Sunday January 24th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: the hypnotist.

The weather is gradually warming up around these parts. Max has taken full notice, now that almost all of the snow has melted away.

This morning he was determined to get outside and play in the yard, whether I was ready to get out of bed or not. He insisted that I get some of his outdoor toys out of the basement so that we could play together. I brought up a couple of his tools, some trucks, and a ball.

Surprisingly, the ball was pretty much completely ignored. The tools required new batteries, so while I was busy with that he got right into building things and digging in the dirt with his trucks.

I'll just be over here, pretending that it is spring now. Please don't bother me.


Relax. Just relax. That is all that you need to do, right now. Relax.

I'm sitting in the back row of the packed auditorium, reading the words of the famous Dr. Franklin. World renowned hypnotist, as his poster proclaims. Dirty rotten conman, as I know him.

Allow the world outside to melt away. Watch as your worries and conflicts and cares are washed away. Relax. You have nothing to worry about. Nothing at all. Relax.

Nothing outside of this room, maybe. Just you inside of it, you bastard.

Listen to my voice. Listen to my words. Listen to me.

Fat chance. I've got earplugs in both ears. Your voodoo hoodoo crap isn't getting into my brain that way. I'm also wearing shaded glasses (I designed them myself, thank you very much) that have muted all the colours in the room to white and grey. Just in case he's using flashes of colour in his act, or some kind of hypnotic wheel, or... whatever.

Also? Because it's picking up the audio (his audio, since he's the only one in here talking), transcribing it, and scrolling it across the lenses. This way I can follow along without being affected. I'm the only one in here immune to this shyster and I'm going to take him down.

Now. Slowly, slowly, gentlemen... take out your wallets. Slowly, slowly, ladies... pick up your purses. Take out all of your cash and hold the bills above your heads. I will now move, slowly, slowly, around the room and collect your donations. You are donating to my cause. So generous of you. So kind.

So not happening. You're not getting me like you got my dad. You're busted, you piece of... why is my wallet in my hand?


morganna said...

More from my current story project:

It was afternoon at Shady Rest Nursing Home. The building dozed in the sunshine, and inside, the halls were filled with the gentle sounds of snores and purrs. LeeAnn, the duty nurse, sat at the main nurse's desk, reading a novel. A bell dinged somewhere in the halls, and a light lit up on the board in front of LeeAnn.

She put down her book and headed down the halls toward the room with the light on the board. She glanced inside the rooms she passed. All the residents were quiet, sitting in chairs by their windows or lying in bed, all of them petting or cuddling their little electronic pets. She smiled, thinking how much quieter it was here now that management had purchased a pet for every resident. The old darlings even seemed to like the soft, cuddly pets, stroking them for hours.

LeeAnn started to hurry, because as she got closer to her destination, she could hear a commotion. It sounded like a series of regular thumps, interspersed with yells. Now she could see that the light over the room, to alert the nurses to a problem within, was a steady, regular red. Uh oh, she thought.

She almost ran into the room, skidding around the corner. Mr. Simon was yelling at his robotic pet, and flinging it against the wall every time it tried to crawl into his lap. Mr. Simon looked up at LeeAnn as she came into the room with a crazed look in his eyes. “Get it away from me, m'am,” he cried. “It's trying to hypnotize me.”

LeeAnn picked up the little furry thing, still scrabbling toward Mr. Simon even though its legs did not appear to be working quite right. She had been shown how to turn the little thing off in an emergency, and she squeezed it in the correct sequence. It sighed and went limp in her hands.

“Now, Mr. Simon,” she said, “this poor little thing is not trying to hypnotize you. It's just programmed to be with you.” She tried not to sigh. Mr. Simon had just moved into Shady Rest, and it was his first experience with the little pets.

Mr. Simon looked up at the nurse. She was tired, he could see, and just trying to do her job. He didn't want an injection to calm him. There was nothing wrong with him except the jerk of a son he'd managed to raise wanted him to die. He better make nice. “I'm sorry, honey. I just don't like that little thing. Could you just take it away if I promise not to make a fuss?”

LeeAnn smiled down at him. “Sure, just for today. I can tell the manager you're still getting used to being here.”

