I'm down here.Down south.My doctor, Doctor Lussenhop, is up there, up north. In the city.Once a month I log on and we teleconference. He treats me remotely.I did some stupid shit last year.Last year, I went a little nuts.Last year, I set my parents' condo on fire.
No one died.No one got hurt.It was a small fire.But still.
The court thought I should go somewhere else. They thought I should go live with my Uncle Doug.Uncle Doug lives down here.Down south.He runs a campground for money.
My parents were often not around. They were often traveling. Singapore. Thailand. Japan. Brussels. I had the run of the place. My parents were not my parents after a while, they were a photograph of these two people wearing asian fisherman hats in the basement. They were e-mail notes asking me if Cookie was all right.Cookie is our Shih-Tzu.
When they were around, my parent's eyes were glazed with car commercials, their brains were drugged with stock reports, their stomachs were bursting with evening dinners at Spago.
Fire.Call it a cry for help.
So here I am.I'm in a woodshed visiting with Doc. Lussenhop.Doctor L. appears to me in front of his wall of honorary degrees. I appear to him in front of a wall of saws and hammers."How's it goin'?" Doctor L. says."How's Uncle doing?" Doc L. says."Pretty good," I say."How are you two getting along now?""O.K.," I say."Let's talk about O.K." Doc L. says.
When I first arrived, I arrived with my video game system, my television, my portable music pod, my laptop, my mobile. I arrived weighing in at 180. I arrived seventeen years of age.
"Goddamn, you're flabby as a walrus," Uncle said, first thing.Then he said:"Uh uh... You're not bringing any a that shit in here," referring to my gadgets.I explained how I have to visit the doctor once a month via my laptop."Well if you gotta use it, you're gonna use it in the woodshed..."
When I first got here, all the computer stuff save the laptop was locked up in a crate and stowed in the attic.When I first got here, all of my candy bars were removed from my luggage.When I first got here, Uncle saw me putting some Prozac in my mouth and threw all of my pills in the toilet."You're depressed, huh?" Uncle said. "I'll give you something to be depressed about... There's a dead raccoon stinking up the creek behind campsite twelve. Why don't you run over there and pick it out with these..." He handed me a pair of rubber gloves and a trash bag.
I hated my Uncle. I tried to tell my parents this but they never answered their mobiles. The only person I had was Doctor L.Doctor L.'s pixellated face was my only respite.
I get only one hour with Doctor L. If I go longer, Uncle shuts off the power to the woodshed. I'm bathed in darkness. I think about the spiders, the corn rats. I get out of there.
"Never been camping!" Uncle says one day when I make the confession that I've never gone. I'm about to mow the grass. This campground has a lot of grass."Well tonight, you and I are going camping!" Uncle says.That night we go out to the remotest tent camping spot in the campground. Uncle builds the fire because the court order says I can't touch fire. I feel sort of bad just being by it. Uncle sees my face and says I shouldn't feel bad about it."They shouldn't a left you alone like that," he says.
I'm here in the summer. In the fall I'm supposed to go to this public school about seven miles away. There's a bus, Uncle says. I'll be on that bus. Meanwhile, there's stuff to do.
There's stuff to do like cut miles of grass. Stuff like chop the wood that Uncle sells to campers. Trash to be hauled. Dead animals to be removed. I also have the job of picking up canoers down the river when their route is through. I bring them back to the campground.
A local woman named Peggy runs the registration office. She was a friend of Aunt Lydia's who used to run the registration office before she died of congestive heart failure. Aunt Lydia's spirit is kept alive in the office, represented by a bottle of Jack Daniels with a necklace around it and a photograph of her that's glued on top of the black paper label.People come inside sometimes and they haven't been to the site for years and they ask where Lydia's at. They remember what a funny lady she was. Uncle says that's why he hired Peggy to work the office. He says it hurts too bad to work in there himself.
I talk to Doctor L. the third Tuesday of the month at noon.Doctor L. is city, like me. He feels my pain. He gasps at the calluses I show him on my hands. He says I should take care to put lotion on my face so I don't get sunburn. He tells me about the latest TV shows. This is my therapy.
In four months I am down to 150. I am rigid. I can see the bones in my face, the muscles in my arms.In four months I no longer crave my crate of electronics. I have learned how to shoot, drive a tractor. How to fish and swim.I'm reading books again.In four months I am pill free, TV free, sugar free.
Doctor Lussenhop says he hardly recognizes me.He tells me what's going on with TV shows, what the latest phrases are, the latest celebrity scandal, but I don't care anymore.Beneath the table I flick at a lighter.During my therapy I pour lighter fluid on the laptop.Doctor L. asks what was that. I show him the bottle of Ronsonol.Doctor L. recommends that I do not start playing games.
Doctor L. is engulfed in flames.
It is a bright blue sky I am under. I glide on a mellow breeze with just the hint of fall. I join Uncle fishing on the lake. I row myself out to him. I skid across the water fleet and sure. Uncle says what made me come out here.I show him the burnt laptop in the bottom of the boat in a puddle of muddy water and he laughs.
Supposedly, I could go to prison.Supposedly, someone should come to get me.But I'm not worried.No one comes down here.Not this far.
About the author:
John H. Matthews has contributed to various literary magazines including Wisconsin Review, The Whirligig, 2nd Hand and Thieves Jargon. He runs a celebrity dream website: FamousDreams.com and lives in Chicago.