Therapy – part 1

Season 1, episode 4

Jesus said to do unto others what you would have them do unto you, which I’ve generally found to be an excellent policy, but sometimes a good deed turns on you like a rabid chipmunk and bites you in the ass, which is pretty much what happened on our first day on the new job.

“Here’s our website,” Christy said, clicking through the pages on the monitor.  “Like I was telling you yesterday, Jimmy Merle, it’s not a bad site, it just needs to be updated.”

Kevin and I were sitting at the reception desk of Healing Hearts Family Therapy, Christy’s practice where we were now working.  The desk was part of the reception counter which sat between the waiting area in front, and the break room in the back.  The waiting area was set up like a large living room, with leather sofas, coffee tables, and a huge second-story picture window framing Pike’s Peak.  A rock water fountain sat to the right of the window, the burbling of the water mixing with the new age mood music playing over the office sound-system.  Around the waiting area were doors which opened up to the individual therapy rooms.  The faint aroma of cinnamon-and-spice incense wafted through the air. A Kuerig coffee bar sat in the corner, complete with herbal teas, Stevia, stir sticks and other foo-foo’s, all so damn charming you could just shit. 

The whole place was so goddamn peaceful I wanted to lay down on one of the couches and take a nap. Especially since Kevin and I were up most of the night drinking bourbon while trying to figure out computer coding.  Turns out it’s harder than we thought, especially when you’re trying to learn it from YouTube videos.  But Kevin is a quick study, and I think he learned enough to get by.  But it must have been close to three AM when we finally passed out in the living room.  Still, we arrived at Christy’s office at eight AM sharp, as promised.  Mom had called me after I left the coffee shop the day before and was adamant that I show up on time and actually try at this job.  It’s true she didn’t want to abort me anymore, but I didn’t want to push my luck by arriving late. 

Christy hadn’t seemed bothered that I’d brought Kevin with me.  Kevin and I are together so much I guess she just assumed we’d team up on her website project.   

“I want to have my photo on the home page along with an inspirational quote underneath,” Christy said.  “I think it will make the site seem more personal.”

“What’s this?” I said picking up a picture frame sitting on the counter facing the reception area.  I turned it over in and saw that it was a framed print of a waterfall spilling into a green pool surrounded by pine trees.  Across the top, in fancy script, was the word serenity. 

“I bought that in a shop a few years ago,” Christy said.  “It just really spoke to me.  When I arrive in the morning feeling stressed about all the business stuff I have to take care of, it reminds me that I’m here for a higher purpose and to take a deep breath and to be present in the moment.”

“Neato,” I said. 

“I got it signed by Thich Nhat Hanh at one of his conferences awhile back.  You can see his signature at the bottom.  It’s really special to me.”

“Cool,” I said setting it back on the counter.  “Hey, is it break time yet?”

“You just got here twenty minutes ago.” 

“Wow, it feels like hours.  This is hard work.”

“But you haven’t done anything!” Christy snapped.  “Look, Jimmy Merle, I only hired you to keep Mom from flipping out, but if you can’t handle this job—”

“No, no, no, it’s all fine.  Can’t I ask a simple question?  Fuck’s sake.  So sensitive.”

Christy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled, then repeated it, all the while mumbling something that sounded like ‘I am calm in this moment.’

“Quit screwing this up for us, asshole,” Kevin hissed, kicking me under the desk.  “I didn’t stay up all night learning to code so you could get us fired in the first five minutes.”

“Fine, okay, shut your pie-hole,” I hissed back.     

Finally, Christy opened her eyes.  “Okay, I need help with something else, too.  Remember I told you yesterday that everyone is out today because we’re attending a training in Denver.  We sent out notices to all our clients letting them know that today’s appointments are rescheduled for next week, but it’s possible someone might forget and show up anyway.  The entry door has a chime, so you’ll know if someone comes in, even if you’re in the break room.  If that happens can you take down their name and phone number and let them know we’ll call them to reschedule?” 

“Well, that’s not really what you hired us for—” I began.

“We’re happy to do it!” Kevin said, elbowing me so hard in the ribs I fell off my chair, the wind knocked out of me.  “And anything else you need done.  Right, Jimmy Merle?”

“Right,” I gasped, struggling to breathe as I climbed back into my seat.  “Whatever you need.” 

