He doesn't even knock — he walks right in, sits down on the sofa, like the place might as well be his.
Leaves the door open.
Of course it's freezing out — it's Western Massachusetts — so I rush to close it, me being in a "wife-beater" t-shirt and boxers (he caught me shaving), him being in an ankle-length coat, all the polished manner of a Fed.
"What are you doing here?" I manage, though he's already got me down a peg, having to close my own door at his indiscretion, on top of his violating my personal space.
He doesn't flash me a badge, but he acts like he has, he's just skipped that part. "You know, my dad took me skiing . . . " He's leaned forward by now, both elbows on knees, hands steepled, the whole I'm very disappointed in you bit.
"I'm not your mom," I say, as Jenny Toomey once eloquently put it, "and you're not — "
"Yeah yeah yeah," he says, real quick, scratching his Don Johnson-stubble, like we're in a negotiation, forgetting he hasn't introduced himself, or why, or what for.
A knock at the door.
"Come in!" he says, again like he owns the place. He flits his eyes to me, not quite unlike you'd go "Stay." to a dog, hand up and all but no hand in this case like no badge. He shakes out his sleeves. Me, I got a razor in one and a dollop of shaving cream goes ewwwPLOP! on the floor and he gives me a look crossing his face like It figures and it confirms what I had thought, anyway and I think he's muttering something to himself but by then they're upon me, they've got me in cuffs.
I find myself riding in the back of a big, sleek limo — like the one me and Francis and Charlie took to prom senior year.
"Hey!" I blurt, still in my boxers and wifebeater, "a full bar and everything!"
Guy who went skiing with his dad does the muttering thing — like it's a full conversation, but he keeps it to himself — judge, jury, and executioner, 'cept it's not aired in open court, or even articulated, fully, and still smacks of a disappointed parent, more than anything.
(Or — scratch that — an older sibling trying to play disappointed parent: over-eager, trying too hard, not there yet, and it shows.)
He looks up at me, suddenly, with such disgust I had scarcely known it had existed.
The look flickers, and then it's gone. I'm really in for something.
Behind the partition, the driver says nothing.
I'm lead in past this beautiful ballroom towards thi giant glass elecator, each of them (the Guy Whose Dad Took Him Skiing and a silent, too-trained for small talk type with a headphone in his ear) having me by one arm each, still in cuffs and my t-shirt and boxers (I guess it's part of the protocol, humiliation to wear down the subject's resistance — it'd be laughable, it's so obvious, if it weren't really happening), the Guy Whose Dad Took Him Skiing giving looks along the order of Can you believe this guy? at every opportunity per person we meet and pass by, as thought — hey? — it's a set-up or not, what else do I look like, what else could they think.
We're riding up.
"That's a lot of buttons!" I say, to break the silence, and to throw more fodder onto the "disgusted with me" bonfire that seems to be being built, just for the hell of it. (Market research — that's my forté, not dealing with Feds, or whatever-they-are, in whatever-this-country's-become, multinationals and nationstates becoming almost moot distinctions those of us on ground level aren't always wised-up about, until something comes up along the order of What are you, using an abacus? We've got computers, now! we're so out-of-date. Hey, I read my William Gibson. I don't expect Them to send us an informative, beans-spilling, consciously-chosen memorand—)
The bell dings.
Now, I'm in a big office. I keep getting jostled — and remarked on — although nothing's being explained to me, and I'm technically little past half-awake, still (it was a long night).
They throw me forward (they've released the cuffs), just a few steps so I have ample opportunity to find my footing, but still I feel shoved. These guys are professional.
A big bald guy in an immaculate suit sits behind the desk smoking a big, fat cigar — a Havana, if I'm not mistaken — and the sweet smell of it is fragrant. He deposits it in a glass ashtray to his right, no hurry, all the time in the world.
"Hello!" he spouts, in a booming, well-fed voice, full of relish. "What do I seem to you . . . a bit outdated? A walking caricature, I bet? Something out of Charles Dickens, or the Monopoly™ Parker Brothers® game board? Well . . . " (he puffs on the cigar again) " . . . where did you think we'd gone? All this time, waiting our chances, working our way up the ladders of corporations who run the little world the rest of you live in, the portion the rest of you get to see?" (he chortled mirthlessly — his first unadulterated ugly moment.) "We breed, we grow, we esteem similar things. It's my time now, after my daddy, and granddaddy." (he pounded the ink blotter on the desk suddenly, as unexpected as a gunshot out the window, but apparently following naturally, to him.) "And it was hard work!"
"I didn't say it wasn't." Thought I doubted it.
He leaned back, a satisfied grin on his face. "I like him." He puffed one last on the cigar, and started crushing it out in the ashtray, circular-style, with what one would imagine he considered scientific interest. "Take him back."
Guy Whose Dad Took Him Skiing's knuckles are already a fist, like he can't help it, like it's so obviously the next thing to do. "Can I punch him?"
He drops his hand, shaking it as the fist comes apart, into fingers, like the intensity of it was so great. He shoots me a look like, You won't be so lucky . . . next time. or I have half a mind to punch you out, anyway. or I can't believe you raped my wife and daughter right in front of me and made me watch.
It flickers for a moment, then it's gone, like it never happened.
But he's still aggravated with me. I start to wonder if this is his normal job, or they have him doing other things, usually.
"Find your own way out," he mutters, as though there isn't triple security all over the place as a matter of course, people flashing badges just to get into the bathroom, a guy at every corner with a clipboard to check who you are.
He seems to count this as a small victory — Better than nothing.
The guy in the fat suit with the gleaming bald head shrugs expansively, as though he's inviting me to partake of a smorgasbord, rather than play the cheese at the end of the Labyrinth game, like a lost little mouse in his boxer shorts and wifebeater.
I think I'll manage, though.
(I'll take what I can get!)