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The Tall Tree
A Story by Stephen Owen
Luke was the local alchemist. He
read thick tomes by Carl Gustav Jung, and worked as a porter at
Highlands Asylum. He had a beard, and attended conferences on
Cosmic Consciousness. He had studied RD Laing, and was kind
enough to allow that all states of mind in the Universe should be
accorded validity. Luke would talk for hours with Eustace and
John McVicar, and never was there a cruel or mocking word. Luke
believed that all human awareness had meaning.
After the meeting with Dr Dixon, Eustace settled down and managed to get a place at university. Although he did not know it, his year at Leeds was to stand him in good stead. He studied the laws of scientific method, as laid down by its founders: Galileo, Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon. Pity the psychiatrists had never studied these authors.
The Tall Tree still stood in Priory Park, weathering drought and rainstorms, snow and hoarfrost. Eustace still sat under it from time to time. It was a Father Tree, descendant of the once-mighty Forest of Arden, which Will Shakespeare so loved. John McVicar preferred Churches, and said, years later, that he used to sit in massive St Mary's and listen to the Voice of God speak to him from the right-hand end of the altar.
Then things began to go horribly wrong for Eustace. He jacked in university to go to work on the Grand Union Canal as a canalman for British Waterways board. Then he jacked that job in after a year. He'd fallen in with some pushers, who said work was uncool.
That first night in the acute admissions ward would never be forgotten by Eustace. He was in the terrible place John McVicar knew, and where Luke had worked, but rarely talked about.
The night nurse was standing still, watching the telly. Eustace's parents had never allowed TV, so there'd be a big adjustment curve ahead of Eustace. Television on all hours in the only day room in the locked acute ward.
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