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Trap Door To The Booby Hatch: Part III


By Don Kenton Henry

In Part II, we left off with: {“Your 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 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 robbed a doctor’s grave and played baseball with his skull and―if that wasn’t enough―at a time when the National News was all abuzz with coverage of the Weather Underground bombing Federal buildings―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 of your high school which culminated in you 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. You will relate the details of incarceration at the age of four to me tomorrow in the first of our sessions together and we will proceed from there. In the meantime, try to get some rest.”}


Part III:

I lay back on my bed and stared at the white concrete ceiling. The effects of the pill allowed me to lie totally still, transfixed and content with counting dimples in the concrete block directly above my head. Somewhere around three hundred forty, I drifted off to sleep. I dreamed of Uncle Waldo holding me on his lap while relating stories of his harrowing adventures as an Army Air Corp B17 Bomber ball turret gunner during World War II. My black cocker spaniel, Tinker Toy’s head rested on his foot and the smoke from his pipe wafted all around our heads like that of the enemy shells bursting all about Uncle Waldo, as he sat cramped in the ball turret, gripping the handles of his twin Browning .50 caliber machine guns. Even in my dream, the cherry scent of Uncle Waldo’s pipe tobacco smoke and the contented breathing of Tinker Toy were as vivid as were the bombs bursting around Uncle Waldo. To the five-year old with his arm around his neck, it was as if he was right there with him when the next Messerschmitt Bf 109 came diving in from, 4 o’ clock high―“No! Uncle Waldo, no!” I screamed. Then the buzzer sounded.

I struggled to open my eyes. My eye lids seemed like lead weights. They fluttered and slowly opened to reveal a hulking Bob coming through the door.

“You were having a conversation with an Uncle Waldo! You were screaming at him. It sounded like this Uncle Waldo wasn’t such a good guy!”

“Conversation? I wasn’t having a conversation with him. I was dreaming. It was a good dream. Up until the end that is. … And Uncle Waldo was a great guy! He was like a father to me . . . only better, that is. Anyway . . . why am I talking to you about this? You’re not my therapist.”

“I’ve brought you some breakfast, Henry. How are you feeling after your long sleep?”

“Long sleep? What time is it?” I asked.


“In the evening?”

“Six-thirty a.m. Have your breakfast, clean and wash up as well as possible with the hand towels by the sink. That will have to do until you are cleared for showers with the rest of the patients. I will be back a little before eight for your appointment with Dr. Petrovsky in his office.”

I surveyed the food Bob had left on a small folding tray table. “Would you let the chef know I prefer my eggs over easy, Quasimodo?”

“The Ritz doesn’t have bars on its windows, kid. You’re right. I’m not your therapist and I’m not your concierge either. You just better get used to it. You’re at the funny farm—-up the proverbial creek without a paddle. You’re in a place they send people who rob graves and put bombs in dead cats. It ain’t even the Holiday Inn. Did I tell you I love cats? I have five. This place owns you. I own you, kid. Now eat your breakfast and wash up. I’ll be back in less than an hour.”

I ate the food on the tray, including the fruit cocktail in a small plastic cup. “No way was I going to break out of here using the plastic cutlery they gave me,” I thought to myself. I washed my face and hands with the bar soap and hand towel in the sink next to the toilet. No need to get dressed. I was still wearing the white smock and pajama type pants and slippers someone had dressed me in while I was sedated. Other than the pants legs, there was nothing to hang myself with. Nor from for that matter. (Not that I was considering such. No way! ― I liked myself way too much to do that. It was just an observation.) No, Logan’s Port mental hospital wasn’t the Ritz. And this cell was a far cry from my bedroom back in Finn’s Landing. My bedroom had been a speakeasy in the 1930’s and then McNamara’s Irish Pub after Prohibition ended in 1933. Located in the basement of our home on Sycamore Street, it had clinched the sale for my alcoholic father when we moved to Finn’s Landing in 1964. After my parent’s divorce, my mother let me move in and take it over as a bedroom. It had become my sanctuary. Kind of like the “Bat Cave” but, more aptly, the home of “The Joker”, for many a plot was hatched there. “Nope. No strobe and black lights illuminating my Jimi Hendrix and Donovan posters here. No flashing PBR or Stroh’s beer signs. Definitely not the Ritz. Definitely not what had come to be known among the member’s of my high school class as, ‘Henry’s Bedroom’”. Nothing but bare, white concrete walls. It would have to do until I took over this joint.

Approximately ten minutes to eight, Bob came to escort me to Dr. Petrovsky’s office. The buzzer sounded, the door opened and I heard Bob say, “C’mon, Henry. Follow me.” I traipsed out, falling in behind Bob then sliding―No!―gliding along the buffed linoleum floors of the hospital. As we passed a glass enclosed sitting room of full of patients playing cards, dominoes and watching TV, they looked up at me, the new ward on the block, as if they had just spotted an elusive bird on the verge of extinction. The rare “Indianamus Winged Cuckoo” perhaps. Their expressions of abject fascination gave way to breaking grins and giggles as I affected a little skip, flapped my wings and saluted them. Noticing the slight commotion in the room, Bob turned to look over his shoulder at me. I immediately assumed a normal gait but Bob fell back behind me just the same. We went through a series of left and right turns and passed through a number of doors, our entrance on each occasion preceded by the same buzzing noise which accompanied entrance and exit into my cell. After traveling a down a long hallway, we entered a separate building housing the offices of the medical and psychiatric staff. At last, Bob pointed to a bench and told me to take a seat. He elected to remain standing, as close to “at attention”, at the end of the bench closest me, as a hunchback cave bear can. The name on the adjacent door read, “Dr. Ingmar Petrovsky, Chief Psychiatrist”. “Chief Psychiatrist!” I said, aloud and turning to Bob. “I really am special!” This elicited no response.

After a short time, and exactly at eight a.m., according to the hallway clock, Dr. Petrovsky opened the door and turned to face us. It was obvious he was absolutely confident we would be waiting. “Come in Don,” he said. “Bob, please return to the patient ward but be back here at 9 a.m.” Bob hesitated and stared at me. “It will be fine, Bob.” With that, Bob was off and I entered Dr. Petrovsky’s office as he yielded the way and followed in behind me. He motioned me to sit in a straight back chair with a padded leather seat. It was comfortable enough but not so much as to lend itself to its occupant drifting off to sleep. Dr. Petrovsky took his own seat in a large, stuffed burgundy leather seat on a rotating pedestal behind his desk. I took measure of the room about me, noting a plethora of academic degrees framed and conspicuously displayed on the wall behind him. There were also numerous photographs. I took particular note of a slightly younger Dr. Petrovsky standing outside what appeared to be a church with several other distinguished looking men, including one I thought I recognized as an actor in numerous horror movies of the last thirty years.

“Why did you go to church with Boris Karloff, Dr. Petrovsky?” I asked.

Dr. Petrovsky turned to look over his shoulder at the picture to which I pointed. Looking back at me with his typical dead pan expression, he answered, “That is me with Pope Paul the VI in 1965 on the occasion of the first visit of a reigning Pope to the United States. It was taken outside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

“Wow! So that was a pretty big deal, I guess. Are you Catholic?” I asked.

“No. But the Pope is,” answered the doctor, without so much as a smirk.

“Gee! Then how’d you rate that?”

At that, I saw an ever so brief flash of impatience dart across his face. “Don . . . let’s talk about you. Bob tells me he entered your room today to the sound of you having a conversation with your Uncle Waldo. You told me you did not talk to Uncle Waldo nor he to you . . . That you fabricated that story for your own amusement.”

“Conversation? Did Bob say he heard Uncle Waldo? Because he would have to have heard Uncle Waldo for there to have been a conversation!”

“What’s important is―did you hear Uncle Waldo?”

“I heard Uncle Waldo, but only in my sleep. I was dreaming. I don’t know what that pill was you gave me but that was the most real dream I’ve ever had.”

“Was it so real you can’t be certain it was only a dream or indeed perceived reality? Bob was adamant he heard you talking to Uncle Waldo.”

