Birmingham Museums Trust

Brother, Brother

Appearing in Leviticus, the concept of a scapegoat is that of two goats — while one is sacrificed, the other is released into the wilderness to carry the sins of the community. Family dynamics and the process of development can lead to the scapegoating of a family member, as someone unfairly blamed for the errors of the group. How does a process such as this taint an individual’s worldview, faith, or trust in others?

Flat on his back, he moved slowly in the sand. He opened one eye to see the dark sky, turning his head to hear the sound of the waves breaking on the shore just beyond where he lay.

 “Where am I?” Followed quickly by, “How did I get here?” were questions he could not answer. His heart was pounding; his throat was so dry it seemed to be stuck to the roof of his mouth. He tried to get up, but his body had sunk into the sand and it took more effort than he had. He lay there as still as possible because any bodily movement would initiate a chain reaction, first starting in his head and swiftly moving to his stomach. He couldn’t remember what he had eaten or where or when, but it was about to come up. All he knew for sure was that he was alone on an isolated beach at night.

He managed to sit up, carefully. As he steadied himself, he was startled by the sound of feet running in the sand. Sprinting towards him, the footsteps suddenly stopped and with it, a fear developed deep in his body. “I’m defenseless and at the mercy of whoever is approaching.” The thoughts of being isolated now felt like a favored position since he had no idea who was approaching. Turning toward the advancing figure, Pike could make out that it was someone who appeared to be a teenager. In a faint questioning voice, the boy asked, “Sir, is that your car?”

“Oh… I guess. Uh, where?”

“Up on the road. There’s a car.”

“What kind?”

“Mustang convertible.”

“Yeah, I think so. Why?”

“It’s wrecked. A policeman is there calling a tow truck.”

“Shit! You say a policeman is there?”

“Yes. Did you hit a car?”

“Uh, well…”

Pike stood up and fully faced the boy. His unsteadiness made the boy nervous.

“Are you… hurt? Do…do you need help?”

“No, I’m just sleepy and tired.”

He noticed that the boy was carrying a surfboard. He motioned to the boy and then toward the ocean, “Thanks for your concern … and have a good time out there.”

The boy nodded and ran on past him to the ocean.

“Cliffs at Pourville in the Fog,” by Claude Monet

Pike steadied himself and looked toward where the boy had come from. He could see distant car lights and flashing blue and red lights on what he assumed was a patrol car. He felt dizzy, but his physical ailments were nothing compared to his emotional turmoil.

Pike scrambled to the road as fast as possible. He could hear his heart beating faster and felt exhaustion in his legs as his feet seemed to sink deep into the sand like he was plowing through quicksand. But where were his shoes? He didn’t know. His head was hurting and his mouth was dry. He pulled out his cell phone to see if there were messages — while he couldn’t focus his eyes well enough to see who they were from, he saw there were numerous messages which he assumed were from his wife, Margaret. “Be calm, be cool, you know how to impress,” he mumbled to himself, but these were not the words of a confident man.

As he neared the road where the police officer and tow truck driver were standing, he realized how dishelved he looked. He could see that his shirt was mostly unbuttoned, his zipper in his trousers was open, and feeling his hair he could tell that it was a mess. He spat in his hands, rubbed them together, and smoothed them over his head to make his hair lie down. He had chewing gum in his pocket and quickly took out a piece and put in his mouth, hoping to mask the smell of alcohol. As he approached the two men, he greeted them in a load voice and mustered as much courage as he could.

“It’s a mess, isn’t it? What a freaky thing!”

The officer spoke first, “Sir, is this your vehicle?”

“Yes, what’s left of it.”

“Could I see your identification?”

“Why, yes, of course.”

He began to fumble in his pockets, but there was no billfold. He tried to cover his embarrassment, but was lost for words at explaining its absence.

“Let me check the glove compartment. Now where could I have put that?”

As he approached the car on the passenger side, he grabbed the door handle and tried to open the door, but the damage from the wreck prevented the door from opening.

