A tiny teaser from LENNY’S GARAGE (novel in progress)!

Broken People

Lenny stared at the ornate Victorian ceiling medallion. It cast a shadow, powered by the streetlight below the bedroom window. In the altered reality, the medallion was awkwardly asymmetrical and seemed to stretch toward the en-suite bathroom. Carefully, he slipped out of the bed and tiptoed along the restored softwood planking. He leaned over the sink and by the light of the street, stared into the mirror. He pulled down at his cheeks and looked closely at the bloody underside of his flesh supporting each eye. He ran a trickle of cold water over his hands and smoothed it over his face. He patted dry with a plush rose hand-towel.

Beside the sink was an open packet of cocaine. Half a gram or so had been dumped on the marble countertop. With a razor blade, Lenny dragged a portion of the tiny pile across the counter allowing a controlled flow of powder to spill around the end of the blade into a uniform line. He divided the line in two and with the short crystal straw, inhaled one half of one line into his right nostril. He wiped his nose and stared once more into the mirror. Then he finished the line with his left nostril. With a wipe and a sniff, he was standing at the foot of the bed.

News!

‘TILL DEATH has been submitted to the Toronto Film Festival! Hopes are high. I’m scheduled to begin work on a Josh Turpin / Amanda Merritt production (yet to be named) in the coming weeks. The script looks great! And I begin the final rewrite of LENNY’S GARAGE TOMORROW. Lenny is scheduled for completion September 1. I’m very excited to put the final touches on LENNY’S GARAGE. It’s in the final rewrite that my novels find their voices. I may be a bit tardy with my fiction submissions, what with all this summer work and all!  Check my site often and don’t forget to check back to my archives!

Shel

Morning of Execution

Billibong woke up at his usual time and went fairly rangy at not having his breakfast waiting. It was in all respects a normal start to the day in the lab. His screeches and howls woke all of the other animals as usual.

          Fluffette seemed particularly put-upon by Billi’s early morning harangue. It was almost as though she knew this was her last morning and coveted that final bit of peaceful sleep. Put-upon was as good as it would get for Fluffette this day. She was denied her final meal for reasons she could not possibly comprehend despite considerable effort. She figured breakfast was being modified for some new test or preference that she’d be enjoying today. It wasn’t the first time she’d been surprised by a disruption of the usual feeding schedule, and her previous experiences were all good. New and delicious protein rich foods or gluten and wheat-free vegetarian fare always led to extra human contact and often a coveted walk. But today her handlers seemed less intent on petting and eye contact and rather keen to busy themselves with outside minutiae. She thought it odd that no music was playing in the lab and all of her human friends were too busy to give her any attention. When Doctor Friesen finally approached her it was with a sad face and unintelligible bad news. Of course Fluffette cooperated as always. She wasn’t about to modify her perfectly civil behaviour as the result of her humans having a bad day. On went her walking harness. As she passed the other cages, she ran her fingers along the grills, making that thrumming sound she loved so.  She stopped for a moment at Billi’s place as he seemed somehow sad. She felt sad herself as once again, Billibong was being left out of the excitement.

            “C’mon old girl,” Doctor Friesen said, as he led Fluffette past the other cages. He noticed that she hesitated at Billibong’s cage and had to give a little tug on the harness to move her along. Fluffette was almost fifteen years old, about two thirds of her natural lifespan, but far older than most lab apes. She had outlived her utility for long-term dietary experimentation and was unsuited for transfer to a retirement facility. Doctor Friesen knew that such animals could not be safely reintroduced to the wild and there was certainly no interest in funding such expense anyway.  For nine years, Fluffette and Doctor Friesen had worked together in this lab and their work produced considerable data. Friesen was unemotional but noticeably vacant as he walked the mature female ape to the chair in which she would receive her fatal dose of sodium pentobarbital intravenously and close her eyes and drift off to points unknown. “We’ve had a good time, you and I,” Doctor Friesen said.  “Lets get this little bit of business done. Then I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you in the month-end report.” Fluffette, remarkably, did not reply.

