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Mythomanic by Tucker Spolter 

Chapter 1

     “Your Honor, Collin Daily is a pathological liar!" William Spohn, attorney

for the city and county of San Francisco —- a mustached weasel spun around in

front of the judge's podium and twirled a gnarly finger at my face. Closer and I 

would have taken a bite. Wouldn’t have mattered. Who cared if they added 

munching a finger to the rest of my charges. 

     "Collin Daily knowingly defrauded the government of California and the 

welfare system. He forged documents. Doctored records. He’s in the eighth grade and he’s driving a car. Apparently for a year for god-sake. He’s barely thirteen. damn kid is heading for—-“

     "Mr. Spohn, this is a court of law. My court. A juvenile court. Look around... There are no television cameras. Present your case and do not, I repeat, do not rant, rave or posture in my court!"

     ‘Three cheers for Judge Judith Klien,’ I thought. She was a tough looking woman. Maybe under her black robe beat a sympathetic heart. I needed a few folks on my team. I turned to my one advocate, Sister Mary Michael Marie for support. She was praying hard. Already on the third decade of the Rosary and her fingers were moving fast.

     Spohn rattled on about the incident on the Golden Gate Bridge, the fire at St. Agnes and how I supposedly defrauded various charitable institutions, including St. Luke’s hospital. I knew he was saving the escape of an inmate from Ferguson psychiatric ward for my second hearing. Spohn went on for ten minutes. Finally, Judge Klien smacked her gavel and give me a look. "Young, Mr. Daily, do you have anything to say in your behalf?"

     I wanted to plead the fifth, but I didn't want to come off like a wise ass. Besides, almost everything the weasel said about me was true. Of course, the circumstances were different than he described. But what chance did a thirteen-year-old kid have?

I shook my head no. 

"If you have nothing to say, Mr. Daily, be it so ordered that you will be returned to Juvenile Hall. During the subsequent weeks you will undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The results of that evaluation will be presented at the time of your trial or placement hearing." Judge Klien gave her gavel a whack.  

 

 

II.

 

     Judge Klien told me to be there. There would be consequences if I didn’t. I had no choice. Juvenile Officer Fred Virgilio personally escorted me to the offices of Dr. Edward Alan Foultz, Psychiatrist. 

     Foultz didn't move. He didn’t look up or down when his secretary, probably a former second-tier sumo wrestler, shoved her talon into my spine and shoved me into his office. The office was a ‘gagger.’ Musty. Murky. An ideal breeding ground for new strains of fungi and virus.

     Dr. Edward Alan Foultz didn’t acknowledge my existence. Why should he? Foultz was paid by the hour. By the government. The more time he spent not acknowledging my existence the more money he got. The more time I spent with him the older I got, and hopefully wiser. I was the one under arrest for defrauding the government; not him. 

     I stood there. Leaned back and stared at the ceiling wide-eyed, like a roadkill gopher flattened beneath the fourteen wheels of a fully loaded Safeway produce truck. I waited for the buzzard behind the desk to begin circling. 

     “See anything interesting?” 

     It talked. I looked at Foultz. His desk was a mess. Books everywhere. One, thick leather-bound book, had a florescent yellow bookmark in the middle.  Yeah, like he’d actually read up to that part and had to stop because of some psychiatric emergency or something. I wasn’t impressed. I was impressed with his wardrobe. Tweed sports coat with those leather elbow patches. Blue, buttoned-down shirt and a bowtie. Add his wire-rim glasses and Dr. Edward Alan Foultz look… well psychi-atric-ish. 

     He stuck out his hand for a friendly handshake. I stared back with indifference. I’d been bounced around by too many adults in the last month. I’d wait awhile before I decided if Foultz was friend or foe. Foultz eyed me and withdrew his hand. “Well, Collin, I can understand if you’re a bit hostile.”  

     He didn’t have a clue why I was hostile. Formal introductions rejected, hands unshaken, greetings ignored. I felt good. Hell, I was a kid. Foultz was a Yale educated adult. The largest certificates on his wall said so. I was a punk sucking up his time. But contributing to his bank account. 

