WEDNESDAY 11 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT 4 page
A developed thought coheres: Ho’s voice has the quality of a type of: ointment.
Any displaced and shaggy Nuck head in these windows chancing to look out into the yard now would be able to probably see Lenz depositing another chunk of meat in front of the pet and removing something from up near his shoulder under his topcoat as he’s melting stealthily all the way around behind the dog to sort of straddle the big dog from the rear, easing the last of the loaf down in front of the dog, the big dog hunched, the crunch of Don’s cornflake topping and the goopy sound of a dog eating institutional meat. The arm comes out from under the coat and goes up with something that looks like it would glitter if the windows’ yardlight reached far enough. Bruce Green keeps trying to wave his breath out of the way. Lenz’s fine coat billows around the dog’s flanks as Lenz braces and leans and gathers the hunched thing’s scruff in one hand and straightens up with a mighty grunting hoist that brings the animal up onto its hind legs as its front legs dig frantically at empty air, and the dog’s whine brings a lei-and-flannel shape to the lit space above one speaker overhead. Green doesn’t even think of calling out from his shadowed spot, and the moment hangs there with the dog upright and Lenz behind it, bringing the upraised hand down in front and hard across the dog’s throat. There’s a lightless arc from the spot Lenz’s hand crossed; the arc splatters the gate and the sidewalk outside it. The music balloons without cease but Green hears Lenz say what sounds like ‘How dare you’ with great emphasis as he drops the dog forward onto the yard as there’s a high-pitched male sound from the form at the window and the dog goes down and hits the ground on its side with the meaty crunch of a 32-kilo bag of Party-Size Cubelets, all four legs dog-paddling uselessly, the dark surface of the lawn blackening in a pulsing curve before its jaws that open and close. Green has moved unthinking out of the vanshadow toward Lenz and now thinks and stops between two trees by the street in front of 416 wanting to call to Lenz and feeling the strangled aphasia people feel in bad dreams, and so just stands there between the treetrunks with a finger in one ear, looking. The way Lenz stands over the hull of the big dog is like you stand over a punished child, at full height and radiating authority, and the moment hangs there distended like that until there’s the shriek of long-shut windows opening against the Ho and the dire sound of numerous high-tempo logger’s boots rushing down stairs inside 412. The creepily friendly bachelor that lived next to his aunt had had two big groomed dogs and when Bruce passed the house the dogs’ toenails would scrabble on the wood of the front porch and run with their tails up to the anodized fence as Bruce came by and jump up and like sort of play the metal fence with their paws, excited to see him. To just like set eyes on him. Lenz’s arm with the knife is up again and ungleaming in the streetlight’s light as Lenz uses his other hand on the top of the fence to vault the fence sideways and tear-ass uphill up Brainerd Rd. in the southwest direction of Enfield, his loafers making a quality sound on the pavement and his open coat filling like a sail. Green retreats to behind one of the trees as beefy flannel forms with leis shedding petals, their speech grunty-foreign and unmistakably Canadian, a couple with ukuleles, spill out like ants over the sagging porch and into the yard, mill and jabber, a couple kneel by the form of the former dog. A bearded guy so huge a Hawaiian shirt looks tight on him has picked up the meatloaf’s baggie. Another guy without very much hair picks what looks like a white caterpillar out of the dark grass and holds it up delicately between his thumb and finger, looking at it. Yet another huge guy in suspenders drops his beer and picks up the limp dog and it lies across his arms on its back with its head way back like a swooned girl, dripping and with one leg still going, and the guy is either screaming or singing. The original massive Nuck with the baggie clutches his head to signal agitation as he and two other Nucks run heavily to the slingshot Montego. A first-floor light in the house across Brainerd lights up and backlights a figure in a sort of suit and metal wheelchair sitting right up next to the window in the sideways way of wheelchairs that want to get right up next to something, scanning the street and Nuck-swarmed yard. The Hawaiian music has apparently stopped, but not abruptly, it’s not like somebody took it off in the middle. Green has retreated to behind a tree, which he sort of one-arm-hugs. A thick girl in a horrible grass skirt is saying ‘Dyu!’ several times. There are obscenities and