Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 14
It isn’t the Golden Age now, she thought, with noises like that in the darkness. Do I emit that kind of greedy noise? she asked herself. Am I that thing? Closing in, or having closed in?
Beside her, the man stirred and moaned as she helped him up. Helped him to his feet and back to her car, step by step, helped him, helped him continue on. Below them, the noise of the police car had abruptly ceased; it had stopped its quarry. Its job was done. Holding Bob Arctor against her, she thought, Mine is done, too.
The two New-Path staff members stood surveying the thing on their floor that lay puking and shivering and fouling itself, its arms hugging itself, embracing its own body as if to stop itself, against the cold that made it tremble so violently.
“What is it?” one staff member said.
Donna said, “A person.”
“It ate his head. Another loser.”
She said to the two of them, “It’s easy to win. Anybody can win.” Bending down over Robert Arctor she said, silently,
They were putting an old army blanket over him as she left. She did not look back.
Getting into her car, she drove at once onto the closest freeway, into the thickest traffic possible. From the box of tapes on the floor of the car she took the Carole King Tapestry tape, her favorite of all she had, and pushed it into the tape deck; at the same time, she tugged loose the Ruger pistol magnetically mounted out of sight beneath the dashboard. In top gear she tailgated a truck carrying wooden cases of quart bottles of Coca-Cola, and as Carole King sang in stereo she emptied the clip of the Ruger at the Coke bottles a few feet ahead of her can.
While Carole King sang soothingly about people sitting down and turning into toads, Donna managed to get four bottles before the gun’s clip was empty. Bits of glass and smears of Coke splattered the windshield of her can. She felt better.
Justice and honesty and loyalty are not properties of this world, she thought; and then, by God, she rammed her old enemy, her ancient foe, the Coca-Cola truck, which went right on going without noticing. The impact spun her small can around; her headlights dimmed out, horrible noises of fender against tire shrieked, and then she was off the freeway onto the emergency strip, facing the other direction, water pouring from her radiator, with motorists slowing down to gape.
Come back, you motherfucker, she said to herself, but the Coca-Cola truck was long gone, probably undented. Maybe a scratch. Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, her wan, her taking on a symbol and a reality that outweighed her. Now my insurance rates will go up, she realized as she climbed from her car. In this world you pay for tilting with evil in cold, hand cash.
A late-model Mustang slowed and the driver, a man, called to her, “You want a ride, miss?”
She did not answer. She just kept on going. A small figure on foot facing an infinity of oncoming lights.
Magazine clipping thumbtacked to the wall of the lounge at Samarkand House, New-Path’s residence building in Santa Ana, California:
When the senile patient awakens in the morning and asks for his mother, remind him that she is long since dead, that he is over eighty years old and living in a convalescent home, and that this is 1992 and not 1913 and that he must face reality and the fact that
A resident had torn down the rest of the item; it ended there. Evidently it had been clipped from a professional nursing magazine; it was on slick paper.
“What you’ll be doing here first,” George, the staff member, told him, leading him down the hall, “is the bathrooms. The floors, the basins, especially the toilets. There’re three bathrooms in this structure, one on each floor.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Here’s a mop. And a pail. You feel you know how to do this? Clean a bathroom? Start, and I’ll watch you and give you pointers.”
He carried the pail to the tub on the back porch and he poured soap into it and then ran the hot water. All he could see was the foam of water directly before him; foam and the roar.
But he could hear George’s voice, out of sight. “Not too full, because you won’t be able to lift it.”
“You have a little trouble telling where you are,” George said, after a time.
“I’m at New-Path.” He set the pail down on the floor and it slopped; he stood staring down at it.
“In Santa Ana.”
George lifted the pail up for him, showing him how to grip the wire handle and swing it along as he walked. “Later on I think we’ll transfer you to the island on one of the farms. First you have to go through the dishpan.”
“I can do that,” he said. “Dishpans.”
“Do you like animals?”
“We’ll see. We’ll wait until we’re acquainted with you better. Anyhow, that’ll be a while; everyone is in the dishpan for a month. Everyone who comes in the door.”
“I’d sort of like to live in the country,” he said.
“We maintain several types of facilities. We’ll determine what’s best suited. You know, you can smoke here, but it isn’t encouraged. This isn’t Synanon; they don’t let you smoke.”
He said, “I don’t have any more cigarettes.”
“We give each resident one pack a day.”
“Money?” He didn’t have any.
“It’s without cost. There’s never any cost. You paid your cost.” George took the mop, pushed it down into the pail, showed him how to mop.
“How come I don’t have any money?”
“The same reason you don’t have any wallet or any last name. It’ll be given back to you, all given back. That’s what we want to do: give you back what’s been taken away from you.”
He said, “These shoes don’t fit.”
“We depend on donations, but new ones only, from stores. Later on maybe we can measure you. Did you try all the shoes in the carton?”
“Yes,” he said.
“All right, this is the bathroom here on the basement floor; do it first. Then when that’s done, really done well, really perfect, then go upstairs—bring the mop and bucket—and I’ll show you the bathroom up there, and then after that the bathroom on the third floor. But you got to get permission to go up there to the third floor, because that’s where the chicks live, so ask one of the staff first; never go up there without permission.” He slapped him on the back. “All right, Bruce? Understand?”
“Okay,” Bruce said, mopping.
George said, “You’ll be doing this kind of work, cleaning these bathrooms, until you get so you can do a good job. It doesn’t matter what a person does; it’s that he gets so he can do it right and be proud of it.”
“Will I ever be like I was again?” Bruce asked.
“What you were brought you here. If you become what you were again then sooner or later it’d bring you here again. Next time you might not make it here, even. Isn’t that right? You’re lucky you got here; you almost didn’t get here.”
“Somebody else drove me here.”
“You’re fortunate. The next time they might not. They might dump you on the side of the freeway somewhere and say the hell with it.”
He continued mopping.
“The best way is to do the bowls first, then the tub, then the toilets, and the floor last.”
“Okay,” he said, and put the mop away.
“There’s a certain knack to it. You’ll master it.”
Concentrating, he saw before him cracks in the enamel of the basin; he dribbled cleaner down into the cracks and ran hot water. The steam rose, and he stood within it, unmoving, as the steam grew. He liked the smell.
After lunch he sat in the lounge drinking coffee. No one spoke to him, because they understood he was withdrawing. Sitting drinking from his cup, he could hear their conversation. They all knew one another.