Acid House pages 123 through 140

Any comments or questions about this site, please contact Bob Zolnerzak at






The amused look on Jules' face was entirely too humorous, and Ken burst out with laughter. "What's the matter?" asked Fran.
"Did you SEE the look on Jules' face when we passed him?"
"What do you mean?" Fran had a slight frown, wrinkling her flawless brow. Her hair lifted slightly from her forehead as she flounced down the stairs, and the pink crepe flowed effortlessly around her. She was not so much dressed in the lounging pajamas as swathed.
"I think Jules is looking forward to the reactions we'll get as we go downtown." Ken's look was as licentious as he permitted himself without unduly alarming Fran. She still had her worries, however.
"Are you sure it'll be ok like this downtown?" She held her hands out to the side, striking a perfect angle with her arms so that the crepe lightly brushed her elbows, then fell away in the cape effect in the back. "They're really not pajamas, they just look like it."
"I think it's perfect. Anyway, everyone certainly wears less than that to the beach in the summer, so there can't be anything wrong with it." Ken was lying only slightly. It wasn't the quantity of flesh exposed that made the costume sensational, it was the quality of the flesh which wasn't exposed which was startling. For the crepe appeared to be of the thinnest, sheerest possible material, yet without possessing any degree of transparency. Its effect was brought about strictly by cling, and it clung to Fran perfectly.
Starting with full gathered folds at the shoulders, it fell in front and in back, leaving the arms free, giving full play to the imagination for the fore and aft. An ingenious system of weights and strings were built into the neckline, so that it would vary from a mock-turtle neck in front and a deep, full plunge in back, to a collar in the back and a navel-deep descent in front, with the breasts safely behind their string bulwark, held in place by the weight dangling from the center.
She was now wearing it so that the front folded softly on the tops of her breasts, pushed up by a half-bra beneath, though the gown allowed no trace of underclothing to show. That was the beauty of the effect: the viewer was positive she was wearing nothing beneath.
It was caught under the breasts and in the back by an extension of the pulley and hawser system, so that it didn't fall free from the shoulders, but from the rib cage, making the waist small in any profile, yet not clinging to the waist. The edge of the blouse rested evenly on the tops of the trousers, and these molded to every contour between the waist and the knee, blossoming out below the knee into the most graceful of bells. Little golden sandals completed the outfit at the bottom, and on her right was the flattered Ken.
Though he was oblivious to the sexual qualities of her charms, he was certainly not ignorant of her physical beauty, and since he seldom had the chance to be seen with a bona fide head-turner, he was looking forward to this small trip with pleasure. He only hoped that his face wouldn't completely flush, picking him out as an amateur when it came to escorting beautiful women in a small town.
The first few blocks were people-less, and Ken refrained from glancing sideways into the bank to see if she got any reaction from the tellers. Kids passed, talking of school, and they didn't even look at the two of them. Then came the first old lady, and she looked, looked away, then couldn't help herself and continued to look, fixedly, up and down, sideways and frontwards, and continued to look backwards as we passed. Fran carried it off nicely, but Ken was convulsed with laughter. "Did you SEE her? I thought she'd drop her bundle right there on the street."
"She was OK, she was looking to see if it would fit HER," and then Fran couldn't take the humor anymore, and the pink crepe trembled with her giggles. The first man, a college-age student, must have been other-directed, or maybe bound on a sex-affair of his own, for he hardly looked at Fran. This gave Ken the opportunity to straighten his face for the highway, which they now had to cross. It was difficult to see the reactions inside the cars, but Ken wasn't sure whether he was relieved or disappointed that there weren't screams of brakes and piles of overturned cars on the highway, results of uncontrollable gawking.
Two women passed next, and Ken felt compelled to strike up an innocent conversation with Fran. He felt it impossible that they continue on their way, brightly alert to the reactions of passers-by. The two women saw Fran, slowed their pace, bent their heads together and talked rapidly without once moving their eyes from Fran's body. When they got about six feet away, aware that I was watching them, they averted their gaze and walked straight ahead, their conversation finished.
"Give them something new to talk about" said Fran with evident satisfaction.
Then a fellow waiting for a bus stopped chewing his gum to look at Fran, and for the first incident, looked at Ken with something like curiosity, as if he were asking himself the question "What does THAT guy have to get a gal like that." Ken found that he had to twist the reactions around his mind before it became "What DOES that guy have to get a gal like that," and more pleasant to his thoughts.
When they reached the center of town, they were without doubt the center of attraction. It operated on a chain-reaction basis: two fellows walking ahead of them, who hadn't seen them, noticed the amazed faces of two guys walking toward us, and turned to see what was following them, and almost tripped over their feet and a bus-stop waiting-bench before they decided to back onto the curb and wait for the pair to pass. Fran and Ken continued to talk, sometimes laughing out of the sheer nervousness of their position, but it was obvious that Fran was enjoying herself more than she had been earlier.
On his part, Ken found the reactions pretty much the same, possibly because not much of the reaction was directed towards him. There were some whistles from passing cars, but in only one instance did a car with four teenagers slow down and attempt to follow them in their progress down the street, but traffic behind them, more aware of traffic being blocked than what was blocking the traffic, soon horned them on their way. Not too many decided Fran was below their notice: it was part of the rural charm of the small town: if they wanted to look, they looked. They didn't care if they did what they may have thought they shouldn't have been doing. Most refreshing, thought Ken.
As with everything, the game soon palled, and Fran began changing her stride, saying that the sandals were beginning to rub her feet. They turned and started back, and passed many of the people they'd passed before, and still the looks were intense. There were no obscenities hurled, and though Ken didn't recall passing any policemen, there was no danger of being considered a public menace, or nuisance.
Ken found that he was uncomfortably warm on the walk back up the hill toward the hospital, and Fran was almost limping by his side, dutifully trying to keep up the impression of carefree beauty, but little lines had settled between her brows, and when Ken's arm brushed hers, there was a light dew of moisture on her wrist.
"That was some walk, wasn't it?" Ken said, trying to wrap up the event, and seeking in his own way to give Fran his compliment on her appearance.
"Um, it was fun," said Fran, but the smile was a little forced, and quickly vanished. Her limp increased.
"This town will not soon forget what it has seen this day," said Ken, his voice rising and falling in a thankfully-forgotten style of oratory.
"Um," said Fran, not bothering to smile, concentrating her efforts on getting back to the hospital before thankfully removing her sandal.
Jules wasn't in his office as the pair walked up the stairs, and Rachel gave Fran only a half-look before bustling on to her regular duties. Fran told Ken she wanted to rest, and Ken went to his room with the odd taste of completion and disappointment a child knows after all the presents are unwrapped on Christmas Day.


"Ken, I really can't take any more of this place. Would you care to join me for a little nip down at the Royal York?" Lotte stood with her feet braced for a storm, one hand coyly placed up on the doorsill.
"Sure. I wouldn't mind a change of scenery, myself," and Ken smiled with Lotte, reprieved from another evening of sitting alone.
They walked slowly down to the Hotel, Lotte admiring the evening, and Ken making appropriate comments when necessary. Though the sun had set, there was still an orange-violet tapestry flung over the sky, and even the fumes from the pulp-boiling factories faded into insignificance. One solitary star, or perhaps it was Venus, glittered diamond-like in the dusk, and tumbling swifts twittered in the twilight.
