The Waiting Room | Teen Ink

The Waiting Room

January 8, 2011
By AgnotTheOdd GOLD, Aptos, California
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AgnotTheOdd GOLD, Aptos, California
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Favorite Quote:
"The reason for your unreasonable treatment of my reason so enfeebles my reason that I have reason to complain of your reason" ~ Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra


Author's note: A friend egged me on; tell me your thoughts, and if she made a mistake. I was also inspired by a couple of true events in a waiting room, as well as my mom's endless lectures on schizophrenia. As always {} signifies italics.

“The Doc’s not in at the moment,” the Receptionist informed me while doing god knows what on the computer. Certainly didn’t seem like work. Whatever it was though makes no matter; she should have been helpful. She had her hair in a conservative ponytail, sporting some snazzy earrings; nice wrist watch too. It didn’t appear as though she was hurting for money. I studied her a bit more to try to get an inkling as to who I was dealing with, and whether or not it was worth throwing a loud production at that moment, when I noticed a tan line that encircled her entire third finger. {Interesting}, I thought.

I decided to scan the waiting room. From the desk, there was a deep red door on the left. The waiting room was your standard rectangle. How dull. Chairs traced the walls, leaving a space in the middle. In the deep corners, there were small desks with your run of the mill magazines. Time, People, House Beautiful, there were a couple of celebrity gossip magazines placed neatly and ironically next to National Geographic. As I looked around more, I suddenly became aware of the severe deficit in the life department. Besides the Receptionist (who was really quite lifeless anyway) there were really no visible life forms around. It was practically a ghost town. No – not quite a ghost town as I was turning my attention to something else, I noticed a shadow in right corner. My eyes focused and the shadow’s outline slowly sharpened into a clearer image.

I couldn’t say what the face looked like, thick black hair was in the way, head was faced down; I can only imagine her eyes digging into that book that was in her lap. She had on a plain black sweatshirt, black jeans; shoes followed suit. She looked like one of those young guns who fancy that style. Goth or emo or whatever the term is for them, but something told me she wasn’t one of those pretenders, that she had a story behind that mass of hair. I wasn’t about to go strike up a conversation though. Needless to say, she didn’t look like the most talkative person in the waiting room, though that’s not saying much.

I sighed. There I was, stuck in the company of a recluse and a cold unfriendly receptionist. A real party. Yes, I have a car. Yes, I could leave and go do something other than p*** away time in a waiting room waiting for some lazy-a** doctor who coasted (and barely passed) his way through medical school. But, what would I do? Eat? Been there done that. Friends? {Pshaw}. I used to have those. Then I moved here to Santa Cruz. Everyone I know lives on the East Coast, but that was just a little too dull for me. I overestimated my friend making abilities when I decided to move. So I really had nothing to do and I wasn’t about to go flick on the tube because then I would feel like I have no life, not to say that I did. So no, I guess I really didn’t have anything better to do.

Well I moseyed on over to a chair in the left corner. They really need to purchase more comfortable seats because these definitely weren’t working out for me. I laid my left leg across my right and began some pretty damn impressive thumb-twiddling. I decided to challenge myself to see how fast I could twiddle, but every so often my thumbs would get out of control and either crash into each other or my index finger. I soon grew tired of this, kicked out my legs, and let out a deep sigh. I glanced to magazine table at my left. I spaced out at the first magazine on the top. When I woke up out of my reverie I look at what was in front of me only to find Brad Pitt staring right back. I gave a little jump. The caption above Brad Pitt said something along the lines of “Pitt caught kissing another woman. Bodyguard tells all.” {Oh how scandalous}, I thought as I picked up the magazine. Man, all these famous guys cheat. Each and every one of them and don’t anyone think any different. Not a one of them is worth all the attention we give them for it either and I think if we are all honestly angry with them, we shouldn’t give them a moments thought. That’s really the biggest insult to them. They are probably reveling in all the attention they get for it. So let’s stop b****ing about Brad and Tiger shall we? Clinton too. Sure he had fun in the Oval Office, but he also had fun giving the United States a two-hundred billion dollar budget surplus. Granted, we should be a little mad about Michael Steele spending party money on bondage nightclubs, but that’s because he is spending money that isn’t his. Americans seem to get mad over all the wrong things. But I digress.

The girl in the corner gave a neat little {achoo} which almost seemed to herald the entrance of another person entering the office. She looked to be about late fifties, early sixties. She was carrying a young child, not anymore than three, in her arms. Her balding hubby followed her in. She had short brown hair and was sporting a beige jacket and large brimmed hat – even went so far as to complete the look with some white sunglasses. She wore darker brown pants and black dress shoes. Her husband wore your classic Levi blue jeans, brown boots (by the look of them steel toed), and a plaid shirt, probably a Stewart tartan. Atop his head lay a quirky fez. They too had a verbal battle with the Receptionist. They want to see the doctor desperately; they think the kid’s arm is broken.

“Sorry lady, Doc ain’t in right now,” she muttered heartlessly, “Feel free to enjoy all the wonderful pleasures of the waiting room though,” she added sarcastically.

The couple walked toward the seats and sat next to me, save one empty chair as a polite buffer. “B****…” I heard her rasp under her breath as she sat down. She seemed spunky. Alas, the room was once again filled with silence. It is hard to pinpoint what sort of silence it was. In the end, it seemed to be a silence of four parts. There was the awkward silence after the exchange with the Receptionist. There was the dull dreary silence of much too much time passing with much too little action. There was the silence of thoughts. Each person was absorbed in there own world thinking, thinking, thinking. About what I cannot say. Lastly, there was the heavy silence of anxiety and anticipation that sets in right when one has that intuitive feeling that the silence will be broken. It was.

The lady turned her brimmed hat adorned head and kicked this greeting right out into the open, “Hi, I’m Bethany. You can call me Beth,” she extended her hand. I took it. “Charmed.” I was so stunned by her outgoingness that I couldn’t manage to utter simple pleasantries. “And you would be?”

I sat there dumbstruck for a moment then regained my composure. “Kelsey. Kelsey MacGregor.”

“Well then Kelsey. This here is my hubby, Rick.”

“How do you do?” Rick took off his fez and gave an elegant little bow. Or at least as elegant as one could get while trying to relax in a seat.

“Well Rick, honestly I’m a little irked,” I admitted. Somehow these old folks were making me feel comfortable. They made me feel like I meant something to them. I know we hadn’t spoken much, but I was sure even then that these were people to whom I could talk. “The Receptionist is a genuine Nurse Ratched, wouldn’t you say?”

“Ah yes, certainly. She has either has a bone to pick or a stick up her a**. Either way, I agree,” Bethany said heartily and intentionally loud enough for the Receptionist to hear. I caught the Receptionist give an exaggerated roll of the eyes.

“Must be a thorny stick,” Rick added. I cracked a smile; my first smile in a long time.

I liked these people; Rick and Bethany. In a veritable attempt to be social, I asked, “What’s the little tyke in for?”

“Oh, the little squirt? This is my daughter, Missy’s, son, Ricky. Named after his dear old gramps,” she shot Rick Senior an affectionate glance, “We think his arm is broken,” she continued. I noticed how she was gingerly supporting it.

I addressed Little Ricky, “Well you’re certainly being brave about this ordeal, aren’t you? Look at him, he hasn’t even grimaced. You’ll make a tough man some day.” The tyke seemed to give some gargle. The closest thing I could liken it to would be some sort of chortle. “How old is he?”

“He just turned two.”

“Pray tell, how did he break his arm?”

“Well, we are not exactly sure. We have a couple of theories. Here’s the skinny…”

“Well gang, it looks like we are ready to head out,” Missy said to her family. Her family consisted of her husband, Will, her eleven year old daughter, Sarah, and her young two year old son, Ricky. Missy was your stereotypical proud mom. The one who would always brag about how Sarah would be a knock out in high school. How her wee Ricky was the cutest little thing in the world and all that generic drivel that mothers are programmed to spew out in those annoying pseudo-sweet yet holier-than-thou voices.

“Got the keys?” Will asked Missy.

“Already in the ignition,” she said as she got in the driver’s seat of the car. Eager to sally forth, she turned the car on.

“Oh rats, I forgot to get the camera. I’ll go find it,” Will said in an almost pained voice. He was ready to get rocking down to Big Sur. Fun, sun, good times without spending a dime, that’s the sort of thing Will was into. He jogged back up the steep driveway and into the house. Stepping in the door, he looked to where he last saw it, the dining room table, and saw it wasn’t there. {Damn}, he thought. He then did a cursory search whilst frolicking (purely for purposes of speed, he certainly didn’t enjoy the frolic…) about the house. He was then struck by an epic epiphany. He ran to where the camera is supposed to be kept. He was about to open up the cabinet, filled with anticipation and exhilaration at his logical idea of where to look. He pulled open the cabinet and his heart skipped a beat as he saw the black leather camera case. Hesitantly, almost dreamlike, Will extended his arm for case, his shaking hand surrounded it, a wry half-smile touched Will’s lips as he grasped the case… It was not meant to be as the case collapsed under the pressure. He peered inside the case and saw nothing but a black abyss. Will roared a terrible roar. It shook the very house; it could be heard for miles and miles. Birds mistook it as a threat and hastily flapped out of their trees, cawing warnings to each other. A box of cereal tumbled out of a nearby cabinet, frosted flakes spilling onto the ground.

The rest of Will’s family heard this roar, those who could run over to see what was the matter, did. That is to say, Missy and Sarah went to accompany their demoralized loved one. This left the curious young Ricky in the car.

“Honey, what happened?” Missy fervently inquired. Sarah stood next to Missy, clutching her mother around the waist, worried something bad was going on.

“Where’d you put the da-” Will started.

“Hey, watch your language in front of Sarah!” Missy interjected.

“Where’d you put the camera?” Will corrected.

“Here we’ll help you find it,” she said in an impatient tone.

Meanwhile, in the back seat of the family-friendly dark green minivan, Little Ricky was growing ever more bored with waiting for the familial units to return from their little Easter-egg hunt. {I want to go}, he whiningly thought. {Where did they all go? I’m bored}. Ricky was a devilishly curious youngling and curiosity coupled with boredom often leads to no good. {Explore}, decided Ricky. He rolled himself out of the back seat, plummeting awkwardly to the ground. However, he did not let this tumble deter him from his quest to further his knowledge via explorative routes. Ricky picked himself back up and bravely crawled forth. He knew he could walk but preferred the crawl for its stability. He sashayed between the two front seats and lifted one small stubby hand onto the seat. He pushed himself onto two feet; grating his teeth with effort, he clambered over and onto the seat. {Whoo-wee}.

Cherry-faced from exertion, Ricky took some time to regain his stamina. His eyes darted about the foreign surrounding. In an effort to familiarize himself with this new environment, Ricky touched the steering wheel. His hand dragged across the grey dashboard, then poked around the car’s stereo. {Push}. Green lights flickered on and a voice suddenly popped into the car talking about the state of the economy. Ricky looked around the car and couldn’t see anyone. He came to the logical conclusion that the man must be inside the stereo.

Trying to be congenial, like his mother always encouraged, Ricky tried to strike up a conversation in somewhat broken English, “Hey-lo?” The voice droned on and Ricky didn’t think that he was heard. He continued, “Why are you in the box, Mr. Man?” Again, Ricky felt he was ignored. He sunk into the beige seat. Ricky was bearing some intense lower lip action – a sure sign of a serious pout. {He won’t even listen to me}. It made him genuinely sad. But then that offense was forgotten as something else in the car caught his attention. {Stick}.

That is to say, {gearstick}. He was fascinated by this strange device jutting up from near the cup holders. {Experiment}, he thought dangerously, {pul}l. Ricky reached his hand toward the gearstick, grasped it, and with all his might, he pulled back. So magnificent was this effort, that when the stick locked into {reverse} he catapulted back a wee bit due to inertia. The car lurched. Ricky quickly scrambled back up and quirked his head, vexed by what caused the car to move like that. The minivan slowly teetered back, but little by little gained speed. That is until it reached the tipping point.

At that single instant, the speed increased exponentially as the minivan gained enough momentum to catapult itself at forty miles an hour down the steep driveway. Ricky was stunned.

Back in the house, the search for the camera continued. Will suddenly heard a faint noise. At first he passed it off as nothing. However, the more he thought of it (and he was thinking awfully quickly), the more concerned he became. He had an inexplicable gut feeling that something was not right, until he finally rallied the inspiration to inquire, “What was that?”

“What?” Missy asked.

“I think I heard something.” Will then cautiously walked over to the window, cracked the blinds, and peered out. That’s when he saw the minivan shooting down the driveway. Will stood agape, then he regained his senses. He ran out the front door and watched in sheer horror as the colossal construct continued to gain momentum. His wife and daughter had followed him and now saw what the problem was.
Inside of the car, Ricky was having the time of his life watching trees and road flash by at what seemed to be a million miles an hour. He noticed how the colors just seemed to melt together in a beautiful amalgamation of vivid iridescence. Fun.

The car was whooshing down the road and Will’s heart sank as he saw the minivan approaching a pothole at the end of the driveway. Missy was screaming her face crimson, demanding that Will do something. There was nothing to be done.

Ricky was grinning. That is, until the car hit the pothole. The back left tire fell deep into it and the minivan was in for a wild(er) ride. The minivan struck the pothole and flipped. While rotating, it landed upside-down on its side as sparks, gravel, and chips of green paint dispersed into the air. There was a perturbing screech as metal fought against gravel. Ricky, inside, was being jostled about in a most uncomfortable manner. Banging into seats and the ceiling of the minivan, he was lucky enough to not have slammed into any windows. As the car barreled down the rest of the driveway, the glass began to split and crack. The noise was lethal. But before it managed to do that, it had reached the street, bounced on its roof, and propelled itself into the green of the neighbor’s nice, soft, and safe shrubbery, landing near perfectly on its four wheels.

Luckily, the neighbors weren’t home.

Will and Missy sprinted down the hill, or at least as close as you could get to sprinting down a hill without tripping and falling, leaving Sarah standing awkwardly alone at the top of the driveway. Missy stumbled a bit; managed to catch her balance. Tears streaming down her face, she ripped open the minivan’s side slide door and grabbed the dazed Ricky, holding him tight to her chest. She thought she heard him mumble something about a voice, but couldn’t be sure.

About a week later, when left in the company of Bethany and Rick, they considered taking him to the doctor. This thought struck them when Little Ricky had tripped and fallen. Rick had leaned down to help pick him up. He did so by the arms, to which Little Ricky screamed.

And so he began his merry trek to the Doc’s Office in the cheerful company of Bethany and Rick. They were worried sick.

“Quite a tale, quite a tale. Just more evidence that goes to show what you don’t know {can} kill you,” I commented, feeling slightly embarrassed at implementing that hackneyed modification of the old cliché. Bethany and Rick nodded in accordance.

Bethany leaned in close to me and asked in a whisper, “Say, who’s that over there?” as she subtly extended her finger in the mop-headed girl’s general direction. “She’s looking lonely,” she added.

"You don’t think we should leave her be? She looks content the way she is,” I replied.


“Oh just take a look at that, will yeah? She’s moping about, head down. Awfully sad looking if you ask me. Hell, this whole room is sad. The least we could do is ask her if she would like to come sit with us.” I saw that Bethany did have a point, however, I still felt like I violating some sort of personal privacy of the recluse girl.

“Beth, she wants to be left alone,” was all I could manage to say.

“Who’s to say she does. I’ve known plenty of people who just sat in corners, who were really dying for someone to acknowledge them. But if you insist, we do not have to do anything this instant.”

What would have happened next, myself resigning to Beth’s indomitable will, brooding silently to myself, I could not know, because at that point in time a loud, rather egregious fellow cavorted his jolly way right into the office, feigning politeness with the removal of his fedora. He was exhibiting some studly shoes. He had slapped on some generic brown slacks (complete with suspenders) and white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway up his bicep, probably to show off. He wore a black leather tie with some pink flamingo zest running down it. It took me a moment to notice that both the top of his shirt and his fedora were wet. Funny, as I hadn’t noticed it was raining outside.

