The phone call I received telling me that my best friend had died came at the most inopportune time. Let me explain.
I checked myself into Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital a lifetime ago. It was completely voluntary, originally. I was experiencing some hallucinations and hearing voices in my head as most stressed-out people do these days. And no, it wasn’t God or the Devil whispering in my ear. My best guess is the voices were coming from my last wife. I always thought she’d drive me crazy one day. Long story short, she split and left me in debt up to my ass.
Sorry, my name’s Ken Moffit; my mind wanders sometimes. Wanna cracker? No? Anyway, I’m fifty-five, have hair like a hippie, and have terminal acne. No, it’s not fatal; I’ve just always had it.
Like I was about to say, living here in Shangri-La isn’t so bad. I get free room and board; even my meds are free. The nurses hand out pills in the TV room during lunch. We call them blue-babies because they’re blue. Sometimes they make me sick, and I throw up. We don’t always take them like we’re supposed to, that’s when I flip the nurses the bird. That pisses off all the nurses, especially Nurse Crane. She’s the boss. She doesn’t like disobedience. When I flash the middle finger, she rings a bell from behind her glass window, and before you know it, three orderlies with big biceps show up dressed in white, pin me down, and force-feed me. I curse and try to fight them off, but they’re too strong. They shove a funnel into my mouth and drop the pills down my throat. I choke for a bit, but I always get them down; the one named Bruce makes sure of that.
I bunk in the ‘C’ ward on the third floor. Next to me is an old-timer named Birdy. He lost his teeth in a street fight over a game of craps. Someone called him nuts, and he wound up in here. Birdy’s the one who nicknamed our wing the loony bin. Catchy name, isn’t it? When I first got here the name struck me funny. Not so much anymore.
The beds have lots of straps. If you’ve done something bad and they buckle you in, you’re not moving for the duration. A night, a day, two days, it's all up to Nurse Crane. It’s either you get strapped in the loony bin, or, if she orders a ‘disciplinary adjustment’ you’re off to the Quiet Room. And let me tell you something, you may not be crazy when you go into the Quiet Room, but you sure as hell will be when you come out.
There are lots of loonies in the bin, all men. We’re packed in like sardines. The janitor comes in once a week to clean, but the place still smells like urine and vomit. They have our beds lined up like rows of dominos. When one guy pukes, the odds are good the rest of us will fall too.
They don’t allow us to go outside much because some of us are pretty good at jumping fences. But once a week, a group of us gets together for a therapy session to talk about our feelings. What we say is mainly gibberish, so Nurse Crane does most of the talking. The good part is she hands out saltines to keep our pieholes shut. I hate her, but I sure do love saltines. I crave them like a crackhead craves cocaine.
Those saltines are the only thing good about this place.
Did I mention a she-devil named Nurse Crane? I think most of the residents here at Shady Acres would agree with me that she’s the devil incarnate. The sign above her office says SUBMISSION IS FREEDOM.
Last week I was playing rummy with Grady and Weston in the TV room. And I admit we did get a bit noisy, but that's just because Grady was cheating again and I hate cheaters. He said he discarded one card, but I saw him throw away two. Weston is sitting there picking the wax out of his ears, so he didn't have a clue. And everyone else was staring at the walls or drooling. It was my word against his, so we started yelling and screaming. I heard Nurse Crane over the PA telling me to calm down, but I didn’t because I hate cheaters. That’s when I picked up my chair and tossed it on the table. A couple of nurses tried to grab me. Nurse Crane keeps repeating ‘calm down, Mr. Moffit’ over that irritating Muzak she has blasting all the time, so I throw another chair at the glass window she sits behind. The next thing I know, three orderlies are using their stung-sticks on me, zapping the crap outta me and tying me up like a calf in a rodeo.
Nurse Crane walks over, stares down at me like I’m a squashed bug, and she says, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to pay for that little stunt, Mr. Moffit.”
And she was right. I spent two nights shackled in the Quiet Room, crying and pissing, one for each chair. I couldn’t move an inch and still have the bedsores to prove it. That place will get your head straight.
Like I said, I’ve been here for…well, I don’t know how long. And this may sound crazy to you, Mister Reporter, but I’m OK with that. You know why? Because I have what the law calls a Lay Caregiver. He’s gonna spring me from this Daisy Daycare today. And when I leave, I’m giving Nurse Crane two middle fingers as I walk out the front door.
Let me prove it to you. I got the paperwork right here in my pocket.
See, it’s right there in black and white, my Caregiver’s got the Power of Attorney over me. That means he talks for me like he was my mother or father.
Now you know why I’ve been sitting outside of Mrs. Lyon’s admissions office since they let me out of the loony bin this morning. I’m getting released from this Funny Farm today, just as soon as my Caregiver gets here. And he’ll be here anytime now.
“Thanks so much for talking to me today, Mr. Moffit. It’ll make a great feature story in the Sunday Edition of the Bellevue Times. By the way, for the record, what’s your Lay Caregiver’s name?”
Lee Gibson. I never had a better friend.
Don’t leave yet, Mister Reporter, you’re gonna miss the best part. Here comes Mrs. Lyon out of her office. Look, she’s carrying an armload of paperwork and has a couple of orderlies following her. They’re probably gonna help carry all my stuff out to Lee’s car. The big ones named Bruce; he can probably carry everything by himself.
Is Lee here, Mrs. Lyon? You know what a big day this is for me. I’m all packed and ready to go home!
“Mr. Moffit, these two gentlemen will help you carry your belongings back to your bed in ‘C’ ward. It looks like you have a lot to unpack.”
What the hell are you talking about? Lee’s coming to take me home today.
“I just received a phone call, Mr. Moffit. There’s been a terrible accident. Your Caregiver, Lee Gibson, was killed in a head-on collision just a few miles from here.”
“Orderlies, let’s help Mr. Moffit back to ‘C’ ward.”
Mrs. Lyon, when I’m done unpacking, could I have some of those tasty saltines?
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Thanks, Gordon. That is high praise. I appreciate the kind words.
Light touch, not tough. Lots of convincing details
Reminds me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest--high praise. I think your asylum is worse. I did like your light tough and suddenly, I've developed a craving for saltines.