Professore Dottore in the Bathhouse


Professore Dottore, as he flatteringly addressed him­self in the mirror seance of the steam-filled room of the bathhouse, Signore Professore Dottore Jose God­olphin Que y Porque, undressed himself with a gracile whoosh of one hand, opening his indigo silken robe which luffed around his shoulders like the cape of a super-being. Catching a gleam in the deep iris pool of his own reflected left eye in the mirror, in a clear space of drip line from a drop of condensation, Que gave a giggle/chortle, wondering if somewhere in the Wake Joyce might not have gotten those two elements in syzygy...a "chiggle?" No, that wasn't quite the neologos. Well... A CHING sounded, tuned to the pitch of the sound most of us ordinary human beings can hear inside our own heads, if very quiet.

Someone, with dainty steps, lightly entered the loo adjacent. From the feminine sequence of sounds that followed, Que surmised she was a lady, but the question remained, "What face would the lady show this time?" He marveled at the imaginary flute quintet in the sounds the droplets made as she tinkled. There was the old familiar wooden spindle sound as the ceremonial papyrus scroll was once again unwound. Right-hand or left?? "No, I use paper"--and with the ceremony of just such mundanities civilization records and flushes away its marks in the purification.

Que slid into the hot clear water of the oakwood tub, floating so that his hairy belly breached. It was a miniature island with curly bonzai trees surrounding one of the deepest "innies" in the chronicles of omphalic lore. Water filled his bellybutton so there was a tiny lake in the middle of Skin Island. Light from the candle by the mirror now caught the surface. Here was a Polynesian vocanic island, with the puka in the middle, sometimes the angry red eye of the Great Mother Goddess who eats her bloody kids, but now benign, as if in moonlight, and supporting the growth of all these teeny trees...whoa, up high on the lip of the caldera craned a grey-white hair reminiscent of postcards from Carmel, and sunset shots of the ancient cypress, ghost tree, sacred to Aphrodite who is happy on the sands by the edge of the salt sea, but planted within the metal stakes of a garden in the backyard of a Mexican church, she was also tree goddess of death, resplendent with cemetery seedlings, crepus­cular gloom spirit of the cipresal wherethrough once of another continent and century, passed el Cid, el Campeador.

Around the corner with the soft, slightly scratchy tread of a curious but not too hungry tigress on the damp leaves of a twilight jungle, bundled up in terrycloth of emerald green, appeared the old-time auburn curls and the luminescent porcelain face of Joyce James, the Signore's confidante and 108 words-per-minute typist. "Hiiye," the tone of her high hello ringing five or six subtly inflected pitches 'till it tailed off tuned to the fading quaver of the toilet's flushing mechanism.

The mountain, lake and tree of Que's bath-time visualization subsided until it became a fringe of hairs percolating the surface. The tubwater flowed in to drown the lake, and the once proud volcanic peak had now become a base for an incipient coral atoll. Que sub­merged his head and emitted a train of mini-flatulence underwater, bubbles streaming from a hole in his lips shaped for blowing the shakuhachi. He sounded.

The volcanic atoll languished like a bloated whale, then sank again. Stereo periscopes up and he saw Joyce dip­ping her fingers into the tubwater. Then he felt her fingernails teasing the skin, once preupice, scarred by the knife of the rabbi. The red lotus of his lingam poked above the water like a pineal gland in the sea of inner brain cells. It blossomed quickly as the Soma, mysterious substance of the earliest, the Rg Veda. Her strong white doe teeth lightened the shadows on her face, back-lighted by candle and mirror, swathed in a cloud of bathhouse steam. Her lips pursed in a directed kiss as from the white-face mask from the Noh stage. It would be pine trees then, imagined Que, and the mirror took on the aura of golden leaf. Her lips now drifted down and warmly, wetly, yet cooler than the water, engulfed his head, so that his eyes closed and the submarine dove, holding his breath in the ambiance, fluttering, floating, fading away into the proximate timeless domain wherein we transcend all remorse. Coming up his lungs let forth an insistent bellow of foul air stored-up in the nether regions almost underneath the clavicle that he hadn't really breathed out in forty minutes or so. The rest of his body hang-glided, pendu from Joyce's succulent lips. The royal arch muscles of his middle back relaxed back into the water which pulled Joyce's face down until the tip of her nose, like Woodstock's beak in the water glass, picked up a drop that just hung there and she swallowed, and savored, and smiled, and said, "That's hot!"

