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Mythomanic by Tucker Spolter 

Chapter 4

XVII

 

  Doctor Foultz made a big deal out of shuffling all his important stuff as I entered his cave. He

 had a thing about light. There never was any. I was positive he'd been a bat in a former life.

     We played a verbal game of badminton for a while, then Foultz pulled out my portfolio.

     "Tell me, Collin," Foultz opened. "Do you recall any traumatic events in your childhood."

      I knew what traumatic meant. “Yes, Doctor Foultz my father died in a horrible car accident. 

I was in the hospital when he died, remember.”

     “Sorry.  Of course.” Foultz face turned crimson. “Jesus, what a stupid question.” 

      Just what I was thinking. And tossing in a Jesus to boot. 

       Foultz stood and paced up and down along his bookcase for several minutes. I heard ‘stupid’ several more times and a ‘thoughtless’ and ‘unprofessional’ from under his breath. 

      Foultz stopped suddenly and stepped closer to me than he’d ever ventured before. “Collin, I am sorry.” He did look sorry. “I think it’s better that you find a new doctor.” He turned to the window then back to me.  “Just so you know I will be more than willing to testify on your behalf at your hearing.  The fire at St. Agnes and the incident at Golden Gate Bridge can be explained. 

I’ll leave the case of Welfare Fraud, the escape from Ferguson Psychiatric Facility and─” Foultz smothered a laugh. Driving without insurance or a California Drivers license to your next doctor. Through I want you to know I’ll miss your stories. ” Foultz held out his hand. “Fair enough?” 

     I stared at his hand.  “You’re quitting.”

     “I’m firing me,” Foultz laughed.  “I deserve it.” Foultz held out a stick of Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum.  

      A sort of piece offering, I guessed. I backed away politely declining the offer. 

     “You don’t like chewing gum?” he asked with dismay. 

      I loved gum. Especially Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. I was puzzled. At first, I thought someone from St. Agnes might have put him up to this. A test. Then I realized he had no idea what was going through my brain, so I started to explain. “Oh, I like the chewing part. . .” 

      “I’m trying to break a bad habit.” Foultz slid off the yellow wrapper. “This helps.” He  peeled off the tin foil.” He gave me a sheepish smile, tugged his ear,  leaned back in his swivel chair and started chopping.   

      Bingo. Doctor Foultz was aware of his compulsive behavior. And ever since he’d fired himself several minutes before his behavior had changed. He seemed much more relaxed. More . . . human.  He put both hands behind his head and leaned further back in his chair. “So, tell me about your aversion to chewing,” he gave off a broad grin. “Chewing gum.”

     “Really?” I asked.

     “Sure, why not? This will probably be our last time together for a while.” 

     I thought about his comment for a while. But since he didn’t reach for his pen or open my portfolio─

 

 

     “Rules are established early in Catholic School. Introduced in Kindergarten and amended in first-grade. In Kindergarten you were to raise your hand if you had to pee ─ not after you pee’d. I don’t remember much about the rules in first grade other than scissors where to be used only to cut paper. Apparently, the previous year, someone had quietly cut the ponytail off the girl sitting in front of them. Sadly, it was the girls birthday. 

 

      Our second-grade teacher was Sister Mary Damien. She was a tall, spindly woman, with translucent skin. You could look up the arm gap of her cowl and see blue veins and watch her heartbeat. She had a pointy chin and a pug nose with freckles. She had bit of an Irish brogue that we all loved mimic. She wasn’t a screamer, but she was a stickler for the rules. To enforce them she used her finger. Long, tapered fingers. Fingers any pianist would love to have. Though she never used them for music. Unless you consider the blackboard a musical instrument. The way Sister Damien RAAAAAAKED her fingernails across a blackboard made your brain change channels.

     On the first day of school she went through her rules: "There will be NO TALKING. God has a reason for everything. You’ve got two ears to listen and one mouth. . . with which to eat. Remember, SILENCE IS GOLDEN. 

     “And gum chewing. . .” It took her less than a millisecond to make eye contact with every single person in our class. 

     I’d heard from my cousin Valeri that one of her teachers let them chew gum in class. Our whole room went silent. Was there a chance? 

     ‘There will be NO GUM CHEWING in this class. You are in the second grade now. If your parents allow you to engage in this disgusting habit please do so, away from school and out of the St. Agnes uniform.’

     The problem with the No Gum Chewing Rule was that it was nothing new. Since kindergarten that had been a rule. Everyone knew there was no gum chewing at St. Agnes. And  Juicy Fruit ─ by far ─ was our favorite. Every first grader knew how palm a yellow pack of Wrigley’s, silently pull the little red tab, let the top dangle, slide out a stick, slip off the wrapper, thumb the jagged edges of the tin foil and reseal the packing in movements so subtle that it would make a Las Vegas card shark jealous. 

     Chewing was the hard part. The trick was not to let the gum touch your teeth. We had an entire student body of gum gummers. But, even then, once in a while some poor soul would get caught. 

     "Are YOU chewing gum?" A Nun would screech. A shrill screech that would careen off  the walls of our classroom. A collective gulp followed. Little Adam and Eve apples would bob up and down as wads of gum disappeared down the esophagi of those not accused. 

     A dangerous act more than one nun had warned us. ‘Stomach juices cannot digest gum. It will sit there for a while then go down to your intestines where it would stick to little hair follicles. The next piece you swallowed will stick to the first. And so on and so on. Until you could never go number two again. Your stomach would swell up. Bigger and bigger. Finally, you'd 

explode.

     

      I looked up at Foultz. He was chomping and smiling.  He’d opened a drawer at the side of his desk and laid both legs across it. “What would happen if you got caught chewing gum?” He chomped. 

 

      

     The punishment was immediate. Always the same. The culprit withdrew the wad from his/her 

mouth and stick it on the end of  their nose for the rest of the day. By fourth-grade it had become a status symbol to walk around school with a lump of Juicy Fruit on your nose.

     One time in Third Grade we had a substitute teacher. Five minutes before the end of the day she caught Tommy Tico chewing gum. Tico was a sensitive kid. He started to cry. Then everyone in class, everyone except Helen Porter and Joan Lebdef, who wanted to be nuns and never anything wrong; took out the gum they were gumming and stuck it on the end their nose. Sort of an ‘I am Spartacus’ gesture. The substitute took one look at fifty kids with slimy gum wads on the end of their noses, snatched up her purse and walked out the door. If the woman ever subbed again at St. Agnes, she never subbed for our class. 

Next Chapter Coming Soon!

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