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Ok this one is edited and should be okay. Saving Jack

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Jack sat on his aging, brown, pleather couch, staring at the blackened screen across the room. With the television off, the small house was disturbingly silent. He didnt like the lack of noise, so Jack started drumming his fingers on the dented and faded armrest.

 

It wasnt enough. The normally relaxed high school teacher stood in the center of the dimly lit room and looked around, hoping for something to distract him from the overwhelming panic he knew was coming. Jack saw a chipped toy from his childhood and approached it. The little train fit in his palm, but he remembered when it seemed much bigger.

 

Jacks mind flew back to when he was just five years old. His little brother Dantong had just been born, but at what cost? Even as a toddler, Jack understood that Danny needed extra attention due to his birth defects, but the little boy missed spending time with his father.

 

One day, a few months after the baby was born, Jack and his father were sitting at the park feeding pigeons when the kind-hearted man pulled out what looked to Jack like the biggest toy train hed ever seen, and the child squealed in delight. His father gently explained to him the toy used to belong to Jacks grandfather before his family moved to England from China. Jack listened carefully, clutching his new toy, as the man went on to warn him never to mistreat the piece of family history lest it be removed from the little boys possession.

 

Jack looked down at the now tiny train in his hand, smiling softly at one of his fondest memories of his late father. He traced with his little finger the lightly tarnished silver detail running the length of the red locomotive before returning it to its stand on the mahogany bookshelf.

 

He sighed sadly and trudged to the kitchen, giving wide berth to the big black cabinet sealed with a large padlock. Today will not end in surrender, he thought vehemently. Opening his black refrigerator, Jack peered into the cooling box to see if there was anything small to eat as a distraction from his growing unrest.

 

Jack felt as though the room was closing in around him. He closed the refrigerator door, breathing more sharply than before. The man sat on the floor, legs splayed out before him, leaning on the black plastic door. He shook his head violently in an effort to snap himself out of the buzzing panic. Jack tried to get up, to leave and run to his safe place, to hide in his closet as he did as a child, but found himself paralyzed in fear.

 

The logical side on his brain kicked in. What am I afraid of, he reasoned. This is my house. I should know what everything is. I am in control of my situation. Control. Jacks mind began looping over itself. Control. Verb. To have command over a person or situation. To have say, to be the boss, to have superiority. To supersede previous rules and constraints. Etymology Latin and Anglo-French in origin. Synonyms include regulate, verify, balance.

 

Jack grabbed his head and squeezed, biting his lips to hold in his scream of frustration. He slammed his fists onto the floor and immediately cradled his now injured hands. The bones seemed alright after he massaged and palpated the sore areas. Sighing in reliefs, he sat back, resting his head against the refrigerator with eyes closed. I cant, he argued with himself, feeling the presence on the locked cabinet loom over him from across the room.

 

I cant let it control me, he pleaded with himself. I wont give in again. It only leads to more pain. Jacks nerve was fraying. He knew he had to leave soon if he was to successfully avoid the temptation of his padlocked secret.

 

Worn out, the man stood, pulling the counter to ease his assent. He found himself over the small drawer where he kept the spare keys hed mysteriously accrued over his lifetime. Unlike most, however, he knew exactly which doors his keys opened. Jack even knew the faces that went with his keys, and the amount of valuables missing from those many people. He picked up a small brass key and counted its ridges and valleys. Then he picked up a large handful and began to sort them by size and color, lining up the tips.

 

Slowly but surely, Jacks collection grew to the size of the counter and spilled over onto the island. He continued filling his hand with keys to sort until there was only one left. It was large and dark. He stared at the key, filled with apprehension. Jack knew exactly where this key led, and he didnt want to go there ever again.

 

To his horror, Jack watched his hand reach in and pick the old key up almost of its own accord. He felt his feet move, dragging him unwilling around the counter to the black cabinet. He closed his eyes, hoping to stumble and fall, but he knew his house intimately and frequently moved around in the dark. Blindly, his hands touched the painted surface. Jack kneeled, eyes squeezed tightly shut, tears falling onto his cheeks from the fear and stress as the key found its home and clicked.

 

Jack opened his eyes when the key did not turn. He peered at it. His hands were just touching the lock and key, but they were still. A glimmer of hope flashed through his thoughts. I can pull it out, he mused. I can put it away and leave, his mind told him. Alas, he did not remove the key, but just looked at it silently.

 

I can control myself. The thought echoed in Jacks head. He squinted slightly in concentration and opened the padlock. He stopped. The lock didnt soar across the room, and the doors didnt fly open, sending the heavy chain straight to his face. If anything, the cabinet was less frightening without the lock engaged. Jack sighed and left the room, pleased with his self-control.

 

A moment later, he bolted back into the room, sliding on his knees across the floor toward the now unlocked box. Jack ripped the chain down around the cabinets feet and flung the doors open. There, exactly where hed stashed it five years ago, sat a single crystal shot glass. Filled with trepidation, he slowly reached a trembling hand out toward the small, almost harmless object of his nightmares.

 

Jack gulped and turned his head, flinching as his fingers touched the cold glass. He picked it up gingerly, staring wide-eyed at its cut design along the bottom. He froze, realizing where his thoughts were leading, and extended his arm to put the glass back in its dungeon to sit, but he held onto it for a moment longer.

