First, here's the description from the book jacket:CLUMP is a man with no known name, no known past and, most importantly, no head. The huge, heavily muscled giant lacks any awareness of the world around him, but miraculously becomes the most popular entertainer in America. Clump's medical and media handlers must manage his skyrocketing career as a music video star and create a wholesome, family-friendly public image...while concealing the inconvenient fact that the headless man is homicidally dangerous when touched.
A so-called "splatire" owing to the mix of razor-sharp comedy and graphic violence, CLUMP's satiric targets include the entertainment industry, medicine, journalism, corporate greed and ineptitude, politics, and a morally vacuous culture that increasingly and enthusiastically embraces the brainless. Stylistically, CLUMP reads like a head-on collision between Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Chuck Palahniuk. It is not for the faint-hearted, the thin-skinned, or the unadventurous but is an all-you-can stomach buffet for those who like their comedy dark and their social commentary barbed.
But what there wasn't room for on the book jacket were some more general thoughts on the novel. For one thing, CLUMP is actually an odd "morality tale," clearly illustrating that bad choices can lead to bad things happening. Very bad things.
Also, I can't stress highly enough that CLUMP is funny. Of course, it's also horrifying, sporadically perverse, and grotesquely violent. Just like real life!
Because more than anything else, CLUMP is a commentary on where we are at today in this country - and the frightening direction we appear to be going.
EXCERPTS from CLUMP - An American Splatire
Rita Romero Gonzaga Gonzales had fabulous breasts. They were large, natural, mocha brown and not covered in blood yet.
“The lens is up here, Mr. Cheevers,” she said, prompting the man she was interviewing to lift his eyes.
Guillermo Cheevers, a former marine with a graying buzz cut, had been admiring the way the reporter's cleavage squeezed between her forearms when she held the small camcorder up to her face.
“Uh, sorry,” he grinned.
“Not a problem,” she replied. “Let's try it again from the top.”
She framed a head-and-shoulders shot which included the badge on Guillermo's uniform and, on the curved wall over his shoulder, a painting of George Washington. Nice.
“And here we go in 3, 2, 1,” she said. “Among those being honored in today's special ceremony is paramedic Guillermo Cheevers. How does that feel, Mr. Cheevers?”
“It feels like they've got the wrong guy,” Guillermo said. “I'm really not an important part of the story.”
No, thought Gonzales, you're not. But what she said was, “You're far too modest. You're here because of a life you saved five years ago. A very important life.”
“Who knew?” Guillermo chuckled.
“Excuse me,” called a dark-suited man standing near the door. His eyes were invisible behind sunglasses. “How much more time do you need here in the Oval Office?”
Gonzales lowered the camera.
“Three more interviews after this,” she replied. “Maybe a half-hour.”
“They'll be done in 30 minutes,” the man said to someone unseen through a tiny transceiver in his ear. “The President and first lady can join the honorees here at that time. Roger.”
The Secret Service agent turned his opaque gaze back to Gonzales.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said with finality, then folded his arms across his chest. The gun under his coat was still holstered. It wasn't out of bullets yet.
Gonzales lifted the camera to begin again.
“Eyes up,” she reminded.
“Hmm?” said Guillermo. “Sorry.”
“In 3, 2, 1,” she said. “Mr. Cheevers, you were there when this amazing story started, weren't you?”
“Yeah, but I had no idea how it would end up.”
“I'm sure you didn't,” Gonzales agreed. You still don't.
"Thinking back five years, what can you tell us about the fateful day you discovered the headless body?" she asked.
“I remember,” said Guillermo, “a vomiting cop.”
Guillermo Cheevers didn't take shit from anyone, including the police. He was proud to be a paramedic and didn't appreciate cops who treated him like a second-teamer because he was armed with bandages and defibrillators instead of ballsy toys like shotguns and tasers.
Which is why Guillermo loved ambulance runs which were nasty, smelly, moist and horrific enough to overwhelm even street-hardened police officers.
Guillermo flipped off his ambulance’s siren while squealing to a stop outside room 25 of the Stickett Motor Lodge, which the radio dispatchers universally called the “Stickett Inn.” It was a filthy excuse for a motel even by the low standards of inner-city Dallas, but it offered convenient access to the crack whores who lined the sidewalks.
Cops were milling around the motel room door, making small talk and trying to avoid the summer sun. But it was a blond cop on his knees, red-faced and dry-heaving over what looked to be his last four meals, that brought a wry smile to Guillermo's face.
“Party time,” he said.
“Lord Jesus, this do not look good!” moaned Guillermo's partner as she studied the scene through the windshield. “I'm gettin' me some bad electricals.”
Guillermo turned a cold eye toward Queen Raymonde Sirman, an obese young woman whose blackness was only intensified by the crisp whiteness of her paramedic's blouse.
“Let's get moving, Queenie,” Guillermo sighed.
“Queen Raymonde,” the woman fumed. “An I'm just sayin' I'm getting bad electricals, tha's all!”
Queen Raymonde believed fervently in the phone psychics she consulted at $3.95 a minute and believed even more fervently that she'd like to be on the receiving end of $3.95 a minute someday. To this end, she was continually trying to sharpen her latent psychic skills, although how this translated into reading the “electricals” of a situation, no one cared to ask.
Medkit in hand, Guillermo advanced on the motel room door. Queen Raymonde, struggling to keep up, sniffed the air and asked, “Somebody fryin' bacon?”
Hearing this, the vomiting cop emitted a deep, ripping “Gark!” and passed out in his own upchuck.
“He restin' good now,” Queen Raymonde assured the other officers. “Tha's a kindness.”
Inside room 25, Guillermo found the scene pleasingly extreme.
“Suicide by shotgun, we're thinking,” squeaked a queasy young police detective.
