The Counselor by Cormac McCarthy – Extract

The Counsellor

The counselor’s condominium bedroom. The curtains are drawn and it is all but dark in the room. The view is from the rear of the bed and of two figures in the bed. The dialogue is muffled at times by the bedcovers and it therefore appears in SUBTITLES on the screen.

LAURA                  Are you awake?

COUNSELOR        No.

LAURA                  Okay.

COUNSELOR        What time is it?

LAURA                  Two o’clock. Almost two o’clock.

COUNSELOR        Two o’clock what.

LAURA                  What?

COUNSELOR        AM or PM.

LAURA                  You’re not serious.

COUNSELOR        Not entirely.

LAURA                  It’s afternoon.

COUNSELOR        I know. God you’re a sexy woman. What time is your flight?

LAURA                  Seven-forty.

COUNSELOR        What are you doing?

LAURA                  I’m not doing anything.

COUNSELOR        They’re going to take me out of here on a gurney.

LAURA                  We could talk.

COUNSELOR        Do you think we should have some coffee?

LAURA                  You think that we should have coffee.

COUNSELOR        I guess not.

LAURA                  I haven’t seen you for two weeks. And I have to go back this evening.

COUNSELOR        I know. Tell me something sexy. Words are everything to a man.

LAURA                  Okay.

COUNSELOR        Well.

LAURA                  I’m thinking.

COUNSELOR        Okay.

LAURA                  I want you to put your hand up my dress.

COUNSELOR        You’re not wearing a dress.

LAURA                  What does that have to do with it? It’s something you like for me to say.

COUNSELOR        I know. But it has to be real, doesn’t it?

LAURA                  All right. I want you to put your hand inside my panties.

COUNSELOR       It’s the same problem. Maybe you should just say what it is that you want me to do.

LAURA                  I want you to touch me.

COUNSELOR        You want me to touch you where.

LAURA                  I want you to touch me down there.

COUNSELOR        You really do.

LAURA                  I really do.

COUNSELOR        Say it more sexy.

LAURA                  I want you to touch it.

COUNSELOR        God. Are you wet?

LAURA                  Yes. Ooh. Baby?

COUNSELOR        God. You’re sopping.

LAURA                  I know.

COUNSELOR        How did you get yourself into such a state?

LAURA                  Ooh. From thinking about you.

COUNSELOR        From thinking about me what.

LAURA                  From thinking about your sweet face between my legs.

COUNSELOR        God, woman.

LAURA                  Baby? Ooh. I think I should go tidy up.

COUNSELOR        I don’t want you to. I want you all over me.

LAURA                  Are you sure?

COUNSELOR        Very sure.

LAURA                  All right.

COUNSELOR        How did you get to be such a bad girl?

LAURA                  It was from hanging out with you. Can I tell you something?

COUNSELOR        Of course.

LAURA                  I think you outdid yourself last night. I thought I would never stop coming.

COUNSELOR        You know what that does to a man’s ego?

LAURA                  I do. Shall I go on?

COUNSELOR        Please.

LAURA                  God. Slow. Slow. God. How do you know how to do that?

COUNSELOR        From hanging out with really nasty girls.

LAURA                 You’ve ruined me. You know that.

COUNSELOR       I hope so. God. You have the most luscious pussy in all of Christendom. Did you know that?

LAURA                What do girls say when you do that?

COUNSELOR      There aren’t any girls. There’s just you.

LAURA                But there have been.

COUNSELOR      A long time ago. I don’t remember.

LAURA                Yes you do.

COUNSELOR      Do you really want to know?

LAURA                Yes. I do.

COUNSELOR      Okay. They usually would say one of two things. Either Oh my God, or Jesus Christ. But nearly always something religious like that.

LAURA                You’re pretty funny.

COUNSELOR      Women like to be amused. Tell me what to do.

LAURA                You know what to do.

COUNSELOR      Tell me.

LAURA                What if I shock you?

COUNSELOR      Too bad.

LAURA                Are you sure?


LAURA                Okay. I want you to finger fuck me.

COUNSELOR      What?

LAURA                You heard me.

COUNSELOR      I can’t believe you said that.

LAURA                Believe it.

COUNSELOR      You’ve reached a whole new level of depravity, haven’t you? I thought that didn’t mean that much to girls.

LAURA               Depends on the girl.

COUNSELOR     You really do.

LAURA               I want you to stick your finger up me and find my spot and push on it.

COUNSELOR     Jesus. Right now?

LAURA               No. On Thursday.


LAURA               Ooh. God. Yes. Yes. Ooh. I thought you didn’t know how to do that?

COUNSELOR     I never said that. God you are luscious.

LAURA               Shh.


LAURA               Shh. Oh. God. Oh my God.


Mexican garage. A welder in coveralls and goggles is cutting a line along the side of the tank of a Ford F-650 septic-tank truck with an acetylene torch.

