Adjustment day, p.33
This learned attendant, this physician to the king’s health, was none other than Terrence. And upon glimpsing her son, a full-blown man, the holder of such a prestigious position, her washerwoman’s heart leapt with pride and accomplishment.
Brief was her triumph. For a sheriff of the law was prodding her to step back and clear a corridor so that all might gaze upon their limping, pained ruler.
And not unheard by Charlie were the gales of female laughter that lapped at his back. And laugh did many of the thousand wives so heartily that they slumped to the pavements and proceeded to also empty their wombs of healthy, pink newborns. For many of their numbers had gifted Queen Shasta with the brown recluse spiders that had liquidated Charlie’s kingly parts, and all knew that his pearl-encrusted codpiece was as empty as a drum.
As the washerwoman and the nurse set to work birthing this new tide of infants, the healer asked, “But tell me . . . why the lie?”
Looking after her son as he disappeared into the distance, the beaming washerwoman shrugged. “I wanted him to believe in a father and by extension a God.” Watching until he was gone, she said, “Life’s just easier that way.”
The trembling figure crept into the clearing, illuminated by the firelight. An emaciated wanderer wearing a tailored suit made ragged by months in the wild. The stranger looked upon the curated little group of gays and straights, blacks and whites, females and males.
Of the youngsters seated around the campfire, none dared move a muscle. A twitch would send this stranger bolting. The wanderer, this wanderer met their stares with wide, traumatized eyes. He sniffed the air, his nostrils flaring, apparently tantalized by the aroma of their roasting wieners.
Nick, generous to a fault, Nick rifled his pockets. With an outstretched hand he offered the trembling wild man a pill, saying, “Looks like somebody could use a Percodan.”
Shasta hushed him. She plucked the warm meat from the end of Jamal’s sharpened stick. She felt the wiener’s damp heat in her fingers and suffered a twinge of wifely guilt. In recompense, she knelt. Her fellows, Nick and Felix, Jamal and Miss Jo, Gavyn and Charm, they hissed for her to keep a safe distance, but she dismissed them with a motion of her hand.
Nodding, his eyes closed in bliss, Jamal whisper-yelled, “Cool! Just like in Steinbeck!”
The picture of compassionate grace, Shasta Sanchez offered the sweating, dripping morsel to this, the hounded, haunted, former president of the disunited states.
It was slow work. After the marchers and pipers had passed . . . once the cheering throngs had gone their own way with squalling newborns . . . former Senator Holbrook Daniels pushed a heavy two-wheeled gambrel along the silent parade route.
With a push broom he alone piled up the rose petals and confetti. Using a flat-bladed shovel he collected the cast-off placentas as well as the dried horse dung, and all of these he heaped in his straining cart.
While, attracted by the scent of fresh blood, drooling wolf packs were gathering in the surrounding shadows.
And while Walter Baines had bled to death from a gunshot to the forehead . . .
In the basement of an abandoned house a drop of blood had welled up in the scabbed wound on the scrawny arm of an old man. He’d opened his eyes. Finding himself alone, he’d flexed his stiff fingers, and the man had begun to tear away at the duct tape that bound his wrists and ankles to a stout wooden chair. He’d never been bound well and could’ve escaped at any juncture. If escape had ever been his goal.
His first item of business would be to delete The List.
Grouse hunting season had been only days away.
ALSO BY CHUCK PALAHNIUK
Fight Club 2
Make Something Up
Invisible Monsters Remix
Stranger Than Fiction
Fugitives and Refugees
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Chuck Palahniuk
All rights reserved
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:
Names: Palahniuk, Chuck, author.
Title: Adjustment day / Chuck Palahniuk.
Description: First edition. | New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017057999 | ISBN 9780393652598 (hardcover)
Subjects: | GSAFD: Humorous fiction. | Satire.
Classification: LCC PS3566.A4554 A64 2018 | DDC 813/.54—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017057999
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Chuck Palahniuk, Adjustment Day
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