George Pollock State Kid Issue 26 Wall of Indifference So a desperate prisoner has tossed over the walls of Granite

City School a few dozen hardbound copies of a story, his story, told in his own words as it really happened (mostly); and now, God willing, and with luck, the truth would reach fair-minded citizens who would put everything right. When the last telemarketing call had been made, the last Factual Account mailed out, Billy felt like he had accomplished something. He had set things in motion; perhaps only a pebble on a mountainside, but he felt sure it would turn into a mountain slide. Good things were going to happen. He thought about what it was going to feel like to walk out of there. After his maelstrom of activity, however, a palpable stillness settled upon Granite City School. Though one prisoner had lit a candle to a dark and brutal life and was groping by its flickering glow for sunlight and fresh air and wind on the face, daily routines went on unchanged. After the first day or so, other inmates exhibited little interest in his campaign. Days went by. A week. A Sunday came and went without a visitor or a call. Billy felt the air slowly leaking out of all his big dreams. With each passing day, the excitement and tension of it all had wound down like an old untended clock. Then, desperate to hear something, anything, from all his long days and nights of beaver-like labor, Billy went to Director Carson and asked if he had heard from juvenile court about his hearing. “I've been meaning to talk to you,” he said. “They didn't see any reason for a hearing. Sorry. They were impressed with your diligence in putting your account together.” When David Weatherall arrived for remedial reading class, Billy rushed up to him. “Is your father on it?” “Not really,” Weatherall said, seeming a little distant. “He flipped through the book, but I can't say that he actually read it. Truthfully, Billy, I have to tell you ... he didn't seem that interested.” “But, on the inmate forced labor issue, he was interested. He made things happen. What's different?” “You know, Billy, I don't really know -- I was surprised, too -- he didn't really say. He's not one for sharing his feelings, to put it mildly. I wish he would ... but that's another story. My guess is -- and this is only a guess and don't take it the wrong way -- that he didn't see anything in it for him. On the slave labor issue, he and his old fraternity brothers wanted to head off bad publicity for the old alma mater. I'm sorry, Billy, I tried.” “I know you did, David, and I appreciate it. But could I ask you another favor, a much smaller one, something really easy?” “Sure.”

“I need something to read. If I give you my library card to MacArthur Library, would you pick up some books for me? My guard friend has been doing it, but sometimes it takes him days. I need to read something now.” “Is tomorrow okay?” Billy displayed shaky hands. “This afternoon ... after class ... run over and run right back?” David smiled. “Okay. I feel like your drug dealer. What kind of stuff do you want?” “Good stuff. I'm looking for an open seas high... where I see nothing but slapping and sucking waves and horizon... feel the sun on my back... take in the salt air... hear squawking seabirds. I want to read Moby Dick.” “Who by?” Billy shot him a fish eye. “Melville, you know, Herman Melville --- he also wrote Billy Budd and a lot of other great stuff.” “If you don't mind my saying so,” Weatherall said in mock seriousness, “ I think you need to do something about your reading habit. By the way, I got an A on my Billy Budd paper.” “You deserved it. It was a good paper. I enjoyed reading it.” “You enjoy reading anything. Also, stop polishing me up. Makes me feel guilty.” “I thought liberals liked guilt.” “We do, but we don't like it when the little people ply us with it.” That afternoon David Weatherall dropped off “Moby Dick.” During the evening meal, after making sure to greet and say a few words to everybody around him, Billy sat with Johnson Johnson on one side and Billy Ruggieri on the other and read Moby Dick as he ate. No one found this unusal because Billy was always reading. He carried something to read wherever he went and he read everywhere; in the dining hall, during breaks from chores, while doing chores, in the lavatory. He somehow managed to read and do at the same time. *** After many cancellations, Dr. Allan Kurlan finally arrived for a session with Billy. Billy had been taken to the interrogation room several times, only to be left sitting there when Dr. Kurlan did not show up; each time, he had to call for a guard to let him out. “Good morning,” Dr. Kurlan said, sweeping hurriedly into the little bare-walled room and plopping his briefcase on the little table in the center at which Billy had been sitting about a half an hour reading “Moby Dick.” Without looking at Billy, he said, “I'm so busy. I hope we can at least get started today.” A wiry man with a thick crop of graying curly hair and wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and a red bow tie, Dr. Kurlan sat down across from Billy. He pulled a folder out of the briefcase. He reached into his pocket and took out rectangular reading glasses, which he perched half way down his nose. He opened the folder and flipped through several pages. Looking at Billy for the first time, he said “Good, you're William

