Run by Dave Morehouse
Run. Blast down the sidewalk, wind in my face, the bold taste of freedom fresh on my tongue with each inhale. That’s my plan. My old rolling IV stand is gone, so now it’s possible. But running builds suspicion and suspicion can be the enemy, so I walk; I try to fit in.
Beige walls, cheap art, and faux marble floors do little to make this hospital appear different from the one downtown where they sew people back up. Shorty Doc Ahmed stone-faces his way up the hallway. He will look up from his notebook and see my jumpsuit about the time I reach the nurse station. He’ll ask if I have passed gas ... or am I warm or is blood shooting out my ears. Whatever he asks: my answer is yes. It’s the only way out of here. They wait for the magic symptom that tells them I am fully cured.
He doesn’t notice me. “Good morning, Doc.” I force his attention up and away from the iPad.
“Ahh, yes! Good morning. Have your bowels moved today?” His voice rises unnaturally with each sentence.
“Yeah. They moved great.” I’m not lying this time. The morning crap was fantastic ... a seven out of ten. “So when can I go home?”
“Maybe you’re doing better. Let’s see what your chart says.” He writes rather than reads.
The chart is another trick. It’s not even a chart. It’s a damn iPad. The doctors always crowd their face in so I can’t read it over their shoulders. They use the chart against me to keep changing my release date. The chart is their safety net. Everyone types a little something. Everyone gets paid. Everyone stays put.
“My chart says I should be home working in my garden.” I smile.
“Let’s see. No. No mention of gardens. Oh yes, I see. You are fooling me again.” He plays along.
Shorty Doc Ahmed’s not that clever if you ask me. If he actually knew anything about anything, he wouldn’t work in a mental institution. Thinks he’s smart using the old chart trick on a veteran like me. Maybe he can fool the self-committed newbies but he can’t do me that way. I don’t see snakes crawl up and down walls. I don’t think I’m Jesus like old man Abelman does. I don’t dream my father raped a dog or anything. I’m just a regular guy. Perhaps that bothers them. My friend Edna bothered the hell out of them. She heard voices, but Edna was okay.
“I’ll see you again tomorrow morning. Maybe we should set up a meeting to help get you home?” Again with that rising voice.
He is getting better at lying with a straight face. The ‘meeting’ is their ultimate trick. They use meetings to up my meds. I can’t allow that. It might take another year before I could handle the increased dosage and get smart enough to start hiding pills again. Under the tongue and way back in that little pocket of cheek they can’t see. Just like Abelman taught me.
“Yeah, a meeting sounds good. Maybe after breakfast tomorrow?” I could lie too.
A couple years ago Edna showed me how she could read lips. I promised I wouldn’t tell. “They’ll say more if they don’t know,” she had whispered. “It’s how I hear the voices.” She told me their secrets. “They transfer patients with great insurance and no family.” They will keep us here forever. Poor Edna has had many meetings since then, and nowadays she doesn’t hear anything. She sits and nods off in the TV room. Sometimes I whisper the latest comings and goings in Edna’s ear. If they watch too close I stand across the room and just move my lips.
The smell of fish sticks permeates the hall long after lunchtime. I notice them talking about me behind the big glass. The one I call Doctor Meet Me moves his lips slow and serious. Doc Meet Me says I might try to hurt myself again. Shorty Doc Ahmed agrees. His voice is probably rising. Nobody notices me walk past the glass, down the hall, and back to my room.
Six weeks ago, I traded my hidden stash of meds to Abelman for his heavy-duty sleeping pills. In the weeks to follow, I built my stash back up, and now I have plenty. It’s time. They want another meeting, and I know what to do.
I can only guess the uproar when the morning rounds nurse can’t roust me. She’ll see pills scattered across the floor and nightstand. Her voice over the speakers will call “Stat” for all personnel. A flurry of hands will hoist me onto a gurney and into an ambulance. They’ll wonder if the hospital can pump my stomach before it’s too late. They can’t. I have rehearsed every morning for the last week.
I wake in the ambulance but, as practiced, I don’t move. I am groggy but the effect of the sleeping pills will wear off before we reach the hospital downtown. I lie on the gurney and wait for them to remove the restraints. I feel the blood rush to my feet. They won’t expect me run when they open the doors.
© 2014 Dave Morehouse
The Avatar Self
Boomtown Guide for the Perplexed
Snake Oil Rights
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Dave Morehouse writes music, poetry, and short fiction. Recent work has been published in Black Heart Magazine, Every Day Poets, Crack the Spine, Blink Ink, Every Day Fiction, and various online and print journals. He is the editor for the online zine, Postcard Poems and Prose. In spare moments he plays fiddle and concertina by Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He can be found on the Web, Goodreads and Twitter.