chapter 22 A discourse on the absence of barking dogs


I am sitting at a table in the day room just doodling. Using my water color pens just doodling. Filling one piece of paper after another with pointless chaos of colors. Andrew comes up and stands behind me watching me doodle.

Andrew is a nurse from England and very English in the manly man kind of way. I could totally see him leading a Sherpa up the side of a mountain with a cup of Earl Gray tea in one hand.

The paper I’ve been doodling is full so I crumple it up and toss it in the trash.

“Why did you do that?” He frowns at me.

(people do seem to ask me that question a lot these days)

“Do what?” I ask, This once I really don’t know what I’ve done to raise the question.

“Throw that away?” He pointed to the crumpled doodle paper in the trash.

“Hmm, because the paper is full.” I already have a new blank page in front of me and have begun filling it with randomness.

“You spent so much time on it.”

“So?” I shrug and continue doodling.

“You spent so much time on it, but you treat it like its nothing and has no value.”

“It is nothing and has no value.”


“But what Andrew? Really its nothing, just doodling, nothing. If the word doodling offends ones puritanical need to always be involved in profitable labor you can say I am completing work sheets on a self directed course on color theory.”

“I can’t believe you would put so much time into something you don’t value.”

“Oh for heavens sake Andrew its just doodling. And as far as time. Well I have nothing but right now. Doodling seems as fine a way to spend my time as anything right now.”

“if it’s important to you your welcome to it.” I hand him a page of my time wasting doodles.

“That’s not the point.” Andrew snaps.

(well what is the point? How hath doodles offended thee?)

“You have no values at all.” He says with a very English frown of disapproval.

This seemed a bit of a stretch to me. From throwing away a page of random doodles to a total lack of moral values. I wasn’t even littering.

“Ohh no I certainly do. I have a very firm set of values, thank you very much. Now granted, my values are perhaps a bit outside my cultural norms.”

“To say the least.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing. Genocide, rape, murder, slavery, skinning people alive and eating their hearts, all these have been accepted, even promoted as moral even righteous action by one human culture or another throughout history. Having a certain amount of skepticism towards ones own cultural paradigms is I think healthy.”

“When you set that fire did you even think about the other people in the building?”

(Jeeze you set one little fire and that’s all anyone can talk about)

“I did. The fire I set was just large enough to look bad without actually being all that dangerous. I knew the fire department would be called as soon as I set foot outside the apartment/ After all they had my apartment wired with cameras and mics so it’s not like the fire was in anyway a surprise.”

“People could have been hurt. There is no excuse for that.”

Now I can’t help but feel pleased by his accusations and amused. After all you don’t go around calling mad people immoral and irresponsible. He is judging me by the measures of sanity, something he doesn’t do with any other patient here.

“I was fighting for my life after all, and the only people in the building at the time were those directly involved in the attempts to kill me. So I can’t say I wasted much time worrying about their health. But even so as I said they were warned, they watched me set the fire, they had access to the fire escape and the fire department had been called. So the danger even to them was minimal.”

“You put people’s lives at risk, there is no excuse for that.”

(Ohh dear someone is channeling Mrs. Bucket.)

“You ever had to fight for your life Andrew?”

“Well no, but even so I would never do that.”

“Thank you Monday morning quarterback, your opinion is duly noted.”

That tweaked his manhood a bit.

“You could have ended up in prison. You didn’t even stop to think of that.”

“Now that is an interesting question. Why is it do you suppose that I’m not in prison?”

A mirror held up to his assumptions left him a little stunned at the view.

“Arson is after all against the law and due to San Francisco’s rather incendiary history a crime that is normally treated with some degree of seriousness. I certainly left no doubt as to the nature of the fire. Hell I did everything but sign my name in lighter fluid. Nor can there be any doubt as to my guilt. I set the fire, I said I set the fire with the clear intent to cause damage to the place. Yet for all that I’m not in prison am I? I haven’t even been charged. Not arrested, not questioned, phhffft nothing. Odd don’t you think?

Ohh and don’t think for a minute that as a person of dubious mental balance I am immune from prosecution. Jeffery Dhalmer couldn’t get off on an insanity defense, and he ate people. And being a crazy person won’t keep you from being charged with a crime.

“Why am I here?” I committed arson and no charges? None? Not even a single cop dropping by with a question?”

“Now let’s take a look at what else I have said I have done. Prior to setting the fire I vandalized two apartments. Boccie had to have locks replaced on two doors. I dumped a couple a thousand gallons of water down on the apartment below me. Ohh and I don’t know the exact legal term for using caustic chemicals to gas your neighbors but I’m pretty sure it’s assault of some sort.

Either I did all those other things or I didn’t.

If I didn’t do those things that I claim to have done what then are you to believe? That basically for three months I was so lost in delusional psychosis that I sat in my closet completely unaware of my own actions?

The three months when I thought I was fighting for my life I was really doing nothing but having a long very bad dream? Yet so insensate of my actual actions I somehow still managed to rouse myself enough from this dream to keep myself feed and bathed? After all if I had not eaten or bathed in three months I would have been in far worse physical shape upon my arrival at the hospital then I was, would I not? So a person locked in a near catatonic delusional psychosis for three months, wakes one morning fixes a cup of tea, neatly packs a couple of suite cases then sets fire to her apartment.

If you believe that then you are certainly giving me credit for possessing a most singular madness.

Another possibility is that I set the fire, I said I set the fire but I am lying about everything else I claim to have done. If that were so what would be my motivation for it? There are people in the world who confess to crimes they haven’t done but it is usual practice for such people to confess to crimes that have actually been done. People who invent their own guilt seldom go to all the trouble of inventing the crime.

On the other hand lets say I actually did all those other things. Ok Andrew imagine you own a building and a tenet in that building quite suddenly and without reason or warning starts vandalizing your building. You have to have locks replaced, carpets replaced, a few thousand dollars worth of water damage. Yet for all of that, you never call the police? Not about any of that?

Why isn’t the dog barking my dear Watson?”

“I don’t understand why you didn’t ask for help.” He says with a school marms prim disapproval.

“Yess, well, I have to say that the police were not all that helpful.”

“No I mean a doctor.”

“A doctor? What did I need a doctor for? other than people trying to kill me I was perfectly healthy..”

He gives me the ‘you know perfectly well what I mean’ look.

“Ohh, you meant a shrink.”

“Well yes.”

“So he could give me some of those lovely pills?”

“Yes of course.”

I give myself the ‘I coulda hada v-8’ head slap.

“Of course why didn’t I think of that? Ohh yes I could see it now. I throw open my window and call out to the gang banger and crack heads all screaming death up to me and I yell out”

“Hey ya all cant shoot me today….I took a pill.”

I crack up. Just huge barrels of monkey laughter rolling over me. The absurdity of it all hitting me hard. Tears in my eyes I lower my head to the table and pound on it with my fist.

“I took a pill.” Ohh my ohh dear.

Andrew stiffens and walks away outraged English pride in every step.

Ohh dear he is upset with me. Then I think I really must stop this laughing or soon a kindly nurse , will, will, oh my god, give me a a pill.) And sure enough a small Philippine nurse clutching a clip board walks up and asks me if I’m alright.

I sit up straight hands in my lap, biting my tongue cause I must not laugh, I must not laugh. Cause if I laugh they will, will, ohh dear give me a pill.


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