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The Dinner of Cathcart Zen

“God’s flaming uterus,” Cathcart Zen groaned, “I think I just shat out my own shoulderblade.”

“Please,” said Annabel, the nurse, “please either let me go or just kill me. Don’t make me stand here in your bathroom.”

“This is your damned fault,” Zen hissed, shifting his weight on the toilet seat. “You will witness the consequences. Listen to me, young lady. Food comes from animals. It does not come from the fields they graze. Cows can digest vegetation because they have five stomachs. This is a law of nature. If humans were meant to eat leaves, we would never have descended from the trees. How dare you have Metz serve me something made out of undergrowth and nuts and tell me it’s granulated rabbit meat and parrot arses. I would never have allowed it to sully my lips if I’d known there was things from grasslands in it.”

“Mr Zen, I’m begging you. Vegetables are so important. If I’d known they would have this effect on you — “

“I haven’t eaten a vegetable since the day a busload of special-ed children crashed and burned outside my last home,” Cathcart Zen said. “Oh my God. I need to push.” Cords stood out in his neck as he convulsed on the toilet.

“I don’t believe that,” Annabel said, trying to suppress her gag reflex as a wave of hideous, life-crushing gas emanated from the clearly cracking toilet. “You have to eat vegetables.”

“Not since 1971! And that vegetable was sticking out of David Bowie’s arse! Let me tell you something. Meat is essential to human evolution. When we grazed like cattle, we did not take on enough nutrition to be able to plan or invent. We had to eat grass all day just to get enough sustenance to live. Only when we learned to rip meat, beautiful and steaming, from the flanks of the beasts of the field, did we begin to grow. Sweet, protein-rich meat meant we didn’t have to eat all the time. We could sit, bellies full of the food of the future, and devise things. We had the time to make tools, and create strategies. It started us on the path to technological superiority. Why, today, we only have to press a button to kill some stupid fucking animal and get more meat. I have eaten nothing but meat for more than thirty years, and that is how I have become the superior human and utter fucking genius I am, and therefore how you make an obscene amount of money in return for keeping me alive. And what do you do? You sabotage my bowel with bits of tree!”

“Oh my God,” Annabel wept, more from the blinding anal fumes than from genuine contrition. “What can I do to help?”

“It is time,” Cathcart Zen sighed, “for the trick I learned when I was trapped in a Tokyo hotel with Led Zeppelin. Bring me a bucket of warm water, a box of wadded-up newspaper, a shovel and some of that glue they use to waterproof bathroom walls.”

© Warren Ellis 2005, originally posted on my old LiveJournal. These five pieces were, quite obviously, a way of purging a certain voice out of my system. It builds up, like pus, and must be lanced from time to time.

Published in brainjuice


  1. I really hope you do more of these soon. I loved every one of them.

  2. Pete Martin Pete Martin

    Did this “purging” spill out onto Desolation Jones? First thing I thought of when re-reading these.

  3. Nef Nef

    I wish for every vegan to read this! ;)

  4. melissa melissa

    I love Cathcart Zen and all his hideousness. I think the artist Phil Foglio would be a good choice to do the graphic novel. His style is innocent enough to make the vile inhumanity of Mr. Zen and his adventures sidle into your system like poison in the pudding.

  5. This one’s probably my favorite. Cathcart Zen needs to be a webcomic.

  6. adrian adrian

    “Cathcart Zen needs to be a webcomic.”

    yes. please make it so internet jesus

  7. FatFred FatFred

    You are missed on LJ.
    We understand why, but we still miss you.

  8. elodie elodie

    And this really DID make my day.

  9. jesus, I’m not sure that we need line art to go with these, just more of this lovely text will suffice for me. But is there enough “pus” to bring Zen back? If not we should just feed Mr. Ellis more news of american politics, japanese culture, and of course ruffage

  10. I remember this one, and still love it. My attempts to add more vegetables to my diet usually fail after a month.

  11. I just reposted this last bit over on my journal page. I’ll remove it if that’s not okay. I made that your Copyright information stayed on it, and that it is identifiably yours.

    This makes me happy.


  12. M. E. Hepler M. E. Hepler

    This is funnier than that contagious cancer spread by dogs… look it up.

  13. I wish these kinds of entries would never end

  14. I am going to dream of Cathcart Zen, and then send you some sketches.

  15. Jessica Miller Jessica Miller

    I’m not even flying today and I’ve ended up spending half of it in discussions re: exactly which 2 countries are involved in the “heightened security alerts” and whose leaders’ approval ratings are in the toilet. Funny that. You made me laugh, while continuing to shake my fist in rage. thank you

  16. Andy Andy

    I always did love Cathcart and the other shorts you posted to your LJ. Will new pieces like this be showing up here, now that you’re not on LJ anymore, or will you be posting them at the Engine?

  17. These are am-fucking-azing. Cathcart Zen!? are you for real, warren?
    i’m sorry i missed these the first time around but thank you so much for reposting them here.
    hehe. ahhh.

  18. Rick Rick

    Fantastic. Any chance you could ride this hideous wave long enough to get a book out of it?

  19. Dispelling a shoulderblade may be the top reason that I’m a vegetarian….Sticking out of David Bowie’s ass, huh? I can only summon up the image of a rutebega. I’d need soy sauce with that. **

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