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A SCANNER DARKLY

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Chapter 7

The next day Fred showed up in his scramble suit to hear about the bugging installation.

"The six holo-scanners now operating within the premises -- six should be sufficient for now, we feel -- transmit to a safe apartment down the street in the same block as Arctor's house," Hank explained, laying out a floor plan of Bob Arctor's house on the metal table between them. It chilled Fred to see this, but not overly much. He picked the sheet up and studied the locations of the various scanners, in the various rooms, here and there so that everything fell under constant video scrutiny, as well as audio.

"So I do the playback at that apartment," Fred said.

"We use it as a playback-monitor spot for about eight or perhaps it's nine, now -- houses or apartments under scrutiny in that particular neighborhood. So you'll be bumping into other undercover people doing their playbacks. Always have your suit on then."

"I'll be seen going into the apartment. It's too close."

"Guess so, but it's an enormous complex, hundreds of units, and it's the only one we've found electronically feasible. It'll have to do, at least until we get legal eviction on another unit elsewhere. We're working on it ... two blocks farther away, where you'll be less conspicuous. Week or so, I'd guess. If holo-scans could be transmitted with acceptable resolution along micro-relay cables and ITT lines like the older --"

"I'll just use the shuck that I'm balling some broad in that complex, if Arctor or Luckman or any of those heads see me entering." It really didn't complicate matters that much; in fact, it would cut down his in-transit unpaid time, which was an important factor. He could easily truck on over to the safe apartment, do the scanning replay, determine what was relevant to his reports and what could be discarded, and then return very soon to --

To my own house, he thought. Arctor's house. Up the street at the house I am Bob Arctor, the heavy doper suspect being scanned without his knowledge, and then every couple of days I find a pretext to slip down the street and into the apartment where I am Fred replaying miles and miles of tape to see what I did, and this whole business, he thought, depresses me. Except for the protection -- and valuable personal information -- it will give me.

Probably whoever's hunting me will be caught by the holo scanners within the first week.

Realizing that, he felt mellow.

"Fine," he said to Hank.

"So you see where the holos are placed. If they need servicing, you probably can do it yourself while you're in Arctor's house and no one else is around. You do get into his house, normally, don't you?"

Well shit, Fred thought. If I do that, then I will be on the holo-replays. So when I turn them over to Hank I have to be, obviously, one of the individuals visible on them, and that cuts it down.

Up to now he had never actually laid it on Hank as to how he knew what he knew about his suspects; he himself as Fred the effective screening device carried the information. But now: audio and holo-scanners, which did not automatically edit out as did his verbal report all identifying mention of himself. There would be Robert Arctor tinkering with the holos when they malfunctioned, his face mushrooming up to fill the screen. But on the other hand he would be the first to replay the storage tapes; he could still edit. Except that it would take time and care.

But edit out what? Edit out Arctor -- entirely? Arctor was the suspect. Just Arctor when he went to fiddle with the holos.

"I'll edit myself out," he said. "So you won't see me. As a matter of conventional protection."

"Of course. You haven't done this before?" Hank reached to show him a couple of pictures. "You use a bulk erasing device that wipes out any section where you as the informant appear. That's the holos, of course; for audio, there's no set policy followed. You won't have any real trouble, though. We take it for granted that you're one of the individuals in Arctor's circle of friends who frequent that house -- you are either Jim Barris or Ernie Luckman or Charles Freck or Donna Hawthorne --"

"Donna?" he laughed. The suit laughed, actually. In its way.

"Or Bob Arctor," Hank continued, studying his list of suspects.

"I report on myself all the time," Fred said.

"So you will have to include yourself from time to time in the holo-tapes you turn over to us, because if you systematically edit yourself out then we can deduce who you are by a process of elimination, whether we want to or not. What you must do, really, is edit yourself out in -- what should I call it? -- an inventive, artistic ... Hell, the word is creative way ... as for instance during the brief intervals when you're in the house alone and doing research, going through papers and drawers, or servicing a scanner within view of another scanner, or --"

"You should just send someone to the house once a month in a uniform," Fred said. "And have him say, 'Good morning! I'm here to service the monitoring devices covertly installed on your premises, in your phone, and in your car.' Maybe Arctor would pick up the bill."