Mexican garage. The tank of the truck has been cut in two laterally and a hoist is lowering a fifty-five gallon drum into the open top of the tank. The welder is standing in the tank waiting to unfasten the hooks and the cable.

High desert grassland, similar to the country around Patagonia Arizona or east of Las Vegas New Mexico. Evening.

A white Cadillac Escalade is parked along the edge of  an arroyo under some large cottonwood trees. A two-horse trailer is hitched to the rear of the vehicle and the tailgate of the Escalade is down. The driver’s door is open and a man— Reiner—is sitting in the driver’s seat  looking  out  the  open door with a pair of binoculars. He is well dressed in khakis and sport shirt and he is wearing a pair of tall Gokey leather snakeproof boots.

High desert. Evening. A cheetah is loping at high speed.

A street in Amsterdam, shops, canal. The counselor crosses a bridge. He is dressed in a summer suit with no tie and he carries a black nylon portfolio in one hand.

High desert. A very attractive woman—Malkina—is sitting crosslegged in the luggage rack on top of the Escalade. She is wearing a black western hat with a flat or porkpie crown and a braided leather chin strap. A white shirt with a leather vest and a pair of whipcord riding pants with expensive leather boots. Her long black hair is pinned back and she is leaning forward with her elbows on her knees looking through a pair of expensive binoculars.

Mexican garage. The welder is welding the top of the tank back in place.

Mexican garage. The welder is grinding down the weld bead along the side of the tank with an electric disc grinder in a huge shower of sparks.

High desert. A jackrabbit is racing through the grass. The cheetah overtakes it and kills it in a cloud of dust.

High desert. The woman lowers the binoculars and closes her eyes and presses her elbows against her sides. She almost winces. At this close distance we can see the tattoo of an Egyptian cat at the side of her neck. A second cheetah is sitting chained at the side of the Escalade and it gets up and circles and sits again and stares very intently into the distance.

Mexican garage. A man in coveralls wearing a canister paintmask is spraying the tank of the truck in a paintbooth.

Office of a diamond dealer in Amsterdam. An old-fashioned wood-paneled room. The dealer is in shirtsleeves with gaiters, a tie. He pushes the microscope across the table to the counselor. The counselor puts his eye to the microscope. There is a jeweler’s blackcloth spread on the desk between them and on it are seven or eight diamonds, three to five carats in size. The counselor looks up and the dealer reaches and pulls the microscope back across the desk and makes a shrugging gesture with one hand and removes the stone from the clip and places it on the blackcloth and mounts another stone in the clip and pushes the microscope back. The counselor bends to study it. The dealer watches him.

A small Mexican port town on the Gulf of California. Several trucks are being unloaded and are driven along the dock toward a warehouse with a sign over the door that says Aduana. One of the trucks is the septic-tank truck and it is waved aside and the driver hands a brown envelope down to the customs inspector who puts it inside the front of his coat and the truck drives out to the road.

High desert. Sunset. The woman is riding out across the grasslands at almost a full gallop on a good Arabian horse. English saddle. She turns the horse and looks behind her and bends low over the horse’s neck and urges the horse on. The two cheetahs pass her and disappear in the dust.

Southwestern desert. Distant mountains shimmering in the heat. Looking down a long straight stretch of empty blacktop road all but liquid in the waves of heat.

Southwestern desert. The septic-tank truck is sitting in the chaparral. The driver opens the door and stands up, holding onto the roof of the cab and the top of the open door. The other man watches through the windshield with a pair of binoculars. In the distance a line of stragglers crossing through the chaparral, men and women, carrying suitcases, carrying laundry bags over their shoulders. The standing man takes a cigarette from his shirt-pocket and lights it and blows the smoke gently.

Office of the diamond dealer.

COUNSELOR     I want her to have something that she would not be uncomfortable wearing. I don’t want to give her a diamond so big she’d be afraid to wear it.

DEALER             (Nodding, just the trace of a smile) She is probably more courageous than you imagine.

He takes the stone from the clip and sorts another one and puts it in the clip and looks at it through the loupe. He holds it to his mouth and breathes on it and looks at it again. He leans and fixes it under the microscope and leans back. The counselor bends to study the stone. The dealer watches him.

COUNSELOR      Is this a Pillow?

DEALER               No. It’s an Asscher. Look at the corners.


DEALER              Let’s put it in the grading box.

The counselor looks up and the dealer reaches and takes the stone with the tweezers from the clip and takes a small white cardboard trough and places the diamond in it.

DEALER           The Pillow has a slight arc to the sides. It is a modern version of the old-mine cut. Let’s look at the color.

The counselor adjusts the microscope and turns the stone with the tweezers.

DEALER                Put it table-side down.

COUNSELOR        So you’re looking through the pavilion.

DEALER                Yes. There is more to look through.

COUNSELOR        It appears to be yellow.

DEALER                               Yes. This is called the body color. It is still a white stone. But the body color will be either brown or yellow. The colors start with D. The D stone has no color.