Stone. Want to make sure I got the right fellow.” Billy, figuratively and literally out to sea, was deep into the mad, revenge-driven Captain's Ahab's climactic battle with his demonized white whale. He didn't hear a word Dr. Kurlan said. Oblivious to Dr. Kurlan's stare, Billy read on. Finally, Dr. Kurlan cleared his throat and said, “I guess we're about ready to start, William.” Billy's eyes were glued to the book. “I said we're ready to start, William,” Dr. Kurlan said, louder, drawing out “William.” Billy looked up, startled, momentarily unsure of where he was. Looking around the interrogation room, he sighed audibly. He bookmarked his place and closed the book. “Did you get my letter and the volume I sent you?” Dr. Kurlan thought. “I don't think so. Wait, I think I did get something in the mail. I haven't had a chance to look at it, but I certainly shall. I'm afraid I'm hopelessly behind in my correspondence. Trying to do too much. Well, shall we start?” “But you have read my Social Services and police files.” “Yes, naturally. I have them with me as a matter of fact.” “Well, as a matter of fact, they are full of distortions and outright lies. I put the real facts down on paper and that's what I sent you. I was hoping you would find it helpful.” “Well, William, that's thoughtful of you. But I assure you that your interpretation of events would have no bearing on our work here. We are trying to learn what's behind your behavior so you can be helped, to put it in simple terms.” “In other words, you want to find out what's wrong with my head for me to have such an awful social history, right?” “I wouldn't say that...” “I would. What else are you trying to do?” Dr. Kurlan took off his glasses. In a mellifluous voice with traces of Oxford English from a summer in England, he said,“Well, William, I see that you have some intelligence. Let me explain. Young people in trouble, such as yourself, have all kinds of explanations for their predicament, which usually comes down to blaming others. But often the root causes of their delinquent behavior are hidden deep within themselves, unknown to people around them and even to themselves. We use professional techniques to discover those causative factors, and work on them, with a goal of improving future behavior. So you see, my job is not to learn what you want to tell me; it is to discover unknown causes of your behavior that you probably do not know yourself because they are hidden.” “That's fine, except in my case, what you are starting with is based on false assumptions. Number one, my behavior has been distorted; my being here may be due to other causes besides my behavior. Number two, you are assuming underlying causes, but there may not be any; I may be just a normal kid who has been victimized. Number three, if you're not interested in the whole story, you don't need me; just make it all up they way everybody else has. So how about this: I sit here and read and you can catch up on your correspondence and still collect your fee.” “You're quite an articulate young man, aren't you, William? I must admit I got no sense of that from your social history. All the more reason for the evaluation to go forward, to fill