"Arctor would probably off him and then disappear."

The scramble suit Fred said, "If Arctor is hiding that much. That's not been proved."

"Arctor may be hiding a great deal. We've got more recent information on him gathered and analyzed. There is no substantial doubt of it: he is a ringer, a three-dollar bill. He is phony. So keep on him until he drops, until we have enough to arrest him and make it stick."

"You want stuff planted?"

"We'll discuss that later."

"You think he's up high in the, you know, the S. D. Agency?"

"What we think isn't of any importance in your work," Hank said. "we evaluate; you report with your own limited conclusions. This is not a put-down of you, but we have information, lots of it, not available to you. The broad picture. The computerized picture."

"Arctor is doomed," Fred said. "If he's up to anything. And I have a hunch from what you say that he is."

"We should have a case on him this way soon," Hank said. " nd then we can close the book on him, which will please us all."

Fred stoically memorized the address and number of the apartment and suddenly recalled that he had seen a young head-type couple who had recently abruptly disappeared now and then entering and leaving the building. Busted, and their apartment taken over for this. He had liked them. The girl had long flaxen hair, wore no bra. One time he had driven past as she was lugging groceries and offered her a lift; they had talked. She was an organic type, into megavitamins and kelp and sunlight, nice, shy, but she'd declined. Now he could see why. Evidently the two of them had been holding. Or, more likely, dealing. On the other hand, if the apartment was needed, a possession rap would do, and you could always get that.

What, he wondered, would Bob Arctor's littered but large house be used for by the authorities when Arctor had been hauled off? An even vaster intelligence-processing center, most likely.

"You'd like Arctor's house," he said aloud. "It's rundown and typically doper dirty, but it's big. Nice yard. Lots of shrubs."

"That's what the installation crew reported back. Some excellent possibilities."

"They what? They reported it had 'plenty of possibilities,' did they?" The scramble suit voice clacked out maddeningly without tone or resonance, which made him even angrier. "Like what?"

"Well, one obvious possibility: its living room gives a view of an intersection, so passing vehicles could be graphed and their license plates ..." Hank studied his many, many papers. "But Burt What's-his-face, who headed the crew, felt the house had been allowed to deteriorate so badly that it wouldn't be worth our taking over. As an investment."

"In what way? In what fashion deterioriated?"

"The roof."

"The roof's perfect."

"The interior and exterior paint. The condition of the floors. The kitchen cabinets --"

"Bullshit," Fred said, or anyhow the suit droned. "Arctor may have let dishes pile up and the garbage and not dusted, but after all, three dudes living there with no chicks? His wife left him; women are supposed to do all that. If Donna Hawthorne had moved in like Arctor wanted her to, begged her to, she would have kept it up. Anyhow, any professional janitorial service could put the whole house in top shape as far as cleaning goes in a half a day. Regarding the roof, that really makes me mad, because --"

"Then you recommend we acquire it after Arctor's been arrested and loses title."

Fred, the suit, stared at him.

"Well?" Hank said impassively, ballpoint pen ready.

"I have no opinion. One way or another." Fred rose from his chair to leave.

"You're not splitting yet," Hank said, motioning him to reseat himself. He fished among the papers on his desk. "I have a memo here --"

"You always have memos," Fred said. "For everybody."

"This memo," Hank said, "instructs me to send you over to Room 203 before you leave today."

"If it's about that anti-drug speech I gave at the Lions Club, I've already had my ass chewed about it."

"No, this isn't that." Hank tossed him the fluttery note. "This is something different. I'm finished with you, so why don't you head right over there now and get it done with."

