#sundaystory: Sparrow

The first sundaystory I’ve written in October 2014, hope you like it.

The information given was:
a) English
b) Sparrow
c) church, beer, Frankenstein
d) dramatic

dedicated to Tammy

Frank sat in his office organizing the upcoming appointments when his secretary Susie entered to bring him coffee.
“Thanks, Susie. So, what’s the plan for today?”
Susie opened her notepad and started.
“So, first of all Dr Robinson asked for the record of Miss Donald, the patient you’ve sent to him, Mr Fuller had another panic attack and asks for an emergency appointment with you and then there’s this persistent journalist who’d like to interview you about the organisation.”
“Ok, please send a copy of Miss Donald’s record to Dr Robinson as soon as possible, then tell Mr Fuller that he should be here round about six and call the journalist and tell him that we should meet here on Saturday at 12 o’clock.”
“But Dr Steiner, on Saturday at 1pm you are supposed to give a speech about the organisation in the frame of the conference.”
“Ah, yes, sure. Well, okay, then tell the journalist to be here at 8.30.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Thank you, Susie.”
After Susie had closed the door, Frank leaned back in his chair, looked outside the window and smiled.
Frank Steiner really had done enough in his life to be proud of. He was a well-known psychotherapist, the journals filled with his theories and his methods of practice, the tabloids full of information about organisation Sparrow, the organisation he had founded years ago, the organisation best known for being against genetic engineering, animal testing and in general against people playing God.
He sipped his coffee and smiled again before he turned to concentrate on the record of the patient that was the first one on the list for today. He wasn’t really looking forward to meeting Mr Fuller at six, a time he normally closes the office, but he had dedicated himself to his work and so he couldn’t leave his patients in trouble. Plus, they paid too well to be let down.
The first three patients were gone and he had another hour before the next one was to arrive, so he went through the speech he was to give on Saturday. About the philosophy and the aims of Sparrow and the reasons why it is important not to play God. He was halfway through the speech, when Susie knocked shortly at the door before she entered. She looked bewildered.
“What’s the matter, Susie?”
“I was just about to organise the patients’ records again, when someone slid this envelope under the door crack. I opened the door quickly to see who it was but I was too slow, I only saw a person with a dark hoodie turn left and away he was.”
“Let me see.”
Susie was hesitant to hand the envelope to her boss.
“But Sir, I don’t feel well about it. You know there are enough people who are against Sparrow’s principles and who threatened you. And not all of your patients are mentally stable. What if someone wants to harm you?”
Frank patted Susie’s shoulder and went to pour her a cup of tea. When he handed her the tea, he took the envelope within the same movement.
“Susie, it wouldn’t be the first time that a future patient asks for my help this way. Some of them are embarrassed to enter the office and admit that they need help. Probably it is just another poor creature who wants my aid. Don’t worry.”
He shook the envelope but the only thing perceivable was the noise of paper scratching against paper. He opened the envelope and took a piece of paper out.
Susie, sipping her tea with a nervous twitch in her eye, rose her eyebrow quizzically.
“You see, it just says ‘meet me at the church tonight, 9pm, come alone.’. As I told you, it’s not the first time that I get a message like that and it took me several meetings in bizarre places like parks and graveyards before I could convince the people to come into my office.”
Susie didn’t seem convinced but she nodded and said “Just be careful, Sir.”
After he had managed to calm Susie down and she went off, Frank sat down and took a closer look at the piece of paper. It was a neat handwriting. But no trace of intention or what this person might want from him. Back to the speech for Sparrow, he told himself and practiced a little more before the next patient entered.
At quarter to six the last official patient left and Frank stretched himself and walked around the room yawning.
He went to the front room and told Susie that he’d be able to take care of Mr Fuller alone and that she could go home.
Mr Fuller came punctually, like always, six o’clock standing in front of the Doctor like a tin soldier, mechanic movements and a nervous smile when he shook his hand.
It nearly took two hours to take care of Mr Fuller and to calm him down and convince him that he can overcome his panic attacks by using breathing techniques and mantras and that no one meant to do him harm in public.
Frank locked the door firmly after Mr Fuller had left.
“Poor soul”, he said, looked at his watch, shook his head and started brewing a strong coffee.
The church was nearby, so there was no time or reason to head back home before the meeting with Mr Anonymous. Or Mrs?
