Haplessly Ever After

Art, Color and Light

After dinner, Stanley escorted his friend into the Art Therapy room to show off the bird house he was constructing out of painted popsicle sticks and glue. Willie was not permitted to handle the sticks, not after he had allegedly stabbed Dr. Ned with one last year, so he was given a drawing to color. Guy in a tri-corner hat playing a drum with an American flag in the background.

"'S'upid." This was kindergarten crap.

The lady in blue smiled at him. She looked like a teacher, or somebody's mom. "We're going to pin up all the pictures in the Common Room to decorate for Independence Day."

Willie made a face. "Wanna watch TV."

The therapist smiled and patted his arm. "You think this is a childish activity, but what you're really doing is showing me what colors you use to express yourself, and getting back some of that old eye-hand coordination. So, let's see how well you can stay within the lines, okay?"

She situated a blue crayon in his hand. He dropped it and picked up green instead to color the man's face.

"Wicka Witch," he grinned at Stanley. The young man made the uniform black and illustrated the flag in purple, gold and orange. The background sky was a murky gray interspersed with slashes of red. In the end Willie was quite pleased with the result; it stood out from the other efforts, although some of those were just scribbles. At the bottom he signed it Syko Phsyco Psycho then stood impatiently by the door, waiting to be sprung.

"Excuse me, the session isn't finished yet."

But Willie could hear music from the television in the next room. It was a voice he recognized: the gangster from his favorite movie. What was his name? Little guy, but tough.

"I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle do or die…"

"Mr. Loomis, I do wish you would sit down," the therapist intoned.

"I wiss oo wassa wissin' well, so I cou' tie a bucke' an' sink ya," he snapped, making a double jab in the air. "Oo dir'y ra', Pow pow!"

Miss Susan pointed to a molded plastic chair across the room. "You may have a seat in the corner and think about what you just said."

"Wha' for?" he whined indignantly. "I wan' see da mo'ie, 'a's all."

"Sit down," she repeated in an even tone with just a hint of warning. "Or I will call an aide to help you."

"I'll help," Stanley was on his feet, guiding his friend to the corner chair. "You can't threaten the staff," he whispered, "You'll end up in ITA. Apologize to Miss Susan."

ITA sounded like it was a bad thing. "Sorry!" Willie called back to the therapist. "I's jus' f'om da mo'ie. I ain' so tough."

Willie pulled his knees up onto the chair and watched as the other patients continued their artistic endeavors.

Moira was designing a floral arrangement, which she hoped would be chosen as the holiday centerpiece for her dining table. She drove pink, blue and white plastic flowers into a green brick of Styrofoam. But the stems would not cooperate and the whole thing looked lopsided. Brimming with tears, the old lady threw it in the wastebasket.

A petite woman worked industriously weaving a basket. Oblivious to her neighbor's despair, the patient hummed happily and occasionally talked to herself—or the basket.

Bug Eyes, who had been styling himself a protective helmet out of aluminum foil, looked over his shoulder with a twitch and sauntered over to Willie in a clandestine manner.

"I have your assignment." He said under his breath, handing the young man a slip of paper. "Memorize, then eat it."

"Oo are oo 'gain?"

"If I told you my name, the CIA would have to kill everyone in this room." Bug Eyes touched his finger to nose and returned to his seat. Willie unfolded the paper. It contained a meaningless code of symbols.

On the opposite wall hung a poster Willie remembered seeing before in a library book about impressing art. Blues and yellows in a night sky, swirling around and around like the ocean at high tide. It seemed serene, but a dark, malevolent thing rose up on the left side, reaching for the sky, to devour the stars, to kill the light.

"You've been looking at that for twenty minutes, Willie." Miss Susan had pulled up a chair and was sitting next to him. "Do you like Van Gogh?" The therapist seemed pleased.

"I dunno; he wen' nuddy. Why don' oo ge'…" Shit, the artist who painted with little dots, what was his name? Willie grabbed his head in frustration.

"Never mind, it's okay. I wanted to talk about your picture." She held out his artwork. "You used very vivid, imaginative colors." The patient was unsure if that was a criticism or compliment and so didn't respond. "You must be very creative."

Sweeping fireplaces, washing dishes, scrubbing toilets.

"No' really."

"What's this mark here? Did you give the drummer a ring?"

"Ca'ful, i's s'arp. It can cu' ya."

"Then I'll be very careful. Can you tell me why you drew red coming from the man's mouth?"

Willie shrugged. "He 'ad S'oppy Does fo' dinner."

Closure Group was the final session each day, from which Willie was excused as he had not participated in the corresponding morning session. So he got to watch the end of the film with the zombies. And Bug Eyes was gone so Willie even got to hold the remote control.

The gangster (only he wasn't a gangster in this movie) was now singing and dancing, but he had grown old, and was afraid that no one wanted him anymore.

"Okay, Psycho, ready to have fun? It's potty time." This was a different aide from his afternoon chaperone.

"Shh," Willie waved him away, "a' da c'mercial."

"Right now," He grabbed the patient by the arm and yanked him up. "Come on, we're going for a walk." With that the orderly proceeded to pull the young man from the room.

"'Ur a s'ithead—ow. Ow!" Willie tripped on his slippers and landed on the floor.

"Steven, is there a problem?" The head nurse looked up from her desk.

"I can handle it. Psycho and I are just having a disagreement about using the restroom."

"Don't call him that." With a no nonsense attitude, the nurse marched over and looked down at the patient, who sat on the floor, his arms folded his arms in defiance.

"Young man, an institution of this size cannot operate without rules, and they apply to everyone. Now, you have a choice. You can cooperate with your aide and use the toilet, or you can wear a diaper."