***

He found himself confronting an all-white room with steel fixtures and steel chairs and steel desk, all bolted down, a hospital-like room, purified and sterile and cold, with the light too bright. In fact, to the right stood a weighing scale with a sign HAVE TECHNICIAN ONLY ADJUST. Two deputies regarded him, both in full uniform of the Orange County Sheriff's Office, but with medical stripes.

"You are Officer Fred?" one of them, with a handle-bar mustache, said.

"Yes, sir," Fred said. He felt scared.

"All right, Fred, first let me state that, as you undoubtedly are aware, your briefings and debriefings are monitored and later played back for study, in case anything was missed at the original sessions. This is SOP, of course, and applies to all officers reporting in orally, not you alone."

The other medical deputy said, "Plus all other contacts you maintain with the department, such as phone contacts, and additional activities, such as your recent public speech in Anaheim to the Rotary Club boys."

"Lions," Fred said.

"Do you take Substance D?" the left-hand medical deputy said.

"That question," the other said, "is moot because it's taken for granted that in your work you're compelled to. So don't answer. Not that it's incriminating, but it's simply moot." He indicated a table on which a bunch of blocks and other riff-raff colorful plastic objects lay, plus peculiar items that Officer Fred could not identify. "Step over here and be seated, Officer Fred. We are going to administer, briefly, several easy tests. This won't consume much of your time, and there will be no physical discomfort involved."

"About that speech I gave --" Fred said.

"What this is about," the left-hand medical deputy said, as he seated himself and produced a pen and some forms, "stems from a recent departmental survey showing that several undercover agents working in this area have been admitted to Neural-Aphasia Clinics during the past month."

"You're conscious of the high factor of addictiveness of Substance D?" the other deputy said to Fred.

"Sure," Fred said. "Of course I am."

"We're going to give you these tests now," the seated deputy said, "in this order, starting with what we call the BG or --"

"You think I'm an addict?" Fred said.

"Whether you are an addict or not isn't a prime issue, since a blocking agent is expected from the Army Chemical Warfare Division sometime within the next five years."

"These tests do not pertain to the addictive properties of Substance D but to, well, let me give you this Set-Ground Test first, which determines your ability readily to distinguish set from ground. See this geometric diagram?" He laid a drawn-on card before Fred, on the table. "Within the apparently meaningless lines is a familiar object that we would all recognize. You are to tell me what the ..."

Item. In July 1969, Joseph E. Bogen published his revolutionary article "The Other Side of the Brain: An Appositional Mind."  In this article he quoted an obscure Dr. A. L. Wigan, who in 1844 wrote:

The mind is essentially dual, like the organs by which it is exercised. This idea has presented itself to me, and I have dwelt on it for more than a quarter of a century, without being able to find a single valid or even plausible objection. I believe myself then able to prove -- (1) That each cerebrum is a distinct and perfect whole as an organ of thought. (2) That a separate and distinct process of thinking or ratiocination may be carried on in each cerebrum simultaneously.

In his article, Bogen concluded: "I believe [with Wigan] that each of us has two minds in one person. There is a host of detail to be marshaled in this case. But we must eventually confront directly the principal resistance to the Wigan view: that is, the subjective feeling possessed by each of us that we are One. This inner conviction of Oneness is a most cherished opinion of Western Man ..."

" ... object is and point to it in the total field."

I'm being Mutt-and-Jeffed, Fred thought. "What is all this?" he said, gazing at the deputy and not the diagram. "I'll bet it's the Lions Club speech," he said. He was positive.

The seated deputy said, "In many of those taking Substance D, a split between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere of the brain occurs. There is a loss of proper gestalting, which is a defect within both the percept and cognitive systems, although apparently the cognitive system continues to function normally. But what is now received from the percept system is contaminated by being split, so it too, therefore, fails gradually to function, progressively deterioriating. Have you located the familiar object in this line drawing? Can you find it for me?"

Fred said, "You're not talking about heavy metals trace deposits in the neuroreceptor sites, are you? Irreversible --"

"No," the standing deputy said. "This is not brain damage but a form of toxicity, brain toxicity. It's a toxic brain psychosis affecting the percept system by splitting it. What you have before you, this BG test, measures the accuracy of your percept system to act as a unified whole. Can you see the form here? It should jump right out at you."

