Part 14 -- Chapter 87 "Thus it can be shown that humans in essence may be divided into two classes: the men and the lice. The lice must forever obey the laws set before them and must live out their station in life. The men, however, may in their quest to aid mankind transcend ordinary parameters and laws, and have every right to use whatever means at their disposal to remove obstacles in the path of their destiny. To such men, even murder may be necessary. True, they may be persecuted in their own society by those of little vision, but those who are martyred will receive even greater glory in the future. So it has been and so it will be."
When Radio Rascaloninoff finished talking, he looked again at his surroundings. He was in the parlor of Periphery Petroleumitch, a relation of his good friend Dmeeting Razorcuttin, who was also present. Periphery was in charge of the case of the murder of the loanshark Daytona Casanovna and her daughter Live-a-baita. The room itself was cheaply and tastelessly furnished, mainly in greens and yellows, and smelled of tobacco and K-Y jelly. The window curtains had holes and the curtain rods were askew. Rascaloninoff reclined on a couch done in chintz, while Periphery sat on a creaky wood chair behind a heavily scratched coffee table. Razorcuttin stood next to the couch, gazing out the easternmost (and filthiest) window. Nearby was Slamitoff, the head clerk, sitting in a musty, overstuffed armchair with crusty, transparent stains on the arm covers.
Rascaloninoff narrowed his eyes as again he scrutinized his potential adversary. Periphery was slovenly dressed, and little rivulets of sweat constantly ran down his cheeks. His beady eyes were nearly obscured by the puffed-out scallops he had by way of eyelids, and the few hairs which remained on his shiny head stuck out as if by static electricity. Radio then shifted his gaze to Slamitoff: he was a small, wiry man, who appeared to have mixed in his bloodline several Italian families and a species of weasel. He always remained apart from discourse, and presently seemed to be engaged in some form of mental handplay. Every now and then he twitched.
Radio himself did not present a far more palatable picture: he had dark, curly, oily hair, and a perpetual unshaven appearance. His clothes were rumpled, and he had a stale odor about him; ever since his illness, he has carried a dishevelled and nauseated look, causing passersby to wonder if he had just eaten a live toad.
At this point Razorcuttin, who had been keenly eyeing a flasher on the street corner, cut in sharply, saying "But surely this talk cannot be serious!"
Slamitoff jerked his head up. "How did you know my name was Shirley?" he ejaculated. Razorcuttin looked strangely at him, and noted to himself that Slamitoff was indeed a very stupid fellow. Slamitoff, to be certain, did not possess a full deck of cards, but he thought himself to be a keenly observant person: when he first talked with Radio at the head shoppe, he noticed that something was wrong. His first impression was that Rascaloninoff had just eaten a live toad, but as Radio had begun to rave about the murder of Daytona Casanovna, Slamitoff had thought that this was something that Periphery should know about. Perhaps, he thought, he himself would solve the mystery. As usual, he was completely wrong.
"Radio, old friend," he finally said out loud, "could we leave this dreary place? I think I'm beginning to catch your disease."
"God, I hope not," replied Rascaloninoff with a queer smile.
Eventually they reached a city block being razed as part of an urban renewal plan, and after cautiously picking their way through the construction zone and reaching a section of new asphalt being laid down in a nearby street, they noticed a strange looking woman standing on the corner. She seemed to be a rather ratty bitch, dressed in ragged clothes and a moth-eaten sweater. Her matted hair was in curlers, and was covered by a mildewed plastic rain scarf. On the ground, on either side of her, were two large shopping bags having the apparent age of twelve years, and in her hand was a dirty and dog-eared Bible.
Rascaloninoff recognized Sanyo, and called out to her, saying "Hey, Sanyo! Could you read me a few more of those pornographic Bible passages? I could use a cheap thrill right now!"
Sanyo began to reply with an obscene remark, but she was cut off abruptly by a scream and a prolonged squish. On turning around she witnessed a hideous sight: her drunken father, Onion Marmadukov, having seen her from across the fresh asphalt, decided to approach her for some vodka money; but as he crossed the street, he failed to notice the steam roller. Already flea-bitten dogs and grimy children were lapping at the hot ooze which trickled scarlet from the vaguely human-shaped pancake on the road. Next to it, a bottle sunk into the fresh asphalt weakly reflected what little sunlight managed to penetrate the brown, hazy sky.
"What amazingly strong glass," mumbled Rascaloninoff to nobody in particular.
Abruptly, Sanyo whirled around and pointed a hang-nailed finger at Radio, saying "You! You're responsible for this! You and your highbrow atheistic philosophy of egotism! You make me sick with your noble aspirations while you ignore the plight of those around you. You just use and use and use, just as you have used me to my shame. Why, I bet that you wouldn't spring for my father's funeral if I offered myself in the bargain!"
