City slickers who delve too deeply among the dark pony stalls in search of a ride for the afternoon are further discouraged (as if more discouragement were needed, considering the racket that rises from within) by five words, burned an inch deep with red-hot pokers into the wood–
BY RESERVATION ONLY
It’s a hell hole, this Private Bath, as literally as it can be. Satan’s rank sweat rises up to sulfurate the place and make it unwholesome. This evening, thanks to astrology and so forth, the Private Bath’s hot stalagmite innards will writhe with oldsters’ floppy tits and lumpy buttocks, both male and female. Varicose veins will slither like livid worms in physiological nooks I never knew existed. The Limping Sage himself, when he ranted the apocalyptic passages of the Vishnu Purana so many millennia ago, cringed from predicting a Kali Yuga so creaky and offputting.
Up from the ground comes the dutifully depraved racket of my elders. No evening shift for them. There must, indeed, be something noxious cooking in our particular niggling solar clump. Even though it’s early in the evening of a business day, as opposed to the inky deeps of a Sabbath midnight, the grownups are celebrating the dreaded Mass of the Phoenix. I mean, they’re celebrating it to the burlesque extent their peaked-out physiques permit. To drown them out, the Isaiah in my head raises his voice again and continues to prophesy as follows:
There hath the Lamia lain down, and found rest for herself.
Speaking of the latter personification of offputting sex, tonight’s Kali avatar is the butt-nekkid fifth plural wife of Mr. Glassy Cock. It’s her turn to play Priestess-Succubus-Noisy Pain in the Ass. She screeches the inspired scripture of the Wickedest Man in the World, author of this half of our flip book’s affecting title. Crowley would pop a hernia laughing at her post-menopausal white slum Provo accent mush-mouthing his revelation. Reciting from a priceless original 1913 edition of The Book of Lies (how in Baphomet’s name can such a bibliophile’s wet dream be sopping secretions in a sweat lodge–in Utah, yet?), Mrs. Glasscock-Five rhymes swear and prayer with spar–
Behold this bleeding breast of mine
Gashed with the sacramental sign.
I stanch the blood, the wafer soaks,
High Priestess moistened death invokes.
This Bread I gorge, this Oath I sw’ar
As I enflame myself with pra’r.
Please remember this is my junior year in high school. You and the teen-boy I are being exposed to Mrs. Glasscock-Five’s yowling in the dimly recollected epoch when such “transgressive” behaviors still retained a certain amount of inverted social cachet. This was before every piece of trailer crap who hadn’t anything like the cerebral cortex required to encompass actual blasphemy went to orgies once or twice a week, before Wal Mart greeters and Big Mac flippers bared their unbleached anuses for group turd-sex, duly YouTubed, because it’s “so-fisty-cay-tud.”
They have no idea how sophisticated. Even at the height of the English Renaissance, such brave men as John Dee funked bonerism outright. Goetic lubriciousness drove crop-eared Kelley outdoors in fastidious horror of the Daughter of Fortitude’s loose tongue. Tonight that tongue malodorizes the fifth wife of my boss, but drives nary a splinter-Mormon out of the Private Bath and into the stable with holy Augie and blameless me.
I have stopped and frozen just inside the entrance to Shitland Pony Hell, safely in from under the stars, yet too teeny-timorous to get any closer to that caterwauling sphincter. I’ve assumed the official apprentice hippy acid-dropping stance: feet spread, knees slightly bent, flaps of forehead flesh cinched with charlie-horse torsion. Augie the Uncompahgre squats nearby, commiserating over a tiny split hoof and chewing on a couple crispy Brigham Young tea shrub cones. He tries to make chit-chat, which betrays a surprising unawareness of the semi-sacred nature of what I am about to do. Solemn silence would be more appropriate, because the phosphorescent chartreuse goat with the tangerine Baphomet boobs is about to descend to my own Private Bath, to bleat and invoke in the microcosmic steam and cream chamber that is my stomach.
Augie says, “I don’t like it when Mrs. Glasscock-Five’s turn rolls around to be priestess. She gets too enthusiastic too soon. They have to put a grocery bag over her head when parading her through here, because she makes such ugly grimaces it stampedes the ponies.”
“And here I thought only spaniels and bonobos recognized human facial expressions.”
