I sat staring at six faces who were staring back at me. I admit I had stage fright. I knew I was here to work. I figured this was good first step. I started to my left and tried my best to remember J’s description and the names she attached to the description. There was nothing playing on that channel in my mind. I started with what I knew, male, male. My brain came to a screeching stop, it skidded sideways. I tried desperately to regain control before I went over the edge. I was saved when J tossed me a lifeline.
With every effort in my surging testosterone laced body, I followed the sound of the voice. My heart surged with love like a spring avalanche in the Swiss Alps. My Venus was taking care of me. Oh wonder of wonders I thought. I don’t need to know their names. I uttered my first group meeting words, “Venus, would you bring me a cup of coffee and a Danish.”
I heard footsteps in the outer office. My Venus said, “Venus left for the day.”
J didn’t realize it, but her flashes of anger pushed every love button in my body. I grinned, tilted my head slightly and said, “Thanks, J. Make a note on my calendar I’m open today for dinner and drinks after work.”
J rolled her eyes, closed the door, leaving it a bit ajar, and left me alone with six people still staring at me. I remembered once in one of the few college classes I attended where I didn’t have a hangover and made an effort to pay attention the professor used something called an ice breaker or was it an ice wrecker or was it an ice cube? I’m not exactly sure of the right term. I’ll ask Mother and Father to talk to Pattybing and tell him I need a full time research assistant to do my research for me.
I looked at the group and said, “Let’s get something straight. I don’t want to be here. I don’t like you. I’m afraid you’re all beyond help. Any questions?”
Some guy with a cantaloupe shaped head said, “Excuse me Dr. Sanderstuff. Thank you for your brilliant opening. It is the best use of reverse psychology I’ve heard in my twenty years of therapy.”
If I was using reverse psychology I didn’t know it. I nodded at the dwarf and said, “Have you looked online to get lifts. You can add two inches to your height. That should make you four feet eight.”
The cantaloupe looked like he was going to come back at me. I did ‘t need a personality conflict on my first day. I jumped in and spoke to the whole group, “We all need to know each other. We’re going to do a Ritz Cracker to get things started.”
The door opened a bit and I heard my Venus say, “Ice breaker.”
If anything, I am quick to recover from a fail. I segued right into the appropriate language, “Thanks, J. These criminals are probably only familiar with the old school term of ice breaker. They’ve been in the joint so long, they don’t know what’s happening on the street.” I said this to demonstrate to the group I was hip and the coolest of the cool. I said, “How many of you are familiar with the term, “Ritz Cracker?”
They all raised their hand. I glanced at one of my future sexual fantasies, it was the woman with tight black leather pants and a white silk shirt unbuttoned far enough to expose her black lace bra. Isaid, “What does a Ritz Cracker mean to you? Do you mind telling the group your name?”
She said, “Do you want me to tell the group what a ritz cracker is if I was on the street and one of my clients asked for one.”
Before I could answer, the door swung open. J stood in the door frame. Her left hand rested on her cocked left hip. Her right hand pointed a forefinger at Amber, “Listen up sister. You bring your trash talk in here you and me gonna have a little talk after school’s over. You hear what I’m saying?”
Let me count the ways I love my Venus. I don’t think there are enough numbers in the whole world for me to mention. Amber gave a pout, folded her arms and looked away from me. The pout look was a turn on for me, then I remembered I was engaged to J even if J had not accepted my proposal. I was adoring Amber’s silk shirt when J’s voice brought me back to the present.
“Dr. Sanderstuff, why don’t you do the ice breaker you were telling me you was planning to do with this group.”
For a split second I didn’t who J was talking to when she said, Dr. Sanderstuff. Then I remembered reading the name on the door to my office. When the realization set it, I almost said, “I did?” I caught the phrase a split second before it passed my lips. Instead, I smiled at her and said, “J is interning. She’s going to be depth therapist and wanted to study under the greatest mind in psychology. Fortunately, I had an opening for an intern.”
J gave me a look I interpreted as you are the man I have been waiting for all my life. I’m very good at reading people’s mind, so I said, “When J is finished interning we’re getting married and going into practice together.”
The group broke into applause.
J walked out of the group room without saying a word, I assume she is the shy type. Then I heard from the reception area, “Yes, when hell freezes over.” I made a mental note to ask J who she was talking to.
I turned my attention to the group and said, “. We’re going to begin over here with you.” I pointed the finger at a tall, thin guy that looked like he was left in the spaghetti water ten minutes too long.”
