In early 2013, prior to its rapid descent in to increasingly inane lists and Reddit reposts, Thought Catalog ran an article titled 'Sam Pink, Great American Novelist' by the reliably entertaining Pop Serial editor Stephen Tully Dierks. The title might be kind of grandiose but – on-point as usual – Dierks made his case by highlighting Pink's sense of humour, a major selling point of his work. That humour is thankfully still very much in evidence in Pink's newest novel, Witch Piss, and in testament to this we present this extract. Pink sets a typically, well, "Pinkian" scene – a party with blokes in wigs, speech impediments and someone dressed as Spider-Man – and transforms the outrageous with a kind of shimmering mundaneness into something more implausibly entertaining than the sum of its parts would suggest.
DANNY, DUKE, SPIDER-MAN, AND EVERYONE ELSE AT THE WIG PARTY
an excerpt from Witch Piss
Next time I walked by the doorway there were a bunch of guys there, and also a dog lying on the sidewalk.
Everyone except the dog was wearing a wig.
They all introduced themselves, starting with the guy who lived in the doorway, who said, “Eyyyy, you remember me, right? I’m Danny.”
But he’d never told me his name.
So it was Danny, Troy, who just stood up and walked away drunk, Spider-Man, Too Tall, and another guy sitting in the doorway holding a leash on Duke (the dog).
Listening to the radio and wearing wigs.
“What’s good, man?” I said, slapping hands with Danny.
He had a blanket over his legs, drinking fruit-flavored malt liquor.
“Shit, just drinking,” he said. “Lissnina Sox game.”
The thox game.
Said they’d been celebrating earlier for some other guy’s birthday.
Which meant he had more friends than me.
And a better social life.
And more wigs.
This one guy—Spider-Man—he tapped my arm and touched his blue-tinsel wig.
He laughed, raspy.
“Ey, aren’t ch’gon ask about my beautiful hair?” he said. Then, a little quietly, he said, “Y’gotta be kiddin me”—giving me a look that meant “Y’gotta be kiddin me.”
“Yeah, what is this shit?” I said, touching his wig.
Danny laughed, ashing his crooked handrolled cigarette.
He was wearing a black-haired wig sideways, bangs on one side and long curls on the other—his toothless smile and gray-stubbled cheeks laughing beneath.
He said, “Somebody left me a bag with some sweaters and some wigs in it this morning.”
“Somebody left you wigs?” I said.
“Yeah, thith morning,” he said.
He laughed, tongue through his missing front teeth.
Everyone else laughed.
Spider-Man yelled, “Wig time! Wha’s really goin on? Woo!”
Duke stretched his legs out on the sidewalk and licked his lips.
I wanted to grab Duke by the cheeks and kiss the top of his head, holding my lips against his head for a little while, going, ‘mmmm’ then ‘whaa!’ when I finally released the kiss.
Duke, who loves ya!!!
“I gave everyone a beer—except Danny, who wouldn’t drink anything except his watermelon-flavored malt-liquor"
“What do you guys want from the store?” I said. “I’m going.”
Everyone said yeah, and get this, get that.
“I’m just getting a case of beer,” I said. “What about Duke. Does he need anything?”
Spider-Man yelled, “DUUUUUUKE!”
Duke lifted his head off the sidewalk, licking his lips.
The owner barely had his eyes open, rubbing his face.
He took off his wig and set it on Duke’s head but it slid off immediately.
“Nah Duke’s good,” he said. “He just sleepy from walking around all day.”
“No, I’ll get him something,” I said. “What does he need?”
“Ok. Some treats, I guess.”
“Yeah,” I said, nodding.
Yeah, fuck yeah.
Everybody needs treats.
I went to the 7/11 and got a thirty pack of beer and some dog treats.
The dog treats were designed to look and taste like bacon.
The package had a crazy-looking cartoon dog on the front, its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth, eyes sticking out.
Duke, are you even ready for this shit?
Back at Danny’s, I gave everyone a beer—except Danny, who wouldn’t drink anything except his watermelon-flavored malt-liquor.
I gave Spider-Man a beer.
