Summer School

Here’s a short I wrote a looong time ago – but in keeping with the season and all…

Rodney glanced at his reflection in the window to make sure he had, well… placed everything correctly, so to speak. Satisfied with his inspection, he cleared his throat. The woman sitting at the desk directly in front of him, who had been studying the appointment book in the faint hope of finding a way to leave work early Friday, whipped her head up in complete surprise. She glanced at the closed outer office door then back to the man in front of her.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Well,” Rodney replied, “I would hope not.” He gave her what he hoped was a thoroughly disarming grin.

“Are you Dr. Stiles?” he asked.

“No. I’m Ann the secretary,” she replied as she thumbed through the various sticky notes on her desk.

“Say, that’s an unusual name,” Rodney said. “I didn’t realize that had come back into fashion.”

Ann stopped her thumbing and looked at Rodney a little more closely.

“You know,” continued Rodney enthusiastically, “Like back in the…well, I’m not very good with the whole date thing but, using your terms of course, a long time ago when people were known by their occupation like, Ezekial the wheel builder or Abraham the tailor!”

Ann (the secretary) blinked twice. Rodney smiled at her so she smiled back.

“Look, I’m so sorry but there must be some sort of mix up,” she said. “Dr. Stiles doesn’t have any appointments scheduled for this hour.”

“Oh, I’m sure he does.” Rodney leaned over the desk and pointed. “Look, right there, Rodney, that’s me.”

Ann (the secretary) stared down at the appointment book, at the name Rodney (in her handwriting no less) in the space that, two minutes previously, had been blocked out as ‘Doctor’s private time’. She looked up and despite her best efforts the corners of her mouth began to lift as well.

“Rodney?” she asked.

Rodney nodded yes.

“Just…Rodney?” she asked again.

Rodney laughed. “Oh no. Rodney the patient, of course.”

Ann the secretary laughed right along with him. Just then the door to the waiting room opened and Dr. David Stiles appeared.

“Dr. Stiles,” said Ann the secretary, “you’re next patient is here.”

“Oh,” said David, somewhat confused. “I didn’t realize…”

“Oh yes,” said Ann the secretary. “If you look in your book,” she glanced sideways at Rodney who nodded once, “I’m sure you’ll find his name penciled in.”
She smiled. Rodney smiled.

“Oh,” David said again feeling a little silly, as if he’d missed the joke. He stepped to Rodney and pumped his hand enthusiastically. “I’m David Stiles,” he said.

“The doctor,” Rodney said. “I’m Rodney.”

“The patient,” Ann the secretary said quietly…and giggled in spite of herself.

David ushered Rodney into his office.


“Please have a seat,” David said, while he settled himself behind his desk.
“So. Rodney.” David shuffled the papers on his desk. He cleared his throat a few times.

“Look, I’m afraid I have to apologize, I don’t seem to have your notes at hand. Perhaps you should just tell me why you’ve come to see me today.”David picked up the timer and set it to go off in half an hour.

“What’s that?” asked Rodney despite the fact he knew quite well what it was.

“I set this so I know when your time has come to an end,” said David.

Rodney raised an eyebrow.

“I mean …so I know when your session is over,” David said.

“Hmph,” Rodney snorted. He picked up the timer.

“Shouldn’t think you’d need something like this to tell you something like that.” He handed it back to David who placed it back on the desk.

“What?” David asked. He was starting to have a bit of a problem with his perception…he swore the room had just tilted a bit.

“People know all sorts of things but seem to feel as if they need some sort of physical validation,” Rodney continued. “Which reminds me. I’m able to hear and see and know things that most adult people and I must stress the word most, things that most people aren’t aware of.”

“I see,” said David, not really seeing at all.

“Oh good,” said Rodney. “You’ve no idea how hard I worked on getting those sentences just right.”

David shook his head. He had the sudden and unpleasant sensation of cobwebs covering up his brain making it difficult for him to pick up on Rodney’s cues. All patients had cues after all but Rodney’s seemed to be bumping up against each other. Rodney chortled giving David the further unpleasant sensation that Rodney saw David’s brain was filling up with cobwebs. He shook his head again.

