by Donald Barthelme

We Have All
Billy the Kid

I was speaking to Amelia.
"Not self-slaughter in the crude sense. Rather the construction of surrogates. Think of it as a transplant."
"Daumier," she said, "you are not making me happy."
"The false selves in their clatter and boister and youthful brio will slay and bother and push out and put to all types of trouble the original, authentic self, which is a dirty great villain, as can be testified and sworn to by anyone who has ever been awake."
"The self also dances," she said, "sometimes."
"Yes," I said, "I have noticed that, but one pays dear for the occasional schottische. Now, here is the point about the self: It is insatiable. It is always, always hankering. It is what you might call rapacious to a fault. The great flaming mouth to the thing is never in this world going to be stuffed full. I need only adduce the names of Alexander, Bonaparte, Messalina, and Billy the Kid."
"You have misunderstood Billy the Kid," she murmured.
"Whereas the surrogate, the construct, is in principle satiable. We design for satiability."
"Have you taken action?" she asked. "Or is all this just the usual?"
"I have one out now," I said, "a Daumier, on the plains and pampas of consciousness, and he is doing very well, I can tell you that He has an important post in a large organization. I get regular reports."
"What type of fellow is he?"
"A good true fellow," I said, "and he knows his limits. He doesn't overstep. Desire has been reduced in him to a minimum. Just enough left to make him go. Loved and respected by all."
"Tosh," she said, "Tosh and bosh."
"You will want one," I said, "when you see what they are like."
"We have all misunderstood Billy the Kid," she said in parting.

A Long Sentence
in Which the
Miracle of Surrogation
Is Performed
Before Your Eyes

Now in his mind's eye which was open for business at all times even during the hours of sleep and dream and which was the blue of bedcovers and which twinkled and which was traced with blood a trifle at all times and which was covered at all times with a monocle of good quality, the same being attached by long thin black streamy ribands to his mind's neck, now in this useful eye Daumier saw a situation.

Mr. Bellows,
Mr. Hawkins,
The Traffic,

Two men in horse-riding clothes upon a plain, their attitudes indicating close acquaintance or colleagueship. The plain presented in its foreground a heavy yellow oblong salt lick rendered sculptural by the attentions over a period of time of sheep or other salt-loving animals. Two horses in the situation's upper lefthand corner watched the men with nervous horse-gaze.
Mr. Bellows spoke to his horse.
"Stand still, horse."
Mr. Hawkins sat down atop the salt lick and filled a short brass pipe Oriental in character.
"Are they quiet now?"
"Quiet as the grave," Mr. Bellows said. "Although I don't know what we'll be doin' for quiet when the grass gives out."
"That'll be a while yet."
"And Daumier?"
"Scoutin' the trail ahead," said Mr. Hawkins.
"He has his problems you must admit."
"Self-created in my opinion."
Mr. Hawkins took a deep draw upon his pipelet.
"The herd," he said.
"And the queen."
"And the necklace."
"And the cardinal."
"It's the old story," Mr. Hawkins stated. "One word from the queen and he's off tearing about the countryside and let business go hang."
"There's such a thing as tending to business, all right," said Mr. Bellows. "Some people never learned it."
"And him the third generation in the Traffic," Mr. Hawkins added. Then, after a moment: "Lovely blue flowers there a while back. I don't suppose you noticed."
"I noticed," said Mr. Bellows. "I picked a bunch."
"Did you, now. Where are they at?"
"I give um to someone," Mr. Bellows said.
"Someone. What someone?"
There was a silence.
"You are acquainted with the Rules, I believe," Mr. Hawkins said.
"Nothing in the Rules about bestowal of bluebonnets, I believe," Mr. Bellows replied.
"Bluebonnets, were they? Now, that's nice. That's very nice."
"Bluebonnets or indeed flowers of any kind are not mentioned in the Rules."
"We are promised to get this here shipment-"
"I have not interfered with the shipment."
"We are promised to get this here herd of au-pair girls to the railhead intact in both mind and body," Mr. Hawkins stated. "And I say that bestowal of bluebonnets is interferin' with a girl's mind and there's no two ways about it."
"She was looking very down-in-the-mouth."
"Not your affair. Not your affair."
Mr. Bellows moved to change the subject. "Is Daumier likely to be back for chow do you think?"
"What is for chow?"
"He'll be back. Daumier does love his chilidog."

