Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chapter 8~~Hot Lava

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

The next day she was back in my clamshell chair, so I knew she had forgiven me for taking liberties. What’s more, she arrived at the office bearing gifts: two lattes and some gingerbread she claimed to have baked herself (I was dubious).

“I know you don’t want me to pay for these sessions, but I figure you deserve something for listening to my tale of woe,” she said, setting them down on my desk.

“Thank you.”

“But that’s all you’re getting.”

“That’s more than I require.”

“Don’t think I’m coming here with any ulterior motives.”

“I wouldn’t dream.”

“There won’t be any sexual favors dispensed here.”



The morning after their first visit to the hospital, a Saturday, Jason arrived at the house before Jo and Larry had even gotten out of bed. He opened the front door, as is customary with all of their regular visitors, without ringing the bell or waiting for anyone to let him in.

“Hello! Anybody home?” he called out from the front hallway.

“We’re still in bed,” Jo answered. “Come on back. It’s okay.”

A moment later Jason stood in the doorway to their bedroom, his back against the jamb, with half of his body still hidden in the hall. The door was on the same wall as the head of their bed, and Larry was nearest to it. Jo had the blankets pulled up all the way over her shoulders, and turned on her side to look at Jason over Larry’s back. But it was Larry he had come to talk to, apparently.

“I have some questions about the Volkswagen,” he began, inexplicably.

“Oh, yeah? What’re those?” Larry didn’t seem surprised.

“Well the radio doesn’t work, for one thing.”

“Oh, sorry. I was meaning to fix that before I sold it to you. That’s just a fuse that needs to be replaced. Do you know where the fuse box is?

“Not really.”

“It’s on the driver’s side, under the dashboard, next to the door. Just take the
cover off and you can see the fuses lined up in there. It will be easy to tell which one is for the radio, because the metal band across the middle will be broken. You can get replacement fuses at any auto parts store. I was meaning to fix that, but I never got around to it.”

“Well, that sounds easy enough.” Jason leaned back against the door and twirled his keys around his finger. Jo felt a black clot of anger expanding in her chest, but she didn’t interrupt. Some perverse part of her wanted to see how long they would talk of trivia in the midst of her family’s emergency.

“But the bigger problem is the car won’t start,” Jason continued. “I was all excited about taking it instead of my old car this morning, but when I got outside, the engine wouldn’t turn over.”

“Did it make any noise at all?”

“Not a peep.”

“Did you try jumping it?”

“No. I couldn’t find the cables. I thought I’d ask you about it first.”

“Somebody probably left the radio on, and that drained the battery. It’s wired a little funny. Since the radio isn’t working, you don’t remember to turn it off, but it still drains the battery. Just turn off the radio and jump the car. Then you know you need to drive it around for 20 or 30 minutes to recharge the battery, right?”

“Right. Does it matter what kind of jumper cables you use?”

Jo focused a look of hot lava on Jason, but he was completely oblivious to her. Larry was also unaware of her smoldering.

“The jumper cables don’t matter and the batteries don’t either, unless you have a really old car, in which case you might have a six volt battery. That could be a problem. But the Volkswagen is a 12 volt, so you should be able to jump it with any new car.”

“Okay. Good. What about the manual? Didn’t you say it ...

“Jesus Fucking Christ!” Jo suddenly exploded. “Don’t you even want to know what happened to Eddy?!” Her voice sounded much louder and more hysterical than she intended.

Jason looked stunned. Then his new girlfriend nudged him from behind, easing her flat, expressionless face into the room to take a look at Jo. Jo hadn’t realized the girlfriend was in the house, pushing uninvited into Jo’s bedroom, and into this private conversation. The girlfriend peered at Jo dispassionately from behind her glasses, as at a rabid animal safely contained in the zoo. Jo ignored her, which was easy to do, since they had never exchanged two words, and waited hotly for Jason to respond to her challenge.

“Well, yes ... ” he finally said lamely. “How’s Eddy?”

“He’s in the hospital!” Jo spit out bitterly, as if it was Jason’s fault. “We were with him there until 1 in the morning Thursday--when you left with the Volkswagen. Then they decided to keep him for observation.”

“Really?” he seemed surprised. “On what basis are they holding him?”

“They’re holding him on the basis of him being fucking insane!” Jo realized that she sounded insane herself, but she couldn’t modulate her volume.

“I didn’t realize. I figured they were just going to talk to him. Where is he, exactly?”

“He’s at the Sisters of Infinite Beneficence Hospital, in the psychiatric ward.”


“Yes ... ”

Jo let the recrimination ooze out of her voice and over Jason’s body in the corner, but her heat was subsiding.

“When will he be coming back to his apartment?” Jason asked meekly, a rare tone.

Officially, Jason lived Oakland, but he frequently stayed the night at Eddy’s apartment, which was closer to the massage school he had decided to enroll in after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in physics. His parents must be thrilled.

