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A Thousand Cloudy Days Betty Hyland " ? ía, it's me, Ted. I gave notice. I don't belong here. There's nothing J.VJ. the matter with me." Oh, heU. Here we go again. She covers her typewriter. She had hoped to get caught up over her lunch hour. Now this. She pictures Ted at the phone near his board and care. Thirty years old, and aU his possessions fit in a bag.Anything ofvalue was long ago stolen, left on a bus, given to startled strangers. "The doctor comes there tomorrow." A phone rings eight times in the next office. She's supposed to be covering for the other secretaries. "I've been seeing shrinks for ten years.They make everybody worse.This guy's a creep. He's got pictures hanging with faces of dead people staring from trees. People pretend to read magazines so speUs won't be cast on them." He pauses to take a pull on a cigarette. Sixty a day, any brand, plus any borrowed or fished out of an ashtray, plus loose tobacco roUed in newspaper .The mentally ifl are the tobacco industry's best customers. She imagines his lungs as long black sacs, thin as stockings, stuck together with tar. "Oh, Ma. Let me come home," he begs. "I want an apartment. FU wait in the train station for you. Please?" Ted and I go through life extemporaneously, she thinks, both at the whim of his ghastly disorder. She gives the thumbs-up sign to her boss who wants to dictate letters. They're not paying me to worry about personal problems. She hopes her face isn't pinched with worry. Smile. "AU right, Ted," she whispers. "We'U talk later and don't forget your medication." Oh, damn. "I've taken piUs forever, and I'm in a board and care home. I'll be able to think without them." His voice grows shrill. "My legs will stopjumping.The 50 Betty Hyland51 chemicals have rotted my jawbone. Ma! People avoid me because my face is lopsided." "And don't forget your radio." She no longer lets her brains faU out with each crisis. Things work out, or they don't. She's accustomed to Ted's futile search for his former sanity. But he does seem more resolute this time. She thinks about the many psychiatrists Ted has seen since his breakdown at barely twenty. She had looked so desperately to the first doctor after hearing the devastating diagnosis. "Schizophrenia? He doesn't, well, hear voices, does he?" The doctor's nod told her she wasn't dealing here with the loss ofTed's father five years earlier, an unexpected heart attack.Yes,Ted had been heartbroken but had finished his schooling. Then one day he quit his job, stayed home to figure things out. Voices? That's creepy. Whose? She learns then that mothers don't pry. In psychiatric circles, Ted is considered an adult. Whatever he teUs a doctor is confidential. She has a brief moment of hope. Could it be, say, an operable nonrecurring brain tumor? He shakes his head. X-rays have been taken. CAT scans. Voices? Isn't that madness? Lunacy? But don't the insane curl up in corners or scream from barred windows in lunatic asylums? Don't they run, wild-eyed, through dark streets waving bloody knives? Or are those people from central casting? She thinks of the blur of other psychiatrists—those with private offices and those who visited Ted's various board and care homes once a month to prescribe medication and give fifteen minutes of therapy in exchange for a Medicaid sticker. Plus the aUergy tests, hair analysis, acupressure, orthomolecular treatments, cranial x-rays, fingerprint analysis, magnetic resonance imagings, positron emission computerized tomography, CAT scans, and any other "windows onto the brain" suggested on TV or in magazines or by another doctor. Plus those half-considered remedies—any shaman, curandero, witch doctor , old wife, medicine man, hypnotist, or herbalist anywhere. She remembers one particular doctor. One dayTed got lost. Paranoid and hallucinating, Ted had found his name in theYeUow Pages. This sweet man drove around until he found Ted huddled...


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pp. 50-68
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