alphabet soup

So you think that you’re losing your mind”. It was more statement from Dr Lee than a question.

“I’m not really sure. I may be", Henry replied. Christ it was hot in here.

“And why do you think that?” Dr Lee asked.

“I used to…I still have, until tomorrow that is, a very good job”. Henry gazed at the wooden tribal mask leaning against one wall and wondered who in their right mind would blow their hard-earned on such an ugly bloody thing.

“Now, you’re working…” Dr Lee began.

“Like I said, business development”. Outside the window, a crow started cawing; the squawk was muffled by the blustery squall rapidly approaching Richmond.


Henry chewed on his cracked lips. “Acquisitions. I identify companies to buy, clean up and sell”. The wind whistled against the rattling window pane of Dr Lee’s plush rooms.

“Mmm. Long hours?” Dr Lee was scribbling in his leather bound note book again.

“When we’re busy, 80 hours a week easy. Not including the phone calls and emails from home”. Henry marvelled at how dark it had suddenly become.

“Now you said – I’m sorry, I can’t read my own scrawl here – that you had interests outside of work?” Dr Lee gazed at Henry inquisitively, his little pink eyes blinking behind those huge plastic lenses, then leaned over to flick on his desk lamp. “Now we can at least see what we’re doing. Now, other interests?”

“Footy. Love the Dons”.

“Anything else?” Dr Lee was scribbling furiously. Henry wondered what on earth he’d said that was so noteworthy. He was the same as half the business community in Melbourne. Except for his issue, that was.

“Not really. I used to do a bit of writing when I was younger. Quite liked that, but I just don’t have the time”.

Henry sat up and frowned as Dr Lee continued to write and wondered whether he was actually any good. That’s what happens when you source someone from the Yellow Pages. Not that he could ask anyone for their tip on a good psychiatrist. He came across as a bit pompous, in Henry’s opinion. Sitting there, judging him. Henry realised he knew very little about this man, to whom he was providing unrestricted access to the usually off-limits realms of his personality.

“Mmm”. That mumbling was going to get on Henry’s nerves.

“Look, Dr Lee. I’m meant to be going back in there tomorrow and give this presentation. When they realise that there is no project, they’re going to dump the contents of my desk into a garbage bag and frog-march me out. I’m gone”.

“Henry”, Dr Lee began, uncrossing one leg. “You may not be able to return tomorrow. Henry stopped picking at his finger and stared at the little man perched on the edge of the red Ottoman across from him.

“How would your employers react if you were to, say, tell them that you need a little more time to research your work?”

Henry’s eyebrows knitted together. “I could probably buy a day or so, but if I don’t give these pricks something… Their star performer doesn’t come up with results – they’ll know all about it”.

“Mmm”. Dr Lee was flicking back through his notebook with his pudgy fingers. “The first time that you had an ‘episode’ as you put it was when you were giving a presentation, wasn’t it?”

Henry, who had resumed picking at his fingers, winced in pain as he tore a sliver of flesh away from the quick of one nail. “Yeah. Perth”.

“And you felt nauseous before it happened?”

“I was almost finished when I got the same feeling that I’d had the other times. Only in the meeting I went from being completely in the zone, the client eating out the palm of my hand, and suddenly I’m talking and I can’t remember the last thing that I’ve said”.


“So I’m standing in front of these directors, with my presentation up behind me, no idea what I’m talking about, and I realise that they’re all looking at me a bit strangely…”

“Mmm”. The shadow under Dr Lee’s chin lengthened and shortened with the vigour of his nods.

“…These are some of the top businessmen in WA and I’m standing there like a dickhead; no idea what I’m telling them. I’m staring back at them, wondering how I pull it back, when I noticed the laser pointer”.

“Yes, I think you said that your hands were shaking”.

“Doctor, shaking isn’t the word for it. It was like a New Year’s laser show on the roof of the fucking board room”.

“And that’s when you felt like you were going to be sick”.

Henry realised that he was clenching his fists as he spoke, the veins on his forearms bulging with the pressure. He flared his fingers wide to compensate and drew in deeply through his nostrils. It had to be over 30 in here. It was the bloody humidity of that approaching front.

