by Naoise Deeney (he/him)
Photography by Chiao Chien.
It was Mister’s fourth Hospital visit. He did not enter. I was escorted to his car by Nurse Albert. The sentry men opened the gates and we drove to an ice rink. We did not skate. We sat in the upstairs café overlooking the rink. We sat close to the window so that Mister could watch the skaters. When a skater would fall, he would rub his hands and smile at me. He was wearing a navy suit from his ‘future’ selection. The blazer did not have buttons, fastened instead by a plastic zip lock. It did not have a collar and neither did his shirt. His naked neck seemed tortoise-like as he would swing away from the window and stoop to drink his coffee. The same had been ordered for me but it had not yet arrived. He had requested five minutes to elapse between both servings. He was a connoisseur so took his time, but was very uptight about finishing last.
This was our third outing, and another to be usurped by the activity of coffee drinking. We had visited the beach but did not step foot on it. We sat in a seaside restaurant and watched surfers wipe out. We had driven to Trench Foot Mountain but did not hike. We took refuge in a cliffside café overseeing the trail. He was a man for the view. He was a looker, not a liver. He was predisposed to having the high ground. He existed not with, but through other people, whose privacy would be invaded from above, or at a distance.
A child fell and drifted along the ice in starfish pose. He ducked his head, looked at me, and almost clapped his hands.
My coffee arrived. He chugged what was left of his and pushed the saucer and cup into the centre of the table. He laid his palms flat out and exhaled. He glanced at the window but it did not appeal to him, now that there was nothing to drink from intermittently. He had something to say, clearly, but he could not say it without retrieving the saucer and fondling the cup.
“I’m perfectly willing to adopt you, but let’s get one thing straight. You are not my child. You are not like me. You are a different breed. You are to address me as Mister. You are not to stare at me. You are not to invade on my privacy. You are to help me clean. You are to help me work. You are not to help me cook. You shouldn’t even offer it, no matter how much I cut myself or spill food or set pans on fire or scream for assistance. You are not to leave the house before putting something on your head. There will be a range of hats at the door. You can put these in the yellow box outside if you do not want to wear them in public. In fact, you are not to wear my hats in public. You are not to be dependant, unless I start offering you gifts with tears in my eyes and ruminations about my childhood. You are to ignore me if you find me in one of the cupboards. If I surprise you, you are not to scream out in fear. I may attack you. You are not to ask me what I am doing in the cupboards. It will break the illusion. You are not to swim in the pool, but you may float. You are not to use the sauna unless you are cutting weight for an equestrian event. You are to become a jockey showman. You are not to feed the horses in the paddock. They are not to become dependant. You are not to become dependant on the horses. I will allocate a horse for you to train. You are not to name it. You are not to look it in both eyes. You are not to mount the horse from the right side. You are not to pet the horse in circular motions. When training in the round pen, the horse is only allowed to travel clockwise. You are not to fall off the horse. You are not to become better than me at horse riding, so, I will admit, you will have to remain at an amateur level. You are not to sit in the front seat of the Bentley. I have indulged you so far, but that was only to woo you. You are not to use the jacuzzi before midnight. You are not to catch me on crack. I am easily frightened when high, despite being very mobile and adventurous. I may be anywhere in the house, so not getting caught may depend upon you having to hide. You are allowed three decorations for your room, none of which can be religiously themed. It is a secular household. You are not to stare at the Maiden of the household. If you are to address her, you must address her as Mater Phenelope. You are not to become better friends with her than I am. You are not to punish me, no matter how much I request it or threaten you if you don’t. You are not to walk backwards up the stairs. You are not to draw on the walls, if you are planning to do that. You are to tidy your room I imagine. You are to brush your rotten teeth, sorry. You are to change the light fixtures in the library. You are not to enter my office before bowing your head and tapping the door three times on the painted circle. Entering my office, you are to ask, ‘How are the preliminary results?’ and rub my shoulder supportively. You are not to crave sugary things like ice-cream, unless it is my birthday. You are not to outdo my toy car collection. You are not to play with my mega train set. So long as I am your guardian, you are not to die. You are not to deceive me, unless it makes me laugh. You are not to make me laugh if I am crying. You are not to make me cry if I am laughing. You must let things take their natural course. You are not to become socially awkward. You are not to become a popular brat. You are not to look at the full moon. You are not to get caught watching pornography. You are not to ask me or the Maiden about the female anatomy. We don’t know. You are not to receive a whole lot of emotional support. You are to keep your chin up. You are not to become a loser. You are not to become a stubborn winner. You are not to make more money than me. You are not to enter the 1%. These are your conditions. Follow them, and we will live happily I imagine.”
He let go of the cup and pressed his lips against praying hands. He turned to the window. A lady fell and hit her head. He rubbed his hands, leaned across the table, and patted me on the arm.
Before leaving, I put my signature on an Adoptional Discharge form. Mister did not enter the Hospital. I was escorted to his car by Nurse Albert, who, before departure, saluted us and screamed, “LONG LIVE MONTGOMERY GROVE!” We drove out of town and arrived at the gates of a large estate. They were opened by two men in white uniform. We drove uphill and parked next to an armoured bus, in front of a large grey building with barred windows. “This is your house?” I asked Mister. He lowered his head and four bumps of spine broke out.
“There may have been some deceiving in the process of discharge. I may have pretended to be someone I am not. Not just with you, mind. Montgomery was fooled. They are not the brightest. You will probably hate me, and I cannot blame you for that. This is Regiment Grove.”
“Difficult times. You are well aware, I’m sure. We are to adhere to a certain quota of patients if we’re to hold onto our stocks. Sorry, we are to adhere to a certain quota of legitimate patients, to be specific. You are a good patient. We have heard about your attempts to escape. We have heard about your brutality. You’re the real thing. You’re the old guard. We’ve been corrupted by an influx of illegitimates. You know how it is. Everyone has something. Everyone wants in. We’re not where we were at ten years ago. The market does not hold out for anyone. Some strategic manoeuvring is in order. But never mind that. You will get along here. You will be looked after. You will also get better. I can ensure you of that.”
We stepped out of the car and were escorted inside. The facilities were not quite as nice as Montgomery. I was taken to the largest room they had, which was not quite as large as the room I had left. I was not pleased, but I was not surprised. Later in the day, I was visited by Mister. He wore the white overalls of the Regiment staff and held a small paper cup. “Nurse Anthony. No more deception.” He held out his free hand and I refused. He held out the small paper cup, filled quarter-ways with a green liquid. “Medicine. You will make it easy for us, I’m sure.”
He withdrew the cup. He smiled, as when the lady bumped her head on the ice. “That’s what we like to hear. We’ll prepare the sedative.” He left the room. I unzipped my suitcase and removed a small iron bar from a hidden compartment. I stood behind the door, raised the bar, practiced my swing, lost faith, hid my weapon, sat on the bed, and practiced my response.
“No need Anthony. I’ll take my medicine.”
Naoise Deeney is in his fourth year of studying English with Creative Writing at UCD. Naoise Deeney loves his course, and his pets. He has no regrets in life. Things are going smoothly for Naoise. He has no major publications but things are going to work out. Trust him. Naoise Deeney is a confident, charismatic, creative entrepreneur that will stop at nothing to ensure that his family and friends are financially secure.