When they reached the hotel, there was again the feeling of stepping into a special world of thick carpets, gilded edges, even though the gilt was laid over plaster of Paris and papier-mache, and subdued lighting. Voices hushed when they swung through the revolving doors, and the noises of buses on the back loading platform were forbidden entrance. Lotte swept over the carpets to the transparent-sided elevator leading to the rooftop cocktail lounge, and while the couple which had preceded her unknowingly turned back to face the closing door, Lotte walked straight to the back of the car and faced the concrete pit, as it walls slid downward, and the lights in the elevator dimmed.
Down the well came the last rays of daylight, and like a diving bell springing from the sea, the elevator topped the tiled rim of the well, and rose noiselessly into the air, as the couple whirled around with startled exclamations. Ken and Lotte calmly watched the city drop beneath them as if it had happened to them a dozen times. "Isn't that unusual?" the woman said to her husband, and he humphed back at her as Ken smiled at Lotte.
Since it was the dinner hour, and rather late for cocktails, the lounge was empty, so Lotte paraded to the corner banquette, which had views over the river and down to the bridge, which became a green necklace of light as the night's illumination was turned on. The dark wingspan of a jet floated silently, diagonally away on its invisible wire in the sky.
"This IS nice," oozed Lotte, arranging herself in the corner so that she could see anyone who came from the dining room into the lounge. "What shall we have," she said, as the waitress left a menu on the table.
"They have a nice wine list," Ken said, not sure what Lotte's pleasure would be.
"Marvelous," she said, letting all the r's and o's out of the word, "Why don't you order something nice and red for us," and she tittered her high trill of laughter, eyes closing to twinkling slits.
Ken was glad that he recognized Pommard on the menu, otherwise he would have feared the risk of a terribly dry, vinegar-like wine not to his taste. "Shall we get a whole bottle?" Ken asked, not looking up, since he figured he knew the answer.
"Well --- you don't think it will be too much?" she let him choose.
"No, I'm sure we'll make good use of it," he smiled as he closed the menu.
"Yes," and she laughed her open-mouthed aha. There would probably be a discussion about having just a little bit more before they left. "How are you liking this place," Lotte asked, obviously meaning the hospital.
"It's just fine. What a wonderful bunch of people are here, and everyone talks so freely."
"Talks, yes. Freely, umhm," she said intensely, looking into Ken's eyes.
"Is that why we came here this evening, I wonder," she purred, "to talk?"
"There's nothing wrong with talking," said Ken, brightly, "but you never seem terribly anxious to talk about yourself."
"Oh, my heavens," Lotte laughed, stretching out the first syllable, "don't you find it a bore talking about yourself? After all, it should be the subject one knows best."
"Should be, yes, but many people don't know themselves very well, and they find it comforting to talk with other people about themselves, and they either get verification about their self-opinion, or they get an argument."
"An argument, ha ha," said Lotte, looking sideways at the view, then quickly back to Ken. Her cheeks were beginning to flush with the aroma of luxury, and the wine was only just coming to the table. The waitress wrestled with an inadequate opener, but managed to uncork the bottle without shredding it into the wine. She poured the sample for Ken to drink, and he felt terribly self-conscious as Lotte smiled at him sniffing it, looking at the color, sipping it, rolling it around in his mouth, and swallowing it.
"Yes, very nice," said Ken, the tart fumes rising from his throat making his voice catch just the slightest. But it wouldn't do to cough!
"Oh, it IS nice," said Lotte, taking two rather substantial swallows. "I DO like your choice," she said, again turning the talk to Ken.
"You're very flattering," he said.
"No, that's the truth. This is a good wine."
"Fine, I'm glad you like it." They drank for a time in silence, Ken determined not to talk about himself. He had gotten somewhat weary of saying the same sort of things over and over again. "Do you like it at the hospital, too?" he asked, deciding it was a safe question, since she had asked it of him first.
"Oh, going to talk about me, now? No, you're not. Tell me about yourself; what do you DO with those computers?" Lotte was going to have her way, at least for the moment, so Ken went on about input devices and memory units and instructions and output devices, until Lotte's glass had been refilled twice to Ken's once, and she began laughing at nothing that Ken could consider funny in his explanations. "It's all so complicated," she bubbled.
"That's why they hired me," Ken said, trying to sound sarcastic, "you see, I'm a genius."
"A GENIUS!" On Lotte's furry tongue, the word sounded like the Austrian equivalent of God.
"I wasn't being serious, Lotte," said Ken, making sure she knew it.
"Honestly," and the first syllable was twice as long as the following two, "you're always being serious. You remind me of --- well, it wouldn't do for me to say his NAME, but he was always being SO serious. I'll never forget the first time I saw him. My husband had gone to telephone, and I was standing waiting for him in the lobby of this restaurant, and he walked up to me; oh, I thought he was the MOST handsome of men, and he asked if I were waiting for someone. I told him I was waiting for my husband, and he got the MOST serious look on his face." She laughed and sipped. "It was almost as if I had told him I had VeeeDeee, or something," and she laughed even louder.
Ken dribbled a bit more Pommard into her glass. "He was only just a CHILD, but he never laughed, as you would expect a child to do, he was always very serious. When my husband went away for the weekend, he had to go away often, you understand? --- well, THIS fellow and I would do the MOST amusing things, and he'd hardly laugh a tall. JUST like you. It's very flattering for me to be seen in the company of young men, don't you think so? I'll only be annoyed when someone mistakes me for someone's mother," and she dropped the word as if it dirtied her tongue. Then she laughed.
"Do you think I look like somebody's mother?" She looked so coyly at Ken, he couldn't resist not being serious.
"That's strange, you look exactly like, what was her name? Ann's mother."
"Oh, you ARE being nasty. I shouldn't have told you about Ann at all. She's having such problems, she's such a burden to me. Why wouldn't she want to live in MY apartment. No, she has to stay in that horrible place up near Columbia. I don't think they've cleaned it since the building was put up. One of her roommates plays on the piano ALL the time, and I can barely hear her on the telephone when I call to see if she needs anything. I guess it's good that she can rehearse for her chorus there, but it's such a horrible place, bluh," and she shivered and washed the taste out of her mouth with a ruby mouthful of Pommard.
"Is she your only child?" asked Ken, hoping Lotte was fuzzy enough to notice she was talking about herself, and not about him.
"Oh, NO," she said, as if Ken had said something preposterous. "I have two sons, too, but they stay with Howard. I couldn't abide Howard. When he was there, he was always VERY MUCH there, if you know what I mean." Ken didn't, but thought it better if he nodded. "And when he wasn't there, he just wasn't there at all, " and Lotte bubbled into her wine glass. "I would have liked it a little if there were somewhere BETWEEN, it would be so much nicer."
"It's easy for someone to get on someone's nerves," said Ken generally.
"Howard got on mine," Lotte announced. "But he was away a lot of the time. You look a little like Regis," she pronounced the name in the French manner, accenting the second syllable, but keeping the final s sound, "yes, just turn that way. Yes, you do. He was a little shorter than you, as I recall. I met him when I was living in Paris, and Howard was away to Spain. He had a little apartment just down the block from Maxim's, and though he couldn't afford to eat there, I took him there, being careful to give him the francs first so he could pay the bill. He was a charming boy," she suddenly came somewhat to, "like you are, dear Ken, but you're not drinking very much of the wine, are you?"
