Friday, April 04, 2008

Positively Bud: More Therapy

My friend John in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called me this morning to complain about my story being serialized and requested I mail the whole thing to him. I was happy to do so until I discovered I had lost his e-mail address. If you're reading this, John, you'll know to send it to me.

Today's post appears unusually long because of all the dialogue, but it is no more than a little over a thousand words, the usual dose I'm administering at present. And today marks the midpoint of the tale.



When he woke Larry stood in his doorway. There was no sign of Ken or his things.

"Where'd Ken go?"

Larry smiled. "The staff felt it would be better if a newcomer wasn't exposed to someone so negative, so we moved him."

"Oh," Bud said with secret relief. "Where'd you move him to?"

Larry laughed. "Some place better for both of you. You don't need to know. Breakfast in fifteen minutes."

When Bud entered the mess hall he could smell coffee and bacon frying. Larry motioned him away from the other patients to an empty table, then pushed a bowl of cold oatmeal across with a spoon and a napkin and a glass of water. Bud tried to look as if he appreciated the food, but his brain whispered eggs and bacon. Staring at the glistening gray mound of oatmeal he felt angry. He began to eat it, though, smiling between bites to impress Larry. But after the third bite he just couldn't stomach it. He put his spoon down.

"Larry?" he asked.

"Yes, Bud?"

"Do you think I could have some milk and sugar with this?"

"Why, of course. Anything else?"

"Yeah-- could you heat it up, please?"

"No problem. Be back in a jiffy."

What if he'd asked for bacon and eggs? Better not press his luck. At least the oatmeal would be more palatable now.

After breakfast Larry led him back to the interview room, where Troy sat twirling a paper clip, looking as smooth as a mannequin. Maybe he was one.

"Good morning, Bud!"

"Good morning, Troy."

"How was breakfast?"

"Better than yesterday."

"How come?"

"Larry was kind enough to heat my oatmeal and bring me sugar and milk."

"Why on earth would he do that?"

"I guess because I asked him."

"You asked him?"


"What a concept! What happened when you were in the box and you asked for water?"

"Somebody brought some."

"Right. Though you suffered for a day before you asked. Do you like suffering?"

"Not particularly."

"What does that mean? Do you or don't you like to suffer?"

"No, I don't like to suffer."

"Good. Did you bring your assignment?"

"Yes." Bud reached into his back pocket and brought out a creased square of folded paper. Troy read it over.

"Unique-- good; special because I don't know who I am? Hmmm . . . special because I find it hard to feel special at all? Hmmm . . . This needs some work. Let's start with the positive answer-- you are unique?"

"Well, that's what I put down since no two people are alike."

"So you rationalized this positive answer although you don't necessarily feel unique, am I correct?"

"Well-- yes."

"Do you believe you are unique?"

"I guess so."

"You guess?"

"No, I believe I am unique."

"But you don't feel unique, do you?"


"So what do feelings have to do with it? You either are or you're not. Are you unique?"

"Yes. "

"Good. How does it feel to be unique?"

Bud thought for a moment. "No different."

"But you believe you are unique, thus special, of special value, irreplaceable? How should this feel?"

"Why, good, I suppose."

"That's right, you feel good because you're unique, don't you?"

"I feel good because I'm unique," Bud parroted back.

"Good. Repeat after me. 'I feel great that I am the only one like me.'"

"I feel great that I am the only one like me."

"I am special."

"I am special."

"No one can replace me."

"No one can replace me."

"Good! That's a beginning. How do you feel now?"

"I feel good because I am special," Bud said.

"How good do you feel?"

"I feel very good."

"How good do you feel that you're special?"

"I feel terrific!" Bud yelled, and the strangest sensation overtook his body, as if this affirmation filled him with a palpable energy, and the beginnings of a natural smile started to elevate his cheeks.

"You are terrific!" shouted Troy, "and what's more, you're smiling about it! Isn't that great?"

"That's great!"

"Good. So let's ignore these other reasons you jotted down since they're not so positive, OK?"

"Sure," Bud agreed.

Troy stood and started pacing with his hands clenched behind him. "I do, however, need to praise you for discovering your first reason. It was excellent, Bud."

"Thank you."

"So tell me about your father," Troy said without transition.


"Never mind, just tell me about your father."

Bud paused to collect his thoughts. "My father was a distant and demanding figure," he began, "who punished us with rather brutal whippings from which I still bear scars on my back. Nothing was good enough for him. For instance, one time I was five minutes late for dinner because of a baseball game and he took me in the garage and whipped me, then made me sit through dinner without crying. He was a cruel man and when he died it was almost a relief."

Troy stared at him. "How could you possibly be so negative? Don't you know many kids don't have a father at all?"

"Yes, but--"

"And can't you see that your father had high standards and sought very hard to enforce them, which expressed his love and dedication to you? Were his whippings consistent?"

"Yes, for the most part."

"So you had a loving father who was a consistent disciplinarian and you have misinterpreted all this through your egoistic nonsense to paint him as some sort of brutal taskmaster, now haven't you?"

"Well, I'd never really thought about it like that.."

"Right! Why look at your father's virtues when you can pity yourself for a difficult childhood! Repeat after me: 'I love my father, he did the best he could for me, I honor his memory.'"

"I love my father, he did the best he could for me, I honor his memory."

"How does that feel?"

"Weird-- fake."

"But isn't it true? A father who didn't care wouldn't take the time to discipline his children.

Your father loved you very much, didn't he?"

"Well, I guess . . ."

"Don't guess-- he either loved you or he didn't. Did he love you?"

"My father loved me the best way he could."

"Good, but shorten it up."

"My father loved me."

"How does that feel?"


"Say it again!"

"My father loved me."


"My father loved me."

"Good!" Are you special?

"I am special because I am unique."

"And your father loved you."

"My father did love me."

"How does that feel?"


"Really good?"

"Terrific!" Bud yelled despite himself, and felt again a warm surge of confidence in his breast.


  1. Anonymous7:03 AM PDT

    hehe. it's funny


  2. I thought sardonically funny. Glad you got it. Dr. Pangloss would be proud.


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