For a minute I had no words. From outside there was a sort of weird humming or ticking sound which often came over Shitsville in the long afternoons, when the heat began folding back in over itself, and the whole shoddy main street with its shadows at dissenting angles began to tilt slightly backwards too. Then slowly slowly I reached up and removed my pink sunglasses, folded one side in, then the other, placed them on the desk and pushed them forward to rest there like a trump card between the flight of Mayoral pens and the overflowing Mayoral ashtray. I’m told I have very beautiful eyes.
‘The truth is, Roger, the truth is…’ I could hardly find the voice to speak. We continue now in a poignant key like the speech at the end of Bladerunner:
“I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like tears… in… rain.”
[Joanne Taylor suggests that Batty aligns himself with Wagner’s Tannhäuser, a character who has fallen from grace with men and with God. Both are characters whose fate is beyond their own control.]
Miss Shitsville [I] cont’d: ‘That when I first saw Shitsville ahead on the horizon… this monumentally… bent, filthy, absurd collection of ugly stucco houses collapsing into dust in the middle of the desert at the end of a long dirt track that nobody in their right mind has traipsed for 70 years… A town full of whores and alcoholics and tax cheats; cads, charlatans, chancers, cretins, apologists for cretinism, pornographers, crazy Baptist pamphleteers and otherwise spectacularly stupid creatures who refer to themselves, hopefully, as “human beings”… I thought, this is it; for the first time in my life I felt…’
At that I stopped again… just couldn’t go on… almost choked on the word ‘home’. I have a real horror of sentimental bullshit and earnestness in music. And tho I might say “the truth is…” the truth is that there is no real truth that I can detect drifting about or shuddering under the layers of horseshit in any part of me, there are only umpteen versions of the same or similar truths spiralling down and down on and on forever inside of my black heart, all of which may or may not be true at any one time; still I consider these unborn truths and examine them one by one in light of their intended effect, trying to come up with the best one; and the closest that I ever come to being honest I am really sitting about two inches removed from myself marvelling how it really almost seems like I am really crying.
‘I might get away with it,’ I thought.
But Roger didn’t say anything at all.
‘Roger you said you didn’t want to be mayor anymore.’
‘Was I drunk?’ said Roger.
Everything else that could be said has already been said; so this is the last you will hear of Texas.
‘This afternoon when I first got wind of your uncivil plot I dictated an official response from town hall that I intended to Xerox and post in your letterboxes… But insofar as I have just decided to put the mail on strike tomorrow I guess I will just read it out to you now. It’s not as if many of you have the ability to read in any case,’ said I. I took the note from my back pocket:
‘”Dear the lowly residernts of Shitsville–“‘ I read, and stopped. ‘Resi dernts? Who fucking typed this? – MISS SUMMERTIME?’
It was all too much for me. I screwed up the letter and threw it at Miss Summertime’s head. She gave the same screech she does when she sees a bird and held her head as though she was bleeding.
‘Don’t speak to your sexy secretary like that!’ said Roger. ‘You alright, Miss Summertime?’
‘Uh-huh,’ she nodded.
‘Right-ho,’ said Roger, and slapped her arse.
Hubbub. Consternation. I took a minute to compose myself.
‘I’m sorry, simple townsfolk,’ I said at last. ‘I’d like to speak to Roger alone, if I may…’
Roger came up the stairs and we went into the mayoral offices while the residernts stayed downstairs firing into the ceiling whenever they got bored. We went and sat at the desk and I poured us both a slug of the fine old Mayoral whisky.
‘Now Roger, darling,’ I said when he had had a long drink. ‘Things seem to have gotten a bit out of hand here. You and I both know — since we were discussing it just last night over Shitsville’s finest — when I ran into you in the blue room at the whorehouse, remember? — you and I both know, and you know yourself deep, deep, down in your ingrate’s heart, that you don’t really want to be mayor. It is all a very silly idea brought on by too much sun and possible peyote hallucinations and all of that stuff they whisper to you after midnight in the whorehouse when it’s a slow night and there’s no one waiting for the next half hour slot.’
‘Uh,’ said Roger. ‘Maybe? I don’t really know.’
