We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God. Jeremiah 3:25
Hazzard was a small town with a big cemetery and Paul Hazzard’s family had the biggest plot in it. From the road it looked like there was a mausoleum on it, but that wasn’t the case. The structure erected there was for decoration and to hold the chiseled name of Hazzard up high and large. Sometimes one of the elder uncles would joke that it had once been the tallest building in town. Some days Paul believed that it wasn’t a joke.
Paul had graduated at the beginning of summer and should have been in law school by now, but there was some ongoing discussion about which school he should go to. His classmates might believe that he should be having some input into the discussion, but Paul knew when to stay out of family squabbles. . . even if it was leaving three law schools hanging, with no explanation, weeks after classes started. The family was sure that the schools would understand. Or they were planning to concoct some story to cover his lateness. He had had no choice but to accept the offers of all three, even it that was expressly forbidden, just as he would have no choice but to parrot whatever story the family had concocted.
Parrot. There was rumored to be a flock of parrots living in the cemetery. Once or twice, Paul had thought he’d heard them. They were supposed to be medium-sized green things, descended from an escaped pair. Paul searched the many trees for a sight of them until he tipped his head wrong and suddenly had to vomit behind one of the headstones. He was careful and made sure that none of it got on his dress.
When things subsided, he checked the name. It was another Paul Hazzard, this one 1818 to 1839. Below the name and dates were chiseled: “Remorse, the fatal egg that pleasure laid.” It sounded like a wife’s last dig to Paul. Or a mother’s. Paul winced at the thought. Well, he had never vomited behind this particular headstone before. The sight of his name on a tombstone just before Halloween would have been spooky if Paul hadn’t seen it so often on so many other stones. The family tended to hoard names, among other things. Start with quality and then keep on until you’ve used it up.
Paul patted his lips with a handkerchief and then looked for awhile at the lipstick smudge. That’s right. There had been a party and he had dressed up. Only he had done it a little too well. There were sure to be repercussions. Oh, well. You could duck until your backbone was shaped like a pretzel, but some of what they threw was bound to hit. Paul picked his way over to the baby section, swaying only slightly, maneuvering the high heels perfectly.
The baby section was where Paul felt history. There were so many of them. Children aged nothing to ten were laid to rest here. Older than ten and you got a headstone. You still couldn’t sit at the adult table on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, or Easter until you were 21 or on the football team. But at ten you and your headstone could lie with the adults.
The babies got a flat stone in the middle of the grave, rather than an upright headstone. On it was their first and middle names, their date of death, and their age in years, months, and days. No one knew why the last name and the birth date were omitted. It wasn’t the practice in the rest of the cemetery. But that was the way that the family did it. In some sections, the stones almost tiled the area completely. It was sad, some days.
Mostly, Paul felt sad that it wasn’t appreciated. Here, family after family buried three, four, up to ten times as many children as they raised to adulthood. That had to be a hard thing, possibly a horrible thing. He didn’t know anyone that that happened to any more. A thing like that would be a tragedy today and no one appreciated or even seemed to notice the improvement. That seem wrong to Paul. He would have mentioned it to his family, but they would have made some bitter, complaining joke out of it. His friends would just have called it gay.
Paul pressed his hands to his eyes to get the rising voices of complaining family out of his head. None of them were ever happy with any of the rest of them, at least to hear them talk. None of them ever moved away, except maybe for college or a first job. The ones who left sent complaining letters home. Regularly. Paul sometimes wondered if he was really related. His Grandma Aggie claimed that it was the sitters’ fault. Momma always called them nannies, but the rest of the family considered that to be putting on airs. No one would go so far as to admit the word nanny existed.
Paul hated arguments. He also loved them. The kind of argument where you built your facts into a structure of beautiful logic, that king of argument he loved. The kind of arguing his family did was ugly and nasty and mean. Paul pulled his hands away from his face and looked at the mascara and eye shadow on his fingers. Well, he could deal with that. He pulled two Kentucky Fried Chicken wet-wipes out of his evening bag and went to work on his face. Pity the bag was too dainty to hold a fifth. He needed to be much drunker. If he were drunk enough, and lucky enough, he could forget the party. Some things were better forgotten.
The wet-wipes didn’t quite do the job, so Paul tip-tipped over to the birdbath on Great-Grandma Alice’s grave. No one in the family liked the birdbath, but Alice wasn’t the sort of person that you crossed, even when she was dead. Instead of a headstone, there was the birdbath, at the foot of her grave, and just a little plaque on the edge with her name and date – no epitaph. Grandma Aggie claimed that it was her way of having the epitaph “Fuck You” on her grave without anyone outside of the family knowing. Grandma Aggie had gotten a little salty toward the end.
