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HEADLESS - Jacques Debrot


Illustration by Lu Feng

JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

APRIL 23 MEXICO CITY

Motored by Ford car to the pyramids at Teotihuacan with the Lawrences. On the way, we were caught by a violent rainstorm and only narrowly missed being annihilated by a fast-approaching bus. We arrived, though, without further kerfuffle and, acting like ordinary turistas, took photographs of each other tramping up and down the humid ruins.

Broken stones everywhere, like a disassembled puzzle. A hellish place, according to Lawrence. Seemed over-stimulated and anxious, but mum on the drive back. Frieda, too, was silent. She’d unscrewed her head and was cradling it face down on her enormolicious lap. A dark, stone- heavy thing, only one-quarter-life-size, made of gutta-percha and buffalo leather. The inside is filled with birdseed. Supposed to give a more natural profile than the hay or pig hair used in most prosthetic heads.

THURSDAY

Final week at the Hotel Monte Carlo. Rose early. Liver felt swollen. Abstained from liquid courage until ten-nineteen, then lunched at noon with the Spoodle, Dorothy Brett and the Lawrences (a glazy blood pudding that the Mexicans call moronga, with fresh onions and chile verde). F. was very animated. She grasped my hands under the table. Asserted that anybody who had any affection for her could feel a powerful spiritual force emanate from them. I perceived nothing extrasensory myself, but perhaps I was too sozzled. Kept having to slash at the wasps that were walking on the damp scab where her head used to be. It had begun to ooze a dark, pink syrup. Apparently, she’s a great insect magnet on hot days.


D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

POSTCARD TO KNUD MERRILD FROM HOTEL MONTE CARLO, AV. URUGUAY 69 MEXICO CITY 21 APRIL 1923

Stranded a week in Mexcity and already thoroughly sick of this place. Feel as if my insides were buzzing with a hive of pent-up bees. The Vice-Consul has offered us a house in Coyoacán, a plush suburb. But I’d rather be farther away. Only the novel I want to do keeps me here. Hope to finish the first full sketch by July, at the latest. Will you be in London then? In my weakest moments, I feel perversely nostalgic for English voices, snow, tea in old cups.


24 April 1923 MEXICO CITY

Drove three hours in a blowing rainstorm, the car as hot as an attic, and nothing to see save endless sage grass. As usual, lots of trouble with Frieda’s leather head. It’s not much larger than a cantaloupe, but the damn thing won’t screw on securely. Dorothy never seems to have half this trouble. Not worth the bother, in any case, except when the tang rising from her neck hole turns fetid.

LETTER TO NORMAN DOUGLAS FROM HOTEL MONTE CARLO, AV. URUGUAY 69 MEXICO CITY 26 APRIL 1923


Your letter found us here—in the Aztec capital—not Taos. F. and I are travelling with Dorothy Brett, Spoodle Jackson, and his Creole friend, Jean-Jacques something-or-other. (Do you know him? Thirty-two or -three, I’d guess, and vaguely imbecile. Looks something like a composite animal, equal parts deer, dog, and church mouse.)



JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

LOW SUNDAY: OCTAVE OF EASTER

Idle day. Killed time shopping with the Spoodle in the Colonia Roma. Bought a gaudy, little oil painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a good used copy of L'Enfant chargé de chaînes by Mauriac. (Odd name inscribed in wine red ink on the flyleaf—“Flutura Xhagjika.” Chinese? Franco-Hungarian?).

Depart for Chapala Tues.

APRIL 28 MEXICO CITY

Intimate bash at the Salón Tenampa. Frieda was very animated and gay. Squealed constantly during lunch like a squeeze-me-and-I-talk-doll. A fetid, bubbly sound. Must come from some soft acoustic mechanism in her damaged windpipe. Apparently, her severed head’s chattering away in a canvas haversack that, for sentimental reasons, L. keeps under their bed.




D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

LETTER TO JOHN MURRY FROM HOTEL MONTE CARLO, AV. URUGUAY 69 MEXICO CITY ? APRIL 1923

Finished proofs of Birds, Beasts and Flowers, but work on it has poisoned the last three days . . . . Almost impossible to get anything done. Frightfully fagged. I feel as if I were buried to my neck under a kind of dirt-like inertia.