‘The fact remains that duels are very dangerous. Only one of us can come out of this alive. When really I bare you no ill will. Really I should like very much to see you live long and prosper!’
‘You said last week “I hope you die!”‘
‘Last week in Ginger’s…’
‘I don’t seem to recall it…’ I said. ‘But I know if I do sometimes make violent threats to your person, Roger, it is only a kind of Cockney poetry. And when I say things like, well when I said I wish you would hang yourself or choke like Isidora Duncan on the length of that ridiculous frou frou scarf it is only because, well you have such a dear, fair, sweet, angelic little face that I can’t help but wonder… what it would look like if you were to be choked. You sort of belong up there in the ether…’
I poured him another drink before he could protest.
‘Let me tell you something about the citizens of Shitsville, cousin…’ I said confidentially. ‘They’re all mad. They can’t be trusted to know what they want. You’re a visitor too, you should be able to see… Everyone in Shitsville is mad. Everyone in Texas is mad. Every jerk-off I’ve met since I got here… They’re all off their fucking nuts!’
It’s a testament to the incredible spiritual insight you can gain by drinking a shop-floor’s worth of peyote every Tuesday in Shitsville, that very occasionally poor daft Roger would say things that could be considered “perceptive”.
‘But you must be a bit mad too,’ said Roger. ‘Or you wouldn’t have come here.’
Cont’d here: The Very Last In Texas.
Then one sunny afternoon when I was sitting back in the Mayoral offices smoking a big Texas Mayoral cigar I was roused from my mayoral reflections by the sound of a riot in the street. Next thing I knew the lowly residents of Shitsville were all streaming into the ground floor of the Council Chambers shouting for me to come on out.
I came out slowly scratching my head and looked down at them over the balcony with their potato noses and cretinous, uncomprehending faces, and hair sticking up on end because in Texas it’s the only place to wipe your hands.
‘What do you idiots want now?’ I said tiredly. ‘You really do have to stop coming in here of a noon demanding that Roger be mayor. It’s becoming next to impossible to get anything done. And that front door shrieks like the very devil when you throw it open. I think we were all out on the beano last night. Have you no respect for my nerves?’
Next thing Roger in his shining white get-up was being pushed to the front of the crowd.
‘Tell her what we come for,’ said chief vigilante / whorehouse owner Jack Daniels with a mouth full of big Texas cigar even bigger than my own.
‘Uh- er– um, I think I we should have a duel,’ said Roger looking at the floor.
‘Did you hear that, Mayor?’ Jack shouted up to me. ‘He said he wants a duel.’
‘Yeeeeha!’ said everybody. The Baptist banged his tambourine but it was hard to hear amongst the big Texas caterwaulin’, which even on fine sunny days when everyone’s in good spirits approximates the demented cries of souls in hell.
I didn’t raise my voice, only went on chewing at my cigar thoughtfully while I hooked my left thumb around my trusty Texas gun belt.
‘Roger, darling, sugar, sweet; listen to me, fool,’ I said at last. ‘In Texas duels are very decisive. And you’d have to be able to crawl out of your whore’s nest by midday. Not your strong suit.’
‘Yerr…’ said Roger doubtfully.
‘And of course you love Roger,’ I went on, speechifying to the simple townfolk. ‘–I love Roger — we all love Roger; his idiocy endears him to us! But Roger… Roger as we know is irreparably alcoholic… Most often to be found slumped over the bar in Ginger’s, if he’s not in the whorehouse tickling your best girl. He looks great in chaps and has a nice moustache… But are these really the qualities you seek in a mayor?’
‘YES!’ they shouted. It shook the very walls. (Admittedly the Council Chambers isn’t the best made building in Texas; my grandpappy Jack “Washington” Shitsville was a set designer and not above taking shortcuts legal or illegal if it would trim off a buck.)
A riot of gun shots filled the air; parts of the ceiling cracked fell down and dumped piles of plaster and asbestos on their idiot heads. It was the thunderously moronic cry for Barabus that has echoed down the centuries.
In the face of such opposition my words escaped me.
‘Alright you fucks. You fucking idiot retarded fucks,’ I said.
