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Pet Samatary, Part One: The Pet Sematary - Chapter 17

Part One: The Pet Sematary - Chapter 17

SEVENTEEN

It takes the average human seven minutes to go to sleep, but, according to Hand's Human Physiology, it takes the same average human fifteen to twenty minutes to wake up, as if sleep is a pool from which emerging is more difficult than entering. When the sleeper wakes, he or she comes up by degrees, from deep sleep to light sleep to what is sometimes called ‘waking sleep', a state in which the sleeper can hear sounds and will even respond to questions without being aware of it later … except perhaps as fragments of dream.

Louis heard the click and rattle of bones, but gradually this sound became sharper, more metallic. There was a bang. A yell. More metallic sounds … something rolling? Sure, his drifting mind agreed. Roll dem bones.

He heard his daughter, calling: ‘Get it, Gage! Go get it!'

This was followed by Gage's crow of delight, and was the sound on which Louis opened his eyes and saw the ceiling of his own bedroom.

He held himself perfectly still, waiting for the reality, the good reality, the blessed reality, to come home all the way.

All a dream. No matter how terrible, how real, it had all been a dream. Only a fossil in the mind under his mind.

The metallic sound came again. It was one of Gage's toy cars being rolled along the upstairs hall.

‘Get it, Gage!'

‘Get it!' Gage yelled. ‘Get-it-get-it-get-it!'

Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. Gage's small bare feet thundering along the hallway runner. He and Ellie were giggling.

Louis looked to his right. Rachel's side of the bed was empty, the covers thrown back. The sun was well up. He glanced at his watch and saw it was nearly eight o'clock. Rachel had let him oversleep, probably on purpose.

Ordinarily this would have irritated him, but this morning it did not. He drew in a deep breath and let it out, content for the moment to lie here with a bar of sunlight slanting in through the window, feeling the unmistakable texture of the real world. Dustmotes danced in the sunlight.

Rachel called upstairs: ‘Better come down and get your snack and go out for the bus, El!'

‘Okay!' The louder clack-clack of her feet. ‘Here's your car, Gage. I got to go to school.'

Gage began to yell indignantly. Although it was garbled – the only clear words being Gage, car, geddit, and Ellie-bus – his text seemed clear enough: Ellie should stay. Public education could go hang for the day.

Rachel's voice again: ‘Give your dad a shake before you come down, El.'

Ellie came in, her hair done up in a ponytail, wearing her red dress.

‘I'm awake, babe,' he said. ‘Go on and get your bus.'

‘Okay, Daddy.' She came over, kissed his slightly scruffy cheek, and bolted for the stairs.

The dream was beginning to fade, to lose its coherency. A damn good thing, too.

‘Gage!' he yelled. ‘Come give your dad a kiss!'

Gage ignored this. He was following Ellie downstairs as rapidly as he could, yelling, ‘Get it! Get-it-get-it-GET-IT! !' at the top of his lungs. Louis caught just a glimpse of his sturdy little kid's body, clad only in diapers and rubber pants.

Rachel called up again: ‘Louis, was that you? You awake?'

‘Yeah,' he said, sitting up.

‘Told you he was!' Ellie called. ‘I'm goin'. Bye!' The slam of the front door and Gage's outraged bellow punctuated this.

‘One egg or two?' Rachel called.

Louis pushed back the blankets and swung his feet out on to the nubs of the hooked rug, ready to tell her he'd skip the eggs, just a bowl of cereal and he'd run … and the words died in his throat.

His feet were filthy with dirt and fir needles.

His heart leaped up in his throat like a crazy jack-in-the-box. Moving fast, eyes bulging, teeth clamped unfeelingly on his tongue, he kicked the covers all the way back. The foot of the bed was littered with needles. The sheets were mucky and dirty.

‘Louis?'

He saw a few errant fir needles on his knees, and suddenly he looked at his right arm. There was a scratch there on the bicep, a fresh scratch, exactly where the dead branch had poked him … in the dream.

I'm going to scream. I can feel it.

And he could, too; it was roaring up from inside, nothing but a big cold bullet of fear. Reality shimmered. Reality – the real reality, he thought – was those needles; the filth on the sheets; the bloody scratch on his bare arm.

I'm going to scream and then I'll go crazy and I won't have to worry about it any more—

‘Louis?' Rachel was coming up the stairs. ‘Louis, did you go back to sleep?'

He grappled for himself in those two or three seconds; he fought grimly for himself just as he had done in those moments of roaring confusion after Pascow had been brought into the Medical Center, dying, in a blanket. He won. The thought which tipped the scales was that she must not see him this way, his feet muddy and coated with needles, the blankets tossed back on to the floor to reveal the muck-splashed ground sheet.

‘I'm awake,' he called cheerfully. His tongue was bleeding from the sudden, involuntary bite he had given it. His mind swirled, and somewhere deep inside, away from the action, he wondered if he had always been within touching distance of such mad irrationalities; if everyone was.

‘One egg or two?' She had stopped on the second or third riser. Thank God.

‘Two,' he said, barely aware of what he was saying. ‘Scrambled.'

