Ready to Go Again

fiction

OK, so I’m ready to start working again. I got everything fixed that was broken. I’m rested and able to concentrate again. It’s been a while since that was the case, but I remember what it feels like to have use of all my faculties. People who think there’s something interesting about insanity have never been insane. Those of us who have been there and back know there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get somewhere by fighting delusion.

We take the ability to think for granted until that ability disappears and is replaced by the ability to make stuff up in order to fill the void left when reason ran for cover. It’s a war, and both sides lose. Nobody comes out on top. As both commanding officer and foot soldier, I know what it’s like to wait for reinforcements that never arrive. Surrendering to the winning side seems like a good idea until you realize there are no victors, only casualties. The General has shit himself and the infantry refuses to leave the foxhole.

There can be no victors in such a situation. Suicide seems like an option. Having fought the good fight, bowing out gracefully could be see as courage. When you find yourself looking down at a hundred foot drop, a voice in your head whispers “jump.” So far I have resisted these voices and they’re strident demands. I sometimes worry that I will become too weak to do so.

My doctors devised a special magnetic cap for me to wear that brings me some comfort. It is basically an a rubber shower cap with disc magnets glued to the outside. The thirty dime-sized discs are powerful enough to reach through my skull and into my brain. If I wear a hat, it’s barely noticeable. I can also use a wig to hide the magnetic cap. I find that when I wear it I am able to think clearly and remain calm. I am able to focus.

Without it, I can be fine for a while but then I spiral down into anxiety and paranoia. The voices in my head become louder, more demanding, and critical of everyone I meet. They invite me to think that I am being denied the honors and comforts due me, that I can’t trust anyone to wish me well, and that my main role in this life is to point out what’s wrong with others. This is no recipe for peace of mind. It does not lead to a contented life.

In some places and at some times they called my condition an “artistic temperament.” Some wind up being praised for their sensitivity, and are called “geniuses.” Others of us wind up institutionalized, given a diagnosis and labeled that way for the rest of our lives. It all depends on the luck of the draw. If your artistic temperament threatens someone in a position of power, that person will find a way to have you diagnosed and diminished. Maybe that’s why I am where I am today.

I am a prophet, a poet, a priest. I see what others cannot. Even with my eyes closed, the images come, sometimes with astounding clarity.

Hobo Love

fiction

We both enjoy riding the rails and don’t mind getting dirty in order to do it. Grime is part of train travel, especially at the boxcar level. Plenty of fresh air. Heading West, when the train gets to western Nebraska, nights can be chilly. Then all through Colorado, the altitude rises and even the days become cool. By the time we start snaking through the Rockies, it’s time to slide the door shut and wrap yourself in whatever blankets are at hand. Leave a slit open during the day so you can catch some of the scenery, because believe me, it’s worth catching.

Not many people hang their clothes outside to dry, now that machine dryers are ubiquitous. Few pies are left to cool on windowsills. Fortunately, thanks to cheap Chinese clothing, the world is overflowing with free used and sometimes even new garments, and church groups offer free lunches in church basements all over the place. You’ve just got to ask.

Compared to me, Greta is shy, so I’m the one who does the talking. I’m not the least bit embarrassed about our position. Many people look at us with envy. It was Helen Keller, born blind and deaf who said “The reason nobody has ever experienced Security is because it doesn’t exist. Life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.”

I’ve been able to see and hear since birth, but I stand with Helen. No use hedging your bet, this is all there is, so you might as well go for whatever interests you and forget about asking for permission. People fool themselves into thinking that if they ask the right person in a position of authority for help, it will get easier. It won’t. There is no one “above” you in any sense of the term.

We hobos enjoy a freedom that others deny themselves. We love our freedom, and that liberty sets us free to love, really love, ourselves and others. This is the essence and totality of hobo love.

Everyone likes the idea of freedom, but few are prepared to pay its price. With freedom comes responsibility and letting go of blame altogether. No excuses. Envy disappears when one takes charge of ones’ own life, and jealousy is replaced by admiration for those who have gone after what they wanted and gotten it.

Dr. Science Remembers Paraguay

I was living and working in Paraguay when I heard that George W Bush was eager to purchase a large tract of land in a country that had no extradition treaty with the US. I showed him an attractive acreage near Capitan Miranda, a town that just happened to have been the home of Doctor Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi Angel of Death. Bush wasn’t as sold on the Nazi connection as I thought he might have been, but he assured me that Rumsfeld and Cheney would be, and were eager to come visit. He assured me that Paraguay was “their kind of place,” and we even went so far as to make reservations a the Tivoli Hotel, a Bavarian-styled structure with a good swimming pool and plenty of secretive stone rooms to do…whatever in.

