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Timeship Blog

"Crazy Bobby" - a short story by Boris Bello

When Bobby turned sixteen, his mom took him to a psychiatrist. He was a restless young man, grown between divorced parents and his grandmother's care, and that was reason enough.

"All adults ought to check their heads, once in a while," his mom said, trying to make him feel okay about doing it. "Not that I think you’re crazy, son. It's just a prophylactic checkup with a mental-health physician."

"Cool." The teen smiled. "Let’s see if I’m a psycho."

They laughed on the way, then entered the specialist's office.

After exchanging the usual greetings and verifying that this is the "patient" in question, the prominent institute professor asked the mother to wait outside. Twenty minutes later, he called the accompanying parent back into his office and asked the "test subject" to wait in the corridor.

"Dear Mother," the doctor began, "would you mind me asking why do you think your son needs my services? Besides what you told my secretary on the phone at making this appointment."

"Well, he's an artist," the woman hesitated, "and sometimes... he behaves strange..."

The old man nodded. “I see. Aren’t we all?” That was more like a statement than a question. “In this hectic world of the 20th century,” he continued, “all of us are a little bit crazy. Today there’s no perfect mental health, Comrade. Especially when it comes to intellectuals. All artists are a little bit cuckoos. ‘They’re not alone,’ as the old saying goes. Instead of enjoying life or be on date at a restaurant, they stay at home, nose in the paint, creating something they call… art. Does this sound normal to you?”

“Uh… I’m no artist, so…” the mother lost her words.

The psychiatrist nodded meaningfully. “Yet we all marvel at their paintings and skills on their exhibitions, don’t we?” He took off his glasses, began slowly cleaning its lenses, and then continued, “We do a standard test here, which helps us determine what we call the individual’s ‘intelligence quotient’ and mental capability. We show them pictures, ask them questions, and if we detect a disturbing or very non-standard response, we have a technology to read their distorted brainwave patterns, and so on.”

The mother wriggled her fingers on the other side of the big desk, wondering whether that was good or bad news.

“You see, Comrade, your son’s test results are outstanding. He has acute memory, a great and healthy imagination, and he is well outspoken. You’ve done a great job in his upbringing.”

The mother smiled, still unsure. “Thank you, Professor.”

“People with his poetic soul,” the gray-haired went on, “are often not satisfied with diurnal reality, because life is really quite repetitive: we wake up, we eat, we work, we sleep… But when we all get bored, what do we do? We go to a movie, opera, or concert—even visit an art gallery—to vent our overloaded souls, right? Frankly, these are the people that entertain us. They are the ones who fascinate everybody else with their unique stories, adding sense and meaning to life, sweetening our banal existence. Let him dream, mother, let him write, let him do art and music. And don’t stop him, or he might really go crazy. All geniuses are a little bit eccentric; take Van Gogh, Mozart, Hemingway, Newton…”

The professor’s eyes fogged as he began telling her what actually happened here a moment ago.

* * *

“So… what do you see here?” the psychiatrist asked the teen.

Bobby looked at the blotted ink graphic. “A moth.”

“And this?”

“A staircase.”

“Going upward or downward?”

“Both ways, of course. Is that a tricky question?”

The professor put down the IQ test drawings. “Very good, son. Let me ask you now a few questions.” He removed a rubber band from around a set flashcards, and read aloud, “Do you love to use underpasses? Answer with Yes, No, or I don’t know.”

“Love?” The 16-year old Bobby frowned at the old man, scanning his pale-blue eyes beneath those white, bushy eyebrows. The man wore glasses, but the morning sunlight didn’t care whether his face was wrinkled or not. It shone at him just as it would’ve done it in the days of Vermeer—the Dutch maestro of light—as Bobby called him in his mind, with whom only Rembrandt dared to compete. “I… don’t think the word ‘love’ is appropriate here, Comrade,” he finally answered, quite steadily.

