Acid House Table of Contents

Any comments or questions about this site, please contact Bob Zolnerzak at








"I wasn't innocent for very long, I can tell you," said Fran.
"Don't sound so depressed about it, I'm sure it was fun," chided Ken.
"It wasn't to start with," she said, "but there's only so much you can do, and then it gets to be something of a bore." She waggled a finger at Ken's laughing face, "I'm being serious. I had lessons with my tutor that I had to keep up, because I had to get that High School diploma. Then there were the parts to memorize, the auditions, the dance lessons, the fittings, it's a wonder I had time to have sex at all." Then she relaxed and an easier look came across her face.
"Sometimes it was fun, like the first time I met Todd. It was at some enormous party that I found boring, so I was spending all my time in the pool. Todd hadn't brought anything to swim in, and it turns out he'd wanted to talk with me all evening, but he couldn't GET to me. Finally he hunkered right down on the edge of the pool and waited until I floated past, and then he reached down and splashed some water over me. I can tell you I was tempted to splash him back, but there was something so nice about his face that I didn't."
"What did he say?" asked Ken.
"I really don't remember to be honest. But I recall that it wasn't the typical line of bull I usually get 'Aren't you young to be out by yourself,' and things like that. He treated me like an adult, and that was what was so flattering about him. He somehow got me out of the pool," Fran was laughing as she talked, "and into the house, and he wrapped this towel around, but with my arms inside. When I opened my mouth to say something, he just kissed me. At first I tried to get away, but he just felt so good, and I'd been cold from all the time in that stupid pool, and the next thing I know, my bathing suit was coming off, and HIS suit was coming off, and there we were. He's really a beauty. You'd like him --- I mean --- "She was embarrassed that Ken would take offense.
"I know what you mean. I'm capable of liking guys who happen to be perfectly straight. Some of my best friends are straight." Ken laughed without bitterness.
"I guess that's right. There were some girls in the gang who were making it with each other. Everyone sort of knew about it, but no one said anything, and I never even thought to feel uncomfortable about it. Since they weren't going to bed with me, or making passes at me, I didn't think about it."
"Perfectly normal way to react. Who else was in the gang?"
"Oh, all kinds of people. Married couples mostly, but it didn't make any difference that they were married. In fact, there were a lot of jokes going around about how surprising it would be to wake up one morning and find it was your HUSBAND you'd be sleeping with."
"Is it really all that wild?"
"Not all the time, and certainly not with everyone, but we had a pretty swinging gang. You know, likes tend to like, or whatever it is. If there was someone who wanted to join us, but we figured they'd talk to the wrong people about what was going on, we wouldn't let them in."
"Who were the wrong people?"
"Oh, you know, there are always creeps hanging around trying to get some dirt on someone. We weren't all that famous, but we all dreamed about the day we WOULD be famous, and we didn't want some Suzie Nobody to come up to us someday and say 'I remember when you were balling Jack BigFellow', and now that he's made the big-time, how was it to go to bed with him. Creepy things like that."
"Was it just bed-hopping?"
"Of course not, don't be silly. We loved to go to the beach and get stoned, and there were some who had farms we could go to. Did you know that I'm pretty good at milking cows?" Ken laughed and shook his head in disbelief. "I am. I wouldn't want to do it for a living, but Todd taught me how to hold those things, and it turned out I had real strong fingers, and could do real well for myself. Todd like to joke about his little swinging milkmaid."
"Did Todd do so much stepping out?"
"No, that was the funny part. I loved him, but I didn't figure there was anything wrong having fun with someone else, but he was real up-tight about it. He said he didn't step out on me, and I believed him. Anyway, with all the creeps around, and Todd having a reputation for being a straight-shooter --- with me only, I mean --- I think I would have heard about it if he did. But I just couldn't understand why he was so up-tight about it. Maybe he REALLY loved me, I don't know."
"Didn't you REALLY love him?"
"Gosh, Ken, I don't know now. I'm not around him, and I don't really miss him. I guess if I loved him, I'd miss him. I don't miss Jeff, either. Jeff was my first husband --- "
"FIRST husband?" Ken expected almost anything, but this was still a shock.
"Yes, didn't I tell you I'd been married twice?"
"HOW old are you?"
"I told you that, I know I did. I'm twenty."
"And you've had two husbands?"
"I didn't think YOU'D be up-tight about it!"
"I'm not up-tight about it; just surprised, that's all."
"What ELSE do you think being up-tight means?"
"I'm sorry --- Really I am, Fran, but you're just twenty."
"Look, I may look innocent, but I've been laying around since I was fifteen. How do you think I got all those parts in those plays? I may have talent, but I takes connections to get places too. Now, don't get me wrong. It's perfectly possible for young girls to break into business and keep their virginity, it's just that that's not the way I did it."
"I guess even though I talk promiscuous, I'm not really that promiscuous," said Ken, trying to get back into Fran's good graces.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Ken, I didn't mean to let off steam at you, but every so often even I get tired of hearing people being surprised that I've had two husbands. I thought you'd be different." The air was still tense.
"Remember," said Ken, flicking a wrist and simpering, "I AM different."
With the peals of laughter, the air was no longer tense.
"How long did the first marriage last?" asked Ken, when they'd stopped gasping for air.
"That depends on when you want to say it started. We started going to bed together the first day we met --- he was the first guy I went to bed with more than once or twice. Finally I ended up spending more time WITH him than I spent without him, and Mom finally got angry --- "
"So your mother knew about all this," said Ken, deliberately calm.
"She didn't know about the first few, but she's pretty much a swinger, and when she started talking about some guy that was hanging around, she sort of hinted it might be nice if I went to bed with him. Maybe she was afraid I wouldn't be normal if I hadn't been attracted to him, and so I told her that I'd made it with him, and that he hadn't been the first one. We laughed about how easy my first time was; we finally decided I'd been around studs so much --- real horses, I mean --- that I was so accustomed to riding that fucking wasn't much different."
"Yeah, your mother does sound like a swinger, too," said Ken, sure that amazement about her mother wouldn't be considered up-tight.
"She started even before I did --- I think she was thirteen, but she might be exaggerating for her darling daughter. Then she met my Father, while she was married to someone else, and that marriage lasted for twenty years, until I was fifteen, and then finally she just left him and started living with my Father. She never married him, though, because she said she didn't want to be unfaithful to him. She knew she'd never stop laying around --- at least not until she was so old that no one would HAVE her --- and she didn't want to be under any kind of a contract with my Father at all. It was a sort of faithfulness, I guess."
"It may be that she loved him more than she'd care to admit," said Ken, as more of a question than a statement.
"I think Mom usually went the other way about her ideas of love: she'd think she was in love with five or six guys at the same time, and she'd really act it. I guess that's where I get my talent for acting. So she wouldn't be the one to love someone MORE than she thought. But to get back to me --- we were talking about me, remember?" Her eyes blazed in mock anger. "When she found out I was balling this guy regularly, she kept talking about marriage and how nice and secure it was, and how people treated you differently after you were married, and how nice the shower and honeymoon would be --- all that, so I asked him to marry me, and he did."
"How old was he?"
"Oh, forty, I guess, maybe forty-five." She said it so casually that Ken had time to assimilate it and mask his new up-tightness.
"Don't you think that was a bit old?" He asked the question calmly.
