The Broom of the System - By David Foster Wallace Page 0,2

get all wide. “They’re in the bathroom this morning? In the same shower?”

“Ahh, no!” Sue’s going to die, Mindy starts to laugh too, that weird sympathetic laugh, looking around at them.

“They‘re, uh, together now? I thought Nancy was engaged.”

“She ... is,” Clarice making Lenore laugh, too.

“Godfrey Jaysus.”

It settles down after a while. Sue does the “Twilight Zone” theme in a low voice. “Who ... will be struck next ... ?”

“Not entirely sure I even understand what you guys are, uh ...” Lenore is asking, looking around.

So Clarice tells Lenore all this business about how Pat Proctor’s a bull and what bulls are and how quite a few of the girls get pretty friendly and all, here at this women’s college.

“You’re kidding.”


“That’s just incredibly gross.” And this sets Mindy and Sue off again. Lenore looks at them. “Well doesn’t that kind of thing sort of give you guys the creeps a little bit? I mean I—”

“Well it’s just part of life and everything, what people want to do is more or less their own ...” Clarice is putting the needle on that song again.

There’s a silence for about half the song. Mindy’s at her toes, again, over at the bunkbeds. “The thing is, I don’t know if we should say,” says Sue Shaw, looking over at Clarice, “but Nancy Splittstoesser sort of got assaulted right before Thanksgiving, on the path out by the Widget House, and I think she—”

“Assaulted?” Lenore says.

“Well, raped, I guess, really.”

“I see.” Lenore looks up behind Sue at a poster over Clarice’s desk, which is of a really muscular guy, without a shirt on, making all his muscles from the back, his back all shiny and bulging every which way. The poster’s old and ripped at the edges from tape; it had been in Clarice’s room at home and their father had not been pleased, the light from the high ceiling makes a bright reflection at the back of the man’s head and hides it in white.

“I think it kind of messed her up,” says Sue.

“How hard to understand,” Lenore says softly. “Raped. So she just doesn’t like males now, because of that, or—?”

“Well I think it’s hard to say, Lenore,” Clarice with her eyes closed, playing with a button on her shirt pocket. She’s in front of their air vent, with her chair leaning back, and her hair’s all over, a yellow breeze around her cheeks. “Probably just safe to say she’s pretty confused and messed up temporarily, ‘ntcha think?”

“Sure, I guess.”

“You a virgin Lenore?” Mindy’s on the lower bunk, Sue’s bed, with her picked and flakey feet up and toes hooked into the springs on the underside of Clarice’s mattress.

“You bitch,” Clarice says to Mindy.

“I’m just asking,” says Mindy. “I doubt Lenore’s too hung up about what—”

“Yes I’m a virgin, I mean I’ve never had, you know, sexual intercourse with anybody,” Lenore says, smiling at Clarice that it’s OK, really. “Are you a virgin Mindy?”

Mindy laughs. “Oh very much so.”

Sue Shaw snorts into her water. “Mindy’s saving herself for the right marine battalion.” Clarice and Lenore laugh.

“Fuck you in the ear,” Mindy Metalman says mildly, she’s all relaxed, almost asleep. Her legs are all curved and faintly muscular and the skin’s so smooth it almost glows because she’d recently gotten “waxed” at home, she’d told Lenore, whatever that meant.

“This happen a lot?”

“What happen?”

“Rapes and assaults and stuff?”

Clarice and Sue look away, all calm. “Sometimes, probably, who knows, it’s hard to say, because it gets covered up or not reported or something a lot of the time, the College isn’t exactly nuts about—”

“Well how many times that you know of?”

“Idle know. About maybe, I guess I know of about ten women—”

“Ten?” “ ... ”

“How many women do you even know total, here?”

“Lenore, I don’t know,” Clarice says. “It’s just not ... it’s just common sense, is what it is, really. If you’re careful, you know, and stay off the paths at night ...”

“Security’s really good here, really,” says Sue Shaw. “They’ll give you rides just about anywhere on campus at night if it’s far, and there’s a shuttle bus that goes from the library and the labs back here to the rear dorms every hour, with an armed guard, and they’ll take you right up to the—”

“Armed guard?”

“Some of them are pretty cute, too.” Clarice winks at Lenore.

“You never told me about any of this stuff at Christmas, Clarice. Armed guards and stuff. Doesn’t it bother you? I mean back at home—”

“I don’t think it’s too