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April 15, 2024

The Interrogation

By Dan Mulhollen

"Mister Mulhollen, please come in," the bald man in the white lab coat said. He pointed to a chair near the end of a long conference table. "Please sit down there."

I did as he said and watched as he sat down on other side, directly opposite of me. There was something familiar about him, but I could not figure out where I might have seen him before.

"We have been studying your writing, the works you have had published at a website called," then he stopped for a moment and looked at his brown clipboard. "Piker Press." He flipped the page over and scanned his notes.

"I hope you like what you've read," I said, trying to break the tension I had been feeling ever since getting his phone call an hour earlier.

"That is not our job," he replied, curtly. "Our job is to analyze recent fiction and use that data to create a psychological profile of the author. This process is now completed, and frankly, we find your profile most disturbing."

"Disturbing?" I asked, afraid of where this was going. "How so?"

"Do you realize," he asked, a patronizing whine in his voice, "that nudity appears in over forty percent of your fiction?"

"I've never done the math," I said, slowly. A part of me was tempted to wisecrack "that low?" but I could see my interrogator was not someone with a sense of humor.

"Do you also realize your protagonists' love interests are more often than not assertive women with a tendency for unconventional lifestyle choices?"

Unconventional to whom, I wondered. Of course, my main female characters were most often based on traits I find attractive. "Okay," I said, shrugging my shoulders, "maybe they do have their quirks, but I've always felt that inserting ones own tastes was one of the joys of writing."

This man, who I could well imagine wearing a monocle and carrying a riding crop, emitted a low, throaty grunt. "What about your responsibility to your reader? A work of fiction should both entertain and enlighten."

"Perhaps each of us finds enlightenment in our own way." I certainly found that to be the case.

"We worry about you," he said, ignoring my comment. "We look at your writing and fear your legacy will be like that of so many other perverted early-twenty-first century authors."

"Sadly," I said, becoming annoyed by this imposing, yet clearly impotent, inquisitor, "Pikers won't post my most perverted works. Their loss, as I see it."

He returned to flipping through the pages held on the clipboard. "Is it not true that you sometimes go on the internet as a member of the opposite sex?"

Wow, these guys really did their homework; I was impressed. "More an intellectual challenge than anything else," I said, suddenly feeling a bit awkward.

"Ah, something the trained mind can understand," he said, smugly. "But what of the average beer-swilling, sports-watching knucklehead? Do you not worry your 'intellectual challenge' will be misconstrued as something more sinister and unseemly?"

"Of course I worry about people misinterpreting my intentions," I said, becoming apprehensive. "But sometimes writing means taking chances with people's sensibilities and expectations. Besides, I don't include details of my personal life in my fiction,"

"Don't you?"

He laughed as he reached behind his left ear and started removing the flesh-colored latex skullcap. Suddenly it all clicked. I was surprised that he actually shaved off his beard for this interview.

"You've lost weight," I remarked as he stood up.

"Thank you for noticing," he replied, and then faded from sight, returning to some distant corner of the writer's imagination.

I sat back in my chair and looked at the words on the computer monitor. As I pushed the button to close the word processor, a warning appeared.

"Unsaved documents will be lost. Do you wish to proceed?"

-- Daniel Mulhollen

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-03-30
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