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Inmates and Outmates

Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)


Chapter 15

Heir Apparent


Dan Sewell Ward

(July 15 th )


The sense of foreboding was intense, as if ghosts and phantoms from a century of mistreatment lurked about the grounds. Outwardly, the landscaping was flawless, the halls clean, cold, sanitary, and spotless, the staff well kept and courteous. But the feeling that pervaded every nook and cranny was one of confinement, of a cage where the bars were kept discreetly out of sight.

It is said if you think you're free, escape is impossible. For in order to escape from prison, you have to know there's a prison! It has also been said psychotherapists merely help one to rearrange the furniture in one's prison cell.

Tina looked around the room (or cell) which was a relatively luxurious one, potentially pretentious, and with the suggestion of a recent, major renovation. Everything was new and shiny! The walnut bookshelves had the brilliant finish of never having been exposed to dust, the curtains over the large windows showed nary a hint of being faded by the sun, and the desk was organized to the point of there being nothing on its smooth, dark oaken surface save for a new brass lamp (with a price tag still dangling on the back side). There were even a few, still-filled boxes in one corner, as if its owner had recently moved in and hadn't quite had the time to put everything away.

For some reason, Tina did not like the feel of the office (or of the building, the grounds, the locality, etc.). Which when she thought about it, seemed obviously absurd! The office was spotlessly clean, totally organized, tastefully decorated, and utterly... What was the word...? Ah yes, cold. The kind of cold that ran shivers up your spine in eighty degree heat, or that could stop in its tracks a cat in heat. This was a kind of cold undiminished by the marble fireplace and the carefully arranged oil paintings designed to provide warmth. Of course, the paintings suggested something of the darker side of El Greco – like when the world class artist was in a seriously depressed mood. Plus which the fireplace was a fake. As Tina thought about it, the marble fireplace, more than any other aspect, seemed to capture the mood of the office.

But then, the universe, being typically perverse, allowed for the arrival of unexcelled warmth in the form of Lawrence P. Cusman, formerly Chief of Psychiatry. Dr. Cusman entered his office with the flair of a closet circus performer on parole -- a great deal of show with very little substance. "Ms. Gilan! What an absolute delight!" he effused profusely, as he was wont to do. "Welcome to Elysium Fields! I'm Doctor Lawrence Cusman."

"Thank you, Doctor... Cusman?" A small storm warning flag raised itself in Tina's consciousness.

"Ha, ha!" Lawrence said, smiling the secret delight of knowing something which another was only now guessing. "You've probably recognized my name!"

Tina was very careful in her question. "Do you have a brother...?"

Lawrence laughed again, obviously enraptured with the merriment of the moment. As he put his hand on her shoulder -- a bit more intimately than necessary -- he smiled his very best, fund-raising smile, and said, "Ah, you're too clever! Arthur Cusman is indeed my brother! My twin, I might venture to add!"

Tina could hardly believe it, despite the number of storm warning flags now going up all along the coast. As she turned slightly, to ward off Lawrence 's hand from her shoulder, she asked, "Arthur Lyle Cusman, the stockbroker?"

Lawrence continued his laugh. "What can I say? Of course, mother was heart broken when Arthur opted for a life of crime, but what can you do? Ha, ha! But all kidding aside, Arthur is my brother, and I think, however modestly it may sound, that he's a credit to his profession. A genuine asset on which the financial community can always rely, place their confidence in... blah, blah, blah... It's seldom that one finds... blah, blah..."

"Good heavens,' Tina thought, 'They even speak the same language!'

Lawrence continued his discourse, until eventually he sensed Tina was sliding into shock boredom and that perhaps he needed to change the subject. With a modest fanfare and a mere two additional "blah, blahs", he did his quick shift. "But enough about my family. Let's talk about yours!" With that he grasped Tina's hand in his patented, two-fisted earnest handshake, "We are so pleased," he began, with his most sincere facade, "to have you visit us here. For you to take the time from your busy schedule to drop by and see your..." Lawrence suddenly realized that Tina's and Perses' relationship was not readily apparent to him. Hardly missing a beat, he managed a quick, "Perses. She'll certainly be delighted to see you again!"

