The throb in Alma Robinson’s backside and the loud rapid-fire Spanish on the television slowed when she focused her attention on Tyler. He lay on his side, everything except his head under the crumpled white sheets and checkered blanket of his bed in the Utah state hospital. His brown hair was surprisingly neat. She couldn’t see his eyes. That was a problem.
Where is the remote? The room was neat by Tyler’s standards. He probably hadn’t gotten out of bed since breakfast. If he’d even eaten breakfast. “It’s time for lunch, hon. Do you have the remote control? Tyler?”
He rolled over a little too quickly. A hand flashed from under the covers. “Here you go.” Alma fingered the red power button. His eyes are sparkling. This could be trouble.
She indulged longingly for a short eternal moment in the sunlight melting the last of the snow off pine branches outside the window. Her round dark caramel eyes didn’t miss much. A sturdy little black bird with a white belly and throat banked near the window, then darted toward the hills behind the complex, past the still yellow meadow. Don’t remember seeing that kind of bird this early in the spring. The glorious vista should have helped, but it didn’t.
“Are you hungry?”
Tyler didn’t answer. He stared blankly at the dead black television.
The pain was back. The doctor said her weight caused it. She couldn’t see her toes under her waist. Retirement was ten years away. So were the kids. Just keep pushing.
“You’re not going to give me problems, are you, hon?” Severe schizophrenics like Tyler could not take care of themselves on their own. But Alma always goaded them. They do it for you, ain’t no dignity in that, Nona always said.
Alma glared at Tyler, hands resting on the rough turquoise fabric on her hips. She saw the sharp edged cogs turning under his brow.
Tyler Denman had been working on his master’s thesis in mathematics at BYU last year before he was admitted. That was another world now. Something happened after his fiancée crashed their car. His shy smile, on the rare occasions it appeared, always warmed Alma like a leftover casserole in the oven.
He looked through her, said in a tinny, surprisingly confident voice, “If it’s all smooth oneness, there are really no such things as problems. But it has to be infinite. Otherwise, there are edges. Any distinctions anywhere and movement is necessary. That’s problems. Presto change-oh.” Tyler sat up on the edge of the bed buck naked.
It almost sounded as if it would make sense to someone other than Tyler. When Alma had first started to specialize in psych nursing almost two decades ago they had warned her about psychosis. “You can’t argue psychotics out of their delusions. But you also don’t want to go along with them.” Lose-lose.
“Tyler, I know you want to get dressed and get some of that meatloaf with gravy and sweet strawberry ice cream.”
He glanced at her, slowly swiveled his head away, and then spun his bright eyes back to her as if she were the smartest kid in class. “That’s just it. It’s the flavors … The qualities … They create problems - They create gaps. See? The universe isn’t really connected. Well, it is… But not in such a way that…” He lost the thought. Eyes and space connected, yet distinct.
Flavors Alma understood.
The impossible mix of rich cloying butter and subtle grainy clouds of something ethereal in Nona’s soft, crumbly cornbread.
The taste of tears profoundly elevated and debased by the lovely nauseating scent from the tulips and daisies on Nona’s oak casket.
The sickening, gratifying feast that Alma couldn’t get enough of after the service.
“Here’s your gown.”
He stood and worked it on.
“Tie it up, Tyler.”
Paul D. Hanley
Paul teaches adult English as a second language (ESL) with Rim Country Literacy and prepares immigrants for the U.S. citizenship test. Paul has a Bachelor’s degree in Mandarin Chinese and a Master’s in ESL. Paul published his innovative method for tailoring classroom music activities to adult English language learning goals at ESLMusic.Weebly.com.
Originally from San Diego, Paul has lived in the Rim Country off and on since 1979. He is a 12-year veteran of the Arizona Army National Guard and a graduate of Payson High School. Paul made ends meet for most of his life as an auto mechanic and construction equipment operator. He was also an assistant manager for Brown and Root Saudi, LTD who trained crews to clean up the large munitions dumps left after the first Gulf War.
Paul is passionate about stopping sexual abuse. He is currently working on a book-length set of memoirs centering on sexual abuse. Paul also writes a blog for former sex offenders who were themselves sexually abused at Paul's personal blog is at TheUnrealDepartment.Blogspot.com.