:: Article

Glasshouse

By Louis Armand.

(Art: Julio Larrez)

… Fishboy wound up peddling dope in the Projects, just like the Dealer knew he would. He’d sit out on a busted bit of playground fence listening to ratty old cassette tapes on a stoneage Sony Walkman one of the Project kids had swapped him, waiting for the business to rock up. He was the only peddler anyone knew who arrived early, like he was the one hungry for a fix & not the kids, which in a manner of speaking was true. He even had the sales pitch down to a fine art, like the product wasn’t already selling itself. Let it be known he was only in the biz on a short-term basis while he searched for renewed creativity, him being an incog rockstar on the down-&-out, or the up-&-up, depending on how he was inclined to spin it at any given time of day. If his audience listened wide-eyed, it was only because of the brainshock – most of the kids pegged him as just some strungout white dude they’d’ve put a shiv in if they could figure where he kept his stash. He’d given up the cape & fangs act for a pair of ratty suede platforms, a hammered steel codpiece, & a red bomberjacket with THE SYNDICATE stitched on the back in what once had been silver thread. Short for Deep Space Syndicate, he said to whoever asked, the name of his band before he’d broke them up in disgust at their own success to focus on a solo career. None of the kids’d ever heard of them, of course. He played the old-timer card, said how way back when they were causing waves they’d called themselves Deep Space Jihadis. Fame made them THE SYNDICATE, it was a statement about the System, the corrupting $, the art of Compromise. A fullblown junk addiction had etched his face into a hell-&-back ghoul mask, which let him pull off lame shit like that in front of ten-yearold kids who only wanted to score & get high & upend trashcans for entertainment. Said yeah man, it was intense. How, back in the long hot summer of the 3rd Intermediate, the Jihadis had scored a mega hit with “Bagdoody Blowback.” He’d played a rainbow Zoot Gibson through a fuzz box for the opening riff . The sound was described by critics as “out of this world.” They’d followed it up with timeless, status-quo-destroying tracks like “Carp Head Restitution,” “Age of Aquarium,” “Dinosaur Bong” & “Ain’t no Moon” on their bestselling album, Rockit to Death. It’d gone triple platinum within the first week & earned him an Everest-size mountain of blow. Man, you coulda skied it. And if the kids were still listening, he’d spiel ’em the whole sad epic about how it’d all gone downhill from there. The band’s infighting, the record label’s cop-out, the scummy manager who’d ripped them off for countless millions in unpaid royalties, the scheming wives, always someone filching his best licks before he’d even laid ’em down. Like the whole universe was conspiring against me personally, man. The Dealer said he shoulda had a career lipsyncing bullshit, said he looked like Captain Beefheart fucked Johnny Thunders & gave birth to a manfish, said “Hey dude, don’t get so down, don’t you know you’re the biggest sack of garbaggio this side of nowhere?” He tossed Holoptychius a pair of Reeboks from MaxSportif. “You oughta try being less conspicuous. Blend in more. Take up jogging. You know, it’d give you a new angle, expand your market. You could pose about as some sorta lifestyle guru or something, sell to them vanilla chicks like to work on their cardio in the Bois.” He flashed his orthodontics at the fish. Could already picture the jerk with a Björn Borg headband & sponsored trackwear beating the pavement in the wake of some spandex blonde, wheezing his guts out when he wasn’t honing a line about being an ex-TV disco queen, back in the day, just trying to make an honest comeback is all. Hell, if the dumb fish played his cards right he might even get himself laid, nothing vanilla chicks go for faster nowadays than one of them Down & Out in Beverly Hills types, hehehe, thinking how groovy it’d be to turn on with a real authentic has been pulling out the ABBA moves. “Dig it bro,” he winked at the fish, “you could stick little mirrors on your fishballs & hypnotise ’em while they do lines off that shrivelled junky fishdick of yours. Build up a real loyal clientele that way, hehehe.” Holoptychius, who could see his predicament all too plainly himself, stared glumly back…

…It was a dead cert, fishboy’s days were numbered. If something stank, it was probably him. A suspect entity. A fossilitic ex-junkie turd. At the end of his proverbial rope, he’d taken his last dive, wrapped in that old green&purple cape, plastic vampire fangs, glistening baldpatch framed by greasy cords of matted fish-hair, stones tied (not very convincingly) to emaciated fins, right down into the Seine. Just another wannabe rock’n’roll suicide no-one ever heard of. Well no-one had ever thought to teach a fish to swim, either, so Holopychius just sank like a stone, straight  through the floor of the abyss, down into the substrate, the sewers & catacombs & secret chambers of the city’s burst & buried ventricle, the dead heart, the whatever. Fishboy came-to splattering on a slab of funereal marble, in a place of dank humid confinement. Somehow he’d washed up on almost dry land. He wasn’t sure if this was good luck or something worse. He tuned his fish-ears for the sound of rats. There was a faint buzzing, as of insect life among tropical ferns. Or a dead TV. Or brain static. He dug his trusty zippo out to take a looksee. A face loomed straight out of the blackness at him. Holoptychius was fit to crap himself to death, but on account of many years of narcotic abuse the old intestines disobliged. Pale, beaknosed, with a piece of seaweed slung across its forehead. Fishboy stared. The face stared back. Fishboy blinked. The face didn’t. That was all there was to it. After a while, the zippo sputtered out. Flap-flap-flap. Invisible wings, mists, auguries. Finally he woke another flame out of the lighter. The face, of course, was still there, attached to a marble head with a marble wig, attached to a marble bust, with marble writing on it, difficult under the circumstances to unriddle from the diligent mildews. Some vague columnar forms discernible in the gloom. A place redolent, so to speak, of expired mythologies. Or a communal bathroom in some formerly upmarket establishment that, like him, had seen comparatively better days. The plumbing amounted to an open conduit, spilling across undulant carpets of slime. Water gushed & sucked, gurgled & puked. Thus from untimely suicide had he, Holoptychius Fishboy, been borne. Hence. Of egress, signs there were none. In such circumstances, feelings of forlornness would not be untypical. Fishboy slumped back against the cold slab. “Looks like it’s just me & you, pal,” he told the character with the wig. From the pocket of his Levis he dug a battered harmonica & commenced to draw atrocious sounds from it, puffing his lips out, sucking them in. Well gee I wish I were dead, ma, if it’s all the same to you. But I think I’ll be stuck here a long while more, adrift on this river of poo… Which was the exact moment the creatures sprang upon him. Well, not upon, exactly. But coughing & flapping, heaving up out of the drain, half-man half-frog half-stick insect, utterly sodden. They lay there in a heap, gaping in a type of factional wonderment. The zippo’s flame wavered, but that was all. “My god,” the stick one finally managed, ogling him unashamedly, “it’s a fish!”…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louis Armand is the author of nine novels, including The Combinations (2016), Cairo (2014), and Breakfast at Midnight (2012). In addition, he has published ten collections of poetry – most recently, East Broadway Rundown (2015) & The Rube Goldberg Variations (2015) – & is the author of Videology (2015) & The Organ-Grinder’s Monkey: Culture after the Avantgarde (2013). He lives in Prague.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, November 14th, 2018.