POSTCARD TO WILLARD FIN FROM HOTEL MONTE CARLO, AV. URUGUAY 69 MEXICO CITY 27 APRIL 1923

Frieda and I attended dinner at the embassy last night. We do not fit at all into this kind of society, but I managed a verisimilitude of ordinary commonplaceness. Unfortunately, F., who was a little tipsy, kept crashing into the furniture. Had somehow got her head screwed on backwards in the loo. Removed it to relieve an itch, she confessed. Made all the toffs cringe. Not that I cared a penny piece. The English here give me the gruesomes the more I see of them. Less persons than formless lumps of clothes.

29 April 1923 MEXICO CITY

Tiny M. Jean-Jacques organized a séance at the hotel yesterday. Seemed in high feather, sashaying around the room with his sticking-out stomach like a drink-raddled dancing master. Overall, a depressing, anodyne affair. Retreated with the rest of the coven to a long table where we sat holding hands around a homemade Ouija board. A Baccarat cup with a long-figured stem served as a pointer. Couldn’t tell for certain if this Jacko fellow was cheating, though I rather think so. Kept nudging at the pointer with his stumpy, pink fingers. Like the pale udders of an old cow. Obviously a little off his head. Claims, in past lives, to have been a red-haired Hyperborean peasant woman, a Jesuit novice in Osseg, Burgomaster of Klattu, a Zulu rickshaw-boy, and a Mongolian Khan.


POSTCARD TO ADA LAWRENCE CLARKE FROM HOTEL MONTE CARLO, AV. URUGUAY 69 MEXICO CITY 30 APRIL 1923


We have not yet left the Capital, but for 110 pesos a month, have taken a house, sight unseen, by a big lake in Chapala. “Birds, flowers and smiling aborigines” is how Terry’s Guide to Mexico describes the place . . . . No idea how long we’ll stay. Still no break from the hot weather. Am slowly sweating myself into a shadow.

JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

CHAPALA-BOUND

Stunningly beautiful morning. Meat-red volcanoes straight ahead in the southwest—distant, but full of dimension.

At noon, I bought a bottle of tepid gazzosa and snacked on sardine sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and goat’s cheese. Wrote a little afterwards, then stole a short catnap. When I awoke half an hour later, there were four armed guards riding on top of the cars, like blackbirds on cattle. The Spoodle says they boarded at the Guadalajara station. I hadn’t realized that trains on this route were liable to attack.

CHAPALA

Mild hangover headache. Arrived in Chapala late, but we managed to install ourselves at the Hotel Arzapalo without much trouble. The hotel’s a dump—lurid pink and crumbling—but flush on the lake. Moderately agitated that the Spoodle has insisted on sleeping in twin beds.

MAY 2 LAKE CHAPALA

Walked with the Spoodle as far north as the Arroyo San Marcos, past many beautiful, old haciendas and churches, then east all the way to the parque where there was a slowly revolving carousel carved out of wood with blue bandicoots, banana yellow horses and green mermen.

Later, ditched S. at the hotel and got boiled as an owl in a squalid hole-in-the-wall. Ended up, around midnight, in a house of ill fame on the Paseo del Lago and paid to watch a couple make love in front of twenty silent strangers. A curiously chaste spectacle. Like two very tall, carnivorous flowers curling and decurling.


D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

POSTCARD TO SAMUEL KOTELIANSKY FROM HOTEL MONTE CARLO, AV. URUGUAY 69 MEXICO CITY 1 MAY 1923

Busy here, but anxious to leave Mexcity. Spent the morning packing and discovered that rats have gotten into the hatbox where my wife keeps her prosthetic head. They made an awful mess of it. Not like the rats we have in Europe. Will occasionally eat human babies. Live in gruesome nests in the palm trees.

LETTER TO MABEL DODGE LUHAN FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 3 MAY 1923


Arrived yesterday at Lake Chapala. Made very slow progress after Guadalajara—three hours—on a wild little railway . . . . Have taken a smart house on the lake—a long el around an overgrown, southfacing garden—800 sq. feet, with stark, low-ceilinged rooms, three fireplaces. The town itself seems hardly anything at all—some very fine houses near the lake and a big market crowded with spectral Indios in tall hats and thin homemade clothing. Strange to see so many uncircumcised noggins. The women stare their eyes out at us, as if we were a kind of peep-show, but remain invisibly silent. Must communicate telepathically, the way plants and lizards do.

LETTER TO JOHN MURRY FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO ? MAY 1923


Frieda and I are both feeling rather tired and vague after so much travelling. As you may imagine, everything is still chaotic here—bedding, mattresses and boxes strewn about the yard, etc. Discovered, just before we left Mexcity, that F’s head had been chewed away by rats. Looks like a wrecked, pink cake. Even so, not entirely dysfunctional. But for aesthetic reasons I suppose I’ll have to order a new prosthesis from New York. Something rat-proof. Metallic, perhaps—tin or nickel.




JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

MAY 3 LAKE CHAPALA


Lawrence less insane than usual tonight. yackety-yacked at length about the Buddha (Dorothy B, I think, has given him a copy of the Anuttarayoga tantra). But he’s too much the evangelist for real conversation. Kept nervously nicking the label of a wine bottle with his dirty fingers. When the talk drifted towards money, L. peevishly wanted to know why I bothered to write at all as I was rich and didn’t require the income. Insisted that all novels are either libidinous or hygienic. He ejaculates his books, he said, whereas inferior writers evacuate theirs.

MAY 7 LAKE CHAPALA

Breakfast at the lake: coffee and a pan dulce and a brandy. Made friends with some of the huérfanos, or orphans, who swarm the beach selling stone idols, etc.

Decided to rent a boat at the half-sunken wooden jetty at the end of the beach and rowed parallel to the shoreline for perhaps a mile. Under the shadow of a precipitous cliff, I stopped to recover my wind. The Spoodle, taking pity on me, fanned my perspiring head with his straw hat. Thought he looked very blond and dazzling. The print of the band on his temple was like a bright scar.






D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE POSTCARD TO ROSALIND THORNYCROFT POPHAM FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 9 MAY 1923

Settling in comfortably. Will send you a picture of the lake. The water is spermlike—turbid and unnaturally hot. Frieda and Dorothy do not wear their prostheses much of the time, unlike in Mexcity. I prefer them headless of course, so long as the stench is bearable. Think I could consider living here indefinitely. But of course, I am always hoping to find Paradise, which makes every place a Purgatory, ultimately.

LETTER TO R. BIRKEN FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 11 MAY 1923

I believe we will stay here another month. After that, we may go to New York because of business, then to England . . . . This is what I’ve promised to do, anyway, but—as I can’t keep myself from Hamletizing on the subject—I still don’t know if I will change my mind. My wife, of course, wants to come to England more than I do. But her idea of happiness is so childish and phantasmagoric, like some giant dolly’s.

Nota bene: Dominance over women is not tyranny, but equality.

LETTER TO BRONISLAW WILLAMOITZ-TRAMPEDACH FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 17 MAY 1923


Lunch with the Spoodle and M. Jean-Jacko. Miserable engagement. Little Jean-Jacques wouldn’t shut his flytrap from the moment he arrived. Sat in the full sun and yammered on about Art and Religion while the red dye he uses to color his hair streaked down his wrinkled face onto his shirt collar. Can’t resist showing off for Frieda. Slithery tricky-tricksy type of male. Typical scum of the Dixie pseudo- gentry.




JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

MAY 14 LAKE CHAPALA

Caught up with the Lawrences at the claustrophobic blue and gold doghouse they’ve leased on one of the side streets leading to the lake. Noticed the kitchen is galloping with huge cockroaches. They run up and down the walls like frightened dogs, waving their feelers. Lawrence’s face was so pale and starved it was as if the flesh had been stripped from it. Seemed full of coiled energy, though. Sat with one foot tucked behind his ankle like a cocked trigger on a pistol that might blast daylight through somebody’s forehead. Gave me the heebie jeebies.

MAY 15 LAKE CHAPALA

Again at L.’s. Supper, as usual, was too bibbly-bibulous for serious conversation (tinned sardines mashed with beans and garlic into a kind of bruschetta.) Dorothy wouldn’t let L. out of her sight. Knelt slave-like at L.’s elbow all evening like a brainless English beetle, flattering him, absorbed by him. Out of masochism, perhaps, she kept trying to get his opinion about her prosthetic head. Did he like her new red wig? she wanted to know. But Lawrence only asked her if she was an idiot. I wonder if they’re fucking. Can’t imagine her having an actual sex life. Strange creature—poetry-mad and slightly stooped, with a long stump of scraggy neck—but pretty enough. Daughter of Viscount Esher. Attempts to babble about verse with L., but only gets battered like a piñata in return. Divided between ecstasy at swimming in the same air as Lawrence and a sense of unworthiness to do so.

TUES P.M.

At the beach early. Hot once again, but a chaste breeze was blowing off the lake. Frieda joined us before lunch, abandoning Lawrence on the hotel terrace. We chatted at the lake’s edge as ribbonicules of small white waves licked mildly at our legs like sandy milk. I felt Lilliputian standing beside her. She had on a new, shiny metal head. Very modern and angular and quite beautiful, but too heavy for her to keep perfectly erect. Had evidently caused a huge, swollen blister to erupt on the side of her neck. Puts me slightly in mind of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles.

