THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
The order of Assassins was founded in Persia at the end of the 11th Century. They were committed to anyone willing to pay for the service. Assassins were skeptical of the existence of God and believed that the world of the mind came into existence first, then, finally, the rest of creation.
-- Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.
I am you and you are me and what have we done to each other?
-- The Keener's Manual
It was sunny in San Francisco; a fabulous condition. Raymond Shaw was not unaware of the beauty outside the hotel window, across from a mansion on the top of a hill, but he clutched the telephone like an osculatorium and did not allow himself to think about what lay beyond that instant: in a saloon someplace, in a different bed, or anywhere.
His lumpy sergeant's uniform was heaped on a chair. He stretched out on the rented bed, wearing a new one-hundred-and- twenty-dollar dark blue dressing gown, and waited for the telephone operator to complete the chain of calls to locate Ed Mavole's father, somewhere in St. Louis.
He knew he was doing the wrong thing. Two years of Korean duty were three days behind him and, at the very least, he should be spending his money on a taxicab to go up and down those hills in the sunshine, but he decided his mind must be bent or that he was drunk with compassion, or something else improbable like that. Of all of the fathers of all of the fallen whom he had to call, owing to his endemic mopery, this one had to work nights, because, by now, it must be dark in St. Louis.
He listened to the operator get through to the switchboard at the Post-Dispatch. He heard the switchboard tell her that Mavole's father worked in the composing room. A man talked to a woman; there was silence. Raymond stared at his own large toe.
"Hello?" A very high voice.
"Mr. Arthur Mavole, please. Long distance calling." The steady rumble of working presses filled the background.
"This is him."
"Mr. Arthur Mavole?"
"Go ahead, please."
"Uh -- hello? Mr. Mavole? This is Sergeant Shaw. I'm calling from San Francisco. I -- uh -- I was in Eddie's outfit, Mr. Mavole."
"My Ed's outfit?"
"The Ray Shaw? Who won the Medal of --"
"Yes, sir." Raymond cut him off in a louder voice. He felt like dropping the phone, the call, and the whole soggy, masochistic, suicidal thing in the wastebasket. Better--yet, he should whack himself over the head with the goddam phone. "You see, uh, Mr. Mavole, 1 have to, uh, go to Washington, and I --"
"We know. We read all about it and let me say with all my heart I got left that I am as proud of you, even though I never met you, as if it were Eddie, my own kid. My son."
"Mr. Mavole," Raymond said rapidly, "I thought that if it was O.K. with you maybe I could stop over in St. Louis on my way to Washington, you know? I thought, I mean it occurred to me that you and Mrs. Mavole might get some kind of peace out of it, some kind of relief, if we talked a little bit. About Eddie. You know? I mean I thought that was the least I could do."
There was a silence. Then Mr. Mavole began to make a lot of slobbering sounds so Raymond said roughly that he would wire when he knew what flight he would be on and he hung up the phone and felt like an idiot. Like an angry man with a cane who pokes a hole through the floor of heaven and is scalded by the joy that pours down upon him, Raymond had a capacity for using satisfactions against himself.
When he got off the plane at St. Louis airport he felt like running. He decided Mavole's father must be that midget with the eyeglasses like milk-bottle bottoms who was enjoying sweating so much. The man would be all over him like a charging elk in a minute. "Hold it! Hold it!" the pimply press photographer said loudly.
"Put it down," Raymond snarled in a voice which was even more unpleasant than his normal voice. All at once the photographer was less sure of himself. "Whassa matter?" he asked in bewilderment -- because he lived at a time when only sex criminals and dope peddlers tried to refuse to have their pictures taken by the press.
"I flew all the way in here to see Ed Mavole's father," Raymond said, despising himself for throwing up such corn. "You want a picture, go find him, because you ain't gonna take one of me without he's in it."
Listen to that genuine, bluff sergeant version of pollice verso, Raymond cried out to himself. I am playing the authentic war buddy so deeply that I will have to mail in a royalty check for the stock rights. Look at that clown of a photographer trying to cope with phenomena. Any minute now he will realize that he is standing right beside Mavole's father.
"Oh, Sergeant!" the girl said, so then he knew who she was. She wasn't red-eyed and runny-nosed with grief for the dead hero, so she had to be the cub reporter who had been assigned to write the big local angle on the White House and the Hero, and he had probably written the lead for her with that sappy grandstand play.
