I’m talking to some people in a bar the other day about the Spanish Civil War (a relative of mine travels to spain in the 1930s to fight against the fascists. He’s wounded and captured and spends some time in one of Franco’s concentration camps…) and things get a little heated and some meshuggener lets off with something so plain f**king stupid…

I won’t even insult you by repeating it. It’s a desperate moment.

Anyway, the thing is, I get so annoyed I lose my customary cool and call this shmuck an asshole (like it’s necessary?).

Bad move. For the next three days I’m haunted by this routine Bill Burroughs wrote before I was born:

‘Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down, you dig, farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.

This ass talk had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose?

Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.

This man worked for a carnival, you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriloquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called The Better ‘Ole that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like:

‘Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?’

‘Nah I had to go relieve myself.’

After a while the ass start talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.

Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights.

It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags. Nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth.

Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him:

‘It’s you who will shut up in the end not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.’

After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call UDT — un-differentiated tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body.

He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell.

So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have amputated spontaneous — (did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?) — except for the eyes, you dig?

That’s one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off.

For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.’

So, listen, take it from someone who knows: the next time you’re in a conversation with someone who’s talking crap, accept that he or she is an asshole and, if you must say something, call him or her a shmuck.

You know it makes sense.