KWM: Monkey Business / The Third Man

Editor’s note: I started The Collidescope so that I could give a home to work that is true to itself rather than diluted by the artless concerns of marketing and audience pandering. The aesthetic of the journal reflects my own tastes, of course: writing that tinkers with the mechanics of language, that itemizes etymology, orchestrates melody, writing that is logistically illogical and acts as the ouija board of voiceless dreams. Rick Harsch’s writing embodies all this and more. I never thought that I’d be serializing an amazing novel from an amazing author. I’m both honored and excited. So dear readers, be sure to bookmark The Collidescope and check back every Sunday for new installments of Kramberger with Monkey: A Comedy of Assassination by Rick Harsch.

Introduction

If the process of creation is a mystery, who’s to say various of today’s simpatico authors are not channeling a warning from the apes? Certainly this novel is such. You dull and stunted demons will if clever enough see signs, like vestigial tails, in the concoctive elbends of this book.

What I know is this: a Slovene approached me with the tail, sorry, tale, of a certain Ivan Kramberger, a wealthy man who returned from Germany or Austria upon Slovenia’s rather belated Independence to run for office as Prime Minister. He campaigned by driving about the country in a self-made Bugatti, selling his own books, and barking to the public with a monkey on his shoulder. He was very popular. So he was assassinated. First Slovene national election: popular guy gunned down.

A title was hatched. Demagogue with Monkey.

Years passed.

Drunk on refošk, the local wine, one evening…One evening, drunk on refošk, the local wine…I was on the balcony, thinking how funny it would be if in the course of employing those hidden creatures first, second, and third person, they began going missing, variably, some in the awfulmost ways, forcing me to constantly change my point of view, as it were, AS IT WERE. I started laughing. And that led to writing. And that led to a nightly drunken writing session on the balcony that led to this novel.

-Rick Harsch


Contents

  1. Monkey Business
  2. The Third Man
  3. Literature and Conspiracy in Slovenia
  4. Todd’s Posthumous Cigar
  5. Trotsky is Notsky
  6. The Second Man
  7. Here We Are Alone Again…It’s All so Sad, so Slow…
  8. Omniscient Disclaimer
  9. Man Meets Monkey
  10. The Travels of Mandrake
  11. The First Man, so to Speak
  12. Skip Obscure
  13. Mack Beltch
  14. Al Zawahiri Doesn’t Eat Here Anymore
  15. Some Really Secret Monkey Business
  16. Slovenia’s Got One!
  17. The Consequences of Passing up Minsk
  18. Yushchenko’s Face
  19. Birdy Num Num
  20. A Math Title
  21. Anonymous Note: Does This Answer Your Question, Todd?
  22. Chimp Attack Kills Cabbie and Injures Tourists
  23. No, Fuck You
  24. We’re Going to Go with Bugatti
  25. Fullmer Files Fluff
  26. When is Fidel Going to Move out and Get an Apartment of His Own?
  27. Was Constantine a Serb?
  28. Sokollu, Sokollee, Sokollahahahahahaaaaaaaa
  29. A Bone for Numerologists
  30. Smaller Coffins
  31. A Fracas
  32. Green Dragons and Fox Hunts
  33. Did Kramberger Kramp Your Style?
  34. Nobody Likes a Master Stylist
  35. He Never Writes, He Never Calls
  36. Wow! What a Fucking Assassination
  37. The Smoking Cigar
  38. Gone Apeshit
  39. Somewhere Valvasorry
  40. Captive Learners
  41. Indaba: Simian Song
  42. Fuck the Polish Swimmer
  43. Bidding is, After All, Bidding
  44. Life Goes On
    Epilogue: Warning?



