Pulling Strings.

Pulling Strings
(Originally published in “Too Much, Not Enough, and In The Wrong Place”)

Every day he woke up with the same mental note in his head: “One day I’m going to quit this job.” He wipes the sleep from his eyes and wishes to himself that someone had told him what being a psychiatrist was really like. The money was ok, it came and went. Running his own practice was more of a headache than he could have imagined though.

He changed and walked through the double doors into his office. Being a private practice, he liked the fact that his converted loft not only was his home, but also his office. The “hip” location of the loft also left his clientele to be a little more of the young upper crust. He liked dealing with younger people. They thought they knew everything, and anything out of the ordinary was a disaster that needed to be talked about in therapy.

Didn’t matter much to him, his first client of the day was due in a few minutes. New clients were easy. A quick introductory session, establish the problem, bill him for his new book he just published, and book a session for next week. He liked new clients just fine.

“My wife Doc, she’s pulling my strings.” Mr. Davis hadn’t been in the office for more than two minutes before he took a classic pose on the patient couch. He didn’t know what to think of patients who dispersed of the initial pleasantries and dove right into their problems. He didn’t know how to respond, he didn’t know anything about Mr. Davis. “Well Mr. Davis, You’re not alone. It certainly must feel that way. I get a lot of guys who come in here and say something similar.” “No Doc,” Mr. Davis said, “I mean she pulls my strings you know?” “I’m afraid I don’t know what you are saying Mr. Davis, are you referring to an innuendo?” “You getting smart tough guy?” Mr. Davis became annoyed. “That is my wife you’re talking ‘bout there… I don’t know what you mean by ‘innuendo’…”

He knew this was going to be harder than he thought. “No disrespect…” he began “I just don’t follow you maybe if you start at the beginning.” “Yeah sure OK.” Mr. Davis settled back in the couch and thought about where to begin. The psychiatrist looked at Mr. Davis closely. “Working class, slight attitude problem, streetwise dialect…” he thought to himself. So much for the upper crust.

“Sally…” Mr. Davis started, “She’s great you know? I mean she’s normal enough, got both her eyeballs and everything. She don’t cheat or run around. She ain’t with me for my money, I can trust her on most things Doc.” Mr. Davis paused. “But it’s her roots you know?” “No,” the psychiatrist said. “Elaborate.” “Sally… her parents… her grandparents… They’re circus folk. At least they used to be.” “Circus….?” He asked. “Not like carnies man,” Davis corrected. “Those guys don’t scare me. I mean like circus folk. Bearded lady, lizard man, one ton beast, two headed twin, wolf boys… that kind of stuff you know?” “Like an old style freak show?” “Hey pal, YOU said that, not me,” Davis said. “You won’t hear me calling those people freaks. It’s not all of them I got to worry about though. It’s her mom.” “Mother in law problems?” “Yeah, except she ain’t no bearded lady you know?” “OK.” “She’s like a gypsy, but with all these creepy powers. Madam Rose. That was her stage name.”

The psychiatrist paused for a second. He let Madam Rose’s name drift in his mind. “I think I heard of her when I was a kid. Nothing special about that name Mr. Davis, it’s used all the time with fortune tellers.” “You don’t get it man,” Davis said. “She is THE Madam Rose. The others just call themselves that, all legends have a root man, this is it. You know how many clowns call themselves Bozo? And yet…” “There is only one Bozo.” He finished for him. “Yeah, and there is only one Madam Rose… and she’s my mother in law.”

“OK,” the doctor said. “So you have a creepy and almost famous mother in law in the circus genre…” “She never liked me.” Davis said. “Why?” “I’m just a guy from the city you know. I don’t travel, I stay in one place. I’ve done the same job faithfully for years, and will probably do it till they close down the place.” “She hates you for that?” the doctor asked. “Yeah. I’m not part of their ‘culture’ she says.”