Résumé of the Plot
or Argument

Ignatius Loyola XVIII, with a band of hard-riding fanatical Jesuits under his command, has sworn to capture the herd and release the girls from the toils so-called Traffic, in which Daumier, Mr. Hawkins, and Mr. Bellows are prominent executives of long standing. Daumier meanwhile has been distracted from his proper business by a threat to the queen, the matter of the necklace (see Dumas, The Queen's Necklace, pp. 76-105).

Description of
Three O'Clock
in the Afternoon

I left Amelia's place and entered the October afternoon. The afternoon was dying giving way to the dark night, yet some amount of sunglow still warmed the cunning-wrought cobbles of the street. Many citizens both male and female were hurrying hither and thither on errands of importance, each agitato step compromising slightly the sheen of the gray fine-troweled sidewalk. Immature citizens in several sizes were massed before a large factorylike structure where advanced techniques transformed them into true-thinking right-acting members of the three social classes, lower, middle, and upper middle. Some number of these were engaged in ludic agon with basketballs, the same being hurled against passing vehicles producing an unpredictable rebound. Dispersed amidst the hurly and burly of the children were their tenders, shouting. Inmixed with this broil were ordinary denizens of the quarter-shopmen, rentiers, churls, sellers of vicious drugs, stum-drinkers, aunties, girls whose jeans had been improved with appliqué rose blossoms in the cleft of the buttocks, practicers of the priest hustle, and the like. Two officers of the Shore Patrol were hitting an imbecile Sea Scout with long shapely well-modeled nightsticks under the impression that they had jurisdiction. A man was swearing fine-sounding swearwords at a small yellow motorcar of Italian extraction, the same having joined its bumper to another bumper, the two bumpers intertangling like shameless lovers in the act of love. A man in the organic-vegetable hustle stood in the back of a truck praising tomatoes, the same being abulge with tomato-muscle and ablaze with minimum daily requirements. Several members of the madman profession made air sweet with their imprecating and their moans and the subtle music of the tearing their hair.


Amelia is skeptical, I thought.

List of Research
Materials Consulted

My plan for self-transplants was not formulated without the benefit of some amount of research. I turned over the literature, which is immense, the following volumes sticking in the mind as having been particularly valuable: The Self: An Introduction by Meyers, Self-Abuse by Samuels, The Armed Self by Carwlie, Burt's The Concept of Self, Self-Congratulation by McFee, Fingarette's Self-Deception, Self-Defense for Women and Young Girls by Birch, Winterman's Self-Doubt, The Effaced Self by Lilly, Self-Hatred in Vermin by Skinner, LeBett's Selfishness, Gordon's Self-Love, The Many-Colored Self by Winsor and Newton, Paramananda's Self-Mastery, The Misplaced Self by Richards, Nastiness by Bertini, The Self Prepares by Teller, Flaxman's The Self as Pretext, Hickel's Self-Propelled Vehicles, Sørensen's Self-Slaughter, Self and Society in Ming Through by DeBary, The Sordid Self by Clute, and Techniques of Self-Validation by Wright. These works underscored what I already knew, that the self is a dirty great villain, an interrupter of sleep, a deviler of awakeness, an intersubjective atrocity, a mouth, a maw. Transplantation of neutral or partially inert materials into the cavity was in my view the one correct solution.

