In the alley behind Bud, a driver laid on his horn. At the end of the block a semi drove by on Grand Avenue, its engine surging from the stop at Arsenal. Bud sat on his front porch stoop and peered down at the opposite end of his street. Saint Elizabeth academy framed the end of his block, a modest High Victorian structure. The orange glow of the approaching sun rose over the school's pinnacle, threatening at any moment to engulf his street in daylight and exposing the lingering patches of dirty snow and barren trees. Bud sighed. The intense dawn colors from a carbon filled horizon was far more spiritual than any gray winter landscape could be.
Two hours earlier he woke. He stared at a dark ceiling wondering he had slept at all. Was I asleep? Roaming the Rooms and halls of the large Victorian Bud found himself to bored to sleep to bored to stay awake. What am I to do? Concerned his wandering might disturb his housemates he ended up out on his front porch to wait for the sunrise.
A car drove by slowly. The driver leaned out the window and yelled something, but Bud didn't hear his neighbor; he was lost in his own sanctum, trying to remember the essences of some past morning. Did I do this yesterday?
A light breeze rustled Bud's conscious. He leaned back against the brick wall, pulled his knees up against his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. He pondered his dilemmas. He wanted a cigarette. Smoking was something to do, but he didn't want to walk up to the third floor to retrieve them. He was tired; still he knew he couldn't go back to sleep. He was cold. He could feel goose bumps on his legs. Maybe I should get my coat? Bud lowered his head to his knees. What was there for Bud to do, but maybe just sit here for a while more and wait?
Sparrows were singing, the joyful little creatures danced from tree to tree. Squirrels had emerged from their nests and rummaged in the frost covered ground for their morning meal. Down the street a dog barked, waiting eagerly for its owner to continue their morning walk. At the cross street, steam rose from a manhole, Bud's eyes followed its path up toward the approaching sun. There would be no euphoria today.
A police report in the following day's paper read, "A man was detained for public indecency in South St. Louis.” Witnesses reported the nude man sat out on his front porch for several hours in the chilly morning, apparently unaware he wasn't dressed. An ambulance took the man to the St. Louis University Medical Center where he was admitted to the Pope Pious Psychiatric Center for further evaluation.
In the evening wintering geese fly back from the farm fields to their roost along the Missouri river. This noisy parade crossed over a house two brothers were building.
One brother watched the geese fly off to the east. "I think we got pretty far today."
"We did." The other brother agreed.
The two brothers now relaxed on lawn chairs perched on the flat part of the roof's valley. The winter's cold spell had lifted and the breeze from the northwest no longer had the sting of the day before.
Bryan the older of the two, looked out on his land and imagined the day when the house would be finished. He would get some caws. Build a larger barn. Dig out a new lake. This will be a great place for his kids to grow up.
Brad, too, thought about his life. He thought of how once, a careless step caused a fall that changed his life. He thought of all the missteps and falls that had altered his life. He thought about Bud. Was there any difference between the two of them? Brad considered their tangled relationship. A writer and his character. Creator and created. A Father and his son. A teacher and his student. A life and a memoir. Was Bud an explanation? Was Bud an exploration? Can a fiction transcend a truth? Who was writing whom? Was he Bud?
Brad leaned forward in his chair, unbuckled his tool belt and dropped it by his feet. He picked up a can of beer and took a drink. He pointed out at the framed roof. "When do you plan to start putting on the metal roofing?" He looked out toward the west where large orange clouds blocked the path of the setting sun.
"We’ll start in about three weeks, when I get back from Kansas City." Bryan reached into a cooler and tossed Brad another beer.
Brad caught the beer with his free hand. “What’s in Kansas City?”
“It will devastate it. But then that’s not what Bartlet asked me to study. The wording of their study has me focus on the listed endangered species of Western Missouri. Specifically, the Grey Wolf and Low Land Meadow Frog. Neither of which inhabit the levee site.”
“How long will you be gone?”
“You could write their press release.”