‘Good for you,' she said, and went back downstairs again.

He closed his eyes briefly in relief, but in the darkness he saw Pascow's silver eyes. His eyes flew open again. Louis began to move rapidly, putting off any further thought. He jerked the bedclothes off the bed. The blankets were okay. He separated out the two sheets, balled them up, took them into the hallway, and dumped them down the laundry chute.

Almost running, he entered the bathroom, jerked the shower handle on, and stepped under water so hot it was nearly scalding, unmindful. He washed the dirt from his feet and legs.

He began to feel better, more in control. Drying off, it struck him that this was how murderers must feel when they believe they have gotten rid of all the evidence. He began to laugh. He went on drying himself, but he also went on laughing. He couldn't seem to stop.

‘Hey, up there!' Rachel called. ‘What's so funny?'

‘Private joke,' Louis called back, still laughing. He was frightened, but the fright didn't stop the laughter. The laughter came, rising from a belly that was as hard as stones mortared into a wall. It occurred to him that shoving the sheets down the laundry chute was absolutely the best thing he could have done. Missy Dandridge came in five days a week to vacuum, clean and do the laundry. Rachel would never see those sheets at all until she put them back on the bed – clean. He supposed it was possible that Missy would mention it to Rachel, but he didn't think so. She would probably whisper to her husband that the Creeds were playing some strange sex-game that involved mud and fir needles instead of body paints.

This thought made Louis laugh all the harder.

The last of the giggles and chuckles dried up as he was dressing, and he realized that he felt a little better. How that could be he didn't know, but he did. The room looked normal now except for the stripped bed. He had gotten rid of the poison. Maybe evidence was actually the word he was looking for, but in his mind it felt like poison.

Perhaps this is what people do with the inexplicable, he thought. This is what they do with the irrational that refuses to be broken down into the normal causes and effects that run the Western world. Maybe this is how the mind copes with the flying saucer you saw hovering silently over your back field one morning, the rain of frogs, the hand from under the bed that stroked your bare foot in the dead of night: there was a giggling fit, or a crying fit … and since it was its own inviolable self and would not break down, you simply passed terror intact, like a kidney stone.

Gage was in his chair, eating and decorating the table with Special K. He was decorating the plastic mat under his high chair with Special K, and apparently shampooing with Special K.

Rachel came out of the kitchen with his eggs and a cup of coffee. ‘What was the big joke, Lou? You were laughing like a loon up there. Scared me a little.'

Louis opened his mouth with no idea of what he was going to say, and what came out was a joke he had heard the week before at the corner market down the road, something about a Jewish tailor who bought a parrot whose only line was ‘Ariel Sharon jerks off.'

By the time he finished, Rachel was laughing, too – so was Gage, for that matter.

Fine. Our hero has taken care of all the evidence, to wit: the muddy sheets and the loony laughter in the bathroom. Our hero will now read the morning paper – or at least look at it – putting the seal of normality on the morning.

So thinking, Louis opened the paper.

That's what you do, all right, he thought with immeasurable relief. You pass it like a stone and that's the end of it … unless there comes a campfire some night with friends when the wind is high and the talk turns to inexplicable events. Because on campfire night when the wind is high, talk is cheap.

He ate his eggs. He kissed Rachel and Gage. He glanced at the square, white-painted laundry cabinet at the foot of the chute only as he left. Everything was okay. It was another knockout of a morning. Late summer showed every sign of just going on for ever, and everything was okay. He glanced at the path as he backed the car out of the garage, but that was okay, too. Never turned a hair. You passed it like a stone.

Everything was okay until he had gotten ten miles down the road, and then the shakes hit him so hard that he had to pull off Route 2 and into the morning-deserted parking lot of Sing's, the Chinese restaurant not far from the Eastern Maine Medical Center – where Pascow's body would have been taken. The EMMC, that was, not Sing's. Vic Pascow was never going to eat another helping of moo goo gai pan, ha-ha.

The shakes twisted his body, rippled it, had their way with it. Louis felt helpless and terrified – not terrified of anything supernatural, not in this bright sunshine, but simply terrified of the possibility that he might be losing his mind. It felt as if a long, invisible wire was being twirled through his body.

‘No more,' he said. ‘Please, no more.'

He fumbled for the radio and got Joan Baez singing about diamonds and rust. Her sweet, cool voice soothed him, and by the time she had finished, Louis felt that he could drive on.

When he got to the Medical Center, he called hello to Charlton and then ducked into the bathroom, believing that he must look like hell. Not so. He was a little hollow under the eyes, but not even Rachel had noticed that. He slapped some cold water on his face, dried off, combed his hair, and went into his office.

Steve Masterton and the Indian doctor, Surrendra Hardu, were in there, drinking coffee and continuing to go over the front file.

‘Morning, Lou,' Steve said.

‘Morning.'

‘Let's hope it is not like last morning,' Hardu said.

‘That's right, you missed all the excitement.'

‘Surrendra had plenty of excitement himself last night,' Masterton said, grinning. ‘Tell him, Surrendra.'

