Its a wonderful (after).., p.1
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       It's A Wonderful (After) Life, p.1

           Ray Daley
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It's A Wonderful (After) Life
It's A Wonderful (After) Life

  Raymond Daley

  Copyright 25/4/12 by Raymond Daley

  The shadow falls across the pages and blocks my light, I was really enjoying this chapter so I look up to see who it is. "Hello Joe, ready for me?" It's Doctor Proctor, my therapist.

  I look down at the book again and mutter just loudly enough for him to hear me, "What do you think, Julian?". He hates me addressing him by his first name. He's always been very formal, by the book, a jobsworth if you like.

  I don't like, which is why I take every chance I can to annoy him.

  "Come on Joe, we have a schedule to keep here". His dry mid-western twang is totally out of place here. He's a long way from home, about as far from Middle America as it's possible to be. I look up and shoot him daggers, as a psychologist, he should be able to read my eyes and my face. If he wasn't already getting the message from my very clear body language. I'm giving him the classic "closed" posture.

  I couldn't be any clearer if I stood up right now and gave him the finger.

  "Come on now Joe, please? I need make this assessment. You do want to go, don't you?" I can tell by his tone he knows he's hit my trigger. I've wanted out since day one. I mark my page, close the book and put it to one side.

  I look around, no-one's gonna mess with my book, most of the others are in group, there's only two other people in here and they won't touch it. I'm not in group because I'm "a disruptive influence", I don't play well with the other children so I do my therapy sessions one to one instead.

  We leave the day room and I walk beside him down the corridor towards the treatment room. It's a fairly nice place, it doesn't feel remotely clinical. The walls have posters, layered one on top of the other. Some are from movies both recent and old, some are adverts, some are motivational slogans and many are in languages I can't read. Although I've been in here hundreds of times over the last year I've never been able to count how many posters there are or even how many layers of posters there are.

  I've never thought to ask the Doc about this. I don't know why either.

  I take the couch without being asked to, normally the Doc has to coax or even threaten but we both know how important todays session really is.

  I'm on my best behaviour, all questions are answered, quickly, concisely and honestly - for a change. The Doc does his assessment sheet at the end of the session and I'm given the feedback form. I want to show him I am still the same individual who came in here on day one.

  He looks up and I pass him back the form and the pencil.

  It takes him less than a second to get the dig I've left him.

  Doctor Julian Proctor.

  The Rapist.

  Take that, Doc!

  He gives me that look and rolls his eyes. I know he wants to laugh but he's not going to give me the satisfaction of seeing his perfect image sullied in any way.

  I bail knowing my work here is done and amble back to the day room. It's pretty quiet and there's only Jimmy Jack playing cards with Nurse Mark. Jimmy Jack doesn't do group either, he needs that one to one attention that only someone like Nurse Mark can give him on a regular basis. Plus he's a biter when agitated, and it doesn't take much to agitate him.

  Because I'm considered quite the rebel here he and I are cool, I give him his space, he gives me mine, which is fine by me as I don't fancy losing any of my fingers to his very sharp teeth. I retake my seat near the window, the sun has moved a little but it's still warm and bright - just the way I like it. Mum always said I was a little lizard.

  I find my book exactly where I left it and start reading again, back to the cupboard under the stairs. It's a darn sight nicer than here, Harry might think he's got it bad in that book but at least his relatives didn't have him sectioned.

  That was Dads idea.

  Or at least I think it was, my memory is a bit hazy on that point.

  I make my way through two more chapters with good old Harry before I am aware of the crowd that has filled up the day room, group is over. Nicky gives me a thumbs-up as soon she sees the book is down, I give her my usual nod.

  We don't talk.

  In fact she doesn't talk to anyone, ever. Her walls are still up, Doc hasn't found a way in, yet.

  Nurse Mark gives me a smile, he's happy that Nicky is at least engaging someone in any kind of social interaction. To him, any progress is better than none.

  I like Nurse Mark, in fact more than that, I respect him. He has time for us, he's not just going through the motions, punching the clock. He's the only Nurse I don't call Nurse Ratched, they all get the reference (the smarter ones at least) and deeply resent it, so I tend to say it as much as is humanly possible.

  I hear the beeps sounding from the overhead speaker and like Pavlov’s Dogsled we all look up simultaneously to the four sided LED display in the middle of the room.

  The three dots flash and then the refresh kicks in and my name scrolls across the screen. Everyone else breathes a virtual sigh of relief as I mark my page, this time I take the book with me as I leave the day room.

  The door to the treatment room is wide open and the Doc is standing just inside, waiting for me.

  "I brought my book, is that ok?" I ask him.

  "Yes, fine. We aren't going to be here long, just a few last minor details to cover before you can go". At least that's what it sounds like he just said. I can go? Excellent! In a few hours there's a pint somewhere with my name on it.

  In my mind I am already making the reservation.

  'Is that the Hotel Oblivion? Presidential Suite please!'

  "Ok, Joe. I'm happy with my assessment from this afternoon and I'm ready to release you. But before I do I just need to ask you one final thing. Can you remember who hit you?" Julian looks serious, licking his top lip in that nervous way he often does.

  He's a terrible poker player, I'd have fleeced him by now if we'd ever played cards together for real. His tells are far too obvious, I sometimes wonder how he ever managed to become a psychologist with such an easily readable face.

  I sit down in the chair by the oak desk. I haven't been looking forward to thinking about that. I'd almost hoped he'd forgotten or wasn't going to ask me at all.