“Never,” Jo said brutally, taking perverse pleasure in finally wringing a reaction out of Jason’s usually implacable face.


“No. He’s not going back there, Jason. He’s nuts. He needs to stay here for awhile, where we can keep an eye on him.”

Exhausted with the effort of controlling her anger--of lying in bed when she wanted to leap out of it and slam Jason’s head repeatedly against the wall, when she wanted to slap his blank-faced girlfriend silly and kick her fat ass down the front stairs--she finally softened her tone.

“Well, I guess I better get my stuff out of there then,” Jason responded.

“He should be home in a few days.” Jo ignored his last comment. “Why don’t you talk to him about it then?”

“Okay.” Jason looked toward the front door longingly, obviously eager to leave the disaster area, but not quite ready to make his getaway.

“About the manual ... ” he hemmed.


Later that day, Larry and Jo were granted a five-minute meeting with Dr. Tarsa, an ill-looking man with a big bulbous belly protruding over spindly legs, sparse gray hair, sallow skin, big eyes afloat in puffy pockets of flesh, and hanging jowls that moved a moment behind the rest of his head.

“Hello. Hello,” he said as he approached them in the community room, ten minutes late for their appointment and obviously in a rush. “If you’ll come with me, we can find a private place to talk.” He turned abruptly and scuttled off without looking back, assuming they’d drop whatever we were doing and follow him. They did.

The small interview room next to the locked ward doors was painted white, mostly empty, and windowless, strewn with a few flimsy plastic chairs. Jo wondered if the doctor had spoken with Eddy there, and what had caused the occasional black streak on the walls. She remembered old movies of men in straight jackets left alone in padded cells. But this room was not like that. Nothing like that at all.

“We’re not releasing your son tomorrow,” Dr. Tarsa said before he’d even taken his seat, which disappeared beneath him like an egg under a chicken.

“You’re not?” Jo was shocked. “But we thought you had to. Won’t that be 72 hours?”

“The 72-hour hold is just a legal marker. We can keep him as long as we feel he’s a danger to himself or others,” the doctor said. “And we haven’t had enough time to evaluate him yet. So we’ve asked a judge to extend the hold for two weeks. But we might release him sooner.”

Larry and Jo looked at each other apprehensively. “Does Eddy know that?” he asked.

“Not yet.”

“But he seems much better to us, doctor,” Larry used his deep, man-to-man voice. “And he wants to come home.”

“Well, he can’t. Not tomorrow. That’s not an option,” the doctor’s voice was clipped. “But when we do release him, I understand he’s going to stay at home with you?”

“Yes,” Jo hurried to reassure him. “That’s the plan.”

“That’s good, because we don’t think he should be living alone. He’ll be given only a little medication, just enough to last until you find him a treating psychiatrist who can prescribe more.”

“Okay,” Jo said uncertainly, trying to slow down the pace. “What medication is he taking?”

“Lithium. Risperdol. Seroquel.”

“Lithium?” she was surprised by the one drug she recognized. “What does that mean? What do you think is wrong with him?”

“Lithium doesn’t mean anything.” Dr. Tarsa answered tartly. “It is a mood stabilizer. It could be that your son has bipolar disorder. That’s one possibility. He could also be schizophrenic, or any number of other things. All we know for certain is that he has suffered a psychotic break, but why that is, we don’t know. I’m not the one to make that determination. That’s for his long-term psychiatrist to do.”

“Where should we look for a long-term psychiatrist? Can you recommend someone who would be good for him?” Jo asked.

“What are the other drugs for?” Larry interrupted.

“Risperdol is an anti-psychotic. That’s probably what has brought about the results. Seroquel is to help him sleep at night.”

Larry nodded reservedly. Jo wasn’t sure she trusted these medications, or this doctor. She wasn’t sure how best to help her son. Dr. Tarsa was already standing up, producing the small white chair from beneath him like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his ass.

“What about the psychiatrist?” she began to feel frantic when she realized he was leaving. “Can you recommend someone? How do we know where to take him next?”

“Well, unfortunately, a lot will depend on your insurance. If you can bring me a list of the psychiatrists on your plan, I can point out ones that I think are good.”

“Okay. But are you going to be here when we come back?”

“I’ll be here tonight during evening visiting hours. If you bring the list then, I’ll take a look.” His hand was on the doorknob as he spoke the last sentence. Then he was waddling down the hall, and Larry and Jo were standing alone in the interview room, staring at the empty space left behind him. They looked at each other, dumbfounded.

“I’m not sure I like this doctor,” Jo murmured.

“He’s just busy. He’s just doing his job.”

“What is he so busy doing, for crissakes? Why can’t he give us 15 minutes to answer our questions!?”

“I don’t know, but Eddy does seem better,” Larry soothed her. “You can’t argue with that.”

“I guess not.”

“He’s not going to be happy about staying longer, though.”

Cut Off will be published in June.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home