"Oh, no," she replied equally calm, "I don't think age makes very much of a difference. Like Dr. MacKenzie really turns me on, and he must be in his fifties. That was one of the great things about my trip. I got the idea from it that it wasn't just me thinking that, but, you know, that's the way it IS, that it really doesn't make any difference how old you are, it's how you act and what you think that makes all the difference."
Ken began to laugh, and came out of it only to answer the puzzled look on Fran's face. "Did anyone ever compare you to Candy?"
"Oh, that terrible book! How could you say that? I'm nothing like she was. Didn't you say yourself that I was definitely NOT the dumb-blonde type? You're not being very nice!" She seemed actually disturbed by the slam.
"She didn't care WHO she went to bed with, so long as they "needed" her. Old, young, deformed, just so they needed her."
"Well, that's NOT the way I am. Dr. MacKenzie certainly doesn't "need" me, but I sure would like to shack up with him somewhere. It's because he's such a great guy. And I'm not attracted to anyone just because they're deformed. Jean turns me right off. It has nothing to do with whether they NEED me, it's whether I like them or not. But why are we talking about that? Things are different now. I'm looking for the ONE person to be with, because living with someone is more than having sex with them, and you know it. And Candy ended up in bed with her own father, didn't she? You'd never see ME doing anything like that."
"OK, I was only joking. You'd have ACTED a good Candy, though." Ken hoped to distract her attention from his faux pas.
"Sure, just as I would have acted a good Natasha, too, or a good Seagull, or a good youngest sister in "Three Sisters." She shook her hair away from her ears, holding it higher so that Ken could see her grandeur.
"Did you ever make it with girls at all?" Ken couldn't resist.
Her face squinched into a look of disgust. "Yeah, I tried it once, but I didn't like it. There was nothing to play with."
"I know exactly what you mean," said Ken, smiling.
"You ever made it with girls?" Her expression and voice had changed. She was entirely serious now, not asking out of a spirit of fun.
"Yeah, a couple times, but I didn't get anything out of it. That was back when I figured there was no real reason why I shouldn't enjoy sex with anyone. The bodies are more the same than they're different, you know. And then I read 'Human Sexual Response' --- you read that?" She shook her head no, pulling one strand of hair away from her eyelashes. "It's a great book, and it looks at both sexes in the same way, and ends up saying that they're pretty much the same. Both increase breathing, both have increased muscle tone, both have a flush when they come, and even the pulsations from the cock are timed the same as the pulsations from the cunt when you come. So I thought, Why not?"
"Such a brave man," she simpered, then said, "No, I'm sorry, go on."
"I can't be very modest and say no girls ever tried to get me into bed, but most of the time I'd tell them I was gay, and that would be the end of that. Some of them, though, kept right on trying, and I guess they'd try to "cure" me or something, because they'd try to undress me, and they'd undress, and we'd get into bed. Usually, nothing would happen. I don't know why, they just wouldn't turn me on. Then one girl, her name was Alice, from work; she was really a beauty and a great sense of humor. Anyway, she tried it, and I began to get excited. At first we both started to laugh, and I lost it, but we got serious again, and I started playing with her nipples, and they got erect, and I got erect. When I first tried to get it in, I went down again --- I guess it just felt funny, so I used my hand until I was just about ready to come, then shoved it in, and there it was."
"That's hardly the same thing as going to bed with a girl. You could have done the same thing with a piece of raw liver." Fran was indignant.
Ken laughed, "But it would have to be a SEXY piece of raw liver, that's the point. Now if you want to say that SHE didn't get much of it, you might have a point, but I went to bed with a GIRL."
Fran huffed, "I still wouldn't call it that. What happened then?"
"Alice was transferred to another office, and there wasn't enough between us to hold us together, so we didn't see each other after that. Maybe I was feeling a little foolish about our scene; I might say that. Anyway, next came Phyllis. She was an older woman, married, and she just lived for sex --- any kind of sex, guys, gals, large dogs, anything. I did it a couple of times with her --- and I didn't have to use my hand," he raised his voice, shutting off her question, "but that wasn't too much fun, either. It was like coming into a wet paper bag. She was too big and floppy."
"Too many large dogs," said Fran with only a little sarcasm.
"Probably. Anyway, that was my last conquest, but then I decided that girls really weren't my scene, so I stopped. Not that I wouldn't do it again, I guess, if the occasion arose --- "
"And if YOU arose," added Fran quickly.
Ken ignored the comment. "I'd probably try it again. But I can't consider myself a candidate for marriage. I guess if I had my way, I'd be bisexual. I sort of envy people who are bisexual."
"Don't kid yourself, there aren't too many of them. At least, I haven't met many, and I've met a LOT of people. A girl once propositioned me, and she tried to come on like a real cock-teaser, but I found out she was strictly a cunt-lapper, and that turned me off, but good. And not too many of the guys I went with would even THINK of going with a guy."
"Maybe they wouldn't tell YOU about it," said Ken.
"Maybe not," admitted Fran, "but we'd get into long conversations about who we did it with, and what we liked, and whether guys or gals are better cock-suckers, but usually they said gals were better than guys."
"They're wrong," said Ken loudly, "but it says that they felt GUILTY about making it with guys, not that they didn't make it with guys. My gosh, the first time anyone did ME I felt guilty about it. You know, that old, "Hey, I'm gonna come, you mean you're gonna STAY there?" feeling? It's like anything, you have to get used to it."
"Not true," insisted Fran, "I really don't think I could get used to balling girls. What do you DO?"
"I don't know what you do, but I'm sure the GALS know what you do, and I'll bet that if you gave one, say, a week's chance, and you could manage to get over your old cruddy society-inspired feelings of "this ain't right" or "ugh, this is disgusting," you'd find that it wouldn't be half bad. In fact, it would quickly turn into a ball, all by itself."
"You're speaking very theoretically, aren't you?" Fran said, scornfully.
"Maybe I am, but I have every faith in the adaptability of the human body. Look at all these gimmicks they have on the market today: artificial cocks, artificial cunts, vibrators, massagers, ejaculatory water picks, suck-machines, vacuum-cleaner attachments, CARROTS --- people can get used to anything."
"Ken, is it so hard for you to be serious," said Fran, trying not to laugh, and only partially succeeding.
"No, I DO tend to get carried away. But look, put two people on a desert island --- ANY two people, and they'll fall in love. I don't care if one of them is the most beautiful person in the world, and the other one stinks to high heaven, has cross eyes, a social disease, B.O. and horrible teeth --- not to mention weighing 578 pounds --- with a wooden leg --- and no left tit!" They were both laughing. "Put them on an island, with no one around to say 'ugh, isn't she ugly' or 'how can you two have sex?' and the two of them can have sex."
Fran shook, almost crying. "Look, I just don't BELIEVE you."
"Wait a minute, I'm not giving MY idea, I'm giving YOUR idea."
"What?" She stopped laughing suddenly, a tear rolling down her cheek.
"YOU were the one who said your LSD trip told you it didn't matter who the other person was. YOU were the one who said you could go to bed with Dr. MacKenzie. Personally, he turns ME off. YOU were the one who said the LSD verified that you could go to bed with whoever you found attractive. All I'm saying is that, spend three years alone with someone, I don't care who the someone is, and you'll begin to find THEM attractive."