Neutral or Partially
Inert Materials
Cross a River

A girl appeared holding a canteen.
"Is there any wine s'il vous plaît?"
"More demands," said Mr. Hawkins. "They accumulate."
"Some people do not know they are a member of a herd," said Mr. Bellows.
The girl turned to Daumier.
"Is it your intention to place all of us in this dirty water?" she asked, pointing to the river. "Together with our clothes and personal belongings as well?"
"There is a ford," said Daumier. "The water is only knee-high."
"And on the other bank, shooters? Oh, that's very fine. très intelligent."
"What's your name, Miss?"
"Celeste," said the girl. "Possibly there are vipers in the water? Poisonmouths?"
"Possibly," said Daumier. "But they won't hurt you. If you see one, just go around him."
"Myself, I will stay here, thank you. The other girls, they stay here too, I think."
"Celeste, you wouldn't be telling them about poisonmouths in the water, would you?"
"It is not necessary. They can look for their own selves." She paused. "Possibly you have a very intelligent plan for avoiding the shooters?"
She is not pretty, Daumier thought. But a good figure.
"My papa is a lawyer," she said. "An avocat."
"There was no word in the agreement about marching through great floods filled with vipers and catfishes."
"The problem is not the water but the Jesuits on the other side," said Daumier.
"The noble Loyola. Our resuscitator."
"You want to spend the next year in a convent? Wearing a long dress down to your feet and reading The Lives of the Saints and not a chilidog to your name?"
"He will take us to the convent?"
"What a thing. I did not know."
"Daumier," said Mr. Hawkins. "What is your très intelligent plan?"
"What if we send some of the girls in to bathe?"
"What for?"
"And while the enemy is struck blind by the dazzling beauty of our girls bathing, we cross the rest of them down yonder at the other ford."
"Ah, you mean bathing, uh-"
"Could you get them to do it?"
"I don't know." He turned to Celeste. "What about it?"
"There is nothing in the agreement about making Crazy Horse shows in the water. But on the other hand, the cloister…"
"Yes," said Daumier.
Soon seven girls wearing towels were approaching the water.
"You and Mr. Bellows cross the herd down there. I'll watch these for you," Daumier said to Mr. Hawkins.
"Oh, you will," said Mr. Hawkins. "That's nice. That's very nice indeed. That is what I call nice, that is."
"Mr. Hawkins," said Daumier.
Then Daumier looked at Celeste and saw that the legs on her were as long and slim as his hope of Heaven and the thighs on her were as strong and sweet-shaped as ampersands and the buttocks on her were as pretty as two pictures and the waist on her was as neat and incurved as the waist of a fiddle and the shoulders on her were as tempting as sex crimes and the hair on her was as long and black as Lent and the movement of the whole was honey, and he sank into a swoon.
When he awoke, he found Mr. Hawkins lifting him by his belt and lowering him to the ground again, repeatedly.
"A swoon most likely," said Mr. Hawkins. "He was always given to swoonin'."
The girls were gathered about him, fully dressed and combing their damp hair.
"He looks extremely charming when he is swooned," said Celeste. "I don't like the eagle gaze so much."
"And his father and grandfather before him," said Mr. Hawkins, "they were given to swoonin'. The grandfather particularly. Physical beauty it was that sent the grandfather to the deck. There are those who have seen him fall at the mere flash of a kneecap."
"Is the herd across?" asked Daumier.
"Every last one of um," said Mr. Hawkins. "Mr. Bellows is probably handing out the TV dinners right now."
"We made a good exhibition, I think," said Celeste. "Did you see?"
"A little," said Daumier. "Let's push across and join the others."
They crossed the river and climbed a ridge and went through some amount of brush and past a broke-down abandoned farmhouse with no roof and through a pea patch that nobody had tended for so many years that the peas in their pods were as big as Adam's apples. On the other side of the pea patch they found Mr. Bellows tied to a tree by means of a great many heavy ropes around his legs, stomach, and neck, and his mouth stuffed full of pages torn from a breviary. The herd was nowhere to be seen.

