Acid House pages 61 through 92

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






"I guess Sunday's about the quietest day around here," said Fran.
"In more ways than one," agreed Ken. "During the week there's always some sort of activity on the street, people passing, kids on their way to and from school, lots of cars, but today it seems like everyone's just died. We could for a walk in the park, if you want."
"No," she said, "yesterday was enough for me. I've got a sore foot, and when I twisted it, it's swollen up a bit."
"Oh," said Ken, not really understanding how someone could be so fragile.
But then something happened that made Ken very glad that he stayed around: there was the sound of a child's shout from below: "Anybody HOME," and since they were the only ones around, Ken shouted back "We're all up here."
A blond boy, hardly more than 8, burst through the door, then his finger went immediately to his mouth and he clutched at the door sill, hiding from these strangers. "Who's there?" asked Adam, coming into the room.
"Hi, Adam," came from both Fran and Ken, delighted to have such company.
"We were out on the town, and decided to stop in to see who was here. These are the kids." Adam looked to the right and to the left to see if they were all there.
"They're adorable," mooed Fran, indiscriminately.
"This one's Charles," he said, pointing to the oldest, "and that one's Frank," and Adam waggled his finger in 5-year old Frank's face, and Frank made as if to bite his father's finger. "Now, be nice," he said, grinning so that his Adam's apple must have entirely constricted his throat. "And this one's Christine," he jostled the three-year-old in his arms, who grinned upward from a lowered head, and then looked at something important out in the hall as the two strange faces in the room looked at her. "And Julie's at home, she's two."
"What a wonderful family," said Ken, not usually meaning such a terrible statement, but in this case he could see that it was a simple fact.
"They're a handful, but we love 'em." There was silence except for the squeals of the children, and the word love, the forbidden word, the awesome word, was used so perfectly that it seemed part of an ordinary conversation.
"Where's your wife," said Fran.
"Oh, she had to mind Julie. She went out too soon after her bath yesterday, and she's a little cranky today. If things go accordingly to schedule, her fever will go up tonight, then Chris here" he gave a little hiccup of a jolt to the girl in his arms, who giggled and threw her arms around his neck, "will come down with it the following day, and then somewhat later Chuck and Frank will get it."
"What happens if Daddy gets it," said Ken, the word sounding strange in his throat.
"Daddy isn't permitted to get it," said Adam, grunting as he put Christine onto the floor, "You're getting heavy; there, why don't you walk around a bit?" In response, his oldest daughter darted back to his side and grabbed onto his pant-leg, her face coming just between the knee and the crotch. When Frank saw his sister in a favored position, he immediately grabbed the other leg, and Charles stood out in front, debating what to do to get his father's attention in his own way.
"They're always a problem, but that's OK." He reached down and loosened the grasp of his younger son: "Why don't you go over to say hello to my friends over there. That's Fran, and that's Ken."
Frank looked over with a shy smile on his face, rocked back and forth on one heel, swinging his arms as if getting momentum for a dash across the room, then turned his head back into his father's crotch, shaking his head no, rubbing his face into the material of his father's trousers.
"Come on, now, that's not the way to act," said Adam, not embarrassed by the contact, but by the shyness of his son. "What did I teach you to say?" '
"How do you do, pleased to meet you," said Frank, looking directly up into his Father's face, too overcome with shyness to look at the people he was supposed to be addressing.
"Ach, they're such a bother," Adam said, sweeping down a huge hand as if to strike, but putting it onto the tiny bone of a shoulder. Frank hadn't even flinched from the impending blow; he knew better than that.
Chuck was looking unhappy without his fair share of the attention, and in a moment Adam sensed it, and brought him into the front: "Tell Ken about your playing." There was a silence as Chuck looked at Ken, and Ken felt he had to be encouraging.
"Oh, do you play hockey?" asked Ken. That was all Charles needed. Above the rigid form of Christine about Adam's right leg, Charles wrapped his entire body for refuge. "Well, does he play hockey," asked Ken, laughing, looking up at Adam.
"He sure does," said Adam, looking down at Chuck. "He plays a pretty good game for an 8-year old." Then he changed his voice and spoke directly to Ken. "That's the only thing they have to do in the winter here, and if you don't play hockey, there isn't much else to do. We belong to this club, and they have a full-sized, indoor rink, and a smaller one for the kids indoors, and then they have another full-sized one outdoors, which they use when it's not snowing, which isn't very often during the winter."
"It must be expensive for the equipment," said Fran, feeling left out of the conversation.
"That's for sure," he gasped, lifting Frank to his shoulder, "The two boys just got new skates, and I still have to get new sticks and shin guards. We can't get all that they want, but they have to have some protection, because even though they're kids, they play rough. DON'T you?" The last was addressed to a wriggling Frank, and Adam planted a kiss on his cheek, after which he was too pleased to do anything about but throw his arms around his father's neck and kiss him, loudly, back.
"Aw," said Fran, and Ken felt a rising in his throat. This is what a FAMILY was like.


Since it was obvious that the personal and the patients at the hospital wouldn't tolerate Fred anymore, it was up to Ken to lead him out into the city, so he dove through the newspapers in a search for something to see in the city, and generated his own enthusiasm for a rather shoddy double feature in town. Neither picture was terribly exciting, but the idea of seeing two supposedly first-run features for the price of one would appeal to Fred, he knew.
"Look, Paul Newman's in the one, and Sophia Loren's in the other, so they're bound to be good." Ken had to stick with his only choice.
"Maybe there'll be something better to do once we get into town," said Fred, scouring the entertainment pages on his own, but coming up with nothing closer to give it competition.
The trip to town on the bus was uneventful: Ken was beginning to know each turn of the half-hour trip by heart, and it wasn't interesting any longer looking over the hills leveled for the string of autonomous communities between New Westminster and Vancouver. "My eyes are tired, I think I'll rest them for the show," Ken said as an excuse, and gritted his teeth not to say anything when Fred started his deep-breathing exercises in the seat next to him, alternately pressing into his side with his elbows, then collapsing out of touch as his lungs deflated.
In the bustle of the city there was always something to look at, sales to comment on, passers-by to evaluate, signs to gape at. There was difficulty finding a restaurant, since Ken was looking for something edible, while Fred searched out the ultimate bargain, usually occurring in a place that Ken didn't care to enter. They compromised with a coffee shop type place where each paid more for their puny cheeseburger and club sandwich than they would have in lesser places, had they only known where they were.
Conversation was boring and stilted, Fred seemingly not interested in what was going on at the hospital, and doing nothing that he thought worthy of passing on to Ken. "Fran certainly had quite a trip." Ken would say, hoping to evince some interest from Fred.
"She's such a silly girl, I'm not interested in what happened to her," and that would be the end of that topic, and Ken would have to content himself in watching the sandwich disappear in huge crescents into Fred's mouth, listening to the smacking chews, dodge the spray of food particles when Fred would exclaim "Um, this is good," in the mid-bite, and try to eat faster to hasten the end of the terrible meal. Ken's stomach knotted inside him, and he thought wryly that if anyone gave him ulcers, it would be someone like Fred.
Then the snack was over, and they were again on the street, this time in the darkness, with the neon cutting through the haze with a haloed effect. When they stood in front of the theater they'd decided on, Fred decided it was time to have a showdown. "What are you going to do?"
"I told you," Ken said. "I want to wait for the third session."
"You're not certain you're going to get it," said Fred with his exasperated widening of the eyes and mouth.
"No, but I'm willing to take my chances in waiting for it," said Ken, hoping it would be simple enough for Fred to understand.
"There's no use waiting for something that never comes." He didn't seem to want to understand.
"But I think there's a good chance I'll be able to have a third." It was an effort for Ken to keep his temper down, but he kept telling himself that Fred was in actuality doing him a favor: he could be home right now, as he had been told in the bus just this evening, doing what he wanted to do before school started a the end of the month, rather than out here in nothing country.
"I was thinking of leaving here and seeing friends of mine in Saskatoon." There was something behind Fred's voice, but Ken was too impatient to hear it.
"Fine, you can do what you like. I don't know how long I'll be here, so I guess there's no use you're being bored in your hotel waiting for nothing."
"You mean you'll pay for my hotel in Saskatoon and in Ottawa, too?"
Fred's tone implied that it was the least Ken could do for inconveniencing him to this enormous extent.
"Yes, of course I will."
"And you won't complain if I travel first-class? It IS the only way to fly, as I see it." Though Ken knew that Fred would go by cheapest bus, if the money were coming from his pocket, he wearily agreed to all Fred said. "Good, now we can go into the movie."