“This was so crazy…just driving down the road…the fog was so thick I couldn’t see ten feet in front of the car. I hit that bridge abutment and wham! I drove about a mile to this spot here and the car stopped. I didn’t think it was damaged that bad.”

The officer appeared impatient.

“Sir, do you not have identification?’

“I’m sure it’s here. Let me check from the other side of the car.

Pike moved rather slowly around the car to the driver’s side and, with strained effort, was able to open the door. “God, what am I going to do if I can’t find that billfold?” he thought as he got in the seat and sat for a moment. “He’ll take me to jail and Margaret will raise hell and the board will suspend me and I’m back in rehab.” His brain was producing more thoughts than he could handle. “Now…center. Keep yourself calm. I’ve been in this situation many times before without getting nailed.” He opened the console and saw nothing because of the darkness. His fingers wrapped around an object that felt like it could be his billfold. As he caressed it with his fingers, he breathed a sigh of relief — it was his billfold and inside was his registration and insurance card. The policeman walked around the car to see Pike’s identification. He looked at the driver’s license for some time. Looking up at Pike like a man eyeing a potential pickpocketer, he asked, “Is this still your address?”

“Yes sir, lived there for twenty-five years.”                   

The officer eyed Pike carefully.

“You say you were coming from that direction,” pointing toward the rear of the car.

“Yeah, the right lane merges just before the bridge and in the fog, I didn’t know where I was and I hit that concrete abutment.”

“It’s a hazard. We have frequent accidents there. I’ve complained about it for years but nothing is ever done. There was a hit and run five miles in the opposite direction. Did you meet a vehicle coming from that direction?”

“I did but couldn’t see anything, didn’t notice anything like a damaged car. Like I said the fog was just too thick to tell.”

Walking around the car to the front where the damage was, the officer observed.

“Well you certainly hit something. Looks like it may have been red.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s all a blur to me. I wish I could tell you more.”

“Mr. Milstead, have you been drinking?”

“I had two beers with dinner, nothing since.”

Pike Milstead was a 52-year-old man who had premature grey hair. He was six feet two inches tall and a beer belly extending over his belt.

The officer bent down and drew a straight line about twenty feet long on the pavement with a piece of chalk.

“Sir, I want you to walk down this straight line and turn around, all the while staying on the line and walk back to this starting point.”

Pike had done this many times before and no matter how drunk he was, he could always do it.  

The officer scratched his chin and glared at Pike.

“Mr. Milstead, why did you leave your vehicle unattended in this fog?”

“I needed to call for help, but my cell phone reception was bad, so I walked toward the ocean to see if I could get better reception.”

“Hold on a minute.”

The officer walked to his vehicle and sat in the car. The tow truck driver had been working quietly to get Pike’s car loaded on his flatbed truck. He took a quick glance at Pike and smiled.

Pike took out his cell phone and dialed Margaret. On the other end, a sleepy voice says, “Where the hell are you?”

“Not to worry Hun, but I’ve been in a little fender bender. Uh, it’s not bad but I can’t drive it and need you to come get me.”

“Are you drunk?”

“No…well…I had a few.”

“I’ve told you…”

“Honey, don’t.”

“Don’t what, you asshole?”

“Don’t bring up all this shit. Not now.”

“I’m tired of this, Pike. It’s ridiculous. You’re ridiculous.”

“I’m going to need a ride home.”

“Good for you and good luck — I’m going back to sleep. Call your crazy brother!”

With that, she hung up the phone. Pike glanced at the patrol car and saw that the officer was still in the car. Pike didn’t want to call his brother, but he also didn’t want to call an Uber or a cab because he was so far from the city. After dialing Mike’s number, Pike had immediate regret, and was about to hang up when he heard Mike’s voice.

Mike was his identical twin brother — but in appearance only. They were different in almost every other way. Pike was a successful businessman, college graduate, homeowner, married for twenty-five years with three accomplished children. Although Pike drank heavily and was a womanizer, he found ways to get by without much attention to these things. On the other hand, Mike was not successful, flunked out of college, unmarried, diagnosed schizophrenic, and abused alcohol and drugs. Their parents Drexel and Marta prided themselves on having one son who was successful. Nothing Mike ever did shook their belief that they were good parents because of Pike’s success and his successful children.

“Uh, Pike! What’s up?”

“Sorry to bother you, but I need a favor.”

“At 3 o’clock in the morning? Margaret kick you out again?”

 “No, no. I had a wreck.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you could give me a ride home.”

“Are you hurt? Damn man, it’s three o’clock in the morning.”

“I’m sorry to ask, but the buses don’t run this late and they don’t come out here anyway. Uber or a taxi would take too long and besides that, I don’t have money and I’ve lost my credit cards.”

“Why can’t you call your wife?”

“Yeah, already did. She’s not willing to.”

“Well, okay. Be there soon. Bye.”

“No, wait. You don’t know where I am.”

But Mike was already gone. Pike shook his head in disbelief. The officer was slowly making his way back to where Pike was standing. He handed back to Pike his driver’s license and insurance card.

“Sir, here are your cards. Just so you know, I can’t complete my report because you obviously hit something and I will need to investigate more. You understand?”

“Oh sure. I wish I could give you more information. I would like to have answers too.”

“Obviously the fog had some role in this and I’ll wait ‘til it lifts before completing my accident investigation.”

The officer politely excused himself and walked back to his patrol car.

The Sphere
M.C. Escher
“The Sphere,” by M.C. Escher

The tow truck driver looked up from his work and said, “Where you want me to take this beauty?”

“You know where Jake’s Body and Paint Shop is?”

“Yep, go there all the time. Ya can ride with me that far if ya like.”

Pike looked around hoping for a miracle to see Mike drive up, but knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“Sure…That works.”

 Pike took a last look toward the beach and could see very little because of the fog. He felt empty inside and mad at himself. This kind of thing was a pattern, but he had no idea how to break it. He opened the door to the passenger side of the truck, but found the passenger side to be full of papers, a lunchbox, an old banana peel, and a flashlight.

Noticing Pike’s hesitation to get in, the tow truck driver said, “Sorry about the mess. Jest put it anyplace, behind the seat or floorboard.”

At first, Pike was going to put it behind the seat, but that space was already filled with an assortment of items, so he put it all in the floorboard. This worked to get it out of the seat, but now he had to sit awkwardly by stretching one leg out and pulling the other back against the seat. While this was uncomfortable enough, what really unnerved him the most was the odor. He couldn’t quite make out the cause of the odor — he thought that it might be some spoiled food perhaps behind the seat, or maybe it was body odor. It seemed to come in long whiffs. He thought it might make him nauseated.

“You mind if I crack the window? It might help clear my head.”

“Sure, go ahead. I know it’s none of ma business, but I noticed that the cop seemed suspicious of yore story ‘bout yore crash.”

Pike looked away and turned his head toward the passenger window. He didn’t want to answer. He didn’t think it was anyone’s business except his own and perhaps his insurance company. He knew what happened and he wasn’t saying anything else. He thought the least he knew or said the better.

“I don’t know. There was a lot of fog, couldn’t get help, walked down to the beach, sat down, must have fallen off to sleep, then the next thing I remember was waking up on the beach, seeing the lights up here.”

“We got a call ‘bout the hit un run. Another driver went on that un, and I got yorn. Did you know about the hit un run?”

“No, not until the officer mentioned it.”

“There was an ambulance and everything. The man was dead at the scene.”

Pike froze in his body like he’d been hit in the head with a rock.

“Somebody died? That’s…whoa that’s too bad. Any idea what hit him?

“Didn’t know nothin’ about that. Still ‘vestigating, I guess. When did yore accident happen?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Not that long ago, I just walked down toward the beach to see if I could get better reception on my phone.”