“Are you trying to say I don’t my dreams from what’s real? I was talking in my sleep, that’s all. That’s all there is to it, I swear! Are you just trying to plant ideas in my head? Trying to make me question myself? Why I’m as sane as you Dr. Petrovsky. Sane as the average guy on the street! And probably a whole lot more sane than Mongo The Hun you have guarding me all the time!”

“You say your dream was extremely vivid. “Real” is the word you used. Not me. Just what were you and Uncle Waldo doing in your dream?”

“Killing Nazis.”

“Killing Nazis! So you were killing Nazis?” asked Dr. Petrovsky as he picked up his pen and began writing in my file.

“What! What’s that you’re writing? Don’t write that I was killing Nazis! I wasn’t. Uncle Waldo was! I was just sitting on his lap!” I said with exasperation. “I was only five years old!”

“Yes, but you were only four when you first did jail time, remember? Now, how did Uncle Waldo manage to kill Nazis with you sitting on his lap?”

“He didn’t. He was telling me―while I sat on his lap―how he killed Nazi’s, during the war. I’m telling you it was just a dream!”

“So Uncle Waldo wasn’t in your room last night. All right. We’ll accept that for now. Now tell me how you came to be incarcerated at the age of four.”

“It’s really not a big deal. Actually, I was not quite four. I wouldn’t be for another four months. I know because it was Christmas and my birthday is in April. And we moved from the small town we lived in, Rensselaer, Indiana to Texas that spring and I had just turned four years old at the time of the move.”

“So you were actually three years of age when the law caught up with you?” asked Dr. Petrovsky, putting his pen down and leaning forward, his forearms on his desk.

“Well, that’s what people say when they’re not quite their next age, right? Even though they’re closer to the next age. And I was actually closer to age four. Besides, it sounds better.”

“It sounds better to be jailed at age four then age 3?”

“Well yeah! A year makes a big difference when you’re that age!”

“Ok, Don. I’ll grant you that. Now how did law enforcement come to feel the need to protect society from a four year old or was your incarceration strictly for purposes of punishment?”

“Yeah. For punishment. You see I had always wanted a bicycle. At least since I was two anyway. And I asked Santa Claus for one when he came to sit in his little red house on the corner of the courthouse square that December.”

“Did your parents know you wanted a bicycle?”

“Sure they did! My mom even helped me write a letter asking him for one! When I sat on his lap, he said I’d probably get one but he even put it in writing when he answered my letter! I still have it in a cigar box. Some day I’m going to show it to a lawyer!”

“Let me guess. You didn’t get the bike for Christmas.”

“Heck, no! All I got was a pony’s head on a stick! But the kid next door, Charlie Fisher – he got a bike. He was only one year older than me and he got a shiny, new, red Schwinn. And what’s the first thing he does Christmas morning? He comes riding up to our front steps ringing his damn ringie-dingie bell and honking his horn. I go outside on the steps and he’s squeezing that horn to beat daylight then stops and says, ‘So what did you get for Christmas, Donnie?’

I said, ‘Well . . . I got a pony!’ I was trying to look all happy.

You can bet that sure wiped the grin off his face! So he stutters for a second and says, ‘You got a pony? Let me see it! Is it in the backyard?’ And he starts to get off his bike.

I hesitated but I knew there was no getting out of it, so I went inside and came out with my stick pony. Well, Charlie started laughing until I thought he was going to fall of his new bike and then he said my pony didn’t even have a body or even a tail and rode off laughing and honking his horn and ringing his damn bell!”

“And this is where things went wrong, I venture?” asks Dr. Petrovsky.

“No. Things went wrong when Santa re-nigged on his promise to get me a bike!”

“It could be argued that is a matter of perspective,” replied the doctor.

“Well, my perspective is you’re not the one who didn’t get the bike.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “But did Santa really promise you would get a bike?”

“Well, he said, if I was a good boy, he would see what he could do.”

“And were you?” asked Dr. Petrovsky, raising one bushy black eyebrow.

“Well . . . I was a lot better than I’d ever been!”

“Umm hum. I think I see. So tell me how you came to be placed behind bars. Or was it in some card board jail you also got for Christmas, just like your stick pony wasn’t a real pony?”