In response, he filled his glass to the brim, and emptied all but a little of the rest into Lotte's glass. "See, we didn't have trouble finishing that at all."
"It's GONE. I don't see how it could be gone. Are you sure it was filled when we got it. Oh, yes, she did have trouble with the cork, didn't she. Well, Ken, I guess you DID drink a lot of the wine, didn't you?" And she laughed so long and heartily, though thankfully silently, that Ken didn't know whether she was laughing at herself or at him.
"We can get some more, if you wish?" Ken put the questions to Lotte.
"Oh, no, we couldn't have more than a bottle." She paused, wondering whether she'd been to hasty. Then decided, "No, one bottle has to be enough. I really shouldn't have that, but I've been feeling SO weak lately, and Dr. MacKenzie said I should drink stout, but it's such VILE stuff," she said, pulling an appropriate face. "I asked him if I couldn't have a bid of wine, and he said 'Yes, you can, but just a bit'." She didn't try to imitate his voice, but she did rather well will with his accent.
"Do you see anything of Howard anymore?" Ken tried to be subliminal.
"Oh, dear, no, I just wouldn't be up to it. Every since I started with my analysis, I wasn't to see him at all. But then as the analysis went on, I wasn't able to see anyone but my analyst, and that wasn't very much fun. He told me I should go shopping, and paint; anything to occupy my time, but he told me that I was relying too heavily on everyone else to bring me through my problems. In the end," she sighed, "I guess I relied too heavily on him. Then I heard about this LSD place up here, and I asked him if I could go. He said no, and got very angry about it. I was feeling very badly, and finally I decided I HAD to come, so I packed and came on the train."
The thought of her ordeal struck her, and she drained the last of her wine, and looked intently at Ken as he poured a bit more than half his quickly into hers. "It was ghastly," she said, with a Tallulah-like gasp on the first syllable, blinking not at all at the transfer of the wine. "Five days on the train and nothing to look at: it RAINED the whole way. I'm sure I'll fly back, even though I don't like to fly." She sipped her wine, nothing was said about the transfer, nor was there mention of her wet glass where some had splashed over the side. She merely wiped her fingers delicately on her napkin.
"That must have taken a lot of courage, to go against your Doctor."
"Courage, it didn't take courage, I had to fight for my life; it was the only thing I could have done. It was the smartest thing I EVER did, except maybe marry Howard," and she giggled again, hoping Ken wouldn't take offense.
"Still, it was a very brave thing to do." Ken insisted.
"Thank you, my dear, you're very kind, AND charming. Mmmmm." And she smiled in a provocative way.
"What's THAT for," asked Ken, feeling it was better to get it out into the open than to be embarrassed with it in silence.
"It's a pity you don't like women," she said. "I'm not saying that you SHOULD like women," she rattled on, "but I think you could make some woman VERY happy." She smiled sweetly, and Ken couldn't think of anything to say except thank you, which he said. "No, it's the truth. You're a very charming boy."
Something about the pathos of a woman calling a 28-year-old a boy got through to Ken, and he looked quickly out the window. "Look at all the lights on the river."
"Oh, now I've made you blush," she cooed, and laughed out loud. "You must learn to blush more often," she said, and he was aware that whatever color was in his cheeks was heightening, "it's very becoming." And she laughed again when Ken said nothing. "I'd better stop this," she said, more quietly, "or you might leave me here without an escort."
"That's a good idea, I just might do that," and Ken rose two inches off his banquette, accepted the look of surprise on Lotte's face, and settled back down. They both laughed, and talked of less personal matters until it was time to close the cocktail lounge.
"But it's only 10PM," Lotte protested, when the waitress asked for the money for the check.
"Remember, you're not in New York City now," said Ken, shifting to the side to get out his wallet.
"No, you're right, we're not," she said sadly, and rose to go to the ladies' room.

DAY 11


"Whadda ya know, I get to go HOME!" Jack looked like a different person, glowing with happiness. He had even washed his hair, and Ken was surprised to see that I wasn't black at all, but only a very dark brown, blackened by grease and dirt.
"Congratulations!" Ken beamed, then lapsed into a more moderate tone, "What happened to that three months?"
"I came through the second session with such flying colors that he said he was sure I'd be OK down in Seattle by myself for the weekend." The more he talked, the more he positively glowed with joy. "I can come back on Sunday if I feel it's too much for me, but he TRUSTS me to leave this whole weekend."
Fran heard the tailend of the clamor and came rushing into the room. "You can leave?" she said, with happiness in her face, which was quickly shadowed over as Jack ran toward her and hugged her to him.
"Yeah, doesn't that deserve a big kiss?" Fran gave Ken a look of shock and panic over Jack's shoulder, but by the time her head was back in kissing position, an expression more befitting the act had replaced the shock and fear.
"Mmm, that's good," said Jack, giving Fran a little shake by the shoulders as he drew her away from him, and Fran had an expression not too far from joy on her face too.
"Jack, that's just great."
"Dr. MacKenzie --- gosh, he's wonderful --- said that I managed to stay on the right side of myself all through my second session," he looked around as if to make sure no one were listening behind the door, "I don't think they gave me a very big dosage, but I could handle it, and some things came out that they were pretty happy to hear, and, you know?, I really WANT to get back to see my Mother and Father. I think that's the REAL reason he's letting me go."
"Doesn't matter what the reason is, the important thing is you won your battle," said Ken, suddenly thinking of his own silent battle with Dr. MacKenzie. May be the successful outcome of Jack's second trip will make him more favorable to Ken's third, he hoped.
"So you're driving back when, tomorrow morning?" asked Fran.
"No, Dr. MacKenzie said he wouldn't like me to drive, so I have to take the bus --- there's one at 6AM tomorrow, and I'll be ON it."
"That's funny, John Allman --- " When Fran caught Ken's rapid hand motion behind Jack's back, she knew the meaning immediately, and, quickly, sneezed.
"Bless you," said Jack, delighted at the chance to wish Fran well.
"Thank you," she said, sniffling, "I was saying, John Allman had --- um --- to get up at 5AM, and Dr. MacKenzie wouldn't let him to do it, said --- it would mess up the routine too much." She didn't look at Ken at all while she was lying.
"Well, Fran," said Ken, glad she hadn't mentioned Allman's driving all the way back to Florida the very next day, "maybe Jack's just a special case, that's all," and they both beamed at Jack, who reddened.
"Yep, that's me all over, just a special case," and he did a little jig step, his big boots kicking against one another on the carpet.
"That's just great," said Fran, the smile beginning to freeze around the edges.
"Hey," Ken said, sensing the lengthening pauses, "we'd better let you pack. I guess you'll be getting to bed early tonight?"
"No, you can stick around," said Jack quickly, "you don't have to go. I can pack in the morning. All I have to take is my shaving kit, that's all."
"Well, you have to get your sleep," insisted Fran, edging toward the door. "I hated to do that to him," she told Ken, later, in his room.
"I know just what you mean, but I feel exactly the same way." Ken looked in the direction of Jack's bedroom. "This business about people being created equal is all right, I guess," he said, "but somehow they don't END up equal."
"Actually, he didn't look or smell so bad today," admitted Fran, but she looked back to Ken to make excuses for both of them nevertheless.
"But he's just not very SMART," said Ken. "Some people can talk about anything, and others have a very limited range of talk. Once you talk to Jack about fortune telling, there's nothing more to talk to him about. And there's only so much I like to hear about fortune telling." He tossed the ball to Fran.
