Authors: William S. Burroughs
Tags: #dystopia, #post-apocalyptic, #humor, #SF
The Ticket That Exploded
The Soft Machine
The Wild Boys
Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader
A BOOK OF THE DEAD
William S. Burroughs
Copyright © 1969, 1970, 1971 by William S. Burroughs
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, or the facilitation thereof, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
Acknowledgment is due to Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., for permission to quote from
by Franz Kafka, translated by Willa and Edwin Muir, copyright © 1937, copyright © 1956 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. “Mother and I Would Like to Know” was first published in
No. 67; an earlier version appeared in
and was reprinted in
The Wild Boys
appeared in the collection
The Soft Machine, Nova Express
The Wild Boys: Three Novels
, published as a Black Cat Book in 1980 and an Evergreen Book in 1988.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997.
The wild boys : a book of the dead / William S. Burroughs.
an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
Distributed by Publishers Group West
08 09 10 11 12 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15
The camera is the eye of a cruising vulture flying over an area of scrub, rubble and unfinished buildings on the outskirts of Mexico City.
Five-story building no walls no stairs … squatters have set up makeshift houses … floors are connected by ladders … dogs bark, chickens cackle, a boy on the roof makes a jack-off gesture as the camera sails past.
Close to the ground we see the shadow of our wings, dry cellars choked with thistles, rusty iron rods sprouting like metal plants from cracked concrete, a broken bottle in the sun, shit-stained color comics, an Indian boy against a wall with his knees up eating an orange sprinkled with red pepper.
The camera zooms up past a red-brick tenement
studded with balconies where bright pimp shirts flutter purple, yellow, pink, like the banners of a medieval fortress. On these balconies we glimpse flowers, dogs, cats, chickens, a tethered goat, a monkey, an iguana. The
lean over the balconies to exchange gossip, cooking oil, kerosene and sugar. It is an old folklore set played out year after year by substitute extras.
Camera sweeps to the top of the building where two balconies are outlined against the sky. The balconies are not exactly one over the other since the top balcony recedes a little. Here the camera stops … ON SET.
It is a bright windy morning China-blue half-moon in the sky. Joselito, the
son of Tía Dolores, has propped up a mirror by the rain barrel and is shaving the long silky black hairs from his chest in the morning wind while he sings
“NO PEGAN A MIO
.” (“DON’T HIT ME”)
It is an intolerable sound that sets spoons tinkling in saucers and windowpanes vibrating. The
“Es el puto que canta
.” (“It is the queer who sings.”) “The son of Dolores.” She crosses herself.
A young man rolls off his wife despondently.
“No puedo con eso puto cantando
.” (“I can’t do it with that queer singing.”)
“The son of Dolores. She has the evil eye.”
In each room the face of Joselito singing
“NO PEGAN A MIO
” is projected onto the wall.
Shot shows an old paralyzed man and Joselito’s face inches from his screaming
“NO PEGAN A MIO
“Remember that he is the son of Dolores.”
“And one of Lola’s ‘Little Kittens.’”
Tía Dolores is an old woman who runs a newspaper-and-tobacco kiosk. Clearly Joselito is her professional son.
On the top balcony is Esperanza just down from the mountains since her husband and all her brothers are in prison for growing opium poppies. She is a massive woman with arms like a wrestler and a permanent bucktoothed snarl. She leans over the balcony wall.
“Puto grosero, tus chingoa de pelos nos soplan en la cocina
(“Vulgar queer, your fucking hairs are blowing into our food.”)
Shot shows hairs sprinkling soup and dusting an omelet like fine herbs.
” is too much for Joselito. He whirls cutting his chest. He clutches the wound with an expression of pathic dismay like a dying saint in an El Greco painting. He gasps
” and folds to the red tiles of the balcony dripping blood.