''I'm Ed's father," the sweat manufacturer said. It was December, fuh gossake, what's with all the dew? ''I'm Frank Mavole. I'm sorry about this. I just happened to mention at the paper that you had called all the way from San Francisco and that you had offered to stop over and see Eddie's mother on the way to the White House, and the word somehow got upstairs to the city desk and well -- that's the newspaper business, I guess."
Raymond took three steps forward, grasped Mr. Mavole's hand, gripped his right forearm with his own left hand, transmitted the steely glance and the iron stare and the frozen fix. He felt like Captain Idiot in one of those space comic books, and the photographer got the picture and lost all interest in them.
"May I ask how old you are, Sergeant Shaw?" the young chick said, notebook ready, pencil poised as though she and Mavole were about to give him a fitting, and he figured reflexively that this could be the first assignment she had ever gotten after years of journalism school and months of social notes from all over. He remembered his first assignment and how he had feared the waffle-faced movie actor who had opened the door of the hotel suite wearing only pajama bottoms, with corny tattoos like So Long, Mabel on each shoulder. Inside the suite Raymond had managed to convey that he would just as soon have hit the man as talk to him and he had said, "Gimme the handout and we can save some time." The traveling press agent with the actor, a plump, bloodshot type whose glasses kept sliding down his nose, had said, "What handout?" He had snarled that maybe they would prefer it if he started out by asking what was the great man's hobby and what astrology sign he had been born under. It was hard to believe but that man's face had been as pocked and welted as a waffle, yet he was one of the biggest names in the business, which gives an idea what those swine will do to kid the jerky public. The actor had said, "Are you scared, kid?" Then, after that, everything seemed to go O.K. They got along like a bucket of chums. The point was, everybody had to start someplace.
Although he felt like a slob himself for doing it, he asked Mr. Mavole and the girl if they would have time to have a cup of coffee at the airport restaurant because he was a newspaperman himself and he knew that the little lady had a story to get. The little lady? That was overdoing it. He'd have to find a mirror and see if he had a wing collar on.
"You were?" the girl said. "Oh, Sergeant!" Mr. Mavole said a cup of coffee would be fine with him, so they went inside.
They sat down at a table in the coffee shop. The windows were steamy. Business was very quiet and unfortunately the waitress seemed to have nothing but time. They all ordered coffee and Raymond thought he'd like to have a piece of pie but he could not bring himself to decide what kind of pie. Did everybody have to look at him as though he were sick because he couldn't set his taste buds in advance to be able to figure which flavor he would favor before he tasted it? Did the waitress just have to start out to recite "We have peach pie, and pumpk --" and they'd just yell out Peach, peach, peach? What was the sense of eating in a place where they gabbled the menu at you, anyway? If a man were intelligent and he sorted through the memories of past tastes he not only could get exactly what he wanted sensually and with a flavor sensation, but he would probably be choosing something so chemically exact that it would benefit his entire body. But how could anyone achieve such a considerate deliberate result as that unless one were permitted to pore over a written menu?
"The prune pie is very good, sir," the waitress said. He told her he'd take the prune pie and he hated her in a hot, resentful Hash because he did not want prune pie. He hated prune pie and he had been maneuvered into ordering prune pie by a rube waitress who would probably slobber all over his shoes for a quarter tip.
"I wanted to tell you how we felt about Ed, Mr. Mavole," Raymond said. "I want to tell you that of all the guys I ever met, there was never a happier, sweeter, or more solid guy than your son Ed."
The little man's eyes filled. He suddenly choked on a sob so loud that people at the counter, which was quite a distance away, turned around. Raymond spoke to the girl quickly to cover up. ''I'm twenty-four years old. My astrological sign is Pisces. A very fine lady reporter on a Detroit paper once told me always to ask for their astrology sign because people love to read about astrology if they don't have to ask for it directly."
''I'm Taurus," the girl said.
"We'd be very good," Raymond said. She let him see just a little bit behind her expression. "I know," she said.
Mr. Mavole spoke in a soft voice. "Sergeant -- you see -- well, when Eddie got killed his mother had a heart attack and I wonder if you could spare maybe a half an hour out and back. We don't live all the way into the city, and --"
O Jesus! Raymond saw himself donning the bedside manner. A bloody cardiac. The slightest touchy thing he said to her could knock the old cat over sideways with an off-key moan. But what could he do? He had elected himself Head Chump when he had stepped down from Valhalla and telephoned this sweaty little advantage-taker.
