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Uccello In Gamba


So the rooster says to the chicken ‘ Hey, Babe! Wanna come up to the coop tonight… I’ll show you my nuggets!’


Brightness Dark

        Posted August 27, 2009         Filed under: History, Politics, psychology | Tags: , Edit

For certain complex jobs, complex men are not always the answer. Slightly obstinate, one-track minded thinkers sometimes much better equipped to face a world itself obstinate and one-dimensional, in so many of its parts.

Take the case of President Reagan, my old friend Irwin Steinberg once assured me, not the brightest leader but wearing out the Russians who were just as torpid, plus running out of gas and high-octane young blood. Young Clinton a lot smarter but screwing up on everything he put his hands on, including his heavyweight intern and her younger sister, known as Oral B. Credited with a booming right-wing economy and zero deficits inherited from the Thatcher/Reagan camp, their breaking retrograde unions’ back and cutting government excess, and him lucky enough not to have to go to war.

Bush Jr not so lucky, 9/11 on his watch, but history probably on his side after the dust settles in Afghanistan and Iraq, grave threats needing to be addressed and doing so with a straightforward, perhaps overly simplistic, hard-line approach, but getting an ugly job done in an ugly, ugly world.

With Irwin insisting, if you’re too smart you correctly think of all the things that might go wrong, and waver, and consult, and double check, and doubt, constantly worrying about your place, the polls, instead of saying That’s enough! If not,  having so much less to worry about…

And it’s what preoccupies me about Obama; sometimes I think he’s too smart. On top of that the Right ever hardworking, basic, intolerant and the Left intelligent but lazier and thus more often intellectually dishonest. Not Obama himself perhaps, but all that balancing to be done, the deals, the compromises, the smiles, the handshakes, in the park, making all the rounds, forgetting down below there’s a ballgame going on.

Cheers Mr Steinberg, wherever you hold court, today, in Montreal.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

If you’re so clever, why do you believe all that collected nonsense about yourself?


Rampant life, kills life

(If we’re so smart, how come there are so many of us?)


His name was Wall, she talked to him ten times a day.

Her name was Conclusion.

He jumped on her quite a bit.

Poor woman couldn’t change him, so she left!

Download Anthony Steyning’s stunning new E-Novel: A Kiss by the Clowns

Shark Club

So Joe, the big white shark, hopped on a bar stool while Harry Hammerhead, the owner, shook a very flat cocktail for a Manta Ray.

– What will it be, Joe, Harry asked?

– This stool is wet!

– What will it be, Joe, Harry repeated?

– I don’t know! Your drinks are always so damned salty!

– You’re a pain in the ass, Joe! Go have a walrus!

-Yeah, yeah, Joe said, for he wasn’t a bad fish.

Read Anthony Steyning’s E-Novel: A Kiss by the Clowns


Mother Theresa tells us she had terrible doubts, often praying to God not to have her lose her faith!

The thinking here is bewildering. Like begging someone you’ve never seen but hope is there, to help you not to see him so that this hope stays intact.

Maybe the verb ‘thinking’ here is the crux.

The urge not to, so very strong in some and a matter of personal courage!


He would often remember a priest named Dan, having read about him in an English rag that he couldn’t stomach. Way too reactionary for someone surprising even himself, by picking a slow fight with convention. A bit like the Osservatore Romano, he felt, a tired and tiresome publication, although this article was out of step with the rest of it in dealing with a man to his heart, an Irish ex-priest living the real scriptures in southern Sudan. He had found it lying on his table, on a sidewalk, no doubt left behind by some pudgy tourist. He had started leafing through it feeling ridiculously bored that evening, a pervasive sense of ennui having taken hold of him, like someone stuck in quicksand but no longer giving a damn. Life a soggy marsh, or a mechanical trap, either way a mere step towards something even worse perhaps. It was at a Birraria near the Colosseo, a café he also didn’t care for because of a hot breeze blowing in his face and noisy Vespa scooters constantly aggressing, coming on to him. The winds of decay, the roar of nothing, he murmured, the quiet sounds of Roman magnificence silenced long ago, although his own, his real voice, also having been mute for years. But not for much longer he promised, suddenly inspired by this wonderful sinner, a man freed of dogma as by definition it protects only itself, becoming a bunker to so many.