Ken was more irritated by the implied blackmail in the statements than anything else, but he kept repeating to himself "Fred IS doing me a favor. I thought I'd like to have him here, I asked him to be here, I agreed to pay his way. He's had to spend lots of his own money on food --- though the way he ate this evening when I paid, it was as if he hadn't eaten all day --- that he wouldn't have to spent when he was at home. But he was still annoyed at the WAY Fred had of doing things. That was it, he decided, it wasn't so much WHAT he did, it was the WAY he did it.
Through the deadly dull movies, Fred ingested three boxes of popcorn by grabbing up full handfuls of the buttered stuff, cramming the entire wad into his mouth, white shards raining down on his sweater-front, and then chewing loudly while the air whistled in an out of his nose in a frantic effort to keep the popcorn-chewing factory supplied with oxygen. Every so often, an animal grunt of contentment would snort from his face, cheeks puffed like squirrel pouches with their freight of popped corn.
"Those weren't so bad," said Fred sarcastically as they filed out after the second feature. "I've seen worse in New York." Ken didn't even try to sort out the wheat from the chaff in his conversation. He grunted in answer when it seemed to be necessary, trying with all his strength to keep from getting angry with Fred.
"He's leaving tomorrow, he's leaving tomorrow. I won't have to see him after tonight," repeated Ken over and over to himself. How strange it was that once he had said "If ever I loved anyone, I love you now, Fred," when they were embraced on a soaking bed one steamy summer night. They HAD been close, Ken insisted to himself. HE hadn't changed so much, he thought, so it must have been Fred who had changed.
But how had he changed? He'd always wolfed down his food, always burped loudly at the table, spouting "Pig!!" with his head held high so the liquids which might happen to be in his mouth wouldn't dribble down his chin. He's always done what he wanted to do, and I always put up with it, thought Ken. He was good sex, that was true, anyway, and the sight of his nude body would be enough to turn him on even if he didn't feel particularly sexy.
That had changed for good. Ken remembered the evening in the hotel room, when Fred had changed into pajamas. Fred had undressed without bothering to hide himself, and surely they had nothing to hide from each other, but that length of penis was now somehow indecent, swinging back and forth between those meaty legs. The legs were misproportioned, he thought, with thighs too thick for the thin calves. But before he had thought that sexy, he reminded himself. And how he had loved that cock, loved to tease it into erection --- on those rare occasions when it wasn't already erect, with that peculiar right-ward twist to it, and look at it and lick it and suck it, and run his fingers up and down his inner thighs to see the balls rise and fall into the crotch as the fibres lengthened and shortened.
What wonderful orgasms those were, Ken remember. How, unencumbered by mouth or ass, he would stroke that long, bent cock until it tensed to the fullest, then jerked its semen-stream high and far, over the chest to the shoulder, sometimes skidding up under the chin, sometimes splashing off to the side on the sheets, causing a quick scramble for a towel or a washcloth before the sticky liquid soaked into the bedding.
How he had loved to hold that stiff cock, looking at it, bending it back and forth to catch the play of light along the bluish veins on its length, ripple off the tiny bumps under the head, and vanish into the tightly curled hairs where the cock rose from the groin. What delight he got from following the distinct lines of muscles from the knee to the groin, tickling the flesh, playing with the hairs, licking the skin so that there was a snail-trail of moisture behind his tongue. Ken thought he could stare at that cock forever, so stiff, so pulsing, so vital, so beautiful. And then he felt he couldn't look at it in the hotel room; it had turned into an obscenity.
As the thoughts flowed through his mind while walking away from the theater, Ken caught the familiar pulse between his legs, felt that he was getting hard just thinking about what he and Fred had had. For a moment the thought of trying to recapture their feelings sped through his consciousness, and then it was gone. It would be ridiculous --- like two people long divorced coming back together. It would be embarrassing, or worse, laughable. It could never happen again.
"I'm getting tired of walking. We going home now?" The widened eyes, black and shining, two wet lumps of licorice with a ring of lime-skin around them, floating on red-blood-vesseled marshmallows. Everyone was the same and everyone was different. What had Ken seen in him?
"Yeah, let's go home. I'm tired." They both slept, or appeared to sleep, on the bus, as if neither wanted anything more to do with the other. When they reached the station in the back of the hotel, there was only the parting left, to be proceeded by awkwardness.
"Have a good trip back east," said Ken, hoping to end it sooner by starting it sooner.
"Thank you, m'boy. You have a good trip, too, though you're not going very far," and Fred winked extravagantly and grimaced with his mouth and dug his elbow into Ken's ribs like a vaudeville comedian. "Don't get lost out there, somewhere, and forget to come back." Then Fred laughed at his own ridiculousness, and Ken for a moment suspected that Fred might not be too happy about the way this turned out, either.
"No, I'm in good hands up at the hotel --- hospital." He often made that mistake.
"If it's a hotel, it's the strangest hotel there ever was." Fred was serious, and there was nothing to be but serious.
"Thank you very much for helping me, Fred," said Ken, stiltedly.
"Well, I didn't have very much to do," said Fred in a deprecatory manner, as if in fact he HAD done something great that he needed to deprecate in order to appear modest, which he never had been.
"You were still a big help. You came when I needed you." And somehow that was part of the truth, and Ken felt almost sad that Fred was leaving with so little appreciation. But brought himself up with the idea that Fred was probably giving himself more credit that Ken would ever think to give him, so it would all even out in the end.
"Well, glad to be of help," Fred said stuffily, and both became acutely aware of their strange, ending relationship.
"Thanks again," said Ken, aware of his right hand hanging at his side. He should use it, he thought. It should come up, and they should shake hands. He backed away, as if to make further touch impossible, then raised his right hand in a wave as he continued to move away. "See you." It was the way he always said goodbye. It seemed noncommittal, non-final. It was safe.
"Goodbye," said Fred, his hands, too, against his side. Ken turned and walked toward the hospital, wondering how long Fred would stand watching him before he turned and went upstairs. He couldn't look back.
As soon as he got into the open air, and the stars glowed in their spaces in the stratosphere, Ken took a deep breath, and washed away all the doubts of their relationship: it was good that Fred was leaving, good that he, Ken, was staying. It would all work out for the best. Ken would stay until he could have another trip, and then he would leave, and he wouldn't have to worry about Fred, who he would antagonize, who he would confound.
By the time Ken reached the gravel driveway to the hospital, he had practically forgotten the events of the entire evening. It was a nice night out.



Ken had heard so much of Dr. MacKenzie from Fran that he was beginning to fear he couldn't possibly live up to the sainthood with which she invested him. Even the grudging comment from the drunk in the shower: "MacKenzie, oh, he's a good shit," seemed to put him into a special category. What a chore it must be to meet people, knowing that you have the reputation for being a fantastic person. Would there be the thought, the worry, that you wouldn't live up to their expectation, and because of the worry, fear of failure far stronger than any previous success?
He strode into the room, moving quickly for such a large man, and he looked eagle-like because of his tendency to turn his head quickly wherever his eyes were looking. There would be no sidelong glances from a person of this directness! "Mr. Allman?" and the eagle-head darted from Ken to John, the back again quickly, as if there were a perpetual motion set up that only a solution to his problem could stop.
"I'm he," said John, rising to his feet to shake the out-stretched hand. The vibrations from the gusty handshake filled the room for a moment, as they both studied each other intently.
"Would you come with me into the other room, please? I'll be back to talk with YOU in just a very few minutes." Dr. MacKenzie addressed this last to Ken, who felt smaller in his chair, dwarfed by these two titans who moved quickly above his head. So dwarfed was his mentality that he could only nod assent to the command, and he kicked himself as the two left the room. Surely he could have thought of something to say!
In the scheduled very few minutes, the two were back in the doorway, and Dr. MacKenzie nodded toward Ken with a wink and a tilt of the head, and Ken tried to wait for the conversation before judging him a propitiating fool.
"I've heard quite a bit about you," was the only rational opening Ken could think of, and even before the response he'd regretted saying it.
"Oh, my, yes, now, people DO talk, don't they?" Dr. MacKenzie's reply seemed at once so rehearsed and so off-hand that Ken was again impelled not to like him, even though the black-brown eyes bored steadily into his, seeming to require absolute attention, since absolute attention was being devoted to him.
"But what about YOU," said Dr. MacKenzie silkily, "I hear you've had one session already?"
"Yes, but it didn't seem to go anywhere. I was caught up in the same grooves I'm stuck in in my own life. So I wanted another to try to die." Ken felt stupid, terribly stupid, inept, and tongue-tied.