"Mr. Mavole," he said, slowly and softly, "I don't have to be in Washington until the day after tomorrow, but I figured I would allow a day and a half in case of bad weather, you know? On account of the White House? I can even get to Washington by train from here overnight, the Spirit of St. Louis, the same name as that plane with that fella, so please don't think I would even think of leaving town without talking to Mrs. Mavole -- Eddie's mother." He looked up and he saw how the girl was looking at him. She was a very pretty girl; a sweet-looking, nice, blond girl. "What's your name?" he asked.
"Mardell," she said.
"Do you think I'll be able to get a hotel here tonight?"
''I'm absolutely sure of it."
"I'll take care of that, Sergeant," Mr. Mavole said hurriedly. "In fact, the paper will take care of everything. You would certainly be welcome to stay at our place, but we just had the painters. Smells so sharp your eyes water."
Raymond called for the check. They drove to the Mavoles'. Mardell said she'd wait in the car and just to forget about her. Raymond told her to get on in to the paper and file her story, then drive back out to pick him up. She stared at him as if he had invented balk-line billiards. He patted her cheek, then went into the house. She put her hand on her stomach and took three or four very deep breaths. Then she started the car and went into town.
The session with Mrs. Mavole was awful and Raymond vowed that he would never take an intelligence test because they might lock him up as a result of what would be shown. Any cretin could have looked ahead and seen what a mess this was going to be. They all cried. People can certainly carry on, he thought, holding her fat hand because she had asked him to, and feeling sure she was going to drop dead any minute. These were the people who let a war start, then they act surprised when their own son is killed. Mavole was a good enough kid. He certainly was a funny kid and with a sensational disposition but, what the hell, twenty thousand were dead out there so far on the American panel, plus the U.N. guys, and maybe sixty, eighty thousand more all shot up, and this fat broad seemed to think that Mavole was the only one who got it.
Could my mother take it this big if I got it? Would anyone living or anyone running a legitimate seance which picked up guaranteed answers from Out Yonder ever be able to find out whether she could feel anything at all about anything or anybody? Let her liddul Raymond pull up dead and he knew the answer from his liddul mommy. If the folks would pay one or more votes for a sandwich she would be happy to send for her liddul boy's body and barbecue him.
"I can tell you that it was a very clear action for a night action, Mrs. Mavole," Raymond said. Mr. Mavole sat on the· other side of the bed and stared at the floor, his eyes feverish captives in black circles, his lower lip caught between his teeth, his hands clasped in prayer as he hoped he would not begin to cry again and start her crying. "You see, Captain Marco had sent up some low flares because we had to know where the enemy was. They knew where we were. Eddie, well --" He paused, only infinitesimally, to try not to weep at the thought of how bitter, bitter, bitter it was to have to lie at a time like this, but she had sold the boy to the recruiters for this moment, so he would have to throw the truth away and pay her off. They never told The Folks Back Home about the filthy deaths -- the grotesque, debasing deaths which were almost all the deaths in war. Dirty deaths were the commonplace clowns smoking idle cigarettes backstage at a circus filled with clowns. Ah, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Only a clutch of martial airs played on an electric guitar and sung through the gaudy juke box called Our Nation's History. He didn't know exactly how Mavole caught it, but he could figure it close. He'd probably gotten about sixteen inches of bayonet in the rectum as he turned to get away and his screaming had scared the other man so much that he had fought to get his weapon out and run away, twisting Mavole on it until the point came out under Mavole's ribs where the diaphragm was and the man had had to put his foot on the back of Mavole's neck, breaking his nose and cheekbone, to get the sticker out, while he whimpered in Chinese and wanted to lie down somewhere, where it was quiet. All the other people knew about how undignified it was to lose a head or some legs or a body in a mass attack, except his people: the innocents hiding in the jam jar. Women like this one might have had that li'l cardiac murmur stilled if her city had been bombed and she had seen her Eddie with no lower face and she had to protect and cherish the rest, the ones who were left. "-- well, there was this very young lad in our outfit, Mrs. Mavole. He was maybe seventeen years old, but I doubt it. I think sixteen. Eddie had decided a long time ago to help the kid and look out for him because that was the kind of man your son was." Mr. Mavole was sobbing very softly on the other side of the bed. "Well, the boy, little Bobby Lembeck, got separated from the rest of us. Not by far; Ed went out to cover him. The boy was hit just before Eddie could make it to him and, well, he just couldn't leave him there. You know? That's the kind of a man, I mean; that was Ed. You know? He couldn't. He tried to bring the youngster back and by that time the enemy had a fix on them and they dropped a mortar shell on them from away up high and it was all over and all done, Mrs. Mavole, before those two boys felt a single thing. That's how quick it was, Mrs. Mavole. Yes, ma'am. That quick."