"You're right," she said, using the same excuse, "I DO get tired of hearing him talking about the Ouija Board all the time. It's all phony, anyway."
"Well, not if you believe in it as much as he does," said Ken indulging his favorite bad habit of making everyone come out all right.
"But he could TALK about something different," said Fran, and a small gap in the talk led them both to become self-conscious: what stunning topic of conversation would come up between them that would justify calling Jack stupid and uninteresting.
"You know, maybe Dr. MacKenzie DID give him a tiny dose this time," said Ken, feeling safe in his analytical position. "He said he handled it well, but if the dose was small enough, maybe he could handle it even if he WAS in pretty bad shape." He warmed to the train of the thought. "You know, that's pretty much the way Dr. MacKenzie DOES work, he banks on the confidence he can inspire in ANYone. You know how Lotte adores him? Makes all those salads for him? I can't think of too much ELSE that she could do that was creative --- anyway, she never lets anyone see her sculpture. And by letting me stay around here these days, he let me know that he likes ME well enough to take the chance that I'll be able to assimilate a third experience. He got on YOUR good side by offering to loan you the trip!"
"Watch, you'll go too far," said Fran, shaking her head. "He did that for me as a favor to Tim Hardy, remember, and not particularly for me. And I'd like him as a person if he hadn't done that."
"Maybe," said Ken, but he wasn't convinced.



"I need some more lettuce for Dr. MacKenzie's salad," said Lotte, with her impeccable pronunciation.
"Oh, Ken, let's go with her," said Fran, jumping up from her chair, tired of drawing herself in beatific visions.
"OK, that's a good idea," said Ken, also tired of "The Prophet." There was only so much you could read of Gibran before it came out your ears.
"Oh, good, we'll have an expeDITion," oozed Lotte, getting her coat from the closet. The entourage dispersed for their coats, then regathered in the hall, elaborately shushing each other because of the therapy going on behind the next door. When no one else wanted to join them: Jean was writing to his wife, Bob was nowhere to be seen, and Howard was talking to Dr. Freed, the three exited from the hospital into the cooler air outside.
Lotte began breathing more heavily after a dozen steps. "Oh, let's walk slower. Just smell the trees, isn't it divine?" She wrapped the coat more closely around her and Fran skipped up the street, jacket open to the wind, hair flying behind her. Ken was amused to watch the two of them enjoying themselves in their own ways, and enjoyed himself watching them.
They reached the department store with only minimal window-shopping, since Lotte had been this way at least once each day in the past week, to get something or other for her notorious salads. They made a bee-line for the grocery counter, Fran exclaiming sadly that she had no money for all the pretty things around her that she wanted to buy, and alternated with saying that she wouldn't have need of pretty things anymore, now that she was going to become a therapist at Hollywood Hospital.
Once inside the grocery section, Ken inquired after the gourmet foods section while Lotte went off to check for lettuce and whatever else she saw that was green and crisp. "Look, here's the reindeer meat." Fran held up a one-pound can with surprise.
"Silly, that's not reindeer meat," said Ken, glancing at the label.
"Oh," she said, looking more closely, "reindeer meat BALLS are the same thing, and they both hunched their shoulders and laughed at her emphasis.
"We'll just have to get the reindeer meat BALLS, then," said Ken, emphasizing the right word, but an octave and 50 decibels lower than Fran.
"And look here, there's squid. Did you ever have squid before?" She held the can about four inches from Ken's face.
"No, he said, drawing back to verify the label, "and I don't think I'd care to, either. Except that it's smoked. That might make a difference." They wrinkled their noses at each other, laughed, and looked back to the shelves. "Here's quail. Did I ever tell you the story about my Chinese girlfriend, Janis? We went to this VERY fancy restaurant in New York, and it was all in French, and we came across this word "Cailles." We didn't know what it was, so we asked the waiter. 'Quail', he said, 'and very good, too.' Well, you know the Chinese, they say the l's like r's, so Janis said 'oh, quair sounds good', and then she got terribly embarrassed and started laughing."
" 'What's wrong?' I asked, and she said, 'Oh, quair, that sounds like "queer", and I just ordered quair'. So we went through the rest of the meal talking about her eating 'quair', and laughing about it. Yes, yes," he said, flummoxed because Fran wasn't laughing as loudly as he'd hoped, "we'll take along the 'quair'."
"Let's have a PARTY," shouted Fran, quickly sweeping Lotte up in her enthusiasm. They busied themselves about the guest list while Ken searched for more goodies among the shelves.
"Muktuk!" called Ken, triumphantly. "Remember, that's what Jules was talking about. See, it's narwhal meat."
"Oh, how awful," said Lotte, deepening the vowels and rolling the l of awful.
"I'd like to try that. And we'll have to give Jules some, too." Fran started scanning the cans before them, poking behind rows to be sure nothing missed her search.
"He'll probably love it," said Ken, sarcastically. "Hey, here's whale meat."
"What's the difference between Muktuk and whale meat?" asked Lotte, hugging her lettuce to her fur-collared front.
"Didn't Jules say that the only part of the whale they canned was the liver?" asked Ken, and getting no answer, said, "I think that's what he said." "Anyway, we'll soon find out." And he went back to see what else the shelves would offer.
They passed up the selections of candied ants and chocolated grasshoppers as being too common, but they took a can of Alaska King Crab in case anyone at the party would be more happy with fish. Each can was somewhat over 50ยข, but the atmosphere was charged with happiness about the coming evening's party, and they got another can of reindeer meat balls just to be sure they had enough. Then they got some more bread to go along with it, and cans of frozen juices for drinks, paid the amazed cashier what she wanted, and returned to the hotel.
Stomping up the stairs they passed Jules' office, and he stared over the tops of his glasses at the troupe. "Where have you children been?" he inquired, mock sternly.
"We've been getting the most fanTAStic meal ready for this evening. We'll take over the LSD room, and have dinner at 8, will you be there?" said Lotte, in a voice suited for a command performance.
"I think I'll probably be able to slip away from this desk for an hour or so. Be delighted to join your party." Jules and Lotte bowed and curtsied to each other, and they swept up the stairs to recruit Jean, who said glumly that he'd tried whale meat before, and it was terrible, and Chip, who took to it like the enthusiastic child he was, somewhere under all the parental crap which had been loaded onto him. Russ was collared as he came out of the LSD room, and he agreed that it would be empty --- George would be moving downstairs soon, since he was coming out of it pretty well by now.
"Could I bring my sister?" asked Russ.
"Your sister? Where did she come from?" asked Fran, slightly suspicious.
"She came up from Detroit for the weekend, as a surprise visit."
"Of course, she can home," said Ken with a trace of hastiness, and he thought he saw Lotte look at him a bit suspiciously, but it could be his imagination.
By the time 8PM rolled around, there was a flurry of people in the hall, and Lotte was being disappointed because George couldn't attend. "But he's been out of it for hours, already, Russ, couldn't he come up?"
"He could if he wanted to," Russ said with false cheerfulness, "but he doesn't WANT to come to the party. He doesn't feel like eating anything."
"But he doesn't have to eat, just enjoy the conversation," said Lotte querulously, figuring she'd lost her argument in any event.
"He prefers to stay downstairs," said Russ, somewhat nastily.