Yes, when the rats flee a sinking ship they all do it together. Kissinger himself has the best contacts all over the world, and is constantly turning down offers of asylum in countries that promise to forget and forgive, and actively honor his legacy while keeping him comfortable and safe.

As I scientist I was fascinated to hear that Nazi UFO research and mind-control experiments involving psychoactive plants had continued on after the war in both Paraguay and Argentina. Ground-breaking research that dares to delve into the unorthodox and possibly illegal always grabs my attention. I could imagine spending a delightful evening sharing my results with Rumsfeld and Cheney, while a Bush happily played with blocks on the floor. After all, it was Rumsfeld who back during the Ford Administration got Aspartame approved even after it had been banned as a sugar substitute. First developed by the Nazis as a nerve agent, and now rechristened as “Amino Sweet Natural Sweetener” it was merely the first triumph in his legacy leading up to the events of September 11, 2001.

Yes, these boys would be happy in Paraguay where land and human life is cheap. Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator of the country for more than 35 years, had a personal torturer, who would let him listen in via telephone to torture sessions that he couldn’t attend because of his busy schedule. Stroessner had a permanent suite at the Tivoli Hotel, and often entertained teen-age beauties by the pool.

SCUMBAG HUCKSTER

SCUMBAG HUCKSTER

He was always selling something and always closing the sale. You simply could not say “no” to him. He would refuse to listen to anything other than what he wanted to hear. He would change the subject, turn things around backwards, sideways, upside down, attack, pretend to concede, gaslight…whatever it took to ultimately get his way.

People who knew him crossed the street when they saw him coming. There were always new victims, marks, or as he called them “prospective customers.” The only solace people found was in realizing that they had a part in this, and the adage “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” offered some comfort.

He was, on the other hand, extremely kind in public to his family members. He was just as ruthless in dealing with competitors and others outside his immediate circle. When he would play the piano, he displayed admirable musicianship and sensitivity. His performances of Chopin Nocturnes could bring a tear to your eye. If he saw you were moved, he would try to sell you the piano he was playing, inventing stories about it that would convince you this was a rare opportunity he was offering, the deal of a lifetime. The pedigree of this piano was enough to inspire a documentary film, and in fact one was in the offing already, made by some Polish company you’ve never heard of, but soon would. This piano should be in a museum! Hurry, act now. The window of opportunity is closing.

When he traveled, he did so with a fake service dog. He had a note from a psychiatrist prescribing the service dog that in his professional opinion should accompany his patient anywhere and everywhere. Oddly enough, he didn’t enjoy the company of animals. It simply delighted him to enjoy freedoms denied to others. He would lock the dog in his hotel room and let it shit on the bed. The maids could clean it up. If he raised a big enough fuss, he might be able to get management to refund him the price of the room.

Where You Fit In

We are surrounded by Evil. Intelligent, powerful, active forces of evil dog our every step. We are helpless to fight them. Our only hope comes from above, and we must ask for it.

This is great news, but almost nobody believes it anymore. The help of a force more intelligent and more powerful than evil is ours for the asking. If you know this to be true, then count yourself lucky. Again, most people have abandoned the whole notion of Evil with a capital “E.”

Still, even if you’re a true believer you may not have an easy time of it. Your role may be to serve as a warning to others. Somebody had to be Cain and Judas. Armageddon is a battle, not a picnic.

MUCH ADO ABOUT CLARA

FIFTEEN AND IN LOVE WITH LIFE

Clara was a sleepy girl, often timid, and mainly waiting for someone to want her. She could not imagine why a boy or man would desire her, but knew that in the natural order of things these things happened all the time, so she had a chance. Once he wanted her, it would be nothing at all for her to want him back. Find him would take some time, but once he was found, that would be the end of the search.

She practiced being pleasant at all times, and feigning interest in even the most pompous of bores. She could look you right in the eye and tune you out, thinking about something else entirely. Even nodding in the right places came naturally, as a sort of musical rhythm thing. Talk talk talk nod. All the while she would maintain eye contact, but through the gift of inattention, not see or hear a thing being said.

She had also mastered the art of repeating the last word you said, as if contemplating the deeper meaning of it.

Her only exercise regimen was swimming, but as regimens go, that was the best. Hard to injure yourself swimming. Despite her lack of rigor or ambition, she found that she became better at it over time, and it was an excellent way to develop her body physically. Inside she was a poet, but on the outside, an athlete.