 

If I am in control, Jack pondered, this glass is not to be feared. I have glasses in my kitchen that I dont touch, but there are mingled with those I do use. Jack brought it back to his face, touching its rim and tracing the round mouth. He sniffed it. Of course, he smelled nothing. Rising to his feet, the man walked to his cupboard and placed the small glass on the top shelf with the other unused drinking glasses.

 

Again, Jack left the room, smiling to himself for not caving with such strong temptation and such high stress. He pulled a book from his bedside bookcase without looking at the title and began reading a dissertation on why some professor thought the premise of Christianity was a huge hoax contrived to brainwash society into paying child molesters money to teach people morals and ethics. Normally, Jack would have been fascinated and focused on the book, but he couldnt seem to wrap his head around even the simplest of words.

 

The book flew across the room, pages flapping wildly, and Jack launched it toward the bookcase in frustration. He stomped out to the kitchen, slammed his cupboard open, and grabbed the innocuous glass. He fumed over to the opposite door, leaving the cups exposed, and snatched a bottle of Everclear from the bottom shelf and poured himself a glass of 90% pure alcohol.

 

Nothing will get you drunker faster, the old merchant had said. You cant take more than a shot or two without blowing your liver to pot, he had warned, but itll smash you faster than you can pour it. Jack had originally taken the caution as a challenge but quickly learned how true it was. Now he glared at the innocent-looking drink on his island.

 

Raising the drink to his lips with tears in his eyes, he choked out a sob and swallowed the caustic liquid hard to lessen the ensuing burn in his throat. Racing the clock, he poured another before he felt the first hint of a buss hit. Jack waited for a few minutes, letting his body start to process the alcohol before touching the shot glass. Finally he felt his stress melt and took another shot. Them he took a few more, making sure he didnt spill the expensive drink of choice.

 

Jack stood up, knocking over the basic wooden chair hed been sitting in. He jumped at the sharp clatter as it hit the linoleum, then he laughed at his reaction. The drunk man stumbled to his stereo and turned up his heavy metal to the max. He shuffled back to the kitchen and sat in the other chair, pulling the heavy bottle and shot glass over to him.

 

Picking up the glass, he peered at it with glazed eyes, silently blaming it for all of his pain. Jack growled and hurled the crystal against the white wall opposite him. It shattered, spraying him with shards of booze-drenched glass. He fell out of the chair in surprise. Chuckling, he reached up and pulled the again bottle down and scooted to the wall, taking a swig straight from his personal tap. His throat was on fire, but Jack had stopped caring. Sufficiently addled, the longstanding walls began to crumble, and Jack collapsed into a sobbing mess, narrowly missing his bottle. Tears flowed freely from his eyes as he gasped for breath between wails.

 

Painful thoughts of a more recent past flashed in his mind. Memories of shouting matches with his younger brother, the death of their other brother, his father collapsing feet away from him, and the blood-curdling scream of his youngest sister all washed over him like an acid bath. Out of breath and out of control, Jack dragged himself to the counter, pulled sown a steak knife after a few moments of fumbling, and stared at it through red, soaked eyes.

 

He yanked his wallet from his back pocket and pulled a faded suicide note from behind his license in a last ditch effort to convince himself to live. Upon reading his words from two decades prior, Jack just screamed, words disappearing into the loud music filling the house.

 

Im sorry! he bellowed. Im sorry I let you all down, and Im sorry I cant take it anymore! His litany of remorse dragged him even further down into his drunken depression. Apologies and pleas for forgiveness streamed from his lips as he poured his heart out to the paper in his right hand. Clutching the sharp, serrated knife in his left, Jack finally broke down his last line of defense and removed his watch.

 

[Redacted. He tried to kill himself. No need for detail here.]

 

Sarah was dancing in a field, the skirt of her white dress twirling around her. She spun, laughing, in a large circle with her arms outstretched. Jack walked through the grass to meet his little sister. The eleven-year-old caught sight of her brother and ran to him. He fell to his knees and embraced her tightly, not wanting to let go. Jack felt the soft touch of her lips as Sarah kissed his cheek and backed away smiling, waving goodbye. He tried to follow, to pull himself toward her, but his paradise faded into the sounds of an ambulance, the sensation of pain.

 

Jack watched the four paramedics count and compress his chest, trying to restart his heart. He saw bags of blood hooked up to his body, and more, very empty bags in an orange bag. One paramedic warned the others to clear the body as he shocked the life back into it. A tense moment of silence followed, broken by the steady scream of the heart monitor. Another shock, and another followed. They adjusted the power and tried two more times. The fifth shock stuck, but he was still losing so much blood the paramedics were sure they would lose him. Then the back doors opened and more medical professionals pulled Jacks body out, and his consciousness faded.

 

Pain greeted the teacher as his world returned to him. A doctor was reading his chart. Jacks chest ached, and his wrist was bandaged tightly. The doctor noticed him stirring and smiled.

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Irritatingly, every apostrophe and quote mark has vanished. There were no typos in my word document.

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This is the worst of the story. The rest is just life living, character exploration, and dealing with the consequences of his actions.