MAY 18, 138th DAY OF THE YEAR

To the lake again with the Spoodle. Slightly hung over so lay on the sand recuperating until the huérfanos arrived—a dozen of them, at least. They left their ragged clothes hanging, like monkey skins, on the stone wall and plunged into the lake naked. When they came out, I made them hunt in my pockets for hidden candy. Shy, but fizzled their fingers in my jacket and trousers with a kind of insect-like intentness.

MAY 18 LAKE CHAPALA

Have seen the Lawrences at tea and dinner nearly every day this week. Queer how separate and mingled our lives are here. Battles between Frieda and L. continue like a running sore. Slammed doors, shouting. Inadvertently caught the tail end of another one of their knock-down-drag-outs at the little café on Niza Oriente. Worse than a Punch and Judy show. He turned very red-faced and shrill, the onerous ‘thees’ and ‘thas’ of his repressed Yorkshire accent suddenly blatant.





D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

LETTER TO ZELIA NUTTALL FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 19 MAY 1923

Continuing to make progress, poco a poco, on the Quetzalcoatl novel. Not to say that the book can’t still go all to hell as I’m at that delicate stage where my conception of it remains just out of focus. A little like trying to make out the shape of a stone under rushing water . . . . Am thoroughly bored with people & personalities. Want my characters to be Dragons & Potencies, not human phantoms.

POSTCARD TO JOHN MURRY FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 20 MAY 1923

We hate the word love because we have vulgarized it. It ought to be proscribed from utterance for a thousand years until we have evolved improved emotions . . . . For now, it only acts on us like a subtle poison.



JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

MAY 20 LAKE CHAPALA

Glorious lunch at Los Girasoles, a small restaurant near the center of town (ordered a dull green, gelatinous lamb stew that tasted vaguely of licorice), then went straight to the Lawrence’s for drinkies. Sat on a half-decanted packing case because we were short a chair, and drank some cheap, sickly anís out of a paper cup.

When we ran out of small-talk, someone started the gramophone and I stood up to dance with Frieda. She was barefoot and hummed to the music from her neck hole. Could feel the hot gutty suction of her inner wind on my face. It had a distinctly sweet, fecal odor. Like being tickled with a sharp black feather. But I was drunk and malevolent enough to like it.

MAY 28 LAKE CHAPALA

With Freddie and the Spoodle at the lake. Sticky weather. Many small fishing boats trembling in the rising heat haze. The Spoodle was silent as a clam, but became more sociable after lunch. Seemed to enjoy our Street Arabs taking turns climbing onto our shoulders and leaping off. Later, the two of us “rassled” on the beach. Playful at first, but it soon turned into a real struggle. He clasped me like an octopus, then gave my thigh a drooly bite after I’d managed to grab hold of his swimsuit and give him a vicious wedgie. Terminated inconclusively with the pair of us lying like rag dolls on our backs, breathless and wet with sweat.





D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

29 MAY 1923 CHAPALA

Arrived before noon at Tuxecueca in our leaky, little boat. It’s a haunted town. Full of queer menace. At the market, saw a small girl (round potbelly; flat, pretty face) prod a tethered eagle with a stick. Observed many gaunt, dead churches lurking with scorpions; pigs loose in the streets. However, there are also some very fine farms on the outskirts of town. One could easily get a place, I suppose, but the whole country seems poised on the verge of some ecstatic death-happening.


JUNE 4 1923 CHAPALA

At lunch M. Jean-Jacko flashed one of his distant, mescal smiles at me and suggested that Frieda be allowed to use his hotel room to change into her bathing clothes. Said this would spare me the inconvenience of having to escort her to the beach when I could be writing. Couldn’t help noticing that he’s begun to rouge his cheeks with powder. A strange rusty color, like autumn leaves. Fancies himself a kind of genius, though his one, true distinction appears to be an imperishable liver. Of course, F. disagrees.

The sex life of spiders is instructive. He fucks her. She eats him.

JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

WEDNESDAY

Raining again. The streets have turned into shallow rivers, black with the mierda of dogs and burros.

Sent Freddie a copy of my little book, Cross of Flowers.

JUNE 5 LAKE CHAPALA

The Spoodle in his icy armor—annoyingly antipático.

