The Seventh Candidate
wall. It was almost
frustrating, not to be able to visualize the wall when he wanted
to.
    “I can’t seem to do without misery of some
kind. Don’t you people have a word for that?”
    “Is it really bothering you?”
    “I wouldn’t call it anything …
melodramatic.”
    “Melodramatic. Like …? What would be
melodramatic?”
    “It’s not a feeling of, say, loss.”
    Silberman nodded and waited. He was a great
listener.
    “Or, say, amputation.”
    “Amputation?”
    “No, certainly not. Or void.” The director
smiled tightly again.
    “What would you call it, then?”
    He tried to find poetic similes. For some
reason he was always anxious to impress the doctor. Like a
fifth-magnitude star, he said, that you can make out in the
peripheral zone of vision, but which vanishes if you try to look at
it directly. Or music just beyond recall. He stopped and laughed
again to minimize the importance of what he’d said.
    Anyhow it wasn’t actually like the star
business or a frustrating memory-blank. It was more like loss,
amputation, void.
    Dr Silberman changed the subject. He started
sniffing about Lorz’s occupation. Lorz was on his guard. There was
nothing to be ashamed of but when people asked him what he did he
always spoke vaguely of being in advertising.
    The doctor confessed that before Lorz’s
assistant had spoken to him about it he’d never suspected the
existence of that occupation. He didn’t remember ever having seen
Lorz’s employees on their peculiar ladders, but then he generally
traveled by bus. He said that he was fascinated by that occupation
of Lorz’s. A little jealous, even.
    The director blinked rapidly, wavering
between gratification and suspicion.
    Dr Silberman went on. In the course of his
work, he’d encountered representatives of a great variety of
professions: bankers, bakers, bricklayers (his globular eyes behind
the pince-nez searched the ceiling for another alliterative
professional), burglars (“Yes, no joke, once, a charming old man.”)
but never the inventor of
banking, baking, bricklaying, burglary. How had he, Lorz, come to
invent … What was the exact technical word for what Lorz
did?
    “‘Poster cosmetics’,” said Lorz, flattered
at the doctor’s interest. “Or ‘poster rectification’. There is no
established term.”
    “But you can invent that too. So your
employees are ‘cosmetizers’ or ‘rectifiers’.”
    “I prefer the term ‘eradicators’.”
    “‘Eradicators’. Ho. Splendidly sinister.
Like professional killers.”
    “The idea had never occurred to me. They
eradicate what deserves to be eradicated. In any case I usually
refer to them simply as ‘operators’.”
    As to the circumstances that had led to the
“invention” (Dr Silberman confessed to curiosity about it), the
director guardedly recounted the thing in the barest of outlines.
He was careful to omit anything that might be misconstrued as
obsession. They obsessively read obsession into everything,
supposedly. He also omitted any reference to his mother. The
mind-men, he had heard, had a fixation on other people’s
mothers.
     
    True enough, his mother, by dying, was very
indirectly involved in his vocation. After the funeral, he hadn’t
wanted to return to the flat where the two of them had lived
together for twelve years – not counting her three institutional
sojourns – following the murder of his father. Guiltily, he resumed
job-hunting. He’d been discharged by the latest bookshop the week
before for excessive interest in the contents of the books he was
paid to shelve. It was the third such discharge for that
reason.
    One afternoon in Central Station , returning from an unsuccessful interview
and deeply depressed, he saw a giant poster of a little girl
smiling radiantly. She was defaced with some of the same words that
had been scrawled on the walls of the gutted flat twenty years
before.
    He saw his mother, distraught and exquisite,
seated in the middle of the room with

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