sat at the corner table in the dining area near the cafeteria's east windows, staring into
his coffee cup, watching the milky whirlpool his spoon had stirred, waitingas he did
each morningfor his nine o'clock "doping." The drugs were causing fewer
spells of nausea. Worse, however, were the disturbances to his sleep. Insomniac by nature,
what repose he did maintain was being infiltrated by a nightmare. At least he thought it
was a nightmare, since he would awaken nightly in cold sweats, often horrified. Of what,
he did not know. The experience recurred; it seemed identical each time, though nothing of
it overlapped his consciousness. Under normal circumstances he had total recall. Yet this
dream, whose aftershock was mauling him emotionally, eluded his remembering it completely.
He only knew it viscerally, as a residue of fearvulgar, sick, and fetid, like a scum
on the skin.
He took a sip of coffee, holding it in his mouth, letting its heavy
resins stain the surface of his tongue. He had made up his mind. He would have to tell
"the pill-pusher" something, something convincing enough to get the foul
prescription changed. Perhaps the truth would do. Not the whole truth, but an abridged
version, leaving out the part about his fear, and his haunting sense that the dream was
other then drug-induced.
He drained his cup and set it back inside its ring. There was The Game
to consider, too.
"You're very punctual, Mr. Papp."
"Disgusting, isn't it."
"No, I'm most appreciative. In fact your visits have become a
rather pleasant fixture in my day. So much so, that I find myself reluctant to suggest
they be less frequent. It is time, though, don't you think, for you to take this
medication by yourself?"
"The stuff's not working."
"You've had another seizure?"
"No, it's the fucking side effects."
"Could you describe them a little more articulately, Mr.
"That says it. You've transformed me from a eunuch into a sex
fiendnon-corporeally speaking, that is"
"You're having erotic urges?"
"Experiences, Ms. Zoe, experiencesthough they're not all
that 'erotic.' And they happen in my sleep, so you can quell that excommunicatory
A censuring reflex had been there, for which the nun reproached
"Do you want to tell me about them?"
His least attractive smirk appeared. A fabrication might be fun. Except
this sexual theme's invention was scarcely accidental. There was a prurient element to the
nightmareagain insensiblemade manifest by the clammy discharge he found
sometimes on his sheets, unwholesome and incriminating.
"A little vicarious titillation, Ms. Zoe?"
This time the nun remained sedate. She let her neutral silence be his
"No? Well, I'll spare you, then. The point is I can't sleep. You'd
better give Quack Wheeler a call and ask her to whip up another potion."
"Has the nausea persisted, too?"
"That I can handle."
"Perhaps we can decrease the dosage. I'll phone her today."
"Fine. Now, about Ms. Dana and her mettlesome neurosis. The
negativity she puts out is inhibiting my effectiveness as a teacher."
"As I understand it, you made scant effort to help her feel
"She wasn't welcome. Isn't. She's a nuisancean ineffectual
token to your vacuous conventions."
"And you wonder at her hostility?"
"No, I wonder at your subjecting menot to mention
"We've discovered Marcy's real name is Melanie."
"I'm sure you've surmised by now that Marcy came to us as a bit of
a mystery. I would appreciate it if you would begin to call her Melanie."
"When did all this happen?"
He checked his eagerness to garner the details.
"SureMarcy, Melanieclose enough. Who named her Marcy?
"As a matter of fact, yes."
"Pretty good guess. So, what about Ms. Dana?"
"I'll suggest she sit in the hall. You'll keep your door open, of
"Good. I'm told, by the way, you're quite a taskmaster."
"She'll learn the game. Teaching her some memory techniques will
be the trick."
"Weaned, I trust, of any amateur psychoanalysis on your
Had Marcy/Melanie said something? Or had his own behavior raised
suspicion? If the nun were totally convinced he was trespassing on her domain, he
knew she would put a stop to it.
"Idle curiosity, Ms. Zoe, that's all, never fear. Your primacy as
Chief Headshrinker isn't my concern."
"Let us hope, for the sake of Melanie's continuing in your class,
that this is true."
He started to leave. She stopped him.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
She pointed to his medicine.
"God forbid I leave without Communion."
He kneeled before her desk as at an altar, palms together, lips apart.
"I am not amused, Mr. Papp."
He shook three pills from the container (which he pocketed), popped
them into his mouth, gulped, rose, and left.
She had been a trifle greedy, he reflected, pulling rank like that. But
there was time. And losses in material could always be regained when, in development, one
still had the edge.
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