COUNSELOR        The colors go all the way to Z.

DEALER                Yes.

COUNSELOR        So what am I looking at?

DEALER                H.

COUNSELOR        Is that still a good color?

DEALER                 A very good color. It is nitrogen that gives it the yellow. The truth is that anything you can say about a diamond is in the nature of a flaw. The perfect diamond would be composed simply of light. Do you see the inclusion?

COUNSELOR        No.

DEALER                Look some more. It is small. What we would call a feather. Turn the stone slightly.

COUNSELOR        Yes. I think I see it. (He looks up and sits back) So it is graded what?

DEALER                 A VS-1. Some might grade it higher.

COUNSELOR        You might grade it higher.

The dealer shrugs.

COUNSELOR        You like this stone.

DEALER                I like that stone.

COUNSELOR        How many carats is it?

DEALER                Three point nine.

COUNSELOR        It’s expensive.

The dealer shrugs. He pulls the microscope toward him and places a stone in the clip and pushes it back.

DEALER                Tell me what you see. Remember that you are not looking for merit. This is a cynical business. We seek only imperfection. This is a five carat stone. Tell me what you see.

COUNSELOR        (Bending to the microscope) This view.

DEALER                Yes.

COUNSELOR        The culet seems big.

The dealer shrugs. The counselor studies the stone.

COUNSELOR        The crown and pavilion don’t fit. The girdle comes out crooked.

DEALER                 (Raising his eyebrows) Yes. The crown and the pavilion may be well cut each in itself and yet stand alien to one another. Once the first facet is cut there can be no going back. What was meant to be a union remains forever untrue and we see a troubling truth in that the forms of our undertakings are complete at their beginnings. For good or for ill.

COUNSELOR        (Looking  up)  But  there  is  no  perfect diamond.

DEALER                En este mundo nada es perfecto. As my father would say.

COUNSELOR        You are Sephardic.

DEALER                Yes.

COUNSELOR        Do you know Spain?

DEALER                I do.  And  Spain  me.  At  one  time  I thought that she would return  from the grave. But that is not to be. Every country that has driven out the Jews has suffered the same fate.

COUNSELOR        Which is?

DEALER                Ach. You don’t want to hear. We should talk about the stones. The most valued stone is the red diamond. From the Argyle mines. So very rare. I have seen two in a long life. A price almost beyond belief.

COUNSELOR        I do want to hear.

DEALER    (Leaning back and studying the counselor) You do.

COUNSELOR        Yes.

DEALER                Ach. Well. How to say. There is no culture save the Semitic culture. There. The last known culture before that was the Greek and there will be no culture after.

COUNSELOR        That’s a bold claim.

DEALER                The heart of any culture is to be found in the nature of the hero. Who is that man who is revered? In the classical world it is the warrior. But in the western world it is the man of God. From Moses to Christ. The prophet. The penitent. Such a figure is unknown to the Greeks. Unheard of. Unimaginable. Because you can only have a man of God, not a man of gods. And this God is the God of the Jewish people. There is no other God. We see him—what is the word? Purloined. Purloined in the West. How do you steal a God? The Jew beholds his tormentor dressed in the vestments of his own ancient culture. Everything bears a strange familiarity. But the fit is always poor and the hands are always dripping blood. That coat. Didn’t that belong to Uncle Chaim? What about the shoes? Enough. I see your look. No more philosophy. And perhaps Schiller is right. When gods were more human men were more divine. The stones themselves have their own view of things. Perhaps they are not so silent as you think. They were piped up out of the earth in a time before any witness was, but here they are. Now, who shall be their witness? We. We two. Here. (Fitting a stone in the clip) This is a cautionary stone.

COUNSELOR        A cautionary diamond.

DEALER                Of course. Why not? Although I suppose every diamond is cautionary. It is not a small thing to wish for, however unattainable. To partake of the stone’s endless destiny. Is not that the meaning of adornment? To enhance the beauty of the beloved is to acknowledge both her frailty and the nobility of that frailty. At our noblest we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives. That we will not thereby be made less. Let me show you. You will see.

Evening. The woman Malkina is sitting in a camp chair at a folding table set with a linen tablecloth, with china and silver. An Aladdin lamp burns on the table and she is reading a book. Reiner places a cocktail glass before her with a cherry in it and leans with a shaker and pours a Manhattan cocktail for her. She looks up and smiles. He goes to the fire and turns two filet steaks on the grill. The two horses are grazing just beyond. The cheetahs at their chains stir, one rises and turns and lies down again. The woman sips her cocktail.

High desert. Evening. Reiner and Malkina are standing on a rise out on the prairie watching the sunset. The sun is about half way down. A vast red sky.

Excerpted from The Counselor by Cormac McCarthy. Copyright © 2013 by M-71, Ltd.
First published 2013 by Picador. First published in paperback 2013 by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR, Basingstoke and Oxford. Associated companies throughout the world:
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


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