“Me?” he said curling a long index finger toward his emaciated chest.
I was no longer afraid of the group, my muscle known to me as my Venus was in the next room listening to every word. I must be a good person to get all the breaks in life. I’m sure J will go home with me tonight and take me on a test drive. The skinny guy broke my train of thought.
“Uh, Dr. Sanderstuff, what am I supposed to do?”
Ice breaker. Ice breaker. I pushed the words through my mind and all I could come up with was a YouTube video I watched of a navy ship breaking up ice jams in the Arctic Ocean. A college buddy of mine once told me, ‘Martin, we’re filthy rich. People listen to us because they think we must be smart to be rich. We can say anything, as long as it looks like we’re confident, they’ll believe us. I decided to take his advice. “It’s obvious, don’t you agree group?” I said confidently.
I put a smirk on my face that said I know what I’m talking about and he’s a dunce. Everyone in the group nodded but the skinny guy.
I raised my hand policeman style stopping him. It was time for tough love. “How are we supposed to make progress in group if you don’t know how to do an ice breaker or a Ritz Cracker? Didn’t they teach you anything in prison?”
“Wanna know what I learned in prison?” said the short guy with a balloon sized head at the opposite end of the group. Everyone but the tall, skinny guy, broke out laughing. I sensed I was losing control. I needed J.
What to do. What to do. I did what came natural to me. When faced with trouble, turn away from it and hire someone to handle it. I couldn’t hire anyone at the moment, so I did the next best thing, I swiveled my chair and faced the ocean and began day dreaming of lounging on the beach with my black Venus. Me in my bathing suit, she in her bikini. Our lounge chairs pulled close together, drinks in our hand. The sun setting, a live band playing somewhere behind us. I was thinking I could stay here forever when my reverie was interrupted.
“Doctor. Sanderstuff? Doctor Sanderstuff, I know. I know. I know what an ice breaker is.”
I swiveled my chair and did a 360. Two more tries and I was facing the group and looking at woman waving her hand. There was something strange about her. Her lips were moving while she was speaking, but there were no lines or creases on her face when she spoke. I remembered J telling me something about Botox. I had my entry. I said, “Very good. Who did your Botox? You should sue. BTW, ask your friend next to you who did her breast enhancement, excellent work. I consider myself an expert on the subject. Here’s the icebreaker. We’ll begin with the extremely short guy who looks like he should be an enforcer for kindergarten. Is the shape of your head due to an allergy or was your mother a cantaloupe. I have a great sense of humor. I hope you’re catching on. After your turn we’ll go to my right or your left. No, let’s go to my left and your right. Okay short stuff, introduce yourself, keep it short, to the group and tell the group your fantasy.”
“There’s no one to my left. I am not short. It’s politically insensitive,” said the short guy.
I said, “That’s it, get your anger out. It wasn’t my idea to make fun of your size. That guy there, he told me you liked to be called by politically incorrect, derogatory names.” I pointed to a guy whose belly rested on his thighs.
The height challenged guy bolted from his chair, ran by me and leaped on the fat guy knocking him out of his chair. The landed in a twisted ball of arms and legs on the Persian rug. I didn’t want to get involved. I might get hurt. I looked at Amber and took a deep breath, grateful for the marvels of medicine and trying to remember my commitment to J. I said to her, “Do something.”
She unbuttoned the rest of her silk shirt and leaned over and said, “Boys!”
They stopped grappling and stared at her, “Un huh?” they said in unison.
“Play nice,” she said.
“Okay,” they said.
The door opened. Venus appeared. She said, “Bravo, Dr. S. Great group session. Anyone in here give you any crap?”
I pointed at animated version of a Korean robot. I said, “He was assaulting the fat guy.”
From the tangled mess on the floor, “I am not fat. It’s all muscle.”
From the other voice on the floor, “I didn’t assault him. I was defending all height challenged people.”
I was emotionally exhausted. I checked my iWatch, group’s been in session fifteen minutes. I said, “It’s been an emotional roller coaster this morning. We’ll break a few minutes early. Groups over. Go back to prison and think about our session and your fantasy. Tomorrow we’ll continue.
Amber called out, “Dr. S, you are my fantasy.”
“Girl, that’s strike one,” said J.
She loves me. Why else would she warn her? My Venus can’t resist my charm.
TRUST FUND BABY CONTINUES ON MONDAY
It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.