“Hayo yeah,” he said. “Thanks, du.” He opened the beer and took a pull. “Mmm! Spicy! Ey so I went and saw [recently released comic book superhero movie] again. Maaaaaan, gah be kiddin me, woo! Fuckin amazing. Fuckin bananas.”
He talked about the movie, which everyone but me had seen.
Most of them had seen newly-released movies at least once.
They celebrated birthdays, had get-togethers, saw movies, owned pets/wigs.
The burning jealousy.
“Luh that movie,” said the guy standing next to me.
Too Tall was wearing a wig of like, silver/old-lady hair.
He had on a huge t-shirt and corduroy pants and Velcro shoes.
He was only a little taller than me and everyone else there, with a big stomach.
He’d just been standing with his hands and back against the building, humming to himself.
I handed him a beer.
“Man, shoot,” he said, smiling. “Thanks enough, jo.”
He opened the beer and finished it in two pulls.
Spider-Man did little dances for people who passed by on the sidewalk, letting his long tinsel wig flip around in front of his face and mumbling, “Y’gah be kiddin me.”
Too Tall gestured at Spider-Man with his can and said, “Ey, that man, shoot, he a great artist. F’I had some money, I mean, when I get my break, I’ma support him. Because what he do, he great.”
Too Tall put his can on the ground and stomped it, catching the gray wig before it fell off his head.
I put the crushed can into a plastic bag with a few others.
Too Tall said, “Yeah, man. Shoot. He get hisself some paper, he draw anyone that passes. Tell you.”
“Gah be kiddin me,” said Spider-Man, stopping his dance.
He raised his eyebrows up and down, smiling.
He mimed shooting a basketball, jumping backwards, wig waving.
His clothes—if washed—were nicer than mine.
Plus he had a good attitude and his jumpshot looked better.
Overall, I liked him more than me.
Too Tall said, “He see yo face one time,”—splayed his hand over his own face—“an he draw you exactly perfect.” Shrugging. “He do.”
Spider-Man lit a handrolled cigarette and told me about some comic book characters he’d created.
“Oh, I got heroes, gah be kiddin me.” He held one wrist with the other hand and said, “Ice Man.” He was staring straight forward dramatically. He pointed his hand forward, still holding it by the wrist. “Shing shing. Gotta be kiddin me. Got ice powers. Shing shing. Boosh.”
He did really good sound effects.
Over 75% of what he was saying was just sound effects.
Doing moves on the sidewalk and shooting ice at imaginary enemies, his wig waving.
He held out one hand in front of his face and made a fist then jumped and turned in the air and went, “Shing shing.”
“Some people got sport skills, they do hole-in-ones,” Too Tall said, as we both watched Spider-Man perform fight maneuvers on the sidewalk. “Some people smart, they do algebra. But this du, he a artist. He amazin. Tellin you. When I get some money.”
Spider-Man said, “Dahhhh. Wha’s really goin on?"
Then he gave a brief storyline of one of his characters, which he told with a lot of sound effects.
It involved a dead father and something with ice.
There were other storylines too.
Most of them involved a dead father/wife.
“Spider-Man moved strands of the sparkling wig away from his face. ‘Gotta be kiddin me, my beautiful hair. Dahhhhhh’"
Something with ice.
He posed as the characters while narrating.
At one point he got annoyed when he thought people weren’t listening.
From the doorway, Danny yelled, “Then just tell the fuckin story then, the quick version. Come on.”
Spider-Man continued to talk about the comic book characters he’d created.
He posed as the fighters and did their moves, pausing for people who walked by, bowing to them as they passed.
He jumped back into fighting position and said, “Shing-shing,”—shooting some ice at me.
I dodged as best I could, drinking my beer.
Spider-Man moved strands of the sparkling wig away from his face. “Gotta be kiddin me, my beautiful hair. Dahhhhhh.”
This guy ‘Face’ walked up.
Everybody said hi to him.
He was Spider-Man’s friend.
He wore a Sox hat to the left a little, braids coming out beneath it.
There was a long scar on his cheek/jaw.
“Whattup, cous,” he said, hitting fists with me when I handed him a beer.
More and more people were passing on the sidewalk.
The bars were closing.
