Chapter 6 - Nutty Happenings At The Nuthouse!
<~> Brian's POV <~>
"Excuse me, lad. Is there a Brian Kinney around here someplace waiting for a visitor?" I turn around at the sound of the strange voice and immediately burst into gut busting laughter.
Stuffy, staid, sorry Old Schmidt is standing in front of me dressed in dark green slacks, a forest green shirt and wearing the goofiest green-tinted glasses I've ever seen. The lenses of the glasses have these crazy 3D eyes printed on them. It makes it seem like the crazy eyes are staring at you no matter where you move, even while the eyes of the wearer could be looking anywhere. They're wild. Wild. Wild. Ted’s a wild man in his green glasses. Wild and Crazy Ted!
"Crazy Man Ted! Are you playing with my head?" I crow while wiping tears of mirth away from my eyes.
"I thought you'd like 'em, Bri. I figured your friend Hal could wear them. Since the glasses are tinted green, even if he has to look at blue walls all day, he won't see blue. What do you think?"
"I officially love them, Ted! My Hal will have so much fun with these. Plus, they look crazy, so he'll fit in just perfectly here while he's wearing them," Ted hands me the glasses and I try them on, reveling in the total greenness I see. "It's like the Great Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City! Everything is pretty with green glasses on. I love it. Love it! Love it! You are the Wizard! Ted the Wizard brought on a green blizzard!"
"I'm glad you like them, Bri. I was worried they'd be a little too crazy for your taste," Ted giggles as I practice waggling my eyebrows over the top rims of the green glasses.
"Crazy is as crazy does, Theodore. That's the best part of being crazy, you know. You get to act crazy too!" I assure him.
"That sounds a little too logical to be crazy, Brian," Ted says and he's got an odd expression on his face while he looks at me.
"Crazy like a fox," I rejoin, winking at him conspiratorially and chuckling.
I love to leave them all wondering. How nutty is the nut job? How many crackers are lacking in his Barrell? How fruity is that fruitcake? Is he just tricky or totally twisted? The world may never know!
"Too late! Time's up. You choose or you lose. Lose. Lose. Don't want to lose more time, Ted. Times a wastin' Ted, Ted, Ted. I need news and cookies and pictures and lots and lots more cookies. You have no idea how many cookies I go through around here, Ted. But a cookie doesn't go as far as it used to, you know. In my day, Sonny Boy, you could get a new bed for five cookies. But not today. Nope, not today. Damn cookie inflation! Deb better boost production or I'm in big trouble, Ted."
Accounting jokes, Ted loves them! I like making him smile. It's my way of thanking him for the great Oz Glasses.
"Okay, okay, I'll make sure Debbie knows she better get her cookie sheets out and get into high gear this week. She'll be thrilled," Ted asserts.
"Now, enough about cookies, the bane of my existence. Time for fun! Gus fun! Gus. Gus. Gus!"
"Okay, Bri. As I'm sure you suspect, Gus is . . ." And Ted pauses expectantly until we both yell out 'Fine' in unison accompanied by a chorus of giggles.
"Yeah, he's fine. From what I hear he's really loving his preschool. Last week was their class Halloween celebration so they dressed up and paraded around the school," Ted hands me a stack of photos that I grab at greedily. "Your son was a cowboy, of course . . ."
I devour the news and the pictures. Shit, Sonny Boy looks so good. He looks happy. He's laughing and smiling and waving in the pictures. He's so beautiful and so perfect and I'm so frightened for him being out there in the scary mean world. I might be safe and protected in here, but that means I can't help keep him safe. . .
"So, that's it for my Gus news," Ted says, waiting for me to say my next line.
"Thank you for bringing pictures," I surprise him with my sincere gratitude, which is not part of the usual script. "I really appreciate it. I . . . I wish I could be there to see him. I'm missing out on so much . . ." Enough with the sadness, though, I shake it off. "My Hal loves the pictures of Gus, too. I tape them to the wall so My Hal can see them all the time. We've got almost all the blue in that section completely covered up. Gus is better than blue any day! Day. Day. Day and away. And away we go . . . Gus. Now, Mikey. Mikey. Mikey. Mikey!"
"Michael's okay," Ted seems hesitant. "I don't have much to tell you about Michael. I haven't talked to him much lately. I guess he's busy."