I glanced outside for a just a jiff and I swear, it looked like Katrina all over again. Rain was violently pelting the ground, creating mud and murk out of formerly good soil. The wind was tearing at trees, trying to pull them screaming from their roots, throwing everything it could (including news papers and other random assortments of commonly occurring street items) at them. Now that I noticed all this, the sound was deafening. Had this just started? I was dry, I know that. I figured I’d ask the guy when he sat down.

The new arrival egotistically strutted up to the Receptionist, though he looked like he was slightly favoring his right side, and rested his elbows on the counter, his head in his palms. It all looked to me like some sort of pseudo-masculine swoon, perhaps a bizarre mating ritual. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think it would turn me on. Ah but he did seem the gregarious sort, didn’t he? He certainly showed confidence in the way he swaggered. That cool-cat walk of his. Make a grand entrance into a dive bar. I got this feeling he had a lot of experience with those.

He leaned in close as you please – a little too close for comfort if you ask me – and said smoothly, if not slightly eerily, “Hey. The names Gill. Spelled like the –” he cut himself off to make gill-like gestures on his neck with his hands, “I had an appointment for 11:00 a.m. with Dr. Tlihg. Have a lump, see.” He gestured to a spot right behind his ear.

The Receptionist gave a neat flutter of her eyelashes and replied, “Dr. Tlihg is out on some personal business at the moment. But you are welcome to remain in the waiting room until he returns. I don’t believe it should be too much longer.”

“The Doctor is out on person business?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” she mocked sweetly.

“Whoa-no-no-no. Let me get this straight. You are implying the Doctor is out? As in, not in this building? Not anywhere I can meet with him, even though I have scheduled an {appointment}?” His face reddened and all that semblance of suave ways instantly vaporized.

“I am not implying. I am stating directly. If you have an issue, you may call the Doctor at this number,” the Receptionist sloppily scribbled a number down on a vibrant blue sticky note and thrust it at Gill.

“When should he get back to me?”

“He checks his work-related messages when he gets back into his office.”

I swear I could see steam leaking out of his ears. His teeth grated together. Hands clenched and tightened; that can’t be comfortable. He looked like a beet and while I pitied his situation, I couldn’t help but snort back a snicker. I looked around and felt a little awkward that I was the only one who was paying attention to the exchange. That girl was still absorbed in her book and the old folks were flirting with each other, Little Ricky in the middle. Poor kid.

Maybe eavesdropping is wrong, but hey, everyone’s doing it. It has been around for ages and it’s still in style. Or, maybe it never was in style. One of those two. Anyway, I couldn’t help it in this case. Gill looked like he was about to cause a real ruckus, who wouldn’t want to bear witness to that? And maybe he would have, too.

However, just before Gill was about to explode, I heard the door slam open with an excruciatingly loud {Ka-Thud}! The door swung into the doorstop and stayed open. {Nice dramatic flair}, I thought to myself. For such a dramatic display, whatever caused the door to fling open was certainly taking it’s time to flutter in. My heart fluttered with anticipation. That’s when I noticed the shadow.

It was hard to really make out. For me at least. At the time I felt over-stimulated and as a result I was not as perceptive as I would otherwise have been. It looked vaguely like an insect. I could make out what appeared to be two antennae, a mildly rotund exterior, and two legs. Or at least what I hoped to be legs.

Gill shifted to his right to get a better view of what was outside the door. He gave a start when the most bizarre human seen in my life (or probably ever will) sprinted into the waiting room and then came to a sudden stop right in front of Gill. Perhaps his most striking feature was his helmet. It consisted of a crudely designed handmade bowl made out of some mysterious metal, copper probably. He had attached brown leather chinstraps to the sides to help it stay secure on his head. The funny man had also equipped his bowl with two antennae which seemed to be made out of generic skewers wrapped in state-of-the-art tin foil. It was all very reminiscent of a classical valkyrie. I imagined him skinny under the trash bag he was wearing like a poncho to keep dry. Under the trash bag, I could see he was wearing multiple shirts, though this didn’t come as a shock to me because it hardly stood out against the rest of his ghastly get-up. In place of shoes he had layers of dirt and grime caked on his feet.

He grabbed Gill’s shirt near the clavicle and informatively warned in Gill’s face, “They’re out there! They’re coming!” as drops of spittle rained down on poor Gill.

“What? Who’s coming?” Gill replied, fearing for his own safety.

The man turned and ran back to the door slamming it shut, “The people in power, man! The men in black; lack, tack, pack, oh Zach, would you like a snack?” Gill stood there as stunned as could be, his lips tried to formulate some sort of coherent statement, but failed each and every time. Finally, the man continued his deranged display, “You, what’s your name?”

For a moment there was an empty silence, then Gill began to studder, “Guh…Gi…”

“Giggity? Or was that Gullible. Gull, gull…Seagull!” Gill was so befuddled that he could not respond, and so the man continued, “No? Gulliver? Yes! I know you, Gulliver! I know all about you and your travels! Say, how was Glubbdubdrib?”

Gill clearly had no idea what this man was talking about, but he played along anyway, albeit, rather unconvincingly, “It was fine. Cool – remote.”

“It’s ok, you can talk to me. You’re in the clear. I read your book. You’re not a government agent. At least, I don’t think you are, are you?”

“No. No no no.”

“How about the rest of the folks in here,” he gestured to us, “Can they be trusted?”

“Oh yes,” Gill nodded. He hadn’t been long around us, but at least he knew what to say. I certainly know I wasn’t a government agent, and I highly doubt anyone else here was either. Although I couldn’t say that for a fact.

“Good, good,” the man said, “I think it would be a good idea to take these extra chairs and barricade the hugglemutt.”

“The what?”

“The hugglemutt,” he reiterated, gesturing towards the door.

“Oh…right,” Gill then turned to address the rest of us for the first time, “Well, you heard him, lads. We’re barricading the hugglemutt.” Gill revealed a grin and beckoned us to come. I had the feeling these guys might become fast friends, or as friendly as you could be with an apparent paranoid schizophrenic.

I was the first one to get up. I took the seat next to mine that provided the buffer between Beth and I and walked towards the door, nearby Gill and the schizophrenic.

As I was approaching the area, the schizophrenic said, “Whoa whoa, hold your horses buddy. Not so fast with that thing, alright? Go on, nice and easy now. No sudden movements, you’re still a person of suspect.” That hurt me, to know that he didn’t trust me. I look back on this now and I think of how silly it was. I mean, he’s a paranoid schizophrenic; he doesn’t have any sort of grip on reality. Yet to hear him say that hurt. It still hurts. It’s ridiculous, but it’s true.

Anyway, I lodged the back of the chair up under the doorknob. The other members of the waiting room, save for the Receptionist and the recluse one, also took chairs from the room to help barricade. The schizophrenic shot suspicious glares towards the Receptionist and the recluse girl; at least I wasn’t the only person of suspect.

“You know, I like you guys. Except for those two,” said the schizophrenic; his eyes split off from each other to glare at the two. He continued, “You fine fellows may call me Charles. That’s not my real name, but I like it. Charles, Charlie, Charfle, Charcoal, Chard, but not Charlatan. That wouldn’t make sense, now would it?”

Gill extended his hand, “Gill.” Charles left Gill’s hand awkwardly floating in the air until it finally retired. Charles certainly wasn’t shy about adjusting the waiting room to meet his own needs. He lithely moved about the edges of the room shutting the dull ochre curtains as a safety precaution against one of his imaginary foes. Gill shot the Receptionist a look and said, “I guess I’ll wait.”

“Very well,” she replied with her usual iciness.

“By the way…” Gill started before he was cut off.

“What,” the Receptionist interjected. Her tone was not that of a question but more as a declarative of her hostility.

“Does the Receptionist have a name?” Gill asked her.

“Ida Amical. Says so on the name tag. Now that you’re satisfied, take a seat {sir}.” The {sir} she added grudgingly in a lovely display of mock respect.

Gill chuckled and grinned, “Sure thing sweet cheeks.” He did his little pseudo-masculine strut all the way to his seat, approximately ten feet away from mine. As he sat he let out a deep long sigh whilst kicking one leg up on top the other to cross them. His studly shoes twitched to the tune he was humming to himself.

