No, Fuck You
You have no idea what you’re talking about. If you hadn’t been knocked in the head you would have written that he was torn apart by apes. If anyone is the ape around here it’s you and you don’t see you tearing anyone apart. Coming around?
No: Fuck you! You weak link. Would that you were missing. You read that last chapter, if you can read, and you can’t help wondering what kind of tree you were being taken up. You can’t help wondering what was in your bananas. You know there is a fruit monkeys eat in Africa that works like an hallucinogen, but you know, too, that you have been dining separately, if you get your meaning. You read that last chapter and you have no idea what was going through your head—monkey business, madness, uneven prose! Killed like Trotsky, thank god—and you are not going to print the snatches of lunacy legible among the bloodstains, not even: …exterminate the brutes!…Doesn’t it turn your stomach to watch a writer turning into a fictional madman before your very eyes as you’re writing? And aside from the connect the dots bullshit—you just drop your finger a few times and you get: IMRO, rhinometia, caca, homo sapiens-oriented, frenetico, hands in a jar, denosing, Tiberius the Third, lick our balls [yours, my friend, yours], panic, chimp, tricky use of the word ‘and’, assassination song, ungrateful apes, chimps would expect, gouged out his genitals, Diane Fossey, AIDS, California attack, decapitating the outgoing, red herring with wings, Stumble off and die, escaped from a sanctuary (indeed), stuttering objections, hunt the fuckers down, don’t panic…You get everything but farting fish, you get a psychoanalyst’s wet dream, a surrealist’s Work That Doesn’t Need Editing, and what you don’t get more than anything you don’t get is what you were supposed to be doing: you don’t get Ivan Kramberger, you don’t get Todd Fullmer, you don’t get Mandrake Pizdamonavić following Fullmer out of the Hotel Balkan all the way to Kalemegdan, through the vast grounds inside the fortress walls, past the cannon display, all the way to the outer walls above the confluence of Sava and Donava, you don’t get him creeping up on a thoughtful Fullmer, fargitating, working his jaws, thinking Slovenia’s got one, Slovenia’s got one, am I being paranoid or has that guy been following me and is now creeping up on me; you don’t get Todd Fullmer letting the guy know he’s there by moving crabwise along the wall and looking askance near his direction, but because of mad dogs not directly in his eyes and not exhibiting fear—in fact you don’t get the rather important characteristic that Todd Fullmer, though careful, was practically fearless, though in this case—though how would you know it—he should have been damn scared, for he was no match for Mandrake Pizdamonavić, and was lucky that at that point in time this peripatetic nemesis was a Mandrake without mandate, something you were not, and you know it and you know you blew it, and you know it will not happen again because like whoever found Trotsky you obviously can’t stand the sight of your blood.
We’re Going to Go with Bugatti
Inescapably, anyone who speaks of getting the facts straight finds himself interviewing witnesses. It’s difficult to think of a worse way of getting to the bottom of anything but a morass. Take these snatches of a conversation in Logatec, a town not so very far from the capitol city of Ljubljana, not to mention a place where Kramberger visited several times, driving the car in question that no one seems authoritatively to be able to name:
‘Well, it was one of those old Fiats—what were they called? The ones with no passenger seat.’
‘It was a cabriol, no back seat, one of those British jobs, MGB, maybe MGB-GT.’
‘They say he assembled it himself, but they were sold that way, that you could put it together yourself. They’d deliver it to your door in boxes. The original design was Serbian, but the Germans bought the patent so it was sold under Opel, but it was really a Zastava, same designers—right, a Zastava…’
‘Everybody called it a roadster, but every fancy dealer had a roadster so what does that tell you? Nothing. He built it himself, his own design, if it was anything it was a Kramberger Roadster. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was slow, but never broke down, and once you saw him pull up with that ape hanging off the door—it was something I’ll never forget, I’ll tell you that much.’
‘A Bugatti, no doubt about it, the original, first one, what’s his name, Diego, Diego Bugatti, first one Diego Bugatti ever designed. And Kramberger replicated it.’
‘I don’t know—English, not Rover, but that other one, Stevens, or Stevenson, or Stevens and sons, Steven’s son, Steven and son, Stevens and son…they were all the same color. Who was that actress—Hedy Lamarr: that’s what she was killed in…’
‘Bugatti, the kind you assemble yourself.’
‘What most people don’t know is that it was the original Volkswagon. Hitler had the guy who designed it shot because it wasn’t a family car, you couldn’t fit body guards in it. Stalin drove one right up to the Hitler-Stalin Pact, then he bought a regular Volkswagon.’
‘I never saw it, but it was a Škoda, Czech made, solid, never break down. Hard on the back, took strong arms to handle, but you never saw one by the side of the road.’
‘It wasn’t French, that’s for sure.’
‘All I know is it wasn’t French.’
‘I remember De Gaulle drove one when he was in Algeria, so ultimately the Katrica, the Renault 4, was based on it—they streamlined it, moved the wheels in, gave it a roof, but essentially it’s the same car.’
‘I talked to a guy from Negova. He told me what Kramberger did was take an old Zastava in perfect condition and sliced the upper half right off it…’
‘What? Bugatti. Big deal.’
