The Web. Chapter 9
Idiot’s guide to being a lab rat.
Suzanne had told him everything that would happen there was nothing left to his imagination, nothing supposedly for him to worry about.
Suzanne used the computer where the person was computer literate as a metaphor for memory. It was a neat enough device when the person understood what you were talking about and there were few people now who didn’t.
The previous life was a document and you used a mental keyboard to go from page to page, year to year. Sometimes it was a very long document indeed, sadly sometimes very short though even he had to admit that kids these days rather expected therapy as their right.
Malcolm proved quite resistant to suggestion but eventually even he went under and the first session got him back to his thirtieth birthday without a great fuss.
As Suzanne prepared to let him go back to his room, he smiled. “It probably won’t be such a battle next time.”
“I’m sorry, I…”
“Why is everything your fault, John? Why do you feel that you don’t have a right to take my time? As my patient you have the same right to my time as any other patient Do you apologise to Simon every time you go visit him?”
“I’m sorry… I don’t mean to come over as pathetic.”
“You don’t. I would imagine that under other circumstances you’re quite a strong man.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Just try to look at it this way. You’re walking down the street one day and out of the nowhere a slate falls offa the town hall roof, hits you on the head, knocks you out. Some public-spirited person calls an ambulance and you’re taken to hospital. You’re treated by a doctor. Do you apologise to him for putting stitches in your head? No. of course you don’t without the stitches the wound won’t heal. You understanding me here John? Without my help this wound, this mental, spiritual hurt is not going to heal. And it is no more your fault, no more something you should feel that you have to apologise for than a slate falling off a roof.”
“I do understand that Dr. Suzanne.”
“It’s just that the job is going to be a lot easier for both of us if you have a more positive attitude.”
Malcolm smiled. “I can try.”
“You do that.”
He sat in a chair in Suzanne’s office and counted backwards from ten and then, in his mind he was seated in front of the computer. He mentally rebooted it and then flicked across the menu bar to Search. He clicked on Search and the drop-down menu unfolded. A click on Go To Page…and he was presented with a Dialogue Box.
“What page do you want to go to, John?”
“Excellent. What’s there?”
“I’m at university?”
“What are you reading?”
“Do you like it there?”
“Yes, it’s good fun.”
“Do you do well there?”
“Do you have a lot of friends?”
“Quite a few. I’m an official in the Union. I’m enjoying it. I always liked school. I’m not very good at sports but I like soccer.”
“You remember playing soccer at school?”
“Yes. Do you want me to go back to when I was at school?”
“Up to you John.”
In his mind Malcolm went to page ten.
“You’ve moved back. Where are you?”
“How did you know?”
“You told me. Are you friends with Cyril?”
“Yeah, he’s a good guy, a real belly laugh.”
“John, do you remember being in America?”
“You have an accent.”
“I was there but I don’t remember it. Dad says I mustn’t talk about it because he doesn’t want to upset mom.”
“Uh huh.” Suzanne’s stomach grumbled, and he looked at his watch. “Can you go back another page, John?”
“Yeah. Page nine.”
“What time of year is it?”
“Summer. Late Summer, almost Fall.”
“Are you at Saint Peter’s?”
“Yeah, I started in September.”
“Do you like it?”
“Some of the other kids make fun of my limp. Mom cries a lot.”
“This is your adopted mother?”
“I just call her mom, she likes that.”
“Do you know what happened to your real mom and dad?”
“Go back another page let’s see if we can find out.”
“It can’t be blank, John.”
“It is. It must be a file error.”
“Do you get an error message.”
“I’ve breached the integrity.”
“You can’t do that, you’re in a protected environment.”
“It’s still blank. I don’t know what else to do.”
“O.K. John, exit and we’ll go get some lunch. Go to page thirty-eight. When I touch your shoulder and say your name, you’ll wake feeling refreshed and you’ll remember everything. John.” Suzanne leant forward and touched his shoulder. “Hi.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Physically all right but confused. Why can’t I go back?”
“Because at the moment you don’t want to. You’re still scared of what it might be behind that block.” Suzanne stood. “Come on. My stomach thinks my throat got cut.”
They sat with their meals and Malcolm wondered why, when he was as hungry as a hunter and had really wanted the chicken and chips he’d ordered, was he sitting there letting it go cold.
