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The Exorcist
by William Peter Blatty

Field-Tested by Joel Reese

in Buenos Aires, Argentina

I read The Exorcist next to a swimming pool at an unearthly quiet estancia about a two-hour drive south of Buenos Aires. The air was thick and still, filled with the angry screaming of cicadas.

My wife and I silently sat on sticky green chairs on opposite sides of the pool, our eyes heavy from the brain-concrete-ing combination of 90-degree temperatures and carafes of malbec wine served with every meal. I didn't bring The Exorcist — it was the estancia's only book in English whose cover didn't have a drawing of a well-muscled guy holding a gun and/or a hot dame, so I figured why not? It was just a lark — I'd long ago abandoned the Christianity my parents had foisted upon me, and demon possession seemed like total bullshit. But the book worked. While I didn't think it likely my head would swivel 360 degrees and I'd be vomiting green gook, I couldn't shake Father Karras' doubts about his faith and the way he'd passively accepted his lot in life. He was a much more haunting character than the more notable foul-mouthed devil spirit.

Part of my disquietude likely came from the issue that hung in the air between my wife and I. We hadn't been getting along well for months, probably years. But we both worked at a minor-league newspaper in the soul-crushing suburbs of Chicago, sitting about 15 feet apart. I — and likely she, too — wondered if we'd still be married if we hadn't worked so close together. To truly test things though, one of us would have had to leave the job. I didn't have the courage to take the leap. But just before we left Buenos Aires for the estancia, she'd received an email from a daily paper in Chicago. They wanted her to come in for an interview, and they made it clear she'd likely be getting hired. The marriage seemed destined to end, but neither one of us dared swim across the water to talk about it.

We got back to Chicago, and she started working downtown. The thin connection that held us together was severed. A few months into her new job, we separated, and I leapt into the unknown.

Joel Reese is a freelance writer living in Chicago.

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