Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER EIGHT
“No, of course she would not be old,” Sam Weizak said in that same thoughtful, distant tone. “She was only twenty-four when the Germans invaded Poland.”
“Dr. Weizak, I have to insist,” Brown said harshly. Weizak seemed to come out of a deep study. He looked around as if noticing his younger colleague for the first time. “Of course,” he said. “Of course you must. And John has had his question-and-answer period… although I believe he has told us more than we have told him.”
“That's nonsense,” Brown said curtly, and Johnny thought: He's scared. Scared spitless.
Weizak smiled at Brown, and then at the nurse. She was eyeing Johnny as if he were a tiger in a poorly built cage. “Don't talk about this, Nurse. Not to your supervisor, your mother, your brother, your lover, or your priest. Understood?”
“Yes, Doctor,” the nurse said. But she'll talk, Johnny thought, and then glanced at Weizak. And he knows it.
He slept most of the afternoon. Around four P. M. he was rolled down the corridor to the elevator, taken down to neurology, and there were more tests. Johnny cried. He seemed to have very little control over the functions adults are supposed to be able to control. On his way back up, he urinated on himself and had to be changed like a baby. The first (but far from the last) wave of deep depression washed over him, carried him limply away, and he wished himself dead. Self-pity accompanied the depression and he thought how unfair this was. He had done a Rip van Winkle. He couldn't walk. His girl had married another man and his mother was in the grip of a religious mania, He couldn't see anything ahead that looked worth living for.
Back in his room, the nurse asked him if he would like anything. If Marie had been on duty, Johnny would have asked for ice water. But she had gone off at three.
“No,” he said, and rolled over to face the wall. After a little while, he slept.
His father and mother came in for an hour that evening, and Vera left a bundle of tracts.
“We're going to stay until the end of the week,” Herb said, “and then, if you're still doing fine, we'll be going back to Pownal for a while. But we'll be back up every weekend.”
“I want to stay with my boy,” Vera said loudly.
“It's best that you don't, Mom,” Johnny said. The depression had lifted a little bit, but he remembered how black it had been. If his mother started to talk about God's wonderful plan for him while he was in that state, he doubted if he would be able to hold back his cackles of hysterical laughter.
“You need me, John. You need me to explain
“First I need to get well,” Johnny said. “You can explain after I can walk. Okay?”
She didn't answer. There was an almost comically stubborn expression on her face-except there was nothing very funny about it. Nothing at all. Nothing but a quirk of fate, that's all. Five minutes earlier or later on that road would have changed everything. Now look at us, all of us fucked over royally. And she believes it's God's plan. It's either that or go completely crazy, I suppose
To break the awkward silence, Johnny said: “Well, did Nixon get reelected, dad? Who ran against him?”
“He got reelected,” Herb said. “He ran against Mc-Govern.”
“McGovern. George McGovern. Senator from South Dakota.”
“No. But Nixon's not president anymore. He resigned.”
“He was a liar,” Vera said dourly. “He became swollen with pride and the Lord brought him low.”
“Nixon resigned?” Johnny was flabbergasted. “Him?”
“It was either quit or be fired,” Herb said. “They were getting ready to impeach him.”
Johnny suddenly realized that there had been some great and fundamental upheaval in American politics -almost surely as a result of the war in Vietnam-and he had missed it. For the first time he really felt like Rip van Winkle. How much had things changed? He was almost afraid to ask. Then a really chilling thought occurred.
“Agnew… Agnew's president?”
“Ford,” Vera said. “A good, honest man.”
“Henry Ford is president of the United States?”
“Not Henry,” she said. “Jerry.”
He stared from one to the other, more than half convinced that all this was a dream or a bizarre joke.
“Agnew resigned, too,” Vera said. Her lips were pressed thin and white. “He was a thief. He accepted a bribe right in his office. That's what they say.
“He didn't resign over the bribe,” Herb said. “He resigned over some mess back in Maryland. He was up to his neck in it, I guess. Nixon nominated Jerry Ford to become vice president. Then Nixon resigned last August and Ford took over. He nominated Nelson Rockefeller to be vice president. And that's where we are now.
“A divorced man,” Vera said grimly. “God forbid he ever becomes the president.”
“What did Nixon do?” Johnny asked. “Jesus Christ, I… “He glanced at his mother, whose brow had clouded instantly. “I mean, holy crow, if they were going to impeach him…
“You needn't take the Savior's name in vain over a bunch of crooked politicians,” Vera said. “It was Watergate.”
“Watergate? Was that an operation in Vietnam? Something like that?”
“The Watergate Hotel in Washington,” Herb said. “Some Cubans broke into the offices of the Democratic Committee there and got caught. Nixon knew about it. He tried to cover it up.”
“Are you kidding?” Johnny managed at last.
“It was the tapes,” Vera said. “And that John Dean. Nothing but a rat deserting a sinking ship, that's what I think. A common tattletale.”
“Daddy, can you explain this to me?”
“I'll try,” Herb said, “but I don't think the whole story has come out, even yet. And I'll bring you the books. There's been about a million books written on it already, and I guess there'll be a million more before it's finally done. Just before the election, in the summer of 1972…”
It was ten-thirty and his parents were gone. The lights on the ward had been dimmed. Johnny couldn't sleep. It was all dancing around in his head, a frightening jumble of new input. The world had changed more resoundingly than he would have believed possible in so short a time. He felt out of step and out of tune.
Gas prices had gone up nearly a hundred percent, his father had told him. At the time of his accident, you could buy regular gas for thirty or thirty-two cents a gallon. Now it was fifty-four cents and sometimes there were lines at the pumps. The legal speed limit all over the country was fifty-five miles an hour and the long-haul truckers had almost revolted over that.
But all of that was nothing. Vietnam was over. It had ended. The country had finally gone Communist. Herb said it had happened just as Johnny began to show signs that he might come out of his coma. After all those years and all that bloodshed, the heirs of Uncle Ho had rolled up the country like a windowshade in a matter of days.
The president of the United States had been to Red China. Not Ford, but Nixon. He had gone before he resigned. Nixon, of all people, the old witch-hunter himself. If anyone but his dad had told him that, Johnny would have flatly refused to believe.
It was all too much, it was too scary. Suddenly he didn't want to know any more, for fear it might drive him totally crazy. That pen Dr. Brown had had, that Flair -how many other things were there like that? How many hundreds of little things, all of them making the point over and over again: You lost part of your life, almost six percent, if the actuarial tables are to be believed. You're behind the times. You missed out.
“John?” The voice was soft. “Are you asleep, John?”