Not Entirely Up to You, Waiter
I’m glad I’ve gone once, but I’ll never go back again! — the last sentence of “Artificial Nigger”
If you want to enjoy this story, you must visit, first of all, Mr. Book’s Palace with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day in your bag. It is located a few miles from your city’s international airport. It is open daily, 10 AM – 4 PM. No admission is needed for the readers of this story. Every service (which lasts up to two hours, including the time for your meditation) is offered in English only. If you want to be served in other languages, choose the “Non-Verbal” menu. No group visit is allowed. And this palace is now said to be the most state-of-the- art brothel on earth. Patronizing it will be a major coup for you.
If you want to stop reading this story right here, you’ll have to remember, first of all, that you’re a waiter working at a café located near Mr. Book’s Palace. And you’re an idealist. You’re always obsessed with this question: What is a “truly great” waiter like? Your tentative answers may be implied by your own everyday mottos: “Serve every customer with fairness and alacrity”; “Treat every customer as a grand individual who has contributed greatly to the development of mankind”; “See the world not as a long ladder to climb but as a big wheel in whose axis you always must stay”; “Be omnipresent and totally absent at the same time for every guest’s constant comfort.”
If you want to analyze this story as a literary scholar, you’ll have to work like Flannery, who is the most sought-after girl in Mr. Book’s Palace. “Flannery” is not her real name, just like “Mr. Book.” If you want to get this story right, you’ll have to keep it in mind that it is you who gave those aliases to them. The first time you met Mr. Book, he was sitting on a cheesy stool and reading a paperback of Remains of the Day at the entrance of the brothel, whose well-ordered design, immense size and ornate furnishings are often compared to Ceausescu’s palace in Romania. By a gushing fountain, Mr. Book was even beckoning every male passer-by, from time to time, to stop by and “play here.”
If you want to live like Flannery, you’ll have to try not to forget the slogan of her workplace: “ONCE YOU’RE IN, NO EASY WAY OUT.” Whenever she covers her entire naked flesh with sexual lubricant and slides it over your naked body on a rubber-raft-like airbed, you feel as if you’re trying to swallow into your windpipe by mistake what you long to eat just before you die. She whispers in your ear, “You know the word ‘Nacirema,’ huh?” Chuckling at your confusion, she continues, “That’s what your father often called himself here while having me suck his flagging penis just like this.” You always ejaculate before you tell her that he has already passed away.
If you’re going to be a father from now on, you should reactivate your fading memory of your old father’s last days, especially the day when he went back, without notifying his guardians (including you, of course) beforehand, to the place where he used to work, that is, say, his university. The next scene you should have in mind is this: you follow him, step onto an empty campus, and stop by a well-regulated classroom where he is giving a lecture to empty seats. You peek through a crack of the door at his solitary oration on his favorite subject, say, some famous authors in the world. He says: “Today I’ll pick Flannery O’Connor’s short story ‘The Artificial Nigger,’ folks. Did you read it?”
If you long to sleep with Flannery this afternoon, you must first call the Palace and reserve her time, preferably by your café’s opening time, because she will serve other horny men otherwise. A giant vibrating bed, a bubbling bath, neatly piled condoms, and erotic paraphernalia in a minibar will be waiting for you in her room, where most of the surfaces are covered with mirrors. Which sexed-up theme room will she choose today for you? Whichever she will choose, your intercourse with her will be thoroughly monitored by a surveillance camera attached in the room, just out of your sight. Her official brothel name is, say, Miss Kenton. Your father used to visit her incognito as, say, Stevens.
If you want to make a truly great waiter, now you must serve a man looking quietly at the menu in your abandoned café, who is the first (and maybe the last) customer since the outbreak of the Contamination. Wasn’t he your regular patron? While more and more townspeople are leaving your city desperately to decontaminate their lifestyles elsewhere, he seems to be willing to restart his old routine of stopping by your place at a regular time of the day. “Give me an espresso, and I’ll get some refills later,” he says to you, “because I’ll stay here for a while to have a serious chat with you on my ‘ending’ notebook,” which he means is his memorandum on how he should die his own death.
If you’re interested in this notebook, here is an excerpt: “My goal: write and make a direct appeal to the highest authorities of the “Zone” for stopping this cruel catastrophe NOW. I must write it in the form of a narrative, and attempt to pass it directly, only by myself, to the hands of Their Majesties. Need enough explosives to wrap around my waist in case of being dragged away by the palace guards. Their ancient regime, which has eluded all of us into pinning our blind faiths on their eternal grace, is held solely responsible for what’s happened here. Why can they still maintain their lifestyle behind such a heavy toll of lives? I’ll demand justice in exchange for the little soul of mine!”
If you don’t want to listen to such mishmash anymore, you should close your eyes and imagine what kind of soliloquy would be the most suitable to Mr. Book. Now he is, say, alone in the quiet Waiting Room of the Palace, which is normally crowded with a group of silent men, each with an aloof look, an insuppressible erection and a bursting urge to meet a chick he’s chosen (She is waiting soundlessly for him in front of the door of her playroom located in the “Zone” area, separated from the Waiting Room only with a velvet curtain which is not drawn aside until his turn finally comes). Sitting on a verily sleek sofa with Ishiguro’s book in his hand, Mr. Book whispers to himself:
“If you want to chat with me here, young man, why don’t you take off that space-suit-like outfit, first of all? Those invisible THINGS in the air must be making you live in terror and put on such a bulky helmet all the time, but do you really believe that you can fuck my girls with that on? God forbid! Am I afraid of the deadly stuff in the air? Of course not, young man. I’m living happily with it. War has been going on nonstop from the antiquity until now and will continue eternally from now, no matter how peacefully we can live today, so we, you and I, were and are and will be soldiers. Is that a new story to you? Welcome to this R & R, anyway, the last heaven on earth!”
If you want to stop listening to this monologue, you should have a break and indulge yourself in what Flannery has whispered in your ear before: “Your father used to boast of his own ‘enhancement,’ that is, beeswax (and silicone/paraffin) injected in his penis, a gel-like filler injected into his blood vessel to make his buttock more shapely, and his gold thread face implant. Meanwhile, every time he nibbled at my exposed crotch, he used to tell me to use a vagina bleaching soap and take a Pap test regularly. ‘Otherwise, before you know it, death will reach your cervix, uterus, fallopian tube, and ovary,’ he once mumbled, while his penis was already like a gushing fountain in my mouth.”
If you’re wondering how you should describe your indebtedness to your deceased father in your upcoming funeral address, you should try to keep a “what-to-say” inventory, based on Flannery’s pillow talk. The mestiza-looking Whore-of-Babylon susurrates: “Your father was a flimflam artist. Apropos of nothing, he said he loved such weird images as heavily crossed telephone lines behind which a woman operator/eavesdropper with a sexually healing voice (like mine) continues to confuse every answer composedly.” Whenever she tells you about a fragment of what your father used to be like in the Palace, she looks fearfully haunted by a ghost into a fearless trance.
“If you’re a cliché buff, you may love such typical ones as your father used to say to me while penetrating me from behind, just as you’re doing now: ‘Hysteria is a woman’s friend’ — ‘Too much sex makes women unmanageable’ — ‘Treat women as Tolstoy did’ — ‘Women are either angelic heroines or devilish maniacs’ — ‘They are mothers, whores, or madwomen’ — ‘I’m the Great Gatsby’ — ‘Why no apartheid to enclose women’s lust?’ — ‘I want to see things like an autopist or an anatomist’ — ‘fuck omnipresent narrators’ — ‘How erotic it is to self-destruct!’ — ‘I would disguise my narrator as a woman if I were a storyteller’ — ‘A lewd woman’s death means my absolution!’”
“If you guys want me to discuss ‘The Artificial Nigger’ here in the page order, I can do so, of course,” your father babbles in the unmanned classroom, while you, peeking at his last class from behind the door with bated breath, try to focus on the dying man’s every word to understand the meaning of his ending as logically as possible. “Any question on Page 1? Why must this story start with something about the moon in the protagonist Mr. Head’s mirror, which is gazing on the real moon ‘with the look of a young man who sees his old age before him’? Ha, good question! Because the story’s main message is that age is a choice blessing?” Gradually, you start feeling yourself blanker.