After a pause, the tow truck driver said, “Damn, that happened to me once. I’d just gotten out of the army, living down in Tijuana with a little o girl I met at a bar. She was a cute thing, you know, but a little slutty. Anyway, we’d been out drinking one night, foggy jest like this en, and she had on a short mini skirt, you know, all the way up man. And I just couldn’t help from rubbing that thigh, you know what I mean? Anyway, first thing I know’d was Bam! Bang! Crash! We hit a road sign that broke out the window on her side and run off the road, hit a tree, and got stuck in a ditch. Anyway, ma head musta hit the steering wheel. Man, I was out like a light. I come to with her rubbin my head, didn’t remember a thing.” The tow truck driver chuckled at his own story. Pike chuckled as well but more in a mocking way that he was sure the tow truck driver wouldn’t get.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have a little ol’ gal, a little slutty one at that, sitting beside me when I hit the abutment.”

The tow truck driver laughed for some time at that and Pike laughed as well at his ignorance. Pike thought maybe he should have just stayed where he was. Sooner or later Mike would have called back to get directions.  Pike hoped the conversation would stop. He pulled out his cell phone and began playing solitaire.

The tow driver looked at Pike and said, “Hey, I do that too. It’s great when I’m havin to wait. My gal, the one I got now, she fusses like hell and I jest pay no mind, ya know, like she ain’t there.”

“Yeah, I would think that would be a good way to handle that.”

The odor was getting worse and Pike wondered if he would be able to stand it. He reached for the radio hoping to stop the conversation only to hear, “It’s busted. Damn thing won’t play. Ya know I love ‘at county station. Cryin’ in yure beer kinda songs. I love ‘at. Gotta get dis damn thing fixed.”

Pike folded his arms across his chest and closed his eyes, but the tow truck driver didn’t see this and kept talking.

“You know I once went to see Merle Haggard. I had a pretty little gal then, not slutty at all, no she wasn’t…”

He glanced at Pike who made a fake snoring sound and said under his breath, “Damn, some people ken sleep anywhure.”

Pike kept making the snoring noise over the next half hour until they pulled into the entrance to Jake’s Body and Paint Shop. It was an old building but a town landmark. In the past, the building had been used as a dance hall, a furniture store, an all-you-can eat catfish place, and now a car repair shop. The building was painted white and had massive pillars supporting a small porch on the front. Flood lights on the building lit up the whole parking lot.

“Well, we’re here sleepin beauty. Ya can wake up now.”

Pike pretended to wake up. He had been thinking about how he was going to get out of this mess.

“I’ll take the car to the side garage entrance over yonder whure the security cameras are. Go over yonder to that door…”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve been here before.”

Pike went to a booth next to the garage door, filled out an information card which he dropped along with his key into the slot in the door.

“Ya sure there ain’t nuttin else I can do fer ya?”

Before Pike could answer he saw a car driving slowly down the street and pulled into the main entrance of the shop. He recognized Mike’s car right away. While he was relieved to see Mike, he didn’t know how he found it. But then he realized that this was the way Mike did everything.

“Thanks for everything. There’s my ride.”

The tow truck driver waved and drove away.

Although identical, the twins looked dissimilar in many ways. They wore different style clothes and Mike was considerably heavier than Pike. Pike was clean cut and wore the latest fashions. Mike looked scruffy and unkept with a cigarette always hanging out his mouth. During the early years in their lives, they wore the same clothes, had the same haircuts, and had the same friends. As they advanced through the school years, things changed. Pike, short for Pikael, and Mike, short for Mikael shared almost nothing in common. There was no problem telling them apart now. Pike was tanned, and fashionable, while Mike wore old blue jeans, flip-flops, and smoked cigarettes.

“Need a ride?”

“Deterrence,” by Vasiliy Ryabchenko

“I was afraid you would never arrive.”

“Had to walk the dog. You know that damn dog.”

