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Funny Historical Fiction

It’s 9:45 am and Dr. Ingalls’ next client will arrive in 15 minutes. He’s a new client – this is his second session following a first session that went something like this:


Dr. I: So tell me, what’s on your mind?


Client: I know not how to respond to so general a query.


Dr. I: Is there something specific bothering you? What’s brought you to psychotherapy?


Client: With the greatest respect, sir, that ‘tis a familiar question from one I have only just met.


The interview proceeded as such, leaving Dr. Ingalls with the following notes to review as he waits for his client to arrive.


Note: Prefers to be called “General”, not “Mr. President.” 

Note: Avoids handshakes.

Note: Presents as extremely reticent. 

Note: Presents hyperawareness of his personal sense of dignity.

Note: Deep circles beneath his eyes, stifled yawns. Trouble sleeping???


A small light illuminates above Dr. Ingalls’ office door indicating the client’s arrival. He is the only person in the waiting room, standing stiffly, hands behind his back. He cuts an imposing figure with his navy coat, buff-colored breeches, black riding boots, sword and iconic white hair.


Dr. Ingalls automatically offers his hand despite having just read his notes. “Good morning, General.”


George Washington stiffens and says, “I am a Virginian and I do not take hands. But I bow in your honor.” He inclines slightly. 


“Yes, of course, I forgot. Please come in.”


Washington sets himself on the couch, feet firmly planted on the ground, back erect.


Dr. Ingalls’ settles into his chair with his legal pad, studies the client over his spectacles and scratches out a few observations.


The second session goes something like this:


Dr. I: It’s nice to see you again, General.


GW: It is my honor to be here, sir.


Dr. I: There is something I’d like to ask you, General. During our session last week, I observed that you seemed quite tired. I’m drawing the same conclusion this week. How have you been sleeping?


GW: That ‘tis a private matter, sir.


Dr. I: It sounds as though there are some things you may not be ready to discuss yet.


GW: The manner of a gentlemen’s respite is one reserved for his most familiar relations.


Dr. I: I do understand your reluctance, General. Psychotherapy can be an unusual and intimidating process for many of the historical figures I see. Just last week, I had a client who ran Cuba for the last half century. Historically, he was known for being particularly loquacious and revolutionary. But here in my office, he couldn’t say a word. He sat in that exact spot, looked out the window and smoked cigars for the entire hour.


GW: I know not of whom you speak.


Dr. I: Well, no names of course. But the point is that we can start wherever you want. We don’t need to discuss sleep or slavery or democracy. But we do need to discuss something. Is there anything, even something small, that has been on your mind?


Long pause.


GW: There is one matter, sir, that has been quite vexing to me of late.


Dr. I: What is that?


GW: Mr. Jefferson has informed me that there is a falsehood regarding my youth that has been made known to the public. A bookseller by the name of Parson Weems wrote about an incident of a cherry tree when I was a boy of six years.


Dr. I: Yes, of course. Your father’s cherry tree, hatchet, you cut it down, said “I cannot tell a lie.” Yes, a very famous story.


GW: ‘Tis a lie!


Dr. I: And how does that make you feel, General?


GW: This is a cause of great upset to me.


Dr. I: Can you describe that distress?


GW: ‘Tis a disappointment I have not felt since Mr. Mason declined to sign the Constitution in seventeen and eight-seven. I regret that did great harm to our friendship.


Dr. I: Did you know the author? Parson Weems?


GW: I did not.


Dr. I: What exactly about the publication of the story upsets you so greatly?


GW: It is a story about my character and my philosophy of honesty that ‘tis untrue.


Dr. I: It sounds like the hypocrisy upsets you.


GW: My good Dr. Ingalls, I hold the noble virtue of honesty in the highest esteem. I stood as a steward of the public trust and I endeavored in public and private life to provide an example of character. But, alas, there are times in war and in politics where the value of an honest statement must be weighed against the benefit or injury it may bring to the whole.


Dr. I: So you’re saying that sometimes you have to lie for the benefit of a higher ideal.


GW: I am afraid that ‘tis my conclusion.


Dr. I: Are you an honest man, General?


GW: ‘Tis a question for deep reflection betwixt my God and myself. I will admit, however, that the War of American Independence could not have been won with pure honesty.


Dr. I: What do you mean?


GW: Are not spies a form of deception?


Dr. I: Well, yes, I suppose so.


GW: Secret missions?


Dr. I: Yes, but necessary.


GW: Inflated troop reports?


Dr. I: Do you regret those decisions?


GW: This presents a quandry. But I have my own arc of thinking and it is as clear as the Sun in its meridian sky that those actions had to be taken.


Dr. I: Yet the story of the cherry tree still bothers you.


GW: I must ask you a question that is burning.


Dr. I: Certainly.


GW: How may I inform the public of this falsehood?


Dr. I: The cherry tree story?