"I see a Coke bottle," Fred said.

"A soda pop bottle is correct," the seated deputy said, and whipped the drawing away, replacing it with another.

"Have you noticed anything," Fred said, "in studying my briefings and like that? Anything slushed?" It's the speech, he thought. "What about the speech I gave?" he said. "Did I show bilateral dysfunction there? Is that why I've been hauled in here for these tests?" He had read about these split-brain tests, given by the department from time to time.

"No, this is routine," the seated deputy said. "We realize, Officer Fred, that undercover agents must of necessity take drugs in the line of duty; those who've had to go into federal --"

"Permanently?" Fred asked.

"Not many permanently. Again, this is percept contamination that could in the course of time rectify itself as --''

"Murky," Fred said. "It murks over everything."

"Are you getting any cross-chatter?" one of the deputies asked him suddenly.

"What?" he said uncertainly.

"Between hemispheres. If there's damage to the left hemisphere, where the linguistic skills are normally located, then sometimes the right hemisphere will fill in to the best of its ability."

"I don't know," he said. "Not that I'm aware of."

"Thoughts not your own. As if another person or mind were thinking. But different from the way you would think. Even foreign words that you don't know. That it's learned from peripheral perception sometime during your lifetime."

"Nothing like that. I'd notice that."

"You probably would. From people with left-hemisphere damage who've reported it, evidently it's a pretty shattering experience."

"Well, I guess I'd notice that."

"It used to be believed the right hemisphere had no linguistic faculties at all, but that was before so many people had screwed up their left hemispheres with drugs and gave it -- the right -- a chance to come on. To fill the vacuum."

"I'll certainly keep my eyes open for that," Fred said, and heard the mere mechanical quality of his voice, like that of a dutiful child in school. Agreeing to obey whatever dull order was imposed on him by those in authority. Those taller than he was, and in a position to impose their strength and will on him, whether it was reasonable or not.

Just agree, he thought. And do what you're told.

"What do you see in this second picture?"

"A sheep," Fred said.

"Show me the sheep." The seated deputy leaned forward and rotated the picture. "An impairment in set-background discrimination gets you into a heap of trouble -- instead of perceiving no forms you perceive faulty forms."

Like dog shit, Fred thought. Dog shit certainly would be considered a faulty form. By any standard. He ...

The data indicate that the mute, minor hemisphere is specialized for Gestalt perception, being primarily a synthesist in dealing with information input. The speaking, major hemisphere, in contrast, seems to operate in a more logical, analytic, computerlike fashion and the findings suggest that a possible reason for cerebral lateralization in man is basic incompatibility of language functions on the one hand and synthetic perceptual functions on the other.

... felt ill and depressed, almost as much as he had during his Lions Club speech. "There's no sheep there, is there?" he said. "But was I close?"

"This is not a Rorschach test," the seated deputy said, "where a muddled blot can be interpreted many ways by many subjects. In this, one specific object, as such, has been delineated and one only. In this case it's a dog."

"A what?" Fred said.

"A dog."

"How can you tell it's a dog?" He saw no dog. "Show me." The deputy ...

This conclusion finds its experimental proof in the split-brain animal whose two hemispheres can be trained to perceive, consider, and act independently. In the human, where propositional thought is typically lateralized in one hemisphere, the other hemisphere evidently specializes in a different mode of thought, which may be called appositional. The rules or methods by which propositional thought is elaborated on "this" side of the brain (the side which speaks, reads, and writes) have been subjected to analyses of syntax, semantics, mathematical logic, etc. for many years. The rules by which appositional thought is elaborated on the other side of the brain will need study for many years to come.

... turned the card over; on the back the formal stark simple outline of a DOG had been inscribed, and now Fred recognized it as the shape drawn within the lines on the front side. In fact it was a specific type of dog: a greyhound, with drawn-in gut.