"Thank you," Tina replied. "I've been looking forward to a short visit. However, I am somewhat pressed for time..."

"Naturally," the good doctor answered. "And I wouldn't want to be the one to infringe upon a moment of your time with... Perses." His voice became slightly strained, particularly whenever he found himself forced to say, "Perses". Then the strain intensified, as he began to struggle with the announcement with which he was most uncomfortable – or more accurately one which he subconsciously hated. Even loathed. This presumably is why he made such efforts to keep his feelings of hate and loathing crammed into his subconscious.

"However," he managed to begin, relying on decades of experience in mouthing words of which had no bearing on his beliefs or knowledge, "there have been some recent changes, modifications, of which perhaps you should be aware... assuming that you're not already... but just in case, in case you're not aware... and prior to your meeting with... Perses..."

Tina felt a surge of concern. "Is she okay!? Has she had a turn...?"

"No, no!" Lawrence quickly assured her. "She's in wonderful health! In fact, she's enormously improved!! I must say it's a breakthrough of major proportions! From a lonely, naive, withdrawn young lady, one who hardly knew who she was, to a woman of immense creative and individual ability..." For a moment, his voice seemed to trail off, "Albeit somewhat unorthodox ability...!"

Tina was now thoroughly confused. "So what's the problem?"

"None! No problem!" Cusman assured her. "It's just that you should be aware... and you may already be aware that... in any case... certain investors of Elysium Fields have recently recognized... the extraordinary talents and abilities of... Perses..." For a moment, the doctor could not quite manage to say it.

"And?" Tina encouraged.

"And," the doctor continued, taking a long, deep breath, "she is now in charge here... the new Chief of Psychiatry." Lawrence swallowed very hard, even while managing to maintain a cheerful, 'everything's just ducky' smile.

Tina was dumbfounded. "You're kidding!?"

Lawrence knew better than to answer Tina's question directly. "Our new Chief of Psychiatry… Perses… Doctor Gilan… has already instituted numerous, absolutely astounding changes in several of our therapies and treatments! I must say, that I personally, have been..." For a moment Cusman struggled with a slight panic. After a loud pause, he managed, "overwhelmed... and utterly... impressed at the way things are working out!"

Tina still couldn't manage the transition. "You've got a nut in charge of the lunatic asylum!?"

"Please!" Lawrence insisted. "We never refer to our guests in such a derogatory way. They might hesitate to pay us!"

"But she has no credentials!"

"No problem," Cusman assured everyone (but himself). "We just sort of... cover things... in our own clever way." Tina only looked at him, wondering if perhaps the doctor himself was the nut. After a brief moment, the alleged "nut" and former Chief of Psychiatry, who preferred a continuing, lucrative employment to the status of a title and a slightly fancier office, added, "Times are changing! The psychiatric profession needs this type of shot-in-the-arm in order to catch up with the rest of the world!"

Even in his wildest dreams, Dr. Cusman would never be able to fully appreciate the profound nature of his last statement. Sometimes, we speak great truths, even when we don't recognize them as such. Lawrence P. Cusman had just spoken a great truth, of which he was totally oblivious. This is as would be expected of him. He was a psychiatrist. Q.E.D.

But Tina hardly noticed, thinking such a truth was profoundly obvious! She also recognized that Zak had clearly bought out the hospital and promptly handed it over to Perses, his unacknowledged daughter! Perses had thus been accounted for! At least, in all probability. The only question now was whether or not Perses could provide any information on what Zak was up to.

Cusman, meanwhile, was eager to point out some of the latest innovations. Eager in the sense that he was required by some great authority to enthusiastically support all manner of things for which he would previously have gagged at the mere mention. After all, Tina Gilan's visit just might be predicated on the concept of checking out how Zachary Gilan's investment was faring, and whether or not the newly installed Associate Chief of Psychiatry was enthusiastically doing his part in the new organizational structure.

