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Part 8 Chapter 8

Once out of his sight we began to laugh hysterically. The false teeth! No matter what we said about the poor devil, and we said some good things about him too, we always came back to the false teeth. There are people in this world who cut such a grotesque figure that even death renders them ridiculous. And the more horrible the death the more ridiculous they seem. It's no use trying to invest the end with a little dignity – you have to be a liar and a hypocrite to discover anything tragic in their going. And since we didn't have to put on a false front we could laugh about the incident to our heart's content. We laughed all night about it, and in between times we vented our scorn and disgust for the guys upstairs, the fatheads who were trying to persuade themselves, no doubt, that Peckover was a fine fellow and that his death was a catastrophe. All sorts of funny recollections came to our minds – the semicolons that he overlooked and for which they bawled the piss out of him. They made his life miserable with their fucking little semicolons and the fractions which he always got wrong. They were even going to fire him once because he came to work with a boozy breath. They despised him because he always looked so miserable and because he had eczema and dandruff. He was just a nobody, as far as they were concerned, but, now that he was dead, they would all chip in lustily and buy him a huge wreath and they'd put his name in big type in the obituary column. Anything to throw a little reflection on themselves; they'd make him out to be a big shit if they could. But unfortunately, with Peckover, there was little they could invent about him. He was a zero, and even the fact that he was dead wouldn't add a cipher to his name.

"There's only one good aspect to it," says Joe. "You may get his job. And if you have any luck, maybe you'll fall down the elevator shaft and break your neck too. We'll buy you a nice wreath, I promise you that."

Toward dawn we're sitting on the terrasse of the D?me. We've forgotten about poor Peckover long ago. We've had a little excitement at the Bal Nègre and Joe's mind has slipped back to the eternal preoccupation: cunt. It's at this hour, when his night off is almost concluded, that his restlessness mounts to a fever pitch. He thinks of the women he passed up earlier in the evening and of the steady ones he might have had for the asking, if it weren't that he was fed up with them. He is reminded inevitably of his Georgia cunt – she's been hounding him lately, begging him to take her in, at least until she can find herself a job. "I don't mind giving her a feed once in a while," he says, "but I couldn't take her on as a steady thing… she'd ruin it for my other cunts." What gripes him most about her is that she doesn't put on any flesh. "It's like taking a skeleton to bed with you," he says. "The other night I took her on – out of pity – and what do you think the crazy bitch had done to herself? She. had shaved it clean… not a speck of hair on it. Did you ever have a woman who shaved her twat? It's repulsive, ain't it? And it's funny, too. Sort of mad like. It doesn't look like a twat any more: it's like a dead clam or something." He describes to me how, his curiosity aroused, he got out of bed and searched for his flashlight. "I made her hold it open and I trained the flashlight on it. You should have seen me… it was comical. I got so worked up about it that I forgot all about her. I never in my life looked at a cunt so seriously. You'd imagine I'd never seen one before. And the more I looked at it the less interesting it became. It only goes to show you there's nothing to it after all, especially when it's shaved. It's the hair that makes it mysterious. That's why a statue leaves you cold. Only once I saw a real cunt on a statue – that was by Rodin. You ought to see it some time… she has her legs spread wide apart… I don't think there was any head on it. Just a cunt you might say. Jesus, it looked ghastly. The thing is this – they all look alike. When you look at them with their clothes on you imagine all sorts of things: you give them an individuality like, which they haven't got, of course. There's just a crack there between the legs and you get all steamed up about it – you don't even look at it half the time. You know it's there and all you think about is getting your ramrod inside; it's as though your penis did the thinking for you. It's an illusion! You get all burned up about nothing… about a crack with hair on it, or without hair. It's so absolutely meaningless that it fascinated me to look at it. I must have studied it for ten minutes or more. When you look at it that way, sort of detached like, you get funny notions in your head. All that mystery about sex and then you discover that it's nothing – just a blank. Wouldn't it be funny if you found a harmonica inside… or a calendar? But there's nothing there… nothing at all. It's disgusting. It almost drove me mad… Listen, do you know what I did afterwards? I gave her a quick lay and then I turned my back on her. Yeah, I picked up a book and I read. You can get something out of a book, even a bad book… but a cunt, it's just sheer loss of time…"

It just so happened that as he was concluding his speech a whore gave us the eye. Without the slightest transition he says to me abruptly: "Would you like to give her a tumble? It won't cost much… she'll take the two of us on." And without waiting for a reply he staggers to his feet and goes over to her. In a few minutes he comes back. "It's all fixed," he says. "Finish your beer. She's hungry. There's nothing doing any more at this hour… she'll take the both of us for fifteen francs. We'll go to my room… it'll be cheaper."

On the way to the hotel the girl is shivering so that we have to stop and buy her a coffee. She's a rather gentle sort of creature and not at all bad to look at. She evidently knows Van Norden, knows there's nothing to expect from him but the fifteen francs. "You haven't got any dough," he says, mumbling to me under his breath. As I haven't a centime in my pocket I don't quite see the point of this, until he bursts out: "For Christ's sake, reme............

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