Excerpt from Parallax—from Chapter 16

My latest bit of Parallax, from the first draft. To read the earlier excerpts, click on Parallax in the tag cluster on the left side of the screen.

Sanjay looked much older in scrubs.

“Green’s a good color on you,” I said, sitting in my car.

“Oh shut up.” He clipped his brother’s hospital badge on his shirt and said, “Wish me luck.”

The plan was for Sanjay to say Dr. Stanger needed to go to respiratory therapy, and he was the orderly to remove him. With all the smoking the doctor did, we hoped it wouldn’t look suspicious. According to Jay’s brother Prabal, lots of patients on the mental wellness ward smoked a lot and it was common for them to get checkups from the respiratory therapy staff when they inevitably had problems breathing.

“Forget luck,” I said, “just be convincing.”

Sanjay walked off, giving me the finger behind his back as he walked into the hospital.

Now I just had to wait. I continued to think about Mr. Van Doren, wondering why and how he could turn on his friends that way, knowing what was at stake and what Dr. Traver was capable of. I clenched my jaw thinking that he would put my mother’s life in danger like that, not to mention his own son’s. I didn’t believe for a second that Lucas could also be a turncoat, because he could have just waited for the thugs to come into Mr. Rushman’s farmhouse, and take me away. He’d protected me, smuggled me away, helped me help the others plan. I supposed it was possible that all of that was done to build my confidence, but Lucas didn’t strike me as that kind of person.

The passenger door opened, and Sanjay told me to help him. Dr. Stanger looked as out of it as he had two weeks ago when I’d gone to see him.

“Hoo, it’s time traveling boy Jack,” he said in a loud voice.

“Won’t you sit down, doctor,” I asked him.

“I want The Price Is Right,” he said. “Help Jack spin the wheel. Gotta spin it twice. Don’t stop on 60 cents!”

“Okay, let’s go there, now, doctor,” I said, leaning over the seat so I could help pull him into the car. He snatched his arm away from me.

“Don’t make me catch it,” he said. Sanjay put the doctor’s feet in the car and shut the door. At the hospital entrance, I saw the security guards assembling, the tall orderly from the ward pointing at Jay and the now-empty wheelchair.

“We have to go,” I said. Jay jumped into the car.

“I know! So go!”

I sped off, doing as Lucas had done back in Pennsylvania, trying to see if anyone was following us. When we were sure we’d made it away alone, I changed direction to our destination.

I read Jeannine’s directions and drove out to a house at the edge of a country club. This was her friend Aimee’s parents’ house, and they were away for the holidays, somewhere in Europe. Most of our classmates lived in the suburbs, like us, but there were a few who came from money, like Aimee. I’d have thought she’d attend an expensive prep school in Princeton, but getting a Catholic education was more important to her father.

I pulled into a long driveway that ended in a courtyard, long rows of pruned shrubs lining the gravel road. The house was massive, with thick columns holding up an extension of the roof that sheltered the massive front doors. We got out of the car and held up Dr. Stanger, who kept talking about the game show he wanted to watch.

“I’ve got that covered, if we can just get him inside,” said Jeannine

It had occurred to us that technically, we were committing kidnapping. We were betting that Dr. Stanger wouldn’t press charges once he was off his medication.

“Okay, you get back home,” Jeannine told Sanjay, who had to return his brother’s badge before Prabel noticed it was missing. I watched him drive off in Jeannine’s car, and then I took in the grand entry of this house. I should have been paying attention to Dr. Stanger, but the house distracted me.

Marble floors and lifesized portraits in gold-gilded frames set up the parameters of the room, and at the far end a double stairway climbed up high to the next floor. In the center of the entry, where everything looked like it had been hit with an enlargement beam, stood a round, stone table. I imagined that when the occupants were here it held some fresh flower arrangement, but today it was bare and lonely. I’d known that there were rich people in the world; I just hadn’t dreamed they needed houses of this size. Every room was an echo chamber. This helped when Jeannine called out to me to help her with the doctor.

“Where did you go,” I asked the empty room.

“Come through the living room,” she said.

I picked which room could possibly be the living room, and saw a doorway at the other end, after a long line of bookshelves. Down a few steps, I saw her and Dr. Stanger, sitting on a plush couch in front of a projection television.

“Behind the couch is the Betamax,” she said, pointing. “I taped the show earlier.”

I walked up to the machine, pressed the power button and then play, hoping I wouldn’t have to do anything else to get the video on the TV. In seconds Bob Barker was introducing the people in Contestant’s Row.

“The Price is Right,” said Dr. Stanger, clapping his hands.

“How long is it going to take him to come out of this,” I asked. Jeannine had read up on anti-psychotics, or so she’d said.

“It could be anywhere from a few days to a week.”

“A week? What are we supposed to do with him for a week? We can’t baby sit him around the clock. And the hospital will be looking for him!”

“Relax,” she said. “It could be sooner than that. We just have to take it one day at a time. We only have three days of classes before we’re out for winter break.”

Dr. Stanger was engrossed in the show.

“You sure do find that interesting,” I said.

“You go on tomorrow,” he said.

“I’m not sure I’ll do that.”

“No no no,” he said. With that, Dr. Stanger took my hand, seeming to steel himself, as if he were fighting a strong current. “I know you will be on the show tomorrow.”

Jeannine and I made eye contact, not sure where he was going with this.

“Doctor,” I asked, “what do you mean you know I’ll be on the show tomorrow.”

“It’s how you talk to us, you and me.”

“What?”

“Through time. Don’t stop at 60 cents.”

“Maybe he really is crazy,” said Jeannine to me, whispering.

“No, he means something specific, we just haven’t figured out what it is yet.”

On the couch, Dr. Stanger rolled his eyes at us.

Photo credit: Bryan Jones on Flickr
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