Donnie Peterson enjoyed the relief after he finished the polygraph test required for his clearance in the U.S. Department of Secret Stuff. It seemed to go okay once they got passed his obsession with crazy dog-grooming pageants.
After a long wait, the interrogators returned, Agents McCabe and Hoffman or Hoffner or something like that. Agent McCabe was a clean-shaven, black-haired thirty something that looked a lot like Randy Travis, and Hoffson had gray hair and a paunch.
McCabe set his notebook on the table. “Mr. Peterson, we’ve examined the results, and we think you’re holding something back from us. We’re going to hook you back up and start again.”
Hoffmeier prepped the machine and hooked Donnie up, while McCabe sat in opposition as before.
Donnie’s anxiety tripled what it was the first round.
“We usually have some idea what it has to do with, but your readings are all over the map.”
“I told the truth about everything.”
“But did you tell us everything?”
“Is that even possible?” asked Donnie.
McCabe marked in his notebook. Donnie thought it said ‘evasive.’ McCabe waited until Hoffgoober gave him the nod.
“Let’s talk about your loyalty, Mr. Peterson,” said McCabe.
“You said you had no loyalty to any other country.”
“Is that really true?”
“What about your affinity for Scotland? You’ve been there how many times?”
“Three. I have Scottish ancestry on my mother’s side, so, yeah, we’re into their history, their culture, the land.”
“Have you ever worn a kilt?”
“Er… no… why?”
McCabe looked to Hoffschizzle, who nodded.
“Wouldn’t you question the loyalty of a man in a skirt?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“You said you’d never committed a crime?”
“Never,” said Donnie.
“Never.” McCabe tilted his head and raised his eyebrows as if he didn’t believe him.
“Didn’t you used to walk every day to Saint Obama the Immaculate Elementary School?”
“Yes.” Donnie squinted. Where was this going?
“You used to take Pine street to Irving?”
“Yes.” The detail of the agent’s knowledge scared Donnie a little.
“Can you tell me truthfully that you never once jaywalked across Pine to avoid the wait at the light?”
“Mr. Peterson, did you ever jaywalk across Pine Street?”
“I was a kid. I didn’t think—”
“You’re to tell us everything, Mr. Peterson. From the cradle to now.”
“I think I slipped my diaper and peed in the geraniums once.”
McCabe marked in his notebook. Donnie could clearly read that it said ‘sarcastic deflection.’
“Answer the question, Mr. Peterson.”
“Yeah, I guess I did. I followed my big brother—Does this really make any difference?”
McCabe looked to Hoffalump, who nodded.
“We’re just trying to find out what you’re holding back, Mr. Peterson. Something you’ve thought about, but didn’t tell us.”
Agent McCabe checked off a few things. “It doesn’t seem to be a matter of loyalty or criminal activity, Mr. Peterson, which means it’s of a more serious nature. It’s got to be something you are deeply ashamed of—something that could be used for blackmail.” He folded his hands. “What are you afraid of, Mr. Peterson?”
McCabe looked to Hoffsnuggie, who shook his head.
“Did you watch Teletubbies as a child?”
“No.” Donnie’s voice dripped with disgust.
“As an adult?”
“No.” His tone resonated with offense.
“How many Hello Kitty action figures do you own?”
“None.” He sputtered with horror.
“Are you a Bronie?”
“We know there’s something, Mr. Peterson. What is it? Do you karaoke? Do you cosplay? Do you play trivia in bars?”
“No. None of those things.”
“What is it, then, Mr. Peterson?” Agent McCabe stood up, leaned over, and stared into Donnie’s eyes, nose-to-nose. “Are you a closet metrosexual?”
“What are you hiding, Mr. Peterson?”
McCabe pounded the table. “There is something.”
“What is it, Mr. Peterson?”
“Out with it.”
“I cheat at Putt-Putt Golf.”
Agent McCabe’s eyes went wide. He looked at Hoffpiddler, who nodded, his eyes grave and cold. McCabe sat down and rubbed his forehead.
A tear formed in Donnie’s eye. “I tried to stop, but I can’t help myself.”
McCabe pushed his chair back and turned to the side as if he wanted nothing to do with Donnie. “I’m afraid this disqualifies you, Mr Peterson.”
“Please. Don’t tell my wife. If she ever found out….”