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Westlake, Donald E - Novel 50

BOOK: Westlake, Donald E - Novel 50
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SACRED MONSTER
 

 

 

 
 
       
DONALD E. WESTLAKE

 

 

 

 

  
 
          
 

THE MYSTERIOUS PRESS
 
New
York

London

Tokyo

 

 

 
 
 
         
Copyright © 1989 Donald E. Westlake
All
rights reserved.

 

 
          
The Mysterious Press,
129
West 56th Street
,
New York
,
N.Y.
10019

 

 
          
Printed in the
United
States of America

 

 
          
First Printing: May 1989 10 987654321

 

 
          
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

 
          
Westlake, Donald E.

 

 
          
Sacred monster.

 

 

 
          
I. Title.

 

 

          
 
PS3573.E9S23 1989 ISBN 0-89296-177-5

 

 

 
 
         
With
sympathy and respect, this novel is dedicated to the memory of (in alphabetical
order):

 
          
Esther
Blodgett

           
Daisy Clover

           
Norma Desmond

           
Emily Ann Faulkner and

           
Georgia Lorrison

 

 

 

1
 
 
          
"T
his won't take long, sir."

           
Oooooooooooooooooohooooooooooooooooooooooooohoo
ooooooocooooooooooooooohooooooooooooooooooooooooh
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohooo
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, wow.

 
          
I
hurt all over. My
bones
ache. God's
giant fists are squeezing my internal organs, twisting and grinding. Why do I
do
it, if it makes me sick?

 
          
"Ready for a few questions, sir?"

 
          
I
open my eyes; slowly, very slowly. It is daytime, but thank God a high, thin
cloud cover shields me from the sun. I am home; where else would I be? Here is
my broad slate patio, grayer than the thin cloud way up above, spread like a
monochrome quilt between my house and my pool. Big house; white;
Tara
, you know what I mean? I can't look at the
pool; dancing waters.

 
          
And
ahead of me is the interviewer. A neat, drab man, a plain man in plain gray
slacks, plain tan sports jacket, button-down blue shirt, maroon bow tie.
Brown loafers, black socks.
Steno pad at
the ready, ball-point pen at the ready, eyes at the ready.

           
I open my mouth, which alters the
balance of my body, which makes me dizzy, which makes me want to return to
sweet oblivion. But duty calls. “Sure, pal," my voice says, with some
assistance from me.
“Anything for the press."

 
          
“Thank
you," the interviewer says, neat and polite. He has a round, neat head
without flab or jowls or character at all. No lumpy nose, thick lips, shaggy
eyebrows, big ears.
Nothing.
Not a character you can
catch
hold
of. He has a head like a
shaved coconut with a seedy, flat wig pasted on.

 
          
Which
is why he's a reporter and I'm a star.
/ am interesting.
Even when I'm—oh, God!
in
pain
).— I'm interesting. I mean, here he is, you see what I mean,
pen and pad in hand, interested in
me,
while I don’t give a fat rat's ass about
him.
You see how it works?

 
          
Well,
no, let's be fair. It isn't just the face, this interestingly mottled and
cunningly cragged visage the world has grown over the years to know and to love
and to pay money for the sight of. Behind the face there's—there was—there
is,
dammit!—well, there was, anyway—a
talent that would knock your socks off and tan your toes. This face, this voice
. . . the slope of this shoulder, the movement of these hands . . .

 
          
I
could still do it, if I had to. You don't think so? I could. I don't have to,
of course, haven't had to for a long time, but I
still could,
if push came to goddamn shove. Still could.

 
          
Not
today, however. Today I'm doing well enough just to sketch in the vaguest
outline of a human being here. I risk disembowelment, self-destruction, by
making a smile in my interviewer's direction, using all those
muscles
in the
face.
I say, “Where would I be without the press, huh?”

 
          
“I
guess that's right," he says. He's so toneless I may die; I'm suffering
life deprivation.

 
          
In
fact, I'm
suffering.
“Listen,
pal," I say, my voice waving and shaking all on its own, “I'm sorry, but I
got really wasted last night. I took chemicals science hasn't discovered yet. I
mean I just got back to this solar system, you follow me? I'm sorry, pal, but I
just got to sit down."

           
He looks at me with faint concern.
“Sir,” he says, “you are sitting down.”

 
          
I
gaze about me in mild amaze. Son of a bitch, the man speaks true! Blue canvas
cups my penitent rump. A pale blue terry-cloth robe is closed over legs
stretching away from me over the slates, ankles crossed, feet bare but
wonderfully clean. I am a clean person.

 
          
But
sick. “In that case,” I say, leaning forward, stretching out these arms, these
arms, “in that case,” tipping over my own knees, palms brushing slate, canvas
chair groaning as I depart, “in that case, I got to
lie
down.”

 
          
And so I do, stretching out on my back, the coolness of the slate
filtering through the terry cloth to soothe my fevered ass, my sacrificial
shoulder blades.
My right hand comes up, knowing the appropriate gesture
all by itself, the back of the hand resting on my forehead, fingers slightly
curled. I gaze up past this monument at the herringbone sky. I speak:

 
          
“It
is true that I am rich and famous. The movies I star in have never grossed less
than eighty million. I make so much money I'm an
industry.
I support entire villages of lawyers and agents and
managers and secretaries and accountants and hookers and dope dealers and
plastic surgeons and ex-wives and relatives and friends and gardeners and
poolmen and gym instructors. I've got people to stand me up when it is
absolutely necessary that I stand up, to dry me out and clean me off when I
must go once again in front of that old debbil camera, people to keep me out of
trouble with the law, to buy me the very
best
dope money can buy. These people don’t just love me, man, they
need
me.”

 
          
I
smile, thinking of my citizens. Delicately, carefully, I turn my head just
enough to include the interviewer in my smile. “Jack Pine's army,” I say.

           
“Yes, sir.”

           
“But probably you want to know how
it all began, am I right?”

 
          
“Yes,
sir, I would,” he says.

           
"How a God-given talent became
such a far-flung enterprise."

 
          
I
gaze again heavenward, thinking back . . .

 
          
screams, screaming, engine roars, flashing
lights in red and white reflecting from the bumper chrome, slicking on the
heaving trunk of the car, madness, danger, movement, peril, speed . . .

 

 
          
No!
I blink, I make some sort of noise out of my throat, I press the back of my head
against the hard slate, my fingers clench at air. I will
not
let that in!

 
          
It's
all right. It's all right. "Yes," I say, nodding, catching hold of
the reins once more. I smile. The practiced sentences roll forth: "It all
began,
it all began, the night I lost my virginity."

 

BOOK: Westlake, Donald E - Novel 50
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