AS I LAY DYING (1930) is a novel by William Faulkner comprised of multiple narrators about the burial of a family’s mother.
12/07/09 | Novel

As I Lay Dying

by Jamie Iredell

I had this broken leg that kept me in bed, pans clamoring in my head, and the leg feeling as if someone had twisted it out of the socket then reset it, which was in fact what had happened. I couldn’t drag myself downstairs nor slide behind the wheel to find a pharmacy that would fill my pain prescription. Also, a film of old Jaeger coated the inside of my mouth, and judging from the way the ceiling circled, driving was out of the question anyway, broken leg or not. The sun filtered through the slats covering the south-facing windows, through which I could just glimpse the mountains screaming at me.

I called the Pub and made Tyler walk to Niles’ house. Niles was a painter—the kind that does buildings, not landscapes or portraits or weird abstract things, you understand. He kept a fishing tackle box locked up in his dingy apartment. This place never saw daylight unless the door swung open on a squinting Niles. It was too dark for even the cockroaches. They oozed all over the garbage can outside. The cubbies of the tackle box Niles had filled with drugs: coke, amphetamines, ketamine, mescaline. Niles would say, “What kind of party tonight?” and close his eyes to pick. He carried an array of pain killers. Perhaps because of this, Niles looked over sixty, but was really forty-two.

Once, this lady had contracted with him to run his brush over her trailer out in Sun Valley. She was more than fat. She was an enormous mound of clothing in which a human had hid, and found a place to poke out her head.  She lived with nine million cats. She’d paid, ahead of time, cash, the full amount. Then Niles never heard from her. He called, his nasal wheeze trailing off on the answering machine, but no return. You might think Niles would say fuck the job and keep the money, but he wasn’t like that. He was the kind of guy who, if you showed up at his place to get help pulling your truck out of a volcano and he was all hopped up on crack, would say “First smoke this. Now we’ll need a heavy-duty chain.” So Niles drove to the fat cat lady’s trailer and pounded the door, walked around. There was this awful smell, like at the dump outside Fernley. So Niles kicked in the flimsy door and the woman lay next to her recliner, the television droning on some hospital soap. The cats, furry vultures, had taken chunks out of her.

So. Tyler got the pills and drove them over. They came with instructions from Niles: “If you want to float, take these. But if you want to fly . . .”