A few awake too early and are blinded by a Sun they were never intended to see. They are handed a script they cannot read, yet speak the words phonetically, as if to summon light from their dead eyes.
Yet the light they call forth is not the light of men, but the light that cast winged Icarus into the sea. For they do not suffer from something left out of the creation of their mind, but of something left behind. ~Omar
Shortly after sunrise Aloysius began tearing pages out of his journal and letting them float into the open suitcase in the floor. He was buying time until he was able to process the empty gesture, and unchain himself from his forgetfulness.
Doctor Pincher showed up near the end of the purge, though scarcely acknowledged what was taking place. He looked dark, even in his long white lab coat. He flipped through his folder on pretense, and glanced up after a moment to speak. “Yes, Mr. Gauge.” He circled the only chair, but did not sit. “In my professional opinion, there is no compelling reason to keep you here. What you need is rehabilitation, not institutionalization.”
“I am free to leave, then?”
The doctor was genuinely surprised . “No lock is on your door, sir.”
The page was ripped from the book.
Pincher finally commented on the performance-in-progress. “This is the way you are prepared to leave it?”
The patient shrugged toward a reply.
Heavier words rolled down the physician’s chest, untouched by their usual graveness. “Most men, in my experience, are simple creatures of frank instinct. They face their fears in one place, whereas the imaginative man—the man who cultivates elaborate screens—becomes ensnared in his own cleverness.”
Aloysius was anguished. “I betrayed him with an anagram.”
Harrod’s eyebrow arched quizzically. “Split personality and schizophrenia are not among your complaints, although I cannot rule out schizotypal or schizoid thinking. The only thing untreatable in your condition is your romanticism, Mr. Gauge.”
Both men looked at the suitcase, anticipating the next collision of paper with it.
Pincher added, “As for your friend, and your betrayal, well… All love is a little death, sir, and a letting go of a part of yourself. Sometimes even the most precious part: the part that hurts, the part that inspires you to earn rather than deserve Heaven.”
The next fluttering piece of paper missed its target and went astray under the bed rail.
The physician glanced at the neglected wastepaper basket in the corner, and again at the rapidly filling suitcase. He confessed, “You are not forsaking your friend. Not in the truest sense.” His face was lined with a thin but knowing smile, and he chose his parting words carefully. “I dare say, you will simply love him now by another name.” He passed out of the room with a gentle flap of his coat like tail feathers. “Good day to you, Mr. Gauge! Good day!”
Hearing the squeaky medicine cart in the hall, he sat perfectly still on the edge of his bed in anticipation of her entrance. Erica came in with his pill and cup of water and placed both on the side table, although she was slow seeing the heaped-up pages lying in the open suitcase.
The one stray page was not so under the bed that light in the room could not reach it. A pencil sketch, barely committed to the paper, depicted a female nude not dissimilar to her body type. The drawing was either left incomplete or was intended as a veiled confession, in that the figure lacked a head.
Erica’s terse bedside smile never rang true, and on seeing him discard the crumpled paper water cup, she turned to the door. She pulled up in her trot to peek over her shoulder, and in time to see Aloysius’ stare dart away from her curvaceous backside. When it was not singularly concentrated on her, it dissembled to find other objects in the room of equal interest.
Once she was gone, he closed the suitcase and clasped it shut.
When Miranda arrived at the hospital administrator’s office, the man was eager to pull her aside. After covering the particulars pertaining to Aloysius’ release, he had something more to discuss, though was not sure how to broach the subject. His look was dour. “I’ve received reports in recent weeks about someone on staff who has befriended your brother. I was inclined to dismiss it as idle gossip, but…”
Miranda anticipated him. “You mean the nurse.”
Astonished, the administrator scooted forward in his swivel chair. “So you’ve heard?”
“I’ve heard nothing but rumors.”
He proceeded cautiously, “We are not sure which nurse, but think the liaison dates from October.” With this, he pulled a videocassette from his top desk drawer; a weighty pause preceded his next remark. “Someone turned off the security cameras in the basement for a while last night, although the person who did it failed to realize that not all the cameras are on the same breaker. This view is from inside the morgue.” He tapped the case nervously. “Nothing definite can be seen, given the darkness, but shadows suggest unauthorized entry, possibly of two individuals.” His cadence angled at apology. “Our nurses are mostly subcontracted these days, so we cannot always vouch for their character...”
Miranda was blunt. “None of it matters. The positive effect this mysterious woman has had on my brother has made all the difference.”
The administrator frowned. He turned his attention to a pen, jabbing some papers. “I bring it up only because your brother is particularly susceptible. We have reason to believe this enterprising woman may have smuggled a cell phone into his room.”
“He has a secret, which for a man incapable of keeping them, is a novel development,” she declared.
He was struck by her resignation. “You can understand where Iím coming from, canít you?”
Miranda stood up to leave, and the hospital administrator stood up, too, feeling absolved of responsibility in the matter. “You must do what you think best,” he said.