“So, what I’m hearing you say is that you can hear things that no one else hears,” David said cautiously.

“Really?” asked Rodney completely dismayed.

“Really what?” asked David.

“That’s really what you heard me say?” Rodney frowned. “Maybe you should have a recorder on but, no, that won’t do because then you’d have to replay each sentence and the whole physicality of the recorder just adds distortions.”

For a split second David’s perception shifted again. Now he was sitting in Rodney’s chair looking at Rodney who was sitting behind his desk looking at him. It shifted back. David twitched, knocking papers from his desk.

“Let’s start over,” David said. He looked for the timer. He clearly remembered placing it back on his desk. The timer was gone.

“All right,” said Rodney agreeably.

“Where’s the timer?” David asked rather urgently.

Rodney glanced around the room. “Not to worry David, I’m sure you’ll bring it back when you need it.” Without missing a beat he continued, “Now a lot of the patients you see have difficulty with…reality, true?”

David hesitated then nodded once.

“That’s one way of putting it, Rodney. Are you here today because you have difficulty with reality?”

David couldn’t stop his eyes from shifting around the room. He really wanted to know where that timer went.

“Well,” said Rodney, I’m certainly having some difficulty with yours.”

David smiled a little thinking they were finally getting somewhere. He leaned back in his chair.

“You’re having trouble with my reality,” he stated. “Is yours different than mine?”

Rodney leaned forward, mentally agreeing with David that they were finally getting somewhere. “David,” he said earnestly, “everyone’s reality is different from everyone elses reality.”

“Well now Rodney,” David said, “everyone’s personal experience is unique of course but reality is not the same thing as personal experience. Reality…well, reality is the environment in which we have our personal experiences.”

“Ah ha!” Rodney yelled, jumping up. “That’s it, that’s your problem.”

Rodney paced back and forth in front of David as he continued. “Well, one of your problems. Personal experience! That’s the ticket! In an agreed upon environment of course!”

Rodney stopped and beamed at David. “You and I are doing very well David, now we just need to wrap this up and I know just the thing.”

“Perhaps you should sit back down Rodney and let’s try to focus shall we?” David said quietly.

“Excellent idea David. Focusing after all, is key,” Rodney said as he sat back down.

“Look here, I’m not particularly good with rules and regulations in any reality,” Rodney continued.

“I’m more of a damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead sort of…personality. So…what would you say if I told you that we are not only sitting in your office we are also sitting in a rather pretty field full of wild flowers?”

David looked around the office. “I don’t see a field of wildflowers Rodney.”

“But you could,” Rodney replied.

“I can imagine a field, yes,” said David. “But…”

“Oh now David, let’s not waste time with the whole imagination thing. There is a field,” said Rodney somewhat reproachfully.

“You can see the field Rodney?” asked David as he leaned forward.

“We are in the field.” Rodney leaned forward as well.

David opened his mouth to say – well it doesn’t matter what he was going to say. What he did say was “Holy shit!”


Rodney leaned over to the left, pulled a beautiful deep blue flower from the field and handed it to David. David turned the flower round and round and stared as if he had never seen a flower before this very minute.

“There now,” Rodney said but was halted from further comment as David, rather unceremoniously, clutched him by the front of his shirt and yanked him forward.

“Where is my office?” David barked.

“We are in your office,” Rodney managed to say.

David glanced wildly around him. In the other outside, in the parking lot, a car alarm began to beep.

“David,” Rodney said, “You’re choking me.”

With a horrified yelp David released Rodney. Rodney straightened his clothes, coughed a few times and sat down.

David slowly sat down too – sat down in his office chair that is. He jumped up, turned and grabbed the chair by the arms as if it were about to run away. He spun to the right, the chair rolled with him. He spun to the left, again the chair rolled with him. He straightened up, letting go of the chair arms at the last possible moment. He walked slowly round behind the chair and gently pushed it in to the desk.

Rodney cleared his throat.

David jerked the chair back and sat down hard then sloooowly pulled himself toward the desk. After a moment he said, “I’m so terribly sorry Rodney…I really don’t know what to say…”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Rodney said. “In the beginning, focusing in and out like that can give one a rather nasty start.”