“Thanks, Sherlock,” Guillermo rumbled. “I think I'd have figured that out.”
The clues weren't exactly hard to add up. A nude, headless male body on the floor. A shotgun near the figure's right hand. And a still-dripping fresco of blood, bone, and brain matter arching across the walls and ceiling.
“Fuck me,” said Queen Raymonde, avoiding the drip zone.
Other than the body, there were two things in the room which intrigued Guillermo. One was a Sears Diehard battery sitting atop a bed pillow like a pampered toy poodle.
“What's with the battery?” Guillermo asked the squeaky detective.
“Not the victim's. The motel owner says it belongs to a whore who uses this room a lot. He lets her leave it here.”
“What the hell does a whore use a Sears Diehard for?” Guillermo asked.
“It's electrical!” hissed Queen Raymonde, giving Guillermo a “told you so” look.
“Look, it doesn't matter,” said the detective, tension making his voice even more shrill. “The owner claims he’s been at the front desk all day and never checked this man in. The room should’ve been locked and empty. People heard the shotgun, called 911, and now we've got dead guy duty.”
The mystery of the battery solved, Guillermo walked across the room to take a closer look at the other grimly fascinating item.
The upper half of the victim's head was sitting atop a cheap bedside lamp. Shaved scalp, open eyes and nose all peeped over the top of the lampshade.
“Killroy was here,” Guillermo said to no one in particular.
The lamp’s 100 watt bulb was doing its sizzling best to broil the mass of brains which were suspended above it. Congealing stalactites of gore cast shadows inside the shade.
“Does smell like bacon,” Guillermo admitted.
“I'll be outside if you need me,” called the squeaky detective.
Almost nose to nose with the partial face, Guillermo looked into the victim's eyes. They had gone to milk white, poached like eggs by the heat
of the bulb.
“Queenie, you ever see that old TV show—Kung Fu?”
“I'm workin' over here,” snapped Queen Raymonde as she admired the dead man's genitals.
“These white eyeballs—they're like the ones on the old blind guy who taught David Carradine how to fight. Snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper.”
“I think the old guy was like a Chinese priest or holy man or something. But with ass-kicking.”
Guillermo pulled away from the dead man's sightless gaze and returned to his partner near the body. Something about the scene didn't add up.
Queen Raymonde, kneeling, floated her fingers just above the body.
“I'm gettin' me some powerful electricals,” she said. “Not no little prickly-ass shit, neither.”
Guillermo scanned the room for the victim’s clothing or any other personal effects. Nothing.
“Do the electricals tell you why he was naked?”
“We all born into this world naked,” she pronounced, still wriggling her fingers. “Maybe he didn’t know if he comin’ or goin’.”
Guillermo ignored her. This still wasn't the loose end that was eluding him. He took a closer look at the body.
The man had been a giant. Well over six feet tall even without his head. The musculature was unbelievable; the victim was clearly some kind of monster bodybuilder. Not unusual for guys who've spent years in prison pumping iron, but the body had no jailhouse tattoos. No interesting marks, moles, scars or anything else.
“Think he was a brother?” Guillermo asked.
“Brother?” snapped Queen Raymonde. “Don't you be callin' black men brother! If you want to know if he African-American then you ask me if he be African-American!”
“Think he was African-American?” Guillermo asked.
“Can’t rightly say,” Queen Raymonde replied. “Maybe Halle Berry black. Could be Mexican. Could be Eye-talian or A-rab or one hell of a big Jew. Could be a white ass college boy with a good tan. Whoever he was, he had the goods to be a lady pleaser.”
She had a point there. From the neck down, the man was perfect. Above the neck was another story. Guillermo reached into his pocket and took out a small digital recorder to dictate notes.
“The subject was effectively decapitated by a shotgun blast. Blood spatter and mass trajectory suggests that the barrel of the gun was inside the subject's mouth. Virtually everything above the lower jaw is gone. The lower jaw, though attached, has been shattered by the blast and only a few teeth remain. The tongue is intact and shows surprisingly little damage. The esophagus is fully exposed and open.”
Guillermo knelt close to the body, examining the ragged stump of neck more closely.
“At the back of the neck there is a clump of bone and tissue. It appears to be the top of the spinal cord and brainstem. This clump has several square inches of flesh and cranial matter attached. The arterial spray...”
Oh shit! thought Guillermo, switching off the recorder. He stood to take in a wider view.
“Queenie, look at the carpet.”
“It's one ugly ass carpet,” she observed. “Pattern just screams Property of the Fuck Me Motel.”
“We shouldn't be seeing the pattern,” said Guillermo. “That's what's been bugging me but I couldn't put my finger on it. We should be standing in a pool of blood, but we're not. There's barely any blood on the floor at all.”
Queen Raymonde stood quickly and stepped back from the body.
“That ain't right,” she agreed. “Lord, I'm gettin' the bad electricals again!”
Guillermo hurried out the motel room's open door and grabbed the squeaky detective.
“We need more investigators NOW,” barked Guillermo. “There's not enough blood on the floor for the shooting to have happened here!”
“But that doesn’t make sense!” stammered the detective, “People heard the shot come from this room! There's brains all over the place! There's most of a head on a lamp! Whatever happened, happened right here!”
“Then where's the blood from the body?” snapped Guillermo.
“Couldn't it still be inside the body?” the detective asked.
Further argument was cut off by screams from the interior of the room and a rhythmic thumping sound.
“JESUS JESUS JESUS!” shrieked Queen Raymonde as she bolted out the door, tripped over the officer who was passed out in his vomit, and somersaulted headfirst into the ambulance's front bumper.
Guillermo rushed into the motel room. The body was gone.
No, wait. It wasn't gone.
It was standing woozily in a corner, punching the wall.