If you wonder why your café patron with his “ending” notebook has decided not to flee the contaminated city, you should ask him while putting a cup of espresso on his table: “Call me Billy the Budd, my nickname,” he answers, “I got it from my favorite story. Oh, why am I staying here? The reason is simple. I don’t trust the head of this nation anymore, but I trust my own patriotism. I even trust the resilience of the elements. You know the typical fate of those who have fled? On an unfamiliar land, now they’re facing self-destruction with a combo of homesickness, guilt, and discrimination.” His stance is totally opposite to yours and, now, “No-Trespassing” yellow tapes enclose your café.
If you think that the music fittest to your café may be the rock classic “My Generation,” take a second look at its interior: delicate plaster molding, dark wood paneling, and elegant mahogany tables polished to a high shine. Every food and drink is WHO-guaranteed, you say to yourself. Billy the Budd stares at the historic photos (of famous poets, starting from André Breton) lining the columns and asks you, “Who is that blind-looking guy? Is he also famous?” “He wasn’t a poet,” you reply, “just an obscure watchmaker, who used to be my regular customer. Can you see his initials, GT, right at the corner? Since the outbreak of the Contamination, I haven’t seen him at all.”
If you find yourself at a loss for words while describing in your funeral speech how dignified your deceased father was, you should try stressing this: “There were some great causes he had longed to die for. Unfortunately, all of them were lost and despised in his lifetime, and he was left as good as dead. But he was at least brave enough because he made those choices only by himself. ‘Dependency’ was not his word, and he believed, yes, firmly believed in those causes you now call shame. What can petty persons like you do for your survival other than to believe, when a great man like him did nothing but to believe to survive? Unlike you, he was the selected, folks!”
If you’re surprised to hear from Flannery that your father used to call himself “deadbeat dad” or “blanky” in her playroom, you should also wonder how his deadening body could satisfy her all the time. Was she dissimulating her numbness in a professional manner, or did anything simply unexpected in him sweep her away? “Don’t you feel intrigued by such words as ‘spay’ or ‘neuter’? How poetically they match this place,” Mr. Book says to you all of a sudden, looking around millions of old books adorning all the walls in the Waiting Room. “I love game-changing things, Mr. Waiter. Making a tourist attraction like this on decommissioned, decontaminated, and stigmatized soil is, yes, one of them.”
If you think a chat with Mr. Book amusing enough, it may be better to kill more time here with him until the velvet curtain finally slides open and Flannery’s infatuating smile shows up on a narrow corridor leading up to the “Zone.” Today, she may use for you a playroom where, for instance, the replicas of Gustav Klimt’s three gigantic pieces, respectively titled Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence, are hung on its three walls. “Have you already tried the ‘Golden Rider’ play with my girls, young man?” Mr. Book tucks up his sleeve and shows his bare arm covered completely with gold leaves. “If you insist, your chick will do this to you. And you guys will dance as two golden artworks.”
If you want to know what happens next to Mr. Head in “The Artificial Nigger,” you have to stalk your father, who is now about to leave the desolate classroom slowly, saying to the rows of empty chairs: “From now on, let’s go after the clownish main character’s footsteps from his country home to Atlanta, the big city where Nelson, his cheeky ignorant grandson, is believed to have been born. Follow me, guys.” Passing through the door with a complete disregard for your presence, he is apparently reiterating something like a mantra: “This is a moral mission. I’m Virgil or Raphael. Have you ever seen me lost? You will surely know that the city is not a great place.”
If you notice a mantra-like blue tattoo on Flannery’s entire back, you should try to read the Jabberwocky by following each of its letters with the tip of your wet tongue: “I’m a Piltdown Man, a missing link between humans and non-humans, and an archeological hoax. See every landscape through me, then you’ll find that clouds are not spheres, mountains not cones, and lightning not straight. I’m a jack-of-all-trades secessionist, an unearthed planet which can host life and allow water to flow as liquid thanks to my fatal distance from my stars, and a blanky cuckold bundled up in futon whenever my dear woman serves her customers’ physical needs behind that curtain.”
If you feel it repulsive to know this closely-guarded industrial secret regarding Mr. Book’s Palace, you should cover your ears right now: “Every woman working here used to be a hibakusha orphan. I adopted all of them, and trained them, with my utmost corporeality, to be perfect servants. Call me a beauty-tamer. No birth control is allowed here, so they bore me many kids. From among those kids, I welcomed only those girls who were adorable enough to work here in the future, while I treated the other girls and all the boys as garbage bags which contain various recyclable organs for the underprivileged. Have you ever read, by the way, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go?”
