sage advice

Somewhere down the line people decided you got better advice from a total fuckin’ zero in a three piece suit than you got from guys in bowling shirts and bar aprons who knew you and your family before you did…”

 

by ed markowski

 

 

I was working for the M E Leonard Cement Company in a two blink town seventy-five miles north of Detroit.

 

The second week of November, a wave of Canadian cold flooded the state. On eleven, eleven the temperature bottomed out at six degrees above zero. That day’s job …  a forty – five yard cider mill floor somewhere in the thumb between frost bite and hypothermia. At the job site a plague of wind wasps strafed our faces. We set up four kerosene heaters to keep the concrete from freezing. For thirteen hours we froze, fried, and flourished.

 

At the end of the day, an apple magnate in Vassar, Michigan had a solid rock upon which to mash his apples.

 

At ten minutes after eight, in a death white shroud of falling snow, M.E. snapped an icicle off of his beard and said, “Good fuckin’ job boys.” My hands were dry and cracked. Pain pounded my spine like a meth mad player piano. Two months past my twenty sixth birthday, the time had come for me to find a job that was warm all Winter, and cool all Summer. I could see the gypsy trail I rode, lived, and loved turning into an eight lane expressway clogged with rush hour traffic. I stopped at Luke’s Party Barrel. When I got home I thawed out with a pint of ginger brandy, a quart of Hamm’s and the want ads. On page four this plea for help flushed the exhaustion out of me and opened my eyes …..

 

Seeking …

 

Glen Haven Psychiatric Hospital has two full time case manager positions open. Candidates must have a Bachelors degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field. Experience desired but not a must. Candidates must possess superior social and communication skills to meet the therapeutic needs of a vastly diverse patient population. Send your resume to Glen Haven Hospital 10680 East Chicago Avenue Almont, Michigan 48003. I knocked back some brandy, chased it with beer, and went to work creating and shaping my resume.

 

Education:

 

I had all of the requirements pretty much covered. I say pretty much covered because I never took a psychology class in my life. Doc Daddy-O told my brother and I that psychology was nothing more than a high class, high cost strain of bullshit. The foundation analysis, psychology, and psychiatry rested on was a flimsy floor of pseudoscience. The science, he said, “Is cotton disguised as steel, sand disguised as stone, and anyone who pays to study that bullshit in college is throwing their money away because you can learn everything you need to know about people in dives, diners, bus stations, and bars. All you have to do is listen and talk. You should do more listening than talking. If you want to help the refused, spit on, run down, and stomped, stand in their boots, walk in their boots, run in their boots, sleep in their boots, listen to them, and let them know that they are immeasurably more dignified than all of the politicians, queens, presidents, kings, prime ministers, and gods who have fucked up and forsaken our Earth with their egos since that day of destruction  in the Garden Of Eden. Freud, Jung, Skinner, Miss Lonely Hearts, Maslow, Dear Abbey, Erikson, Dr Joyce Brothers, and Ann Landers weren’t scientists, they were world class, grade A, pickpockets.”

 

He went on, ” Back when, if a guy needed a mind massage he went to the village elder, neighborhood wise guy, mechanic, bookie or bartender. Somewhere down the line people decided you got better advice from a total fuckin’ zero in a three piece suit than you got from guys in bowling shirts and bar aprons who knew you and your family before you did. My colleagues Seagram Jack, Bobby Delmonico, and Chameleon Mike are still around today but no one goes to see them for the right reason anymore.”

 

When my brother’s girlfriend left him he told Doc Daddy-O he needed to talk to someone because he was depressed and addicted to her. Doc Daddy-O said, “Big Henry’s Bar is a block up the street. Jack and Vern’s Clip Joint is right right next door, and the cab stand is right between them. Better yet, go to the arcade and give Zoltar a quarter. He’s cheap, fast, and he won’t bullshit you. The only thing shrinks and psychologists are good at is talking rich people out of their money. I gotta hand it to them, they developed a perfectly legal way for anyone with a half ounce of common sense to rob the rich. Getting paid a hundred dollars an hour to shoot the breeze with some suit who caught the mail man stuffing his capital I in his old lady’s envelope is what I call climbing the ladder without lifting a finger or a foot. It’s a great way to make a living. It’ll always be a great way to make a living.”