Study for: Lenny’s Garage (a novel excerpt)

It occurred to Lenny that he’d been in the Yorkville Cat Clinic for forty minutes and no customers had come in.

            “You’re not very busy,” he said.

            “It’s not like I do a lot of cats,” Nick replied. He slid the razor blade across the smooth glass surface of the framed open sign and collected the scattered powder into a final parallel line. He tapped the blade three times and took up a loosely rolled hundred-dollar bill. Rolling it between his thumbs and forefingers, Nick tightened the roll and thrust it toward Lenny. “You have the honours.”

            “Thanks,” Lenny replied as he leaned into the glass. He held the bill up to one nostril and pushed his other nostril closed with his forefinger. With a quick snort and a pivot of his neck he inhaled one line. Sitting back up, he pinched and wiped his nose as he sniffed and reattached his gaze.

            “Good huh?” Nick asked.

            Lenny nodded. “If I were to bounce something off of you, do you think you could keep it quiet? It’s not a national secret or anything. Just sort of private.”

            “Hey man, it’s me, you’re talking to. What do you think?”

            “You’re not really the most discrete—

            “Fuck you. I’m discrete when you need me to be. You want to talk? Talk. I won’t say anything to anybody. I’m here for you.

            “It is good stuff,” Lenny said.

            “Got it from the Russians.”

            “I tested for that Freedman kid,” Lenny said tentatively.

            “What are you talking about?” Nick paused. “That Jewish kid with cancer?”

            “Leukemia.”

            “What do you mean you tested? Like you gave blood?”

            “Yeah. They took a blood sample to test to see if I could be a match for a transplant?”

            “A transplant? What are you nuts? Transplant what? When did you do this? What do they transplant? Are you related to the kid? Freeman?”

            “Freedman. No. They take bone marrow. It’s not a big deal really.”

            “Not a big deal? You are nuts. What about infection? The anesthetic? You could get AIDS or something.”

            “Come on,” Lenny got up. “You didn’t learn anything in vet school?”

            “I didn’t really have time to study, if you know what I mean,” Nick took the coke straw and did a line. “The dean didn’t seem to mind my pre-occupation. Hey, pre-occupation, get it? That guy had a bigger habit than Scarface. Anyway, sit down. I want to hear more.”

            “I went in last week and gave a blood sample. They called me this morning. I’m a preliminary match. They want me to come back in and give them another sample.” Lenny sat back down and put out his hand for the straw.

            “You were a match? That’s like one in a million, isn’t it?”

            “Not really. About a half million if you’re a match. Not just for the prelim. I don’t know how many people pass that.”

            An electronic door chime rang. “We’re closed,” Nick yelled. “I forgot to lock the door,” he whispered to Lenny.

            A voice called back. “Closed? But the sign says—

            “Sorry, family emergency. Please come back tomorrow,” Nick yelled. He turned to Lenny and pointed to the open sign. “Sign’s down. Business hours are over.” Then he leaned in and sucked up the last line.

            “So I tested positive and I’m going in tomorrow to do it again.”

            “Don’t tell Arthur, that’s for sure. He’ll fucking freak.”

            “It’s not about Arthur, it’s about me.”

            “You mean the kid, right? The Freedman kid. What is that, some sort of tribe thing? He’s one of yours so you have to step in and risk your life for him. Even if he’s a complete stranger?” Nick sniffed loudly and wiped his nose. “Fuckin’ eh! That Vlad should get an award for this shit.”

            “What? A guy can’t do something for someone else? For a sick kid? It’s a blessing to do this.”

            “Yeah, I know. You guys have the market cornered in the blessing department. Our goyishe god doesn’t give a shit if we save a kid, right? Fuck you. You’re an elitist prick, Lenny. You know that?”

            “This was a bad idea. Never mind. Why I thought I’d get support from my friends is beyond me. I probably won’t pass the next screening anyway.”

