Haplessly Ever After

Making the Grade

Willie's speech therapy with that nice Mr. Gene continued to improve as did his physical and occupational therapy. In PT, he practiced balance and coordination, standing on one foot, playing catch with a giant balloon and putting pegs in holes with his therapists Betty Jo and Mike. Of course, he could've played hop scotch around the room if he wasn't always tripping over his damn clothes.

OT had nothing to do with having an occupation. They worked on teaching patients to perform everyday tasks, like dressing, eating and bathing. The young man's motor skills had recovered nicely and that session was taken off his roster.

"When you graduate from OT, that means you get a job," the therapist informed him. "Everyone here has a chore to do, in addition to making your bed and keeping your room tidy."

"Stan makes my bed."

"You should be doing it for yourself. So, Willie, what kind of job you like to do?"

The young man thought about this. What was he good at? He used to drive his truck a lot. He used to work in a restaurant. He used to fix things.

"I was a car-pender, and did plumbin'. Sanded furn'ture and painted trim. Cut wood with a chainsaw."

"Let's think of something else."

"Whas wrong with dat?"

"Nothing. But patients are not allowed to handle tools."

Willie sighed. "I guess I can wash dishes." That wasn't the assignment he wished to receive.

"No, there are knives in the kitchen."

"Well, for crissake—" He was not going to end up scrubbing toilets. He was tired of cleaning up after everybody else's shit. Then his eyes lit up as he came upon the perfect solution. "The lib'ary. I wanna work in da lib'ary."

"I'm afraid you have to have a high school diploma to do that."

"Whadda ya talkin' 'bout? I got a BS in Philos'phy from Cordell, where I studied Karma, and 'nother in 'Lizabethan lit'rature. She was a queen in England. I did a big project on Hamlet. You know, da guy with da skull. He was crazy, like me."

"I'm having a little trouble believing that—"

"Dere are more things in heaven an' earth, Miss Tina, den are dreamt of in your philos'phy. Though dis be madness, yet dere is method in it."

The therapist looked at Willie with curiosity, but the young man stood abruptly.

"Never mind, f'get it. Just gimme a mop and a scrub brush. What's da point of tryin' t' better yourself when dat's all anyone ever thinks you're good for?" He punched the wall in frustration.

"Please, Willie, don't be upset. I'm sure there's something…" Miss Tina nervously shuffled through her papers as the young man paused in the doorway.

"I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not dat I have bad dreams."

"It so happens we have an opening in the library."

Education Therapy was boring. Boring. Boring. Nurse Annie lectured the group on the importance of taking one's medication and not sharing. Depending on his mood, Willie swallowed his meds or palmed them for Stanley to hide in his drawer. It was amazing that, despite frequent room searches and head counts, no one ever discovered the stationery box of hidden pills, or the paper clips Willie stashed in the stuffing of his mattress, or Stanley's nightlight which the big guy stashed in his robe pocket. Occasionally they would clean out Stan’s snack supply, but each time it was swiftly replenished.

The group also discussed which medication each patient took, its purpose and side effects. This held no interest for Willie, so he zoned out until someone nudged his shoulder.

"Huh? Sorry. Dat's one a' my side 'ffects."

This was ridiculous; Willie had to get some real clothes. If he was her patient, why didn't Dr. Julia ever come to see how he was doing? Was she just going to dump him in this snake pit and leave him there forever?

Willie jumped in the loony queue to use the telephone. The Old House had a phone, but he couldn't remember the number, and the operator said it was unlisted. He was put through to Collinwood instead, where David accepted the call.

"Hi, uh, my name is Willie Loomis. I used t' work for—"

"Hey, man! It's Dave." The boy's voice sounded somewhat deeper than before. "How's it going? I heard you went to Wyndcliff. What's it like, a rest home? Do you sit around all day working on your tan?"

"No, it sucks. I'm wearin' a dead guy's shirt and dere's a fat dude who holds my hand. Listen, could ya do me a favor? Do ya ever see Dr. Julia, I mean—oh shit, wasser name?"

"Hoffman. Sure, I see her every day at meal time. And she doesn't even live here anymore—just shows up to eat. It's funny, because Cousin Barnabas hardly ever comes to dinner."

"Would ya ask her t' bring my clothes an' stuff? The duffle bag is in my room a' da Ol' House. Anyway, I hope it is." He felt a wave of anxiety. "Unless they threw it away. Do ya think they would do dat?"

"Of course not. Would you mind if I came with her to visit you?"

Willie smiled broadly. "Yeah; sure. I'd like that a lot."

As long as he kept his smart-ass remarks to himself in Dr. Ned's class, Willie could earn enough points to go outside. The recreation yard was an unadorned patio surrounded by tall cement walls. There was one picnic bench and an ashtray. Stanley was there every afternoon.

"Stan, da man," Willie joined him. "Gimme smoke?"

"I'm always giving you smokes." He reluctantly tossed over the pack.

"That's 'cause I'm yer friend."

"No, you're not. I overheard what you said on the phone."

