Feline Business; Canine Justice

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[Weekly Writ is an entertainment project where we take story suggestions from our Your Ad-Vantage Facebook page and turn those ideas into a silly flash-fiction or commercial-style vignette every week. This week was written by Your Ad-Vantage’s Loren Rugen!]

Run. Just keep on running. Jasper repeated the mantra as he bolted down the alley. You can outrun them. He had to hold this thought at the forefront of his drug-addled mind in order to stay focused. Run. Just keep on running.

The splat of an ill-aimed shot burst beneath his feet as he lept past an overturned trash can. Good thing; he almost stopped to sniff at its contents. No. Have to stay focused. Run. Just keep on running.

No matter how fast he fled, the barking of his pursuers surrounded him and filled him with dread, each echo a death knoll, a prophesy of his inevitable capture. This terror conspired with his otherwise sluggard thought process and actually inspired him to press on, to escape. Run. Just keep on running.

Another splat suffused a cardboard box beside him with the dreaded stuff (what a waste of a perfectly good box!). Those water guns they had mounted on their backs had poor aim, though it did little good for his partner, who received a full blast in the face at short range. He wondered if a cat could survive a trauma like that.

It was too bad too, cause Felix was an expert producer. He was single pawededly responsible for nearly half of the clan’s production of cat nip. Did pet owners even know how many house cats are addicted to the stuff? Where did they think the cats went when they go outside for days at a time?

While I’m on the subject of those talking pink-skins, do those humans realize the extensive and brutal reach of the DPA they helped to create with all their hype about ‘man’s best friend’? The Dogs of all Paws Alliance is a decidedly anti-feline co-op. And what better way for them to disrupt our way of living then by going after our most lucrative business: cat nip. Just thinking about it makes me want to hiss.

Around the alleyway’s corner Jasper perceived a stack of boxes providing a neat ramp that would enable him to clear the upcoming fence. Once he escaped there would be much to do to get the business up and running again. But first, he thought, he must run. Run. Just keep on running.

Obscure Phenomena

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[Weekly Writ is an entertainment project where we take story suggestions from our Your Ad-Vantage Facebook page and turn those ideas into a silly flash-fiction or commercial-style vignette every week. This week was written by Your Ad-Vantage’s Loren Rugen!]

The ship, or what I can best describe as a ship, soars onward through empty space, headed toward, as it seemed, nothing but empty space. However, we were indeed very near the threshold of our destination. In a matter of several minutes, and several thousand miles, my companions and I will attempt to behold the most ominous natural phenomenon on God’s green earth, er, black universe. You understand my point.

The uncertainty of this situation arose a trepidation nearly as dense as our enthusiasm. The milestone of man’s first step on the moon will be swallowed up on the hype of what we will behold. This crew will gaze upon what no optical nerves have ever processed. Quite frankly, no one is certain how my brain might attempt to assimilate the visual data.

Some physicians have warned of adverse effects on the eyes and even the brain if this anomaly of astrophysics breached my retina. “It could end up like putting a vacuum cleaner tube to your eyes!” one burly professor expressed. I found the irony of his statement apparent.

My stars! I digress. We are thirty seconds from the calculated threshold of visibility. But let me be more precise here for a moment, if I may. I speak in terms of a threshold due to the exact angle we must be arranged at for our object of observation to ‘appear.’ This is because of the barrier of warped space time. This not only irregulates the linear existence of matter, but even the path of wavelength patterns, in this case, the visible spectrum. A distortion blurred my view for a moment then snapped into focus. I beheld the phenomenon in unadulterated clarity, gaping wide before me.

“What do I see? What do I see?” I cry in a loss of composure, frenzied according to the law of excitement in discovering the unknown. Yet, I suppose no one else will ever share my personal encounter. For my crew, my companions these last sixteen years, is the apparatus attached to my person. It has memorized my brain activity, blood pressure, retinal response, temperature and so forth for the benefit of those on earth, once they receive transmission of the data.

Thus, my destination being reached, my journey is nearing the end. For I have left out, until now, that this threshold I speak of is descriptive of another arrival: the point of no return.

The ship soars onward toward the emptying of space, my sacrifice for science now complete.

The Cat with Expensive Taste

catgold[Weekly Writ is an entertainment project where we take story suggestions from our Your Ad-Vantage Facebook page and turn those ideas into a silly flash-fiction or commercial-style vignette every week. This week was written by Your Ad-Vantage’s very own Lee Rugen!]

Checkers looked around his home with a sense of pride that he didn’t expect. His surroundings were extravagant, even for a cat of his stature.