"Busy avoiding your phone calls?" I guess - I know Mikey pretty well.
"Bingo! But don't you worry, Bri, I'll deal with Michael. So then, what's next?" Ted's trying to change the subject, hmmm? Mikey must be up to his old tricks. Or maybe some new ones? I fight back the urge to get involved. I don't need to deal with a pissy Mikey if I don't want to these days - that's definitely one of the perks of being demented! No Mikey drama for me. For me. For me!
"Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett! Ted and Emmett! Ted and Emmett!"
"Ted is fine," and we laugh like always, dispelling the tension in the room. "Ted got a promotion last week, too, so he's very, very happy."
"You'll have to tell Ted I'm happy for him, too!" I insist.
"I'll pass that along to him for you," Ted jokes, smiling proudly all the while. "Meanwhile, Em and Vic have that Society Wedding they're doing this weekend. They've both been running around like crazy but it seems like they're having fun with it, so I just stay out of their way. . ."
Ted relays all sorts of interesting tidbits about this hoity toity party and all of Em's antics trying to wrangle the hostess back into the realm of reality. I can just see Em taking charge of the woman - she won't know what hit her until after the party is over and then she'll just be happy that her party was such a success. I think I'm proud of Em. Who knew the big queen would fall into the perfect career for him?
"Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Deb and Vic. Deb and Vic. Deb and Vic!"
"Well, except for cooking day and night for you, Deb is fine. Actually she's better than fine. She's still dating that cop, Carl Horvath, and things seem to be getting pretty serious. There's been reports of kissing and even a little heavy petting."
"Deb and Carl. Carl. Carl Cop-a-feel" I propose, gleefully.
"Good one, Bri! Carl Cop-a-feel! Em will love that one!" At least somebody gets my humor! "Oh, and by the way, it looks like Vic might have been bitten by the love bug too - rumor has it he's dating a guy he met in his Pos Men's Therapy Group . . ."
"Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Deb and Vic. Lindsey and Mel. Lindsey and Mel. Lindsey and Mel, do tell. Do tell!"
"Well, Lindsey is acting a little strange these days, Bri," Ted confesses, which isn't the way the story is supposed to go - Lindz is supposed to be 'fine'. They're all supposed to be fine. Fine. Fine. All mine. Stay fine.
"What do you mean, strange?" I ask even though I'm scared to actually find out.
"Well, you know how I told you about Lindsey dating that artist guy from New York? Yeah, I guess that didn't end well. She found out that he's still married to his fourth wife AND has at least one mistress on the side already. Lindz has kind of been a wreck all week since the guy dumped her. But I'm sure it'll all blow over eventually - you remember how dramatic Lindsey always had to be? Methinks the woman doth protest too much, you know. However, in the meantime, she's acting like a real jerk to everyone," Ted's attempt to reassure me isn't working.
"Gus?" I only have to say the one word and Ted already knows what I'm asking.
"Gus is okay, although he knows there's something wrong and he's definitely upset. He was crying the other night when we were over at Deb's for dinner. But he's a great kid, Bri, and he's got all the rest of the family looking out for him. Gus will be fine. You don't need to worry."
"Worry. Worry. Worry. Scurry. Hurry. Hurry. Worry . . ." The more stressed I get, the less control I have over the fucking clanging and the tics and all the other shit that's wrong with me. So, instead of doing or saying anything constructive that might help my Sonny Boy, I find myself sitting here babbling and bouncing both my feet off the carpet like a complete imbecile. Nice, Kinney! Fucking man up already and do something - it's your kid that's hurt and upset and needs comforting, not you, you wuss! Just stop already.
"STOP!" I yell at myself, causing Ted to flinch but effectively making my body and mind obey me.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Brian. I'm sure Gus will be okay. I just . . . Well, I thought you should know. No matter what, you're still his father," Ted apologizes hastily, but he really shouldn't, I do appreciate that he cares enough about Gus to tell me when he's NOT fine.
We sit together quietly for a few minutes after that, both seemingly lost in our thoughts. "Do you think, Ted, that maybe sometime I could see him? See Gus? I could be real quiet. I could. I could. I wouldn't scare him. And. And. And. And My Hal would like to see Gus too, you know. My Hal isn't scary. He's sweet. Gus would like My Hal a lot. Two babies. And. And. And . . . Oh, fuck it! Lindsey's a bitch and she'd never let me see him like this, would she? But, I just miss him, you know? You know, Ted?"
