Somehow his shirt was ripped off and flew to the back of the room in two tatters. Ted was breathing in great, high whoops. Anne Lasky began to rub the bridge of his nose with an eraser. Corky scurried back to his desk like a good mouse, found a bottle of Carter’s ink, and dumped it in his hair. Hands flew out like birds and rubbed it in briskly.
Ted began to weep and talk in strange, unconnected phrases.
“Soul brother?” Pat Fitzgerald asked. He was smiling, whacking Ted’s bare shoulders lightly with a notebook in cadence. “Be my soul brother? That right? Little Head Start? Little free lunch? That right?
Hum? Hum? Brothers? Be soul brothers?”
“Got your Silver Star, hero, ” Dick said, and raised his knee, placing it expertly in the big muscle of Ted’s thigh.
Ted screamed. His eyes bulged and rolled toward me, the eyes of a horse staved on a high fence.
“Please . . . pleeeese, Charlie . . . pleeeeeeeeee-” And then Nancy Caskin stuffed a large wad of notebook paper into his mouth. He tried to spit it out, but Sandra rammed it back in.
“That will teach you to spit,” sire said reproachfully.
Harmon knelt and pulled off one of his shoes. He rubbed it in Ted’s inky hair and then slammed the sole against Ted’s chest. It left a huge, grotesque footprint.
“Admit one!” he crowed.
Tentatively, almost demurely, Carol stepped on Ted’s stockinged foot and twisted her heel. Something in his foot snapped. Ted blubbered.
He sounded like he was begging somewhere behind the paper, but you couldn’t really tell. Pig Pen darted in spiderlike and suddenly bit his nose.
There was a sudden black pause. I noticed that I had turned the pistol around so that the muzzle was pointed at my head, but of course that would not be at all cricket. I unloaded it and put it carefully in the top drawer, on top of Mrs. Un-derwood’s plan book. I was quite confident that this had not been in today’s lesson plan at all.
They were smiling at Ted, who hardly looked human at all anymore. In that brief flick of time, they looked like gods, young, wise, and golden. Ted did not look like a god. Ink ran down his cheeks in blue-black teardrops. The bridge of his nose was bleeding, and one eye glared disjointedly toward no place. Paper pro-truded through his teeth. He breathed in great white snuffles of air.
I had time to think: We have got it on. Now we have got it all the way on.
They fell on him.
I had Corky pull up the shades before they left. He did it with quick, jerky motions. There were now what seemed like hundreds of cruisers out there, thousands of people. It was three minutes of one.
The sunlight hurt my eyes.
“Good-bye,” I said.
“God-bye,” Sandra said.
They all said good-bye, I think, before they went out. Their footfalls made a tunny, echoy noise going down the hall. I closed my eyes and imagined a giant centipede wearing Georgia Giants on each of its one hundred feet. When I opened them again, they were walking across the bright green of the lawn. I wished they had used the sidewalk; even after all that had happened, it was still a hell of a lawn.
The last thing I remember seeing of them was that their hands were streaked with black ink.
People enveloped them.
One of the reporters, throwing caution to the winds, eluded three policemen and raced down to where they were, pell-mell.
The last one to be swallowed up was Carol Granger. I thought she looked back, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Philbrick started to walk stolidly toward the school. Flashbulbs were popping all over the place.
Time was short. I went over to where Ted was leaning against the green cin-derblock wall. He was sitting with his legs splayed out below the bulletin board, which was full of notices from the Mathematical Society of America, which no-body ever read, Peanuts comic strips (the acme of humor, in the late Mrs.
Under-wood’s estimation), and a poster showing Bertrand Russell and a quote: “Gravity alone proves the existence of God. ” But any undergraduate in creation could have told Bertrand that it has been conclusively proved that there is no gravity; the earth just sucks.
I squatted beside Ted. I pulled the crumpled wad of math paper out of his mouth and laid it aside. Ted began to drool.
He looked past me, over my shoulder.