O who will walk a mile with me Along life's merry way? A comrade blithe and full of glee, Who dares to laugh out loud and free, And let his frolic fancy play, Like a happy child, through the flowers gay That fill the field and fringe the way Where he walks a mile with me. And who will walk a mile with me Along life's weary way? A friend whose heart has eyes to see The stars shine out o'er the darkening lea, And the quiet rest at the end o' the day,— A friend who knows, and dares to say, The brave, sweet words that cheer the way Where he walks a mile with me. With such a comrade, such a friend, I fain would walk till journeys end, Through summer sunshine, winter rain, And then?—Farewell, we shall meet again!
“To be courageous requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula. It’s an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all and each person must look for that courage in their own soul. ”
—John F. Kennedy
Each of us has moments, large and small, that require an act of courage. Acts of courage happen in many ways each day by ordinary people doing what they consider ordinary things. Can you recall a moment when you faced your challenge and acted with courage?
I tried to wrap my head around working with a bunch of criminals. I’ve two problems, I don’t anything about work. And, I’ve only met white collar criminals who have expensive lawyers like Pettibone who get them off. I wish I were in my favorite grade in school, kindergarten. I fell in love with Ms. Apple the moment I saw her. I asked mother after the first day of school if I could marry Ms. Apple. Mother thought I was cute. She told Father about about my request at dinner.
Father said, “Son, don’t get sexually involved with a woman who is only a teacher. She’s well beneath our status. Yes, the sex may be great, but the buzz will wear off after a while.”
What the hell was Father talking about. It was the first time either one of them mentioned the S word. I looked at Mother and she was shaking her head in agreement.
When Father finished speaking, she said, “Martin, teachers are poorly paid and they have the misguided notion they can make a difference. She’ll tell you she’s on the pill but don’t believe her, she’ll want to have your baby.”
“Mother’s right, Son. She’ll drag you out of our circle and pull into her lower class hell. Don’t worry, you’ll meet lots of upper class, beautiful, rich girls, who don’t care about making a difference, love to shop, and go on worldly excursions.”
I didn’t say anything, I went to my room and pulled the pillow over my head. I think I would have died if Mother hadn’t sent Maria, my wet nurse, in to soothe me. I just blew my mind. I think I’m having a breakthrough. I discovered why I’m obsessed with women’s breasts. It’s Mother’s fault for not letting me marry Ms. Apple. And, it’s Father’s fault for talking about sex with me when I was only five years old.
I heard voices in the outer office. J was taking attendance and giving instructions. I love that woman. I looked around my room. I counted four coffee colored with a touch of cream leather chairs and a matching Italian leather Chesterfield sofa. How was I going to keep my mind on work, whatever that was, when every chair and the sofa reminded me of the woman who was going to have my babies.
J came through the door and I entered a trance like state. She walked to me and all AI wanted to do was put my arms around and kiss her beautiful lips.
“Get your head in the game, Artin. It’s go time. You got to work with the group. They is waiting for you in my office. She put two hands on the bottom of my tee shirt and pulled it down.
“There, you’re ready. Check to make sure your fly is zippered,” said J turning toward the office door.
I said, “Will you stay and hold my hand?”
J said, “For God’s sake, it’s your group. I will not be in here to help you.”
I watched J walk back into her office. My mind only processing how I can win her eternal love. I wondered if eternal love can be bought. I made mental note to ask Mother or Father.
J opened the door and stepped in. She closed the door behind her. I held on to a faint hope she’d accepted my invitation for dinner and drinks.
“Artin, listen up.”
“Will you please call me Martin or M, but not Artin. Thanks for agreeing to go dinner and drinks with me after work,” I said.
“I don’t like the name Martin for reasons I will not divulge to you today, tomorrow, or ever. I will never call you Martin. I will call you doctor M. Does that satisfy you? No, we are not going out for dinner and drinks after work.”
“If you won’t go out to dinner or drinks, will you marry me?” I blurted.
“You are a bigger fool today than the fool you were yesterday. You doin pot or snow? I don’t work for no druggie.”
“I don’t do drugs. If you marry me, you won’t have to sign a prenup.”
J walked across the circle and sat in the chair next to me. “Doctor M, listen up. We are not dating. We are not going to hook up. We are not going to get married. I am not in love with you. I don’t even know you.”
I looked into her dark chocolate eyes and their hypnotic affect took hold of me as if I were a swimmer caught in a riptide. I said, “Do you want to go to Paris with me this weekend?”
J said, “What is wrong with you? Have you not listened to anything I said in the last ten minutes?”
“Un uh,” I answered.