“Talk about getting the toes stepped on. Spoil my moccasins.”
“They look more like wing tips.”
“I like to look nice for the patrons.”
I don’t want to be rude. But it’s not easy to banter with a softspoken Turtle Islander over the sounds of such a weird sister filtering through the tiny wads of manure and masticated alfalfa. Before houseling myself on the body and blood of Albert Hofmann, I need a moment of hushy-hush to get ready for my job of degrading, monotonous manual shit work.
Oh, by the way, you needn’t take that penultimate word literally. Not all boring toil involves contact with impure substances, and not everyone suffering servitude in an eatery must pollute his person with food residue. Amp up the ambient pretension, and it’s not just their gullets the patrons want glutted with unctuous, saccharine crap. Take a moment to think about eardrums as well, and you might begin to suspect a secondary form of Steam Buffet bondage.
Meanwhile, I must take one last un-LSD-addled moment of my own to focus on those means of production which are literally in the hands of this particular member of the working class.
“Listen up, you big ugly coarse, oafish, bristly cunts,” I wordlessly tell my many thumbs. “You’ve got to articulate the fugato passage in the Mozart transcription with the utmost lucidity. Otherwise that beautiful bus girl with the flaring nostrils who lugs gigantic trays of authentic Mormon pioneer cuisine past your work station will cease ever-so-superciliously to feign interest in ‘one day soon’ accompanying you ten spastic louts to the Secret Sex Pot, where she might submit to finger-fucks from those of you who behave yourselves during the Allegretto.”
The Secret Sex Pot is a place of nice fucking, not transgressive (or so I have been told). Quiet and subtle, it’s tucked on the wilderness side of our trademark geothermal formation, a zone known only to us employees, a strangely plant-friendly nookie-nook where Mrs. Gaia Terra has obliged us by opening the way into a small spherical side vault, a place where she has spread her thighs to the nighttime, erupted some of her metabolic fluids, shed some of her damp heat, and vouchsafed us a globe of dark green among the treelessness. The obvious is encompassed there between shifts–or so, again, I have been told.
You will recall, in this half of our flip book’s opening paragraph, the offhanded way in which I identified with manual laborers. Now see me express romantic interest in one of them, a squalidly declasse food service employee yet, a horny-handed daughter of pink-collar toil, a “beautiful bus girl with flaring nostrils” who strains muscles bigger than those of the fingers to the tune of some sort of music evidently produced by your sly old narrator–who really had you going, right?
When you hear me use phrases like we mere unbenefitted workers-with-our-hands, you might at first assume it’s an attempt at disarming self-effacement on the part of an intelligentsia-type prick. If you’ll consent to ignore the hygienic implications of my insistence on making a hot bath integral to my tryst with this member of the Great Unwashed, you might even detect some bone-deep biological Marxism. Do I class myself amongst capitalism’s light infantry, the unskilled drudges of this declining Kali Yuga?
Well, before you even think about making a past participle of skill in my vicinity, you might want to wait till you hear my several thumbs render this ostensible Mozart transcription. The wait won’t be as long as I’d like.
Suddenly, as I stand here with no instrument in sight, my not-so-joyful noise manifests out of thick air, shying the livestock and making even kind-hearted Augie wince. Shameful deformations of Haydn’s younger pal–unmistakable as my own because so atrocious–slither up from the cackling midst of the granny group-grunt downstairs, osmosing through the travertine like carcinogenic mercury vapors.
How is this possible? Is there some bona-fide conjury being performed in the Telestial Spaw’s Private Bath? Is Mr. Glasscock really the incarnation of Aleister Crowley his wives believe him to be? Has he necromanced his star employee’s astral shell and put it to work?
If so, I resent it, and not just because I’m not on the clock and the blotter hasn’t kicked in yet. If Venus and the bit-fingernail moon and Saturn and crap like that happen to be rattling around in perverse ways upstairs, there simply must be shenanigans behind this iron-banded oaken door. And, heavenly bodies delineating a precis of the here-and-below, the result will be no less gravitationally inevitable than embarrassing. But it’s neither the bumps and grinds overhead nor the gerontological rut-grunts underfoot that chagrin.