Greg said...

@Morganna: your rest home is getting to be deeply intriguing, and while you'd hinted at these pets being different last time, the hints are getting stronger. I like the characterisation you've got going on here, and poor Mr. Simon comes to life quite nicely in the short space he has.

@Marc: I get the feeling that you might have a little more time to write today :) It's really nice to see the interplay of voices in this piece and I really like how you undermine your narrator's confidence right at the end. The conman seems interesting as well, for all we only really see him peripherally. This is another one you might add to your "to be continued" list :)

The hypnotist
"I don't know," said Alice. She and Betty were standing in the queue outside the Riverside Theatre and the other patrons queueing were maintaining a slightly horrified distance from them. Betty's handbag was twisting and turning in her hand, almost as though it had a life of its own, and there was a smell like rancid bacon coming from a carrier bag that Alice was holding. A stiff breeze kept circulating the smell around the queue and people would wrinkle their noses and shift position slightly until the breeze moved it away again. "They say they make people do mucky things up on the stage."
"What, like Mr. Charles with that horse?" Betty frowned, trying to dredge up an old memory.
"No," said Alice, and then she paused. "Well yes," she said. "I suppose exactly that like that. But not with the horse, of course."
"How would you get it up on the stage?"
"I think they have special winches."
There was a moment of silence while the two old ladies remembered the tales of Mr. Charles and the horse and the rest of the queue, within earshot at least, contemplated what it might mean and what kind of special winches would be needed.
"Mucky though," said Alice. The queue shuffled forward a few feet as the people at the front passed through the doors to the ushers who were checking tickets. "Unnatural."
"I heard say they couldn't make you do anything you didn't really want to do," said Betty. "You know, like, unconsciously."
"I heard," and Alice's voice was dark with suspicion and disapproval, "that when Mavis came here she got stripped down to her unmentionables in front of the audience."
"Yes," said Betty, her voice thoughtful.
"And she was 96!"
"Yes," said Betty again. "But I also heard she'd not taken her medication and no one had actually hypnotized her."
"Well they should have done to make her put her clothes back on!"
The queue shuffled again, a lot further this time as the people at the front of the queue decided that today wasn't the right day to be seeing the hypnotist after all.
"Alice," said Betty as they approach the entrance. "Is that a horse-box in the car park?"

Kyle said...

Post 1

"Gambo the Magnificent," the hand-painted sign said. "Come in, and have your wishes made real!"

What a load of crap. Just the kind of thing Amelia loved. That and horoscopes - the damned useless horoscopes.

"Oh, Jake, let's go in! Come on!" She tugged me arm and dragged me toward the tent - decorated in a loud and elaborate swirly pattern of yellow, gold, green, blue, purple, red and other colors that all swam together into visual nausea. Of all the decidedly colorful and interesting stops on this boardwalk carnival, she had to take an interest in this dreck. I resisted, and she stopped, locking her big, blue eyes on me and pouting a little.

"Jaaaake!" She drew out the "a" sound in that way that always made my teeth clench and my body stiffen.

I bit down the urge to growl and said flatly, "if you want to go waste --" I checked the sign, "-- uh, eight bucks? Jesus. If you want to go waste eight bucks, be my guest. I'm gonna go spend it on a deep-fried-something and a bucket of soda."

She mewled some brief protest, stamped her heeled foot and disappeared into the charlatan's tent. I did as I said, and clogged my arteries with a deep-fried Twinkie covered in bourbon chocolate, and approximately a kiddie pool of Dr. Pepper. I devoured my treat on a green-painted metal bench about fifteen feet from the entrance to the Tent of Lies and did what I liked to do best -- I people-watched.

Here came a crowd of six or eight boys around that same age, all wearing the same blue t-shirts whose message I couldn't make out in the westering sun. They were waving around big piles of cotton candy and hand-twisted balloon swords, cackling and having a wonderful time. Their chaperon (for he wore the same blue shirt) walked behind them with a faint smile, a shepherd at one with his flock.

