PART ONE.

Rochveldt Caertflenk was the ugliest man in the world.

It would be unlikely, though, that this statement, made without equivocation of any sort, would be deemed credible by anyone without some sort of corroboration. An anecdote, perhaps. That is to say: we all have seen ugly people. Perhaps we are ourselves ugly people. They are, after all, everywhere, and so it is only fair to assume that they are near, or here, whichever the case may be (when it is assuredly both). Ugly people everywhere, in the streets and between our sheets. Malformed homunculi listing through haute-couture emporia, searching for that slimming microfiber tee whose design is sure to diminish, and perhaps even render invisible, those unconscionable clavicles, and that hump. Poignant, such survivalism.

But on to Rochveldt.

We do not say that he is “ugly,” for to make such a statement would make him unremarkable and it is clear that, as we have remarked upon him already, we mean to do just the opposite. So: Rochveldt is not ugly. He is, as said, The Ugliest Man in the World. One might quibble: How, in fact, in the world, the mighty world, the endlessly untethering coil, the blabbeddyblah blah, could one know this statement to be more than mere hyperbole? In these quantitative times, we rightly ask for proof. If only to staunch the flow of doubt, we say: and you shall have it!

Then it is possible one’s mind might release its viselike clench on Truth’s slippery shadow and instead begin the process of possibility, remembering all the ugly men we have seen (or been) and thus piece together a personal composite that would approach the state of ugliness’s ideal . My, we think, how very ugly. How terribly, gruesomely ugly. And yet: how strongly we can assure you that such composites, drawn by the police sketch artist of the soul, do not begin to approach the abject horror that is Rochveldt, Rochveldt Caertflenk.

We reconsider. We had been thinking the greasy thin hair, the pug nose, the scabby, scarred cheeks, the receding gums. No, no, not that way at all. The wrong road altogether. So: we now think of the subway, that clearinghouse of ugly. We think of a particular man who had moved so slowly, shuffling along in our periphery. Could this be Rochveldt? We think of the shock that had accompanied our first full sight of this fellow: how his face had been scarred to an odd molten state (we imagine the heat, the flame); how his jaw had been surgically removed (we imagine the force of the blow, atomizing cartilage and bone); how a hollow was all there was where there should have been a nose (we ponder frostbite or gangrene, and the adventures that accompany touristy trauma); how, in short, it seemed as though his face was less a face than a memory of such, or a face assembled by one who’d never seen a human and had done their best with what they had to go on, as in a bad science fiction television programme. But the man in the subway had been real, his deformity real and his pain real and our pain at seeing such misfortune real. And as horrible as his appearance was, its purity, that is to say its inarguability, was without question a thing that approached grandeur, or, if you’re feeling fancy, Grace. For all those who had seen him were overwhelmed by horror, to be sure, but suddenly thereafter by a stronger sense of pity, Pieta. And while pity is an ignoble emotion, is the Ethel Merman of emotions in a room full of Callases, it is an emotion nonetheless, that evidences a clear stirring of the soul, however shallow, prompting a concomitant sense of sorrow, however fleeting. We feel, terribly, for that sort of man in general and that specific man, too. His ugliness prompts dialogue in strangers such as, That Poor Man, Whatever Could Have Happened To Him? as well as much shaking of heads and statements such as It Really Puts Things In Perspective, Doesn’t It? or Here I Was Worrying About My Thinning Hair And Here Comes That Poor Guy…. It is an Oprah sort of ugly, a celebrity ugly, a movie of the week ugly, a rich and famous ugly, complete with lissome blonde weeping wife by his old malformed side ugly. An ugly that sells. An ugly that zings. And that is not our Rochveldt. No, no.

When we speak of ugliness, the ugliness that is Rochveldt, Rochveldt Caertflenk, The Ugliest Man in the World, we mean to make indelible that the only reaction one can possible have to his visage and form is not pity, but pure, unmitigated disgust: disgust over being subjected to something, some thing, clearly human and yet clearly not so. For Rochveldt’s is an ugly that elicits no tears, no tenderness, no coddling warmth from the bosom of strangers and puppies. It is an evil sort of ugly, an ugliness shriller still than the whole of the off-key world, an ugliness that screams Expunge! The ugliness of Christmas Past, Present, and Future rolled into one terrible, ugly, now.

Here: let me begin to tell you of Rochveldt, and of his immutable ugliness.

END PART ONE.