Cusman also felt an inner compulsion to somehow justify his decision to sell out. One might have thought that justifying one's selling out would have become superfluous by now (inasmuch as the practice had become so commonplace in professional circles). But Cusman was still enamored with seeking approval from virtually everyone (other than his patients).

"It's really been... amazing," he began, struggling for complimentary words which he could at the same time voice without gagging, "to see how some of... Doctor Gilan's ideas have yielded such... different results, over that of modern psychiatric techniques."

"Doctor Gilan?" Tina asked. On the second try, Perses' new title had managed to catch her attention.

"An honorary degree," Cusman quickly noted parenthetically.

'I wonder how much that cost,' Tina thought.

Meanwhile, Cusman charged ahead. "The use of everything from astrology to tarot cards to medicine wheels for diagnosis has been amazingly... amazing. What might have taken a year of biweekly sessions can now be knocked out with a single visit! I've just never seen so many patients come and go!" Cusman's control wavered considerably as he thought of all the formerly-paying patients walking out of the doors of the hospital with no apparent reason to return, either with their money or their insurance coverage. The vision of all those backs of departing, cured patients began to loom up as some horrible nightmare, one which Lawrence might have easily diagnosed in earlier days as severely traumatized toilet training.

"I'm impressed," Tina replied genuinely.

Cusman was only marginally aware of Tina's compliment, thinking instead that he might as well bring it all up. "Dr. Gilan has also instituted the use of depossessions and exorcisms!" Quickly he held up his hands as if to ward off Tina's upcoming objections. "I know, I know! But they've actually worked! I can hardly believe it myself! We've had cases of post traumatic stress disorder cleared up in a single session!! It's enough to make one want to rewrite the textbooks! Absolutely phenomenal!!"

Tina continued to watch the doctor, as if he had missed his last three rabies' shots. "I can imagine," she ventured, knowing full well that she might not even want to imagine it.

"She's also added crystals and therapeutic touch..." Cusman was now into the Twilight Zone , his mind reeling from the very idea of the techniques. Then he added, with a touch of genuine awe. "Doctor Gilan has even added the radical concept of including in all treatments by all members of our staff a genuine intention to heal! The results have been incredibly successful!"

Tina was still struggling with medicine wheels, but managed to ask, "Wasn't that always the case?"

"Unfortunately," Cusman conceded, "no. Philosophically the idea of holistic healing -- a technique which might actually cure people -- had previously not been in favor or in wide spread use by the medical community because of the serious financial limitations. Holistic healing techniques are so inexpensive that such techniques simply wouldn't be sufficient to support the nursing profession, much less the doctors and the administrators!" Suddenly, Cusman brightened. "But with our new investor's backing, we have a continuing flow of income such that it's no longer necessary to assume the more financially conservative position of assuming that no psycho ever gets well. And hopefully, an increasing reputation for results will bring in more patients hoping to be well instead of ill, and we can keep our beds filled."

"Hopefully," Tina said, thinking in her own mind that hope was not one of the better business assets – certainly not one to influence the bottom line.

"As you can see," the doctor added, his mind slipping, "Perses' new position... has created... a lot of... changes!" Cusman tried to swallow it. "Ones in which... we are only too happy..." for a moment, his voice cracked, "to incorporate." Tears began to well up in his eyes, as Cusman visited the brink of mental overload. The potential of Transformational Traumatic Shock was momentarily very real.

Tina intuitively grasped the idea that Doctor Cusman had reached some sort of mental limit and might need some moments alone in order for him to fit a host of radical changes into a world view which forbade changes of any sort. Tina smiled reassuringly, "Perhaps I could see Perses now."

The doctor's eyes glazed slightly. "Fine." A main circuit breaker in Cusman's brain had just activated itself, lowering the mental activity to one of strictly maintenance.

