|Alarmingly Strange Stories||
The Return Of Mr. Sockforahead
|Daniel stood before the mirror in his rumpled suit. It didn't fit
him as well as it used to - he'd lost some weight. He slicked back his thinning dark hair and straightened his
clip-on tie. Today was special; today he was free. More importantly, he was cured.
He turned and looked distastefully at the drab grey smock laying folded on the bed. He'd worn for it for the last six months, without even the privilege of underwear. He adjusted his trousers; they would take some getting used to. Satisfied, he followed the orderly out of the room - no, cell.
A happy whistle left his lips as he entered the hallway, where mental cases lurked like gargoyles. There was Old Charlie, who liked talking to rocks and eating puzzle pieces; Phil, who had a habit of `inspecting' nunneries; and finally, Crunchy Bob. The less said about Crunchy Bob the better. These people had been Daniel's only friends during his stay. Now that he was better, they were just loathsome obstacles littering the path to the door.
The door, a big, barred, metal affair, hadn't opened for him since he'd entered this place. It opened for him now, and the sensation was euphoric. He took a deep breath, and crossed the threshold. As he did, the final piece of his sanity fell into place. At last, the outside world!
The door slammed shut, and silenced the deranged mumbling - and barking - behind it. The lobby was full of sunshine which made tears well up in his eyes. He wanted to run out into the street and bathe in its naked rays. But first, he had to pick up his belongings.
"Name?" said the clerk - a plump, middle-aged, bespectacled black woman with thick glossy lipstick.
"Uh, Daniel. Daniel Symes."
"How d'you spell that?"
"Here 'tis." The lady plopped a shoebox on the counter and began removing the contents.
"Box of cigarettes, lighter, car keys-"
"Actually, those are for a scooter," said Daniel.
The lady glared over the rims of her glasses.
"Scooter keys," she continued, "tic-tacs, lifesavers, gum, cough drops, aspirin, anti-depressants. Man, you must've been somethin' when they brought you in here."
She glared at him again. Daniel looked at the floor and coughed.
"Yes, well, I'm better now. Just put everything back in the box and I'll be on my w-"
"Hold on, hold on. I'm not finished yet. One condom, still in wrapper. Holy geez, it's an old one too - don't believe they make this brand anymore."
Daniel wanted to crawl into his shoes. Wasn't he above this? Wasn't he free to leave this place with his dignity intact?
"Wallet containing fifteen dollars and thirty-three cents, driver's licence - whoa! This you?"
Daniel glanced at the scruffy image of his former self and nodded.
"Man, you were one scary dude, and what's this? `Daniel Symes, Children's Entertainer'?"
The lady held up his business card, wrinkled and smudged though it was.
"`Birthday parties a specialty, just ask for me or Mr. Sockforahead.'"