Jules bustled efficiently around putting newspapers on the floor for the hot-plate, which he brought up from his office, the coffee pot still retaining its place of permanence on the right burner. "I'll have to get some more chairs in here," he said to no one in particular.
"Let me help," said Jean quickly, and that prompted Lotte to say that which everyone had observed, but no one had the temerity to mention.
"Why, Jean-Paul, you're not wearing your toupee," shrilled Lotte, and Russ and Fran talked a little louder to cover their annoyance with Lotte.
"No, I decided to leave it in my room, now that I know that everyone loves me for myself, and not for how I look." Jean and Lotte exchanged forced grins, and Ken lied, "Well, I hadn't noticed it at all, so you can how much difference it makes."
"Thank you Ken," said Jean, "but I still feel uncomfortable without it, and I'll bet I look about five years older."
"Not at all," said Fran, pulling herself away from Russ, "you look even better without that terrible old thing." She stopped for a moment, thinking maybe she'd gone too far, but decided to cover her error by plunging further.
"In fact, I'd say you looked SIX years younger WITHOUT it." She figured that if she were going to lie, she might as well go all the way.
Ken turned away, afraid to comment. It was his opinion that Jean looked five years older than he actually was without the false hairpiece, and only about three years older than his age WITH the false hairpiece, so he was a loser either way. "You seem to have done this many times before," he said to Jules, who lugged four folding chairs through the door without touching either sill.
"No, this has never happened before. I don't think we ever had such a good group HERE before," and he sprayed the on-lookers with the beneficence of his smile. "I think it's a great idea, and I'm really looking forward to those reindeer meat balls."
"You've never had them before?" Ken asked with mock incredulity.
"Of course I've had them before, but I've never had them out of a CAN," retorted Jules with perfect one-up-man-ship.
"This is my sister, Bertha," announced Russ, holding a girl taller than himself, and with an even more pointed chin and smaller eyes, by the very thin elbow. And how could they have dared to call anyone Bertha, thought Ken.
"Hello, everyone," said Bertha, and Fran was pleased to hear that she didn't have the nasal whine which was one of the things wrong with Russ.
Lotte rode straight for Bertha," You're from Detroit, my dear?"
"No, I was born just down in Duluth, but our parents moved down to Detroit at the start of the war, and they stayed there. I'm working on my Master's in Education down there now." Bertha had every indication of the old-maid schoolteacher, though she couldn't have been more than 25.
"Where do we start?" Frank's voice boomed above the murmur in the room, and there was no silence, as if a headmaster had called a class to order.
"Let's open one of the reindeer meat balls, " said Ken, blushing when Fran jerked her head and winked at him. And a chorus of agreement set Jules to work with his pocket knife, which he wielded about the top of the can like a 40-year-old boy scout.
"They don't look any different from ordinary," said Chip, peering into the brown gravy surrounding brown lumps of ground meat.
"That's just what they are, ordinary reindeer meatballs," cried Jules, tipping the can into the frying pan on the left burner of his hot plate. "Just ordinary reindeer meatballs," and Lotte covered her mouth with her red-painted fingertips.
"What's in the other cans?" inquired David, bending forward to rustle in the paper bag on the table. "Smoked squid! Sounds lovely," and he placed the can to the side with an unlovely look on his face.
"Are there any fried ants in there?" asked Bertha, making Russ grin with pleasure at her participation in the group.
"Oh, no," Lotte hastened to say, "we didn't get anything that crawled around."
"Just squid," roared Fran, and the room burst into nervous laughter.
Ken thought there was a bit too much silence in the room, as if a random- switching spotlight could fall on only one person in the room at a time, and everyone else had to wait to listen to them. Russ and Bertha were seated on the floor near Jules, who was stooping over his hot plate. Lotte and Fran and Ken and Chip were on the sofa, the males on the outside, the girls on the inside, and David and Howard were in two folding chairs flanking the sofa. Jean was rather uncomfortable in a chair behind Jules, but he didn't have the nerve to draw it closer into the circle.
"It's really too bad George couldn't be here," said Lotte, when the spotlight fell on her again. "I'm sure he would just love the reindeer," and she leaned forward with laughter, cupping her hand to her mouth as if she were going to spit out a mouthful of hot potato.
Chip scooted further into his corner of the sofa, uncomfortable to be rubbing hips with Lotte, who was of an age to be his grandmother, though he probably wouldn't have guessed it, looking at her rouged cheeks, lined eyes, and preternaturally brilliant teeth, which must have been scoured five minutes before, for the purpose of blinding everyone at the party.
A smoky odor rose from the frying pan, and Jules shuffled from foot to foot as circulation was cut off in one leg and then the other by his stooped position over the stove. "Isn't it nice to see a man do the cooking every so often," said Bertha to Fran, and Fran laughed too loudly, looking at Russ sitting by her side.
Again Ken couldn't take such closeness to the secret which had just been revealed to him, and had to say "Jules, why don't you bring your chair in closer."
"No, I'd rather stay back here. Not so much smoke." And he waved his hands in front of his face, screwing up his eyes as if they were smoke-teared.
"You can all just STOP making comments about my cooking. If we have any volunteers, they can take the coffee pot off and start on something like the quail." Jules reached out for the plates, figuring he'd burned the gravy sufficiently to heat up the insides of the balls.
"They're cold," said Chip matter-of-factly, as he bit into his lump of meat, but Lotte hastened to cover, wiping gravy off her lower lip with her handkerchief, "I think it's just marvelous. What a lovely idea this all is."
The conversation limped onward for more minutes while people made disinterested comments about the reindeer meat balls; aside from their temperature, there was little to distinguish them from regular Swedish meat balls, either in taste or appearance, Then Jules sent Russ out of the room with the dirty frying pan, and he moved the quail around in their gravy. "These are falling apart," he observed.
"They --- you mean there was more than one," said Bertha in amazement, looking at the can about the size of four slices of pineapple.
"Yep," grunted Jules, "there were two of the little devils in there, wings, legs necks, and all."
"Oh, my dear," said Lotte, wiping the corner of her mouth with her finger, which she wiped in her spotted handkerchief neatly hidden in her lap.
"I think I'll take them out now," said Jules, wrinkling his forehead over the pot like the Third Witch of Macbeth, "or they'll just dissolve in the gravy if I stir the." He fished out the little bodies with a fork, and put them onto two plates at either end of the table, and people bent forward to look at their specimens. Ken reached out and tentatively touched a leg, and the bone fell out with a soft queasy splash, leaving dark meat sticking up in shards from the body.
"Made a mess of that," he condemned himself, and brought over his fork to excise a section of the tiny corpse, transferring it to his plate.
Russ came back with a somewhat cleaner frying pan, and Jules announced that he was going open the whale steak. A shudder went through those assembled, and he opened the can anyway. Some slight odor reached into the room from the newly opened can, but it was only when the dark fat-smoke began to sizzle out of the frying pan that the full force of the smell broke.
"Oh, my Lord, doesn't that smell HORRID?" asked Lotte rhetorically, knowing no one could deny the obvious fact.
"I think it's a lovely smell," said Jules, rising to the occasion to be perverse. "This really smells like a lovely cut," and he lowered his head into the frying pan to verify his observation.
"Oh, I think it smells awful," said Bertha, looking back from Lotte to Jules and back to Lotte. Chip curled up his lip and shrank further back in the corner of the sofa, not bothering to investigate the quail at his end of the table.