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LOL!!! I had totally forgotten about "pleather". You most definitely made me smile with that.

 

This is not the worst story, in fact, it is the beginning of a really great story. I now want to read the next part.

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I'm so glad you liked it! I'll put more up later. Can you delete the other one? No need for two copies, and it is significantly more detailed in the redaction.

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Continuing on... :)

 

“Welcome back, Mr. Faln,” he greeted. “My name is Dr. Andrews, and I’ll be overseeing your treatment here. Do you remember why you’re here?” Jack tried to speak but was weak, so he pantomimed cutting his wrist. “That’s right. You’re very lucky, Mr. Faln. Had your neighbor not found you when he did, you would have succeeded in your endeavor to kill yourself.” Jack just nodded, too weak to care, and motioned for writing material. The doctor put a pen in his hand and a pad underneath.

 

When can I leave, Jack wrote. The doctor looked at his file before answering.

 

“Well, you tried to commit suicide,” Andrews started, and Jack wrote more.

 

Baker. 3 days? The doctor read his writing and nodded.

 

“Provided you answer the psych questions and we deem you safe, you can go back to school by the end of the week.” Jack nodded a little, pleased by the news. He decided he didn’t want to die anymore. His hand moved across the page as he wrote more to the kind doctor.

 

Hand OK? Righty. Jack touched the pen to his right hand to indicate more clearly that he was not, in fact, left-handed.

 

“You were fortunate not to have cut any nerves or tendons, so yes, you can use it if it doesn’t hurt.” Dr. Andrews answer brought a small smile to Jack’s face as he moved the paper and switched hands.

 

Thank you for saving me, he wrote, this time much more neatly. Did you call family? Andrews shook his head no in response.

 

“Do you want me to set up your phone for when you can talk? We weren’t able to find any next of kin in your insurance information.” Jack wrote more.

 

No, it’s OK. Don’t want Dan to know. Have more questions. Come back later? Must be busy. Dr. Andrews looked concerned.

 

“Alright, we’ll stop looking, then. I’ll be back later to check on you. If you need anything, your nurse will help,” the man added as he left. Jack watched him go and began writing all of his questions down for when he returned. He tried to write as clearly as possible, but it was slow going.

 

Was I dead? How long was I out? Chest hurts – CPR? Sore throat – tube? Aspirated? Am I in ICU? Jack couldn’t think of anymore so he wrote out what he saw in what he guessed was a dream.

 

Sarah dancing. Hug. Kiss. Bye. 4 EMS. Blood bags. CPR. 5 AED. True? OOB?? Jack was trying to decide if what he saw was real. He buzzed the nurse, wanting to talk more to Dr. Andrews. The nurse came in, and Jack wrote Andrews on the top of the paper and underlined it. Jessie, as her nametag read, nodded and left the room to alert the doctor. Dr. Andrews walked in a few minutes later with a smile on his face.

 

“Have you more questions, Mr. Faln?” Jack wrote his nickname on the paper. “Jack, sorry. Let’s see here.” Dr. Andrews read silently for a moment. “Alright, Jack. Yes, you were dead for about three minutes. You’ve been in the hospital for about a day. You have minor bruising on your ribs from chest compressions in transit. You aspirated, and they did have to intubate. It was removed once you were out of the woods. You are in ICU. Does that answer your questions?” Jack pushed himself up, trying to speak. The doctor offered the paper, but he waved it off, determined to vocalize.

 

“Is there any lasting damage, Dr. Andrews?” Jack’s voice was raspy, so he sipped from the cup on his tray.

 

“Just a scar on your wrist and whatever emotional damage you may have acquired,” he answered. Jack laughed and winced at the stabbing pain in his throat.

 

“What’s one more scar?” The teacher quipped to the dismay of his caretaker. “I’ve had a rough life, doc. I learned not to worry too much about marks on my skin long ago.” He took another sip, feeling the cool water soothe his throat. “I’m curious – were you able to get any kind of BAC reading, or did the transfusions make that impossible?” Dr. Andrews blinked in confusion. “I was drinking 180 proof liquor and I wanted to know how inebriated I was. I had, I guess, six or so large shots, maybe?” The doctor looked at the chart to see.

 

“You were at .31 in your own blood. Why?” Jack just smiled and scooted up a little.

 

“If I’m going to die and live to tell the tale, I may as well know the whole story. Are you guys going to send a shrink to talk to me and evaluate me, or are you qualified to make that decision?” Jack’s matter-of-fact tone threw the doctor off guard.

 

“I am, in fact, the psychiatrist assigned to evaluate your behavior.” Andrews answered calmly. “You’ll be moved to a room in the psych ward now that you’re stable and seem competent to answer questions. Before I leave to send the order to move you, I have a couple of questions.” Jack cocked an eyebrow.

 

“Alright, fire away,” he consented, voice a little stronger after warming it up.

 

“Your license reads Machlee, but your social security card reads Faln,” the good doctor began.

 

“I was born Faln but changed my name when I left home. It’s not a legal change, but the DMV accepted my DBA as a valid ID, as did the school system. Either is fine by me.” His explanation sated the doctor’s curiosity.