"C'mon, you're not mad, are ya? I didn't mean t' hurt yer feelin's, but grown men don't hold hands together, unless dere queer." Stanley snorted and looked away. "I'm sorry, are ya queer? I mean, it's okay if ya are." The big man shook his head sourly. "What's da madder then? Why don't ya ever talk t' da girls?"

"I talk to the nurses."

"That don' count." Willie moved closer so the monitor wouldn't hear. "When was da last time ya got laid?" Stanley started to cry. "Aw, man, don't do dat, it's alright. There's lossa people who're, what, 25—"


"—Yeah, an' never done it."

"Who, for instance?"

He shrugged. "I dunno. Nuns?" Stanley started to pound himself on the leg. "Stop—stop it, what're ya, nuts?" Willie patted his friend on the back. "Tell ya what. You be my Marlboro man, and I'll getcha date." His fat friend looked up with childish enthusiasm.

"With Nurse Jessie?"

"Oh no, she's my girlfriend. Wit' Angela. She's da hottest chick in dis cage."

"Really? Have you…?"

"Uh…not 'xactly. All these meds make me numb. I d-don't think my stuff even works anymore."

Stanley whispered in his roommate's ear. "Angela does it with Dr. Ned in the storage room."

"Angela does it wit' anyone anywhere…which reminds me, ya bedder wear somethin'. I don' 'spose your mom would bring ya some condoms." Stanley shook his head, horrified at the idea. "It's okay, I'll take care a' it." Stanley reached over to his friend in gratitude. "Don' hold my hand."

Willie surveyed the area, taking note of the high concrete wall, the oak tree visible just beyond and their monitor, Jorge, stationed indoors at the window, engrossed in a newspaper. The patient removed his slippers.

"C'mere," He motioned to Stanley, patting the wall. "And bend over."

"Why? What are you going to do?"

"I'm gonna climb up onto yer shoulders to the top a' dis wall."

"Willie, no! It's not safe. Don't go out there."

"Shuddup an' trust me. I'm jus' goin' fer a walk."

Willie scrambled up to the stone ledge which lined the yard's perimeter, then climbed onto the overhanging tree branch and shimmied to the ground.

He breathed in the sunshine and marveled at the expanse of lawn before him, squishing damp grass between his toes. He could walk down the hill and through the gate, to the street beyond. Stick out his thumb and be in the next county before those guards had a clue. But that wasn't the plan. Willie circled around to the window where his monitor sat oblivious to the situation.

Willie waved. Nothing. He waved both arms and jumped up and down to no avail. Finally, in frustration, the escapee stomped over and banged on the glass pane.

Jorge's head shot up as Willie smiled, flipped him the bird, and ran off across the lawn.

"Pedaso de mierda!" the orderly exclaimed as he bolted for the garden exit. Willie hooted as he scampered down the hill with the attendant in pursuit. Just short of the wrought iron gate, the loony let Jorge catch up and tackle him to the ground.

"Lunático loco!" the aide cried, clutching his heart as Willie made snow angels in the grass. "You’re gonna get me fired, Psycho."

The patient stood abruptly. "C'mon den, le's go home." He walked calmly back toward the building.

"No, no!" Jorge yanked him out of sight as Nurse Annie appeared at the window looking for her aide. "Not that way."

"Sorry, is dere a problem?" Willie asked as the orderly dragged him around the corner. "Where we goin', amigo?"

"Back door."

Jorge led the patient through the employees' entrance and through the locker room. As the attendant peeked through the door to see if the coast was clear, Willie plucked Nurse Katie's ID badge from the table and slipped it into his pocket.

After lights out, Stanley untied his friend from his nighttime restraints and Willie went to work. He crawled out the door and down the hallway, keeping below the radar of the security cameras, towards Dr. Ned's office. He scanned the card and, as he closed the door behind him, a motion sensor switched on the overhead light.

Willie jumped and let out a little yell at the sudden sight of the ventriloquist dummy inches from his face. He spun around and had a second start at the sight of the doll's reflection in the mirror opposite. Beneath the looking glass, Dr. Ned's little "vanity" spot contained a blow dryer, brush, hair mousse, an electric shaver and men's cologne. The young man briefly regarded his image in the uncomplimentary shadows of the overhead florescent light. He looked pale and scrawny, with long shaggy hair and dark circles—reminiscent of a grubby child wearing daddy's clothes, but with the eyes of a haunted, old man. No wonder the dashing Dr. Ned made fun of him.

He poked the dummy once on the nose, to make sure she wouldn't comment or, worse, bite. Sabrina, as Dr. Ned affectionately named her, stared back with glassy eyes and a painted smile, so Willie decided he was safe from interference.

With a paper clip, Willie jimmied open the desk drawer and discovered a treasure trove of contraband, including booze, smokes, magazines, Polaroid photos and an envelope containing little packets of white powder. But it couldn't look like anything was amiss, so he disturbed nothing and took only what he came for—three condoms.

