Arseways by Camillus John

Arseways by Camillus John

Short Fiction

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.’

But I went in quickly and said, ‘There’s this plant in South East Asia called Rafflesia Arnoldi. It has the largest bloom in the world, up to three feet in diameter and weighing up to fifteen pounds. That’s me very soon indeed; the biggest bloom in the world. I’m going to influence every journalist after me for generations with my work. I’ve got two new ideas. I’ll be worth a few bob Pencil—’

‘You’re gone again Richie, for God’s sake. I told you. Just one minute is all I want. You’re up your own arse now! This mixing of shit from two sources can only mean trouble. We, as a couple Richard, are in deep, deep trouble. It might be all over—relationship-wise. Are you listening to me?’

I kept going, ‘Well, this plant is also known as stinking corpse lily. It’s a mottled brown-orange and white flower. Only the bloom of the plant can be seen above the ground. Its growing fungus below the ground smells of rotting meat and attracts carrion flies that act as pollinators.

‘That’s what the books say Pencil. It smells of rotting meat, probably like my head now after my recent shenanigans. This stinking corpse lily of a plant is the new me. It’s the new punk—of journalism this time. People used to spit their appreciation of their favoured punk band of the day. A sublime statement of the avant-garde never bettered in the entire history of art down the ages and one that still manages to shock, dumbfound and disgust most of the middle classes to this very day—’

‘I’ll slice your throat if you don’t shut the fuck up Richard—’

‘Well, here I come world. Hello! When I recite my work in public, which I intend to do now on a regular basis Pencil, well, first I’m going to smear myself down with my own shit. Become a human stinking corpse lily in the flesh. Then I’ll take to the stage. The audiences will show their appreciation for me and the journalistic blooms coming from my mouth by letting me smear some of my shit onto their faces or bodies in some way. I haven’t figured that part out yet exactly. But it will be done. Maybe kissing. And then my audience will go away and smear it on to the rest of the world like those pollinator carrion flies of the Rafflesia Arnoldi. It’s going to take art via reeking journalism in a fresh new direction—’

‘Up your own arse Richard, it’s been there a long time now. That’s the most asinine and disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t even make sense. It’s not even new—Adam and the Ants did that on theirKings of the Wild Frontieralbum 1980, side 2, track 3. Your should check it out—’

‘That’s because you’re middle class—you‘ll never understand. That’s why I know it’s going to work. You can read it in the art history books one hundred years hence, but not now. This is real in-yer-face stuff Pencil. Cutting edge. Trust me on this one.’

‘We just don’t get on anymore Richard, I think it’s time to call it a day.’

‘You’re probably right. But won’t you stay around a little while longer to see if this shit works out for me? I’ll be able to buy you everything you ever wanted. With my shit money. It’s going to get better and better, Pencil, my stinking corpse lily flesh will see to that soon enough.’

‘No, no, no Richard. It has to end. Besides, you’ve got to know this, I’m having a relationship with Camillus these last few months or so. It was I who asked your editor, Priscilla, to give you his short story to review for the newspaper. I knew the effect it would have on you, right up your alley—like your favourite blunt vegetable.I wanted the two of you to meet, even if it was up Camillus’ arse. I knew you’d go there. His stuff is very you.’

She was right. I’d only read a bare page of his work and already I loved the man to the core of his very being. Well, his writing anyway, not the man himself, I don’t do hero-worship. Punk journalism, as I said.

But I wasn’t going to let him get away with any of this. I needed to cry for my lost Pencil, I didn’t want it to end, I loved her.

I dropped my eyes and read the short story right through all the red lights and reached the full stop at the end. I was up his arse again in no time, and I left Pencil back in the sitting room on her own, far, far away.

I was going to insult and shout at him for a while. I couldn’t punch him as I could only fit my head and neck up his bumhole at the one time, my arms remaining in the real world.

‘I adore you Camillus. You’re funny, black, strange, cruel and you’re disgusting too; so obviously, you’ll go a long way, but I must spit in your face for fucking my wife (hock).’

Then Pencil’s head suddenly appeared beside the two of us.

‘How did you get up here, Pencil? You read his story too? I wouldn’t have thought his stuff was your cup of coffee?’

‘No, it’s not. I don’t need to read his stuff to go up his arse. I’m in lust with him, Richard. I do this for sexual pleasure anyways, no extra cost.’

‘I think I’m going to gag this time Pencil. I can’t breathe. Three heads into the same arse won’t go. If you thought long division was bad this is a fucking nightmare. We’re all going to die. How are we to escape now?’

Just then, Camillus used his real hands to pluck himself and Pencil safely from his own arse. Pencil herself had to type up this review for me in the end, because I was still trapped up his anus never to be seen again. I dictated the words of my review to her through his hole. I can’t get out, I’m locked in. And it looks like Camillus and Pencil won’t even last as a couple until the end of the month. Sickening really.

Camillus has asked me to review all of his future work and I’ve agreed readily. I can’t help myself, I simply love every word he pencils, excuse the sycophancy, well, I am dwelling up his bottom.

It was never going to work out with Pencil anyway, I’m loath to admit. I know that, deep down, but it wouldn’t have stopped me from persisting with the trying and the try-trying and the try-try-trying to keep it going strong and steady. On and on and on. I would never have given up. So I’m glad, in a way, that I’m not out therein the real world and crying into her face all the time to take me back, please take me back? For God’s sake Pencil, take me back? This arse business might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, actually.

I suppose though, if I were completely honest, the worst I could say about his fiction is that the endings tend to be a bit lame and go on and on until, well, he doesn’t know when to stop.

For stopping is the hardest thing in life. Especially with relationships. It’s hard to know when it’s right to cease to exist like that famous dead parrot people shout about uproariously. Each time I personally want my coffee mug filled up to the top again and again and again. It’s hard to drink coffee though with a dead parrot floating on top no matter how beautifully plumed. But there comes a time, where you’ve got to take the situation in hand and finally drink the dregs of it dry, smash it into the fireplace like a Greek, and walk out of the house entirely, closing the door firmly behind you. Well,not me, obviously, Pencil did the actual cup smashing, she dumped me.

Now I must own up, I don’t even know who Pencil is, never met the woman. But Camillus has portrayed her so perfectly, that I’d swear in any court of law that I know and love her as intimately as he says I do.

Time Gentlemen please, time! This is Pencil speaking. Never mind what this slack-brained egomaniac of a shit journalist has written above in the slightest, mawkish tripe that it is. I’m pulling him out of Camillus’ arse next week actually, for your information, just after he completes his review of Camillus’ first novel,The Rise and Fall of Cinderella’s Left Testicle. That’s all we asked him to do, no more, no less. Shed no tears folks, please. Trust me on this one. End of.

‘Watch it!’ said Richard / Thomas Stamford Raffles unable to do anything about it.

‘I’m still here you know,’ he said, ‘up Camillus’ arse.’

Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin. He has been published in The Stinging Fly, RTE Ten and Recently he killed the Prime Minister of Ireland in fiction in the Welsh literary magazine, The Lonely Crowd, with a piece entitled, The Assassination of Enda Kenny (After Hilary Mantel). He would also like to mention that Pat’s won the FAI cup in 2014 for the first time in 53 miserable years of not winning it.

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