            “You’ve always looked down on me,” Nick said. “You guys are so fucking superior with your Jew club and your Jew secret handshake and your Jew morality. Every day at lunch it’s Hello, it’s good to see you Mr. Goldstein, good to see you Mr. Glass, good to see you Mr. Levinsky, oh hi Nick you goy. I’m fucking tired of everyone treating me like I’m less moral or socially responsible than you. Should I lay out some more coke? I got new stuff coming in on Thursday. It’s the sweetest blow you’ve ever tasted.

            “Nick, you know we all love you. So you think I’m crazy?”

            “I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Why would you take the chance?”

            “I don’t know Nick. I don’t know. I didn’t even realize that I heard the ad. I just found myself driving to the synagogue where they had the blood testing clinic and signed up.”

            “You didn’t park in front, did you?”

            “What the hell, Nick. In case I’d be embarrassed to do the right thing? I parked about three blocks away. Nobody saw me.

            “The guys would freak.”

            “Yeah, I know.”

            “You’d get Arthur’s high and mighty we’re the privileged few, the enlightened ones, separate from the masses speech.

            Yeah, I know.

            “What are you going to do if you match?”

            “I don’t know. Do the transplant, I guess.”

            “Will you be in, you know, the hospital?”

            “I guess.”

            “So you’ll miss lunch.”

            “Probably.”

            “Then you’ll have to make up a story.”

            “I don’t know. We’re getting way ahead of the game here. I’m not even a match yet. The odds are—

“Yeah, we covered that. But you’re not exactly normal in that respect, are you?

            “I guess.”

            “You guess?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Seven out of ten, right?”

            “Eight.”

            “Eight? When did that happen?”

            “I don’t know. About a month ago.”

            “Jesus. I mean Moses, or whomever. And Vegas?”

            “No Vegas.”

            “Jesus, Lenny. I’m sticking with Jesus. We could make out like bandits.” Nick dropped to his knees. “Please let’s do Vegas. You and me. I’ll pay for everything.”

            “Get up, you dick. We’re not going to Vegas. Jesus was a Jew. And they don’t have coin-toss tables anyway.”

            “Of course he was. Took over the family business, so to speak.”    

Lenny ran his finger around the open sign and mopped up the last of the cocaine and rubbed his finger on his gums. He checked his Rolex and plucked his mohair jacket from the back of his chair and threw it over his shoulder. “It’s time. Lets go.”         

            Nick scanned the back room and then put the sign on top of a tightly wrapped package in a medicine cabinet above one of the two examination tables. He closed the mirrored door and tapped it twice.

            “Nobody would look for this in here,” he said.

            “That’s funny,” Lenny replied. “I guess it’s a better hiding place than in the drug locker.”

            “Oh, I keep shit in there too,” Nick said. He also checked his Rolex. “We’d better get going or the guys will be pissed.”

            “And get the best parking spots.”

Hunger

Dark glasses, out of style boots with big heels, a scarf made of wrinkled poly. She strides up the walk clicking and swinging her sex like a billboard for milk as I pass close, too close to remain unnoticed and stop because I feel obligated like there are rules for this sort of thing. My fifty, maybe sixty rapid-fire words representing not a transaction but an insistence of ignorance and hope are received with the worldliness of a second-generation whore in her first decade of grist. With tentative motions I steer as though a learner and duck into the prescribed laneway, follow instructions and wait, jump, fidget, wait, and reverse my commitment to this non-entity, without compassion, and find her blocking the exit in time, just out of time. The door clicks not entirely shut, her handbag laid without emotion on the carpeted hump of the transmission of my mother’s Dodge. She’s wet with sweat, not sex, and mumbling about irrelevancy as she pauses by design to remember the cash, the cash that I count and lay out on the dashboard to watch as my pants are yanked without passion, exposing my ignorance glowing blue as is the case in the Dodge but not the Pontiac that is soft white. The repeated raking of her teeth and a ghastly cough almost leads to my abandonment in disgust but for it being too late, well into the chasm of commitment that precedes the crash, gasp, heat. With expert timing she avoids soiling her face, lips, eyes, hair, blouse, ruining my fantasy and fulfilling hers, mine being of five years breadth and hers of an insignificant instant, in a tissue that I cannot be sure was virgin.       