While sitting down with his coffee, Frank went through the questions the journalist had sent him in advance, so that he could prepare his answers for the interview.
He read aloud.
“’Is it out of religious reasons that Sparrow’s aim is to prevent people from playing God?’”, Frank laughed whole heartedly, took his pen and wrote his notes down. “’No, it’s out of human reasons, the church or religion has nothing to do with it. It’s just a coincidence that Sparrow’s principles seem similar to those of the church. But from a psychological point of view, the human brain and mental condition is not created for such a burden as to play God, as to make decisions that include creating artificial intelligence or maintaining a superiority above other beings. People are cruel, and they like to demonstrate their superiority and strength, but sooner or later their mind will not be able to carry the burden of these events anymore, and this is when they come to my office. Insert wink and smile.’ Have to shape and shift the words a bit, but yeah, that should answer it.” Another look at his watch. Now he had to hurry a bit to be at the church in time.
He took his coat from the wardrobe and swung a scarf around his neck.
It was just a twenty minute walk and the cool wind in combination with the dry and golden autumn air revived Frank’s senses.
When he came to the church, he looked around, but saw no one waiting for him. He walked around the church to make sure he didn’t stand in front of the wrong entrance. But no one was there. He took the piece of paper out of his pocket again, checked the time, checked his watch. “No, it says 9pm and it is 9pm.” But then he took a closer look again and tapped his forehead. “It says IN the church, meet me IN the church. Doctor, doctor, you should pay more attention.”
Frank opened the door and even before he was completely inside the wind pressed against the door and shut it with a slam behind him. He just had enough time to prevent his coat from being caught in the door. He looked around, some candles still burning, other than that: darkness. He shortly thought about taking some holy water and crossing his chest, but then he dismissed the thought as he made out a person sitting on a bench.
He went over, stood in the aisle and waited for the person to move.
“Good evening, Dr Frankenstein.”, it said. Only now did Frank realise that it was a woman. She turned around and took the dark hood from her head and smiled at him. Her wavy hair that was halfway stuck inside her hoody had the colour of a deer’s fur, red-brownish and framed her friendly face perfectly. While greeting him she rose her other hand, holding a beer and cheered to him.
“Oh, it’s Dr Steiner. Frank Steiner. Good evening, Mrs?”
The woman smiled and took another sip of her beer. She must be in her mid-twenties, Frank thought. Who is she, he wondered.
“Don’t you wanna sit down, Dr Frankenstein?” the woman said and tapped on the wooden bench.
Frank cleared his throat and sat down beside her.
“How can I help you, Mrs?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s Miss, not Mrs!” Her smile vanished.
“Ok, Miss…”
“Frankenstein, you’re really persistent with these formalities, aren’t you?”
Frank was about to give one of his smart, psychological-theoretical answers, but a raising eyebrow of the woman somehow stopped him and he fell silent. This is not just another poor creature asking for my help, he thought, this is different. What does this woman want from me?
“If you insist, Sir, Shelley.”
“Call me Shelley, that’s what I said.”
“Ok, Miss Shelley. You wanted to see me.”
“Yup, that’s correct. And here you are.” She took another sip of her beer, emptied the can, and let it drop to the floor. The echo was deafening. She reached for her bag, took out another can, opened it with a quick movement, took a new sip and hunched over the backrest of the bench before her, watching the candles.
“Amazing, huh? All this silence. And the warm candlelight.”
“I agree. Miss Shelley, is there a reason why you picked the church for our meeting?”
“And may I ask what the reason was?”
“Well, so, what was the reason?”
“Miss Shelley?”
She smiled again. “Well, Frankenstein, you asked whether you may ask for the reason and I agreed. But I never agreed on giving you an answer, did I?”
Frank was baffled.
“Haha, Doctor, what’s wrong? Table’s turning? One time it’s not you being the smartass and tricking people through language, huh?” She looked truly amused.
Frank looked around. It was just the two of them. He looked at her, but her look was again fixed on the candles, the corner of her mouth still slightly amused.
Frank tried to look at his watch without being noticed. But Shelley suddenly awoke from her tranquil trance and turned towards him.
“So, Doctor, as it seems you are a busy man with a tight schedule, huh?”
Frank cleared his throat. “Well, it was a busy day today and the patients will be waiting for me early in the morning tomorrow.”
