Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 13


            Sandra had been called downstairs. It was early morning, and she had just used the Keirug to make a cup of coco since the center discouraged coffee drinking. Sandra found that particular rule hard to follow since all her life she had begun her mornings with a cup of a coffee and a stack of patient files. Now she found it especially difficult to concentrate without her coffee. The coco had become a hot substitute and she found the act of just holding the cup in her hand helped her adjust.
            Just as he got to the top of the stairwell she heard a loud crash and a lot of loud voices. She peered downstairs to see what looked like a homeless man thrashing about as the orderlies Stu and Paul tried to get him restrained. Sandra rushed downstairs just as Paul got the man under control. The resident nurse Karen, who staffed the reception area, was standing off to the side with her clipboard. Just as the orderlies got the dirty, grungy man under control Sandra got to Karen’s side.
            “Take him to Detox room one,” she ordered. “Strap him down too. It’s going to be a nasty night.”
            “Is that … that our MIA?” asked Sandra feeling shocked.
            “Yes ma’am,” asserted Karen.
            Suddenly, the man started howling like a dog. As they pushed him through the double doors that went off in the detox wing everyone could still hear the howling.
            “Maybe this isn’t the place for him,” quietly said Karen.
            Sandra peered over Karen’s shoulder at the clipboard. “He was an attorney?”
            “Says so.”
            “Wow! Well, they don’t call it rock bottom for nothing.”
            “Are you going to do his protocol?” asked Karen.
            “No, I am,” said Craig as he walked in from behind. “We’ll make a better assessment after detox. Anyone have any idea what he’s on right now? Heard they found him drinking water out of the gutter. For all we know he’s got a parasite, too. Better give him some antibiotics just in case.”
            “You mean the street gutter?” asked Karen.
            “Yup …”
            “Well, antibiotics will clear up whatever he picked up. And Karen can you find him some clean clothes. Doesn’t look like he came in with anything. He smelled.” As she said that she wrinkled her nose and could still catch a faint waft of what she was sure was a mixture of piss, vomit and shit. They didn’t usually get them this bad. Most patients arrived all cleaned up from either lock-up or probation. Few showed up looking disheveled and acting psychotic. Although once in a while the meth heads would go a little crazy on the staff, but mostly they ripped at their own hair and picked sores. Even those folks came out of detox pretty stable and quiet.
            Just then Deacon ambled in from the main recreation room. Everyone turned to look at him. He had a strange vibe about him this morning. Sandra had been working with him in private sessions. He was such a handsome man, but truly one of those broken-down souls with no sense of self. He had spent his life relying on women for comfort since his aunt had protected him from the world. He still missed his mother. 
            “Is it possible for me to use the phone?” he asked.
            “Why?” Sandra cut off Karen.
            “I… I…”
            “No? I didn’t even …”
            “You cannot call Violet. No. When you’ve finished the program you can call her all you want, but not in recovery. I guarantee it will set you back. You’re too vulnerable right now.”
            “I need to talk to her,” he said as tears welled up in his soulful eyes.
            “I’m sorry.”
            He suddenly broke down sobbing. Karen rushed around and put her arm around his broad shoulder. She started guiding him off. “Let’s go get breakfast. A cinnamon roll will taste great.”
            Sandra watched them go. Tears and sobbing were the most common part of the day for almost everyone in the center. When she was a young counselor it would get to her. She had to fight the urge to cry with them. Now though 15 years later and thousands of patients come and gone, the tears hardly made an impression. That wasn’t to say that stories like a 20-year-old girl who had been gang raped and then poured gasoline all over didn’t still get to her. When she gazed at the girl’s once-pretty face now scarred and grafted with skin from her thighs, it moved her. This once-beautiful girl’s life was in ruins. She had become addicted to painkillers, but given her situation what person couldn’t understand. Burns were the most painful thing in the world now add to it emotional hurt and addiction seemed actually kind. But her starting to steal prescription pads from her doctor made rehab inevitable.
            Now Deacon was yet another person on the assembly line of tears. Sandra didn’t mean to be so indifferent, but she felt a calloused cynicism toward this gorgeous Italian who cried over some young girl named after a flower. He could have any woman around and yet here he was crying in rehab over this particular one. Of course, Sandra knew his demons weren’t really about the girl. It was about the deep inner pain over the loss of his mother. This girl symbolically represented that grief and abandonment even though his mother wasn’t given a choice. He also had to deal with the reality it was at his own father’s hand, and the actual abandonment of his male role model. Left with no role model or firm fatherly guidance, Deacon had no basis to go on to anchor his self-esteem. Now it would be Sandra’s efforts along with the team’s input to help get him back on track.
            Sandra was about to go back to her office when Frank Haley, the CHP officer, appeared out of his room. Even though he looked tired Sandra could see his handsome, good looks shine through. She had to refocus on her professional side. She was attracted to him, and that was never a good idea. She sighed and pushed back her desires. Frank looked like he had some urgent matter on his mind.
            “I can’t sleep,” he said. “Is there any possibility of some Ambien … something?”
            Sandra shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. We can give you warm milk or melatonin, but any chemicals are off the list.”
            Frank nodded. “I’m going crazy. Four days and no sleep.”
            “I’m sorry. Warm milk helps me.”
            “What was that commotion I heard earlier?”
            “Oh, patient number eight.”
            “Hmm … well, I have group with Craig soon. I should get up there,” he paused. “Nothing at all?”
            Sandra shook her head. Craig looked disappointed. Sleep deprivation was no fun. Sandra had more than her share of sleepless nights. She did feel concerned that Frank be able to sleep sooner or later. Lack of sleep could really set people over the edge. She looked at her diamond-studded watch her father had given her for her 16th birthday. It was time to start her one-on-ones. She had Darian Masterson up first today. She briefly thought about Frank again, and then slowly made her way to the lobby elevator. Her office was on the top floor very close to Merry’s wing. Merry was definitely an interesting character – very quiet and reserved. She never talked about anything but work. People gossiped about her to fill in the gaps of what they speculated was her life, but no one knew any real facts. That is what people did when you didn’t talk about yourself – they talked about you for you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 12