"Yes, yes. Yes." Still the eyes bored into him, and Ken saw that they were dilated. Was it possible that this man was on a permanent trip of some kind? What was he seeing that engaged his attention to this extent? Ken could imagine Lotte, particularly, falling hypnotized under this masterful gaze, then running shrieking from the room, "Oh, he's so WONderful --- just MAHvelous."
"Well, Ha ha," Dr. MacKenzie didn't laugh, he said the three words as if they were hung on a card between Ken's eyes. Ha ha could have been his name, from the inflection in the Doctor's voice, "do you have any questions?"
"No, uh," Ken staggered mentally, wanting to get something from this strange interview, "you must get great satisfaction from your work here?"
"I?" Not for an instant did the gaze flicker. It was positively uncanny. "Yes, I like my work very much, sometimes too much. My family says I don't come home nearly enough for them, Ha ha ha." He added Ken's middle name to his first and last.
"Yes," said Ken, wondering what on earth else he could say.
"Well, then, that should do it. Hope your second trip is a success, Ha ha." At least Dr. MacKenzie hadn't forgotten Ken's name.
They shook hands again, and it was only after the looming presence had moved swiftly through the door, to put its arm around the waist of a nurse waiting for him in the hall, that Ken remembered Bob's comment about him: "It was only after I'd taken a trip that I could even TALK to him on the same level." Ken idly considered that it would take him more than one to communicate with this presence.

He just couldn't say that he couldn't have a third trip; he just simply couldn't. Ken sat in the waiting room outside Dr. MacKenzie's office in a sweat comparable to the cold rushes he felt waiting in the dentist's office. He tried to be calm, but there was only one thought on his mind: he had to convince Dr. MacKenzie that he could stay on for a third trip.
"You can go in now, Mr. Costrin." The nurse had no expression on her face, and Ken moved for the first time into the inner temple of Hollywood Hospital.
Dr. MacKenzie was talking on the telephone, but smiled broadly, winked, and waved Ken to a chair beside his desk. Ken was too nervous to sit down, and looked around the wood-paneled office. The wood was more natural, less lacquered looking than the outside offices, and he felt that this was possibly due to the fact that the other was ersatz Formica or some dull veneer, while this was the real stuff, reaching richly from the floor about five feet onto the walls, giving way to cream stucco up to the low ceiling. This was the only lower floor area where there was carpeting, but it was far richer than the carpets that ran through the second floor --- but as he looked at the edges of the room, taken mainly with bookcases and beige filing cabinets, he saw that it was a rug, and not merely carpeting.
Facing the desk, which was placed in the enclosing areas of the huge bay window, on the opposite wall, was a three by five foot oil painting of what was first taken to be a Spanish architectural fantasy: an elaborate house, more elegantly landscaped, set on a hilltop surrounded by pines, all three floors of windows richly shuttered in carved wood. Porches ran around all visible sides, with stucco colonnades hung with vines that bore some sort of red flowers. It was totally idyllic, yet the light was not of Spain, but a more somber, subdued light, and Ken realized it must be the Doctor's fabled home right here in Vancouver! It somehow took real nerve, it flashed through Ken's mind, to display your ownership so ostentatiously.
"Sit down, Ken, do sit down," said Dr. MacKenzie, hanging up the phone. "I'll be with you in just a short moment," he said, bending forward to press the intercom. "I don't want to be disturbed until I finish talking with Mr. Costrin." His desk was littered with brochures and pamphlets, and set at the far side, off to the right, was a faceless TV screen, silver blips appearing like a sleet in a storm. Front and center was a manila folder, and Ken was sure everything they knew about him was right there.
"Now, Ken, what can I do for you?" Dr. MacKenzie clasped his hands together, and seemed to set his eye adjustment on Ken, and his eyes never wavered.
"I was told I'd have to get your permission to take a third trip." Ken thought it best to be direct.
"Um, yes," he said, moving his elbow back over the folder, as if indicating that all the data he needed was right there within easy reach, so Ken had better be telling the truth. "Why do you want another trip?"
It was the expected question, but it was put with such intensity that Ken sat silently, mentally commanding himself to be calm, then began. "Well, the first trip was sort of --- my life. Pleasant, but not too pleasant; sad, but not too sad. I kept being reborn, but I had never died. When I came out of it, I thought that it was --- OK, but that I should have died to get the maximum benefit from the LSD." He stopped, waiting for Dr. MacKenzie to express acceptance or rejection of his explanation, but he merely looked at him, his fixed smile on his lips, attentively waiting more words from Ken.
"So I asked for a second trip, and I tried to die." He had to settle back into his chair to relax. Dr. MacKenzie seat-edge pose was making his back and neck sore just to look at it. "But I guess it's like anything you try too hard for: the more I tried to die, the less I was able to die. I guess I really didn't WANT to die," Ken gestured feebly, self-excusingly, "so all I ended up doing was banging my head on the floor, and shouting that I wanted to die, but that all seemed very theatrical, and I stopped shouting, and before I knew it, the session was over." The gaze continued, steady.
"Well, that just made me feel awful. I don't think I've ever been so depressed. Now I know what to do --- I should stay inside, but I shouldn't try to do anything, just go along with it. I know I'll do better the third time."
"It may be that you had the second one too close to the first. You need more time to absorb these experiences. The experience is not the whole thing, you have to live with them for awhile." A slight particle of compassion came into Dr. MacKenzie's face, but it was offset by the continued rigidity of his pose: hands clasped neatly in front of him, body straight toward Ken, leaning forward to catch each word, head squarely facing Ken, eyes fixed implacably on Ken's, which tried to fix there, but slid and wandered all over the desk.
"Maybe that was true after the first one, but I feel so terrible now, I just have to have another one." It seemed so simple to Ken; there was just no other way around it.
"Why don't you go home for, say, six months, and then you can come back---"
"But I'm all the way from New York. I have a job, and it's very expensive to fly back and forth."
"Um, yesss, well," Dr. MacKenzie backed his elbow off the folder and permitted his eyes to glance down at it: Everything is here, his actions read, I know everything there is to know. "But there has to be more time for this second experience, bad as it may have been, to sink in. You have to learn what you can as you go along." The fixed smile, briefly gone during compassion, returned, and the salesman, the charlatan, the con man, was back.
"Look, my friend came out here from New York, and we were planning to take a trip up to some of the Parks, and maybe even into Alaska. I heard something about wanting to be quiet after the LSD experience, so I thought it would be a good idea to relax, travel around, look at nature, and be with this good friend of mine." The words ran after themselves, trying to break understanding through the level stare of Dr. MacKenzie's black-brown eyes.
"No, that wouldn't do at all. You should be away from the influence of old friends at this point. You're open to suggestion at this time, and we know that the old influences aren't" Dr. MacKenzie paused, his eyes never leaving the bridge of Ken's nose, "all that could be desired. No, it would be better if you stayed here --- "
"Fine, I can stay here, I can stay here as long as you want." Though the eyes still continued to bore into him, Ken saw more of the brown in them than the black, and they began to look gentle, sympathetic.
"Then that's what we'll do. You'll stay here for a week or two, and we'll be looking at your case. Remember, we can't guarantee that you'll have another experience at this time, but we'll keep it in mind, and see how you progress as you stay here." If the sun came blasting in through the bay window, the room couldn't have lightened more radically. Suddenly Ken was aware that Dr. MacKenzie was SMILING.
"You'll have to send your friend back, then, I'm afraid," Dr. MacKenzie went on, and the brightness of the room increased for Ken. THAT was the solution to his other problem, too. Now he would get rid of Fred's needling presence, and he wouldn't have to worry about the continuing bad impressions he was making on everyone in the hospital. And Ken didn't even have to allow that HE wanted Fred to go, this would be under orders from Dr. MacKenzie!
Ken could feel his face lighten, as the corners of his mouth turned up and his head rose higher out of the curve between his shoulders. "Thank you, Dr. MacKenzie, thank you VERY much." He WAS a saint, Ken realized. He knew EXACTLY what was troubling him, and one by one he has solved all his problems. He wouldn't have to wonder where to go next, what to do next. He could stay HERE, which he enjoyed so much. Under Ken's euphoria, Dr. MacKenzie almost grew a physical aura, and Ken left the room without worrying where the door was, without worrying about what he said. He could stay! And even the concern about his third treatment was lessened. My God, he thought, this was AS GOOD as a third treatment!
Fran was equally joyful when Ken went to her room. "How wonderful," she squealed, hugging him, and they stood clasped for full moments.
"Now I know why everyone is so stuck on Dr. MacKenzie, I've seen what he can do, and I think he's wonderful, too."