With those words she stalked off with her shopping bags, leaving behind one of her heels, and plowing through a Moskva Salvationovlopitzschka Army band, scattering them across the pavement.
"What an excitable wench," remarked Razorcuttin.
The suburb in which Rascaloninoff lived had once been a bustling community, but outrageous property taxes and a crushing depression cleared out the original inhabitants, and the deserted clapboard condominiums were open to any person who could stand the dirt, cockroaches, and lack of utilities.
As the two arrived at Radio's rotting front porch, they were promptly accosted by a seedy young man wearing spectacles. He immediately struck them as being seriously demented, for he was badly shaven and his hair stuck out at many angles; his clothes were mismatched and rumpled, and he smelled of Cruex.
"Pardon me sirs," he said with a marked stammer, "but are you by any chance Rascaloninoff and Razorcuttin?"
"And if we are?" replied Razorcuttin furtively.
"My name is Tundra Lesbianikov, and I am a roommate of Peyote Revoluzhin, who is currently staying at the YMCA [Young Muscovite Comradeship Association]. I overheard his plotting the death of Radio Rascaloninoff, and I thought it best to warn you. Of course, my services are not gratis."
"Of course," replied Rascaloninoff as he calmly hamstrung Lesbianikov.
"Wouldn't think of letting you go without remuneration," said Razorcuttin as he efficiently slit Lesbianikov's throat.
"Why do you suppose that someone as rich as Revoluzhin would stay at the YMCA?" asked Rascaloninoff.
"Probably has a thing for nude boys," replied Razorcuttin sympathetically.
Razorcuttin put his arm around Rascaloninoff, and walked with him through the front door. The two of them made their way into the living room, which was cluttered with manuals on vivisection for fun and profit. On one wall was a portrait of Charles Manson; on another was a newspaper article about the murder of Daytona and Live-a-baita, affixed to the crumbling plasterboard with a butcher knife. There was a trail of dried blood spots leading from the front door to a location under the couch, and on the patio was a large rock which from fifty yards could be seen as sitting crookedly upon some bulky item. A closer inspection would reveal purse strings protruding from underneath.
"Interesting decor," remarked Razorcuttin as he sat down heavily in a torn leather chair and fell fast asleep in perfect security.
"Ah, my friend -- you seem so unconcerned in your slumber. Perhaps you have not yet realized that it is I who murdered Daytona Casanovna and Live-a-baita. I had to kill them, don't you see? They were obstacles in my life. Yes, ha-ha-ha! I have proved that I am a man, not a louse, capable of removing obstacles from the path of my destiny. Do you not agree?"
Over the last hour or so a puddle of saliva had collected in Razorcuttin's lap, and he had a shocking erection. Rascaloninoff contemplated his friend's appearance for the umpteenth time: Razorcuttin was a sharp person, seemingly composed of acute angles; he had sculpted hair, and steel-blue eyes which could cut anyone to the quick; his voice was keen, and generally had an edge to it.
Dmeeting Razorcuttin had originally been a fellow student at the College of Nicolai Eroticov, but (as did Rascaloninoff) dropped out when a change in dress code forbade all students to wear trousers. He had majored in animal husbandry (until they caught him at it), but after leaving school took up a job as a door-to-door salesman of shaving accessories; however, when beards came back into fashion he was forced to quit. Currently, he was working for Doctor Dozinov, shaving patients prior to surgery.
"Yes," continued Rascaloninoff, "I am now convinced that I am not a louse. I am a man! I have removed obstacles from my life much as Napoleon did. I shall be glorified in the future, just as now I glorify Him. In fact, Napoleon and I have much in common. No, I AM Napoleon. I AM NAPOLEON! I must take action immediately and remove the rest of the obstacles in my path, so that I may conquer the world!"
At that, he reached under the couch and removed a razor-sharp blood-encrusted axe. He then slipped the axe into an inside pocket of his coat. However, the bottom seam ripped out and the axe slipped through and chopped off the front of his left shoe, exposing his ingrown toenails. He cursed and placed the axe in the other inside pocket. He then bid farewell to his sleeping friend and headed for the dry-rotted door. But, as he opened the door, a man fell forward onto the unswept floor: it was obvious that he had been listening through the keyhole. Rascaloninoff gripped the axe under his coat as the stranger got up and dusted himself off.
