The King of Scotland called me again today. He called from the loft where he paints. His voice was filled to the breaking with paint fumes and dissolution.


“Johnny. The producer called again today. He needs the treatment soon.”


The vein at my temple begins to throb. How to break down thirty-eight pages of cramped prose, a twenty-foot long scroll of his geneology from some kilt wearing laird, a thousand years dead, and condense five rambling books into two pages, single spaced, about his direct decent from an uncrucified Christ and the Magdelene?


It makes me want to spit up blood. Honest blood; blood untouched by this grail madness.


He slouches toward me over the telephone lines.


“We have to strike now while that Da Vinci Code’s still hot, buddy.” His voice is carbon grit in cooking oil, or raw peat whisky on strep throat. He keeps talking.


“It’s not for me you see.”


I shake my head though he can’t see it.


“It’s a continuum, from my ancestors, a clarity of purpose, a vision.” I feel my stomach rise. I have never been able to take madness this close. The phone is pressed against my ear and it is an intimacy I can’t bear. He thinks it is passion. He thinks he knows. He is speaking of Da Vinci and Isaac Newton. It’s the same rambling stuff he always throws from that place inside of him; that place you can almost see pressing against his rib cage. It has a feel, very much like serpents coiling in a mating ball. Lashing, writhing, chthonic, evil.


I can picture his face as it was the last time I saw him. Angry words passed between us. His Christianity is heretical but no less fanatical for all of that.


He roared at me when I declared myself atheist.


His cheeks; red under a scattering of black stubble, his face ; crumpling in upon itself, squirming, pulling itself apart; brow from bone, eye from socket, jaw from cheek-when he paused to swallow he looked like a great florid frog, eyes bulging, face sucking his cheeks in. He insults me by telling me that I believe. He insults me by telling me that I believe in something-He cannot tell me what it is-but I must believe in it.


Masonic numbers come from his mouth like John Dee casting a spell. He conjures a nautilus shell with his words, then the image of a bloody templar with his stance. I am immune to it all, save my love for his son, my sister’s child, so I listen closely. I listen silently, though I want to split his face with my hand.


I offer this narrow, small, fragile king what help I can, we’ll meet on the weekend to talk more. I can push it that far away.


He hangs the phone and I know that he turns back to his canvases, the mind of a king always moving. I replace the receiver in the cradle and go to wash my hands. I go to wash my hands and to drink something sweet to wash the taste of the bile down.