“No,” David stated flatly. And then, more to himself than Rodney, “Stress, a highly suggestive state, lack of sleep, all these things, absent some physiological condition of course can lead one to hallucinate…”

“What?” Rodney howled. “But David, you were there, in the field with me and in the office with me. Technically speaking of course it’s a mathematical determination in terms of the space time grid but…”

“A temporary aberration,” David interrupted, “prompted by a heavy workload and… and…”

“All the nagging questions you’ve had of late concerning your patients and their experiences,” Rodney finished for him.

“How would you know that?” David asked.

Rodney sighed heavily then stood.

“I know all sorts of things. Let’s be honest…this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened to you. There are at least four other events that I could remind you of that certainly would qualify, at least in your terms, as down right crazy. And what about Grandma Star, for heaven’s sake?” Rodney asked.

Rodney concentrated for a second then rearranged his form to that of an elderly woman, her white hair pulled back in a loose bun, her face kindly and wise. Like a marionette, David rose from his seat and walked-stumbled around the desk to “her”.

“You remember Grandma Star, David,” Rodney said in Grandma Star’s soft voice. “She used to come to see you when you were young. She would just suddenly be there, no particular time or place, no particular reason.”

David walked around and around Grandma Star, who – this time – was really Rodney. Every once in a while he reached out to touch her arm or shoulder. Finally he stopped in front of her. “It’s been so long…so many years…,” his voice trailed off in wonder.

“Yes…and no really, but that’s for another session,” Rodney said. “The point is you knew she was real even though no one else ever saw her. You have always known it and you’re not crazy David so…there must be another explanation, something besides stress or swamp gas or any other inappropriate explanation.”

Rodney changed his form back to…Rodney. David took this well or at least appeared to. An annoying buzzing sound startled them both.

“Ha!” laughed Rodney, “I said you would bring it back and you did!”

David didn’t move so Rodney crossed to the desk and turned the timer off. He walked back past David to the office door then turned.

“David, I’m leaving now,” he said a tad bit uncertainly. “O.k. then…I’ll just let myself out.”

Rodney closed David’s door quietly. Ann the secretary looked up. While Rodney had been in his session she had thoroughly convinced herself that of course, she had made Rodney’s appointment and forgotten about it. And then hadn’t seen it in the book that morning…but everything was fine.

“Would you care to make your next appointment, Rodney the patient?” she asked.

Rodney thought about that for a moment. “Noo…,I’ll just call you back,” he said and left.

Once outside Rodney looked around the hallway to make sure he was alone, then he disappeared. Except of course, he didn’t literally disappear. He simply re-assimilated the energy he had used to form the Rodney body into consciousness energy. He took himself through the outer office doorway, through Ann the secretary, through the inner office door and into David’s office. He could have just put himself right back in David’s office but he kind of liked the feel of moving through things and besides he felt that Ann the secretary was bored out of her mind and needed something more to think about.


David was standing in exactly the same spot with the same expression on his face. He hadn’t moved a muscle.

“This is a good sign,” thought Rodney.

One minute ticked by, then two. After three minutes Rodney began to reconsider his first conclusion. He thought he might telepathically suggest to David that he scoop his jaw off the floor and sit down when David made a strange gurgling, choking sort of noise then lept to the office door, ripped it open and yelled, “Did you see Rodney?”

Ann the secretary, who had been staring into the empty space in front of her desk, screamed.

They both turned to look at the outer office door then back to each other. David straightened his clothes and began running his hand through his hair with a good deal more enthusiasm than was necessary. Ann the secretary continued to stare at him. David, suddenly aware that Ann the secretary was staring at him, stopped his hand in mid sweep. Ann the secretary smiled encouragingly. He dropped his hand abruptly.

“What I meant to say was – you saw Rodney…my last patient Rodney…?” David said over enunciating each word.

Ann the secretary, still smiling, nodded affirmatively.

“Leave?” David blurted out. Ann the secretary froze. Rodney, who was hovering slightly behind David, psychically winced. David drew a deep breath.

“I mean you saw him leave? You saw him come in and you saw him leave?” David said carefully.