     I crossed my eyes and eased a long string of drool out of the corner of my mouth. It’s difficult to drool while trying not to laugh. I went into heavy eye crossing and uncrossing. Foultz shifted awkwardly on his black leather chair. He turned toward the window. I stifled a gasp. One beam of sunlight poured through the heavy curtains and reflected off a bald spot. But it wasn’t where a bald spot should be. Foultz’s bald spot shone above his right ear. It was about the size of a small Frisbee. I thought of Cyrano de Bergerac and an underling warning Viscount Christian saying, ‘Whatever you do, do not mention his nose.’

     I wanted to ask him to face me head on. I didn’t. He watched me cautiously with his right eye. I kept staring at his bald spot. It was like trying to communicate with an alien being. A shinny blob surrounded by wisps of hair and an ear where the nose should be. Nature dreams up some unlikely combinations. 

     "Why don't you just sit there, Collin," Dr. Foultz pointed to a wicker chair with a blue cushion embroidered with a Siamese cat. If the cat was a favorite pet, it was an odd place to put its image. 

     At least he didn't make me lay on one of his damn couches. I sat in the chair. An amoeba on a slide. While he inspected me, I inspected him. His nose needed a trip to the local nose-hair plucker. His glasses needed a bag of rags and a bottle of Windex.

     I remembered the good days and my mom was more like Mom.  She was  cleaning her glasses. ‘Collin, if you ever must wear these things never use Kleenex or tissues. They’re made of paper and paper is made of wood. Wood scratches glass.’

     Foultz placed his glasses on his ears. His left ear was almost an inch lower than the right. "Tell me a about yourself, young man." He tugged his left ear lobe. Question answered. He turned. A few frontal views. Praise the Lord. Although I could no longer see the bald spot; I knew it was still there. 

     I coughed stalling for time. Where to begin? And how much of what happened after the accident, the separation and arrest did I really want to share with this guy?  

     "I was born in San Francisco." I knew that he already knew that, but I had to start somewhere. "I'm sixteen, blond hair, brown eyes, five foot ten and a half. Mature for my age, people say." I rubbed the non-existent stubble on my chin.

     "I'm sure they do." Dr. Foultz leaned forward. So did his glasses. A stiff nose hair stopped the descent.

     I laughed. Foultz didn't. He tried to bend the stems over his lopsided ears. The stems wouldn't bend, and his ears couldn't move. I laughed again. He laid his glasses in the desk clutter. "Collin, you do understand that this is a most serious matter."

     I nodded most seriously. Well, the most serious nod I could nod.

     “You’re thirteen. Maybe five-five. Five-six tops. You have red hair,” he shuffled the paper. Looked down. Then back at me and quoted “immature for his age and tends to exaggerate.”

     “A liar, I am,” I confessed with downcast eyes and a snort.

     He pulled a second paper out of a file. And stared at it a long time before looking up and staring at me. He cleared his throat and opened with a voice of in disbelief.  "Says here you used to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge? This is one of your lies . . . exaggerations . . . Isn’t it?"

     I shoved my voice low, mature, reasonable. "That was three years ago. Aren’t there statues of limitations?"

     “You mean, statutes.” He tugged his ear again.

     “What-ever.”

     “Had you been arrested before that?”

     I wasn’t arrested, but why tell him. He wanted the good stuff. With the sun at his back, it was like he wasn't there anyway, so I told him.

     Quickly, I described my best friends. Craig ‘Cheat Sheets’ Risso, Steve, and James Mills - I didn't give Foultz any last names. I don't mind ratting on myself, but fingering your friends is different. 

     “It’s not one of my lies.  Or exaggeration. Craig, Steve, James and my younger brother Connor and I used to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.” I looked at Foultz for a reaction. Talk about a poker face.

      “Okay, ‘Jump,’ is not the appropriate word. At the north end of the bridge -- the tower is built on land -- the five of us would hop on the rail. Clasp hands for a special effect and leap. Traffic in both directions would screech to halt as we disappeared over the edge. But it was a short leap. More of a big step. Or a hop. Maybe, two feet, to the maintenance platform.”

     “I’m confused,” Foultz adjusted his glasses. 