Paul dipped his handkerchief into the birdbath and finished his transformation back into a male – at least in his mind. He was drunk enough to forget about the dress and wig and high heels. He was even holding the evening bag demurely. Paul hadn’t dressed up like this since he was fifteen. He had done it several times before that, at least according to relatives. He could only remember once or twice. It only happened when very stressful things were happening. Somehow, it made it easier to be calm.
Then at fifteen, he had discovered one of his cousin’s stashes of porn and from then on had had another way to relax. It was still something that he had to hide, but he wasn’t worried about being beaten up for it or of being sent of to a sanitarium for readjustment. He didn’t know what had possessed him to do this today. It was a goodbye party at the office. It has a Halloween theme. Everyone would be dressing up. He had seen other men dress in drag for parties, when they didn’t have time for a real costume or couldn’t afford one.
Paul sighed. Sure he was slim, but he was too tall for a woman and his legs were too muscled. He ran track for godssake. No one in town could beat him cross country. He shouldn’t have had to smear the makeup onto his face like a clown to keep people from mistaking him for a cute visitor without a costume. If only there hadn’t been liquor, he though, nothing hurtful would have been said.
Paul wasn’t drunk enough to forget, but he was drunk enough to weep. He refused to dab at it with a hanky and blew his nose into it instead. Loudly. He was going to miss school. The U had been far enough from town that no one visited, while being close enough that no one bothered to call or write. All he had to do was come home most weekends, and he harvested the peace of his relative’s indifference. Law school would be far enough away for special attention. Dammit.
He noticed that he was standing on Grandma Aggie’s grave. She had called dibs on the slot next to Great-Grandma Alice and had defended her dibs through decades of other funerals, violently sometimes.
“You were a mean old bitch,” he said to the ground beneath his feet. “I’d take comfort in the fact that Geegee Alice was a bigger bitch to you, but you just passed it forward and the people you passed it to are still passing it on. You didn’t have to buy into it you know. Or maybe you don’t know. Maybe you’re arguing still. Are you telling her that you peed in her birdbath? That was a particularly nasty thing for a small boy to see, by the way. I don’t care how irritating it was when I kept asking why you had a step stool and a funnel in your trunk. You could have lied to me. Lord knows you lied about enough else.”
Paul sat down on the grass, growing maudlin. It was starting to get dark and a fog was coming up.
“I know that Great-Uncle Wally got to sit at the table when he made the track team, too. I’ve seen the pictures. I remember it. But no, you wouldn’t back me up. You said it had to be football. You hid the damn album so I couldn’t haul out the picture as proof. You damn bitch. And your eyes sparkled while you did it.
What was the point? That you could do it? Did you get points for it somehow? Were you, god help you, trying to dish out as much as the dead had dished to you? You poor old bat. You went crazy at the end, though, and lost track of what you could get away with. You spent your last five years in restraints. Do you remember that?”
Paul curled up. He was just going to rest. When the dew came, the cold would wake him. He never saw the mushrooms.
I’m not sure about that one. He’s sad. Yes, I’m sure. He was crying and he was calling someone bitch. I think he was loud enough to be angry, too, but I’m not completely sure. I’m sure about the sadness, though. And I’m pretty sure that he was drunk. We don’t want to bring the drunkenness along. Hold him and let him sleep for awhile before bringing him through.
That was a cemetery. A lot of people think of it as a place to store dead people, but it’s a place of transformation. It’s also a place of information, so if we want to introduce cemeteries here, we’ll have to be aware of that. No, we don’t have to keep the information aspect, we just have to be aware that all of our people will assume an information aspect when they hear the word. We’ll have to take care. Perhaps the Book Man will split the information aspect completely off.
Is the dead one keeping all right? Yes, keep her asleep until we’re ready. Keep this one asleep until dawn. He may be hung over then, but he won’t be drunk. I’ll visualize the chemical transformations for you before we finish him. You said there was one more to go.
Are you sure that you have enough capacity to hold them all? That’s very good. I knew we were ready to try this. You’re doing very well. I’m very happy. Yes, this is as happy as I get. You’re probably right. Beth probably was happier, even with the rabbits. You’ll probably get a lot more emotion from all of the others. If you like that, it won’t make me sad, not as long as you still listen to me.
Now it’s time to touch the last one. Are you ready?