"Like I say, it makes a good theory, but I'm sorry, I don't believe it, Ken. I'm not THAT desperate that I HAVE to go to bed with someone. I've been pretty good here, for that matter. Dr. MacKenzie thinks it's a good idea that I start tapering off sex, and I agree with him, too."
"Two points," stuttered Ken, eager to talk. "First, but this is just a joke I can't resist: maybe Dr. MacKenzie is TRYING to get you in bed with him, and THAT'S why he said you should taper off, so in a few weeks you'll BE so desperate you WILL go to bed with him," He brushed away her angry open mouth, and some words which didn't register with him. "You want to already, so he succeeded."
"It has nothing to do with --- " Fran was protesting loudly.
"Second," shouted Ken, drowning her out. "Second --- oh, Hell, I forgot what my second point was."
"Just because YOU'D be desperate to go to bed with someone after being away from it for a week or so --- "
"THAT'S my second point --- you keep talking about desperation --- "
"YOU keep talking about desperation --- "
"No matter, " said Ken vehemently, "sex usually doesn't have anything to do with desperation, it has to do with love." The last word was a culminating point, and Fran, perforce, stopped protesting and began to listen. "You, ideally, go to bed with someone because you LOVE them, not because you've got hot pants and you want to get your rocks off --- if that's what women call it, I don't know. So you wouldn't go to bed with this ugly creature on this island because you'd be desperate, you'd go because, BEING the only other living thing, it would be the only person you could fall in LOVE with."
"Who says you'd fall in love at all?" Fran was commanding.
"I SAY you'd fall in love eventually, unless you were dead to start with." He waited for a response, but Fran had none at the moment. "GOT you, haven't I?"
"Yes!! That's the one of the central points in this business of Transcendental Meditation, that --- "
"What's that?" Fran was querulous, as if he were shifting the basis for the argument.
"Transcendental Meditation is the bit the Maharishi was over here teaching a couple of years ago. The thing that the Beatles and Mia Farrow and everyone got involved with?"
"Oh, yeah."
"The main idea of THAT is that the mind tends toward the good, the better, and the best. They give a great example. Say I start singing a tune. Even though I have a lousy voice, you'll listen to the tune rather than listen to the street noises." Ken laughed at the vigorous shaking of Fran's head. "Well, maybe you wouldn't, but I'll continue the idea. Then if someone came in with a radio, and it was playing something that you like better, you wouldn't even have to THINK about shutting out my voice and listening to the radio, you'd just automatically DO it, WITHOUT thinking. It would just happen. Then, let's say Jean brought a fantastic hi-fi set he just bought, and it was playing Beethoven's Ninth. You'd AUTOMATICALLY tune out the radio, AUTOMATICALLY listen to the symphony. You wouldn't have to think about it, you'd just do it. Like a reflex. Transcendental Meditation says that this reflex is built into the mind, and it always works."
"Hey, that's pretty good. The same thing happens with me with guys. If I'm with a guy I dig, it's fine, but if another guy comes along, and I dig him better, I drop the first one and go to the second. That's right!" Her face lit up with delight at the idea.
"OK, we agree. Now, the best place for the person to be is in LOVE, RIGHT?" Fran didn't say anything, but stared at Ken. "So these two people on this desert island, doing what comes naturally, are going to fall in LOVE," he concluded triumphantly.
Fran was silent, and Ken almost said he smelled wood burning as he watched her struggle for a rebuttal. "IF --- " She lit up, "IF they were operating the way they were SUPPOSED to be operating. But you said yourself," she pointed, beginning to use Ken's techniques, "that this crazy society makes people have stupid, wrong ideas, and makes them act in stupid, wrong ways. So if you put people from THIS society on an island, and THIS SOCIETY's the only one we've got RIGHT?" she paused, parodying Ken's voice and movements, "Then I bet you DON'T get them acting normally. So they DON'T fall in love, because this stupid society --- this is YOUR argument now --- has so fucked them up that they CAN'T!"
It was Ken's turn to be silent. Fran straightened up with the look of a winner about herself. "Yeah, OK," he started slowly, "OK, that's right, but then you have to give a little more time, so that the effects of this society can wear off. There has to be more time so that the balance, which is way out of kilter in this society, I'll admit, can come back to level. Only then can it begin to fill the other pan." Fran frowned at the complexity of the metaphor, "and only after this time can people BEGIN to TEND to act normally."
"Begin to tend to," said Fran impatiently, "it sounds like you're saying something like "the sun will begin to tend to go out." That may be true, but for all practical purposes it will NEVER happen. If it takes these two people on the island 50 years to get rid of the bad habits of the old society, and another 50 years to build the good habits of a new society, you'll have a love affair between a hundred and twenty year old cat and a hundred and fifty year old chick. Big deal. They'll be dead first."
"Methinks you stretch out the time a bit too long," said Ken lamely. "I didn't say it would take fifty years for effects of this society to wear off, you did."
"But maybe the effects of this cruddy society --- and I must admit there's plenty about it that I don't like --- can never wear off. Did you ever think of that?"
"Then that would mean there could be no change," said Ken, with a trace of quiet despair. Then he left a little pause, and shouted: "But I don't BELIEVE that things won't change. There's ALWAYS been change, and there will always WILL BE CHANGE."
"OK," said Fran, slyly, "I'll agree with that," then she snapped, "but the change, as far as you're concerned, seems always to be downhill, away from some good. SO there WILL be change, but it'll never be the change you WANT."
Ken looked at Fran with the flecks of real anger in his eyes. Such a stupid cunt, he found himself thinking, to his amazement. Then the idea that he would have such an unpleasant thought about such a beautiful girl hit him, and for an instant he began to believe what she was saying: maybe progress WAS impossible. Maybe things WOULD get worse and worse, instead of better and better. But weren't things getting better here? "Things are changing here, aren't they? Aren't things getting BETTER here?" Ken asked the question almost pleadingly.
Fran sensed that some part of Ken had been touched; she thought she could even detect a trace of fear in his voice as he asked the question. For the first time in days, she felt a warm feeling inside her for someone, for Ken, and she wanted to protect him, to comfort him, to tell him that he was right. "Maybe they are getting better here," she said softly, her eyes gentle. "Maybe they are. Yes, certainly for some people they are." But she couldn't let it go at this, she had to go on. "But this is such a little place, and there are so many people who need help." As she said this, she knew she was one of the people who needed help, desperately needed help, because she was no longer able to do what she wanted for herself.
"Yes, it's a little place." Ken's voice sounded stronger, as if only her small bit of pity had resuscitated his spirits, "but everything has to start in little places. Everything has to start from one person, from Dr. MacKenzie, for this place." Ken seemed to forget that he was accusing him of trying to seduce Fran only a few moments before. "But someone has to start something, somewhere, and somewhere else, seeing the start, will start something on their own, and that will snowball until --- until the whole world's turned on." It was too easy, he knew it was too easy, but it was the way he felt.
"But if somethings take time, and such a lot of time," Fran's voice was still gentle, but she couldn't restrain herself from trying to make Ken see the truth as she saw it, "while at the same time I think even you'll admit that other people are getting worse, not better. And they're getting worse faster than those who are getting better are getting better --- follow?"
Ken smiled wearily at what Fran was saying, "Yes, I follow."
"Well, if the people are getting worse faster than the people are getting better, won't the whole thing just" she tried to soften the blow "sort of tend to go downhill?"