      I explained. “There are three sections to the Golden Gate Bridge. South, Middle and North. Beneath each section of the span are motorized contraptions that the maintenance crew uses to keep the bridge in good condition. They dangle there like metal jockstraps. A series of ladders connect five tiers. The walls are wire mesh. At the bottom, thick strands of rope are weaved together for a safety net.

     “And?” Foultz scribble away on a piece of paper. 

     “We always jumped off the North section. The net there is about three feet from solid ground. A quick flip out of the ropes and we went over the hill to spend the day on the beach at Kirby Cove.” Foultz still wore a bewildered expression.  

“See, we’d hold hands. Leap. Land on the top platform and scurry down the ladders. On the bottom tier, we'd back-flip into the safety net, monkey across the rope web and do a circus-somersault to the ground.  

     “We’d hear screams from above.  Laugh. High-five then shriek like we were in pain and disappear into the Marin headlands.”

     "How did you get caught?" Doctor Foultz asked wiping his forehead with a crinkled-up piece of Kleenex.

     It was a good question. “I figured that someone must have figured out our Modest Operendus. Our M.O.”

    “You mean modus operandi,” Foultz said.

    “Yeah, what-ever. For three weeks we hiked through Golden Gate Park, across the Presidio army base, climb up on the rail of the bridge, leap, and scurry, listen to the cries above, laugh and head for Kirby Cove.”

      Foultz tugged his ear. “How did you get arrested?”

      “We never got arrested,” I blurted. “We got yelled at.” I had to catch my breath. . . “It was the fourth or fifth week. We hiked, climbed, leapt, scurried, listened; but when we somersaulted onto the ground we somersaulted into a make-shift army.

     “There were two mounted policemen, a Highway Patrol Car, six members of the National Guard with rifles at Port Arms, one guy revving the engine of a chopped down Harley, and five old pot-bellied geezers Craigding at parade rest. Someone yelled, ‘Halt!’ Someone else, ‘You're under arrest.’

     “If you want to arrest a kid never say you're under arrest until you have the kid you want to arrest, arrestable. You have to have a good grip on the kids shoulder. Handcuffed. Something.

     “My brother Connor and I flew through the ranks of geezers. Craig, Steve, and James disappeared into the bushes. I heard it took the two mounted policemen, the six members of the National Guard and the Highway Patrol to catch Craig. A week later in his room we were flippin’ through a new Batman Comic. ‘You should've been there, Collin,’ he told me, ‘They had me trapped. I was all alone, standing on a boulder on the edge of a cliff.’ Craig spat into the palm of his hand and tried to push down his colic. ‘A hundred feet above the ocean, surrounded by the enemy. I told them they'd never take me alive, but. . .’ 

 

He looked at me knowingly. ‘Hadn't been to confession for a couple of weeks. And I had a couple of big mortals. . . An eternity in hell is a long time. . .  So, I let 'em take me.’

     “Steve and James got caught when they tried to help the guy on the motorcycle. They told me the whole story a week later, up in our tree house we built in Sutro Forest. 

    “Steve confided, ‘You should've seen the guy. He was buzzing up and down the mountain, singing and laughing. He wasn't even looking for us.’ He looked at his brother James for confirmation.

   “‘No way, he was looking for us,’ James confirmed. ‘He was sucking it up from a bottle of booze he had in his back pocket.’

     “‘And we were hiding in the trees. Weren't we, James?’

 

X

 

     James was always called James. Every year we'd get a new nun as a teacher. Every one of them would go down the class list until they came to James Mills.  name. Every one of them would ask innocently,  ‘What do you prefer, Jim or Jimmy?’

     ‘James,’ James would reply politely.

     Next thing you know she'd ask Jim or Jimmy to respond to a question, read aloud, or go to the blackboard. No matter how much we loved or hated our new teacher, she’d slip down a notch in everyone's ratings. Hell, no one expected her to learn everyone's name after only a couple of days but we were all on a list, right there, in her hand, in alphabetical order. We all knew there wasn't a Jim or Jimmy on her sheet.

     First week of sixth grade, James sat one row away and two desks up. James didn't hear our new Sister Mary Berkman call him. He was doodling. He was a good doodler. Clipper ships and rockets. Not stick figures. ‘Jimmy, I am talking to you.’ Sister Berkman strolled from behind her desk with a long, stiff, sharp pointer. 

