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Arseways by Camillus John - Short Story by Camillus John

Arseways by Camillus John

by Camillus John

After Piero Manzoni


Since my editor, Priscilla, assigned me this short story,Arseways by Camillus John,to review, I’ve been at a bamboozled loss to critique it without looking like a pretentious and finely plumed cock, excuse the French. And thus therein, lies the innate genius of this Swiss-roll piece of brown prose.

You see, it’s not that often you can relate to the protagonist of a short story in so many deep and emotionally twisting ways, but by George, Priscilla, he’s only gone and done it, this Camillus John fellow-me-lad.

The protagonist is called Thomas Stamford Raffles, journalist extraordinaire, and is so life-like that he could actually be based on my entire inner and outer existence, past, present and future. It’s as if Camillus had blended me into a fine paste, put me into a tube and squeezed and spurted me on to the page.

This, however, is where my whole universe collapses into despair up the nearest wormhole, because the author comes across as a smug chap with his head rammed so far up his own arse, that when he opens his mouth to speak, you can see the whites of his eyes staring back at you. You see, the black hole of my dilemma is that, because this Thomas Stamford Raffles character is me, myself and I, for all intents and purposes, I can’t stop adoring him and everything he represents. In this way, my head is sent involuntarily torpedo-like up the author’s arse as well.

How can I critique myself impartially? I think I’m astonishing, and so does the author, who delineates my softer points with his wonderfully evocative pastel crayon words of truth in thissui generisshort story of much significance. So up his arse my head goes. With two heads rammed up the same arsehole, his and mine, it’s a tad crowded I have to admit, but I don’t have to admit to anything really, because it’s all there in the lovely black and white of the printed page.

The first time I tried to read his story was quite frightening, as it was at the beginning of the third paragraph that I noticed my head disappearing up the author’s rectum. Stuck there, I was, for three hours, unable to read or write a single word, until my wife checked in on me by chance and saw my predicament. She pulled me legs-first out of there. It was a while before I tried to read Camillus again, thinking I’d just imagined what had happened and putting it down to the stress of my editor’s deadline. Priscilla is a hard task-master indeed.

My wife was now sitting next to me, smiling and confirming where my head had been. At first, she laughed it off as the price she paid for living with a well-respected journalist, but then, not so. I got the feeling she was leading up to something as she tried to persuade me to stop working for a while and talk to her. But deadlines are deadlines.

She said, ‘I wanted to do something nice tonight Richard, but you’ve had your head up someone else for three hours. I can’t go there now. Not only are you up yourself, but up someone else as well. The mind boggles. I don’t think I can handle this anymore. I don’t know if you’re real anymore, if our relationship is real, or just pure fiction.’

I said, ‘Come on, Pencil, we can still do nice if you want. I got the sprouts back from the cleaners today for God’s sake. I just need to read this story, write my piece for Priscilla and everything will be hunky-dory—’

‘No. I’m not pulling you out of his arse again. You can stay up there for all I care. You need to get real Richard. I need you here with me tonight, you need to know something.’

‘I am here!’

‘You’re not—you’re going to be back into that story in a minute in your head and up his arse again. Stay in this moment Richie—here now!—not up there—don’t leave me on my own.’

But my eyes brushed downwards accidentally and I’d read a whole paragraph without thinking. I got as far as the end of page one and disappeared up the author’s arse again with the bionic power of his descriptive passages. I was virtually nose to brown-nose with him now, looking him in the eyes.

‘Richard, get back out there and save your marriage for God’s sake!’ said Camillus.

‘I can’t get out on my own. Someone has to pull me legs first.’

‘Is that so bud? Look, there’s two bales of hay, one to your left, coloured pink and made of cake, and one to your right, coloured white and made of all the breasts of everyone you’ve ever felt attracted to in your entire life. You have to choose? What will you do? I’m giving you the choice.’

‘I’m not here for fun and games Camillus. I’m not Buridan’s ass in a field trying to pick selfishly. I’m not going to starve. I don’t want to go back to the outside bloody recession just yet. Jesus. It’s scary out there. I don’t want to pay attention to anything anymore man. There’s a black buzz in my head out there. Up here in your arse, I can write, precipitate my very own revolution and charm myself back into her affections at a pen-stroke. And do you know what? Your prose is lovely. To be honest Camillus, Pencil doesn’t want me anymore and is about to walk out. I’ll weep. I know.’

With that, Pencil pulled me by the legs backwards again, and I was staring her in the face all breathless and fragrant from the neck up.

Pencil spoke, ‘Listen Richard, we have to talk fast. Your head is all discoloured now and the stimulating tart smell is quite intense. So I’ll have to be brief or I’ll gag all over you.’

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