heavily accented stock phrases like ‘Stop!’ and ‘There he goes!,’ with pointing. Several guys are running up the sidewalk after Lenz, but they’re in boots, and Lenz is way ahead and now disappears as he cuts like a tailback left and disappears down either an alley or a serious driveway, though you can still hear his fine shoes. One of the guys actually shakes his fist as he gives chase. The Montego with the twin cam reveals muffler problems and clunks down off the curb and lays two parentheses as it 180s professionally around in the middle of the street and peels out up in Lenz’s direction, a very low and fast and no-shit car, its antenna’s gay lei tugged by speed into a strained ellipse and leaving a wake of white petals that take forever to stop falling. Green thinks his finger might be frozen to his ear’s inside. Nobody seems to be gesticulating about anything about maybe an accomplice. There’s no evidence they’re looking around for any other unwittingly guilty accessory-type party. Another wheelchaired form has appeared just behind and to the right of the first seated backlit form across the street, and they’re both in a position to see Green up against the tree with his hand to his ear so it looks like he’s maybe receiving communiqués from some kind of earpiece. The Nucks are still milling around the yard in a way that’s indescribably foreign as the one Nuck staggers in circles under the weight of the expired dog, saying something to the sky. Green is getting to know this one tree very well, spread out against its lee side and breathing into the bark of the tree so his exhaled breath won’t plume out from behind the tree and be seen as an accomplice’s breath, potentially.
Mario Incandenza’s nineteenth birthday will be Wednesday 25 November, the day before Thanksgiving. His insomnia worsens as Madame Psychosis’s hiatus enters its third week and WYYY tries bringing back poor Miss Diagnosis again, who’s started in on a Pig-Latin reading of the Revelation of John that makes you so embarrassed for her it’s uncomfortable. For a couple nights in the HmH living room he tries falling asleep to WODS, an AM-fringe outfit that plays narcotizing orchestral arrangements of old Carpenters songs. It makes things worse. It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know.
He gets a serious burn on his pelvis leaning against a hot steel stove talking to Mrs. Clarke. His hip is swaddled in bandages under Orin’s old corduroys, and there’s a sucking sound of salve when he walks, late at night, unable to sleep. The birth-related disability that wasn’t even definitively diagnosed until Mario was six and had let Orin tattoo his shoulder with the red coil of an immersion heater is called Familial Dysautonomia, a neurological deficit whereby he can’t feel physical pain very well. A lot of the E.T.A.s kid him about they should have such problems, and even Hal’s sometimes felt a twinge of envy about it, but the defect is a serious hassle and actually very dangerous, see for instance the burnt pelvis, which wasn’t even discovered until Mrs. Clarke thought she smelled her eggplant overcooking.
At HmH he lies on the air mattress in a tight down bag on the edge of the violet plant-light with the wind rattling the big east window, listening to buttery violins and what sounds like a zither. There’s sometimes a scream upstairs, shrill and drawn out, from where C.T.’s and the Moms’s rooms are. Mario listens closely for whether the sound ends up as Avril laughing or Avril screaming. She gets night terrors, which are like nightmares but worse, and which afflict small children and apparently also adults who eat the day’s biggest meal right before bed.
His nighttime prayers take almost an hour and sometimes more and are not a chore. He doesn’t kneel; it’s more like a conversation. And he’s not crazy, it’s not like he hears anybody or anything conversing back with him, Hal’s established.
Hal had asked him when he’ll start coming back to their room to sleep, which made Mario feel good.
He keeps trying to imagine Madame Psychosis — whom he imagines as being very tall — lying in an XL beach chair on a beach smiling and not saying anything for days, resting. But it doesn’t work very well.
He can’t tell if Hal is sad. He is having a harder and harder time reading Hal’s states of mind or whether he’s in good spirits. This worries him. He used to be able to sort of preverbally know in his stomach generally where Hal was and what he was doing, even if Hal was far away and playing or if Mario was away, and now he can’t anymore. Feel it. This worries him and feels like when you’ve lost something important in a dream and you can’t even remember what it was but it’s important. Mario loves Hal so much it makes his heart beat hard. He doesn’t have to wonder if the difference now is him or his brother because Mario never changes.