 

As for my formal education creds, I had a BA in English with a concentration in psychological fiction. The way I saw it, a concentration in psychological fiction qualified as a related field. To assure myself a fair chance of winning the job and Doc Daddy-o’s approval, I had to amend and adjust my diploma and transcripts. The words English and fiction had to go. The letters ical at the end of psychological had to go. The ical in psychological had to be replaced with a Y.

 

Even though the call for applicants stated experience wasn’t a must, I wanted the job. I walked back to Lukes through a scaldingly cold Lake Huron wind and three more inches of lake effect. When I got home I dove into a pool of Ghost Owl Whiskey and took account of my

 

Field Studies & Clinical Experience:

 

Fall semester sophomore year in college I took a class that examined the influence of Freud and his theories on writers and the dominant themes writers presented from the late Victorian era to the cold war. Born and raised down in Bethel Springs Tennessee, he was new in the city, and new on the job. He walked into the class room wrapped in a red and green flannel shirt, perfectly creased, dark blue, cardboard stiff Levi’s, and ox blood penny loafers that were loaded with Eisenhower dimes. I thought I’d seen his face on a canister of Country Time Lemonade. He was doggone it oh shucks much obliged thank you kindly ma’am just around the bend fixin’ to set a spell way over yonder and plumb tuckered out ya’ll, Jed Clampett adrift in the mist on planet Sid Vicious. On the surface, Professor Daniel Lee Adams was two country miles more wholesome than wholesome.

 

First day of class Professor Adams led us through the syllabus. Crime and Punishment, Bram Stokers Dracula, Sons and Lovers, The Metamorphosis, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, The End Of Something, The Killers, Tender Is The Night, and A Streetcar Named Desire comprised our reading list. A paper would be due on each novel, and Hemingway’s two short stories.

 

At the end of our syllabus trip Professor Dan informed us that he would do everything he could to make the class educationally and therapeutically exciting. The fall semester and my field study began with Fyodor Dostoevsky . . . . Crime and Punishment wasn’t a snooze it was a deep sleep until Professor Dan said, “Raskolnikov’s homicidal axe attacks were sex acts born from a long simmering desire to experience a menage a trois. Now considering Alyona’s age and Raskolnikov’s age, Alyona symbolized Raskolnikov’s mother. Raskolnikov killed Alyona because he realized his mother would never let him in the front or back door even though Raskolnikov’s father was dead. He also realized his fantasy of engaging in a Menage a Trois with his mother and sister would never be fulfilled.” The woman who was sitting four rows to my left raised her hand.

 

“Go ahead Esther.”

 

“Professor, are you saying what you’re saying to generate a discussion, disgust our sensibilities, or to insult our intelligence?”

 

“What I’ve shared with you is my analytic summary of the novel.”

 

“You’re serious?

 

“Sure am.”

 

“What you’re saying is pure nonsense. You’ve turned one of the world’s great novels into a Hustler magazine.”

 

“Esther, you’re entitled to disagree. I’m not surprised that you do. I could tell you were frigid on the first day of class. I’ll bet your boyfriend’s nickname is the Ice Man. And I’ll bet you turned his baby wand into a popsicle. From this point on Esther, when I think of you, I’ll think of barren tundra, glaciers, blizzards, and polar ice caps.” Esther looked over at me and smiled. Professor Adams may have been right about Raskalnikov, Alyona, and Pulkheria, but he was way way wrong about Esther. Next on the list was Dracula.