''I'm glad," Mrs. Mavole said. Then suddenly and loudly she said, "O my God, how can I say I'm glad? I'm not. I'm not. We're all a long time dead. He was such a happy little boy and he'll be a long time dead." She was propped up among the pillows of the bed and her body moved back and forth with her keening.
What the hell did he expect? He came here of his own free will. What did he expect? Two choruses of something mellow, progressive, and fine? O man, O man, O man! A fat old broad in a nine-by-nine box with a sweat-maker who can't get with it. How can I continue to live, he shouted at high scream under the nave of his encompassing skull, if people are going to continue to carry bundles of pain on top of their heads like Haitian laundresses, then fling the bundles at random into the face of any bright stroller who happened to be passing by? All right. He had helped this fat broad to find herself some ghoulish kicks. What else did they want from him?
"The wrong man died, Mrs. Mavole," Raymond sobbed. "How I wish it could have been me. Not Eddie. Me. Me." He hid his face in her large, motherly breasts as she lay back on the pillows of the bed.
Through arrangements beyond his control, Raymond had developed. into a man who sagged fearfully within a suit of stifling armor, imprisoned for the length of his life from casque to solleret. It was heavy, immovable armor, this thick defense, which had been constructed mainly at his mother's forge, hammered under his stepfather's noise, tempered by the bitter tears of his father's betrayal. Raymond also distrusted all other living people because they had not warned his father of his mother.
Raymond had been shown too early that if he smiled his stepfather was encouraged to bray laughter; if he spoke, his mother felt compelled to reply in the only way she knew how to reply, which was to urge him to seek popularity and power with all life-force. So he had deliberately developed the ability to be shunned instantly no matter where he went and notwithstanding extraneous conditions. He had achieved this state consciously after year upon year of unconscious rehearsal of the manifest paraphernalia of arrogance and contempt, then exceeded it. The shell of armor that encased Raymond, by the horrid tracery of its design, presented him as one of the least likeable men of his century. He knew that to be a fact, and yet he did not know it because he thought the armor was all one with himself, as is a turtle's shell.
He had been told who he was only by his whimpering unconscious mind: a motherless (by choice), fatherless (by treachery), friendless (by circumstance), and joyless (by consequence) man who would continue to refuse emphatically to live and who, autocratically and unequivocally, did not intend to die. He was a marooned balloonist, supported by nothing visible, looking down on everybody and everything, but yearning to be seen so that, at least, he could be given some credit for an otherwise profitless ascension.
That was what Raymond's ambivalence was like. He was held in a paradox of callousness and feeling: the armor, which he told the world he was, and the feeling, which was what he did not know he was, and blind to both in a darkness of despair which could neither be seen nor see itself.
He had been able to weep with Mr. and Mrs. Mavole because the door had been closed and because he knew he would be careful never to be seen by those two slobs again.
At seven-twenty on the morning after he had reached St. Louis, there was a discreet but firm knocking at Raymond's hotel room door. These peremptory sounds just happened to come at a moment when Raymond was exchanging intense joy with the young newspaperwoman he had met the day before. When the knocking had first hit the door, Raymond had heard it clearly enough but he was just busy enough to be determined to ignore it, but the young woman had gone rigid, not in any attitude of idiosyncratic orgasm, but as any healthy, respectable young woman would have done under similar circumstances in a hotel room in any city smaller than Tokyo.
Lights of rage and resentment exploded in Raymond's head. He stared down at the sweet, frightened face under him as though he hated her for not being as defiant as a drunken whore in a night court, then he threw himself off her, nearly falling out of bed. He regained his balance, slowly pulled on the dark blue dressing gown, and walking very close to the door of the room, said into the crack, "Who is it?"
"Federal Bureau of Investigation." It was a calm, sane, tenor voice.
"What?" Raymond said. "Come on!" His voice was low and angry.
Raymond looked over his shoulder, registering amazement, either to see whether Mardell had heard what he had heard or to find out if she looked like a fugitive. She was chalk-white and solemn.
"What do you want?" Raymond asked.
"We want Sergeant Raymond Shaw." Raymond stared at the door. His face began to fill with a claret flush that clashed unpleasantly with the Nile-green wallpaper directly beside him. "Open up!" the voice said.