Tina waited for a few seconds, until it became obvious that she would have to find Perses on her own. Gently she shook Cusman's limp hand, thanked him for his help, and left the office. Cusman remained for several minutes as if posing for a statute of a victim of severe brain washing, his right hand unretracted from Tina's handshake. Cusman would be functional again once his mind was able to stuff all the ideas he didn't want to think about back into their neat little mental cubby holes. For the moment, he simply stood there with a demented smile, his mind stuffing like crazy, trying to recap the genie in the bottle, to once again chain the dragons in their lair.

Outside, Tina breathed a sigh of relief. Then she quickly regained her sense of purpose and was able to have Cusman's secretary -- an incredible sexy female with the brains normally accorded a mentally handicapped ground squirrel -- to put out the word Tina Gilan was there to see Perses, also known as Doctor Gilan. When Tina had been convinced that others with the potential for understanding her request had received it, Tina set down and waited.

Within a few moments, one of the most gorgeous men Tina had ever seen walked into the office, looking for her. He introduced himself as Don Hess, one of Doctor Gilan's personal assistants, and possessing one of the most enrapturing smiles Tina had ever seen -- the latter being Tina's own observation and not part of Don's introduction. Don also added that he was there to escort Tina to where Doctor Gilan was now working. Tina would probably have followed Don anywhere – down to Hades if necessary -- if only to search for some flaw or imperfection in Don's otherwise perfect body. Tina was sure she could find some flaw, however minor, even if she had to examine his body for days (with only minor rest periods periodically spaced between "sessions").

The walk to Perses' office, however, proved uneventful, save for several brilliant smiles from Don to Tina and an equal number of flushed, nervous silly faces from Tina to Don. By the time they entered Perses' office, Tina was oblivious to virtually anything not physically attached to the man's glorious body. In fact, Tina hardly noticed Perses, the woman with Perses (who was eventually introduced as Kate something-or-another), or the fact that Perses' welcome was friendly and rather genuine.

Tina came out of it when Perses went to the extent of giving her a hug as a gesture of welcome. It was then Tina finally heard what Perses was saying.

"I was initially rather surprised to hear you were coming for a visit," Perses began. "But once I had thought about it, I decided it was hardly a surprise at all."

Tina had progressed to the point of hearing Perses (and even taking her eyes off Don!), but not quite to the point of reactivating her normal thinking processes. Consequently, she was only able to manage, "Really?"

Perses was quick to sense Tina's predicament, and made an executive decision to ease the source of her discombobulation. "Thank you, Don, for escorting Ms. Gilan."

Don was quick to pick up on his requested exit. "My pleasure," he replied, to which Tina fervently hoped was a genuine statement, even if her slowly recovering mental processes suggested that the statement was just a typical conversational response. Then he added, "If you'll excuse me, I need to check

on the progress of our new baseball team."

Tina wasn't eager to see such beauty depart her life, but she was also intrigued that Elysium Fields had a baseball team. With appropriate curiosity, she asked, "Baseball!?"

Don smiled again, gloriously. "We first tried forming a small egg hunting club, but I'm afraid the Easter rabbits were a mite too clever for our members. So we tried baseball instead."

"How nice," Tina managed.

"The team is called the 'Mudslingers'. It's composed of mostly politicians who couldn't quite make the transition from total greed to abject poverty during the 'turnover elections of ‘04 and ‘06."

"Perhaps we'll have time to see the team later," Perses said. "Thank you again, Don." As he smiled and started out of the office, Perses added, with appropriate passion, "See you this evening."

Don glanced back over his gorgeous shoulder and said with enough sexual intensity to melt a battalion of Amazon Women, "Of course." Then he left. The room shivered slightly, just thinking about the possibilities.

Tina's mind, meanwhile, reeled back against the wall. 'Good Lord!' she thought, 'Perses and Don...! Don and Perses...! Them!' The idea of sexual liaisons between Perses and the incredibly desirable hunk seemed beyond any reasonable belief of a sane individual. Or a sane society. Of which Tina assumed she was still a member. On the other hand...

Perses, her face brightened by the knowledge of her immediate future bliss being adequately accounted for, turned back to Tina. "He's such a lovely man," she said.