 

Professor Adams’s  lectures presented Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the Electra side of the Oedipus coin. “Dracula was Mina Murray’s and Lucy Westenra’s father. Both women wanted to make love with the Count. Drac’s fangs were extensions of his penis. His fangs represented his sexual prowess. Mina and Lucy were ready to rock the Count. They wanted to Vamp the Vamp into sex on a three way street but Dracula was an old fashioned guy. In life he was a one at a time lover. In the unlife he took his women one at a time. Sinking his fangs into Lucy’s neck was sexual intercourse feeding on her blood was the Vampiric equivalent of an orgasm. When his fangs hit the target and the blood began to flow, Drac moaned ecstatic. Turning a woman into a Vampire was the birth of a child. By sucking her blood Dracula baptized the baby.” After his assault on Esther, the class was reluctant to challenge Professor Adams.

 

I was getting bored with the Freudian and quasi Freudian blather. I saw Dracula as a Victorian Era allegory about the dangers of opiate addiction. When Stoker wrote Drac opiates were sold over the counter in England. I didn’t see Drac’s fangs as extensions of his creation equipment. Dracs fangs were delivery systems. Drac’s fangs were double dosing hypodermic needles.

 

I contended that the story was meant to expose London’s opium dens and the moral sloth they birthed. Drac wasn’t just a pusher, he was a Neitzscheian Ubermensch. Drac was the drug, pusher, high, rush, addiction and death. Professor Adams kept his Freudian blinders on but he praised my “creative and original analysis.”

 

We moved on to DH Lawrence’s masterpiece Sons and Lovers. Professor Adams asked if we recalled him telling us on the first day of the semester that he would do everything he could to make the class educationally and therapeutically exciting. Everyone did.

 

He said, “I’m glad you remember that. Some of you might be surprised by what I’m gonna say and do but it has to be said and done because it’s a matter of my resurrection. It comes down to this very fundamental choice. That choice is kill or be killed. DH Lawrence wrote Sons and Lovers about my life as it was and as it remains. Now just hang in there. If you get frightened, upset or disgusted, you can walk out at any time.”

 

He stopped talking and turned to face the chalkboard. The staccato click of chalk on slate accelerated, slowed, and stopped. His right hand hovered like a hornet, then the staccato assault of chalk on slate resumed. His right arm and shoulder moved like a spasmodic jigsaw. The dissonant rhythm of chalk on slate and the dissonance of his movements became a perfectly choreographed improvisation of a man being electrocuted.

 

Still facing the chalk board Professor Adams dropped the chalk over his left shoulder, did a Bruce Lee jump, and crushed the chalk with the heels of his penny loafers. He screamed, “I hate you motherfucker. I hate you because you’re still standing. I hate you because you’re still blocking the doorway. I didn’t want to kill you but I have to because I want to make love with mommy daddy and daddy you’re the obstacle daddy.  And daddy, my resurrection doesn’t happen unless I kill you daddy, you cocksucking motherfucker” Professor Adams turned around and stepped aside. Six eyes watched us from the chalkboard. He did a double axel. He started to beat the chalk drawings with an open hand. He yelled out “Ladies and gentlemen when I kill this prick you’ll bear witness to a resurrection. He yelled “Guess what daddy? I’m gonna be mommy’s lover..”After he spit on each pair of eyes he lit a cigarette and said, “That’s class for today. Thanks to all for taking part in my primal therapy session. If any of you needs to kill a memory totin’ ghost there’s no better way to go about it. Your papers on Sons and Lovers are due Tuesday. On Thursday, rather than having class, I’ll meet with each of you individually to discuss your papers.” He looked at the chalkboard. He said, “Fuck you daddy,” Then he walked out of the room.

 

My paper appointment was set for eleven a.m. His office was on the ninth floor in Hannah Hall. His office door was covered outside and in with Polaroid snaps of his family and magazine pics of Sylvia Plath. I figured his father was the guy in the collage whose eyes were poked out, or the guy with darts in his eyes, or the guy who had been beheaded.

 

I knocked. He said, “Come in.” Professor Adams was laying on a faded red love seat with unraveling cushions. He was thumbing through Freud’s dream book. A copy of Sons and Lovers sat on a mahogany table beside him. He lifted the dream book. “This is the Old Testament” He lifted Sons and Lovers. “This is the New Testament. Have a seat and we’ll discuss your blasphemy.” The only chair in his office was behind his desk. That’s where I sat looking down at him.

