Mental Care

a sketch

Peter O’Brien

     I will tell you the story of Bater Evans. Who I am is not important. Suffice to say, I, Harvey Livingston, was his close associate for over thirty years at the time of his sudden demise and vacation from sanity.

     Bater said, “We used to play golf at the club.”

     It sounded almost like a bad joke the first time I heard him say it at the hospital, but he repeated it endlessly until he nearly tormented himself.

     Being greatly enamored of his reputation and his business panache (he was fantastic with statistics analyses), I paid for his care, because I feared that if I did nothing, then he would presently be in over his head with medical bills and treatments that didn’t work, government bureaucracy, and the like. I wanted to see him well again. That is all.

     Bater only resumed his post years later. Then, over lunch, he described one of his last doctor’s visits as a patient at the hospital:

     “My psychiatrist Dr. Marjeska asked me how the treatment was going. ‘I kid you not,’ I replied, ‘I was in here all last week, smoking pot and no one noticed, smoking weed and no one cared, getting high all the time, just me and my lonesome. What do you say to that?’ Dr. Marjeska poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down. ‘Are you quite finished?’ she said. I held my breath and let it out slow. ‘Yes, ma’am!’”

     “But you don’t -” I protested.

     He shook his head. “My hospital time ended not long after that. It wasn’t that we didn’t see eye to eye, me and the ‘establishment,’ as I called them. It went deeper and felt more personal than that, and when the connection broke, I discovered my freedom.

     "The establishment lost its grip unless they purposely unleashed me upon the world. Or they gave me up as a bad job. Or they succumbed to negligence in my discharge. Who can say? The insurance watch dogs seemed to condone any action whatever to save a dollar and get me out. In fact, the latter course appeared to decide the majority of their cases with patients. They simply allowed the pieces to fall where they may and left them there. Maybe I fell through the cracks. But if said cracks dominated the infrastructure, then what we had was an architecture of precipices and drop-offs into oblivion. The ‘cracks’ disappeared and the landscape consisted of a scaffolding only. I fell from it or I was pushed off of it by the status quo—perhaps it calls itself C. L. O. N. G.—well, C. L. O. N. G. then, pushed me or let me fall. Dangerous that. It had a license to kill.

     "Except I refused to die. Instead, I felt this blue fuzz inside of me off-and-on for the rest of my life. I still had life. The fuzz grew sometimes thick and fluffy, though, making it impossible for me or anyone else to find me in it. Naturally all sorts of professionals tried to guide me back to sanity, but they were baffled too. They were baffled too,” he repeated.

     Someone recently asked me, “Mr. Livingston, what will it take for you to finish with Bater Evans? Why don’t you give him up?” I do not precisely recall all that I said in answer to my companion that day, but I did say this:

     One day I will tell you the story of Bater Evans from start to finish. Then I will be done. And then you can forget it.

The End

Four Fascinations
Peter O'Brien
appears in
FlashPøint #10.