 

     Everyone's eyeballs went to the ceiling. James wiggled his pencil across a page. Sister's heels made a drum tap as she marched up the aisle.

    ’Young man, you are not paying attention to me.’

     There was a statue of the Blessed Virgin perched on a short piece of plywood above our classroom door. ‘Jump,’ I prayed. ‘We need a miracle. Jump!’

     ’Jimmy, are you listening to me?’"  

     James was oblivious. He kept scratching away on his pad.

     A tearing sound broke the silence of the classroom. Sister ripped a page from James' spiral notebook. 

     She stared, then gasped, ‘This is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.’"  

     Our entire class stirred. We all wanted to see the most disgusting thing Sister Mary Berkman had ever seen. She was old.  She must have seen lots of disgusting things. 

     She grabbed James by the ear and pulled him to the door. ‘Take this piece of smut and march yourself right down to the principal's office, Jimmy.’

   ‘Name’s James,’ James said as he sauntered out the door. 

X

    “Collin," Dr. Foultz interrupted my thoughts. "Where did you go? Our time is limited. Could we get back to your first arrest?"

 

     It was of picture of Wonder Woman and Superman doing the dirty deed, but I didn't tell Foultz. I was in enough trouble with forgery and defrauding the government of the United States of America. I didn't want him to think I was a pervert too.

     I repeated the part about how we were all in tree house and James was saying:  “‘Yeah, we were hiding in the trees.’

     "’Right by the creek,” Steve said. 

     “‘Right by the creek," James took over. ‘The guy on the motorcycle comes barreling down the trail. Goosing the gas. Then he misses the turn and flies into the middle of the creek . . .’

     "‘We saved his sorry ass.’ Steven interrupted. “Probably would have drowned.’

     "’He had booze on his breath. And we got busted,’ James finished.’”

 

     "If you don't mind." Foultz looked at his watch. "We only have six visits, Collin." He held up his hand. "Six to explain your side. What you did and why you did it. This is about you, your brother Connor, and your family. Time is of the essence." Foultz glanced at his watch. “I have another patient waiting. You have eight more minutes. Do you understand?”

      I understood. Well, I understood most of it. So I kicked it up a notch and skipped a few parts. “Connor and I spent most of the day on the beach in Kirby Cove. We huddled in an abandoned army bunker for a while. Then we looked for Steve, James and Craig. When the afternoon fog rolled in, we headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was cold. The fog was thick. We were numb. Could barely see in front of us. We were almost to the San Francisco side of the bridge. When over the blare of Fog Horns, in our semi-frozen state, we heard a shrill, female cackle. ‘That's them!’ 

     "’That's who?’" A deep voice asked through the mist.

 

     "‘The kids that jumped off the bridge, that's who.  I’d know that red head one anywhere.’"

     “Out of the mist came an octopus of humanity. They grabbed us. I couldn't believe it. Some woman and a group of men had spent the whole day waiting for our return. Who pays these people? Didn’t they all have something better to do?”

      I looked to Foultz for a response. He shrugged. I continued.  

      “The shrew kept yelling, ‘We got them. We got them,’ like she’s just captured the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.  We were paraded into a dark, windowless room somewhere in the bowels of the Golden Gate Bridge complex. 

      “The woman had straggly brown hair and a long lean face, a stained white sweatshirt that said U.S.C. Within her maroon slacks, you could see the craters in her butt bobbing up and down. I almost laughed.

     “The man behind the desk wasn’t laughing. He had a weird look. He was a pudgy little guy with red cheeks, puffy eyes, and tendency to spread spittle when he spoke. 

     "’You the boy's been jumping off MY bridge?’ He tapped the plastic desk sign that identified him as H.P. Stearson. The lettering was in cursive, painted in green.

     “Like, this Santa Claus clone owned the Golden Gate Bridge.

     “Stearson tapped his finger on the violet frame of his sunglasses.

     “Six o'clock, on a thick foggy San Francisco evening, sunglasses were a must.

     “Connor had goose bumps running up his arms. I had goose bumps everywhere. U.S.C. had one humongous goose bump on her chin. But that was probably a wart.

     "’Do you boys hear me?’

