The Web (chapter 4)
John feels better but his journey into the woods has only just started.
Matthews sagged against the wall. “If that wee bastard has done nothing else for you he’s improved your squash game.”
“He’s done more than that.”
“Well, does Simon know what he’s doing, or does he know what he’s doing? I think you should have at least let me win for what I’ve done for you.”
“Bollocks. It would be bad for your ego if I did that.”
“You’re certainly looking better.”
“That’s sleep. God, I didn’t know how important it was until I wasn’t getting it.”
“A bit like sex.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
“Am I being a little indelicate?”
Malcolm smiled conspiratorially. “Do you promise not to say a word to my agent?”
“I’m writing again.”
“Good heavens. That’s fantastic John. Julian doesn’t know what he’s let the dear old British public in for?”
“I don’t really think he does. I doubt if he’s read anything I’ve written.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Oh. I think I would be a bit too low brow for friend Julian.”
“He’s all right. He was always a bit of an odd ball but well you don’t have his kind of life and not come out a little bit different to other folk.”
“Not really. He’s just very intelligent. I.Q. like a Glescae telephone number, Harvard at the age of six, that sort of thing. I jest but you get the picture.”
“How do you know him?”
“Oh, he did some post graduate stuff at Oxford. He liked it so much he stayed.”
“Is he married?”
Matthews grinned. “That depends.”
“Got some little totty has he.”
“Ah,” Malcolm remembered certain little things that he had found odd. “He’s…”
“Don’t let’s be coy, the man is gay.”
“I thought he might be.”
“So, when’s your next appointment with Monty?”
“Three months, I think. Oh Jesus. I’d better check that, I might not be here.”
“And where might you be?”
“Oh, Cyril’s got this European tour lined up. I am not looking forward to it. It really cocks you up when you’re working on something new and you’ve got to go back to talking about the last thing that you did. I could perhaps use Monty as an excuse for not doing it.”
“Give me a free bun trip to the flesh pots of Europe any day, especially if the alternative is seeing Sir Clough Montgomery.” Matthews looked at Malcolm waiting for the inevitable question about the knighthood, but it didn’t come, Malcolm was staring in to space.
She recognised him, he knew that, and she didn’t seem afraid, not as afraid as he was. She stared at him for a long time ignoring her elderly companion as he stroked the side of her neck affectionately. She was pretty in lemon yellow, her feet bare. She wore little gold ear rings that caught the light as the old man stroked her neck and ruffled her blonde hair.
“John. Oh shit! John.” Matthews held Malcolm’s arm just in case this should be some kind of seizure. “John, come and sit down, man.”
Malcolm came back to himself fairly quickly.
“Oh, ma God, ye give me a fright!” Matthews exclaimed.
“Did I? I’m sorry Simon.”
“No problem, so long as you’re all right.”
“I’m fine. Look er I’m going to hit the shower and then get off home.”
“I think we should have a wee professional chat.”
“Simon. I’m fine. Really I am.” Malcolm started to move away from Matthews.
“John, just to keep me happy?”
“Oh, very well, I’ll pop in Tuesday, all right?”
Malcolm smiled. “Thanks for the game.”
“I told you that they were happening, Simon.”
“I had no idea that we were dealing with something so like a petit mal attack. This has got to affect your driving licence.”
“If you think I’m dangerous.”
“John, you can’t just go off like that. Just think, man if you had been driving your car….”
Malcolm looked disconsolately down at his hands. Even though he didn’t use the car that much, except when he was in Wales, it was something else to be told that he couldn’t use it, that Simon and some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Swansea would get together and decide that. He hated the idea and he didn’t care who knew that.
Simon was saying; “I’m sorry, John.” but Malcolm wasn’t listening. Try as he might to concentrate on what Simon was saying to him his mind drifted. He was back in the garden, leaning against the low wall of the terrace looking down as the beautiful child and the old man walked hand in hand like lovers in the garden below. She turned to look towards the house and waved. He was going to wave back but Simon had claimed his full attention again with, “You’re going to have to tell Monty about this you know.”
“I suppose so.”
“There can be no suppose so about it, John. He’s your consultant and he must know.”
“I will tell him.”
“We might be able to agree some medication he and I. Mean time you don’t drive you don’t handle any garden machinery, do it yourself stuff and don’t go swimming alone. Nine times out of ten after a head injury something like this tends to clear up on its own and of those cases that don’t the majority are easily treated.”
“It isn’t like that. Look, when I was about thirteen we moved to a different part of the country, I had to change schools and I remember that there was this lad there who had epilepsy and he used to get the petit mal attacks. I was the only one either ignorant enough or interested enough to ask what actually happened to him. From what I remember of what he told me happened to him, what happens to me is nothing like that. I still know exactly where I am and what I’m doing.”
“I’m sure you do.”
“It didn’t seem to bother Julian. “His voice, even to his own ears sounded petulant and he could almost hear the stamp of his foot.
“Julian does not have the same duty of care to the wider public safety that I do. His interest was just in you.”
“There is still the stigma, Simon. I don’t care how intelligent and open minded you are, how politically correct, other people hear the word epilepsy and they don’t think of the fine minds who have suffered from it in the past they just think of the educationally sub-norms they used to see when they were kids, uneducated because society thought them in-educable in normal schools. I won’t be stuck with that label if that isn’t what’s wrong.”
“No one is sticking labels, John. But you have to understand that I don’t just have a duty to you. If I let you continue to drive and you had an accident and kill someone, who is responsible for that?”
“I agree I won’t drive.”
