“How do you stop nuclear war?”
So they do ask those types of questions, Caroline thought.
Ones with no right answer.
“Is there –” her voice cracked. “Sorry – is there a right answer?”
Why did I ask that?
He’s laughing at me.
But Dr. Graham only let out a light chuckle.
A sound that was supposed to be aimable. To show that this interview had no stake, but Caroline saw it as an omen. She was about to wreck the most important conversation of her life.
“No there isn’t.” He answered. “I just want to know how you think.”
Then they sat there.
“So think!” Graham prompted.
Caroline jolted and her bag flew out of her lap and on to the floor. Its contents spewing everywhere. Caroline smiled an apology, but Graham continued to look at her with a blank face as if nothing had happened. They were to brush over it.
Okay, Caroline thought. I can brush over it.
“I’m guessing you want me to think out loud.” She said. “Otherwise, this will be a long twenty minutes for you!” She added, needing to say something other than the obvious.
“A long twenty minutes for us both.”
“No. Just you. My brain is an interesting place.”
“Then, share it with me.”
“That’s what I plan to do.” Caroline practically breathed the words.
And then she thought, Why am I flirting with him now? He’s more than twice my age.
A man more than twice her age
appeared behind Graham. He looked at the book titles on Graham’s shelf. Fingers tracing the spines. Caroline almost expected the books to shudder under his touch.
She gestured her head towards him. Unable to use words again but wanting Graham to notice the inclusion of a strange man in this interview.
Graham’s blank stare.
They brushed over it.
Caroline cleared her throat. “I guess the first thing we would have to consider is, who are the two sides of the war? Are they two parties with a long history such as America– ”
A bald eagle
flew through the window she didn’t know was open.
“ – and Russia.”
tossed around at her feet. It pawed at the spilled tampons beside her.
“Or maybe it’s a more volatile state such as North Ko–”
She stopped herself in her tracks.
Graham was expectant but Caroline had no desire to witness that apparition.
Not while the bald eagle is still flying around the room.
She continued. “The point is that we have to take very different approaches to each potential conflict –”
“You didn’t finish your thought.”
“Just now. You didn’t finish your thought.”
“Oh! Maybe I didn’t.” There was a pause and then she continued. “An interesting scenario to consider would be a conflict between two NATO countries –”
“Whoa! Before you get too carried away, let’s consider the possibility that one of the countries in the conflict is volatile. They have a vendetta so large that you can’t sway them with money or land. How would you get them to disarm?”
There was a click for each shoulder. The soft release of her limbs.
A thump for when they hit the floor. Caroline thought they were dead but I second later they had sprung to life. Scurrying around the office on all ten fingers. Her left hand (and the arm attached) had taken to strangling the strange man at the bookcase, causing him to stumble back on to the bear which howled in pain and scratched the desk.
When the bear ejected its claws from the desk, they slit Graham deep across the throat.
But that couldn’t wipe the blank stare off his face.
He shouldn’t have been able to talk but in his deep calm voice he still asked. “Maybe, we should start with an easier question. What happens when you can’t convince a side to back down and they fire a nuclear missile?”
And even though her stumps were fresh and aching and she felt like she wanted to cry. Caroline answered him in her clear, calm voice.
“Mutually Assured Destruction.”