Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Rough Account of The Group of Twelve: 3. Solomon Izzersted (excerpt from R. A. Lafferty's East of Laughter)

Lector Delectus, if you are standing up, sit down for a moment. If you are alone, call somebody to be with you until a strange thing has been narrated to you. People do sometimes faint in the presence of sheer horror, and in doing so they often injure themselves. And people do sometimes come unhinged if they face diabolism uncompanioned.

‘John Barkley Towntower was born with a dark and sullen growth on his belly. When John was very small, this growth was very, very small, but already it looked like a miniature human head and face. And soon it became clear that the growth was more precocious than was John himself. It learned to talk before John did. At first, for a long time, the only words that it said were “My name is Solomon Izzersted, my name is Solomon Izzersted”, and it spoke this always in a horrible, screaming, rasping voice. This puzzled Mr. And Mrs. Towntower for they had no Solomon and no Izzersted in any of their antecedents.

‘Mrs. Towntower the mother of little John Barkley Towntower (and apparently of the shocking growth that called itself Solomon Izzersted also) tried to kill the growth with a hatchet, but she came closer to killing John Barkley than Solomon. Mrs. Towntower was then incarcerated in Eastern Oklahoma Hospital, and she is still there thirty-eight years later. John Barkley, soon after he learned to talk with his own voice, also learned to do the Solomon Izzersted voice with his own mouth and throat. And he made, when he was four years old and just starting to grade school, the first of the little Solomon Izzersted mannequins which he wore and manipulated on his hand like a glove. And John Barkley and Solomon Izzersted became an established ventriloquist’s act by the time that John was six years old. They played not only in their own school but also children’s hospital wards about town, and for all sorts of parties. And they were good. People, they were good! And they got better. And whenever, in the midst of an act or at another time and place, the furious and ugly little head of Solomon Izzersted himself would pop out through John’s shirt-front and the furious voice would shout “My name is Solomon Izzersted, my name is Solomon Izzersted”, why, it was thought to be only a part of the act, the best part of it. And the other kids, completely enraptured by the display, would cry out to John “How do you do it, how do you do it?” And John would say self-depreciatingly “Oh, it’s just a little trick that I worked up.”

‘(Dismiss your companion now if you wish, Lector. If you have survived, then you have survived the most horrible part of the symbiotic account.)

‘John and Solomon made a sort of truce with each other, though they never felt real fraternal love each for each. John became, by choice, a fat boy (do you remember those early Milky Way candy bars?) and then a fat man; and he kept Solomon pretty well smothered in his rolls of belly fat. But Solomon was a ham, and he loved to act. It was always his live voice now that was central to the act. When John was through college and was established (to the small but intense circle of people who matter) as one of the great mathematicians of the world, Solomon still compelled the arrangement that they should spend six months of each year touring with their fabulous ventriloquist act. People who didn’t understand said that it was a shame that one of the greatest mathematicians in history should have to put on a variety stage act to eke out a living. But that wasn’t the case at all.’

-R. A. Lafferty, East of Laughter (1988), pp. 11-13

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)