Community Meeting

         “My head,” I tell ‘em. I tell it like it is, man. I say, “My head. It’s like the apple
and the worm. It’s about the integration.” And they sit there staring. The whole bunch of
‘em. Like a round table; a table full of knights. Boom boom boom. Canon blasts. The
same as the big metal doors. Boom boom boom. They still looking and waiting. So I say
it again. “The apple and the worm, man. The appppllllle and the woooorrrm.”

         Chief Fatty sits looking like he never seen me before, hands folded on his big gut
like he praying- fine corduroy slacks and that nasty-ass bowtie. The grooves in the
corduroy, like mountains and valleys and the bowtie big and colorful looking like Bozo
the clown, all crazy sitting there like that. He just sits looking at me, waiting. So I tell ‘em
some more. "Yo dude," I say to him. "We all bricks. You a brick. I'm a brick. Bricks
bricks bricks. A towering concrete wall, big and round and surrounding it all."

         Chief Fatty smirks at me. His lips going up at the edges. Teeth starting to show
now. Big white teeth. He says, "Anything else?"

         Everyone around me now looking and waiting. Jimenez got that shit-eating grin
on. Know he's laughing. The dumb-ass. Know he wants my Walkman. Hid it in the
bottom of the drawer. Ain't never gonna find it there. Hid it under the blankets - tucked
away. Amazing blankets. Tell Chief Fatty this. Tell him. "Amazing blankets, man. You
keep ‘em tight up against your body, they do wonders. A chemical- no no no - an atomic

         Now the new one is scribbling furiously in his book. Writing and writing like there's
no tomorrow, like he's writing the Bible or some shit. Man, he means business and
he looking like a big boy, like a new baby in diapers gonna cry for a bottle any second
now, writing and writing. Look over his way and connect the eyes, man. The pupils lock.
Ain't never seen me before. I know it. Got the glasses hanging down on his nose and I
can see the magnification. The eyeball in its shell encased in a globe like the Earth
spinning around in his head. Tell him, "Yo, you know it. It's about the lateness of
formation." Stops scribbling and ceases motion and he's frozen, stunted in space not
knowing what to do like he been entombed in a glass box. Tell him, "We all heads. My
head. It's like the apple and the worm."

         Then he speaks. Quiet except for his voice coming out all brand new. Squeaking
and saying something and the mouth is open, tongue beet-red and glossy with bumps and
the nostrils open ever so slightly and one fine hair sticks out like a sword. Big Boy says,
"What exactly do you mean by that?"


         I had to jump in. I asked him, "What exactly do you mean by that?" He was going
on about this apple and the worm. It was my first community meeting and I didn't quite
have a handle on all the patients just yet but I figured it was a good a time as any. This
guy, Preston, was rocking back and forth talking gibberish and then he started to stare at
me. I found this somewhat unnerving but I figured I should probably get used to it. I
looked over at the attending physician for reassurance and he gave me a subtle
affirmative nod. So I went on.

         "The apple and the worm," I said. "What exactly is the significance?"

         Preston kept rocking. He wore tattered flannel pajamas and a wool blanket
wrapped around his shoulders. Now he was staring at Jimenez, the guy sitting next to

         "The same as the toothbrush and the scepter," he said, slowly turning his head
back in my direction. "Like Moses parting the sea."

         I massaged my chin with thumb and index finger. "I see."

         Preston got up and shuffled toward the door. Doctor Bradley, the attending, said
without looking at him, "Could you please sit down."

         Preston stops, steps from Dr. Bradley, and says, "Need the bathroom."

         Dr. Bradley takes a long breath and says, slowly, "It'd be better if you stuck it

         Preston, staring straight ahead, proceeds to remove his penis from the slit in his
pajamas. He leans back and relieves himself - a terrific arc of urine splashing steps from
Dr. Bradley's shoes.

         "Sticking it out," Preston said, stone-faced, tucking himself back into his pajamas.
"In a vast sea of knowledge."


         Big Boy says, "What exactly do you mean by that?" And I hear the words and they
echo and echo and echo and the room is the Grand Canyon with rocks and rivers flowing
down the cliff and a bald eagle flapping, diving for mice, biting, pulling, and then gone.
Up and out and I fly too and soar between buildings in the city, each window a hole to
devour and suck me in and then I hear the squeaking again, this time like a mouse. It
says, "What exactly is the significance?"

         Jimenez laughing again and I hear it and it hammers in my head and he laughs
with that dumbass face. He smells. See the odor like black smoke drifting up and up and
up and I know he wants my food too, cause each time the tray is there he eyes it. He ain't
gonna get it. Big Boy is still looking up my alley asking about the significance and I want
to tell ‘em like it is, man. Tell 'em the whole thing but he's just a baby boy, scribbling in
his book with crayons, coloring a nice picture for mommy.

         Tell him, "The same as the toothbrush and the scepter." It's all about the Bible.
Big Boy looking up my alley, waiting - needing a diaper change. The river turns into the
sea and there's the eagle soaring high above the city looking for mice. Big Boy's face
tight, lips pulled across the head. We all heads and his head is here and so is mine and
so is the head of Moses. Tell him, "Like Moses parting the sea."

         Then the squeaking again. "I see." Big boy can see. He sees it. I see I see I see.
The river flows. Water builds and builds and builds. Pressure. The bladder, like
the womb, housing new life. Delivery is in order. As I go, Chief Fatty says, "Could you
please sit down."

