Gubbish (Philip K. Dick)

They gubbled and gubbled. He put his hands to his ears, but the product crept up through his nose. Then he saw the place. It was where he wore out. They threw him away there, and gubbish lay in heaps up to his waist; gubbish filled the air.

“What is your name?”

“Steiner, Manfred.”



“Vaccinated against smallpox?”


“Any venereal diseases?”

“Well, a little clap, that’s all.”

“V.D. clinic for this man.”

“Sir, my teeth. They’re in the bag, along with my eyes.”

“Your eyes, oh yes. Give this man his teeth and eyes before you take him to the V.D. clinic. How about your ears, Steiner?”

“Got ’em on, sir. Thank you, sir.”

They tied his hands with gauze to the sides of the bed because he tried to pull out the catheter. He lay facing the window, seeing through the dusty, cracked glass.

Outside, a bug on tall legs picked through the heaps. It ate, and then something squashed it and went on, leaving it squashed with its dead teeth sunk into what it had wanted to eat. Finally its dead teeth got up and crawled out of its mouth in different directions.

He lay there for a hundred and twenty­three years and then his artificial liver gave out and he fainted and died. By that time they had removed both his arms and legs up to the pelvis because those parts of him had decayed.

He didn’t use them anyhow. And without arms he didn’t try to pull the catheter out, and that pleased them.

I been at AM­WEB for a long time, he said. Maybe you can get me a transistor radio so I can tune in Friendly Fred’s Breakfast Club; I like to hear the tunes, they play a lot of the old­time favorites.

Something outside gives me hay fever. Must be those yellow flowering weeds, why do they let them get so tall?

I once saw a ballgame.

For two days he lay on the floor, in a big puddle, and then the landlady found him and called for the truck to bring him here. He snored all the way, it woke him up. When they tried to give him grapefruit juice he could only work one arm, the other never worked again ever. He wished he could still make those leather belts, they were fun and took lots of time. Sometimes he sold them to people who came by on the weekend.

“Do you know who I am, Manfred?”


“I’m Arnie Kott. Why don’t you laugh or smile sometimes, Manfred? Don’t you like to run around and play?”

As he spoke Mr. Kott gubbled from both his eyes.

“Obviously he doesn’t, Arnie, but that’s not what concerns us here anyhow.”

“What do you see, Manfred? Let us in on what you see. All those people, are they going to live there, is that it? Is that right, Manfred? Can you see lots of people living there?”

He put his hands over his face, and the gubble stopped.

“I don’t see why this kid never laughs.”

Gubble, gubble.

Another passage from Philip K. Dick’s novel Martian Time-Slip.

I find the passage’s rhetorical construction remarkable—the “he” whose consciousness we dip into here, briefly, is Manfred Steiner, an “autistic” child with precognitive abilities. The narrative here takes us into the (a?) future (maybe?) for a few sentences, before pivoting back into the novel’s “present” (1994!) with the verbal intrusion of Kott. This little episode ends a chapter, and the next begins with close attention to Kott’s perception of Manfred. I’ve provided some context here, but I think the little passage also stands on its own as a strange flight into breakdown.

5 thoughts on “Gubbish (Philip K. Dick)”

  1. I’ve never read this. I am a huge PK Dick fan. This also has caused me to effect a title change to one of my newest novels. I planned calling it TimeSlip – I will now have to set about finding a new title. Thank you for adding this post!!!!


  2. Great novel. One of his best.
    I recently acquired a first edition hardcover of Martian Time-Slip (which is actually the British hardcover, it didn’t get a HC in the US, I don’t think) along with a few other 1st editions my fav PKD novels. I haven’t re-read MTS in years. The passage you cite reminds me of what Phil said about his own book after re-reading MTS while in hospital “I found it weak dramatically (weak in plot) but extraordinary in its ideas. I stripped the universe down to its basic structure”.

    Liked by 1 person

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