           I travel uptown, the seat further back than the trip down, my wrist resting on the apex of the wheel, my mother’s radio station squawking about politics for ten minutes or more before I notice, the window too low for the sharp bite of air, the occasional flurry losing its colour on the windshield just inches from where the cash, the cash lay before. Time changes my status from spectator to major-leaguer, filled with courage and history to flaunt and lie for all to see forever. No longer guessing and lying and thinking aloud at night.

          Flying horizontal flashes of exposure blur the stark truth of day where sounds are modified by sub-orders of black and bitter, familiarity that I will not give up as the years mount and decay. I try to push regret down far, consider time lost, the compassion and forgiveness of my youth. I am guilty of damage. Effecting, causing, damage. Toying with life. Interrupted only by diverting my eyes, caste, power, and abuse— yes abuse, certainly abuse. I feel inescapable regret. Irretrievable acts spent on hormonal highs and consequence not avoided. A life affected. Thoughtless, inconsiderate acts, selfish abrupt lasting acts, offered without thought or provocation. I drive the dark streets of her past with knowledge of contribution, unable to outmaneuver the reality of my visit, the impact of youth, unforgivable ignorance and hunger.

Barney’s Life

Bernard Henry Lupofski arrived from the old country with uncertain provenance. Though wanting for blood relatives he was never without family. His single aspiration was to experience an unremarkable life. His success was measured by complete and utter failure.

            Through Barney we saw a rose coloured world. He walked on quiet soles and touched with soft hands. What he noticed was worth reflecting. He gave without invitation and consumed nothing worth counting. Barney’s name did not appear in the newspaper. He passed through the cosmos without wake yet the stars he skirted became brighter for him.

            I met Barney in an odd circumstance. A busker pulled me from the crowd and proceeded to draw bright objects from my orifices. Children squealed with delight as did an odd little man with pince-nez. The entertainer reached slowly for Barney’s glasses, seeking acquiescence from the little man. Barney leaned forward to allow the gesture. The glasses passed through my head from one ear to the other to the immense pleasure of all. For a moment I saw the world anew. I can best describe the feeling as easy. I insisted that the busker repeat the trick. He did, and the feeling passed through me again. I shared coffee and cotton candy with Barney that day and we became…well, connected.

            But my encounter was not extraordinary. Each of you invited Barney into your life following a chance meeting at a crossroads. Appearing without expectation, Barney illuminated your perception in the most surprising of venue: A whale-watching boat. The public library. The street outside daycare. The civic gardens. Spanish class. None of us noticed Barney’s influence until much later. His disciples did not immediately follow in his footsteps. Instead we continued on our ways, ignorant of the new force leading us gently toward higher, more fulfilling roads.

            This morning has been enlightening. Before today I knew none of you. Before today I knew not our connection. Before today I thought my actions were for the most part independent of outside affect. I am humbled and quieted by the realization that my life has been a distinct and parallel version of each of yours’.

            In my mind’s eye I can see Barney standing in that crowd, his pudgy face framing the dimples his pince-nez impressed on his nose. But despite our long relationship, that image is the only one I can call up of the man. Strange. It originates from that moment, the moment that his glasses were in my head. Because of Barney, we all see more clearly.

            Charge and raise your cups: To Barney.

NEWS! My latest play has been chosen for production!

LAST FALL, a thirty minute one-act play that chronicles a love affair that starts in a cancer clinic, has been chosen by Satc0 for it’s 2013 fall schedule at the Phoenix Theatre in Victoria! Of course, I’m very excited to see my play produced. Stay tuned for information on scheduled performances!