     “We heard. Connor slinked closer to me.   

     "’They're the ones. I saw them jump,’ U.S.C hissed.

     "’You two are in very serious...trouble.’ He removed his violet glasses, wiped the lens with used handkerchief and replaced his shades. He pushed his green swivel chair against a bookcase and stood. Dramatically, he rose to his full lack of height, puffing his chest. Stearson wasn't an inch taller than me. Probably, an inch less.  

     "’I don't like kids playing on my bridge. Who, whom. . . do you think you are?’

     “Stearson didn't want to make an error in English.

      "’Miss Gable?" Stearson turned to U.S.C. "I'm afraid these kids have no idea of the trouble they’ve caused.’

     "’Call me, Margaret." U.S.C. smiled.

     “Now it was obvious why she'd spent the whole day waiting for us. U.S.C. had the hots for Stearson. Why? Was the question.

     "’I almost had a head on collision," U.S.C. turned her attention to Connor and me. ’I could have been killed!’ 

      “She rubbed her chin. It was a wart, and there was a hair growing out of the side. I wanted tweezers. 

      “Stearson was no dummy. He was aware of the glint in U.S.C.'s eyes. The stage was his. He lifted a stapler from his desk, leaned against the wall at a jaunty angle and began popping it in the palm of his hand. ‘Are - tap - you - tap - the - tap - the - tap - little - tap - fuckers...’ he stopped talking and tapping and tilted his head to U.S.C. ‘Sorry, Miss Gable,’ he apologized. ‘Excuse my language.’

      “Pale now, my brother Connor turned to me and mouthed Mortal Sin. The 'F' word is a Mortal Sin. Mortal sins are important to Connor. 

     “Some women love cursing. U.S.C. was one of them. 

     ‘That's quite all right, Mr. Stearson. And please call me Margaret. Or Maggie.’

     "‘And you call me, Hal,’ Stearson smiled.

     “Connor looked at me with dismay. We were smack in the middle of a soap opera. They made eyes at each other, faces flushed. If Connor hadn't sneezed from a sudden chill, we would've been smack in the middle of the porno – ‘Maggie does the Golden Gate Bridge.’

     “Stearson snapped back into focus. He filled out a report while the two of them spent a half hour yelling at us. Properly chastised, Stearson called our mother and told us to go outside and wait.  

     “We headed for the door slowly. It was freezing outside. Behind us the gruesome twosome we’re already into an animated conversation.

     "‘You're our only eyewitness, Miss Gable -- I mean, Margaret. Oops, Maggie.  I'll need to get all the particulars.’

     "’Of course, Mr. -- Hal," U.S.C. gave Stearson a titter followed by a good eyelash batting. 

     “I knew what particulars, he was after. And, I knew what particulars she'd give him. What drove me nuts was how unparticular they both were. It was cold─” 

     Foultz’s intercom buzzed breaking  my discourse. 

     "Doctor Foultz, may I speak to you for a moment?" There was a sense of urgency in his secretary's voice.

     "Will you excuse me?"

 

      Although he'd been tugging his ear and scratching away with a number two pencil through my entire dialogue, it was the first time Foultz had spoken in a long time. He hustled out of his office never waiting to be excused.  

      Easing off the wicker chair, I peered at his scribbling. It was more serious than I thought. On the top half of the page was series of statements: delusions of grandeur. Misplaced aggressions was underlined several times. For an eighth grader seems to know quite a bit about adult seduction. Next session ask about particulars. May have had and overprotective mother. 

     I hadn't said four words about my mother.  

     The bottom half of the page was covered with doodles.  James was a much better doodler.

     "Collin, your time is up," Foultz called through the open door.  

     Delusions of grandeur, misplaced aggressions, I'd graduated. I knew I wouldn't be sitting in the chair next week. It would be couch time for sure. I kicked it on my way out of his office.

     In the waiting room, waited Officer Virgillio. I held out my wrists. “Oh, no, the dreaded handcuffs.” 

     Gloria Sterne looked up from her desks. “Handcuffs?  You didn’t tell us he was supposed to be handcuffed.”

     Officer Virgillio escorted me into the hall.  “He’s a wise ass, ma’am. A real, wise ass.” 

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