The professor looked at him over his reading glasses. “How would you formulate the question, if our roles were reversed?”

“Um… ‘Do you prefer,’ or just ‘Do you use underpasses,’ because I don’t think I can ‘love’ or even ‘like’ going through them.”

“Why not, Bobby? Does the darkness bother you?”

“No, of course not.” Annoyed, the teen sensed the trickiness again. “I simply don’t see how I can say ‘I love’ using them. That would mean that the moment I see an underpass, I’d run through up and down just to satisfy my… romantic feelings for it.”

“Oh, I see what you mean. Can’t you use the word ‘like’?”

Bobby chuckled. “What’s there to like about ‘em, Professor. This isn’t a painting or music piece. It’s just a simple, functional passageway, not even a great architectural landmark, though some of them today have shops and cafes inside, even small galleries.”

“So you can’t answer with Yes, No, or I don’t know?”

“I can,” Bobby chuckled again, “if you get more specific.”

The psychiatrist nodded, greatly amused. “Specific how?”

The young man didn’t want to sound weird, for he knew why he was brought here. Therefore, he explained, “Professor, if I say ‘No,’ that would mean that I hate underpasses. If I say ‘Yes,’ that would mean I’m attracted to underpasses. And if I say ‘I don’t know,’ then I’m an imbecile. I mean, if the question were ‘Do you risk to use underpasses when it rains heavily,’ or ‘Do you prefer to use underpasses when you’re in a hurry?’ then I would answer right away. But ‘Do you love?’ I’m sorry, that’s ridiculous. I know, people say, ‘I love ice cream,’ yet even so, who can love an underpass? It stinks of drunkards’ piss, not to say of what else.”

The professor laughed full-heartedly, putting down the questionnaire flashcards as well. “Boy, did you bring your mother for checkup, or she brought you?” Trying to hold his spasmodic laughter, he continued, “Bobby, you’re perfectly sane, I see. But let’s talk about death.” He got serious, regulating his breathing. “It bothers your mom that you speak a lot about it, frightening your friends away. She’s concerned that you may end up lonely, closing yourself in dark thoughts… or maybe turn suicidal. Can we talk about that like man to man? Forget that I’m a psychiatrist.”

Bobby’s expression changed. The last time he was in a hospital, he’d passed through coma, after being dead and resuscitated during that ER surgery. He sighed, shifting uncomfortably in the patient’s chair. “We’re all on a death roll, Comrade. People are mortal. Life is the very thing that kills us, isn’t that a paradox?”

“Is thy you became an artist?” the old man inquired.

“That and the fact that no one bothers we’re all going to die, sooner or later. It’s… stupid. People think life is precious only if they have to fight a Nazi aggressor, or something. But after that… they forget it, as if they’d won a victory over death itself. How does one accept for ‘normal’ losing parents, wife, children? Where is the great glory in being a king, for example, and end up with the peasants in the same old dirt, eaten by worms? We all turn into soil and then the future generations literally eat us—in the fruits of the earth. That’s quite alarming, to say the least.”

The professor clicked with his pen, getting a bit nervous, then shoved it into his lab coat’s pocket and leaned back in his squeaky leather chair. “Son, how do you think we can fix this… problem humanity is facing? You must have a rational idea, don’t you?”

“Art won’t help us,” said Bobby, feeling like a fish in its own waters—now that the discussion turned the way he wanted it. “We need science. And not just science, but one that can create miracles of transplanting organs every time a body part fails. Or better yet, force our DNA to grow everything we need—from lost teeth to lungs and hearts, and maybe one day even brains—”

“Wow, slow down, sonny,” the psychiatrist spoke moderately. “What if nothing of this ever happens, huh? What then?”

“It’s worth dying for,” said the 16-year old. “I don’t want to perish just because I’ll grow old—that’s a total waste of knowledge we gain. Why should I, if our physiology is practically begging us to fight death on all fronts? Life’s waiting for us to harvest all nature-given possibilities, even enhance ourselves, just as we cultivate trees or genetically engineer garlic that doesn’t smell.”

