Welcome to the new Stream of Consciousness fiction blog.

A serial adventure in fiction by Brad Sondahl

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Chapter 21
Phil Steen for Rehab!
In retrospect, rehab does seem an odd choice for someone suffering from multiple personality disorder, instead of say, a mental hospital...  But my campaign manager assured me it's all the rage among politicos and pop stars, so who am I to question the voices in my head?  It was probably a mistake to go for the cheapest one available, but then the campaign coffers weren't going to provide for luxury accommodations, unless my unfortunate illness prompts more sympathy donations than I've gotten so far.
    So, for $29.95 per day, at Joe's Cut Rate Rehab and Motel By the Hour,  I got a room with 3 other rehabbers and a bucket for whatever purposes necessary.  It wasn't necessary to lock us in--the part of town we were in wasn't safe for even drug crazed sex fiends to venture out into, not that any of us were necessarily any of those, I mean, that you could tell by looking...   When checking me in, Joe explained his philosophy:
    "Ya gotta hit bottom before you can start up again, and this is the place for it.  By the time you leave here you'll be happy with solitary confinement on death row."
    That Joe--what a kidder!--I thought...

I hadn't expected room mates.  I'm a bit reclusive, and usually capable of entertaining myself, particularly with the voices in my head.  It was a shock to recognize one of the 3 at once--Anathema Johnson, the industrial solvent salesman, who once saved me at a riot.
    "Anathema! Remember me?  We narrowly escaped the Left Hand of Darkness rally by the Lilac River.  What are you doing here?"
    "I'm not sure.  My company claims I've gotten addicted to the product.  Like that's a bad thing..."
    "Industrial solvents?"
    "Well, okay, maybe I've found other uses for them.  I brought along some samples.  Have you seen the toilet?  I think I can improve it a bit with a little scrubbing."

    "You brought samples of solvents?" a burly guy spoke up.  "Gimme.  I'll snort them."
    "I don't believe we've been introduced," I said, trying to change the subject.
    "If you mean have I ever robbed you, the answer is, probably no.  But there's always a first time for everything."
    Anathema said, "The solvents I sell, if snorted, would probably leave you a puddle of scum in five seconds flat.  They're definitely not recreational solvents.  Besides, I need them all for me."
    "How about  paste?  Did ya bring any paste?" said the third roommate, a scrawny intellectual type.
    "Paste don't work like glue does," said the burly guy.
    "No, but it tastes better."
    "Haw! You mean to say you're a paste eater, like in kindygarden?"
    "We've all got our obsessions," he countered.  "Mine doesn't kill your brain..."
    "You're already brain dead," the burly guy responded.
    One thing about burly guys.  They're a lot more likely to speak their minds than scrawny intellectual types.  In fact, I'd guess the paste eater was used to persecution, probably since 1st grade.  I could see this would be an interesting experience, for the survivors.
    Anathema went off to clean the bathroom.  I sympathized with him--this motel had dead cockroaches lying on top of the living ones.  But I did wonder if he wasn't being a bit compulsive...  I mean, we're all guys. Stuff on the floor has to do something like poke a hole through your shoe before our natural inclinations to clean become activated.   So I could see that Anathema had a real problem.  So did we all.

    "My name is Thag," said the aforesaid burly guy.  "Which one of you wants to get beat up first?  Just mispronounce my name, or say it too cute, and you join the cockroaches on the floor."
    "Gee, Thag, that's a great name!" I said, a bit too enthusiastically.  "I'm Phil Steen, the next President of the United States."
    "Does anyone have a book?  Joe the rehabber confiscated mine before I could come in here.  And my name is Montpelier Richard, but most people prefer to call me Mopey."
    "Nah, books suck, let's see what's on the tube..."  He clicked the remote that was nailed onto the table next to the bed.  The TV remained dark.
    "Maybe it's a computer.  That would be just as good," said Mopey.  He opened the drawer in front of the TV, hoping to find a computer keyboard.  "Nothing here but the Gideon's Bible. "
    "Computers suck!  The Bible sucks!  You guys suck bigtime!" said Thag, illustrating his vaunted intelligence.  "Maybe I should just beat up all three of you and get it over with."
    "So what are you in for, Thag?"  I said, figuring his mind would be easily diverted.
    "Anger management," he said, squeezing his huge hands in a totally menacing way.  "It was this or jail."
    "How about you, Mopey?" I asked.
    "Sensory stimuli, according to my psychiatrist," said Mopey.  "I'm usually doing two or three things at once.  Grading papers while watching tv with the sound off, listening to a symphony for mood music.  It drove my girl friend crazy.  She said I wasn't paying attention to her.  So, I'm noticing there's a distinct lack of stimuli here in this joint, aside from the vibrations from Thag, whom I recognize as a slightly over the hill 70's punk icon.  Commander Beefeater, I presume..."
    "I'm the artist formerly known as Commander Beefeater to you, scum," said Thag.  "In case you hadn't noticed, the 70's are over."
    Mopey said, "So are our lives, if we can't work through whatever it takes to get out of here.  This reminds me of a novel by Sartre..."
    "Don't get started talking Sartre.  Sartre makes me puke," said Thag.  "Him and Nietsche."
    "I don't have strong feelings either way," I said, brightly.
    "Come in here and check out the toilet, " said Anathema Johnson.  "You can see your face in it."
    "I can see your face in it," said Thag.
    "It going to be a long evening," said Mopey.  "Anyone got a deck of cards?"