If you listen closely (no easy task), you’ll detect incongruities layered under the music. In the background can be heard, not the dribbly noises one would associate with a private bath, but the racket typical of the Telestial Spaw’s Pioneer-Style Steam Buffet during business hours. Somehow, Mr. Glasscock has managed to transplant into his satanic fane not only me, but the racket I must compete with professionally: the mumbles and belches of peckish patrons and the klunks of their flatware against the unsanitary yet quaint oaken trenchers upon which are presented the rustic deep Crisco-fried gristle of hanta-viral rodents snared in dry washes hereabouts.
The tape recorder is one curse of modern technology, unlike the Steinway grand, which Mozart’s ghost must be grateful for never having had to contend with. My own crap, specifically the set I performed for yesterday’s late afternoon Steam Brunch, has been magnetized to mylar and lugged like a vat of stringy gray vaseline into this evening’s inverted cannibal orgy. I’m like Nixon, except I use an inanimate object to belch gross expletives better deleted–and not just eighteen and a half minutes’ worth. The whole brunch set could use gapping.
Yes, that’s your narrator’s handiwork gagging and scraping through the Hell-portal and vibrating the pygmy pony poopoo under your heels, via the expedient of a battery-operated boom box or ghetto blaster, or whatever they are called this year. If Jack Parsons played Prokofiev when conjuring his Moon Child way out there in Pasadena land, Glasscock considers my “heavenly” music a fit accompaniment to his infernal behaviors. Sometimes, during work, when I’m not looking (which is to say, dozing off in the middle of one Andantino or another), the boss causes the beautiful bus girl with the flaring nostrils to sneak a microphone among the girlie mags on my music stand.
Those last two words are an instrumental hint. You may construe them to signify that my multiplicity of thumbs don’t render Mozart transcriptions on one of those upright portable glockenspiel doodads which get strapped to the titties for a marching band. It would be difficult to tuck a mike unnoticed onto a music stand clamped three inches from the performer’s nose, no matter how deep in REM he’d sunk. (You’re wondering why I am being so coy about supplying specs for the tool of my trade. You’ll cease wondering soon enough.)
An inverted Eucharist needs liturgical music, I suppose. But, even in the context of fisted menses and swilled semen-curds, these sounds are obscene–and not just due to poor analogue reproduction. Let’s just say our quasi-Kabbalistic spermo-gnostic Tantric orgiast brethren have not chosen to play back the most satisfactory number in my repertoire.
Left-path liturgy, like right-path, lends itself to ornamentation. But why Mozart? More to the point, why my unconscionable butchery of Mozart? Why my sacrilegious insistence on transcribing him for an instrument he was known literally to bend over and fart at? And why the transcription whose fugato passage I try so hard to make palatable to the beautiful bus girl with the flaring nostrils?
As I tongue-plaster the acid blotter like a scurrilous handbill to the wall of my own built-in cavern of overindulgence, I wonder why these flirters with damnation insist on having me present during their creepy rites. Is my rendering of the old masters so egregious as to serve the purposes of Tantric types, whose mission in this terminal age is to transgress the natural gag reflex that ugly old lady clitorises should excite? Are my hands so dirty as to have turned the brightest angel of the late Eighteenth Century to aural excrement to be gobbled by coprophagous ear-holes?
Just as that question writhes into my head, along with the LSD’s preliminary brain shudders, my redskin sidekick suddenly (more or less, to the extent that suddenness is available to cats so attuned to the planetary slouch) rises from his tribalistic hunker beside the horsies’ murky water trough, and casts his Winston butt aside.
“You’ll never guess,” he says, “which significant personage is praying more fervently than anybody else in the Private Bath at this very moment.”
As if on cue, a shriek, so piercing as to traumatize the roots of the teeth, drowns out my disgraceful bungling of a certain acciaccatura (or is it supposed to be an appoggiatura?).
“Mr. Glasscock’s mom? I wonder what she looks like. Maybe she’s manifested too translucent to tell through the billows of fatty smoke.”
Augie re-whispers the name with reverence usually reserved for an alias of Beelzebub in this evil sink of splinter-Mormonism. It bears repetition one more time, this moniker, to make up three, just like a conjure-formula scrawled in menstrual blood on so many consecutive leaves of an abortionist’s recipe book.
Suddenly a second shriek geysers through the ground, rendering even more unwholesome the air of this orthographically challenged noplace.
You can buy a copy of My Hands Were Clean HERE