“Walking the dog at 3 am?”

There was no answer from Mike.

“How did you know where to find me?’

“I’ve picked you up here before, you know, I mean last year, or maybe it was two years ago. I don’t know. Remember?”

“Of course I remember, but I could have gone someplace else this time.”

“If you were going someplace else, you would have told me.”

“But you hung up on me before I could tell you where I was.”

“Bullshit!”

“I was going to tell you, but you just hung up.”

“Look, I’m here, I picked up your ass. Jesus!”

There was a long silence. Mike had rushed the conversation and this made Pike anxious — he knew Mike to be highly volatile and didn’t want to upset him.

“Thanks for coming to get me. I do appreciate it.”

“Think nothing of it.”

“What you been up to lately, brother?”

“It’s the same old shit.”

“Mom and Dad staying out of your hair?”

“What the hell do you think?”

“Why are you like this?”

“Like what?”

“Everything is so difficult. I’m just trying to make conversation.”

“Well stop trying. I’m just who I am. Remember I’m the crazy one.”

After a pause, Mike continues, “I know what you’re up to.”

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“I know you are trying to get me committed to the hospital.”

“What? You off the meds again?”

“Fuck no! And fuck you asshole! Just so you know I’ve faked taking the fucking meds! And you can do whatever you want, but I’m not going back!”

Pike shook his head and muttered more to himself than to Mike.

“It’ll never change. It’s only gotten worse since high school.”

“Don’t fool yourself. It started long before high school.”

After a silence Mike asked, “You remember our second grade teacher, Miss Hill The Pill?”

“Sure, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

“Don’t tell me you forgot about it!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“It’s so convenient for you to just forget, or pretend to.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“That bitch washed my tongue out with a washcloth and soap for saying the word ‘shit.’”

“You can’t be serious. How can that affect you now?”

“Well, let’s recount how it happened. What led up to it?”

“I don’t recall. It’s your sad story, not mine.”

“You were sitting across from me at a table, remember?”

“I don’t know. It’s not my story.”

“It was sometime during the day, that part I don’t really recall, when we were supposed to be in our assigned seats in quiet time or something I think, and I was playing with a lollipop stick trying to put a wad of paper on the end, wrap the whole thing with you know, I think, the lollipop wrapper. You and Betty were watching me, but I wasn’t able to do it. I got frustrated and said “shit,” which was heard by both you and Betty. You, not Betty, ran to Miss Hill and told her I said a dirty word. She asked you to whisper it to her so the class would not overhear. And what did the bitch do?”

“I give up, you tell me.”

“That bitch called me to the front of the class…made a complete fool out of me, that’s what. And you…you were laughing your fool head off that day and the next day and the next day. You and your buddies kept it going because that bitch got a washcloth and wet it with water, rubbed soap on it and washed my mouth out with it.”

“For Christ’s sake! It was funny. We were kids. It was like laughing at a fart. No big deal. Get over yourself!”

“No big deal, huh? There’s more and you know this because I’ve heard you tell it and laugh about it hundreds of times. I’ve been the brunt of your jokes. You want to tell this?”

“Go ahead. You’re on a roll.”

Mike toke a deep breath and shook his head in disbelief.

“It was later in the day and the bell was about to ring. We were all in our assigned seats. You were drawing or something, I don’t remember, but had a pencil and paper out on the table. And whatever you were doing, you got frustrated and said the little magic word, s-h-i-t. I felt compelled to return the favor and ran to Miss Hill and said that you had said a dirty word. But the bell dismissing school rang and, of course, we were supposed to line up in the hallway when the bell rang and then march to the buses. She acted like she didn’t even hear me, grabbed me by one arm, reached over to her desk and grabbed her paddle with the other hand and wacked me on the bottom and yelled, ‘Get in line boy!’ and you were laughing your head off.”

“Mike! Jesus! How can you still be bothered about such a childish prank! My God! Get over it! Admit it. It’s crazy to still be bothered by this.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of a lifetime of being the brunt of your jokes.”

