Jesse Bullington – Good morning, and thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Hegel: [Mutters something incomprehensible to Manfried]
Manfried: [Mutters back. This goes on for some time, until:] Uh huh. Mornin.
Hegel: Sure. Good mornin. What’s this?
Boomtron, upon whose behalf I’m conducting this interview, was hoping to gain some insight into the novel I wrote—
Hegel: So he’s the one.
Manfried: Thought he looked shifty.
Hegel: Where’s our royalties, boy?
Manfried: Look at’em squirm. Didn’t think we knew bout them nobles’ words, did you? Own up, and quick.
This…this isn’t really the time, and besides, plenty of books are written where the subject is not compensated and—
Manfried: Unauthorized is what you’s talkin bout. Lies, in other words.
Hegel: Thought a smooth-chin like you’d be keen to get validation from your betters.
So you’ve read it?
Hegel: Is he takin the piss?
Manfried: Are you takin the piss?
Hegel: We’s waitin on hearin it audio-like. Recounted. Maybe get John Hurt to read it, he’s an honest enough sort. Or John Goodman, him too.
Manfried: Bide, brother. At a glance I can tell by his fidgetin this book ain’t nuthin but lies, so he can count on gettin somethin other than an official endorsement.
Hegel: A beatin.
Manfried: A lawsuit and a beatin.
Right. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so if we could just run through some quick questions and return to all this later I would very much—
Manfried: [yawns] Ask away, ponce. Only one door outta here, so reckon on entertainin some questions a ours afore this is through.
Hegel: Could I get some more a this, ah, khave? Coffee? Black stuff.
[Refills Hegel’s mug] First off, what are your thoughts on the tried and true formula of interviewing fictional characters?
Manfried: Well, I always been a mind that the trope, when used with genuine—[Hegel splashes hot coffee in the interviewer’s face]
Manfried: What in Hell, brother?!
Hegel: He was disparagin us!
Manfried: Was he?
[Clutching face] No! Christ, no!
Hegel: Oh. No hard feelins, then. Could I get another cup?
[Retires to the bathroom to clean up. The burns are superficial but the shirt is soaked. Upon returning, the Brothers Grossbart are conversing in their incomprehensible dialect. They are smiling far too widely for anyone’s liking] Next question?
Hegel: Next question.
What are your thoughts on the current global financial crisis?
Hegel: Seein’s how we come up in the 14th century your question strikes me as bein a bit dunderheaded, but what the Hell, ain’t like we can’t adapt. Got us a deal with the Fox News in the works.
Manfried: Foxes is what it is, brother. To answer your dumbass question, it seems to me the problem is you been lettin Reynard mind Chanticleer and his hens, and so it’s only natural the born-thieves set to theivin. Real problem is instead a hangin them whats ruined the lives a countless innocents you give’em a swat on the bottom, maybe take back a little a that loot they been stealin—don’t discourage no one, Hell, makes’em see that even if they’s caught it won’t be so bad. If you’d taken that N. Ron gang and set up a gibbet I guarantee things woulda gone different down these years since.
Enron? I suppose it is interesting that we continue to demonize the small-scale criminal, the citizen who murders their neighbor, while those who destroy the lives of thousands are spared the same revilement because their crime is not physically violent, though the result will still be pain and suffering, and, in some instances, death.
[Getting excited] But you also mentioned Reynard, who is of course the folk hero fox of the middle ages, and Chanticleer, the rooster he tormented and ate in many of those tales. That you would bring him up is especially interesting, considering that for people of your era having a folk hero who abused children, raped, murdered, tortured, lied, cheated, and blasphemed was perfectly acceptable, but in our modern age having a fairly objective tale about two criminal brothers who are nowhere near as bad as Reynard is still seen as championing “irredeemable” and “despicable” characters.
Hegel: [Rolls eyes] Cause everyone from Pope to pissboy thought Reynard was an alright sort. Why you think this crumb’s so thick, brother?
Manfried: Maybe he et somethin ill, or maybe he’s just a born moonfruit. Reynard’s a piece a shit, son, and don’t you forget it—that bitchswine’s no more honest than you, and I hear another string a words tyin us to him you get your pate pâtéd, hear?
OK, what about the situation in the Middle East?
Hegel: I heard bout this. Iraq, right?
Well, not just Iraq, but—
Manfried: Sounds simple to hear tell. They come over here with swords flashin, and you puttem down proper. Someone comes out they door swingin you got an obligation to burn that house, make sure no one else a similar mind comes lookin for vengeance.
Actually, it’s been pretty well-agreed upon at this point that Iraq didn’t actually have anything to do with the attack on the United States.
Hegel: Hmmmmmmmmmm…[They begin talking in their dialect. It is difficult to tell if they are arguing or not. Eventually:] These Arabs—
Iraqis. The citizens of Iraq are called—
Hegel: Regardless. Them what dwell there, they pay tribute to the Virgin?
