Chapter 11: Lies
Janet paced her living room restlessly. She glared at her computer. "Zalcor, dammit, where are you when I need you?" She logged into Singlenesia once again, but there was no sign of her friend. Peggy Sue, the elderly calico cat, jumped onto the monitor and cried for attention. "Oh, Peggy Sue, do fuck off," Janet snarled as she shut the computer down. She snapped open the transcript of Kathy's interview and began to code the text.
"Honey? Is there something wrong?" Dirk called. Janet abandoned the transcript and walked into the dining room, where Dirk sat at the table surrounded by bills and envelopes. "Tough day?"
"Oh, Dirk. Sometimes this job just gets me down."
"Is this those Puppies again? What happened? Who got arrested this time?"
"Look, just don't you start in on me, too? All right? I'm sorry they annoy you, OK? They annoy me, too. But we have an epidemic of drug abuse, despair, suicide, all manner of self-destructive behavior in Eagle Hills, and I have reason to believe that this band is at the center of it. Now their drummer has suicided, too. But you don't want me to study them because you don't like the way they dress?! Honestly, I gave you credit for a bit more intelligence, not to mention a somewhat broader vision of my work."
"I never said anything about you not studying them, or about the way they dress. What are you so touchy about?"
"I'm not touchy! .... Well, maybe I am. I've had a tough day."
"It sounds like it. Want to tell me?"
"Oh, lord. I interviewed all three of them together: Ben, Rob and - ah - John. What a mistake that was. What on earth could I have been thinking? I can manage Rob, of course. I might be ... achieving some kind of ... rapport ... with John. Ben, or course, has always been difficult. The three of them together in the same room, though .... It was untenable. They're so different. I mean, they're alike in a way. Each of them is a unique individual. It's like their individuality brings them together. But they're loners, each one is a loner. Putting them together in one room - it was fatal for me. Deadly. I can't do it. Whatever channel of communication I might have with each as an individual - it's so hard to explain. I can talk to Rob alone, or even to John, and it seems to work. But if I use language that is effective with Rob when John is present, he mocks me. If I speak at all in front of Ben, he mocks me. I can't stand it. I feel so exposed, so helpless. I won't make this mistake again. I can't imagine things getting any worse, but I know something awful would happen. There's something about the chemistry of the three of them together. I can see sparks. I don't want to be there when it explodes."
Janet sighed and sat down at the table. She didn't notice that Dirk had lost interest halfway through her monologue and had returned to balancing his checkbook. "I don't know, Dirk."
"Maybe I'm just projecting. Maybe it isn't them at all. Maybe it's me. I know I'm not working at the top of my form. Poor Adam. You know, I spoke to Adam only a short time before he died. He was so distraught about Walter. And I shut him off. I had no compassion for him. I simply didn't care. I know he must have sensed that. Who knows, maybe I am even complicitous in his death. Oh, Dirk!"
Something in her tone made Dirk look up. "Yes?"
"Oh, Dirk," she said more quietly. "I'm so depressed. Nothing is going well. I should never have taken this job. I think I should just chuck it and go be a clerk at K-Mart."
Dirk took her hand. "Things aren't so bad. Stick with it. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Remember when you were studying for qualifying exams? You thought you'd never be able to do that either. You wanted to go work for K-Mart then, too. I know you can do it." They smiled.
The doorbell rang. Janet hurried into the living room and opened the door.
"Bill! What brings you here?"
"I just stopped by. Is Nick here? I brought him this hat."
"Oh, my. Nick's asleep. Won't you come in? Would you like some tea? What an interesting hat. Where did it come from?"
"I stole it out of a truck. I thought Nick would like it."
"I see. Please come in? Have you met my husband, Dirk? Dirk, this is Bill. I told you about Bill. From Bubblefest."
"How do you do? Honey, I'm going to go upstairs now. Nice to meet you, ah, Bill."
"Good night, dear. I'll be up shortly."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Dr. Dawson." Bill turned to Janet. "Yes, I would like some tea, if you don't mind."
"No, I was just going to have some anyway. Have a seat. I'll only be a moment." Janet turned off toward the kitchen to put the kettle on. Bill wandered back into the living room, where he found the open case folder. He picked it up and read avidly.
RES: I suppose the most devastating thing, to him at least, were the sexual encounters that John and I had and the fact that I'm pregnant with his child. When he got kicked out of the band, that didn't help either.
INT: You're pregnant with John's child?
RES: Can you believe it? I think congratulations are in order.
INT: Congratulations, then. I hear you saying that you are glad that you got pregnant.
RES: Of course. It's John Christ's child. I would be foolish not to want it. I'm hopelessly in love.
INT: And what does John say?
RES: I'm not going to tell him.
Janet called from the kitchen, "Lemon or sugar?"
Bill hastily closed the folder. "No thanks. Plain is fine. Can I help carry anything?"
"No, I can manage. Here, come into the dining room. I have some cookies."
"Wow, thanks. So, how's the study coming? I heard you talked to the whole band today. Isn't it terrible about Adam? I guess he took being kicked out of the band really hard."
"Do you think so? I'm quite confused. I didn't find today's interview very productive, to say the least."
"Yeah. When they're together, it's like they're speaking a language of their own. The language of absurdity. I was over at Ben's yesterday. They're already working on a new tape. It's great. They've got a song on there about fighting with forks. It says, 'Go make a styrofoam mold of your food/Crochet your name on the head of some dude.' You'll love it."
"I'm not so sure any more. I have a bad feeling about this music. There seems to be some kind of link between the band and the problems kids here are having. I know it sounds ridiculous. Taken at face value, the music is so innocuous - so, as you say, dumb - that it seems quite harmless. I don't know, Bill. I'm losing confidence in my analytic abilities."
"Here's something that will cheer you up. The Battle of the Bands is coming around again. It's not going to be anything like it was last year. They're going to play nothing but original material. No cover songs. I guarantee you'll be able to tell them apart from the other bands this time. John says it's going to be a 'feedback festival.' And Ben says that the Gland Puppies are sponsoring the whole event. He's calling it "Battle of the Glands." But you know Ben, he's such a prankster."
"Oh, yes, I do know Ben. Well, or I don't. Or maybe both. What's the difference? Who cares? I'm sorry, Bill. I don't think I'm very good company tonight. Thank you for stopping by. I'll be sure and give Nick the hat. I'll see you in school."
"OK. So you're gonna come to the Battle of the Bands?"
"I'll have to see."
"You've got to come. I want you to meet Kim. She's really important to me. Let me tell you about Kim... Last night, we were talking on the phone, and I talked to her for four hours. She fell asleep, and I just talked to her. And then she woke up, and I was still talking. I told her all about my feet. Have I ever told you about my feet?"
"Yes, I think you have."
"OK. So you'll come?"
"I don't know. Why don't you call me? We can talk about this later."
"OK. Great. You'll have a great time. You can meet Kim. Thanks for the tea, even if I didn't drink any of it."
"You didn't? Oh, no, you didn't. Good night."
Janet closed the front door and trudged wearily up the stairs.