The Author's Story (November 16)


Written in 1977, The Author's Story (November 16) was published in Lost Areas by Oil Books, Sugar Run, Pennsylvania.

The old house creaks and groans in the wind. It's cold.

I stand in the living room. I’m accused of a crime but I don't know what the crime is. I can't hear my accusers; neither can I see them. Their vague forms swim in the background shadows behind the light.

The police captain is playing pinochle at the dining room table with his political cronies while the tired young policeman tries to find out what I am. He has taken me by the hand and is examining my palm. “Tickle-yee, tickle-yee on the hand,” he is saying, “If you laugh you are a man...If you cry you are a baby...if you dance you are a lady?...”

“What is she?” the police captain asks.

I'm silent.



They've invited my shrink to lunch. They sit him at the table and give him a fancy place setting and a linen napkin. He tucks the napkin into his shirt collar.

"The watercress sandwiches are delicious," the tired young policeman says.

My shrink smacks his lips. He eats all the watercress sandwiches, then leans forward and pats the tired young policeman on the hand.

“Delicious,” he mutters, “delicious. Did you make them yourself?”
The tired young policeman nods.

“Good, good. Now pull up your chair.”

The tired young policeman pulls up his chair and crawls into it. His legs dangle about a foot above the floor.

My shrink opens his book. “Before we begin,” he says, “you should know that the kernel of the psychiatric clinical biography is the patient's life in its own interpersonal microcosmos. You should also know that it is never easy to obtain an adequate account of anyone's microcosmos. Each investigation represents a laborious piece of research. Nonetheless...”

The tired young policeman sits bolt upright. “Nonetheless,” he says.

“Nonetheless in my interviews with the accused I'd say there was enough evidence...” He flips through the pages of his book. “ establish a definite diagnosis. To put it in clinical psychiatric terminology, the accused suffers from depersonalization...”

“Depersonalization.” The tired young policeman writes it down.


“s or z?”

“z … autism.”


“...nihilistic delusions...”

“Nihilistic delusions.”

“...delusions of persecution and omnipotence...”

“Delusions of persecution and omnipotence.”

“In addition she has visual and auditory hallucinations.”

“Visual and...Oh super!” the tired young policeman exclaims. “Super! She's a schiz!"

“Someone,” I grumble, “is making fun of me.”

I make a strenuous effort to break away from the situation. I open the window and climb out on the porch roof.


I run across the roof and into the lobby. The ticket girl is waiting with my ticket. “Oh there you are,” she says. “I thought you'd never get here. Didn't I think she'd never get here? Didn't I just say, I'll bet anything she never gets here? Oh, this is a nice surprise. I mean I never thought you'd get here and here you are. Now that's what I call a nice...”

I bring my fist down on the counter. “Damn it, I don't even know you,” I say.

“Well you don't have to get huffy about it," she says. "You don't know my mother either,” and she gives me a ticket.

The tired young policeman is waiting for me at the gate. “Your ticket please,” he says. I give him my ticket. “Oh, I'm sorry, Miss,” he says, “This is a return trip ticket. You'll have to come with me.”

I pee my pants in vexation.

I return to the living room. Before I enter I make my looks comply with what I imagine their expectations to be. I wear a wig and a mask. The wig is wild and as red as fire. The mask is pale and twisted into one huge leering grin. I dress in burlap to my ankles and carry a dish rag, which I hold up to cover my face so as not to be recognized. I enter the room taking large strides on tiptoe.

“That's the one,” someone whispers.

“Are you sure?”

“Oh absolutely, absolutely.”

I look beyond the light to the outer blur of the room. I can see the curtains moving. I can see the windows just beginning to turn dark. I cannot see my accusor.


“Peek-a-boo!” The police captain lifts my mask. “You think I don't know you're there,” he says, "but I do," and he lets the mask snap back over my face.

“Murder one,” he says to the tired young policeman. “Lock her up!”


They put me in the basement. I find myself taking root in the darkness, I need help.

I leaf through my notebook. It contains the following recommendations:

1. Put your feet up.

2. Take a rest.

3. Eat something.

I ignore the recommendations. I run to the head of the basement stairs and scream and beat my fists against the door. Nothing happens.

I begin again. I walk up the basement stairs and turn the knob. The door opens.

This time I wear a skirt. “Now look here,” I say sternly as I enter the room.

Everyone looks.

“Your slip's showin,” the police captain says.

“She's got a run in her stock too,” the tired young policeman says. “Tell her she's got a run in her stock.”

“You got a run in your stock,” the police captain says, “and your lipstick's smeared. You better freshen up, sweetie, put on a new face. Tad here'11 show you the way.”