So whatever it was, we’re going to refer to it as a Bugatti, and leave it at that.
Fullmer Files Fluff
No stalling tactic would work unless Fullmer filed an article, so he wrote one off the top of his head on way from Beograd to Ljubljana. On the train, besides writing, he visited the bar car and struck up a relationship with the barkeep. At the Serbian border with Croatia, the train was stopped for a long time on the Serbian side. ‘Where are we?’ he made the barkeep understand. ‘Shit’, he was told. ‘Shit, huh’. ‘Da, Shit’. Later he looked on his map and found that the town was actually called Šid, and the barkeep was not editorializing after all. Strange, thought Fullmer, how easily I accepted what I thought he said and meant. He had been spending a great deal of his life in a sort of gutter. So he wrote:
One specimen on the assassination spectrum I find fascinating is the official version enthusiast. We conspiracy nuts are the ones who are supposed to be lunatics, and I accept that—lunacy has come to be embedded in the very definition of any phrase that includes the word ‘conspiracy’. That’s fine with me. Yet the official version enthusiasts deliver unto us the most rabid specters in the field. Most of my death threats—and I receive plenty, which is in a way odd in that I do in the end come down on the side of life—come from this subspecies, as if they are out to prove the merit of the lone gunman alibi by offering themselves as exemplars. None have made an attempt on my life that I know of, but then I am always on the go, often spending night after night at a different location like a paranoid tyrant.
The majority of these letters, interestingly, are provoked by my articles on the Kennedy assassination, which would otherwise appear to be among the least controversial of assassination stories. Many letters cite the Warren Report as proof that I am raving mad, but more are along the lines of this unsigned note postmarked Buffalo:
If you‘re so fucking smart why don’t you run for president. You’d never make it out of New Hampshire alive. You have my GUARANTEE.
I took that note as a vote of no confidence, but I am nonplussed as to his reasoning. The article was little more than a rehash of the Zapruder film’s implications.
In that same stack of letters I found this note from Chattanooga, which made me glad I was visiting my editor in New York at the time and on my way to Africa (Norbert Zongo):
I know you live in Baltimore. Do you have a will and testimony? Have you ever seen a man with his face blown off? Look in the mirror dead man.
Well, I had obviously seen a man getting part of his head blown off, but I suppose that’s a qualitatively different thing. And of course it happens often enough in assassinations. There was Denver Mulgabanda in ‘Rhodesia’, of course, and Carmine ‘Birdsong’ Talentemente in Milano. I happen to believe that the intended message differs little from any mutilation—see Pierre Anga in the Congo.
At any rate, what strikes me about the official version enthusiast is that they could listen in on NSA or CIA officials plotting the assassination of, say Jack Chirac, actually witness the killing, the triangulation of gunfire, the guns smoking in three different directions, and still believe the government version that a crazed, embittered Algerian asylum seeker who was about to be shipped home pulled the lone trigger.
Let psychologists state the obviouses.
Let psychologists deal with letters like this one from an American Zionist after I wrote recently about the ethics of what Israelis would like to call political assassinations:
I read your piece with care and in good will and sent it on to my uncle, who has friends in Mossad. You know that we Jews have a saying: An eye for an eye. Your article hurt my eyes. You also have two eyes. But not for long. I specifically requested that your torture begin with the removal of your eyes. After that electric shock will be applied to your genitals. Your penis will be surgically removed with great care so that you do not bleed to death and are fully alive when it is stuffed into your mouth. You know we are a peace-loving people and you know why it was necessary for us to migrate to our rightful home and holy land. Still, you work for the enemy. You will be released in Gaza to be among your enemies. You will be blind and without a penis, which will still be in your mouth when we dump you in some pile of rubble there. If your friends, our enemies, do not kill you immediately, accusing you of being an undercover Mossad agent, for they are known to be clever enough to arrange just such an infiltration, eventually you will be forced to seek a work permit, a pass so that you can clean toilets for middle class people in Tel Aviv. I have another uncle with friends in the border patrol and visa issuance agencies. Your request will be denied.
Call me ‘Steiny’
When is Fidel Going to Move out and Get an Apartment of his Own?
Obviously once in Ljubljana Todd Fullmer had to buy more time. His editor released to us the following misdirection ploy:
I have long been haunted by a piece of the assassination puzzle that just doesn’t fit. Why did the Americans fail to get Castro. We know they tried—from the exploding pen to the tubercular wet suit. It was state policy for some time to assassinate Fidel and we all know it. But they failed. Why? Certainly, it seems obvious that they gave up after a while, taking a sort of when is Fidel going to move out and get an apartment of his own sort of approach. But that hardly explains it, do you think? Anyway, while I’m in Slovenia making preliminary enquiries into the assassination of Kramberger (I think I can get an interview with Kučan, if you know who he is), I think I’ll try to get a decent article out of the failure to assassinate, which can be just as interesting as a successful assassination, don’t you think?
Okay, since Todd brought it up, why indeed did the U.S. fail to knock off Fidel? Is there a pro-Castro conspiracy in there somewhere? No one would know better than our correspondents Mack Beltsch and Skip Obscure.
