Authors: William Deverell
Tags: #General Fiction
I’m sorry to do this to you, Allis. I’ve done a backslide. I’m fine, actually, it was a little blip. How was your holiday? A ranch in the Cariboo, wasn’t it? Riding trails, that sort of thing? Your husband go with you?
He paced, seemed disinclined to sit
No, I went with Dr. Evelyn Mendel. Please sit down, Tim.
And how was it?
Relaxing. There was a lovely swimming lake. Let’s find out what’s bothering you.
First of all, this.
He handed me an unsigned note:
I know where you live.
Grundison won’t admit he sent it. I’ve moved my boat to a more secure location.
Tim, surely this is a police matter.
Dotty Chung is on the case, she’s armed, she … Never mind, I got this weird postcard bye-mail, it’s almost diabolic.
He showed me a colour printout. Against an Alpine background, a herdsman was blowing into an elk horn, presumably summoning his flock
Sally chose it for its banality, that’s what I first thought. And what’s he wearing?
Lederhosen! And who does he look like?
No one I know … Who drew the glasses on him?
I did. Now he looks like Clinton Huff – who, incidentally, came to me in a dream the other night: Huff, in leather shorts, with a German accent!
What do you read into that?
There’s some synchrony going on that I don’t understand.
Okay, a while ago you had a dream involving a musician in lederhosen, prompted by Sally’s planned flight to Munich. You told her about this dream before she left?
Yes, she thought it was uproarious.
And she sent you this card as a joke. And it prompted another dream. End of analysis.
Yes, but look at her note.
Above the illustration, a paragraph about beer halls and alpine meadows and rain, and it ended:
Hurrying off for dinner. Love you (I do). Sally.
What do you find odd about her message?
Dinner with whom? Hans, the polka player?
Tim, tell me, what best describes your feelings about Sally right now?
Okay, I’ll say it. Resentment. I’ll acknowledge that. I’m going through hell while she’s traipsing through the Alps. I know that’s unworthy, I just … I
her to be happy, I just want a little piece of the action.
How do you deal with her when she’s distressed?
Try to pin down the cause.
Atypical male reaction. Men fix, women listen. Instead of looking for a quick solution, you may find that allowing Sally to unburden herself helps the worries come tumbling out. Ever buy her flowers?
Buy her flowers, chocolates.
On special occasions …
And if there were no occasion?
I guess … not often.
What would you say to her if she were here right now?
He stalled, and a sadness came over him
I love you.
Don’t get tangled up with someone who will hurt you.
That seems less self-referential.
This second brief excerpt relates to Sally’s oft-expressed concern that, according to Tim, she believes he tries to read her thoughts
It was just a game.
A game that you constantly practised on her?
Well, yes …
How do you think she felt? Invaded?
She might not have had much of a sense of privacy, Tim.
I was Rasputin, the mad monk, in control of her every mood and whim. She had no place to hide, no secret door to a cozy, private place away from the needy, grasping neurotic. Had I been possessive to the point of obsession?
So all right, Sally, flutter away on your flight of freedom, enjoy your dinner with Hans, have your little affair, take two of them, buy a supply of condoms. I’ll take my punishment like a man. I should have more incisively interpreted the emailed picture: after all, what does the horn symbolize? And this one seemed ten feet long.
She’d accused me of being, to use a polite word, inattentive in bed. Yet lately she’d shown little fervour herself. So maybe our love life had become platitudinous, a routine. Maybe I should have an affair. (And how close I’ve come to having one foisted on me.)
In my dream, however, Huff was hornless. He came in the form of a census taker. He didn’t want to count me, and I felt
forced to explain my existence. He didn’t believe me, wanted proof. Was my father alive? I wasn’t sure. Where does he live? I don’t know. Somehow, I found myself in an Alpine village, where that same ridiculous band was playing. The banjo player looked like me, except older and scraggy.
Why this recurrent musical motif? Was I attacked by a banjo while an infant? I have some musical ability, but I play a respectable instrument, the clarinet. I hear you speculate -”He has suppressed fears he’ll learn his father is a wastrel or a scoundrel – the banjo, an instrument he abhors, represents that fear.”
I had another nightmare: I was in a courtroom. Herman Schulter was sentencing me to a hundred lashes. Wait – that wasn’t a dream. That was Monday. Let me unscramble my thoughts, as I try to do each evening after my fevered rambles in your consulting room. I’ll start with blue Monday.
I was late arriving at the hearing, which was being held in the Broadway Medical Building, a location obscure enough not to excite the curiosity of the media.
The room was closed to all but the three members of the panel and one witness, Dr. Irwin Connelly, my mentor, who has volunteered to scrutinize the state of my practice. This was the third in a series of time-squandering sessions – presumably an exercise in reforming me, so to speak, but the panel has the power to recommend my suspension, and if Dr. Schulter gets his way, it will. The other pair, Dr. Werner Mundt and Dr. Fred Rawlings, may lack the backbone to defy him. Rawlings is a retired lightweight, Mundt made so many errors in private practice that he was forced to take up teaching and is now an assistant dean at the University of British Columbia.
Schulter greeted me amiably, not at all perturbed that I was ten minutes late. He is a round-backed shuffling bear who hides his lack of empathy behind the false front of cordiality, and has managed to disguise his inferiority complex with a brilliant feat of overcompensation. Neither of us dares mention the word
he was everyone’s favourite forensic sharpshooter until – forgive the self-congratulation – Tim Dare rode into town.
(I wonder, also, if a remark I made in passing last year at a cocktail party – I was tipsy, others in the trade were present – reached his ears: something to the effect of him being an egregious poseur.)
