Apologies for disappearing — it was not because I forgot how to write. I took a job this past year that left little time for my projects (or as an unfortunate side effect, sleep). I have since found a new job.
After some thought, I’ve decided to post chapters of my projects here, in case anyone is interested in a preview or leaving feedback. The first chapter of Nuts will be posted below. Please let me know if you have any questions (or if you just want to chat). Final compilations will be on Amazon.
Thank you for your continued support.
My reverend once said only God serves as a control for the truth, the referee between dreams and delusions. The rest we must discover for ourselves: the sights we cannot see, the voices we cannot hear–
The sound of my name jolted me back to the doctor’s office. I shook my head. The woman sat behind her desk, my report in hand, rubbing the bridge of her nose. Her muttering seeped into my head, slow like a mist, rolling, as if passing through my forehead instead of ears.
“Do you believe you can see spirits?”
Her clipboard knocked against the mahogany desk, a divider that sat between us, the sane and insane, its edges flawlessly varnished on her side and chipped on mine. I counted the scratches along my edge of the wood: ten, twenty… a deep set paralleled my chest, just inches apart. One of the patients had been a child. Maybe five. Six, at most.
I looked up.
“Ghosts,” I said. “Imprints of the dearly departed. No one can see spirits. They’re souls. They don’t have shape.”
Mother’s nails dug into my shoulder. Father interested himself in the curtains.
“And these ghosts,” said the doctor. “Are they here with you?”
I glanced at Titus.
“Are there ghosts here with you, Ms. Dane?”
He shook his head.
“Lucy, answer the question,” said my mother.
Titus adjusted his collar in the mirror.
Titus drifted to where my father stood, sat down on the couch, and folded his arms. He was a relic from the golden age of sailing, a permanently wet boy, physically, as if recently dredged from the sea. More than once, I tried to towel him off, only to have him remain sopping, much to my consternation.
“Don’t follow me with your eyes,” said Titus. “The doctor can tell.”
I shifted my gaze to the doctor’s face. Its wrinkled prune-like texture wrapped tightly around her heavy jawbone. She looked as if someone drained the juice in her face with a syringe, or at least, had tried and found only dust. Her head bent downward, just enough to show the degrees hanging on the wall behind her: Harvard college, Harvard medical school.
The doctor snapped her fingers. “Is there a ghost in here with you?”
I stared past them at her nose. It tilted upward, advertising the imprints on either side of her bridge and noting that, at least that part of her anatomy had been constantly rubbed.
“Lucy, answer the doctor,” said my father.
I fixated on her nose.
I blinked. “Would you believe me if I said ‘no?’”
A wail escaped my mother. Titus stood.
“Your daughter shows symptoms of schizophrenia,” the doctor said to my father. “The hallucinations, the hostility, even the conviction that she alone is correct in her perception of the world.”
My father’s hands clenched at his sides. “Is there no cure?”
“I’m afraid not,” said the doctor. “There was the possibility of therapy during the early stages, or of electroshock therapy years ago, but with government regulations and Lucy’s condition being what they are, your only solution is to have the patient committed and hope for a miracle. I will provide you with a list of available hospitals.”
Mother’s sobs grew louder. Father patted her back.
“What about here?” he said. “Dover Hill has a unique reputation, a new hospital with revolutionary methods. I saw it in the news. Many of your patients have recovered despite their hopeless cases. Can’t you take Lucy?”
“We have limited space,” said the doctor. “Due to high demand, we only offer in-patient care for a substantial fee. It’s not the money. It’s to ensure our quality of care stays high. We are a new hospital after all, you understand.”
“Of course,” said my father. He chewed on his lower lip. “How much will it be?”
While the doctor and my father negotiated, Titus crossed the room in two strides and grabbed my arm.
“We’re leaving,” he said. “They’ll lock you up if we don’t leave.”
“I don’t mind,” I said.
Titus pulled, but I remained in my seat. I didn’t want to go home. Dover Hill had a garden full of tulips and petunias. I hadn’t seen a garden in months. I hadn’t seen anything in months, and I heard Dover Hill allowed its residents to watch TV on the weekends.
“We’re leaving, now,” said Titus.
The doctor’s head turned sharply in our direction.
“Do not try to escape. You will not make it out of this room.”
We both stared at my floating arm. Titus released me.
“This is not your fight, doctor. Why must Lucy be confined for your lack of foresight?”
The doctor ignored him. So did everyone else.
The doctor continued to ignore him.
“This is the necessary paperwork,” she said to my father. “If you complete them now, I shall have the orderlies arrange a room for Lucy in the next hour.”
With an apologetic look at my mother, Father took the papers and began to write.
“How-how long does Lucy have to be here?” said Mother.
The doctor took off her glasses. “We can’t be sure. Short of a miracle, late stage schizophrenia cannot be cured, only quarantined. We will do our best for her.”
“There’s nothing wrong with her!”
Titus’ voice rose above the scratch of my father’s pen.
“You can’t just lock up a fifteen year-old because she can see things you cannot. What kind of monsters are you?”
“Initial here,” said the doctor, pointing to a spot on the page in front of my father.