 

“Do you or have you ever taken anti-depressants or any other psychoactive drugs?” Jack shook his head. “Have you ever attempted suicide before?” Jack paused for a moment, classifying his previous depressions.

 

“I was 19. Dad just died and I was overwhelmed with caring for three younger siblings. The sleeping pills were in my hand but I never ingested any. Is that an attempt or a moment of weakness?” The blunt question made the doctor think.

 

“I’ll get back to that,” he stated. “Is that the only time you’ve done something like that?” Jack nodded. “Have you been depressed since then?” Another nod. “How did you recover?” He thought, speaking slowly.

 

“I either ignored it and continued working as normal until it subsided or hid in my closet where it’s safe,” Jack told him. “My life has never been easy. My mother walked out on my father after five kids. My brother Ron died shortly after we moved to the States. My father died after that. My little sister fell into a coma twenty years ago, and we finally had to pull her plug a few years ago. The fact that it took me over thirty years to succumb to everything speaks to my resilience wouldn’t you say?” Dr. Andrews nodded noncommittally.

 

“I don’t like the quiet,” Jack added. “I have to be busy, or at least near a lot of noise, to feel normal. Quietness brings it back… All the pain rushes back,” he went on, looking down, “and I can’t think; I can barely see straight. I feel like I’m strapped to a chair in front of screens upon screens, all playing back my past, and I can’t close my eyes or look away. It’s overwhelming, and I panic. This time it got the best of me, obviously.” The doctor nodded again.

 

“Thank you, Jack,” he responded. “That’s all I need for now. The nurse will get you moved now. You’ll be seeing me soon.” Jack nodded, but remembered something he wanted to know.

 

“Wait! I have a question.” Dr. Andrews turned.

 

“Yes?”

 

“I’ve heard horror stories about civil commitment. As a psychiatric patient, do I have the right to choose or refuse treatment options?” Jack watch the psychiatrist as he answered.

 

“As long as you are competent and stable, you will retain the right to give informed consent. Don’t you worry; we aren’t as bad as Florida.” Dr. Andrews winked, amused at his comment, bringing a relieved smile to his patient’s visage.

 

Jack rested his sore throat, hoping Dr. Andrews and whatever team he had didn’t ask too many difficult questions of his past. He picked up the paper he’d been provided and started doodling, trying his best to ignore the sudden solitude. Maybe this will help, he mused.

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...my file... it got corrupted last night... I have a nearly filled 200-page notebook that I was ALMOST DONE TRANSCRIBING....

 

I can copy what I have here to save a little time, but...

 

I have to type it ALL OVER AGAIN...

 

I want to cry.

 

It's the only damaged file on the flash drive. And it had to be that one. *curses and stomps*

 

...

 

You're gonna have to wait on more of this until I calm down enough to redo it without fuming. In the meantime, I'll offer up some occupied stuff over there.

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OUCH!!! I am so sorry to hear this news. How frustrating. Hopefully, it will not happen again. Can you save your typing as you go along?

You need to ask for a Time Capsule for Christmas. It is an Apple product, but it backs up all of your data as you are writing. You might have only needed to write a sentence, at most.

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Word auto saves and I save pretty frequently because someone has grabby fingers. I just don't backup often because I don't want to have to save multiple files. I can probably just use my one drive tho. That'll remove the issue. Thankfully this isn't a new story, just a transcription. Idk what I'd do if I lost some other digital only stuff. I'm gonna transfer a lot to one drive tomorrow.

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I'll work on re-transcribing it soon. I haven't forgotten. :)

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A few hours later, Jack looked out the window of his room, watching the birds chasing each other through the air. This room was different from the one he’d woken up in; it was gentler on the eyes. The bed was a little nicer, and the walls were a calming green color. The teacher sat back in the chair he’d been resting in with a sigh. Dr. Andrews and a woman in a black suit and skirt, carrying a clipboard, walked in. Jack watched the way she moved. Her confident gait and posture reminded him of his sister Shi.

“Hello, Doctor,” Jack greeted calmly. “Who’s your friend?” Dr. Andrews smiled and his patient’s pleasant tone.

“Jack, this is Dr. Sheila Levine. She’ll be helping me evaluate you for a more conclusive decision.” Dr. Levine smiled a little, observing the man before her closely.

“I understand. As the saying goes, two heads. How long do I have to stay out of work here?” Jack asked plaintively, thinking of his math students’ tests he’d yet to grade.

“Well, we have a maximum of 72 hours to keep you on emergency hold. If you convince us you’re not a danger before that, you’ll be free to leave. If not, we’ll go from there when it comes, alright?” Dr. Andrews’ response satisfied him.

“I think that’s reasonable,” Jack agreed.

“Would it be alright if we start, Jack?” Dr. Levine asked gently, sitting across from the teacher, Dr. Andrews joining her. The patient nodded, looking out the window a moment longer before turning his attentive gaze to the psychiatrists before him.

“What started you down this path, in your opinion?” The young woman asked. Jack fidgeted.

“Well,” he began. “Lack of noise bothers me. Normally I leave the TV on, or play music. I’m trying to adjust myself to be more normal, so lately I’ve been turning everything off to acclimate myself. I thought it was working… I suppose not, though, considering.” He felt ashamed of himself as he explained his anxiety.