Tina stammered slightly as she asked, "Where...?" She didn't finish the sentence, which would have read when completed, 'Where do you find a man like that and exactly what do you do with him once you've found him?'

Perses smiled. "April Ikaria introduced us. Then I attended one of Dan Davidson's 'parties' where I met Don again." For a moment, her thoughts drifted off to fantasyland and the first night that the two of them had spent together. Then she drifted back. "He's been working here, off and on, ever since then."

'I'd be willing to share,' Tina thought. But then she decided not to say anything. Perses was looking pretty good right now and if April Ikaria was involved, then the competition could be rather severe. Tina might better avoid such a vain struggle. On the other hand...

On the other hand, Tina was not even sure of what she was feeling, much less what to actually do about it. The intensity was so much more than normal. Plus which, it was unlikely that she would soon figure out what to do other than the obvious. Instead she just looked at Perses, as if delighted to see her again. And thought about Don. And the fact that she was going to have to start allowing for the possibility of a man to come into her life. Very soon.

Perses was still relishing a combination of past memories and expectations for the coming evening. As a consequence she fairly glowed. This, when Tina actually began to look at her, gave Tina a slight surprise. From her perspective, Perses had always been the forever-a-girl type female, willowy, compliant, and seemingly younger than she was. Not the sort of woman toward whom Tina could feel any camaraderie or genuine respect. Now, however, Tina saw a mature, regal woman, filled with understated power and authority. And a great deal of sensual glow. It was quite a change.

Perses took the pause occasioned by Tina's momentary reflection to recall what she assumed was Tina's reason for visiting Elysium Fields. "It's nice to have you here, Tina. Is there anything you'd particularly like to see?"

'The baseball diamond,' Tina thought. But she covered nicely. "Nothing in particular. Just a friendly visit."

"Not Zak-inspired?" Perses asked, her thoughts now returning to more mundane matters.

"No, of course not!"

"Just a thought," Perses added. Then in a rare moment of vulnerability, "At one point in my life, you may recall, I carried a rather large grudge against Zak. But I decided some months ago the load was really too heavy to warrant the effort. Whereupon I assumed responsibility for myself, and since then, have felt quite good. In the process, I've absolved Zak of any blame for my life."

Tina could not imagine how to respond to such vulnerability. So she fell back on the old reliable: "How interesting." (A short phrase used to avoid saying something negative.)

"And now with Zak's and Dan's help." Suddenly Perses smiled mischievously. "And Don's." The smile persisted for several moments, before she continued, "I'm now contributing something."

"Oh really?" Tina asked, not including the ‘What?'

Perses, nevertheless, heard the ‘What?' and answered, "I'm now a helper, sort of an extra-dimensional guide." She thought about her own words and then added as a means of explanation, "Better yet, let me show you around. You'll be able to see what I'm doing."

With no further preliminaries, Tina found herself being taken back into the halls by Perses, with Kate close behind. The three women walked down various passageways, with Perses pointing out rooms and discussing their use. Occasionally, patients wandered by and Perses called them by name, while Kate made some gesture, but then continued to shadow her boss ("shadow" being the operative word). In fact, Tina began to wonder if Kate ever left Perses' side. By the end of the day, Tina would assume the woman didn't. Except, perhaps, for those moments when Don was intimately available. As for then, who knows?

As the tour continued, Perses talked about a host of things that she, Kate, and Don had instituted. At one point, Perses seemed particularly enthusiastic. "Our first major innovation here was the initiation of a whole new concept for the treatment of terminally ill, rich people."

"Which was resisted rather strongly by the doctors," Kate added, from her position behind and slightly to the side of Perses.

'Oh good,' Tina thought, 'Kate can speak after all.'

"Change can be very threatening to some," Perses said gently, the intent being to explain her thoughts to Kate. Then she turned back to Tina. "Instead of soaking them for everything they're worth, which in some cases is considerable, especially if the government is picking up the tab, we're now advocating the idea that dying is not a fate worse than death!!"

Tina missed the humor, even when Kate chuckled.