He always had a taste for quality and luxury. But even the recent chain of events left him more satisfied than he could have ever imagined. Everything around him glimmered. Various tones of golden hues reflected in the sunlight. He proudly walked through the house scanning his kingdom with approval. Room after room, from basement to the top floor, tables, drapes, chairs, plants, his toys– everything glistened.

He thought of how it all started. Who had ever heard of a cat genie? And who would have thought that they would be sequestered to an old can of tuna? But his owners, not noticing the expiration date, opened that can. Immediately the old feline emerged and floated to Checkers, his new master.

He was indeed a fortunate kitty who instantly knew how to fulfill his first wish. But now, as he entered the kitchen, he was reminded of his dilemma.

He sauntered up to his dish to inspect a glorious mound of Fancy Feast. It looked magnificent. Chunky, juicy, beautifully prepared, and – like the rest of the house – made of gold.

Yes, Checkers was in a quandary. He slowly looked up and batted at a piece of catnip hanging above…which promptly fell to the floor with a thud.

Guardians of the Treasured X-Box

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[Weekly Writ is an entertainment project where we take story suggestions from our Your Ad-Vantage Facebook page and turn those ideas into a silly flash-fiction or commercial-style vignette every week.] 

Weekly Writ #1: Guardians of the Treasured X-Box

The onset of summer typically ushers in a strong dose of excitement for boys and girls everywhere. However, three friends found themselves sitting around a TV with an itchy cast wrapped around each of their left arms. Through unintentional coincidence all three of them had found ways to break their arm, all within the same week. So when school let out only a week later and all the other boys and girls flung themselves into varied summertime activities full of freedom and fun, while the summer crept forward with dismal indifference for these three boys.

“Can we change the channel? I really don’t want to know which type of ice cream the royal family prefers,” Josh complained from his position on the recliner.

“Fine,” Luke replied as he fingered through a stack of DVD’s with his right hand. “It looks like the only movie we haven’t already watched is Princess Bride.”

“Mark my words, I am not watching any more movies about a princess!” Mark countered.

Luke frowned. “Really man? You haven’t seen it? It’s not what you think.”

Josh shook his head. “Nah, we’ve watched so much TV my head hurts. Let’s get outside and do something.”

“There isn’t anything to do outside.” Luke held up his cast, “Remember?”

“Ah! And it itches so bad!” Mark complained, trying to scratch through the hard fibers. “I hope it doesn’t leave a permanent mark.”

Josh stood up determinedly, “Common, we were outside all the time before. Why should this stop us from having fun? We are, after all,” he paused, attempting a dramatic appeal, “Mark, Luke, and Josh, the Triumvirate rulers of Tivo, on the isle of Panasonica, guardians of the treasured X-Box.”

He raised up his left arm solemnly. The other two boys, suddenly aware that something important had begun, also stood up and raised their encased left arms forward, touching one boy’s elbow to the next boy’s hand, creating a ceremonious triangle.

The casts immediately began to glow a light blue. When the light subsided moments later their casts had hardened into arm-length gauntlets. There were no joints on these gauntlets, just a solid cast of armor from their fisted hands all the way up to their shoulder. The boys withdrew their arms and cheered: “Mark, Luke, and Josh, the Triumvirate rulers of Tivo, on the isle of Panasonica, guardians of the treasured X-Box!”

In the midst of their cheers a stout man crashed through the living room window.

“Bah! Boil! Tumble and trouble!” the man was yelling as he rolled from side to side amidst the rubble of a broken coffee table. The boys gawked at the person as he awkwardly erected himself, still spouting ‘Bah! Boil! Tumble and trouble!’ in more of a rumbling grumble than an actual yell. Now that he was standing still the boys realized he was quite like a dwarf, only his skin was white and his eyes nothing but a deep blue. And his hair! It was a pale hue that grew back, as if tied into a ponytail, only the other end swiveled back around from behind his ears and was firmly attached to the lower half of his face. This optical illusion made it impossible to tell where his hair ended and his beard began!

“Well stop staring at me and stop him!” the thing was saying as the boys regained their composure.

“Pardon me good sir,” Josh managed to say in his most polite knight-errant accent, “Would you be so good as to inform us of whom you are speaking?”

With the sound of a thunder-clap the roof lifted from its place and disappeared, to be replaced with the ugly figure of a four-eyed giant

“That! You lollipop!” the dwarf remonstrated.

“Holy Beef Macaroni!” Luke squeaked a he sheltered his head from falling debris with his gauntlet.

