I [Can[t] Count the B's by Mark Rudman



Bond waits for Dent to empty his gun into the dummy, pumping superfluous bullets just to make sure.  Scientists can't be bothered to count bullets, he turns toward Bond and fires: empty.  Bond grins.

“It’s a Smith and Wesson, you’ve had your six.”  And pumps one where it will mark an end to the corrupt Professor.   And unscrews the silencer from the Beretta….


From the film version of Dr. No




Only connect, but how, the echolalia of B’s.

Bond, James Bond, Beretta, Barrett, Barrier Reef, Baccarat,

gunmetal blue cigarette case, battleship blue

4 ½ liter Bentley convertible


fired by the Amherst Villiers supercharger that gave the car

an extra thirty miles per hour on the straightaway

from the Hotel Splendide to the nightmare turnoff

where he chased the Citroen carrying Le Chiffre


and Vesper Lynd—her skirt over her head.  A hole

cut for her to breathe through like the reeds

James and Honey and gray-eyed Quarrel employ to remain underwater

while Julius No’s mercenary’s machine gunners kill any reptile that stirs.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning, my guide points out, is buried

in the cemetery with her ancestors, whose sugar cane

dynasty fell under her scrutiny as she attacked the slave trade

in her writing even as her father felt the pinch.


She never set foot in Jamaica, but was sent to the Bay of Torquay

in the care of her beloved “bro” on the chance she might recover

from an invalidism that always found new places to roost—

and on a morphine patch that would never


be removed.  But it’s he who drowns during their second year.

And she who inherits another year of waiting with no escape from the death

moan of the surf.  In the next decade she marries Robert Browning,

bears a child, and writes that nothing is more underrated than sex.


It’s an E.B. of another century whose initials are billeted on a copper plate to a tree adjacent to the family plot on a golf course hacked out of the Jamaican jungle,

where parts of Dr. No were shot and Connery held then

English-speechless actress Andress screaming


above the waterfall in the outtake where now my wife picks a Pinnacle

from the mud of the riverbed with the words “White Witch”

stamped in red letters.  The heavenly waterfall, now a trickle,

abraded by akee, poinciana, hibiscus, bougainvillea,


and heron behavior of the wind in the reeds and in the trees,

bamboo and mahogany: a rush deemed impossible on the hurricane free

island.  Unless a rocket?  Direction tampered with by Dr. No

who bought Crab Key under pretense of exporting its mass


of fecal guano.  Bay of Pigs.  JFK alone in the late hours

with From Russia With Love.   Except to check in with Cape Canaveral.

And hawk cabinet.   He feels a chill in the irremediable heat.

The rockets red glare…imminent departure for either destination:


Havana Moon Russia.  1963, 1962, a dizzying newsreel.

“Bellicose” the word Time and the tabloids apply to both

“L’Homme Nikita K”  and Fidel C.  The President

an amphetamine rocket himself in the debate with the Russian who


beat his shoe at the United Nations to the drum of “we will bury you!”

which expressed—not the will of the Russian people by a space shot—

but the dreams of the ones who’d ceased to dream except

to pull off coup d’etat with weapons that hadn’t got their spy- 


ware approval weeks before anyone who could fire or fly

a…or a….was doing it.  Violence spreads like wildfire.

There must be something to the vengeance they share,

however one cancels out the other.  And I knew you would,


if I didn’t, being preteen, intervene.  But even Bond is dealt

losing hands and, unraveling, calls up the familiar mantra:

concentrate James, get Vesper to distract other players,

order…a drink with a boost: three measures of Gordon’s,


one of Gray Goose, half measure of Lillet, shaken over ice,

then a thin slice of lemon peel.  Ian Fleming knew the pleasures

he lent his creation.  The nights of inconceivable cuisine—

caviar, carpaccio, champagne—followed the days of strategizing:


he was the mind behind the raid on Dieppe with “Wild Bill”

Donavan of the OSS which metamorphosed into: CIA.

Baccarat, six decks shuffled in a shoe, carte, carte,

the players call out.  The word in French conveys Monte Carlo’s


slippery blend of elegance, like the half measure of Lillet.

And the curious existence of  a wickeder weapon:

the Browning automatic, early on inheritor of Samuel Colt’s .45—

which quickened the conquest of the "American frontier,"—


a gun to James has stowed in the glove compartment

compartment of the Bentley he has taken to Monte Carlo—

but the Browning (no connection to Robert) later became

the repeating rifle of choice for folks whose goals


were as opposed, or were they? as Bonnie and Clyde

and the American troops in Vietnam, while the Walther

PPK which M and Q inflict on 007 in the films because

Q: "It can blast a hole through a man the size of…."


M: “I hate to say it James, a Beretta is a woman’s gun.”

Do you think I give a damn?  “I haven’t missed with it yet.”

Moneypenney’s open palm mimics: “hand it over.”

E.B. Browning, Rimbaud, Solitaire, Honey Rider,


and Domino, come near.  The time of the assassins

stretches from the former visionary now imminent purveyor

amputee to the galaxy extending beyond the limits

of our instruments; the former spy now


constructer of ideal version of self in books that sell,

and Fleming’s evolving villains can kill anyone from anywhere;

detachment: the sheer prerequisite.  And those light

genial touches on my neck below my ear;


this swelling is what I wanted, my love, in this interlude

from the gunmetal plated life that moved toward us inexorably

as the next scene approached, in destiny’s dense, impeccable outfit

where the matches between Bond’s Windsor Knot and Le Chiffre’s


incessant ghoulish snorting of his Benzedrine nasal spray,

riff under the gray clouds and the just released commercial 707’s

that shadowed the bay… That so much happened in 1963 obscures

the collision of planned actions in 1962, when we or they


could launch a rocket anywhere if one raised his knee in a calibrated way. 

But the rockets Dr. No has every intention of rerouting

would've been aimed toward Havana, Bond thought, his squint

divining the carefree joyous Batista nights, and the shadow


of my father divided between the bars, the casinos, and the whores. 

There's a sad moment in Casino Royale,

the book I reread in Montego Bay in 2007—

my father in a fever to see Dr. No the night it opened in 1963


at some 4,000 seat angels-on-the gilded-ceiling and plush-red-seat-endowed

theater in Times Square—:  Vesper looks at James in his sleep

and notes his resemblance to Hoagy Carmichael—only

I think the sandy hair that fell gently over the amiable singer’s right eyebrow


melded with the offbeat plunk of the piano keys and the easy inroad he took

to begin a song.  I think the hair that drifted over Hoagy's eye was or had been

a cowlick (and if not, it sounds better

with the name and the slight hayseed imitation),


where the "forelock" of Bond's darker hair wills itself out of place,

the forelock with the will of its own provides a contrast

with his obsession that everything be just so: the Windsor Knot,

the Savile Row Suit, the gunmetal blue cigarette case, the Bentley


which he bought in 1933 and kept garaged until the war was over.

The lock of out of place hair makes him sexier and more human. 

Because the cruel and ruthless quality in Bond’s face

is almost a mask, and not the green sleep mask he’d long saved up for.


Back to Archives

Mark Rudman



© 2005-2009 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas