"Oliver," said Fielding, "we're flying home tonight."
"Should I inform the crew?"
"No," said Fielding. "I think I'd like to pilot myself."
"If I may suggest, sir, you're not checked out in a DC-10, sir."
"You're so right, Oliver. Right again. So right. We will have to rent a Cessna."
"A Cessna, sir?"
"A Cessna, Oliver."
"The jet is faster, sir. We don't have to make stops."
"But not as much fun, Oliver."
"Yes, Mr. Fielding."
When the Cessna took off, a hot muggy summer morning broke red over New York City, like a warm soot blanket. Oliver saw the sun through the open door to his left. He saw the runway leave underneath him and the houses become small. He smelled his own breakfast coming back up his throat and into his mouth, and he returned it to the world in a little paper bag he always brought with him when Mr. Fielding flew the Cessna. At five thousand feet, Oliver became faint and lay back limply as Mr. Fielding sang, "A tisket, A tasket, I found a yellow basket."
Over Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fielding spoke.
"I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing, Oliver," said Mr. Fielding. "As you know, I have eleven months, two weeks to live, inside date. Maybe even less. One can't trust the human body. To some, this would be a tragedy. Would it be a tragedy to you, Oliver?"
"What, Mr. Fielding?"
"Would death be a tragedy to you?"
"To me, Oliver, it's freedom. I am no longer bound to protect my image in Denver. Do you know why I cultivated my image in Denver, keeping my fun to El Paso and places like that?"
"Because the bugs crawl all over you if you're different, if you frighten them. Bugs hate anything better than them."
"Well, in a year, they can't get to me. And I'm going to get them first. More than Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse-tung. I will get a million. A billion at least. Not millions. A billion. A billion bugs, Oliver. Me. I will do it. And none of them will be able to bother me again. Oliver, it will be beautiful."
"If you knew you were going to die, Oliver, would you stop saying 'yes sir' and say 'fuck you, Mr. Fielding'?"
"Let's see, Oliver."
And James Orayo Fielding snapped on his oxygen mask and brought the plane up to where he saw Oliver slump back, unconscious, and he reached behind himself and unsnapped Oliver's safety strap and put the twin-engine Cessna into a dive. Oliver flipped back out of his seat and was pressed by the force of gravity into the rear of the plane. When Fielding leveled the Cessna at three thousand feet, Oliver curled into a ball on the floor.
"Ohhh," he said, regaining consciousness. He lifted himself on his hands and as his head cleared and as he breathed more easily, he felt himself being pulled forward. Mr. Fielding had put the plane in a slight dive. And Oliver was going forward, toward the door on the left. Suddenly the plane banked left and Oliver was going out through the door. He grabbed the bottom bar of a seat and clutched.
"Mr. Fielding, Mr. Fielding! Help! Help!" he yelled, the air whipping at his midsection, the liquid of his bladder running out through his trousers.
"You may now say 'fuck you'," said Fielding.
"No sir," said Oliver. .
"Well, then, don't say I didn't give you your chance. Goodbye, Oliver."
And the plane rolled farther to its left until Oliver was holding on to the seat, now above him, and as it cruised that way, Oliver felt his hands grown numb. Perhaps Mr. Fielding was just testing him, knew exactly how long it would take, and then would turn the plane aright and help him back in. Mr. Fielding was a peculiar sort, but not totally cruel. He wouldn't kill his manservant, Oliver. The plane snapped back abruptly over to its other side and Oliver found himself holding air, his body moving forward at the same speed as the plane, then downward. Very downward.
Oliver knew this because the plane appeared to be going up while flying level. And as Oliver spun, he saw the broad Pennsylvania country grow clearer and bigger beneath him! And it was coming towards him. He went beyond panic into that peace of dying men, where they understand that they are one with the universe, eternal with all life, the coming and going of one part of all that life, just a throb.
And Oliver saw the white and blue Cessna dive. And Mr. Fielding had come down to see Oliver's face. Mr. Fielding in a dive looking at Oliver, red-faced and yelling something. What was it? Oliver couldn't hear. He waved goodbye and smiled and said softly, "God bless you, Mr. Fielding."
Shortly thereafter, Oliver met a field of green summer corn.
James Orayo Fielding pulled up out of the dive still screaming.
"Yell 'fuck you'. Yell 'fuck you'. Yell 'fuck you'."
Fielding trembled at the controls. His hands were sweaty on the instruments. He felt his stomach heave. Oliver hadn't been a bug; he had shown incredible courage. What if Fielding were wrong about bugs? What if he were wrong about everything? He was going to be just as dead as Oliver. Nothing could save him.
By Ohio, Fielding wrested back control of himself. A momentary panic happened to everyone. He had done the absolutely right thing. Oliver had to die. He had seen the plan, just as sure as hairs placed atop folders did not move by themselves.
Everything would work perfectly. Within eleven months, one week and six days.
His name was Remo and the hot Newark night offended him, and the smells from the alley where rats scratched inside open garbage cans filled his senses with decay and the occasional street lights cast more glare than illumination. It was summer and it was Newark, New Jersey, and he was never to come back to this city alive because he had left it dead.
This was where he was born. Down the street a large dark red brick building with broken glass shards in empty black frames stood surrounded by litter-heavy lots, waiting to become a lot itself. That was where he was raised. He used to say it was where he was educated until his real education began. That was where he was Remo Williams and the nuns taught him washing, bedmaking, politeness, and that rulers on knuckles hurt when you were caught in violation. Later he would learn that punishment for sin was haphazard but the effects of sin were immediate. They told in your body and your breathing; they robbed you of proper-ness, which could mean death. But the death was haphazard; the improperness itself was the real punishment. In this new life, the sins were panic and laziness, and the original sin was incompetence.
Remo thought of the ruler as he made out the old soot-covered concrete lettering above the boarded-up door:
"St. Theresa's Orphanage."
He would have liked to have seen Sister Mary Elizabeth now. Open up his hand for that ruler and let her flail away and laugh at her. He had tried by sheer willpower more than twenty years before. But Sister Mary Elizabeth knew her business better than Remo had known his. Smiles were not too convincing when your hand trembled and your eyes watered. But he didn't know then about pain. Now she could have used a kitchen knife and it wouldn't cut his flesh.
"You there," came a voice from behind him. Remo had heard the car move silently up the street. He glanced over his shoulder. A uniformed police sergeant, his face shiny from the sweat of night heat, leaned out the open squad car window. His hands were hidden. Remo knew he held a weapon. He was not sure how he knew. Perhaps it was the way the man held his body. Perhaps it was in the man's face. There was much Remo knew today that he did not understand. Having reasons for things was a Western idea. He just knew there was a gun hidden by the car door.
"You there," said the police sergeant. "What're you doing in this neighborhood?"