“Well, let them wait.”
“Miss Shelley, I’m sorry, but I can’t. These people are depending on my help.”
“Haha, oh, are they, yes?”
“Yes. So, I would be really pleased if you told me why I am here. How can I help you, Miss Shelley?”
A burst out of laughter that shocked Frank to the bones, the echo pulsating through the whole church.
“Haha, you? Help? Me? Haha, Frankenstein, I knew you were a witty and smart man, but I didn’t know you were a funny one, too.”
Frank was bewildered and he could feel a twitch coming up in his eyelid. With all his profound knowledge, he felt incapable of figuring out what this young woman wanted from him.
“So, you know me? Have you read about me?”
“Miss Shelley, will you tell me why I am here? I am really willing to…”
“Shush, Frankenstein. You had a busy day. You must be exhausted, huh? Helping all those ‘poor creatures’ as you tend to call them, huh? Structuring texts for your organisation Sparrow, huh? This beautiful idea of yours that we’re not supposed to play God.”
“Is this why you chose the church as a meeting point?”
“Nope. Or, maybe. Who knows?”
“You know.”
“Haha, being a smartass again, huh, Doctor? But before you take another look at your watch, I’m not gonna waste your time, Frankenstein.”
“Could you maybe stop calling me Frankenstein? Frankenstein is a fictional character, who…”
“….was a smartass, just like you.”
“Yes, but he created a…”
“….monster, I know. I thought you didn’t wanna waste time? So, your decision, do you wanna discuss fiction or listen to a real story?”
Frank fell silent.
“Wonderful, decision made, wise guy. So, back to the topic. Your office running well, Mr Best-Psychotherapist-in-Town?”
“Yes, I’d say so.”
“Great. And your organisation running well, huh? People listening to you, agreeing with you, following your ideas?”
“Ahem, well, it’s not only my ideas, but..”
“..but it’s the ones you spread, the ones you support, the ones your organisation stands for, right?”
“That is correct.” Frank answered and couldn’t prevent his chest from raising a bit out of pride.
Shelley smiled again.
“Fancy a beer, Frankenstein?”
“No, thank you, Miss Shelley.”
“You knew my mother.” Ah, there we go, Frank thought. Maybe a former patient.
“Who is your mother?”
“My gosh, Frankenstein, what’s wrong with you? Is your head tired? Was, I said, was. The correct question according to the circumstances is ‘Who WAS your mother?’, got it?”
“I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, sure you are.”
“So, who was your mother?”
“The more important question is, who were you?”
“You mean who I am?”
“No, I said who you WERE. Back then. I tell you who you were. You were the first man in my mother’s life. Her name was Mary.”
Frank sighed. This must have been decades ago, maybe twenty, thirty years. But to make sure, he asked “Which Mary?”
“Ok Doctor, little wrap up, just to make this process quicker: You were a young student of Psychology, keen on making new discoveries, convinced of your own ideas and ideals. That’s when you met my mother and became the first man of her life.”
Frank tried to recreate his first years as a student. But he had never been living the life of a monk, especially not in those days, but suddenly he remembered: Mary, Mary was special, she wasn’t one of the quick ones, he had spent one or two years with her. A beautiful little woman with a fragile body shape.
“Yes, I remember her.”
“You should.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”
“Loss…Tell me, Doctor, isn’t it like this: You need to have something in order to lose it?”
“Excuse me?”
“I mean, I can’t lose something that I never had, right?”
“Well, no. But, you did know your mother didn’t you?”
“Oh, Frankenstein, how much can you know a person when this person doesn’t know herself and likewise you don’t know yourself?”
Frank looked quizzically.
“I thought you liked theoretical approaches, Doctor.”
“How did she die?”
“Killed herself.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Did she suffer from depression?”
“She suffered from existence.”
“Doctor, there is a difference between existing and living, don’t you think?”
“Are you sure you don’t fancy a beer?”
“Yes, thank you. So, your mother was suicidal.”
“Doesn’t suicidal imply that she had those tendencies where she tried it several times? No, my mother made her decision and did it without mistakes, no need for a second try. What she did, she did properly.”
Frank cleared his throat several times. The feeling that there was more to this story than a young girl having lost her mother crawled up from his feet, through his knees, to his chest and throat.
“So, you remember her, right?”
“Yes, I do. Beautiful young lady.”