"No," Ken still fought, "because there can hardly BE more people who are going downhill. That's reached the maximum, and I think people are beginning, some few of them, to go uphill. So the uphill-goers can only grow in number, while the downhill goers can only decrease in number."
"While the population is getting larger. If the world doubles in population in the next forty or so years, and if five thousand, or even five million people start going uphill, the others will all be going downhill, because that's the overwhelming trend. And," she piled Ossa on Pelion, "some of the people who might be going uphill today might start down tomorrow. What if there were a fire here, or what if the stupid government said that Dr. MacKenzie would be forbidden to use LSD? That could break him, Ken, and he might just quit. That would start him going downhill, wouldn't it?"
He began to see that she was on his side, personally, but she couldn't stop seeing the bad side of things, she couldn't stop fighting his arguments. "But for every MacKenzie that turns around and goes backward, three new people, like you and me and Lotte, stop going downhill and start the climb back up, that's a gain."
"Yes, for those people, but during the same days, five hundred thousand new people are born, and their parents have the wrong scoop, and they're all started on the downhill path."
"Well, come on, Dr. MacKenzie isn't the ONLY one going uphill, there's the Maharishi with his Transcendental Meditation, there's Krishnamurti and his followers, there's even the chance, as Jean Dixon prophesizes, that there will be an new religion that will convert millions; there're the hippies, some of them, who know where it's at, and they form communes."
"I know, and then there are the conservative students whom the hippies turn off, and they determine to be more conservative to offset the hippies. There are the Catholics and Protestants who see their flocks being whittled away by meditators and scientists and atheists, and they harden their noses and shout at people to get back into the flock, and because of the shouting, more people leave the flock, and things get worse, not better. The reaction to these "good" movements almost kills them. Look at the reaction to the LSD users. Now there are government laws against the use of LSD. If you use it when you're not supposed to, you're tossed in jail. That's great progress."
Ken sat silently, eyes wide and searching for an argument, a rebuttal. He felt like shouting out, "You've got to take it as it comes," but he knew that didn't say anything. Of course, it's a fact of nature that everything must be taken as it comes. One doesn't shut off the tornado, dry up the monsoon, stop floods barehanded. Everyone always has to take it as it comes. Then what could he say?
"But Dr. MacKenzie's happy NOW, because he IS going uphill. That's the most important, thing, to him, in the world. Dr. Alison, my shrink, told me the same sort of thing when I told him I wanted to write music. "Bach wanted to write music, too, but he wrote it because he HAD to write it, not because he passively wanted to write it, or thought it would be better if he wrote it, or figured it would give him money, or fame, or security, or the love of his fellow man. He HAD to write." It's the same with Dr. MacKenzie, he HAS to do what he's doing with LSD. If the government clamps down on him, he'll find something else to do."
"Like digging ditches, or washing cars, or analyzing people he doesn't care for?" asked Fran, wishing somehow the conversation were finished.
"No, but it's like this. I wish I could fly --- you know, with wings, and all. Wouldn't it be lovely? I'd really love it if I could fly." Ken allowed his voice to get dreamy, his face soft, then he hardened and struck, "But I CAN'T fly, and no matter how much I WANT to, I'll never be able to. So I have to do as well as I can in things that I CAN do. It would be the same with Dr. MacKenzie. He might love to treat people with LSD, but if he CAN'T, if they KILL him --- notice I say if they kill him, I won't say what he might do in OPPOSITION to the government he might not support in one way or another --- then he simply can't DO it. Like I could TRY to fly if I took enough risks, but I think breaking a couple of legs isn't worth the PRICE of flying. Dr. MacKenzie could TRY to give LSD on the side, but if the sentence would be twenty years in jail, it might not be worth the risk. So if he CAN'T do what he really wants to do, no matter HOW much he may want to, he'll only be living in this real world if he chooses something ELSE to set his heart on, and do THAT as well as he possibly can."
"Until the government clamps down on that?" asked Fran gently.
"Yes, and then he goes on to something else, because he keeps wanting to go uphill!" Ken's voice was strong, but he was not shouting. "One day, maybe, after the tenth blow, or the fifteenth, he may just give up, but that's HIS problem."
"I thought," Fran said softly, "you might say it was the world's problem."
"It might be a problem for those in the world who might start uphill if they had the example of someone to show them how to do it. But maybe these people who aren't strong enough to do it on their own don't deserve the fruits of GETTING to the top of the hill."
Fran smiled. "Long ago, I read a book called "Atlas Shrugged". You sound like one of the characters in that book."
"I didn't mind what the characters DID in the book, or what they thought," said Ken sadly, "I remember I didn't like the book because it was all too neat in the end. Every tall handsome, firm-jawed guy got some beautiful, tall, strong-hearted gal to live happily ever after with. It was a bit too pat, a bit too romantic. While I have to get along with what was given me," and he waved disparagingly down at his thin body and rumpled trousers.
Fran was tempted, but resisted, to say some words of praise for Ken, but they were in the middle of a discussion, and that was no place for personal comments. "Those people tend to feel rather lonely, unless they can find someone that they consider to be as strong as they are," she said.
"Yeah, that is a problem," said Ken, wishing there wasn't a sudden lump in his throat, wishing that his eyes hadn't clouded over, so that he looked down at his clenched fists. "People who want to change the world are usually very lovely people." He swallowed, blinked so that the moisture on his eyelids would evaporate more quickly. "Christ was lonely --- at the end he even thought his father had deserted him. I'm sure Buddha was lonely, sitting there for forty years, or however long he sat under his stupid Boh tree. Gibran sounds lonely, too, in some of his passages in 'The Prophet.'"
Fran said, "Ordinary people can be lonely, too," but Ken didn't hear.
"But that's part of the price for going uphill." He laughed, clearing his throat under the cover of the sound, "you pass all these people going down, and there aren't very many going the same way. Or else they're going too fast for you, or too slow for you." His voice trailed off.
Silence. Fran sat in her chair, not moving. Ken looked down at the floor until his eyes cleared, then raised his head, "Wow, how did we get off onto that? What time IS it?" He looked at his watch, blinked, and put his hand down at his side without even recognizing what hour it was.
"Um, yeah, we did go on," said Fran, stretching in her chair, feeling it best to end the subject. She was tired of sitting, she decided, and rose to her feet just to walk around a bit. Once she was on her feet, she didn't know where to go. Ken took it as a sign of dismissal, and also got out of his chair.
"I guess I'd better go," he said, and Fran stared at him, not knowing why he would want to leave at this point. Then she decided he was tired of talking to her, and had something he would rather do in his own room. Suddenly she felt guilty for keeping him so long.
"OK," she smiled, too quickly, "see you at dinner-time, OK?"
Ken was taken aback by her terse goodbye, and figured he had taken too much of her time, and quickly made his way to the door, so as not to take more of it. "Ok," he said, "at dinner-time" and he was gone.
Rather reasonably, at least that's what she tried to tell herself, the room seemed empty after Ken left, but she shrugged off the feeling and arranged the bottles on her dresser. What on earth would she do until dinnertime? A small movement in the mirror turned her back toward the door, and there was Homer Katz, looking at her, saying nothing.
"Hello, Homer," she called, trying to be bright. He looked quickly away and ran his hand up and down the doorsill, examining it as he might look at a rare antique. He was only passing by, just looking at the doorsill, he seemed to be saying.