"Isn't he?" said Fran, amazement on her face. "I sometimes think he can read my mind. He just always knows what to say. He's a real saint, he's just a living saint."
"He read MY mind," said Ken, eager to tell her about the whole thing. "I was worried about Fred, and he said that Fred should go back to New York. I was concerned about where I was going after I left here, and he took the decision right out of my hands: I can stay here! And he said they'd think about the third trip --- " But he didn't feel like saying anymore. From a time when one trip was par for the visitor, suddenly everyone was staying on for two and three trips, and Ken couldn't help feeling that a small part of this was due to him. If he hadn't told Fran about having a second trip, she may have settled for one only. And Lotte was so interested in being more experienced than others that she was talking about a second and a third as if she saw no end to her treatments here.
"Oh, that's just great, Ken." Fran bubbled and looked hard at Ken. "It really shows in your face, you really look happy."
"Oh, yeah, I AM happy," said Ken, grinning broadly, tears welling into his eyes. "Gee, Dr. MacKenzie is really WONDERFUL. You know what part of it is? He made me feel WANTED, he said I could stay, he ACCEPTED me!"
Fran looked up at Ken in somber seriousness, "Yes, that's very important."
"Yeah --- WOW, I feel great," and Ken wriggled and danced in the middle of the room, feeling like a boiling pot that just had to leave off steam.
"Um," said Fran, smiling, and gradually the room settled back into normalcy, Ken asking to see what Fran had been painting during the day, and announcing Ken's stay to whoever came into the room --- though again he tried to minimize the idea of a third trip when Lotte come blinking to see what the noise was about.


"Help; Help." The full-throated vowel, the rolled L-sound, the delicacy of the cry could only have come from Lotte. David and Ken looked at each other sadly.
Russ must be having quite a time with Lotte," said David, dropping "The Prophet" onto his lap and folding his hands behind his head, stretching.
"Anyone would have a hard time with Lotte." Ken, too, was happy at the chance to finish reading and talk about something.
David shook his head, "She must have had a pretty rough time."
"Anyone who's been tied up with the same psychiatrist for eighteen years is bound to have a rough time."
"Eighteen years," asked David, sucking his teeth.
"Heee-ulp, oh hee-ulp me, pleee-ease." There was gentle music playing in the background, and there was no other sound from the LSD room.
"You hear the darndest things from these rooms," said Ken, and then realized that David had probably heard his shouts of anger during his second session. David said nothing. "She sounds so lost," Ken said, but David was looking out the window with a sad look on his face.
Ken looked at David until he turned back into the room and, with a little start, said: "I was just thinking about my Father. HE was always asking for help."
"Do you think what you've gotten from your trip will let you help him?"
"It's too late. He died a year ago." There was silence in the room.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Ken, not sure what he would say.
"Yes. I'm sorry, too, but there's nothing I can do about it now."
Then David's voice got almost angry, "If you don't help people while they're living, there's nothing you can do for them when they're dead."
Ken waited for a time for David to go on, but he didn't seem inclined to, so after a short while Ken went back to reading his book, while David continued to stare out the window at the passing cars on the rain-wet street.



Ken was sitting in his bedroom, reading, enjoying the feel of the sun from the bay window on his back. From the open window came the sounds of children passing on the street, shouting to each other. At odd intervals the cheer of the young voices was punctuated by the sepulchral croak of a crow from the brooding pines around the hospital. The door was half open, somehow signifying that absolute privacy wasn't required, but that Ken would rather be alone with his book.
Into the noises of the room came two quick knocks on the door, followed by the cheerful voices of the nurse: "Company for you."
She backed the door open, allowing a middle-aged man to shuffle into the room maneuvering two suitcases between the nurse and the doorsill. "You'll be sharing the room with this gentleman," she said to him, waving toward Ken. When she was sure the situation was clear, she left the room, leaving the door somewhat more closed than she had found it.
"How do you do, my name is Ken Costrin."
"Hi, I'm Jean Corday."
"I've been using this bed, so I guess the other is yours. Here, let me show you where you can put your clothes. I've been living here a couple days now, and I remember how uncertain about everything I was when I got here, so I assume you fell the same way."
"Well, yes," said Jean, "things HAVE been happening rather rapidly. Two days ago I wasn't certain that I was coming here, and today, here I am."
"This place is even more casual than that. About the only thing scheduled here are the meals, and they're so bad, you might not be eating many of them here, anyway."
"Oh, you mean you don't have to stay in the hospital?"
"Nope, they only have two or three regulations: you're not allowed to have alcohol for twenty-four hours before your LSD session, and you have to stay here the day after. Other than the fact that the meals arrive at 8AM, noon, and 4PM, I can't think of any other regulation. You can come or go as you please, and you don't even have to sign out. You want to leave, you leave, simple as that."
"It sure is better than Toronto."
"You're from Toronto?"
"No, I'm from Montreal, but I had a couple of LSD sessions before in Toronto. They were pretty bad."
By this time Jean had put his things in convenient places, and had settled down to talk on his bed, while Ken remained in his chair by the window, book forgotten.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, they strap you to a table and shoot you full of LSD, and then they leave you alone and you can scream all you want. I thought I was losing my mind. I hated it. I didn't like the first two, but I was feeling so terribly bad that I had to have another shot, but it turned out to be terrible." Jean's face was creased with a number of scars, particularly in the area of his forehead, where slightly disarrayed chunks of flesh alternated with patches of discoloration, the whole rising into an abrupt hairline that indicated a wig.
Ken found himself uncomfortable looking at this face from a distance, since there was so much about it that was difficult to see. Were those furrows newly healed scars from operations? Did that wig cover an even more unpleasant area of mutilated flesh and bone, possibly with random tufts of natural hair sticking up at unmanageable angles? The whole face had a slight skewness to it, as if it were halved at an angle from the right temple to the left jaw, and then put together not quite correctly. He felt growing pity for this man who now seemed younger than he looked, whose face was now crumpled not only from the past scars, but with a present pain.
"What happened?" asked Ken, speaking softly and encouragingly.
"I was looking up at the white walls and ceiling, and all of a sudden they drew back, pulled away, until I was pinned to the floor in an enormous room, where each person was enormous, looming above, and I was absolutely helpless. I started to scream, but the nurse just sat there, monstrous, while I shouted and cried and tried to turn myself around. I was so terrified, I was so terrified!" His voice began to choke with the recollection of the treatment, but then Jean drew himself up and took a greater command of his speech.
"I think they did more harm than good. I was unhappy before, but I felt that LSD was the last resort, and then I found that the last resort wasn't of any help. I didn't know what to do after that." Fear slowly began to invade his speaking voice. "I tried going back to school. I teach French in a small private school outside Montreal, but I couldn't concentrate on my job, and I felt myself getting more and more frightened of what might happen." Just as Jean again appeared to be on the brink of some sort of collapse, he took a firmer hold of his voice.
"Then I heard about this place, and I figured I had absolutely nothing to lose by coming here. But this place has to be better --- "
Before another level of terror could build into Jean's voice, Ken reached forward with his hand to symbolically cut into the conversation. "This place is a LOT better than Toronto. I think the treatment at Toronto sounds barbaric, and they are a lot more HUMAN here. I've been through one, and I can tell you about it."
"Yes, what was it like?" Jean adjusted himself on the bed, seeming to adapt a different position for listening than for speaking, as if he were not used to listening to people, but wanted to, and tried to make himself open by adapting a different body position.
"In the first place, though they call this a hospital, it's nothing like a hospital. As you can see, you wear your street clothes, and there's no clinical process at all. That ends after you take your blood test. But you're not strapped to a table, you lay on a sofa, comfortably in pajamas, and they put the music on --- "
"Music?" laughed Jean, "They didn't have any kind of sound in Toronto. That was one of the most terrifying things about it. You could scream until you couldn't scream any more, but they wouldn't say anything to you --- all you'd hear was the small sound of the tape recorder. You'd ask for something and they wouldn't give it to you. You'd plead for help, and you couldn't get it. Once, my leg cramped in some position I'd gotten into under the straps, and I felt like I was going to die, but they wouldn't help me at all."
Ken jumped into the conversation again to prevent Jean from ending in a rush of panic. "They give you all the help they can here. They don't try to direct the trip, they keep saying to go inside --- that's why they give you the mask. They give you a face-mask so that you won't get hung up on what's happening outside."
"Hung up on what's outside? There were monsters in the corners of the room. The nurse turned into a gorilla, hairy and drooling, ready to attack me, but she never DID attack me, only menaced me. I would have given anything not to be able to see. But since I could see, I HAD to watch, because it was so horrible I couldn't bear NOT to see, but seeing was SO painful."