"Wheweee!" Que's whole body breached the candlelit lagoon, and when he settled in the splashing waves it was on both knees in Zazen position, enfolding Joyce's terry towel, wet and all with his arms around her and a nice long kiss like Zorba and the Maiden. And yet another way in which we gobble up what could as well be our own children.

Then the numbers came to Que. He called them like Adam naming beasts. 137 hovered incandescently as somehow a key to the cipher. "One thirty-seven," he said, to Joyce's demure response, "Fine Structure Constant, reference end papers Gravity, Mismer, Thorne, Wheeler."

"Wheeler, dealer," Que spoke. And Joyce assumed the stance of an anal-genital presentation, famed among higher mammals as the time-devouring greenlight for procreation. Her three-pointed stance came straight from an Ed Sabol production, NFL live. "It's Joyce James in at middle guard." Her green towel now resembled rumpled astroturf. She was pointed away from Que, with her cheeks up to the edge of the oaken tub sunk into the floor of the bathhouse of the Tea House of Necessity, in the early evening of a night close to the Vernal Equinox with a rapidly waxing moon, about ready to cut the fart that hadn't quite gotten out before.

"Just about here we scent the afflatus, or flatulence, emitted from somewhere deep within the bowels of the earth, perhaps through a fissure, or a cave, or a grotto possibly even connected through underground caverns with an arm of the never distant sea. Ever softly, evenly come the rhythms of the ninefold sea waves such as wallow still in the sixty+ percent of our glorious vehicles, of the lesser sort, called our bodies. She stands over such a spot, three-legged as we say, three-footed according to the Greeks, as each foot was doubtless also a standard unit of measure. Delphis! Delphi! Dolphiness when Apollo was still Smintheus, like a little mouse fattened up for feeding to Pythons. For the Dolphin is also the womb, check any lexikon in Philadelphia, and the Python was a female of the only snake that coils around its own eggs to incubate them in the form of the Great Mosque at Samarra. Rose at the fountain, Pythoness on tripod, spinning the wheel."

Joyce cut loose the fart.

"But list, she speaks: Or rather, 'tis the voice of the Unnameable One, as Tiamat, the Mother, the Void, curled around her invisible egg, the pole of the ecliptic in the night sky, displayed--as in the play of light and time of celestial regions in the panoply, night sky of Dis, and before him the negligé of Nut--on star charts as the belly of the dragon, Draco, around which it all appears to spin in what is harmonically reckoned as 25,970, but which modern astro­nomers, confirming once again the suspicion of entropy--that the system is leaking energy, running down, slowing up--reckon as some 25,884 years."

"137. 25,920. 2311. Or is that 1132?" asked Que as he peered into the mirror.

"Twenty-three eleven, eleven thirty-two. We enter them both. The transformation is modeled in traditional advanced Abjad and Qabala practices: mirror numbers, both intrinsic or palindromic, and of the enantiomorphic symmetry set, left or right-handed. I've also logged the variorum (is it correct? or shall I update, yes, it might be even slower now) 25,884." Joyce gripped both sides of the tub, then stepped in, one foot at a time. She slithered into the water with her legs wrapping around Jose Que's hairy middle back, propped upon one of his ankles.

"If you wanted to unwrap, we could give you spin." He reached around behind him to begin pinching her pinkies. Joyce sucked in her breath, "Ooh! Let's wait until there's more room and more moon, and we can move up to another more appropriate fulcrum, balancing the Mound of Venus on the Spear of Mars--no, no, I made that up--what was it? Was Ossa on top? One mountain atop another! peak to peak? base to base? How did they do it?"

"Joys, Joyce, in many and almost if not quite every other whichways. For she was a Wheeler of Roulette, spinning thirty-six times to the round, as many turns as there are in the classic form of the Kretan labyrinth, plus nought, which is not the same as adding nothing at all, for the naughty zeroine is included in the display of the wheel. Oh how they fly. Round and round and round she goes, and who knows when and why all the rouge et noires are disposed as they are, and in between, in the green, is the mark of nothing, Zero, cutting the house in on betting odds. The cut is deeper into the sweet cake of probabilities if there is a double zero, close to the core if there are three.
          But these are tokens of the dice used first to reckon the numbers, carved from the knuckle bones of sheep, astragaloi, cubic, almost naturally dice-shaped. With indistinguishable dice there are twenty-one combinations. These are the twenty-one of your gun salutes, candles at a traditional majority birthday party, or cards, if you like, from the House of God when it is a house of cards, the Tarocchi, and its twenty-one Major Arcana, less the Fool, such as one perhaps as floats here before you. Ah, the Fool must be at least a six-sided character, one say for each of the bodily chakras, whether reckoning by the Hindoo or by the Hopi Indian analog of bodily energy centers. Two dice for the twenty-one--ah, but if we can distinguish the one die from the other, then the probabilities are clearly thirty-six: six possibilities for each die, six times six is thirty-six. For three dice, thirty-six times six, which gives six, carry the three, six times three is eighteen--nineteen, twenty, twenty-one--two, one, six.
          Two sixteen! By a factor of ten, 2160, the diameter, in English miles, of the moon. The moon. Let's go to the moon."