in such gaps, so we can get a more accurate picture of what you are all about. William, I'd like to show you a series of cards. Just tell me what you see on each. Here is the first one.” Dr. Kurlan placed the card in front of Billy. Billy looked at the card, which had a large inkblot on it, and said, “Why don't you just talk to me? Couldn't you tell a lot about me by my body language, how I talk, how I look at you, what I say?” Billy leaned forward and whispered in a slightly conspiratorial tone. “I've learned a lot about you already. Would you like my evaluation of your personality thus far?” Dr. Kurlan appeared startled at having the spotlight suddenly turned on him.“I think not, William. You are the subject, not I. Talking is not social science. The exercise we are doing now is. It's what we call a projective test. Sorry, I didn't mean to get technical ...” “I know what it means,” Billy said. “Just what it says. 'Ject' is the Latin root for 'throw.' 'Pro' is a prefix meaning 'forward.' Therefore a projective test is one in which the subject -- in this case, me -- throws out his feelings about an ambiguous image or situation.” He flipped a hand at the card in front of him. “An inkblot. What could be more ambiguous?” Dr. Kurlan's shaggy-browed eyes narrowed. “And, what then?” “Oh, now you want to talk. I'm happy to do so. But this casual social science could come to the attention of the academic police, though, I promise you, never from me.” “Very kind of you, William. Very kind, indeed. My question was: What then?” “Obviously you take the feelings I throw at the inkblots and link them to all kinds of underlying personality traits, unconscious conflicts, fears, fantasies, traumas and, ta-da, mental illness. Only one problem.” “And what might that be Doctor Stone?” “It's pure fantasy.” “Unfortunately for that view, the projective test has been developed and tested over decades and there is consensus among social scientists that it is a valid and highly valuable diagnostic tool.” As Dr. Kurlan said this, he had an unsettling realization: He was debating the pros and cons of a widely used psychological test with an adolescent juvenile offender he was supposed to be evaluating. “I have an idea,” Billy said. “Let's put the test to the test. I'll take the test and tell you my true feelings about each card. Then we'll see what you come up with. I mean no disrespect, Dr. Kurlan, but I think you will come up with nothing. Of course, you will have to make up things for your report. That's where the real creativity will come in.” Dr. Kurlan rubbed the back of his neck, the encounter having reached the point of physical pain. He had never encountered such a situation. He was used to incarcerated juveniles thinking and acting like children and being easily managed. Here he had the distinct feeling that he was the one being managed. He thought: What have I got here? “Enough, William,” he said sternly. “We are wasting time.” “Time? You're getting paid a million bucks a minute. What do you care? Me, I got nothing but time. I'll stay in this room all day if you want me to. Frankly, I'll take your company over what I am used to any day. Nice to have an intelligent conversation for a change, believe me doctor. I say let's take our time and do it right.”

Dr. Kurlan was about ready to pull his hair out when Billy said, “Okay, let's do it. In the first card, I see my mother putting me in a room by myself while she goes out with her friends.” “Anything else?” “No.” Dr. Kurlan put the second card in front of Billy. “I see an angry mother with four noisy and dirty children and a father on the couch too sick to move.” “Anything else?” “No.” The cards now came in rapid succession; with Billy's responses coming like machinegun bullets. Each time Dr. Kurlan asked, “Anything else?” Each time Billy replied, “No.” Third card: “I see a big assembly hall with lots of other kids clinging to each other for dear life.” Fourth: “I see myself in a playground outside big red-brick buildings and talking to my two younger sisters through a chainlink fence.” Fifth: “I see myself and another state kid eating slop in the kitchen while the family eats roast beef in the dining room.” By now, tears rolled down hot, reddened cheeks. Sixth: “I see me arriving with my paper bag at a new home and a new set of strangers.” Seventh: “I see me sitting on the floor reading ”A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court“ and imagining that I am sitting at the round table and that my real life is just a terrible dream.” He sobbed freely, struggling to keep the words intelligible. Eighth: “I see an old man who loves me riddled with bullets and me crying on his shuddering chest and feeling his warm blood on my cheeks.” Ninth: “I see me being lowered into a plain pine coffin while I scream that I'm still alive and breathing but nobody hears me.” Tenth: “I see me stiff in a cold, black, silent grave; young, dead, unthought of and facing an eternity of nothingness.” The two looked at each other, saying nothing. Billy wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Dr. Kurlan lowered his head and, eyes downcast, said softly, “I'm sorry. Thank you.” “You're welcome.” *** After two more sessions, Dr. Kurlan turned in his clinical evaluation to Juvenile Court along with a bill for five hours of professional services. The bill was deemed on the high side, but approved for payment. Billy was diagnosed as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, or APD, “characterized by deceitfulness, failure to conform to social norms, defiance of authority, aggressiveness, and lack of remorse for his actions.”

This psychological evaluation was duly added to the official social history of Billy Stone. On a brighter side, Dr. Kurlan noted that Billy's “entrenched pathology compounded by aggressive denial” made him a suitable subject for the proposed longitudinal study, “though, to be sure, a challenging one.” Dr. Kurlan did not read Billy's Factual Account.