Hardu polished his glasses, smiling. ‘Two boys bring in their lady-friend around one o'clock in the morning,' he said. ‘She is very happily drunk; celebrating the return to University, you understand. She has cut one thigh quite badly, and I tell her it will be at least four stitches, no scar. Stitch away, she tells me, and so I do, bending over like this—'

Hardu demonstrated, salaaming over an invisible thigh. Louis began to grin, sensing what was coming.

‘And as I am suturing, she vomits on my head.'

Masterton broke up. So did Louis. Hardu smiled calmly, as if this had happened to him thousands of times in thousands of lives.

‘Surrendra, how long have you been on duty?' Louis asked, when the laughter died.

‘Since midnight,' Hardu said. ‘I am just leaving. But I wanted to stay long enough to say hello again.'

‘Well, hello,' Louis said, shaking his small, brown hand, ‘now go home and go to sleep.'

‘We're almost through with the front file,' Masterton said. ‘Say hallelujah, Surrendra.'

‘I decline,' Hardu said, smiling. ‘I am not a Christian.'

‘Then sing the chorus of “Instant Karma”, or something.'

‘May you both shine on,' Hardu said, still smiling, and glided out the door.

Louis and Steve Masterton looked after him for a moment, silent, then at each other. Then they both burst out laughing. To Louis, no laugh had ever felt so good … so normal.

‘Just as well we got the file finished up,' Steve said. ‘Today's the day we put the welcome mat out for the dope pushers.'

Louis nodded. The first of the drug salesmen would begin arriving at ten. As Steve liked to crack, Wednesday might be Prince Spaghetti Day, but at UMO, every Tuesday was D-Day. The D stood for Darvon, the all-time favorite.

‘A word of advice, O Great Boss,' Steve said. ‘I don't know what these guys were like out in Chicago, but around here they'll stoop to just about anything from all-expenses paid hunting junkets into the Allagash in November to free bowling at Family Fun Lanes in Bangor. I had one guy try to give me one of those inflatable Judy dolls. Me! And I'm only a PA! If they can't sell you drugs, they'll drive you to them.'

‘Should have taken it.'

‘Nah, she was a redhead. Not my type.'

‘Well, I agree with Surrendra,' Louis said. ‘Just as long as it's not like yesterday.'


Part One: The Pet Sematary - Chapter 17 第一部:ペット・セマタリー - 第17章 Deel één: De Pet Sematary - Hoofdstuk 17 Частина перша: Семінарія для домашніх тварин - Розділ 17

SEVENTEEN

It takes the average human seven minutes to go to sleep, but, according to Hand's Human Physiology, it takes the same average human fifteen to twenty minutes to wake up, as if sleep is a pool from which emerging is more difficult than entering. Al humano promedio le toma siete minutos irse a dormir, pero, de acuerdo con la Fisiología Humana de Hand, le toma al mismo humano promedio de quince a veinte minutos despertarse, como si el sueño fuera una piscina de la cual emerger es más difícil que entrar. When the sleeper wakes, he or she comes up by degrees, from deep sleep to light sleep to what is sometimes called ‘waking sleep', a state in which the sleeper can hear sounds and will even respond to questions without being aware of it later … except perhaps as fragments of dream. Cuando el durmiente se despierta, él o ella asciende gradualmente, desde el sueño profundo hasta el sueño ligero y lo que a veces se denomina "sueño despierto", un estado en el que el durmiente puede escuchar sonidos e incluso responderá preguntas sin darse cuenta de ello más tarde. … excepto quizás como fragmentos de un sueño.

Louis heard the click and rattle of bones, but gradually this sound became sharper, more metallic. Louis escuchó el chasquido y el traqueteo de los huesos, pero gradualmente este sonido se hizo más agudo, más metálico. There was a bang. Hubo una explosión. A yell. Un grito More metallic sounds … something rolling? Más sonidos metálicos… ¿algo rodando? Sure, his drifting mind agreed. Seguro, su mente a la deriva estuvo de acuerdo. Roll dem bones. Enrolla los huesos.

He heard his daughter, calling: ‘Get it, Gage! Escuchó a su hija gritar: '¡Consíguelo, Gage! Go get it!' ¡Ve a buscarlo!

This was followed by Gage's crow of delight, and was the sound on which Louis opened his eyes and saw the ceiling of his own bedroom. Esto fue seguido por el canto de alegría de Gage, y fue el sonido con el que Louis abrió los ojos y vio el techo de su propio dormitorio.

He held himself perfectly still, waiting for the reality, the good reality, the blessed reality, to come home all the way. Se mantuvo perfectamente quieto, esperando que la realidad, la buena realidad, la bendita realidad, regresara a casa todo el camino.

All a dream. Todo un sueño. No matter how terrible, how real, it had all been a dream. No importa cuán terrible, cuán real, todo había sido un sueño. Only a fossil in the mind under his mind. Sólo un fósil en la mente bajo su mente.

The metallic sound came again. El sonido metálico volvió. It was one of Gage's toy cars being rolled along the upstairs hall. Era uno de los carritos de juguete de Gage que rodaban por el pasillo de arriba.