Perses, meanwhile, continued. "On the contrary, dying is natural and inevitable and something to look forward to inasmuch as it's a return to heaven!"

Tina could see the logic, but hadn't quite understood Perses' enthusiasm. Then, even that became clear.

"Therefore, instead of spending fortunes keeping some old rich person alive for a few more months, or in a few rare cases, for several more years, the terminally ill are counseled that death is not to be feared! Then they simply let go and return to heaven. In the process, we eliminate the greater majority of the grief, trauma, and expense! It's a whole new approach in thanatology!!"

Strangely, as she listened to Perses, Tina thought about euthanasia. The idea was fleeting and Tina briefly wondered what connection had brought it into her mind. 'Wasn't it something Herman had said about Uncle Hal?'

Abruptly, an apparent patient, bouncing off the walls while trying to navigate the hall, came into view. Kate quickly assisted the wandering adventurer, while Tina and Perses continued on down the hall.

"What's his problem?" Tina asked, as they walked away.

"He had parents," Perses answered.

"That's a problem!?"

Perses casually replied. "Of course. Most parents have no idea of how to be a parent. I sometimes think they should be required to have a license. Heaven only knows that we have to have a license to fish or hunt or drive a car! But as long as parents own their children, have Carte Blanche so to speak with respect to them, raise them any way they choose, including just ignoring them, kids will have major difficulties. And they'll grow up with them!"

"Must be a common problem," Tina noted.

Perses smiled. "It is."

As she spoke, Perses turned into a small recreational room, where three men, two of whom were holding battered chairs at the ready, stood staring blankly at a fourth man dressed in the traditional white coat. The latter was attempting to smile patiently even while explaining the simple concept of not throwing chairs at one another. Tina caught part of his most recent appeal to logic. "Chairs are expensive and can be irremediably damaged. This could in turn result in fines, penalties, and other financial impositions...

Perses interrupted in the gentlest voice possible, directing her words to the three men. "Throwing chairs hurts people. That is something which I don't like. If you throw another one, I'll have Don throw one at you, and he's a lot stronger than all three of you."

The imminently forthright logic had enormously greater success than the white coated man's approach. The three patients quickly grasped the concept of their own bodily harm and wandered off to find something else which they could throw. Preferably at the man in the white coat -- attacking Red Coats having gone out of style over a century ago.

Tina, impressed with Perses' handling of the situation, asked, "What's their problem?"

"Whose? The patients' are the doctor's?" Perses had a slight grin on her

otherwise expressionless face.

Tina smiled at the choice. "The patients."

"One is a former TV anchor man, Ken Plass, who hit upon the idea one day that he could be replaced with a cutout look-alike. His realization that he was useless at best, and was in fact more likely to be a detriment to the world resulted in massive trauma. His co-anchor, Barbie something or another, at about the same time suffered a complete meltdown. Of course, she was mostly plastic anyway." Perses smiled in the fashion, 'such is the way of the world'.

"The second man was a life insurance salesman, until the death rate picked up, the companies quit writing policies, and the majority of the insurance companies went bankrupt. The end result was a sudden lack of meaning in his life. Which, of course, had been totally devoid of meaning before, but he just hadn't noticed it then."

Tina laughed. "I can't wait for the third one."

"That one is far and away the more interesting case. A college professor, physics I think, who began looking into something called ‘Bell's Theorem‘ and the ‘Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox', both of which apparently could not be accounted for by modern mainstream physics. The professor then decided to theoretically explain things once and for all. Only he kept running into other anomalies, repeatable experiments which simply could not be explained by traditional science. Finally he determined the only way to handle things was to temporarily exit the local dimensions of time and space. He's not yet returned, but we expect him back eventually. Recently we've been trying to entice his return by suggesting to him the idea that science without a philosophical basis is meaningless. We hope that will appeal to him and pull him back.”

