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Sunday, June 26, 2011



Short Fiction By Dan Ornstein

Peter Katz sits in Dr. Roberts’ office, his eyes puffy from crying through the weekly therapy session.

“I feel almost paralyzed by these ongoing anxieties of mine about whether Linda wants to stay with me. Last night and this morning…I swear, Doctor Roberts, they were about the worst I’ve ever lived through in the four years since she and I got married.”

“Mmm…,” Roberts hums with professional empathy. “Well, what happened?”
Katz pauses to compose himself. “We made love last night with this incredible intensity, but when we were done, she just…went to sleep. No ‘I love you’, no acknowledgement of how she felt about me…about us. I didn’t know what to make of it, and I was up half the night as a result.”

“Maybe she was just tired,” the therapist suggests.

Katz thinks about this and says, “Maybe. I slept so fitfully, but at one point I had this vivid dream, one that made me feel peaceful about our relationship.”

“Go with that,” Roberts says to him.

“In the dream I was looking at an old Far Side cartoon by Garry Larsen. Two romantically involved alley cats are sitting on a fence looking out at a full moon. In the caption, one says to the other, ‘If I had two dead rats, I’d give you one!’”

“How did the scene feel to you as you dreamed it?”

“Well, I could sense that the female cat was the one talking, and that I was the male cat. I get it that Linda and I are the two cats in the dream, which is why I awoke feeling more secure.”

Roberts asks him slowly, “So, then, what happened this morning?”

Katz pauses again, a soft, expanding water balloon waiting to burst. “At breakfast this morning, she wouldn’t look up from her paper and coffee when I kissed her. Five minutes later, she burst out laughing, almost guffawing! When I asked her what was so funny, she told me, ‘It’s the joke- of- the- week in the comics section. What has four legs and chases cats?’ I wasn’t in a joking mood so I just said, ‘I dunno. What?’ Then she gave me the punch line: ‘Mrs. Katz and her lawyer!’”

Katz begins to cry uncontrollably. The psychologist suppresses his urge to laugh while also feeling tears come to his eyes. He sits with his client in silence, as he absentmindedly strokes a stuffed toy tabby, the ragged artifact of a romantic day at a county fair -and a love betrayed- long ago.

© 2011 By Dan Ornstein

1 comment:

  1. So much of what we do is with our conscious mind - we are aware that we are doing these things - yet the unconscious mind is busily at work in the background. For instance, we think consciously about what we are going to say when we write a speech but our unconscious mind is minding our physical store. It makes sure our heart beats, that we breathe - it keeps our bodily functions going without our having to think consciously about those things.

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