“Then there is no problem.”
“You won’t inform Swansea?”
“You’ve promised that you won’t drive.”
“You’ll be taking the train to Oxford then.”
Malcolm smiled. “I do anyway.”
“Has he said any more about hypnotherapy?”
“Only every time I see him.”
“I always got the feeling that he longed to be a surgeon. That’s what hypnotising you would be, his equivalent of brain surgery.”
“Well he can practice that particular black art on someone else.”
“I’ll tell him you said that.”
“I suppose you see him socially, do you?”
“And do you talk about your patients?”
“Not so that you would notice. Julian and I share a love of music. I mean good music not that crap you listen to.”
“The Rolling Stones were a seminal influence.”
“I’m sure they were.”
“Well, I’ll let you get on. I’m sure you have sick people to see.”
“Aye. That’s a major drawback with the job. Look, if you want a chat, we’ll go for a drink one evening.”
“Ooh. I don’t think that’s on. My doctor doesn’t allow me to drink.”
“Get your arse out of here. And don’t think you can get away with not telling Monty about the absences because I shall be telling him.”
“So much for patient\doctor confidentiality.”
“I’ll see you in three weeks.”
Malcolm walked from the surgery to his home, it wasn’t far, and he was feeling in the need of exercise. Squash once a week with Matthews wasn’t enough.
The day was quite warm and sunny and despite the talk of epilepsy and all that that dragged out of his psyche that he was none too proud of he felt more at ease with himself and his life than he had for a very long time.
In his flat he made himself lunch and sat to think about laying out the work for that afternoon. He really meant to think about it, to get everything planned so that all he had to do was sit down and execute the tasks as he prioritised them, but she came all unbidden in to his mind looking soft and feminine in cream silk and smelling of magnolias. Who was she? This beautiful green-eyed blonde with the little pointed chin and the full pouting mouth, who was this little angel, too young to touch? Did she truly exist or was she some figment of his imagination? The thought occurred to him that as she had started to appear to him now, she might be someone from his early childhood. That thought distressed him. If she was just a memory from that time, she would be older than him, though perhaps she had retained her looks. And who was the companion, the handsome older man who seemed to dote on her? Malcolm thought not her father. No fathers he knew kissed and caressed their daughters the way he did with her. A lover then? Someone to whom the little princess had been promised as a babe or maybe just an old sugar daddy? And, if she was real and young today, what was she doing cropping up in his dreams and mental wanderings.
He knew that he fancied her even though she was only a child and so what? If an old boy like that could…. He pulled himself up in his thoughts. She was more than likely just a figment of his imagination and he shouldn’t waste time on it. There were ladies by the dozen out there, real flesh and blood women not imaginary nymphs. But she would not release him, still she walked in the garden and talked animatedly to her lover, still she smiled as his elegant bejewelled fingers brushed the golden hair from her face, still she sighed with pleasure as he kissed her neck and tasted the perfume she wore.
Did she love him, this handsome, mature man? Malcolm thought that she might. He had known stranger combinations. But what had she to do with him? Where was the coming together of their two lives? Was it in memory or just in imagination? He hoped for the latter for to have known her and not to be able to know her again was too painful. He would keep her in his mind and then she would not grow old.
The news presenter said; “And finally, today in Boston, Massachusetts, sixteen-year-old Nicole Louise Highlander became the youngest person ever to graduate Harvard Law School. Nicole, just sixteen years and eight months took a specially designed degree course….”
Asleep in his chair Malcom did not see the pictures of the pretty green eyed blonde smiling from his TV and did not hear Nicole describe the honour of being a graduate of Harvard let alone the youngest person to graduate.
John Malcolm slept and dreamed his dreams.
Later he woke and went up to bed. The night was not so frightening as it had been, his bed held fewer terrors.
The dreams still came but the tricks learned with Suzanne at Oxford helped him to take more control and yet still there was the feeling that the whatever it was, was still waiting for him. What was it Suzanne had misquoted? Something from Casablanca; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but some time, when you least expect it….
He got in to bed and turned out the light. For the moment he could sleep, perhaps dream of her, though he rarely did, she was part of his waking fantasy but maybe tonight he would be lucky.
He closed his eyes and began to doze felt the now familiar movement of his eyes against his eye lids. They had taught him a lot and it was all vital, his mental survival kit.
He began to see his dream unfolding in front of him.
He was in a street, a narrow, cobbled street. He felt that his hand was being held by someone bigger than him. His father? The handsome young man who wanted to save his life. He tried to turn his head so that he could look in to the face of his companion, but the man was giving nothing away, he had no face just a blank, featureless blob.
Malcolm felt his heart begin to pound. The tricks kicked in. He let go of the mans’ hand and imagined that he had stopped to talk to a friendly dog. It worked. The panic left him, and he didn’t even mind that he was alone.
An old woman in black asked him if he was Michael’s boy but before he could answer his hand was taken again by the man with no face and he walked, head down, eyes looking at every step he took beside his faceless companion until they reached the out skirts of the town. A large black car was waiting for them and the man pushed him inside.
No one spoke as they drove up the twisting, turning road and then, quite unexpectedly the car veered off the road and they were plunging down the mountain side. He managed to open the door and threw himself out to roll uncomfortably down the rocky slope before being stopped by the roots of a tree. This time he had survived.
He sat up and the act of sitting up in the dream woke him. Instead of going to make a drink he switched on the light and wrote down what the dream had been about, and how he felt on waking. Then he did what he never did, turned out the light and lay down to go back to sleep.