Julian 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, waiting—as he did each morning—for 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 fear—vulgar, 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. Papp?"

"That says it. You've transformed me from a eunuch into a sex fiend—non-corporeally speaking, that is"

"You're having erotic urges?"

"Experiences, Ms. Zoe, experiences—though they're not all that 'erotic.' And they happen in my sleep, so you can quell that excommunicatory zeal."

A censuring reflex had been there, for which the nun reproached herself.

"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 nightmare—again insensible—made 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 answer.

"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."

5. c3............

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5.
c3
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5
6
7
8
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

"As I understand it, you made scant effort to help her feel welcome."

"She wasn't welcome. Isn't. She's a nuisance—an ineffectual token to your vacuous conventions."

"And you wonder at her hostility?"

"No, I wonder at your subjecting me—not to mention Marcy—to it."

"Melanie."

"Who?"

"We've discovered Marcy's real name is Melanie."

"Oh?"

"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?"

"Will you?"

He checked his eagerness to garner the details.

"Sure—Marcy, Melanie—close enough. Who named her Marcy? You?"

"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 course."

5............Ba5

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5Ba5
6
7
8
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

"Of course."

"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."

6. d4............

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6.
d4
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5Ba5
6
7
8
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

"Weaned, I trust, of any amateur psychoanalysis on your part."

6............exd4

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5Ba5
6exd4
7
8
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

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."

7. 0 - 0............

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7.
0 - 0
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5Ba5
6exd4
7
8
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

"Let us hope, for the sake of Melanie's continuing in your class, that this is true."

7............dxc3

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7. 0 - 0
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5Ba5
6exd4
7dxc3
8
9
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

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."

"Nevertheless."

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.

 

How confession...

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