I wrote this play in the winter of 2013 with the generous assistance of Joan McLeod, one of Canada’s most celebrated and accomplished dramatists. My heartfelt thanks to Joan.

The Mayor of Osterville

Who wants to be the god-damned mayor?  That prick Denny comes into my backyard with the whipper-snipper on his shoulder and says we gotta go right now.  Right now in his truck.  Jesus, that truck only gets to about half of the places it starts out for.  So I grab my hat an’ we’re bumpin’ along S. Service Rd. at like 40 while the semis whistle by at 80 on the other side of the fence and over the rushes.  The road is sinking into the marsh faster than a stray tomcat finds a fight.  Where the fuck we goin’? I ask again.  He aint bitin’.  I’m in for the works.  So we get to the end of S. Service Rd. and Denny hollers somethin’ about the wheel and the truck starts to swish this way and that and the next thing I know I’m upside down in the ditch with fuckin’ catfish jizz all over my face.

“Fucking hell.”

“I’ll say. What the fuck?”

“I been meaning to get that wheel bearing done.”

“You been meanin’?” I cringe when I see the blood runnin’ down Denny’s ear.  It aint fatal but it aint pretty neither.  “Where the fuck we goin’ in such a damn hurry anyways?” I say.

“You going to be the mayor,” he says.

“What the fuck?”

“Yeh, turns out the voting is all but done and nobody’s voted at all and there’s a small print that says if nobody’s gonna be the mayor, you can be a write-on.”

“A write-in? That’s dumb.  Nobody’s gonna be a write-in for mayor.  And whaddya mean nobody’s voted and the votin’s done?” I says.

“Did you vote?” he asks.  And he don’t wait for an answer.  “Did your ma vote?  Did your pa vote?  Didn’t did they? Neither did mine or poor Alice, or Fargie or his elderly charge, or two-handed Luke Bishop and his kin.  So nobody’s voted and you gonna be the mayor.”

“What if I aint want to be mayor?”

“Don’t want it?  Let me tell ya, man, the mayor is the balls!  The mayor is— you get a desk and people call you all formal and you get to eat at the diner even when the sign says its closed and you get to throw out the first pitch o’ the season over at Larabe’s field when the team from Porterman’s Jailhouse comes.  Don’t want to be the mayor? Jesus, man, it’s the best job in the whole damn territory.”

“Mayor, huh?”

He smiles that wry pelican smile, like he knows where the mama catfish hangs out.  “Yeah. Sir Mayor Winslow fucking Washington, the hat.”

“I aint gonna give up my moniker, you’re right about that.  Mayor Hat Washington.  I like it.  It got a ring.”

“Fucking eh.” By now we’s up on the road, lookin’ down on the remains o’ fuckin’ Denny’s truck, all crumpled like Pastor Hildebrand’s mailbox after Tommy’s birthday bash, and Denny gets all uppity and says we gotta go. Almost time till the polls close. And if Denny and I vote for me then I get to be the mayor.  The Mayor of Osterville, SD. U.S.A.  Fucking Mayor Hat.

New video! Update. Please visit my blog.

The Making of TILL DEATH is now on Youtube. There is a link at the top of my blog page. Check it out and watch for my working fashion crimes!  I’ve also added a link at the right so you can click and easily FOLLOW my blog. This will allow ensure that you are apprised of my current fiction publication and posts and the status of the films I’m working on. Thanks for visiting! Cheers-

Sanitorium

William Orrow drew a gate pass from the pocket of his lab coat without breaking stride. He flashed it before the card reader and acknowledged the electromagnetic click that released the seasoned oak door to the vestibule. He always acknowledged the click as though it were a human nod, a welcome to the office.