 

“Your paper is excellent. I don’t agree with your contention that Lawrence had attempted to undermine, sabotage, and destroy Freud and psychoanalysis. I have a point to make that will benefit you down the road. I’m going to ask a few questions. You don’t have to answer the questions if you feel the question is too personal or offensive.” I said, “Ok.”

 

“Are you most attracted to brunettes, blondes, or red heads?”

 

“All of them.”

 

“You have to choose one of the three.”

 

“Brunettes.”

 

“What color eyes do you prefer?”

 

“Smokey brown.”

 

“How about height and weight?

 

“5 foot 3 to 5 foot 7. 110 to 140 pounds.”

“Complexion?”

 

“Mediterranean.”

 

“Culinary preference?”

 

“Italian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, and cheese burgers.”

 

“What intellectual qualities should your brunette have?

 

“Well read, bright, creative, open minded, and free of pretentious bullshit.”

 

“General philosophy?”

 

“In the name of sanity laugh all day at nothing.”

 

“Domestic qualities?”

 

“Women aren’t pets. Besides, I like ironing, washing clothes, grocery shopping, and cooking.”

 

“What color is your mother’s hair?”

 

“Light blonde, bordering on white.”

 

“Her ethnic disposition?”

 

“Swedish and Russian.”

 

“Her profession?”

 

“Seamstress and ski instructor.”

 

“General approach to life?”

 

“She’s a protestant work ethic Jihadi.”

 

” Do you think about making love with her?”

 

” No.”

 

“How often do you think about making love with her?”

 

“I don’t.”

 

“Why are you denying the feelings you and every son on this planet have for their mothers?”

 

Before I could answer the question, Professor Adams began to sob. He said, “My suicidal thoughts have become so intense our Cocker Spaniel Katy has picked up on them. She’s become suicidal. She jumped off my wife’s lap and chased a car down Pine Street. The other day she peed on a cop car.” He reached under the love seat and read three poems he had written for his wife. They were titled “Your Dead Love,” “My Dead Love,” and “Our Dead Love.” He told me about the family vacation that was intended as an exercise in togetherness. He said, “It turned into a fucking death trip all the way to the Grand Canyon, and all the way back to Michigan my son Scotty and my daughter Emma didn’t count yellow cars or semis, they counted road kill. For five-thousand miles all Mary and I heard was dead rabbit, dead crow, dead deer, dead possum, dead armadillo, dead prairie dog, dead gopher, dead snake, dead pheasant. My father has fucked up my whole family. I was born and raised in the bible belt and ain’t it my luck to be one of twenty-five Catholics in the entire county? The guilt of wanting to be my mother’s lover and my father’s assassin is killing me.” I didn’t know what to say to Professor Adams until he said, “I’ve never tried it but I think it might help. Do you know where to get good LSD?” I told him I did. He asked if five bucks would cover the cost. I told him sure. He reached for his wallet. I said, “Forget it.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Would you take off your seatbelt and stand up in a roller coaster Professor Adams?”

 

“That’s a real possibility.”

 

“A person has to be emotionally stable to experience the intense and relentless instability of LSD. You’re not even close.”

 

“What would you suggest? What would make me stable?”

 

“Get a job in a factory, spend at least two hours a day listening to rock and roll records at full volume, and stay away from carnivals and amusement parks.”

