“As Bad as a Mile”*

From: Alias Grace (1996), by Margaret Atwood:

“If you will try to talk, he continues, I will try to listen. My interest is purely scientific. It is not only the murders that should concern us. He’s using a kind voice, kind on the surface but with other desires hidden beneath it.

Perhaps I will tell you lies, I say.

He doesn’t say, Grace what a wicked suggestion, you have a sinful imagination. He says, Perhaps you will. Perhaps you will tell lies without meaning to, and perhaps you will also tell them deliberately. Perhaps you are a liar.

I look at him. There are those who have said I am one, I say.

We will just have to take that chance, he says.

I look down at the floor. Will they take me back to the Asylum? I say. Or will they put me in solitary confinement, with nothing to eat but bread?

He says, I give you my word that as long as you continue to talk with me, and do not lose control of yourself and become violent, you shall remain as you were. I have the Governor’s promise.

I look at him. I look away. I look at him again. I hold the apple in my two hands. He waits.

Finally I lift the apple up and press it to my forehead.”

*poem of 1960 by Philip Larkin:

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.

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