In the great man’s hands the book was a box full of murder. The mistress had burned it by mistake.
The great man’s godmother had burned it. His friends had burned it. When the great man was halfway through the flames, he remembered his children. He took a toothbrush from a drawer, wet it in the toilet, and scrubbed the pages. He read one sentence over and over and over. He read it every morning. His friends made fun of him. “Bukowski, go back to America! You can’t write here!” His friends were right. It was an accident, a mistake. It was not intentional. He lost his head, his eyes, his heart. It was a mistake. It was a mistake.
He wiped the book with a towel and recopied it. His hands were greasy. He went to a restaurant to eat. The waiters looked at him. Then they looked again. He got up and left.
Under a bridge there was an old woman with the face of an earthworm. She had spent her whole life under the bridge. She had been born in the river. She ate crabs and worms. She lived off the river and the rain and the few people who came to the bridge to throw away their bad luck.
When the great man stepped out of the restaurant, he saw the old woman. A beggar. He bought her a bowl of soup.
The woman ate her soup. The smell of the soup made her sleepy. She could not talk. She went back to her hole under the bridge. The great man saw her go. The soup was warm. He kissed the bowl, ate it with the food. He threw the bowl in the river.
He lay down in the dirt. His body started to shed bits of itself. The dirt, the river, the insects, the old woman, the rain, and his friends and his enemies had their way with him. He was a little piece of bread, a little fish. A piece of corn. An oblong of cold.
He read for twelve hours a day. He read when he woke up. He read when he was eating. He read when he was sleeping. He read in the evening. He read in the morning. At noon he ate. He read at night. He read when the rain poured down.
He read with his feet on the desk. He read with the typewriter jammed between his