 

At the end of the semester I decided I needed a reality check. I took my own advice. I quit school and took a job installing steering columns in taxi cabs, police cars, and station wagons at a Chrysler assembly plant that became the site of my next field study…

 

The plant was located in a dying neighborhood on the east side of Detroit. The dying neighborhood was ruled by junkies and a gang called the Erroll Flynns. At break times the Flynns showed up on the sidewalks surrounding the plant. They sold boxes of frozen shrimp, Tiger tickets, tuxedos, lawn mowers, cameras, stereos, bibles, Cuban cigars, hand guns, prime rib, liquor, lovers, porn flicks, porn mags, wedding gowns, and honeymoon destinations. Thousands of men and women did their Christmas shopping on the corner of Lynch Road and Huber Avenue. Countless women wore diamond rings and wedding bands that were slipped on their fingers at cut rate prices compliments of fifteen year old smash and grab artists named Dead Dog, Bullit Bitch, and Uzi One.

 

The Lynch Road Plant was an antique. In the dead of winter the temperature inside never dipped below ninety. In the summer, the temperature never dipped below ninety-five. Six thousand people worked in the plant. World war two era power tools spit oil in our faces. Welders became shadows in showers of sparks. We gorged ourselves at an all you can inhale buffet of paint fumes, glue fumes and gas fumes forty-eight hours a week. Angel dust, dexedrine, quaaludes, nembutol, acid, hash, Wild Irish Rose, and heroin was the fuel that drove us to build cars. I watched a foreman go up in flames after an insult session with the guy who loaded the line racks with the steering columns I installed. I worked with toothless Yemeni shepherds, defrocked preachers, Italian chefs, black militants, red Chinese, yellow bellied wife beaters, white supremacists who couldn’t spell white, Harlan County fiddle pickers, coal miners, Ojibway Indians, Alabama blues men, childless mothers, twenty year old girls who lived sixty years every night, and cold blooded killers who didn’t keep it a secret. “Kill that motherfuken ron and his motharfucen bitch peenut with a thirty eight,” was spray painted on the wall of the bathroom in my department. For three years I read that message every time I peed. Everyone who worked on the line was either chronically insane, temporarily insane, or intoxicated. Madness was the antidote of choice to quell the brutality of monotony. The order of the assembly line bred chaos in the minds of men. My field study ran for three years.

 

When it ended, I granted myself a Masters Degree in Industrial Psychology from the University of Detroit’s Lynch Road Annex.

 

The remedy for the claustrophobia that had built up in me after surviving three years in that poorly lit and poorly ventilated steel box was Heaven’s air and room to fly. I started an extended Kerouac crawl three days after graduation and watched the Lynch Road Assembly Plant fade away in the rear view mirrors of rusted and regal sunrise gold Ford Mustangs, watermelon green panel trucks, Lake Superior blue Buick Electras, blood red Peterbuilt Semis, sunset orange Pontiac Catalinas, prairie amber Old’s Toronados, star white Ford Galaxies, and assassination black Lincoln Continentals.

 

After ten months and twelve – thousand miles my claustrophobia was cured. I was seventy – five miles from home and nearly flat broke. I was drinking a beer and getting a thumb tan in the ninety degree heat on the main drag in downtown Argyle Michigan. Six cars passed me in an hour. Midway through hour two, a guy in a beat up dump truck slowed to a stop. He combed a patch of cottonwood snow off of his beard. The guy says, “I’ll take you all the way to wherever you’re going tomorrow if you help me and my crew today. I asked the guy what kind of help he needed. He extended his right hand. We shook. He said, ” M E Leonard, sole owner of the M E Leonard Concrete Company. I need a laborer because my laborer’s in the Huron County Jail for kicking ass last night at a dive in Port Hope.” I helped him out and loved the work, so I rented a room above the Chippewa Sands Laundromat.

 

 

That was fifteen months ago. I proof read my resume until both eyes were crossed and every T was dotted. I called M.E. I told him I wouldn’t be at the job site tomorrow. In the morning I borrowed my landlady’s car. I slipped and slid my way to Detroit. I took my papers and specifications to Chameleon Mike’s Presto Print. An hour later and abracadabra there they were, sitting next to Mike’s cash register, shining like a hypnotist’s object of attention, my brand new BA in Psychology and my Master’s in Industrial Psychology.