“Great,” Christy said.  “Okay, I think you’re all set.  I’ll stop back by late this afternoon to check on your work and lock up the office.”

“You want us to call you if something comes up?”  I asked. 

“No, I may not be able to answer.  Just text me.  But there’s one more thing.  The Colorado State Board of Registered Psychotherapists sent me a letter last week saying they’re doing surprise inspections of therapy practices around the Colorado Springs and Denver area over the next two weeks.  They send these notices out every year,  but they’ve never visited us once.  So, it’s probably not an issue, but I need to let you know in the highly unlikely case they show up here.”

“So…if they show up do you want us to tell them to fuck off?” I asked. 

“Oh my, god,” Christy said, putting her face in her hands and mumbling something that sounded like ‘this was such bad idea.’  After a moment she looked up and said, “No, I don’t want you to tell them to F-off.  What I want you to do is be polite, and text me immediately.”

“Be polite.  Text you.  Got it.” 

“Okay, I guess I’ll get going now,” Christy said, standing up.  “There’s coffee in the waiting area.  We have sodas in the fridge, too.”

“Oh, we brought our own beverages,” I said, pulling a bottle of Maker’s Mark out of my computer bag and holding it up.  “Where do you keep your rocks glasses?”

“Oh.  My.  GOD!”  She snatched the bottle out of my hand before I could pull it away.  “No drinking on the job, especially when your job is working for Healing Hearts Family Therapy!  What the hell is your major malfunction, Jimmy Merle?!”

“We’ve all been wondering that,” Kevin said.  “It is the question of our age.”    

“Shut up, ass hat,” I said. 

Christy walked around the counter and to the door.  “One last thing.  If the business line rings, just let it go to voice mail.” 

“Will do!” Kevin said.  “Have a great luncheon!”

The door chimed as she pulled it open and exited.    

“That’s just fucking great,” I said.  “Now what are we going to drink?”

Kevin rummaged around in his computer bag and produced a bottle of Wild Turkey.

“You brought the good stuff!” I said, clapping him on the shoulder. “You da gorilla!”

“I da gorilla,” he replied, a big simian grin on his face.  He went to the breakroom and brought back a couple of glasses, ice, and Diet Pepsi.  “Breakfast of champions,” he said as he mixed our drinks. 

“Cheers!” I said, clinking our glasses.  I took a sip, then leaned back in the chair.  “These are comfortable.  Sis sprang for nice office chairs.” 

“Yeah, they’re great,” he replied, spinning himself slowly around in his chair as he sipped his beverage.  “Should we get started on the website?”

“The most productive people never jump right into work first thing,” I said, spinning around, too.  “It’s too big a shock to your system.  You should always ease into it.”

“Huh, I’ve never heard that before,” Kevin said, twirling by me.  “But it makes sense.”   

“Fuckin-a it does.  High-five!”  We smacked palms as our chairs spun us past each other.    

For the next hour we stayed busy relaxing in Christy’s awesome chairs, playing on our iPhones, and killing half the bottle of bourbon.

“Well, you ready to get started on the website?” I finally said.

“Yeah, I guess.”  Kevin stretched and yawned, revealing his long fangs.  If you aren’t used to it, Kevin’s yawns can be truly frightening.  He pulled up Healing Heart’s site on the monitor. “What do you think of it?”

“Hmmm.  Christy told us what she wants changed, but that won’t fix the problem.”

“What’s the problem?”

“It’s fucking boring.  We need to jazz it up so it’s awesome.”

“Okay,” he replied scratching his head, “what changes should we make?”

“You know, jazz it up.  Make it awesome.” 

“Yes, but what specific result do you want, and what list of features should I alter on the site so we achieve that result?” 

“What changes should we make?  What result do we want?” I said in exasperation.  “Kevin, designing a website is art.  Art is transcendent, and can’t be expressed by mundane, pedantic concepts like being ‘specific’ or trying to achieve a ‘result.’”

“Ahhh, I think I understand,” Kevin said. 

“It’s about time.”

“You don’t know what you want it to look like.”

“Goddammit, Kevin!  I just told you what I want it to look like.  So quit dicking around, open up a can of awesomesauce and pour it all over this fucking site.” 

“My, my, touchy today, are we?” Kevin said as he logged into the administration area of the website.  “While I’m pouring out the awesomesauce, why don’t you make yourself useful and go get some beer, fuckwit.” 