Unbidden, some of Ken's words replayed themselves in her ears: If two people were alone on a desert island, they'd eventually fall in love with each other. With growing horror in the bottom of her stomach, Fran stared at Homer Katz in the doorway, his bumpy profile falling from a tousle of curly hair over a washboard forehead, a lumpy nose, bulbous lips half-open with his concentration, and vanishing chin. For a moment she couldn't breathe: imagine being on a desert island with THIS!
"I'm going to get dressed, Homer, I can't see you now," she said, her voice unsteady and strained. As he turned to leave, there was a flicker in his eyes, and she saw for a moment the human being that was Homer Katz, somewhere hidden in the body that was Homer Katz, and in that flash she knew that everyone, underneath, far down somewhere, was the same person, wanting the same things. Wanting --- what they never seemed to get. Homer removed himself from the doorway, and the room was, once again, Fran saw, empty.



"But the questions on that test are so stupid: Are your feet too big for your body? Do you hate yourself? Does food taste like grass?" Ken shook his head and laughed.
Jack slumped sourly on his bed and answered him. "Those are mainly directed toward seeing if you're schizo. That's one of the reasons why I had such trouble getting here," he said. I've been in and out of three hospitals, and my doctor has judged me a hopeless schizo."
"That's right," Ken said, "I read somewhere that they don't consider schizophrenics a good risk for LSD. I'm not sure I know why."
"I don't know either. Maybe they think that if one half of you gets control during the session, it might try to kill the other half, or something. Some pretty weird things happen. I know I'm afraid that sometime I'll go out --- "
Jack paused, a dark look covering his face, and he looked back at Ken, "and I'll never come back." It was said with such certainty that Ken could make no response. He had never felt these feeling before, and he didn't feel free to scoff at them as he was inclined to scoff at other feelings he hadn't felt.
"I tried to take LSD down on the coast," Jack wen on, "but my friends wouldn't give me any, or sit with me when I did get some. I at least knew enough that I had to have someone with me, and so I never took it alone. Oh, I smoked pot a lot, but that doesn't disconnect you as much as LSD does, from what I've heard. I'm hoping Dr. MacKenzie gives me the chance to take it here, though. Of all the hospitals I've seen, this is the one I like the most."
Ken studied the square, unshaved face in front of him. The pig-like nose had hairs in its dark insides, and he could see angry red blotches of erupting pimples around his collar and eyebrows. His tight blue jeans were folded into ornate cowboy boots that also added a couple of inches to his dumpy height. Ken didn't like the way his thin mouth was set into a line from cheek to cheek. He was cheerless, and he was surprised to hear even vestiges of hope come from that grim mouth. If only he'd wash his hair more often, he thought, not looking at the greasy black strands which ended at his eyebrows: probably that's what causes the pimples.

"Oh, he's out already? Let's go talk to him."
Ken and Fran walked quickly to the little bedroom and there was Jack, lying as always on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. "How'd it go?" asked Fran cheerily, bouncing into the room, hoping to bring cheer with her own boisterous entrance.
"Not very well," said Jack, sitting gloomily. "It was a bad trip. It didn't go very well." He seemed to have nowhere to progress in his talk and sank his head into his hands, shaking it back and forth. It was impossible to say whether he was shaking his head and moving his hands along with it, or moving his hands to rock his head.
"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Fran gently, reaching out to touch his thick shoulder.
"It really doesn't make any difference," said Jack, still moving his head back and forth. The action became more violent until he was literally tossing his head from one hand to the other, battering it.
"Oh, stop that, Jack," said Fran, her face more contorted than even her voice was, and she shook him on the shoulder out of step with his head's motion.
"It was a bad scene right from the beginning," Jack said, bringing his rubbed-red face and bloodshot eyes out of his cup of hands. "At first I didn't think I'd had any LSD at all, and I started hollering at them for having cheated me, saying they were afraid to give any LSD to anyone who was a schizo, saying they were trying to wring money from me, but had given me only a glass of water to drink." He stopped, and looked haggardly from Fran to Ken and back.
"Then what happened," said Ken, after a long-enough pause.
"Then it hit me all at once, BAM, just like a fist, and I was flat on my back on the sofa, and it was a pitch black in the room, but I could hear voices, so I knew people were still there, but I couldn't see them, and so I couldn't trust them. It was like I was in a big dark room, and there were just shadows moving in and out of the room, moving without making any sound. The room was big, and I was in the middle of the room, and I kept turning around, turning around, because I was afraid somebody might creep up behind me."
"What would they DO to you?" asked Fran, with a helpless shrug of her shoulders.
"They'd --- I don't know, but I was afraid of them; they wanted to hurt me, to catch me, to get me, and I darn well wasn't going to let them do it!" Jack's voice rose belligerently, and his lower lip hung out like a pug's face telling about the fight he'd fought against insurmountable odds, but by golly, he'd done his BEST. "They were out to get me, and they weren't GOING to get me."
"Who were they," asked Ken, drawing Jack's fixed attention off the wall across from his bed.
"They --- they --- they weren't going to get me," and Jack swiveled from the waist to face Ken, gripping the air with his hands in defiance. Fran looked nervously at Ken, then asked her own question.
"What happened then, Jack," and she put her hand again on his shoulder, which drew him away from Ken, and his shoulder relaxed from the crouching position he had unconsciously assumed.
"Then --- then it got dark again, and I moved backward, looking all around to make sure they couldn't get me," Jack aped his description, hands outspread on crooked arms, head lowered in fear and suspicion, looking back and forth with his baleful reddened eyes, unseeing in the room both now and in his narrative. He rocked on the bed, seeming almost to be taken up by his description of his trip.
"I backed up into a corner, where it was dark, and because it was so dark, I could see the shapes of the others as they came closer to me," Jack went on, and by this time his chin had lowered completely to his chest, and his eyes looked up with a glare from a head which faced toward the floor, as if he were keeping his throat from being slit. Except for his voice, there wasn't another sound in the room as Ken and Fran sat stupefied.
"I was safe in the corner, and when people came by I would --- lash out at them," and his arms struck out awkwardly, as if his elbows were attached to the ceiling by ropes. "I became black myself, sitting in the corner," his voice got lower and lower, his head sunk even further into his chest, "until I was just a black spider, lashing out at whoever came near me."
Ken and Fran didn't look at each other, but became grateful that they weren't alone in the room with Jack while he told his story. "Somehow they got my Mother," he growled, head lowered and bobbing back and forth like a boxer in his crouch, "and told her what to say to me, but I fooled them, I just reached out and killed her with my claw," and he glared through eyes that looked sore at his right hand dangling from the end of his arm. His voice suddenly got louder, "Then they brought in my Father, and HE tried to talk to me," the voice dropped into an ominous gutteral, "but I wouldn't let him."
A child walking home from school shouted across to a friend on the other side of the street outside, but the sound was soured and seemed as bitter and blasting as the croaks of the crows, calling from the trees. Though the day was still bright, there was a darkness in the room that more than the eyes could sense. Jack flung his pall over all three, sitting in the sun-bright room, and it became like night.