“About two weeks. Plan on coming down the beginning of next month. I’ll see if dad can come down for a few days and help. We should be able to get it covered in a week.”
“You mean two weeks?”
Bryan had a habit of underestimating the time it took to finish any job. It was Brad’s job to multiply everything he said by two.
“Okay two weeks.” Bryan pulled the Rugers’ trigger in quick succession, letting the mound of dirt have it. “You want and run down there and put the cans back up?
Brad, still two-fisting it took the last swig of his beer and opened the new can. “No, I’m happy just sitting here shooting at dirt.”
Bryan handed Brad the pistol then reached into the cooler for a beer. Although they were four months behind schedule on the house, the roof was finally covered with sheaving and that was cause for celebration. Not that the two brothers needed a reason. It had been a cold winter and it would have been nice if they had the structure closed in sooner. Instead, they wore long underwear and enjoyed their breaks.
Over the past year and a half the brothers had hammered out a design, poured a foundation, framed and covered the house. The architectural work split between Bryan, a civil engineer and Brad, a fine arts major. A division of labor that often had conflicting aesthetic polls, which could be summed up as Brad designed things he thought were beautiful and Bryan designed things that wouldn’t fall down.
The plantation-style home was wrapped by a porch that opened out onto the one hundred acre farm. In the center of the house there would be a large oval staircase, its pattern mirrored by a skylight above. At the moment, the unfinished skylight was just a large rectangular hole in the middle of the roof - - another obstacle for the accident prone Brad not to fall through.
Bryan now looked at the hole, wondering why he let his brother talk him into such a large skylight.
Brad aimed the .357 magnum at the mound of dirt, fired, and then raised the sight to a tree just beyond the mound. The gun made another loud pop. His brother looked up at Brad, “Did you shoot the tree? Don’t shoot the trees."
“But it’s a Cypress.” Brad protested.
Bryan examined the tree thirty yards away, and shrugs. “Okay. But shoot to kill.” The needles from the Cypress trees were responsible for numerous tractor and truck flats. Then ads, “But keep the shots down. I don’t want a visit from the neighbor complaining about a wounded caw.”
“The sight is for competition practice and that tree is not dead. Give me the gun.”
Bryan took the gun back. "Okay. You’ve lost gun privileges."
The room was about eight by ten. The walls were painted tan. Green sheets covered the bed. A small blond dresser stood in the corner of the room next to a nondescript desk and chair. There was one narrow window, soldered shut. Two doors, one for a shared bathroom and the other to the hall. No locks… at least on the inside.
The window looked out into a courtyard, closed in by the three story complex around it. The courtyard had an assortment of small trees, shrubs and ivy. There were two park benches and several ashtray stands. The doors to the courtyard were always unlocked. Patients were required to find a nurse to light their cigarettes. There was a lot of smoke in the air.
For the past hour a short elderly man stood outside Bud's window. Between puffs on his cigarette the old man would break into violent bouts of coughing. It wasn't difficult for Bud to imagine the tearing occurring in his lungs. He lay curled up on his bed. Bored. Waiting for nothing more than the passing of time. In a way the old man's coughing saved Bud from himself. It gave him something to do.
A nurse came into the room. She took Bud's blood pressure and drew his blood. She informed Bud that breakfast was being served down the hall and a doctor would see him afterwards. Not caring to argue with her, Bud said he would go shortly, without any intention to do so.
Bud returned to his old habit of counting. One, two, three… the stark room posed a challenge to Bud. Normally his surroundings begged to be counted. The distance between two cars. The cracks in the sidewalk. The stars in the sky. The time waiting for the Metro. How long he could hold his breath.
Sometimes Bud counted just to hear numbers. One, two, three. Nothing but numbers. A relief to his battle worn conscious. One, two, three, four: Coughs. One, two three, four; legs on a desk. One, two… Errant thoughts kept interrupting his count. He would try to force the thoughts away and focus on the counting. But it wasn’t possible. The errant thoughts were not evil or grotesque. Everyday thoughts; like I need to get my car oil changed or I’m running low on toilet paper, but despite their mundane nature they seemed sinister to Bud. The counting was not working.