“Hmmm, hm, hmm, hm, hmm, hm, hm,” Gill hummed. No one was quite sure what he was humming, yet we all listened intently. Gill caught us all staring at him and immediately stopped humming and blushed. I thought I heard him mutter some apology but I couldn’t be sure.

There was silence after. I’m not certain as to how long it lasted either. All I can say about it is that it weighed heavy on my chest and I assume that of everyone else’s. Like an anvil on one’s chest. The silence lasted too long – painfully long, to tell the truth. My eyes darted around the room. Occasionally, I’d lock gazes with Bethany or Gill, then sheepishly look away, usually to my shoes. {How embarrassing}, I thought as I noticed they weren’t nearly as grand or stunning as Gill’s.

Finally, Bethany chimed in and revived the tune, “Hmmm, hm, hmm, hm, hmm, hm, hm,” then she felt so bold as to even throw in her own spin, “hm, hmmm, hm, hmm, hm, hm, hmmm, hm, hm, hm, hm, hm, hm.” Soon enough, sure as sunrise, she had got us all into humming this completely and totally arbitrary tune. And, by some miracle, we were all in perfect harmony. The only person to not join in was Ida and the recluse girl, surprise surprise. Even Little Ricky was doing his best to follow along.

“Hmmm, hm, hmm, hm, hmm, hm, hm,” we hummers hummed together. We reached the end of what we had remembered as part of the tune and each person went off in there own direction, which ended as a complete and utter train wreck. But as that train wrecked, we all burst out into simultaneous laughter. Gill especially, as I noted the rogue spittle that zeroed in on my right eye. I took my hand to wipe my eye and noticed there was just a little more life in the way the muscles contracted and rippled. Was I enjoying myself? I think that’s what it was. It’s funny, all in a waiting room too. {Shee-ut}…

The laughter faded around us and we all looked at each other fondly. The room was silent again until I, finally feeling like I was part of something, said, “hmm,” and we all burst out laughing again. The schizo especially, hell, it even looked as though his garbage bag was laughing.

That’s when the lady came in. Boy was she was a blub of a woman. Pasty to boot. Like one of those ladies you’d see prancing around in there bathrobes and curlers, shrieking about their face cream melting. She looked ancient, but it was easy to tell that she wasn’t even as old as Bethany. Light blond wispy hair, like fragile straw – so brittle that it would completely shatter at the faintest touch.

Her obviously whipped and obedient husband trailed behind her like a kid on a child-leash. Or maybe it was more like a puppy. The distinction isn’t all that clear-cut.

“Go ahead and sit Ge-orge,” she told her husband with a distinctive southern drawl through her rotting yellow teeth. Her teeth certainly were interesting, but by no means attractive. Each tooth was its own brilliant shade of yellow. One was off-white, the next could be dubbed, “canary.” Banana, butternut squash, corn, all those colors were in there. Even a real corn kernel, too. It was wedged right in between her canine and the first incisor tooth of her jaw. Oh mama, was I getting turned on, or what? No no no. See, that was sarcasm.

She awkwardly teeter-tottered on her massive thighs over to Ida and said, “I’m here for my blood test.” Her thighs were still jiggling even though the lady was stationary. Ida’s eyes widened horrifically. All today, people came in to see the doctor, but this was a job Ida was actually trained to handle. That meant she might actually have to work this day. But she never lost hope. A standard medical question might still have saved her and she knew it. I could have sworn there was a grin, but you can never be sure with Ida – her face was stone.

Ida said coolly, “Alright. Have you had anything to eat or drink today other than water?”

“Well, I did have some coffee.”

“Was it just black coffee?”

“No. It had a little cream in it.”

“I’m sorry. But we can’t give you the blood test. You were supposed to fast.”

“But I did!”

“You had coffee with cream, which would affect the test results. Black coffee is all that is accepted.”

“But…But it was just a little bit!” The {lady} was clearly agitated. She might have to fast again. And that looked like it might be difficult for her. But, then I’m not one to judge.

“I’m sorry, but we cannot perform the test.”

“Just a little bit…” she reiterated meekly.

“Would you like to reschedule the appointment?”

“Oh…Well, I’ll talk it over with George.”

The lady turned away from the receptionist and marched back toward her husband. As she was in motion, her face, arms, and hands took on a life of their own. Her face pinched up tightly, her nose wrinkled, her forehead would have followed suit, however, it was already sagging too much. He arms pumped about angrily in front of her as her smeared lipstick covered lips mouthed some obscenities to herself. At least, I think they were. I was never good at reading lips.

That was a monumental moment. I saw this display from the {lady} and glanced at the recluse girl to see if she was paying any attention to this. She had glanced up, too. We locked eyes for a moment and in tandem we quirked our eyebrows at this absurd display. We then went back about our business; her reading and my observing.

She plopped that tuckuss of hers right onto one of those uncomfortable chairs. She sat next to her husband who was significantly thinner in his khaki pants and red tartanned shirt.

She leaned as far over to her husband as the constricting (for her) chair would allow, and (tried to) whispered, “George, Mikey says he never got his money.”

“I put it in the paper bag for him.”

“He says he never got it.”

“Well I put it on the paper bag right on the counter. All two-hundred and seven dollars of it.”

“You put it where???”

“On the counter. Wha – is that bad?”

“Oh no, you couldn’t have done that!”

“What going on?”

“Mikey thought it was trash. He threw out the money!”

“Oh….”

“Don’t you ‘oh’ me. Mikey needed that money!”

“What for?”

“Who knows? College, textbooks, loans, rent? Could be any of those things. He never specified.”

“Well Marge…”

“No. I won’t hear it. Won’t stand for it.”

Again, the woman started muttering obscenities to herself. It was really quite amusing, looking back on it. Although I do feel bad about the loss of two-hundred seven dollars. I feel a gut-wrenching sickness when I think of a monetary loss for anyone. I wasn’t sure if the lady ever realized all the attention she was drawing to herself.

“Marge, maybe we should talk about this at home.”

“Maybe we should. Let’s go.” I felt bad for George. He must have obviously settled, and then promptly convinced himself he got lucky, as a coping mechanism. Marge had this attitude about her, and the way she was so controlling and dominating her husband. Like her husband and small household things are the only thing she had control over, because she clearly wasn’t competent enough to handle or control anything else.

I can’t say I was exactly sad to see them go, though. They did make me a little uncomfortable. But again, I felt pity for that poor poor husband who was marched right out of there like he was some sort of old and faithful dog. The sound of the roaring gale grew dull once again as the door slammed shut.

Inconceivably, almost as if cued by the shutting of the door, the recluse girl burst out into a rollicking fit of laughter. Bethany and I smiled. It was a happy smile like one might wear if they saw their brood heading off to college or nursed a bird back to health and watched it fly away.

And as quickly as it had come, the laughter died away. The recluse girl coughed and cleared her throat. She then shook, slick with grease, matted, and gnarly hair like a dog drying off and virtually face planted back into her book. I began to wonder what the book was. I hoped it was good. No one wants to be stuck in a waiting room awkwardly reading a bad book. It was a hardcover book, so she obviously took her novels seriously, or at least was trying to stay up-to-date on a series and that happened to be the latest installment. I squinted at the pages whilst reminding myself that it might be a good idea to get new contacts some time soon, like I told myself every time I needed to see something. The pages were my favorite; they were sporting the uneven ruffled edges that somehow made the book look old and vintage.

Bethany finally found her right-proper swaggering personality designed to kick off a conversation and spoke out to our new friend Gill, “So what brings you here to our lovely little tribe?”

“Ah well. It’s a tid bit of an embarrassing story, really…”

“Do tell, do tell,” chirped Bethany, clearly amused, “I just love an embarrassing story.”

“As do I,” grunted Rick while adjusting his trousers. I, myself, quirked an amused eyebrow at Gill, trying to provoke a response.

“We’re all f-fr-friends here, ri-right? Right? No need to get ancy about just tuh-telling a story. You got nothin’ to hide. At least I do-don’t think s-so…Right?” stammered Charles quizzically.

“Well I guess I am compelled to humor you all.” Gill admitted.