He had walked the streets intuitively but aimlessly, already no longer completely guided by an obsessive God, a busybody God, having nothing better to do than bitch. The hour he had impulsively put an old trench coat over his soutane, covering his crucifix and purple sash, placing a Borselino hat belonging to his late father over his skull cap, leaving the Vatican in more than one sense this time. Some people giving him an odd look, others avoiding his gaze, and he not knowing what it was that gave him away. If it was the coat or that hat on a hot Roman evening, or just his bearing or that out-of-place ring, the cuff-links and pastoral looking cane because of his left leg bothering him. They were as uncomfortable with him as he felt with them. Though he admitted not having a friendly face, which at times caused him considerable embarrassment. Like during that meeting in Baghdad with the Russian ambassador tearing into him, saying he seemed to care more for the Americans than for Iraqi Catholics, realising that people with sympathetic faces can be quite the opposite, like this angelic-looking former Communist. And that it is preferable having a serious demeanour but be kind-hearted, than to have a nice smile but be an arsehole. Convinced he was the better man and the Slavic envoy doubly obstinate, interpreting his stern countenance as an expression of western superiority and doubly on the defensive, as a consequence.

A face even scaring off his Cameriere, the waiter at that beer place, a man almost reluctant to take his order and something of an anomaly in a city where jobs like these were filled without exception by the scandalously impertinent. A fact he hadn’t really been aware of, coming from the provinces, from a place up in the mountains, everyone always friendly, a town with two stations of note, his and the railway one, on foot that day and for the first time leaving his apostolic residence all by himself. The place where he dined, prayed, pined, but never danced, and where our Prelate, which no one knew, had started tiring of God a tad.

Couldn’t things for once happen on their own, he insisted? Everything always directed by Him? Like running into that magazine and reading in English about a man named Dan? A man of the cloth like him with one big difference, this Reverent both literally and figuratively sporting… a pair of balls! The finding of the article mere chance, nothing to do with fate or temptation, an edition read by thousands the world over, and so essentially meaningless, beside its accidental significance: to him!

“Dear God of mine! For once let me sort things out by myself!” is what he felt like shouting, tired of what had become the divine tyranny of it all. For was God his mother-in-law? had he chuckled more than once, and should enforced celibacy not have some advantages? Like not having a mother-in-law?! Humour like this, saving his sanity often times.

Of course, he had been the youngest bishop on the block, even though his gimpy left leg had always added to his years. A priest from a rural Parrocchia, the squeaky clean, near antiseptic scion wanting to be seen as washing off his landed rural family’s decadence. Many undisclosed skeletons in its closets, his father, a non-believer, while fond of his boy hostile to his priestly calling and at one point even shouting at him “If God created everything, He also created the Atheist! ”, after he had foolishly attempted to convert the old rogue. Who later left him a note on the subject, one he objected to but never destroyed, hiding it among his papers, certain about its drift today, if no longer its precise words:

Archangel: “Lord, Bubble 8734&66^41891142125144049=//%xx5952 has burst!’

God (irritably): “Damn! Don’t constantly bother me with this. It’s what Bubbles are for.”

Archangel: “But Lord, it makes the other Bubbles very nervous!”

God: “Good! Keeps them on their toes!”

Archangel: “But is this all you have to offer them?”

God: ” And air! I love playing with Bubbles. Piff! Puff! Poof! Even bite the ones coming up, in the water of my bath… !”

Archangel (sadly): “It’s as if…. they weren’t… even… there!”

God (impatiently): “Listen, a Bubble is a Bubble, don’t be a sop!

Archangel (exasperated): “But the point! What’s the point of all this? And ‘bad’ only, those who get away?”

God: “Yeah, but don’t tell them. They have it rough enough.”

Archangel: You’re too kind, M’Lod…!

This after being told that to be an atheist and slowly finding out that there is more, much more must be bloody fantastic. But for a fervent believer to slowly find out that there is absolutely nothing, to be bloody devastating. And therefore much, much better to be a atheist. His last words still racing through his mind: ” I love you boy, but I better get going. Don’t forget God Himself is an Atheist. That I didn’t want to be around when your cute, religious never-never land blows up… right in your face!”

So that yes, there had always been deep-seated turbulence in his heart, which got broken all right, but by his father’s departure, and never mind their conflict of faith. He himself a man almost determined to believe, rather than giving in to deeply-felt adoration. But this only he knew. And coming from a prominent parish not embroiled in scandal plus proving to be a brilliant theorist, quickly promoted and groomed in Rome for a fairly mundane Nuncio appointment, with high marks in diplomacy and international relations especially given the handful of languages that out of boredom he had taught himself. The way adulterers sing in choirs to cover up their escapades, those fine Master Venetians who in every town, after every concert, wear another mask and in a certain, a carnal way don’t differ all that much from our Papal consul, to boot having been promoted to Cardinal. But one slowly having come to ache for grime, mild crime, for stains, sweat, blood, tears, stubbles, foul breath, the ruddy skin of sin of Dan, as long as there was genuine love and devotion and real redemption. Yes, interested in spreading peace and wisdom, but not as a plastic pivot in the serenity trade. Lonely for humanity, for touch, not the cold kiss of esteem and station and theoretical theological concern, gone the fifty year old ice sculpture, become a man pining for real guilt not fabricated penitence, slowly moving from ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ to ‘What the hell! I’m doing it!’ if he could and soon and like that sudden man in the Sudan. The trick about generosity, his inimitable father would say… not to extend it posthumously, not waiting too long, with anything.

The very reason he had experienced instant empathy with the defrocked African missionary in the article, feeling admiration for him, this condemned but free man, yet another sensitive soul affectionately writing about him. The story emanating from dark even hotter Juba and how this chap had singlehandedly turned the war around in southern Sudan, saving thousands from starvation after centuries of bloodshed, slavery and other pastimes. A bottle of Irish whiskey never far from his lips and an ex-missionary from County Meath, first taken in by Liberation Theology then National Catholicism of the Basque brand, ending up in that city by way of South Africa. To spread the gospel and where as a Christian he got his first taste of Muslim fundamentalism, including its falling bombs, the bombs of people for whom religion was all they had, absolutely nothing else, and not only dying for it but murdering for it, coming home at night in a world with nothing, nothing else to dream about. Like the family knife turning on them, a family bomb creating the ultimate existential absurdity, meaning the destruction…. of all of it.

A place where this priest was to get fired by the Pope for falling in love with a Nubian beauty, procreating a set of twins with her, but under pressure from Khartoum’s crazies forced to flee with new brood and wife towards the Ugandan border. In an attempt to save the southern Christians, managing to get an audience with Museveni, the Ugandan President, convincing the black leader to help him arm his rebels or risk having the Arabs set sight on Kampala itself. Still priest at heart, begging for weapons to keep a people free and a moral choice no clergyman should ever have to make. But when extermination is the endgame, which gospel to use? The written one, or the one dictated by compassion and common sense? So Dan runs guns, and drinks, dirty, poor. So what!? But during the last famine this splendid Irishman also whipping up all the publicity needed to land an extraordinary western humanitarian airlift. No, he hadn’t lost his faith, the Church had, doing him in, dropping him on doctrine.

But that had been last summer and with him even feeling a tinge of envy toward Dan, the man in Juba, his life, his heart, his raw courage, the passion the exNuncio himself had always lacked. That special kind of courage and when he came right down to it, only feeling satisfied the years he felt neither fear nor doubt, but long since having become an insult. Inevitably one might say, because there is not a man of faith walking this earth not falling victim to the scourge of doubt, sometimes even succumbing to it. But what exactly is succumbing if with equal ease one could call this private battle liberation? Unless a person is cloaked in faith yet dressed by the devil, misrepresenting from the very beginning? Though not this man, a noble sort, ever in search of belonging, to humanity, not the Church, for there sadly is a difference, dressing up each morning for a function he always thought would bring comfort to the suffering. Until the day he found out it was he who needed the reassurance, sensing he was used by stupid, selfish people only interested in covering their perishable backsides, their warts and their pimples, shirking any sort of responsibility, with time only to run to him and slamming the door in the face of those imploring them. But that was when he was still in touch yet pissed off with his flock, not sure if was them, he or the Church not good enough for the Lord. Later becoming that passive Church Mandarin, especially this week, again and again forced to ask himself ‘What the hell am I doing here!?’, thinking not of existence or his place in it, but about the urgent and mysterious invitation to the rundown, unknown address, in front of which he presently struggled out of a cab. Too far to walk, driven across an ornate Roman bridge to Trastevere, to a building looking a fine mess. The inside not much better, its lift broken, a warning hanging from its cage, forced to drag himself up the stairs, pulling along the bannister, his single crutch clunking on each step, his cab driver helping him only as far as the front door but refusing to accept his fare, likely recuperated by screwing some unsuspecting tourist and all because our Prelate went round in formal attire, owning no other clothes, even that old trench coat mysteriously taken away from him.

Now out of breath, he jerked the chain of an old style bell as soon as he stepped onto the first floor landing, a pale, single, unshielded light bulb hanging from a ceiling hostile, quite remote and perhaps a good time, it occurred to him, to also wear a Venetian mask. Not a half-face one to seduce, nor a full one to plot, but the long-nosed one doctors used to keep their distance from plague victims, as he didn’t know what he was getting into. But then he got distracted because the door stood ajar, a thin ray of light emanating from the interior. He was expected it seemed, or someone had heard him coming up, which wasn’t difficult unless the person was deaf, and not helping his situation much, because he had come not only to listen, but to talk. He pushed the heavy wood and let himself in; it was winter and a cold day in Rome, a city feeling far from eternal to him. A man hid in the wings of the apartment, he didn’t see him but the shadows would soon expose that man. It’s called irony, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter for shadows aren’t necessarily man’s best friend and this probably was no exception.

“Welcome!” the invisible voice rasped, making him turn his head in search of a face he also didn’t know, coughing at the same time while throwing his crutch against an armchair, lowering himself in it without taking off his cape. “What do you want from me!?” he demanded, slamming his open hand on an empty desk, “Ever heard of telephones!?” Then suddenly a radio played nightmare music, repetitive electro crap, characterless electrocution stuff of the type used by people like the North Koreans as a brainwash and torture tool. It was Saturday night and apparently a good day for this, though there were different times, warm and hopeful, hypnotic in more sensual ways. Days when lovers talked and people spoke, instead of looking through each other, mouths most mute, eyes opaque. But this he only could imagine, always having been an austere, a somewhat lonely man. At first he hadn’t felt like going out, but staying home was hell as well. It was when he threw his radio against the wall and lit a cigarette that he got dressed, to come out here only to listen to the same old shit. He was annoyed but the note he received had been compelling. An invitation to an evening of truth, whatever was meant by this and more importantly by whom? With ‘them’ stopping the music just as abruptly as it had started. Modern times, he guessed, unimpressed, but still curious enough to give the night a chance and find out what lay behind that invitation and the raspy voice.

“Rancour does not become you, Monsignor…! You were better, much better, when conviction wore your purple socks!” the voice spoke from across the half dark room, lowering that dreadful music at the same time.

“Never mind!” our man said, no Prince at heart, the game up or just beginning, depending on the way he’d look at things…

“But we do appreciate your presence…!”


“Yes, all of us! The others surely on their way…!”

” Which others? Who are they, but more importantly: Who are you?”

And then with the flick of a different switch the whole room lit up, the music new, more palpable this time. A couple sliding over a small dance floor, a man moving like water, not a step studied, faultless, at least to another woman sitting close to our man still wearing his cape, still sunk in his chair, next to the desk he had slammed before. A single, a quiet woman, also emerging from those shadows, and neither young nor old, but elegant, a bit heavy set and a spectator just like him. Light changes everything, revealing everything, above all a man caressing a dancing partner so naturally and effortlessly on that dance floor that he could easily cut the breath of the woman studying him. Possibly fantasizing that he made her moan or curl her toes, instinctively straightening her back, pushing her breasts forward, raising her chin, one foot softly tapping in rhythm with the music, through half shut eyes spying a rival in the lead dancer’s arms. With that man now beginning to notice her sitting on the side lines, and sneaking a peek at her every time that he danced by.

The band on radio playing faster now, brass winning out, the couple on the dance floor the only ones out, the woman in those smooth arms not realising she danced alone, the man holding her really dancing with another, still sitting on a chair or so the lovelorn, the seated lady surely believed. And this thought and her strong desire imperceptibly pushed her forward on her seat, towards the music, the invisible bandstand, and a conquest not realistically hers, at the edge of that spotless, shining parquet floor, in an old Roman flat, next to a bewildered clergyman who didn’t know what he was doing, what they were all doing, why he came here, what was going on.

“Don’t be joyless, Monsignor! Would you like to dance?” now spoke another, from out of nowhere approaching him.

She was dressed like a hybrid part-ram, her voice husky, her body slim, a tail curled round her narrow waist, her eyes slow and flickering, in her hands a pitchfork. Our Grace looked up at her, not knowing what to say, never having been exposed to temptation, shielded from sin erroneously believing it had spared him. But there had always been feelings beyond the scriptures, loads of them. And the reason perhaps he had come here today, morally auto-defrocked, to finally trade the eternal for the temporal, surreptitiously choosing death over salvation. No, he didn’t know there would be women here but should have known they’re part of the truth, not part of the lie, and that surprise comes only with that truth, never with prevarication, only designed to hide.

How had they known about him, where to find him, his feelings so public? And this all there was to it, an evening of dance and masquerade? This evening of truth and surprise a cheap bordello for old black sheep, jaded and fading, and whose truth, his or the one hiding behind the music and that rough voice? An as yet unseen Master of Ceremony straight off a Cabaret stage, in every sense of the word, also made up. Like this temptress accosting him.

“No thanks, I have a crutch…”

“ We all do, it’s why we’re here, trying to get rid of one!”

“ I never danced before…”

“ I never really prayed before…! Now come on, up you go!”

“ You didn’t lose much…”

“ If you don’t dance you didn’t gain much! Now take off your cape!”

“ Did you dress like the devil, because I’m here?”

“ There’s no devil, so stop it! I dress to get out of myself…!”

“ I dressed up for my nakedness, the nakedness. But no more!!!”

“ The nakedness? Of the message, perhaps?”

Yes, the message… and how it all started for him that time in Baghdad ostensibly to oversee the survival of the Christian community under Saddam, this violent Raïs, this bloodthirsty Cesare, this monstrous Caudillo, when he should have been concerned about humanity. At first embracing the Russian, there to see the oil fields wouldn’t fall into American hands. Shaking the hand of an ally that had she known would have his Polish-born grandmother turn in her grave, for all the blood he had on his hands occupying her homeland. A lady not losing her Catholic faith during all this time when perhaps she should have, leaving this difficult task to her grandson, beside the Tigris and rather late in life. A Papal Nuncio and a Russian envoy, in fact protecting a mass murderer busy attacking Kuwait, but not yet intolerant towards his Christians and his oil patrons. Saddam dangerously associating himself with other hoods in the zone, seeking comfort it seemed in mutual ignominy but bombing and threatening and poisoning a day too far, so that he would fall leaving deadly religious persecution there to other hotheads, plus a Nuncio himself desperately doubting his core belief and a slew of other loyalties. Go ahead, keep on killing, but don’t kill mine, even God shaking his head in disbelief if indeed He was among those present, in that desert palace at the time.

But now the music stopped again, the dancers disappearing, the woman down the dance floor turning her face towards him, the ‘Ram’ pulling up a chair beside him, lighting a cigarette, blowing the smoke right over his head, still smiling.

“ Let’s have a drink then, go ahead you order…!”

“ I can’t. I wouldn’t know how….”

Wine, women and song, he murmured sarcastically, now why didn’t I think of that, instead of ending up sent to the Vatican or better still much earlier on. When following fellow seminarians not only learning about scripture and morals, but about camouflaging stark ambition and other, deeper, natural poisons. They should have had the decency to castrate them, he often sighed, fighting his own impulses up to a point, as many a young widow would open up to his compassion during his younger, prettier days. Turks did it to harem keepers, and choir masters to hang on to their best voices, so why had Church dogma not been more practical and forthright, instead of refining all those lies?

“ We know about you, come on, do it! “ the delicious, the sexy half-ram repeated. “

” Magda will bring the drinks!”

“ Who is Magda, and what do you know about me, pray tell?

“ I am Magda! You called me?”

She walked in from the back of the room and had a raspy, masculine voice, this either from smoking in or puffing joints. She wore a tuxedo and a high hat with a large ostrich feather in it, her face made up with chalk and blue mascara over red cheeks and huge lips, her pumps black and shiny, a baton in her hand, loosely whirling it. She tap-danced with a few clicks of those shoes, before making a curtsey in front of His Grace.

“ When I came in, I thought you were a man!” he spoke.

“ So did I…!”

“ Using candles… to burn?”

“ Yes, but no more. I’m here to see what it is like to be a real woman…!”

“ Using candles to… ?”

“ No! Becoming a functioning woman…!”

“ Before of no use…?”

“ To others!”

“ How remarkable. I’ll have a whiskey, like Dan, in the Sudan!”

“ You read the article?”

“No more virtual morality…!”

Whereupon Sister Magda served the drinks and the other Sisters pulled up a chair. The dancer a young priest putting his collar back on, sitting down next to the Prelate, in awe. Who didn’t know where he had ended up, except to say that he had started feeling at home. He still didn’t know who he was dealing with and how they knew about him, but was beginning to understand. Could they be Carmelites, Dominicans, Augustinians? It didn’t really matter, they were cloistered no more, somehow having managed to get out or going back at night, with him approving of either option. Probably the latter, how else could they sustain themselves? But wait, perhaps he wasn’t their only visitor, could they be secret Papal whores…? Singing something like

Ragazza, have you ever been held up to scrutiny?

Oh Yes! Twice! Up against the kitchen door!

Who scrutinised you?

I don’t remember, but it was great! Nobody had ever been inside my kitchen before….. I think it was the electrical man.

I bet you he was…

I bet you!

Bet you!

Only to burst out into almost cant twitter:

“ We want to go to Africa, but as sinners, not as saints!”

“ Or Asia…!”

” Saints not made…!

“ Or even closer..!”

” Saints happen…!

“ Another liturgy…!”

“ No more hypocrisy…!”

“ Showing how to limit birth…!”

“ Almost certain deaths, not God’s will…!”

“ Unless God is nuts..!”

“ But He isn’t…!”

We are!”

“ Feel real guilt…!”

“ Out of love…!”

“ No more Lourdes for them..!”

“ The American Hospital for us …”

“ Out of love…!”

