Pillow and Tom

Excerpt from “The Cheerful Scapegoat” by Wayne Koestenbaum

Pillow and Tom

Into the land of grapes we went with a pillow and with Tom; but Tom was a hairy top, or that is how he advertised himself, and grapes would not compensate him for the pillow’s forfei- tures. Please explain what you mean by forfeitures. Tom would not explain, and the pillow (which resembled a deflated dumpling) could not explain. Because Tom escorted me on all my travels, the pillow occupied the role of “odd man out,” though the pillow was not a man and was not odd. The pillow blessedly hewed to convention.

This pillow in particular was silver on the outside and lime on the inside. As Tom’s assailant, I had no complaint to make about the pillow. And yet the pillow, unlike a condom, couldn’t protect me against Tom’s syphilis; nor could the pillow declare a truce in my battle against the hegemony of grapes. Many were the cottages wherein Tom plied his “top” wares, and he had come to the land of grapes (under my hostile wing) to distribute his “top” mentality as widely as possible around a country saddened by its own distance from the euro and from Oz. Tom, as “top,” partook of Oz—and so perhaps he would unify the grapes? Would Tom make the many grapes—the too many grapes—one woe?

All of us—in the whore contingent traveling between grapes and Thee—occupied the position of that silver pillow, a pillow I falsely promised you would be the center of this tale. I meant to honor the pillow as a friend but have instead dese- crated it—as if it were an urn I’d never kissed, a pillow-urn I’d never allowed to smother me. Every pillow wishes to smother the speaker who leads it into the realm of grapes, and Tom is not less hairy or mercantile because of my failure.

Excerpted from The Cheerful Scapegoat by Wayne Koestenbaum. Copyright © 2021 by Wayne Koestenbaum. Excerpted by permission of Semiotext(e). All rights reserved.