Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Challenges from The Condo #10

Challenges from The Condo  #10
Chapter 3. Social Interaction

The Condo: or...Life, a Sequel by Dalma Takács is available from

Amazon.com. (Pap. $17.99; E.book / Kindle ed. $9.99)

Jasper makes up his mind to find some allies. He decides to meet his neighbors.

He walked out into the hallway and stopped in front of the unit next door. The number was 3141, the first four digits of pi. What a strange way to number apartments, he thought as he rang the doorbell. A nurse in white uniform opened the door. Jasper was about to pitch into his introduction, but the nurse cut him off. “Welcome Jasper, come on in,” she said. “Daren is busy with the treatment right now, but he’ll be happy to see you in a few minutes.”
“I don’t want to intrude . . .”
“No, it’s good for the patient to have visitors,” she said. She motioned for him to sit in one of the traditional wing chairs in the living room. “Make yourself at home while we finish the session.”
Jasper sat down somewhat diffidently as she walked into the next room, which he figured was the bathroom. The walls seemed to be very thin and hardly soundproof. Jasper was embarrassed to hear what was going on inside.
He heard a whining, pleading male voice followed by the friendly but firm voice of the nurse.
“Do we have to do this again? It’s painful, you know.”
“It’s painful only because you won’t let go, Daren. You must let me soak off that damaged layer.”
“But it’s all part of me. If you soak it off, there will be nothing left.”
“Nonsense, it’s just like with third degree burns. We have to take off the bandages each day and soak off the dead skin so that the good skin underneath can breathe and grow.”
There was silence, then a pitiful whine. “Nurse, please don’t. I can’t stand it!”
The nurse was sympathetic. “Wait a minute. I have an idea. We have a new therapy to relieve tension and help you let go. Hang on. I’ll just need to make a call. Shoot! I left my phone in the living room.” She came in, picked up her phone from the table and dialed. “I need a music technician. Who’s available? . . . OK send him up.”
Within minutes Jasper heard the doorbell chime, and the nurse admitted a man in a powdered wig and 18th century costume that reminded him of pictures of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The man was holding a violin under his arm and grinned at Jasper.
“He’s in the bath and I need something to take his mind off the pain,” the nurse explained.
“A little night music perhaps?” The musician smirked. He tilted his head and pushed his violin under his chin. He tickled it with his bow and skipped into the bathroom, leaving a scent of irresistible music behind him.
“Is that better now?” Jasper heard the nurse inside.
Daren no longer whined. He grunted “Yes,” and Jasper heard only the lilting tones that tickled and stroked his ears until he forgot why he was there. He dozed off and was awakened by the trio from the bathroom—the Mozart guy leading the way, skipping like the Pied Piper, followed by the nurse, and finally the patient, Daren.
Jasper was looking for a sick man swathed in bandages. But Daren was dressed in a terry bathrobe and walked easily in his bedroom slippers. He turned to Jasper. “Hello, neighbor. Sorry you had to wait.” He held out his hand. “Name is Daren. Daren Redmond.”
The name sounded familiar, but Jasper could not place it. He wanted to express his sympathy but did not like to let on that he had heard Daren’s pitiful moans. “I hope your treatment will soon be complete,” he said.
“It will be a while yet,” Daren said. “There is a lot to soak off. But Mozart here has been a big help.”
“Yes, I’ve read about music therapy for burn victims,” Jasper said. “How did it happen? Was it an accident?”
Daren looked at him, puzzled. “An accident? No it was no accident.”
Jasper sounded concerned. “Arson?”
“No, not arson.”
“Then how did you get burned?”
Daren looked at the nurse and the musician, and they all burst out laughing.
“He thinks Daren is a burn victim,” Mozart said, and they all broke into guffaws and giggles again.
When the nurse saw Jasper’s irritation, she made them stop laughing. “I’m sorry, Jasper. I guess we forgot that you are new here. Daren is not burnt. Though mind you, many people who come here at first think of this as a very hot place.” More sniggers from Daren and Mozart. “No, he’s simply trying to get rid of the debris in his mind. Not that the process is painless.”
“I know, I know. It’s painful only because I can’t let it go,” Daren intoned in mock solemnity.
Jasper wished nothing more than to find a good excuse for a polite exit. He had no desire to hear Daren’s confidence. Daren was too crazy to be a useful ally. Still, he was curious to know what Daren’s real problem was. He decided to leave with the nurse and the musician.
As they closed the door behind them, he said, “What exactly is the ‘debris’ in Daren’s mind?”
“He was chief elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Boise Idaho, a scout leader and a volunteer fireman,” the nurse said as she and Mozart were walking down the hallway past Jasper’s apartment. Jasper had to follow them.
“He also pleaded guilty to ten counts of first degree murder. His problem is that he is still enjoying his past actions. Still, he is making progress. You should have seen him when he first arrived. He was forever writing letters to the police department giving them clues to the murders. You could hear him all the way down the hall sniggering, chuckling, smirking and sometimes roaring with laughter.”
Jasper was horrified. “He’s a murderer? So, what’s he doing here? Why is he not on death row?”
“He was. But remember, death row is for the living.”
The nurse is just as disturbed as her patient, Jasper thought. These people are all crazy, or else members of some kind of cult. Still, he had to find out what made them tick. “So, what are you doing? Trying to rehabilitate him?”
“In a manner of speaking,” the nurse said. “Mozart here has helped a lot.”
Jasper turned to the musician. “Mozart? Is that your real name?”
“Well, I don’t know about real. It’s the name my father gave me: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”
I’m landed in a commune peopled by criminals and mental patients, Jasper was thinking.
“We are not all criminals,” the nurse said.
And mind readers.
“Some of us are philosophers, poets, and even saints.”
Comes to the same thing, Jasper thought.
“I suppose you think it comes to the same thing,” the nurse said.
You are all crazy, Jasper said to himself.
“But we are not crazy. What we have in common is that we are all human.”
This is getting me nowhere, Jasper thought. He had been following the nurse out of the building, and now they were in a part of the park that he had not seen before. They were walking on a forest path springy with pine needles. He could smell the fragrance of the trees—redwoods that arched over them in a protective embrace. It reminded him of a camping trip he once took with his students when he was a teacher in Los Angeles. Redwoods in Florida? He wondered. These people spare no expense for landscaping. He tried a new approach. “By the way, I don’t know your name.”
“I’m Selena.”
Goddess of the Moon, taking care of the lunatics. Jasper was waiting for her to echo his thoughts, but Selena only smiled. She changed the subject. “Tell me, Jasper, have you listened to your wife yet?”
“That’s exactly what I did. I heard her, but she didn’t hear me. I need a phone that lets us talk.”
“You heard her, but you didn’t listen. Try calling her again.”
“What’s the point? These phones are not set up the right way.”
Selena smiled at what Jasper thought must be an inside joke. “Jasper, your trouble is that you know everything. Your treatment will be almost as hard as Daren’s.”
Jasper was stung. “I beg your pardon! I don’t happen to be a serial killer. You think I’m like a murderer?”
“No. We are all unique. But we have certain traits in common. That’s why we need each other. You are proud of your accomplishments, you’re always certain that you are right. You can’t let go of the idea that you are a great architect. Daren too is proud of his accomplishment: he considers himself to be the cleverest criminal in the last three decades of his life. He can’t let go of the satisfaction he feels when he thinks of his grisly murders.”

What do you think is happening here????????????

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