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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 20: Hastings 142
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 19: Beam 5
Dinner was palatable. Lauren noticed that everything about it was fairly safe. There were no utensils. A paper hot cup contained warm vegetable broth, and a paper plate presented boneless fried chicken, French fried potatoes, and carrot sticks. This, plus a small cardboard carton of milk, was delivered on a heavy pressed cardboard tray with several napkins and a paper cup of water which the delivery person explained was for cleaning her fingers. The trash was removed about half an hour after the food had been delivered. She was given another opportunity to trek to the bathroom.
The night passed uneventfully. The bed was not comfortable, but she had slept on worse; she would have liked another couple of the thin blankets. Her discomfort caused her to sleep a bit fitfully, and thus to be aware that someone checked on her several times overnight.
Breakfast was in some ways similar to dinner: a carton of orange juice, a carton of milk, and an egg sandwich on toast with cheese and sausage, no utensils, and the napkins and cup of water. Lunch was a cheeseburger with the typical salad fixings, again French fried potatoes, and when they offered ginger ale she accepted. They poured this from a single-serving glass bottle into a large paper cup and took the bottle with them.
In the afternoon she again was visited by Doctor Conway. This time he brought the chair in from the hall and sat in it, but otherwise the routine was becoming familiar.
“Can you tell me your name?”
“Have you forgotten it already?”
“No, but I want to know whether you remember it.”
She smiled at this. “Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings.”
“Very good; at least you are consistent. Do you know where you are?”
“In some kind of hospital or asylum.”
“Do you know why you’re here?”
She hesitated. The answer to this question could be significant, but they haven’t even hit the questions that would be real trouble. Thinking through her answer, she said, “I believe I was attacked by several men, and I injured at least one of them before being subdued.”
“Right,” the doctor said, not as if confirming that but as if recognizing its consistency with her previous story. “And do you know today’s date?”
“If I’ve done my math right, it’s Tuesday, June 8th, 1965. I thought you were coming back yesterday afternoon?”
“Yes, sorry about that; the day got a bit busier than expected. Can you tell me your date of birth?”
Here was the trouble.
“And the year?”
“I’d rather not.” She smiled. “A lady doesn’t like to talk about her age.”
He smiled. “I have reasons for wanting to know.”
Of course you do, she thought. You haven’t been able to prove I exist. “Well, I have reasons for not wanting you to know, and I think if I answer that question it’s going to create long-term problems here, one way or another.”
“O.K., so how old are you?”
“Most people would take me to be in my mid thirties.”
“Which means you were born in 1930, give or take a couple years. Let me say you are in remarkably good shape.”
“Thanks. I exercise.”
He shifted in his seat. “Tell me about Somerdale.”
“Somerdale? You mean, where I grew up?”
“Yes, that’s the place. What was it like?”
She shrugged. “It was your typical mostly white middle middle class suburb, neighborhoods of houses built on largely the same patterns, kids playing in the street. What was it like where you grew up?”
“We’re not here to talk about me.”
“That’s a bit one-sided.”
He smiled. “I grew up in an upper middle class suburb of Toddlinsburg called Sheepville, large homes on acre lots. So, where did you go to school?”
“Sterling High School in Stratford. All of us from several small towns went there. I took the bus. And you?”
“My parents sent me to a fancy prep school. I lived on campus most of the year, coming home for holidays. The school is no longer there, but it gave me a solid foundation for college and medical school.”
Medical school--that meant, if the rules were the same, that Dr. Conway was a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, able to prescribe drugs. Lauren decided not to pursue that. The doctor continued, “So you moved to some place called Franklinville. Why?”
“Well, I got married, and when we were house hunting I wanted to live somewhere where I might someday be able to keep a horse. I never did, though. Had children instead. They’re a lot more work, a lot more interesting, but generally a lot less cooperative.”
He laughed at this. “Yes, I imagine they are. Tell me about your children.”
“I’d rather not. I haven’t seen them in a very long time, and it is painful to think about them.”
“It’s not something I can explain.” He nodded. Let him make of that what he will, she thought. The truth will never occur to him, and he’ll probably assume something much worse.
“What about your husband?”
“He died not too long ago, collateral damage in a war.”
She looked away, as if she didn’t want to discuss it. He noticed. “Well, that’s probably enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“I look forward to it,” Lauren responded in the least enthusiastic voice she could offer.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #277: Versers Resettle. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: