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Friday, August 22, 2008

Necessary Precautions

A character in Steve Toltz's novel A Fraction of the Whole is a career criminal by the name of Harry West who gives the following advice to an aspiring gangster: "If you're embarking on a life of crime, you never know when your enemies are going to attack. Knives, bullets, fists, they come out of the woodwork. Any place you go--the pub, the cinema, the bank, the dentist--as soon as you walk into a room, you better find a wall and stand with your back to it. Get ready. Be aware. Don't let anyone get behind you, you hear me? Even when you're getting a haircut: always make the barber do it from in front." Harry's world class paranoia followed him everywhere. "You couldn't get behind him! He'd slide against the wall and if he was ever in an open space, he'd spin like a top. He panicked in crowds, and when he was caught up in the throng, he'd really go into violent spasms. The funniest thing was when he had to take a piss outdoors. He wouldn't go behind a tree, because his back was exposed; Harry leaned against the tree facing out, one hand on his dick, the other holding a .45."

New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2008, pp. 52, 100-101.


Joe Schmo said...

I f you’re embarking on a life with no grime, you never know where germs will attack. Door handles, menus, keyboards, telephones, counter-tops, pencils, desk-tops---thriving, and multiplying in the woodwork. Any place you go--the pub, the cinema, the bank, the dentist--as soon as you walk into a room, immediately seek out a wall and stand with your back to it---without making contact—walls are teeming with bacteria. Especially when you get your haircut be cautious. Never touch a magazine and stand rather than sit while you wait. When it’s your turn, make sure the barber sterilizes the clippers, the attachments, the scissors and comb, the apron, the chair and the floor, and most of all his hands. Ask him to do it right then and watch him closely. You can bet on him re-contaminating at least one or two things. Joe’s world class phobia followed him everywhere. You couldn’t shake his hand or talk to him face-to-face. He panicked in a room full of people and would whirl and twirl around and his arm would jerk out and jerk right back in whirling and twirling with his arms flailing. The funniest thing was when he used a public men’s room with no paper towels to cover the door-handle. He’d fold his arms and stand by the door, his back to the wall and wait for someone to go out ahead so he could follow. The door would swing shut and he’d turn to the side and slide to sneak out—he stutter stepped and shuffled while his head bobbed up and down. He narrowly cleared the closing door doing a kind of sideways limbo. If the door even brushed him he’d shout “Shit!”.

Richard McNally said...

Better safe than sorry.