Chapter One

Monkey Business

Where the hell was the monkey when Kramberger was assassinated? There’s the story I really wanted. But nobody knew. Nobody. The man was famous for traveling the country with his jalopy and his books and giving speeches with a monkey on his shoulder. And when he was assassinated the monkey was nowhere to be seen. When Kramberger was killed by a small bore bullet from a distance too great to make sense given all the details of the story, hence we conclude conspiracy, the monkey was absent. What, did he call in sick that day? Conspiracies are one thing, but it’s difficult to approach one from the point of view that a monkey was somehow involved, that maybe the victim’s own monkey was complicit, that at the very least the monkey ‘let it happen.’ And so, not given to allowing a preponderance of the absurd in such investigations—let’s say a Latin American ruler spouting off against American interests is handed a tape recorder just before boarding a flight that subsequently blows up, killing all on board: we, not being an actual court of law and thus having less stringent burdens of proof and therefore more effectively arrive at the truth, conclude he was handed a bomb—in fact basing much of our conclusions on the refusal to give the absurd more than its due, we are forced to accept a degree of chance, or, if you like, coincidence. And that puts us flat on the continuum that leads all the way to the official version that a drunken hunter got off a freak shot that just happened to puncture Kramberger’s chest with the precision of a sniper shot rather than zinging off a railing somewhere or chipping a wooden roof slat. It therefore seems incumbent upon me to investigate the circumstances of the missing monkey. Maybe I will only eliminate a possibility; maybe the monkey was up in Graz undergoing dialysis.


Chapter Two

The Third Man

Well, that guy was quickly eliminated, which puts us square in the third person, where we hope for a degree of safety in numbers. He may not have been of much use anyway. His name was Todd Fullmer, and he was a tabloid reporter for an American weekly, called, with admirable something or other, Political Sleeze. He was their assassination correspondent, perhaps the only one of his kind anywhere in the world. He rented an Opel, perhaps the most popular rental car of our time, drove from Ljubljana to Maribor, and then going about 90 kph on a straightaway near Negova the steering went out abruptly and the straightaway curved and he drove, with his learner’s permit—no, with his empty notebook—in his briefcase, head on into a large tree. He was killed instantly, or, if not, after great suffering.

But what about that empty notebook? This was to be his second visit to Kramberger’s birth and then death place(s). Why would he have brought an empty notebook? He had interviewed dozens of people on his first visit, always with a notebook open, always jotting things down, even though he always had a tape recorder going, a tape recorder he apparently didn’t think to bring along this time, for no tape recorder was found at the scene of the accident. Remarkable negligence in an experienced reporter, wouldn’t you say?

Experts on such matters suggest that though it is easy to doctor, so to speak, an automobile so that it might malfunction at a high speed, there are far better ways to ensure that an accident will occur to deadly effect. What if, say, the steering went out as Fullmer was pulling up to a stop sign? He might steer off the road into a field and come to a gentle, rolling stop, might he not? One answer to that is that, well, if the accident doesn’t kill him, maybe it could serve as a warning. With such ambiguity of intent it is difficult to call his death an assassination. Then again, it is certainly not fair to call it a warning gone awry. The perpetrator(s) had to have known that his death was a good enough possibility.

Whatever. Todd Fullmer died before he could finish his investigation into the circumstances of Ivan Kramberger’s death, before he could publish his article, which would have been quite a coup in that it would have lumped Slovenia in amongst those countries that solved political inconveniences with assassination, especially that small group of European countries that emerged as new nations or makeovers of nations after, to accept one dividing line, the fall or knocking down of the Berlin Wall.

The emphasis here should be on the cleanliness of Slovenia, which declared independence, had a clean little war, turned out to be a clean little country, about fifty percent forested, with clean highways, and clean living, striving folk, who were not maniacs like their southern neighbors and ex-partners, nor fascists like their northern neighbors. Slovenia didn’t even have a ‘Gypsy problem.’

Todd Fullmer’s death kept Slovenia clean.

Rick Harsch hit the literary scene in 1997 with his cult classic The Driftless Zone, which was followed by Billy Verite and Sleep of the Aborigines (all by Steerforth Press) soon after to form The Driftless Trilogy. Harsch migrated to the Slovene coastal city of Izola in 2001, just as the Driftless books were published in French translation by a French publisher that went out of business a few years later. Rick is also the author of Arjun and the Good Snake (2011, Amalietti & Amalietti), Wandering Stone: the Streets of Old Izola (2017, Mandrac Press), Voices After Evelyn (2018, Maintenance Ends Press), Skulls of Istria (2018, River Boat Books), The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas (2019, River Boat Books) and Walk Like a Duck: A Season of Little League Baseball in Italy (2019, River Boat Books). Rick currently lives in Izola still with his wife and two children.

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