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The Death of Mrs D

From the book The Third Mind, by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, Viking, 1978.
From Pitman's Commonsense Arithmetic
  1. In the beginning was the word.
  2. The word was and is flesh.
  3. The word was and is sound and image.
  4. Sound travels at the rate of 1114 feet per second.
  5. Image travels at the speed of light: 186,000 miles per second.
  6. Mr B, at point B', and Mrs D, at point D', are 1114 feet apart.
  7. Mrs D is equipped with a penetrating, long-range voice that carries from point D' to point B'.
  8. Mrs D screams: “…flesh flesh flesh flesh you stinking heel…” (She hopes her contempt does not show unprotected margin.
  9. Mr B is equipped with a telescopic-sighted camera and a tape recorder.
  10. 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.
  11. One second later, he hears and records her words.
  12. When he hears her words, he has already taken her picture.
  13. Mr B has taken a picture of Mrs D one second before she manifests herself to him in word.
  14. Mr B has split Mrs D's word from her image.
  15. Mrs D might well bellow out some further pleasantries.
  16. Mr B, feeling he has heard enough already, provides himself with a rifle.
  17. Mr B mounts the rifle and the telescopic-sighted camera on a tripod.
  18. The rifle has a muzzle velocity of 2228 feet per second.
  19. When Mr B sights the beginning word on the lips of Mrs D, he squeezes the trigger and takes her last picture.
  20. Half a second later, the bullet hits her square in the mouth and explodes her back brain.
  21. One second later, he hears and records her last words: …flesh flesh fl…
  22. Mrs D has ceased to exist half a second before he hears and records her last words.
  23. Expose negative.
  24. Wipe tape.
  25. Not knowing what is and is not knowing, Mr B knew not Mrs D.
  26. Mr B is now at a point in space, 186,000 miles from Earth at point B”. (See proposition #5.)
  27. Mrs D is back on Earth at point D”.
  28. 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 be?
  29. Mrs D has amplified her voice to accommodate the altered distance relationship.
  30. At one second after 4:00 p.m., Mr B sights the ugly word on Mrs D's ugly mouth.
  31. 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 Time.
  32. One second later, Bradly's laser slices through Mrs D's big mouth and on my way rejoicing.
  33. Mr B has taken the last picture of Mrs D (for Dead).
  34. Mrs D is always dead when Mr B takes her death picture, a second later.
  35. 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.
  36. Mrs D's word and image never existed.
Silent Grocer Shops Cobblestone Streets
Wind Cold on the Lake
  1. From Pitman's Commonsense Arithmetic, 1917:
    “Walks at the rate of 18 miles per day. Will he be there in time?”
  2. From Claude Pélieu, San Francisco 9, Beach:
    “Please adjust your brakes; a great risk in dancing.”
  3. From Transatlantic Review, 14:
    “The beginning is also the end.”
  4. From Naked Lunch, Traveler's Companion #74:
    “I can feel the heat closing in.”
  5. From D. Lamont:
    “Throw the gasoline on them and light it quick.”
  6. From Work in Progress:
    “terrible bright sun… raw pealed face… this thing dying there in my arms…”
  7. I would like to sound a word of warning to the Dancing Academy, “In Hazard”:
    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.
  8. 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!”
  9. From The Moving Times:
    “Only one caller this week; plain Mr Jones. Going to reach Frisco but we'll all be dead.”


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