“Fine.  It’s your turn to buy.  Loan me your debit card.”

“It’s your turn to buy,” he said, clicking away on the keyboard. 

“I bought last time, asshat.”

“I bought the last three times.” He continued clicking while looking at the screen.  “You need to catch up, cheapskate.”

“What?!  I never!  What are you implying?!”

“That you’re a cheapskate.  Go buy the fucking beer.”

“Fine.”  I felt around in my pockets.  “Uh, I forgot my wallet.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Kevin said, pulling out his debit card.  “Here.  Now you’re buying the next four times.  Get some Colorado Boy IPA if they have it.” 

“Okay.  How’s Tanqueray for afternoon gin and tonics?”

“Perfect.  Now shut the fuck up.  Art takes concentration.” 

I went to the liquor store across the street and bought the reinforcements.  By the time I got back Kevin was deep into the redesign of the homepage. 

“How’s it coming along?” I asked, handing him a beer. 

“Not bad,” he replied.  He cracked his beer, took a long swig and belched.  “I changed the color scheme.  The old one didn’t stand out enough.”

I sat down, cracked a beer and skooched my chair up next to his.  “You’ve incorporated a lot of interesting colors.  I like it.”

“Thanks.”

We worked steadily through the morning. Kevin coded like a mad mofo, and in between playing on my iPhone, drinking beer, and outlining my plan to build and launch Civilian Fuck Monkey, I supervised.  Finally, around noon the lack of sleep and a steady stream of suds got the best of me. 

“Hey pal, I think I’ll take a twenty-minute power nap to recharge the batteries.  Will you be okay without me for a few minutes?”

“Actually, I’ll be a hell of a lot better without you.”

“Thanks, buddy,” I said, clapping him on the shoulder.  I collapsed onto one of the waiting area sofas and immediately passed out.  I woke up some time later and sat up groggily.  The stack of empty beer cans around the reception area had grown considerably, and it looked like Kevin had started on the gin. 

“How long was I out?” I asked, rubbing my face. 

“Four hours,” Kevin said, continuing to click way on the keyboard. 

“Wow.  How’s the website coming along?”

“Without you constantly interrupting me I was able to get a lot done.”

“Fantastic!”    

“I actually finished it a few minutes ago.  Right now I’m just double checking everything.  Come and take a look.”

Just as I got up the entry door chimed.  I turned to see a man standing in the doorway.  He was about six-foot-four and thin, with a scraggly beard, and a blue knit cap pulled down over his shoulder-length, greasy hair.  He was wearing a filthy, yellow trench coat, and his saggy, ripped khaki pants were tucked into the tops of paint-spattered construction boots. 

“Can I help you?”  I asked.    

“Uh, h-hi,” he said nervously.  “I was hoping I c-could talk to a therapist.”

I stared at him for exactly three seconds making up my mind.  “Sure!  Follow me.”  I led him into one of the therapy rooms.  “Lie down on the couch,” I said, directing him to the sofa. 

“Uh, okay.” He stretched out on the sofa. 

“Let’s make sure you’re comfy,” I said as I propped a throw pillow under his head.  “What’s your name, partner?”

“S-Stu.  Stu Portnoy.”

“Stu, I’m Jimmy Merle.  The office is closed today, but it’s your lucky day because I’m here and I can talk to you.”

“Oh, that’s g-great.  I really need your h-help.”

“Then you’re double lucky because help is our speciality.  Listen, can you excuse me for a minute?”

“Okay.”

I exited the therapy room, closed the door behind me and walked to the reception counter.

“Kevin, this guy needs a therapist,” I said, keeping my voice low.  “I think we should help him.” 

“We’re just supposed to update the website.”

“I know, I know.  But you saw him.  Clearly he’s a soul in need, and I think we should help him.”

“But we’re not therapists.”

“How hard could it be?  Besides, we’re constantly giving each other great advice.  So, in a way we are therapists.”

“I dunno, Jimmy Merle…” 

“Oh, quit being such a big pussy.  We’re gonna help him.  C’mon.”

Kevin shrugged.  “Fine.” 

I grabbed a couple of beers and tossed one to Kevin as we entered the therapy room to help our new patient.   

~TO BE CONTINUED~