R.Scott Bakker: Disciple of the dog

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R.Scott Bakker Disciple of the dog
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R.Scott Bakker

Disciple of the dog


My father always claimed I had an attitude problem. “You’re too dismissive,” he once told me. “Too quick to judge. Life is bigger than you know, you know.”

To which I replied, “C’mon, Dad. That’s just stupid talk.”

That was June 13, 1981. A good day.

For some mysterious reason, maybe genetic, maybe environmental, maybe some combination of the two, I am doubtful and irreverent through and through. Show me a picture of your newborn baby and I’ll ask you if you’re holding it upside down. Tell me you’ve won the lottery and I’ll give you the number of my coke dealer. Show me a flag and I see kinky sheets on a hooker’s bed. I never commit, not to the big things, and certainly not to the little. It’s not that I’m evil or anything, it’s just that, no matter how hard I try, I never think what I should. Where everyone sees a Merge sign, I read Detour.

A true-blue individual-that’s what I am.

You would think that would make me popular, you know, home of the brave, land of the free, all that crap. But such is not the case, alas. Truth is, the only kind of individualism Americans believe in is the one that numbs the sting of name tags, or that makes a trip to the mall an exercise in self-creation. The consumer kind.

The false kind.

And who knows? Maybe that’s the way it should be.

Ignore the Merge sign long enough, and sooner or later somebody gets killed. I’m what you would call a cynic.

This isn’t to be confused with a skeptic. Skeptics don’t believe in anything because they care too much. For them the dignity of truth is perpetually beyond the slovenly reach of humankind. We’re just not qualified.

A cynic, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in anything because he doesn’t care enough. I mean, really, who gives a fuck?


My name is Disciple Manning. A stupid name, I know-pretty much what you would expect from stupid-talking parents. When people ask me my name, I simply say Diss, Diss Manning. When they make funny with their faces, I lie and tell them I was named after my father, Datt Manning. I usually get a laugh out of dat. If I don’t, if I still get the funny stuff, you know, the What-fucking-planet-are-you-from look, then I hit them, hard-unless they happen to be a cop, in which case I just keep kissing ass.

The one thing you need to remember about me is that I don’t forget.



According to the doctors, it’s driving me crazy. And this is why I find myself sitting down and writing. My latest therapist thinks my problem isn’t what I remember so much as how. She’s a big believer in the power of stories. She thinks hammering my more toxic memories into narrative form will give them some kind of psychologically redemptive meaning.

Sounds foofy, I know. I’ve always thought writing is just what happens when we pursue our genius for justifying our scams for its own sake. But she’s cute, and there’s a wisdom you get after botching as many suicide attempts as I have. Putting pen to paper just doesn’t seem that big a deal after putting knife to skin.

Nothing does, really. Strange knowledge, that.

Otherwise, I’m like pretty much everyone else. I used to have all these grandiose goals and ambitions, an abiding conviction that I was the master of my own destiny, blah-blah-blah. But life just kept happening, you know? And the ad hoc decisions piled up and up and up, until I found myself stranded on a mountain not of my own making. You see, it’s convenience that drives the species, not in any grand sense but in the most squalid way you could possibly imagine. Say your wife starts coming home late on a regular basis, and you get this kind of queasy feeling in your gut, like on some parallel plane of existence you just stepped off the Tilt-A-Whirl. So what do you do? Say nothing. Follow the ruts. Keep your eyes on the habituated prize. Only ten years to go on the mortgage!

It’s these kinds of decisions that define who we are, by and large. The small kind. The lazy kind.

And then one day you wake up, and the distance between your youthful hope and your middle-aged actuality yawns like a tiger on the wrong side of the cage. What happened? you ask yourself, but you know. It’s written into the meat of you, all those little concessions to your weaker nature.

Trust me, dude, I know. I spy on you. I see you all the time. Gambling away your wife’s savings, giving a hand job to your husband’s best friend. I’m the guy who hands the envelope to your spouse so that he or she can give it to the divorce lawyer, or even worse, confront you with it. I’m the archivist of your lesser self-you know, the side of you that calls the shots between official engagements. I’m the bastard who makes your secrets real. Disciple Manning, the sole proprietor of Manning Investigations, based out of Newark, New Jersey.

That’s right. I’m a private detective. A dick. The part-time security guard of the investigative world.

A real winner. Track Two


Monday… When Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour first came to my office, I assumed it would be yet one more missing kid gig, and I was right. When a couple comes in together, it generally has something to do with either a parent or a kid-usually the latter, but you would be surprised at how many grandmas go off the rails gambling, and how many grandpas climb on the rails-the snorting kind. Especially these days.

My agency lies on one of those streets where ratty sidewalk frontages from the twenties alternate with strip malls set behind lines of anemic trees. The kind of place where mom grips junior’s hand a little extra tight. Pawnshops. Cut-rate pedicures and hairdressing. A bar that booms on welfare cheque day, and another bar that somehow ekes by on nothing at all-just lingers. Same-day loans. The world’s most grungy IHOP.

All that’s missing is a methadone clinic.

My kingdom consists of a narrow, thousand-square-foot retail slot strategically situated between a souvlaki stand and a porn shop-so when the air doesn’t reek of charred lamb, it smells like cheap lubricants. My office lies at the back, next to the all-important copy-slash-smoking room. I have my desk positioned so that I can either pretend nobody’s home or, with a simple crane of my neck, glimpse anyone unfortunate enough to wander in. This is precisely what I did when I heard the cowbell on my entrance cough and clunk-apparently it has a crack in it-at precisely 11:48 A.M. on Monday.

I first glimpsed the Bonjours standing side by side before my secretary, Kimberley, in the reception area, which I have shrewdly decorated with water stains and a chipped plaster ceiling. Jonathan Bonjour was heavy- set. I would have thought of him as fat, but I have this mindset where I begin flattering people mentally the instant they walk in the door. The well-practised lie always comes off the best. I knew instantly that he was a lawyer simply because his suit fit. Since no two people pack on weight the same way, it’s pretty much impossible for fat guys to find suits that fit off the rack.

Mrs. Bonjour-Amanda-was overweight as well, but in that healthy, pear-shaped way that seems to drive death row inmates crazy. The curls of her hair shimmered violet on black in the light panning through my office’s front window, and her lips were pert and poppy red, what you might expect to find on an Alabama stenographer rather than a New Jersey lawyer’s wife. Her skin was real pale. Side by side, the two of them fairly shouted good genes and easy living-a testament to the American Dream.

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