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“Ferman’s Devils was supposed to be a rise and fall story. The way I originally envisioned the plot, it would start as this funny, improbable story that took this dark turn about halfway through the book. This would take place at the point where the Devils started to fly out of control. That’s why it has a darker tone than the first ‘book.’ It’s the fall part of the story, meant to be told in one sitting rather than two.
“Interestingly enough, most of the complements I’ve gotten over the years were from people who read the SFBC omnibus edition. Hey, I really did know what I was doing.”
A LOCUS “NEW AND RECOMMENDED BOOK”
“Fulfills the promise of FERMAN’S DEVILS, and the whole Boddekker saga can now take its place as the most important advertising satire since THE SPACE MERCHANTS… a mean piece of work, and it’s a delicious meanness.”
ABOUT THIS EXCERPT:
“I just love the speech made by Honnikker in Accounting in this section. I was ready to fight my editor to keep it as one long paragraph, but it never came up. (Thanks again, Anne!). The recurring riff on ‘little Ranch junior’ is a left-handed reference to the film RAISING ARIZONA.
Excerpted from Boddekker’s Demons by Joe Clifford Faust.
Copyright © 1997 by Joe Clifford Faust.
“We’ve got to let Lorraine have the final say on what happens,” said Dad.
“He was only our son,” said Mom.
“But he was her husband and provider,” finished Dad.
Mom and Dad Roy looked at Lorraine and Lorraine shook her head.
“No,” she said. “I can’t do that to Ranch. And I couldn’t put little Ranch Junior through it, either.”
McLelland eased back in his chair and smiled so broadly that I expected the rest of his body to disappear.
I slumped and sighed. “I realize this is soon for you. As Mrs. Roy put it, Ranch isn’t even cold yet. But perhaps you’d like some time to think it over-“
“I don’t think so,” McLelland beamed.
“No,” said Lorraine.
My stomach hardened into such a tight knot that I was having trouble breathing. This failure was what I wanted – so the Roys would tell the world about it and demand the truth behind Ranch’s death. The problem was, it was bringing me right to the edge of an anxiety attack. “Well…” I worked to keep the words from squeaking as they came out. “I’m sorry you feel that way, and I’m sorry that-“
“Hold it.” Honniker In Accounting came out of her chair. “Can I say something?”
Mom and Dad Roy nodded.
“We can go arou
nd and around about all of this, the money, the feelings, the justice, but that’s not what it’s all about is it?” She looked directly at Mom Roy, who shook her head. Then at Dad Roy. He shook his head. Then at Lorraine, staring at her for a long time until she acquiesced and shook her head as well.
Honniker In Accounting said, “Here’s what it all comes down to. We can offer you money – but that’s never enough, is it? We can offer you justice – and we can give
you justice – but that’s never enough is it? Little Ranch Junior will still be without a daddy because Ranch is still dead. No, what this is about is feelings. Ranch is gone and now all of you have holes in your lives where he used to be. The loyal son you loved is gone and now he can’t provide for you when you’re in your old age. You have your memories of him, memories that run from his birth right up until the last time you saw him alive – maybe it was sitting right here at this table as you had Sunday dinner with him. But that’s not enough, is it? There
‘s no sense of completeness in your life, no sense that things have come full circle because as a parent you’ve done the thing no parent should have to do – you have outlived one of your own children! Or your husband and provider and lover and friend is gone, and you’re afraid that you’re never going to feel him inside of you again. And physically, that’s true, Lorraine, you’ll never have him inside of you again, you’ll never yield to his touch. And now you’re afraid that you’ll lose what feeling of him you have left inside your soul. I don’t know why. There are so many reasons. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll lose what there is left of him because of something that happened between the two of you. You didn’t want him to take this job and exchanged some harsh words over it, or maybe you’ve been sore and tired since the birth of little Ranch Junior and you hadn’t let him touch you in a while. That’s not for us to worry about here. The problem is, you have to get it all out, you have to deal with these feelings, and every psychologist emulator in the world will tell you that’s the truth, and we’re not here to debate that. It’s a need you have. What I’m saying to you is that you can’t let these feelings keep you from taking care of yourselves even though you may be so lonesome inside yourself that you think the easy way out is to slowly put an end to yourself and join Ranch off in the great golden whatever. But if you do that, you’re going to betray Ranch’s trust, betray everything he worked so hard to give to you all. Because Ranch wants you all to survive, if for no other reason than nobody else has to dress up in a stupid neofoam suit and die in the horrible and humiliating way that he did. He would want you to go on and finish the lawsuit against that slimeball manager of his, he would want you to go on with your life and fall in love again and find another father for little Ranch Junior, one who will never take Ranch’s place, but one who will teach him to feed the dog and that it’s okay for men to cry. Now neither Mr. Boddekker or I can do that for you, but what we are offering is a way for you to survive until you’re ready to do all of those things. We’re offering a way for you to temporarily plug up that Ranch-sized hole you’re feeling until the time you feel safe in dealing with it and everything you’ve been through. No, this is not a Ranch substitute, not by any stretch of the imagination. You can’t do that with money, not even twenty billion dollars’ worth. But I’ll tell you what you can do with it. Any time you miss Ranch, any time you’re sad or you’re lonely, any time you’ve got this big, empty spot in your heart – all you have to do is take some of this money – this wonderful money – and go out and spend it on anything, anything at all, anything you want, maybe something you’ve always wanted but could never afford before because you didn’t have the money, maybe something that he wanted you to have or would have wanted you to have but could never afford to give you – you get those things and you’ll feel better, I swear it, because you’ll have taken this money and you’ll h ave filled up that spot – the spot where he used to be – and because you’re happy, he’ll be happy because right now, just as sure as I’m standing here and talking to you, he’s sitting somewhere and he’s watching, and if there was any way for him to get through he’d be saying ‘take it, take the money,’ because he knows you need this money, he knows the money would make you happy and help you survive losing him, and he certainly wants you to be happy and survive even though you both will know that not even a generous amount like this could ever hope to fill all of what has been left empty – not if you don’t let it. So let it in. Take the money. Let the money into your heart. Make him happy. And make yourself happy in the process. And survive. Because that, above all other things in the world, is what Ranch would want you to do.”
When she finished, McLelland and I stared at her in slack-jawed astonishment. Mom and Dad Roy had fallen into each other’s arms, their bodies wracked with heavy sobs.
And Lorraine Roy was there, face red and swollen, tears flooding down her face, her not even trying to stop them or wipe them away. When she spoke it was in a bare whisper, so tight was her throat from grief, and her tear-filled sinuses made her words sound as if they were in a foreign language.
“Twe… twe… twe…”
“Yes, Lorraine?” said Clarence McLelland.
“Twenty-five?” asked McLelland.
“You want twenty-five billion?” asked Honniker In Accounting.
“Yuh… yuh… yes.”
Honniker In Accounting looked at me. “Can we do that?”
I nodded my head loosely. “Yes. Uh… yes. Twenty-five billion is, uh… do-able.”
Lorraine began to sob again. “Whuh… whuh… whuh…”
“Yes?” asked Honniker In Accounting.
“Where do we sign?”
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