TRAP DOOR TO THE BOOBY HATCH
By Don Kenton Henry
Dr. Petrosky reached under his desk and a buzzer sounded in the hallway outside the door. Almost simultaneously, the door opened. A very large man, no–that’s not true. It was a cave bear–in a white lab coat–that entered the room! I am not saying he was also a hunchback but his shoulders slumped to the point he was practically dragging his knuckles. If he had stood fully erect, he would have been at least six foot four or five. And Frankenstein’s monster had nothing on this guy’s Neanderthal cranium or forearms!
He walked past me, my mother and grandfather, did an about face and stood at attention next to the doctor’s desk and between it and myself. His reptilian eyes emitted no light and made no eye contact with any of us as he stood awaiting a command. Well–I didn’t need an explanation of where this was going! I bolted from my chair and ran to the door. The movie wouldn’t be out for another six years but I had just read the book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey, in Mr. Sims’s sophomore literature class and there was no way I was sitting still for a lobotomy! I grabbed that door knob and yanked it fast and hard with both hands but somehow the door had locked and I fell backward to floor. I jumped up just in time to avoid the grasp of Godzilla as he reached for me. “I am Mothra!” I yelled as I ran to a window and desperately attempted to open it. (For those too young to have watched Japanese monster flicks, Mothra was the grand nemesis of Godzilla.) However, this appeared to have no deterrent effect as, again, he was on me. I dodged him once more, ran behind the doctor and continued to avoid him as the others remained seated.
“I am not going to the funny farm, mom!” I yelled. “I am not crazy!” Not bearing to watch, my mother kept her face buried in her handkerchief and continued to sob. Dr. Petrosky’s face was emotionless as he calmly raised his hand signaling Lurch to cease his pursuit.
“He is not going anywhere, Bob. Prepare 10 mgs. of haloperidol.”
Bob! What the fuck kind of name is Bob for this kind of creature. Egor, at least! Ivan would have been believable but not, Bob! It’s not like he was some shop teacher, insurance salesman or the guy next door. This guy was a refugee from the set of some horror movie! And so he seemed as reached into the pocket of his lab coat, produced a syringe and proceeded to draw the contents of a small vial.
By now, I was cowering in the rear corner of the room. It seemed the only plausible escape was to dive through a window, preferably the one directly behind the doctor because it was just a few feet above the slanted roof of the front porch. If I didn’t roll off, I could then crawl to the edge and, hanging on to the rain trough, drop over the side to the ground below. It would take a flying superman type leap to crash through the window but that is exactly what I attempted as I sprang across the room and onto Dr. Petrosky’s desk. One more leap and I would crash through the glass onto the porch roof! Except that as I raised myself, my feet were on my medical chart and other papers. As I pushed off, the papers slid behind me taking my feet with them and dropping me to the desk with my upper torso and arms hanging off the back. I was in a particularly vulnerable position and the other occupants of the room, with the exception of my totally hysterical mother, took immediate advantage of it. The doctor jumped up and held my upper body below the level of the desk top by simply pushing down on my head and shoulders as my grandfather grabbed my ankles pinning my legs. All that was left for Bob to do was place one of his forty pound paws on my lower back and I was effectively subdued. No, Lurch! No! I screamed. “Stop them, mom,” I begged. With his free hand, Bob pulled my shirt tail out of my trousers, gave a sharp, downward tug on my belt, exposing a portion of my little lily white one-hundred thirty five pound ass and jammed that needle all the way to China and pushed the plunger!
“It will take about ten minutes before he begins to calm down,” explained Dr. Petrosky. “In the meantime, let’s just keep him pinned on the desk top and we should be able to transport him free of any additional restraint within half an hour.”
“Transport? Where are you transporting me!” I pleaded. “I’m not crazy! Mom, I’m not crazy! You know me, I was just kidding! I thought you all knew I was just kidding when I said all that crazy stuff! I don’t talk to Uncle Waldo! Uncle Waldo’s dead–he can’t talk! Let me go! Please don’t lock me up! I hate tight places …” But already my voice was beginning to taper off. They turned me on the desk so my head was now resting on a stack of papers, hands loosely grasping the corners of the desk. A warm, fuzzy feeling was beginning to creep into my head. My body was relaxing, going limp, melting into the desk top. I was losing my enthusiasm for the fight. I started to half sing, half mumble the words to Purple Haze by Jimmy Hendricks, ” Purple Haze was in my brain, lately things don’t seem the same, actin’ funny but I don’t know why” . . . I was drooling on the latest Journal of The American Medical Association as I crooned, “Roll me over, Lurch, so I can kiss the sky!” He just kept that mighty hand of his pressed against my back though, at this point, I was just diggin’ the tunes in my head. My mom’s sobbing began to take on the mournful wail of Janis Joplin . . . “Cry i i i . . . just a little bit harder!” I sang along. “Get down momma . . . ” And that’s the last thing I remember before looking up at the white cement ceiling.
I had the room to myself. It was approximately eight by ten feet with a single bed and chair beside it. Did I say, “room”. It was a cell. It was not padded and there were no bars on the one wire re-enforced window to the outside approximately eight feet above the floor. But, make no mistake, it was a cell. There was a door with a small window of thick glass. One could peer out but it was certainly more suitable for peering in. I grabbed my head as I rose to my feet, swooning from the after effects of the haloperidol. I tried the door. As you might guess, it was locked. There was a an audio speaker and a doorbell in the wall next to it. I pressed the black button of the bell. I heard nothing, so I pressed it again. I peered through the plate glass when suddenly those dark, deep-set eyes of a Komodo Dragon appeared inches away from mine. I jumped back so far I feel backward on to my bed. Over the speaker, I heard, “Remain seated, Henry. I’m coming in.”