“Ted,” I said, and patted his cheek gently.
He shrank away. His eyes rolled wildly.
“You’re going to get better,” I said. “You’re going to forget this day ever hap-pened. ”
Ted made mewling sounds.
“Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll go on from here, Ted. Build from this. Is that such an impossible idea?”
It was, for both of us. And being so close to Ted had begun to make me very nervous.
The intercom chinked open. It was Philbrick. He was puffing and blowing again.
“Come out with your hands up.”
I sighed. “You come down and get me, Philbrick, old sport. I’m pretty god-damn tired. This psycho business is a hell of a drain on the glands.”
“All right,” he said, tough. “They’ll be shooting in the gas canisters in just about one minute.”
“Better not, ” I said. I looked at Ted. Ted didn’t look back; he just kept on look-ing into emptiness.
Whatever he saw there must have been mighty tasty, because he was still drooling down his chin. “You forgot to count noses. There’s still one of them down here. He’s hurt.” That was something of an understatement.
His voice was instantly wary. “Who?”
“How is he hurt?”
“Stubbed his toe. ”
“He’s not there. You’re lying.”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, Philbrick, and jeopardize our beautiful relationship. ”
No answer. Puff, snort, blow.
“Come on down,” I invited. “The gun is unloaded. It’s in a desk drawer. We can play a couple of cribbage hands, then you can take me out and tell all the papers how you did it single-handed. You might even make the cover of Time if we work it right. ”
Chink.He was off the com.
I closed my eyes and put my face in my hands. All I saw was gray. Nothing but gray. Not even a flash of white light. For no reason at all, I thought of New Year’s Eve, when all those people crowd into Times Square and scream like jackals as the lighted ball slides down the pole, ready to shed its thin party glare on three hundred and sixty-five new days in this best of all possible worlds. I have always wondered what it would be like to be caught in one of those crowds, screaming and not able to hear your own voice, your individuality momentarily wiped out and replaced with the blind empathic overslop of the crowd’s lurching, angry an-ticipation, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder with no one in particular.
I began to cry.
When Philbrick stepped through the door, he glanced down at the drooling Ted-thing and then up at me.
“What in the name of God did you . . . ?” he began.
I made as if to grab something behind Mrs. Underwood’s desktop row of books and plants. “Here it comes, you shit cop!” I screamed.
He shot me three times.
THOSE WHO WOULD BE INFORMED IN THIS MATTER DRAW YE NEAR AND KNOW YE
THEN BY THESE PRESENTS:
CHARLES EVERETT DECKER, convicted in Superior Court this day, August 27, 1976, of the willful murder of Jean Alice Underwood, and also convicted this day, August 27, 1976, of the willful murder of John Downes Vance, both human beings.
It has been determined by five state psychiatrists that Charles Everett Decker cannot at this time be held accountable for his actions, by reason of insanity. It is therefore the decision of this court that he be remanded to the Augusta State Hospital, where he will be held in treatment until such time as he can be certified responsible to answer for his acts.
To this writ have I set my hand.
(Judge) Samuel K. N. Deleavney
In other words, until shit sticks on the moon, baby.
i n t e r o f f i c e m e m o
FROM: Dr. Andersen
TO: Rich Gossage, Admin. Wing
SUBJECT: Theodore Jones
Am still loath to try the shock treatments on this boy, altho I can’t ex-plain it even to myself-call it hunch.
Of course I can’t justify hunch to the board of directors, or to Jones’s uncle, who is footing the bill, which, in a private institution like Woodlands, don’t come cheap, as we both know. If there is no movement in the next four to six weeks, we’ll go on with the stand-ard electroshock therapy, but for now I would like to run the standard drug schedule again, plus a few not so standard-I am thinking of both synthetic mescaline and psyilocybin, if you concur. Will Greenberger has had a great deal of success with semi-catatonic patients as you know, and these two hal-lucinogens have played a major part in his therapy.