"I will like hell open up," Raymond said. "How dare you pound on this door at this time of the morning and issue your country constable's orders? There are telephones in the lobby if you needed to make some kind of urgent inquiry. I said, how dare you?" The hauteur in Raymond's voice held no bluster and its threat of implicit punishment startled the girl on the bed even more than the FBI's arrival. "What the hell do you want from Sergeant Raymond Shaw?" he snarled.
"Well -- uh -- we have been asked --"
"-- we have been asked to see that you meet the Army plane which is being sent to pick you up at the Lambert Airport in an hour and fifteen minutes. At eight forty-five."
"You couldn't have called me from your home, or some law-school telephone booth?"
There was a strained silence, then: "We will not continue to discuss this with you from behind a door." Raymond walked quickly to the telephone. He was stiff with anger, as though it had rusted his joints. He picked up the receiver and rattled the bar. He told the operator to please get him the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.
"Sergeant," the voice said distinctly through the door, "we have orders to put you on that plane. Our orders are just as mandatory as any you ever got in the Army."
"Listen to what I'm going to say on this phone, then we'll talk about orders," Raymond said nastily. "I don't take any orders from the FBI or the Bureau of Printing and Engraving or the Division of Conservation and Wild Life, and if you have any written orders for me from the United States Army, slide them under the door. Then you can wait for me in the lobby, if you still think you have to, and the Air Force can wait for me at the airport until I make my mind up."
"Now, just one minute here, son-" The voice had turned ominous.
"Did they tell you I am being flown to Washington to get a Medal of Honor at the White House?" Maybe that silly hunk of iron he had never asked for would be useful for something just once. This kind of a square bought that stuff. A Medal of Honor was like a lot of money; it was very hard to get, so it took on a lot of magic powers.
"Are you that Sergeant Shaw?"
"That's me." He spoke to the phone. "Right. I'll hold on."
"I'll wait in the lobby," the FBI man said. "I'll be standing near the desk when you come down. Sorry."
Holding the telephone and waiting for the call, Raymond sat down on the edge of the bed, then leaned over and kissed the girl very softly at a soft place right under her rigid right nipple, but he didn't smile at her because he was preoccupied with the call. "Hello, Mayflower? This is St. Louis, Missouri, calling Senator John Iselin. Sergeant Raymond Shaw." There was a short wait. "Hello, Mother. Put your husband on. It's Raymond. I said put your husband on!" He waited.
"Johnny? Raymond. There's an FBI man outside my hotel room door in St. Louis to say that they are holding an Army plane for me. Did you tell the Army to request FBI cooperation, and did you have that plane sent here?" He listened. "You did. Well, I knew damn well you did. But why? What the hell did you decide to do a thing like that for?" He listened. "How could I be late? It's Wednesday morning and I don't have to be at the White House until Friday afternoon." He listened. He went totally pale. "A parade? A par---ade?" He stared at the details offered by his imagination. "Why -- you cheap, flag-rubbing bastard!"
Mardell had slipped out of bed and was starting to get dressed, but she didn't seem to be able to find anything and she looked frightened. He signaled her with his free hand, caught her attention, and smiled at her so warmingly and so reassuringly that she sat down on the edge of the bed. Then she leaned back slowly and stretched out. He reached over and took her hand, kissed it softly, then placed it on top of her flat smooth stomach, while the telephone squawked in his ear. She reached up and just barely allowed her hand to caress the length of his right cheek, unshaven. Suddenly his face went hard again and he barked into the telephone. "No, don't put my mother on again! I know I haven't spoken to her in two years! I'll talk to her when I'm good and ready to talk to her. Aaah, for Christ's sake!" He gritted his teeth and stared at the ceiling.
"Hello, Mother." His voice was flat.
"Raymond, what the hell is this?" his mother asked solicitously. "What's the matter with you? If we were in the mining business and you struck gold you'd call us, wouldn't you?"
"Well, it just so happens that you're a Medal of Honor winner -- incidentally, congratulations -- I meant to write but we've been jammed up. Johnny is a public figure, Raymond. He represents the people of your state just the same as the President represents the people of the United States, and I notice you aren't making any fuss about going to the White House. Is there something so slimy and so terrible about having your picture taken with your father --"
"He is not my father!"
"-- who represents the pride the people of this nation feel for what you have sacrificed for them on the field of battle?"
"Aaah, fuh crissakes, Mother, will you please --"
"You didn't mind having your picture taken with that stranger in St. Louis yesterday. Incidentally, what happened? Did the Army PRO send you in there to slobber over the Gold Star Mother?"
"It was my own idea."
"Don't tell me that, Raymond darling. I just happen to know you."
"It was my own idea."
"Well, wonderful. It was a wonderful idea. All the papers carried it here yesterday and, of course, everywhere this morning. Marty Webber called in time so we were able to work in a little expression from Johnny about how he'd do anything to help that dead boy's folks and so forth, so we tied everything up from this end. It was great, so you certainly can't stand there and tell me that you won't have your picture taken with the man who is not only your own family but who happens to have been the governor and is now the senator from your own state."
"Since when do you have to get the Army to ask the FBI to set up a picture for Johnny? And that's not what we're arguing about, anyway. He just told me about a filthy idea for a parade to commemorate a medal on which you and I might not place any particular value but which the rest of this country thinks is a nice little thing -- for a few lousy votes for him, and I am not going to hold still for any cheap, goddam parade!"
"A parade? That's ridiculous!"
"Ask your flag-simple husband."
Raymond's mother seemed to be talking across the mouthpiece in an aside to Johnny, but Johnny had left the apartment some four minutes before to get a haircut. "Johnny," she said to nobody at all, "where did you get the idea that they could embarrass Raymond with a parade? No wonder he's so sore," Into the telephone she said, "It's not a parade! A few cars were going out to the airport to meet you. No marching men. No color guard. No big bands. You know you are a very peculiar boy, Raymond. I haven't seen you for almost two years -- your mother -- but you go right on mewing about some parade and Johnny and the FBI and some Army plane, but when it comes to --"
"What else is going to happen in Washington?"
"I had planned a little luncheon."
"With some very important key press and television people..."
"I won't do it."
There was a long pause. Waiting, staring down at the girl, he became aware that she had violet eyes. His mind began to spin off the fine silk thread of his resentment in furious moulinage. For almost two years he had been free of his obsessed mother, this brassy bugler, this puss-in-boots to her boorish Marquis de Carra bas, the woman who could think but who could not feel. He had had three letters from her in two years. (1) She had arranged for a life-sized cut-out of Johnny to be forwarded to Seoul. General MacArthur was in the area. Could Johnny arrange for a picture of the two of them with arms around the photographic cut-out of Johnny, as she could guarantee that this would get the widest kind of coverage? (2) Would he arrange for a canvass of fighting men from their state to sign a scroll of Christmas greetings, on behalf of all Johnny's fighting buddies everywhere, to Johnny and the people of his great state? And (3) she was deeply disappointed and not a little bit shocked to find out that he would not lift one little finger to carry out a few simple requests for his mother who worked day and night for both of her men so that there might be a better and more secure place for each of them.
He had been two years away from her but he could feel his defiance of her buckling under the weight of her silence. He had never been able to cope with her silence. At last her voice came through the telephone again. It was changed. It was rough and sinister. It was murderous and frightening and threatening. "If you don't do this, Raymond," she said, "I will promise you on my father's grave right now that you will be very, very sorry."
"All right, Mother," he said. "I'll do it." He shuddered. He hung up the telephone from a foot and a half above the receiver. It fell off, but he must have felt he had made his point because he picked it up from the bed where it had bounced and put it gently into its cradle.
"That was my mother," he explained to Mardell. "I wish I knew what else I could say to describe her in front of a nice girl like you."
He walked to the locked door. He leaned against the crack in despair and said, "I'll be in the lobby in about an hour." There was no answer. He turned toward the bed, untying the belt of his new blue robe, as a massive column of smoke began to spiral upward inside his head, filling the eyes of his memory and opaquing his expression from behind his eyes. Mardell was spilled out softly across the bed. The sheets were blue. She was blond-and-ivory, tipped with pink; lined with pink. It came to him that he had never seen another girl, named Jocie, this way. The thought of Jocie lying before him like this lovely moaning girl excited him as though a chemical abrasive had been poured into his urethra and she was assaulted by him in the most attritive manner, to her greater glory and with her effulgent consent, and though she lived to be an old, old woman she never forgot that morning and could summon it back to her in its richest violence whenever she was frightened and alone, never knowing that she was not only the first woman Raymond had ever possessed, but the first he had ever kissed in passion, or that he had been given his start toward relaxing his inhibitions against the uses of sex not quite one year before, in Manchuria.