 

Chameleon Mike clipped my chin with a soft left hook and laughed, “I remember doing something like this for your old man. On the streets of that America we didn’t call them degrees, we called them grift cards. Use them wisely and you’ll make big money.” With turkeys strutting and Christmas trees glittering on the horizon I wanted to avoid the risk of a post office faux pa. On the way back to Argyle, I delivered my resume to Glen Haven. The following week I was interviewed by the director of psychiatric services.

 

He called me into his office. Doctor Morris Golden stood, looked up at me, and extended his wrinkled right hand. We shook. The glint of his Rolex lodged in my eyes. He invited me to sit on an orange bean bag chair that was situated in the amber glow of his varnished oak pedestal desk. From my floor level vantage point I was in a stare down with a note that was taped to the front of the desk exactly at eye level. The note read . . . Welcome! Who aren’t you? We’ve waited all day. What are you doing here? Why aren’t you there yet? Be nervous!

 

Doctor Golden looked familiar. I felt that I was in the presence of a very well known, very well loved wise man. I was looking for clues in a foggy field (where in the hell did I see his face before I walked into his office?) of Deja vu when Dr. Golden started the interview.

 

“As a short man Mr. Masque, do you feel inferior to me?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because even though I’m looking up at you, I’m easily six inches taller than you.”

 

“What are you young man?”

 

” gourmet chemical stew.”

 

“Are you id driven?”

 

“Yes, when necessary.”

 

“Explain that.”

 

“Hunger, thirst, shelter, sex, and sleep.”

 

“The elements of id are correct. The order of the elements is wrong.”

 

“What is the correct order?

 

“Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex hunger thirst shelter and sleep.”

 

“Thank you Dr. Golden.”

 

“Did you get into this field to find yourself?”

 

“No.”

 

“To Lose yourself?”

 

“No.”

 

“To save lives.”

 

“No.”

 

“Why did you apply for this job?”

 

“To stay warm all winter. To stay cool all summer.”

 

“What?”

 

“I crave a climate controlled environment.”

 

“I want you to say the first thing that comes to your mind when I say …

 

“Grope Therapy.”

 

“In the back seat with Lucy at the Van Dyke Drive – In. As the brain craving zombies inched closer and closer she and me went all the way.”

 

“Grape Therapy.”

 

“Crop dusters dusting Napa Valley vineyards, winos, welchers, and shooting dice in the alley with three other bag passers.”

 

“Grip Therapy”

 

“Fly paper.”

 

“Gestalt Therapy”

 

“There’s no time but now.”

 

“Primal Therapy”

 

“Alligators, killer bees, and college professors.”

 

“Skinner’s box.”

 

“Cars and factories”

 

“Electro Shock Therapy.”

 

“Woodstock.”

 

“Cognitive Therapy.”

 

“Wind Shifts.”

 

“Behavior Mod.”

 

“Dracula.”

 

“Hypnosis.”

 

“The Rolex glow.”

 

Doctor Golden shook his head, “I don’t understand them, but your answers are incredible.”

 

“Thank you, Doctor.”

 

“You’re quite bright.”

 

“Thank you, Doctor.”

 

“Take a twenty minute break, come back here, and we’ll finish.”

 

Mister Masque, are you of the opinion that the mentally ill are inferior beings?”

 

“Doctor Golden, mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Something could occur in the next second that would necessitate us receiving the same services we provide.”

 

 

“Do you believe that unresolved guilt, shame, and fear are the primary elements of severe depression that can result in suicide?”

 

“Yes I do Doctor Golden. That triplicate of curses killed my dear friend Hester.”

 

“You’re on a beach. It’s a beautiful day. You’re drinking a beer. A man approaches. He tells you the CIA planted a homing device in his two remaining molars. The devices play rock and roll records non stop. What’s your response?”

 

“I love that song man, turn it up. Way up.”

 

“Your response if the person is a woman?”

 

“Let’s dance without pants.”

 

“Is psychological rehabilitation possible for the criminally insane?”