He hadn’t told the Moms he was going to walk around after he left her office after their interface: Avril usually tries in a nonintrusive way to discourage Mario from taking walks at night, because he doesn’t see well at night, and the areas around the E.T.A. hill are not the best neighborhood, and there’s no skirting the fact that Mario would be easy prey for just about anybody, physically. And, though one perk of Familial Dysautonomia is a relative physical fearlessness, 242Mario keeps to a pretty limited area during insomniacal strolls, out of deference to Avril’s worry. 243He’ll sometimes walk around the grounds of the Enfield Marine P.H.H. at the bottom of the hill’s east side because they’re pretty much enclosed, the grounds are, and he knows a couple of the E.M. Security officers from when his father got them to portray Boston police in his whimsical Dial C for Concupiscence; and he likes the E.M. grounds at night because the different brick houses’ window-light is yellow lamplight 244and he can see people on the ground floors all together playing cards or talking or watching TP. He also likes whitewashed brick regardless of its state of upkeep. And a lot of the people in the different brick houses are damaged or askew and lean hard to one side or are twisted into themselves, through the windows, and he can feel his heart going out into the world through them, which is good for insomnia. A woman’s voice, calling for help without any real urgency — not like the screams that signify the Moms laughing or screaming at night — sounds from a darkened upper window. And across the little street that’s crammed with cars everybody has to move at 0000h. is Ennet’s House, where the Headmistress has a disability and had had a wheelchair ramp installed and has twice invited Mario in during the day for a Caffeine-Free Millennial Fizzy, and Mario likes the place: it’s crowded and noisy and none of the furniture has protective plastic wrap, but nobody notices anybody else or comments on a disability and the Headmistress is kind to the people and the people cry in front of each other. The inside of it smells like an ashtray, but Mario’s felt good both times in Ennet’s House because it’s very real; people are crying and making noise and getting less unhappy, and once he heard somebody say God with a straight face and nobody looked at them or looked down or smiled in any sort of way where you could tell they were worried inside.
People from the public can’t be in there after 2300, though, because they have a Curfew, so Mario just totters past on the broken sidewalk and looks in the ground windows at all the different people. Every window is lit up with light and some are slid partly open, and there is the noise of being outside a house full of people. From one of the upstairs windows facing the street comes a voice going ‘Give it here, give it here.’ Someone is crying and someone else is either laughing or coughing very hard. An irritable man’s voice from a kitchen window at the side says something to somebody else that just said something like ‘So get dentures,’ followed by curse words. Another upstairs window, over at the side by the wheelchair ramp and the kitchen window where the ground is soft enough to take the stress of a police lock and lead block nicely, the upper window has a billowing lengthwise flag for a curtain and an old bumper sticker on the glass half scraped off so it says ONE DAY A in cursive, and Mario is arrested by the quiet but unmistakable sound of a recording of a broadcast of ‘Sixty Minutes More or Less with Madame Psychosis,’ which Mario has never taped a show of because he feels it wouldn’t be right for him but is strangely thrilled to hear someone in Ennet’s thinking enough of to tape and replay. What’s coming from behind the open window with a billowing flag for a curtain is one of the old ones, from the Year of the Wonderchicken, Madame’s inaugural year, when she’d sometimes talk all hour and had an accent. A hard east wind blows Mario’s thin hair straight back off his head. His standing angle is 50°. A female girl in a little fur coat and uncomfortable-looking bluejeans and tall shoes clicks past on the sidewalk and goes up the ramp into Ennet’s back door without indicating she saw somebody with a really big head standing braced by a police lock on the lawn outside the kitchen window. The lady had had on so much makeup she’d looked unwell but the wake of her passage smells very good. For some reason Mario felt like the person behind the flag in the window was also a female. Mario thinks it might not be out of the question that she might lend tapes to a fellow listener if he could ask. He usually checks etiquette questions with Hal, who is incredibly knowledgeable and smart. When he thinks of Hal his heart beats and his forehead’s thick skin becomes wrinkled. Hal will also know the term for private tapes made of broadcast things on the air. Perhaps this lady owns multiple tapes. This one is from ‘Sixty Minutes +/−’ ’s first year, when Madame still had a slight accent and often spoke on the show as if she were talking exclusively to one person or character who was very important to her. The Moms revealed that if you’re not crazy then speaking to someone who isn’t there is termed apostrophe and is valid art. Mario’d fallen in love with the first Madame Psychosis programs because he felt like he was listening to someone sad read out loud from yellow letters she’d taken out of a shoebox on a rainy P.M., stuff about heartbreak and people you loved dying and U.S. woe, stuff that was real. It is increasingly hard to find valid art that is about stuff that is real in this way. The older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A. over the age of about Kent Blott finds stuff that’s really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy. The worst-feeling thing that happened today was at lunch when Michael Pemulis told Mario he had an idea for setting up a Dial-a-Prayer telephone service for atheists in which the atheist dials the number and the line just rings and rings and no one answers. It was a joke and a good one, and Mario got it; what was unpleasant was that Mario was the only one at the big table whose laugh was a happy laugh; everybody else sort of looked down like they were laughing at somebody with a disability. The whole issue was far above Mario’s head, and he was unable to understand Lyle’s replies when he tried to bring the confusion up. And Hal was for once no help, because Hal seemed even more uncomfortable and embarrassed than the fellows at lunch, and when Mario brought up real stuff Hal called him Booboo and acted like he’d wet himself and Hal was going to be very patient about helping him change.