If you wonder why you’re now writing this story in English, which is not your native language, you’ll have to be quickly reminded of this: you’re like a newborn boy driven to bite off a mother’s bad breast milking too much just like an uncared-for penis abruptly masturbated; you’re like a male member of a nonliterate tribe who believes blindly that, by assimilating to his colonizer’s language, the voices of his ancestors (which he doesn’t remember well) can exist on earth forever; you’re like a model father who confesses candidly all his blasphemous past on his diary in hieroglyphics for fear his wife should find it with intent to hurt him badly; your thought is just like a eugenicist’s.
If you think your father resembling Mr. Book, you should attend again to what Flannery is saying to you while squatting over you and attaching an amnion-like condom onto your prick: “Your father’s favorite proverbs were ‘Quote, shift, and repeat, that’s the only clue’; ‘The most adorable is the most useless’; ‘You need to have the courage to stop being healed’; ‘I’m the truest god, because I’m the only one who is not allowed to give up being the god, and who is allowed by everybody else to declare I’m not the god’; ‘Inheritance recompenses severance, while severance recovers inheritance’; ‘Gravity is love, so those who cannot trust love avoid relying on gravity and vaporize.’”
If you really are a male, there’s something wrong with your personal belief that no woman (co)writes this story. If you are a female, what you believe to be your writing is not yours, and you’re only manipulated in secret by a wicked male writer. “Did you hear that the emergence of illegal cemeteries has been endangering the Palace?” Your last patron Billy asks you in the café, while jotting down something on his notebook. “Police does nothing to stop them, nor does the military. Necropolis is marching in! The recent rise of the anti-book camp to power brought such a dismissive attitude to the Palace that there may be no chance of its being put on the UNESCO World Heritage site list.”
If you are dismayed to find your father, one of the most endurable forms of innocence on earth, start walking in the nude on campus, you’ll be more confused by his erratic shouting: “Men and women are equal! One’s excellence relies only on the greatness of his physique! No more sex! How come I was born as such a short brown Asian, not as a big white man?” Judge not, lest ye be not judged. “He who calls his father a fool is subject to hellfire,” Flannery says and sticks her smooth-skin index finger gently into your mouth. “Oh, did you already come? Without tasting the real thing at all? You prefer not to experience the real thing even when it is right in front of you, don’t you, huh?”
If you want to approach your father stealthily and pat his shoulder to stop his meandering out of the campus, his bare back with bloody scratches all over will bewilder you enough to bring your hand to a halt. “Flannery clawed it repeatedly with her hiss with pleasure,” you imagine correctly. Now it’s summertime and the professor says, “I hate summer, and that’s why I always push it onto the Southern Hemisphere in winter, and I’m very guilty about it.” He looks like an ancient child, and you look like a miniature old man. You two look enough alike. “Do you really want to go to a city where you were born?” He suddenly turns to you. “It’ll be full of hibakusha, mind you.”
If you believe that mummies smell like old books, your belief will be solidified when you sit closer to Mr. Book, expecting Flannery’s voluptuous body to show up shortly in the “Zone” area. Scribbling your caricatured face on the “ending” notebook, your last patron mumbles to you in the café, “You look like a mummy. Do you know that mummies hold an untapped wealth of information about the evolution of human diseases?” Flannery stops her move on your belly drenched with rose-oil lotion and says, “Your father even said that this nation wouldn’t perish if we women never changed. I have no idea why he often called me ‘Mary Shelley’ and dubbed you ‘my hideous progeny.’”
If you want to insert into this autobiographical narrative a new storyline regarding the relationship between a mother and a daughter, you must know it will be quite difficult. “These days, short sell-by dates for prepared foods result in a tremendous waste of perfectly good food,” Mr. Book whispers. “The food which doesn’t meet aesthetic standards is just dumped. That’s against my business principle.” Your last patron asks you, “How do you see the fact that Mr. Book’s Palace is the outcome of a fortune he received from the government in return for his voluntary collection of all nuclear wastes from the rest of this country? Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you living in a democracy? Boy!”