            Kendra sat alone in the rose garden. She was only half studying a fire-and-ice rose when Craig walked up and sat down next to her. She barely glanced at him.
            “My daughter would have liked pink … hot pink.”
            “I see … you know Kendra … I, I want to share something with you.”
            Kendra momentarily glanced up.
            “My wife and I have lost four babies.”
            “I’m sorry … that must feel terrible.”
            “No worse I am sure than you feel right now.”
            “Huh? What do you mean?”
            “Your baby … gone. I’m so sorry. I’m even sorrier to see you hurt so badly. I know how terrible. My wife is beside herself.”
            “My baby isn’t gone.”
            “What do you mean?”
            “She’s here right now … Can’t you see her?”
            “Yes, she is right there …” Kendra pointed to an open patch of grass. “She’s playing with a butterfly.”
            Craig became concerned. Maybe Kendra should be institutionalized versus be in rehab. Craig sat forward. “Do you think your daughter is alive?”
            Kendra glanced at him. “No,” she flatly replied. “My husband killed her.”
            “Yes, I know. But you were talking like she’s alive.”
            Kendra sat forward and looked at him with a serious stare. “Do you think we are the sums of our bodies?”
            “You’re talking about the spirit?”
            “Yes, and my daughter is simply on another plane in another place, but she’s still here. Only the enlightened can see her.”
            “Does that comfort you?”
            Kendra said nothing and walked off into the garden. As Craig watched her go he thought his question foolish. By the look on her face nothing was comforting Kendra. She reminded him so much of his wife – that lost look in their eyes. Craig worried when patients got those kinds of looks. It would make them far more difficult to reach. Whatever their addictions, Craig knew one true thing about it. Using helped take them away from their pain. Some people might suggest they were weak. They couldn’t handle it like others could. But how was using a pain pill or booze to escape any different than the guy who hid behind his work and didn’t come home at night? Or women who quit having sex with their husbands because they had disappointed them somehow. In Craig’s mind it was all layers and ways that people managed. It wasn’t about degrees of strength or weakness. It was coping skills. As a counselor Craig hoped to replace their dependencies with better, less toxic ways to cope.
            Stanley walked up behind Craig. His hands were in the pockets of his khakis Dockers. He was wearing his doctor’s coat.
            “You think she’s attractive?”
            Craig turned around and glared at Stanley. “Are you out of your mind?”
            Stanley pulled his hands out and raised them with a shrug. “Just stating the obvious.”
            “You looking for wife number, what? Nine or is it 10?”
            Stanley chuckled, “Nine … but who’s counting?”
            “You ever think about going to someone about that?”
            “About what?”
            “Your attachment disorder.”
            Stanley heartily laughed, “I just came out to tell you that the cafeteria is serving your favorite salmon with the lemon spice.”
            Craig loved that dish and did appreciate that Stanley let him know. “Cool. Thanks.”
            “One more thing…”
            Craig who had started to walk back in stopped and waited.
            “Our MIA patient was found wandering around Port Angeles. They’re bringing him tomorrow.”
            “They say what happened?”
            “Oh,” and Craig continued to walk back to the main complex.
            Stanley stood quietly among the fire and ice roses. He studied Kendra for a moment. She was now sitting on a bench in the gazebo – silent and still.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 11


            Craig walked into the conference room on the top floor of the rehab center. He had just taken a break and smoked a vape on the outside patio, which was strongly discouraged by the Center. He was stressed and preoccupied today. His wife Sarah had just suffered her fourth miscarriage in one year. When he left for work earlier that day she was sitting on the sofa wrapped in a soft purple blanket and blankly staring at the TV that wasn’t turned on.
            Craig was a substance abuse counselor not a bereavement expert. He knew from the literature she was grieving the same way a woman would who lost a live baby. Four deaths though was a lot for his lovely wife to handle – for any woman to handle. When he looked at her she seemed so frail and lost. Her soft blue eyes darkened, her elegant long hands resting in her lap, her light-brown hair disheveled and tangled. She barely looked at him when he left for work. He had kissed her cheek and gently suggested she go for a jog, which she used to do every morning to keep her perfect figure. Sarah was silent.
            The first miscarriage she had dealt with like a champ. She was only six weeks along, and one day she just started bleeding. While she was upset she just felt they should power through it. “It happened” she had heroically declared. But by the third she wasn’t as strong. They had lost their baby girl in the fifth month. No one knew why, but the baby just died. She had to deliver a stillborn, and that was more than almost anyone could bare. But this last one just destroyed Sarah. This time she was 10 weeks along and like the others just started bleeding. To rub salt in the already raw and open wound, they had to do a DNC.
            Craig sat in the hallway and could hear Sarah’s sobs from the other room. They wouldn’t let him go in during the procedure. By the time it was over they had to sedate Sarah and she was out of it. The OBGYN Dr. Anderson had pulled him aside that day.