“I see,” Dr. Levine responded, “and how does that make you fe—” Jack held a hand up.

“I know it’s what you have to say,” he interrupted softly, “but that question is quite overused. Anyway, it is embarrassing when your girlfriend wants to cuddle, but all you can do is fidget and try not to hyperventilate in front of her. I’ve since stopped seeking romance.” Jack finished with pursed lips, looking down.

“And how do you feel about that?” Dr. Andrews asked. “I know,” he added, responding to the complaint.

“I get lonely, yes,” Jack answered, “but it’s better than getting dumped all the time. I’d rather be alone by choice than because the woman I’m with can’t handle me at my worst.” He shrugged, being as forthright as possible.

“Dr. Andrews tells me you’ve been suicidal before,” Dr. Levine asked. “Can you tell us about that?” Jack blinked, calling on his memories for a moment.

“You remind me of my sister,” he told her. “Long story short, I was too young to be a father figure but in the end my family was more important.” Dr. Levine looked at him expectantly. “Not good enough?” She smiled, bringing a chuckle from Jack. “I figured. When my father died, I took over caring for my siblings, being just old enough to do so and just naïve enough to think I’d be able to. My brother had medical issues and needed almost constant attention, and my two sisters at the time were both under 13.

“I was overwhelmed and trying to cope with the loss of my father, and I was attending college and running carpool. It got to be too much. I held on for about a year before caving and raiding Dad’s wine cellar. I was so tired of trying to have my own life while playing mom, dad, and big brother to three kids I didn’t want in the first place, so I wrote a note to my brother. But then I remembered that I wasn’t the only one whose father had died, and I decided they needed me more than I needed escape.” A moment of silence stretched after Jack stopped talking, making him nervous.

“You’re very calm while telling your story,” Dr. Levine remarked.

“Years went by before I told anyone. I’ve honed a reputation for being emotionally and physically stronger than your average math teacher. You see calm because I want you to see calm. In reality it’s all I can do to sit still.” Dr. Andrews wrote in his notebook.

“What would you rather be doing?” The man asked, curious.

“Hiding,” Jack responded with a shrug. “That’s what I did growing up when life got too big for me, and I still keep my closet floor clean so I have room to sit down.” He sat on his hands to keep from holding his shoulders. “I’m an adult. I should be mature and capable enough to handle my issues. I should be in control of myself.” He stared into Dr. Andrews’ eyes as he finished, giving the doctor a chill.

“Nobody is perfect. Not everyone copes with stress the same way,” Dr. Levine suggested, noting the emphasis Jack placed on control. He turned to her.

“It is reasonable to expect myself to remain calm in most of the situations I panic at the thought of entering.”He bit his tongue to stop himself from continuing. The woman noticed.

“Such as?” She prompted. He sighed.

“I don’t like quiet, or meeting new people. I don’t like repetition, being embarrassed… I can’t fail, or do public speaking, or feel like I’m forced into something. These things are terrifying.” Jack made eye contact. She squirmed under his gaze.

“What do you do when you can’t hide?” Dr. Andrews spoke up, breaking Jack’s focus. He paused before speaking.

“I tell myself to man up,” Jack explained, “and do my best to ignore the maelstrom inside. I know if I act on my impulses, I’d be committed and doped out on too-strong, mind-numbing brain killers for the rest of my life. I like not being in a straightjacket, so I control myself until I’m alone and can avoid freaking people out.” He cocked an eyebrow theatrically, amusing himself to alleviate his awkwardness. The doctors both wrote notes before Dr. Andrews continued his questioning.

“What kind of impulses?” He inquired, almost afraid to ask. Jack saw and laughed.

“Nothing too bizarre,” he chuckled. “No, I usually just want to hold my shoulders or pace or something. I’ve seen people do that, and while I understand what they’re doing, I also see the looks they get from bystanders, the whispered gossip as strangers speculate. I think most people find harmless pacing more frightening than an actual outburst of psychotic behavior.” Dr. Andrews noted the response.

“Why do you think that?” Dr. Levine asked.

“If you see a schizophrenic person talking to himself, you assume either he’s got a wireless headset or that he’s schizophrenic. If you see someone with a bipolar disorder trudging through a low or buzzing through a high, you may just think they’re feeling whatever emotion they’re displaying at the moment. But,” Jack continued, “when you see a pacer, you don’t know if she’s nervous, or if he’s about to go postal, or if the voices are saying to kill. It’s disconcerting, and people don’t like that.” He fell silent.

“You’re very observant,” Dr. Andrews remarked. “It’s not often I see someone with your level of insight.” Jack smiled, accepting at face value what he hoped was a compliment.

“Thank you, I try,” he replied. “Next question?” The man waited patiently as the two doctors looked over their notes. Dr. Levine spoke first.

“Just to clarify,” she started, “you’ve never been suicidal except what you’ve told us?” Jack looked to her calmly.

“I’ve thought about it a few times,” he corrected, “but it was never a strong enough urge to desire action, and when I’d wander a little too far down that mentality, I would look at the note I wrote Dan, and it would remind me that life is worth fighting for.