If you want to ask your flaneur-like father why he has suddenly stopped at a small shrine sacred to the local gods (resembling the highest authorities of the “Zone”), you should first know that the identical shrines are at every corner in this city. “What is this stone image,” he asks his invisible students. You say in your mind that it is a man. Then he asks, “What kind of a man?” “An old man,” you say silently. “This is a hibakusha,” he shouts, and you jump up on the street. “You said they were black, you never said they were tan,” you try to retort, while you feel as if you were made a fool of by the shrine and start hating the gods. You even feel a sudden keen pride in your absent-minded father.
If you turn your eyes from your last patron’s downcast face to your café’s window and find some graffiti on a block-long fence, look more closely. They say: “Keep your mask on, and don’t hang laundry outdoors, otherwise” — “Truth is infinitely many, but infinitely sparse” — “Where there’s a wall, there’s a way” — “War is on between us and the horror vacui of the authorities” — “Wipe us today, and you’ll see more of us tomorrow.” You turn the other way and see Flannery using a vibrator for her own pleasure. “In this house,” she says, “there are three bird groups: white ones for white guys, black ones for black guys, and yellow ones for yellow guys. Guess which bird I am.” She chuckles and faints.
If you are familiar with a famous anecdote about “ Poe Toaster,” you may try to identify it with your deceased father in your funeral speech, because, in your fading memory, he is always well-dressed, carrying a cane, with his face obscured by a derby-type hat and white scarf, and with three roses and an unfinished bottle of cognac in his hands, while wondering all the time whether or not his personal tradition is successfully taken over by his children after his death. Now your father stops by an empty store that has a weighing machine, steps on it, puts in a coin, and receives a ticket. “You weigh 120 pounds. You’re upright and brave. All your family members admire you,” it says.
If you step on the same weighing machine and receive a ticket which says: “You weigh 98 pounds. You have a great destiny ahead of you. But beware of women whose names start with F,” you may feel disappointed, but, according to Flannery, you’re “far less abnormal” than your father, who used to eat his hairs, lick his masturbated penis, and slurp his sperm in front of her, “like a signifying monkey.” “Thank you for destroying me,” he often said to her in her playroom. “My business is circumference” was also his party piece. Breast milk starts oozing from Flannery’s nipples, while you keep connecting your zig to her zag. You suck it, just as your father used to.
If you don’t want to live in this country anymore and that’s why you want to express yourself in English only, Billy the Budd would simply call you escapist. “The authorities in this nation may be just the same kind,” he would add, “they’re still forcing this city to use the same loud alarm, which may cause children to burst into tears as they relive the trauma. No sensitivity at all.” Suddenly, a building across the street, on whose fence there is a glaring graffiti (“Who can separate goats from sheep here?”), explodes with a roar, and your café trembles. “It may give you an anaphylactic shock,” your last patron says quietly, “but I don’t scare at all. Shall I be Job’s comforter for you?”
If you’re terribly upset by discovering your roaming father beginning to relieve himself on the busy street, you’ll be further confused to hear him shout to the empty sky: “I wish I could be delivered of this grandbaby! Who can separate me from this ‘enhanced’ one here? Suppose you order my bowels to void themselves, will they wish to listen to your reason, while writhing carnally in pain?” “I’m wishing this notebook would be published someday, somewhere,” Billy says to you with a sigh, “If it could, you know what I would long to do then? I would ask my book designer and photographer to produce a book design and insets which would reject sadistically my whole manuscript with raptures!”
“If you are curious,” your father says while wiping his bottom, “about why, when the racist Mr. Head and his innocent grandson Nelson get lost with cold fear in a colored district of Atlanta, Nelson abruptly wants to be picked up and held tight by a colored woman with a pink dress, sweet breath, bare arms and feet, and tremendous bosom, why don’t you interpret that scene by yourself? For Nelson, is she a substitute of his deceased mother? Is this the germ of miscegenation for the 68-pound poor-white boy? Do you remember that the weighing-machine ticket Nelson has got says: ‘You weigh 98 pounds, beware of dark women’?” “Time up now,” Flannery says, “You want more?”
If you hear from Mr. Book that all the limbs of Flannery (and of all other girls in his Palace) remain tightly tied until the moment the door of her playroom opens for you, you cannot resist imagining what kind of bondage is now waiting for you behind the curtain segregating the white-light Waiting Room from the multicolored “Zone.” “This Palace has its own powerhouse underground,” Mr. Book confesses, “and it can generate all the necessary electricity in any state of emergency. No nuke, no peace!” “Stevens used to see my hair-removed body as a corpse, and it used to make him feel like swimming in my moisture,” Flannery recollects. No more refill of ink for your penis.