Fifteen was an exciting age to be alive. Everything was changing so quickly! Like many her age, she was in love with love itself. Romantic love, love of Beauty, God, Animals, Nature, and on occasion, all mankind. One night she stayed up all night just to see what it would be like. When winter turned to spring and then summer, she took it personally. A June morning could be so full of portent and meaning it was like being punched in the stomach. She gasped for breath at all the beauty, drowning in sensory overload.

When one of her classmates was discovered to have super glued her upper lip back to make it look fuller, Clara understood. It took a visit to the doctor to have it unglued. Some snickered, but Clara considered it a courageous act, a nervy experiment. You do what you have to do to feel fully alive. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

Sometimes at night when she found it difficult to fall asleep, she entertained a waking dream, a long fantasy about her and a group of friends washed up on a tropical island. There were two cute boys and some awful girls who the boys avoided because they were both in love with Clara. It didn’t matter how long it took to finally fall asleep, because the long, delicious fantasy in which Clara wondered which boy’s love to accept made the interval between hitting the sack and falling asleep a pleasurable one.

Clara’s Mother’s Diary

I’m worried about Clara. Half the time it’s like she’s on another planet. There’s no getting through to her. I asked the school nurse if she thought Clara might be on drugs but she said “no, she’s just fifteen.” I don’t think all fifteen-year-old girls are walking around in a daze, but maybe many of them are and I’m not close enough to them to see it.

I’ve asked her father to talk to her, but he says he can’t see the problem. He’s not around as much as I am, and when he comes home from work he just wants to watch television and relax. He and Clara watch TV together, but they don’t talk. I feel like I’m the only one who sees a problem here. Am I over-reacting?

Chad’s Diary

Clara smiled at me today, but then walked right past and started talking to some girls in our class. I thought I was going to faint when she looked right at me and smiled. She’s already beautiful, but when she smiles she’s even more so. She’s like a goddess! A superstar! And to think she smiled at me!

She wasn’t always this way. Last year, when we were fourteen, she wasn’t anything special. Like many of us, skinny and awkward. Of course, she had braces until halfway through the school year, and those make anybody look dorky.

Now she has grown into a mature woman, a powerful person who could be a movie star if she wanted. Clara has more going for than all the other girls in this school combined.

Natalie’s Letter to the School Nurse

Dear Miss Brooks. By now you are probably aware of Clara, the snob who pretends she is God’s gift to our school and the world in general. We other girls in her class see right through her little act, but the boys have been completely taken in by her and think she’s some kind of movie star. For the sake of our school and the children involved, please do something. I’m sure you can get Principal Stevens to listen to you, and if he wants to have a meeting with us, we’d be glad to.

Yours,

Natalie, Schuman, 10th grade A student

PRINCIPAL STEVENSONS’ REPLY

Dear Miss Schuman:

I spoke with your teacher Miss Brooks and in our conversation together we were unable to ascertain the exact nature of what offense you think Miss Englert is guilty. You say she is a “phony” and “all the boys have been taken in by her…little act,” but I am unaware of any violation of our school code of conduct this may entail.

While it is normal for girls in your age group to form “cliques” or groups of friends who are often tight-knit and critical of other cliques, this situation you describe demands neither disciplinary action nor medical intervention. So I think we will simply watch and wait for further developments.

John Stevenson

Principal

Chad’s Diary

I haven’t been able to sleep much. The last two nights I tossed and turned thinking about Clara. When I did dream, I dreamed about her, only she was not doing what I wanted her to do. She was ignoring me. She even laughed at my attempts to tell her why I care so much about her, and worship the ground she walks on. Is this normal? Do I need to be medicated?

I thought about talking to the school nurse because maybe she wouldn’t tell my parents. She also knows Clara and that might help her understand what I’m going through.

Chad’s Parents Respond to a Note From the School Nurse

Thank you for telling us about your visit with our son Chad. We want to make sure we’re not over-reacting, and we certainly don’t want to ignore this distress Chad is enduring. We will respect your wishes not to tell Chad that we’ve talked to you, or know that he sought your help.

This Clara girl seems to be a real character. She’s like a tornado roaring through the lives of her classmates. I suppose there’s nothing any of us can do to change her behavior, but we must say that it’s quite difficult for us to stand by helplessly watching our son suffer, and we’ve spoken to the parents of Natalie Schuman about what the other girls think of Clara. Again, we don’t want to make a bad situation worse or put fuel on the fire.

Clara Talks With the School Nurse

What’s everybody freaking out about? I don’t get it. I’m just being me, minding my own business, and people are going crazy to my right and to my left. Don’t they have any real problems they can deal with? I mean, get a life, people!