Two days earlier Bud was waiting tables. With every table he approached, a sense of dread and fear arose. Logically, he reassured himself that nothing bad could happen, after all he'd been waiting tables for years. Take the orders. Smile. Serve the orders. Drop off the bill. Smile.
In his hospital bed Bud counted. One, two, three… but the memory of his fears from the day before kept encroaching. Bud standing in the kitchen staring blankly at the sous-chef. He couldn’t remember what section his tables were in, but he couldn’t leave the kitchen and check, another table might want something else, and then he’d be totally lost. And what about that table that wanted more bread? Hadn’t one of my tables asked for more bread? Where are my tables? He placed the food ticket on the order bar, sans the table number. Problem solved… But in his hospital bed, Bud is overcome with fear. Did I ever get them their drinks?
Maybe he should have gone to breakfast, Bud thinks. He curled back up into his ball on the bed. One, Two, Three, Four, Five…
The doctor knocked on Bud's door and entered the room. "How are you doing today Mr. Bowers?" He picked up Bud’s chart and leafed through the pages.
Hurriedly Bud tried to assume a less awkward position on the bed. He wanted to look calm. Composed. Normal. Just here for a check up and how or you doing today, Doc? Then he thought how stupid that seemed and laid back. "I'm okay." Usually he would answer 'fine' to this common everyday question, but he now felt this would be dishonest. He was okay. Still alive. In one piece. But not fine. He was not fine.
The doctor looked down at the chart and read the admitting physician’s notes.
The admitting physician’s name was Dr. Stein. At first he asked Bud several routine questions. But as the doctor went on, the questions became more probing. "Do you have a loss of appetite?", "Do you have difficulty sleeping?", "How long have you felt this anxious?", "Do you cry often?" The questions became difficult for Bud to answer. He wanted to be honest, but he just wasn't sure… Or he wasn’t sure if he wanted anybody to know.
"Yes," said Bud hesitantly. I don’t feel like talking.
"Do you feel like life is not worth living?" The doctor asked.
Bud was stumped. One, two, three, four… How could he answer that question? What did he mean by 'feel'? Are you talking about this very moment or generally? Maybe you could restate the question? What are you going to do with that information? Do you want to know if I’m going to kill myself? Shit! I don't know the answer to that. I don't know! Don't ask me that! I won’t tell you anyway. Can I go now, please? Bud looked away so the doctors could not see the panic in his eyes.
In the corner of the room Ricardo Montalban hid behind the dresser. He peeked his head out and waved his hand to get Bud’s attention. He felt sorry for Bud, who seemed to be digging himself a deeper and deeper hole. In Bud's eyes, Ricardo could see his plea for help. Ricardo rubbed his chin and thought for a moment then shook his head.
"No." Bud told the doctor. “No, I don’t want to kill myself.”
Ricardo smiled with approval and sunk back into his hiding spot.
"How do we describe hopelessness?" Asked the art therapy counselor at Pope Pious Psychiatric Center. “How can we show others how we feel?”
He stepped back, leaned against the chalkboard and smiled - - to reassure patients he was their friend. Someone they could trust. Someone who would understand their pain.
"You can't look people in the eyes." Answered a woman who took the seat by the counselor’s desk.
"Yes, that's good." Slowly the counselor looked around the room, in a causal non-aggressive way to encourage others to come forward – to not be afraid of this man. He is your friend.
The hand of a middle-aged man burst into the air and before the counselor could acknowledge him, he blurted, "It's like all the colors in the rainbow might as well be gray!"
This man's seemingly spontaneous spasm reminded Bud of a thought he had earlier in the day. Where do you perform the electroshock therapy? Of course his insurance wouldn't cover it; his insurance wouldn’t cover anything. If I had shot myself? That would have been covered… at least the head wound would be. One, two, three, four, five, six. Bud assumed this middle aged guy’s plan covered everything. Lucky bastard. He had no idea how EST might help, but in his state he was willing to try anything.