A lot of people are appearing out of the dark and walking by to go in for the Curfew. They all seem afraid and scowl to pretend they’re not shy. The men have their hands in their coat pockets and the females have their hands at their coats’ throats, keeping them shut. One young person Mario’s never seen sees him struggling with the police lock and helps him disengage the bar and get the lead block into his backpack. Just that little bit of help that makes the difference. Mario is suddenly so sleepy he’s not sure he can get up the hill to go home. The musics that played at the beginning of Madame Psychosis’s career are the exact same that played to the end, what sounds so unacceptable without her there.
Mario’s forward list is perfect for walking up hills, however. His pelvis’s salve makes a sound but doesn’t hurt. In the big protruding window of Ennet’s House’s Headmistress’s office that the window overlooks the Avenue and the train tracks and the Ngs’ clean Father and Son Grocery, where they give Mario yellow tea in the A.M. when he comes by when it’s cold, the last thing Mario can see, before the hillside’s trees close behind him and reduce the Ennet House to shattered yellow lighting, is a wide square-headed boy bent over something he’s writing at the Headmistress’s black desk, licking a pencil-end and hunched all uncomfortably with one arm curled out around what he’s writing in, like a slow boy over a class theme at Rindge and Latin Special.
Live-in Staffers’ evening duties are divided pretty evenly between the picayune and the unpleasant. Somebody has to hit the area meetings to verify residents’ attendance, while somebody else has to miss a nightly meeting to man the empty House and phones and do the picayune Daily Log. After the meetings let out, Gately’s supposed to do a head-count every hour and make a Log-entry on who all’s there and what’s going on. Gately has to do a Chore-patrol and Log-entry on Chore-performance and nail down tomorrow’s Chore-assignments off the weekly sheet. The residents need to have everything expected of them spelled out in advance so they can’t bitch if they get popped for something. Then people who haven’t performed on their Chore have to be told they’re on a week’s Restriction, which tends to be unpleasant. Gately has to unlock Pat’s cabinets and get the key to the meds locker and open the meds locker. Residents on meds respond to the sound of the meds locker the way a cat will respond to the sound of a can-opener. They just like materialize. Gately has to dispense oral insulin and Virus-meds and pimple medicine and antidepressants and lithium to the residents who materialize for meds, and then he has to enter everything in the Medical Log, which the M. Log is an incredible fucking mess. He has to get out Pat’s Week-At-A-Glance book and print out her next day’s appointments on a sheet of paper in block letters, because Pat finds her own palsied handwriting impossible to read. Gately has to confer with Johnette Foltz about how different residents conducted themselves at St. E.’s Sharing and Caring and Brookline’s B.Y.P. and a Women’s NA Step down in East Cambridge they let a couple of the senior females go to, and then Log all the data. Gately has to go up and check on Kate G., who claimed to be too sick to hit AA again tonight and has been in bed in her room more or less steadily for three days, reading somebody called Sylvia Plate. Going up onto the women’s side of the upstairs is an incredible pain in the ass because he has to unlock a little steel cage over a little button at the bottom of their stairway by the back office and press the button to sound an upstairs buzzer and shout up the stairs ‘Male on the floor’ and then give the female residents as much time as they need to get decent or whatever before he can come up. Going up there has been educational for Gately because he’d always had this idea that women’s areas were essentially cleaner and pleasanter than men’s areas. Having to verify the Chore in the women’s two bathrooms smashed his longstanding delusion that women didn’t go to the bathroom with the same appalling vigor that men did. Gately’d done a fair amount of cleaning up after his mother, but he’d never much thought of her as a woman. So the whole unpleasant thing’s been an education.