Here’s what Mack thinks:
The United States has it seems accomplished a few notable assassinations of “leaders,” directly or indirectly; Lumumba in the Congo by the Eisenhower administration was the most deliberate apparently while there is some question as to Diem’s in south Vietnam on Nov 1, 1963, i. e. did Democratic President Kennedy realize that Republican Ambassador Lodge was running his “own” special CIA op here? According to most close to JFK the answer is no, that Kennedy believed “they” were sending Diem and kin to Paris, not to hehheh “hell.”
But then the Kennedys appear to have put in a lot of overtime on how to pop Fidel–especially Bobby the attorney general and plots moreover seem to have continued even after the “agreement” to never never again attack Cuba a la Bay of Pigs which was a primary point in Khrushchev’s “secret deal” with the Kennedys to remove those ridiculously dangerous missiles; but then Jack and Bobby had said no Cuban-American invasion but they never promised no more CIA machinations did they?
But sure the startling aspect of all this is not that the US plotted assassinations(since WWII this in itself is hardly “shocking”) but that the plots failed. In Oliver Stone’s 1991 JFK the drunken discussion presided over by Joe Pesci as “David Ferrie” has his character describing ways to “whack the beard” but Tommy Lee Jones as “Clay Bertrand-Shaw” notes “Castro has informers on every block” by which he’s referring to the notorious Committees to Defend the Revolution; now these were/are akin to neighborhood “crime watch” in American suburbs except that they’re not so much p. r. as actual Your Neighbor As A Spy (Spying On You — And Making Regular Reports).
So Castro very early established close control over the populace; unfamiliar “strangers” must be reported as well as “strange” behavior by the familiar. Probably the only way one could kill the comandante then would be Caligulan, i. e. shoot at close range, have a plan to get Raul as well and simply hope you’d not be slain immediately by the praetorian guard. The only comandantes to die of course were those out-of-favor with Fidel; even Che hunted down in Bolivia might have been “betrayed” by a Fidel op or at least Fidel was not shall we say “broken up”; Che was certainly more valuable to Castro dead than alive as was Trotsky to Stalin.
And maybe the Americans weren’t so enthused too; Cuba was minus missiles an embarrassment but not an “aircraft carrier” launched at the heart of uh Miami; rather attacking Cuba became a past-time for all those exiles less concerned with becoming rich as with taking revenge. The whole CIA-Bush family “dynasty” for example is bound to Cuban Florida up to that election dispute that returned a Bush to the presidency in 2001 — just in time for you-know-what. Lots of neo-conservative imperial power concentrated in one very strategic place Florida is and in “our” gulf (not “Mexico’s”); that way Castro’s existence became a great convenience in galvanizing the anti-communist post-Vietnam syndrome because the Sovs had by then become our fellow “detenteists” and the Chinese were supposed to be our new “friends” but Castro’s continuation was ever the avenue into central America and revived paranoia re: Sandinist Nicaragua and death-squad-prone Guatemala and El Salvador.
So in the CIA hall of mirrors a James Jesus Angleton type might discern that the appearance of assassination is useful in that it creates a more repressive, touchy Fidel but the “failure” to kill permits a perpetual fervent anti-communist community of recruits in Florida and a “reason” always to intervene south of the border: Allende in Chile was too “close” to Fidel, another Cuba etc. and now Hugo Chavez and”his” oil? So actually one “won” by “trying” to murder the tyrant — and by not doing it?
It could still be a clear case of not being able to do “everything” — for instance it would be easier to say assassinate Kennedy within the US hmmm? — but there’s the possibility I think of “failure” having become fortuitous from a real Machiavellian view, i. e. we didn’t because we didn’t want to?…
Not bad, not bad at all. Skip seems less sure of himself below:
Lyndon Johnson knew the mob and anti-Castro Cubans and the CIA worked hand-in-hand to get rid of JFK, but after the deed was done, LBJ made a decision to leave Castro in power. Those three components of the assassination were no doubt pissed at LBJ but what we’re they gonna do about it. Another assassination attempt, this time on LBJ? Hardly. Besides, they all were somewhat appeased that JFK was dead. LBJ knew that Castro was no threat, so why get rid of him? Besides, his brother Raul would just take over in any case. LBJ also had to worry about what the Russians might do, as well as world opinion, if it came out that the CIA had plans to kill Castro. LBJ had more important things on his mind-namely reversing JFK’s Vietnam policy and involving the US in Vietnam.
We trust our readers to detect the flaws in the various arguments, like if Raul would replace Fidel so why bother, why did they bother? And then of course, there is the continuance of the slow beatification of Kennedy, which we trust the reader finds bizarre. He was tricked into the Bay of Pigs, after all that was Eisenhower’s baby, and of course had no idea that a coup in Vietnam would lead to a couple of assassinations. Naturally, if we accept these hypos, we wonder at the intense belief that Kennedy would have reversed the course of the war in Vietnam. Either he’s a dupe or he’s not, don’t we think?
Unfortunately, Noam Chomsky won’t answer our e-mails.
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.
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.