"Anyone else?" The counselor asked. When no one else came forward, the counselor pierced his lips and nodded, acknowledging his tough crowd. No more of this passive approach, he'll have to switch to more combative questions. "Everyone who feels hopeless raise their hands." A few of the patients raised their hands, including the young woman and the middle-aged man up front.
“Now those of you, who feel hopeful, raise your hands.” No one in the class moved. “What about you?” The counselor picked out one quiet patient, “You didn’t raise your hand for either?” The patient shrunk back in her chair. Next the counselor looked at Bud, “And you? Do you not feel hopeless or hopeful?”
Feeling a growing resentment toward the two teacher's pets, Bud stared back at the counselor and said nothing. Talk to them, not me. I don’t want to talk. He resented their eagerness. They had set a bad precedent for openness. They were responsible for the counselor's intrusion into his privacy. Why couldn’t have everyone kept their mouths shut?
Bud had always hated being called on in school and a protective voice from his past appeared. Much like the counting, only this voice was harsher. Fuck off. Leave me alone, Fuck off. Leave me alone. Fuck off.… Bud didn't care for the vulgarity running through his mind, but when the counselor moved on to another patient, he had to acknowledge that it worked. Fuck off. Leave me alone... hey it worked.
Fifteen years earlier, Bud sat at the very same type of wooden arts and crafts project table. For all he knew they had the same initials carved into the wood underneath, the same gum stuck to it, now rock hard after a decade and a half. The room even had the same ominous order of his junior high art class; the first and only class he ever failed. Thirteen and already a failed artist. Actually he hadn’t failed, he was kicked out, because he was failing. Woe, to be banished from the world of art to wood shop.
Bud struggled all these years since to make something of himself. To make his parents proud. He was going to do something with his life… Something. A man in search of his passion. He read all sorts of books. He started to study and do his homework. He convinced his teachers he should be moved from the retard classes to the college preparatory classes. It took time, but he did it. And when he was not penalized for poor spelling – he excelled. Bud threw himself at college; three schools, six years and three degrees. Then on to law school; and after two schools, one scholarship and three days - a law school dropout. It had been a fun ride, but Bud still hadn’t found his passion… or he had and not even realized it. With a mother and grandmother who were artist and taught art, Bud had grown up learning the fundamentals of art. Museums, Art books, supplies, were omnipresent, easy to take for granted… not a profession. He had made art all his life. It was for his family, his friends, his girlfriend and for himself. It was the way one lived. The way one expresses himself… not a profession. Not what he thought he would do with his life. Not his passion? Yet in a short period of time he was making modest living on the sale of his art work. His art was in galleries in Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, Denver. He was featured in a article in American Style Magazine. He supplemented his income waiting tables. He was planning to make something of himself. An artist. Not a failed artist. No longer thirteen and not a failed artist.
The counselor's assignment for the group was simple: express your feelings in color pencil and magic markers. No big deal. Bud would do the assignment. No problem. By the shear essence of his creativity, training and experience, he would create a masterful piece of artwork. Art therapy! Ha! I’ll show him. Bud imagined the surprised look from the counselor upon seeing his creation. His stunned silence. Follow by a peculiar physical response where the shocked counselor’s tongue swells beyond normal proportions and he suffocates. Is that possible?
Bud chooses the 6b pencil – soft and expressive - - as his weapon. He observed his surroundings. It was a room full of slump-shouldered men and women. Slump-shouldered metaphorically, if not physically. Bud observed. Bad posture all around. Sadness. Desperation. Lost souls. No form. No technique. Colored pencil? Give me a break. I’ll show you hopelessness…
A man possessed. He drew for an hour. When he was finished he carried his drawing to a nearby window and held it up to capture the natural light.
