Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Henry Flower's

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

‘Most people can put up with a bite from a wolf but what properly riles them is a bite from a sheep.’ James Joyce, Ulysses.

Henry James Flower had always, always been ambivalent about life: such outstanding, magnificent beauty was also the most horrifying and disgusting filth; life and death, gladness and sadness, pleasure and pain were the only things that defined each other. And to this day Henry finds it difficult to just take this bad with the good.
     Unfortunately for Henry this ‘badness’ was presently being expressed in his being held up at the Redferne Quinnswerth for theft: he had three chocolate bars in his backpack and no receipt (but which were indeed legitimately purchased.) The checkout operator, during the compulsory bag inspection, must have been a super keen employee for he guessed that the dero-looking Henry was buying a small apple only as a cover for more goodies in his stinking bag.
     And try as desperately as Henry could to explain himself the manager was called in, the police were called in, and Henry found himself with very little time to prepare to avoid a gaol sentence. Thankfully it didn’t take him long to realise that since he had been officially diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia he had a solid mental health defence in any fracas. Thus he spent the time awaiting the police rehearsing a role to be played to them highlighting his outrageous nuttiness. And anyone’s nutty who’s dressed in stinking trackies, grimy all over, and with dreadlocks.
     It was the grimy trackies that the police first noticed, assuming then that the dero was undoubtedly guilty. Naturally they would have given this piece of human detritus a break but they had both just come from a crime scene where two victims’ heads had been blown off. They were husband and wife. The husband had left a note. The police took their trauma out on Henry while they hauled him off to lock-up. His mental health plea was treated as a joke.
     ‘Okay, fuckhead, you’ve got one phone call. We’ll let you out in an hour to make it. You’ll have five minutes.’ The arresting officer then made it a point to surreptitiously give Henry the finger, apparently scratching the right side of his nose.
    It was at this point that Henry realised the immense boon of having a father who is a practicing lawyer of quite some years. Henry spent the time waiting for this free legal work by rolling a day’s worth of cigarettes, and only smoking the first of them (twenty-five) when his father had come onto the phone line.
     When the dero’s lawyer told the police that the dero was indeed mentally ill they had no trouble in accordingly processing him, after of course checking the lawyer’s credentials online. The dero would be accompanied to Rozella Psychiatric Hospital in the father’s company. Indeed Henry’s father was told his son was currently being released from his holding cell so that he may await the ambulance to Rozella in some comfort.
     The police were true to their word and Henry was very happy, knowing that he had just got out of gaol free. He didn’t mind that his father in attendance clearly warned him that he, the father, Simon Patrick Flower, planned to have his only son involuntarily committed to Rozella. After all, Simon reasoned, Henry was literally a dero, only twenty-four years of age, and doing nothing more than travelling upon the path of doom. Henry would be dead at fifty. And after living a horrible, filthy existence. Simon always thought of it as a living hell.
     Naturally Henry was admitted to Rozella instantly, whom knew him well, dressed in his usual rags and again attempting to prove that he was in fact God. All of the other schizophrenics throughout history were in fact a cover for Him, a disguise to Meld in with. He also didn’t mind being involuntarily committed because he knew a pot dealer close to the hospital. Mind you Henry didn’t have his preferred hash pipe but then again he really had no objections to joints. Yesiree, Henry was fully expecting a fine time in hospital.
     This was not to be though, as Henry’s bad luck was holding. He faced the Mental Health Tribunal two days after admission and was ordered into the locked ward of Rozella. He knew he shouldn’t have told them of his suicidal tendencies this time, but then again, in being honest with the Tribunal Henry knew that he was in fact being honest with himself.
     This thought was sustained by him whilst he was lead beyond the locked doors, had his clothing removed, and had changed into a thin pair of lime coloured cotton pyjamas. Henry was prepared for the worst.