Behind them were two teenage girls ripping around on rollerblades, sans padding and helmets - the invincibility of youth in motion. One of them caught me watching them and flashed me a shit-eating grin. For lack of any other response, I grinned back and tipped my large cup of soda toward her in a silent cheer.

Another teenager - a boy with long hair in his face and a too-large flannel shirt hanging down to his knees - was walking with a ritzed-up woman who kept squawking at him every time he slouched or slowed down. He had his nose in his cellphone, yet expertly avoided any collisions or trip-hazards.

I started to settle in, to ease up and relax. That didn't happen often when I was with Amelia anymore. She was so dramatic, so pouty, so . . . so damned immature. She was twenty-six, and still thought it was cute to hit anyone who didn't give in to her, and to shove that damn lip out at the slightest inconvenience ("If you keep sticking that lip out, a bird'll come by and shit on it," my Dad would have said).

Kyle said...

Post 2

Why was I with her? We'd been together for nine years - through high school and into my college. She, of course, didn't need college. Her modelling career was bound to pick up, once the world realized "how fucking gorgeous I am!" Yeah. I mean, she was cute, sure. I still liked how her nose crinkled when she smiled, but her smiles seemed sly and manipulative nowadays.

Her overdone curly hair - currently blonde, but I don't even remember her natural color - and her damned $60-a-week nail jobs were beginning to weigh on me. I was slowing down, trying to settle into life. She was still a pompous, flighty child.

I found myself a little aghast. I hadn't really slowed down to think about this stuff - about how annoying and frivolous I now found her. She never gave me a chance to slow down anymore. And sitting there, on a green-painted metal bench, with a crumb-covered napkin, a ginormous cup of Dr. Pepper, realizing how at-ease I was without her, even in this boardwalk clamor, I came to a realization.

Amelia came bursting out of the tent, looking angry and flushed, her bony little hands done up into bony little fists.

"That jerk! That thief! You were right, Jakey, he's a quack just like all of 'em." She plopped unceremoniously down next to me on the bench, and I wondered if those denim hotpants she was wearing would thus afford her a nice waffle-imprint on her legs.

I couldn't manage to spit out the question she wanted me to ask - "what happened, honey?" - before she continued anyway. "He took my money, and sat me down, and read my palms, and told me that he could help me lose some of my 'extra weight' through hypnosis. Extra weight?! That fucker called me fat!"

An old woman and the tweenage boy with her slowed to give Amelia a startled look as they passed. I gave them an apologetic smile. She noticed none of this.

"Then! Oh, then! He tells me he can read my fortune, too. I told him, 'I'm not fat! Read my damn fortune!' and he lights some candles and makes the room smell bad with some of that nasty 'in-cents' stuff."

I nodded, and slurped my drink, trying not to let it show that I found the toddler stomping a discarded napkin across the boardwalk more interesting.

"So he tells me - Jake, listen!" She punched me in the arm. "He tells me that I'm in for some hard times ahead, and that I should 'ground myself,' whatever that means."

I didn't hide my smirk in time. "What, Jake?! What's so funny? He ripped me off!"

"Maybe he wasn't a quack. Maybe he was right."

She looked incredulous. I stood up, brushing twinkie crumbs off of my shirt, and tossed my giant cup and napkin in the trash bin next to the bench. She stood up and tugged my arm. "Jake! He was mean to me!"

I shoved her hand off of my arm and gave her a look - I'm not sure exactly what it was or what she saw, but she instantly stilled and looked afraid. I locked my eyes on hers, feeling calm and relieved instead of frustrated and annoyed for the first time in a long time.

"Amelia. I'm going to move out as soon as I can find a place. I can't be with you anymore." And I turned and walked away from her.

Marc said...

Morganna - woah, hypnotizing robot pets. This is not going to end well, for at least some of the residents. And perhaps for the nurses as well...

Greg - yeah, I did. Plus I've been feeling the urge to write longer pieces recently. I need a proper outlet for that.

Ah, Betty and Alice, back in their usual, horrifying form. I think I would chose another day to see the hypnotist as well. Or perhaps not see this one at all...

Kyle - such excellent details throughout your piece. They really bring the setting to life.

And the relationship and realizations between Amelia and Jake are realistic and expertly conveyed. Great work!