CHAPTERS FROM AN UNFINISHED NOVEL

by Becca Pogson-Jones

Blinky's Personal History, Such As It Is

Though raised in the Louisiana State Orphan's Home in Shreveport, young Blinky wanted love like the rest of us. He was a creature no one wanted to give it to. Maybe his weight, or his slovenly appearance. Something in the eyes. He was rejected by prospective parents on a regular basis. "He's just not right for us, but I'm sure you'll find him a wonderful home." After awhile the orphanage stopped trying. They had Blinky for the long haul.

He sang odd songs to himself, in a made-up language. Other children liked to hit him. His thick glasses made him seem a distant, dreamy child to his more sensitive teachers. Their poetic sympathy was wasted. At age six, Blinky was a cunning little bastard, devoted to his own power and sensual satisfaction. The orphanage staff grew to hate him. He had no cute childlike behaviors, and did nothing to ingratiate himself with adults. He was ugly and rude. He stole. He lied. He was highly intelligent, brave on the playground, and liked mathematics, learning all they could teach him and a lot more from books.

When he turned eighteen the orphanage could legally kick him out. On the morning of his eighteenth birthday, they handed him a ticket to Baton Rouge, and told him they'd got him a job as a porter at the Louisiana State Sanatorium. "All our state institutions are similar. You'll really just be moving from one home to another." Blinky wanted to stay in the only home he'd ever know, and was frightened. He stood at the door in the new suit of clothes they'd bought him, and cursed them till the bus came.

The orphanage staff, in their vindictive rage against Blinky's lack of gratitude and decency, figured mopping out a nuthouse would suit him fine. It did, at first. Then Blinky discovered he could sometimes get to see the female inmates naked if he barged into their rooms by mistake when he mopped the women's wing. He was curious. He assumed these lovelies were too crazy to protest.

He did it once too often, and fondled a usually docile schizophrenic named Louise. She hit him on the neck and screamed. He fell in love. The psychiatrists examined him, and in a single day he went from being an employee who received a paycheck to being an inmate who received medication. Not bad, and he could beat everyone on the ward at chess.

One evening some years later, Blinky was lying in bed on a thorazine drip. He's also bribed the nurse to administer a particularly heavy shot of demerol. Ironside was on the ward TV. His neighbor, in the next bed was having evil dreams and groaned in his sleep. Then suddenly, for no reason at all there was an intense white light at the foot of Blinky's bed. It was like a white firework that didn't die away, and pulsed and curled inside itself with brightness. A majestic voice came from the light. "Blinky," it said, "you're wasting the life God gave you by staying in this place." The voice sounded like a judge on a TV show. The bars of aluminum on the window shone like lightning. Then the white light died away.

Blinky thought he'd check in the mirror over the sink to see if he had changed. He had. His face was green and glowing. He ripped the IV out of his arm and walked out of the sanatorium in his pajamas. He stole a suit of clothes, got on a train, and went as far from Louisiana as he had the money for. Tacoma, Washington. While institutionalized he had received his CPA degree from a legitimate correspondence school. He was prepared to earn a living. However, staying properly medicated was a problem on the outside. He knew what he needed, because he'd asked the doctors at Louisiana State what they were using to keep him level. He began buying his medicine on the street. Thorazine, Elavil, and enough Butalbital to put anyone else into a coma. All problematic for the drug dealers who just wanted to sell him some dope. Once Mr. B. hired him, he needed to get his dosage without endangering his new postition, or compromising the delicate operations of Valley Indemnity.

That's where Dr. Toby comes in. Dr. Toby isn't actually a doctor, but an ex-con who got his diploma from the San Francisco School of Applied Science for $65.00. This still left him lacking a prescription pad and a DEA number but he took some chances and delivered. He treated Blinky by administering massive quantities of chloral hydrate, a tranquilizer he'd stolen from Dr. Diomedes Vrugoff's office before he quit. Vrugoff was a veterinarian. Toby had worked there, holding down the animals.