“Young enough, huh? How many years between you?”
“Erm, I don’t know, maybe four or..”
“Seven, Frankenstein, seven!”
“Well, but, yeah, as I said beautiful young woman, very mature for her age, supporting me in my studies and..”
“You mean being your experiment.”
“Pardon?” The words got stuck in Frank’s throat.
“You and your high ideals, your ideas of peoples’ minds not having the capacity to carry the burden of playing God. Everything leading to your oh so perfect and successful life, Doctor.” Shelley replied sarcastically, waving her beer can around and looking at Frank with despite.
“But, I mean, what are you talking about? What kind of experiment? I wished she had come to see me, maybe I could have helped her and then…”
“Helped her?” Shelley got angry. “Frankenstein, you smart numpty, what you don’t get is, that you are the reason. If you hadn’t been, there wouldn’t have been a reason to help her.”
“Pardon? Well, erm, I mean, I don’t understand. Your mother and I had a wonderful time together, some twenty, thirty years ago and..”
“Okay, yeah, twenty-seven and then we separated and never kept in contact. So how could I be…”
“How could you be what? Responsible you mean?” Shelley clicked her tongue.
“Oh Frankyboy. You picked a weak young girl you could form according to your needs and wishes. You infected her with your ideas, she was amazed by your profound knowledge, which was a mere doctrine you established to maintain this feeling of superiority. Yes, superiority, the thing you condemn with others, but that your gut and ego is craving for. You became the whisper that poisoned her.”
“Well, Miss Shelley, I think you are mistaken…”
“Shush, Frankenstein, you don’t wanna enrage me, believe me. Sit down and listen. Take a spoonful of your own history. Listen and learn, Mr Sparrow. My mother was young, fragile, but she had the best potential to have an outstanding personality, character. But in younger years it’s so fragile, so easy to be bent or broken. And that’s where you came into her life. A man seven years older than her, a man that was supposed to take care of her, to be better, to help her living up to her potential, especially a man in your position, studying psyche and mental stuff and so forth. But you were just interested in your ideas, your ideals that were to become the doctrine of your organisation. You told her what was wrong and right, you told her how to live, how to be, everything. You robbed her of her personality. And you created a monster.”
“How dare you speak of your own mother like that?”
“Shut, the, fuck, up, Frankenstein and swallow your lesson! You created a monster, so lost and forgotten in this world. She was lost after you left. Infected by your doctrine, by your thoughts, your philosophy. You played God and created her. She never came back to a point where she would have been able to create or establish a personality. Living according to the utterances of others. Lost. Yeah, lost and helpless.” Shelley took a deep breath and another sip of beer. “So, that’s what you did, Doctor, out of your egotistic experimenting you infected a young woman and created a monster. This has a double-layered meaning by the way, haha. But you don’t seem to be down for jokes right now, are you?”
Frank’s nervous twitch in the eyelid had now become visible and he swallowed with difficulty. A million thoughts, pictures and impressions running through his mind.
“I think,”, he whispered. “I’d like to have a beer now.”
Shelley let her palm fall down on his shoulder and smiled a tired smile.
“Finally, Frankenstein, you get reasonable.”
She handed him a beer and he took a big gulp.
“Yeah, take a draught, that’s better now, huh? Can you taste it?”
“The taste of guilt.”
Frank just looked down on the beer in his hands and cleared his throat again.
“I wish I…”, he started.
“Shush, shush, shush. Isn’t it funny how paradoxical life is?” Shelley said, smiled and watched the candles, the wax nearly swallowing the rest of the fire.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, your office, your patients, organisation Sparrow, everything you’ve lived for now becomes everything you’re going to die for.”
Frank lifted his head quickly, and his pale face looked at Shelley in shock.
“We are not supposed to play God, you said, Doctor, but you did, didn’t you? And sooner or later the human mind is not capable of carrying the weight of this burden anymore, right?”
“What? What, what did you…?”
“Take another sip, Doctor, it’s gonna help you.” Shelley said, while getting up from the bench and winking at him. She took her bag over her shoulder and made her way towards the end of the aisle. Frank tried to get up but his knees forsook him.
“You are a monster!”
Shelley held the door knob in one hand, turned around once more, drew the hood over her deer-ish hair and smiled.
“I know.”, she said.
The door shut with a slam.

Gina Laventura © 2014


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