“ Sex congress, no crime…”

“ Once a week, the night for us…!”

“ The others for them…!”

“ Out of love…!”

“ We followed you…!”

“ We saw your pain..!”

“ How come? No one else did…!”

“ We don’t freeze pizzas, sentiment or thoughts…!”

“ You were in the streets…!”

“ We figured you were one of us!”

“ We found you…!”

“You can take your soutane off…!”

“ And now you found us!”

“ There’s a housecoat in the back!”

“ I can’t! My leg!”

“ Yes, you can! Lean on one of us!”

“ Can you tell us how it started?”

“The leg?”

“ Don’t make fun of us!”

It was like rapid fire, words urgently directed at him, a deluge, an outpouring, he tried slowing them down. They wanted him to speak, but he had trouble composing himself. Maybe they left that magazine within his reach, at that Birraria. Maybe God was not so useless after all, only His hierarchy letting the troops down, except for these free, these utterly devoted ecclesiastical spirits… There is purity in sin, he was discovering. Dan proving it in Juba, every day, now them! And the only one left in the outfield, him, but waiting to get out of one game, into another. The start another, and another, and another, again and again, the saying going that we must disrobe our saints, in order to gain one, or something like that. How did it start, indeed? How did what start? Life, decadence, the suffering, his envy of those having peace of mind, the anger discovering it was all a charade, that there can be no peace as long as backs are turned. How he hadn’t celebrated Mass in years, unable to take the sugary tilted-head circus of it all, those syrupy Sunday voices, so little to do with real faith and more like medicinal tiger balm on stiff joints and dark blood bruises. His unease with the freedom of his father, for all he knew nights singing in a choir but certainly playing several fine instruments, who had stood by him despite their differences, saying ‘Cloak your severest criticisms in tiny lethal jabs and for your God’s sake son, smile a lot!’ on of his last lectures before dying, a fading school for pragmatists, without premises but with one awesome premise… His disillusion with his fearful, closed-down mother, his brothers, champions of conformity, when he should be…. but couldn’t? Yes, conformity, the enemy, hiding his fear of it for all those years, still now and Baghdad all over again?! But what is it that he was so afraid of? And why was courage such a slippery bastard?

“ Do you want a Venetian Bouta mask, your Grace?!”

“ Making it easier, perhaps…?”

“ In case you find us toxic…?”

“ Infected …?”

” But also Infectious…?”

It was as if they had read his mind. No thanks, he thought, come to think of it I already wear a mask. It just doesn’t cover my face. Like them of course, like everyone he knew, even his self-centred mother, her outward piousness a bitter reaction to his father’s flagrant infidelities. These women’s mask called a habit, the skin under their make-up spherical only for lack of sun and till now in a way devious, not defending the suffering but precious privilege. From which they were admirably breaking away, none of them pretty, but all very beautiful, the dancer a superb homosexual with his eyes openly but endearingly devouring him, his earlier suggestive dancing with one of them an act of sweet charity. Spontaneously telling him now he went to see a member of his congregation who lived in a narrow street, almost like an alley, in a small, dark apartment on the second floor. Even the furniture sombre, a sad plant in the window, beside a large pitcher of water, and where he delivered some church documents that had been requested. And where he got invited in for a drink, though only a stone’s throw away a large, open square with busy Grand Cafés, suggesting instead Why don’t we go sit out somewhere, feeling closed in as soon as he had made it up the stairs!? Sensing his discomfort the other man explaining he had lived in London, in Miami and in Barcelona and always managed finding living quarters looking out over water. But that here he hadn’t been so lucky and tried compensating by looking out over that pitcher, ruefully pointing at the window sill. Looking out over water indeed, the dancer told him, almost pulling the chap out of his own flat, down his own staircase, and into the street, to peer out over a large beer instead. That he wanted life that evening, exceptionally finding himself away from his normal confines. Like the Monsignor that time, his night too hot for wine, at that Birraria, peering out over a beer, and or what was suddenly alluded to. But how was it that he, they, knew so much about him?