The tired young policeman takes me by the arm. “It's a nice rest room,” he whispers. “You'll like it, honest.”


I fall asleep immediately.


“Up up up up, everyone up...”

I open one eye. The tired young policeman is running around poking everyone in the room. “Up up up up," he urges, "everyone up.”

A man in a black robe enters the room. The tired young policeman stands erect. “CRIMINAL COURT, ________ COUNTY, STATE OF _________, JUDGE _________ presiding,” he announces.
“Everyone rise.”

Everyone stands.

The Judge smiles and waves, then unzips and takes a leak. I think he looks a lot like my shrink.

They remove me from the room. I stand in the hall listening to the creak of the door as the witnesses go in and out. I keep telling myself that I need time to think, but when I have the time all I can think is: what the hell is going on? and, what am I doing here? I decide the questions are pertinent.


I phone my shrink. I ask, what the hell is going on? and, what am I doing here?

The voice on the other end of the phone is thoughtful. “These questions,” it says, “represent a step forward in the patient's progress toward health. They may be considered a rallying point around which the integration of a badly fragmented self can occur.”

“Oh yeah,” I say. I sing a chorus of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and hang up.


I take a good look at myself. I am attractive, intelligent, capable, dignified.“


There's something radically wrong here,” I say to the Judge as I approach the bench.

“We have heard convincing testimony to that effect,” the Judge replies.

“I'm glad you agree. It will make the sentence that much easier...”
“Just a minute,” I interrupt. “I'll write the sentence. When the time comes I'll write the sentence.”

There's a murmur in the courtroom. I can hear the creak of chairs and the shuffle of feet as people lean forward.

“That's a trifle unorthodox, isn't it?” the Judge asks.

“No more than this,” I say and I point my finger at the Judge. He is sitting on the toilet bowl eating watercress sandwiches.

There's a sudden whirl of activity in the room. Members of the press run for the phones.

“Order!” the tired young policeman yells. “Order, please!"

My heart is beating rapidly. I try to keep my voice from breaking. “There are two questions,” I say. My voice is deep; it sounds like a Russian bass. I clear my throat and start again. “There are two questions,” I squeak. I try for a mezzo sound and get it. “Two questions. One: who did I murder? and two: where is the body?”

The Judge slams his gavel. The room is in an uproar. The police captain and the tired young policeman approach the bench. They whisper with the Judge.

“Order, order.” The Judge bangs his gavel again. “Order Court is recessed while...while ..." He looks at the tired young policeman. “What is it we're supposed to do?”

The tired young policeman beams from ear to ear. “Find the author's body,” he says. “It should be lots of fun.”


I climb the stairs slowly, then quickening my step, enter the author's studio. The studio is smaller than I'd pictured it, but comfortable. I begin to feel comfortable, even happy in it. I sit down at the typewriter and roll in a sheet of pink paper. “There is no body,” I write.


The Judge is the first to join me. “No body,” he sighs. “Some case!” The police captain comes next. He is visibly upset. I think he must have lost at pinochle. Only the tired young policeman seems cheerful I give him the piece of paper and ask him to read it aloud.

“There is no body,” he reads.

“No body,” I repeat with emphasis.

The telephone rings. “The basic split in the schizoid personality,” my shrink says, “is the split between the self and the body.”

I hang up. “No body,” I repeat.

“No body,” they all say dutifully.


“Well don't you get it?” I ask. “If there's no body, there's no crime. No murder has been committed.”

“That's naive,” the tired young policeman says. “I think you hid it.”

“No, no I didn't. I am it. I am the author. And now,” I say with a sweeping gesture, “don't you think it's about time you left me alone? all of you; I mean how can I work with you always interrupting me?”

“How can I write with you always here, always questioning, always redirecting my effort? How can I, you tell me?”

The tired young policeman raises his hand. He is about to tell me. I turn my back on him. “Just go,” I say. “Scram. I have work to do.”


They go. The Judge, the police captain and his political cronies, the tired young policeman, the vague forms whose faces I have never seen and whose voices I have heard only as murmurs. They slip away out the half-opened door. I am alone.


I take a deep breath. I am master of the situation. I am the author in entire conscious control. I roll a sheet of paper into the typewriter. I stare at it. Nothing happens. I try a second sheet of paper. I smoke a cigarette. Nothing. I start a sentence anyway. The words are garbled. I xx them out. I try to visualize a character; it is out of focus. The situation won't materialize. I tear the paper out of the typewriter. I tear another paper out of the typewriter, and another. I crumple them in my fist. I throw them at the now closed door.



© Helen Thorington, 2004