A knock arose on the door. The sister stood at the entrance of her brother’s room with Aaron at her side and Amelia in her arms; Aloysius, anticipating his departure, stared at his packed suitcase.
His enigmatic painting of the black box (possibly a depiction of a coffee grinder) was not coupled to it. This prompted Miranda to inquire, “Are you leaving that here?”
“I’m giving it to my therapist,” he explained.
This information provided a segue. “By the by, I’ve invited your therapist to dinner tonight. I hope you don’t mind?”
The brother grabbed his sunglasses off the side table without expressing an opinion, and then the suitcase.
She asked, in passing, “Did you see the meteor shower last night? It was almost like daylight.”
Aaron ribbed his uncle. “It’s Da Day of da Triffids, where da guy’s in da hospital whiff bandaged eyes while everyone else is outside watching meddeors. Da next day he can see and everyone else is blind.”
“Wrong movie,” mumbled Aloysius.
This rebuke sent the nephew in a mild swivet. He began rummaging through his mental store of cinematic trivia.
Miranda saw the drawing under the bed but said nothing of it. She repositioned the fretting toddler in her arms and led the way into the corridor.
The party crossed paths with Erica, who was then wheeling her noisy cart in the opposite direction; the sister noted that neither the nurse nor her brother shared a glance. The family exited through the main door in the new extension, where an electrician was up on a ladder installing a new clock.
Aloysius did not talk in the car, but when the family arrived home, he was compelled to ask, “You’re not selling the house?”
The realty sign was gone from the yard.
Turning off the ignition key, she confessed, “The hospital bills are being paid by other means.”
Aloysius looked sideways at his unforthcoming sister, but was rarely curious where his welfare was not imminently threatened.
Once inside, Amelia was placed in her playpen, and as it was Christmas Eve Day, there was still dinner to prepare. “Turn on the TV,” Miranda told her brother. “The folks will be here soon.”
A preoccupied Aaron had already reclined on the sofa to rock.
Aloysius, with suitcase still in hand, circled a chair to which he could not commit, and eyed the flashing twelve on the VCR nervously.
“What will you do?” she asked.
“Do now that you are out of the hospital?”
“You know I never have much of a plan.”
Miranda turned toward the kitchen. She paused in the doorway to remind him, “You always have a home here, Aloysius…”
“Is my old fan in the attic?” he asked.
“I put it in your room upstairs.”
He nodded, and his sister resumed her short trek. When she was out of earshot, the uncle intruded on his nephew’s meditation. “Did the boarder move out?”
The question erupted in the boy’s head. He sat up with a jolt to piece it together. “It’s Da Day da Earf Stood Still. Right…?” Grabbing his coat off the back of the sofa, the satisfied child ran out the backdoor to play.
Aloysius confronted the stairs with a mind to freshen up, glancing at the foyer desk in passing, to where his folded note (presumably still unread) sat under the paperweight; it was silently slipped into his pocket.
Ascending the steps, the suitcase wanted to pull him over. His soul was momentarily suspended between two worlds: the invented one he knew intimately in the bulging piece of luggage, and the one depicted in framed family photographs, which was more outline than distinct memory. He could not conflate the two, or easily choose between them.
The bedroom came into view at the landing, and the sight of some of his old science fiction posters pulled him up in the doorway. Coming on the window, Aaron was spotted below in the backyard. He ran and screamed in some secret language only he knew. Freshly laundered bed sheets blustered and snapped on the clothesline. One moment the boy was doing battle with them, and in the next, pretending they were part of a superhero costume.
Setting the suitcase aside, Aloysius reached into his jacket pocket to remove the folded paper, belatedly remembering the plastic ring tucked there, and the child…
T H U M P !
Something struck the side of the house with a tremendous force, setting the rafters in the roof heaving. Leaves still clinging to December’s trees fell in a rush to the ground. The uncle stumbled at the window ledge, and with barely time to right himself before a second blow came.
T H U M P !
This summons penetrated the clapboards and interior walls, charging up the stairs outside and cracking its banister.
The final blow passed through his bones with imperceptible faintness, and succeeded only in toppling a Christmas card on the dresser. Aloysius read its handwritten salutation: To Miranda, Aloysius, and Amelia –Love Mom and Dad
The card was dropped in a fait accompli.
Returning to the window, the pinned bed sheets whipped and fluttered in a frenzy, yet in their widened search they could not find the dancing star…
The last of the daylight lumbered away through the trees, and with its lengthening stride, dusk grew steadily bolder in the folds of the sallow curtains. It was a moment in a short winter’s day, and left darker stairs for Aloysius to descend.
By his certain hearing, a gentle conversation rose to meet him. The VCR clock was spied in the living room below; it no longer flashed twelve but showed a steady five-thirty. When he reached the bottom step, his sister greeted him in the foyer. “Ah!” she declared. “Our dinner guest has arrived!”
Emma, wearing a vintage twill coat, stepped out of the shadowy doorway entrance.
Chapter Thirty-two, Section Two/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.