“Rightly so,” Bethany agreed. The rest of us nodded in agreement like sycophants. The recluse girl adjusted her position in her seat so she could hear better, though it was probably too subtle for most to notice.

“Well, well. Where to start? Hrmph!” He paused for a moment to consider his next words, “So there I was, in the bar, drunk…”

It was eleven o’ clock when Gill floundered through the swinging old-style wood doors of the taproom with a loud {kathunk}. He waltzed his way through the teeming crowd with a girl in each arm. In his left arm, he held, as she liked to be called, the Lovely Lover Loretta. She was plastered with makeup; a true cake-face. Bleeding red lips, large blue stains where her eyes ought to be. It was as though someone took a fistful of blueberries in each hand and mashed them in the middle of her head. Her masquera was running too. She probably spilled booze on herself while downing shots like a genuine sailor. It made her look like she had been crying, and, to tell the truth, most normal people would if they had been that boozed up. Loretta had long blonde hair – for the most part. The back of her head revealed a large portion that had just been awkwardly clipped off. Its fate remains a mystery.

In Gill’s right arm, he held the ever so risqué and recherché redhead Rachel. She was exhibiting light, probably blue, greatly dilated eyes. It was ambiguous as to whether or not you could even call what she was wearing {clothes}. Both Loretta and Rachel were glommed onto Gill like crazed Twilight fans to Taylor Lautner.

“Alright, lovelies, why don’t you say we hit the bar? Drinks on me, as per usual, ja?” Gill drunkenly inquired.

“Oh, drinks on you, eh?” Rachel asked through a fit of giggles. “Why not? I’m sure Loretta would be more’n willing to catch a few drinks, if you’re feeling my drift.” Loretta exhaustedly tittered, signaling her agreement – at least that was how it was interpreted. So the trio clumsily sashayed their way to the barstools. Luckily, there were three seats all next to each other. Gill had to guide Loretta to her seat to ensure she did not hurt herself on the way. Rachel was still functioning well enough that she could ease herself into the stool without assistance. Gill sat in between the two feeling quite cozy. He was the least inebriated. Over the course of his college years he had developed quite a tolerance for alcohol.

“Bartender, a round of Guinness hither, please.” The bartender nodded his understanding.

“{Hither}? Really?” Rachel sneered.

“But of course. I’ve always been a bit of a renaissance man,” Gill countered.

“Yeah, a real Jack of all trades!”

“Ace.”

“I wasn’t making the card analogy.” Rachel grinned at her own cleverness.

Gill purred to himself, “Oh, well aren’t you a naughty one?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Rachel then lowered her voice, “But when it comes to Loretta, you don’t know the half of it.”

Gill gleefully quirked an eyebrow. It looked as though he was about to say something, but was interrupted by three glasses of Guinness hastily sliding down the counter.

Gill announced this to his comrades by shouting, “My goodness! My Guinness!” He grabbed his Guinness sliding down to him and immediately stood up and out of his stool. He spun around for a second; by some miracle he was still retaining his balance. He climbed onto his barstool, standing up on it, he shouted to the rest of the bar, “Alright lads! What do you do when you’re drunk?” No one paid any attention to him. He recognized this and died a little inside. He asked again, “Hey! I’m talking here! I says, what do you do when you’re drunk?” Gill then took a large swig of his Guinness.

Loretta was the only one to speak out, “Drink more!” She almost laughed her way out of her seat. The bartender began his slow dread walk over to where Gill, Loretta, and Rachel were seated. With each heavy step he took the taproom seemed to shake and rattle. The walls slowly closed in, as though they were trying to squeeze the fun and life out of the room. Loretta saw everything turning blue of hypoxia.

“Sir, exactly how inebriated do you think you are?” asked the bartender. Gill was more just being himself than anything else. He had consumed more than a couple pints that night, but he was extremely tolerant of alcohol and was less inebriated than he let on. Gill elected to have a little fun with this bartender.

“Bro, I’m as sober as a donkey,” Gill falsely hiccupped.

“Right… Lookie here pal. You’re a li-a-bility to this establishment. Need me to spell it out for you?”

“No sir. I can spell just fine. L-I-E-A-H-B-I-L-L-I-T.”

“Wrong. Now if you don’t sober up or simmer down, I’m going to have to call the bouncer. See that large, husky fellow over there? Yeah, that’s the bouncer. I don’t think you want to p*** {him} off.”

“I’ll let it simmer.”

“You do that.” The bartender walked back to his alcohol dispensers and resumed his job of pouring drinks. However, he continued to keep a careful eye on Gill and the gang. Gill sat up and cajoled the Lovely Lover Loretta and the risqué and recherché Rachel into stepping up out of their stools.

“You know what’d be fun, lovelies?” Gill asked.

“Was that a rhetorical question?” asked Rachel. Gill waved off the question.

“What’d be fun?” Loretta asked in a squeaky sort of way. She then giggled. Gill knew she had one too many glasses. He was certainly not disappointed by that.

“Dance a jig, perhaps? It’d be a work out,” he winked.

“Oh Gill, there are other ways to get exercise without embarrassing ourselves,” Rachel said softly.

“Oh, such as?”

“Well, jogging, biking, swimming, and unicycling, to name a few.”

Gill was nodding his agreement when Loretta chimed in through a cracking voice, “Well I, for one,” she paused and regained her footing, “would love to jig about.” Loretta began a pitiful attempt to maneuver her feet in whatever her view of jig-like was, and was rewarded with a test of gravity. This stumble led her to wave her arms in the air like a hooligan as the Earth’s gravity yanked her off her feet and she came crashing down. The reverberations knocked down and spilled the rest of Gill’s Guinness. {That was strong. Either this building is very fragile, or she is just very dense}, thought Gill. Loretta’s drunken laughter spluttered through her lips along with particles of spittle and booze.

The bartender came marching over, “Alright, alright. That’s enough of that now!” He glared scornfully at Gill, and then shouted across the room, “Bouncer! Get him and his companions, out of my taproom!”

“My pleasure,” said the big Bouncer, happy to be doing his job. He practically glided over to where Gill, Loretta (still lying on the ground), and Rachel were glassily staring at him. He said to Gill, “Alright, come on big guy. Let’s get you out of here.”

“What if I don’t wanna?” Gill indignantly countered.

“Well that don’t matter, ‘cause you’re gonna have to.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Rachel contributed, “Look, Gil, maybe we should just do what he says. I mean, this seems to be the sort of situation that could turn south real quick.”

Gill retorted, “Well hold on a ‘sec. I came here to have a good time. And I intend to do just that.”

“In that case, I just may have to forcibly remove you.” The bouncer began to crack his knuckles in a rather threatening manner. It was more of a gesture to reassure himself rather than to intimidate Gill.

“Yes, you may have to do just that,” Gill responded eerily. He had a certain primitive glint in his eye, which seemed to suggest he was getting in the mood for a fight. His facial features deadened and all jollier self was but a ghost. His hands began twitching and his feet were starting to move, getting a little restless.

“Forcibly removed it is,” the bouncer said in an almost lighthearted voice; something in his tone, though, seemed to suggest he knew that this would be the outcome all along. The bouncer began to walk towards Gill and Gill started to move back, keeping his distance.

Gill was never a man to be pushed back too much. He was dominate, authoritarian, and proud of it. It was only so far until the bouncer pushed Gill back to the point where Gill refused to be pushed. In a fit of drunken rage, Gill raised one dark-blue clad leg folded in front of him. Then, he lashed his foot out in an attempt to hit the bouncer squarely in the chest, and plop him right on the ground. However, the bouncer had had experience with this before and simply side stepped to the right, out of the way, while he raised his left elbow and brought it crashing down on Gill’s extended leg.

Gill neither said nor wore anything but a pained expression. He dropped his guard and hobbled over on one leg to Loretta and Rachel.

The bouncer understood that Gill was abandoning the fight as Gill said to Loretta and Rachel, “That’s going to leave a mark.” Then he clicked his tongue twice in quick succession. He was in a lot more pain than he let on. He wrapped his right arm around Rachel, his left around Loretta to use them as crutches. Together the proudly drunk trio stumbled out of the taproom and into the cold grey night, with nothing but liquor to warm their bellies.