Two Whiskeys
with a Friend

"The trouble with you," said Gibbon, "is that you are a failure."
"I am engaged upon a psychological thimblerig which may have sound commercial applications," I said. "Vistas are opening."
"Faugh," he said.
"The trouble with you is that you are an idiot," Gibbon said. "You lack a sense of personal worthlessness. A sense of personal worthlessness is the motor that drives the overachiver to his splendid overachievements that we all honor and revere."
"I have it!" I said. "A deep and abiding sense of personal worthlessness. One of the best."
"It was your parents I expect," said Gibbon. "They were possibly too kind. The family of orientation is charged above all with developing the sense of personal worthlessness. Some are sloppy about it. Some let this responsibility slide and the result is a child with no strong sense of personal worthlessness, thus no same being provable only by conspicuous and distinguished achievement above and beyond the call of reasonableness."
I thought: His tosh is better than my tosh.
"I myself," said Gibbon, "am slightly undertone in the personal worthlessness line. It was Papa's fault. He used no irony. The communications mix offered by the parent to the child is as you know twelve percent do this, eighty-two percent don't do that, and six percent huggles and endearments. That is standard. Now, to avoid boring himself or herself to death during this monition the parent enlivens the discourse with wit, usually irony of the cheaper sort. The irony ambigufies the message, but more importantly establishes in the child the sense of personal lack-of-worth. Because the child understands that one who is talked to in this way is not much of a something. Ten years of it goes a long way. Fifteen is better. That is where Pap fell down. He eschewed irony. Did you bring any money?"
"Then I'll have another. What class of nonsense is this that you are up to with the surrogate?"
"I have made up a someone who is taking the place of myself. I think about him rather than about me."
"The trouble with you is that you are simpleminded. No wonder you were sacked from your job in the think tank."
"I was thinking but I was thinking about wrong things."
"Does it work? This transplant business?"
"I have not had a thought about myself in seven days."
"Personally," said Gibbon, "I am of the opinion that the answer is Krishna Socialism."

Mr. Bellows
Is Sprung;
Arrival of
a Figure;
Popcorn Available
in the Lower Lobby

"Our herd is rustled," said Mr. Hawkins.
Mr. Bellows was having pages of the Word removed from his mouth.
"Fifteen hundred head," said Daumier. "My mother will never forgive me."
"How many men did he have with him?" asked Mr. Hawkins.
"Well I only saw about four. Coulda been more. They jumped me just as we come outa the tree line. Two of 'em come at me from the left and two of 'em come at me from the right, and they damn near pulled me apart between 'em. And himself sittin' there on his great black horse with the five black hats on him and laughin' and gigglin' to beat all bloody hell. Then they yanked me off my horse and throwed me to the ground terrible hard and two of 'em sat on me while himself made a speech to the herd."
"What type of speech would that be?"
"It began, 'Dearly beloved.' The gist of it was that Holy Mother the Church had arranged to rescue all the girls from the evil and vicious and low and reprehensible toils of the Traffic-meaning us-and the hardships and humiliations and degradations of au-pair life through the God-smiled-upon intervention of these hard-riding pure-of-heart Jesuits."
"How did the herd take it?"
"Then he said confessions would be between two and four in the afternoon, and that evening services would be at eight sharp. Then there was a great lot of groanin'. That was from the herd. Then the girls commenced to ask the padres about the hamburger ration and the grass ration and which way was the john and all that, and the boys in black got a little bit flustered. They realized they had fifteen hundred head of ravenous au-pair girls on their hands."
"He seems a good thinker," said Celeste. "To understand your maneuver beforehand, and to defeat it with his own very much superior maneuver-"
At that moment a figure of some interest approached the group. The figure was wearing on the upper of his two lips a pair of black fine-curled mustachios and on the top of his head a hat with a feather or plume of a certain swash and on his shoulders a cape of dark-blue material of a certain swagger and on his trunk a handsome leather doublet with pot-metal clasps and on the bottom of him a pair of big blooming breeches of a peach velvet known to interior decorators for its appositeness in the upholstering of loveseats and around his waist a sling holding a long resplendent rapier and on his two hands great gauntlets of pink pigskin and on his fine-chiseled features an expression of high-class arrogance. The figure was in addition mounted upon the top of a tall-standing well-curried fast-trotting sheep.
"What it is?" asked Mr. Bellows.
"Beats me," said Mr. Hawkins. "I think it is an actor."
"I know what it is," said Daumier. "It is a musketeer."