            “Craig, I think your wife needs to take a break from all of this,” he said with a concerned look on his face. “She’s hormonally alone been all over the place. I am concerned she’s close to some kind of breakdown.”
            They were standing in the corridor. Craig sighed and nodded. “What can I do?”
            “Not get her pregnant again.”
“I’m not sure she’s going to accept that solution. She wants a baby awfully bad, doc.”
“I’m sorry to share this with you, but generally after the third miscarriage a very high percentage of women will never carry a baby to term. We don’t always know why. In your wife’s case we haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact problem. But given her emotional state and the odds of success, I urge you to take a long break before you try again.”

Craig reflected on that conversation. When he had explained to Sarah later on that they needed to put their family plans on hold, she hadn’t taken it well. She had cried and sobbed and eventually gone numb. Craig worried when he had come home the other day and found a Seagram’s vodka bottle in the trashcan along with a bottle of Merlot. He didn’t want to have to check his beautiful wife into rehab.
When he spoke to her about the liquor she only shrugged and said, “What do you expect?”
He didn’t know what to say. What did he expect? She had been through so much pain in the last few months. He encouraged her to attend some grief support groups in town. They lived in a quaint log cabin deep in the redwoods, and Craig worried the isolation wasn’t good for her either. Sarah didn’t drive and used that excuse to decline the suggestion. Craig said he would drive her and go with her since he had his own grief over their lost babies. Sarah still refused.
As Craig sat down at the mahogany conference room table he was the first one in the room. Sandra Fisher walked in and sat down. She could see Craig was preoccupied as he tended to be lately. She knew about his situation at home.
“Things still difficult?” she asked and reached out and touched his hand.
Craig looked up and gave her a half-hearted smile. “Yeah,” he shrugged. “You know I deal with emotional issues all day long. I think I’m a pretty good counselor. People tell me that anyway. But when it comes to this … well …”
Sandra who wore her usual pink scrubs, put her hand in her pocket and pulled out bubbles. She handed the bubbles to him and smiled. “Next time blow these than do vape on the patio. Merry catches you again and her ‘Uptightness’ is going to put you on suspension.”
Craig looked at the little yellow bubble bottle. Sandra had a stash of them she gave to the patients to discourage bad habits and encourage laughter and childish optimism. It was a sweet technique Craig had always appreciated. He glanced briefly at Sandra. She was attractive when she wasn’t in her stern counselor mode. Her medium length brown hair hung just past her shoulders but she always kept it in a low ponytail. She wore little if any makeup, and she didn’t seem to care about outer stuff anyway. She emphasized being happy with yourself.
She was athletic and fit. He saw her in the Center gym on the treadmill every morning with her ear buds tucked in her ears and her iPod secured with velcro to her wrist. She had tremendous focus. While she ran on the treadmill she kept her stare straight ahead and just ran. He admired her ability to handle the patients under stress. She always kept her cool. It didn’t matter how crazy the madness or mayhem. Patients could yell right in her face and yet Sandra Fisher barely blinked. She understood what all the counselors knew – their pain and frustration had absolutely nothing to do with you. She felt it was her job to maintain the calm and redirect their anger to solving their problems.
In Sandra’s office she had various posters with simple platitudes. Things like “Smile and the Whole World Smiles with You.” Craig hated that shit. It was so banal and in his opinion much too hokey for patients who faced some serious issues like their Uncle Bo molested them in the doll house and used a wooden spoon to stick up their vaginas. Craig didn’t feel confident that stupid sayings like King Solomon’s quote, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider” did anything to help a patient kick heroine. Sandra on the other hand felt these inspirational thoughts made people feel better.
Craig’s own embittered thought was “Yeah, well trying telling a woman who lost four babies to smile she’ll feel better.” But that was just his bitterness and feelings of helplessness coming out.  “God I need a real smoke,” he thought to himself.
Merry and Stanley Lentwood entered about the same time. They were both cheerful. With all four of them in the room that made quorum. They were the Center’s key executives and directors. The nurses and assistants worked for this group. Craig’s seniority was lowest on the list since he was a lowly MFA while they were all Ph.D’s and carried the doctor title before their names. The qualifications in that room were impressive. This made Craig snicker. His peers were probably more fucked up then some of the patients, but don’t tell them that. They would refute their own neurosis without hesitation.
Sandra was probably the sanest person there, while Craig speculated Merry was most likely a borderline personality with a heavy dash of narcissism. Not that Craig had any room to talk. He was a combination of OCD and a hint of bi-polar depression, which he managed very well with Seroquel. The OCD only meant a lot of  hand washing and an immaculate office with everything neatly in its place. The only problem was when people moved stuff his panic attacks was near epic. He would tighten up and just move it right back again.