"They tried to get close to me, but I was just that black spider, there in my corner, and I'd KILL anyone who came near me." The venom in his voice almost led Fran to think she would see spittle curling terrifyingly from his mouth at any moment. "They couldn't get close to me. It was so dark I couldn't see anything anymore, so I just kept lashing out, lashing out --- " the arms swung in and out like an over-fed puppet's, the black greasy hair rolled back and forth across the angry forehead --- "and they had to stay away."
"But then they were gone," he went on, after a long strained silence accented by his open-mouthed breathing, "and I sat there for a LONG time, just waiting, in the darkness. I didn't move, I just sat there. A black spider." The last word dropped from his mouth, heavy with disgust and illness. The room was still, and sounds from outside weren't received by those who sat inside, waiting for the story to continue.
"I must have fallen asleep," he said, more matter-of-factly, "because when I came to again, it was light, and I was in the LSD room. Dr. MacKenzie was there, looking down at me, and I asked him what happened. I really didn't remember at that time. He looked at me for a long time, and then he said I hadn't done very well. When I asked him what happened, though, he wouldn't tell me, he just said that I should try to remember for myself. Then he let me alone with Russ for awhile, and I began to remember what happened, and I felt just awful. But it was over, and there was nothing I could do."
"How terrible for you," said Fran, gingerly putting out a small hand onto the bull-neck. Jack's head went back down into his hands, but he took care so that his hands didn't touch hers, which rested, tangled in the black hair at the back of his neck. The tableau stayed for a long while.
"I was sorry it happened that way, but I couldn't do anything about it, not a thing," said Jack from his hands. "I don't know what's going to happen now."
"Maybe they'll let you have another one," said Fran, before Ken's look of surprise shut her mouth. Ken was about to add something that would be more hopeful, but Jack made the next statement.
"I asked Dr. MacKenzie about that, and he said he'd have to think about it." Ken was amazed that such a seemingly hopeless case would still have a chance for another trial. Both Jack and Dr. MacKenzie were obviously willing to take enormous chances. "I'm tired now, I'd like to sleep, I think," he said.
"Can we get you anything?" asked Fran, getting up quickly to leave.
"No, thanks," said Jack, already lying in his bed, and Ken and Fran left.


"Who IS that?" demanded Lotte, as a huge shadow passed the door for the third time that morning.
"I don't know," said Ken, "I sort of thought he worked back where the alcoholics are.
"WORK here. I don't even think he has the qualifications to be a PATIENT here," scoffed Lotte, rolling her eyes around in her head as if she had a seizure.
"Then I guess he's a patient," said Ken, not really wondering about it so much, anyway.
"He always seems to be around when Fran's around, but now that she's not here, he doesn't seem to know what to do." Lotte turned her little tear-filled eyes to Ken for verification.
"Let him wander, he's not bothering anyone."
"I remember the first time he talked to Fran --- "
"He's talked to her?"
"Not very much, but we were talking in her room, and he came by and stood in the front door for the longest time. Finally Fran asked what he wanted, and he said he'd like to come in to talk with us. Well," said Lotte, with her voice rising into incredulity, "he came in and sat on the bed and watched her and watched her and WATCHED her" with each repetition of the word, the 'a' sounded more and more like an 'o'. "He didn't say a word, just WOTCHED her."
"At least he didn't cause any trouble."
"No," again her voice was in the stratosphere, "but he was always --- THERE." Her taste for drama was not in the least abated by her stay in the hospital.
"He seems to be harmless; if he were slim and handsome, you'd probably be complaining that he wasn't around more," said Ken, with a smile.
"But he's fat, and he's stupid, and he's --- GROSS," said Lotte with a shudder, "and I wish he wouldn't hang around so much."

"Hi, Homer, come on in," said Fran, and he moved his mouth to say something but nothing came out. He sat watching Fran and Ken talk for about a half an hour, then he mumbled something about "having to go," and he went out.
"Whew," said Ken with wide-eyes, "I heard about him from Lotte, but I didn't think he was as bad as that."
"He just likes me," said Fran with an exasperated frown. "Ever since that first day I asked him into the room, he's been back two or three times a day, and just sits there and looks at me."
"Who IS he?" asked Ken, feeling that he was echoing a question of Lotte's.
"I asked Dr. Mackenzie about him. He's Homer Katz, brother of Reuben Katz --- "
"The writer," asked Ken, thinking of the slender figure of the best-seller list author, who capitalized on his Jewishness in writing stories for older married couples, just as Spillane had written stories for young bachelors. "He doesn't look like his brother at all."
"Dr. MacKenzie said his brother pays to keep him here," said Fran, lowering her head and her voice so that if Homer were just behind the door in the hallway, he could just barely hear, "he's just a little paranoid, but he keeps eating and drinking, and when he's in public, he just makes a fool of himself and anyone he's with, so they keep him out of the papers, staying here."
"Why is he paranoid?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's jealous of his brother's success. Homer was always the bright one in school, while Reuben was the trouble-maker. Homer was older and had to take care of Reuben, but now the roles are reversed, and Reuben has to take care of Homer." Fran shrugged her shoulders.
"If I were Homer, I'd make a stink about being kept here. With all the money they have, they could afford a better place." Ken regretted what he said when he saw the lower lip pout out on Fran's face.
"This is probably the best place FOR him. He can come and go as he wishes, and whenever he decides to act normally, he can get out of here."
"He seems normal enough to me. He's just a fat guy who can't get what he wants, and so he moons around looking at pretty girls. New York's full of guys like him who aren't penned into a hospital."
"He's not penned," said Fran as if she were talking to a six-year old. "If he's released, he takes to drink, and he's back here in just a few days. You haven't seen him act up. He's a bull when he's angry --- "
"Homer! A bull?"
"Don't laugh, he's a strong person under all that --- flab. Don't cross him, or you'll see what he can do when he wants to." For a moment Ken could get a small glimpse of the person inside Fran who wanted to be a therapist in the hospital. But ordinarily that person was covered by the simple-minded beauty, eager to please everyone, to look beautiful for anyone.
They talked cheerily to Rachel when she brought in their lunch trays, and made their caustic comments about the food. After lunch, a dark shadow again blocked out the doorway to the hall.
"Come in, Homer." Fran immediately turned back to talk with Ken, and the blank face atop the hairy mound of flesh, clad in pajamas and a robe, in sluffery slippers, moved silently into the room and sat on the far bed, never taking his large brown eyes off Fran.
"Where did you run off to, Homer, you haven't taken your pill yet." The male attendant stood almost tapping his foot in the doorway. When Homer vanished, it was common knowledge that he was either in the john or in Fran's room.
"I torble fill." The large lips moved with sounds that made no sense to Ken, but the attendant had a translating mechanism developed from practice.
"No, you DIDN'T take your pill, so you just walk back to your room and take it." The voice hardened slightly, but the face remained calm.
"I TORBLE FILL," said Homer indistinctly, not moving his head to even glance at the attendant, who entered the room in a business-like manner to usher his errant student out of the room. Ken and Fran stopped talking, watching the action.
"YOU LEEMIE LONE," shouted Homer, his nasality increasing as his anger rose. The attendant took his elbow and impatiently tugged him toward the door. With a motion startling in its suddenness, the elbow was wrenched from his grasp, Homer was on his feet, and had backed away from the attendant, facing him last. "YOU LEEMIE LONE," rumbled from the volcanic heap in pajamas and robe, and though the placid look remained on the attendant's face, Ken's face expanded with fear and amazement. In another second, Ken was sure, there would be a terrible blow, and the attendant would be bleeding on the rug.