"No," said Ken, "here they're interested in what's inside, not in what's outside. And they don't inject you with LSD, they give you little capsules of mescaline to wash down with a solution of LSD, and it takes a long time to get into your system, particularly since you've just had a great big breakfast --- that's about the best meal they serve here --- the condemned man's last meal." Ken's attempt at levity had little effect on Jean.
"In Toronto they insisted that you didn't eat beforehand, and then when they shot it into you, it took effect in about 10 seconds. One instant everything was normal, the next second, zoom, there your were, out somewhere with no idea what was going on. Terrifying."
"Here they do everything they can to lengthen it. Two of them talked to me while I took the stuff, and then they gave me coffee to drink, and they chatted with me until I felt slightly dizzy, then they let me lay down and put on the blindfold, and ---- well, it was almost like falling asleep."
"Oh, it does sound so much better. Falling asleep sounds like such a good idea, I could go to sleep right now --- "
"Look, Jean, if you want to sleep, just let me know and I'll leave.
I don't have to stay here."
"No, Ken, that's all right. I haven't been able to sleep these past few nights, worrying about coming here, worrying about my wife. Oh, Ken, I have such a wonderful wife. Her name is Miriam, and I'm lucky to have found her. Her parents didn't want us to get married, but we were in love I guess, and she forced them to meet me, and then they like me. But if they would have known what would happen to me --- "
"There must have been something that impressed her parents," said Ken, trying to bolster Jean's sagging ego. "I'll bet somewhere under the confusions and pains there's quite a guy, and they saw that."
Jean looked up sharply at Ken, who was sitting relaxed in his chair. "Did anyone tell you about me?"
"No, I don't know anything about you. This place is so casual, I didn't even know until you walked in that I was getting a roommate. I could only have expected it from the second bed in here."
"Oh, when you talked about the pain --- I thought they'd told you about me."
"What about the pain?" Ken tried not to act eager, but he felt that this must have something to do with the scars and discoloration around the head, and he much preferred to know than not to know.
"I've been in a great deal of pain. With plastic surgery. I was in an accident and --- my head --- was pretty battered about. I'd had three series of operations, but I wasn't responding to the hospital treatment, I just couldn't take the pain, and I couldn't stand to think of another series of operations. I can't take the pain. That's part of the reason I can't sleep. Sometimes I think I'm going out of my mind." He rolled his head away so that Ken couldn't see his face.
"Are you in pain now?" Ken asked gently, puzzled that some sort of medication couldn't be given for such pain.
"Well, no, not really, but just the THOUGHT of all those operations --- I can't take the thought of those operations, and that pain." Jean rolled his head toward Ken again, his eyes moist and narrowed with agony. "I'm a very sensitive person, as you may have gathered, and I'm susceptible to pain. They give me things for it, but they can't give me anything for the fear."
There was silence in the room for a time, and Ken didn't think it wise to go further into his case at just that time. He began to talk about himself. "This place sure seemed like the perfect place for me to come. I'd always been interested in LSD, I guess ever since I read Huxley's "Doors of Perception", but I never had the chance to try it. Then this guy at work got some, and I tried it."
Jean seemed happy that the conversation had switched to Ken, and changed his position in the bed accordingly, propping himself up on one elbow with an analytical expression on his face. "You tried it on your own?"
"No, a friend of mine was with me. That turned out to be the perfect choice, too. He was a psychologist by training, and had watched a couple of his other friends turn on, so he had that experience, too. And then," Ken paused, feeling the tense feeling he always experienced before telling about himself, "since so many of my problems are connected with the problem of love, it turned out to be a good thing that I could talk freely with this fellow, since he and I had had a love affair, once before."
Jean's eyes widened and his attitude stiffened on the bed. "You'd been in love with a man? You're homosexual?"
"Yes," said Ken, realizing that Jean was as much surprised at the news as he was at Ken's TELLING him the news.
"You certainly take a great risk telling people that." Jean seemed very disturbed about the news, and Ken immediately sensed that Jean might have a similar problem, but then, he thought, that was his problem, not Ken's.
"Not in this place. Everyone knows you're here for some problem or other, and it seems to make no difference who you tell, or what you tell, they react in the same way. A problem is problem, but it's a problem to the person who has it, and not to the person who's told about it. It's just a sharing of trust, and maybe that's what this place is all about. It's like a 24-hour group therapy session, where all sorts of people get together and talk about what's REALLY bothering them. Maybe that does about as much good as the LSD trip itself." Ken felt he was talking too much, and reflected on that old truism that everybody seemed to be most interested in what they had to say, and not what anyone else wanted to say.
"I admire your courage to say that," said Jean, "because I have a little bit of a problem in that area, too, but I could never bring myself to tell anyone about it. Oh, I remember back in school, I was so in love with this guy, and I wanted so much to tell him about it, but I just couldn't. You know, he was just one of the guys, but he went out for football, and we would spend a lot of time together, and I'd just want to put my hand out and feel his body --- not do anything sexual, you understand --- but just to feel his body. He had such a beautiful body. I used to have a pretty good body, too, but not as good as his. But my body isn't as good now as it was."
"No one's is," said Ken, hoping to inject some sort of fellowship into the talk.
"You don't have to worry about that, Ken, you're still young."
"Oh, how old do you think I am," said Ken, playing his favorite game.
"You're not over 19 or 20, you're still just a kid," said Jean, looking closely at the smooth plump face and thin body before him.
"Thank you very much, Jean, for that compliment," said Ken, happy that he had fallen into the same trap that everyone had fallen into.
"Well, how old ARE you?"
"I'm 25, soon to be 26, so you can see why I was so pleased at your answer," said Ken.
"You certainly don't look it," and Ken felt that Jean looked at him in a new way, and the slight fantasy of sex in the small room passed through Ken's head, but was quickly put aside because Jean didn't appear to have a pleasant body, and the scars on his head gave him a fragile look, as if a too-affectionate hug might split his ruined skull, sending out jets of vile-smelling liquids and lumps of brain matter. "I'm 29, myself," Jean said, almost certain that he looked older, which he did. And the profundity of his voice and comments contributed to the picture of a prematurely old man.
"Oh," Ken staggered about for something to say, "that's not very old at all --- you're not even in your 30's." He hoped by these platitudes to evade any required lie that would say that Jean, too, looked younger than he was.
"I have to keep a pretty straight face in front of my students. I'm so used to being a person in authority, the person that everyone looks up to, that I guess my face just naturally assumes an older look." Jean rambled on, apparently having given up hope of getting a flattering statement from Ken. "The accident I had didn't help too much, either."
"What was that. When did it happen." Ken was only too happy to have the subject changed.
"A friend of mine and I were driving through Spain on a vacation. It was a wonderful couple of days: we had rented a four-wheel drive jeep, and were driving all through the mountains. It was so lovely: the wine for lunch, the fresh fruit wherever we went --- and the bread! I've always heard France praised for its bread, but the home-baked bread in the little hill towns of Spain is just delicious. But one day we were driving, rather too fast, along a hillside road, and when we rounded a corner, there was another car right in front of us, and we hit head-on. Both of us must have been going about forty, so we really hit with a bang. I don't remember anything about it after the crash, but my friend told me I flew through the air so high that he actually had time to try to run after me and catch me before I fell."
Ken was making small amazed sounds throughout the narrative, and now his eyes widened at the thought of a body hurtling through the air, flung up by the impact of a collision.
"He didn't get to me, however, and I hit head-first on the dirt road. He said it was pretty bad. I got all bashed up in the head, and when I woke up in the hospital the pain was so terrible that they had to fill me full of morphine. After a couple of weeks of massive doses, I was not only suffering from the pain when it wore off, I was beginning to have withdrawal pains, too. They were all trying to be as kind to me as they could be, and later they shipped me off back to Canada, when I was well enough to fly. Toward the end of the flight I began to get nervous, and to sweat, and by the time we landed I was crawling up the wall. I think I screamed all the way to the hospital, and they locked me into a room, because they figured I'd had enough morphine. Well, Ken, for three days it was hell. I thought the pain from the accident was bad, but I really don't think it was as bad as the morphine withdrawal. The accident pain was only in the head --- and I broke one arm ---- but the withdrawal period affected my whole body, and my brain. I KNEW that when I was finished with that experience, I would be hopelessly insane from the pain alone."
Jean spoke all this lying flat on his back on the bed, arm raised to keep the sun from his eyes as he stared at the ceiling. It was as if the effort of his speaking was so great that he had no energy left to sustain his body in any other position but lying down. Ken was methodically biting the flesh from the inside of his cheeks in nervousness, and his stomach was tense with his desire to be of some assistance to the man lying before him.
"My God, what a terrible thing," Ken said, weakly.
"At times I felt like tearing off all the bandages about my head and having the whole thing done with," Jean said. "The whole thing wasn't worth it, the pain wasn't worth it. I wasn't worth the trouble the whole thing was causing. When I recovered from the addiction to morphine, they performed the first of the plastic surgery operations to try to get my head back into shape. I think the thing I hated most was that they had to bandage the eyes. I couldn't see for a week, and even though they kept telling me that the accident hadn't really affected the eyes, only the bones in the skull around the left eye. But by this point I began not believing in doctors. How could I believe in doctors when they gave me such doses of morphine that I became addicted to it?"
"But you were in such pain --- "
"But didn't they have to know that I'd have to suffer from withdrawal afterwards?"
"Yes, but it was a choice they had to make, the pain from the accident, or the pain from the withdrawal. If you hadn't been under morphine --- "
"If I hadn't been under morphine, maybe the pain would have killed me. Maybe I wouldn't be here now, maybe --- " Again Jean's voice choked up and even his arm had fallen to rest over his forehead, echoing in its shadow the scar-line from his impact, that hideous day, on the road surface. Ken forcibly ejected the sound of the crunch of bone above the scatter of gravel, the smear of blood across the road as Jean's body scraped his head over the grating ball-bearing of sharp-edged rock. How long had it taken to extract each last piece of grit from the pulped flesh?
Silence rested in the room, and Jean's breath, taken in as a gasping prelude to a sob, was released in a shaky stream. The next breath was smoother, until the following breath was almost normal, and he resumed: "Anyway, I was in the hospital for two months, and toward the end they gave me the second operation. By that time I was looking well enough to go back home. Miriam was so wonderful through all this. She's always been so strong. She got that from her father. What people they were, her parents. We went to visit them before we were married. He's a huge man, very English and rough, but kindly underneath all the red skin and tweed. Her mother's very small and she rather takes after mother, but she inherited her father's toughness. She brought little Matthew, he's just over a year and a half old, to the airport this morning. Oh, Ken, he's so cute. When I left then to get onto the plane, he puckered up his little face and started crying, saying "Da-da go bye-bye", and Miriam started to cry --- but, but she stopped herself, and told little Matthew that "Dada will be back soon, and he'll have a lot of time to play with you." She's such a wonderful person --- such a wonderful --- wond--- "
Ken sat uncomfortably. There was absolutely nothing he could do, since he still didn't feel free enough to bridge the small space between the two beds and comfort Jean with a hand or an arm.
"I really have to get something out of this LSD session, I have to get something --- " Jean got these words out through lips contorted with anguish and sorrow. Audible sobs came from the shaking bed, and Ken felt the knot in his stomach rise to fill the area between his chest and his throat.
"You're going to be all right, Jean, you're going to be all right." Ken said these words almost to himself, almost as a background to Jean's crying, so that when the crying stopped, they would be replaced by the sounds of these words. "You've had a rough time, but you're in a good place now, these doctors know what they're doing. They're good people, and you're a good person, Jean, and you're going to be all right. You're going to be all right, Jean."
"Oh, I shouldn't be doing this," Jean said, struggling to sit upright on the bed, wiping the moisture from his cheeks.
"That's all right, Jean, there's nothing wrong with crying. You've had a bad time, and you're gong to be al right."
There was more small talk about the routine in the hospital, just to get onto some less heavily emotional subjects, and gradually the conversation shifted back to homosexuality. "How long did you know you were queer?" asked Jean.
"Oh, I've known since I was five years old." Ken said. "I remember drawing pictures of Captain Marvel --- he was one of those super-heroes in comic books, do you know him?" Jean shook his head. "Anyway, I'd fantasize what he'd look like if he were naked, and I'd draw pictures of him naked, but I didn't know what balls were then, so I remember drawing only the cock, and no balls and no hair. It was only much later that I realized that balls were part of the --- apparatus, and later than that that I began to draw in hair, because hair only became part of sex when I got my own hair. So I was interested very early."
"One of the earliest things I remember," said Jean, "was way up north in Winnipeg, where my Father had a restaurant for these miners. I was just a young kid, maybe three of four, and I went out walking on the river before it was completely frozen, and I broke through the ice and fell in. My Father was right nearby, and he got me out of the water and carried me home and warmed me up. I don't remember the cold from the water, but I sure remember how he beat me afterwards. Then I remember my Mother screaming, because she thought he'd kill me. The only thing I really remember about it was how hard my Father hit me."
"He must have really loved you, to be so shook up about your falling thought the ice." Ken tried to twist the story around in Jean's mind.
"Yes," said Jean, laughing humorlessly, "he really loved me. The next thing I remember I was about six or seven, and I was going to the toilet in the restaurant when one of the customers came in. I don't actually remember what happened, but I remember my Father opening the door of the toilet, breaking the lock open, and I was standing on top of the back of the toilet. I really don't remember what the man was doing, maybe he was sucking on me, but I don't know, but I remember my Father HITTING him, again and again, and everyone was yelling and running around, and again I remember my Mother screaming, but my Father just grabbed him and said 'Don't let me see your face around here again, or I'll kill you,' and then he threw him out."
"Whew, those are some memories from childhood." Ken replied by telling some of the events from his childhood, deliberately selected to give a more normal view of a more normal childhood, until the topic of homosexuality again arose.
"When was the first time you actually did anything?" asked Jean.
"Again I was very young, maybe eight or nine, and there were smaller kids in the neighborhood --- a brother and a sister, the brother a year younger than the girl --- and I like to play doctor, but even then I know I liked guys better than girls, even though he was younger, maybe five, because the girl was a little jealous that I paid more attention to little Billie's cock than to her little nothing between her legs." Ken talked automatically, having been over this same story any number of times, in bed with any number of guys.
"I never admitted to myself that I liked guys. I'd go out with the girls, and be careful not to look at anyone when anyone I liked was taking a shower. I liked sports, and I liked the physical contact with these big guys, but I never let myself think that this was something wrong with me. I was just good friends with these guys. But I liked to be around them, and I liked playing sports with them. I had laid a number of girls before I even let myself think about guys in a sexy way."
"That's funny," said Ken. "It's amazing how much the mind can fool you."
"I've never actually been gay. I've always liked the girls, too, and I was so happy when Miriam and I got married. I loved to fuck her. I thought everything with guys was out of the question, but there was another fellow, Jack, he was married to, gosh, was he a good-looking guy. Here, I have his picture." The faded color photo was a younger, hairier Jean with his arm around a slender fellow whose face was so out of focus it was difficult to come to any idea of his handsomeness.
"Gosh, he was a good-looking guy," said Ken, realizing that the lie was almost essential to a continued smooth relationship.
"Oh, yes, he was really great. Nothing effeminate about him; I was never drawn to anyone who was terrible swishy. I wanted a man. You're certainly not swishy, Ken." Jean's next words followed quickly, as if he had somehow betrayed his feelings. "He loved to fish, and I'd always loved to fish, so we'd go out on weekends, just the two of us, and our wives would stay together in the city while we were out in the woods fishing and just talking. How I love those weekends, but I never touched him, never really wanted to touch him, but I just liked to be around him. We were really great friends. I guess I could never do anything with him because we WERE such good friends. I'd hate to see the friendship end because I did something he wouldn't like; but like I said, I really didn't want to do anything, anyway."
"Did you ever do anything with a guy?" Ken asked, feeling uncomfortable with this excessive goodness on Jean's part.
"Oh, sure. Mostly guy's I'd meet on the street, and we'd go up to their place. I remember the first time I put a guy's cock in my mouth. I thought I wouldn't like it, but I really did like it, and I thought it was good that I could make this guy happy. He was just a kid, but not the least bit feminine. He sort of reminded me of Jack, too, but maybe that was just my fantasy. Once I picked up a hitchhiker, and the guy almost seduced me! He came on very fast, and the next thing I knew we were parked off the road somewhere, and I was sucking him for all I was worth. It felt good, but I didn't think it was right for me to be doing these things while married to Miriam. She's such a wonderful person, I wouldn't want to do anything in the world to hurt her."
"No," said Ken, "Of course not."
"She trusts me so much. Like her father trusts me. He met me at the airport, and he looked at me, and he said right off that he liked the looks of me." Jean looked furtively at Ken, trying to assess Ken's opinion of him. "You don't think I look effeminate, do you?"
