One of the first pages I ever created on this website was a biography of William S. Burroughs, and I also typed in a favorite piece of text from his signature novel Naked Lunch, titled Bradley The Buyer. Today is the hundredth birthday of William S. Burroughs, and as part of the celebration I’m running this excerpt again. The illustration was created for this piece for Literary Kicks by the awesome artist Goodloe Byron, proprietor of Stone Bird News.
Bradley The Buyer
‘Selling is more of a habit than using,’ Lupita says. Nonusing pushers have a contact habit, and that’s one you can’t kick. Agents get it too. Take Bradley the Buyer. Best narcotics agent in the industry. Anyone would make him for junk. (Note: Make in the sense of dig or size up.) I mean he can walk up to a pusher and score direct. He is so anonymous, grey and spectral the pusher don’t remember him afterwards. So he twists one after the other …
Well the Buyer comes to look more and more like a junky. He can’t drink. He can’t get it up. His teeth fall out. (Like pregnant women lose their teeth feeding the stranger, junkies lose their yellow fangs feeding the monkey.) He is all the time sucking on a candy bar. Baby Ruths he digs special. ‘It really disgust you to see the Buyer sucking on them candy bars so nasty,’ a cop says.
The Buyer takes on an ominous grey-green color. Fact is his body is making its own junk or equivalent. The Buyer has a steady connection. A Man Within you might say. Or so he thinks. ‘I’ll just set in my room,’ he says. ‘Fuck ’em all. Squares on both sides. I am the only complete man in the industry.’
But a yen comes on him like a great black wind through the bones. So the Buyer hunts up a young junky and gives him a paper to make it.
‘Oh all right,’ the boy says. ‘So what you want to make?’
‘I just want to rub against you and get fixed.’
‘Ugh … Well all right … But why cancha just get physical like a human?’
Later the boy is sitting in a Waldorf with two colleagues dunking pound cake. ‘Most distasteful thing I ever stand still for,’ he says. ‘Some way he make himself all soft like a blob of jelly and surround me so nasty. Then he gets well all over like with green slime. So I guess he come to some kinda awful climax … I come near wigging with that green stuff all over me, and he stink like a old rotten cantaloupe.’
‘Well it’s still an easy score.’
The boy signed resignedly; ‘Yes, I guess you can get used to anything. I’ve got a meet with him again tomorrow.’
The Buyer’s habit keeps getting heavier. He needs a recharge every half hour. Sometimes he cruises the precincts and bribes the turnkey to let him in with a cell of junkies. It gets to where no amount of contact will fix him. At this point he receives a summons from the District Supervisor:
‘Bradley, your conduct has given rise to rumors — and I hope for your sake they are no more than that — so unspeakably distasteful that … I mean Caesar’s wife … hrump … that is, the Department must be above suspicion … certainly above such suspicions as you have seemingly aroused. You are lowering the entire tone of the industry. We are prepared to accept your immediate resignation.’
The Buyer throws himself on the ground and crawls over to the D.S. ‘No, Boss Man, no … The Department is my very lifeline.’
He kisses the D.S.’s hand thrusting his fingers into his mouth (the D.S. must feel his toothless gums) complaining he has lost his teeth ‘inna thervith.’ ‘Please Boss Man, I’ll wipe your ass, I’ll wash out your dirty condoms, I’ll polish your shoes with the oil on my nose …’
‘Really, this is most distasteful! Have you no pride? I must tell you I feel a distinct revulsion. I mean there is something, well, rotten about you, and you smell like a compost heap.’ He put a scented handkerchief in front of his face. ‘I must ask you to leave this office at once.’
‘I’ll do anything, Boss, anything.’ His ravaged green face splits in a horrible smile. ‘I’m still young, Boss, and I’m pretty strong when I get my blood up.’
The D.S. retches into his handkerchief and points to the door with a limp hand. The Buyer stands up looking at the D.S. dreamily. His body begins to dip like a dowser’s wand. He flows forward …
‘No! No!’ screams the D.S.
‘Schlup … schlup schlup.’ An hour later they find the Buyer on the nod in the D.S.’s chair. The D.S. has disappeared without a trace.
The Judge : ‘Everything indicates that you have, in some unspeakable manner uh … assimilated the District Supervisor. Unfortunately there is no proof. I would recommend that you be confined or more accurately contained in some institution, but I know of no place suitable for a man of your caliber. I must reluctantly order your release.’
‘That one should stand in an aquarium,’ says the arresting officer.
The Buyer spreads terror throughout the industry. Junkies and agents disappear. Like a vampire bat he gives off a narcotic effluvium, a dank green mist that anesthizes his victioms and renders them helpless in his enveloping presence. And once he has scored he holes up for several days like a gorged boa constrictor. Finally he is caught in the act of digesting the Narcotics Commissioner and destroyed with a flame thrower — the court of inquiry ruling that such means were justified in that the Buyer had lost his human citizenship and was, in consequence, a creature without species and a menace to the narcotics industry on all levels.
Happy birthday, WSB! For more, see here.