September 27, 2023

New Psychologist on The Island

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A psychologist of some renown bought a house on our fair Island a couple years ago, and, after moving his family into it, hung a shingle on the front porch advertising his services. He waited a great many days for even a single patient to appear, but no one came. At that point, he began to enquire why this should be so? Several people from whom he sought answers suggested he contact me with an eye to advertising in The Doodlebug Weekly Run-On, which I edit. The first thing I knew, this gentleman was seated before me asking about rates, and type faces; and telling me we’d succeed well together.

I told him I didn’t want his business, that if people were crazy enough to read my paper and think well of me, I didn’t want anyone introducing them to any more reason than that. I told him that we residents of Doodlebug had worked a lifetime to get our peculiarities in presentable order, and that we preferred to keep things that way.

“Did you conduct a market analysis, any kind of feasibility study before you set up shop here?” I asked.

“No, I simply thought that out of the cross section of persons living here, there should be those who need my help.”

“No needs assessment?” I pressed him. “No polling or population control studies?”

“No,” he said despondently. “No, I can see now that that was a mistake. I just assumed the need to exist here as everywhere else. I certainly observe odd behavior here. I meet people every day who talk of their phobias, and I even overhear people expressing ideas of guilt. Tell me why these same people wouldn’t want to be divested of such things?”

“Divested of them did you say? Why man, would you want to be divested of YOUR underpinnings? Would you throw away those very threads that stitch your life together? Harry Tunstill was bitten by fire ants when he was a boy, and he has a perfect dread of encountering them again. Yet, he credits that experience with his life-long interest in insects, an interest which has led him to become a little-known authority in that field.”

“Well, that may be so . . .” began the psychologist.

But I interrupted. “And Hap Fernfelder shudders every time he thinks how close he came to drowning one of his friends on a church outing when the two took a bottle of whiskey and proceeded to get pie-eyed. They got to fighting over the bottle, fell into the creek, and Hap held the other kid’s head under water until someone dragged him off. Today, he’s a chastened, teetotalist business man teaching Sunday School. Think how a little guilt contributes to an orderly society. And speaking of guilt, what’s the worst thing YOU ever did?”

I paused to give him time to think. “I wish I had a mirror so you could see the smile on your face!” I finally said to him. And it was true; he was smiling from ear to ear. “Well, what was so bad about what you did that the memory of it brings you pleasure now?” I asked him.

“Well, damn my britches, I’m beginning to see what you mean,” he said at last.

But I wasn’t through with him. “As a child Isibio Valdez was frightened by the dark, so he began making candles to put around his bed. Today, he has a thriving business, and his candles sell everywhere. Father Shultz stuttered when he was a kid, which led him to be the elocutionist he is today. Gerlene Higgins was raised to believe in a tangible devil waiting to catch her in an evil act. Today, she operates a speakeasy called The Devil Made Me Do It.┬áThat’s the way it is with all of us,” I added, stopping myself from confessing my own indiscretions.

Well, the psychologist still lives among us, but he took his practice across Oak Creek to the confines of nearby Sedona, where people look for miracles in crystal or counseling. He’s doing quite well.

Only recently did this psychologist, now a friend, ask me what was on my mind when I caught myself. The pleasure of that memory bubbled up once more when I described how, as an eight-year old boy, I and a few friends broke into a local church and drank all the sacramental wine.

“You can see how this prepared me for either a life of crime or an editorship of a country newspaper,” I mused with intentional drollery.

“That broad smile on your face tells me you’ve succeeded beautifully!” he said.

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