“This escalated quickly,” Mark remarked and began hefting his gauntlet arm from side to side in preparation for the impending activity.

The giant bellowed his challenge and plunged one of his three beefy legs into what was left of the living room.

The three boys glanced at each other with sudden understanding before shouting in unison, “Protect the treasured X-Box!”

Josh ran forward and flung his gauntlet at the tree-trunk of a leg. It bounced away from Josh’s arm with such force it toppled the giant to his two remaining knees.

Mark continued weaving his arm in a crisscross pattern until a bluish X appeared in the air before him. With a wave of his gauntlet he flung the X forward, searing the ephemeral shape into the giant’s face, blinding all four eyes.

“X marks the spot!” he shouted with a laugh.

Finally, Luke thudded his gauntlet against the ground, causing the ground beneath the giant to bulge violently upward, flinging it into the sky. It wailed its worst guttural cries as it disappeared into the distance.

“You did alright,” the surly albino conceded. “I suppose we’ll keep you around for a while.”

The treasured X-Box was safe for the moment and the boys smiled at each other with satisfaction. This was going to be a fun summer after all. A most fun summer indeed!

And thus their exploits were famous across the land. That is, until their arms healed and their casts were removed. School started a week after their arms were free once again so their imagination was put on hold while the boys utilized their precious cognitive retail toward schoolwork.

THE END

Fishy Goings-On

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The doorbell rang once.  Twice.  Thrice.

“All right.  All right,” a voice from inside grumbled.  “I’m on my way.”

The aged man opened the front door to find three large individuals in black suits standing on his doormat.  The doormat read ‘Come Back With A Warrant.’

“Mormons?” the old man asked.

“Hardly.” The first man said, standing before the other two.  “We represent the Federal DPA.”  He held out a badge.

“Everyone’s out for their own acronym these days, trying to confuse folk,” the old man grunted.

“We are from the Federal Department of Provisional Assistance, sir.  It is the governmental department ensuring that we can carry out the passing of new laws and their implications thereof that are beyond the abilities and regulations of currently existing departments.”

“Sounds fishy.”

“There is hardly any need for concern in that regard, I assure you,” the first man said, clearly representing the three.  “You are Mr. Curtis Melvin I presume?”

“Who needs to know?”

The man ignored the question and continued, “You are recorded as being licensed for a variety of firearms.  We would like to see them.”

“Rats to pickles, you’ve got to be joking me.”

“I’m afraid not sir.”

“You yahoos trying to bribe everyone out of their rights again?  Offing money so that we’ll just hand them over?  Well, it didn’t work five years ago, and it won’t work now.  Goodbye.”  Melvin went to shut the door, but found a shiny shoe in the way.  The second man, previously standing behind the left side of the first, had stepped forward and jammed the door open with his foot.  Without a word the second man slowly reopened the door, despite the elderly man’s efforts to close it.

The poor old man was quite flustered by this. “What do you think you’re doing?  How dare you?  Get off my lawn, and stop making things up!”

“On the contrary Mr. Melvin,” the first man replied, unperturbed by the little man’s vehemence.  “We only enforce what has already been passed.  The DPA has been called to ensure that a new law is carried out to its full capacity.”

“And what sort of law is it this time?” Mr. Melvin spat.

“You haven’t heard?   A mandatory recall of all firearms in the United States. In addition, all imports and exports of firearms are frozen, indefinitely.  At this time all guns are contraband.”

Mr. Melvin was horrorstricken, and angry.  “How the hell did this happen?  That is all sorts of unconstitutional.  I’m calling the police.  You swankies are trying to pull one on me.  Get out before I feel the need to protect myself!”

“That will hardly be necessary, Mr. Melvin,” the first man said.  “You see, we represent the police too.”  The second man drew his Glock.  The third remained motionless, yet alert.

“I seem to have no choice,” Curtis said through his teeth.  “This is all very unorthodox.”

“You may call 911 if you wish.  But I doubt they will have any quarrel with us.  It would be best for you to comply, Mr. Melvin.  Let us in.”

“Can’t you read, slick?” Mr. Melvin replied, pointing down at the doormat.

The first man looked down and sneered.  “Clever. And it’s Hoover, Agent Hoover.”

“I don’t much care what fancy names you ingrates have.  I know my rights, and I’ll defend them.”

“So be it,” Agent Hoover said.  “Agent Jeffries, taze him.”  Hoover pushed past Curtis, now frozen with fear, and walked into the house while the third man pulled out a taser.

