Homosexuality. It was a word Shelton Morris was taught to hate and fear. They, in his opinion, should be locked up and kept away from society like the rest of the mentally ill people. He never knew he'd cross paths while trying to write a story with a man by the name of Timothy Harrison, a young homosexual kept in one of these so called institutions. Secrets start to twist and unravel before the writer, causing his fictional horror story to bloom into an informative tragedy.
Pretend you're happy when you're blue
It isn't very hard to do
And you'll find happiness without an end
Whenever you pretend
Smoke from numerous cigars clashed together to mix and fill the room; newspapers were scattered on every table with yesterday's stories. Glasses, whether the contents be a Manhattan or a Tom Collins, were placed to everyone's lips. It was a bar filled with lonely and quiet men thinking they could drink their troubles away, whatever they might be. In the back of the cloudy room, a young writer's pen swayed to the sound of Nat King Cole's gentle baritone voice. His dark green eyes, a near carbon copy of his mother’s, scanned over the nearly empty page before him, uncertainty filling them. A young waitress came his way with a pitcher of coffee, only shaking her head when she realized the bright face past the smoke.
Remember, anyone can dream
And nothing's bad as it may seem
The little things you haven't got
Could be a lot if you pretend
"You know, I didn't expect to find Winthrop's son in here." She smiled sadly and poured him another cup of coffee. "These men are such bad news; they only focus on what was, should haves, or could haves. It's depressing really." The waitress sat next to the writer, her smile still upon her lips. "Come on, what's got you, Shelton?" The writer soon took his eyes away from the hopeless paper and towards a more hopeful waitress.
"Oh nothing Nancy, I've just got a big day tomorrow; you know the story I've been writing, right?"
Her brows furrowed a bit. "That one that had something to do with a wizard and a king?"
"Na, trashed that one, but I'm pretty sure I've got this one all figured out. Picture this: a man accidentally wanders into what seems to be an abandoned home. He is seeking shelter from a terrible storm and is offered by the owner of the old house to stay the night. The man agrees, not realizing that the home is actually a mental institution. From then on, horrors rain down on him as he is constantly attacked by the insane."
"Seems a little dark for my tastes, Mr. Morris," Nancy gripped the edge of the table tightly. Her whole body shuddered at the thought of the idea. "You might give your audience nightmares if you do it right."
"That’s the whole point, Nancy. I’m aiming to make my audience left mildly disturbed.”
Mildly disturbed? Nancy held tightly onto the table, nearly knocking down Shelton’s cup of midnight energy. The man just gave a slight eye roll and smiled.
“Anyway, I'm going to a mental institution tomorrow, to see what I'm actually doing my story on. Who knows, it could be an amazing experience."
"If you think so," The woman got up and grabbed the pitcher. "See you around?"
"Yeah, probably the day after tomorrow." The writer said before taking a sip of coffee. He watched as the waitress disappeared back into the smoky air; and before he knew it, his voice was singing along to the soft song:
And if you sing this melody
You'll be pretending just like me
The world is mine; it can be yours, my friend
So why don't you pretend?
The cab dropped Shelton off at St. Lawrence's the next day. It was like a village within itself; soft red brick buildings that had perhaps could have once been a series of identical mansions were surrounded by neatly trimmed grass. It contrasted wildly against the image of the hospital he had in his mind; even little rodents were scattered across the lawn. He considered changing his story setting to look like this, give the audience more of a surprise...or so he hoped. He entered the place, messenger bag strapped around him. The lobby when he entered was already occupied by one person at the moment, and that was a curly haired woman. She was too busy picking at her nails to notice the young man walking over to her. When she finally noticed, her eyes widened.
"Hello, I'm here for research; my name is Shelton Morris."
The young lady responded with an exaggerated gasp followed by slightly wider eyes. "Oh? Do tell! We don't have anything special here. At least, not that I know of." she got closer to him, batting her thick eyelashes a couple of times. "What type of research?"
"Just on the mental institution, ma'am, like who lives here, how they're affected by their illness. A little history wouldn't hurt." Shelton explained. "Dr. Thompson should be expecting me."
"Dr. Thompson's busy with a patient at the moment; I'll get you Dr. Yaley instead." She dashed off, coming back with a man about his height, but about thirty years older.
"Hello Son. We don't normally allow visitors here," Yaley crossed his arms. "Let alone let one interview a patient." His dark eyes bore through the writer, but Shelton was not at all intimidated.
"Dr. Thompson made it perfectly clear that I could do so." Shelton said with a frown, "Talk to him. He'll tell you."
A brief pause.