Where am I? What am I holding? Neither the counselor nor the class noticed Bud standing by the window holding a sheet of paper. Did I draw this? Bud was not sure how he got to where he was standing as he looked around the class. The patients quietly worked on their drawings. Why am I standing by the window? He looked back at his drawing. I didn’t do this? He looked back out on the class. Where is my table? His hands tightened around the drawing. I did not draw this. His eyes searched the class again. Where is my table? His hand quivered. The paper rustled. This drawing sucks!
At the seat nearest to Bud, a young man used a black marker to shade his drawing. Bud hurried over to the man and stole his marker, then ran down the isle until he found an empty seat. He quickly drew a large rectangle around the drawing then tried to fill the middle in with black ink before anyone could see what he had drawn. Thank god I didn’t tell anyone I was an artist. Bud slammed the pen down, and then yelled. “I need a bigger marker!”
Now, everyone noticed Bud.
Between gaps left by the black marker, his drawing stared out at him. “I need some paint! I need a lot of paint.” The teacher rose and headed toward Bud. Maybe I can turn it into an abstract. Yes, I’ll say it’s an abstract. A hopeless abstract.
“Mr. Bowers.” The counselor called out.
Bud saw the approaching counselor, followed by an orderly. He picked up the drawing and began tearing it apart. First he tossed the paper shreds on the floor, but unsatisfied with their destruction, he began to eat the remaining bits. Before the counselor and orderly reached Bud, he took a flying leap on the floor trying to conceal the exposed shards of his drawing.
People screamed. Nearby patients scattered. A buzzer went off and Bud felt large arms pull at him. It was at this instant had a realization. I know where my table is. The orderly held Bud in a bear hug, while the counselor tried to get ahold of his legs, which thrashed through the air. A nurse with a syringe entered the room, hushed over and injected the flailing Bud. They want to break me. Crush my spirit. I’m like a wild horse. They are like Dr. Pavlov.
Bud fought with his captors and demanded, "Let me go!" Nobody will stop me now. The truth had to be known. "I am a man! You can't do this to me." He looked around the room searching for sympathy. "They'll fuck you! They'll fuck with your mind. It all starts innocent enough. First they'll ask you what your favorite colors are, next they'll have you play connect the dots…” Bud’s body slumped over as the drug began to take effect …But they’re no dots, just wet color.
"How do we describe hopelessness?" Asked the art therapy counselor at Pope Pious Psychiatric Center. “How can we show others how we feel?”
The patients were bored, depressed or lost. Art therapy: just another way to fill an hour in a painfully long day. A void where little of interest ever happened. Nothing of interest happened that day. Bud, for that matter, spent the entire hour sitting quietly in the corner, unnoticed, and slumped over the table, drawing.
The drawing did suck.
David slammed his blow horn down on the prop table. "Damnit! I pay five hundred dollars an hour for this thing to work."
"We're sorry Mr. Lynch." The electrician had his head in the smog machine. He spliced a wire to attach to the new electric motor. "I think I have the problem fixed. Water caused a short in… ."
“Do I look like an engineer?.” Dave waved his hand through the air. "I don't care what caused it." David was having a terrible day. He regretted not bringing in a crew from out of town. From L.A.. "How long is this going to take?"
"Five minutes. Unless all the wiring has been fried."
"I'll give you three." David held three fingers. “If the wiring is fried I’ll give you an additional five seconds to run for your life.” David walked away.
At the refreshment table, he discovered the crew had eaten all the cream-filled donuts. In frustration, he flipped the folding table on its side, spilling coffee on the sound boom which crackled and sparked, then went quiet.
The production assistant ran up to David. "Mr. Lynch!" There was a look of panic in her eyes. "We can't find the three-legged dog."
With the encouragement of the hospital staff and his own self-awareness, Bud attempted to stay active throughout the day. He participated in class and group therapy, despite wanting to be left alone. He roamed the halls and cafeteria, forced himself into brief conversations and simple activities. At 6:00 p.m. His family visited. Everyone including Bud was too nervous to discuss the previous day’s hospitalization, but they did bring cigarettes which Bud would be eternally grateful for. Afterwards, he tried to watch T.V. with the other patients, but the effort became unbearable, so he went to his room.
