SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
June 17, 2012

C’mon, Leprosy!

 

Never did like that bar. It’s an embodiment of everything that is wrong and hateful about Park Slope. It’s too bright and nice, but at the same time there’s no comfortable place to sit. Knocks from the bartender are few and far between, and when they show up at all they usually occur when a keg kicks, leaving you half a glass of dregs. “That one’s on me,” the bartender says with a smile. “Yeah, thanks loads.” It’s too expensive to begin with, and they’re so goddamn proud of all their fancy-ass craft beers made from grass clippings and tree bark that you can’t get a goddamn normal beer. And then of course there’s that fucking smug attitude from the bartender and the other patrons. They’re all better than us, and you better fucking remember it.

        Man I hate that bar. They can’t even get the damn music right.

        But nevertheless there we were on a late Saturday afternoon. I tried to keep my mouth shut, but didn’t always succeed. More than anything else, I just tried to forget that I was there.

        I breathed a deep sigh of long-awaited relief a few hours later when Morgan and I finally stepped out onto the sidewalk again.

        We hopped on a train, went back to her place and watched a Steve McQueen picture. It was a thick and sluggish night, so she plugged in a couple of fans.

        Come around two-thirty I started getting myself together to go to bed. That’s when Morgan said “Wait, what’s that?”

        She’d mentioned earlier that I seemed to have a couple of bug bites on my legs, though I hadn’t noticed them until she pointed them out. Now under the light she could see they weren’t bug bites at all.

        On my arms and legs, there were several round, red, flaking patches. They weren’t raised, they didn’t itch, they weren’t presently oozing a noxious pus, and so nothing had brought them to my attention. But they were there, all right.

        “Oh, those are just . . . my new tattoos. Hadn’t I mentioned that?”

        “Just hush. And they don’t itch?” she asked.

        “Nope. Not up to now, anyway.”

        “Hmm,” she said. I was anxious to blame that fucking bar, but decided against it.

        “Well, shit,” I said. “Last thing I’m needing about now is another disease.” I seem to be prone to odd little diseases, always have been, but I just wasn’t in the mood to hear about the latest at two-thirty in the morning while I was still drunk on stupid smug beer.

        The next morning, it seemed I was still diseased. Hungover and still diseased. The fact that this outbreak of new sores wasn’t bothering me at all got me to thinking. It might have been nothing, it might have been some simple little thing that would go away on its own as soon as I stopped fuming about that bar—or it might have been leprosy. I figured it had to be one of the two, and I was putting my money on leprosy.

        I’d never had leprosy before, so I guess I was about due. And if that was indeed the case, I had to get to work, and quick. The publishing industry had been fairly unreceptive of late to books I was certain would’ve been mega-bestsellers if only given half a chance, but that’s their business. But how in the hell could they turn down a disease book about leprosy written by a blindo, right? It was a fucking sure thing, and promised a big, fat payday.

        Once or twice a week someone will help me find a seat on the subway or offer some kindly directions while I’m shuffling down the sidewalk. About half the time this happens, they’ll head off on their way by saying “god bless you, sir.” My initial response to that has traditionally been “Yeah, it’s a little late for that,” or “he’s already done plenty, thanks anyway.” Of late I’ve been more tempted to say, “If god really wants to help out, he can get me a damn contract.”

        Well, maybe that’s just what’s happening here—this god of theirs is helping me get a contract by striking me down with leprosy! Christ, just look at the non-fiction books that are coming out these days. You’ve got your extremist but bland political commentaries, your financial self-help books, and your disease books (apparently in an effort to help the people who need those financial self-help books feel better about their destitute circumstances). There could never be too much of that shit in the market. There were books by people with cancer, MS, autism, AIDS, beri-beri, you name it. But had there been a big disease book by a leper yet? If so I hadn’t heard of it. That meant there’d be a demand.

        Given that I’ve already put out a disease book or two, I’m obviously in need of some new disease to justify another one—and what better disease than leprosy?

        Man, this is all really starting to come together. You got your biblical history there to sucker in the God people, you got your funny comedy jokes, you got leper colonies on lush tropical islands, and you got that always-useful element of deep and profound horror and revulsion! Add blindness to the mix and hoo-boy! Movie of the week, here I come.

        I mean, I only use four fingers to type as it is, so I can lose six right there no sweat. After smoking heavily for about thirty years I have no sense of smell worth writing home about, so having my nose drop off into a convenient bowl of minestrone would be no great loss (and in fact would be helpful to the whole project if it happened in some crowded restaurant). Hell, come to think of it, at my age most of my body parts are useless as it is, so I can afford to lose most of them without too much inconvenience. Skin? Who needs skin?

        And to top it all off, even if the book idea doesn’t come off the way I’m hoping, I could start hiring myself out as an extra in zombie films.

        So yeah, I’m keeping my fingers crossed (as long as I have fingers to cross) that these odd, bland little dry sores turn all black and green and oozy in the days to come. Yup, for the first time in a long time, things are really starting to look up.

 

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