Stanley Lentwood though was the real piece of work. He was a serial “marrying kind”. No exaggeration – eight wives later he was easy competition for Elizabeth Taylor style living. In-between marriages there were of course the various girlfriends who if he didn’t marry he dumped just as rapidly. It didn’t matter ethnicity or social status. If you were female and reasonably attractive you could qualify for Stanley’s new wife. What amazed Craig was that Stanley didn’t seem to recognize he had a detachment disorder and was in Craig’s estimation a low-level sociopath.
Craig just laughed. In his experience there wasn’t a single mental health specialist he had ever met who didn’t have demons they were battling. Craig figured it was why so many of them went into the profession – to figure out their own problems. It was only the hypocrisy that drove him to distraction. He didn’t think someone with eight wives made a good relationship counselor yet at one time Stanley had been the executive director of the Marriage and Family Center in Portland. Craig didn’t think Stanley had any business telling anyone how to be in a relationship since he was an abysmal failure in the area.
As Merry started talking it brought Craig back to the present.
“So Craig I would like your intake on the latest batch.”
“Um, yeah okay … by …”
“Today …”
“I’m not finished.”
“Too bad. Finish. The Board of Directors meeting is tomorrow and they want an assessment of the current batch.”
“Fine, but if it’s slopped together…”
“Whatever Craig,” said Merry with annoyance.
Sandra touched Craig’s hand, “How about I come down and help.”
“That would be great,” replied Craig as he noticed all this hand-touching from her. He wondered if Sandra was growing a little attached. A quick blink of bending her over his desk flashed through his mind. After all he wasn’t getting laid at home.
            “Can you give me a quick rundown of your thoughts on the new ones?” asked Merry.
            “Hmm… well, I have the most concern about Kendra. Did you read her background?”
            Merry nodded and looked sad, “Yes, poor thing.”
            “She’s severely depressed. We might want to put her on suicide watch.”
            “Yes, I agree,” added Sandra. “I saw her in the garden and she wasn’t doing anything but stand there almost catatonic. I’m afraid when she gets her energy back she might try something.”
            “Deacon Curio is another one. He won’t stop talking about Violet. It’s slightly autistic the way he won’t stop and keeps obsessing,” said Stanley.
            Clomipramine?” said Merry.
            “Maybe or Anafranil,” added Craig.
            “Stanley, figure it out.”
            “Who else…” continued Merry.
            “Frank Haley’s not doing so good either,” said Craig.
            “He’s actually a pretty level guy just down about his buddies’ death. I’m going to say let him ride with talk therapy and see how that goes,” said Stanley.
            “Anyone got the scoop on our MIA?” asked Sandra.
            “Apparently he missed the bus,” answered Craig.
            “Well … the guy stands us up we’re going to have to call the authorities,” advised Merry.
            “Yup,” said Stanley. “I’m on it.”
            “Good,” said Merry.
            The rest of the staff meeting was about administration and general business. Craig found that part boring. When they wrapped up he was still thinking about a smoke. He figured he couldn’t sneak in another patio visit so maybe it was time for the nicotine patch. Anything that would stop the cravings. He briefly thought about why people used. He knew why. They didn’t want to have to feel as shitty as he was feeling on this day. A nice euphoric visit to “Vicodin-ville” sounded pretty good to him about now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Masters Class in Novel Writing - March 26, 2016

Date: March 26, 2016
Time: 10am to 4pm
Place: 267 Spoonbill Lane, Galt, CA 95632

This intensive 6-hour workshop is designed to take your novel idea from beginning to end. Michelle Gamble, CEO of 3L Publishing and author of 7 books and numerous publications and magazine articles, will be teaching the class. In the workshop you will walk away with the following:
1. a booklet designed to fill information as she walks you through the steps.
2. An overall critiqued discussion on the theme of your book.
3. A breakdown discussion about each elements of your book, including plot, subplots and characters.
4. Review and guidance of your first chapter (if you don't have one she will make suggestions on how to create one). This is an intensive, exclusive workshop. She will only be accepting five students. Once the number is filled, the workshop will be closed. The cost is $175 for an intensive afternoon of work. It includes:
1. Work book
2. 6 hours of intensive personalized attention with the master
3. A fully critiqued analysis of your chapter 1 upon its completion. Please seats will go fast. For more information, contact Michelle Gamble at 916-300-8012 or send an e-mail to
*If we have enough people interested, we will add a second workshop to take place at another date.
Your $175 payment can be done via PayPal by sending it to or we do take checks and credit cards. We will take payments at the door (optional). Once the class fills it will be closed.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 10


            Finley Sullivan, a homeless man who looked to be about 40 to 45, stood in the rainforest with the drizzle of first morning’s rain sending a damp mist that sprinkled his greasy black hair. Finley had lived in San Francisco before they cracked down on the homeless. Before he was picked up by what was in his estimation a kind of “Big Brother” squadron of political “goody-goodies” dedicated to clean up the City by the Bay. They had him hauled before county services for relocation – anywhere else as long as it was outside of the city and the new mayor could brag he had solved the homeless problem.
            Before it had happened Finley had been dully warned and advised he should depart on his own lest he find himself somewhere he didn’t want to be.