Cont’d here: Everyone is mad in Texas.
Though Roger claimed he would far rather sleep than mutiny, the witless residents of that wretched backwater had begun to show a very clear preference for a certain sweet alcoholic ingrate. For the next couple of weeks I tried to carry on my duties as Sheriff / Mayor with grace and dignity and nary an unkind word but truth is inbreds don’t respect the embodiment of solemnity and dignity as much as they should. Funny thing about NASA, they went all the way to the moon to find a lot of rocks and no water and no intelligent life forms when they could have just stayed in Texas.
Cont’d here: Trial In Texas.
At that I suppose my rage was a little misplaced. I turned to Jack Daniels, whorehouse owner and chief vigilante.
‘And Jack. How can you — turn the vigilantes on me!’ I was the one who organised the vigilante party in the first place, about two weeks ago when the sheriff went missing. I hear they found him, eventually, on the downside of a dry, pebbly cliff; ‘Must of taken a long walk,’ was the word in town.
But Jack didn’t say anything more; only a great number of the vigilantes seemed to appear in the saloon and rise up out of their chairs, chaps creaking. I could hear the clock in the back parlour ticking.
At that I simply turned on my heels and marched out; ‘Go on, shoot me in the back,’ I said. ‘It’ll only ping off the knife that’s already there.’
Next I marched back across the road to the council chambers and stormed into the Mayoral office calling for my sexy secretary Miss Summertime, who was supposed to be dusting the visitor’s parlour, but was in there giggling with the doors shut and the blinds drawn; I could smell cigars, and the Mayoral decanter was missing from my desk.
‘MISS SUMMERTIME!’ I yelled. Suddenly she came scurrying out, a little tipsy, and her hair undone, but no worse off than usual on any given Tuesday afternoon in Shitsville.
‘I need to dictate an important letter appertaining to civic matters,’ I said.
‘I’m a little busy now,’ said Miss Summertime looking regretfully towards the darkened parlour. ‘Can’t you get someone else to type it?’
‘How about I get someone else to be my sexy secretary?’
Someone inside the parlour coughed. ‘You could try typing it yourself?’ she suggested hopefully.
I was looking down at her from the landing, and I’m afraid at that moment I lost my cool and threw a boot at her.
Cont’d here: TXXXS.
Times were I treated young Roger with some indulgence whenever he got stinking drunk on Shitsville’s finest and would burst into the mayoral offices about ten-o’clock in the mornin’ as I sat there counting chickens before they hatched. Roger would have been up all night and have a girl under either arm and be wearing a blue sash that said, “MAYOR OF TITSVILLE” across his front. And under the wild whoops of Evelyn Einstein and Louella Jones (the biggest whores in Texas) I would say tiredly,
‘Dear, dear darling Roger, you really do have to stop bustin’ in here of a morn demanding to be mayor. In Texas vegans aren’t allowed to hold positions of power, you know that, Roger, you yourself voted it in at the last referendum.’
‘Was I drunk?’ he asked.
As we already know nothing in Shitsville was ever the same again after Roger rode into town. He was a wonderful lad full of pep and joi de vivre and all of that shit. He could drink any man under the table and quite often did, only to end up under the table himself ten minutes later. He looked like an angel when he slept, even though he snored. It rather endeared him to people.
One morning as I did my daily rounds selflessly ensuring the protection of civil liberties as mayor / sheriff of Shitsville (the sheriff had disappeared under mysterious circumstances a couple of weeks before) I got this odd sort of feeling that nobody in the street would look me in the eye as I said, ‘Howdy!’ So about twelve o’clock I went on into Ginger’s Saloon and said, ‘Where’s Roger?’
‘The usual spot –‘ said Ginger. He jerked a thumb at Roger, slumped at the end of the bar.
‘ROGER!’ I said.
‘Hmph,’ said Roger with his head in his arms.
‘Roger, Roger. Roger!’ I said, lifting his head up by the hair. ‘I want to speak to you.’
Roger lifted his head, said, ‘Gah!’ and put his head back down again.