"My, what's going on here?" Dr. MacKenzie's question was softly spoken, but though there was a smile on his face, his glittering black eyes seemed fixed in an angry rigidity. Fran looked instantly relieved at his appearance. The man was a wonder!
"Ecarol maimie NUTTIN!" Homer quivered as he stood, sweat washing down his greasy face. His mouth worked after his words, but no sounds came out.
After a few moments of the breathless silence, Dr. MacKenzie nodded to the attendant, who looked toward Homer again, and Homer, forgetting Fran, moved his lips at Dr. MacKenzie and slid past him out the door. Even before he rounded the corner to his room and his pill, Dr. MacKenzie was off to his further duties. Ken wondered what happened when Dr. MacKenzie wasn't around.
"Now I know what you meant about Homer's getting angry. I guess I wouldn't want to be around when he got mad at ME," said Ken, sighing to recover some of the oxygen he'd missed while he'd been holding his breath.
"And you can't really tell what's going to set him off, either," said Fran, still looking at the empty doorway. "He's really a problem."



"You're kidding," shouted Ken, a smile spreading across his face.
"No, I'm not kidding," said Jack, equally happy. "Dr. MacKenzie said he thought there was a chance to do me some good. I had to make an agreement with him, though, that I'd stay here for at least three months, and they'd give me a treatment every two weeks, unless something went against it. I'll have to stay here at the Hospital, and I can't go home for those three months, but after that, maybe I'll be better."
"That's a long time, three months," said Ken, doubtfully.
"It's better than the six months I spent in the Pen," Jack said loudly,
"and it'll sure be better than those pig-pens down in Seattle. At this point, I'll do whatever Dr. MacKenzie asks me to do. He's some Joe." Another convert to the host of MacKenzie worshippers. "So I'm going to write a letter to Janie, and tell her I can't see her for three months, but that after three months, we'll start on a new life. No more running away, no more changing jobs, no more nightmares. Oh, boy."
"You can't be sure it'll work," said Ken.
"If Dr. MacKenzie's handling it, it's BOUND to work."
"Well," said Ken, not wanting to caution further, "for your sake I hope it works out."
"It can't get no worse," said Jack with anger, "I don't want to be that goddam spider, sittin' in the corner lashin' out at anyone who comes near me for the rest of my LIFE."
"No, I know," said Ken.
"Aw, I didn't mean to get sore at you, but I GOTTA think that it'll work, otherwise there's no hope for me." Such words coming from the sturdy, thick-chested rowdy seemed incongruous, but Ken thought back to the growling voice that head described the spider lurking in the corner of the black room, killing anyone who came near, and left Jack with his hopes.
"Good luck, Jack," said Ken, making the effort to use his name.
"Thanks, a lot," Jack also made the effort to say what was expected, and turned back to shut his bedroom door behind him.


"Oh, we're there all the time to help you," said Jules, with a laugh toward Fran.
"My, yes," said Fran, almost taking a cue from Jules, "I wouldn't be here now if Jules hadn't seen me through."
"What happened," asked Ken.
"I don't remember much of anything, after I got sick," said Fran, but when I did wake up, and I thought I was awake, I knew I was Christ --- now don't laugh, Ken, it's not really funny. I knew I was Christ, and I had to bless everyone."
"So she got up off the sofa, in her robe," laughed Adam, face slightly addled with laughter, "and started walking around the room, with Jules right after her," and he suited the actions to his words: eyes closed, hands up and out like a somnambulist for Fran, a caricature of amused intent eagerness on his face for Jules, creeping behind her on tiptoe with hands like hooks ready to dig into her shoulders.
"She almost walked into the wall a couple of times," said Jules, "but maybe she could see where she was going, because she usually turned away just in time."
"No, I couldn't see where I was going," protested Fran, "but I didn't need to, because I was Christ, and I would walk right THROUGH those walls if I really wanted to." She was laughing so hard she couldn't hold her tray still, so she put it onto the table, and then stopped laughing.
Jules said, "I think she would have walked up the walls, if she'd taken it into her mind to do so, and she was saying something I couldn't make out."
"I was blessing you," Fran said, mock sarcastically," and you couldn't understand it because it was in LATIN," and here the whole room erupted with laughter.
"Well, it was," said Fran, laughing hardest of all, yet attempting to keep a stern look on her face. "After all, I WAS Jesus Christ."
"Jesus Christ!" wheezed Jules through mouths-full of laughter.


"Telephone call for you, Mr. Costrin," said the buck teeth outside the doorway.
"Ah, my rich uncle has died and left me five trillion dollars," said Ken, wanting to enliven Rachel's evening.
"Yeah, from the Royal York Hotel, yet." She vainly attempted to pull her upper lip over her horse-incisors and turned back down the stairs.
So it was Fred! Ken rattled down the stairs and took the phone at the nurse's desk, and heard Fred's laconic voice from the receiver. "I'm here, Bubby, and what do you want to do with me?" Nothing could change that voice, nothing could faze that top-of-the-situation assurance.
"I'll be down to see you in just a couple of minutes."
"You mean you can get out this late?" The voice somehow implied that it would have been ridiculous NOT to be allowed out at midnight, though it was stating the opposite.
"It I can't get out, I'll call you back."
"Room 705. They didn't have any penthouses available, so I couldn't spend any more of your money." Fred's assurance was unending.
"Thanks a lot to the Royal York Hotel," said Ken, added a few final words, and hung up. "I'm going out," he called across the desk to the night nurse.
She bustled around the counter rattling her keys, casting a suspicious look at her client. It was obvious that she didn't agree with the freedom afforded patients in the Hospital, but she didn't make the rules, merely enforced them. "What time will you be back?"
"About an hour. I have to get some sleep for tomorrow anyway." What a mistake! thought Ken, as soon as he had said it.
"What's happening tomorrow, are you having LSD tomorrow?" The rattling of the keys had stopped, and the round magnifying lenses contained her eyes, startling blue like sick poached eggs.
Ken debated lying for only a moment, then decided it would make the matter only that much worse. "Yes." He tried to make it as casual as possible.
The key was still frozen in her hand. "You're going out to drink, and you're not to have alcohol the evening before. You can't go." The matter was closed, her tone implied.
"I'm not going to have a drink. A friend of mine flew out from New York, and I'm just going to see him."
"I know what you're going to do, you're going to have a drink with him. You can't go out." She didn't move. May she was waiting to be beaten.
"Look, I'm the one who's paying for the LSD, and I know that alcohol makes a bad trip. Do you think I want a bad trip?"
"I think you want a drink." She became ugly in her obstinacy.
"I PROMISE that I won't take a drink. I'll only be gone for one hour."
The situation was getting ridiculous. He'd spend the entire evening talking to a vanilla pudding of a face, surmounted by two poached eggs under glass.
"How do I know you won't take a drink?" She wasn't accusing Ken of lying, she was merely asking an unanswerable question.
"Because I'm an intelligent person; and I'm not in the habit of doing stupid things. And drinking would be stupid." Ken tried this simple logic, and it seemed to work.
"You're sure you won't be taking a drink?" She moved an inch toward the door.
"I promise you," said Ken, moving slowly for fear of disturbing her delicately balanced trust.