All having come not only to defend, but define the bottom line, deliciously short, there existing no 12000000-word bottom lines, however enticing, masterfully hiding their own essence and the silly defence of which so tragic at times. For in most cases take away the veneer of anything and poof goes the weasel, all those capable of rational distortion suddenly gone. Narcissists having carried on with precision but who when the going got rough ran instead of standing proudly. For in the major league of masquerades, where there are masquerades within masquerades within masquerades, the cover itself is the domination, the place where cowards live. But not these fine people, not any longer, anyway.

“ Are delusions not lies, only because they’re not deliberate?” he thought and the difficulty for most caught up in a machine knowing they’re living one, greater even than admitting to one. That this was a fight for honesty and courage and people here breaking an injurious spell. And all added personal ambition by definition selfish, nothing to do with goodness he convinced himself, taking off his cape and sash, and more of them now stepping out of the shadows, until there were twelve of them. It was when they kicked off their shoes and took his hand moving him to a large table, where they all sat down with him in the middle, six on each side, toasting with a drink made from grapes, off vines.

There was a knock on the door and a man named Leonardo entered accompanied by loud cheers. He carried thirteen unfrozen pizzas, which the exNuncio broke with his hands and distributed, now kissing the half-ram seated next to him, now gently touching the voluble breasts of the lady who before had lusted after the half-man on the dance floor. Who let him be, because no harm was done, a curiosity sought she rather liked as she looked down at his hands noticing no scars, no blood, only fresh tomato sauce and the stain of wine, for there was more wine, and the night long, a single coming together of the spirit, dispersal to come late.

“ I would, but I won’t wash your feet!” he spoke at one point,“ Because they need no cleansing!”

And they all agreed and soon put their shoes back on, to be merry but above all to go carry out their new mission. And the Monsignor would also soon leave unless one of them prevented him, for he had found the perfect imperfects to carry out not one but all of his dreams, among them not one traitor it seemed. So no shock, no anger, and if others should come for him, already surreptitiously having taken away his trench coat and his Borselino hat, he could not be crucified because like beauty and here on earth, sin rests only in the eye of the beholder.

“ It’s getting late, perhaps we should start!”

Wait they said, Leonardo, the guy from across the street, the man who brought the pizzas, promised to paint our celebration, confirming our breaking free. He’ll do our last supper together, as a fresco on that wall over there. Then create a copy of the work as large as our determination, including Magda’s ostrich feather and even if it takes him years. It can hang in a museum, showing our madness was holier than all the fractures of history.


– They were addicted to the night, from within a kind of desperation partying forty-eight hours straight. The fear of everything coming to an end should they stop the shadows, immersed in something that could only be described as a gnawing melancholy for the future, the desultory becoming a way of life. Plunging, diving, swimming relentlessly in a river that would sweep them away, regardless. “Hi!”, the twilight peacock spoke to the human fawn at the edge of tempting water, “Want to rest on my shoulders?”. “You have none!”, she replied, ” You’re like the Bird of Paradise, you hold beauty, you hold promise, but can fly me no place!”


Read Anthony Steyning’s E-Novel A Kiss by the Clowns

On The Wagon

So the deep, submarine Harry’s Bar just opened its doors. Its owner Harry Hammerhead was tidying up, getting ready for the day, it was noon, a deep-sea diver sat at the end of the bar, his head and helmet resting on his fore arms, he was sound asleep,  he had spent the entire night there, but Harry didn’t mind, he was a quiet sort who drank too much. When a Big White dropped in, and Harry asked ‘What’ll it be, Joe?’, with the large one answering , ‘ I don’t feel so great. I’m not gonna touch the stuff today! Just gimme a glass of water…!’


Download Anthony Steyning’s fabulous E-Book: A Kiss by the Clowns


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