“Yes,” Ann the secretary said. “But then I thought I felt him. I mean…,” and she clamped her mouth shut.

“He was here…and now he’s gone,” David said.

“He was here…and now he’s gone,” replied Ann the secretary.

David walked over and placed his hands on the receptionist’s desk and leaned forward. Ann the secretary leaned forward as well.

“I want you to cancel my patients for the rest of the day,” David whispered.

“All right,” she whispered back and reached for the telephone.

“No wait!” David shouted. Her hand froze in mid air. “For the rest of the week,” he whispered again.

“All right,” she whispered back but kept her hand in the air.

“I’m…tired,” David said.

Rodney, unable to contain his dismay, shouted to David (telepathically of course), “No you’re not!”

David straightened abruptly and whipped his head around to the right and then to the left. Then, without another word he turned, strode back into his office (strode straight through Rodney as a matter of fact) and slammed the door. He reached the desk and yanked the telephone from it’s base and punched in a number. Rodney paced the floor, err glided, no, flitted about the room in a highly agitated state of flux and would have wrung his hands if he’d had any while David shouted into the phone.

“Michael, I need to see you right away. I need a shrink!”

“But David, you are a shrink,” said the disembodied voice on the other end of the line.

“I am a board certified psychiatrist!” David yelled back, “You are a shrink and I’m coming over there right now!” He slammed the receiver back in it’s base.

“Now David let’s not be hasty,” Rodney thought and sent the message straight into David’s addled brain.

“I can’t hear you,” David said aloud as he clapped his hands firmly over his ears and headed for the door.

“Wait!” Rodney yelled. He was just about to re-manifest his Rodney body right smack in front of David when he, Rodney that is, suddenly found himself in a quiet little park. He was sitting on a bench next to the kindly elderly woman whose image he had so recently borrowed (all for David’s benefit, mind you). Except that she wasn’t really looking very kindly at the moment.

Rodney surveyed the park. “This is very nice,” he said innocently.


“Tell me Rodney, what was your assignment?” the woman asked somehow managing to sound stern and still maintain her chant like manner of speaking.

Rodney sighed. “To help David expand his awareness by utilizing his frame of reference and at the same time exposing him to my frame of reference.”

“And what did you accomplish?” she continued.

Rodney squirmed in his seat. “I scared the shi…I mean, I think I may have over played my hand.”

The woman cleared her throat.

“Look, I know things went south pretty quickly,” Rodney said, “but if you had just given me a little more time I know I could have fixed…”, Rodney winced at his own poor choice of words.

The woman held out her hand. “Come with me Rodney,” she said not unkindly.

“Where are we going?” Rodney asked.

“Back to level four, dear,” she replied.

“Level four!”, Rodney cried. “I’ve been through level four. Twice! What about Ann the secretary?”

“Sorry. No bonus points this time,”, she reminded him.

And they disappeared – well they didn’t actually disappear of course but that’s exactly what it looked like to four year old Ella who, by the way, remembered it her whole life.



Ann the secretary locked the door to the outer office and smiled at the young man standing next to her.

“So, I guess I have the rest of the week off,” she said.

As they walked down the hallway he said, “Now tell me again about the man who wasn’t there.”

“No, he was there but then he left. But after he left I thought, no I felt like he was still there. Like if I turned my head at just the right moment or at just the right angle I would see him. It was so strange…he was so strange,” she said.

As they stepped from the building a woman stopped them.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you Dr. Stiles?”

“No, I’m Ann the…,” Ann started to say then stopped in mid-sentence and laughed. Oddly, the woman laughed too.
“I’m Ann. Ann Marie Waters and I’m afraid the doctor won’t be in this afternoon.”

As Ann and her friend continued on their way the woman called out, “I guess the doctor must be tired.”

Ann stopped in mid stride and whirled around but the woman was no where to be seen…as if she had simply disappeared. Ann stared at the space where the woman had been, should still be but in fact was not. As she turned back round to walk away she heard, in her head more than her ears, a kindly voice say, “That was much better dear.” Then another plaintive, more familiar voice:
“So…I can get out of level four now right…”