“Wait!” the little man cried, “Don’t hurt me!”

The third man looked intently upon the frail person before him, taser aimed at his chest.  Then he turned to the second agent and shot him with the taser instead.  The sudden shock didn’t let the man emit much more than a grunt before he shuddered to the ground.

“Why I never…” was all Mr. Melvin could mutter.

“Shhhhhhh” motioned the man called Agent Jeffries to the little man, “Wait here.”

Mr. Melvin could barely move, and merely sagged into the evergreen bush outside his front door, eyes on the now motionless agent on the walkway, while Agent Jeffries went inside.

He heard a scuffle, half a shout, then a thud.  Agent Jeffries reemerged at the front door and quickly dragged the unconscious agent through the threshold.  “Okay, get in here,” he motioned to Mr. Melvin.

The poor old man didn’t know what to think, or what to expect.  But he figured he was better off now than he was a minute ago.  He staggered inside, closed the door, and locked it.

Created March 2010.

Lava Lamp of Reflection

[This story was created 4/18/2005 with several purposes in mind, mostly to play around with writing dialogue and subtle setting markers.  This is a longer post than usual. Future posts of my longer works will be broken down into a series.]

colossus-lava-lamp-coffee-table-2_1The final minutes of Shostakovitch’s Fifth Symphony whispered through the cornered speakers.  Owen Barfield’s History of English Words had fallen from my lap to the bluish specked carpet.  It had book-marked itself on impact, its pages open to that last read paragraph about the analysis of philosophy and religion.  A knock rattled the partially opened door.  I was half asleep, playing badminton against patients in white, their birdies seeming to defy physics in order to avoid my flailing racket.

“Dr. Marty? Would you be willing to accept a transferred appointment? Dr. Oh –” Dr. Kamensky’s secretary sauntered past the leather chairs to the little golden bell on my desk and gave it a couple jolts.  “I was wondering,” she emphasized the syllables, “if you could take a transferred appointment.”

My right leg kicked and I sat erect.  Miss Glonahaven stood before me.  She had asked something, I could tell.  Her eyebrows had extended and she was leaning forward.  I had better assure her of my proficiency.

“Um, don’t worry, I have no one scheduled for the next,” I glanced at my watch, “hour or so.”

“Does that mean you can accept?”

I had tried to sound informed and only took upon myself another hit.  “Sure.”

Not everything can be determined through body language, or was I loosing my touch?  I enjoyed the blackness of my eyelids once again as Miss Glonahaven left to call in the patient.  I slipped back into a previous encounter where body language said all.

“And you say you feel restless about this?”

“Yes doctor.”

That’s the first time a patient has responded to me in that manner for a while. I tapped my tenth anniversary pen on the armrest of my favorite leather chair, the Marty throne; both were gifts from the clinic, the nickname of the latter given by my boss.

“I know your real name Mr. Reich,” I said to the floor while tilting my head toward the man in the leather couch.  Don’t look too eager, but show you’re in control.

The man bore his eyes into the ceiling, biting his fingers in between clicking his tongue.  He crossed his legs slowly, shifting for a comfortable spot in his resting position.

“You can trust me you know.  I had my right as your psychologist to know what I will.  If you think what is happening is wrong then I can help you through it.”  No hinting of fault, just ease him along.  “And the more I know the better I can help.”

“I…I uh…” he stuttered almost dramatically, staring mechanically at the ceiling, “I have this weird thing.  You know?”

He certainly appears to be nervous, but we’ll see.  “Did you know that if someone stuck an iron stake into the back of your head in just the right place, specifically the Occipital Lobe, you would become blind, but otherwise unharmed?”

Let the show go on.

“What the heck?” The man sat upright.  Too quickly. “That is not relevant to what we are talking about.  Are you accusing me of something doctor?”

He chose his words too carefully.  Too offended, yet his arms rested loosely on his thighs.  Body language, it’s all about the body language.  He wasn’t nervous.  He isn’t even upset right now.  I knew he was hiding something.

A nervous knock rattled my door.  My door always rattles.  “Come on in.”

“Are you Dr. Martinez?” a man asked.  He sounded muffled.  He must be holding his papers right up to his face.  I opened my eyes, dissipating the previous encounter from my mind.  He hadn’t walked in, his knees were locked.  Time for some charm.

“Assuredly I am my friend.  But you can call me Marty.  Enjoy a comfortable seat will you?”  I motioned for the leather couch.  “What service shall I provide?”