“Besides,” he added, “I’m a pretty good teacher, and I don’t want my kids to miss out on a good education.”Jack smiled, taking pride in his work.

“Do you think you’ll attempt suicide again?” Dr. Andrews asked him.

“No,” Jack answered forthrightly. “Not because I just want to get out of here. If trying to cure a minor neurosis is going to cost me my life, I’d rather just stay weird.” He saw a flash of pity in Dr. Levine’s eyes.

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he blurted out a little more forcefully than he intended. “I don’t need pity.” An inkling of sorrow leaked into his voice, but he hoped they didn’t hear it.

“If you don’t want to be like this,” Dr. Levine responded, her tone defensive. “We can arrange some counseling. Do you know if your insurance covers that?” Jack turned to her, no longer irritated.

“I’m sorry if I sounded upset,” he apologized. “While I have insurance, I am sure they’d rather jump straight to drugs. I’ll tell you what: after I’m discharged, I have to come back to get this needlework out. When I do, if I’m still depressed, I will work with whoever you recommend. If my insurance won’t cover it, I am the heir of a sizeable chunk of my father’s estate. Let’s just say that’s part of why I thought I could care for my siblings.” The doctors were pleased with his offer, unaccustomed to willing patients.

“If you’re serious about wanting to overcome your obstacles, I think we can work with that,” Dr. Andrews replied, smiling.

The following day, Jack was up and moving around comfortably enough that the other doctor, whom Jack now knew to be Dr. Castle, felt his patient was well enough to be discharged. Dr. Andrews wanted to talk to Jack some more, so he came to deliver the news himself. He entered the room to find his patient counting the ceiling tiles, lying with his head hanging from the end of the bed.

“Having fun, Jack?” The doctor teased, amused at the antics. Jack sat up, pleased to see Dr. Andrews again so soon.

“I ran out of things to draw,” he explained with a smile. “Have a seat.” He shifted on the bed.

“Dr. Castle has filed to discharge you from the hospital, but I have to give my say on whether you’re good to go mentally. I have a couple questions I forgot to ask yesterday that I’d like to go over.” Dr. Andrews handed Jack the discharge notice and opened his green notebook. Jack read the notice quickly and set it on the bed beside him.

“That’s fine. I’m restless anyway,” he confessed happily. “Ask away, doc.” He waited patiently for the man to speak.

“You said you’d been drinking both times you were suicidal. Does that happen often?” The patient smiled.

“There is a correlation, yes,” Jack replied. “Usually I drink when I am depressed, although sometimes it happens the other way around. Before the other day, I hadn’t had a drop in five years.” Dr. Andrews looked up from his notes at this revelation.

“Oh?” He prompted. Jack nodded.

“Yeah,” the teacher went on, “I used to party sometimes when I was younger but then I started making bad decisions. After a scare with the cops driving home, I eased up on it. Then I noticed if I drank while depressed, I felt worse than if I didn’t. I got rid of all my alcohol, except one bottle of 180-proof that was too expensive to throw out, and I locked up my mother’s crystal shot glass. It’s the only thing I have left of her, so I couldn’t toss it. I hid the key, but this time I distracted myself by sorting my key collection…” He trailed off, letting the doctor connect the dots.

“I see,” the man said. “A veritable perfect storm, if I follow correctly.”

“I broke the glass,” Jack revealed quietly.

“Why did you break it?” Andrews asked.

“Because I was hammered, and it’s her fault I’m like this!” Jack told him, a little more emphatically than he meant to do. The doctor blinked in confusion.

“But it was all you had of hers,” he countered, fishing for an explanation.

“She was a bitch,” Jack shrugged, calm again. “I mean, I remember her yelling at Dad for no reason all the time, and, while I liked her better before she left, I’m glad she disappeared when she did. Besides having the fortune, Dad was a better parent than she would have been.” He finished softly, a sad smile on his face.

“Why is it her fault, and why did you like her better? Why did you change your mind?” The doctor asked curiously.

“I grew accustomed to noise very early,” Jack responded quietly. “She yelled constantly. I learned that if she was quiet, she was dangerous, and would smack us if we acted up. I liked her,” he continued, “because she spoiled us with sweets and toys. I didn’t change my mind until after Dad died…” Jack stopped, tears welling up in his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Dr. Andrews pried.

“Dad was everything she wasn’t,” Jack forced out. “He was calm, levelheaded, and treated the five of us with respect. He budgeted his money so we would have it when he died. Dad and I fought constantly, and Dad tried his best to tame us. I resented my father, blamed him for my mother leaving. He knew it; I told him all the time. I was horrible…” Jack paused, steeling himself. “Dan and I were fighting when he died.

“I had stormed off to my room to avoid another gentle lecture about family. I could hear his slow footsteps coming down the hallway, then a loud thud. I looked out to find him lifeless on the floor right where I’d been yelling at my brother. Dan came out and started screaming, and my sisters followed suit. I called an ambulance and followed it to the hospital, where we learned he had died instantly of a brain aneurism, and even if I had tried CPR, it wouldn’t have helped. He stopped, looking away.

“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Andrews told him. Jack just shook his head, not wanting to continue but knowing he needed to.