In addition to the large Chaldean Catholic population in Iraq, the Muslim faith actually puts a great deal of importance on Mary, or Maryam alayhis salam as she—
Hegel: Hold, hold…I hear you say Moslem? There a lot a them on this rock you talkin bout?
Iraq. The majority of the population of Iraq is Muslim, yes.
Manfried: Arabs, is what he’s sayin [The pair visibly relax]. Changes everythin. How’s we supposed to offer an informed opinion if you’s withholdin information?
Hegel: So you lot went in and swooped up them ancient treasures what the Infidel was keepin warm for you. Sounds fair.
Actually, as soon as the invasion got underway a looter culture flourished, and the vast majority of the antiquities and artifacts that were being held in museums were stolen and are now in the hands of private—
Hegel: Another fuckin fiasco [shakes head].
Manfried: You bungled the whole operation! What the Hell’s the point in goin in if you lettem scoot to the loot fore you do?
Hegel: Shoulda hired us on in a, whatsit, advisory capacitor.
Manfried: So what’s the score, then? A bunch a dead folk what never heard the word don’t please nobody but the Old Boy, the Scratch, you know, and he’s got his kilns fill to burstin without you addin to it.
I didn’t do anything.
Hegel: Course you didn’t; nobody ever does, do they? Always the other loaf’s fault. You wouldn’t be wearin that wine sack round your waist if you’d done somethin.
Manfried: Mighta grown a beard if you’d gotten out a your chair.
[would like to point out that he is in decent shape and has no problem growing facial hair, when he is inclined to do so. He hikes regularly, as well as bicycling] Fine. So something I’d like to come back to is Manfried’s answer to my question about the financial crisis. You had some hard words for what you called “born-thieves,” but how is digging up a grave and taking what you find any different?
Hegel: [Tries to fling more coffee but the cup is empty] Could I get another cup?
It’s, ah, percolating.
Manfried: That’s the kinda question what grinds an honest man’s teeth. Dead folk ain’t folk, they’s meat, and meat don’t get no say in what happens to its fat.
Hegel: Buryin treasure is an official relinquishment a rights a property. Plain as fuckin day to them what’s born with eyes. If you want it, do not bury it. Simple.
You go into foreign lands and rob from the dead, that’s what you do. Things that belong in museums—
Hegel: Shut it, Doctor Jones, fore you find yourself in a bad way.
Manfried: Even if it was the same as robbin, which it ain’t, what’s the difference who takes it bein domesticated or alien? You get cracked in the head and your purse is cut, you really give a damn if the thief was rich or poor, foreign or local? Your purse is gone just the same, ain’t it? Only one who puts much stock on the place a origin a the perpetrator is them what’s lookin to work an angle. As in, you hate Jocks—
I don’t! I’ve never even been to Scotland! I’m of Scottish descent and—
Manfried: [Draws a knife, is allowed to continue] So on account a you hatin Jocks you take a Jocko nippin your purse to be a rallyin point for gettin those what’s thick enough to listen to a biased bastard like you sayin “Jocks is thieves, so let’s hang the lot.” And if the thief weren’t no Jock in the first place, who’s the wiser? Only people who care if a thief is local or not is thems with interior motives, is what I’m sayin, so you implyin me diggin up thems what was born beyond my borders is somehow worse than stickin spade in my backyard and no further is just as ignorant as thinkin so many pounds a rotten dead man got some kinda claim to the mineral bands what might adorn they bones.
Hegel: Told you this weren’t nuthin but a wind-blowin exercise. Let’s get on with what we came for; seein’s we got the confession I ain’t a mind to nibble any more a this roadapple pie.
Confession? What are—
Manfried: Libel, plagiarism, call it what you will, you was keen on exploitin our circumstances for financial gain. Ain’t proper.
Hegel: Ain’t honest.
Now hold on—
Hegel: And why you keep fiddlin with this witch-box? Ain’t honest a’tall—[recorder is turned off. End of interview]
Jesse Bullington spent the bulk of his formative years in rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, and Tallahassee, Florida. He is a folklore enthusiast who holds a bachelor’s degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. He currently resides in Colorado and can be found online at www.jessebullington.com.
His novel, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, was published by Orbit on November 16t, 2009
Hegel and Manfried Grossbart may not consider themselves bad men – but death still stalks them through the dark woods of medieval Europe.
The year is 1364, and the brothers Grossbart have embarked on a naïve quest for fortune. Descended from a long line of graverobbers, they are determined to follow their family’s footsteps to the fabled crypts of Gyptland. To get there, they will have to brave dangerous and unknown lands and keep company with all manner of desperate travelers-merchants, priests, and scoundrels alike. For theirs is a world both familiar and distant; a world of living saints and livelier demons, of monsters and madmen.
The Brothers Grossbart are about to discover that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those who would take the red road of villainy