Lochhaven Green is the oldest member of our community. Once the home of the banished and unthinkable, it was almost literally at the end of the world. But its third century of duty saw restoration, reconfiguration, and reconsideration. The facility now boasts the highest level of contemporary implementation of psychiatric care in the region. And the city has swollen such that Lochhaven is currently well ensconced in the central boroughs. William Orrow is one of the vehicles of that implementation. Certified, registered, and no doubt a recipient of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, Bill knows his shit, so to speak.  He’s not a shrink. He’s a patient care facilitator. The sharp end of the stick.

Bill squinted when exposed to Lochhaven’s inquisitorial lighting. He returned the gate pass to his pocket and snagged the light-sensitive reading glasses that hung by an arm onto the neck of his shirt. His work glasses were Bill’s procedural opus, his administrative masterpiece. The sunglass portion darkened just enough to take the edge off of the oppressively bright illumination of the patient facilities. The bottom half of the lenses were progressive readers. With his armour so installed, Bill waved to the nursing station and nodded to the second and third electromagnetic clicks that heralded his entry to patient lounge C.

“It’s the doc, the doc, the doc. Click clock bipity bop, it’s the doc, the doc, the doc,” Happy Harold mumbled to himself as Bill secured the door behind him and smiled at the tall brunette nurse with the funny teeth. The one with her finger on the button.

“Hello Harold,” Bill said with genuine pleasure. “It’s good to see you too.” Bill paused to take in the surroundings as he had been trained. This was his opportunity to size up the environment. How many patients are in the immediate area? Are they in groups or are they solitary? Is the mood elevated? Depressed? Angry? Are there any potential dangers within view? What objects could be used as weapons? The Scrabble Board? The tiles? Harold’s flannelette belt? The nurses are present and alert at the station and monitoring the door. They know he’s in there. Seven patients: Harold, Henry, Tiffany, Erik, Solomon, Sunburst Plum, and Dr. Liu. Bill was particularly interested in Dr. Liu.

“Hey Dr. Liu. Hello!” Bill shouted. He raised his hand.  Tiffany and Solomon watched Oprah on television. Henry and Sunburst Plum sat at the Scrabble table. Henry had his hand under the table on Sunburst Plum’s knee. He smiled heartily toward Bill in search of a reaction. Bill shook his head and let the minor contravention go. Was it a contravention at all?  Bill considered the rule: If the purpose of the touching was to elicit a response from a patient care facilitator it could hardly be described as being with sexual intent. Hmmm. Bill erupted in a broad smile when he visualized his logic exonerating Hank and Sunburst from intercourse on the Scrabble table if the purpose was only to get a rise out of him. Happy Harold held a jelly-bean up to the light of a wire-reinforced window. Erik read aloud. Thomas the Tank Engine. Lee Liu was working in a thick notepad with a faux reptile cover.

“Doctor,” Lee Liu said quietly.

“Doctor,” Bill replied as he pulled up a chair.  “How are you today?”

“Not Loo. Liu,” Lee corrected. He used extra syllables to emphasize the correct pronunciation.

It took Bill a second to remember using Lee’s last name.

“Your hand was in the air.”

“Yes, I remember now. Dr. Liu.” Bill mimicked Lee’s exaggeration.

“No need for sarcasm, Doctor.” Lee said. He turned his attention to his workbook for a moment. Then having apparently completed a task, he closed the book and laid the pencil gently on top.

“What are you working on, Doctor?” Bill asked.

“An interesting question.”

“How so?”

“We’re all one. Yet one part of one does not know what another part is doing.”

“Yes, I see,” Bill said. He noticed Sunburst trading in her whole set of tiles and made a mental note to revisit the rules of the game with she and Henry.

“You see what?” Lee asked.

“That we’re all one.”

“I think you do not see. I think you subscribe to the contemporary and attractive theory that all life is connected. That all matter comes from a single origin at the commencement of time, the beginning of the universe. I believe you have failed to fully grasp my position,” Lee explained.

Bill listened carefully. He knew better than to offer Lee less than his complete attention. “So what exactly is your position then?”