"What's that mean," he said, "that I saw a sheep instead?"

"Probably just a psychological block," the standing deputy said, shifting his weight about. "Only when the whole set of cards is run, and then we have the several other tests --"

"Why this is a superior test to the Rorschach," the seated deputy interrupted, producing the next drawing, "is that it is not interpretive; there are as many wrongs as you can think up, but only one right. The right object that the U .S. Department of Psych-Graphics drew into it and certified for it, for each card; that's what's right, because it is handed down from Washington. You either get it or you don't, and if you show a run of not getting it, then we have a fix on a functional impairment in perception and we dry you out for a while, until you test okay later on."

"A federal clinic?" Fred said.

"Yes. Now, what do you see in this drawing, among these particular black and white lines?"

Death City, Fred thought as he studied the drawing. That is what I see: death in pluriform, not in just the one correct form but throughout. Little three-foot-high contract men on carts.

"Just tell me," Fred said, "was it the Lions Club speech that alerted you?"

The two medical deputies exchanged glances.

"No," the standing one said finally. "It had to do with an exchange that was -- actually -- off the cuff, in fact, just bullshitting between you and Hank. About two weeks ago ... you realize, there's a technological lag in processing all this garbage, all this raw information that flows in. They haven't gotten to your speech yet. They won't in fact for another couple of days."

"What was this bullshitting?"

"Something about a stolen bicycle," the other deputy said. "A so-called seven-speed bicycle. You'd been trying to figure out where the missing three speeds had gone, was that it?" Again they glanced at each other, the two medical deputies. "You felt they had been left on the floor of the garage it was stolen from?"

"Hell," Fred protested. "That was Charles Freck's fault, not mine; he got everybody's ass in an uproar talking about it. I just thought it was funny."

***

BARRIS: (Standing in the middle of the living room with a great big new shiny bike, very pleased) Look what I got for twenty dollars.

FRECK: What is it?

BARRIS: A bike, a ten-speed racing bike, virtually brand new. I saw it in the neighbor's yard and asked about it and they had four of them so I made an offer of twenty dollars cash and they sold it to me. Colored people. They even hoisted it over the fence for me.

LUCKMAN: I didn't know you could get a ten-speed nearly new for twenty dollars. It's amazing what you can get for twenty dollars.

DONNA: It resembles the one the chick across the street from me had that got ripped off about a month ago. They probably ripped it off, those black guys.

ARCTOR: Sure they did, if they've got four. And selling it that cheap.

DONNA: You ought to give it back to the chick across the street from me, if it's hers. Anyhow you should let her look at it to see if it's hers.

BARRIS: It's a man's bike. So it can't be.

FRECK: Why do you say it's ten speeds when it's only got seven gears?

BARRIS: (Astonished) What?

FRECK: (Going over to bike and pointing) Look, five gears here, two gears here at the other end of the chain. Five and two ...

When the optic chiasm of a cat or a monkey is divided sagittally, the input into the right eye goes only into the right hemisphere and similarly the left eye informs only the left hemisphere. If an animal with this operation is trained to choose between two symbols while using only one eye, later tests show that it can make the proper choice with the other eye. But if the commissures, especially the corpus callosum, have been severed before training, the initially covered eye and its ipsilateral hemisphere must be trained from the beginning. That is, the training does not transfer from one hemisphere to the other if the commissures have been cut. This is the fundamental split-brain experiment of Myers and Sperry (1953; Sperry, 1961; Myers, 1965; Sperry, 1967)

... makes seven. So it's only a seven-speed bike.

LUCKMAN: Yeah, but even a seven-speed racing bike is worth twenty dollars. He still got a good buy.

BARRIS: (Nettled) Those colored people told me it was ten speeds. It's a rip-off.

(Everyone gathers to examine bike. They count the gears again and again.)

FRECK: Now I count eight. Six in front, two in back. That makes eight.

ARCTOR: (Logically) But it should be ten. There are no seven or eight-speed bikes. Not that I ever heard of. What do you suppose happened to the missing gears?

BARRIS: Those colored guys must have been working on it, taking it apart with improper tools and no technical knowledge, and when they reassembled it they left three gears lying on the floor of their garage. They're probably still lying there.

LUCKMAN: Then we should go ask for the missing gears back.

BARRIS: (Pondering angrily) But that's where the rip-off is: they'll probably offer to sell them to me, not give them to me as they should. I wonder what else they've damaged. (Inspects entire bike)

LUCKMAN: If we all go together they'll give them to us; you can bet on it, man. We'll all go, right? (Looks around for agreement)

DONNA: Are you positive there're only seven gears?

FRECK: Eight.

DONNA: Seven, eight. Anyhow, I mean, before you go over there, ask somebody. I mean, it doesn't look to me like they've done anything to it like taking it apart. Before you go over there and lay heavy shit on them, find out. Can you dig it?

ARCTOR: She's right.

LUCKMAN: Who should we ask? Who do we know that's an authority on racing bikes?

FRECK: Let's ask the first person we see. Let's wheel it out the door and when some freak comes along we'll ask him. That way we'll get a disheartened viewpoint.

(They collectively wheel bike out front, right off encounter young black man parking his car. They point to the seven -- eight? -- gears questioningly and ask how many there are, although they can see -- except for Charles Freck -- that there are only seven: five at one end of the chain, two at the other. Five and two add up to seven. They can ascertain it with their own eyes. What's going on?)

YOUNG BLACK MAN: (Calmly) What you have to do is multiply the number of gears in front by the number in the rear. It is not an adding but a multiplying, because, you see, the chain leaps across from gear to gear, and in terms of gear ratios you obtain five (He indicates the five gears.) times one of the two in front (He points to that.), which give you one times five, which is five, and then when you shift with this lever on the handle-bar (He demonstrates.) the chain jumps to the other one of the two in front and interacts with the same five in the back all over again, which is an additional five. The addition involved is five plus five, which is ten. Do you see how that works? You see, gear ratios are always derived by --

(They thank him and silently wheel the bike back inside the house. The young black man, whom they have never seen before and who is no more than seventeen and driving an incredibly beat-up old transportation-type car, goes on locking up, and they close the front door of the house and just stand there.)

LUCKMAN: Anybody got any dope? "Where there's dope there's hope." (No one ...

All the evidence indicates that separation of the hemispheres creates two independent spheres of consciousness within a single cranium, that is to say, within a single organism. This conclusion is disturbing to some people who view consciousness as an indivisible property of the human brain. It seems premature to others, who insist that the capacities revealed thus far for the right hemisphere are at the level of an automaton. There is, to be sure, hemispheric inequality in the present cases, but it may well be a characteristic of the individuals we have studied. It is entirely possible that if a human brain were divided in a very young person, both hemispheres could as a result separately and independently develop mental functions of a high order at the level attained only in the left hemisphere of normal individuals.

... laughs.)

"We know you were one of the people in that group," the seated medical deputy said. "It doesn't matter which one. None of you could look at the bike and perceive the simple mathematical operation involved in determining the number of its very small system of gear ratios." In the deputy's voice Fred heard a certain compassion, a measure of being kind. "An operation like that constitutes a junior high school aptitude test. Were you all stoned?"

"No," Fred said.

"They give aptitude tests like that to children," the other medical deputy said.

"So what was wrong, Fred?" the first deputy asked.

"I forget," Fred said. He shut up now. And then he said, "It sounds to me like a cognitive fuckup, rather than perceptive. Isn't abstract thinking involved in a thing like that? Not --"

"You might imagine so," the seated deputy said. "But tests show that the cognitive system fails because it isn't receiving accurate data. In other words, the inputs are distorting in such a fashion that when you go to reason about what you see you reason wrongly because you don't --" The deputy gestured, trying to find a way to express it.

"But a ten-speed bike has seven gears," Fred said. "What we saw was accurate. Two in front, five in back."

"But you didn't perceive, any of you, how they interact: five in back with each of the two in front, as the black told you. Was he a highly educated man?"

"Probably not," Fred said.

"What the black saw," the standing deputy said, "was different from what all of you saw. He saw two separate connecting lines between the rear gear system and the front, two simultaneous different lines perceptible to him between the gears in front running to each of the five back ones in turn ... What you saw was one connective to all back ones."

"But that would make six gears, then," Fred said. "Two front gears but one connective."

"Which is inaccurate perception. Nobody taught that black boy that; what they taught him to do, if anyone taught him at all, was to figure out, cognitively, what the meaning of those two connectives were. You missed one of them entirely, all of you. What you did was that although you counted two front gears, you perceived them as a homogeneity."

"I'll do better next time," Fred said.

"Next time what? When you buy a ripped-off ten-speed bike? Or abstracting all daily percept input?"

Fred remained silent.

"Let's continue the test," the seated deputy said. "What do you see in this one, Fred?"

"Plastic dog shit," Fred said. "Like they sell here in the Los Angeles area. Can I go now?" It was the Lions Club speech all over again.

Both deputies, however, laughed.

"You know, Fred," the seated one said, "if you can keep your sense of humor like you do you'll perhaps make it."

"Make it?" Fred echoed. "Make what? The team? The chick? Make good? Make do? Make out? Make sense? Make money? Make time? Define your terms. The Latin for 'make' is facere, which always reminds me of fuckere, which is Latin for 'to fuck,' and I haven't ...

The brain of the higher animals, including man, is a double organ, consisting of right and left hemispheres connected by an isthmus of nerve tissue called the corpus callosum. Some 15 years ago Ronald E. Myers and R. W. Sperry, then at the University of Chicago, made a surprising discovery: when this connection between the two halves of the cerebrum was cut, each hemisphere functioned independently as if it were a complete brain.

... been getting it on worth jack shit lately, plastic shit or otherwise, any kind of shit. If you boys are psychologist types and you've been listening to my endless debriefings with Hank, what the hell is Donna's handle? How do I get next to her? I mean, how is it done? With that kind of sweet, unique, stubborn little chick?"

"Each girl is different," the seated deputy said.

"I mean approach her ethically," Fred said. "Not cram her with reds and booze and then stick it into her while she's lying on the living-room floor."

"Buy her flowers," the standing deputy said.

"What?" Fred said, his suit-filtered eyes opening wide.

"This time of year you can get little spring flowers. At the nursery departments of, say, Penney's or K Mart. Or an azalea."

"Flowers," Fred murmured. "You mean plastic flowers or real flowers? Real ones, I guess."

"The plastic ones are no good," the seated deputy said. "They look like they're ... well, fake. Somehow fake."

"Can I leave now?" Fred asked.

After an exchange of glances, both deputies nodded. "We'll evaluate you some other time, Fred," the standing one said. "It's not that urgent. Hank will notify you of a later appointment time."

For some obscure reason Fred felt like shaking hands with them before he left, but he did not; he just left, saying nothing, a little down and a little bewildered, because, probably, of the way it had shot out of left field at him, so suddenly. They've been going over and over my material, he thought, trying to find signs of my being burned out, and they did find some. Enough, anyhow, to want to run these tests.

Spring flowers, he thought as he reached the elevator. Little ones; they probably grow close to the ground and a lot of people step on them. Do they grow wild? Or in special commercial vats or in huge enclosed farms? I wonder what the country is like. The fields and like that, the strange smells. And, he wondered, where do you find that? Where do you go and how do you get there and stay there? What kind of trip is that, and what kind of ticket does it take? And who do you buy the ticket from?

And, he thought, I would like to take someone with me when I go there, maybe Donna. But how do you ask that, ask a chick that, when you don't even know how to get next to her? When you've been scheming on her and achieving nothing -- not even step one. We should hurry, he thought, because later on all the spring flowers like they told me about will be dead.

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