The next morning, Gill woke up Rachel with a flurry of colorful language as he realized the extent of his injury. And so Gill began his perilous trek to the Doctor’s office.

The quiet only hung in the waiting room for a brief moment before Charles burst out in a fit of grand applause. He praised Gill, “Well done well done, exceedingly well done. Oh boy, but that was fun. Especially that part about how you won—”

Bethany leaned in and whispered to me, “What does he mean, ‘won’?”

“I do believe he means scored,” I replied.

Her forehead scrunched with understanding, “Make-o, sense-o. Man, you kids have all sorts of bizarre terms these days."

We continued to listen to Charlie’s cheeky commentary, “I did indeed enjoy this a ton, I swear to it under each and every sun, oh yes I do. I wouldn’t suppose now is the time to make a pun?”

“I’d rather of that you did none,” Gill replied with a grin, clearly pleased with himself.

The recluse girl just quirked an eyebrow at the whole thing, and it seemed, to me at least, that she was opening up a bit, adventuring outside her protective jumble of dark hair. That was a good improvement, maybe at one point she might even talk. {Wouldn’t that be a trip}, I thought. I kept telling myself that I would have to give her time before she would speak and talk, but part of me was getting ridiculously impatient.

Luckily, Charles began to distract us all again. He craftily cavorted toward Bethany. He took one of the chairs out of the perfect row and placed it in front of another chair. He plopped himself down in the uncomfortable maroon leather seat and kicked his legs out ahead of him. He began to mutter odd phrases to himself – I was not able to understand and question whether they were even in English or not. It was too quiet to tell.

That’s when the lights shot out. The absence of light left us in a void as dark as oblivion. All spatial awareness was snuffed out of the room at the speed of light, and I began to feel more than a little dizzy. I heard Ida gasp from her desk like she had just seen a ghost; I never heard her exhale. {She must be very blue}, I thought to myself, {blueberry-like}. Another noise to penetrate the depths of my ears was this quirky little yelp coming from across the room. It was one of those noises something like a chihuahua would make when one accidentally steps on it. I suspected the recluse was the one guilty of making such noise. I believe Bethany was the one who just took in one deep breath, then let it out. {How very zen}. The politely elder Rick and the infant-toddler cusp Ricky both seemed to be caught in a vast state of apathy. Richard, to me, was just one of those stereotypical I-don’t-give-a-damn old people, whereas Ricky was probably snoring away anyway, to which he wouldn’t care one way or the other that it was dark. Gill was fumbling for something in his pockets, as to what it was, I could not tell at the time. Charles, however, was afflicted by a heightened state of paranoia.

“Oh man – this is not good. Not good. They’re preparing their assault. Are the doors still barricaded?”

“I would think so; I do not believe anyone has moved them. But it’s not like we can just glance over and see the chairs now is it?” Gill responded.

“Are you getting snippy? There’s no time for that. The G-O-V-T used to do this back in ‘nam, man. They were trying to blind the people to the atrocity.” The last word was extended into three arbitrary syllables. “Man, we ought to prepare ourselves, no telling what might come from behind that door.”

“All your psycho paranoia hullaballoo is getting a little ridiculous. We all need to just relax. Geez.” Gill fumbled in his pocket for a moment and removed something – I could only see the outline. It was about three inches long and shy of an inch wide. Then, I could hear the scuffling as he reached into his breast pocket and produced the unmistakable shadow of a cigarette. With the slow pleasured expression of a person who had obviously been doing this for too long, he brought the cigarette up to his lips. Next he brought up the curious outline, now apparent that it was a lighter, and grimaced as he attempted to flick on the fire. It didn’t catch. Gill gave a loud {hrmph} and stubbornly persisted in his endeavor. He winced as he snapped the lighter again. Mission success. He lit the cigarette hanging out of his mouth, sucked in a huge breath, his eyes turned red and watery, and he spat the air out.

Ida was the first to raise an objection (maintaining her pseudopolite attitude), “Sir, this room has a {no smoking} policy. If you could kindly stop smoking in here, do so now.”

“I don’t {see} a sign,” Gill responded asininely, “Besides; I was just using it as a flashlight.” He quirked his eyebrow and his mouth twisted into a rather smug expression.

“Well there {is} indeed a sign. Whether or not you can see it is another matter entirely.”

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”

“Wha–?”

“Exactly.”

Ida just stood there dumbfounded, thus compelling Bethany to take a stand, “I know it’s in your nature, Gill, to push limits a bit. We all recognize it; no need to prove it. And perhaps any other day it’d be okay to push this one. However, there’s basically an infant in here, and I’d prefer if he was not exposed to any smoke.”

Maybe Gill had a soft spot in him after all because by some miracle he managed to lift up his studly shoes and put out his cig; though none of this was done exactly enthusiastically. “Happy now?” Gill asked, face forlorn with the abandonment of his lonely cigarette.

I sensed that the room was in need of a mood shift – and fast – so I decided I should chime in, “Ida, since we haven’t heard too much from you, other than your unorthodox doctor-patient manners, why don’t you tell us how you got here?”

“No,” she said, flat-out.

“What a team player. Friendly to boot. Enjoy your isolation here, in the dark, no one to talk to, in the dark, no one to hassle in the dark. In the dark, in the dark, in the dark,” I said, and I really did feel quite bad about it. I knew she was afraid of the dark from the yelp of hers when the lights shut off. Maybe it was a little mean to open up that wound, but for some inexplicable reason I wanted to know why such a {selfish} b**** like her would go into a public position like this. I was overwhelmed by curiosity, stormed, besieged, by a need to satisfy the curiosity, like a frat boy needs—well never mind that. So yes, I did provoke her, and it wasn’t nice, but hey, at least I feel real bad about it and according to the Pope, a little guilt is all you need to make things right.

“Alright then, you want me to spin you some sort of fantastic yarn pertaining to why I’m here? I’ve never been so flattered and insulted simultaneously in my life. And with that I’m afraid I’m going to have to take my leave. After all, you did just create a hostile working environment. So my leaving is excusable.” And with a brief hand flutter she said her closing words, or rather, letters, “T-T-F-N.” She wandered through the dark; we could all hear her thrusting her arms out, clambering against the surface of the counter and other such objects to find her way out, then, believing she had found her way, began to move a little more quickly (albeit, less carefully) through the room and smacked right into the door with a hearty {ka-thud}. I was surprised to find no one laughed, though I assumed we were all cracking up on the inside. I can only imagine her face as the whack had completely cramped her style, but she seemed to regain composure readily enough, and as she opened the door a beam of that lively light danced its way through the door. And she strutted out, red nosed (inflamed) and all.

“Well I’ll be; but that was anticlimactic,” Gill commented wryly. His mouth twitched. “She wasn’t a bad looker too. Shame.”

Electing to be a bit more social, I decided to chime in, “Well hey, at least there’s me.” All he did was quirk an eyebrow. I inwardly chuckled at the way his forehead scrunched when he got that quizzical expression; it was almost like a raisin. Gill had been standing up for a while and thought it might be best to cop a squat right next to his newly established psycho-pal, Charles.

I think I could hear them whispering to each other so I attempted to discreetly listen in, to little effect. However, I did manage to catch a couple of key phrases. Gill was asking something about how the schizo got here and Charles seemed to be answering. Gill seemed to be making some sort of ridiculous display as to how he couldn’t really hear Charles. At first I thought he was just mocking the poor loon, but Charlie’s voice grew louder due to Gill’s charades, up until the point we could all hear him. I caught a wink, shot one back and flashed a thumbs up. And for that ancillary donation to the Gill ego, this is the tale we received.

“Come back and see me on the 30th,” the Doctor Tlihg said, “we’ll see if surgery can help you any.” One of his nurses whispered something to him real quick. The good Doc’s expression grew slightly more crestfallen, “Or, alternatively, we could assign a different medication. Sometimes that works too.” Doctor Tlihg was the archetypical scalpel enthusiast. He was a firm believer that even the most innocuous of problems could and should be fixed by an incision here and a snip there; sew up and the person is as good as new. He had to be constantly reminded by his nursing staff that sometimes drugs were the answer, not surgery.