“I was nine years old when she left us,” the teacher rasped. “The night before, Dad read me a bedtime story, and I told him I loved him. He seemed really sad, but wouldn’t tell me why, so I said it to make him feel better. That’s the last time he heard me say those words.” Jack wiped his eyes. “Nine years. I hated him for the last nine years of his life…

“After the funeral, I’d go to the cemetery while the kids were in school,” he pressed. “For months, I would just go and sit, leaning against his headstone, trying to feel close to him. On especially painful days, I begged his forgiveness for being such a rotten son.” Jack stopped to regain his composure, suddenly embarrassed by his tears.

“Did asking for forgiveness help you?” Dr. Andrews inquired gently.

“No,” the teacher smiled sadly, sniffling. “I still go five times a year; on his, my mother’s and my birthdays, the day she left, and the day he died. People say it gets better as time passes… They’re liars. I still hurt like he died this morning.” Jack fell silent, having run out of things to say. He was visibly miserable.

“Were you really that horrible? Teens say hurtful things all the time, especially to their parents.” Dr. Andrews reasoned. Jack shrugged and put his hands on his shoulders, not caring if the doctor saw it.

“He told me every day he loved me,” he insisted. “If I didn’t ignore him, I told him to leave me alone, albeit with more colorful language. I knew it hurt him; that’s why I did it.” The man forced a sad smile. “Every morning with breakfast, I got up earlier than the kids, and he’d greet me. ‘Good morning, Jack. I love you. Eggs or ham today?’ And every morning, I’d answer in one-word sentences.

“Every night at bedtime, he’d tell me again. ‘Good night, Jack. I love you.’ Every night, I either ignored him or lashed out. Toward the end, he started saying it more softly… sadly…” Jack’s voice caught in his throat. “He tried… He tried so hard to earn my approval, and I knew it the whole time. I didn’t care, even when his tone changed and he was slower to say it.

“The last day,” Jack continued hesitantly, “he changed his morning greeting. ‘Good morning, Jack. I love you. What do you want for breakfast?’ I said I wanted an omelet and he said, ‘you’re an adult, so why don’t you make it just how you like it?’ Then he left. I was just glad to be rid of him. I caught him later in the garage with red eyes. He kinda brushed it off at first but when he knew I had caught him, he said he was sorry, and then… ‘I still love you, you know. You make it hard sometimes, but I do.’ The way he said it put me off-guard and I just… looked at him, said ‘okay’, and then left.

“That was the first time in years I’d acknowledged him without a fight…” Jack sighed, dropping his hands to his lap weakly.

“Do you think your response made him feel better?” The doctor asked gently.

“I don’t know,” answered the patient. “Maybe? It was the last thing I ever said to him. I didn’t wait for a reply though, so who knows?” He thought for a moment. “Can I leave yet?” He looked at Dr. Andrews.

“Are you safe to be by yourself right now?” Jack nodded. “I’ll set you to leave for tomorrow. If you’d like I can bring by a puzzle to busy yourself.” He nodded again so the doctor left. Alone at last, Jack curled into a ball by his pillow.

“Could you hook up my phone so I can call my neighbor?” He asked when he heard someone enter the room with a familiar rattling noise. Jack sat up to see Dr. Andrews set the box on the table.

“Sure,” he replied, bending to reach behind the side table to plug the cord back in.

“Thank you,” Jack told him. “Can I have him come see me? I’d really like my own clothes to wear.” Dr. Andrews nodded.

“We’d offer you the ones you had on, but your jeans were soaked and the paramedics destroyed your shirt, so…” Jack just shrugged at the news.

“That’s okay. It wasn’t my favorite.” He reached for the puzzle. “Oh cool, a beach scene.” The doctor asked if he needed anything else, and Jack shook his head. “No, thank you.” The teacher watched him leave and grabbed the phone, dialing his neighbor.

 

[I finally got around to this again. I'm still mad about losing it but I have to move on.]

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Topazia, this is outstanding reading.  I am so excited for you to finish this story.  It is really, really terrific reading!!!  I love the way you write.

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“Hello?” came a familiar voice.

“Sam, it’s Jack.”

“Jack! I was worried about you!” Sam exclaimed.

“So was I,” Jack smiled. “Thank you for finding me when you did,” he added softly.

“I’m glad I did. Are they treating you okay in there?” Sam asked.

“Yes. It seems I found a shrink that cares.” Jack smiled again.

“Shrink?” Sam echoed.

“Minnesota has a civil commitment law; didn’t you know that?” Jack asked.

“Oh, that’s right… how’s that going for you?” Sam asked with a smirk.

“You know,” Jack responded honestly, “This experience has been more useful than you’d think. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it’s been enlightening, and after thinking about it, I needed this.” He paused, remembering why he called. “Listen, do you think you could bring me some clothes? I messed mine up…” Jack felt silly asking but he wanted out of the hospital gown.

“Sure thing! What room are you in?” He looked at the whiteboard.

“463,” he answered. “Thanks, Sam. Did someone lock my door?”

“Not that I know of, but if they did I know where the key is. I’ll be there soon. Bye.”

“Bye, Same.” Click. Jack smiled and set the receiver down on its cradle. He hoped Same wasn’t doing the weekly dinner thing at his church. The teacher opened the puzzle and began sorting out edge pieces, glad for the distraction.