Gately has to check on Doony Glynn, who has recurrent diverticulitis and has to lie fetal on his bunk when he gets an attack and has to be brought Motrin and a SlimFast shake that Gately had to make with 2% milk because there was no skim left, and then Food Bank crackers and a tonic out of the basement’s machine when Glynn can’t drink the 2% shake, and then Log Glynn’s comments and condition, neither of which are good.
Somebody has made those disgusting marshmallowy Rice Krispie things in the kitchen and then not cleaned up after themselves, and Gately has to clomp around finding out who’s responsible and get them to clean it up, and the code about ratting among the residents is such that you’d think he was a narc all of a sudden. The daily bullshit here is hip-deep and not so much annoying as soul-sucking; a double-shift here now empties him out by dawn, just in time to clean real shit. It hadn’t been this way at the start, the soul-sucking aspect, and Gately every couple minutes wonders again what he’ll end up doing when his year’s Staff term is up and his soul is sucked out and he’s sober but without any money and still clueless and has to leave here and do something back Out There.
Kate Gompert, when he buzzed and went up to the 5-Woman room to look in, had made a possible sideways comment about hurting herself, 245and Gately has to call Pat at home about it, and she’s out or not picking up, so then he has to call the House Manager and relay the verbatim comment and let her interpret it and tell Gately what action to take and how the comment stands in relation to Gompert’s Suicide Contract and how the whole thing should be Logged. A resident at Ennet had hung herself from a heating pipe in the basement a couple years before Gately arrived, and there are now baroque procedures for monitoring ideation among residents with psych issues. The number of 5-East at St. Elizabeth’s is on a red card in Pat’s Rolodex.
Gately has to collect the previous week’s counselor-reports and collate them and get the residents’ files together and get any updates or changes printed out and into the files for tomorrow’s All-Staff Meeting, where the Staff gets together in Pat’s office and interfaces on how each resident seems to be doing. Residents have a pretty good idea that their alumni counselors basically rat them out in toto at each Staff meeting, which is why counselling sessions tend to be so incredibly dull that only really grateful giving Ennet alumni are willing to serve as counselors. Filing-organization is picayune, and for Gately using the back office’s TP array to print stuff out is unpleasant, mostly because each of his fingers covers almost three keys of the keyboard and he has to hit each key carefully with the tip of a pen, which sometimes he forgets to retract the nub of, leaving blue smears on the keys that the House Manager always gives him an ass-chewing for.
And Gately has to have each newer resident in to the office for at least a couple minutes to like touch base and see how they’re doing and make it clear they’re regarded as existing so they can’t just melt into the living room’s decor and disappear. The newest guy’s still sitting in the linen closet claiming he’s comfortablest there with the door open and the new ‘helpless’ Amy Johnson hasn’t come back yet. A brand-new Court-Ordered female, Ruth van Cleve, who looks like one of those people you see in pictures of African famine, has to fill out Intake forms and go through Orientation, and Gately goes over the House rules with her and gives her a copy of the Ennet House Survival Guide, which some resident years gone had written for Pat.
Gately has to answer the phone and tell people who call the office for a resident that residents can receive calls only on the pay phone in the basement, which he has to say yes is frequently busy all the time. The House prohibits cellular/mobiles and has a Boundary about the office phone for residents. Gately has to kick residents off down there when other residents in line come and complain they’ve exceeded their five minutes. This also tends to be unpleasant: the pay phone down there is undigital and unshutoffable and a constant source of aggravation and beefs; every conversation is life-and-death; crisis down there 24/7. There’s a special way to kick somebody off a pay phone that’s respectful and nonshaming but also firm. Gately has gotten good at assuming a blank but not passive expression when residents are abusive. There’s this look of weary expertise the House Staffers cultivate, then have to flex their face to get rid of when they’re off-duty. Gately’s gotten so stoic in the face of abuse that a resident has to mention actual unnatural acts in connection with his name for Gately to Log the abuse and give out a Restriction. He’s respected and well-liked by almost all the residents, which the House Manager says causes the veteran Staff some concern, because Gately’s job is not to be these people’s friend all the time.
