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The Healing Show with Doctor Joe
“Good evening America! This is Doctor Joe, and we have finally gone national! So I say again, Hello America, and welcome to the show.
“Some business to get out of the way before we dive in tonight.
“I am Doctor Joe, board certified in psychiatry. However, please understand that I will not dispense clinical diagnoses on our show. That’s not what our time together is about.
“This show is to give you, the Listener, a forum to open your heart anonymously. Most of the time you’ll hear compassion, but yes, there are times when some Tough Love is needed, and I do not shy away from delivering that message.
“You pledge to accept that as a possibility when you call in.
“Now, if we’re all square, let’s pay the bills for a minute and then we can get this show on the road. This is The Healing Show with Doctor Joe, on WAMO radio, and I’ll be right back.”
Butler smacked the ceramic jar out of his hands, and it shattered on the gleaming tiled floor. Mom’s ashes were strewn everywhere amid jagged shards of pottery that bit into the flesh of his massive hands as he tried to gather Mother’s remains; to preserve her, to hold onto her, even if only for just another moment or two. But she was lost, sifting through his splayed sausage-sized fingers with chipped and bitten nails, though some of her ashes mixed with pinpricks of blood that gathered from the wounds inflicted by the unworthy vessel.
Tears flowed freely, also mingling with her ashes as he came to the realization that she was gone. Forever. The one person in this life who loved him despite his fearsome appearance.
He was on his knees, heart utterly shattered as the tears and snot dribbled ceaselessly down his face while the crowd of teenagers stood in stunned silence. Then Butler’s girl Karen Wilkerson tittered nervously, which opened a flood of laughter from the kids. They were entertained for a few more centuries before they turned away; Eggsy and his obliterated soul just a fading memory.
A stream of crimson ants churned their way toward the struggling, tightly-bound teens, and Edgar smirked in the humid morning light as he climbed into his land-yacht. “I hope this hurts you as much as you hurt me, pricks.”
The land-yacht roared to life, and slewed and slung its way toward the curving blacktop that intersected the gravel trail leading to the remote lake. Edgar thought he heard a scream. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but he cherished it nonetheless.
“Our first call tonight comes from Minneapolis. Good evening, Ed. How’s the weather out there?”
“Good evening, Doctor. It’s always cloudy in Minnesota.”
“Is that true about Minnesota or about your current disposition?”
A glutinous chuckle was the response to Doctor Joe’s perceptive question, which immediately set the good doctor on edge. That infamous ‘Little Voice’ — or perhaps it was some kind of sixth sense — began murmuring. “So, what’s on your noodle tonight, Ed?”
“I’m facing a bit of an emotional conundrum.”
“Well, by all means Ed, we are listening.” But it just might be a better idea to stop listening; to shut this guy down before he kicked off his looney-tune festivities for the night.
Dude was nothing if not a shitload of bad vibes.
“Some teenagers did something to me that was pretty heinous.”
“Kids will be kids. What did they do, TP your house?”
“No Doc. They destroyed my mother.”
For the first time in Joseph Bettis’ recent memory, a caller caused him to be speechless. As Ed’s words sunk in with sledgehammer impact, Doc Joe’s autopilot kicked in. “What do you mean, ‘destroyed your mother’?”
“Her ashes were in an urn. They destroyed the urn.”
Doctor Joe Bettis paused, waiting for Ed to fill in the blanks; dish on the deets, but he offered nada-empanada. The silence was thunderous. “Your mother was in an urn?”
From somewhere in Maine and living in Minneapolis. Okay, that piece of data found its way to Joe’s memory as he continued. “So she was cremated I presume?”
“That’s a fine piece of deductive reasoning, Doc.”
“Want to tell us about it?”
“Sure, but that’s just the back-story. But what the hell…
“A big football type of guy; a bully if truth be told, gathered up his posse and rushed me and shattered the urn. It’s just the kind of crappy thing a black-hearted bully would do, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Well it’s been my exper—”
“A bully is a bully, Doc! You know it as well as I do. And what stops a bully in their tracks?”