GW: This is correct.


Dr. I: What do YOU think, General?


GW: I have a bias for action. Deeds, not words. I must speak to the newspapermen!


Dr. I: I think that may raise more questions than it answers.


GW: An imperfect something is better than a perfect nothing.


Dr. I: Not in this case. Let me Google something. Hang on a second. Ok, look at my phone, General.


GW: What is this?


Dr. I: It’s a little complicated to explain right now. But do you see this list? “George Washington Never Chopped Down a Cherry Tree”, “George Washington’s Cherry Tree Tale Debunked”, “George Washington didn’t confess to chopping down a cherry tree,” and on and on. These are all articles about how the cherry tree story was made up. At one time, the country believed it. But now, I think most people know it’s fake.


GW: Remarkable.


Dr. I: General –


GW: Sir, I feel a great weight has been removed from my shoulders. Might I now address another area of great upset? It is a subject I most sincerely regret. An abomination. Slavery.


Dr. I: General, we are out of time for today. We can pick this up next week.


GW: It is indeed my great honor, nay, my privilege, sir. I am your humble servant.


Washington bows and leaves.


Dr. Ingalls returns to his desk and reviews the file of his next client.


Client: da Vinci, L.

Note: Routinely fails to complete work

Note: Excessive time dedicated to planning

Provisional diagnosis: ADHD…..


September 03, 2020 21:59

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30 comments

Kristin Neubauer
22:21 Sep 03, 2020

Author's Note: This prompt really stumped me. I liked the idea of the cherry tree story but thought and thought and thought and couldn't come up with anything. I was actually about to give up and skip this week. Meanwhile, I'm in grad school for social work. Classes started again this week and one of our routine assignments is to write a process recording - that's where you transcribe and analyze a session with a client to figure out how you did as the therapist. That's when it all came together. To get a sense of the speech, I spe...

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Sam Kirk
23:39 Sep 04, 2020

It was most interesting to read this note. It's always interesting to read about the inspiration for the story. Agreed, this week had me stumped for a minute as well. Well done with this one.

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Daniel R. Hayes
04:53 Mar 24, 2021

This was a very intelligent, and well thought out story. I liked how you brought your passion for psychotherapy into this story. The humor was great, and once again you mix history with fiction elements in a way that's creative and entertaining. In short, a masterpiece. You should write more stories with Dr. Ingalls. I think one of the first stories I read of yours was one with this character. Very, very well done!

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Corey Melin
22:07 Sep 12, 2020

Superb story. Greatly enjoyed this one. Humor mixed with history. Love history and always wonder what historical figures were like. Many were probably different from the way they were described. Well done.

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Kristin Neubauer
11:13 Sep 13, 2020

Thank you! I had so much fun writing this - giggled all the way through 😊

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Lee Jay
04:43 Sep 08, 2020

Very humorous and clever piece to weave these historical figures into a therapist's office. You paid attention to little historical details to make it believable, and you kept with period accurate vernacular: most importantly it was a humorous and enjoyable read. Excellent work! Bravo! Give one of my stories a read if you feel like it :)

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Kristin Neubauer
13:58 Sep 08, 2020

Thanks so much, Lee! I appreciate all compliments, but after reading your fantastic story, I am really so flattered by yours. Looking forward to reading more of your writing!

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Skyler Woods
17:39 Sep 07, 2020

After reading this, the 1st U.S. President felt alive again. It's like he never died. I felt like I was in the room with him and the therapist. I wish I could've heard him express his distaste for slavery to the therapist. This was a very well written masterpiece!

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Kristin Neubauer
17:54 Sep 07, 2020

Thanks, Skyler! Maybe the slavery session will come someday, but it will require a lot more research. From what I've gathered so far, he felt somewhat conflicted over it....but in the end, (from what I've read so far) he held many slaves, did not treat them very well and did not release them until his wife's death. Maybe it could be a session where he's grappling with guilt - which hopefully he's feeling wherever he is!

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Skyler Woods
21:04 Sep 07, 2020

Yes, I hope so. It is truly an ugly stain on America, which is ironically called Land of the Free.

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Kristin Neubauer
21:53 Sep 07, 2020

I agree! And a shame we have a population of people who still revere the confederacy.

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Skyler Woods
22:33 Sep 07, 2020

Yes, but God will prevail.

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05:02 Sep 07, 2020

This is beautiful. I mean, using a historical figure to tell a story that is completely different is something that's really beautiful. I like the notes the therapist has written and added to the overall texture of the story. I could picture him already, sitting on a couch, feeling awkward, and seeing a phone for the first time. It was funny at some point. You know how to tell a good story and also leave the readers wanting more. The end is incredible because then it leaves us aching to see the session with da Vinci. I am a big fan.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:05 Sep 07, 2020

Thank you, Abigail! That means so much - especially coming from a writer who really knows how to tell a beautiful story! I think it would be super-fun to write up a session with da Vinci. Maybe that day will come when I come up against a block some week, which is bound to happen. Thanks so much for reading and for your feedback!

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:21 Sep 05, 2020

Here’s a riddle: what do you get when you combine a love of history, a study of psychology, and excellent writing? Answer: You! And this story! Creating a modern-day therapist to historical figures is brilliant (I'm dying to read about the sessions with Da Vinci. And Castro!) and using the therapist’s notes was very clever – far more effective than just conveying his impressions through internal dialogue. And the concept is dripping with irony – Washington’s honesty leaves him troubled over the lie that he doesn’t lie. Brilliant. And the ...

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Kristin Neubauer
20:22 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you, Jonathan! I always learn from your commentary and advice....and always find it very inspiring. I cracked myself up as I was working on this story, which is sort of the goal since I'm writing as a stress release. I have a feeling I will return to Dr. Ingalls when I get stuck on a prompt and can't come up with another idea - which is bound to happen sooner or later. I liked your idea about italicizing/unitalicizing "something"....that makes a lot of sense. I will do it as soon as I send this message. And I also so apprecia...

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Jonathan Blaauw
16:17 Sep 07, 2020

Many fans 🤣🤣 It's such a pleasure to read your work. And I think it's great to use it as a stress reliever. I use it as a serious coping mechanism because, negative connotations of the term aside, it's necessary and, if a coping mechanism is required, it's good to have a constructive, creative one. I think life is sometimes a matter of retaining your sanity one day at a time - why not have fun in the process 🙂

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Keerththan 😀
05:29 Sep 05, 2020

The final para was funny. Next was da Vinci. Wonderful story. Funny take on the prompt. Loved it. Waiting for the meeting between da Vinci and dr I. In this sentence, GW: ‘Tis a disappointment I have not felt since Mr. Mason declined to sign the Constitution in seventeen and eight-seven. I regret that did great harm to our friendship You missed the fullstop. Please change it ASAP. Amazing story. Great job. Would you mind reading my new one and give some feedback?

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Kristin Neubauer
22:11 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you for catching that missing full stop, Keerththan....I fixed it! And thank you for your kind words. I am heading over to your page now to read your latest!

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Keerththan 😀
03:21 Sep 06, 2020

No problem!!!!

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Maggie Deese
23:49 Sep 04, 2020

What a unique take on this prompt! I love the historical aspect and you did a wonderful job with the dialogue! This was such a fun read; you have a great talent!

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Kristin Neubauer
22:06 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you so much, Maggie - I really appreciate your kind words. I had lots of fun writing it and it makes me happy that you had fun reading it!

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Lily Kingston
13:13 Sep 04, 2020

I love the way George Washington talks in this. Keep up the good work and keep writing!!

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Kristin Neubauer
18:54 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you Cara! I had a lot of fun researching his language and probable voice 😊

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Yolanda Wu
06:46 Sep 04, 2020

Oh my god, I loved this story so much! You did such a great job, Kristin! All the dialogue exchanges were absolutely brilliant. It's the kind that I'll probably have a random thought about during dinner, and then start laughing, I do that all the time so it's like a norm for my family. But even as I'm writing this, I'm thinking about all of Dr Ingall and George Washington's exchanges and chuckling to myself. I love the 'Let me Google something' part. And of course, that bit about Da Vinci at the end was such a nice way to end the story. ...

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Kristin Neubauer
18:38 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you so much, Yolanda! You've made my day! I had such fun writing this once I got going and could envision it. Your stories stick with me too because of the beautiful language and magical worlds you create in many of them. In fact, after reading one from a few weeks back, I got all inspired to make my yoga space a little more fairyland-ish and strung some of those twinkling lights. My meditations have been much more fulfilling since then. And it all started with your story - look how far your writing ripples!

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Yolanda Wu
22:38 Sep 04, 2020

Awww, thank you so much, Kristin! I'm glad you were inspired by one of my stories, that means so much!

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Mollie Rodgers
06:19 Sep 04, 2020

This is so great. I especially love your author's note; such a fascinating look at your story's origin. This is a really unique idea told in a very unique manner. I cannot tell a lie: I would pay good money to see a one act play of Dr. Ingalls and his sessions dealing with the neurosis of historical figures. You pretty much have the first scene's script written out here. Super fun story!

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Kristin Neubauer
18:34 Sep 04, 2020

Thanks so much, Mollie! I really appreciate your feedback esp after reading your brilliant writing. I had a blast writing this. There is a chance that Dr. Ingalls may come back with another character if the prompt fits someday 😊

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Wow, a fantastic handling of the prompt and the myth, simultaneously! Though it was not intended as humor, there is something very funny about it. Creating those kind of situations is a challenge, and you rose to it fantastically. Not even lying. ;)

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