Further Boiling
of the Plot
in Summary Form

The musketeer carries a letter from the queen which informs Daumier they Jeanne de Valois, a bad person attached to the court, has obtained the necklace, which is worth 1,600,000 francs, by persuading the Cardinal de Rohan, an admirer of the queen, to sign a personal note for the amount, he thinking he is making a present to the queen, she thinking that the necklace has been returned to the jewelers, Jeanne de Valois having popped the diamonds into an unknown hiding place. The king is very likely going to find out about the whole affair and become very angry, in several directions. Daumier is begged to come to the capital and straighten things out. He does so.

History of the
Society of Jesus

  • Driven from England, 1579
  • Driven from France, 1594
  • Driven from Venice, 1606
  • Driven from Spain, 1767
  • Driven from Naples, 1768
  • Suppressed entirely by Clement XIV, 1773
  • Revived, 1814

Is Happening

I then noticed that I had become rather fond-fond to a fault-of a person in the life of my surrogate. It was of course the girl Celeste. My surrogate obviously found her attractive and no less did I; this was a worry. I began to wonder how I could get her out of his life and into my own.

Amelia Objects

"What about me?"

Quotation from
La Fontaine

"I must have the new, though there be none left in the world."

The Parry

"You are insatiable," she said.
"I am in principle fifty percent sated," I said. "Had I two surrogates I would be one hundred percent sated. Two are necessary so that no individual surrogate gets the big head. My identification with that Daumier who is even cleaning up all sorts of trouble in the queen's service is wonderful but there must be another. I see him as a quiet, thoughtful chap who leads a contemplative-type life. Maybe in the second person."

The New Surrogate
Given a Trial Run

This is not the worst time for doing what you are doing, and you are therefore pleased with yourself-not wildly, but a little. There are several pitfalls you have avoided. Other people have fallen into them. Standing at the rim of the pit, looking down at the sharpened stakes, you congratulate yourself on your good luck (because you know good sense cannot be credited) and move on. The conditions governing your life have been codified and set down in a little book, but no one has ever given you a copy, and when you have sought it in libraries, you are told that someone else has it on extended loan. Still, you are free to seek love, to the best of your ability, or to wash your clothes in the machines that stand with their round doors temptingly open, or to buy something in one of the many shops in this area-a puppy perhaps. Pausing before a show window full of puppies, brown and black and mixtures, you notice that they are very appealing. If only you could have one that would stay a puppy, and not grow into a full-sized dog. Your attachments are measured. Not that you are indifferent by nature-you want nothing so much as a deep-going, fundamental involvement-but this does not seem to happen. Your attachments are measured; each seems to last exactly two years. Why is that? On the last lap of a particular liaison, you feel that it is time to go, as if you were a guest at a dinner party and the host's offer of another brandy had a peculiar falseness to it. Full of good will, you attempt to pretend that you do not feel this way, you attempt to keep the level of cheerfulness and hope approximately where it has always been, to keep alive a sense of "future." But no one is fooled. Optimistic plans are made, but within each plan is another plan, allowing for the possible absence of one of the planners. You eye the bed, the record-player, the pictures, already making lists of who will take what. What does this say about you-that you move from person to person, a tourist of the emotions? Is this meaning of failure? Perhaps it is too soon to decide. It has occurred to you that you, Daumier, may yet do something great. A real solid durable something, perhaps in the field of popular music, or light entertainment in general. These fields are not to be despised, although you are aware that many people look down on them. But perhaps a better-conceived attack might contain a shade less study. It is easy to be satisfied if you get out of things what inheres in them, but you must look closely, take nothing for granted, let nothing become routine. You must fight against the cocoon of habituation which covers everything, if you let it. There are always openings, if you can find them. There is always something to do.

A Sampling of
Critical Opinion

"He can maunder."
"Can't he maunder!"
"I have not heard maundering of this quality since-"
"He is maundering fool."