“Standing up to them. But it’s HOW one stands up to them that results in either escalation or de-escalation.”
“Understanding what motivates a person to engage in that kind of behavior gives one the ability to level the playing field, figuratively speaking.”
Ed might have blown a raspberry at that point in the conversation. “I’ll tell you what levels the playing field, Doc. Here’s the ultimate in de-escalation…”
“Please Ed, I’m sure many of our listeners would love to know how you’ve dealt with this situation.”
“Easy-peezy, Doc. I killed him. And I killed his dumb-as-a-shoelace, wind-me-up-do-me-doll too.”
Twice in one phone call was the good Doctor Joe Bettis struck speechless. His first thought was that this was a crank call; some off-the-rocker crackpot calling to blow off steam, but then he recalled that boogery, glutinous chuckle earlier, and the case of heebie-jeebies this whack-bird gave him, and, well, maybe the dude wasn’t a crank call after all.
Maybe. God I hope I’m wrong; I do NOT need this shit tonight!
“I tell ya, puffing on some superb ganja certainly makes the medicine go down, ya know. Helps to keep a healthy perspective. There’s times when killing someone is damned hard work. That’s not for me, dontchaknow. I want things to go down like a bowl of fine vanilla low-fat yogurt. Smooth as butter. Slick as dog-snot on a doorknob.”
“Good God man, are you serious?”
“Would a bear rip your doink off if you chose to have sexual relations with a jar of honey out in the woods?”
Okay, no question about it, Doctor Joe was losing control of this call. He looked into the production booth to see the engineer making frantic circling motions. Keep the call going.
Message received, damnit.
“Okay Ed, I think we’ve ascertained how serious—”
“I’ve got some gold kush right at this very point in time, Doc. All loaded up in my special peace pipe, which, by-the-bye, is chock full of ice and mint leaves to make the puff-a-roni go down nice ’n easy.”
“Ed, you’re smoking marijuana while talking to America this evening?”
Deep inhalation followed by a protracted exhalation that felt like cobwebs wafting across Joe’s mind. This was surreal.
Hello Master of Understatement!
“Actually I really don’t know if this is gold kush. Could be skunk-weed for all I know. But it’s putting me in the mood for some French toast slathered in dark karo.”
“Look Ed, as entertaining as it may seem to you, I don’t think America’s idea of compelling radio consists of listening to you smoking weed.”
Silence for a second. Then two. Then, “Dead air.”
“What’s a sure-fire way to kill a radio station, Doctor?”
“Oh, right. Dead air. We can’t have that going. Of course if that’s what you want to do, we’ll just end the call, Ed. In fact—”
“In fact hell, Doc. You end this call and this young lady here bites it.”
Joe stilled his tongue forcibly, demanding calm before he opened up his pipes. Motion caught his eye. The producer, gesticulating, his mouth moving. Joe was certain that sounds, maybe even actual words were coming out of the guy’s mouth, but it was distant, and Doc Joe simply wasn’t picking up what the guy was laying down.
There was Doc Joe, the headset, and a lunatic on the other end of the call.
“Ed? Do you have someone with you?” Joe felt his voice quiver.
“Doc, I have this… this thing in my heart, man, and it hurts. It hurts me bad.”
Now we’re getting down to the core. “Tell me about that, Ed. That thing you’re talking about.”
A sob. Just one, followed by an abrupt sniffle. “I dunno, Doc. It’s like this… this vacuum inside me; maybe in my heart, maybe in my soul. Maybe like a black hole or something, like in space where it sucks everything inside and no one has any idea where all that stuff goes. But it’s just gone.”
Good Doc Joe felt compassion, even though this guy kind of scared the hair on his back straight. “Ed, did you feel like this at all before that incident with your mother?”
Fumbling, rustling noises, as if the phone became a hot potato against Ed’s ear. A muffled scream, then Ed, suddenly savage and snarling, “I’ll kill you bitch!”
“ED! Ed? Calm down Ed, talk to me, please. Don’t hurt her!”