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29
ShaVon and Helen worked their way down the hallway. ShaVon walked ahead and broomed dust and crumbs away from the baseboard and Helen came behind her with the vacuum. They were sticking together this shift. It was against clinic policy, but they knew that no one would so much as mention it tonight, let alone discipline them.
The cleaning staffers at Verde Vista were generally expected to work within sight of each other, but not so close as to display a distrust of the patients. There were some times, however, when everyone could feel the tension and any sign that someone was doing something to lessen the chances of an incident was appreciated, by both staff and patients.
ShaVon and Helen finished up in the empty day room and began to wash down table tops. From down the hall they could hear the chanting that the vacuum had masked. They didn’t think of it as chanting. The cadence of the words made it obvious that the old lady was reciting bible verses and chanting was a word that the women associated with spells and black magic. But they reacted as if it were chanting. Everyone did.
“Why they let that crazy woman do that to him? He going to be stupid hard to deal with all week.”
“She got the family money and she got the family balls in her pocket. Doctors tell her not to pray over him, the family move him again, maybe somewhere that pray over him all the time.”
“Why they don’t tell her to pray something nice over him? I don’t recognize half what she say. None of it ever sound good.”
“Ward nurses say some of it from books a normal bible don’t use. Say some of it from ‘The Apocalypse of Peter.’ Say one end of the world not good enough for her so she got her a bible with two.”
“Lordy, she want more Revelations shit? That woman ain’t right. I say she just like him only she grab a bible when she go odd. Why can’t they lock her up for crazy and give the boy a rest. I know he spooky when he talk about satan, but he only does it after she’s drove him crazy.”
“Grab a bible when you go odd, get out of crazy house free. Come on. We got to get that water fountain some time. Wish they’d close the door. I know they want to watch her, but it spooks everybody else.”
It didn’t take two people to clean the water fountain, but ShaVon and Helen did not split up. Both held spray bottles. Helen used hers and tended to the fountain while ShaVon held hers at ready, half facing toward the door, as if to spray anything corrupt that popped out of that room.
It was obvious after a few moments that the boy had been reduced to word salad. The staffers slowed their work and stood for awhile, transfixed.
The woman declared: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount
and in Zion shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the
remnant whom the LORD shall call home.” Jerusalem
The boy declared into her pause, in an eerily similar voice: “the LORD shall call home the servant of two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, adopted by the Ghost in the Shell: Innocence is named after the Latin word for to have and have Not To hold a Media event The media shall be escorted to the chuppah by his parents, and thy sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger in America Keisha Castle Hughes, verily the premier source of information on a variety of topics from the National Library of Medicine’s Medline database of more than million and a half dollars A YEAR to the day after Tomorrow, Reviewed by Bill Warren Rating: One- and a half Million people in the UK are now using the Internet, to Find a job, in the Gaming industry by the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street journal and diary for the ACADEMIC Job search. In the NEWS, The News Media is a new invention: by a competitor or goods or services to the public in the St. Louis area Auto dealerships to be sold on memory Card, ROBBIE Williams plays for the stage- and the Visual Arts is a bottom- up Approach to Web Site As a WAR crime, or an act of war Direct Action Beta. Test sign- Up! Begins May . . . “
She began again and for awhile he spoke over the top of her, matching her tone at first, but diverging into an odd seller’s sing-song. Then he seemed to loose track of his thoughts and, again, her voice was easy to hear. ShaVon and Helen didn’t need to see her to know that she was holding her bible, and looking down toward it as if reading from it. But she never turned a page while her verses jumped from one end of the book to the other with very little connection.
“Ye cannot drink the cup of the LORD, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the LORD 's table, and of the table of devils.”
. . . “and of the tables of devils apparently thinking they can surf the web in PEACE without those annoying popup ads with Popup Ad Stopper! Popup Ad Stopper Software Download CNET Editors Choice Award considered that make you Go Hmm. I wonder if Heaven got A Ghetto Christmas tree Village Cookie Jar with a LID in ounces, see she if did did did did did”
Helen whispered to ShaVon, “Sometimes I think he started by answering back and that didn’t work, so he started talking nonsense to show that she was talking nonsense, and then he got stuck.”
“We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.
“the LORD our God is one Lord. Jesus he did mushrooms before he could be traded by the
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ShaVon was slightly scandalized. “Did he just say that Jesus did mushrooms? He blaspheming, there.”