 

“I did the psyche testing at the prison in Iona for two years. I tested ax murderers named Raskalnikov, neck biters named Drac, six gun sadists named Billy, sunshine killers named Mersault, and homicidal pedophiles named Humbert. All of them swore they were innocent. The test results indicated that all of them would kill multiple times if they were paroled. Rehabilitation is a noble goal that’s further away than Neptune.”

 

“Explain the dynamics and development of Codependence in the families of alcoholics.”

 

“During my years in New Orleans my practice revolved around family counseling. A man I’ll call Stanley, his wife Stella, and Stella’s sister Blanche set an appointment. Stanley, Stella, and Blanche came into the office three abreast. Stanley and Blanche were doing a gumby version of the Stoly Stumble. Stella was between he and she to prevent them from falling. Stella misguidedly believes that she’s helping Stanley and Blanche when in fact she’s enabling them to continue drinking by taking on their responsibilities. The enabler’s self worth then becomes dependent on the others maintaining their addictions. For Stella to maintain her self esteem her husband and sister must remain sick. Provide a safety net and Stanley and Blanche will never hit their bottom. There should be thirteen steps because hitting the bottom is truly the first step in the recovery process.”

 

“Have you had any clinical experiences with individuals who suffer from the psychosis of self image?”

 

“Yes, I had worked extensively with a young man who believed he was an insect. What made the case challenging was the fact that he was a different insect on different days. On Mondays he was a Japanese Beetle. On Wednesdays he was a Carpenter Ant. On Thursdays, every time he looked in the mirror he saw a fruit fly.”

 

“Did you make any progress unraveling his psychosis?”

 

“The last time I saw Gregory, he told me that on Mondays he was no longer a Japanese Beetle. On Mondays he’s a field mouse.”

 

Doctor Golden stood and clapped. “Seeing himself as a mammal one day a week is tremendous progress! I’m very impressed young man, I’m very very impressed.” When Doctor Golden removed his Yoda mask he looked more like Yoda than Yoda and the Yoda mask put together.

 

After the interview I drove out to Bad Axe, met M E and the rest of the crew at the Thumbprint Diner. We drove to the job site. We prepped poured, floated, troweled, and finished ninety-seven yards of concrete destined to become the floor of a Burger King. The truck thermometer read 16 and the landscape was waist deep white in all four directions.

 

A week after my interview the director of employee procurement, Molly Hanson, called. “Mr. Masque, your education, experience, field studies, compassion, and decisive responses to Dr. Golden’s questions weren’t enough to win the position they were more than enough to establish your qualifications to win the position. If you’re still interested in continuing your career at Glen Haven our doors are open and we’re waiting for you to cross our threshold. Your hospital orientation is scheduled to begin on December sixth.” I told her I’d be there. I called M E and told him he’d have to find a new dray horse after December 5th because this one was moving from the stable to a penthouse.

 

I walked to Lukes Party Barrel. The late November snow warmed my feet. I bought two pints of ginger brandy, a twelve pack of Miller High Life, and an R G Dunn cigar. When I returned to my sky loft above the Chippewa Sands Laundromat I poured a drink and raised a toast to Rodion Raskalnikov, Gregor Samas, Ines Serrano, Joseph Garcin, Estelle Rigualt, Henry Chinaski, Tom Joad, Miss Lonely Hearts, Elmer Gantry, T Lawrence Shannon, Hester Prynne, Ahab, Winston Smith, Alex and his droogs, Paul Morel, Ole Andreson, Nick Adams, Chief Bromden, Randal McMurphy, all three faces of Eve, Sylvia Plath, Captain Ahab, Professor Dan Adams, Esther, Chameleon Mike and everyone else who contributed a puzzle piece to my personality and psychological profile.

 

Then I called my father. I thanked him for all of his sage advice, and for teaching me that despite the different spellings, Freud means Fraud, Fraud means Freud, and that with the improper credentials, strong and proud family traditions and can be passed on, and preserved, from generation to generation.

 

Originally published:
Issue Seventy-Eight
September 2018

(collages: john richen)

 


Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  Many, many more of Ed’s fine stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke

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