“O-okay,” Charles agreed with a sycophantic head nod and an almost but not quite blank expression. Charles exited the building while pulling on his trash bag poncho and donning his anti-brainwashing cap to create an image of something vaguely reminiscent of a fly. {Here I am. The danger zone. Someone should put up some orange traffic cones}. And so there he was, standing in the wide open world filled of wonder {it’s all a hoax}, cookies {topped off with arsenic}, cellular devices {for brainwashing}, people {experiments of a grand scale}, and paranoid schizophrenics {we prefer the term “enlightened”}.

Homeward bound, Charles set forth at a brisk pace. At first he was feeling comfortable, knowing he was protected with his ultra-snazzy hat. He continued strolling right along, taking occasional pause to mutter to himself. {Damn. Damn damn damn. All wrong it’s just all wrong}. He continued both his gait and his muttering with much content for the next couple of blocks. {Whoop—that was a close one. Almost stepped on a crack there. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. I wonder how they get ‘em}.

Charles kept up his walking; carefully treading so as not to break his poor mother’s back. Behind him there was a quiet scurry, almost imperceptible, however the ever alert Charles managed to hear it. {What was that}? Charles got the sweats, perspiring like he was one of those neat cherub fountains. He began breathing more heavily to somewhat resemble man’s best friend. The breeze accelerated a bit causing a couple of leaves to scrape the grey cement.

“Who’s there?” Charles interrogated. No one but the breeze heard him. Almost as if in response, it kicked up again, but Charles only took this as more skittering about.

Soon, his careful treading left him and he began a sprint – or at least a heavy run. To him everything was a blur and the only thing Charles was aware of was the distant skittering and the thunderous plopping of his feet against sturdy cement. Before he knew it, he was approaching a front yard in the middle of rundown suburbia. However, this front yard was not foreign to him. He dashed onto the familiar steps and yanked open the white rickety screen door.

“Anyone?” he called out when he entered the house. There was no reply. {They got here. They got them. Where am I to go}? Charles raced about the house looking for some sign. On the counter in the kitchen the rice cooker was on. It was still on cooking mode indicating it had been turned on recently. {I’m too late. Oh if I had just gone a little bit faster}. He ran out of the kitchen and rounded the right corner leading down a hall with a couple rooms, but seemed to stretch out forever in Charlie’s eyes. He whimpered. He thought he saw a familiar room – his room. He darted inside like an adrenaline-hyped cheetah, turned around and slammed the door shut behind him, locking it. Shaking with fright, Charles ransacked his closet, and out came a sleeping bag. There was a perfectly good bed within ten feet of him, however, there was always that chance it was a trap. Charles laid out the sleeping bag and buried himself inside of it.

Soon, there was a knock on his door, “Charlie? Is that you?” Charlie scuffled and twitched in his sleeping bag, sucked in panicked breaths and subconsciously hoped he wouldn’t hyperventilate – a vain endeavor.

She must have heard him, for she continued talking, “Charles, you know you’re not supposed to lock the door. Please come out.”

“No. They’re going to get me like they got you.”

“No one got me.”

“Then why weren’t you home?”

“I was in the backyard, gardening while waiting for the rice to be ready.” She, whose name was Charlotte, paused for a moment. “Please come out.”

There was silence, so she decided to just ask a blunt question, “Are you going to be in there all day?”

Again silence. Charlotte sighed and went back to her gardening. It was tough having a kid who was a paranoid schizophrenic. {Tomorrow I’m going to have to take him back to the doctor}, she thought.

So a day passed by and Charlie was wide awake in the morning. His paranoid fit had died down for the most part and he was feeling more relaxed. In the morning he heard another knock immediately followed by, “Charlie, it’s your mother. May I come in?”

Charlie bit his lip for a moment and said, “m-o-okay.”

She entered, “Charlie, would you like to see the doctor again?”

“Not particularly.”

“Would you go, just for me? Maybe we could watch T.V. after.” Charlie loved to watch television; however, he was often banned from it because sometimes it induced his fits.

Charlie considered this for a moment, and then finally gave in.

In the car he mostly stayed huddled in the backseat. They reached a red light at an intersection. Across from him, a man in a sleek looking black car and some rockin’ black sunglasses drove up. {It’s the man. The G-Man}. Charlie’s eyes flashed white with horror. He quickly began scrambling at his seatbelt in the sedan, legs kicking and flaring wildly in a desperate effort to escape. Charlotte took a moment to respond to this new crisis.

“Charlie? Charlie what’s the matter?”

“He’s here. You set me up! I know you did!” And without further ado, Charles pulled the handle of the car door and darted out, still garbed in his special hat and poncho. As he was sprinting away to the only place he still had any trust at all for, the doctor’s office, an ominous rain began to pour….and pour….and pour. {It’s rigged. Good thing I have my poncho}. He kept running and running—and knowing that his mother had set him up, didn’t slow down to make sure he didn’t step on any cracks. {I have to get there before they get me}.

Charles was almost there, just fifty meters away from the office and closing in, running as fast as his little schizophrenic self could carry him. He reached the door, swung it open and dashed up to a funnily dressed looking man with rather exquisite shoes and shouted his saliva-ridden warning in the man’s face, “They’re out there! They’re coming!”

We were all very intrigued by this story, yet inexorably we had to maintain our cover and pretend we didn’t just hear that loud and outlandish tale. Considering my initial impression of Charles, however, it wasn’t too outlandish. Only a smidgen.

“Well that does explain a lot,” Gill finally said.

“{Shhh},” Charles began, “not so loud.”

“Ironic,” Gill replied under his breath, “Alright, alright. I’ll play into your shenanigan. I'll quiet down."

“Rightly so.”

I’d grown a little weary of the company of Charles and Gill, not to mention it was unclear whether Charles was to have another psychotic break or not, so I figured the best course of action would be to shift my seat. I stood up, pondered walking but then decided I didn’t quite want to look like Ida as she scrambled through the dark; so discreetly, quietly, I began to slowly lower myself to the ground. I was lying there, prone, and finally kicked up the inspiration to crawl across the room, making as little noise as possible. I was pretty sneaky if I do say so myself.

Slowly but surely I inched and wormed my way across the floor, collecting dust mites and who knows what else. I began to pick myself up by doing a pushup on the ground (unfortunately, I felt my hand sink into something moist and sticky during this), then launched my legs under me, and sprang up, all in one quasi-graceful motion. While I was standing up, I thought it might be prudent to peel whatever was stuck to my hand. Smelled like watermelon gum. I swear I stood there for a full five minutes just sniffing away – it smelled pretty good. Although I did feel a little awkward with the way the recluse girl shifted her head at me, looking at me like I was some sort of insane. But, why would she look at me that way when there is a perfectly good Charles right across the room? Well I suppose it didn’t really matter, as was often the way of things. I finished peeling off the gum off my hand and sat down. It felt like a different chair. Somehow it was more comfortable or open or maybe it was just the same old chair. Maybe the chair hadn’t changed at all, it was just the perception. Somehow, perhaps being in the company of these oddballs of society, bonding (if one could call it that) with these bizarre-Os, was making me just a little bit more comfortable in the familiar discomfort of these seats. I sat there for a long time.

At long last I decided that the best way to try to find out more about my dismal companion would be to somehow actually start talking to the person. This girl seemed like a quiet and contemplative one, so I tried to start out on a philosophical note, “We’re all really a bunch of defects, aren’t we?” For the longest time, she remained dutifully silent. Then slowly her head raised and then lowered again, into what some optimistic fellows might deem a nod. I continued, “Gill looks like someone out of a fruity musical theater troupe, Charles is self-explanatory, Beth is a Maud, Rick Sr. is a little reserved so I can’t say much about him, Ida was a b**** as we all know, junior Rick thinks he’s capable of driving NASCAR, and even I have my issues. We all have our story. I have mine and you have yours. Now what’s the point of a story if you don’t open up to tell it?”

She looked up at me; I could feel her eyes tearing into mine, even though I couldn’t see her that well. “Stories are nuisances. Their sole purpose seems to be to humiliate or humble. But, you’re a smooth talker, I’ll grant you that.”