For someone who is depressed, wanting to stay in bed is not unusual: entire days could be spent in bed. It's also typical for a depressed person to have difficulty getting to sleep. Breaking this cycle was necessary, but not a cure. Depression is as real as a virus and like any illnesses, you can’t use your power of reason to make it go away. Follow your doctors’ instructions, take your medication, go to therapy; you might get better.
Common sense dictates that positive thoughts, good work ethic, financial security, a loving family and supportive friends can lead one out of depression. But when one's body no longer functions as it’s asked or expected, it's the same common sense that leads to guilt and desperation. I am to blame. I must make this stop. It is a disease, you can’t think it away. Depression defies logic. It is chemical. A serotonin imbalance in the mind, which can bring ruin to any person regardless of status, ego or intellect.
Bud, who wasn't particularly bright, but well loved, no longer searched for answers. All he wanted was a moment of peace. But there was no longer any peace. Not in the park. Not with his cigarettes. Not even in the most reliable place, sleep.
Bud looked back to the long winding staircase he had descended. But the steps were no longer there. The cavity was filled with crumbling bricks and cob webs. How long had he been down here? Bud looked down at his feet. He was in shackles.
"Get back to work!" He heard a voice demand. He looked around the darkened chasm. In the shadows, he saw naked men and women digging pits. Smoke rose from the ground, spontaneous flames pierced the Earth’s crust. "Pick up your shovel and dig!"
On the ground in front of him a shovel lay. "Me?" Bud said in confusion. He was not at work and this was not his home.
"Yes, you. Work! Or you'll spend the rest of eternity as a ball of flames."
For the first time Bud saw who was talking to him. She was hideous. Leather straps lined with twenty dollar bills barely covered her essentials and from her back, hair grew wildly in all directions, braided to look like Medusa's snakes. This was the ugliest stripper Bud had ever seen.
"Who are you?" Bud asked.
The hairy-back stripper pulled out her whip and shook it at him. "It’s not your place to ask the questions." She cracked the whip. “You’ve already had your chance to ask questions.” Then she called out into the darkness. "Billy Bob, get over here. Billy Bob! We have a trouble maker."
Billy Bob turned out to be a two-headed serpent, Billy and Bob. Billy only spoke Latin and Bob translated. "Permitteamus punginis…" Billy said as Bob translated. "He says, 'let's prick him with sticks and see what happens’."
"Sticks?" Said the hairy stripper. "Do you see any sticks around here? I don’t. Hold him upside down and nail his feet to the wall."
"No. No. No." Said Bob. "How about we drive the shovel’s handle down his throat and tie his hands behind his back."
“And that will teach him what?” Said the stripper in frustration.
As the three beasts continued to argue the best form of torture, Bud's mind drifted. A feeling of dread arose. Had he remembered to put his laundry in the dryer? If he didn’t his roommate was going to be pissed. He must apologize.
Somewhere in the distance Bud thought he heard a dog bark, which seemed odd to him. He had no dog, but then this wasn’t his house. Maybe it was Billy or Bob’s dog? Bud tapped Bob on the shoulder. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what!" Said Bob annoyed by Bud's interruption.
"Never mind." Said Bud. Then an errant thought occurred to him. "Hey guys. Guess what I remember."
The three stopped arguing and looked at Bud. "I just finished a poem.”
When no one said anything Bud added, “I think it’s good… maybe a little sappy. But it’s the first thing I’ve written in a long time.”
Now even the naked men and women have stopped digging. All eyes rested on Bud. “It’s here in my pocket. I'll read it to you." Bud searched his pocket. “I think you guys will like it.” He pulled out a yellow piece of paper.
The hairy-backed stripper cracked her whip against the back of one of the naked slaves. "You can't read a poem here! This is Hell. There is no poetry in Hell."
Bud squinted at a piece of paper. "No, that's not it.” He tossed a bill on the ground. “Sorry, it was my phone bill." Bud reached into his other pocket.
"Mansio." Billy cried
"Stop him!" Cried Bob.