Ignored him and plugged away at neglected correspondence until after two. Attended a beautiful service at the cathedral and contemplated the cataclysm of the Resurrection, then spent the early part of the evening at the Indian market. Bought vegetables and fish. Nearly became ill at the sight of a dozen cattle heads, skinned and bloody, on a handcart. Made the hair on the back of my neck rise. Couldn’t help thinking of poor, brave Freddie. Feel I’ll die if I can’t have her.

JUNE 7 LAKE CHAPALA

Dinner in the Lawrences’ messy garden (an indescribable birria with fat guajillo chilies and wild mushrooms shaped like brown brains—left it half-eaten). Noticed the bougainvillea were teeming with yellow lizards. As usual drank too much. Wound up quarrelling with Lawrence about the Mexican muralists. Because he paints a little he considers himself an authority. Railed some stale abuse at Socialism and so on. The blistering heat in the room only made his rant more unbearable. Stared coldly at me with that hard, expressionless look of his. A snake hypnotizing its victim. Something essentially fake—trompe-l’oeil—about the man. The smell of narcissism rises from every page he writes.

Decided finally to retreat to the safety of the kitchen. Freddie was there. The flat glare of the ceiling light made her shiny prosthetic head appear seductively monstrous. Stood on my toes to reach the waxy cavity of her rubber mouth, then kissed and groped at her meaty body against the fly-specked sink until my jaw hurt. Like sucking on an old bucket. More delicious for being forbidden fruit. Lawrence, hot with jealousy I suppose, had already absconded by the time we returned to the living room.




D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

LETTER (TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN) TO FRAU BARONIN von RICHTHOFEN FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 7 JUNE 1923

You will think that we are never returning to Europe, but it isn’t so . . . . I could never feel at home here. The lake is too shut in, the country too desolate and glaring . . . . Ages since we’ve heard from you—the post is abominable. They must just burn the mail when it arrives.

? JUNE 1923 CHAPALA

In the throes of a high fever. Cold and hot at the same time. Each breath an agony. Sneezing & spitting as if my lungs were going to turn inside out. Fear a recurrence of the dirty malaria that nearly drowned me in the Capital. Same suffocating sensation.

9 JUNE 1923 CHAPALA

Have been in bed for two days. Feel vomiting sick. But continue to work on my book. Depressed by the results. Dull, derivative. Even my handwriting has grown smaller. In Mexico, more than anywhere else, I feel Life as only a form of Death.





JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

JUNE 17 LAKE CHAPALA

Godawful day. Light floating rain, thunder. The Spoodle out until very late. Waited for him until nine, then gave up and drifted passively, like a piece of flotsam, to the Inocencio Cervantes. Dinner was a Pisco Sour the size of a vase and a side of lemons to suck on.

JUNE THURS? FRI?

Saw Freddie alone today after Lawrence had gone out. Too boozy to attain tumescence, but had one of her breasts out and in my mouth. A monstrous, blue-veined thing. Branded it with teeth marks.






D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

LETTER TO JOHN MURRY FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 17 JUNE 1923

The weather has turned sinister again. The sun is like boiling oil—I feel it seething my Soul away. Has incinerated all my illusions about Mexico . . . . Feel like smashing something. Myself included.



19 JUNE 1923 CHAPALA

Terrible row with that hideous Jean-Jacques creature; nearly came to blows. Said he was in love with Frieda. Garbled some nonsense about a Rubicon being crossed, face red as a turkey’s.

For those who love to extremes, Woman is inadequate.






JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

JUNE 19 LAKE CHAPALA


Shattering confrontation with Lawrence. Both of us were drunk. He swore at me and I answered him in kind. Warned me not to see F. again. But I told him that she and I were free to do as we liked. Half-afraid that he would become physically violent. But he merely stood up from his chair and, shrinking like a scraggy genie back into his bottle, stormed petulantly out of the room.

SATURDAY

Buggered the Spoodle. The first time in nearly three months. Practically had to rape him. Like making love to a cold, marble statue. Makes me nostalgic for human company.

FRIDAY? LAKE CHAPALA

Terrible, dismembering hangover. Headache started in my eyes, then sank like a knife into my skull. (I finally resorted to my dead Coyoon father’s hair-of the-dog concoction—3 dashes Louisiana hot pepper sauce; 6 part gin; 1/2 part fresh lemon juice; 1 slice chili pepper.)