Finley was sleeping on his usual bench in Golden Gate Park when the maintenance man Freddy sat down with the San Francisco Chronicle in his lap. He pushed his buddies’ legs over and sat down on the edge of the bench. He opened the paper as Finley roused from his drunken stupor having drunk a healthy amount of boxed cheap wine after panhandling the tourists the day before.
Freddy passed his friend a plain donut and black coffee just as he began to sit up.
“Thanks man,” whispered Finley in a gravelly morning voice.
“You tossed back a few last night,” nodded Freddy to three empty wine boxes strewn around the bench. “You know I love you man, but the city’s getting all pissy about the homeless mess. You know man it won’t be long.”
Finley shoved the donut in his mouth and spit crumbs while he chewed and replied, “What do you mean … ‘long’?”
“They’re going to nab your bum ass and kick you to some place you probably won’t like,” he warned. “And there won’t be ole Freddy here to scrape your dirty shit up off the bench.”
“Eh,” waved off Finley.
He shrugged. He’d been homeless now a good five years since he had been disbarred for bribing juries to get his crooked white-collar thieves off. One of the court clerks had witnessed an exchange between Finley, Esquire, and a jury foreman for a corporate fraud case in which a defective tractor engine blew up and had killed numerous farmhands. Turns out the corporate bean counters knew from the get-go about the defect, but the engines were already out there and the cheap corporate suits valued money over human life. No recall got issued, and dead bodies piled up until a whistleblower by the name of Bo Schmidt turned over information about the company’s deadly practices to the judicial system.
Finley took the case and figured he would do what he always did to win – bribe the jury. So that “exchange” the clerk saw was the day he slipped a bribe to the foreman in a rolled-up newspaper where a suspicious enveloped fell out the other end. A huge investigation later and Finely got disbarred from the California Bar Association. His wife of five-years Angela left him and took off with his son Finley Jr. Soon his penchant for high-priced cars and mansions in Pacific Heights were no longer feasible. His reputation was so tainted he couldn’t even get a job as an errand boy much less a law clerk. He filed bankruptcy and before he knew it, he was living off the good people of San Francisco and tourists who felt sorry for the homeless and pitched dollar bills at him. To his utter astonishment he could sometimes make as much as $200 to $300 a day – tax-free just begging on the wealthy streets of San Francisco.
Without any real desire or incentive to clean up, Finley got used to living on the streets. He bathed at the local YMCA only when his smell got so repellant that not even tourists would give him money. He wore dirty, stained clothes essentially to build his case as a homeless man since the money being tossed his way could have actually paid for nice clothes and rent at a local boarding house. Finley didn’t even care anymore whether or not he enjoyed four walls and a hot bath. He missed his wife and son terribly. It had become easier though to stay off the grid. Then child support services weren’t chasing him, and honestly he lived a lazy life of bad booze, drunken squalor, and shitty food.

Freddy stared at his buddy. “You know man, how long I been bring you hot coffee and a donut? What? A year? You good at makin’ me laugh man. I’m going to miss your smelly ass.”
Finley sat up a little more upright. “You really think they’re gonna haul me off? You know I was a—”
“Yeah, I know. You got rights, blah, blah, blah. They don’t care man. This new mayor … he want to brag he kicked your homeless ass off the streets, cholo! You’s got to go.”
“Huh, well let ‘em. I’ve been through worse.”
Freddy whose real name was Frederico, got up. “Well, you won’t last amigo. But … maybe you can wash up and get back to doin’ somethin’ more worthwhile than laying your gordo culo round on park benches and beggin’ for dinero.”

Just as Freddy warned, Finley was indeed picked up. What was ironic was that before going to “county hold,” which was a nice way of saying “jail” Finley was alcoholic. By the time he got released he was popping God-knows-what pills and high all of the time courtesy of his fellow “hold-mates”. San Francisco moved his “fat ass” as Frederico called it in Spanish to the itt-bitty town of Yreka only to have the former attorney trash a local bar while high on meth. Finley was suddenly Yreka’s homeless problem – and now drug problem as Finley started dabbling in selling the stuff.
By the time he trashed the bar, he was out of his mind. He couldn’t think straight anymore. Somewhere along the way, he lost his memory too. So when he went before the Judge, a one Judge Cromwell, he didn’t even remember they had been college buddies at McGeorge School of Law. Judge Cromwell took one look at his disheveled and addictive former friend and had mercy on him. Instead of jail time, Finley got sent to rehab for six months.
And before he left, Judge Cromwell stopped by his temporary home, the local jail holding tank. Cromwell sat down in Finley’s cell and stared at his old buddy. He crossed his legs and a single tear formed in the corner of his eye.
“Do you remember me at all?”
“Uh… what?”
“We went to law school together.”
Finley looked dazed. “I’m a lawyer?”
“Yes, and you were a good one – at one time. A good man, too.”
Cromwell got up. He handed his friend a new wallet loaded with cash. “You go all right. Clean it up. Be the good man again.”
Finley took the wallet and nodded slowly. He burst into tears. Cromwell couldn’t stand the scene and slapped his shoulder. He then quietly left.
Finley never made it to rehab. He took the money, got wasted, and passed out in the Greyhound station and missed his bus bound for Portland. When he woke up, he got on the wrong bus and instead found himself dropped off in Port Angeles. This is how he wound up wandering aimlessly around the rainforest. And this is why there were not eight patients upon check-in for the current six-month session. Finley was a lost man all the way around.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 9