I did so, a buzzer sounded, the door lock turned and Bob entered the room.
“Where am I?” I asked. For an instant I saw a slight trace of light from his eyes as he said,
“You are in the Logan’s Port State Mental Hospital.”
“What? What! You can’t keep me here! I’m not crazy!” I pleaded.
“The doctor will be in shortly to explain everything. In the meantime, he handed me a very small white paper cup with a pill in the bottom. “Take this pill,” he said and produced a small container of water with which to wash it down.
“I don’t want to. I’m not sick. I don’t need any pill!” Take it Henry or we are going to have a repeat of what went down in Dr. Petrosky’s office last evening.”
“Look, Mongo–I’m not taking that horse pill you hear me? Now let me talk to the doctor!”
He pulled the full measure of his full hulking form above me and staring down, said, “We can do this one of two ways. We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way, kid, but you will be taking that pill. Now are you going to comply or is this where the fun begins?”
I swished the water around in my mouth to try to eliminate the very bitter taste the pill had left. “What was that?” I asked.
“Dr. Petrosky will be in shortly,” Bob said as he exited. I heard the door lock behind him. I looked around the room. No Reader’s Digest, no Outdoor Life. Certainly no Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. I should be sitting in Miss Newman’s French class right about now watching her shoot that little beaver as she sits atop her desk, I thought, feeling quite sorry for myself.
The buzzer sounded again and, once more, the lock turned and Dr. Petrosky entered the room. Stoic as ever, he bore no trace of a smile as he looked at me and took a seat in the chair next to the bed. My chart was in his hand and but he did not take his eyes off mine. “How are you feeling today, Don?”
“I have a headache and I want out of here, that’s how I feel! What’s going on? How long do I have to be here and what was that pill Lurch gave me, anyway?”
“The pill Bob gave you was a sedative. You are very excitable and it is natural to be anxious in these circumstances. The pill will calm you.”
“You’re doping me up! What comes next? Electro shock? A lobotomy?”
“You watch too much television, Don.”
“Television? I read about what you do to people in places like this. I’m quite well read you know.”
“What is the last book you read, Don?”
“The Electric Kook-Aid Acid Test,” I answered.
“Awe … by Tom Wolfe.”
And you’re worried about what we’re giving you in here?”
“I didn’t say I did acid. I said I read the book.”
“And it’s about the travels and misadventures of Ken Kesey as he travels around the country in the Magic Bus with his band of Merry Pranksters, is it not?”
“You’ve read it?”
“The same Ken Kesey who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, correct?” he asked while flipping through my chart.
“My guess is you know that.”
“No wonder you’re scared.”
I pulled my feet onto the bed and pushed myself against the concrete wall. The pill was beginning to take effect and, he was right, I was becoming calmer by the moment. “Am I committed? How long do I have to be here?”
“You’re mother did sign commitment papers but, initially, only for observation. You presented acute psychiatric symptoms warranting emergency hospitalization in our Extended Observation Unit. The next 72 hours will be a period of stabilization and evaluation. At the end of that time, if our conclusions warrant a more long term hospitalization, your mother, as your legal guardian, will agree to that. Her main concern is that you get well. Her fear is that you will hurt yourself or someone else again.”
“I’m telling you, I’m not crazy Doctor. I never meant to hurt anyone. I was only trying to scare Schuler when I shot him! Besides, you already know he told me to do it.”
“Yes. And you also told me you were aware he didn’t think you would do it, Don. And you did it with a rifle you sawed off for concealment purposes in order to shoot out the tires of your high school rival’s team bus. Additionally, you froze a dead cat and put a burglar alarm, mistaken for a bomb, in it causing the evacuation of a Senator’s home and an entire neighborhood. Lastly, you incited a riot between the senior and sophomore class which resulted in your being severely beaten and almost resulted in your school being temporarily closed for everyone’s safety. Do you consider these things normal?”
“Normal for me . . . and Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. It’s just Mark Twain stuff that–you know–got a little outta hand.”
“Things went a little beyond you tricking your friends into white washing a fence don’t you think?”
“Well, I don’t know. Aiding and abetting a runaway slave in pre-Civil War Missouri was a pretty big offense, don’t you think, doc?”
It was also fiction. But when you dissected a cat and re-created it as some mutant aberration straight from the Twilight Zone that was real and it certainly got the attention of the good people of Finn’s Landing. And now it has mine.”
“Gee doc, you make me sound ground-breaking. Right up there with Ken Kesey.”
“It seems to me you are the one that appears to be channeling McMurphy (the protagonist in Cuckoo’s Nest). Is he some cult hero of yours you are trying to emulate?”
“I froze that cat and shot Schuler before I even read Cuckoo’s Nest, doc. Maybe Kesey’s heard about me.”
“He wrote the Cuckoo’s Nest in ’62.”
“Does my chart tell you I did jail time in 1958 at the age of four?”
He flipped through my chart then, peering over his glasses, for the first time, his expression betrayed something beyond passive acknowledgement. It was a subtle display of perturbation and bemusement. “You’re not making a good case for your argument, Don.”