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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 88: Hastings 160
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When dinner arrived that evening, Lauren decided to say more than her usual thank you. She began with “Thank you,” but then continued, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know your name.”
“My name?” the woman answered.
“Yes, and it’s been terribly rude of me. I was thinking that I wouldn’t be here long, and forgot that you’re a person, and you matter. I should try to learn your name, at least. I won’t get it on the first try--and I have a lot of names to learn--but I should at least try.”
“Oh. Well, then, you can call me Matilda.”
“Thank you, Matilda. You can call me Lauren.”
“You’re welcome, Lauren,” Matilda said, and Lauren smiled.
She had similar conversations that night and the next day with Rupert and Philburt, who escorted her to the facilities, Amanda and Petrick, who were her caregivers. In the morning she introduced herself to her waiter Devon, caregiver Marion, and orderlies Thompson and Jeffers.
By that afternoon she was trying to remember all the names and connect them to faces, when Doctor Conway arrived.
“So,” she said, “what would you like me to talk about today?”
“I’d very much like it,” he said, “if you would go back to the beginning and tell me the whole story over again.”
She stared at him blankly. “What in the world for?”
He smiled. “I expect you can work it out.”
She sat silent for a moment and thought. He wanted to know whether she would tell the same story. If she were making it all up, it was likely that the details would change--things like the colors of the houses and the rooms, names of her imagined friends. At the other extreme, if it were all a delusion, it might be locked into a single way of telling it. That is, if she repeated too much of it exactly the same, it would suggest that it hadn’t really happened but was some kind of rote learning she had imprinted on her mind. The true story would have different details with each telling, but would be consistent from one telling to another in the facts. He was looking for the right mix of consistency and variation, that is, the right kinds of variations and the right kinds of consistencies.
Or maybe he just wanted to get more detail, and figured that if she retold the story more of it would come out.
She went back to the beginning, with her birth at Kennedy Hospital in Stratford. She moved more quickly this time, giving less detail; he interrupted her less frequently.
When she was nearing the end of high school, he looked at his watch.
“I’m sorry I’m not telling as much this time as last time,” she said. “After all, I just told this story, and if it’s boring me to tell it again, it must be boring you to hear it.”
“No, I’m fine. Your pace is fine. I might ask some questions, to fill in details, but not today--we’ve used up our time.”
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. He nodded, and left.
When the food came, she remembered Matilda’s name and greeted her; the woman smiled, and returned the greeting. She had more trouble with the names of everyone else on the night shift, particularly since Rupert was not working and she had to introduce herself to Mitchell.
It was a start.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #306: Versers Refocused. 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: