Waiting for Duport (from the novel Gorilla Summer)
Mary Dairy sits in Dr. Emile Duport's waiting room, scuffing her boots across the finely laid parquet floor. She wears a Cleveland Indians cap (Chief Wahoo's middle tooth blacked out with marker), jeans, and a turtleneck shirt to cover a blemish on her neck.
She is staring at a framed map of France on the wall. The map has pin holes and pen marks and a large red swastika stamped in the border. Dr. Duport, a self-diagnosed cartomaniac, displays a different map in his waiting room every week. Today he has selected a 1942 German kriegs-karte that demarcates the southern Vichy "free zone" from the Nazi occupied north. Because the Wehrmacht entered Vichy (and abolished the line of demarcation) two days after the Allied invasion of North Africa, the kriegs-karte can be accurately dated to pre-11 November 1942.
Inspired by the map, Mary Dairy draws a tiny swastika on the web of skin between her thumb and forefinger. She has read that this area-the thenar space-is an important acupressure point. Now, whenever Mary Dairy has a headache, which is often, she can simply push down on the swastika, or stick a needle in it, to ease her discomfort.
She holds her hand up to the map, aligning her thumb with the Pyrenees Mountains in the south and her forefinger with the Breton peninsula in the northwest. If the tip of her thumb is Bayonne, and the tip of her forefinger Brest, then the swastika in her thenar space is, roughly, Toulouse. So, when a migraine hits, she will stick a pin in Toulouse, just as Hitler had.
Tiring of the map, Mary Dairy turns her attention to the floor. The lacquered hardwood, with its interlocking pattern of Z after Z after Z makes her nervous, and she adjusts her headphones (over cap) numerous times. She is listening to The Shinagawa Monkeys sing "Gorilla Love" in Japanese, and scribbling in her notebook. At the top of the page she has written, in pen, "To Good Times," accompanied by a crudely drawn map, and the following directions:
Go 2 blocks down Limbitrol Lane.
Enter Rum Alley.
Turn right on Butabarbital, 6 blocks.
Turn left on Gin Road, 4 blocks, with a brief stop at Tonic Street, if preferred.
Take a shortcut through Tuinal Center.
Your final destination, the Good Times Building, is dead ahead.
An emaciated old man, Milton Portman, is also present. He is wearing a gray-green cardigan sweater (argyle) and complaining to Mary Dairy (unaware that she can't hear him) about his chronic constipation. After his last colonoscopy, Milton received a map of his digestive system, which his physician described as "tortuously twisted." Dr. Duport, though fascinated by the map itself (he requested a copy for his collection), refuses to attribute Milton's constipation to an anatomic abnormality.
Duport is convinced that Milton's affliction stems from a repressed childhood desire to smell and play with his own feces. During the anal stage of development, Milton's parents had chastised and humiliated him for this perfectly natural tendency, instilling him early on with a sense of shame regarding his own gastroenteric functions. Because his formative years were marked by parentally policed fecal prohibitions, he grew into a painstakingly tidy adult, neat and organized to a fault, and revolted by the thought of excrement in any form. Milton Portman is, then, a classic coprophobe, and a physical manifestation (e.g., constipation) of his morbid disgust is to be expected.
This is all very clear to Dr. Duport. Yet Milton suffers on. All he can do is sit in the infernal waiting room, grumbling his woes to the headphoned girl, who, although she still can't hear a word he's saying (her IPod amplifying guitar chords at tinnitus-inducing volume), is able to sense, understand, even feel his pain merely by looking into his sad eyes, and who, unexpectedly, in a moment of telepathic empathy, reaches out, touches his bony knee, and says with as much gravitas as she can muster (and no small degree of unwitting irony), "It will pass." Having at last invoked a human response from the girl, Portman curls fetally on a chair and cradles his abdomen.
The chair, though once a rich cherry hue, is now a vomitous shade of sienna, the victim of a freak, and as yet unexplained, color metamorphosis. Duport was forced to remove it from his inner office because it no longer fit the décor-a major inconvenience, not only for the physical exertion involved, but also because any office alteration compels Duport to create a fresh, minutely detailed map of his new environment. Duport's office maps are far from bland structural blueprints; they are laborious works of art, featuring exact depictions of the contents of every room.
When the chair was moved, Duport began a new map, but in less than a week other pieces of furniture began to turn orange. He has since had to transfer a divan (whose green leather upholstery causes queasiness in conjunction with its tangerine wood), a bright pumpkin roll-top bureau, and an apricot-colored Edwardian credenza which had housed his most cherished decorative items, namely a collection of delicate crystalline sea creatures, begun twelve years ago with the gift of a small cherrystone clam or quahog sent him by his bibulous cousin Bernard Blouchet.
The credenza is now in the waiting room with the other tainted furniture; and since Duport's patients have already proven themselves untrustworthy by defiling his magazines with obscene limericks, he had no choice but to remove, out of concern for their safety, his little crustaceans and mollusks.
At this moment, Duport is behind his desk, fondling one of the quahogs, and chewing on a loaf of French bread. The boy he has just seen-Donald Dunkle-complained of a constant and uncontrollable urge toward autoeroticism. He admitted to abusing himself in public restrooms, rubbing in awkward frottage against girls in fast food lines, and having had, on several occasions, roughly copulated with one of his aunt's canary yellow brassieres.
Duport recommended some ointment for the chafing, and then, as the session timer buzzed, offered the miserable lad an old cartographer's aphorism by way of advice: "Keeping oneself occupied with maps is the best medicine for concupiscence."
Duport smiles at the memory of this sagacious remark, and goes back to examining an antique atlas. The map before him shows the entire world, an unfurled globe that tapers to a cone and terminates in one tiny point at the bottom of the page.