J shook her head, “The group is waiting for you. You have to work with them for ninety minutes. I advised them to be on their best behavior. Remember, they are all convicted felons and this is the final step before they are released. They have a bus taking them from a minimal security facility to see you. The bus will take them back..”
I interrupted J, “Are they dangerous? My veneers cost a fortune.”
“I don’t know. That’s like asking me if my dog bites.”
“You have a dog?” I asked.
“No, I don’t have a dog. I was giving you an example. Nobody knows if a dog will bite. But if I had one and I knew you were coming down the street, I’d make sure it was a pit bull.”
It didn’t matter what J said or how she said it. Her words were John Coltrane playing saxophone. I said, “Thank you. Thank you. No woman has loved me such passion as you do.”
J cocked her hip only like she can cock a hip. She was turning me on. I think she was doing it on purpose. She said, “You little love sick puppy listen to me. Nobody knows if these people are dangerous. Pay attention. Doctor M, your eyes belong up here. First is Prince Flame. He was convicted of bigamy. He was married to three different women at the same time. He has tats down both arms. His head is too big for his body. It looks like an overripe cantaloupe. He’s sensitive about his height, he’s only four feet seven inches tall. Next is Amber Dalton. Don’t get any ideas when you see her. They’re big, but they’re not real. I can tell.”
I interrupted J, “It doesn’t matter to the male mind. At least to my mind.”
J shook her head and ignored my insightful comment. Dalton was convicted of mail fraud. She’s wearing black leather pants, a white silk shirt unbuttoned far enough so you can see her black lace bra. Remember to keep your eyes off her chest, you don’t want no sexual harassment law suit.”
I interrupted, “Do we have insurance that covers sexual harassment lawsuits?”
J didn’t bother to shake her head or answer me. She continued, Jill Marks was convicted of attempted murder. She caught her boyfriend in bed with her best friend. …”
“Did she try to kill her boyfriend?” I asked.
“No, it was her best friend she tried to kill. She was fortunate the weapon she used was the pillow. I would have worked, but her boyfriend was able to free his wrists from the bed posts in time to pull Marks off her girlfriend.”
“Question?” I asked.
“What?” J said giving me a look that might frighten most people, but I know lust when I see it. I said, “Are Marks and her boyfriend having conjugal visits while she is in prison?”
“You need help. Anybody ever tell you that? You need to see a psychogist.”
“Does looking in the mirror count?”
J continued, “I know botox and collagen when I see it. It’s not a pretty sight.”
I raised my hand for another question. J pushed my hand down. Next is Tito Perez, he was convicted of selling ecstasy. He has a muffin top but don’t make jokes about his weight because he’s sensitive, has a goatee, and he’s bald. He has a Latino name but he is not Latino.”
“How do you know he’s not Latino,” I asked.
“He has blonde hair, blue eyes, a pale complexion, and he talks like he lived in New York all his life. He had his name changed for Oscar Field so he could take advantage of people hiring minority workers. And last, there is The Sage. The is his first name and Sage is his last name. He likes to go by Sage. He is another name changer. He did time for embezzlement.”
“What was his real name?”
“Let’s see, it was Tiffany Wordle.”
“Can’t blame him for the change.”
“He’s tall. He has a high pitched voice, and no muscle tone. A strong wind might carry him out to sea.”
There was too much information flowing into me. I felt a sense of confusion rising within me like a tidal wave. I wanted to prove to J I was on top of the situation. I needed to earn her respect. “I have an idea, want to hear it?” I said.
“This better be good,” said J.
I said, “When can I meet your parents and ask for permission to marry you?”
“Do I look stupid? Tell me, do I look stupid?” said J.
I stared at my Venus for a moment and said, “You are the most beautiful woman alive. You are the shine on my shoes. You are at the top of my music charts. You are the happy meal I’ll always order. You are the whipped cream on my latte.”
“You gonna run out metaphors soon? You got a group to run. You stop this nonsense jive.”
I said, “I can’t. If I try to stop, It would be like trying to stop the sun from shining. Or, the tide from rising…”
“Get a grip, white boy. Stop with the metaphors. I’m going out that door and coming back with your group. Remember not to stare at Amber Dalton’s breast implants.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, J. I’m true to you. There will never be another woman in my life. Let’s slip out the back door and head to my parents’ island resort.”
J shook her head. You are on your own. I’m going to bring them in. Remember, you’re the psychologist. You’re in charge.”
All shall be well
and all shall be well
and all manner of things shall be well.
– Mother Julian of Norwich