If you suspect that this story may be too much like a monologist’s against your original plan to make it a fancy dialogue, you should think twice about your internal exchange with your father, where everything is reset without end. Your eulogy for him will contain such sentimental lines as: “Father, you often said your words disappear at once while my words remain. Is that why yours were so sweet?” In the same speech, you may even refer to the rumor that he had asked his wife periodically to be a factory-like surrogate mother shipping her babies to the underprivileged in the world. And another tattoo-like graffito catches your eye: “No more eggs here! No donation?”
If you cannot believe that Flannery (and Mr. Book’s other girls) change, whenever no customers have to be entertained in their playrooms, into a band of trained workers of the Special Safety Facility adjacent to the Palace’s powerhouse, it will be equally impossible for you to believe that Their Majesties’ behind-closed-doors compliance with Book has been ingrained long enough for nobody else to alter. “Head says on Page 122,” your father mumbles to himself, “that Atlanta is where Nelson was born, so he ought to know how to avoid being lost there. Then Nelson suddenly forgets his love of the city and insists he wants to go back home. Why does he feel so? Any opinion, class?”
If you dare to compare Flannery to, for instance, a child of a blood-feud family living indoors around the clock in fear of a victimized family’s vendetta, she may smile and answer that your attempt may not be so farfetched. “I don’t want to be killed, and I don’t want my Book to be assassinated. If he is wasted, I will have to take revenge,” she adds and blows an amorous sigh to you. “To me, this building is a church, as personal and necessary as the shell for a turtle.” Then your last patron orders another espresso, asking you an unexpected question: “Aren’t you a regular customer of that red-light columbarium?” Every entry on his “ending” notebook starts somehow with the word “if.”
If you begin to feel Billy the Budd vaguely resembling Bodhidharma, he will take your impression rather seriously. “Didn’t you realize,” he asks you while sipping his espresso, “that I have been always sitting right here for nine nonstop years, only facing your wall-like face unmoved?” Puzzled, you ask him what he has meant. “Must be the best to answer nothing.” The last patron’s voice sounds like an anti-personnel mine’s explosion to your ears. Something urges you to pray to him like a madman, without knowing why you are so thankful to him, so you say, “You are a good man! It takes all kinds like you to make a world!” And you hear, “Don’t talk to me like a pure-hearted martyr, you creep.”
If you find your roaming father start laying sprawled on a deserted alley to doze, you’ll probably act just as Mr. Head does while Nelson begins to sleep on a heated pavement in Atlanta: “Why did you ask every passer-by woman how to return to that empty classroom, father? Shame on you,” you sigh and try kicking a can near the slumbering ear of the old-monkey-like professor. He shots up and starts running zigzag away from you, shouting: “WHERE’S MY SON?” And when you, seeing your last patron off, begin to close the café with an alacrity not to be late for the rendezvous with Flannery, you hear a woman’s distant cry: “Police! This man hit me and broke my leg! Delinquency! Help me!”
If you go out of the café and see, right in front of Mr. Book’s Palace, Billy surrounded by many women massed in their fury, you’ll be surprised, a minute later, to feel his panting presence right behind your back. “THIS IS NOT MY BOY,” you find yourself say shamefully to the women, who will see you as a man who happily denies your own image. Then your patron begins to stay away from you without turning his eyes from your back. “Excuse me, you know where my son is?” Your father still keeps asking someone invisible, while looking rather happy because he has finally gained something to forgive at his discretion. He adds, “Where are we? On the ‘Zone’? Huh?”
If you reread the tattoo on Flannery’s back, you may get a new message about her this time: “This woman is here as a sex surrogate working exclusively for the disabled.” Whether you are really disabled or not is not necessarily up to you. “Do you know why we humans cannot stop wars?” Mr. Book asks you, while you’re vaguely wondering how you should mention in your funeral speech your late father’s shameful hoax: he once received a national literary prize with his high-quality nuclear- holocaust poem “Totally Up to You, Waiter” under a fake bio (“I’m Kazuo Ishiguro, a Hiroshima Survivor”). “To forget previous ones,” Mr. Book adds, “we need a new one, right?”
