Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices


by Daniel Levchin

The man with no neck glided along the avenue in a most resentful manner. Showing itself left and right, his ecstasy echoed somehow in his distorted features. Both his earlobes were ready to burst with blood, and the hysterical smile was unique in its class of disgust. He even repeated something to himself. If you listened closely to him you'd hear a whisper "I have no neck, I have no neck..," like this revelation has just solved all of his problems, truly opened his eyes, and answered everything with ease. And now he's simply afraid to lose this crucial sentence so he decided to memorize by heart. The first one to hear the secret knowledge this morning was someone Latki, unintentionally passing the neckless fellow, on his way to some respectable agency where he, Latki, no doubt, held a high and respectable position. "...No neck...," Latki mindlessly ran through his head. This, however, could not pass through one's head just like that no matter how liberal he or she was. The words, however struggling, spread their dangerous branches and successfully scratched the plastic sphere which protected Mr. Latki's brain. This, I think, excited the aforementioned very much, for prior to this incident he, most certainly, considered his safeguard impermeable. "No neck," he repeated almost aloud and his mindless expression changed significantly as the phrase made it to the reasoning center of
Mr. Latki's head. He stopped, the neckless invalid already taking a number of steps ahead totally preoccupied with his own little adventure.
Latki, at this point, stands and utters a statement. Not so profound, and not very original either, however, very fitting.
"No neck!" comes out of his mouth.
These words, so dear to heart, were not missed by the original hero and he stopped, then turned to face his challenger. I thought - now this fatty's gonna get it. But the neckless man was too engrossed in his self-admiration to be bothered by the fact that someone was trying to steal his truth. On the contrary, he even tried to spread this affliction unto others, Latki having already completed a successful 180 degree turn. "I have no neck," the wretch grimaced, his smile growing even bigger ( if possible ).
Wait. It must be noted here that Mr. Latki has turned around rather ridiculously. Must be noted simply for the sake of good humor. You see, Latki, rather a man of girth, turned his body with the help of what seemed to be simple laws of momentum. Standing there, his back facing the idiot, he swung his upper body, causing it to complete a proper semicircle, to the left. And, as momentum would have it, with no further effort, his legs and such followed after a short hesitation. It was very funny.
"I have no neck," added the neckman, and groaned. This groan could have attributed to the fact that he had no neck causing his vocal chords to do all types of crazy things. But, in fact, wretchedly enough, the invalid groaned out of pure, "innocent," joy.
By then, Mr. Latki, completely unbiased for this type of thing, has succeeded in passing a precise judgment on the "man" before him and the situation as a whole. "No...neckk..," he muttered with a bit of a smile. This seemed to be genuine excitement mixed with healthy curiosity. Now Mr. Latki entered his routine smoothly. He raised both his eyebrows just a bit, a condescending smile made itself known. He held that for a moment. Then squinted his left eye slightly and began:
"No neckk... no neckk," he simply wanted to restate the fact, to make clear, exactly what the whole story is about. "You, in no way possible, believe that you're any better than us, do you, sir?" He knew how to keep people in line.
I, for one, was really curious as to who he meant by "us", but my curiosity was satisfied shortly, for before the neckless wretch could defend himself, the "us" was completed in a form of an aged housewife with her woven basket and a wig a bit askew. She appeared somewhere from behind, as if waiting there for her cue all along, and now that her time has come she grabbed the spotlight with both hands.
"I... am outraged!" she began her monologue puffing. "You, young man, should be ashamed of yourself." She had to have read that one in a book. "I am a senior citizen," that's what they are called now, "my husband was a respectable businessman. I have never seen such lack of taste and tact in all my 53 years!" She muffled the 53 mainly because she looked all 65, and probably was. She said something else, but the idiot's attention was diverted to a young couple walking by. The girl, very young and pretty held hands with a handsome, muscular guy with great hair. Upon seeing the cause of the gathering, namely the lack of neck, the girl smiled, then blushed immediately, embarrassed, turning her head away and burying her face in her boyfriend shoulder. The latter just showed the wretch a fist with his free hand. The couple didn't even slow down during the whole encounter and soon were gone around the corner. The necker turned his head ( nevermind how ) back to the old woman. She was almost done. Not having been able to find a single solid reason why this missing neck business disturbed her and the well-being of this society so, she has exhausted her vocabulary of outrage and now simply steamed, that being a very effective sign of contempt, as I understand. While she steamed like this, two little kids materialized on both of her sides, and she immediately stopped, as if the steaming blew her up into three and now, relieved, she rested. The kids, however, had just begun. First of all, they were the nastiest sort of children. All children are simply appalling, but these were the cream of the crop. They were fat and badly dressed; their red faces, missing teeth... it was simply horrible. They danced around the poor invalid pulling their heads close to their chests and hunching their shoulders depicting, in their own twisted way, what they perceived before them. Turning to each other, they compared their impressions and were satisfied, laughing at each other and pointing.
Here the handicapped man decided to defend himself; about time, I said. He thought he'd start with the basic premise.
"No neck," he kind of muttered. To almost no one's surprise that brought on a roar of laughter from the crowd of spectators, which now included two plump young women. Apparently they belonged to the children and have come to fetch their young to lunch, but stayed, unable to resist. They were blushing and hardly able to abstain from bursting into their fists. To their credit, they did try to dissuade their repulsive children from their present occupation. By now, they, as children usually do, have forgotten about their original source of entertainment and were now simply dancing around together in the most abominable way. They threw their legs up in the air and their large heads wobbled to and fro. Another man has joined the crowd by now, he looked very familiar. But I had no time to look at him, I was concentrating on the crowd as a whole, I was examining them thoroughly.
They were all pretty ugly, loathsome creatures, asymmetrical and such. Something united them as a whole, and that, in my opinion, was their look of weariness. Let me explain here: their face, all alike, reflected that condition of being around each other far too long. Even the children. They were so adjusted to their everyday lives and their everyday normality and each other. They were all the same face, too used to seeing the same sort of thing day after day. They were dull... Anyway, here I let my own personal reflections invade the narrative.
So the crowd seemed to be increasing as in a geometrical progression, this was really more than an honest invalid could handle. He slowly, with dignity, made his way through them, and they, for some reason, insisted on slapping him on the shoulders and back, like making peace with him, thanking him for the entertainment. One man even said "Good chap." And the children were still dancing, I think.
The neckless man appeared broken, and he truly was. A number of people followed him for a little while, but then one of the children fell down and broke his lower jaw. That was the last I saw.