Billy pointed to the discarded bill, now starting to smolder. “Prenda
“I found it.” Bud raised a wadded-up piece of paper.
"Now, I hope you'll forgive me if this sounds a little rough." Bud held the paper up. His hand shook. "I'm kind of nervous speaking in front of unfamiliar people… I'll try not to stutter."
"One. Two…" Cried the stripper.
"This is called, 'The Rain' a poem by Bud B." Bud swallowed, then read.
Kneeling in a puddle
A tear appeared in the hairy-back stripper's eye. The two-headed serpent fell to its knees, its heads thrown back, and heaved sobs. "That's…" Bob choked. "That's so beautiful."
"Yes." The stripper shook her head. "I'm not sure if I can go on."
"Specious!" Said Billy.
"Beautiful!" Repeated Bob.
From the unlit cavern, David Lynch yelled in frustration. "Cut! God Damnit. Cut!”
David emerged from the shadows. He walked up to the ugly stripper and stuck his finger in her chest. “You’re evil scary monsters! You’re the Devil's right hand – at least metaphorically. You represent the darkest, most twisted recesses of Bud’s subconscious. You don't like poetry and you never cry.”
David turns to Billy Bob. “Specious? Beautiful?”
“We were improvising.” Said the Stripper.
David stormed off to his trailer.
Bud bolted up in bed. His opened eyes but saw only darkness. There was the confusion brought by a lingering dream and the unfamiliar softness of the mattress below, which disorientated him. Had he left his clothes in the dryer? He reached out and felt the wall to the right. When his eyes adjusted to the dark room, he could see the small window and the courtyard beyond. He relaxed, realizing there was no longer any need to worry about laundry.
The hall was empty. Doors to the patients' rooms were closed. At any moment Bud expected to hear a scream as he had every hour since he arrived. Everyone here seemed to have something peculiar about them. Some strange abnormality. Some uniqueness. Some gift? Bud wondered if he had already met the screamer and hadn't realized it. Maybe they had played cards earlier in the day?
In the T.V. Lounge two patients watched a late night infomercial for the Church of Scientology. Bud wasn't interested in that crap; he continued his journey which abruptly stopped at the attendant's desk by the door his family was buzzed in during visiting hours. Bud reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. The attendant handed a lighter over to Bud. He lit the cigarette and returned the lighter. He walked out the double glass doors into the interior courtyard. He brushed off the few flakes of snow that had fallen on the park bench, sat and took a long drag on his cigarette.
Where do I go from here? When they release me, have I graduated? Should I put this on my resume? Not in the employment section, Bud thought. Maybe in general interests and hobbies. Institutionalized and stamp collecting. He could use the doctor as a reference.
Bud’s body tensed. He exhaled smoke and relaxed his shoulders. Even in the chill of the outdoor courtyard, Bud was pursued by the screams. Can’t they give him something to stop that? Obviously, the seven points to positive thinking wasn’t helping. Just put the guy out of his misery. Sorry. One, Two, Three…
Poked, prodded and corralled, it seemed to Bud as if they were animals in a zoo. Guinea pigs in a lab cage. Mice in a maze. He wanted out. Bud resolved it was time to escape.
In the corner of the courtyard, a downspout ran the length of the two-story building. It was so simple, Bud thought. He would climb the downspout, cross to the other side and climb down a nearby tree, then run.
Bud tossed his cigarette, quickly glanced around to be sure he was alone. He grabbed the downspout, braced his foot against the brick wall and climbed. At about four feet the downspout snapped and Bud fell back to the earth. He got up off the ground, brushed the dirt off his back and headed back to his room.
The attendant greeted him with a smile. Bud returned the smile. In the lounge the same infomercial played. The two patients stared attentively, ignoring Bud who had walked over to the window to gaze one last time outside. Gaze past the parking lot, the gas station and beyond the streetlights on Grand Ave., to some mysterious place his passion hid.