"Hey, what's going on in here?" The slight lisp, the protruding teeth, the shapely nurse's uniform: it could only be Rachel!
"Hi, Rachel, come on in," sang out three or four voices from around the room. "Welcome, join the party."
"Oh, it's a party, is it," she said, poking into the room as if she expected a pie in the face. "What's we celebratin'?"
"Maybe it's your birthday, Rach, old gal," said Jean, and she looked over and smiled her abyssful smile.
"Hey, you took your --- " she scrabbled her hand around in her hair, " --- your whatsis off."
"Yeah, ain't I a knockout." Jean struck a pose, waiting for a reply.
"You sure ain't," she said, winking with such glee that everyone broke into gales of laughter.
"Have some whale steak, Rachel," called Jules solicitously from the frying pan.
"Is that what the smell is," she said, teeth sticking out further than her nose, padding her enormous feet over to the hot plate. "Hey, that's your hot plate, ain't it? I wondered where the coffee got to."
"Whale steak," insisted Jules, careful not to let her change the subject. "It's just delicious."
"Well," she looked down at him with her lidded eyes, "We'll see," and she settled down in the remaining folding chair, and began to talk quietly with Chip: "How you getting along, fella?"
The whale steak was passed around in odd-sized chunks, because it didn't seem possible to cut it in any decent way. Either a sizeable chunk would stick to the bottom of the pan, or another piece would slither around so much that it would seem to want to remain one piece. Russ hopped to his feet to open the door to the porch when the smell got too much in the room, and when the smoke began to drift out the door, it became obvious how much smoke had, unnoticed, filled up the room.
"Oh, my God, that's terrible," said Ken, one of the first to bite into his portion, while the others looked around for someone else's opinion. Forks that had been raising toward mouths were silently lowered, and everyone looked at Ken in exaggerated attention. "It's --- it's just awful," he said, not being able to think of anything else. Rachel and Chip continued their quiet conversation.
"Jules, YOU said you liked it, have some," commanded Lotte pointing with her fork, then catching herself and quickly pulling it back with a cluck.
"Don't mind if I do," he said, whacking off a piece with growing expertise, and stuffing the whole morsel into his mouth.
Bertha poked Russ in the ribs, "Look, he's actually eating it."
"And without making a face," gasped Fran, "or spitting it out." And Jules went through the mastication with a placid face and, pausing only slightly, swallowed it.
"Now we'll see a mad dash for the W.C." said Jean, and Jules turned his head calmly and smiled a flat smile at Jean, then turned back and grinned at each person on the sofa in triumph.
"Hey, where's my whale steak," trumpeted Rachel, coming out of her talk with Chip.
"Yes, give her some, do," said Lotte, twisting her mouth to hold off the smile.
"How does it taste?" asked Rachel, looking solemnly at Fran.
"Just fine. It tastes just fine." To date, Ken decided, that was the best piece of acting he had see Fran perform.
"Let's see then," said Rachel, poking her fork into a gray mass on her plate, and poking the mass into her mouth, miraculously missing her teeth. "Um," she chewed with her teeth sticking out, somewhat like a rabbit would chew, with the wad all in one cheek, "you know, that's not bad." Then she paused in her chewing and looked around at the laughing group. "What's wrong?" No one could answer her, not even Jules, who had an impassive look on his face, but his throat was working furiously.
"I think it's GOOD," she said defensively, taking another bit from her fork. "Got a good taste."
Lotte let out a high-pitched whoop that startled Chip seated next to her, and at that sound, Bertha and Russ leaned against each other with fits of laughing, and Fran buried her face in her hands, shoulders shaking. "You mean you didn't like it," Rachel asked, deadpan, fantastically unafraid.
"I didn't like it, no, Rachel," said Ken, gasping between laughs. "No".
"Oh," she said, resuming her methodical chew, transferring the cud into her other cheek --- she DID have teeth on both sides. "Well, I think it's pretty good." The sounds of suppressed laughter burst from parts of the room, and Jean was positively red in the face, matching the color of the scar that parted his skull. "Any more?" was greeted with a renewed outburst of sound.
"We have some muktuk here, too," said Jules, his face again tranquil after a fit of laughing when Rachel was looking at Ken.
"Is that as good as whale?" asked Rachel, covering her formidable teeth with her tongue, though it was impossible that the food particles would have been caught in front of her front teeth.
"Some people think it's better," said Jules, while Russ said to Bertha, "they even think it's palatable," sending Bertha into a stitch of tee-hees.
"No," said Rachel, nibbling on her muktuk passed by the shaky hand of Lotte, "I like the whale better." Though this wasn't particularly funny, the way she said it seemed like the climax of the evening, and Fran spilled some of the Reindeer meat ball gravy on the front of her dress because she jerked so much with laughter. There was a flurry of activity around Ken and Lotte and Fran, and water was brought from outside to sponge down the dress.
"I think it will be OK," said Lotte, her face working with her unfinished laughter.
"It doesn't matter, this whole thing was worth it," said Fran, giving out with one last long crow of laughter, tears running down her cheeks.
"I got to go now, now that there's no more whale. Thanks for the party." And Rachel, dear Rachel, got onto her boat-feet to go back to her wards.
"Thank YOU, Rachel," said Jules, and everyone joined in the chorus, since she'd undoubtedly done more than anyone else in making that party. When she was gone, there were additional attempts at humor, but the best attempts were based on "Remember when she --- " and no one could top Rachel. Jules seemed spent with fatigue when he unplugged his hot plate and returned to his desk to work.


"Everything was black," Jean said, with an ominous voice. "I couldn't see anything, and I couldn't feel anything. I was just floating, and everything was black. When a long time had passed, I remembered there had been music when I'd gotten there, but now the music had stopped. I wasn't laying down anymore, I could move around and I kept walking around, but then I realized I didn't know where I was, and it was silly to be walking around. So I sat down, I guess you'd say on the floor, and waited for something to happen. I waited a long, long time, but nothing happened. Finally I began to get worried. Something had happened, something had gone wrong, and I was stuck out here somewhere."
Ken and David nodded. They knew that same feeling very well, and they chilled sympathetically at the tones of fear in Jean's voice.
"It was awful," exclaimed Jean, as if he thought they didn't understand.
"I know just what you mean," said David. "What happened then?"
"For the longest time I sat there, and, it's funny, I remember thinking, why the LSD experience could be over, and I'm stuck out here somewhere. Isn't that funny?" David nodded solemnly, and Ken shook his head in sympathy.
"Then I got really frightened. They'd forgotten me! I was lost! And I got so terrified, really terrified, that I started to sweat, but still nothing happened, so I built up to such a nervous pitch that I SCREAMED. As soon as I did that, the lights went on. I could see I was in a room, all white, but there was nothing in the room except myself. I kept looking for a window, or a door, but there wasn't any. I went around the room, feeling for an opening, but there wasn't any. I kept feeling I was being followed, but when I turned around quickly, there was no one there. It was really an awful feeling, so I screamed again, and there was Jules in front of me, with this funny expression on his face. He asked me, "Why are you screaming?" and I think I said something like, "Because there's no opening in the room," or something equally silly, and he looked at me and laughed, and I realized I was in the LSD room, so I went back onto the sofa and lay down, but that was about the end of it."
"How do you feel now?" asked Ken.
"Pretty good, I guess, but I can't really figure out what was going on.