‘Get it, Gage!' —¡Consíguelo, Gage!

‘Get it!' Gage yelled. '¡Consíguelo!' Gage gritó. ‘Get-it-get-it-get-it!' '¡Consíguelo-consíguelo-consíguelo!'

Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. Gage's small bare feet thundering along the hallway runner. Los pequeños pies descalzos de Gage resonando a lo largo del corredor del pasillo. He and Ellie were giggling. Él y Ellie se estaban riendo.

Louis looked to his right. Louis miró a su derecha. Rachel's side of the bed was empty, the covers thrown back. El lado de la cama de Rachel estaba vacío, las sábanas echadas hacia atrás. The sun was well up. El sol estaba bien alto. He glanced at his watch and saw it was nearly eight o'clock. Miró su reloj y vio que eran casi las ocho. Rachel had let him oversleep, probably on purpose. Rachel lo había dejado dormir, probablemente a propósito.

Ordinarily this would have irritated him, but this morning it did not. Normalmente esto lo habría irritado, pero esta mañana no lo hizo. He drew in a deep breath and let it out, content for the moment to lie here with a bar of sunlight slanting in through the window, feeling the unmistakable texture of the real world. Respiró hondo y lo dejó escapar, contento por el momento de estar aquí con una barra de luz solar que entraba oblicuamente a través de la ventana, sintiendo la textura inconfundible del mundo real. Dustmotes danced in the sunlight. Las motas de polvo bailaban a la luz del sol.

Rachel called upstairs: ‘Better come down and get your snack and go out for the bus, El!' Rachel llamó al piso de arriba: '¡Será mejor que bajes, tomes tu refrigerio y salgas a tomar el autobús, El!'

‘Okay!' The louder clack-clack of her feet. '¡De acuerdo!' El clack-clac más fuerte de sus pies. ‘Here's your car, Gage. Aquí está tu coche, Gage. I got to go to school.' Tengo que ir a la escuela.

Gage began to yell indignantly. Gage comenzó a gritar indignado. Although it was garbled – the only clear words being Gage, car, geddit, and Ellie-bus – his text seemed clear enough: Ellie should stay. Aunque estaba confuso (las únicas palabras claras eran Gage, auto, geddit y Ellie-bus), su texto parecía lo suficientemente claro: Ellie debería quedarse. Public education could go hang for the day. La educación pública podría ir a la horca por el día.

Rachel's voice again: ‘Give your dad a shake before you come down, El.' La voz de Rachel otra vez: 'Dale una sacudida a tu papá antes de que bajes, El'.

Ellie came in, her hair done up in a ponytail, wearing her red dress. Entró Ellie, con el pelo recogido en una cola de caballo, con su vestido rojo.

‘I'm awake, babe,' he said. "Estoy despierto, nena", dijo. ‘Go on and get your bus.' Ve y coge tu autobús.

‘Okay, Daddy.' She came over, kissed his slightly scruffy cheek, and bolted for the stairs. 'Está bien, papá.' Ella se acercó, besó su mejilla ligeramente desaliñada y corrió hacia las escaleras.

The dream was beginning to fade, to lose its coherency. El sueño comenzaba a desvanecerse, a perder su coherencia. A damn good thing, too. Algo muy bueno, también.

‘Gage!' he yelled. '¡Calibrar!' el grito. ‘Come give your dad a kiss!' '¡Ven a darle un beso a tu papá!'

Gage ignored this. Gage ignoró esto. He was following Ellie downstairs as rapidly as he could, yelling, ‘Get it! Estaba siguiendo a Ellie escaleras abajo tan rápido como podía, gritando: '¡Consíguelo! Get-it-get-it-GET-IT! ¡Consíguelo-consíguelo-CONSÍGUELO! !' at the top of his lungs. !' en la parte superior de sus pulmones. Louis caught just a glimpse of his sturdy little kid's body, clad only in diapers and rubber pants. Louis alcanzó a vislumbrar el cuerpo robusto de su pequeño niño, vestido solo con pañales y pantalones de goma.

Rachel called up again: ‘Louis, was that you? Rachel volvió a llamar: 'Louis, ¿eres tú? You awake?' ¿Tu estas despierto?'

‘Yeah,' he said, sitting up. 'Sí', dijo, sentándose.

‘Told you he was!' Ellie called. —¡Te dije que lo era! Ellie llamó. ‘I'm goin'. 'Ahi voy'. Bye!' The slam of the front door and Gage's outraged bellow punctuated this. ¡Adiós!' El portazo de la puerta principal y el bramido indignado de Gage acentuaron esto.

‘One egg or two?' Rachel called. ¿Un huevo o dos? Raquel llamó.

Louis pushed back the blankets and swung his feet out on to the nubs of the hooked rug, ready to tell her he'd skip the eggs, just a bowl of cereal and he'd run … and the words died in his throat. Louis apartó las mantas y balanceó los pies sobre las protuberancias de la alfombra de ganchos, listo para decirle que se saltaría los huevos, solo un plato de cereal y saldría corriendo... y las palabras murieron en su garganta.