“We are all one. Not of one, or from one, but one. As a thumb is to a forefinger, are you and I. Parts of a single organism.”

“And why don’t I know what you are doing in that workbook?”

“Ah,” Lee said. He monitored Bill’s attention for genuine interest.  “I am not in the workbook, as you and I, components of this single unity, are aware. But if your question is why you do not know what I know, the answer is simple: You have not learned how to see through these eyes.

“How would I do that?”

“As any part of a living organism must learn to communicate with another part. By experience. By experimentation. By will and practice.”

“That sounds very difficult,” Bill said.

“Have you ever tried to see through these eyes, doctor?”

Bill considered the question. Lee was entirely unschooled in science or philosophy but incredibly scientifically persuasive. More so than even Bill. The inescapable truth was that Bill found Lee’s ideas compelling, logical, and enlightened. Bill spoke of Lee often when outside of Lochhaven. Bill thought through Lee’s theories in the quiet of his dreams.

“No. I suppose I haven’t,” Bill conceded.

“Do try,” Lee said.

“To see through your eyes?”

“Counterproductive,” Lee snapped.

“Come again?”

“It is counterproductive to label them my eyes. They are eyes. They cannot be seen as your eyes, as you have already established neural patterns for control and reception through those. You cannot see them as my eyes, as you have long ago accepted that you cannot see through the eyes of another. See them as eyes only, and try to establish a connection with these eyes. Set aside what you have learned. Accept willingly that you may have missed a lesson or two. Work to see through these eyes.”

Bill lost his need to contain Lee’s theory and reinforce to Lee what he knows to be fact. Bill did as Lee asked. Bill tried to establish a connection with those eyes.

First, Bill tried to find an irregularity in his own lab coat. An irregularity visible from the opposing chair. A stain. A wrinkle. A thread amiss. Then Bill saw his effort, correctly, as a potential parlour trick. The goal was not to prove the theory by identifying a physical trait that could only be known from an opposite point of view, but to live the experience of another vantage point. Bill tried to establish a connection to those eyes. Eyes not previously thought of as his own, but his own nonetheless. And for a moment, for a brief and fleeting moment, Bill saw himself hunched over in deep concentration, brow furled, eyes closed to eliminate confusion, brain plying avenues of instinct and intuition for a pathway to a new perspective. And then it was over.

“I think I saw,” Bill said.

“What did you see?”

“I saw me. In this sanitorium. Trying to find a way to see through new eyes.”

“Yes,” Lee said. “I believe you may have seen. And were you, the you observed through your new sight, competent? In control?”

“I was trying to comply. Trying to follow your instructions. To see things your way.”

“As was I,” Lee said. And he opened his notebook once again.

“Are you writing about me in there?” Bill asked. Lee smiled and continued writing. “I see,” Bill continued. “We’re part of the same organism.”

“Yes,” Lee spoke without interrupting his note taking. “We are one.” Lee closed the book one more time and placed it on his lap. “I am tired,” he said.

“Until tomorrow then,” Bill replied. He pushed back the chair and rose to his feet. He paused to consider the other patients in the room. For a moment, he tried to see through Oprah’s eyes, and Harold’s. And the nurse with the funny teeth.

That night at home with the television on and his paperwork in front of him, Bill thought about the thin line that separates the patients at Lochhaven Green from you and I. Bill thought about the events that precipitated the incarceration, indoctrination, or involuntary commitment of his patients. Bill thought about seeing through Lee Liu’s eyes.

That night at the sanatorium, with neither television nor paperwork, Lee thought about the thin line that separates the patients at Lochhaven Green from you and I. Lee thought about the events that precipitated the incarceration, indoctrination, or involuntary commitment of the patients. Lee thought about seeing through Dr. Bill’s eyes.

As Bill fell asleep in a featherbed in his loft, he listened to the hum of the distant air circulation system at Lochhaven, studied the exquisite cornice moldings and dished ceiling of the patient residence wing, and pulled the state-issued course sheets up under his chin. And he flipped through Dr. Liu’s notebook with interest.

