The Doors of Perception
1 - A man walked into a bar
There was a razor blade on the bar. The owner of the bar was leaning on his elbows, fingering a slippery and wrinkled nub, with a quizzical expression on his slippery and wrinkled face.
‘What the hell is that?’ said Bullock, leaning in to see for himself.
Swearengen glanced up with smeary eyes.
‘Pay-Oat’ said Swearengen, laying the item on the wooden bar, and picking up the razor.
‘What the fuck is pay-oat?’
Swearengen drew the razor’s edge with care across the cactus button. The new cut surfaces smelled like earth.
‘To the dirt worshippers, a most holy sacrament, or so I am informed.’
Swearengen gestured vaguely down the bar with the razor, without looking. Bullock and the sulky-faced bartender turned their heads to follow the movement of the blade, taking in the bare pine scattered with unwashed shot glasses like daisies in a meadow.
Swearengen followed their gazes and frowned.
‘He was sitting there a moment past, and gave me this in payment for the hard liquor he consumed, in lieu of getting his fucking throat cut. Strange lookin’ fella, remind me of my brother.’
He raised one piece of the dried and cut peyote to his nose, sniffed, and recoiled slightly.
‘Don’t seem like much of a payment to me, Al,’ said the barkeep. It was his razor, and he looked at it longingly. Swearengen slid it back to him and stood up straight with the tips of his fingers resting lightly on the bar.
‘For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern,’ said Swearengen. ‘As dope to the celestials - speaking as we were of chinks - as dope to the celestials and as whisky to the hoople-heads, so is this a consolation to those who feel themselves at times to be enclosed in a prison of fucking skull and brain. Or so I am brought to believe.’
The barkeep shook his head and mopped the bar.
‘I’m not interested in dope,’ said Bullock, and licked his lips, almost imperceptibly.
‘Yeah, we know,’ said Al, ‘We know where your better interests lie, because both your words and your actions reveal them to us at every juncture. In any case, I wasn’t offering you the option.’
‘You cut it into two pieces as soon as I came in here,’ said Bullock.
Swearengen poured him a shot and Bullock tipped it down his throat. Silence fell between them, and for a moment they both contemplated the split peyote button.
‘I am told ingestion compels an apprehension of the world direct, not as it appears to an animal obsessed with survival nor to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as it really is,’ said Swearengen, passing one of the pieces of cactus to Bullock. ‘Should there be such a thing.’
‘You sound like you’re speaking somebody else’s words,’ replied the Sheriff. Like Al he raised a piece of peyote button to his nose, gingerly. He licked his lips again and didn’t replace it on the bar.
‘I don’t know what’s gotten into me,’ said Al. ‘Now, will you join me in the bath house, where we can explore these matters in greater detail, and to our mutual satisfaction, or are you going to stand here all day suppressing the passing trade in pussy and liquor? Do not concern yourself that I might be seeking the opportunity to fuck you in the ass, not least because of my enthusiasm for continuing to fucking exist.’
‘An animal obsessed with survival,’ said Bullock.
‘And don’t you fucking forget it.’