Dr. Craig Pauline, head psychologist, sat in the group therapy room in one of the chairs set up for the first session of new patients. They circulated groups in rotations based on duration of stay. This group would be his crowd for the next six months. Craig, thinning dark hair and brown eyes, was a tall, lean and lanky guy who was so thin he had no choice but to wear belts to hold up his slacks. Weight gain had been a lifelong problem. When the other boys in high school were bulking up, Craig just wished to gain a pound.
Craig was mercilessly bullied through middle school and high school. His nemesis one James Buckner managed to almost literally kick his ass from grade to grade to grade. James was the resident scumbag who was always double Craig’s size in both height and weight. Craig’s mother Irene tried to help her young son. She sent him to Karate and even bought him vitamins and protein shakes hoping to bulk him up. She went to the principals and teachers and counselors begging them to get James to stop. Craig had begun to dread school. And no amount of begging got James out of the picture. Everyone was afraid of the kid and his parents were known associates of the local crime syndicate. Craig’s problem was but a tiny speck in an overflowing bucket of problems this family caused around town.
Finally in Craig’s senior year James got busted for possession of narcotics and sent off to Boys Town in the Sierra-Nevada foothills. Craig was relieved for all of five second before James’ buddy Connor Beltran took over the mantle and went after Craig. It seemed making the skinny boy a punching bag was a lot of fun for these aspiring gangsters. By the time Craig graduated he had become accustomed to daily taunting and occasional broken bones that included his now slightly crooked nose. No one stood up for Craig, and at the age of 41 Craig’s lasting damage enabled him to commiserate with the many patients who came in through these doors.
Craig though was a lonely guy. He really couldn’t make friends with the patients although occasionally he did bond here or there. The rehab center was located on the outskirts of Portland so his opportunities to meet women were scarce. And even so it didn’t matter. Most women didn’t find the skinny man with the thinning hair very attractive. He was often socially awkward and miserably nervous when he did manage to speak to women.
Soon Craig found himself surfing the net and watching online porn. He jacked off to the various videos and found he had an odd fetish for watching guys suck their own dicks although he wasn’t gay. He couldn’t say why watching contorted bodies or guys lie in bed with huge penises and lick themselves turned him on. He also liked watching women suck their own nipples on obscenely large breasts. Maybe his real fetish was self-pleasuring because he had to do so much of it himself.
After a while he gave up on the idea that he would really ever meet someone in the flesh. So his online porn obsession turned to XXX chat-room time. He would post pictures of other hot men and not himself and begin chatting with interested women. The chats were varied from normal discussions to dirty talk. He lied about himself. He lied about his lifestyle. He was in essence just lying in general because of his own self-loathing. Every time a woman would want to meet him he would make up some ludicrous story about how his mother was bedridden with breast cancer and he couldn’t really date anyone right now. His other go-to story was about having lost a limb in the Afgan War and he wasn’t comfortable going out in public. The women typically lost interest, especially with the missing-limb story. No one wanted to date a one-legged guy. Well, most of them anyway. He occasionally found a sympathetic type who still insisted they meet, and he would set up a date and stand her up – that got rid of those girls.
He was an online addict who was in classic denial. His online activities were keeping him from a real life with actual in-the-flesh women, and somewhere inside as a psychologist he knew better. But like all classic addicts he kept denial as his rationale to continue. After all, he thought what did it hurt? No one really cared about him anyway. Anytime it appeared to become real he dumped the girls. If they got hurt he never knew it. His addiction only occurred at night and didn’t interfere with his job. He even rationalized that it helped him understand his patients better.
He glanced at the clock and thought the patients were being ushered to group therapy by now from their lunchtime. He looked at his clipboard and saw the roster of names in this new batch: Pete Mulligan, Kendra Stephens, Deacon Curio, Frank Haley, Derek Pendergrass, Darian Masteron and Kevin Sanders.
“Hmm,” he said aloud. He was curious why not eight. They usually came in groups of eight.