“I don’t like your tone.”

“I didn’t say it for you to like it. I said it because it’s true and I’m tired of being the crazy one in the family.”

Pike looks long and hard at Mike who was driving more erratic.

“Could you just slow down.”

“Shut your fucking mouth. I know how to drive.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“I’m getting pretty close to inviting you to walk the rest of the way home.”

“Yeah, and I may take you up on that. If you don’t want to be treated like you’re crazy, then stop acting like it.”

“I have thirty years of people treating me like shit, like I’m crazy or something, you know, and I’m fucking tired of it.”

Pike sat still and stared straight ahead. The fog was beginning to recede somewhat. After a while, Mike broke the ice.

Mentally Ill Patients in the Garden of An Asylum
Wilhelm von Kaulbach
“Mentally Ill Patients in the Garden of An Asylum,” by Wilhelm von Kaulbach

“You know, I mean, the hospital, it’s not a place where you can get better. They see you as crazy and if you don’t act crazy, they do something to you to make you act crazy. It’s like being in the middle of the forest around a campfire late at night and all the animals gather around to listen to the stories. Everyone tells a crazy story and they get crazier and crazier and you haven’t told your story yet and then realize that you are the only sane person there but you have to act crazy so as to not put suspicion on yourself for being different. If you are found to not fit in by declaring yourself sane you will be devoured alive by the animals.”

Pike responded quickly like he was participating in a debate and must make his point decidedly.

“I don’t follow your analogy, but there was a time when you got better when you were hospitalized.”

“Oh, yeah? When?”

“Well, the first time after the prom night event.”

“I knew you would say that. Do you know how many times you’ve brought up prom night?”

“I don’t know. It seems to me that it was the beginning of all this stuff.”

“It does, huh?

“Yes.”

“Alright, let’s set the record straight about prom night.”

“We all know what happened on prom night. Mom and Dad, the hospital, Alexa, and everybody at the prom knows what …”

“Stop! Stop! You fucking moron!”

Mike sped up and crossed the centerline a few times.

“Please calm down! You’re going to wreck us in this fog.”

“Easy enough for you to say. You’re the one who’s had the wreck tonight!”

“Maybe we should just drop it and not talk about it now.”

“Are you afraid, Pike?”

“Of your driving, yes.”

“Are you afraid of the truth?”

“I know the truth. I was there.”

“I’ve never explained it because everyone believes I’m crazy so why bother, but I’m going to set the record straight once and for all. We all know that Alexa turned me down for a date to the prom. It was not because she didn’t like me. I was because she was afraid of her parents. You had a date. Was it with Doreen?”

“Yes.”

“I remember the three of us went to the prom together. I had brought a bottle of Jack Daniels from dad’s liquor cabinet, but you and Doreen would not drink anything. I drank quite a bit of it. In fact, I got plastered. Right so far?”

Pike answered distant and uninterested.

“As far as I can remember.”

“When we got there, I went out back and smoked a joint with Caleb. Right?”

“Uh, no. I didn’t know that.”

“Well, we did, so there. During the evening, I made a fool out of myself on the dance floor and elsewhere because I was completely wasted. I got in a fight with the class bully, Dewayne. Remember that sorry asshole?”

“Yeah, I remember him, but I didn’t know you got in a fight with him.”

“It was outside away from the group. I kicked him in the balls and that was about all there was to it.”

“Good for you. He deserved it.”

Mike shook his head and his mood immediately changed.

“Everybody was laughing at me not because I was funny, but because I was wasted and you and precious Doreen fit right in with that. You grabbed me and pushed me into the corner of the room. Remember that? Everyone thought you were being protective of your bother and that’s your official version. But what really happened Pike? You weren’t trying to protect me…”

“Sure was…”

“You whispered in my ear that Alexa told you that she was sorry for saying ‘no’ when I asked her to be my date and to tell me that she wanted me to take her home. But she never said that, did she?”