He had driven by this place so many times, but never once considered what was inside. Just another part of the hospital. Not anyplace I thought I would ever go. Bud leaned his head against the window. There was the sound of a thump, followed by the squeak of rusty hinges as the unlocked window swung open. What are the odds?, Bud thought, as he climbed out onto the second story ledge. It is only ten or fifteen feet. The window was unlocked. A sign? I can’t get hurt. This is my destiny. Bud jumped and time slowed, followed by an evergreen bush and soft mulch, which broke his fall.. He quickly rose to his feet, brushed himself off, darted across the parking lot into an alley, tearing his smock off as he ran. The naked man ran and ran and ran and ran.
The intrigue and excitement continues next week with a very special heart stopping installment of three chapters of Bud's Story. Get out your special glasses! These chapters are written in 3-D. You’ll never know what hit you!
A message from the Editor
As the editor of "Bud's Story," I have chosen to maintain a light touch. Of course this should be obvious to most readers. It was my sincere hope that through Mr. Bowers' un-cleansed pen the reader would experience the same blind irreverent brashness I thought I saw. I had no doubt the readers would understand what Brad was up to. The misspelling and homonyms: symbolic. The peculiar grammar: a metaphor. And his character Bud, a mere foil for our troubled times. But the events which transpired in the past few chapters and the following three brought me a high degree of consternation. I now feel a fraud has been perpetrated on myself and our readers. If only I had relied on common sense and the advice of my peers, there would be no need for this absurd realization. Sometimes bad spelling is just bad spelling and poor grammar is only poor grammar. In fact, I think, maybe all the time.
The serial, “Bud’s Story” was sold to me as a tale of desperation and hopelessness, tied to the end of the twentieth Century. Bradley Bowers was supposed to be a “hot, up-and-coming artist” from the Midwest. The irony was not lost on me and I had my doubts, but our advertisers were pressuring us, to bring in new content and have a feel that was more “national” and less “coastal elite”. We contracted ten chapters and no more than 5000 words from Mr. Bowers.
I must confess I was impressed with Brad’s ingenuity when we received a manuscript of exactly 5000 thousand words, plus 932 other things not found in any dictionary. He had found a way to stick to the letter of our contract, yet circumvent it. By breaking the rules, he was making the rules. A clever new approach by a “disestablishment artist,” as his agent had called him.
The whole time I only dealt with his agent, a Ms. Allison
Tromble, whom I fear, might have been a cut-out. Her list of clients seemed
impressive, but since they were all Midwestern, I had no idea who they
were. During my contract with Mr. Bowers, I passed several notes and suggestions
through Ms. Tromble for the next installment of Ten Chapters of Bud’s
Story. These were minor requests such as: Maybe a few less misspelled
words. Some of our more “senior” readers where having difficulty
following the story. Also, the meaning behind some of the homonyms and
peculiar grammar, was beyond me, let alone the average (Midwestern) reader.
And then I was also concerned how the last chapter had ended…
Obviously most of my suggestions were jokes. My light-hearted
approach was meant to encourage Brad to re-imagine some elements of Bud’s
story. He must realize as an editor this is one of my obligations - to
him and for the readers. I want to see the quality of writing I know
you are capable of. Then I politely asked him if he would submit
a rewrite of the previous five chapters. I closed the email with a dose
of realism. Brad, you must realize, in the depressed state Bud is
now in, there is no story. The guy won’t even get out of bed. What
do you do with that? Nothing.
Two hours later I received another email. This email said, Fine! And included the attached document of the crude re-write you have just read. Plus the following three chapters. Again Mr. Bowers successfully skirted the letter of our contract to fill his judiciary obligation, but this time I wasn’t impressed. Brad’s outlandish reaction, whether it was of anger or some strange form of sarcasm, caught me off guard. He is not professional. I’m afraid he is not even mediocre. I am compelled to re-examine some of my earlier conclusions and acknowledge my mistake. I too will fulfill my contractual obligations and publish the final three chapters and then I feel it is time to end our literary relationship. The Fraud is done and Brad’s writing, is only bad writing, nothing more.