In the Box
Q: See that camera up there? This is being taped, right? It’s, let’s see, 2:38 p.m. on Sunday, August 3, 2014. We’re at the ______ Police Station. My name is Detective Jim Abbot. Please give your full name and date of birth.
A: My name’s James Kilpatrick Carswell Abbot Jr.
Q: (aside) You have got to be kidding me. “Kilpatrick Carswell”? The poor SOB.
Q: Nothing. Go on.
A: I was born on November 14, 1960. Say, do you have time for an amusing story?
Q: Sure. Why not?
A: So, my grandmother — this would be my father’s mother, okay? — comes to the hospital to see her new grandson. Stops at the nursery to look at me. It’s got one of those big plate-glass windows, you know. Anyway, she sees one baby boy in a crib. Hideous, I’m told. A tiny, red-faced ogre. Then she goes to my mother’s room, and as soon as she enters, it’s all “Oh, darling, I’ve just seen him, and he’s absolutely beautiful! You must be so yadda yadda.” My mother is totally confused. “What are you talking about?” She folds back the sheet so my grandmother can see me. “Here’s my baby right here.” And then my grandmother — you’d have to know her to really get how funny this is — is like, “Oh THANK GOD.”
Q: Had to be there, I guess. Actually, this would be a good time to tell you that you have the right to remain silent. That’s a real option for you, okay? Lots of people do that. Also, anything you say or do can be used against you in court …
Q: Excuse me?
A: “May” be used against me in court.
Q: Jesus, whatever. What are you, the grammar police? You have the right to have an attorney present. If you may … no, for God’s sake, cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. So, now that you know your rights, are you willing to answer my questions?
A: Absolutely. I’m curious to see where this goes. Please proceed.
Q: Do you know why you’re here?
A: Because God has a plan for me? Because my parents had a romantic night approximately nine months before my birthday? Because there was this hominid species living in Africa approximately …
Q: Shut it. No, you’re here because you’re a suspect in a crime.
A: No joke? What crime? Being self-absorbed, maybe. Or secretly enjoying that old TV series thirtysomething. Wait, I’ve got it: regularly sticking Q-tips into my ear canals.
Q: No, it’s a hell of a lot more serious than that. Though you do need to be careful with those Q-tips. Let me ask you this: Where were you last night? Between, say, eight and ten.
A: At home, obviously. What, do you think at my age I was out on the town? Painting it red? Gadding about? Gallivanting?
Q: Have you ever gallivanted?
A: No, not really. Well, maybe once, but I was pretty drunk. Apparently there are these things called “high gravity” beers now.
Q: Can anyone vouch for you? That you were at home last night?
A: Not really. My wife was binge-viewing “Midwives” in our family room, and I was in our living room binge-viewing “The Killing.” It was one of those “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” moments. I mean, how perfect was that: the wife was in the “family” room watching a PBS show about midwives, while the hubby was in the “living” room streaming an AMC show about the gruesome murder of a nubile …
Q: Okay, that’s enough of that. Although, how was it? “The Killing”? I have a professional interest, you know.
A: Really good. I mean, I only saw the pilot and the first episode. But my older son’s girlfriend’s aunt — do I have that right? Yeah, I think I do — writes it, and she’s done a good job.
Q: Thanks, I’ll check it out. Now back to you. So you have no evidence that you were at home.
A: Do you mind if I ask you a question?
Q/A: Sure. I mean, no, I don’t mind.
A/Q: Do people ever confuse you with Jim Abbott, that pitcher who only had one hand?
Q/A: “Had only.”
A/Q: Right, right: “had only one hand.”
Q/A: Anyway, you mean, like, really confuse? Or just joke around?
A/Q: Never mind. Actually, the question I wanted to ask is, what’s up with police interrogations like this? You’re watching one on TV or in a movie, and it’s, like, more interesting than everything else. The car chases and shoot-outs and stuff. Why do you think that is?
Q/A: Oh, that’s easy. The real question is why we don’t make time for it in our private lives.
A/Q: I’m sorry, you just lost me. Time for what?
Q/A: For conversation. For discussion. When’s the last time somebody asked you a genuine, meaningful question about yourself? And then listened to the answer? Really listened. Eye contact, nodding, hearing you out, the whole nine yards. Not a perfunctory, “Howya doin’?” More like, “Hey, last time we talked, you said that you were feeling anxious about the fall . How’ve you been doing with that?” Or, “I know you like to read novels, Jim, but I have never been able to get in the habit. Tell me what you like about them, the good ones anyway.” Or even, “I have a confession to make: I used to enjoy watching those yuppies in that show thirtysomething. Do you think that means I’m a shallow person?”
A/Q: Oh, I see what you mean now. And to answer your question, I can’t remember the last time. At least, with someone who is not my wife or my mother.
Q/A: “Neither nor”: neither your wife nor your mother. Anyway, I don’t get it. It’s like we all think that we’ll live forever. So it’s “As soon as I finish school, I’ll have time for …” Then, “As soon as I get promoted, I’ll start …” Even then it’s “As soon as I check in with all my virtual friends on Facebook, maybe I’ll …”
A/Q: Yeah, exactly. So what can we do?
Q/A: No idea. Maybe just talk to ourselves.
A/Q: Well, that’s better than nothing. But what was all that about being a suspect in a crime?
Q/A: Oh, it’s no big deal. Someone at your home telephone number was very rude to a solicitor for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Left the poor woman in tears. Let’s drop it. Interested in, er, gallivanting?
A/Q: Absolutely. And it’s on me!