“I don’t think so,” whispered Helen. “When he sane, he talk about growing mushrooms and it the eatin’ kind, not the trippin’ kind. Maybe tomorrow won’t be so bad. He like to remember his mushrooms.”
Through the door, the voices went on.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. . .”
“Oh, good,” said Helen. “She winding down if she be starting on John. She know that section whole. I show you what we can do to maybe calm things down. It be kinda nasty, though, so best not let anyone see.”
“What you mean, nasty?”
Helen took ShaVon down to the day room to pick up all their equipment, then to the nurses station for a cup of coffee. They got big paper cups and drank slowly. When they were about done, the puckered little woman marched out. They were too far away from the window to see her, but her passage was unmistakable in the gaze and posture of the staff with a view of the hallway.
The nurse at the window announced quietly, with no inflection at all: “She has her dress on wrong side out.”
Helen motioned ShaVon to bring her cup and come on. They went straight to the boy’s room. ShaVon was sure that was a bad idea, but she went anyway. Helen had been here for years and was usually right when she guessed what a patient would or wouldn’t do.
The boy was lying slumped on the bed. At nineteen, he was tall enough that his feet dangled over the edge slightly when his head wasn’t smack up near the headboard, which it definitely wasn’t, now. His hair was long and dark and wavy. It was currently splayed in a rumpled half circle, which might have made someone else look tragic but just made him look a splayed sort of goofy. He mumbled a faltering liturgy.
“. . . your holy things which the Lord hath made he calls the shots in the dark. Paint Glow IN the dark Paint Glow IN the dark Paint Glow IN the dark Paint. . . :
Helen took the cup from ShaVon, finished the last sip, nested the two cups together, and set them down on the bedside table with a definite click. Then she motioned for the two of them to start cleaning. The vacuum drowned out the boy’s continuing words.
“Nick,” thought ShaVon. “His name is Nick, not boy. Nick Jeffries. He’s nineteen and he’s been in places like this for five years.” She went into the adjoining bathroom with the spray bottle. It was mostly clean. Helen joined her soon. The words behind them were slowing.
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“He’s past eighteen. Can’t they give him medication and straighten him out enough to get into a half-way house?”
“Family don’t believe in medication for devils. If he had a lawyer, he maybe could get things changed, but that takes money. Hell, if he could stop fighting the family and start asking for help, maybe a social worker could work things out. Until he starts fighting for himself more than he’s fighting them, he’s going to be here, though. The doctors can’t fight him and the family, too. Listen.”
It was quiet out in the room. Helen picked up the vacuum and left the room. Even thought the rooms weren’t fully cleaned, ShaVon followed. Nick was staring quietly at the two paper coffee cups. ShaVon wasn’t sure why they were there, so she left them.
Out in the hallway: “What those coffee cups for?”
Helen waited until they were past the nurses’ station and had buzzed back into the main hallway. “Those cups are for his mushrooms. Remember I said he used to grow them? Mushrooms calm him down. You won’t hear mushrooms in his talk unless she about to slow down and leave. And he won’t get all upset if he be working on his mushrooms.”
“How can he work on mushrooms with two paper cups?”
“I told you it would be nasty.”
“. . . “
“He going to poop in his toilet and fish it out and mush it down in one of those cups. He going to use the other to make a funnel, so he can get it out the bars on his window. He going to drip it down the wall so that there be a line of it going down the wall to the grass outside. They going to be a little puddle of it on his window sill, too. We going to have to clean that up.”
“And the bathroom!” ShaVon was more than a little put out.
“The bathroom be fine. He be really careful with his mushroom stuff. And he be quiet while he doing it. And he sleep tonight sitting right up with his back against the wall with that window. And everyone else sleep better, too, and nobody going to start screaming or hittin’ on anyone. Give me the choice and I’ll clean up shit over blood any day.”
“Blood! It get that bad?”
“If he start screaming after the doctors let her do that to him in front of everybody? Oh, yeah, it can get bad. You watch. I bet no one even call us in to clean it up. They wait until we do it ourself.”
“Damn, girl. You bein’ the doctor tonight.”
“Someone need to be. I don’t care how many bibles that woman hold. She crazy. I seen her eyes while she be talkin’ once. She stone crazy.”
The next day, there was a good deal more excitement than Helen had guessed. But there was no mention of coffee cups or shit, because there was no trace of either. They were asked about the mushrooms, though, and whether they knew of any way that the boy could have gotten out. They eventually told the police how the boy had been trying to grow the mushrooms, just to still their consciences. But, no, there had never been actual mushrooms before, just messes and the boy talking about them.