Heavy breathing, sounds of a girl with a hunk of sock or something stuffed in her mouth.
The producer was seated at his console, staring at Joe with dinner plates for eyes. Joe snared a black Sharpie and scribbled on a notepad, then held it up for the producer to see. It said:
Google his phone number
Right. As if THAT would work.
“Yeah, I’m here, Doc. Getting harder and harder to keep that under control. But I’ve got to, right. Losing one’s temper makes one… sloppy. And that’s a damned good way to get caught, which is not my idea of a cuppa chamomile, if you know what I’m saying.”
“Ed, let me ask you again; do you have someone there with you?”
“Ayuh Doc, I do.”
“Is it a girl, Ed? A woman?”
“Durn tootin she is, Doc. But if you want, I can turn her upside down to be sure. She is wearing a skirt—”
“That’s not necessary, Ed, I’ll take your word on that. Now Ed…”
“Go for it, Doc.”
“Is she with you of her own volition?”
“Well, she kinda is, Doc. I mean, she fell asleep on me. Of course the sleeper choke I put on her sort of induced that response.”
Joe was struck by Ed’s earlier admission of some kind of thing inside him that felt like a black hole in his soul, and while that did not sound like a good thing at all, at least Ed could be salvaged. Even though he said he killed before, for some reason that didn’t seem true…
“Ed, what’s the girl’s name?”
“How would I know?”
“Tell us what she’s wearing, Ed.” Joe knew that he had to make his captive more than just a captive, he had to personalize her to Ed. That’s how the girl would live past this night. Or—”
“She’s dressed like a cheerleader, Joe. You’d like her too. Blond, willowy. Nice and young and firm. I personally think she’s a little underdressed for the weather, but you know how kids today are.
“If I was into meaningless boinking, she’d be dancing with me by now.”
“Why, Ed? Why are you doing this?”
“She knows, Joe. You can see it in her eyes. She was one of them that laughed.
“Wanna know what she’s wearing, Joe? Well this might sound pretty bad, but what the hay. I’ll tell everyone anyway. She’s wearing a bear-trap, Joe.”
“Hells bells yes. It’s a Duke number 16 offset — that’s where the teeth are offset from each other. Didja know that, Joe? Did you pick any of that valuable info up in your board certifications?”
That’s it! This call needs to—
“So here’s the deal, Joe. If you go to a commercial break. SNAP! If you hang up this call. SNAP! If you piss me off…”
“Ayuh. Now you’re jing-jing-jingling along with the program, Doc.”
“Ed. Tell me what you want.” Joe was walking a tightrope here and he felt it as he struggled to modulate his voice.
“Well, honestly, I’m feeling a strong urge to do some confessing, but if I do that very thing that just might make my soul feel even a smidge better, well that would be like giving the keys to the candy store away to the kiddies.
“There’s a whole bunch of super-smart folks working police investigations, and me dropping a name or a location or two, well those fine folk would put two and two together and before you know it, I’d be on the run. The lam. It sounds a whole lot better than it is, Joe. Can you dig what I’m feeding you here?”
Just gotta keep him talking; distracted. The producer was making those circling motions again, but truth be told, this exchange, this little foray into Whackoville was exhausting.
He stopped with the circular motions and held up a notepad of his own, upon which was written,
Cops are coming. Keep him on the line.
“That Duke number 16 is resting across her shoulders; clavicle to clavicle. It looks like when it snaps shut, it should go into her neck just below the jaw. She’s got a long neck.”
“No, Ed, don’t. Just talk to me—”
“—That’s the tooth on the front. Should penetrate above the esophagus, which is bad enough. I mean, if that were all there was, it would be pretty bad for her. Can you imagine the damage? It just might kill her in and of itself!”
“Ed, please. There’s no reason for that girl to die. All life is precious.”
“But remember I said this is an offset trap? The opposing teeth are off to either side of that front one. Both would slice through the sides of her neck and she’d bleed out pretty fast. We don’t want that.”
“No, she needs to go slowly; needs to feel the HURT—”
“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU SUNOFA—”
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