Selected References to Laura Lee Burroughs in the work of William S. Burroughs
I guess I will have to change the name Dennison in my current book. You see my mother read your book, and, of course, spotted me. In short Dennison is become a little transparent. But it is hard to get away from your name entirely. I thought of Sebert Lee, but Sebert is like Seward and Lee is my mother’s name. I guess it will do though.
I have decided to drop Dennison because Ma read Kerouac’s book. Lee is the name. I guess 1st name will be William though that is getting close again.
Can you think up a good first name for me? Lee is O.K. for last name but Bill Lee is a little too close. I am thinking of the Old Folks you understand.
One morning in April, I woke up a little sick. I lay there looking at shadows on the white plaster ceiling. I remembered a long time ago when I lay in bed beside my mother, watching lights from the street move across the ceiling and down the walls. I felt the sharp nostalgia of train whistles, piano music down a city street, burning leaves.
We drove back in silence and when we came to his house he opened the door and got out. He looked at me for a second as if he was going to say something then turned abruptly and walked up the flagstone path to his house. I sat there for a minute looking at the dosed door. Then I drove home feeling numb. When the car was stopped in the garage I put my head down on the wheel sobbing and rubbing my cheek against the steel spokes. Finally Mother called to me from an upstairs window was anything wrong and why didn’t I come in the house. So I wiped the tears off my face and went in and said I was sick and went upstairs to bed. Mother brought me a bowl of milk toast on a tray but I couldn’t eat any and cried all night.
After that I called Billy several times on the phone but he always hung up when he heard my voice. And I wrote him a long letter which he never answered.
Three months later when I read in the paper he had been killed in a car wreck and Mother said, ‘Oh that’s the Bradshinkel boy. You used to be such good friends didn’t you?’
I said, “Yes Mother” not feeling anything at all.
Palm Beach, Florida. 202 Sanford Avenue. Mother and I take Old Fashioneds, which I mix every day at 4 P.M.
When Mother was in Chastains Nursing Home in St Louis the last four years of her life, I never went to see her. Just sent mawkish cards from London on Mother’s Day, and occasionally postcards from here and there. Remember years ago — fifty? don’t remember — she once said to me: “Suppose I was very sick. Would you come to see me? Look after me? Care for me? I’m counting on that being true.”
It wasn’t. The telegram from Mort. I had gotten out of bed. For a moment I put it aside. “Mother is dead.” No feeling at all. Then it hit, like a kick in the stomach.
Facts. Bits of detail filter back from Mother. Dad had killed a little colored boy years ago. Goes into a dark room, and there is brother Horace with claws —
Mother on Horace:
“When he came into a room it was like someone had walked out” —
It was my third birthday, and on from there always the feel of something terrible just under the surface — like the horrible dream in a smell of coal gas when I was eating my mother’s back, and she screamed she’d had the dream. I was leaning over from the front and eating her back.
Mother, Dad, Mort, Billy — I failed them all —
So when I got to Lex — my mother screaming behind me she had some idea I should go to a private nuthouse — and I said:
“All I need is [a] withdrawal cure. Period.”
And she was very annoyed by me and Joan taking the bull by the horns and opting for Lexington.
Mother said about Joan: “She was just like a tigress.” Said no to any enforced confirment.
She was right there, and other where’s and there’s.
When Mote died, my grandmother [Laura Lee Burroughs] went mad… Laura was so ethereal she needed Mote’s more solid realities to keep her relating to the world. She was much the stronger and brighter of the two, but when he died, she went promptly insane and in the slanting window light saw drunken gauchos playing cards and slicing into one another’s faces with broken bottles and knifes. Once she saw me staggering through the room with a hatchet buried in the back of my skull.