:: Article

Primary Host

By Steve Finbow.

President Barack Hussein Obama’s tapeworm encircles the White House; the creature’s segmented body paler in colour than the rice-glue-coated limestone walls. No traffic moves, no planes fly overhead. All is quiet, even the ticking of the alien watch that is the city of Washington DC. The colex or head of the tapeworm, affixed to the President’s intestines, suctioned, sucking, hooked, its mouths resembling tiny anemones, invisible to the First Lady, digs in, causing the President to wince and hold his lower abdomen. The elliptical rug, littered with the mature proglottid segments shining in the President’s faeces, mirrors the encircling worm; the bald eagle within the ellipsis within the ellipsis impotently clutches arrows and olive branch. Egg clusters sparkle on the fifty stars surrounding the eagle, tiny points of light expelled in the excrement of the 44th President of the United States of America.

If you think about it, the circle within the ellipsis within the circle is the eye. The orbit, the framing of the bottom and upper eyelids, the white sclera, the pupil and the iris. And then there’s the membranous labyrinth lodged within the bony labyrinth of the ear with its cephalopodic canals and vestibules, its snail-like cochlea with its coils and spirals, which brings us back to the omphalos, and the umbilical tapeworm cincturing the Executive Office of the President of the United States on Pennsylvania Avenue – all eerily quiet except for the itch and scratch of Lombardy poplars. And if we move out, surge up and away from the terraqueous globe, light out for the distant limits of our solar system, unnamed, little explored, we, on our leaving, will see the heliocentric orbits of the planets, comets, and asteroids, of the space debris, and we might just, just, get a hint of the galactocentric course of our own sun amid a cluster of stars that resemble the clutch of eggs in the dark rolls of the President’s discharge.

At first, people mistook the parasite for a hulking air-conditioning unit, the articulated sections stretching out from the Oval Office, through the rose garden, the hues of the flowers reflected in the conjoined segments pearly and heaving with uterine eggs. The tapeworm loops around East and West Executive Avenues forming a figure eight as it circumscribes the Ellipse. From above, the form is that of the infinity symbol – the exceeding of all limits – be they power or knowledge. In this, the tapeworm chose its host wisely. Back in the Oval Office, the President, stripped naked, sweating, coiled foetally on the rug, calls for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Auditory and visual hallucinations form the first symptoms of the President’s brain seizures conjuring up Brobdingnagian surgeons to excise the giant parasite and then microscopic vessels to enter his blood stream and blast away the invasive worm. Vermicide. Footsteps are heard in the hallway. The President closes his eyes.

The congeries of military power begird the President. Prone, inhaling lint and crumbs, traces of dog shit, and dust mites feeding on fungal spores, pollen grains, the scales and hairs of insects, the shed skin and secretions of the President, his family and entourage, he beckons the watchers forward. The tapeworm convulses, sending ripples along its bloated body. The President’s eyes roll back into their orbits, the sclera blackening, the iris and pupil slowly becoming golden, thin lines revolve, twist, turn, branch off, paths leading to other paths which switch back and lead to yet more paths: —A brain, the Vice-Chairman thinks. —A nautilus, mutters the Chairman. —A labyrinth, says the First Lady.

Meanwhile, a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons, dispatched from nearby Andrews Airforce Base, hurtles through the sky to Washington DC. These Vipers, as the pilots of 113th Wing call them, scream through the air, the sound echoing and causing vibrations inside the President’s sigmoid colon. On the Oregon Trail in the 1800s, wagons were circled to protect the emigrants from weather and their livestock from attack by cougars and bears or theft from the Chinook, the Nez Perce, the Sioux. And so, the tapeworm girdles the President, corralling him in an ever-increasing circle of dependence and suffering, host and parasite, the approaching jets mere gnats, insubstantial nothings, reminders of our anthro-technological past, things of the bygone world, memories of the perpetually lived infinite now, the symbiotic relationship between President and tapeworm, between President and botfly, whipworm, bedbug, hookworm, chigger, pinworm, liver and lung fluke, between President and tick, horse fly, black fly, tsetse fly, and the approaching, silent-running helicopters that closely resemble the monstrous anopheles mosquitoes hovering over 10 Downing Street.


Steve Finbow‘s novel Balzac of the Badlands will be published by Future Fiction London in October 2009. At some point in 2010, his critical biography of Sergeant Bertrand will also be coming to bookshops near you.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, April 15th, 2009.