Homage to Klismaphilia
a short story by Richard Craven
Except for the striplights glaring overhead the scene resembles, to Signor Arseface's untutored gaze, nothing so much as a gigantic knot. This way and that bend and writhe the rails, inscribing graceful curves through the gleaming spaces between eachother. From the rails in clusters hang, like trussed and vaselined turkeys, many hot water bottles in many different colours, all shiny. It is, Signor Arseface finds, his industrial Nirvana.
Signor Arseface's gaze eventually alights upon a small aperture in the anterior wall. Occasionally a light directly above it flashes red, and all the warehouse boys hefting about hot water bottles and rails and clipboards across the panorama beneath Signor Arseface at his window up in the overseer's office don yellow or brown hard hats, and stand back to watch the aperture hatch accept the next hot water bottle as it detaches from a swooping rail, and abruptly slides down the approach chute into the maws of whatever lies beyond.
Signor Arseface turns to Ball, and says,
-What happens next?
-That's the dumb waiter, says Ball, the ministrating therapist retrieves the hot water bottle from the serving hatch and thereto delivers the requisite tinctures and mixtures from calibrated and sealed vessels of application. It says so in the brochure. You can adjust the pressure at the fundament remotely from front office simply by selecting the manual override feature. As seen on TV.
Signor Arseface does not really know how to respond to this. And so he fills the void by saying
-I'm sure that will be wonderfully to everyone's liking. What about the flavour-fonts?
-Raspberry ripple from Walls Ice Cream, of course, says Ball, ticking them off on pudgy fingers, iron filings from the Kissinger Foundation, nuclear waste from the Kuznetsk League of Quondam-Apparatchiks, whipped cream from the MOD.
-We need steel girders, says Signor Arseface, and hazlenut yoghurt and gerbils and Ferrero-Rocher. What about ground glass? We got plenty of ground glass?
-Yeah, we got ground glass, says Ball. He pushes his thick grimy spectacles back onto his nose. But, he says, we're short on crude oil and quick-dry cement. And one thing this place needs is lots and lots of glue. For the warehouse boys. Payment in lieu.
-Bummer, says Signor Arseface. Where does the rubber for the hot water bottles come from?
Ball turns and looks at him as though he is mad.
-Rubber comes from the fucking rubber shop, he says, where else would it fucking come from?
-I don't know really, says Signor Arseface, shifting uneasily from one foot to another, I had imagined something along the lines of a rubber estate in the Congo or Malaysia. Vertical integration: that sort of thing.
-But this is just an enema cafe, says Ball with an air of infinite patience. Enema cafes don't need fucking rubber with vertical interwankshaft, they need hot fucking water bottles.
-Which are made of rubber, says Signor Arseface.
-Which comes from the rubber shop. Rubber comes from the rubber shop.
-In which case, says Signor Arseface with a logician’s fetish for parity of reasoning, why can't hot water bottles come from hot water bottle shops?
-Because, sighs Ball, gritting his teeth, if there were hot water bottle shops, then a lot of what they sold would end up in the wrong hands, meaning rogue unlicensed therapists, amateurs, hobbyists....
-What's Dick want for this place then?
-Dick? says Ball, hands by now in his pockets, rummaging furiously for spare change and maltezers, he don't really give a monkeys what he gets for it, he just wants shot. And he wants it in Krugerrands. Ball's hands emerge from Ball's pockets, and are each in turn sniffed by their owner.
-Krugerrands I can do, says Signor Arseface. He opens the backdoor, and they step out onto an aluminium fire escape. The hot air hits them a nano-second after the blinding light. It's been in the nineties all week. A few warehouse boys on their tea break lounge with crack pipes and bags of glue at the bottom of the steps, hardly bothering to look up as Ball and Signor Arseface, their eyes streaming from the brightness, hurry down towards them with averted gaze.
The asphalt meltingly shines and is sticky with pigeon shit and warehouse boy gob. A slight resistance at every lifting of foot. To Ball, the sensation is not unlike how he would imagine walking on water to be if he had any imagination. They pick their way gingerly in their Italian slip-ons down the dark and slimy passage between the warehouse and the warehouse next door, which, says Ball, has been colonized by the lord of whizz.
-Concerning whom all hail, he adds precautiously.
-Have we got pina coladas, asks Signor Arseface, Christ! What about the bloody pressure? What's the pressure going to be?
-The test pilot survived level PiersMorgan with a calcified rectum, says Ball, consequently he wasn't too keen on going any higher.
-No level Saatchi then, muses Signor Arseface, pity, that would've pulled in the punters.
-I don't know about you, says Ball, but I've always thought of level Saatchi as an unattainable and hence purely theoretical level, an ideal which we approach, if we approach it at all, asymptotically.
-Bollocks to that, says Signor Arseface, what about the bastard Switzers then?
