All of the stones all at the same time
The client scratched at paste clotted in his hair.
The client was in a car. The client’s car was in a car space between newly painted golden lines.
A sign: Mini Bob’s Mart.
“We are quite lost,” said Deer Food.
The client asked, “Isn’t this Mini Bob’s Mart?”
“Bob’s Mini Mart,” answered Deer Food.
“So.” It was as the client thought: Mini Bob’s Mart. He had learned that arguing with Deer Food was pointless. When a small matter could be disputed, Deer Food, the client’s hallucination, would dispute.
Deer Food sucked in smoke, crushed his cigarette butt against a burn-scarred left paw pad. His teeth were stained, the fur around his mouth was nicotine-green, the fur at his paw-tip and brow was singed green. If the client concentrated upon all of Deer Food all at the same time there was more of Deer Food to concentrate upon. Deer Food’s chin damp. Deer Food’s tail pumping against seatback. Deer Food’s breathing sounding like wiper-blades.
The disoriented client could not find his way home. The client did not know that he was three miles from his house, that he was two blocks from Dr. Guelderose Darshan’s Neurobiofeedback Clinic. Dr. Darshan bald but for electric-white hair follicles, which the client at this time could not summon through concentration. The client, parked at Mini Bob’s, felt his brain struggle as it produced, half-produced, then produced a phantom, his younger brother, his brother phantom he should recognize from memory: a form moving in him as if behind glass, a bowing and kneeling form very slowly shelving small items of great volume. The client, lost, did not recognize shelver, shelf, shelved, door, shop, car, car space. The client did not recognize the road from which he had pulled in, or the place he held in the world, or the world holding him. The client felt he must have once been in this place with his phantom, that his phantom had once held a job in a mart like Mini Bob’s, that his phantom had moved there beyond him but had appeared before him. He felt he could have opened the door to Mini Bob’s and said to his phantom, his brother, that he would be there for him, whenever he needed him, he would be there.
The client’s phantom, who tried and failed to salve his extreme sleep disorder with alcohol, had hidden himself from the client. For eleven years the client had not known whether his phantom brother was alive. For eleven years the client, an alcoholic struggling to survive his own extreme sleep disorder, had made no effort to find him.
During the two hours of the client’s five-session therapy the memory of his phantom had continuously intruded, a pressing memory and, with it, an urgent need to be believed about a past experience in an airport waiting room
Dr. Darshan and his assistant could not keep the client focused upon procedure: to summon in a regulated loop of neurobiocontrol the “reward images” on the computer monitor before him: idyllic forest meadow, stream, trees, distant vague forms appearing according to scale of Adequate Total Reward achievement; blooming meadow flowers with hovering insect life, tree leaves, rippling stream surface and subsurface, stones in a streambed, a slender deer strangely hungry-looking, and pseudostars pulsing behind the hovering limbs of two omniscient hemlocks appearing according to scale of Ideal Total Reward. Deer Food, a chain-smoking green squirrel with a beer-gut, appeared according to outer-limit scales of Ideal Total Reward.
Electrodes (28 – refer to cranial map) pasted to the client’s scalp had previously recorded unprecedented abilities to regulate breath, blood pressure, heart rate, to eliminate inhibitory impulses of thought or feeling in order to concentrate attention upon the client’s wished-for iterations of beauty intended to compensate for lifelong extreme sleep deprivation and absent deep sleep and REM stages of consciousness.
Session 9 goals were unrealized due to the client urgently emailing Deer Food during each therapeutic segment.
Noted by Dr. Darshan: Unrevised client emails printed, filed. Phatic utterance characterized by voidance.
Noted by Dr. Darshan: The client Robert Lucens refers to himself as “Silence” and, at times, as “The Silence.”
Noted by Dr. Darshan: For all future sessions, remove keyboard on computer monitor desk.
DF, please stay, DF. There is something a kind of not convincing story – I’ve never been able to make anyone believe it. I can’t put it out of my head. I tell people and they sneer the way they sneer at drinkers. Or they openly say It doesn’t add up, Mr. Silence. I always think they are saying, It doesn’t add hup. It doesn’t add hup. It’s the way I tell it. If I could tell it right if I could make you believe – but then maybe it just could never be true at all and believable. It seems not believable. I barely ever believe myself since I never slept more than eight hours a week my whole life like cold dashes and hyphens and spaces of Could are everywhere where the should-words for Should should be – I hallucinated in the afternoons and late evenings saw blue pennants waving at me and on them in them was whatever or whoever or wherever stood in front of me. I saw waving and sometimes whipping pennants light blue really pale and in them on them might-things that might have been near me or in the far distance from me. Hell I think even in my crib I saw a crib-mobile of the pennants because my mother said I never slept right not even immediately after my birth. And my younger brother Saul he never slept right. And the pediatrician who let me zip and unzip the smile of her special friend Zip-Me Doll was of the opinion Saul was mentally retarded because he was still and because he was silent then not silent but screaming mostly like hawks make a scream that comes out of their entire bodies even the slenderest hollow pinfeathers. He was a sky-dweller. I was a ground-dweller. The pediatrician – the doll had no tongue no teeth except zipper-teeth – believed I was mentally retarded because I swayed swerved. When I crawled I kind of crawled through a tremulous something not there instead of toward something there. When I made my first words, Hup! Hup!, they flapped in vibrato ways they should not and after I learned “Up!” I still said Hup. Today sometimes I’m over sixty now today sometimes I say Hup – I sound drunk – when I mean “Up.” I am trying I am making a great effort but am not able to think of the difficult word Up my thought will not go there. I say hupstairs, I say fill my cup hup, I say Anyway, I don’t believe my own self too often. I say, Onward and hupward! when I do not mean it. I am a kind of liar is the truth but I have a blind friend Abraham who says every person living in an altered reality alters reality. (He also says that no matter what it is not acceptable to lie to yourself.)