Willie stumbled to his feet. "I can go now, da c'mercial's on."

At 9 pm, a nurse rolled the drug trolley into the Common Room. From the stampede to get to the head of the line, you would have thought she was handing out $100 bills. At the end Willie was handed a paper cup of water, and another smaller cup containing a blue capsule, a white pill and yellow caplet.


"It's medicine." She smiled in a condescending manner. "To help you get better."

More like drugs to make him a zombie again, like those droolers sitting in front of the television.

"Wassi' fo'?"

"I have no idea; I'm not your doctor. Would you like to discuss your course of treatment?" Willie nodded as the nurse checked the boy's chart. "That's fine; I'll make you an appointment tomorrow with Doctor—oh, Dr. Julia's still away. Maybe Dr. Gordon is available."


"Take these now, here where I can see you."

"Ye' ma'am." He tossed the cup back and crushed the little container into his pants pocket.

"Open wide." The young man demonstrated that there was nothing left in his mouth.

In the privacy of his bedroom, Willie retrieved the container and poured out the pills.

"That was smooth. Good job." Stanley grinned with admiration as he pulled a box of writing paper from his nightstand drawer. "We can put them with the rest. This is just a cover up. See?" He removed the false cardboard bottom to reveal of stash of medication.

"Dey yours?"

"No, they're yours. You started spitting out your pills about two weeks ago, so I saved them. Never throw them away because they'll find out if you put them in the trash. I think it's best to wait until there's an opportunity to flush them in the toilet."

"Don' do dat," his roommate replied, figuring they probably had some kind of street value.

"Bug Eyes has been stuffing his in the sofa cushions in the Common Room for over a year."

Stanley changed into striped pajamas and robe. There was nothing in Willie's drawer, so there was no need to undress. He rolled his pants' legs up until they didn't touch the floor and pondered how to pull together the excess material at the elastic waistband into a knot. Maybe if he had a rubber band…

"Deese yours?" He indicated the clothes.

"No, they belonged to Scott; he was used to be my roommate before you, but he died. When you were transferred here you had nothing but a hospital gown. Why don't you call somebody to bring your clothes and other things?" Willie looked perplexed, which made Stanley suddenly look like he was to cry again. "What's the matter, are you an orphan? Don't you have any family?"

Willie thought hard for a moment as faces came into his mind. Maggie. Jason. Lyddie. Barnabas. Luke Skywalker. "Sore, I dink so."

"Good," the fat man was relieved. "Then they come and see you. Ask Nurse Janet tomorrow to let you use the phone. My mother visits just about every day." Stanley lowered his voice. "She brings me McDonald's and pizza and cigarettes, not to mention..." he motioned to his secret stash of snacks in the bottom drawer.

Willie shrugged with apparent apathy. It was very possible nobody even knew where he was, or maybe they did and just didn't care. Julia wasn't interested, and she was his doctor.

There was no handle on the inside of the bedroom door, just two little lights-the green one was currently lit. There was a sound of a card sliding and the door opened. One last time, an orderly appeared to take Willie to the bathroom so he could wash up, after which his toothbrush was replaced in a locked cabinet. He was escorted back to his room and the attendant produced a straightjacket.

"Wha—wassa' for? No." Willie backed away, shaking his head.

"C'mon, Psycho, you always have a night restraint. Lots of people do."

Willie slid under the bed. "I din' do nuddin' w'ong."

"It's for your safety. Sometimes you get aggressive or fall out of bed or go for walks in your sleep." The aide pushed a button on the little walkie talkie clipped to his shoulder. "Send some backup to 28B."

"That's true, you have terrible nightmares," his bunkmate offered. "Nurse Gina had to give me earplugs."

The orderly continued in a concerned, friendly voice. "Aw, look. You didn't get one star on your chart today, Psycho; you're gonna have to try harder." He had started to pull the bed away from the wall and wasn't even looking at any chart.

"How many stars did I get?" Stanley asked eagerly, sitting on the edge of his bed.

"Go check. It's on the door."

The young man was more than a little upset to see four stickers on his chart when he had expected six and began to sob loudly.

"Not now, Fat Boy, I got my hands full. I'll give you another star if you shut up."

Backup arrived and together the two orderlies retrieved Willie, and got him secured and strapped into his bed without further ado. After they left, the patient stared up at the ceiling as tears of frustration slid down the sides of his face.

"Would you like one of my Twinkies?" the large man asked kindly. Willie declined to respond as the other snacked away on cream-filled sponge cake. Shit, his nose was starting to run and there was nothing he could do about it.

"I usually read to you for a while before lights out. It's sort of a nighttime ritual we have. We're in the middle of an incredible mystery story about—"

"S'ut da duck up!" His head shot up to see roomie all tucked in, cozy and nice, like he was at a slumber party. "Why I godda wear dis an' oo don'?"

"Dr. Ned ordered it."

"I can' s'eep like dis."

This was why he never got visitors, Willie decided. Nobody wanted to see people crying, miserable and humiliated. Stanley came over with a tissue and wiped the moisture from his face.

"Please don't be upset." Big guy tried to think of something cheerful to distract his friend. "Tomorrow is Music Therapy, and we always have a sing-along. You'll love it."

"Jus' s'oot me now."

At 11 o'clock the overhead lights were extinguished, and everything was black, except for the illuminated emergency pull cord on the wall. The little green light on the door went out and the red one came on. It looked like an evil eye, and it seemed to be growing larger. Too many scary things happened in the dark, when there was no oil lamp or candle. Willie started to scream.
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