"I'm afraid he's got his hands full. I'll take your word for it. One patient and that's it. Choose wisely boy; some will tell you utter nonsense as opposed to facts. Mary, please show him to the play area." The lady was all too happy to lead Shelton down the numerous white, tan, and blue hallways. Mary stopped in front of a set of wooden doors and grinned.
"Here we are!" She giggled, opening them.
The room was utter chaos. Torn books littered the floor, patients were hitting other patients, and grown adults were playing with small toddler toys. Others were gathered around a nurse, listening to a small story.
Yes, everyone Shelton expected to be in mental hospitals laid in one small, overcrowded room. That was until his eyes wandered over to the side to find a young man occupying a cherry wooden rocking chair.
His eyes didn't contain the slightest amount of insanity from which the writer could tell. And they seemed to be focused on a book that looked rather complicated for someone in this room. Did he even know what he was reading? Charles Dickens?
Mary caught Shelton's gaze and snickered. "Yeah, that's Tim; He's an odd one... a really odd one." she twirled around. "Don't waste your time with him; he's not worth it."
But it was too late. Shelton was already standing in front of the seated man. He half expected the patient to scream in his face or do something else foul to him, but he just continued to read the book, turning the page even after the writer gave a small cough. He cleared his throat.
The patient, Tim, glanced up at him finally. "Yes I see you there; I was just waiting for you to introduce yourself."
Shelton's cheeks tinged pink. "Hello; I'm Shelton Morris, and you are?"
"Timothy Harrison," he said, his hand outstretched to the other. "Don't worry, I'm not going to bite your hand off." the man chuckled, noticing the writer's hesitation.
"I'm going to be asking you some questions." Shelton said, ignoring Tim. He sat down on a stool right next to him. "You can choose whether or not to answer these questions. I can't force you."
"Well then ask away." Tim said with a slight amount of curiosity within his hazel eyes.
"Let's get started then." the writer took out a journal and his pen. "When were you first admitted into the hospital?"
"About 6 years ago; one day shy of my twentieth birthday," Tim recalled, "They said I was sick..." he paused briefly, his brows furrowing. "I didn't feel sick or anything. But, here I am today."
"Oh?" Shelton's eyebrow rose slightly. "So you were admitted by a family member."
"Yes," Tim spoke, placing the book he'd been reading aside. "Both parents in fact. I haven't seen them since the night they brought me here. I haven't even gotten a letter." Another pause. "I'm sorry...why are you here? And why are you talking to me?"
"I'm writing a horror story on a mental institution. I'm trying to see what life might be like here. As well as get to know some mental patients." admitted Shelton. "Their behavior could be featured in my story."
"You're looking for those violent and crazy people you hear about that get sent to mental hospitals aren't you? And if so, you're interviewing the wrong person." The patient picked his book back up. "I'm normal as the other people walking outside on the streets."
"Well you can't be normal if you're in here, now can you?" the writer sneered. A glare shot through Shelton.
"I feel normal. I talk normal. I am normal." And with that, the patient got to his feet and moved somewhere into the crowd. Shelton rose to his feet as well, making a side note in his journal,
Note: Some mentally ill patients claim normalcy.
He exited the room. Perhaps interviewing a patient was the last thing he should do. He should talk to Dr. Thompson first, whenever he got the chance to see him and he certainly was going to try to avoid that Mr. Yaley as much as he could.
Mary was three feet from the door, humming a tune. She glanced at Shelton and giggled.
"So how was it? You were in there barely for ten minutes!"
"I've decided that a decent background history about this place is more important than the patients at the moment. But, I couldn't help but notice that Tim seems to show no signs of bad mental health."
"Told you he was an odd one. He's ill; he just doesn't show it until he's around other men." She snickered again while Shelton frowned.
"I don't understand..."
"Tim is what they call a Flit nowadays." Mary explained. "Very dangerous, maybe that’s why he’s always locked away."
The writer's eyes widened. A flit...he never would have guessed... quickly, he scribbled down another note.
Timothy Harrison; 26…
Under that he wrote a single word all in capital letters.
What do I know about homosexuals? They're bad news for everyone and they don't even seem to acknowledge it.
It was good that people like Timothy are locked up; this hospital was doing a service in keeping him here. He was a danger to society and himself. No wonder his parents never visited him; who wants to be associated with a Flit?
I had always wondered how these so-called people functioned; homosexuals. Maybe I will be seeing more of this Harrison from now on. I do need more information after all and he's going to give it to me whether he wants to or not.
April 23, 1953
1953, this is definitely the year I will remember.