Joyce and Jose dried each other with different ends of Que's large red towel. "It's clean," Que said. "Otherwise, this is the end I usually wipe my ass with anyway." Que finished wiping his face, and then sniffed the end of the towel. "Or was it the other end?" sotto voce. Joyce swirled by, leaving her green behind, out of the mists, across the grass tatami, tip­-toeing over nine stones surrounded with Scotch and Irish moss, with a bare foot on a teak-wood slab, and stepped into Que's quarters, leaving the shoji screen slid open behind her. She lit a candle and sandal wood, spread a length of cotton on a zabuton, and began to anoint her lower limbs with Royal Hawaiian Tanning Oil, beginning at toe tips. Que came in trailing his indigo robe, followed by a waddling duck which proceeded to hop atop a wicker basket in the corner of the quarters that would have served for the Imperial staff of medieval Japan. "Incaduck," Joyce clucked, but the duck merely preened its teal blue-green back feathers and settled to rest.

Jose whipped out a finger-length piece of jade in the shape of a spatula, called in Mongolian, a ka. With its flat side extending the pressure of his fingers he began to work around the tips of Joyce's toes. Then around the ankles, and one foot after the other, down, all around the heels and into the sensitive arch area in slow circular motions, concentrating in the regions of the primary subcutaneous lymphatic nodes. Joyce leaned back, with her elbow pushing a silk cushion underneath her head before melting, and Jose bent her knees up, working with his full hands now, kneading out the bread dough of her calf muscles. As his hands stroked the warm oil up into the tender part of her inner thighs, Joyce's knees put the squeeze on both of Jose's ears, so his head was pinioned. She sat up and kissed him, and pulled him down on top of her. As the cosmic moment came, Jose straightened out as if in rictus. Joyce bowed up her butt, and balancing his rigid body perfectly on the upswelling of her pubic bone, delivered a sharp shove to his left ear with the motion of a secretary's manual return on an old Underwood, which sent Que in one complete, hair heating spin, around a full 360 degrees like the move spinner in a board game. In an exquisite sweat Que collapsed on top of her with hugging. Nose to intimate nose, eyes open into each other's eyes, impulse of daffodils in their hearts, and sequences of numbers began again.

"Twenty-three eleven," Que repeated. "And eleven thirty-two," added Joyce. "They come early on in the Wake. The set begins on page thirteen."

"Nun. Nullity. Thirteenth Floor Elevators, out of Houston, Space Central. Thirteen is the card called 'Death' in the Tarot." Que contemplated the number. "But that Death comes at sunrise; it is the death of night, and the light of a new, if indeed not a Golden Dawn," Joyce applied as editorial comment.

"In the dawn we shall see swords," mused Que, as if in prophetic trance. "But for 1132, on page thirteen, we have 'ants or emmets wondern upon a groot hwide Whailfisk,' d'ya hear?" Joyce deliciously rolled her words into the brogue. "Which lay in a Runnel." Que continued the line. "I do not hear your injunction," she punned,"and would not unless you lay first for my pillow, love."

"Time check," Que requested. He looked out past the screen to the great wheel of the water clock run by the overflow from the baths. Joyce pushed the button on a digital timepiece, reporting "Forty-nine minutes to midnight."

"Joyce, of dirty man's desiring:" Que struck a pose from the Commedia. "Ah, but this is a time of marvels. It is, of course, twenty-three hundred, eleven hours--eleven eleven, but p.m. if you please." "If  please," Joyce teased, and with a Columbine index finger traced four vertical lines on Jose's chest, "I'll score it the easy way then, one one one one."

"Such as the four ways to represent unity in numerical form, some real, others; imaginary," Que added.

Kurt von Meier
Circa 1974