“It was a joke. Doreen and I were just having some fun. We didn’t expect that you would force her to leave with you.”

“I went up to her and said I wanted to talk with her in private and took ahold of her arm and she willingly went outside with me.”

“Come on, Mike. Everyone saw that you had ahold of her arm and were forcing her out. Bubba came to her rescue and you hit him.”

“The SOB had it coming. I wasn’t forcing her. She said so later and Bubba apologized to me when he got all the facts and that was after my hospital stay and I went to trial on the charges. Anyway, we talked a minute and I asked to take her home. We got into your car and started down the road. We hadn’t gone three blocks when not one, but about three police cars pulled us over. Alexa was shaking and scared. She didn’t know what was happening. The cops dragged me from the car and said I was being arrested for a DUI, although they didn’t even test for that, two counts of assault, kidnapping, car theft, you know, and probably a few other things I’ve forgotten. I’m trying to plead with them that it was all a mistake, but they wouldn’t listen. Now we come to the big question Pike. Who called the police?”

“I was worried about you and afraid you might have a wreck and kill both of you. I could just see a lawsuit from Alexa’s parents naming me if she was hurt in my car.”

“Yeah, and what a nice boy scout you are. Sounds like you were more worried about your fucking hide than anything else.”

“That’s not true!”

“I refused to cooperate with the police, and why should I? They decided that I might be a mental case and referred me for a psychiatric evaluation. And you know what that is? A way to control people’s behavior that they don’t like. I was diagnosed schizophrenic, fucking crazy, and they put me on a shitload of fucking medication. Did it help? Are you fucking crazy? It turned me into a moronic idiot. I couldn’t just sit there and take that shit, so I beat up an orderly and escaped and three days later I was arrested at the town park minding my own business sitting on a park bench. I fought with them and they slapped a straight-jacket on me and took me back to the looney bin.”

“Crazy,” by Mel Bochner

“Mike you have a mental condition. The first step in getting better is to honestly admit what you did and take responsibility for it. You don’t seem to be taking responsibility for it to me.”

“Do you know about responsibility Pike? Can you tell me that you are fully responsible for your actions? Just take tonight for example…”

Huffy and angrily, Pike spits, “Of course I know what responsibility is! You be careful what you’re saying about tonight! I’m successful in life and that comes from being a mature, reasonable person.”

“God, you make me sick! Actually, you’re the sick one.”

“I’m not the one who forced my way into a house with the homeowner threatening to shoot me and then shooting me because I refused to stop. He was just protecting his family.”

“You know how this occurred and yet you always make it into something it wasn’t. Yes, I forced my way into a house two hundred miles from home because I was being chased by a road-raged imbecile. My cell phone was dead and I was trying to get to a phone to call the police. The homeowner misunderstood the situation, you know, and that was okay. He shot me in the leg and called the police. Which was worse, being killed by raging maniac or being shot in the leg by a homeowner?”

“No road-raged individual was ever identified, except by you. You were high on PCP and the police later transferred you to a mental hospital when they found out that you had mental problems.”

“You liar! I wasn’t on PCP and have never used it! No one said I had taken PCP. The stupid police report listed possible PCP induced episode. Where did they get that Pike? You called the police. It came from what you told them. You told them that I abused drugs and was a schizophrenic.”

“That’s crazy. You just make up shit rather than face things.”

“I’m crazy? Of course I am and I’ve had a lot of help. It takes a village to make a crazy person!”

Pike mockingly responds, “Poor Mikey. Everyone dumps on poor Mikey.

Mike suddenly floor-boarded the car.

Pike, perched on the edge of his seat, screaming, “Slow down, you idiot!”

“You want me to slow down? Okay, okay!”

Mike slammed on the breaks and the car began to skid on the wet pavement. As the car slid, it turned a complete circle and a half and came to rest facing in the opposite direction.

“You’re crazy as hell!”