    It turned out that Mopey was onto something.  We sat around playing cards till the wee hours.  The atmosphere was helped a bit when Anathema broke out his bottle of industrial strength mouthwash, that was probably 180 proof.  Good thing none of us was in for an alcohol problem.
    We all slept in till noon.  We scrabbled through the little fridge to look for edibles, and the stuff there mostly qualified. Everything still tasted peppermint flavored from the mouthwash.  We'd just started the card game going, when Joe the manager made an appearance, cracking open the door slowly to make sure we were alive and unarmed.
    "Had enough yet?  Anybody cured?" said Joe.
    "So so." said Mopey.  "I think I'm the only one likely to get cured.  I have no alternative with these accommodations.  You could fix the tv and add broadband Internet, for starters.  The others--Thag can still beat the crap out of us if he's inclined, Anathema's been using his industrial cleaners like crazy, and Phil here has got my vote for President, as long as he keeps losing at poker...  So things are not looking good."
    "You guys are the toughest bunch I've ever had here.  Usually one night and the survivors are sobbing and begging to be released.  I guess it's tough love for the bunch of you," and he closed the door.

    Playing cards does get boring, but there are a lot of card games, and Anathema brought an industrial quantity of mouthwash, so the party went well for the next couple days.  The strong peppermint flavor of the mouthwash prevented us from getting the kind of drunk that resulted in drunken brawls, so Thag remained on good behavior. But Joe became more agitated every day when we showed no signs of cracking.  Part of the problem was, he'd collected the rent for the first night, but after that none of us was willing to pay any more, pointing out what a pit it was, and Thag suggesting he should pay us to remain there.

    So we were caught off guard when Joe showed up wearing Ph.D. regalia with a small stack of diplomas in his hand.  He was all smiles as he walked in.
    "Cheese it, it's the Bishop!" said Anathema Johnson.
    " No, it's just Cut Rate Joe and some stolen academic gown." said Mopey.  
    "You wish," said Joe.  "I got my doctorate in psychology from Yale in 82.  That was a hard time to get a university job, so I settled in here, and worked my way to the top."
    "Wow, you actually got to use your degree!" said Thag.  "My dissertation on abstract expressionism got used for toilet paper long ago."
    "Well, duh! " said Anathema.  "What do art historians expect?  Of course I didn't do a lot with my Masters in Political Science.  I did feel it gave me a hand up in retail sales."
    I was too embarassed by only having a bachelor's in banjo studies, so I declined to enter into the argument.

    "The point is, " said Joe, "that you have all far surpassed the goals of the Joe's Cut Rate Rehab program.  One night is more than can be expected.  So I'm here to declare you all cured, and graduate you with these diplomas.  I'll also cover you with backup fire power while you make your way to the taxi stand on the street. "
    I don't know if Joe had a secret camera in the room, but his timing was good.  We had just finished the last of the mouthwash, and Thag was feeling surlier than usual. I know I was ready to go home.  And the rest agreed as well.
    As we stepped off towards the street, Joe spoke up.
    "There's just one little item," he said, waving his Uzi in an off hand manner.  "The diploma fee hasn't been paid.  So if you'll all empty your wallets except for enough for cab fare, we'll call it even."
    I thought that was a pretty low trick on his part, but by Christmas time I'd gotten over it, and put Joe on my Christmas card list with the others...

    On the taxi ride home, I drifted off into a dreamworld, where I was in rehab with a lot of the major cartoon characters--Mickey, Daffy, Bugs, Elmer, Wiley Coyote, Mighty Mouse.  It turns out they all had major personality issues that landed them there--they were all compulsives.  No wonder they aren't making those cartoons anymore.
    My wife was happy to see me.  She was especially impressed with my fresh minty breath.  And maybe that helped us all the most--I heard from Thag that his fresh minty breath made people see him in a new light, and he did conquer his anger problem after all.   Anathema--I'm not sure if he was cured or not, but he gained some customers for the industrial strength mouthwash.  Even Mopey admitted it was better than library paste, mostly...  

Use this chart to find the next of the cartoons (first 47  entries) or the stories (starting with  1 A River Too Far 5 rows below week 8)
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Week 47
(cartoon ends)
1. A River Too Far
2.The Reunion
3.The Daily Grind
4 The New Car and Treasure
5. The Big 
6. The old
7. The Ravine Runner 8. The Fabulous
Folk Festival
9. Druid
10. Goats of
Christmas Past
11. The Secret Six 12. The Great
White Hunters
13. The Old School
Lost in the City

What's in
a name?
The Curse of
Bently Manor
Shortbottom Possessed
The Lost
of Iraq
Phil Steen
for President!
Phil Steen
for Rehab
The Adventures
of Handiman
and Fiberwoman
Pirates of the Puget Sound
Building a platform, plank by plank
The Quest
for meaning
Larry and
Phil to
The Rescue
Hurrah for
the Reds,
Whites, and
How I spent
my summer
I am
trapped in
the Present
Help I am trapped
in the future
Nose of Death