The Duke of Zzz

Oh, it’s getting harder and harder to wake up. One day, I just won’t, and, hey, Rip van Winkle!

Take today, man—I’m doing this fuckbook, this grocery-aisle bodice-ripper, and I’m dozing off every two sentences, like

“I’m yours,” said the Duke, and his smile said you’re mine. The firelight danced in his eyes. He

turned and went to the oven, and there was a pie in there, a gooseberry pie, the good kind with currants and nutmeg. He got it out and set it on the counter. “I don’t want this,” he said. He took off his oven gloves and

offered his arm, as though inviting her to the dance, and she

went off in search of a fork.

(Delete. Delete. Delete, delete, delete.)

“Well,” said the Duke. “Here we are.” He undid his belt and it clattered to the floor. His

teeth fell out in a pile. He knelt and raked through them and held up a gold one, and it wasn’t a tooth but a locket, that heart-shaped one I thought I lost—so that’s where it fucking went. I snatched it off him. Lousy thief.

(No. Delete. Sod off.)

“Look, I’m a plot device,” said the Duke. “I strut about, you fear for your virtue, but in the end, I’m just

a love machine! And I won’t work for nobody but you! I’m just a love machine! And I won’t work for nobody but you! I’m just a lyrical lover, no take me for no filth! I’m Mr. Boom…boom…boombastic! Call me fantastic! Mr. Lover-Lover! Mr. Lover-Lover! Mr. Lover-Lover! Mr.

“I’m tired,” said the Duke. He lay down fully clothed. “Would you mind if I called it a night? Really, I

gooseberry pie

“Really, I’m

o rendetemi la speme, o lasciate, lasciatemi morir

“I’ve a song in my head,” said the Duke.

Rosa stared, mystified. “A song, Your Grace?”

“I eat cannibals.” He did a little dance step, a sort of clumsy jig. “It’s incredible. Your love is so edible to me.”

“Sir! Please!”

He advanced on her, brows awaggle. “You bring out the animal in me.” His grin widened fit to split his face in two, and he

slipped it in her cocoa, the arsenic, every morning, every night, and she said it brought her comfort. She held to the ritual, and to him, as he slew her dose by dose. And each day he held court, and cried crocodile tears, and sometimes he let her claw back a little strength, just enough to present her to society. He’d bask in that too—she’s so frail! You’re a saint! And his grief wasn’t feigned when she croaked, ’cause that was the end of the line, last stop for the pity train, and he guessed he’d need a new one, some fresh rose to

“I’m yours,” said the Duke, but his smile said you’re mine. He had teeth like

one of those fish that has teeth like a person, so I guess he had…regular teeth?

a possum, all tiny and sharp.

(Delete. What the fuck? Get out, out, out out.)

His teeth were sharp, like an ogre’s, and she thought he might devour her. She thought

it was probably too late to start a roast, but I’m hungry. Scalloped potatoes. Spoonful after spoonful after spoonful of scalloped potatoes, loaded down with cheese. Weeping grease like pus. Cheese grease. Another bite. And another. And another. I have to eat all of it. I

feel sick,” said the Duke. He lay down and drew his knees to his chest. “Fetch a cold cloth, would you? And damp down the fire.”

*

I did get my work done, all two thousand words of it. It just took, well, I started at dawn, and the sun’s going down. So that was a slog, but

the walls melted like cream cheese. I mopped up the mess. I just have one room now, one big open space.

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