His feet were filthy with dirt and fir needles. Sus pies estaban sucios de tierra y agujas de abeto.

His heart leaped up in his throat like a crazy jack-in-the-box. Su corazón saltó en su garganta como una caja de sorpresas loca. Moving fast, eyes bulging, teeth clamped unfeelingly on his tongue, he kicked the covers all the way back. Moviéndose rápido, con los ojos desorbitados, los dientes apretados insensiblemente sobre su lengua, pateó las sábanas hasta el final. The foot of the bed was littered with needles. El pie de la cama estaba lleno de agujas. The sheets were mucky and dirty. Las sábanas estaban sucias y sucias.

‘Louis?' '¿Luis?'

He saw a few errant fir needles on his knees, and suddenly he looked at his right arm. Vio algunas agujas de abeto errantes en sus rodillas, y de repente miró su brazo derecho. There was a scratch there on the bicep, a fresh scratch, exactly where the dead branch had poked him … in the dream. Había un rasguño en el bíceps, un rasguño reciente, exactamente donde la rama muerta lo había pinchado... en el sueño.

I'm going to scream. voy a gritar I can feel it. Puedo sentirlo.

And he could, too; it was roaring up from inside, nothing but a big cold bullet of fear. Y él también podía; estaba rugiendo desde adentro, nada más que una gran bala fría de miedo. Reality shimmered. La realidad brilló. Reality – the real reality, he thought – was those needles; the filth on the sheets; the bloody scratch on his bare arm. La realidad, la verdadera realidad, pensó, eran esas agujas; la suciedad en las sábanas; el sangriento rasguño en su brazo desnudo.

I'm going to scream and then I'll go crazy and I won't have to worry about it any more— Voy a gritar y luego me volveré loco y no tendré que preocuparme más por eso—

‘Louis?' Rachel was coming up the stairs. '¿Luis?' Rachel subía las escaleras. ‘Louis, did you go back to sleep?' 'Louis, ¿volviste a dormir?'

He grappled for himself in those two or three seconds; he fought grimly for himself just as he had done in those moments of roaring confusion after Pascow had been brought into the Medical Center, dying, in a blanket. Luchó por sí mismo en esos dos o tres segundos; luchó sombríamente por sí mismo tal como lo había hecho en esos momentos de rugiente confusión después de que Pascow fuera llevado al Centro Médico, agonizante, envuelto en una manta. He won. Ganó. The thought which tipped the scales was that she must not see him this way, his feet muddy and coated with needles, the blankets tossed back on to the floor to reveal the muck-splashed ground sheet. El pensamiento que inclinó la balanza fue que no debía verlo así, con los pies embarrados y cubiertos de agujas, las mantas tiradas al suelo para revelar la sábana salpicada de lodo.

‘I'm awake,' he called cheerfully. "Estoy despierto", dijo alegremente. His tongue was bleeding from the sudden, involuntary bite he had given it. Su lengua sangraba por el repentino e involuntario mordisco que le había dado. His mind swirled, and somewhere deep inside, away from the action, he wondered if he had always been within touching distance of such mad irrationalities; if everyone was. Su mente se arremolinaba, y en algún lugar muy adentro, lejos de la acción, se preguntó si siempre había estado al alcance de la mano de tales locas irracionalidades; si todos lo fueran.

‘One egg or two?' She had stopped on the second or third riser. ¿Un huevo o dos? Se había detenido en el segundo o tercer escalón. Thank God. Gracias a Dios.

‘Two,' he said, barely aware of what he was saying. —Dos —dijo, apenas consciente de lo que estaba diciendo. ‘Scrambled.' 'Revuelto.'

‘Good for you,' she said, and went back downstairs again. —Bien por ti —dijo, y volvió a bajar.

He closed his eyes briefly in relief, but in the darkness he saw Pascow's silver eyes. Cerró los ojos brevemente aliviado, pero en la oscuridad vio los ojos plateados de Pascow. His eyes flew open again. Sus ojos se abrieron de golpe de nuevo. Louis began to move rapidly, putting off any further thought. Louis comenzó a moverse rápidamente, postergando cualquier otro pensamiento. He jerked the bedclothes off the bed. Tiró de las sábanas de la cama. The blankets were okay. Las mantas estaban bien. He separated out the two sheets, balled them up, took them into the hallway, and dumped them down the laundry chute. Separó las dos sábanas, las hizo una bola, las llevó al pasillo y las arrojó por el conducto de la ropa sucia.

Almost running, he entered the bathroom, jerked the shower handle on, and stepped under water so hot it was nearly scalding, unmindful. Casi corriendo, entró en el baño, tiró de la manija de la ducha y se metió bajo el agua tan caliente que casi lo quemaba, sin darse cuenta. He washed the dirt from his feet and legs. Se lavó la suciedad de los pies y las piernas.