“What about overpopulation?” the old man inquired. “Where would all these people live? Or better yet, what about feeding and clothing them all? What about energy problems, when all the coal and petrol finally end up on our planet? What then, young man?”

“Develop chemical fuel,” the boy said firmly. “Besides science and medicine, we also need immediate space exploration. We can build orbital cities floating in zero gravity and move our factories there, freeing Earth from deadly pollution and nuclear radiation of power plants. People can work and live there for a month, then come back home with a space-bus and have a nice picnic in the clean forest, or go for a swim in the real sea. We can colonize the Moon, build launch facilities there, which don’t require so much fuel to overcome Earth’s gravitational pull. Then we can go for Mars and other solid planets or asteroids, or even build artificial planetoids in our own orbit. Eventually, humanity will achieve interstellar travel and undertake mining activities all over the galaxy. Who or what can stop us, Comrade Professor? Huh?”

The old man frowned, muttering, “Eh, money and politics.”

Bobby squinted at him. “What?”

“If the West doesn’t kill us all,” the psychiatrist said plainly. “It’s not enough to have only good will, sonny. Look at the bigger picture: we’re at Cold War with the Western World. To achieve what you say, humanity needs to be united. But around whose flag and whose ideology—theirs or ours? Will Capitalism or Communism rule the world? Ahhh, you’re too young to see the problem.”

Indeed, Bobby was too young to see that. There was much more than good will, he figured out. There was also… bad will.

And that, he knew, was why people will continue dying all over the world every day—even every second! Yet considering the threat of nuclear holocaust and armament proliferation, which existed after two world wars of unsolved political differences, he knew it was better do die from old age, than from WW III.

The boy sighed again, tiredly. “That’s why I’m only an artist, Comrade Professor. I could become a doctor, or engineer, even astronaut. But… first we must change the world. And then.”

The psychiatrist glanced at his watch. Bobby’s visit-time was about up. Yet the old man couldn’t just leave it at that. “You know what,” he said, standing up. “Why don’t you write about it? Words can say so much more than paints. Why speaking with colors and symbols, if it could be… a novel, for example? Write a science fiction book and publish it. I have a few friends in high places. Who knows, maybe they’ll listen to what you have to say.” He walked around the desk and shook Bobby’s hand. “Agreed?”

“Agreed.” The teen brightened up. “I’m honored you like it.”

“Like?” The professor chuckled. “I love it, sunny. This will be the underpass that I’m going to run through several times. Don’t forget”—he wagged an index finger—“I want it autographed…!”

* * *

His recollection fading, the professor wrapped it up, “Dear mother, people like your Bobby have a destiny to follow. This is what we call ‘spiritual culture.’ Let him paint, write, compose music… He’s not a person who’d work at a factory conveyer, closing boxes for 7 hours in a row, and then be happy that it’s good money. No, he needs wings! Wings to carry out his imagination and free his soul from the banality of our existence.” The man added quieter, “For the sake of all humanity. Let him do it, mother, or he really might go crazy. Food, sex, and money aren’t everything for him. In fact, I encouraged him to write a novel. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll really live in space stations, sending our sons and daughters to conquer the vast riches of the galaxy. Oh, I wish your Bobby is right. I wish it so dearly.”

The mother, herself a librarian with a wide worldview, gaped at the prominent psychiatrist. No, this wasn’t the old man talking anymore. It was… her “crazy” Bobby fantasizing through the professor’s mind.

________________________
Copyright © 1984-2008 by Boris Bello, http://timeship.tv

Note: First draft, written in 1984, restored from a faded carbon copy, found over 10 years after its confiscation by the KGB in 1985. Translated into English 07/27/2007. If you are interested in publishing this story, contact the author.


ارسال شده توسط:ali sheibany در جمعه 13 اسفند 1389 | نظرات()
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