From RAISED IN CAPTIVITY: Fictional Nonfiction by Chuck Klosterman, published by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Charles Klosterman.
“A catamount.” “What? I don’t know. Maybe. Yes?”
“Try,” said the older man. “We’re just brainstorming. There are no wrong answers.” This was not what the younger man had expected to hear. But he had no expectations at all, so it wasn’t awkward or off-putting. He did what he was told. “I suppose it’s possible that some millionaire might own a puma as an exotic pet, and he was hauling it across the country, and it escaped from its cage in the cargo hold and crawled through the air-conditioning vents, and it somehow ended up in the bathroom.” “Excellent,” said the older man. “Let’s have another.” “I don’t know. Maybe it prowled down from the Hollywood Hills and ended up at LAX, and it was drawn into the airplane hangar by the warmth of the cooling jet engines, but it got scared when the engines were restarted and scampered into the only cavelike crevice it could find, which was the restroom inside the aircraft.” “Less plausible,” said the older man. “But still possible. Keep going.” “Maybe this is a psychological experiment, and the puma is a trained puma, and I’m being watched. Maybe this is some kind of radical research project. And maybe you’re the scientist who came up with the experiment, which is why you’re seated next to me and asking these questions.” “That’s compelling,” said the older man. “But let me assure you— if this is a research project, I’m not part of it.” “Maybe this is advertising. Maybe this is some kind of guerilla marketing for Puma basketball shoes.” “Too high-concept. Try again.” WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM 125
The older man in the pinstriped suit leaned across 2C, dipping his head into the aisle. His hair smelled like rubbing alcohol and coconut water. He studied the closed restroom door. It looked like a door. He resituated himself back in his chair, straightened his jacket by the lapels, and took a quick sip of his translucent beverage. His hands and feet were massive, too big for his frame. “Let me ask you something,” the older man said. “And don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not being judgmental. I’m drinking gin in the middle of the morning. I’m no priest. And you don’t seem like a kid on drugs. But tell me if you’re on drugs. We just left California. I get it.” “I’m not on drugs,” he replied. “Not even the prescription variety? Lexapro? Valium?” “No. Nothing.” “Any history of mental illness? Again, no offense intended.” “No, and I’m not offended.” The two men looked into each other’s eyes, hunching their shoulders and leaning closer. The interaction adopted a conspiratorial tone. They spoke in stage whispers. The other passengers barely noticed and didn’t care. “Tell me this,” said the older man. “What are your theories?” “My theories?” “In terms of how this could have happened.” “I have no idea,” the younger man said. “I have no theories.”
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