Suzanne said; “You can’t take this as a personal defeat, John, it doesn’t work that way.”
“But there should be something there, shouldn’t there?”
“And there is, I’m sure of that but just at this point in time you are unable to access that information.”
“Will I ever or will it just leach through drop by drop and I’ll never be able to make sense of it.”
“I think that it will all come out. I have this feeling that just behind the block is the reason for it, the one big thing that made it happen. Remove that and you’ll have all the answers.”
“You say so.”
“I do. “
A tall grey-haired man approached their table and Suzanne, looking up smiled broadly.
The man put his hand on Suzanne’s shoulder.
“Peter,” Suzanne said. “When did you get back?”
“Last night.” He looked at Malcolm.
“I’m sorry, John Malcolm, Peter Stanz. The man who taught me everything I know.”
“Bull shit,” Stanz said and then offered his hand to Malcolm. “Do you mind if I say I have read and thoroughly enjoyed everything you’ve written.”
“Mind? I would be delighted.”
“Well I have.”
Suzanne dragged out a chair. “Sit.”
“So how was Washington?”
“Oh, tight assed as ever. I saw a friend of yours…well… ex-colleague, while I was there. Chaim Weissler.”
“Oh yeah and which particular stone did you turn to find that one?”
“He and I had lunch.”
“You had someone taste your food first I hope.”
“He said much the same about you. But what are we doing with such distinguished company here?” He turned his attention to Malcolm.
“John has a problem with bad dreams.”
“Oh. Not a writer’s block. I have been deprived for too long.” He smiled genuinely. “I could forgive you when you were in hospital, hospitals are such dismal places, but I will brook no further deprivation.”
“You have a true fan.”
“Seems like it.”
“Shall I be terribly gauche and tell you my favourite book?”
Malcolm looked at him. “The Way To Dusty Death,” he said and had no real idea why he should pick that one, it wasn’t his best or even his most popular and he could hardly say that he knew the man at all let alone well enough to say what kind of reading matter would appeal to him.
Suzanne looked at Stanz, saw the look of surprise and raised an eye brow.
“How on earth could you know that?”
“Peter doesn’t believe in lucky guesses.”
“You’re right. There must be a certain type of reader. Perhaps the publishers do surveys. The majority of people who read that book were aged fifty to sixty, were university educated…. that kind of thing.”
Malcolm smiled. He didn’t know if that was true or not it was certainly information Holland and Barrymore had never shared with him if they did that kind of thing but to argue the point seemed unworthy of the effort.
“So how long are you back for?”
“Couple of months.”
“We’ll see you of course.”
“You still with that silly old fart? How is he?”
“Fit as a flea.”
“And ten times as irritating. It will be good to see him again.”
“Are you lunching here?”
“No, I just popped in to see if you were still here.”
“Well now you know that I am you can pop back any time you like.”
Stanz stood. “I will do just that. Give my love to Josh.”
He reached out and shook Malcolm’s hand warmly. “You have given me a great deal of pleasure Mr. Malcolm and I hope you will do so again, soon.”
“I hope so.”
Stanz put his hand squarely on Suzanne’s shoulder. “I will ring you, yes?”
Smiling, he loped off towards the door.
“He is one of the greatest minds that ever lived on this planet.”
“And he enjoys my books?”
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“I somehow don’t see clever people liking what I write.”
“You don’t have much of an opinion of your own talents as a writer.”
“I don’t think I’m bad compared to some but I’m hardly the stuff of intellectual dinner parties. I’ve never considered myself as that.”
“What do you see yourself as?”
“In my work? I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a caped crusader out there, righting wrongs through fiction because I don’t have the nuts to be a journalist.”
“It takes nuts to be a journalist?”
“A good one.”
Suzanne shrugged. “I don’t have that much to do with the fourth estate.”
“Who’s this bloke in Washington that you don’t like?”
Suzanne’s eye grew cold and Malcolm instinctively knew that he had made his first mistake with the man.
“He has nothing to do with you or me now for that matter.”
He looked at the untouched food on Malcolm’s plate. “If you don’t intend to eat that we might usefully get back and try to get you where we both think you should be.”