*

He was not prepared for the best. For the best food that he’d ever tasted, and so very nutritious. Why hadn’t he noticed this before? Probably because he had really been too far gone in mental illness during his previous admissions. Maybe Paradise was really a mental hospital after all? God knows that the food was testament to that. In fact Henry loved the food so much that he managed to get fed extra. This was usually an hour after dinner, which was at six pm, and he would approach a nurse saying that he was still hungry after a small dinner. The nurse invariably agreed that the patients’ meals weren’t robust enough and was quite happy to assist someone needing a bit more. While Henry consumed his boon in the kitchen with the nurse in attendance Henry would talk about how food was his central concern on the streets, his main focus, whilst he drifted from squat to squat. Food, he often asserted, was mainly for comfort. It was a confirmation that he, Henry, had made the right choice by becoming homeless, avoiding all stink of rent or mortgages, of the stink of all private property in fact.
     It shouldn’t be surprising then when Henry was released from the locked ward two weeks later onto the open ward that he continued to make extra attempts for some of the hospital’s quality cuisine. Yet it was this rapaciousness that saw him soon discharged altogether back into the squat that he had arrived from. With far more patients on the open ward the hospital simply could not afford to satisfy Henry’s constant, extra demands. We mustn’t blame the hospital too much though for discharging the hungry Henry back into unsafe housing as Henry had often proclaimed that he was ‘quite able to secure safe housing.’ He just didn’t believe in safe housing in the modern world, the world merely being a corruption engendered by every filthy capitalist.
     When he did arrive at his squat he was surprisingly appalled by the discarded, used needles scattered around the old coffee table in the living room. It was the very, very opposite of the wholesome, open enjoyment of Rozella’s locked ward cuisine. These junkies were lucky if they could hold down a small carton of milk.
     Even though Henry knew that his junkie housemates had only appetites for heroin he still began cooking for everybody, fondly recalling Rozella’s locked ward whilst doing so. It was usually pasta or rice with some meat and sauce. Henry was the only one who enjoyed it however, always thanking blind Chance for the opportunity to eat something really wholesome, cooked with his own diligence upon a roaring, open fire. The other housemates though saw it as an easy breakfast.
     It was during one of these breakfasts, about noon, a week after Henry’s discharge, during the middle of Sydney’s cold 2012 winter, that Henry was surprised by a visit from his father.
     ‘Dad!’ He exclaimed upon answering the knock at the front door. ‘How did you get my address?’
     ‘Rozella told me. Or, one might argue, were tricked into telling me. That’s for the judge to decide.’ Henry had no plans though to blackball his father.
     ‘What do you want?’ Then Henry remembered his manners. ‘Care to come in?’
     ‘Thanks.’ Simon was then led into the living room and introduced to Henry’s housemates. These three housemates however weren’t so drug addled as to allow Henry’s consult with his father to occur in public, singly and gracefully excusing themselves.
     ‘Well, Henry,’ began Simon, ‘now that your kind housemates have left us alone it’s time to talk about why I’m here.’
     ‘Dad, I’m not moving back in with you and Mum. This squatting is the only real free life.’
     ‘I’m not here to get you to come back home. I’m here to tell you that you may have a claim against Rozella Hospital for breach of duty-of-care in persistently discharging you back to a squat. You could come into a tidy sum of money.’ Henry was silent a short while, then,
     ‘Are you sure?’
     ‘Quite sure. You could buy yourself a small flat with the compensation monies. You’d probably need a bit extra for that but your mother and I are quite willing to advance you the monies.’
     ‘But what about my wanting to be homeless? My wanting to be completely free?’
     ‘You’ve got paranoid schizophrenia, Henry, such desires are therefore irrational. That’s why your first four admissions to a mental hospital were into their locked ward . . .’
     ‘No it wasn’t . . .
     ‘Well soon after that you were usually locked up. Do you still claim that you’re God?’
     ‘I can prove it.’
     ‘Well either way, son, you have a claim against the hospital. But to make it virtually risk free you have to get off the streets. Move into some fairly stable housing.’
     ‘I’m not doing that. I like being able to travel whenever I want.’
     ‘Henry, if you were to get a lease for a year you could show a judge that you had serious ambitions to get a safe place, that Rozella should have done more to encourage these ambitions.’
     ‘But that would be a lie.’
     ‘Would it? Haven’t you ever wanted the modern conveniences? A clean, private toilet? Running water? A place to shower?’
     ‘All the products of greedy capitalists.’
     ‘But look out for yourself, Henry, like everyone else is looking out for themselves. Self-interest is quite natural. I’m telling you there’s money to be made here. Just listen to me and do as I advise.’ It was the mention of available money, again, that gave Henry pause for thought.
     ‘Good money,’ he asked. He may well be able to donate it to some noble cause.
     ‘Enough to set you up,’ affirmed Simon.
     Still, Henry suddenly realised, it was all too good to be true.
     ‘Sorry, Dad, but I don’t think anyone’s going to pay me for declining safe housing. I was very up-front with Rozella saying that I can look after my own housing. And that’s still true: I have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in and somewhere private to eat my meals, rare as they are. What more do I need?  Isn’t that what we all ask for?’
     ‘But other people’s places don’t have infected needles on the floor. And smashed windows allowing any old thief or murderer in.’
     ‘They’re not infected.’
     ‘Can you be sure?’ Well, not really, Henry realised.
     ‘Well, I don’t care. I’m not giving up this perfectly free life, the whole world just a step away.’
     Simon then knew that he was talking to a brick wall and soon after left. He made his way to Rozella once again and managed to convince them that Henry had been discharged prematurely, again. It was the threat of imminent legal action that motivated them to reclaim Henry. At least Henry hadn’t resisted the arresting police officers. And at least Henry could rely on excellent food for the next several weeks.
     His father though had more long term plans. Over a week of visiting his son he was able to convince him to lay a claim against the hospital. Henry duly agreed to make serious efforts to get off of the streets but only with the proviso that he was free to return at any time. Simon agreed, sure that his son would appreciate the luxuries so offered and thus be unwilling to return to being a dero. Henry could still have his wine and pot, but now he could do so within Paradise, a home inviolate. Simon was unsurprised when they settled for sixty-thousand, plus costs, but he was surprised when Henry took up the offer of his parents loaning him the balance on the price of a bedsitter in Blacktown. Henry remains there to this day, winter 2015, and he is very keen on cooking at least once per day. He also respects his parents a lot more, seeing them as genuinely interested in his welfare. Need I say that he didn’t go back to the streets?

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books
and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing in 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com

    
    

     

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