“Maxine, Maxine, Maxine,” said the mature, attractive man sitting in the leather executive chair across the desk. He seemed remarkably tanned and fit, with the physical build of an athlete that was apparent even under his white medical coat. Only the silver hair and small cluster of crow’s feet around his shockingly blue eyes hinted at his years. He shook his head and rubbed his temples with exasperation as he read the report. Looking up from the file, he peered at her over the top of his glasses. “What are we going to do with you?”
Maxine shifted in the chair, screwed her mouth to the side, and shrugged slightly, her movements restricted by the bindings of the off-white straight jacket. She stared at the verdant plants in ornate, decorative pots that filled the bookshelves behind him. Her eyes fixated on one container in particular. The plant was large and lush, but it was the crack in the container that caught her attention. It ran the length of the ceramic pot, marring the intricate design. It seemed out of place in his otherwise pristine office.
He cleared his throat, drawing her attention back to him.
Finally, she offered, “Well, Doc, you could get me out of this gawd-awful thing. Y’all have the worst fashion sense here. Don’t you know you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day? Besides, it clashes with my lovely hospital gown.”
“Dr. Cronuson,” he corrected.
She stared at him a moment, then rolled her eyes and repeated, curtly enunciating each syllable, “Doc-tor Cro-nus-son.”
“That’s better,” he said and leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head.
“What a fucking arrogant ass.”
Maxine blinked at the sound of the unfamiliar voice in her head, then quickly refocused her attention back to the doctor. “Glad we could get the important matter of your name handled. It’s good to have priorities, Dr. Cronuson,” she snarked.
“Steady, Maxine. Calm yer tits.” her voice of reason spoke up.
“Maxine is it? Don’t calm your tits, smite his ass.”
“Who are you?”
“You first. Who the hell are you? Who the hell are all of you?” replied the unknown voice.
“Establishing, or I should say re-establishing, our relationship is important, Maxine. I am your doctor, not your friend, and that makes me uniquely positioned to help you.”
♫♫ I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. ♫♫
“If you wanted to help me, you’d get me out of this ridiculous contraption and treat me like an adult instead of a lunatic.”
“Luna”…♫♫ Fly me to the moon. Moon River. When the moon hits your eye…Blue Moon♫♫
“You got yourself into this predicament, Maxine,” he said and glanced down at the report. “Arbitrarily attacking a nurse with their own name badge. It’s original, I’ll give you that.”
She grinned with self-satisfaction at the back-handed compliment, then sat up straighter and leaned forward, her brows furrowing in seriousness. “Dr. Cronuson, I didn’t just arbitrarily attack him. I was confused. I just woke up in a strange place, and a strange man was trying to force me to swallow pills. It wasn’t unprovoked. In fact, it seems like a perfectly normal response.”
♫♫ Strangers in the night…♫♫
“My gods, it’s like a Broadway musical in here,” said the new voice.
♫♫ Give my regards to Broadway ♫♫
“Oh, for fuck’s sake…”
The doctor leaned forward, his index finger tapping the report. “Let’s start there, Maxine. You aren’t in a strange place. You’ve been with Olympic Heights Behavioral Hospital for nearly a year now. And Gerard has given you your medications the entire time.”
Maxine nodded faintly, gnawing on her lower lip as she formed her thoughts. “Yes. I know that now. But at the time, I’d just woken up with a horrible headache and was nauseous. I was…I was disoriented.”
The doctor scribbled notes in the file. “Go on.”
Maxine hesitated. “Well…”
“Well, what, Maxine? I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what is going on.”
“Well, it was as if I was drunk and…and I didn’t feel entirely myself,” she added.
“Oops. That might have been me,” the newest voice offered.
“Who invited her in?”
“State your purpose for being here, stranger!”
“Excuse you? I owe you no explanations. But I damn well better be getting some answers.”
“Shut up!” Maxine hissed, then smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, Doc…Doctor. They were getting loud.”
The doctor eyed her for a moment and nodded. He looked back at the paperwork on his desk and flipped pages in the file, scanning one document with his finger. “I see we recently added another medication to your treatment plan. I suppose that could cause nausea and disorientation.”
Maxine nodded. “See? Have you considered that you are giving me too many medications, Doctor? Maybe that is making things worse.”
He glanced up from the file, and his spine stiffened. There was the briefest flash in those electric blue eyes, and a cloud seemed to darken his features. “Oh, are you a doctor, now, Maxine?” he said and pointed to the wall where his framed diplomas hung. “I think only one of us has gone to medical school.”
