From the book The Third Mind, by William S. Burroughs and Brion
Gysin, Viking, 1978.
From Pitman's Commonsense Arithmetic
In the beginning was the word.
The word was and is flesh.
The word was and is sound and image.
Sound travels at the rate of 1114 feet per
Image travels at the speed of light: 186,000 miles per second.
Mr B, at point B',
and Mrs D, at point D', are 1114 feet
Mrs D is equipped with a penetrating,
long-range voice that carries from point D' to point B'.
Mrs D screams:
“…flesh flesh flesh flesh you
stinking heel…” (She hopes her contempt
does not show unprotected margin.
Mr B is equipped with a telescopic-sighted
camera and a tape recorder.
The camera and tape recorder are synchronized so
that when Mr B sights the beginning word
on the lips of Mrs D, he takes her picture
and begins to record.
One second later, he hears and records her words.
When he hears her words, he has already taken her
Mr B has taken a picture of
Mrs D one second before she
manifests herself to him in word.
Mr B has split
Mrs D's word from her image.
Mrs D might well bellow out some further
Mr B, feeling he has
heard enough already, provides himself with a rifle.
Mr B mounts the rifle and the
telescopic-sighted camera on a tripod.
The rifle has a muzzle velocity of 2228 feet per
When Mr B sights the beginning word on the
lips of Mrs D, he squeezes the trigger and
takes her last picture.
Half a second later, the bullet hits her square
in the mouth and explodes her back brain.
One second later, he hears and records her last words:
…flesh flesh fl…
Mrs D has ceased to
exist half a second before he hears and records her last
Not knowing what is and is not knowing, Mr
B knew not Mrs D.
Mr B is now at a
point in space, 186,000 miles from Earth at point B”.
(See proposition #5.)
Mrs D is back on Earth at point
Mr B has the same
basic equipment but has substituted an E&G Bradly laser gun
emitting intense beams of coherent light at 186,000 miles per second,
capable of piercing the hardest substance, even
diamond… laser guns on the table, how dumb can you
Mrs D has amplified her voice to
accommodate the altered distance relationship.
At one second after 4:00 p.m.,
Mr B sights the ugly word on
Mrs D's ugly mouth.
Now, since Mr B is one light-second away
from Mrs D, and it takes one second for
her image to reach point B”,
Mr B has, needless to say, provided
himself with a more powerful telescope to take a picture of
Mrs D… not at one second
after 4:00 p.m., of course, but at exactly 4:00 p.m., present Earth
One second later, Bradly's laser slices through
Mrs D's big mouth and on my way rejoicing.
Mr B has taken the last picture of Mrs D (for Dead).
Mrs D is always dead when Mr B takes her death
picture, a second later.
Mrs D existed only in her last image and her last words, which arrive,
of course, from Pitman's Commonsense Arithmetic some hours
later… so shut off the recorder… expose the negative.
Mrs D's word and image never existed.
Silent Grocer Shops Cobblestone Streets
Wind Cold on the Lake
From Pitman's Commonsense Arithmetic, 1917:
“Walks at the rate of 18 miles per day. Will he be
there in time?”
From Claude Pélieu, San Francisco 9, Beach:
“Please adjust your brakes; a great risk in
From Transatlantic Review, 14:
“The beginning is also the end.”
From Naked Lunch, Traveler's Companion #74:
“I can feel the heat closing in.”
From D. Lamont:
“Throw the gasoline on them and light it
From Work in Progress:
“terrible bright sun… raw pealed face… this
thing dying there in my arms…”
I would like to sound a word of warning to the Dancing Academy,
Should the world's gravity be reduced by The Other
Half, who is known as Gravity Gert, the force of the sun's rays
would increase by one half…from Pitman's Commonsense
Arithmetic… constituting The Heat Death.
From Work in Progress:
“The formulæ are fierce, can't hold the
bastards back. The tide is coming in at Hiroshima, you dumb Earth
hicks, sauve qui peut!”
From The Moving Times:
“Only one caller this week; plain Mr Jones. Going
to reach Frisco but we'll all be dead.”
snig·gle (v) — To fish for eels by thrusting a baited hook into their hiding places.