“Heck no, Doc! It was a real jail with big fat bars and a big fat Sheriff with a big ring of keys to go with it!”

“Go on,” said Dr. Petrovsky.

“Well, I decided that if I couldn’t have a bike that Christmas then Charlie Fisher couldn’t have his either. So after everyone in my house was eating or taking a nap, I stepped outside with my stick pony, tossed it in the bush and made my way over to Charlie’s. He’d parked that shiny red thing right in front of his steps to show it off to the whole world. I stopped across the street and just stared at it before going around the block and sneaking up on it. I took hold of the handle bars and ran off with it because, of course, I didn’t know how to ride a bike. I took it down to the Armory by the Iroquois River and put it down a stairwell to a basement door.

No sooner did I get home and inside than our doorbell rang and Charlie’s mom and dad were on our front steps with Charlie and I could hear him crying all the way in the house. It wasn’t long before my dad yells, ‘Donnie! Get out here!’ and he confronts me with the Fisher’s accusations. I don’t know how they knew it was me, but they were certain it was.

So my parents look at me and my dad says, ‘So did you do it, Donnie? Did you take Charlie’s bike?’

I waited while all four adults and Charlie, all crying and everything, stared at me. I had been taught never to tell a lie so when my dad asked me a second time, I nodded my head, ‘yes’. Well, they all sighed relief at the same time, like that would be the end of it, and then my dad asked me where the bike was. But I didn’t answer him. And so he asked me again and several times more and I still didn’t answer him. And Charlie starts crying louder and louder, the little shit! Let me tell you, Doc, it’s a good thing my dad was sober for once because if he hadn’t been―he’d been beating the crap out of me by then in front of the whole neighborhood. Finally, as my mom is bending over in front of me trying to cajole me into saying where I had left it after ‘borrowing it so inconsiderately’, my dad takes me by the hand and tells everyone to come inside. They all gather around and he walks to the black phone on the wall and dials the town operator like you had to do back then to make a call. In a loud voice he asks her to connect him to the Sheriff’s office. So after a moment, the Sheriff comes on the other end and my dad, still speaking in a loud voice so we all can hear, says, ‘Sheriff Earp’ or ‘Dillon’ or whatever the Sheriff’s name was, ‘We have a thief in our midst and I want to bring him to justice! . . . That’s right, a bicycle thief. Yes, Sheriff . . . I’m right around the corner from you. I’ll be right over with the criminal in hand.’

I expect they thought I’d start talking then and there, but I didn’t, so my dad takes me by the hand and marches me out the door and we go down to the end of the block and turn left and cross to the next block where the jail sat on the opposite corner elevated well above the street. No sooner did we make that turn then I could see that Sheriff already standing on the top step outside the main door waiting on me. He looked as tall “Big Tex” at the State fair in Dallas, even from a block away! Well, he was at least as big as Marshall Dillon and had his arms across his chest over his big belly. When we got to the steps to go up, my dad led me and the Sheriff stared me in the eye with every step.”

“Didn’t you break down then and tell them where the bike was at that point?” asked the doctor, sounding incredulous and like an average, normal person for once and not a PHd.

“No, sir. I didn’t think it was fair that Charlie got a bike when I didn’t and I was going to see that he never saw that bike again.

My dad let go of my hand and the Sheriff told me to follow him. Inside he had me take a seat in a chair in front of his big desk. He remained standing behind it, just staring at me while he fingered his gun in its holster. He took off his hand cuffs, for some reason, lay them on his desk in front of me, then finally took his seat. Then he looks at my dad and says, “So we got us a thief here, Don?”

“That’s right, Sheriff. A bicycle thief.” And he related the story to him.

So the Sheriff says something like, ‘We don’t take much to thieves around here but we know how to deal with ’em. Are you sure you don’t want to tell us where that bike is, Donnie?”

I didn’t say anything, I just shook my head, ‘No.’

And it went on like that a few times, my dad and the Sheriff continuing to look at each other, like, ‘When is this kid gonna break!’ until, finally, the Sheriff gets up and walks to a big ring of keys next to a door leading down a hallway of cells. And he says, ‘Donnie, it looks like we’re just going to have to lock you up until you tell us where that bike is or the judge in that big courthouse across the street can see you and decide what to do with you.’