Vivaldi’s Opus Three entered the second fast-slow-fast phase.  A perfect coincidental touch.  I replaced the satin swivel chair I was sitting on with my throne.

“And you have a gift for me?”

The man sat down probingly, obviously enjoying the couch’s feel.  I waited patiently.  He had sat on the side of the couch, against the armrest, meaning he probably wasn’t a very confident individual.  I’ll be easy on him.

I met his gaze and he looked quizzical for a moment before he suddenly became aware of my inquiry.  He extended the green folder across the span between us, a perfect two arm’s lengths, and I retrieved my prize.

I loved this part, or rather, was curious. Discovering unique and privileged information was the interest of my profession.  It is key to observe the background life of people in order to weave a proper quilt of what made individuals tick.  Surely a cliché in writer’s terms, but to a psychologist every apt analogy and connection with the patient is of absolute importance.

“So…Chad,” I said behind the green folder, “I’m afraid I’ll slaughter your last name, could you give me a sample?”  Don’t allow a chance for a mistake on my part. Let them talk. Make the connection.

“Oh, yeah.  It’s Longren.  Chad Longren.”  He’s warming up already: good.

“Excellent. Chad Longren. Has a prestigious feel to it, doncha think?” I said, trying to shake the last drops of sleep out of my toes.  “Let’s get to it.”  Take a pause, don’t seem hasty. “Um, do you have any initial questions?”

He shrugged, but I couldn’t tell if it was from my comment or to my question.  I added, “Don’t worry, it wasn’t rhetorical.”

He smiled at his shoes and said, “Well, I was wondering, well, about your name.”  He continued as if talking to a communist policeman, “I don’t mean anything by it, but, but your name is Hispanic isn’t it? And, well, you don’t look it.”

I smiled one of those half-shrug sideways smiles.  “Oh, that’s a common one.” I waved my hand.  “My great-grandfather was from Spain see, and when he moved into Chicago he married a German, Irish lady.  Since then the German and Irish side was cultivated in my family, but the Martinez name continued down the line through the men of the family,” I ended with a nod.  Be relational, trust him and he will trust me.

He nodded a ‘well, that’s interesting’ kind of a nod, but said nothing.

He felt awkward.  All patients usually feel awkward, unless they’re oral retentive. But this time I felt an edge of his uncertainty.  Why?  I stood up to walk towards the back window pretending to read Chad’s report.  This brought me back to my discomfited experience from a couple weeks past.

“You want me to interpret your dreams?  I donno, it’s a sketchy practice,” I said to the man on the couch, a middle aged man, much like me.

“But, it’s a reoccurring dream, those are important right?”  He sounded like he had already rationalized this in his own mind. “Doctor –”

“You can call me Marty.”

“Um, Marty,” he was weaving fingers through fingers as he almost pleaded his words, “I can’t say why, or how, or even why, but I feel anxious.  I…I’m just anxious.”

A repetition of words, uneasy hands, and an uncanny apprehension, interesting.“Ok, Stan,” I said, glancing at his green folder, “let us hear your dream.  You could be right, maybe it will help.”

I thought I heard a baby cry in the hallway.  Bad dreams of her own?

In his opportunity to explain his thoughts he sat upright and unfolded his mind, and he must have written it down in a journal by his manner of speaking, “Ok, so what I remember is walking outside of my house, right,” he said, looking up at me to make sure I followed, “and for some reason I walked over to my mailbox.”

Uh oh, I smell a Freudian theory coming up.

“When I got there I automatically opened the box, ya see, and what I found was a rat.  A large freaking rat!  I…I was so confused, but when I woke up I still remembered it, so I knew it must mean something,” he said, and then just stopped, looking across at me, convinced I knew all the answers.

I knew the mailbox was symbolic for a woman in his life, the setting was meaningless, and the rat, well, the rat was a source of pestilence, plague, something undesired or intrusive.  I knew what Freud would say, I knew what I would say.  But may I please be wrong.

I started to ask him a question, but held my tongue.  Should I ask it?  Does it even matter what the dream could mean?  Perhaps his mind took insignificant feuding factors in his marriage then ran off on a field day on one inebriated night.   But if not, then I would have to dig deeper, counsel him, then find conclusion, a passage of recovering, perhaps even a confrontation.  I’ll start slow to be sure.

“So,” I said casually, “how would you say your marriage is faring lately?”

Stan looked at me in the eyes and said, “I’m not married.”

Ouch, what was I thinking?  I eyed the folder again.  Minus one point for Freud, and for me.  I’ve dealt with unspecific problems numerous times and in a professional manner.  In this instance, though, I didn’t feel in control.  I felt uneasy.

