The Unknown: The Red Line.

After their triumphant reading at the University of Cincinnati’s Ropes Lecture series (which resulted in several academics swearing their allegiance to the cause of electronic literature, after which they were ceremoniously baptized with beer from the Holy Grail), their caricatures were in the paper, the Unknown was in an extremely good mood. They had been reunited with Bob Coover, who mentioned the Unknown frequently throughout his visit. Adulation came from all directions; good food and drink was plentiful; new Unknown episodes were effortlessly crafted, and everyone agreed they were some of the best ever. Still, a trip to Cincinnati would not be complete without a visit to Louis. So, with the memory of the thunderous applause of the enthralled audience still reverberating in their memories, and with William and Scott still in their suits and Dirk in his sandals, the Unknown went to enjoy the company of a little-known but hard-writing author once described as the Jewish Hemingway: Louis Friedman. A man with the mental toughness of a Joe Louis, the agility of a Louis Agassiz, and the tenacity of a Charles Lindbergh flying over the Atlantic enroute to Paris, our evergenial host and chef extraordinaire had pulled the salmon from the stove and was just dressing the plates with holandaise and dill when there came a pounding at the door.

The door burst open and the room was a sea of flashing knives. At first we thought that Dirk’s fan club had tracked us down again, but Frank’s people turned out to be behind it, and the mystery of what Frank had been doing while we wrote and toured the Unknown suddenly dissolved.

It turned out that Frank was involved in a group of midget gigolos known as “Short Candy,” rumored to make porn films for their road money, and then to ride the American highways in search of adventure. They rode on Hondas and terrorized many a heighted man. Frank stood tall and spoke with a slight lisp, though not one as pronounced as Truman Capote’s, like a Kurtzian hipster golem among them.

We were all bound and gagged. Louis put up a good fight, knocked a smallish man in the solar plexus, but was knocked out by a brief fellow’s round head. We faced some uncertain circumstances.

Frank struck a faux-regal Sun King pose as he oversaw the proceedings, drank brandy from a snifter in his right hand, and pivoted a Louisville slugger under his left palm as he laughed hideously.

Louis was pissed.

Frank then narrated a series of pornographic confessions involving himself, the midgets and a certain highwayman ne'er-do-well mentality in very careful, almost obsessively decorous detail. William gagged behind the gag.

Scott was wondering about Frank’s obsession and then for some reason shifted to problems of physics, a few thoughts on the unified field theory and subatomic particles. Quarks, top, bottom, spin, and weakly interacting massive particles. The point at which relativity and faith merge, weather patterns.

Dirk burned with the desire to take a piss.

Frank knew little, or rather nothing, of “the user,” a knife which Louis had recently obtained. It was a sharp knife with a good heft to it, and was inscribed “scar” at the base of the blade. Louis edged towards the nearby desk, cagily.

Frank described certain of his frustrations with the Unknown, and with his own place in it. Again he described these frustrations in intimate and profound detail. It seems that there was a certain moment when Frank had seen William jawing his way through another interview—this one in particular with Regis Philbin, that had pushed Frank over the edge. William had been discussing the importance of wardrobe. He had said that the suits were a Beatles thing.

The midget terrorists had raided the kitchen and were toasting some leftover pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza in the toaster oven. They were drinking all of the red wine we had procured for this visit, cabernet, merlot, pinot grigio, shiraz, all of it.

Louis nudged his way backwards, and very slowly pushed himself up towards the desk drawer.

Dirk wet himself and the room smelled acrid.
“Your slavery becomes apparent,” Louis thought as he inched towards the laminate desk, “when you deny the other the opportunity to write.”

Frank was rambling about Turner, the artist, and Ted Turner, the man, and Billy Budd, and Robert Stone. He said that we could all learn a bit from being tied to the mast of a ship at sea and being beaten by the waves in an unforgiving ocean. He talked about how Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac had nothing on him. There was a mad fire burning in his eyes, and I realized that this might very well be the end of the Unknown.

Louis silently pulled open the desk drawer, his fingers slinding into under a Louis Vuitton purse he had purchased for Mandy on their European honeymoon, the secret home of the user.

A midget saw what was going on, and threw bubbling hot pizza Louis’face. Canadian bacon and sizzling flesh do not smell well together.

But the midget, a secret transvestite named Sonja who had once had dreams of painting watercolors whilst standing in a gondola as he slowly drifted down a canal in Venice, expired as Louis in one swift motion bit at his foot, cut his bindings with the user, and minced Sonja in three blazing red strikes.

This is all a part of a secret history, one drenched in blood.

Frank gasped before his end.


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The Unknown at Spineless Books.