Celeste Motors
From One Sphere
to Another Sphere

"She has run away," said Mr. Hawkins.
"Clean as a whistle," said Mr. Bellows.
"Herd-consciousness is hard thing to learn," said Mr. Hawkins. "Some never learn it."
"Yes," said Mr. Bellows, "there's the difficulty, the iddyological. You can get quite properly banjaxed there, with the iddyological."


I was preparing a meal for Celeste-a meal of a certain elegance, as when arrivals or other rites of passage are to be celebrated.
First off there were Saltines of the very best quality and of a special crispness, squareness, and flatness, obtained at great personal sacrifice by making representations to the National Biscuit Company through its authorized nuncios in my vicinity. Upon these was spread with a hand lavish and not sitting Todd's Liver Pâté, the same having been robbed from geese and other famous animals and properly adulterated with cereals and other well-chosen extenders and the whole delicately spiced with calcium propionate to retard spoilage. Next there were rare cheese products from Wisconsin wrapped in gold foil in exquisite tints with interesting printings thereon, including some very artful representations of cows, the same being clearly in the best of health and good humor. Next there were dips of all kinds including clam, bacon with horseradish, onion soup with sour cream, and the like, which only my long acquaintance with some very high-up members of the Borden company allowed to grace my table. Next there were Fritos curved and golden to the number of 224 (approx.), or the full contents of the bursting 53c bag. Next there were Frozen Assorted Hors d'Oeuvres of a richness beyond description, these wrested away from an establishment catering only to the nobility, the higher clergy, and certain selected commoners generally agreed to be comers in their particular areas of commonality, calcium propionate added to retard spoilage. In addition there were Mixed Nuts assembled at great expense by the Planters concern from divers strange climes and hanging gardens, each nut delicately dusted with a salt that has no peer. Furthermore there were cough drops of the manufacture of the firm of Smith Fils, brown and savory and served in a bowl once the property of Brann the Iconoclast. Next there were young tender green olives into which ripe red pimentos had been cunningly thrust by underpaid Portuguese, real and true handwork every step of the way. In addition there were pearl onions meticulously separated from their nonstandard fellows by a machine that had caused the Board of Directors of the S&W concern endless sleepless nights and had passed its field trails just in time to contribute to the repast I am describing. Additionally there were gherkins whose just fame needs no further words from me. Following these appeared certain cream cheeses of Philadelphia origin wrapped in costly silver foil, the like of which a pasha could not have afforded in the dear dead days. Following were Mock Ortolans Manqués made of the very best soybean aggregate, the like of which could not be found on the most sophisticated tables of Paris, London and Rome. The whole washed down with generous amounts of Tab, a fiery liquor brewed under license by the Coca-Cola Company which will not divulge the age-old secret recipe no matter how one begs and pleads with them but yearly allows a small quantity to circulate to certain connoisseurs and bibbers whose credentials meet the very rigid requirements of the Cellarmaster. All of this stupendous feed being a mere scherzo before the announcement of the main theme, chilidogs.
"What is all this?" asked sweet Celeste, waving her hands in the air. "Where is the food?"
"You do not recognize a meal spiritually prepared," I said, hurt in the self-love.
"We will be very happy together," she said. "I cook."


I folded Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Bellows and wrapped them in tissue paper and put them carefully away in a drawer along with the king, the queen, and the cardinal. I was temporarily happy and content but knew that there would be a time when I would not be happy and content; at that time I could unwrap them and continue their pilgrimages. The two surrogates, the third-person Daumier and the second-person Daumier, were wrapped in tissue paper and placed in the drawer; the second-person Daumier especially will bear watching and someday when my soul is again sickly and full of sores I will take him out of the drawer and watch him. Now Celeste is making a daube and I will go into the kitchen and watch Celeste making the daube. She is placing strips of optional pork in the bottom of the pot. Amelia also places strips of optional pork in the bottom of a pot, when she makes a daube, but somehow- The self cannot be escaped, but it can be, with ingenuity and hard work, distracted. There are always openings, if you can find them, there is always something to do.

is from Sixty Stories. New York: Penguin, 1983.

Copyright (c) 1996-2004 The Estate of Donald Barthelme, reprinted with permission