D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

LETTER TO JOHN MURRY FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 26 JUNE 1923

My wife intends to come to England next week . . . . I ought to come with her, but my inside self won’t let me. Would drive each other mad if we were together any longer. In any case, I think I shall give up the house at the end of the month, go by boat to New York with Dorothy and then on to Britannia, though I hate to live there. Dread the thought of playing the dancing bear in the Bloomsbury circus . . . . Would be much happier, of course, if I lived no further ahead than the carpe diem, but I seem to lack a present tense the way an amputee might lack a leg or an arm.


JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

JUNE 22 OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL PEACE

Strange unsettling day. Shivery, light-headed. The sweat kept running into my eyes. Found a large blood stain on my shirt sleeve. (From where? I can’t think of how I might have gotten it.) Later, as if in some endless dream, diced for drinks in the hotel bar and kept losing. The bartender was very young, with Indian features, but had fair, sandy hair and green eyes. A narrow headed brute. Put me in mind of an Aztec faun.




D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE

? JUNE 1923 CHAPALA

My fever is suddenly much worse (temperature 103.4 degrees at 10 a.m.). Feel as though I’d been shot in the intestines.

Must struggle against the effects of my recent chronic illness. My inward filth. Feel poisoned by a kind of feminine voluptuousness or headlessness. Betrays the essential male in me.








JEAN-JACQUES DEBROT

JUNE 23 LAKE CHAPALA

Usual argument with the Spoodle. He accused me of being cold and manipulative; I called him greedy and stupid.

Depressed afterwards, but uncontrite.

PM

Life seems to have ground to a halt. Still no word from Frieda. It is as if she were only a strange dream I’d confabulated.

JULY 3 LAKE CHAPALA

To the lake again. Folded paper swans for the huérfanos from the pages of La Prensa until my fingers turned black with printer’s ink. At dusk, could hear drifting threads of despondent American jazz music from the direction of the parque. Strong perfume of blossoming trees.

JULY 4 INDEPENDENCE DAY

Lazy sense of failure. Drinking too much. Feeling putzy and old. Legs in very poor shape—mysteriously deformed by bites from some savage insect I never saw.

JULY 13 LAKE CHAPALA

Made Holy Confession early in the a.m. Then walked alone to the lake. Streets oddly lifeless as if they’d been massively bombed with mustard gas. Had hoped to find my little Street Arabs at the beach, but they were gone. Bought a liter of blanco tequila instead and returned to the lake and sat down with my bottle in the wet sand. Suddenly remembered I had a photo of the Spoodle in my wallet and decided to burn it. Fumbled with a match, but it went out. With a little difficulty I managed to light a second one. My hand was shaking, but this time the paper began to burn and I watched pieces of the Spoodle’s face float out into the air and settle on the sand. Afterward, decimated what was left of the tequila and, having drunk myself sober, struggled to my feet and trudged back to the black casket of my hotel room. Boo-hoo. Fell asleep on the Spoodle’s smelly bed. The pillow still bore the dent of his head. Woke up abruptly, my head throbbing. Unable to fall sleep again. Very quiet outside. The moon, violently bright. Stared at it until my eyes hurt. Round and featureless, like Freddie’s naked steel head.




D(AVID) H(ERBERT) LAWRENCE POSTCARD TO PATRICK LLOYD-JONES FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 12 JULY 1923

Will die if I have to live in England again. Just the thought of it makes me want to let out a lung-bursting Munch scream . . . Assume M. Jean-Jacko will be staying on in Chapala by himself. Seems remarkably extinguished, as if his egotism had burned out of him.

LETTER TO ADA LAWRENCE CLARKE FROM ZARAGOZA 4, CHAPALA, JALISCO, MEXICO 13 JULY 1923

I have completed the first draft of my Mexican novel. Wrote the last chapter in a twelve-hour brainstorm. Each word naked like a knife on a grindstone . . . . Literally coughed blood when I was finished, as if the book had hurt me physically in some obscure way . . . . I’m looking for a ship, but no luck so far. Feel like I’m stuck in an acre of Hell. May still be possible to find a tramp steamer, though. Would like to sail from Manzanitto through the Panama Canal . . . . Mad to get away out of this life. Anywhere. To escape.

Jacques Debrot's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including Nothing Short of: Selected Tales from 100 Word Stories, The Rupture (The Collagist), Hobart, Fanzine, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and won The Thorn Prize in Fiction and the Tusculum Review Fiction Prize. Follow him on Twitter at @JacquesDebrot.


“Headless” is the second installment in a triptych of absurdist interventions in the lives of real authors; the first part, about the Polish-American novelist Jerzy Kosinski, appeared in The Rupture (The Collagist); the third story, riffing on the life of William Burroughs, will close out the series.