A self-conscious deterioration leaked into my thoughts, an acid eating away at the precious layers of my cerebral cortex.  Was it coincidence that anyone had ever been helped by my limited mentality?  Hundreds of patients, with hundreds of stories to tell, with thousands of problems to solve; all seeming to be relative to each other.

Amongst these jumbled thoughts Stan had no clue as to what I was thinking, my eyes being averted to the green and yellow swirls of the lava lamp on my desk.  I could still end strong by forming a professional mood.  I digressed from the previous awkwardness by starting with, “Alright, good.”  I clapped my hands.  “Then the dream means nothing.  You’re perfectly fine in that regard!”  I gave an assuring nod.  That hurdle being passed, the rest of the appointment continued as planned.

When the lava lamp fulfilled its distraction purposes my reverie ended and I was back in the present.  I continued my usual pondering path around the desk and past the window, where I would momentarily observe the city pigeons across the street.  Then continue past the shelves containing Erickson for the heavy thinking and volumes of Get Fuzzy for the lighter hearted.  Passing the shelves my trek led behind the couch, and in finale rounded back to my throne.

A standing presence imbues authority over those sitting down as well as acknowledges responsibility to serve as the guide in conversation and deduction.  It has been my personal practice for six of the eleven years of my tenure here.

“So, Chad.  What can you tell me about yourself?” I said, passing the bend between the pigeons and Erickson.

“I’m a Stenographer for the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals.  Um, done that for three years.”

I’m sure he’s had his share of the not-so-socially-adept.  And yet he doesn’t seem much of a people person, unless such people have pushed this poor man away from any communal spectrum.  But this was a unique job, a connection point even, comparable to mine.   I toyed with that idea and said, “Yeah.  You must get to encounter a variety of, shall we say, those who lack common sense.”

He smiled at his hands this time.  We’re making progress.

“I guess.  Most people either don’t know what that is or think it’s really boring.”

“Oh no,” I said, “not boring at all.  I’ve received my end of unique situations and personalities, of which most will never know or understand.  I recognize near exactly what you mean.”   Another practice of mine was to never, ever make the absurd claim that I know exactly how someone feels or that I can perfectly relate.

He began to speak but was interrupted by the grandfather clock behind him, a single reverberation marking halfway through the hour.

After a moment he said, “Do you over-think things a lot Marty?”

The question was sudden, but I knew the answer.  “Why, yes, yes I do,” I confessed. “It’s called metacognition.  Where one thinks about the thinking process, or thinks about what he is thinking about.”  I chuckled.  How strange it is that I being a psychologist knew about metacognition, but it did nothing to change that I consistently double-checked my own ideas and sidetracked upon tangents of my own intellect.

He nodded, but said nothing, almost hoping I would have more to say.

I wonder.  “Is that why you’re here Chad?”

Watching the yellow blobs interrupt the blue beads floating on top Chad pointed towards me and said, “Yeah,” as if expecting to be found out.

“But,” I stammered, my eyebrows wrinkling, “why come here for that?  A psychiatrist’s help is a bit overboard, don’t you think.”  That couldn’t be his only reason for coming.  There was more.  “Come on. Tell me what’s really going on. You can trust me.”  But was I being condemning by being so confused?

Quickly looking at me he replied, “Yes.  Of course I can trust you.”  In a new arena of confidence he continued, “I now feel like I can trust you more than most.  What you have described, that is the reason why I am here.  And I now know that you are affected by the same thing, the same problem.”

Metacognition, a problem? Is that what boggles me down?  Is that what I have placed way so many band-aids on that it obstructs my normal activities?

What is this, that a patient causes his own doctor to admit his own struggles?  I was taken aback, and surely looked it.

“Please don’t get me wrong doctor, uh, Marty.”

“Don’t worry about names, I’ve got plenty.  You can even call me Joe.”

“Joe, I’m not saying that thinking too hard is a crime, or, um, that this metacognition is so very bad.”  His eyes searched for a better explanation. “It’s what you said yourself, our professions have similar,” he struggled for an appropriate word, “availabilities, to all sorts of weird worldviews from all sorts of weird people.”

I returned with a nod, listening attentively, as both our professions required.

“It’s just that,” he sighed, “I can’t make up my mind.”  A southern accent was hinted in his words.

The distant sound of a phone ring warbled from down the hall.

I broke the silence, “Well boggle me down and cover me in band-aids, I think you’re right.”  That could be a new catch phrase.