“Well, thank you for the compliment,” my voice rose slightly at the end to indicate that I wasn’t quite sure whether this was a statement or a question. She certainly never said it like a compliment. “The purpose of a story is not to humiliate or humble. Granted some stories may be that way, but more often than not, stories are simply here to entertain, or at least used as an educational tool.”

“Name one.”

“Archimedes, Homer, Chaucer, Musashi; all either educational or entertaining.” She gave a {hrmph}. “There are even people who write their own biographies and share stories of their past that maybe they weren’t exactly too enthusiastic to share.”

“So you want me to tell you why I’m here.”

“Some say it could be therapeutic.”

“Some say gravity doesn’t exist.”

“What are you afraid of?”

She paused for a long while and then finally whispered, “I’ll tell you why I’m here.”

It was one of those horribly “perfect” days. Cloudless day, deep blue skies, and an exceedingly soft gentle breeze that seemed to add a whole other dimension of perfection. Indeed, this stereotypical day was only marred by two things. One, a large portion of humans were all wearing black; and two, most were congregating around a rather large wooden rectangular prism. A coffin. At least the weather wasn’t conventionally bad, as some people would be even more depressed, and nothing ruins the presence of a sad funeral than a plethora of old unused (and sometimes even colorful) cobweb ridden umbrellas coming out to play.

One girl, dark hair mopped in her face which contrasted little with the black clothes she was displaying, stood at the front of the mass. Some priest or something was muttering some meaningless bologna about a guy he had never even met. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, all that jazz, the dark haired girl, named Mievni, wasn’t paying attention to a word that blubbery man was saying. Instead, she was focusing on the shape of the coffin and the different patterns the swirls in the wood made.

This continued until the man giving his flowery speech and the crowd gradually dispersed to go mingle and graze on the complementary food items. Mievni began to navigate the crowd, always alone and remaining unapproachable. Unfortunately for her, one airheaded bubbly man flounced over to her and said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” through a mouthful of premium brownie. Mievni simply shot him a look of disgust. As she was walking past him (rather briskly too, she wasn’t exactly happy) she quickly poked him in the stomach to watch the soggy contents of his brownie shadowed mouth come spewing out in a cocktail of sugar, chocolate, and spittle. She felt better after that.

Mievni realized there were a lot of people here that she didn’t recognize. She idly wondered how many people here even knew who her dead dad was; to her, it looked like most of these strangers were here for the free food. One guy slipping nearby the enchilada section was wearing sweats. They even went so far as to have a flashy trim. {Well I hope that a**hole enjoys his enchilada}, she spitefully thought.

Mievni had never really had the most friends in the world. In fact, she had none at all. Luckily, she was blessed with a couple family members, but they seemed to all be kicking the bucket pretty fast. Grandparents gone, dad gone; no cousins or siblings, aunts nor uncles, to speak of. She began wandering aimlessly about the cemetery. That’s when she started feeling a little funky.

At first it was nearly imperceptible. She felt a little less balanced on her feet, fumbled with smaller objects; nothing to be alarmed about. Then she began to feel much more dizzy, stumbling around the grassy graves. She fuzzily heard a, “She doesn’t look alright,” from some nameless person in the crowd. {The sky is blue}, she thought, assuming the person was having a state the obvious contest. Next, her vision grew blurry and the depressing world around her began spinning faster and faster and faster until she finally collapsed. The last thing she could hear were the shocked and surprised ooohs and aaahs from the crowd.

Mievni woke up the next day tucked in her own bed. How she got there, she didn’t know and, quite frankly, it weirded her out. She had figured her own mother was too grief stricken to be a mother and was probably still huddled over the grave stone. Mievni’s next thought was that she should go seek professional attention. She groggily got out of bed and through on some normal (for her) clothes. Which clothes didn’t really matter as her wardrobe consisted of the same item for everything, no variety whatsoever. Just black black black.

Mievni stumbled out her front door, looking like a drunken sailor (but in truth it was more akin to seasickness), and peered out into her driveway. Spotting her car, she tripped her way to the door and attempted to pull on the door handle. It didn’t open the door as it was locked on the inside. She looked through the sedan’s skuzzy window and saw what she thought were the car keys—inside the car. {Well son of a b****}…, she thought colorfully. A moment later the gravity of the situation really sunk in. As if in retaliation, Mievni pounded the window with the flat of her hand, then quickly withdrew for fear that she might break something important either on the car {or} in her hand. As she was turning away from the car, one last little detail caught her eye. On the passenger side door, she saw the orange tape, signaling that the door was (hopefully) open. Using the car as a balance facilitator, she craftily maneuvered to the other side of the car and just to her luck, the door was indeed open. Mievni gave a sigh of relief.

Not wanting to go back around to the other side of the car, Mievni elected to crawl from the passenger seat to the driver seat – not something her infirm body agreed with. After the feeling of retching subsided, she was ready to drive. Mievni backed the car out of the driveway and got off to a bumpy start – no pun intended. Her lack of focus, worsened by malaise, caused her to swerve on numerous occasions. To her great happiness (and surprise), she was never noticed by law enforcement.

Finally, she reached her fabled destination, the doctor’s office. Mievni noted the irony that most people dreaded the doctor, and yet here she was, parking her car in the parking lot, all of her own veritable volition. She walked into the office, taking care to close the door quietly, she never was a person who appreciated the loud crashing of doors. She walked up to a rather bored looking receptionist who was chewing gum or tobacco or whatever those crazy receptionists like the chew these days.

“I’m here to see Doctor Tlihg,” Mievni started.

The receptionist lazily rolled her eyes up to the depressed girl and said, “I’ll be sure to make a note of that. In the meantime, take one of our fine comfortable seats.”

She walked over to a corner seat and looked around. To her right, there was a book which didn’t look too bad, it went by the title of Queen of the Damned; sounded like just her style. She dug in.

A brief while later, a man walked in who looked friendly enough, but was received by the receptionist in the same rude way Mievni had. He sat down in the corner opposite of her and twiddled his thumbs…

The author's comments:
I felt like ending on a corny philosophical note.

I sat in silence for a while. What do you say to a girl who just lost a parent? I’m sorry? Bulls***, not only is that hackneyed and cliché, but it also shows a lack of caring. Too often do I see people say, “I’m sorry,” for things that they aren’t really sorry about. I’m not saying that the person isn’t struck by pity or doesn’t feel bad, but what I am saying is that when that person goes to sleep that night, they aren’t going to be losing any sleep. And that’s understandable, even if it does sound horrendouslyawful. They never knew the person; you can’t feel empathetic for a person you never knew. Sympathetic maybe, but sympathy is a far cry from empathy. But I couldn’t just say, “I’m sorry,” it’s also too easy – a cop out, per sé. But was not saying something worse? I don’t think so. Sometimes it’s the silence that means the most. However this caring silence had gone on for too long and I felt compelled to say something.

“Mievni…hmph. Interesting name. A good name, I think,” I paused for a moment. “The world isn’t filled with as many bad people as realists and pessimists like to believe. You seem to be someone who supports facts and figures and whatnot, so I’ll try to say this as closely to that as possible. One of the major attributes that come with being a human is our ability to reach out and connect with others. You can’t keep yourself closed off forever. In general, people like helping others. Whether it’s a genuine desire to help or that they just like the satisfaction of bragging about how helpful they were, I don’t know. But I do know that these people aren’t out there to bite you in the a**. You’ll hit some hiccups along the way, but for the most part, it’s hard to go wrong. You only have so many years to live; it’s a waste to live them miserably.”

“Yeah…whatever.” She may have answered abruptly and apathetically, but I knew intuitively that I had planted seeds of thought. Maybe they wouldn’t completely change her outlook, but maybe they might have just enough influence to make her day a little better, or at least teach her something. Then she surprised me by actually taking a little initiative in the conversation. “What about you? Everyone’s got their story, right? What’s yours?”

I chuckled, looked away from Mievni and into the dark of the room. I stared into the void for a long time. It was almost relaxing, but not quite; somehow it still kept me on my toes. But it got me thinking about what my story was. I don’t believe I had really found myself and yet all these other people seemed to have such deep insights into their own selves. It was a little disheartening. At last, I turned back to Mievni.

I smiled. “That’s what I’m still trying to figure out.”



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