If you turn around and find that the huge clock tower of your father’s university, the only landmark for you and him not to get lost, is out of sight, you may not be able to rally your spirits anymore to stop him from force-feeding you his further text analysis: “So Mr. Head has almost deserted his grandson in Atlanta. Now he is a miserable sinner, no salvation waiting for him, and he wants to go back home, while Nelson doesn’t at all, finally knowing his only protector was a damn coward. Here, out of the blue, a black boy’s statue shows up before those two poor whites. Any opinion about this ending, class?” Suddenly, a hibakusha’s statue appears before you and your father.
If you believe that your funeral address is almost equivalent to, say, adding an author’s name to an authorless text or having someone whose language has no written letters dictate her every utterance to you, you must remember you’re now about to make him invisible. “I know far better about him than you,” Flannery says while gargling as well as cleaning her vagina with a hot shower. “He often had me perform a state of suspended animation here, because, otherwise, he couldn’t make love to me. He often tried to impregnate me, because, otherwise, I might be someone else’s. What he hated were childbirth, parentage, languages, imagination. He had me even keep a diary.”
If you think writing down something erotic on your diary every day helps raise your sex drive, you may even pretend not to notice your wife peeping your fake diary daily, while hiding the genuine one and telling the truest truth only there. If you’re a professional poet, you may be the exact type who has his wife read aloud to him everything he wants to read for his future works but doesn’t want to use his eyes for, while totally ignoring her when those works are eventually published. What if this whole story is about your mother, not about your father, although she seldom exists within? “That ‘ending’ notebook was not mine, to be honest,” Billy says, “just as fake as history itself is.”
“If you have difficulty grasping what the phrase ‘sterile mother’ means in a true sense,” Mr. Book says to you, “you cannot enjoy here.” You get shocked to find yourself sucking happily breast milk dripping from his gold-leaves-rimmed tit. “Your father often had me perform a doctor examining his old penis,” he continues, “and had my girls coldly look down on the entire scene.” And you hear that your last patron was caught while attempting to approach Their Majesties during their national parade in the “Zone.” Yet you don’t know that, when getting a glimpse of the arrestee, one of the Majesties mumbled their missing son’s name. “His Open-Air Gibbet: Next Sunday,” a graffito says.
If you want to recommend that every literary work treating a human character cruelly should be banned, here in this report you should get an advance prediction that, when you become a parent, you’ll choose to adopt the most beautiful kid in the world, because you will want to eradicate the linage of your ugly male body. “The most beautiful is always the most isolated,” your father whispers, looking up The Artificial Hibakusha. How chronologically perfect this mixed episode is, you may say to yourself. “Many questions arise in the ending of this story,” your father says, “why did Mr. Head and Nelson feel their common defeat and an action of mercy before the Artificial Nigger?”
If you assume that the echo of a distant explosion may be coming from the ongoing parade, you may be intrigued by Mr. Book’s confession in the Waiting Room: “I’m the real His Majesty. One day I went to the other His Majesty’s palace to meet him, but I wasn’t granted any audience,” he says, picking up a thick book titled The Japanese Folk Hero Urashima Taro Is Your Best Metaphor out of the shelves. “And I’m a mass-hating master,” he adds, when the velvet curtain finally opens. A woman’s voice asks you, while you’re squatting over the naked Flannery, “Do you like masturbating maskers like us?” Then all the other Palace girls rush into your rest-room-shaped playroom.
If you have no idea why Flannery has chosen a toilet-shaped playroom (named “Deep 6”) today, you may even have no idea why every lavatory in the Palace is shaped like a kitchen. “I never want to be cured, no matter what kind of disease this is,” you suddenly raise your voice in front of the plaster figure of an about-your-size hibakusha, whose body looks quite miserable but whose face looks happy enough. Your eyes implore your father to explain all the mystery of existence. Then the professor says, “In this scene, Mr. Head tries to say something lofty to Nelson, but he only says: ‘They ain’t got enough real ones here, so they got an artificial one.’ Class, do you think he is wise? Or stupid?”
If you’re curious about what the book The Japanese Folk Hero Urashima Taro Is Your Best Metaphor is all about, ask Mr. Book first, and he will answer this way: “This book has two main themes: one is that the word ‘family’ is a mere ideology, and the other is that a family-worshipping story/poem is not necessarily anti-war.” Every Palace woman starts raping every nerve fiber of your flesh, while your brain starts reciting precariously an Emily Dickinson you used to love: “My Brain keeps giggling – still – And Something’s odd – within – That person that I was – And this One – do not feel the same – Could it be Madness – this?” How come your smile looks so picturesque?