Titus’ eyes glowed, and I suddenly became aware of the sound of waves and sea shanties. An antique wooden clock shook on the doctor’s shelf. Titus pointed two fingers at the doctor. A revolver appeared in his hand: old, rusty, loaded–
“Stop,” I said. “It’s not worth it.”
“Who are you talking to?” said the doctor.
I grabbed Titus’ sleeve. “You know what happens to ghosts who harm the living.”
“For God’s sake, Lucy, sit still,” said Mother.
Titus shot me a pained look. “This is my fault.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “I asked you to stay. If you hadn’t, I might have actually gone insane.”
“Andrew, it’s happening again,” said Mother.
My father stopped writing and pushed my arm down by my side.
His eyes bore into mine with a hatred I had only seen once before, when he found me introducing Titus to the neighbors.
“Lucy…” The revolver wavered in Titus’ hand.
“Please,” I said.
He pointed his own chest.
“That won’t work either,” I said. “They’ll put me away, with or without you here. ”
“Then on my honor I swear I will get you out,” said Titus.
I giggled. “So dramatic,” I said. “Come with me to Dover Hill. The house might be boring after I leave.”
The doctor pressed a button under her desk.
“We need escorts for Ms. Dane. Prepare a room for immediate transport.”
A voice on the other end answered in the affirmative.
Within the hour, orderlies arrived to escort me to my ride home. I tried to smile at my parents before the door closed, but they wouldn’t look in my direction. My mother cried. Father patted her back as he stared at his signature on the dotted line.
My parents took me home to collect my things. Mother sobbed quietly into a napkin on the way. Father drove. When we got out of the car, he ushered me into the house and up the stairs. Titus followed me into my room. Father disappeared for a moment, then brought a suitcase into my room, along with the books and toys I had left around the house. He threw them on my bed, then turned on his heels, careful to avoid eye contact. I guessed he made peace with the fact that he has no child.
As I packed, I heard the door click behind me.
“They locked you in,” said Titus.
“They’re afraid I’ll run away.”
I rummaged through the piles of my belonging. The ruffled dresses, the paperback novels, the dolls whose hairs I had meticulously braided. Everything I owned had to fit in the five-by-five suitcase. Whatever I didn’t take with me would end up in the trash.
“You don’t…” Titus held up a bear my father had given me for my fifth birthday. Its fluff had worn out from years of hugs and snuggles, and one of its eyes was loose. I held it for a second. It had been my favorite toy for years before I realized I could see dead people.
A thud against my window drew my attention outside. Pebbles bounced against the glass.
“Hey Crazy! Is it true you’re really crazy?”
The voice belonged to a boy from next door.
“My mother says you’re a nutter!”
Another voice giggled, little Suzie’s, from across the street.
“Go away Crazy! No one likes you.”
“God hates you,” said the boy. “God’s going to punish you.”
A potted plant broke through the window, shattering against the wooden floor. Soil spilled over my clothes. Titus got to his feet.
“It’s fine,” I said. “Someone else will get rid of them.”
Moments later, my father’s voice sounded, yelling at the children to get off his property. I heard their screams of mirth and mocking fear, then the pitter-patter of footsteps told me they had run away.
I dusted myself off. A pair of hands joined mine, brushing dirt from my midriff.
“Why are you doing this?” said Titus.
I took his hands in mine and pushed them into the soil. A tiny, shriveled crisp crumbled under the pressure.
“Can you feel it between your fingers?” I said. “It’s dry. Too dry to keep the flowers alive.”
His fingers shook as I curved them into a scoop. We watched dirt trickle across the floor.
“No one’s watered them in months,” I said. “Not since you came. Not since we’ve been locked in here.”
“They need water, Titus, just like us. When hydrated, soil is solid, but without, it cracks little by little until it turns to sand. I don’t want to crack, Titus. I don’t want to be swiss cheese. Father’s kept me here for over six months. Six months without fresh air or company, except you, of course. If I stay any longer, I shall actually go mad.”
He stared at the soil, then uncupped his hands and let the soil plop.
“I’ll help you pack.”
We loaded my suitcase with clothes and toys. I put my father’s bear in the discard pile and took instead an extra sweater. Titus suggested we bring some tape, in case we need something immediately fixed.
An hour later, the door clicked and my father appeared. He picked up my suitcase and towed me towards the car. I asked where Mother was. He did not answer.
In the hallway I caught a glimpse of a shadow peeking out of my parent’s room. I waved at Mother. I guess it was her way of saying goodbye. I tried to smile, but my father pushed me out the door before I could open my mouth. As the car pulled away, I saw a face by the window. It was the last time I saw my mother’s face. I don’t remember what she was wearing or what her expression was, but I felt warm, knowing she had come to see me off.
Outside, the car waited on the seemingly abandoned road. The neighbors’ windows were open, many with their curtains drawn and the silhouettes of people visible through them. Father ushered me into the back seat. We drove in silence, Father obscured from my view by his headrest. Titus rode in silence beside me.
Three men in white stood at the gates of Dover Hill. One spoke with Father while the others collected me and my things. I looked back at my father. He looked older than I remembered. I tried to smile at him. He did not smile back.