The next day, Bill approached the facility with a spring in his step. He flashed his pass card and virtually skipped into Lochhaven’s Thursday wing, as he called Patient Lounge A.  He nodded to Nurse Teeth and bound into the room without the requisite contemplative scouting and patted Sunburst Plum on the shoulder on his way to Lee Liu.

“Oh, that was nice,” she said. Bill paused for a moment, then continued on.

“Dr. Liu, I would like to speak with you if you have a moment,” Bill said.

“Of course, Doctor,” Lee replied. He sat quickly at one of a pair of facing square fabric chairs with a wooden block of a table between.

“Last night, I felt I was looking up at your ceiling. Here. At Lochhaven.”

Lee considered this news. “And how did that feel?” he asked.

“It felt, well, freeing.”

“That’s very interesting,” Lee said.

“Yes, I know, and, well, I want to see your workbook, if you would let me.”

“I don’t know that you’re ready.”

Bill thought for a moment. “When will I be ready?” he asked with caution.

“This workbook contains nothing more than the random thoughts of an insignificant mind recorded from a somewhat restricted perspective.” Lee looked around the room as though demonstrating the terms of his incarceration.

Bill acknowledged the gesture. “I understand,” he said. “And my review of those thoughts will be through the unremarkable eyes of one sharing your limitations.” Bill mimicked Lee’s visual acknowledgment of the relevance of their surroundings.

Lee considered the contents of the workbook. He fingered the glued spine and pressed paper cover, ran his fingernail audibly over the embossed alligator finish. The fluorescent lights dimmed perceptibly. Lee looked up. The lights returned to their oppressive level. “I’ve been here a long time,” Lee said. He stared at the workbook.

“What is a long time?” Bill asked.

“Exactly,” Lee replied thoughtfully. He unceremoniously handed Bill the workbook.

“Can I return it to you tomorrow?” Bill asked.

Lee smiled as he rose from the blocky chair with the aid of a push off of the heavy coffee table. He hesitated as though he was about to reply and then turned his back and shuffled off toward a locked metal door. He stood gazing through the small wire-reinforced window at the pale painted non-descript hallway beyond. Bill held the workbook tightly as he watched Dr. Liu’s back. He felt the embossed finish for the first time. His fingertips were surprised by the depth of the embossing, the complexity of the cover’s texture. His conscious mind didn’t leave Dr. Liu’s back. The mind that saw only a thick workbook had no part in experiencing the book’s cover. The fingers that probed the workbook’s physical features took no notice of Dr. Liu’s resigned demeanor.

Late that night Bill turned the pages from his featherbed, three pillows propping up his head and shoulders. His thumb and fingers addressed each page as though consecrated material. As he read, his bedside lamp dimmed, the brownout common in his rented heritage loft. The soft light bathed him in warmth as he absorbed Dr. Liu’s thoughts. He smiled occasionally. And then, having completed his first review of Liu’s treatise, Bill closed the book on his chest and fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

The next day Bill sat with Lee in Patient Lounge C. The square chairs sent hard sharp shadows into the institutional-grade linoleum floor. Happy Harold sang a loop of one verse of Oh Christmas Tree. Tiffany, Solomon, and Henry stared vacantly at a game show on television. Sunburst Plum worked to set up the Scrabble game. Erik filed his nails with a plastic emery board. He wore furry slippers with squirrel heads on the front. Bill experienced himself standing at Sunburst Plum’s side. “You can’t trade in all of your letters. You have to keep one back,” he said. And then he was seated across from Dr. Liu again. He didn’t know if his experience with Sunburst Plum was real and he didn’t much care. He saw Lee standing by the metal door, then sitting before him. He lowered his glasses and told Lee that he wondered if maybe Lee should be outside of Lochhaven and himself inside.

“It is already so,” Lee said, and he smiled contentedly.