"Yeah, I know, Bri, and for what it's worth, I think it would be good for both you and Gus to have an occasional visit. I know you wouldn't scare him, Bri."
"Maybe. Maybe. Maybe, baby . . . "
Who am I kidding? Visiting your banana brain father in the mental institution. Yep, that's definitely up there on the list of top ten things every four year old wants to do!
"Oh yeah, guess what, Bri? I got a call from Mel last week. So now I can tell you that Mel is fine," Ted adds in a lighter tone of voice, trying to distract me.
I figure I might as well let him get away with it. I don't need to sit and mope. It won't change things anyway.
"Good. Lindsey and Mel and Mel is fine. Good. Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Deb and Vic. Lindsey and Mel . . . and Justin?" I simply have to ask, the question's been gnawing at me for weeks now. I have these little tendrils of doubt . . .
"I haven't been able to find out anything for you about Justin yet, Bri. Deb and Jennifer had a big falling out a few years back and they don't talk anymore, see. So nobody in the gang knows about Justin. I'm trying to find out for you though, Bri. I promise to keep looking." Ted's a good guy. A good friend. I know he'll keep trying. I'm just afraid what he'll find . . . Just in my heart. Just in my mind. Just in my mind.
"So, I mentioned to Em about your plan to redecorate in here, you know?" Ted is doing the distracting thing again, what a mensch! "You know Em whenever anyone mentions decorating - he's all over it. So, Em told me to tell you that, after yellow, the next happiest color is orange. Apparently orange is the exact opposite of blue, something hot and spicey and alive. He said to tell your friend Hal to add a splash or two of orange and you'll never feel blue again!"
"Orange? Emmy Lou would pick orange," l chuckle thinking of all the outrageous clothing my nelly bottom friend used to wear. "Okay, make it orange! Next week's color will be orange. My Hal will love orange. AND we have to have Emmy Lou bring us the orange, too!" I declare, suddenly desperate to see more of the old gang, especially if I can't see my Sonny Boy.
"You want Em to visit?" Ted is a bit surprised, since I never ask for other visitors.
"Definitely! Emmy Lou, I need you! Ted and Emmett. Make Emmett visit too! . . . Only, tell Em no orange pleather pants. My Hal will NOT be wearing orange pants!"
"Okay. It sounds like a party. I'll get Emmett started on finding something orange and when he finds it, I'll drag him up here to present it in person. How does that sound?" Ted seems excited by the idea. I just hope Em will be too.
"Good. My Hal will get orange! Little yellow people, green glasses and orange - but not orange pants. It's a plan!! It’s a plan. It’s a plan, Ted my man! This will help to fix My Hal. I know it will, but what about the pills?”
“What pills,” Ted asks, picking up on that one very important word in my word salad.
“My Hal gets too many little pills in his cup, Ted. I don’t like them. I think it’s too much,” I complain, venting my usual rant about this particular subject, and then, finally thinking that maybe Ted could help with this too. “My Hal gets too many little pills, Ted. I told them it’s not right, but they won’t listen. Bonkers, bananas, berserk - right? Why listen to Bonkers Brian. But, Ted, I know that they’re wrong. It’s too many pills and too many sad pills. You can’t take happy pills and sad pills together, especially when there are too many sad pills. It’s making Hal sad all the time. He can’t be happy when he’s asleep all the fucking time. You know?”
“What kind of pills is he taking, Brian?” Ted jumps into the fray.
“Sedatives. Sedatives and headache pills and anti-anxiety pills and even fucking allergy pills. They make him sleepy. It’s too many,” I insist, hoping that my friend will believe me even if nobody else does.
“You could be right, Brian. Do you want me to say something,” Ted offers - What did I tell you, he’s a fucking mensch!
“Yes. Please. Yes. It’s too many pills and no one listens to the crazy guy, but I know this, Ted. I know this.”
“You got it Brian. I’ll do what I can to get them to listen to you about this,” Ted nods confidently at me, bless his sturdy accountancy constitution.
“Thank you, Ted,” I sigh, feeling like maybe it WILL all be okay in the end. “Now, I have to go get My Hal and tell him the good news about the orange and give him his green glasses. Bye, Ted! Bye. Bye. Bye!”
