Liver, an excerpt from Nietzsche's Kisses
by Lance Olsen
 
 

And next you are watching a baritone busy dying on stage in one of Wagner's over-the-top bits in Bayreuth and your mind is wandering. You are trying to keep it in check but your mind is wandering and the whole interminable production has been about our invisible friend in heaven edenville alpha alpha nought nought one and there leans forward two rows down and three seats across from you a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old girl you cannot take your eyes off. Her hair reaches the small of her back in a long straight ponytail so blond it is white her eyes an outrageous blue her skin a translucence dress black rhinestone choker. She leans forward rapt beside her parents elbows on knees attending her first opera and by her very presence negating it. You are trying to keep your mind in check but are thinking how it is almost impossible to forget the past except for a few moments at a time because you are part of everything you have ever read heard seen kissed hated written but you must overcome yesterday swimming against history's current overcome today and then you are growing conscious of a muttering around you. You pull your eyes away from the girl look back at the stage the baritone has departed the orchestra departed and in their place stands Hanswurst the Clown in a stark spotlight alone grinning palms on knees in a floppy blue sock-hat red-and-yellow striped vest over pale blue shirt green pants seal-flipper shoes your face. He is wearing your mustache shaggy eyebrows white makeup a red dot on either cheek and you are on stage looking out at the audience in your seat listening to the muttering then ambient perplexity call it perplexity amused curiosity faint frustration. Hanswurst raises a hand to his forehead Indian-style peers out knees bent scanning the dark horizon for signs of intelligent life. He stands upright lets his arms fall to his sides shoulders slack performs a brief soft shoe stops grin aging grin disappearing. He opens his mouth to speak thinks better of it closes his mouth opens his mouth again thinks better of it closes it again opens it. O my brothers, he says, in conclusion, if you could see, thank you, it's been a pleasure, in conclusion, because up there, because in the sky, that is to say, because up there in the sky one can hear no B-flat, no A-sharp, no F, because up there in the sky you cannot see Germany, and so, in summary, in a word, to be brief, I hope it will now be perfectly plain, in a manner of speaking, the sounds say of paper turning as you turn the pages, the willows fluttering along the banks of the pond, my childhood, my father at the foot of the stairs, these are what they refer to as the good old days, I can think of none better, because only when you have denied me will I return to you, if you could see, O my brothers, and so the dead live on, they are called music lovers, the dead live on, they are called bankers, and so, to come to my pant, to come to my punt, up there one can hear neither a G nor a D, neither major nor minor, because for the superfluous ones truth is a kind of forgetfulness, and so, in summa, Deutschland, Deutschland über alles spells what, spells something, spells what, it's on the tip of my sister's tongue, non plus ultra, this therefore amounting simply to another way of saying … of saying … whatever my point might in extenso prove to be, which is to suggest, thank you very much, which is to submit to your kindness that if you could see the future clearly you would hang yourselves after drowning your children, because, I imagine, the theater in which you're sitting is at present on fire. This building is burning. Get up. Get out. Abandon ship. You heard me. Vermin and children first. Save yourself. Save your diamonds. Save that beautiful, beautiful blond girl in the second row. Look at her boots. Look at her buckles. Look at that bolt of hair. I'm not joking. Rise. Do as I do. Because you have less than a minute. You have less than a moment. You are currently living at the lip of calamity. Smell the smoke. The heat at my back is unbearable. An instant more, and your chairs will explode into flames beneath you. Rise. Run. O my brothers, you're about to dance whether you like it or not.   Hush coughs clinking of jewelry finding its way back to amused curiosity becoming low-key mirth becoming a single titter chuckles a rain of giggles like a communal understanding general outbreak of hilarity laughter rolling back and forth across the crowd people rocking in their seats white molars catching light audience loving it relishing it the best send-up they've ever seen the good stuff the gold and the blond girl is perhaps loving it most of all her laughter turning her features into a harsh gargoyle-face down front. Hanswurst raises a hand to his forehead Indian-style peers out knees bent scanning the dark horizon for signs of intelligent existence ten seconds nine eight then hesitantly joins in on the merriment as the first seat blazes to life and the one after that and the one after that and so on burning.