“Bye, Same.” Click. Jack smiled and set the receiver down on its cradle. He hoped Same wasn’t doing the weekly dinner thing at his church. The teacher opened the puzzle and began sorting out edge pieces, glad for the distraction.

A short while later, Sam knocked on Jack’s door to alert him. He looked up, smiling at the sight of his friend, and stood.

“Sam! Thank you for coming!” Jack’s elation told his friend he’d been lonely. “Sit! I want to talk to you. Do you have time?” Sam handed him the clothes and sat down.

I have a little time, but yes, I’m helping serve dinner tonight. I gotta say, it’s nice to see you alive. You look…” he searched for words. “You look better than you have lately.” Jack chuckled a little at his friend’s words.

“I feel better,” he confessed. “You’re the only person I know that will have a better answer to something I can’t figure out.”

“Alright,” Sam nodded. “I’ll give you an honest opinion.” It was clear Sam meant it half-warning, half-joking.

“That’s what I want,” Jack declared. “So on the way here the other day, I saw… something odd. They say I was dead for three minutes, but I saw the EMS guys saving me. I also saw my sister.” Sam cocked his head. “Not Shi. Sarah.”

“That’s…” Sam exhaled, scratching his head. “Alright, I see where you’re going. You want to know if I think it’s chemical misfires or something more? You know my beliefs, Jack, and that’s where I’m going.” A pause followed. “Do you want to have this conversation with me?” The patient beside him thought for a moment.

“I wouldn’t be your friend if I wasn’t willing to talk about religion occasionally,” Jack told him.

“That didn’t answer my question, Jack,” Sam pressed. “Do you want to talk to me about this?”

“I want to know what you think. I will be courteous and respectful,” Jack promised, remembering the last time he’d discussed religion with a Christian. “I want to talk about it,” he insisted.

“You’ve been warned,” Sam said warily before continuing. “As I understand it, not only did you have an out-of-body experience, it sounds like you also had a spiritual encounter. To be honest, I’m not equipped to delve too deep into this stuff. You’d be better talking to a priest. What I do know is, someone was talking to you. What was Sarah doing?”

“She was dancing,” Jack answered, looking down. “When she saw me, she ran to me and hugged me, kissed my cheek. Then she waved goodbye, and I saw the ambulance.” He fiddled with his shirt sleeve. “It was peaceful, warm even. I tried to go after her, to keep her with me, but she was gone… again.” He sighed. Sam watched him quietly for a moment.

“You’re lonely,” he finally observed. Jack shrugged. “This is really beyond me. I want to help you, Jack, but honestly, you should talk to someone who’s better at this.” The teacher looked at him for a moment.

“Alright,” Jack conceded. “I will. Do you have time to help me with a puzzle?” Sam smiled after checking his watch.

“I can stay for about five minutes, but then I really need to leave.” He scooted the chair over to Jack’s puzzle.

A few minutes later, Sam stood to leave. Jack rose with him.

“Thank you again,” Jack told him. “I can’t tell you how much I value your friendship. If you ever need anything, seriously, I kind of owe you one.” They shook hands. “Sam?” His friend turned to him. “Pray for me tonight, please? I don’t believe in all that but it’s nice to know people are thinking of me.” Sam walked to him and gave him a hug.

“I pray for you every night, Jack. Let me know when you leave tomorrow and I’ll give you a ride home. As for owing me, don’t worry about that. I know you’d have done the same.” Sam left with a smile, leaving Jack pensive. Would he have done the same? The teacher decided he would, as he cared about Sam and would be broken if anything happened to his only friend.

The following day, after Jack bid farewell to his neighbor at the doorway, he entered his home, eerily silent in his absence. Nervous, he turned his stereo up to play music as he walked to the kitchen. He groaned at the sight of broken glass, strewn keys, and a huge mass of dried blood beneath the refrigerator.

Sighing, Jack gingerly avoided the glass and blood on his way to the closet, snagging his note as he passed it. He grabbed his mop and bucket and pulled out a broom for the glass. The teacher grumbled as he swept the room, careful to stay away from the blood.

After dumping the glass in the trash and picking his chair up, Jack filled the bucket with water and an industrial cleaner. He thought for a moment and poured the remainder of the alcohol in, thinking of its sanitizing properties. Letting the concoction set, he put his keys away and opened the window for ventilation.

After mopping and setting up a box fan to help the floor dry, Jack retreated to his room, humming along to the music. He picked up the book he’d thrown and put it away. The man sat in his chair, wondering what to do to feel like himself again.

Jack got up to his computer desk in his office, opening up a web browser. He searched for information on dreams and what others said about near-death experiences like his. A few wasted hours later, he leaned back in his office chair.

“Maybe I need a nap,” he mused aloud. Jack rose, turning his stereo off before collapsing on his bed. Sleep overwhelmed him as soon as he was flat. The man woke with a start about an hour later to the sound of his phone ringing. He glanced at the number and winced; it was the school. He slapped himself hard enough to cause pain before answering, hoping to sound alert.

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Thanks! This is nearly to the end of what I've typed up, I should probably continue it before I post more haha!

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