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The Tall Tree
A Story by Stephen Owen
The following August, Eustace
was ready to go home. Former school friends had occasionally
visited Eustace during his three months waiting to go home on the
open ward. But their attitude to him was different. Eustace
couldn't chatter. The medication made him slow. He'd have mental
blocks. His mind would suddenly be empty when he meant to say
something. Nick and Bob would look edgy, uncomfortable. They
constantly watched the other patients from out of the corners of
their eyes. Nick and Bob were starting their careers. Eustace was
on the scrap heap.
But life had to go on. Eustace went to a couple of church groups. He gave up eating vegetarian, so as to be more normal. His parents were encouraged by this.
Going to see Dr Dixon at outpatients in the General Hospital gave Eustace something to do. Although you had to wait two hours to see Dr Dixon, it was always quickly over. Dr Dixon rarely made eye contact. He simply sat there writing. Ten minutes, and you were out. You could catch a bus, go to a cafe, get a book from the library, and - no nurses.
With all the medication, Eustace felt strangely reluctant to seek out the Tall Tree. He would pass it at a distance, when walking to the train station. Would the tree be different, like his school friends were different? Could it understand, or know?
Luke the alchemist hadn't changed. But he'd moved in with his girlfriend and her son, and they lived in a village fifteen miles away.
Gerry, a small builder, whom Eustace had met in Highlands, gave him odd day jobs cementing or digging. It was grand to earn a bit of cash again. But the injection caused such fatigue. Eustace went back part-time at the General Hospital laundry, where he'd worked once before. But the depixol jabs set off a reaction so that Eustace kept on vomiting after working, even when he'd eaten nothing.
He never told Dr Dixon about that.
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