“What does this have to do with your wife?” he asked. “We had a quick wedding. Not many people showed up. No one from my side, but a couple of hers.” “Ok.” “Her mom gives her this gift as a wedding present.” “A gift?” “Yeah. It’s in a box, and I never asked what it was. It just sat there untouched. I didn’t want to mess with it. But then things started to happen.” “Like?” “This sounds weird, but, for the last few months, I have had these uncontrollable urges Doc. Sometimes, my hand just jumps by itself, or I find myself mopping the kitchen, no matter how hard I fight the urge, I’m bound by some strange reason to obey the muscles in my body.” “That’s not normal.” The doctor said. “No, but it gets worse,” he continued, “I was cleaning the closet yesterday against my will, and I found that wedding present. I opened it and found this…”

Mr. Davis opened the box and pulled out a little marionette puppet on strings. It looks surprisingly like him. “Peculiar.” “Yes,” Mr. Davis says, “it’s me, and it’s voodoo or something. If you make the puppet move, I do too.” “You can’t be serious…” “I tried to destroy it, but it hurts like hell. I can’t trust her to leave it alone at the house, so I want to ask you to keep it.” “Keep…it?” “Yeah Doc,” Mr. Davis said, “Put it on your mantle, don’t let anyone touch it ya know?” “Mr. Davis… you can’t possibly think I believe that this puppet…” “Look man, I can prove it!” Mr. Davis cried. “I’ll turn around Doc. There ain’t no possible way I can see what your gonna do to the puppet Ok? You got to believe me.”

The doctor sighed. “Ok, but only to prove this is a farce and a waste of my time. When you can’t do it, tell me which doctor sent you as a joke and I’m still going to charge you.” “Fine, but just make this good and satisfy yourself. This doll creeps me out.” Mr. Davis turned around. The doctor raised the right hand using the puppet string. Mr. Davis arm shot up. He awkwardly used the strings to make the doll pat it’s head. Mr. Davis awkwardly patted his head. “Amazing. There are no mirrors here for you to look.” “No.” “This doll is difficult to operate Mr. Davis,” he said. “I know, that’s how I figured out something was wrong. When you start walking with a weird limp and have trouble putting on your hat, something is really wrong.” “Indeed.”

“So you can’t burn it?” “I tried to, but it hurt. I even punched it just to see if it would hurt me.” “And…?” “I almost puked.” “Anything else?” “Yeah, I tried to cut it to, but I got these huge cuts, after that I got the hint. No destroying it.”

“Why come to me?” he asked. “She don’t know you. The only way she can claim the doll is to befriend you. You don’t look like the type who books appointments with gypsies.” “What if she located the puppet and tried to steal it?” “Wouldn’t work,” Davis replied, “She’s like a vampire. Her magic don’t work unless you invite her over your threshold, and I know she won’t go into any room she can’t use her magic.” “You seem pretty sure of yourself. How do you know she won’t make another one of these?” he asked. “Sally told me,” he said, “her really nasty magic is limited to one spell per person every decade. That makes me safe for ten years. I figure I can think of something by then.” “What about your wife? It is her doll, it’s obvious she was using it on you.” “Hey pal, if you had a puppet that made people dance for you would you use it? She’s a good girl, just needs the temptation taken away.”

“I’m not a paranormal expert Mr. Davis, I don’t see what I can do. I’m a doctor.” “You’re a shrink, I get it. But look why don’t I just rent out space on that shelf right there?” Mr. Davis pointed to a bookshelf a little high out of arm’s length. “That’s too high for anyone to mess with it, it’ll look like part of the décor. All you got to do is leave it there untouched. No one knows it’s here.” “Rent,” he said. “Yeah” “Mr. Davis I don’t like to use the word ‘crazy’ in my field… however…” “Hey look Doc, you’d be crazy to pass up free money right? I’ll pay the regular hourly fee per week, just keep it up there.” “I’ll do it, only if you agree to keep coming for sessions, it’s obvious you have issues.” “Fine by me Doc,” Mr. Davis replied, “I need to come to check on the doll anyway.”

So the doctor and the puppet man sat down, looked at the leather bound planner on the desk, and set up the next appointment. Mr. Davis looked longingly at his puppet before he sat it high on the bookshelf and glanced at it three times before he walked out the door. The doctor sighed again. He sat down at his desk, and poured a drink from the bourbon bottle he stashed on the bottom drawer of his desk.

“One day I’m going to quit this job,” he told himself while he took a drink.

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