If you start feeling your eyes blind while raped by a group of thirsty-black-cat-looking women (some are pregnant, some are quite old, some are little girls, and some are foreign) moaning in chorus (“Calvary, nacirema!”), you must expect that this entire foolery (which may remind you of heavily crossed telephone lines) will be broadcast live to the rest of your nation through the surveillance camera, although only empty seats may be now present in front of every TV monitor all over the nation. “So, Mr. Head realized, at last, he was a great sinner,” your father mumbles. “Yes,” you reply, “and the god finally allowed him to enter Paradise!” Let’s go home, you also add in your mind.
If you’re worried that every idea for your funeral address may be voided out of your brain once you sleep, this is the only episode you’ll never forget, however deeply you sleep: before he left for the vacant classroom in his former workplace, your father had dumped all his paper money into a toilet bowl. “I have to hurry to my shelter,” he turns to you and says, as if he is looking for his own tombstone in a sprawling cemetery. “There was a girl,” Mr. Book cuts in, “who revolted against the rule to worship me and banished from here. She committed suicide on the news of the misfortune of the family of Their Majesties, but her martyrdom was strictly concealed for some strange reason.”
If you cannot deny that going home delivers the ultimate revelation for us, look around the artificial statue again. Into the deserted square, a woman abruptly brings a shabby table. Another woman approaches her with a plain stool on her shoulder and puts a packet of coffee beans on the table. Another woman comes in, carrying there an old coffee mill. Another woman stops by, collects some beans, and takes them away (“For contamination check,” she says). Then your father squats on the stool and starts milling the beans. The moon casts a dignifying light on everything. “A café?” you say. Flannery dons her dress again and asks you nobly: “Did I decontaminate your heart enough?”
If you want to have a cup of coffee with those flaneuses at this odd café, you must reconcile yourself to the fact that you’re not allowed to join this self-help bond among them. Now they are enjoying their homemade coffee, standing quietly and rigidly, reminding you of pinioned birds or Stonehenge. You start wondering why the whole city is full of the scent of rose oil. Then you notice that your father is nowhere to be found. All you can hear is a your-father-like distant voice: “Why must you go back home now? Why cannot you stay in Atlanta? Why are you so desperate to flee from the Artificial Nigger?” Then your old question comes back: What is a “truly great” waiter like?
“If you take it for granted that no human eye can see the ultraviolet, you’re partly wrong,” Mr. Book says. “Your retina can see it, but, a filter set in front of it prevents the ultraviolet from reaching it. Otherwise, the retina would react simultaneously to the visible sunlight and the ultraviolet, and everything would look unbelievably fuzzier for you.” Is that the real reason why the Artificial Hibakusha seems fuzzier to you now? A loudspeaker begins to announce with a sonorous alarm: “The government declared today that the entire population in this city proved to be a different race from the rest of the nation. So no more financial support would be supplied here from the ‘Zone.’”
If you think it is high time to finish this long story, you should stop and think about its “sell-by date.” Also, you should ask yourself once again why you prefer so blindly an artwork whose “best-before” date comes a hundred years later to another one whose importance ends up merely a year old. The deadbeat-looking group starts to wander altogether, just like a slow-motion flock of seagulls. “The remains of the day,” you utter inwardly. One of them comes to you and asks: “Do you have this medical-treatment note?” Shown to you is a notebook like your last patron’s. “If you have it, we can serve you with our coffee. We are a traveling café, entertaining every note holder on the road.”
If you know nothing about Piltdown (where the traveling café is originally from), you may not even notice that now is a rare chance to see, with your naked eye, the outbursts of radio energy in sunspots only by looking up to the sky. You want to chug-a-lug a bucket of coffee because of a raging thirst in you, but you must give it up. The café goes away, and time also goes away. Now the statue of hibakusha looks verily like a golden rider in your sight. What a coup, you say, and Flannery turns to you again. “I’m in this jail,” she says, “for I left my husband and chose to live with Book, that’s illegal in this nation.” What if you are her ex-husband? All you can do is squat and wait, Mr. Waiter.