  My head feels fine now, there are no scars which is odd considering how hard I'd been hit before I came here. My body may have healed but the mental scars still remain.

  The Doc looks at me, I'm being given all the time I want. "Joe, you know this isn't for my records. The police need to know, consider this your witness statement." He raises his eyebrows, he's nervous but there's something he's not saying.

  I look around, it's only us in the room but I still have the odd feeling we aren't completely alone.

  I can half hear Dads voice, echoing in my head. Even then, it still makes me flinch.

  "Don't you say a bloody word, you little shit! You keep it shut or you'll both get it."

  Dads voice is pretty loud, why can't the Doc hear him?

  "Please Joe, this is important! You know that, after all you've been through!" Julian sounds pretty desperate now, he's seen my medical records, all the trips to the family Doctor, the local A&E. The unexplained bruises, the too frequently broken bones, even for a normal healthy young man.

  I can see that day in my head now, they were in the kitchen and he was complaining about something petty as per usual. If he could complain about it he would, but he'd much rather just slap her. I'd had enough and I could already hear the shouting getting to the point where he was about to do exactly that.

  The door was open as always, he never cared enough to shut the door when they were fighting and she was always far too scared. She wa
s by the stove on one knee, he'd already taken a pop at her by the looks of it - the bruising was just starting to show.

  A voice slowly said out loud "Turn around you bastard, hit someone big enough to hit you back." I was amazed to discover it was mine.

  He turned to face me and the first punch was already flying before I'd even had a chance to register it. He hit me a few more times and I vaguely recall hitting him once in the gut, beyond all that is nothing but darkness.

  I guess he knocked me out. The next thing I recall is waking up in a bed, here at the clinic.

  A lot of water under the bridge since then. Just over a year now.

  Time heals all wounds. Well, at least the physical ones.

  I came back to the reality of the treatment room, the Doc was frantically scribbling something onto a notepad in his hand. "Thank you Joe, this means more than you'll ever understand. You can get your things, you are free to leave now" he said, looking up from his writing.

  I was in my room in moments, case already packed, it'd never really ever been unpacked. I headed back to the day room, I was a veteran here and I'd seen people come and go with no hope of ever leaving but that impossible moment had now arrived for me and I was grabbing it with both hands.

  Nurse Mark seemed happy to bid me farewell, Jimmy Jack just grinned.


  No panic from the manic.

  A few of the guys shook my hand, asked me to have a beer for them.

  Just as I was turning to go I heard a quiet female voice. "Goodbye Joe, good luck". I'd never heard that voice before. I turned around. It was Nicky.

  I ran over and gave her the biggest hug I've ever given anyone. It couldn't last long enough though. I grabbed my case and got the hell out of there.

  The Doc was waiting for me at reception, I hadn't expected any different. There to see me off I supposed. "Need you to take this before you go, you didn't take it earlier." Proctor had a green pill, I'd never seen one like it before. Not for me or any of the other patients.

  "It's a condition of your release Joe, take that and the door is open." Doc sounded like he wanted me gone as much as I wanted out but I had the feeling this was a one time short term offer expiring today.

  I grabbed the pill out of his hand before that happened.

  I threw it down my throat, waving off the standard offer of water.

  I opened my mouth to show empty, the norm after meds.

  Julian shook my hand and pulled the front door open.

  "You did a good thing Joe. A good thing." His voice was full of pride in a job well done I guess.

  The sun was still fairly high in the sky as I waited at the bus stop.

  I couldn't go home so I got on the inner ring loop service. I guess I drifted off to sleep sitting there at the back of the warm bus.


  The room was white, cold, impersonal. The life support monitors emitted the single long tone. The sound no family member ever wanted to hear.

  A distant male voice said "Time of death 1.52pm"

  As Julian Proctor slowly came out of his uplink, the harsh overhead light hurt his eyes. "Did you get it Doc? Did he tell you what happened?" This voice sounded anxious, quite rightly too. Its owner had been waiting over a year for this information.

  Their investigation had not been able to come to any firm conclusions.

  The man was injured, clearly stabbed but the weapon had never been found. He had protested his innocence from the start with no-one there to contradict him.

  The teenage boy was brain-dead, his skull had been caved in with a hammer long after someone had finished violently beating him up.

  The woman was in a deep coma, unlikely to ever recover.

  Doctor Julian Proctor rose. All eyes were on him. He was now able to see the others clearly, his colleague and the eager detective.

  "A successful connection was made with the patient today. He confirmed that his father had been beating his mother, he had tried to intervene and his father started to beat him instead. He said he hit him in the gut, I can only conclude this was how the stab wound was caused. He had no memory of stabbing his father, nor of his father taking the hammer to him. He doesn't know he's dead."

  With the information he needed, the detective took his leave of them, eager to finally make an arrest.

  Julian and Mark walked into the adjoining room, the machine emanated steady beep after beep in the perfect intervals. "Are you going to try and reach her too Doc?" asked Nurse Mark.

  "No, I think she's already suffered enough. I hope she finds Joe in her own way".

  Julian Proctors hands dashed across the machines, switches flipped, power ceased.

  Peace had finally come to another family.



  Authors Notes:- This one literally popped out of nowhere and was done in under an hour.

  The Nicky in this isn't any of my Strike Command friends (sorry ladies, as much as I adore you all!), she was based in part on a girl from my Trade Training at RAF Hereford. It was definitely her I could see in my minds eye as I wrote Nicky.

  I'm not super happy with the ending of this but it's as good as I could make it.

  I'd like to thank the chap called Procter whose online story (It's a wonderful life) inspired both this and one of the characters.

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