Blinky soon discovered Dr. Toby's skill at calming his sensitive nerves. For Dr. Toby, it was a pleasure. He loved watching drugs hit other people. He himself stayed sober, a fine quality in a medical man. The tragedy of their love affair is that Blinky is impotent, but Dr. Toby says he'll cure that too.

CHAPTER II

LAY BACK DOWN AND LET'S TALK IT OVER

Blinky's medicine sat on a low table by his bedside, the bottle now half empty. A frothy yellow scum had congealed on the surface of the remaining curative, and the room smelled like a polluted pond. It was a low room up under the roof of the Venetian Gardens, with a crazily slanted ceiling. It was the cell of a monk with peculiar tastes. One wall was covered by a large collage of naked photos of men and women engaged in various phases of sexual activity, neatly cut out of porno magazines. Blinky had twined them all together in a vast vision of kodachrome clusterfuck. Apart from this mural and a pile of self help accounting books and old national geographics, there was only the bed. It was a narrow single cot against the wall, and at the moment it was covered by a huge purple mound, the body of Blinky lying completely under a violet coverlet. Dr. Toby's medicine had made him sweat, grow dizzy, have chills and palpitations, and wired him to the wall. It had not given him an erection. Dr. T. reminded Blinky that Rome was not built in a day. "Blinky, this medical brew is gonna stir your blood. It's got the mating organs of a Nubian lion, ground to a fine dust that's gonna seep into your cells and roar. It's got yohimbine, peach pit juice, and Brut cologne. It's got the Portuguese fly. But you gotta have patience, and you gotta have confidence in your physician. Doubt insults me." Blinky's reply was a muffled rumble, half smothered by the huge coverlet over his head. "You're a lying, incompetent basketcase. Your acne is getting worse. However, you're the best I got at the moment, and you live in." Blinky suddenly sat up in bed. He was still sweating. His face had a slick sheen in the yellow light. He said, "It was stupid to demand immediate payment. Something's gonna go down." Toby considered a moment. "Then we need a new temporary residence," Blinky said. "We can sleep in the car." He paused to cough. "Sam is still a problem. I thought once he took off with the collection division, the boss would forget him. Sadly, the reverse is true. They dream of his return." "They probably been fucking out there on the collection tour, in Idaho or Kansas someplace" said Dr. Toby. His voice came through his nose, slow and dead. It had to filter through a black beauty and two little heart shaped bombers he'd forgotten the name of before it hit the air.

"I suspect as much," Blinky replied, tucking his covers up around him. He looked up through the dirty skylight at the night sky. "But she's still young and stupid. My idea that she would learn to love me was premature. Dammit, I could run this business like a business. Not like a goddamn candy store. Now this kid shows up, and he's got everyone licking up his hindparts and squealing it's so fine."

Blinky looked down at Doctor Toby, who was now seated across the foot of the bed, leaning against the wall. He had fallen asleep, and his head drooped to one side. A brown crust of some kind edged his lips. He snored lightly, a perceptible rumble through one nostril.

Poor Doctor Toby. He was once the assistant manager of an apartment building in Carson City, Nevada. He took out the trash. He watered the pathetic shrubbery. He knew that the doctors in the hospital over in Reno were fools. He studied medicine, in his own way. He was curing himself. In the evening he took his medications and dreamed.

He's got a long history of sexual perversion, neuro-syphilis, and mental illness. He's addicted to barbiturates, mescaline, and Camel Lights. As the days go by, and each golden afternoon fades into evening, our Dr. Toby becomes further and further removed from reality. Occasionally he suffers severe bouts of paranoia, convinced that the sons-of-bitches are not only out to get him, but that they're right outside with steel nets. Also his health ain't the best. He's got arthritis, duodenal ulcer, and bronchitis. They're all chronic and getting worse.

Now he has hopes. Prospects. Blinky thought he was sleeping. Ah, Dr. Toby was only pretending to doze. Silently, he had slipped his hands under the covers, and now gently rubs the soles of Blinky's feet.

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