<~> Ted's POV <~>
'Wow. That was an interesting visit', I think to myself as I watch Brian gathering up all the treasures I brought him and then heading out the door.
I'm frankly amazed at how truly better Brian seems these days. Okay, I know it's probably way too early to be think that. He's still got a lot of shit going on - the complusive rhyming, the motor tics, and the scattered, disjunctive thinking - but, beyond all that there's moments when I can almost see the old Brian in there.
I mean, asking about seeing Gus and Emmett, that's really huge. He hasn't wanted to see people in ages. I think he's relished the fact that he could hide away from all the prying eyes in here. I'm not saying he doesn't like it when I visit, but I'm relatively easy to deal with compared to most of the family. I'm not usually the emotional type. Brian could deal with me, get news about everyone and not have to expend any energy of all the irrelevant stuff.
But, now it seems like he's ready again to resestablish contact. That's a major improvement. I think it will be great for him. Em's a great start, too. He'll be a good test to see if Brian can stand up to the pressure of seeing the rest of the family.
Now, Gus on the other hand . . . well, let's just say I think Lindsey is dead wrong keeping Gus away from Brian. It would be so unbelievably good for Brian to see his son. Maybe since I'm the only one who visits, I'm the only one who sees how much he loves that boy. And I really don't think he'd ever in a million years, crazy or not, do anything to hurt or scare Gus. I've tried to tell Lindsey this before and she won't even listen to me.
There's also the fact that Brian didn't just completely lose it today when I told him what was going on with Lindz. If that doesn't show Brian's improving, I don't know what would. I think if he can handle that news, he could easily handle a short visit with his son. It will probably be useless, but I owe it to Brian to try again. Maybe this time Lindsey will listen to me and let me bring Gus for a visit.
Now, let's see what I can do for him about these concerns he has over his friend's medication.
I head out to the front desk and ask to see Lily. She's always nice when I run into her while I'm here visiting and, even better, she seems to actually care about the patients. Maybe I can convince her to listen to what Brian's saying.
"Mr. Schmidt," Lily says with a grin as she approaches the bench where I was sitting while I waited for her. "It's nice to have you visiting again. Is there something I can help you with?"
"Yes. There is, Lily," I launch directly into the topic I want to discuss. "See, I was just in with Brian and he was rather upset. It seems he's concerned that his friend Hal is being overmedicated."
"Brian's already brought his concerns about this up to me several times, I'm afraid," Lily sounds a slight bit annoyed at having to deal with this topic again. "I can assure you, Mr. Schmidt that 'Hal' is only receiving the medications that have been prescribed by his doctor. There's really nothing to worry about."
"I wasn't trying to imply that he wasn't," I backtrack a little, not wanting to offend the person I'm asking for help from. "I'm sure you wouldn't be giving the kid the wrong meds. I really don't think that's Brian's concern, though. It's more that the kind of medication, and maybe the dosages prescribed, aren't good for his friend." Lily starts to interrupt but I plow on. "Now, I know you wouldn't normally listen to another patient about this type of issue, but really, Brian Kinney isn't just another patient. Underneath that slightly whacked out exterior is one of the smartest men I've ever known."
"And what Brian said made sense to me - he said that Hal is being given sedatives and anti-anxiety pills and allergy pills and I don't know what else, all of which tend to act as depressants. As Brian put it, you don't want to give Hal pills that make him sad if your goal is to make him happy. Now, I know I'm not a doctor or anything, but would it really hurt anything to bring this issue to the attention of someone who was a doctor and have Hal's meds reviewed?"
I can tell that, while Lily does care about the people she works with, she's undoubtedly overworked, underpaid and often stressed out by the demands of her job. It wouldn't be at all out of character for her to say something placating to me and the just brush off my request the same way she's been brushing off Brian. But, to this woman's credit, I watch her think through my argument, and even though she's exasperated, she doesn't just dismiss me.
"You're right, Mr. Schmidt. It can't hurt to ask the doctor to review Hal's meds. I know Brian's been worrying about this for a while now. At the very least, it will make Brian happy to know someone listened to him. And you're also right, Mr. Schmidt, that Brian's a very intelligent man, even when he's driving ME crazy. I'll talk to the doctor about this first thing tomorrow."