His mind returns to the president and the boys. How do you articulate such a thing he wondered. The word is that the president guided them into cocksuckery and buggery while smoking grass in his riverside mansion — his wife had left him alone in it a year ago, trashed him and gone away without demanding anything of him, not even a divorce — he’d exaggerate the intake of smoke and audibly sigh when releasing it and praise and encourage them while they played videogames or sparred with naked muscular Wii opponents, the kids would have choices ranging from curlyhaired lanternjawed Nordic types to powerful blocky Samoans, eventually they’d share his grass and his wheaty beers and retreat to the indoor pool area and Dunston stopped there. The president was young and powerful, his pimpy legions welltodo and wellplaced, the boys twelvish or slightly older, always with squeaky or cracking voices, and always in fading fosterhomes. What was it about that sonofabitch Dunston wondered with cultivated emptiheadedness in a state of phony mystification — and he knew he wasn’t the only one to wonder this — that commanded such loyalty such respect such obeisance such cravenness in people like himself, he’d ask that of himself but he really knew, everyone knew, you only had to attend one of his speech or visit him once without counsel in his office to get the picture. It was the combination of boyish blond cowlick powerful upper body uninhibited unctuousness, coupled with a delitescent snarling ruthlessness like a bloody hammer in a closed toolbox and finally the simple fact that he knew people, the police chief governor various judges state officials both U.S. senators and the U.S. District Attorney, Jesus Christ could there be anybody else? You just don’t turn a personage like that in to the local fucking authorities.
There was a Bingo out there and Dunston presided over the validation of it and glanced at his watch hoping it was breaktime for him and when he looked up he saw two things, a lumpy human face framed by curlygray hair and a green troll with orange hair wearing a tiny handknit sweater not more than a foot away. I want you to look for B9 the woman said, her breath was acrid with tobacco reek, I could have won with B9 this time but the fact is I haven’t heard B9 called all night. I think it’s not there. I think you removed it.
The woman’s sudden appearance and her onslaught dazed Dr. Dunston Maycroft. Confounded he stared at her, she was old and intense, heavy, she looked as though she’d been running her arthritic fingers through her ashy hair all night long, what should he say in reply? If he answered would his language be civil or gibberish? He slowly turned his head from her to survey the crowd, he took them all in as well as every smoky detail, every player cardseller troll plasticMary everything, every stream of smoke blown out of every distended nostril, saw mouths stop moving as heads turned in his direction, he snapped out of his stupor but still thoughtless and in a state of consternation his own head began a sort of robotic dance, it pivoted feinted dribbled in abrupt random motions while the woman at his side grew agitated, Well are you going to look for that ball she said Will you stop that idiotic gabble? It was Tara then Don’t open your mouth to me again, keep it clamped, whatever you want to say to me write it One minute he’s thinking about his boss buggering little boys and the next he’s got Tara’s bitter voice in his head and an old bag breathing down his collar, where do we go from here he wondered. He felt a stammer coming on so he remained silent. I have the right to ask you to look for that ball she said. He looked at the crowd, heard Come on come on echoing off the concreteblock walls. I have, he cleared his throat, I have conceived a goddamn to smooch for a scrawl, oh oh it’s starting he thought, Oh Jesus Christ someone shouted. This is going to take a while Dunston said, so just bold your cranklin juices.
Can you convey to me how you feel Dr Maycroft the woman, the counselor, said. She had a high smooth forehear and her creased mouth, almost lost in the heavy mass of her jaw, barely opened when she spoke.
He tightened his lips, forced a smile, shook his head.
Do you feel angry.
He shifted his eyes to the left, tilted his head, shook it, shrugged. She made a note on a legal pad.
Do you feel nervous? He shook his head. Sad? He hesitated, pursed his lips, shook his head, she jotted on the pad. Frustrated?
His eyes shot to hers though his face remained impassive, his head nodded once, the counselor wrote while speaking, Frustrated, frustrated over what? His face, suddenly plastic, exaggerated imploration while his fingertips touched his lips and slowly arced away to the length of his arm. Of course she said. His arm remained outstretched.
She leaned forward, her pad on her lap. On a scale of one to ten, how would you rank your frustration?
His mouth opened in a broad grin, he extended his other arm opened both his hands spread his fingers wagged them.
I see she said. She noted his response on her pad, you’re very frustrated, you can relax your arms now Dr. Maycroft, do you know the sources of your frustration?
His eyes sprang wide open his lips tightened and curved downward, tight ball of a chin wrinkled, he looked like a child ready to admit to wetting his pants, Widenpluckchoosen he shouted, he stopped himself then resumed Widenfuckjuicenchymephobiclake. He cut himself off when she smirked, he studied her as she suppressed a giggle, some professional he thought, then a deep snort escaped from his throat and he led her in a burst of laughter. They laughed and laughed, through squinting eyes he saw her zippered little mouth stretch taut and open and he saw her teeth separate and when calm and breath returned the counselor said sorry about that and resettled in her chair, Dunston Maycroft offered a gentleman’s smile and nodded. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d laughed, his eyes scanned the bland room and settled on a photorealistic oil of a beanfield, barn and copse in the distance, a smudge like cowpie covering a couple of plants on the far right of the pictureplain, he soon forgot the alltoobrief merriment as he studied that scene.
The counselor cleared her throat, she was lean and jerky save for her monumental jaw, Dr. Maycroft she said, it’s clear that you feel frustrated. Now I’d like to continue. I’m wondering about other feelings. Let’s start with betrayal. Do you feel betrayed by anyone, by that I mean do you feel that anyone has plotted against you, that anyone has undermined you or your achievements, or simply that anyone has seriously disappointed you, let you down, hurt you unexpectedly.
All those questions at once he thought.