-Antimatter in atom smashers, says Ball, which here in dear old Blighty we lack.
-No attention to excellence, grumbles Signor Arseface, no support for the small businessman. No bloody imagination.
-It never ceases to amaze me how anything ever gets done in this country at all, says Ball dutifully.
Dick, sporting a particularly blatant syrup to go with his werewolf dentures and his suit of many creases and his non-existent negotiating skills, greets his prospective purchasers in the public bar of the Bedbug & Wanking Chariot.
-So, he expands as he and Signor Arseface and Ball play Mutla Ridge Kill Kill on Korean videoramamaticotron, you two's want to get into enemas.
-Who says we do, demands Ball, you ain't told us your keenest price yet.
-I can come down a bit, philosophises Dick, but not too far, this is a state of the art enema caff you got here, it's clean for a start, you got level PiersMorgan in 62 flavours, you got a class clientele, ladies who lunch, royalty...
-Royalty? sneers Ball, in bloody Basingstoke??
-You better believe it, insists Dick, ABC1's the lot of them, tired businessmen, local politicians,...
-And bored housewives with bingo wings, and here's you wanting bloody Krugerrands, says Signor Arseface, what you want them for, I can't just go out and lay my mitts on a big load of Krugerrands, there's paperwork.
-There's fraud and corruption, adds Ball.
-Only if you want planning consent for change of use, or if you're like that whizz lord next door.
-Have to grease a few palms did he? says Signor Arseface.
-Look Messrs Strong 'n' Silent, live and let live ok? says Dick, funny handshakes? Peronsally, I'm clean as a laundry.
-Bully for you you cunt, mutters Ball as he gets up in search of more libations.
Dick has an incredibly light head. For a nascent alcoholic it's really quite pathetic. Ball and Signor Arseface knew that he would be a pushover as soon as they set eyes on him. Two or six novelty beers and a bit of Dick's twatting tiresomely on about specific gravity and other folky arcana see the price of the enema cafe dropping precipitously. Much later Signor Arseface, cubicled in his final agony, is to remember Dick's syrup sliding absurdly down his right cheek like an escaped pubic thatch, whilst its owner swears that Signor Arseface and Ball are both his brothers. At some point Dick collapses at the controls of Mutla Ridge Kill Kill and is hefted out to the pub car park for a quick bit of vomiting before being cajoled into the back of Signor Arseface's Lexus, where Signor Arseface and Ball invite him pleasantly to invite them back to the enema cafe in order to witness an actual transaction through the reverse mirrors with which each enema cubicle is for obvious security reasons equipped as standard.
They stand at a mirror watching as before them a middle-aged company secretary removes his belted Gannex and disrobes.
-Fat little fuck, murmurs Ball.
-Talk as loud as you like, says Dick soupily, every suite's soundproofed. Daft cunt won't hear a thing. Hold on, he adds, we're looking at him through a mirror, right? Does that mean his right is our left and that?
-Don't act even more fucking stupid than you already are, says Ball.
There follows a somewhat unnerving moment when the company secretary comes right up to the mirror, and, standing about four inches away from the appalled and amused Signor Arseface scratches first his pubes and then with both hands worries at the sparse strands atop his bonce, before retiring to perch self-consciously on the wicker armchair in the corner of the room. The door opens and a peroxided demi-centenarian harpy in a thigh length parody nurse's uniform enters the room and hands the company secretary a dry-cleaning package.
-Your bumless suit, Mr Redwood, she says, her voice emanating eerily and electronically from a speaker artfully concealed behind the artfully concealed audience.
-Er much obliged thank you very much, says the company secretary.
-What can we do you for this week, the usual? asks the enema nurse.
-Thankyou, says the company secretary, this week I'd like a PiersMorgan of gravel and coconut.
-Certainly, says the enema nurse.
-Oho, says Dick nudging Ball, this is a departure, Mr Redwood normally partakes of motorway aggregates and raspberry ripple.
-Special fucking occasion, rasps Ball, polishing his glasses with his wankerchief.
-Much obliged, says the company secretary, this is a special occasion you know, something of a departure in fact.
-Is it really, how interesting, says the enema nurse.
-Yes, says the company secretary, usually as you are probably aware I take motorway aggregates and raspberry ripple, but this week I thought I might do something a little different.
-Gravel and coconut, says the enema nurse.
-Yes, says the company secretary, I thought I might push the boat out a little.
-You're so interesting you're one of our favourite gentlemen, says the enema nurse.
-She's dead from the neck up, says the fascinated Signor Arseface, she may actually mean it.
-Well it's been ever so nice, says the enema nurse, you just slip into your bumless suit and press the button when you're ready to go.
-See you afterwards then, says the company secretary.
The enema nurse gone, the company secretary busies himself with his bumless suit. Signor Arseface is gratified to learn that it is a double-breasted polyester loom knit and is, indeed, bumless. Its bumlessness complicates the company secretary's deportment. For one brief incandescent moment as he hops about hitching up first one and then the other trouser leg he bends over, and his audience can see all the way to Nebraska. Then, sartorially satisfied and oblivious of the disgust engendered through the looking glass, he pads over on socked feet to the wicker armchair into which, squirming and wincing, he lowers himself gingerly.
-You can't see it from over here, explains Dick, but the nozzle of delivery pokes up through a hole in the chair. Sometimes the pressure makes the client want to jump about a bit, but that's been associated with rectal calcification according to a paper recently published in the British Journal of Clisters, so General Accident has insisted that all nozzles be fitted with a device that stops the client jumping about.
-How's it work? asks Signor Arseface.
-Retractable teeth what grips the colon walls innit, says Dick, rendering jumping about sublimely painful. Only way for the client to modify discomfort is by request for manual override. As seen on TV. Tomorrow's World, only it's today and that's a fact.
For the next five minutes there is a low noise which gradually builds up into a high-pitched whine. Ball and Signor Arseface watch as the company secretary bends further and further forward in the wicker armchair, his face reddenning and his breath coming in little grunts.
Dick, predictably perhaps, is not long for this world. Within hours he has with his endless prevarications as much as his sartorial offences and his abysmal standards of personal hygiene exhausted the patience of Signor Arseface and Ball. Sheets impregnated with L.S.D are procured from the lord of whizz. Dick is forced to lick the sheets; later, out of his mind, he is bundled down the steps through the carpark heat haze, past the oblivious warehouse boys, into the boot of Signor Arseface's Lexus. Ball and Signor Arseface drive their babbling load some few miles down A and B road, roundabout roundabouts past newtown housing through tinder dry countryside until the melting macadam gives out to a rutted track lined with burdock and dying nettles. At the end of the track lies a walled enclosure some two and a half thousand yards square. Rusting wrecks and relics of cars, doors off bonnets open to the elements, slept and shat in by ecumenical of the église de bouteille, piled three and four high. Ball if given much to reminiscence might have thought of the medieval tower blocks he saw from time to time when he was with the special forces in Aden. Dick's inner world is by now too topsy turvy for him to stand. There is a man in charge here. Money changes hands, and Dick is fed to some machinery which promptly compresses him.
CID come to the enema cafe asking questions, but they are stupid. Signor Arseface is tempted by contumely to lace their cuppas with the remaining acid, but wiser counsel prevails. The coppers are in the same lodge as the lord of whizz. Ball tells them that Dick left in a hurry, said he was going to Malaga or Rotterdam or somewhere, something to do with Krugerrands. The coppers nod knowingly. Kruggerands equals meltings down equals vatfraud. Housey housey. Wouldn't mind a bit of that. Mind how you go.
There matters might rest, were it not for the memory of the company secretary's face gradually reddening. Signor Arseface is preoccupied, he knows not why. The company secretary and many others return week after week in order to have their bums pincered from within whilst being filled to bursting with equal parts solid and liquid. The enema cafe has clients who like to suffer. What about the cost accountant who likes a Cowell of wire wool and battery acid up his jacksy? Just thinking about it makes Signor Arseface's eyes water. But the enema cafe turns a profit, most of it repeat custom. What do they know that Signor Arseface doesn't, these penpushers and errand boys and middle managers in their wide lapels and greasy gannexes and grey slip-ons? How can they be keyed in when Signor Arseface is not?
The question nags away at him, until one evening, staying late ostensibly in order to cook the books, he instead enters an enema suite pushing in front of him a Corby trouser press. He disrobes and reverently lays out his tailoring. He puts on the bumless suit. The nozzle of delivery pokes blackly up from the surface of the wicker chair. Signor Arseface hopes that the enema nurse has cleaned it since its most recent deployment as, positioning himself somewhat maladroitly, he gradually lowers himself. It is indescribably painful. Signor Arseface is just consoling himself that since everyone has gone home and nothing is switched on he can lever himself off this obscenity right now and nobody will ever be the wiser, when the lights seem to dim, and he becomes aware first of a blinding pain as the retractable teeth suddenly clench his gut, then of a low hum which gradually gathers into a high-pitched whine, lastly of a force from beneath which threatens to tear him apart but which he is powerless to escape. He looks desperately in the mirror, but all he can see is his own reflection. All he can hear is his own screaming. His last memory is, unaccountably, of Dick's syrup escaping its moorings and sliding down its owner's cheek.
Behind the mirror Ball gloats over Signor Arseface's death agony.
-Never did like the cunt, he says to himself.
In the morning when the stupid coppers come, he's going to tell them that Signor Arseface's in the Turks and Caicos islands, maybe looking for Dick, then they can put two and two together and get charlie. Serve them farkin’ well right.