Just then the door opened and in shuffled the most-pathetic looking people around. They always looked like this the days that followed detox. By the time they would finish their six months of personal work, these dregs of society would look like shiny new cars with fresh coats of paint and sparkling surfaces. Almost all of them would relapse, but there was always that one or two who cleaned up permanently. The ones who he never or heard from again made him feel proud. The others were simple statistics that with enough patience and time might find their way out of the haze of addiction to become productive members of society. No matter what the outcome, Craig would put his all into each and every person who entered his room. He knew how it felt to feel out of control and hopeless. At this stage in their journeys that is how they would feel. Some would express it and others would listen and look sad.
This particular group of sad sacks shuffled in and all found their respective seats. Craig noticed the beautiful and exotic-looking Kendra. She had a vacant look on her face, but her gorgeous and natural beauty still shined through. She clearly hadn’t destroyed her looks during her addiction process. Craig had studied all of their folders and her story had stood out. He wasn’t surprised after what she had been through that she elected to sit the furthest away from the men in the room. She sat next to the other girl, Darian. Darian did look the worst in the room. Her once unblemished skin had sores and pockmarks. She was all of 19 and looked 50. He had studied her history too. Kendra though still had youthful freshness about her, but she wore her pain in her body language.
“Hello,” he said once they all sat down. “I realize most of you have been consumed in the depth of hell the last few days,” he said and watched them all shift and nod or make regretful noises of agreement. “I’m here to tell you it probably won’t be your last trip. Most of you here today will relapse perhaps two or three times before you finally hit your true rock bottom. It isn’t until you and nobody else decides that you’ve had enough and you want to fully own, embrace and love yourself before it will be completely over. I’m here to teach you how to do that. To guide you toward, well, redemption. I have a great quote about redemption I want to share. ‘Redemption just means you just make a change in your life and you try to do it right, versus what you were doing, which was wrong.’ Do you know who said that?”
The room was silent.
Craig continued, “Ice T.”
“The rapper?” asked Pete.
“The rapper, yes,” replied Craig. “The work we do in this room make no mistake is going to either kill you or set you free. It won’t be easy. I’m going to make you face some unpleasant things. We’re going to walk our way to recovery together. You’ll have moments of tears – extremely raw emotion and sobbing. You’ll have moments of laughter and commiseration. But mostly what you’re expected to do here is listen. You do not pass judgment. You do not sit and get to look down on anyone. Truth is, none of you are in any position to judge the others. You will be expected to participate and interact, and not a single one of you will be allowed to sit in silence. No worries, though. I will give you the peace you need when I can see you need it, and I will force you to talk when I see you need it, too.
“We have basic rules we follow in our discourse. We do not interrupt our fellow addict. We do not argue with our fellow addict. We allow others to express what they need to express. I know the center demands use of last names, but not in this room. In this room we are human beings with first names. That formality will be reserved for the center staff, but make no mistake. You are expected to show the staff that respect.”
“Why?” Darian blurted as she shifted uncomfortably.
Craig narrowed his eyes on the teenager. “You will raise your hand before you speak. You do not interrupt me or anyone else.”
Darian’s eyes shifted throughout the room. She tentatively raised her hand.
Craig nodded, “Yes Darian…”
“Anyone want to answer Darian’s question?”
Derek Pendergrass, the disgraced politician, raised his hand.
“Yes, Derek.”
“Because if you can’t respect others you can’t respect yourself.”
“Thank you Derek,” said Craig. “That is exactly correct. We’re going to teach you respect of self and others. Our staff are not your friends. They are respected in their fields of choice. You will always refer to them as Mister, Miss, Mrs or Ms. It might seem uptight, but it’s respectful. You’re going to have etiquette classes, because this society has lost its manners. You’re going to exercise and enjoy natural endorphins. But anyone caught using will be sent back to California and face whatever the courts demand of you. Are there any questions?”
The room went silent. Craig got up and grabbed a stack of books off his desk – The 12 Step Program. He handed each person a copy. They all glanced at the books. Pete Mulligan started laughing.
Craig looked at him, “Is there something amusing, Pete?”
Pete and his Hollywood buddies had once used a copy of this book to snort blow off it. He really didn’t want to tell Craig that story.
“No, sorry,” replied Pete.
And that is how the group session got started. And that is how Craig first saw the lovely Kendra whom he couldn’t stop thinking about the rest of the day.




Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Abused Chapter 8

The Abused is a psychological thriller about 8 addicts who go to rehab only to have one start murdering the others. Reader discretion is advised.


            Merry’s office was on the top floor of the St. John’s Rehab Center. She was the director of rehabilitation services and a Ph.D. in psychology and mental health with a specialty in addiction and substance abuse. Merry never did drugs or used her entire life. She never even took a shot of liquor. As a teenager Merry once witnessed some girls in the bathroom of the local dance club doing cocaine and she didn’t even know what they were doing. So when they offered her a snort of “blow” she said no without a clue to what she had just turned down.
            Merry’s own childhood abuse fueled her desire to figure out what was wrong with her. She felt an endless unease and dissatisfaction in life. Nothing made her happy. No amount of education, academic awards or personal accomplishments could fill the empty hole in her soul. Even when she bloomed into a beautiful young woman with golden hair and sparkling gray eyes who could capture the attention of just about any man did she feel any sense of personal confidence in her looks or her inner beauty.
As a result, she married her first husband right out of grad school. He was a mechanic at the local Chevron Oil Stop. She met him the day she pulled her silver Mercedes in for an oil change. He came to her car and looked more male model with angular cheekbones and full lips than oil-stop boy who wore safety glasses. Everyone told her she was marrying out of her class, but Merry had low self-esteem and felt Kevin was the best she could ever get. Her childhood abuse coupled with her father’s constant criticism that she was “stupid” and “deserved ‘it’” whatever it was for the day, whether it was a beating by her older brother or a punching by the neighborhood bully. “It” didn’t matter. It was her father’s way of putting her down. He told her, “You’re too emotional.” “You’re crazy.” “You need your head examined.”
Well perhaps she was crazy. So, Merry sought through education to determine her own neurosis. She took every psychology course available. Despite her aggressive need to understand her growing discontent and suicidal tendencies, she finished grad school completely confused and married to her working-class boyfriend who talked more about fuel injection than his love for his wife.
Kevin routinely drank and did numerous drugs with his buddies. At first he only did it on weekends, but as a few years passed he was high more than sober. Anything from pot to meth to speed to prescriptions pills, Kevin willingly used them all. Sometimes he drank and did various drugs together and the result produced psychotic rages and outbursts. Merry never knew whether he would be Dr. Jeckll or Mr. Hyde. Most evenings he vacillated between both personalities. It wasn’t until he overdosed and nearly killed himself twice that Merry decided to go back and get her Ph.D. and specialize in substance-abuse counseling.
While Merry graduated top of her class, her marriage was falling apart. She pleaded with Kevin to get clean, but her words fell on his very high deaf ears. The lure of the drugs and the need to feed his addiction deafened him to his wife’s pleas. Merry watched him get up every day to go straight to the bathroom to find his “medicine” as he began to call it. She urged him to try the 12 Step Program, but he was too gone and uninterested in any solutions. Merry’s increasing salary at the local hospital as the resident therapist paid for his drug lifestyle, and he quit working. He stayed home, used drugs, got high, and gradually became agoraphobic. He even had his pusher Jude bring his drugs right to his front door versus go out and get them.
One day Merry came home early from work and was absolutely horrified to find Kevin fucking Jude from behind in their bed. She walked in to moaning and groaning and the muffled sound of ‘80s dance music – Dead or Alive, “You Spin Me Right Round”. As she curiously walked toward their bedroom, she spotted Kevin’s bare ass clearly moving in a sexual way. When she walked into the bedroom, the sound of the door opening wide startled Kevin. He immediately pulled out to face his shocked wife with a raging hard-on pointing right toward her. Jude fell forward onto the bed huffing and puffing from excitement and cool-down.
Merry stared at her husband and said nothing. She turned, closed the door, and walked out. She kept right on walking. She never returned to the house to pick up her material items not even clothes. She went to the local Comfort Inn, paid for a week’s worth of nights, and called St. John’s. She had seen a job announcement for a Clinical Director on They eagerly hired her, and she efficiently cut off her cheating husband from their bank accounts and made arrangements to move.
Kevin took her to court for the divorce to which she didn’t appear before the judge. Her absence resulted in Kevin looking like a hero and spurred husband. He made up some ridiculous story about her cheating on him and running off to Oregon. Since Kevin didn’t work he was entitled to alimony. So to rub salt in Merry’s already painful wound, she was forced to pay her low-life ex-husband $2,000 a month for the next 10 years.
About the time Merry was promoted to director of rehabilitation services, which was the highest position in the center, that $2,000 a month became mere change to her $200,000 a year salary. She never spoke of her past or her ex to her new friends or colleagues. She said nothing about her family. She was silent and very matter-a-fact in all her dealings – whether it was with patients or staff. No one really knew Merry, and she liked it that way.
So when the day arrived that Kevin pulled up in the Yellow Cab to be dropped off for treatment, no one realized that her ex-husband was now a patient. Merry stood at the window on the top floor and pulled back the Venetian blinds to watch Kevin exit the cab to Ms. Fisher’s care. Looking down on her pitiful ex-husband made her feel almost smug. She had a surge of electrical energy pulse through her body. She couldn’t help but giggle a little as she watched him trudge in. She wondered if Judge Wilson who had sentenced him after he got busted in a drug raid with Jude at his side realized where he was being sent.
“Probably not,” she whispered and laughed aloud.
She stepped away from the window, sat down in her soft and luxurious leather chair, and sat back in it. She couldn’t help but laugh aloud again. Her assistant Peggy buzzed her.
“Ms. Fenmore, the new patient just arrived.”
“Which room do you want him in? Ms. Fisher doesn’t think he’ll need detox.”
“Huh, no,” she smiled. “Put him in detox … just in case.”
“But …”
“You heard me.”
Merry snickered to herself. Detox was no fun for anyone. You shared a room with another sick addict going through withdrawals. It was unlikely anyone would sleep since the moaning and sometimes screaming was a painful reminder of just where the person had ended up. She wanted her ex to have a firm grasp of the true meaning of misery. A night in detox when he was straight would do the trick. At this thought, she couldn’t help but think about the famous William Shakespeare quote, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison use do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”