I have a blind friend Abraham – I could have mentioned him should have I have just the one blind friend not lots of them – there are never a lot of Abrahams that I see when I’m seeing swarms and swarms. It is confusing to see just the one Abraham who cannot see me. Abraham says lying – he is not a liar himself – is not what Jesus would do who told his followers Blessed is the Silence who will have words – who walked on words when no one would believe he could – Jesus Iscariot Jesus Pilate Jesus Magdalene Jesus Mehitabel who asked for a hand to be put inside the word in his side when it looked to others like it was not at all a word – a scratch is what people thought. I told my friend Abraham this story I want you to hear. He would not believe it. The whole thing doesn’t take a lot of words and probably is a proverb or a riddle and not a story at all – in the past I didn’t use enough of the right words. The way I told it was my whole problem. DF – DF – I’m going to put it down here because I tried
to I know this now I tried to tell it but I needed to type it.
I was at an airport terminal a smaller zone among the zones a zonule at night there the sounds were in a fog of sound – like God flipping pages or burgers or surfing channels or dialing radio bands – noises and sounds noising sounds and leaching, illuviating, accumulating. I had slept approx twelve hours in the past days 29 or so so as usual I hallucinated the pennants thousands and tens of thousands of the pennants. Near me or distant and coming nearer was a sleepwalking late-middle-age magpie muttering in his sleep and snoring – sleepstomping is what he was doing – to be accurate he was drumming his feet lightly. I tried to read a bare place on the industrial green carpet worn down to illegible by flight-cancelled sleepers – but my brain invited more people-pennants blushing blue from the icy reflections of their cell-phone faces.
He had a mostly black black-and-white checkered jacket on with a mostly white white-and-black checkered liner.
I am getting this less wrong – because of you. DF. DF you might be what I needed I mean a listener a reader nonhuman approaching and withdrawing and withdrawing while you’re reading me. The sleeping man a man older than me — he was definitely older probably by ten years but maybe more – he stomped, he skittered near but withdrew making a shrill gasp when he saw me – withdrew – withdrew into the soundfog – the shoveling-out sounds of flights about to land the shoveling-in sounds of flights outgoing he withdrew because of something about me – withdrew behind the voice of the pleather-zipper-woman across from me who was bluetoothing, It is mine – the rest of what she said was not clear though it was owner-like. Her sleeve- and ankle- and breast- and shoulder-zippers gnashed and the zipper-pulls jangled. She wanted out of herself. A toddler cicada two rows or so behind me kept telling someone he wanted to see. The sleeping man was stomping again not at all ominously – then ominously – then not at all – not at all. The toddler giggled when I turned around and air-kissed him and I stomped two beats before I was in rhythm with the sleeping man stomping, the two of us stomping and then the toddler stomping with passionate junglyness stomping toddler thunder the toddler was now a hundred-thousand bannertoddlers stomping – the way an airport terminal never sounds until until you hear it really stomping with the furling unfurling pleather-zipper-woman and toddler and sleeping man stomping – millions on the blue pennants and in the soundfog.
I never can make anyone believe. The sleeping man stopped stomping. He resembled me I mean I resembled Saul and he resembled Saul more than I – Saul and I looked unexactly alike – he looked exactly like that man the shelver there in Mini Bob’s Mart. Saul had a job like the shelver once and I knew about Saul and his full-time shit-paying job during that time when Saul was living somewhere in car space when his home was in his car in an abandoned car lot. He hid himself from me but was not good at hiding because I knew where he worked and knew I could find him there. But I did not find him there. I let him hide. I hid when it might be that Saul could find me. I made people there promise not to tell that I asked about Saul. He was a good worker wet-brain drunk and disoriented on the job. He did not take days off sick – and was completely dependable. He was not able to communicate right and was liked – he was loved – loved is the word people used – I cannot say that it has been used about me or ever will be – he was loved by customers by his boss by the big boss all of them through an entire decade. He did not pray to any God but had a million benevolent Gods in mind was what he told people who worked with him who loved him who might have figured out that he lived in his car and then lived for a few days in dive apartments then in his car. Everyone in the zonule – throngs and throngs of people-pennants – wavered. It’s not the right word wavered – how does anyone tell anything believable without the right word? They wavered as the man walked closer to me and closer. The toddler wanted to see and so he walked at the man’s side – he stood on the bare spot of carpet – quiet now the toddler looked at me closely and without any question in his throng of faces.
It does not add up. Saul was dead. Saul has been dead for years. The sleeping man looked me up and down. He looked me over so that I would have to be in his gaze in the center of his gaze. The toddler myriad toddlers said I want to see I want to see and stepped away from my side so he could see how the sleeping man saw. One Saul-crowd one toddler-crowd crowd of pleather-zipper-woman crowd of arriving crowd of departing crowd in soundfog crowd of one waiting in God’s zonule crowd of sleepwalking man asking me one question: Brother? Is that you? Will you stay in sight?
The client asked Deer Food, “How will I go home?”
“Mercy,” said Deer Food, only faintly. “You want to go home?”
“No,” the client said, “I mean yes. I should go home. I mean no. No. But I want to know how.”
“I’ve read your emails.” Deer Food’s volume was not significantly above Constant Zero.
“And?” the client asked.
“The story is not quite plausible,” said Deer Food.
The client could barely hear his companion Deer Food as Deer Food asked, “What about that toddler? After it all. What did the toddler do?”
Kevin McIlvoy, in his forty-fifth year as a writer, lives in Asheville, North Carolina. “All of the stones all at the same time” will appear in his forthcoming collection of prose poems, short short stories, and short stories, 57 Octaves Below Middle C (Four Way Books, 2017).