Face said he had to go soon to clean up afterhours at a nearby bar called the Two Door.
This professional/jock type guy walked up and started talking to Duke’s owner.
They knew each other.
The jock guy handed him his cellphone.
Duke’s owner took out his cellphone and held both phones next to each other, transferring a number.
He sat there moving his head back and forth between both phones, dialing with his burnt fingertips.
“Wha’d you want again?” he said, squinting up at the jock guy.
“Some weed, shit, some coke, whatever,” he said. “We can all blow a line right here, I don’t give a fuck.”
He looked at me for a second and then looked back down at the dog-owner guy.
“Nothing,” said the dog-owner guy. “Should I try again, er?”
The jock guy grabbed his phone and walked off.
His sandals slapped against the sidewalk.
I ran across the street and pissed in an alley.
When I came back there was an argument between Danny and Spider-Man about who could ask for money where.
Friends or no friends.
Danny kept telling Spider-Man to fuck off because he was asking for money by his spot.
Spider-Man kept telling Danny to relax.
An ad on Danny’s radio mentioned the Somethingth Anniversary of 9/11.
Everyone talked about how they would have attacked the terrorists if they were on those planes.
Danny said, “Man, fuck it, you know. Wha’d they have? Fuckin box cutters? A fucking box cutter? Helllllllll”—tongue through his missing teeth—“lll no. I mean, yeah, you cut me once, sure. But then I fuckin kill your ass, haha. Fuckin stomp your face in, bitch.”
Too Tall took off his wig and rubbed his head. “Mm-hm. Can’t stop me with jussa box cutter.”
Face put his cigarette in his mouth and held both his fists clenched down at his sides, squinting around the smoke. “Bitch-ass motherfuckers, come on,” he said, acting like he wanted to fight Spider-Man.
Spider-Man said, “Gah be kiddin me, come on.” He walked over to a parking meter and fought it. “Boosh boosh. Pwah. Shing.”
“They will melt in his mouth and travel down into him, out into his limbs and joints, yelling, ‘Ey, arthritis, fuckatta here! Told you!’"
He told a dramatic story about 9/11, how on the plane the passengers downed, this guy called up his wife and said goodbye before helping to attack the terrorists.
Spider-Man kept dramatically reciting one part, posing as the guy and his wife.
“‘Baby, baby no, I have to go,’ he says to his girl. And his girl, she say, ‘Baby please no.’ But he says, ‘Baby I love you—I have to go.’”
I kept thinking about some of his comic book characters.
Wanted to be able to think of something flawed about their storyline/superpower, that way I could hurt his feelings.
But I couldn’t think of anything.
His characters were too good.
Too damn good!
Spider-Man stopped the 9/11 story, yelling, “Stop, come on, gah be kiddin me” as Danny pretended to shoot ice at him.
“Shing shing that, motherfucker,” Danny said.
He laughed and grabbed the tallboy can of watermelon-flavored malt liquor near his feet.
“Shing, shing,” Face said, shooting ice at Spider-Man.
Everyone was laughing.
Spider-Man walked off, pissed, gone.
“Good,” Danny said. “Fuck that whiner.”
Everyone else agreed.
And it became clear to me they weren’t all friends.
And that nobody was ever friends.
And that yes, fuck that whiner.
We finished up the case of beer.
Duke stretched a little, started to get up.
It took Duke a long time to get up, and when he did, he walked bow-legged and limp.
The owner took him over to a nearby square of dirt where there’d been a tree.
“He got arthritis,” said the owner, watching Duke spray dark piss into the dirt and over the sidewalk.
Will the treats help?
Shit, I hope they help.
They will cure him!
They will melt in his mouth and travel down into him, out into his limbs and joints, yelling, “Ey, arthritis, fuckatta here! Told you!”
And Duke will vomit out the defeated arthritis as a green mist, or whatever, and be healthy again.
Healthy and strong Duke.
Large enough to drown Chicago in his dark piss.
Duke, I love you, enjoy the treats, have a nice night.
I put the plastic bag full of crushed cans into the empty beer case and said bye to everyone and threw the empty beers into a dumpster and went home and slept and I didn’t have any dreams.