This brings Tía Dolores from her lair under the stairs, a rat’s nest of old newspapers and magazines. Her evil eyes rotate in a complex calendar, and these calculations occupy her for many hours each night settled in her nest she puffs and chirps and twitters and writes in notebooks that are stacked around her bed with magazines on astrology … “Tomorrow my noon eye will be at its full.” … This table of her power is so precise that she has to know the day hour minute and second to be sure of an ascendant eye and to this end she carries about with her an assortment of clocks, watches and sundials on thongs and chains. She can make her two eyes do different things, one spinning clockwise the other counterclockwise or she can pop one
eye out onto her cheek laced with angry red veins while the other sinks back into an enigmatic grey slit. Latterly she has set up a schedule of
” (“sweet eyes”) and gained some renown as a healer though Tío Mate says he would rather have ten of her evils than one of her sweets. But he is a bitter old man who lives in the past.
Dolores is a formidable war machine rather like a gun turret, dependent on split-second timing and the reflector disk of her kiosk, she is not well designed for surprise encounters.
Enter the American tourist. He thinks of himself as a good guy but when he looks in the mirror to shave this good guy he has to admit that “well, other people are different from me and I don’t really like them.” This makes him feel guilty toward other people. Tía Dolores hunches her cloak of malice closer and regards him with stony disapproval.
“Buenas días señorita
“Sí … Tribune . . Tribune Americano
Silently pursing her lips she folds the
and hands it to him. Trying not to watch what the woman is doing with her eyes, he fumbles for change. Suddenly his hand jumps out of the pocket scattering coins on the pavement. He stoops to pick them up.
A child hands him a coin.
“Gracias … Gracias
The child looks at him with cold hatred. He stands there with the coins in his hand.
He hands her a peso. She drops it into a drawer and pushes the change at him.
“Gracias … Gracias
She stares at him icily. He stumbles away. Halfway down the block he screams out
“I’LL KILL THE OLD BITCH.”
He begins to shadowbox and point pistols. People stop and stare.
Children scream after him.
“Son bitch Merican crazy man.”
A policeman aproaches jerkily.
“OLD BITCH … OLD BITCH.”
He lashes out wildly in a red haze blood cold on his shirt.
Enter a pregnant woman. She orders the Spanish edition of
. Looking straight at the woman’s stomach, Dolores’ eyes glaze over and roll back in her head.
” (“Born dead”) whispers Tío Pepe who has sidled up beside the woman.
On “sweet eye” days she changes her kiosk to a flower stall and sits there beaming the sweetest old flower lady of them all.
Enter the American tourist his face bandaged his arm in a sling.
“Ah! the American caballero wishes the
. Today I sell flowers but this paper I have kept for you.”
Her eyes crease in a smile that suffuses her face with gentle light.
“Aquí señor, muchas gracias
The paper smells faintly of roses. The coins leap into his hand.
Giving him the change she presses a coin into his palm and folds his fingers over it.
“This will bring you luck señor.”
He walks down the street smiling at children who smile back … “I guess that’s what we come here for … these children … that old flower lady back there
Enter the woman whose male child was born dead. She has come to buy a flower for his grave. Tía Dolores shakes her head sadly.
.” (“Poor little one.”)
The woman proffers a coin. Tía Dolores holds up her hands.
“No señora … Es de mío
However, her timing schedule necessitates a constant shift of props and character … “My sweet eye wanes with the moon” … That day the tourist reached his hotel in a state of collapse for a terrible street boy followed him from the kiosk screaming
“Son bitch puto queer, I catching one clap from fucky you asshole.”
Sometimes half her booth is a kiosk and the other half a flower stall and she sits in the middle, her sweet eye on one side and her kiosk eye on the other. She can alternate sweet and evil twenty-four times a second her eyes jumping from one socket to the other.
Confident from her past victories, Tía Dolores waddles out onto the balcony like a fat old bird.
” … She strokes Joselito’s head gathering her powers.
son to shave in the house.”
With a hasty glance at three watches, Dolores turns to
face this uncouth peasant woman who dares to challenge her dreaded eye.
“Vieja loca, que haces con tu ojos
?” sneers Esperanza.
“Tu te pondrás ciego como eso” (“Old
crazy one, what are you doing with your eyes? You will blind yourself doing that.”