He began to feel better, more in control. Empezó a sentirse mejor, con más control. Drying off, it struck him that this was how murderers must feel when they believe they have gotten rid of all the evidence. Al secarse, se dio cuenta de que así es como deben sentirse los asesinos cuando creen que se han deshecho de todas las pruebas. He began to laugh. Empezó a reír. He went on drying himself, but he also went on laughing. Siguió secándose, pero también siguió riéndose. He couldn't seem to stop. Parecía que no podía parar.

‘Hey, up there!' Rachel called. '¡Oye, allá arriba!' Raquel llamó. ‘What's so funny?' '¿Que es tan gracioso?'

‘Private joke,' Louis called back, still laughing. 'Broma privada,' Louis respondió, todavía riéndose. He was frightened, but the fright didn't stop the laughter. Estaba asustado, pero el susto no detuvo la risa. The laughter came, rising from a belly that was as hard as stones mortared into a wall. La risa llegó, surgiendo de un vientre que era tan duro como piedras clavadas en una pared. It occurred to him that shoving the sheets down the laundry chute was absolutely the best thing he could have done. Se le ocurrió que empujar las sábanas por el conducto de la ropa sucia era absolutamente lo mejor que podía haber hecho. Missy Dandridge came in five days a week to vacuum, clean and do the laundry. Missy Dandridge venía cinco días a la semana para pasar la aspiradora, limpiar y lavar la ropa. Rachel would never see those sheets at all until she put them back on the bed – clean. Rachel nunca vería esas sábanas hasta que las volviera a poner en la cama, limpias. He supposed it was possible that Missy would mention it to Rachel, but he didn't think so. Supuso que era posible que Missy se lo mencionara a Rachel, pero no lo creía. She would probably whisper to her husband that the Creeds were playing some strange sex-game that involved mud and fir needles instead of body paints. Probablemente le susurraría a su esposo que los Creed estaban jugando a un extraño juego sexual que involucraba barro y agujas de abeto en lugar de pinturas corporales.

This thought made Louis laugh all the harder. Este pensamiento hizo que Louis se riera aún más fuerte.

The last of the giggles and chuckles dried up as he was dressing, and he realized that he felt a little better. La última de las risitas y risitas se secó mientras se vestía, y se dio cuenta de que se sentía un poco mejor. How that could be he didn't know, but he did. Cómo podía ser eso, no lo sabía, pero lo sabía. The room looked normal now except for the stripped bed. La habitación parecía normal ahora excepto por la cama desnuda. He had gotten rid of the poison. Se había deshecho del veneno. Maybe evidence was actually the word he was looking for, but in his mind it felt like poison. Quizás evidencia era en realidad la palabra que estaba buscando, pero en su mente se sentía como veneno.

Perhaps this is what people do with the inexplicable, he thought. Quizás esto es lo que la gente hace con lo inexplicable, pensó. This is what they do with the irrational that refuses to be broken down into the normal causes and effects that run the Western world. Esto es lo que hacen con lo irracional que se niega a descomponerse en las causas y efectos normales que gobiernan el mundo occidental. Maybe this is how the mind copes with the flying saucer you saw hovering silently over your back field one morning, the rain of frogs, the hand from under the bed that stroked your bare foot in the dead of night: there was a giggling fit, or a crying fit … and since it was its own inviolable self and would not break down, you simply passed terror intact, like a kidney stone. Tal vez así es como la mente lidia con el platillo volador que viste flotando silenciosamente sobre tu campo trasero una mañana, la lluvia de ranas, la mano debajo de la cama que acarició tu pie descalzo en la oscuridad de la noche: hubo un ataque de risa, o un ataque de llanto… y como era su propio ser inviolable y no se descomponía, simplemente pasabas el terror intacto, como un cálculo renal.

Gage was in his chair, eating and decorating the table with Special K. He was decorating the plastic mat under his high chair with Special K, and apparently shampooing with Special K. Gage estaba en su silla, comiendo y decorando la mesa con Special K. Estaba decorando el tapete de plástico debajo de su silla alta con Special K y, aparentemente, lavándose con Special K.

Rachel came out of the kitchen with his eggs and a cup of coffee. Rachel salió de la cocina con sus huevos y una taza de café. ‘What was the big joke, Lou? '¿Cuál fue la gran broma, Lou? You were laughing like a loon up there. Te estabas riendo como un loco allí arriba. Scared me a little.' Me asustó un poco.

Louis opened his mouth with no idea of what he was going to say, and what came out was a joke he had heard the week before at the corner market down the road, something about a Jewish tailor who bought a parrot whose only line was ‘Ariel Sharon jerks off.' Louis abrió la boca sin tener idea de lo que iba a decir, y lo que salió fue un chiste que había escuchado la semana anterior en el mercado de la esquina calle abajo, algo sobre un sastre judío que compró un loro cuya única línea era ' Ariel Sharon se masturba.

By the time he finished, Rachel was laughing, too – so was Gage, for that matter. Cuando terminó, Rachel también se estaba riendo, al igual que Gage.