I wish I remembered more of what happened. There was a lot of moving around, I vaguely recall, but I can't pin it down. That terrible darkness was the thing I remember, and it was the last really strange thing that happened to me." Jean looked from Ken to David and back, entreating.
David cleared his throat: "Did you ever have the feeling you were 'in the dark' so to speak, in real life?"
"Yes," said Jean, "that's a pretty good way of describing it."
"Well, you were in the dark there, too, and you screamed for help, and you got it. Maybe it's the same thing: you were in the dark, you came here and you got help. The lights went on." David smiled tentatively.
"But I didn't scream for help. I just screamed because I was terrified. I screamed because there was nothing left for me to do."
"Funny, that's what you said when you got here. Remember, that long talk we had in our room?" asked Ken. "You said something like you came here because there was nothing left for you to do."
"Maybe I did," Jean said, almost defensively, "but still, that's not very much of an LSD experience. Fran thought she was Christ, you were re-born, you," he inclined his toward David, "had an orgasm that took all afternoon, what did I get? A room with no doors and no windows."
"But what did you WANT from the LSD experience," asked Ken, trying to help in whatever way seemed best.
"I wanted to find a way out --- " and his face lightened, "I wanted to find a way out of that room with no doors and no windows?"
"Maybe," said Ken, "and remember, you DID find a way out, too. As soon as you DID something --- maybe that's the way to put it --- as soon as you DID something, something on your own, you found your way out of that room. You made that room, which was causing you so much trouble, disappear. So in a way you got EXACTLY what you wanted: you found your way out."
"But that makes it so trivial," protested Jean, "where were the colors, where were the wonderful sensations, where was the music you could smell and the colors you could taste. Why did I miss all that?"
"I didn't see any colors, particularly --- " began Ken.
David interrupted, "Neither did I."
"But I got some kind of indication about where I was. I kept going round and round in cycles, which isn't exactly my idea of the best possible trip, either, but it certainly indicated to me where I was in my life: just there, going round and round in circles. LSD isn't supposed to SOLVE your problems, it's just supposed to let you look at things in a new way, so that maybe YOU can see better what your problem is."
"So I get a white room with no doors and no windows?" said Jean, almost petulantly. In fact, his lower lip did seem to protrude ever so slightly.
"Maybe you were affected by that terrible room in Toronto, where you had your other LSD experience," said Ken. "Maybe that white room goes way back to your childhood, when you said you were in the winter forests all the time." Ken thought he saw a widening of Jean's eyes at the mention of his childhood, but whatever the reaction was, it was covered up almost as soon as Ken thought he saw it.
"Maybe you're having some kind of trouble with your wife that you won't admit. Maybe she wants you to open up, and you keep protesting you have nothing to open up --- no doors and no windows, but she knows better," suggested David, but Jean was distracted, Ken thought, by his childhood memories of some white room.
"Could there have been doors and windows there, somehow," prodded Ken, "but you just couldn't see them --- " he paused, letting the words sink in, "--- or couldn't REACH them, or couldn't OPEN them?" There was a longer silence, and the only sound was Jean's heavier breathing, and a slight odor as if someone was very frightened.
Ken had the feeling that Jean was thinking of something that he didn't want the other two to know about, so he tried to change the subject. "Sometimes people don't even know what happened to them for months afterward," said Ken to David. "Then they'll get a memory jog, or something will fall into place, and they'll say 'oh, THAT'S what that meant." But David was still intent on Jean.
"What about your son?" prodded David. "Have you been as open with HIM as you would like to be? How old is he? Five? Six?"
"He's two," said Jean a bit too forcefully, "so he's hardly at the age when I would be closed with him. I think I'll just have to do as Ken says, and wait for a couple of months to pass, maybe something will fall into place." There was a terseness about his statements, a narrowness about his eyes that led Ken to believe that Jean HAD made some connection, but it was a private connection that he would have to think about at his leisure.
"I think I'll go see what Fran's doing," said Ken with elaborate casualness. He got up from his chair, yawned, covered it with a murmured apology, and went toward the door, wishing there were some way for him to take David with him.
"What about your parents --- " David was forging ahead, and Jean was sitting, taking it all in, whether through a sincere desire to investigate what David was saying, or through a misguided kindness, Ken didn't know, but he was glad that he, anyway, had seen fit to leave.
The conversation in the next room carried on for a few more minutes, then Ken saw David walking toward the stairway, head lowered in thought, still mulling over Jean's problem. There was silence in the next room, then, and Ken didn't see Jean until dinner, at which time all traces of his experience had vanished from his face. When he tried to bring up the subject somewhat later, Jean said he was looking forward to his second experience, and would say nothing more. Ken was slightly annoyed, but didn't talk about it.

DAY 12


Ken and Fran were painting in the "Princess" room, where the sunlight through the windows in the two walls covered the golden covers of the bed with light, which spilled onto the floor where they were working. Fran was still producing those essentially faceless caricatures of women engulfed in heavenly vistas of clouds and sunlight, while Ken was sketching at his view of the mountains from Macchu Picchu. She was having trouble with the colors that were running into each other in her enthusiasm to apply them, and Ken was discontent with the results of his perspective.
"How can you get a whole quadrant of the sky into one little 8 1/2 by 11" paper?" he grumbled, holding the sheet away with a frown.
"I'm having the same trouble," said Fran, cheerily, "but I'm not so interested in what it looks like as I am in what I'm DOING."
"Um", said Ken, merely to let her know he had heard her. But he was so much involved with what others thought about him and his efforts that he couldn't sketch for the pleasure of it: it had to be convincing to anyone who wanted to look at it. They worked on for a few minutes before the interruption.
"Fran. FRAN!" George's voice came from the LSD room across the hall, and it was only then that we noticed that the music had stopped. There was a brief scuffle, and a sound from Jules, and then again "Fran!" with a note of terror from George.
Ken and Fran looked at each other, listening for more sounds, but in a few moments the "Scheherazade" record resumed. "I wonder what that was," said Ken, merely in order to say something.
"I don't know," said Fran. "We really didn't get a chance to talk that much last night. I can't imagine why he'd be calling MY name." They listened for a number of minutes, then Fran shrugged and dipped some pure blue onto her brush, and shoot the blond hairs out of her eyes, careful not to let the tips of her locks become paint-brushes in their own right. Ken, reluctantly, reapplied himself to the cloud-swept vista from the top of Huanya Picchu.


Ken wandered up the stairs, beginning to sweat in the palms of his hands before the upcoming session. Blindly, he willed not to be worried about his third session, trying to think of anything OTHER than that little glass of transparent liquid washing down bi-colored plastic capsules. But the more he tried NOT to think about his anxiety, the more it was there to push and prod at his feelings, tightening his stomach, making his cold feet sweat in his shoes, leavening the lump in his throat.
As he passed the landing, he was surprised to see that Adam was working at Jules' desk. Adam looked up. "Hi, there, Ken. How's it going?" The question was unduly cheerful, and Ken was made even more conscious of the tightness of his throat, as if the strain in Adam's throat was caused by the panic in Ken's throat. "Come on in, don't dawdle around the doorway." This last remark was made in laughing impatience, while Adam beckoned with a bowing head and a waving arm.
"Just trying to find some way of killing time," said Ken, surprised that he could say something so close to the truth.