Mike turned slowly to look at Pike. His face was drawn and his teeth were clenched. “Shut your fucking mouth or get out of my car.”

“You don’t have to invite me to get out. I refuse to ride any farther with you! You are dangerous to yourself and others and you need to be committed to the hospital.”

“Get out!”

“Flor de Pascua – The Scapegoat,” by M.C. Escher

Pike emerged from the car and immediately felt the cold damp air on his face. The fog was receding and the streetlights illuminated the roadway. As he made his way on the edge of the roadway, he soon recognized where he was — home was less than a mile away. He thought to himself that something had to be done to stabilize Mike. He couldn’t be allowed to rant and rave and act in such a dangerous way. He also thought about how Margaret would react to his being out all night and wrecking the car. He thought about the man who was killed by the hit and run, but he wouldn’t let himself dwell on it. He reasoned that it was an accident caused by the fog and no one was to blame.  The man would not have parked his car in the roadway if he had known where he was. It was simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just one of those unfortunate things that happens that’s unplanned and you just have to go on. He had, for all practical purposes, already dismissed it from his mind.

When Pike arrived home, he thought it best to sleep downstairs on the sofa than go to bed and possibly wake Margaret who was already angry with him. He must have fallen asleep immediately because he was soon awakened by a shrill angry voice. Margaret was standing over him.

“So, what happened asshole?”

“It was foggy…and I accidently hit the…”

“Don’t you lie to me, you shitass!”

“I’m not lying…”

“Same song, second — oh wait, is it the third or fourth verse? The last time you swore it wouldn’t happen again. You took me on a vacation to the Maldives, our second honeymoon, you said. Who’s the bimbo this time?”

“I’m sorry, I went to Moe’s and Joe’s Bar for a few drinks after working late at the office. I had a few too many, but the real problem was the fog. I could have been killed, you know.”

“I’m sure not even the devil would want you. I don’t believe a word you tell me.”

“I know what you feel, but it’s not like what you think.”

The phone rang and Margaret stomped to the phone and answered it. Her tone changed immediately.

“Hey, how are you…oh, he’s fine. Just a minor fender bender in all that fog last night…Yeah, he’s here. You want to talk to him?”

Margaret walked toward Pike and gave him a drop-dead look.

“It’s your mom and I think your dad is on the other line.”

Pike took the phone, “Hey Mom and Dad. What’s up?

Pike’s mother answered in a worried voice.

“How are you son? From what Mike said and from his belligerent behavior we were worried about your condition.”

“No, no it’s nothing to worry about. I wasn’t hurt. It was nothing.”

Pike’s father blurted out, “There was a hit-and-run on the same isolated road. Your brother told us that. You weren’t involved in that, were you?”

“No, of course not, mine happened several hours later. That sounds like such a terrible accident. You know that road is very dangerous even without the fog.”

“Did you and your brother have a fight last night,” asked his mother changing the subject.

“Well, you know Mike. It’s hard not to fight with him.”

“He’s been angry. Slamming things around in his room. You know how he gets.”

“Yeah, well I wasn’t going to say anything to you because I know that sometimes it’s just better to get out of his way. But, well, he was driving wild and I thought he was going to kill us.”

Pike’s dad said, “We’re thinking about calling his therapist and seeing if we can get him committed to the hospital. We’re afraid to live in the same house with him.”

“And for good reason. I think it’s a good idea. He needs to be stabilized on meds again. And guess what? He told me that he has always pretended to take the meds anyway. The doctor needs to know that. Maybe the shock treatment would be the best thing for him under the circumstances.”

“We’ll recommend the shock treatment if you think that would help.”

“Yeah, you need to be safe. There’s no telling what he’s capable of doing.”


Mott Windal enjoys writing short stories about real life issues and is currently working on a collection for publication. He has also written several screenplays. When he’s not writing, he’s on the golf course, kayaking, hiking in the mountains, sailing, or painting.

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