Fine. Multa. Our hero has taken care of all the evidence, to wit: the muddy sheets and the loony laughter in the bathroom. Nuestro héroe se ha ocupado de todas las pruebas, a saber: las sábanas embarradas y la risa loca en el baño. Our hero will now read the morning paper – or at least look at it – putting the seal of normality on the morning. Nuestro héroe leerá ahora el periódico de la mañana -o al menos lo mirará- poniendo el sello de normalidad a la mañana.

So thinking, Louis opened the paper. Pensando así, Louis abrió el papel.

That's what you do, all right, he thought with immeasurable relief. Eso es lo que haces, está bien, pensó con un alivio inconmensurable. You pass it like a stone and that's the end of it … unless there comes a campfire some night with friends when the wind is high and the talk turns to inexplicable events. Lo pasas como una piedra y eso es todo... a menos que haya una fogata alguna noche con amigos cuando el viento está fuerte y la conversación se convierte en eventos inexplicables. Because on campfire night when the wind is high, talk is cheap. Porque en la noche de la fogata cuando el viento es fuerte, hablar es barato.

He ate his eggs. Se comió sus huevos. He kissed Rachel and Gage. Besó a Rachel y Gage. He glanced at the square, white-painted laundry cabinet at the foot of the chute only as he left. Echó un vistazo al armario de la ropa, cuadrado y pintado de blanco, al pie del vertedero, justo cuando se marchaba. Everything was okay. Todo estaba bien. It was another knockout of a morning. Fue otro golpe de gracia de una mañana. Late summer showed every sign of just going on for ever, and everything was okay. El final del verano mostró todos los signos de continuar para siempre, y todo estaba bien. He glanced at the path as he backed the car out of the garage, but that was okay, too. Miró el camino mientras sacaba el auto del garaje en reversa, pero eso también estaba bien. Never turned a hair. Nunca se volvió un pelo. You passed it like a stone. Lo pasaste como una piedra.

Everything was okay until he had gotten ten miles down the road, and then the shakes hit him so hard that he had to pull off Route 2 and into the morning-deserted parking lot of Sing's, the Chinese restaurant not far from the Eastern Maine Medical Center – where Pascow's body would have been taken. Todo iba bien hasta que había recorrido dieciséis kilómetros por la carretera, y luego los temblores lo golpearon tan fuerte que tuvo que salir de la Ruta 2 y entrar en el estacionamiento desierto por la mañana de Sing's, el restaurante chino no lejos del Centro Médico del Este de Maine. Centro: donde se habría llevado el cuerpo de Pascow. The EMMC, that was, not Sing's. El EMMC, eso era, no el de Sing. Vic Pascow was never going to eat another helping of moo goo gai pan, ha-ha. Vic Pascow nunca iba a comer otra ración de moo goo gai pan, ja, ja.

The shakes twisted his body, rippled it, had their way with it. Los temblores retorcieron su cuerpo, lo ondularon, se salieron con la suya. Louis felt helpless and terrified – not terrified of anything supernatural, not in this bright sunshine, but simply terrified of the possibility that he might be losing his mind. Louis se sintió impotente y aterrorizado, no aterrorizado por nada sobrenatural, no en este brillante sol, sino simplemente aterrorizado por la posibilidad de que pudiera estar perdiendo la cabeza. It felt as if a long, invisible wire was being twirled through his body. Se sentía como si un cable largo e invisible estuviera girando a través de su cuerpo.

‘No more,' he said. 'No más,' dijo. ‘Please, no more.' 'Por favor no mas.'

He fumbled for the radio and got Joan Baez singing about diamonds and rust. Buscó a tientas la radio y consiguió que Joan Baez cantara sobre diamantes y óxido. Her sweet, cool voice soothed him, and by the time she had finished, Louis felt that he could drive on. Su voz dulce y fría lo tranquilizó y, cuando terminó, Louis sintió que podía seguir conduciendo.

When he got to the Medical Center, he called hello to Charlton and then ducked into the bathroom, believing that he must look like hell. Cuando llegó al Centro Médico, saludó a Charlton y luego se metió en el baño, creyendo que debía verse como el infierno. Not so. No tan. He was a little hollow under the eyes, but not even Rachel had noticed that. Estaba un poco hundido bajo los ojos, pero ni siquiera Rachel lo había notado. He slapped some cold water on his face, dried off, combed his hair, and went into his office. Se echó un poco de agua fría en la cara, se secó, se peinó y se fue a su oficina.

Steve Masterton and the Indian doctor, Surrendra Hardu, were in there, drinking coffee and continuing to go over the front file. Steve Masterton y el médico indio, Surrendra Hardu, estaban allí, bebían café y seguían revisando el archivo principal.

‘Morning, Lou,' Steve said. —Buenos días, Lou —dijo Steve—.

‘Morning.' 'Mañana.'

‘Let's hope it is not like last morning,' Hardu said. "Esperemos que no sea como anoche", dijo Hardu.

‘That's right, you missed all the excitement.' 'Así es, te perdiste toda la emoción.'

‘Surrendra had plenty of excitement himself last night,' Masterton said, grinning. —Surrendra también se emocionó mucho anoche —dijo Masterton, sonriendo—. ‘Tell him, Surrendra.' —Díselo, Surrendra.