He smiled at me.

With a sliver of a laugh he said, “Should I lay down now and spill out my childhood and reminisce over all the hidden messages it holds?”

I let out a snerf.  Its what I call an airy snort of a laugh.  “Yes. Yes you should.”  But we still needed to get to the bottom of this.  “Now seriously.  How would you say this hinders you?” I asked.

He thought a moment before speaking. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s bothersome to me.  I can’t even make a solid decision between choosing a Barq’s Root Beer or a Wild Cherry Pepsi.”

“Well, don’t then,” I said with a poker face.

Chad chewed on one of his fingernails.  I waited for his reply.

He responded slowly in the same mask, “You’ve, changed me doctor.”

Vivaldi ended his serenade.

My poker face broke, and so did his.

I looked in his eyes.  Some claim that those who are relieved from a long burden have a new glimmer in their eye, or some youthful edge that wasn’t there before.  But when I saw his hazy -green eyes they were still the same as before.

But he was brightened.  So far our conversation had lifted his spirits, hopefully freeing him from the funk he was stuck in.

I rested my forearms on my knees, strumming my fingertips Mr. Burns style.  Back to business.

“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of indecision.  In fact, it can be expected from time to time, and even more so.”

“Nah.” He shrugged it off.  “That’s not just it though.”

“Please elaborate.”

A deep breath preceded his answer, “I donno. When I sit beside the stand and record what everyone is saying, I commonly catch people in their lies.”

“Ok,” I said reassuringly.

“Let me explain,” he said, thinking for an example.  “Uh, such as this old man.

He was accused of splicing a school administration’s server to find its account numbers.   The police had retraced service numbers and networking figures back to the computer in his home, but we couldn’t pin the actual act on the guy.”

“Wow.  Was it his grandson or did the old coot go bad?”

“Well, the man’s defense included an alibi, but they couldn’t verify it.  Another defense was that the old man was oblivious to new technology and all its ‘whoha.’  That which I had recorded.  He said he didn’t even know what a desktop was.  He only used it for the calculator, the solitaire, and the typing program.  But later in the case he was asked the obvious basics, such as ‘Did you or did you not hack into the server of the ChristianHeritageAcademy?’ Which he denied.  And ‘Did you or did you not imbed a network link into the source coding of their homepage?’ Which he not only denied but said that such a method was impossible because it would require a physical connection from his computer to the school’s server in order to use a network link.”  He looked at me sheepishly.  “Did you catch all that?”

“Um, maybe.”

“Well, after recording that I realized his previous statement, catching him in a lie.”

Can he talk about what happens in court?  “Are you sure you can disclose such court information?” I asked.

He responded in an offhanded fashion, “No problem.  The case has been over for years.”

He obviously had a healthy pride in the importance of his job, but how did that relate to metacognition?  “And so…this causes so many problems how?”

He suddenly looked defeated.

“Everyone lies Joe.  Even me.  I’ve been conditioned to not trust what people first say.  I’m starting to doubt even what I say.  As if,” he trailed off, taking a bite of another nail, trailing back saying, “I want to trick myself from acknowledging certain things.”

“I would certainly diagnose that as metacognition.  I would recommend,” I said, pausing between each fragment for dramatic effect, “some Zoloft, twice a day, for three years.  If any minor side-effects arise, such as internal bleeding, migraines, whooping cough, or death, then call right away for an immediate refund.”  I hope I had depicted an obvious sense of sarcasm.

“No, I’m not depressed about it.  But the advice is well taken.”

I grinned, resting my chin on my hands.  “Of course.”

“But sometimes a bout of despair will overwhelm me.  It’ll be triggered by a small mistake, or even when I find a fault in another during a trial.  I overanalyze the situation…then can’t get the bad details outa my head.”

This was familiar territory.  Many patients have described what Chad just did.  Yet he still wasn’t at the main point.  He’s trying to describe what’s going on in his head using whatever details he can remember, but finding it hard to do so.

“But just as quickly as it comes the doubt will disappear.  Am I right?”  I asked.

“Yes, yes.”

“What else?”

Another deep sigh.  Probably not in fatigue or glum, but merely to stall the conversation so he has some time to think.  Many people sigh because they hate awkward silences.

“It’s like what I said before, anything with an aura of doubt is taken for granted.  I’m told that I should just fill in the gaps with whatever.  ”

“Told by whom?”

“By myself.”

“Please explain.”

“Come on Joe, you know what I’m talking about.”

I sat back in my chair and he chewed his pinky, both of us trying to think.