"Sit down then, and spend time with me," said Adam. "I'm reading over your file. You know I'm going to be with you tomorrow. Don't know what I'll be able to do for you --- " When Ken didn't interrupt when Adam had hoped, his sentence trailed into silence.
Ken smiled, sat, and didn't know what to say.
"Have you eaten yet?" Adam knew that the food was always good for some sort of comment.
"Yugh, yes. It was terrible. Those mini-portions always leave me hungry." Ken felt sweat drip from his underarm against his ribs, making his underwear wet when he brushed against it, causing his to start when he felt it, which heightened his impression of nervousness.
"Why don't we get out for a walk --- maybe get something to eat," said Adam, moving around the desk in desperation as an antidote to speech which wouldn't come to his lips
"Good," said Ken, and fell into as much of a phony cheerfulness as Adam had displayed in welcoming him to the room. They were both wondering why this encounter had to be so difficult. Both suddenly seemed extraordinarily shy: two teenagers on a blind date, or father and son.
The idea struck them both at the same time. Adam was aware of a muffled feeling of affection that he didn't know how to demonstrate to Ken, just as he felt awkward at first about kissing his sons. He had gradually learned the freedom to kiss his sons whenever he felt like it, but he could hardly feel free to kiss Ken. Ken, in his turn, felt strange in dealing with a feeling of affection toward an older man that had no part of sexuality in it. There was no physical attraction about Adam, Ken knew, but there was something just as charming, just as appealing about Adam as a handsome face or a well-muscled body.
They walked out of the building together, laughing at an Alphonse/ Gaston fumble with doorknobs and exits, and inhaled the fresh autumn air deeply, hoping to ingest strength and calmness from the tranquil afternoon. Crunching down the driveway, Ken and Adam had nothing to say to each other. Content with each other's presence, there was no need for words.
When they had walked for about fifteen minutes, looking at the passers-by, stopping with speechless grins to watch birds bathing in a gritty puddle, trailing off drops of water when cars frightened them away, Ken broke the silence. "I didn't like Russ for a guide at all." It wasn't said as an accusation, it was merely a statement of fact.
"There's no predicting who will get along with what guide," said Adam, almost in a whisper, looking down at his dusty, mud-spotted shoes.
"But I told Dr. MacKenzie in the report that I didn't like Russ the first time, and I didn't want him a second time." There was a pause, and since Adam wasn't saying anything, Ken added, "but I got him a second time."
"Sometimes that can't be helped," said Adam, looking down at Ken, his voice cracking in the odd way it had.
"I thought this could be helped," said Ken pointlessly, though he was thinking it was no use to talk about this: what was past was past.
"My gosh, Ken, everyone's doing as good as he can think to do, and he can't do no better than THAT." With its cracked inflections and "gee whiz" tone, Ken was jolted out of his self-pity into an appreciation of Adam.
That IS what Adam does, Ken thought. That's just what Adam does, he does as well as he can do, and he can't do any better than that. It was as if there were an instant overflow of hot fudge within him: hot, sticky, and sweet, it flowed outward from Ken to Adam, and the only way he could transmit it was to look up at Adam, his eyes steady and intent.
"My gosh, Ken, that's better. You'd think we were trying to make life MISERABLE for you." Adam's hand came up to Ken's shoulder and rocked his deltoid back and forth, squeezed a little too hard, and dropped uncertainly back to his side. Ken's first reaction was to be terribly embarrassed for Adam. He was so gawky, so dumb, so straightforward, so inarticulate. But then a sort of trust came back from Adam, and he thought of a better word to describe him: simple. Here was a truly simple man, with simple emotions, who would prefer to express them simply, except that society had put on strictures about acting this way or that way, and thus he had plan and consider and contemplate. Yet he wasn't built for all this cogitation. He wanted to act, and he did. He wanted to help, and, with a wave of relief, flowing over Ken from Adam, he DID.
"No, I know you're trying to help," said Ken simply, and that was precisely what Adam wanted to hear.
"Good. Now we understand each other," he said, making a joke of his loftiness, and changed the subject: "How would you like a soda?"
Ken could have cried tears of joy. It was a if he were a five-year old child, entrusted to this overgrown teenager for an afternoon, and the only remedy this bushy-haired gangler could think of to placate his charge was through the stomach. It was so beautiful, so simply beautiful.
"I'd love a soda." Ken beamed up at Adam, and almost suspected that he could see the glisten of happiness fill his green eyes --- but maybe he was only squinting into the sun.
The smell of the pharmacy had survived from childhood, the odors of mint and spice, the tang of mouthwash was in the air, and the round hard seats fit into a remembered fundamental pattern. Even the countertop felt familiar under the elbows, and the heels dug into the remembered rung on the seat column. The celluloid-covered menu could have been from his hometown fifteen years before, even the prices were comparable.
"I'll take a hot fudge sundae, please," said Ken happily to the soda jerk. A soda jerk!
"I thought you wanted a soda," said Adam, instantly concerned whether his charge was getting what he wanted. He stared around at Ken in his seat, more on a level now because of Ken's longer torso.
"A hot fudge sundae is what I like best in the whole world," and the unconscious childishness wasn't noted by either Ken or Adam, but they were both content with the thought that had been voiced. It sounds like truth.
Even though the chocolate wasn't terribly warm, it was as good as could have been expected, and Ken ummed and yummed through the cherry and whipped cream and chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream. They didn't even have the newfangled notion about chocolate ice cream. It was fitting that they didn't. Adam ordered a cherry soda, and slurped and clopped around in it like the child he verily was. Ken almost expected a rumbling belch to signal Adam's ultimate contentment, but he remembered Adam's stylish simplicity, and knew that this crudity would be below him.
"That --- was --- good," said Ken placidly, and Adam beamed with his small success. Most of the afternoon was now over, and they could both relax for the walk back to the hospital. During this time they talked of the hospital's business, about some of the cases with which Adam had been connected, and then passed on to generalities like the weather and the war. It was peaceful, and they enjoyed talking to each other, until the crunch of the gravel brought them back to the Hotel, and again they slipped back into the tutor-pupil relationship.
"All ready for tomorrow?" asked Adam, in an exaggerated tone of casualness.
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," said Ken in order to say something, but his mind was formulated the rest of his response. "I goofed the first time when I kept thinking the solution was OUTSIDE the blindfold. Now I know it was just myself trying to escape from me as the only possible solver for my problems. The second time was terrible because I wanted something very badly: I wanted to die. I wanted to stay inside so much that I couldn't get anywhere. So the first time I wanted to go outside too badly, the second time I wanted to go inside too badly. The only thing I can think to follow is Jules' original advice: don't go inside, don't go outside, just go with the music."
"That sounds just fine," said Adam, again putting a too-heavy hand onto Ken's shoulder. "We shouldn't have any trouble tomorrow at all."
"I hope not," said Ken, trying to sound light, but sounding troubled.
"Don't worry, you'll have me there, so you'll have nothing to worry about," said Adam, with uncharacteristic self-acknowledgement. "Well, wasn't that something to say?" He laughed uncomfortably, searching down into Ken's eyes for his mistake.
"I feel much better knowing that you'll be with me," said Ken softly, and he put a hand even more awkward than Adam's onto Adam's shoulder, held it out at an awkward angle for awhile, then led the way up the stairs until he was standing where the conversation had started.
"Well, I got a lot of things to do. You OK now?" asked Adam.
"Yep, just fine. See you tomorrow," and Ken went to his own room upstairs.