I signalled to Ginger and he poured me a nice big stiff one. Then I started hitting Roger on the cheeks. ‘Hair of the dog, Roger… wake up… Come on you fucking idiot. I… Where’d you go last night?’
‘Ghhuhdh,’ said Roger.
‘Nobody’s talkin’ to me this morning,’ I said. It was an odd sort of feeling; the idea that someone you thought you might love could stop talking to you for no reason at all.
Now from behind me still sitting at the card game Jack Daniels said, ‘Now if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a woman crying.’
‘I’m not crying, you shit head.’
‘The Mayor of Shitsville shouldn’t be crying,’ said Jack Daniels.
‘Then stop trying to make me cry, arsehole! Roger! Roger!’
At last Roger lifted his head and blinked blearily at the swimming pictures on the wall behind the bar.
‘Scotch is a very unkind mistress…’ he said.
‘What’d you do last night…?’
‘Put some money on a horse…’
‘Oh. Did you win anything?’
‘No… No words…’
‘So you lost then?’
‘Well. I tried very hard not to…’
‘Needs to be said, Roger. I don’t think you should throw your money after lame horses when there are so many women around.’
‘I know, I know.’ He really sounded very contrite. ‘We ended up at the whorehouse… 800 bucks later… My tie got so covered in glitter I had to throw it out.’
Now I took hold of the hair on the back of his head again and pulled him up. ‘Why isn’t anyone talking to me?’
‘I’m talking to you?’
‘Did something happen last night?’
‘No…?’ said Roger. There was a touching plea for pity in his voice. ‘Please… my head… you’re killing me.’
That was when Jack Daniels slid his chair back, threw his hand down, and stood up. ‘OK,’ said Jack. ‘It’s this. We don’t want you to be mayor anymore.’
‘What did you just say?’
Jack put his hands on his gun belt. ‘We don’t want you to be the mayor any more.’
‘Oh,’ said I. I looked around. Everyone in the place was sort of pretending they weren’t there. Even the crazy pamphleteer hadn’t anything to add. ‘Oh. Is that it, then?’
Old toothless Jeffrey spat meditatively to the side. Jack Daniels stayed silent.
‘Every town needs a mayor, friend,’ I said. ‘You can’t just go without for laughs. That would be Constitutionally Irresponsible.’
‘Oh, sure,’ said Jack. Jeff spat again. ‘We’d have a mayor alright.’
It was then I began to get a vague sort of idea about what was really going on. ‘And who, may I ask, do you want to be the mayor?’
‘We want…’ said Jeffrey.
‘We want…’ said the crazy Baptist.
‘Roger,’ said Jack.
‘It’s Roger we want…’ said Jeffrey.
‘Roger!’ said I.
‘Roger for Mayor!’ said Frank the Bastard, looking hastily away. The crazy Baptist gave one small but not very hearty bang on his tambourine for emphasis before his courage deserted him again.
‘Well that’s all well and good,’ I said after a pause. ‘Alas, your friend Roger can’t be the mayor, because I already am the mayor. Remember?’
‘We want Roger to be the mayor instead,’ said Jack Daniels very slowly. Then he looked around the bar and said, ‘We all want Roger instead, don’t we boys?’
‘Roger!’ shouted the good folks in the bar.
‘ROGER!’ shouted I to him.
‘Don’t worry about it…’ said Roger. ‘Shh…shhh, please…. have a drink?’
‘Did you know about this?’
‘Oh! Christ save me!’ said Roger. ‘This is the sort of hangover that teaches godless people how to pray.’
‘So this is what really went on last night… Mutiny and betrayal?’
‘Forget about it, cousin,’ said Roger. ‘Hair of the dog…?’
‘You’re the dog, Roger.’
He reached out to me a conciliatory fashion looking a lot like a creeping jackass. ‘It doesn’t matter what they say, cousin! I don’t want to be mayor! They’re all still probably drunk!’
‘Roger, I hate you.’
‘Shhh!’ said Roger. And then to himself, shaking his head, and looking as if about to weep, he said, ‘Never again… never again…Please cousin, you’re killing me.’
‘I hope you die.’
‘Now that’s just not pleasant,’ said Roger.
Cont’d here: Another Shot in the Back in Texas.