No.  One cannot just fill in the gaps with whatever, I knew that.  Even with a subject as variant as psychology, we psychologists know that there is a standard to follow.

“Looks like a defense mechanism to me,” I said, trying to fill in the time.  “It sounds like one of those universal discrepancies.  Your mind takes the easy way out and blocks your cognitive capacity to properly analyze the situation.  Cognitively you make a decision you think is true, i.e., you think you are a failure because you, uh,” I trailed the ‘uh’ before blurting, “made a typing error on a court review.  Emotionally you feel bad, but subconsciously you know that it is the easy way out.  The blame is done, you get to feel sorry for yourself, case closed.  But,” I emphasized, “that does not make it true.”

Wow.  That actually worked out well for just trying to fill the silence.

Chad took it all in, mulling over what I had said.  It’s a good thing there aren’t any muscles in the brain, or else he’d be flooded with lactic acid.

“I guess that makes sense,” he conceded while leaning back and stretching.

His arm stretched out, up, then in, towards his face, placing his wristwatch in sight.  “Oh,” he exclaimed, “I need to go.”

Go? Now?  But not yet, we were connecting so well.

“You need to go now?” I protested, hinting a sadness I don’t usually have when patients leave.  “But we were just getting right into things.”

“Oh, no worries doctor,” Chad replied with a bona fide grin, “I have already been cured!”  He thanked me, asked where he should pay, and with a courteous handshake departed.

I nodded my head, perhaps to the jazz outbreak from the cornered speakers, perhaps in agreement with his remedial admission.   I continued to nod those half nods, the kind adolescents commonly give when agreeing with parents while not really listening.

I’m sure he still had his doubts, as I do, but hopefully these doubts will be taken logically for evaluation.  If not logically though, at least the doubts will less likely cause self-effacing and depression.

I imagined a change in his life.  I do that sometimes.  What will a patient do after leaving my room?  Did he change his lifestyle?  Would he be the exact same as before?   I knew Chad left with something.  Physically, literally, his brain had mutated, as it always does when new information is taken in.  Dendrites stretch from the cell body and connect to the axons of other brain cells, allowing the information to be transferred more easily.

Un-literally, emotionally, he has found that others endure similar hardships, and just knowing that he wasn’t alone was surely a comfort. He wasn’t crazy.

I sat there in the Marty Throne, myself not yet cured.  I had some time to think it though.  I looked at my watch.  It was a half hour’s time until the next appointment.  Plenty of time to ponder the universe, my thoughts tumbling like the lava lamp globules beside me.

A Senior Moment

A whiff of the disposal of a thousand unwanted items made its pass by my wrinkled nose.  A sweet smell of stale soda; a pine scent from broken furniture; but most predominantly an itching haze of dust, musky and clotted in the corners of the fifteen foot dumpster blocking the left side of my driveway.  I made a ‘weird noise’ my grandson said when I saw liquid sewage dripping out of a bottom corner like a leaky faucet.  A couple extra drips squeezed out as my son hauled a broken bench inside, crunching old gutters and sheet-wood beneath it.

Every crunch felt like it originated from within my heart.  That bench, those shutters, the plywood, the custom billboard that greeted members of our church in the early ‘90s, were all made by Lloyd Rugen I, my husband.  He was a fabulous carpenter who built the most wonderful and practical of things, and it pained me to see any of it destroyed.  Every tool, every piece of wood, every toolbox and wedge had a memory and a value of his face, his skill; his life.

I wanted to cry out ‘Save that!” or “We can’t throw that away!”  We were throwing away every side piece of the puzzle, and getting deeper.  But not even my house, doubled in size by my husband’s hands, could handle the immensity of an old couple’s possessions, the fact that it is now entirely mine only added further burden.

I have dreams of a magical garage.  A simply small room that could contain infinite shelf space and innumerable filing cabinets to store every scrap of paper, every picture, every card; every memory.

On a whim the proper storage space would fill a wall, to find or to store any which memory.  Then magically the wall would restore itself back to its normal resting position, with Lloyd’s working bench on the far corner, a cobwebbed window in the middle, and random gardening tools towards the front.  As it would then remain until needed again – free from mold and mice and damage of any kind.

As my grandchildren toss this and that in after the bench I give brief stories about this and about that, so that those memories would remain.  It gives me peace to talk about it all, and joy that they eagerly listen.

Perhaps by my children, and the children of my children, is my dream fulfilled after all.

Created in April of 2005. Based on real people, perspectives and events.