"No, you certainly don't," said Ken, relieved that he could tell the truth at this point. "You've got a good hefty-looking masculine body and face, and I wouldn't be able to tell a thing about you, even if you passed me on a street where most of the people were queer." Ken used the word as a sort of strange placation of Jean's usage.
"I wouldn't have dreamed about you, either, Ken. You look perfectly all right. I was so surprised when you told me you were queer. I would have never suspected it if hadn't told me."
"That makes me feel good, too," said Ken, "it's sort of nice to know that you don't stand out in the crowd."
"I'd hate to be the kind of person that everyone could tell right away. I don't think I could survive if that was true."
"Well," said Ken, "you don't have to worry about that."
"My students really like me, too. I'm very careful not to play favorites. You can't do that in school, play favorites, or they'll be on to you in a second. There are some cute kids in my class, of course, but I treat them just like all the others. There's never been any suspicions of me in my career."
"I can see where there wouldn't be," said Ken.
There was a silence as the room grew slowly darker. The sun had caught itself in the pine branches outside the window, and scant flecks of light were all that was left of that bursting energy after the battle with the pines.
"Were you nervous before your LSD session?" asked Jean, picking himself up on one elbow again, the darkness growing kindlier to the patterns of flesh on his face and forehead.
"No, not so much as I thought I'd be. But I think I'll be nervous going into the second one," admitted Ken.
"I'm scared even now, and I don't know when I'll be having mine. I've got so much riding on this LSD session. It just has to work." Jean was able to speak more objectively now, but Ken was still uncomfortable with his words.
"There certainly isn't anything life or death." Ken wished he hadn't used those words, but there they were "about your first LSD session here. I made pretty much a mess of my first one, but they were perfectly kind about giving me a second one, so I wouldn't worry so much, if I were you. If the first one here doesn't work, there can always be another. Wait till you see them in action. You'll forget all about Toronto." Again he regretted his words because Jean had obviously forgotten about Toronto for the time being, and at the mention of the word, his eyes closed slightly in pain.
"What happened during your first session?"
Ken filled Jean in on first session, in a pattern that was to become familiar. He thought it amazing, as he was talking, that an experience becomes more real as it's talked about. It was as if it were only somehow tentatively happening when it was really taking place, and the tentative points were only ironed out and made definite afterwards, when it was talked about, put into words. It was as if an experience were worthless unless it was described precisely, and only then could it take its proper place in the memory.
During the telling of the first session, the darkness in the room became greater than the light, and the interruption for dinner was only a small one as the trays were carried into the room. The usual exclamations about the insipidity of the food were made, and the tale of the first session continued through dinner, with small interruptions by Jean's questions. The tale continued naturally into the second trip, and then turned to other people.
"Lotte and Fran are taking their trips today. In fact it's Fran's second trip, too," said Ken. "So I've had a second, and Fran's having a second, and there's no need for you to be concerned about your first. You'll be given a second if you need it, too. That's the nice thing about the way they do it here: you leave when YOU want to leave, not when THEY think you should leave. Usually leaving is very straightforward."
Ken then told Jean briefly about Bob and Jack and Howard. After the dinner was over, the lights put on, and the conversation exhausted for the moment, Ken and Jean sat quietly in the same room, sharing the same atmosphere, yet feeling so in tune with their feelings that talk was unnecessary. This state lasted until there was a patter of footsteps in the hall, and David poked his head in the door, left open by the departing nurse with the picked-over dinner trays.
"Hi, Ken, looks like you have company." David was introduced to Jean, and Ken watched closely to see Jean's appreciative glance over David's stocky body. David slouched into a chair with his characteristic spread-eagled sprawl, knees as wide apart as his elbows on the armrests, a sexual bulge appetizing beneath his crumpled corduroys.

DAY 10


Lotte and Jean and Howard were gathered around the table at the window, reluctant to move because they didn't want to decide where to move. Ken and Fran had left the table, where they had been balancing their trays precariously on their knees while they ate the two tiny link sausages and acidic apple sauce. They were still listening to the conversation at the table, at least Ken was, and he settled himself on the farther bed while Fran stretched her odalisque body self-consciously on the bed closer to the table, knowing that Ken had to look across her to the table.
When the conversation became more general, Fran stared into the growing shadows at Ken for a long time, then came to a decision. "Oh, Ken," she said, raising herself onto one hand, ear slouched down into her pink-crepe shoulder, "I'm so happy."
Ken felt a momentary surge of pride, that she could be happy while looking at him, but then he felt that she had something to add to what she had said. "Why is that?"
"If I tell you, will you promise not to tell anyone else," she said, conspiratorially, her eyes sliding toward the people grouped behind her.
"I promise," said Ken, convinced now that she was going to say nothing that would concern him.
"I'm in love." Despite his conclusions, Ken's heart rose into his throat. "With Russ." Ken was sure he blushed redly, and was thankful at the approaching night for hiding his face.
"Oh?" he said, furious with himself for having been disappointed as the object of her love, yet wondering what on earth she could see in Russ.
"He knows just where it's at," she went on, guessing his thoughts, "and he's always been so kind and gentle with me. We've been seeing each other for a couple of evenings. Just went to his place, listened to records, lay around on pillows, had a wonderful time together." She was dramatically staring at some point in back of his head, and Ken wanted to believe that that was all that had happened, but feared that Russ had gone much farther than she would care to describe to him. "It must be very nice," said Ken, since he felt obliged to accept what she said with praise.
"Oh, Ken, it is. Never before have I been so wrapped up with someone. We don't even have to talk, we don't even have to touch, but I just love to sit and look at him. Don't you think he has a wonderful face?"
Ken thought about his skinny, pointed chin, his squinting black eyes, his combed hair. He looked more like a man dressed up as a witch!" Well, Fran, you know perfectly well it doesn't matter what a person LOOKS like, it's what's inside that's most attractive."
"Yes, that's true," said Fran, looking directly at him at last, "and what I like MOST about him. He's such a gentle person, so understanding. We'd listen to music, and did you know he plays the guitar?" Ken shook his head, but somehow figured guitar playing was mandatory for aging hippies.
"No." Silence.
"Oh, it's so difficult being around him here, because I'm afraid to look at him, afraid I'll stare. No one knows about it here except you, so you won't tell anyone, will you?" Fran's eyes rounded into violet saucers in the shadows of her face.
"No, I won't tell anyone," Ken said, reaching an awkward hand out to pat her forearm. She took her other hand out of her hair and patted his hand, smiling dazzlingly.
"I thought you'd be happy to hear it. What with all the trouble I've had with men in my past," and Ken couldn't be sure if she meant it seriously, or if she were only camping, "It's just groovy to meet someone who likes you for what you REALLY ARE."
Ken had the feeling he'd heard this whole thing before. He couldn't image in Russ being interested in anything except himself for a long sustained periods. "He IS pretty busy here," he said, wanting to fill the silence or finish the conversation.
"Yes, the dear. He's so tired at night. But he says that being with
me is one of the most refreshing things in the world. Isn't that wonderful?" Ken nodded, thinking about the awful prose in his "magnum opus", and feared that Russ had been through this "real you" gambit so may times, he could quote lines from it in his sleep.
"I'm very happy for you." There was nothing else Ken could say: he had to reply to the beaming face before him, hair still yellow in the failing light, though the face had faded into two ovals above dull white teeth.
"He said I could stay on here for as long as I liked, and we've even talked about my becoming a therapist here. I even mentioned it to Dr. MacKenzie and he said he'd have to think about it. But doesn't that sound wonderful?"
"Yes it does," he said, musing what it would be like to come out of an LSD dream and see that narrow, beautiful face above yours, framed in that falling yellow hair, with that wonderful pink body inside the pink crepe pajamas. "I bet you'd make a wonderful therapist," said Ken, sitting up in bed, feet on the floor ready to leave the room.
"That's just what --- " And as if his name on her lips had summoned him, Russ pushed the door open and came into the room. He went over to talk to Lotte about her trip the following morning, and while he was in the room, Fran never took her eyes off him. Ken suspected that either she was putting a show on for his benefit, or she was so unwary of her own feelings she had no idea that her face dwelled on Russ as a collie's would gaze as his master's.
"Hi, there, how are YOU," he called down to Fran as he returned to the doorway. A smile made his small eyes even smaller.
"I'm just fine," Fran said too loudly, a smile trying to be small and casual on her face, but breaking into a beam of recognition. "Just fine."
"Good," he said heartily, and feeling that he had to give everyone equal time, he said, "Hi, Ken."
"Hello," said Ken quietly. It seemed ludicrous to go through the scene, but he had to remember he was the only one to know about "the affair."


Ken had nothing to do that afternoon, nothing at all. When lunch came, with its pasty boiled potato, shoe-sole steak, and green beans which looked like buttered eels, he didn't eat much of it, so that by 2PM his stomach informed him that he was hungry again --- or still. He recalled that the lunchroom on the ground floor was open from noon to three, and he'd wondered what was down there. This was the time to find out.
Entering the room, he was surprised to find it small, with only four little tables, two against the wall with three chairs, two in the middle of the floor with four chairs. Against another wall there were four more chairs lined up, so the place had a seating capacity of only 16. About twenty patients were in the place when Ken entered, and he had the disquieting feeling that they all looked at him when he walked in.
Conversations at the tables stopped, he was sure, when they saw him, and he thought for a moment that they might consider him a spy from Dr. MacKenzie, to see what they were saying. Then he noticed one of the short scrawny interns waiting for a hamburger at the counter, and decided Ken was more of a patient, certainly, than the intern was, and they looked at him from curiosity only.
He ordered a cheeseburger, debating whether it would be palatable for only 35ยข. There was a little old lady in a green waitress's uniform taking the orders, and Ken had never seen her before, so he considered she might be there only to care for this lunchroom. When the conversation resumed, Ken found it hard to remember he was in the hospital.
"She's such a bitch," one of the henna-rinsed heads was saying to a hollow-eyed gray lady. "If she doesn't get her own way, she nags you, nags you, nags you until she gets it." There was a whining quality to the voice that implied to Ken that she, too, could nag until she got success.
"Action flushed out two of the fattest quail you ever saw," said one of the men at the filed table of four, "and bang, bang, bang, I got one of them, and Action took off like a bat. The other was a hit, but it fell into the lake and some other goddam dog swam out after it. You know whose dog it was?" And the conversation went on forever, as Ken tuned out and went around the room to find what else was interesting. At one table for three, a dark-eyed lady moved her empty plate aside without taking her eyes off him, as if inviting him to sit down, but Ken passed his eyes along, pretending he didn't notice, and looked out the window, taking a big drippy bite of cheeseburger, which had turned out to be commendable in size and taste.
"I'm gonna get out of here in three weeks," said a high voice which could have been male or female, "and I'm never gonna come back, no sir," and there was soft laughter from the small audience he had at the other table for four. It was the first talk that located the lunchroom in a hospital.
"My daughter just got married to this no-count bookkeeper. Her father was a bookkeeper, I tells her, so can't you do something better? No, Maw, she says, I love him. She loves him. Can you imagine?" And the fat woman with catsup-colored lipstick sputters out in laughter, but the young tough girl she's talking to rests her elbow on her crossed knees and waggles her foot up and down in response. She's not listening at all; she's somewhere else, living another life while her body resides temporarily here.
An old man in flapping pajamas walks in the door, pausing at each table to ask the same wide-eyed question. In the babble of conflicting talk Ken can't hear until he shuffles closer. "I'm so hungry, but I don't have any money. Could you give me a quarter for a hamburger?" He's ignored at table after table, and then he's standing in front of Ken, cheeseburger half-eaten, frozen. "I'm so hungry, could you give me a quarter for a hamburger?"
His hair is pure silver-white, crewcut and neatly brushed, but the most startling part of the face is the eyes: purest blue, set with a coal-lump, resting on dazzling white corneal tissue. The eyes of a child! The eyes of a beautiful woman look up at Ken from the wrinkled, gray-stubbled face of a seventy-year-old. Such magnificent eyes! The man stares up at Ken, too enthralled to answer, until the scrawny intern comes to break the deadlock: "Come on, Phil, move on. You get enough to eat in your regular meal, you don't need a quarter for a hamburger."
"I DO need a quarter for a hamburger. I AM hungry," and the little man turns on the intern, tears welling in his flawlessly beautiful eyes, and still the redless whites remain ivory.
"OK, Phil, you want a quarter. But no one wants to give you a quarter." The intern looks over to Ken and shakes his head.
"You don't want to give me a quarter?" Phil looks back to Ken, tears down onto his cheeks, losing themselves in a stubble thicket, eyes bright.
"I don't have a quarter to give you," Ken lies softly, wishing, wishing his eyes were as bright, as clear, as beautiful as the old man's. How did they get that way? Not thinking, not reading, sleeping hours and hours? Such beautiful, empty eyes.
"But I'm hungry," and the old man's mouth curves down and the tears flow anew, and he gathers the flaps of his pajamas around him and shuffles off through the counter-crowd, repeating his query.
"If he'd only eat what we give him when we give it to him," said the intern to no one in particular, seeking to excuse himself from the scene. But Ken remembered the reason he was here, and a lump of pain for the old man formed in his throat, and he almost reached into his pocket for a quarter for the old man.
Then he thought of Homer Katz, and his sad-eyed stare toward the unattainable beauty of Fran. People want things in this world, and sometimes they can't have them. It's a simple as that, thought Ken. Very simple, but since when did simplicity ever encourage belief and living according to that belief? The rest of the cheeseburger slid down over the lump, and it was finally dissolved by final drops of root beer from a paper cup.
Other inmates came in and out of the room; some in a hurry, businesslike, others dragged themselves as slowly as Phil did. With nothing better to do in the day, did it matter if it took an hour to eat lunch?
"That's MY comb!"
"Are you out of your skull; I brought this with me when I came IN here."
"But you borrowed it from me yesterday." The blonde grabbed across the table for an object of the quarrel.
The brunette snatched the comb back to her breast, lips curling in disgust, "You ARE a case. Like HELL you borrowed it from me yesterday. What do you think I am, a thief like YOU? Smaller conversations hung suspended while people circled to look at the central four. At the other table, the quail had become bear, and the hunt continued, more fiction than fact.
"Don't call me a thief, I'll pull your fuckin' dyed hair out!" Hands writhed across the table in attitudes of menace, legs contorted under the table, faces twisted into grimaces.
"Look who's talking about phony hair, Miss Clairol over there," said the other, laughing without humor, ready to defend herself if attack comes.
"Look, you --- " and as the blonde stumbled to her feet, reaching across the table, there was a motion in the door and Dr. MacKenzie, followed by Rachel and another female nurse, sailed into the room like the Battleship Missouri.
"Good afternoon, ladies," and he fixed the combatants with a fixed stare and frozen smile, while the animosity in the room melted and flowed down through the floor.
"Good afternoon, Dr. MacKenzie, good afternoon." Everyone settled into their chairs, the two ladies looked at him, not at each other, and the hatred in their faces was replaced by dumb love, like two love-struck chickens when the cock come into the pecking-yard.
"I've checked the wards, now let's see who's here," and he settled into a clipboard which Rachel handed him, and proceeded to go down a list of names, telling one to see Dr. Freed for an interview, another to see some other doctor for an injection, a third to get some medication from Rachel, a fourth that he had a package waiting for him at the nurse's station, another that he was to see him at 3PM, and so on down the list. "Have I missed anyone? he asked affably, looking around the room, winking at Ken, nodding appreciatively toward the scrawny intern. "No? Good. See you this afternoon," The clipboard was given back to Rachel, the older nurse singled out one woman to come with her, and the entourage moved out of the lunchroom.
For a few moments there was silence, then the hunt began again, now in Eastern Canada, and the quarry was King Salmon in Newfoundland. The four women struck up a conversation which had nothing to do with combs. Homer Katz loomed into the room, looked around, maybe searching for Fran, and then left with a sad look on his face. Ken had finished his cheeseburger, but still felt hungry and was chewing desultorily on some greasy French fries, looking out the window at the so-called normal world passing on its routine.
"I'm gonna get out of here in three weeks," said a high voice which could have been male or female, "and I'm never gonna come back, no sir," and the source of the voice, Ken started with a shock, was at his left elbow. He looked down, and there was another pair of bright child's eyes looking up at him, brown this time, and he could only smile and say, "Well, good."
"No sir," said the man, uncertainly, and moved off to an empty table, to sit and wait for his next audience. Ken found himself wondering how long he'd been here, and how long he would be here. What happened to these people? There weren't many, and the new ones were admitted, so old ones had to leave. Where did they go? Who did they stay with? Why were they here?
` Stop. Stop thinking about them. They don't know anything about me, and I don't know anything about them. They might be looking at me, feeling sorry for me, wondering where I came from and where I'm going to go. Out of here. I've got to get out of here, and Ken put down the paper plate with three unfinished French fries, which were soon spotted by keen blue eyes, and he rushed out of the lunchroom and back to his world, in the front, Acid House.