Hardu polished his glasses, smiling. Hardu pulió sus lentes, sonriendo. ‘Two boys bring in their lady-friend around one o'clock in the morning,' he said. —Dos muchachos traen a su novia alrededor de la una de la mañana —dijo—. ‘She is very happily drunk; celebrating the return to University, you understand. Está muy felizmente borracha; celebrando la vuelta a la Universidad, ya se entiende. She has cut one thigh quite badly, and I tell her it will be at least four stitches, no scar. Se ha cortado bastante un muslo, y le digo que serán al menos cuatro puntos, sin cicatriz. Stitch away, she tells me, and so I do, bending over like this—' Sutura, me dice, y yo lo hago, agachándome así...

Hardu demonstrated, salaaming over an invisible thigh. Hardu demostró, salaaming sobre un muslo invisible. Louis began to grin, sensing what was coming. Louis comenzó a sonreír, sintiendo lo que venía.

‘And as I am suturing, she vomits on my head.' 'Y mientras estoy suturando, ella vomita en mi cabeza.'

Masterton broke up. Masterton se separó. So did Louis. Luis también. Hardu smiled calmly, as if this had happened to him thousands of times in thousands of lives. Hardu sonrió con calma, como si esto le hubiera pasado miles de veces en miles de vidas.

‘Surrendra, how long have you been on duty?' Louis asked, when the laughter died. —Surrendra, ¿cuánto tiempo llevas de servicio? preguntó Louis, cuando la risa murió.

‘Since midnight,' Hardu said. —Desde medianoche —dijo Hardu—. ‘I am just leaving. Me estoy yendo. But I wanted to stay long enough to say hello again.' Pero quería quedarme el tiempo suficiente para saludar de nuevo.

‘Well, hello,' Louis said, shaking his small, brown hand, ‘now go home and go to sleep.' 'Bueno, hola', dijo Louis, estrechando su pequeña mano morena, 'ahora vete a casa y vete a dormir.'

‘We're almost through with the front file,' Masterton said. —Ya casi hemos terminado con el archivo principal —dijo Masterton. ‘Say hallelujah, Surrendra.' Di aleluya, Surrendra.

‘I decline,' Hardu said, smiling. —Me niego —dijo Hardu, sonriendo. ‘I am not a Christian.' No soy cristiano.

‘Then sing the chorus of “Instant Karma”, or something.' 'Entonces canta el coro de "Instant Karma", o algo así.'

‘May you both shine on,' Hardu said, still smiling, and glided out the door. —Que sigan brillando los dos —dijo Hardu, aún sonriendo, y se deslizó hacia la puerta.

Louis and Steve Masterton looked after him for a moment, silent, then at each other. Louis y Steve Masterton lo miraron por un momento, en silencio, y luego se miraron el uno al otro. Then they both burst out laughing. Entonces ambos se echaron a reír. To Louis, no laugh had ever felt so good … so normal. Para Louis, nunca reír se había sentido tan bien... tan normal.

‘Just as well we got the file finished up,' Steve said. —Menos mal que terminamos el archivo —dijo Steve—. ‘Today's the day we put the welcome mat out for the dope pushers.' 'Hoy es el día en que ponemos el tapete de bienvenida para los traficantes de drogas'.

Louis nodded. Luis asintió. The first of the drug salesmen would begin arriving at ten. A las diez empezaría a llegar el primero de los vendedores de droga. As Steve liked to crack, Wednesday might be Prince Spaghetti Day, but at UMO, every Tuesday was D-Day. Como a Steve le gustaba decir, el miércoles podría ser el Día del Príncipe Spaghetti, pero en UMO, todos los martes era el Día D. The D stood for Darvon, the all-time favorite. La D representaba a Darvon, el favorito de todos los tiempos.

‘A word of advice, O Great Boss,' Steve said. —Un consejo, oh gran jefe —dijo Steve. ‘I don't know what these guys were like out in Chicago, but around here they'll stoop to just about anything from all-expenses paid hunting junkets into the Allagash in November to free bowling at Family Fun Lanes in Bangor. “No sé cómo eran estos tipos en Chicago, pero por aquí se rebajan a casi cualquier cosa, desde viajes de caza con todos los gastos pagados al Allagash en noviembre hasta bolos gratis en Family Fun Lanes en Bangor. I had one guy try to give me one of those inflatable Judy dolls. Un tipo trató de darme una de esas muñecas Judy inflables. Me! ¡Yo! And I'm only a PA! ¡Y solo soy un PA! If they can't sell you drugs, they'll drive you to them.' Si no pueden venderte drogas, te llevarán a ellos.

‘Should have taken it.' Debería haberlo tomado.

‘Nah, she was a redhead. 'Nah, ella era una pelirroja. Not my type.' No es mi tipo.'

‘Well, I agree with Surrendra,' Louis said. —Bueno, estoy de acuerdo con Surrendra —dijo Louis—. ‘Just as long as it's not like yesterday.' 'Mientras no sea como ayer.'