The stranger was rather short and pudgy. He had a crewcut and a Vandyke, and wore a shiny black leather overcoat which contrasted sharply with his torn and stained jeans and t-shirt underneath. His shoes were soiled, as was his face. "Allow me to introduce myself," he said upon regaining what composure he could. "I am Kitty Sridnikarloff, and I just happened to be passing by your place when I noticed a puddle forming at the base of the door."
Rascaloninoff looked down and saw that Razorcuttin's spittle had reached the door and was collecting there.
"While bending down to examine it," Kitty continued, "I could not help but overhear your rather one-sided conversation. Now: either you pay me handsomely, or I shall turn you over to the authorities."
Rascaloninoff grinned and withdrew the axe from his coat. "There is a third alternative," he said. With one fell stroke, he cleft Sridnikarloff in twain. "Obstacle number three!" he cried triumphantly.
By some miracle, the robbers had overlooked the purse of money which was under the rock. "Well, look at this," thought Razorcuttin. "At least the robbers were considerate enough to pay for the stuff which was taken."
Razorcuttin opened the purse, rummaged through the contents, and emptied it onto the cracked concrete. He sifted through the pile, finding about fifty thousand Rubles, a compact, lipstick, mascara, a packet of stale saltines, and a bulky envelope containing receipt stubs for loans paid out by Daytona Casanovna to about three hundred people, including Radio Rascaloninoff, whose stub was smeared with blood.
"Well, what do you know," exclaimed Razorcuttin. "One of the robbers was the murderer of Daytona Casanovna!"
Dripping blood, Radio Rascaloninoff reached the YMCA in the heart of the most festering ghetto in the city. Upon entering he found the room number of Peyote Revoluzhin and raced up the twelve flights of steps. After a resting about two hours he raced to the room of Peyote Revoluzhin and began hacking away at the door with his axe. From within a voice falsettoed to him, asking "Who is it?" And as Radio smashed in the last remnant of the door he cried out, saying "It ain't the KGB, you arrogant pimp!"
Radio rushed into the room brandishing his axe, only to be confronted by a gun which Peyote was holding. "I'm so pleased you could drop by..." began Revoluzhin, but before he could pull the trigger Radio brought his axe down, severing Peyote's hand at the wrist.
"Obstacle number four!" cried Radio zealously as he brought his axe down upon Revoluzhin's head, thereby ending Peyote's ideas about suing for damages.
Dripping blood, Radio Rascaloninoff left the YMCA in the heart of the most festering ghetto in the city. He climbed up and down soot-covered buildings, crawled through rat-infested alleyways, and slithered through slimy storm sewers in his quest to find the penthouse apartment which belonged to the family of the late Onion Marmadukov.
He immediately began hacking them all into little bits, all the while crying out "Obstacles five, six, seven, and eight!" repeatedly.
When finished, he turned around and saw Sanyo, who had just entered and had seen what had happened. She let out a scream, dropping her Bible and trying to flee, but Rascaloninoff raced after her and butchered her, exclaiming "Here's payment for your father's funeral, obstacle number nine!"
Then he collapsed onto the floor and began to rant, spewing forth gibberish.
An hour elapsed, and his words began to attain some coherence.
"It's no good," he muttered to the ceiling. "I can't fool him any longer. Periphery Petroleumitch knew that a criminal would have said what I had said in answer to his questions, but I also knew that a criminal would have said that, and thus I spoke as a criminal would have in order to prove that I was no criminal since knowing that a criminal would have spoken that way and since I was indeed a criminal I would have not spoken as a criminal, thus trying to fool Periphery who knew that I was too intelligent to behave as a criminal if I really were a criminal but now I'm sure that he knew all along that I was a criminal and was playing as if he didn't know that I was a criminal in order that he might taunt me and try to get me to confess that I was indeed a criminal after all, and then to laugh in my face, saying he had my number from the first and it was foolish to try to play him at his own game by acting as a criminal who was too intelligent to act as a criminal and therefore acting as a criminal to prevent him from thinking that I was a criminal and I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all coming to take me away, ha-haaa!"
He blurbled and gurgled for a bit, but all of a sudden his crazed look vanished and was replaced by one of resignation.
"Ach! There is simply no way that I can remove all of the obstacles in my path. I am not Napoleon. I am not a man. I am a louse. Ah, but wait! There is yet one more obstacle which I can remove!"
Radio Rascaloninoff picked up his axe one last time, and crying out "Obstacle number ten!" he hewed off his own head.
Now it just so happened that Radio Rascaloninoff, through some perverse twist of justice, was reincarnated as a louse. However, lice tend to live fairly short lives, and it was not very long before he was again reincarnated.
This time he grew up to be a tall, sensitive, consumptive, and totally pathetic commercial traveller named Gregor Samsa. But that is another story.