The previous posts on this story can be found here, here, here, here, here and the day before yesterday. The addendum to yesterday’s post explains how to read the various styles of text, if necessary.
Hoo-whee! The end of session 2 between patient James Arkham and psychologist Joshua Symonds ended with a breakthrough: Arkham acknowledged out loud what his crime was—the murder of Howard Phillips, superintendent at Mantorville and evidently Arkham’s only friend in Quetzal County. Although killing your friend might easily qualify one for psychiatric treatment, how does one get in a position where one kills one’s best friend? Symonds wants to find out. It took him only two sessions to get Arkham to acknowledge the crime. But then nothing for two days, and now the third session begins…
Symonds’s third session with Arkham, section one, from the untitled horror story
May 8, 8:10 am
He asked to see me finally. I had decided I had pushed him too fast, thus prompting the withdrawal. He needed to initiate further conversation, not me, to put the burden of release firmly onto and within himself. So I waited, and he withdrew, and it only took just less than forty-eight hours to bring him back to me, ready to talk about something. And today I resolved to just let him talk, whatever he wanted, no guidance at all.
So I actually finished moving about three weeks before school started. The final move was pretty boring. Rented a truck, packed my entire life into it, drove it to Bear River while pulling my own car like a trailer, unloaded box after box after box into the new place, drove the truck and car up to Dubuque where I turned in the truck and dove my car back down to my new home. I spent those weeks checking out the area, like I told you. At home, nights, I just kind of relaxed, listened to music, read, did some late-night walking around town, trying to get to know the place. Howie and Sonia had me over a couple of times, kind of cementing our friendship.
A pause there, fairly lengthy. He must have started himself thinking about it all. But he pulled himself together and went on.
I ate at the Eagleʼs Nest quite a bit, enough that by school starting the morning waitress recognized me and kind of anticipated what Iʼd order. Sally Ann, by her little gold nameplate. Cute older woman, maybe ten years olderʼn me. I kind of thought she fancied me a little bit…
Sally Ann Thrale. They had interviewed her, along with the few others who could be said to be knowledgeable about him. She said she didnʼt even know his name but recognized his picture right off in the paper when the news broke; called him “coffee black, three-egg Denver omelet, solid fifteen percenter.” She thought he seemed pretty harmless; she even tried mildly flirting with him, might even have gone out with him if heʼd asked, before he stopped coming round for breakfasts.
Anyway, those were three pretty good weeks, stacked on top of the three weeks moving. The sense of change, of freedom in a way, made what had started as the worst summer of my life into what felt like one of the best. Bear River was novel for me, being so rural, but it didnʼt feel… wrong, like Mantorville.
I knew there was something odd the first day of school. I actually got a weird feeling during the teacher work days, but I ascribed that to the difference in school size. Like I said, this place was really rural. I felt that maybe I was being odd, at first.
I told you, didnʼt I, that most of the faculty was local in one way or another? Straight out of Mantorville High School themselves, or at least born and raised in Quetzal County. Not Howie, although he was married to a local girl: Sonia was class of ʼ78. Not the other new guy, either—math and junior high science. Although,come to think about it, he had a local connection, too. His family had moved out of Machen a generation earlier, so in a way he was nowhere near as foreign as I was. I guess I always knew he had cousins round about.
Anyway, all those local folks just gave me the eye.
—The eye? Difficult to control myself sometimes.
Funny looks, distant. I arrived just a bit late to the opening dayʼs first meeting. Coming down the hall, I could hear them laughing and chatting, but the moment I stepped through those library doors, silence. And they all looked at me. Sure, sizing up the new guy could explain it some, but that didnʼt cover the whole thing. I was just not a part of it, an outsider. And to be really honest, that never changed: I was always the outsider. Me, and Howie, too.
Anyway. It only lasted a moment. Howie was there, and he strode right over and told them who I was and how recently heʼd finally found his new English teacher. Then he got it all started by having everyone go around the room naming themselves and telling something about what theyʼd done that summer. An amazing number of them had gone on church retreats to Mississippi or Massachusetts, not mission trips but retreats. The new math guy, Chuck Swanson, had graduated from college and heard about the job while visiting cousins in Machen back in June. I said my old school had been cancelled.
They all just looked at me, fish-eyed, left me laughing at my bad little joke all by myself. Until Howie joined in, saying something about how that wasn’t going to be a problem in Mantorville.
It didnʼt get much better when we broke for lunch. Howie went home for his; he lived in a school-owned house right across the street. Chuck and I tried to get with some of the other men (things really seemed to divide on gender lines in that school and community), who were headed into Bear River for pizza. They accepted us, but then never really spoke to us, exchanging instead lots of inside jokes and references to long-gone kids that we knew nothing about. The pizza buffet was under-served and mostly cold. Chuck and I talked to each other, but he seemed to know more about those inside-joke kids than Iʼd have expected and related to the other guys better than me.
Afternoon sessions didnʼt improve things much. I left promptly at the end of the day and went home, making lesson plans and doing some of the paperwork I had to complete.
School’s getting started in Mantorville, and Arkham’s feeling completely left out, the local Outsider. More Saturday…