The Lieutenant had found it easy to slip in and out of crazed interludes. The last few days, sitting alone in his cell, enveloped in quiet, he had found a measure of peace. His typical restless sleep, with the night sweats, and battles that raged in his dreams, had been nowhere to be seen.
He awoke slowly this morning and just lay there remembering the dream. In it, he could see the tree line around the lake and hear the birds. The water surface was calm, only barely disturbed by the bobber at the end of his fishing line. The morning mist had hung around for a bit and then burned off as the sun crept over the tops of the pines. A girl, in a gingham dress, had waved to him from the shore, saying that breakfast would be ready shortly, and that the fish would still be there when he was done. He rowed to shore and only realized who the girl was, when he sat across from her in the cabin. It was Kim, the girl he had dated in high school. Her hair, auburn, was tied in a pony tail, and she smiled, as she put a plate of eggs in front of him. They talked for a long while. Eventually, he realized he was dreaming. He asked her about it, she said that it probably was a dream, but she had missed him, so it was nice anyway.
He had been so focused on remembering the dream, he hadn’t noticed the orderly bringing in his breakfast. Just before he closed the door, the lieutenant said, “Hey, one second.”
The orderly stopped and looked back. “Yeah?”
“I think I might have hurt someone, the other day, is she okay?”
“She was rattled, but that is all.”
“I’m sorry. Please tell her. Oh, and thanks for the food.”
With a look of understanding, the orderly said, “I’ll tell her, and you’re welcome, but…it isn’t very good.”
“It smells like eggs.”
“It is, scrambled.”
The lieutenant pulled off the little cover and saw the eggs, some toast, a carton of milk and an apple. It was exactly what Kim had set out for him, in the dream. He broke down a little and a tear rolled down his face. “It’s perfect.”
The orderly didn’t say anything else, but closed the door. He watched through the window for a little while. It didn’t bother him at all. The lieutenant didn’t have silverware, but shoveled the eggs onto the toast and slowly started to eat.
Just as he finished another face appeared at the window, one he didn’t know. The lieutenant, more out of reflex than anything, popped to his feet and stood at attention. The bespeckled man, in a white coat, entered the room with a leather bound journal. ”Hello, how are we feeling today?”
“Sir, much better, sir.”
The orderly was standing in the hall and after the door closed, started to watch through the window.
“At ease, soldier.”
“Thank-you” The Lieutenant sat back down on the edge of the bed and his shoulders slumped.
“Do you know where you are, son?”
“I don’t know the name of the place, but it is some sort of hospital.”
“That is correct. Do you know your name?”
“Yes, it is First Lieutenant,” he said and then paused, “No, that’s not true, not anymore. I used to be in the army and was a First Lieutenant, but that was a while ago. Now, I’m just Randolph.”
“Randolph, I’m Dr. Joel Silverstein. How do you feel today?”
“Are you a psychiatrist?”
“Yes, Randolph, I am.”
“Are you my doctor?”
“Yes I am.”
“Should I call you doctor or Joel or Mr. Silverstein?”
“Whatever you want, Randolph.”
“I’m not usually this, well, clear headed. Sometimes I may be hard to talk to. I am worried that…”
The doctor sat quietly and let him gather his thoughts.
“It is just that, I didn’t want to hurt anybody, or maybe I did, but not the nurse. Is she okay?”
“She is fine.”
“I told the man at the window to tell her I’m sorry. I hope he does.”
“I’ll make sure she knows.”
“Sometimes, I think I’m not here.”
“Where do you think you are?”
“Back in the dirt.”
“In the war?”
“May I ask a favor?”
“I can’t make any promises, but go ahead.”
“When the demons start up, in my head, I usually feel it coming on. It is like the moments before a sneeze. I can’t stop it. I am not sure what I might do, when they’re shouting in my head. I’m tired of hurt people.”
“That is good, Randolph. I’m glad to hear it. What was the favor?”
“If I tell you that they, the demons, are coming, get help or get out and lock the door.”
The doctor wrote some notes in his journal and then looked up. “Randolph, I appreciate your concern. That is a very good sign. I’m going to leave you now. If you don’t mind, I’d like to talk again this afternoon, would that be, okay?”
“I’d like that.”
The doctor stopped before leaving and asked, “How was the breakfast?”
“It was good, thanks.”
The doctor left and the orderly came in and gathered the tray.