My mother and father took me to a dim room where a woman checked my brain to see if it was broken. The room was very grey. The dry stink of dust floated in the air. A large black leather chair sat in the middle of the tiled flooring, a deformed dead pig. On shelves scattered around the room, many plastic dolls stared down at me. Naked, pink dolls with all of their hair hacked off. Only small blonde and brown sprouts remained on the hole-speckled skulls. Hats that looked like little helmets of wires and glittering tinfoil pinned to their scalps. The doll’s eyes watched me. Dead lips smiling small dead smiles. They scared me. Inside my stomach felt like the lukewarm rainwater collected in an empty flower pot after a storm.
My mother’s hand was hot squeezing mine tight as she led me to the large monster-like chair. A fat woman in a white coat with silver hair, square glasses with thick lenses that made her eyes too big and too wet pointed at the dolls and their painful hats. I kept looking at my mother’s face. Her eyes sparkled like broken bottles in sunlight and her lips stretched very thinly across her jaw. My father was in the waiting room reading old copies of Yacht Owner Supplement. He had never owned a yacht; had never wanted one.
The fat woman with the large wet eyes that bubbled behind the windowpane lenses took a long grey needle from a drawer. She pretended to gently scratch at a doll’s head with it. The doll stared. The woman nodded and nodded as she demonstrated something I didn’t understand. I nodded my head so no-one would be disappointed in me.
I wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my room, eating cookies and reading comics about space mutant police.
My mother pushed me down into the cold arms of the chair by gently resting her palms on my chest. l felt safe for the time her fingers were on me. I laid back. Gazing at the ceiling and felt the sticky icy cushioning of the leather on my back, my T-shirt and sweater had come up a little. I wished my mother would leave her hand on my chest. Feeling my heartbeat, but she took it away and rested it in her lap with her other hand. Holding hands with herself. Sitting the way she sat in church sometimes.
The woman clicked on a light that hung over the bed on a long metal neck that swung in different directions. It looked like an alien on a flying saucer. The light was very bright, it shone through my eyelids making colourful pictures of lines and zigzags. Like that tube that you put to your eye and moved around and there were mirrors and shapes and stuff inside. I could never say what that thing was. Collide a Skops.
The woman switched on a grey machine beside her cluttered desk. A porcelain cow was laying on a pile of papers. It had a tiny gold bell tied around its neck. My mother sat in front of me and the woman asked her to move out of the way and my mother did. She dropped her balled-up tissue on the shiny floor, and it was a snowball for a moment.
The machine hummed and clicked, annoyed with me.
The giant eyed woman told me that the machine was connected to the special helmet on my head. The special helmet sent messages to my brain using the needles and then if my brain was working okay or not, it would send messages back to the machine. Just like that, she said. I nodded my head, smiled but I wanted to cry. I wanted to go to the toilet and had to squeeze my peepee to hold it inside. I didn’t want to piss in my pants again.
My mother and father had thought that my brain wasn’t working properly since blood came out of my ear and nose and I closed my eyes tight, let myself fall off of that swing onto my face, into the small stones and little pieces of wood on the ground in the park across from our house. It was hot that day. My mother carried me home in her arms like a baby. Sometimes there was scribbled, crumpled paper inside my head. I didn’t tell my parents this. I couldn’t explain it.
The special hat was placed on my head like a crown. The woman scratched and stabbed at my skull with the long knitting needle. She wanted to get inside there. I looked at my mother and my mother looked at me. I tried to be strong, act like a grown-up. The grey machine beside the leather bed chair jumped into life and started writing something on long pieces of white paper that rolled out from its long, slit mouth. I saw a piano once that made music by itself. The keys moved as though a ghost was playing it.
I laid there. I looked at the dolls and wondered what would happen to me if my brain turned out to be no good. Busted. Broken. Would I be made to go and live somewhere else, far away from my mother and father? The hospital on the hill where kids at school said the crazy people lived. I didn’t want to be taken away. I squeezed my mother’s hand. She gazed at me for a long time and smiled but her smile was strange. Her smile only managed to go up halfway and then it stopped and fell back down. I felt like dying and my mother knew I was already a ghost but she was holding it as a secret somewhere inside her. My stomach felt very tight and small. I wanted to go peepee. My chest felt cold and like a big stone underneath my ninja turtle sweater. I was very frightened. The dolls stared and stared. My mother squeezed and squeezed my hand and my father read and read the magazine in the waiting room.
When the machine had stopped writing down the letters from my brain. The old woman straightened down her long brown dress, trying to make the creases go away and then she ripped the long message from the mouth of the machine. She held it in her big claw hands and read it carefully like it was her homework. Her large eyes went back and forth, back and forth. Then she took it over to a desk and sat down with it. She made circles with a pencil that had a pink eraser on the top of it. I watched my mother watching the fat woman as she scribbled and circled on the letter from my brain. When she was finished, she put down the pencil and left the room. I looked at my mother to see what her face was saying. Was she understanding what was going on? Did she know the meaning? The mystery of this fat, old lady, and the pencil scribbling. My mother’s eyes were red, and she looked very sleepy. How she looked when she cried a lot and became tired from too much sadness. Like when my grandmother went into the hospital and never came out again.
The woman returned and took my mother outside to talk away from me. I could only hear whispers that floated into the room like my father’s cigarette smoke.
After a little while, my mother came and picked me up and carried me out to the car. I wanted to walk. I didn’t want to be like a baby. She was holding me too tight. My father was sat in the front seat of his white car waiting. He was smoking a cigarette and I liked the smell as the blue smoke drifted out of the open window towards me. When I got into the car, he leant over and wrapped me up in the safety belt and asked if I would like some comics from the store. I said yes but I needed to go peepee.
The car started down the street. My mother was crying again and my father had one hand on her leg. After a while, as the piss burned to be released into the seat and run down my leg, he took his hand away from her, switched on the radio and just kept driving.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen J. Golds was born in London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, travelling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books Say Goodbye When I’m Gone is due in September 2020 with Red Dog Press, and Glamour Girl Gone and Collections: Stories & Poems with Close to The Bone in 2021.