I said that the neckless man appeared broken, and he truly was. However, the most brilliant idea occurred to him, and he quickly got dressed and headed for the newly erected shopping mall, pride of the community, so to speak. There, without much trouble, he purchased for himself a beautiful neck, a replica of the one owned by a famous painter Raphael. The latter had quite an exquisite, long neck, which he was very keen on decorating at Christmas time, although himself a Jew.
Now, full of life and hopes, with his new neck, our hero had thrust himself into the flow of today.
Walking along the avenue he no longer said anything to himself and kept his disgusting mug rather solemn. It still looked fairly ugly, but as ugly as the next guy's and that was okay. He didn't meet Mr. Latki and was disappointed, he really wanted to see his reaction, or maybe even hoped for a word of approval. Soon, though, the no longer afflicted, was overcome by a gang of yuppies on the way to their yuppie jobs. Having a nice respectable neck, like the rest of them, he slowly blended into their midst, not even realizing it, or maybe even realizing.
Mr. Latki, sick that day, from his balcony spotted a group of young urban professionals and smiled at heart. Even I couldn't tell the necksican apart anymore.
The tale is about to end. I must interject here and say something. The contents of this story are not entirely truthful. You cannot simply purchase a neck in a shopping mall, that is preposterous. Moreover, it is also impossible to live or talk without a neck. So, you see, I've always had my neck and none of this about me has been true. Although, the more I think about it, a similar story did happen to a friend of mine, but that had to do with an old, crippled lady he used to keep around for no reason at all.


Our hero proceeded down the sunlit avenue along with the well-dressed youngsters. They talked a lot and aloud, and made a couple of turns. At the corner of Allenby and 35th someone saw him, but at the Trumpledor and Frischman no one saw him at all.

The End