"OK," she said, putting her key in the door, "but be sure to be back in one hour."
When Ken was out the door he didn't care if he didn't come back until 5AM. He wouldn't take a drink, and he would be exhausted from lack of sleep, the LSD would take instant effect, and he would be cured, whatever that meant, in an instant. Then the cool night air hit him, he decided not to go back for a heavier jacket for fear of encountering the pasty-faced ogre, and Ken walked quickly down the hill toward the hotel.
It was already past the closing time for all the shops along the way, including the little theatre. Only the billboard for the Royal York was lit, thought most of the windows were dark. But there were customers in the lobby, and he felt underdressed in his sweater and casual slacks, particularly when confronted with a tuxedoed gentleman and his elegantly dressed companion waiting for the glass elevator to the top of the York. So there was some sort of style still existing out here in the suburbs. Amazing.
The halls were carpeted, and each little bell to each room had a little light behind it, so there was a row of beacons showing down the hall, which would continue to glow even if the power source went off. Some of the plastic dingle-dangles were missing from the tiny hall chandeliers, and Ken had the brief fantasy of women copping pendants for their ears for the evening.
"Hello, hello, hello, DO come in," boomed Fred as he whipped open the door, and Ken shrank into the room, convinced that everyone on the seventh floor was now wide awake. The room was wide and spacious, and before he sat down, Ken satisfied himself that the room had a terrace, and was not one of the cheapest in the hotel. When Fred did anything for anyone, he looked out for himself, too.
"Have any trouble getting here?" asked Ken as he slipped into the second-best chair in the room, a wooden-armed straight-backed tweed chair.
"Nope, easy as pie," boomed Fred, slipping into the best chair in the room. Immediately he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and lit one, and Ken was convinced that if he weren't in the room, Fred wouldn't be smoking. He watched as Fed drew in on the butt, held it as if it were pot, then slowly exhaled it through his nose, looking over at Ken with a slightly cross-eyed look, accentuated by the thinness of his face, particularly in the area between the close-set eyes. The hand that held the cigarette was patently Bette Davis'. "Well, how are things here," Fred asked, when he found Ken saying nothing.
"Oh, I had the first LSD trip the other day. It didn't work out too well, and so I'm taking a second one tomorrow."
"I see," said Fred, cleared his throat, and rolled up his eyes in preparation for sticking his cigarette back into his mouth for another puff. Ken didn't see what it was that Fred saw, but he continued.
"They almost didn't allow me out tonight, since you're not supposed to drink for the day before the experience. The silly nurse thought I was going to be drinking with you." Fred looked levelly but cross-eyed at Ken, and cleared his throat again. Ken found himself wondering why on earth he had wanted Fred to join him here --- even the idea of taking a vacation with this person seemed impossible. If he were annoyed with him after being with him for five minutes, what would it be like if he were with him for ten or fifteen days?
"How ARE things at the hospital?" asked Fred, as if Ken had said something about the hospital.
"Fine. Oh, it's a nice place, only the food is terrible." Fred smiled as if he'd bitten into a rotten grape. "But the therapists are nice, and Dr.MacKenzie, who's in charge of the place, is a real great guy."
"Oh, he is, is he?" Fred sucked in his cheeks each time he dragged on his cigarette, and Ken tried to tell himself that he really hadn't put venom into his statement, that Fred only chose strange ways in which to express his ideas and questions.
"Yes, he is. I think you might like it there, too. Their bible is a book I remember you wanted me to read, 'The Prophet.'" Ken felt tired, and talking was becoming an increasing effort.
"Ah, yes, good old Gibran." Fred leaned ridiculously far back in his chair, adam's apple the highest point on his body, and blew smoke into the air, ostentatiously away from non-smoker Ken. Fred had the idea that since Ken was paying his way there, all this was Ken's nickel, and he could do with it whatever he wanted.
"Do you have enough money?" asked Ken, seeking a common ground of interest.
"I'll need some in a couple days," said Fred, bouncing back up to look across quizzically at Ken.
"How much was the plane fare?"
"Three-fifty," said Fred briefly, as if he were getting rid of a fleck of tobacco on the tip of his tongue.
"Three-fifty? I thought the plane fare was only two-eighty?" Ken raised his voice for the first time in the dialogue.
"I don't know what that was, but first class was three-fifty."
"You mean you came first class?" Ken's voice ended an octave higher than it had started.
"Sure," said Fred belligerently, "since I wasn't paying for it, I decided to come in grand style. I AM doing you a favor, you know." He settled back in his chair, secure in his position.
"I guess so, but the same plane gets there if you travel tourist class." Ken wasn't so much angry with the money as disgusted with Fred's attitude.
"There weren't any tourist seats, and I figured it wouldn't matter.
If you're going to pay my way, I figured twenty or thirty dollars here or there wouldn't matter. Took a cab to the airport too. Hope you don't mind", and the tone of his voice showed that it wouldn't make any difference if Ken minded or not, it was done. "How much are these treatments costing?"
"The first was 400, the second was 350, and the third, if I get one, will be 250." The answer was given to the question as asked. Ken was too tired to be angry anymore; he only wanted the meeting to be over.
But the meeting wasn't over. Fred was enjoying his cigarettes, and he wanted to now all about what was happening, and who the people were who were taking LSD too, so he asked small sharp question after question, and the time slowly passed from 1AM to 2AM before Ken roused himself from a dull lethargy and looked at his watch. "It's after 2AM."
"I'm not doing anything in the morning," said Fred, smiling blandly.
"Yeah, but I've got a session tomorrow, and I've got to get back."
"All-righty. Do you want me to come to the hospital tomorrow, or what?" Fred stood before the door, wanting to know what he wanted to know.
"Oh, I don't know what time I'll be finished." Ken wasn't thinking.
"What time do you take the stuff?"
"It'll probably be about 9AM, and I'll be coming out of it about 7PM."
"Well," said Fred, snubbing out a smoldering cigarette with the one he had just been smoking, "I want to take a look at town tomorrow, so why don't I call you about 7PM, and we'll see what's what." He again smiled his broad unpleasant smile.
"OK, that'll be fine," said Ken, and he debated whether he had a headache or not. Possibly the smoke-filled room was fogging his eyes and his head, and the fresh air outside would clear it up. But it wouldn't clear up his knotted stomach.
"Have a good day," said Fred patronizingly, as he shut the door behind Ken. All the way down the elevator and through the lobby, Ken didn't think, for fear his head would tilt in an unwarranted direction and bounce along the floor. Only when he reached the still colder outdoors did he take a deep breath and look around him.
The lights on the city hall next door were still bright, and the banks of petunias and calendulas were still vivid under the artificial suns. When that bank of brightness was passed, the road rose into the blackness of the suburbs, and the distant streets lights permitted the stars, all the stars, the thousands of stars, to shine through in their brightness, and Ken found himself opening his mouth as he looked up, as if to drink the sharp-pointed specks of light that were pinned to the black velvet dress of night.
Inhaling deeply, Ken walked up the hill, wondering vaguely what he was going to say to Fred tomorrow, and all the tomorrows they would share on their trip. He wasn't looking forward to it, and he vaguely searched for ways out of the vacation. It would cost him a lot --- but then new fatigue hit him, and his mind stopped thinking as he rang for entry, crept up the stairs, and fell into bed, to be instantly asleep. There was SOMEthing gained from the evening.