         Chief Fatty don't move. Hands folded. Top of his head bare like a desert
wasteland, little cacti sprouting up with prickly stingers. Orange plateaus and vultures
circling and circling and circling. Tell ‘em like it is. "Need the bathroom."

         The bald head speaking, mouthless. Words spurting forward through a blank
chasm. Floating to me. Ears reaching out to grab the small butterflies. "It'd be better if
you stuck it out."

         The river must be delivered and the pressure released and the ding-dong comes
forward. "Sticking it out," I say. Can hear Jimenez behind me laughing. Smelly dumb-
ass. Big Boy looks up my alley and so does Washington and Ramirez and Poustalis and
the rest of them. They wait and they thinking hard so I tell ‘em, "In a vast sea of


         Dr. Bradley barely flinched when Preston started to urinate, although he did shift
his legs away slightly. An orderly with a mop and bucket and a stern face appeared
almost instantaneously. He must have been waiting in the wings. Preston returned to his
seat, started to rock, and then alternately crossed and uncrossed his legs.

         "Let's start again," Dr. Bradley says.

         "Good, good," Mr. Postoulis chimes in. There is a wide smile pasted across his
face, which is dotted with bits of tissue paper he must have stuck on after shaving this
morning. "Good. I want now to go my discharge. On pass. With my sister, yes?"


         Raphael Jimenez slouches back in his chair, feet up on the canister used as an
ashtray. His long hair is slicked back in a ponytail, a thick gold chain hangs from his neck
and he wears a baseball cap with "Viet Nam Vet" emblazoned across the front in faded
red letters. He says, "This a kindergarten meeting. Looks like Romper Room in here.”
He shifts in his seat and makes a clicking noise in his cheek. “All you need is some jack-
in-the-box music."

         There were a few sighs and grunts. Mr. Jimenez continues. "Got people peein' on
the floor like kids."


         I look at Dr. Bradley and then my classmate Amy, who has her face stuck in her
notebook. I’m eager to jump in again but I wait. I look at Preston who is now glaring at

         Preston, eyes bearing down on me, says, "I'm a volcano bubbling up.”


         Chief Fatty looking again, bowtie big as his head. Says, “Let’s start again.” And
now everything all red and fuzzy with Postoulis talking about going on pass and Jimenez
going on about kindergarten and Romper Room and he’s all red. His skin and his face
and red clouds are puffing from his mouth and his chest going up and down - mouth like
a flaming tunnel with the words coming out smoky. Chief Fatty all red too and everyone
else ‘cept Big Boy. Big Boy feeling the fire. I’m tall as a building looking down at Big
Boy and I tell ‘em, “I’m a volcano bubbling up.”

         Big Boy looking more like a baby than ever, squeaking, “Does that mean you’re
feeling angry?”


         Preston appears rather agitated and he is staring at me with piercing eyes. Dr.
Bradley does not say a word and when Preston stands I ask him, “Does that mean you’re
feeling angry?”

         Preston bends over and pulls up his white tube socks, one at a time, all the while
holding his gaze on me. When he straightens up he has an odd look on his face.

         Dr. Bradley says, rather firmly, “Preston please sit down.”

         Preston does not sit. Instead he places the blanket from around his shoulders onto
the chair and begins to peel off his pajamas.

         “Preston,” Dr. Bradley says solidly. “Put your clothes on.”

         Before me now stands a muscular six foot man, naked, except for a pair of white
tube socks.

         The naked man says, “Eruption,” and starts toward me, the fluffy socks scissoring
across the floor. “Molten lava has flushed the worm from the apple.”


         Big Boy looking up my alley his face white as pure smackdog and tender with the
flames dancing around but not affecting the shell in which Big Boy exists. Chief Fatty
spewing, “Preston please sit down,” but the sound is on fire and the words turn to ash,
charred remnants and the crackling sound of burning wood and I see Big Boy shining.

         The external garments are set free to fly on their own and the heat is released and
the red cloud billows and the worms come. The evolution and eruption and molten
worms wriggle and tell Big Boy, “Eruption. Molten lava has flushed the worm from the

         Big Boy got a puzzled look, head cocked as I descend and my hands far out ahead
of me, reaching and wanting a part of the pure baby Big Boy.

         The squeaking like birds in the nest. Chirp chirp chirp and the squeak, loud this
time like thunder. “Preston!”


         The muscular naked six foot man in tube socks is now upon me, arms out-
stretched. From the corner of my eye I see Dr. Bradley pushing up from his chair. I also
make an attempt to stand but it is too late. Preston’s hands squeeze and lock around
my neck and I yell, “Preston,” and then it is difficult to even breathe. The grip tightens
and I grapple at nothing, hot breath like a fan blowing wet air in my face and then two
orderlies are pulling Preston back and there is a nurse looming with a glistening syringe.

         Within seconds the vice is released and Preston’s hands fall to his side. He slumps
into a wheelchair and is subsequently rolled from the room, tucked into bed, restrained,
and heavily sedated.

         After a short break, the meeting is resumed.

         Poustalis is the first to speak. He says, “I go on pass now yes?”

Glenn Gray is a Radiologist in private practice. His stories have appeared in Thuglit,
DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash and Powder Burn Flash, with upcoming fiction in Bewildering
Stories. Several stories have appeared in Medical Economics Magazine as well. He is
at work on his first novel.

© 2007 Underground Voices