“Yeah. That’s when I asked them for a minute and pretty much ran out of the room and down the hallway, spew dripping through my fingers. I can’t even think how much those carpets were worth”.

“Yes. This is what I wanted to ask you about, Henry”.

“What’s that?”

“I think that you said that this was the first time that you saw the words?”

“You mentioned that the first time you saw the letters was when you were in a bar celebrating another deal with some work colleagues – is that right?”

“Yeah, after the float”.

“Mmm. After your conversation with the author in the lobby”.


“And the next time was the same week, when you were out on the bay with some other clients?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Put it down to sea sickness at the time. But it was definitely the same feeling”.

“And that was the same day that you had been reading that book that we talked about last time?”

“You likened the vomit to… soup, I think?” asked Dr Lee, blinking and stabbing his pen at the note book.

“Is there any chance that we could turn down the heating, doctor?”

“You’re feeling hot right now?” Dr Lee made another note.

“Yes”. Henry’s head felt light, as if it were floating high above his body on a neck metres long. He swallowed. “Could I get a glass of water?”

“You feel like the other times?” Dr Lee’s wizened features puckered with inquisition.

“Yes, I…” Henry swallowed, fighting the nausea flooding through him. “I just need… to…”

Henry yawned, then almost before he realised what was happening, gagged and retched, unleashing a torrent of vomit the colour of tomato soup. It gushed like a geyser from the depths of his tall frame.

Dr Lee’s shouts were drowned in the flow of murky reddish fluid, amongst which bounced the same yellow lumps. Henry choked and coughed as the spew cascaded out his mouth and nostrils, down the chaise lounge and over the ornate rug. Dr Lee snatched up his note book and hopped nimbly onto an antique chair to avoid getting his feet wet in the deluge. The yellow lumps bobbed about in the raging red rapids coursing about the room.

Finally it stopped. The stench was putrid.

Henry fell back onto the chaise and wiped his chin with the foot of his shirt, exhausted. Dr Lee stood on his chair, clutching his note book, mouth agape. The flash flood bubbled as it subsided almost as quickly as it had appeared, seeping into the carpet and out under the door.

Henry looked around. The entire room was spattered with red vomit. Dr Lee’s precious artefacts – destroyed.

For the first time since Henry had commenced these sessions, Dr Lee smiled.

“Doctor, I’m so sorry”, Henry began. “I…”

“Henry, do you see? Do you see?” Dr Lee crowed excitedly.

As Henry watched, the yellow chunks slithered and slid with the settling red liquid, nestling gently alongside one another.

“So…” began Dr Lee.

“Sorry?” Henry realised with a fright that the letters appeared to be forming more words. “Doctor, can you see…?”

“Think!” shouted Dr Lee.

“What?” Henry felt like he was going to faint.

“So you think you’re losing your mind!” Dr Lee ended the first sentence.

“Well, I…”

“Henry, we have ascertained the cause of your malady. Quite marvellous”.

“Marvellous?” Henry managed weakly, wincing at the bitter after taste in his mouth and wondering if they had both lost it.

“Henry, you are an author!”

Now it was Henry’s turn to blink at Dr Lee.


“Not just any author either”, Dr Lee continued, pointing with his pen at the letters assembling themselves on the rug.

He read:

“So you think that you’re losing your mind”. It was more statement from Dr Lee than a question.

“I’m not really sure. I may be”, Henry replied. Christ it was hot in here.

The doctor grasped Henry’s shoulders and shook him, his eyes gleaming at the sheer brilliance of his discovery.

“Henry – you are the author of this story!”

Henry’s head began to swim. His eyesight was becoming blurred, making it seem as if the medical consulting rooms were folding in on them. Henry’s eyes grew wide as an egg shaped chunk appeared between his pursed lips, stretching them to accommodate the emerging sphere.

The pressure in Henry’s head was unbearable. His jaws felt as if they would break apart as the sphere forced them wide, filling his entire mouth, then pushing out over his lips. Dr Lee took hold of his chest from behind, shouted “Heimlich!” and squeezed hard, lifting tall Henry off his feet.

Henry heaved, gasped, coughed hard and spat out the last full stop.

alphabet soup


Joined October 2007

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