“No, but you are a doctor, not a god, Doctor Cronuson. You aren’t infallible, and the medications aren’t either,” she replied.
“Hmph. Good luck trying to convince him he’s not perfect.”
“The new kid has a point.”
“You know this guy?”
“Nah, just know the type.”
“Who did you say you were?”
His jaw flexed and his nostrils flared as he levelled his withering gaze at her. She looked back, unflinching. Finally breaking the stare-off, the doctor inhaled deeply and rolled his chair back away from his desk. Picking up a spray bottle, he began spritzing the plants. “Maxine, your attitude is not winning any points with me. You’d do well to remember that I decide how comfortable your stay here can be.”
See now? Y’all done pissed him off. Best turn on the southern charm, girl.
Screw that. Smite him. Why don’t you just smite him?
What’s with this smiting nonsense? Who are you?
I…I… I’m not sure. I’m trying to work that out.
Pay attention! He’s staring at you. Just agree with him!
“You see, Maxine, my job is to tend to the wellbeing of everyone here, both patients and staff. Your care is entirely in my hands. It’s a heavy burden that your outburst made even more difficult.”
A collective groan rose and died off inside her head.
“I want you to improve, Maxine, to grow, to flourish,” he said as he idly examined the philodendron in the cracked pot, then sprayed it. “Not unlike these plants. Look how lush they are from the right amount of attention and care. The right amount of nutrients, sunlight, and water. It’s a delicate balance that few can achieve.”
Crack some heads.
“They are lovely,” she said, and offered her sweetest smile. “You seem to have the magic touch.”
His chest puffed, and he smiled at the compliment. “Now, I’m inclined,” he continued, “to show you some leniency since this is the first time you’ve shown any aggressive behavior.”
“Thank you, doctor. Does that mean you’ll take me out of this thing? It’s very uncomfortable,” she said with a soft pleading in her voice, coupled with puppy dog eyes.
He watched her, then turned his attention back to his plants, picking a few dead leaves from one pot. “I’m considering it, but I’m going to need your assurance that you will be a good girl.”
“Good girl? What are you? Ten?”
“For the love of Hades, SMITE HIM!”
“Hades? Who talks like that?”
His condescension caused Maxine to grind her molars.
Shush you. Don’t get her riled up.
Maxine cleared her throat. “Of course, Doctor Cronuson. Like I said, I wasn’t myself, but I feel better now.”
“Mhm,” he murmured and set the spray bottle on his desk, then walked behind her. “I want to hear it from you before I let you out of this. Say it. Say that you’ll behave and be a good girl.”
She swallowed hard and trembled with the effort to maintain her self-control. “I will behave, Dr. Cronuson. I will be a good girl.”
She heard the buckles rattle and felt the ties binding her arms loosen and fall down to her sides. “There, now. That wasn’t so hard, was it?” he said from behind her. “You should be able to take it from here.”
♫♫Freedom…I won’t let you down..
Freedom…I will not give you up ♫♫
Maxine nodded and worked her way out of the restraint.
The doctor picked up the spray bottle and wandered over to the window to attend to a small cluster of plants. He spoke over his shoulder to her. “Now, you will need to apologize to Gerard, of course. He required stitches, you know.”
♫♫ Born free
As free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart♫♫
“I know. I know. I feel awful about it. Did you know that one of your pots has a crack in it, doctor?” Maxine asked.
He turned back to find Maxine taking the pot from the shelf. “Don’t touch that!” he snapped.
♫♫You can’t touch this
Break it down!
Stop, Hammer time!♫♫
The pot went flying across the room, hitting the doctor in the head, sending him reeling backward.
“Maxine!” he screamed, and his hands flew out in front of him as she charged towards him.
“The name is Moxie, you arrogant ass, and I’m going to show you what good girls can do!” she said and threw herself into him, sending them both crashing through the window. The glass shattered, and the pair tumbled through the air, racing toward the ground.
“And that’s what happened,” I told Aphaid as I waited for Mamá to join me for our lunch appointment.
“That is quite a hallucination, miss,” Aphaid replied.
“Reality is such a slippery thing. One minute you’re drinking ambrosia in a warehouse, and the next, you are waking up in a strange place, wearing strange clothes, and an odd little fellow who looks like he should be on the set of the Wizard of Oz is handing you candy.”
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
“Who is Toto?”
“Olympus, darlin’. We were not in Olympus anymore.”
♫♫We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.♫♫