Then in the kitchen with the fucking Krispie-treat bowls and pans still a fucking mess Wade McDade and some other residents were standing around waiting for various things to toast and boil and McDade was using his finger and pushing the tip of his nose up so that his nostrils faced straight out at everybody. He was looking piggishly around and asking if people knew any people where their nose looked like this right here, and some people said yes, sure, why. Gately checked the fridge and again saw evidence that his special meatloaf had a secret admirer, it looked like, another big rectangle cut out of the leftovers he’d carefully wrapped and laid out on the sturdiest shelf in there. McDade, who Gately struggles daily with the urge to hit McDade so hard there’d be nothing but eyes and a nose down over the tops of his cowboy boots, McDade’s telling everybody he’s constructing a Gratitude List at Calvin T.’s tough-love suggestion and he says he’s decided one of the things he’s grateful for is his nose don’t look like this here. Gately tries not to judge on the basis of who laughs and who doesn’t. When Pat’s phone rings and Gately leaves, McDade’s squunching his upper lip up in his hand and asking people about acquaintance with cleft palates.
Gately has to monitor the like emotional barometer in the House and put a wet finger to the wind for potential conflicts and issues and rumors. A subtle art here is maintaining access to the residents’ gossip-grapevine and keeping on top of rumors without seeming like you’re inducing a resident to cross the line and actually eat cheese on another resident. The only thing a resident is actually encouraged to rat out another resident on here is picking up a Substance. All other-type issues it’s supposed to be Staff’s job to glean and ferret out etc., to decoct legitimate infractions out of the tides of innuendo and bullshit complaint 20+ bored crammed-together street-canny people in detox from wrecked lives can generate. Rumors that so-and-so blew so-and-so on the couch at 0300, that thus-and-such’s got a knife, that X was using what had to be some kind of code on the pay phone, that Y’s gone back to carrying a beeper, that so-and-so’s making book on football out of the 5-Man room, that Belbin had led Diehl to believe she’d clean up if he made Krispie Treats and then she weaseled out, and etc. Almost all of it’s picayune and, over time, as it accretes, unpleasant.
Rarely a feeling of outright unalloyed sadness as such, afterward — just an abrupt loss of hope. Plus there is the contempt he belies so well with gentleness and caring during that postcoital period of small sounds and adjustments.
Orin can only give, not receive, pleasure, and this makes a contemptible number of them think he is a wonderful lover, almost a dream-type lover; and this fuels the contempt. But he cannot show the contempt, since this would pretty clearly detract from the Subject’s pleasure.
Because the Subject’s pleasure in him has become his food, he is conscientious in the consideration and gentleness he shows after coitus, making clear his desire to stay right there very close and be intimate, when so many other male lovers, the Subjects say, seem afterward to become uneasy, contemptuous, or distant, rolling over to stare at the wall or tamping down a smoke before they’ve even stopped twitching.
The hand-model told him very softly how the photograph’s big pink Swiss husband after coitus hove himself off her and lay there stunned under his stomach’s weight, his eyes narrowed to piggy slits and the faint smirk on his face that of a gorged predator: not like the punter: uncaring. As was S.O.P. with Subjects she became then briefly stricken and anxious and said no one must ever know, she could lose her children. Orin administered the standard assurances in a very soft intimate voice. Orin was resoundingly gentle and caring afterward, as she could somehow just intuitively tell he would be. It was true. It gave him real pleasure to give the impression of care and intimacy in this interval; if someone asked about his favorite part of the anticlimactic time after the Subject lay back and glisteningly opened and he could see her eyes holding him whole, Orin would say his #2 favorite is this post-seminal interval of clingy vulnerability on the Subject’s part and gentle intimate care on his own.