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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 15

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“I’ve got to get back to work,” Donna said. She examined her wristwatch. “I’ll tell them everything seems okay, according to what you told me. In your opinion.”

“Wait for winter,” Westaway said.

“Winter?”

“It’ll take until then. Never mind why, but that’s how it is; it will work in winter or it won’t work at all. We’ll get it then or not at all.” Directly at the solstice, he thought.

“An appropriate time. When everything’s dead and under the snow.”

He laughed. “In California?”

“The winter of the spirit. Mors ontologica. When the spirit is dead.”

“Only asleep,” Westaway said. He rose. “I have to split, too, I have to pick up a load of vegetables.”

Donna gazed at him with sad, mute, afflicted dismay.

“For the kitchen,” Westaway said gently. “Carrots and lettuce. That kind. Donated by McCoy’s Market, for us poor at New-Path. I’m sorry I said that. It wasn’t meant to be a joke. It wasn’t meant to be anything.” He patted her on the shoulder of her leather jacket. And as he did so it came to him that probably Bob Arctor, in better, happier days, had gotten this jacket for her as a gift.

“We have worked together on this a long time,” Donna said in a moderate, steady voice. “I don’t want to be on this much longer. I want it to end. Sometimes at night, when I can’t sleep, I think, shit, we are colder than they are. The adversary.”

“I don’t see a cold person when I look at you,” Westaway said. “Although I guess I really don’t know you all that well. What I do see, and see clearly, is one of the warmest persons I ever knew.”

“I am warm on the outside, what people see. Warm eyes, warm face, warm fucking fake smile, but inside I am cold all the time, and full of lies. I am not what I seem to be; I am awful.” The girl’s voice remained steady, and as she spoke she smiled. Her pupils were large and mellow and without guile. “But, then, there’s no other way. Is there? I figured that out a long time ago and made myself like this. But it really isn’t so bad. You get what you want this way. And everybody is this way to a degree. What I am that’s actually so bad—I am a liar. I lied to my friend, I lied to Bob Arctor all the time. I even told him one time not to believe anything I said, and of course he just believed I was kidding; he didn’t listen. But if I told him, then it’s his responsibility not to listen, not to believe me any more, after I said that. I warned him. But he forgot as soon as I said it and went right on. Kept right on truckin’.”

“You did what you had to. You did more than you had to.”

The girl started away from the table. “Okay, then there really isn’t anything for me to report, so far. Except your confidence. Just that he’s duked in and they accept him. They didn’t get anything out of him in those—” She shuddered. “Those gross games.”

“Right.”

“I’ll see you later.” She paused. “The federal people aren’t going to want to wait until winter.”

“But winter it is,” Westaway said. “The winter solstice.”

“The what?”

“Just wait,” he said. “And pray.”

“That’s bullshit,” Donna said. “Prayer, I mean. I prayed a long time ago, a lot, but not any more. We wouldn’t have to do this, what we’re doing, if prayer worked. It’s another shuck.”

“Most things are.” He followed after the girl a few steps as she departed, drawn to her, liking her. “I don’t feel you destroyed your friend. It seems to me you’ve been as much destroyed, as much the victim. Only on you it doesn’t show. Anyhow, there was no choice.”

“I’m going to hell,” Donna said. She smiled suddenly, a broad, boyish grin. “My Catholic upbringing.”

“In hell they sell you nickel bags and when you get home there’s M-and-M’s in them.”

“M-and-M’s made out of turkey turds,” Donna said, and then all at once she was gone. Vanished away into the hitherand-thither-going people; he blinked. Is this how Bob Arctor felt? he asked himself. Must have. There she was, stable and as if forever; then—nothing. Vanished like fire or air, an element of the earth back into the earth. To mix with the everyone-else people that never ceased to be. Poured out among them. The evaporated girl, he thought. Of transformation. That comes and goes as she will. And no one, nothing, can hold on to her.

I seek to net the wind, he thought. And so had Arctor. Vain, he thought, to try to place your hands firmly on one of the federal drug-abuse agents. They are furtive. Shadows which melt away when their job dictates. As if they were never really there in the first place. Arctor, he thought, was in love with a phantom of authority, a kind of hologram, through which a normal man could walk, and emerge on the far side, alone. Without ever having gotten a good grip on it—on the girl itself.

God’s M.O., he reflected, is to transmute evil into good. If He is active here, He is doing that now, although our eyes can’t perceive it; the process lies hidden beneath the surface of reality, and emerges only later. To, perhaps, our waiting heirs. Paltry people who will not know the dreadful war we’ve gone through, and the losses we took, unless in some footnote in a minor history book they catch a notion. Some brief mention. With no list of the fallen.

There should be a monument somewhere, he thought, listing those who died in this. And, worse, those who didn’t die. Who have to live on, past death. Like Bob Arctor. The saddest of all.

I get the idea Donna is a mercenary, he thought. Not on salary. And they are the most wraithlike. They disappear forever. New names, new locations. You ask yourself, where is she now? And the answer is—

Nowhere. Because she was not there in the first place.

Reseating himself at the wooden table, Mike Westaway finished eating his burger and drinking his Coke. Since it was better than what they were served at New-Path. Even if the burger had been made from groundup cows’ anuses.

To call Donna back, to seek to find her or possess her … I seek what Bob Arctor sought, so maybe he is better off now, this way. The tragedy in his life already existed. To love an atmospheric spirit. That was the real sorrow. Hopelessness itself. Nowhere on the printed page, nowhere in the annals of man, would her name appear: no local habitation, no name. There are girls like that, he thought, and those you love the most, the ones where there is no hope because it has eluded you at the very moment you close your hands around it.

So maybe we saved him from something worse, Westaway concluded. And, while accomplishing that, put what remained of him to use. To good and valuable use.

If we turn out lucky.

“Do you know any stories?” Thelma asked one day.

“I know the story about the wolf,” Bruce said.

“The wolf and the grandmother?”

“No,” he said. “The black-and-white wolf. It was up in a tree, and again and again it dropped down on the farmer’s animals. Finally one time the farmer got all his sons and all his sons’ friends and they stood around waiting for the black-and-white wolf in the tree to drop down. At last the wolf dropped down on a mangy-looking brown animal, and there in his black-and-white coat he was shot by all of them.”

“Oh,” Thelma said. “That’s too bad.”

“But they saved the hide,” he continued. “They skinned the great black-and-white wolf that dropped from the tree and preserved his beautiful hide, so that those to follow, those who came later on, could see what he had been like and could marvel at him, at his strength and size. And future generations talked about him and related many stories of his prowess and majesty, and wept for his passing.”

“Why did they shoot him?”

“They had to,” he said. “You must do that with wolves like that.”

“Do you know any other stories? Better ones?”

“No,” he said, “that’s the only story I know.” He sat remembering how the wolf had enjoyed his great springing ability, his leaping down again and again in his fine body, but now that body was gone, shot down. And for meager animals to be slaughtered and eaten anyhow. Animals with no strength that never sprang, that took no pride in their bodies. But anyhow, on the good side, those animals trudged on. And the black-and-white wolf had never complained; he had said nothing even when they shot him. His claws had still been deep in his prey. For nothing. Except that that was his fashion and he liked to do it. It was his only way. His only style by which to live. All he knew. And they got him.

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