Dr. Petrovsky leaned forward even further and his eyes seemed to get a little wider.

Well, the Sheriff opened the door and with that big ring of keys in one hand, and one of my hands in the other, he leads me into the hallway of the cell block. It seemed a mile long although there probably weren’t more than six cells. He leads me past the first three which, as I recall, were empty, but when he gets to the fourth or fifth, there is a big, fat, unshaven man who looks to me as mean as a snake! Now, I don’t know if the Sheriff had already planned this with him, but, I swear, that jailbird snarled at me. Or at least made some ugly kind of face. And I didn’t know what a pedophile was back then, but I’m pretty certain this guy had to be one. He was like a poster-boy for pedophilia, you know what I mean, Doc? You would have thought I’d wet myself right there but I didn’t. So he led me to the empty cell next to his, opened the door, led me in and set me on the cot. Then the clanged the door shut, turned and headed down the hall. That’s when I heard that scary guy next to me growl. Thinking back, he was probably just clearing his throat―but it sounded like a growl to me!―And that’s when I broke!

‘I’ll tell! I’ll tell! I started bawling! I’ll tell where I hid the bike! Let me outta here, I wanna go home! I want my mommy!” The Sheriff came back and unlocked the door and led me back to his office where I sang like a canary―big tears streaming down my face! And that’s how I came to do jail time when I was four, Doc.”

“Brief as it was, it was jail time. I’ll give you that, Don,” said Dr. Petrovsky. “You tell quite a story and I found it very insightful.”

“Oh, I got a whole lot more of ’em, Doc!”

“That will be enough for today. Tomorrow we will begin a series of tests which will enable me to gain even more insight into the choices you have made and the path that brought you to this place.”

“You want to find out what makes me tick, right?”, I asked, “Is that it? In other words, you want to get inside my head.”

“Yes. I’m a psychiatrist. That’s what we do. And remember . . . we will be down to forty-eight hours to determine what is there and not there. This time is critical because during it we will determine whether you will go home . . . or your stay with us will be extended.”

“Why don’t you just ask me. Then we can cut through all this bull and I can get out of this place,” I said incredulously.

“I’m afraid that won’t work, Don. You see, our training and experience tells us that even you don’t know why you make the choices you make. But our tests and these sessions will help us reveal those things and by doing so we hope to be able to help you avoid making bad decisions in the future. Leave you better able to cope with the rest of the world.”

“So, you’re saying I’m different than the rest of the world. Not normal?”

“Well, you’ve certainly distinguished yourself from it so far. I think you can hardly argue that.”

“I’ll make it easy. I’ll tell you what you’re going to find if you get inside my head. You’re going to find Galileo and Moe from the Three Stooges sitting at a table doing shots deciding whose going to tell me what to do next.”

“Galileo? Really? . . . A scientist who postulated the sun, not earth, was the center of the universe, in the face of the almost unanimous and opposing opinion of his peers and predecessors and placed under house arrest by none other than ― ”

“The Pope!” I exclaimed, with a grin.

“I’ll make a note of that. We’ll delve into that and more in another session,” he said making a notation in my file.

“Are we going to talk about masturbation,” I asked.

He looked up and over the top of his glasses. Putting his pen down, he said, “Do you want to?”

“I’d rather not.”

“Well . . . I’d rather not either,” said Dr. Petrovsky.

“Whew! I was worried because Alexander Portnoy sure had to talk about it a lot with his shrink!” I said, with relief.

“Well, Portnoy’s Complaint isn’t on your syllabus while you’re here but we’ll see what “pearls of wisdom” we can cull from Holden Caufield.”

“Oh! Catcher in The Rye! Yeah, I’ve read that too!” I boasted.

“Somehow, I suspected as much,” he said, and with that, he glanced at his watch, rose from his chair and opened the door to his office. Bob was waiting faithfully at attention outside the door.

“Return to Mr. Henry to his room, Bob. See to his medication and that he is back here again at 8 a.m. tomorrow.”

Home: http://bardofthewoods.com

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