A book I wrote about the profession,
Shrinking Expectations: Analyzing the Analysts
, was well received by reviewers but hasn’t made me popular with certain colleagues, and both Schulter and Mundt are reputed to have taken umbrage. The latter is a known pill-pusher, and in one chapter I excoriate colleagues who play lickspittle to the drug conglomerates.
But Schulter was wearing his usual happy face today. “The good Dr. Dare finally graces us with his presence.”
Though I’d vowed to be pleasant, my goal was to cut this nonsense short. “Before we get underway, I’d like to offer a few words of caution.”
“Indeed you may.”
“I’ll try to put this as politely as I can. There’s nothing to hear at this hearing. Since we last met, Dr. Connelly has been in my office, helping me sort out the shambles my last secretary left in her wake. He can tell you I’m trying to engage a replacement, and am seeing two applicants this afternoon.”
words.” Schulter prompted a chortle from the others.
“I’ll keep it short for you then. This hearing is a waste of time.”
Schulter, Mundt, and Rawlings all looked blankly at me. Irwin Connelly, sitting next to me, was tugging my sleeve, urging me – I supposed – to be more subtle, indirect.
“Because if there is any disciplinary action, I’ll appeal. And I’ll continue to appeal, and it will get into the courts, and the press will be alive to the entire scandal. And then the boom will come down.”
The matter was of such delicate nature that the discipline committee had forgone the use of a lawyer to lead the case against me; it was thought sufficient that Dr. Schulter had a degree in law – though he’d never practised. Nor was there clerk or notetaker.
I lost a file a few months ago at the Pondicherry, the very restaurant I took you to, Allis, after having forced you to listen to an hour of my lamentations. I think I left it on the very chair you sat on. Not long after the file disappeared, a tidbit found its way into a column in that pugnacious magazine
. I think the line went like this:
What high-ranking member of the B.C. cabinet is so addicted to having a spanking good time that he is now seeing a shrink?
Other media treated the matter as too hot a potato –
has been sued many times for libel – but the upshot was that I lost the Member for Shuswap South as a client. A byzantine political conspiracy followed, and a message was filtered through to the executive director of the College that Dr. Timothy Jason Dare should have his ears boxed.
I’d thrown down the gauntlet, but the panel was staring at me in an odd way. Schulter began to smile. “Would you be more comfortable without the helmet, Tim?” A graphic instance of a brain overburdened. I removed the helmet, saying lamely I thought I might need it for protection, and won a brief laugh.
Professor Mundt assured me that I’d nothing to fear from them – their only intention was to help me. I was so offended by this patronizing that I snapped something to the effect that I didn’t need a unit from the medical Gestapo breathing down my neck.
Irwin felt it necessary to reprimand me. “Now, now, Tim, accommodate these people, they’re doing a thankless job.”
I decided to sit back and let them do their shtick, but just as Irwin was being called upon to describe his archaeological dig through my office, my cellphone rang. When I took the call, Schulter allowed himself a frown of impatience.
On the other end of the line was Melissa Leung, a legal aid lawyer. She urgently required my services in Provincial Court to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice. A seemingly sane man was about to be thrown into a mental institution by an alcoholic judge.
“Give me fifteen minutes.” I rose. “Gentlemen, I’m sorry, I have an emergency. Please carry on without me.”
I remembered to grab my helmet as I left. I heard no protests, though in the sullen faces of the panel I could read the suspicion that I’d prearranged my emergency. I learned later that Schulter recessed the hearing for several weeks – he is a patient hunter, and will stay in the chase.
The Provincial Courts were about two klicks away, on seedy lower Main. The quick route to the Downtown East Side is over the Cambie Bridge, swooping around the behemoth that is B.C. Place Stadium, gliding downhill past Pigeon Park, where the homeless huddle on benches, then quickly to Cordova and Main, skid row, to the fortresslike bunker that houses our criminal courts.
The miscarriage of justice was in recess as I entered the court. Melissa Leung, a short-haired waif not turned thirty, was at a table struggling through a ten-pound medical text.
“I’m lost somewhere between catatonic immobility and inappropriate affect.”
Those terms had been used in evidence by Dr. Endicott Sloan, a trencherman to the Crown who bills for three or four opinions a day. He was in the gallery, looking uncomfortable at my unexpected presence, as he awaited cross-examination.
Melissa’s client, a street person in his fifties, was charged with assault, though witnesses said he was defending himself from bullies. Sloan had typed him as schizophrenic, therefore unfit to stand trial. Were his opinion to hold, the accused, despite a compelling defence, could find himself lost forever in the bowels of Riverview, his trial held in abeyance until, if ever, he’s pronounced cured.
Melissa looked weary. “I just walked in on this today. They wouldn’t give him legal aid and I felt sorry for him. We can’t pay you anything, he’s just a drifter.”
“He can’t seem to respond to anyone. I had fifteen minutes with him, and he refused to say a word. Maybe he’s not too aware of what’s going on around him, and maybe he’s slow – but I don’t think he’s crazy.”
Harvey Bigelow, a pink-nosed judge whose career has stopped giving meaning, is never one to doubt the word of Crown experts, and was reluctant to let me see the alleged offender. “I’m anxious to get on with this.” Meting out justice was interfering with his more liquid activities.
But I was permitted a few minutes with the accused, in the courtroom. This gentle giant, as he shambled in, seemed about as catatonic as Dr. Sloan. He was confused, though, and it took me a few minutes to determine his real difficulty – he was both hearing and speech disabled, and when presented with a writing pad could only crookedly write his name. But he responded eagerly to my hand signals, knew some rudimentary sign language, and showed no signs of illness beyond a below-median intelligence – and given that he’d survived so long on the street I wasn’t sure of that.