Then he broke into the file cabinet and took out the folder with his name on it. Dr. Ned had to be the biggest dick on God's good earth, Willie thought as he read the man's notes. Willie's medical history said he was at times catatonic or schizophrenic and suffered PTSD from childhood sexual abuse. That was complete bullshit, and he certainly would look up PTSD at his earliest opportunity.

The patient was described as belligerent, disruptive, manic, manipulative, infantile, violent, uncooperative, paranoid, and a host of other unflattering adjectives. It said he had hallucinations and heard voices during their sessions, which was a damn lie. It stated that Loomis had repeatedly attacked him, verbally and physically, once with a dangerous weapon. That also wasn't true. It was only once, and that was a goddam popsicle stick. Willie slowly closed the folder. How was he ever going to get sprung from this loony bin when Dr. Ned kept making up these stories about him?

"Someday, mister, you really are gonna get stabbed," Willie whispered as he replaced the file and relocked the cabinet. "An' no one will cry for you."

As he was about to leave, the burglar noticed framed diplomas on the therapist's wall. They weren't the same as the ones in Dr. Gordon's office. This guy had a bachelor of arts in Psychology and a master's degree in social work. Damn, he wasn't even a real doctor.

On way back to his room, Willie tossed the ID badge under a couch for the cleaning crew to find.

Mission accomplished, Willie delivered the condoms to his anxious but obviously elated roommate.

"I was worried; what took you so long—three? Three! Do you think I'll need that many?"

"I wasn't goin' to all dat trouble fer one. I don' think he'll notice. He's got a shitload stuffed in dere. Now ya got a spare, in case one breaks, an' one to, uh, practice with."

"Practice? Of course I'll have to practice! Will you show me how to put it on?

"No way in hell. Get yourself a pickle." Stanley pulled a banana out of nightstand. His fingers trembled as he tried to rip open the package. "Oh, gimme dat before ya have a heart attack."

Willie was standing on a corner by the park. He was out, working the streets again, wearing his black leather jacket. The young man stood in the pooled light of a streetlamp, casually watching traffic cruise by.

What am I doing here? I'm too old for this. Told Jason I'd never work again.

"Nice night," said a voice behind him. "Join me for a drink, rent boy?"

Willie turned to see Father Donahue standing there, holding a bottle of wine. The priest looked exactly the same as he had all those years ago when he was a guidance counselor at St. Jerome's Home for Boys. Tall, close trimmed red hair, pale blue eyes, and that friendly, fatherly smile.

"You remember me, don't you?"

"I think so. They say you gave me STD, and now I'm bat-shit crazy." He needed to look up what those letters meant.

The other man laughed. "I think you mean PTSD." He took a swig from the bottle and offered it to Willie, who shook his head. That was how the trouble started the first time. "Why exactly are you pointing your little troubled finger at me? I thought we enjoyed each other's company."

"I was just a kid. A stupid kid."

"That's your excuse? Really? Don't pretend to be so innocent. A street-smart punk like you knows exactly what he's getting into."

"…I don't remember what I was thinkin'."

"You accepted my gifts without a second thought, drank wine until you passed out, came to my office every time I called for you." The priest looked him hard in the eye. "You never said no. Not once. You never fought back or cried for help."

"You said it was a sin to disobey a priest. I was 'fraid."

"So afraid that you ran away and kept right on doing it, turning tricks with strangers for money."

"B-but I—no—" Willie couldn't finish the sentence. That was exactly what he had done.

"Or was that my fault, too? You're pretty good at laying guilt on other people. How much longer are you going to say I'm just a kid?" Again Father offered the bottle, and this time Willie accepted and took a swig. "See? You have no self control, no morals. Dr. Ned called you a sexually promisc…" he had trouble recalling the word, "social-path."

"Dr. Ned?"

Father Donahue wasn't standing there after all; that must have been his imagination. It was Dr. Ned, holding his vindictive ventriloquist dummy.

"Still hearing voices, Psycho?" Sabrina mocked him. "Ghosts from the past come to haunt your dreams, don't they? Now you've dragged poor Stanley down to your level. You're nothing but a thieving whore. Barnabas Collins wrote in your file that you are thoughtless, stupid and selfish, selfish, selfish!" Her voice rose to a high pitched squeal.

The therapist and the doll exchanged glances for a brief moment and simultaneously burst into laughter.

With an anguished cry, Willie swung the wine bottle, smashing it onto the lamppost, and attempted to wield the jagged edge at his adversaries. But his arms were stuck to his sides, wrapped around his body, unable to move. The broken bottle fell to the ground and rolled away into the shadows.

"They'll never let you out. You're going to be a sad, little fruitcake with PTSD for the rest of your life." Ned walked off into the dark night, cradling the dummy. Sabrina peeked over the doctor's shoulder and waved goodbye.

Willie was too drugged to wake up, but he thrashed about and screamed in his sleep until a nurse came in to calm him. Thanks to his handy earplugs, Stanley snored away in the next bed, well accustomed to his roommate's nighttime terrors.

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