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The Tall Tree
A Story by Stephen Owen
Eustace began to realise he'd
been brought up "oddly". No TV, no car. The great
badges of post-war prosperity had not featured in his world. The
television was always on in the admissions ward day-room, and
Eustace couldn't stand it.
Luckily, there was a Polish woman on the ward. She was a life-saver. Every two days she attacked the TV whilst it was on. She would attack it, topple it off its stand, and kill it, amid the noise of splintering glass screen and big sparks. Then there was quiet, blissful meditative quiet.
But, usually, it lasted less than a day. Mysterious porters would wheel in a fresh TV, switch it on and tune it in, and then depart. So the noise, the electric stupor, began again. But without fail, usually the next evening, the Polish woman mounted a new assault, smashed down the telly, and killed it.. Eustace totally lost count of the number of televisions wheeled in.
Eustace was learning the ropes. Sit down in front of the fog-box, and transfer your mind into the keeping of BBC and ITV. A few pills helped.
Joanna, Eustace's former girlfriend, married a banker. Nick and Bob had degrees now, and good jobs. Eustace reapplied to
University, and was offered a place. But a reference was needed.
Dr Dixon wrote to the university, advising against accepting Eustace's admission. Dr Dixon wanted Eustace on the scrap heap.
Even Luke the alchemist was planning university. Everybody was moving on. But medical science deemed it best that Eustace stay doped-up, lying in bed till two o'clock in the afternoon. For that was how you treated a schizophrenic. And late rising on the jabs was another symptom too.
But Eustace had another life. He went to Norwich for an alternative booksellers' conference. He produced a community newspaper with a collective. He joined a rock band playing punk jazz clarinet.
That is another story.
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