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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 2

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“Charles B. Freck,” he said. He told her his phone number—not his, really, but the one he made use of at a straight friend’s house, for messages like this—and laboriously she wrote it down. What difficulty she had writing, he thought. Peering and slowly scrawling … They don’t teach the chicks jack shit in school any more, he thought. Flat-out illiterate. But foxy. So she can’t hardly read or write; so what? What matters with a fox is nice tits.

“I think I remember you,” Donna said. “Sort of. It’s all hazy, that night; I was really out of it. All I definitely remember was getting the powder into those little caps—Librium caps—we dumped the original contents. I must have dropped half. I mean, on the floor.” She gazed at him meditatively as he drove. “You seem like a mellow dude,” she said. “And you’ll be in the market later on? After a while you’ll want more?”

“Sure,” he said, wondering to himself if he could beat her price by the time he saw her again; he felt he could, most likely. Either way he won. That is, either way he scored.

Happiness, he thought, is knowing you got some pills.

The day outside the car, and all the busy people, the sunlight and activity, streamed past unnoticed; he was happy.

Look what he had found by chance—because, in fact, a black-and-white had accidentally paced him. An unexpected new supply of Substance D. What more could he ask out of life? He could probably now count on two weeks lying ahead of him, nearly half a month, before he croaked or nearly croaked—withdrawing from Substance D made the two the same. Two weeks! His heart soared, and he smelled, for a moment, coming in from the open windows of the car, the brief excitement of spring.

“Want to go with me to see Jerry Fabin?” he asked the girl. “I’m taking a load of his things over to him at the Number Three Federal Clinic, where they took him last night. I’m just carting over a little at a time, because there’s a chance he might get back out and I don’t want to have to drag it all back.”

“I’d better not see him,” Donna said.

“You know him? Jerry Fabin?”

“Jerry Fabin thinks I contaminated him originally with those bugs.”


“Well, then he didn’t know what they were. I better stay away. Last time I saw him he got really hostile. It’s his receptor sites, in his brain, at least I think so. It seems like it, from what the government pamphlets say now.”

“That can’t be restored, can it?” he said.

“No,” Donna said. “That’s irreversible.”

“The clinic people said they’d let me see him, and they said they believed he could work some, you know—” He gestured. “Not be—” Again he gestured; it was hard to find words for that, what he was trying to say about his friend.

Glancing at him, Donna said, “You don’t have speechcenter damage, do you? In your—what is it called?—occipital lobe.”

“No,” he said. Vigorously.

“Do you have any kind of damage?” She tapped her head.

“No, it’s just … you know. I have trouble saying it about those fucking clinics; I hate the Neural-Aphasia Clinics. One time I was there visiting a guy, he was trying to wax a floor—they said he couldn’t wax the floor, I mean he couldn’t figure out how to do it … What got me was he kept trying. I mean not just for like an hour; he was still trying a month later when I came back. Just like he had been, over and over again, when I first saw him there, when I first went to visit him. He couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t get it right. I remember the look on his face. He was sure he’d get it right if he kept trying to flash on what he was doing wrong. ‘What am I doing wrong?’ he kept asking them. There was no way to tell him. I mean, they told him—hell, I told him—but he still couldn’t figure it out.”

“The receptor sites in his brain are what I’ve read usually goes first,” Donna said placidly. “Someone’s brain where he’s gotten a bad hit or like that, like too heavy.” She was watching the cars ahead. “Look, there’s one of those new Porsches with two engines.” She pointed excitedly. “Wow.”

“I knew a guy who hot-wired one of those new Porsches,” he said, “and got it out on the Riverside Freeway and pushed it up to one seventy-five—wipe-out.” He gestured. “Right into the ass of a semi. Never saw it, I guess.” In his head he ran a fantasy number: himself at the wheel of a Porsche, but noticing the semi, all the semis. And everyone on the freeway—the Hollywood Freeway at rush hour—noticing him. Noticing him for sure, the lanky big-shouldered good-looking dude in the new Porsche going two hundred miles an hour, and all the cops’ faces hanging open helplessly.

“You’re shaking,” Donna said. She reached over and put her hand on his arm. A quiet hand that he at once responded to. “Slow down.”

“I’m tired,” he said. “I was up two nights and two days counting bugs. Counting them and putting them in bottles. And finally when we crashed and got up and got ready the next morning to put the bottles in the car, to take to the doctor to show him, there was nothing in the bottles. Empty.” He could feel the shaking now himself, and see it in his hands, on the wheel, the shaking hands on the steering wheel, at twenty miles an hour. “Every fucking one,” he said. “Nothing. No bugs. And then I realized, I fucking realized. It came to me, about his brain, Jerry’s brain.”

The air no longer smelled of spring and he thought, abruptly, that he urgently needed a hit of Substance D; it was later in the day than he had realized, or else he had taken less than he thought. Fortunately, he had his portable supply with him, in the glove compartment, way back. He began searching for a vacant parking slot, to pull over.

“Your mind plays tricks,” Donna said remotely; she seemed to have withdrawn into herself, gone far away. He wondered if his erratic driving was bumming her. Probably so.

Another fantasy film rolled suddenly into his head, without his consent: He saw, first, a big parked Pontiac with a bumper jack on the back of it that was slipping and a kid around thirteen with long thatched hair struggling to hold the car from rolling, meanwhile yelling for assistance. He saw himself and Jerry Fabin running out of the house together, Jerry’s house, down the beer-can-littered driveway to the car. Himself, he grabbed at the car door on the driver’s side to open it, to stomp the brake pedal. But Jerry Fabin, wearing only his pants, without even shoes, his hair all disarranged and streaming—he had been sleeping—Jerry ran past the car to the back and knocked, with his bare pale shoulder that never saw the light of day, the boy entirely away from the car. The jack bent and fell, the rear of the car crashed down, the tire and wheel rolled away, and the boy was okay.

“Too late for the brake,” Jerry panted, trying to get his ugly greasy hair from his eyes and blinking. “No time.”

“ ‘S he okay?” Charles Freck yelled. His heart still pounded.

“Yeah.” Jerry stood by the boy, gasping. “Shit!” he yelled at the boy in fury. “Didn’t I tell you to wait until we were doing it with you? And when a bumper jack slips—shit, man, you can’t hold back five thousand pounds!” His face writhed. The boy, little Ratass, looked miserable and twitched guiltily. “I repeatedly and repeatedly told you!”

“I went for the brake,” Charles Freck explained, knowing his idiocy, his own equal fuckup, great as the boy’s and equally lethal. His failure as a full-grown man to respond right. But he wanted to justify it anyhow, as the boy did, in words. “But now I realize—” he yammered on, and then the fantasy number broke off; it was a documentary rerun, actually, because he remembered the day when this had happened, back when they were all living together. Jerry’s good instinct—otherwise Ratass would have been under the back of the Pontiac, his spine smashed.

The three of them plodded gloomily back toward the house, not even chasing the tire and wheel, which was still rolling off.

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