Tina suddenly noticed something. "Wait a minute! All these people were successful!" "Very much so," Perses replied. "At least in terms of what they viewed as reality. On the other hand, there's a great deal of reality that never gets seen, particularly by those not quite ready for it. And until they are ready, it's simply not there -- despite the fact that it keeps intruding into their lives!"

Tina grimaced slightly. "I think I know what you mean." For a moment, Tina thought of Aaron and his inflexibility with life. "I know someone who has been notably successful, but has a very difficult time dealing with changes."

"The Yuppies are dropping like flies. Their entire world is constantly being shaken by events which clearly don't fit into the old 'American dream' scenario. For them to even survive the coming years, they will have to undergo some major transformations.

"Which they may be loath to do," Tina added, wondering if Aaron could possibly change. 'Better yet,' she thought, 'what would Aaron think of all the changes in Elysium Fields? Freak? Flip out like Cusman? Probably.' Tina smiled slightly.

"As for the doctor," Perses added, "he's still limited by the prevailing medical paradigm."

"The guy in the white coat?" Tina said.

"Right." Perses shook her head, a little distraught. "Medical doctors are the really tough cases! It was bad enough when I was a patient, when I had to put up with their 'engraved in stone' edicts. But as their boss, it's much worse. It's as if they've never been challenged in their actions, either because of 'professional courtesy' or some self-serving laws. But now that I'm in charge and simply not willing to allow them to hide behind such garbage, they're undergoing serious shock treatment. They're resisting with most everything they've got."

"That's understandable," Tina answered, thoughtfully. "When you've devoted twenty or thirty years to doing things a particular way, and then find out you were wrong all along; that can be a very difficult situation with which to deal."

"I'd have more sympathy for them," Perses replied, "if their intentions had been good to start with. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them went into the healing profession simply because of the money. They may have claimed the intention of helping others, but that was typically a fabrication on their part."

Tina felt no inclination to defend medical doctors, an almost pointless task, and instead remained quiet as Perses continued to point out features of interest in the radically changed mental hospital. As they roamed about, dodging an occasional patient out on a foray and a nurse or orderly in hot pursuit, Tina began to sense a strange feeling of comfort. The place was being healed from within, rather like a grass roots revolution. This was no longer a place of despair, the end-of-the-road, or even a final address. It was rather a way station, where one might come for rest and rejuvenation -- rather like a pit stop to change the tires and oil – maybe even get a new set of treads.

It was also a place where Perses knew her way around.

Tina took it all in, and after seeing the scope of changes, began to have some concerns that Elysium Fields might not make it financially. Perses kept insisting that "her" hospital would soon become notorious for healing people, and thereby be successful by the sheer numbers of new patients that would result. Tina, on the other hand, was not so certain that all people with mental and/or physical ills were all that anxious to be healed. So often, being sick provided a person with a form of power, a woundology which they would be loath to release -- at least until they discovered a deeper, more substantial power. Consequently, success at Elysium Fields, with its ability to actually heal people, might not be that assured.

To which Perses sluffed off with a wave of her hand. "Success or failure! Who cares? It's not the end result -- it's what you're doing in the process! It this place fails, I'll do something else!"

When Tina looked skeptical, Perses explained, "I remember growing up and watching TV specials where the lioness makes the dramatic kill. What they didn't show was all of the times when she didn't succeed, when the prey got away. The tragedy is that I and the kids like me grew up thinking only of success. Trying was not enough. Winning was the only thing. The idea was that if you fail, even slightly, then you're branded as a failure. But nature provides us with innumerable examples of acceptable failures. It's okay to fail!"

Tina thought about that one for sometime, even after trekking down virtually every corridor, through every room, and into view of every patient in the building. She quit thinking about it, when she saw Don again, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, doing calisthenics with the "Mud-Slingers". Somehow, his physical appearance concluded the tour for Tina. Or at least, Tina's ability to think about what she was seeing. Instead, she thought about Don during the remainder of her time at Elysium Fields, during her return trip to her office, and for the next four days.

Tina really was in heat! She was now certain of it!


Chapter Fourteen – Who's Left

Forward to:

Chapter Sixteen -- Alchemists



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