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Excerpt: 'Mine All Mine'

The Awful Truth

I am now going to tell you a secret. I am going to come clean. How can you ask someone to marry you if you're living such an enormous lie? You can't, not if you're one of the good guys. Not if your last shot at happiness after years of sitting alone in darkened rooms, waiting for a bullet, depends on telling — it's a hard word — the truth. So tonight before I pop the question I am going to tell Charlie everything, but I am going to rehearse it on you just this once, before the real confession, to see how terrible it sounds. Here it goes. The dirt on Otto Starks. The life strife. The biohazard. The awful, unavoidable truth of it is:

"I am not a talent scout for the New York Mets."

Through perforated bulletproof glass the Guere-Wobe K'plua mask stares back at me with an ancient, implacable intelligence. It is made of wood, cloth, raffia, and has cowrie shells for eyes. Its conical headpiece made out of ivory and bone makes it look a little garden gnomey but it also has something really soulful going on. Understanding and omniscient. These African K'plua masks are protectors and judges. Their enormously oversized heads, dominated by glistening, all-pupil eyes, are supposed to keep spiritual watch over their families. But they also keep karmic scorecards and decide who is permitted entrance to the promised land.

It's a good avatar to practice on.

I will get so written up if I am caught violating proximity, so I peep around the corner to make sure Herkimer isn't passing by on an Evac Recess. Herk is the closest thing I have to a best friend. He's a new hire at Janus, just six months, but I feel like I've known him forever, and although he would never report me, I'd hate to put him in an awkward position. But so far, so good: no sign of anyone. I double-check to make sure no one's installed any audio on this thing, then lean in as close as I can without tripping the prox-alert cloud and spill the rest of it into K'plua's enormous turtle-shell ears.

Those three weeks in February? I was not in Dubuque taping a high school phenom's big 12-to-6 breaker. Last Christmas, when I bolted the house at one in the afternoon and didn't come back until after New Year's? I was not called away to perform a battery of psych evals on a former NFL quarterback looking to make the jump to the mound. Spring break? I was in Yokohama, all right, but I was not calculating the big league potential of undersized Japanese singlers. In fact, I have not once scrutinized college kids at batting practice or analyzed the barehanded fielding of awkward grounders on the torn-up lots of the Dominican Republic. I have never had a legit follow. I don't know how to determine a fringe, average, or definite prospect. I don't know any of it. Talent scout for the Mets just came out of my mouth that spring day I met Charlie. I'm glad it did, though. It has made everything plausible. Why would anyone doubt that I was out trolling all timezones on behalf of the Mets? It accounts for the irregular hours, the time away. Plus it affords a certain black-ops secrecy. I always tell her that contractually I am not allowed to talk about what I do on scouting trips. Just the way it is. Sorry Charlie.

But this story is just my cover, my headliner, my Clark Kent.

I down a couple of quick cyanide tabs — I know, I know: I'm working on it — and brace myself for what I say next.

"I am a pulse."

Reprinted from Mine All Mine, by Adam Davies. Copyright (c) 2008 by Adam Davies. With permission of the publisher, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA).

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Adam Davies