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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Bruce Costello: Think Tank

ym_91_thinktank_dblanch.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch 2022

Think Tank

 

by Bruce Costello

 

It began with a champagne breakfast. Afterwards, the twelve thinkers sat in a semi-circle, hands behind heads, eyes on the Minister of Health. The morning sun streamed into the room, illuminating a fish tank in which goldfish swam in endless circles, or pressed their vacant faces against the glass, staring out, opening and shutting their gobs.

“Thank you all for coming,” the Big Man said, standing and reading slowly from a tablet, his fancy business shirt barely containing the belly that flowed over a belt extended to the last hole. “Mental health reform should seek to increase access to mental health care across the nation, deliver it in timely manner, efficiently and effectively, and identify and disseminate evidence-based practices to improve consumer outcomes.”

He looked up and swept the room with his politician’s eyes before continuing.

“This Think Tank we have assembled here today brings together a broad range of expertise to pursue excellence in mental health policy. You are all without exception experts. Your thoughts are exceedingly important to the government. So welcome to you all.” He smiled and for a moment looked almost human. “Now over to you guys to toss some ideas about. Sorry I can’t stay. I’ll hand you over to your esteemed colleague Dr Hamish Bacon representing the College of Psychiatrists, who has kindly agreed to chair the meeting.”

**

Dr Bacon, who had drunk three glasses of champagne over breakfast and whose neighbor Mrs Jones had recently died, staggered to his feet.

“Who would like to speak first?” he called out, after rapping on the desk for silence. “One at a time, please.” He plonked back into his seat, aware of being rather tipsy, hoping nobody would notice.

The Think Tank erupted into life and soon speech bubbles filled the room. Dr Bacon could actually see them. Dribbling down chins. Ricocheting around the walls. Bouncing off the ceiling. Buzz words puffing out their chests, oozing pseudoscience. And lengthy professional terms reeking of scholarship – like cognitive-behavioural, psychoanalytically-oriented, psychopharmacological and biopsychosocial.

‘Brown words, all of them. Blah blah blah,’ Dr Bacon said to himself, gazing at the fish tank and thinking of the deceased Mrs Jones. ‘We are born. We struggle through life and then we die. What’s it about? And what’s the use of words? We know nothing but think we do, say one thing, do another and lie about the truth. And who cares? Blah blah blah. Rah de rah de rah. Did I say that out loud? Nobody’s looking at me - I can’t have. Or maybe I did and nobody heard. Everybody talks. Nobody listens. And this room’s like an oven with sunlight pouring in and I’ve got a head like a pneumatic drill and I’m meant to be chairing this bloody meeting. How do I get them to shut up and speak one at a time?

Dr Bacon looked around. The Manager from the Ministry of Social Welfare with earrings like bicycle wheels was opening and shutting her scarlet lips with supersonic rapidity. The President of the Psychologists Guild was punching the air with his fists, and shouting about this or that, causing his ponytail to swing wildly. And the Vice President of the Counselors’ Association (apparently standing in for the President who was having a mental health day) had issues coming out of her ears, all crying out for vociferous expression.

But to rap on the desk...to call the meeting to order...to stand and challenge the onslaught of words...to take charge? A chainsaw started up inside Dr Bacon’s mind and the room grew giddy around him. He clasped his head in his hands and his face slumped to the desk.

 

**

 

He wanted to stand. He wanted to shout: “Stuff your stupid evidence-based systemic approaches, your endless theoretical constructs, your long, learned words, your intellectual formulations and your statistically-proven best practice treatment methods.”

 He wanted to shout these things at the top of his voice and overturn his desk with a great crash and run from the room.

Or - the thought suddenly occurred to him - he could do the professional thing...insist on silence... then calmly share with the meeting what he’d learned from his personal therapeutic encounters with the loving Mrs Jones, a woman of short words, who’d never stepped foot inside a university. The loving woman he’d always turned to when his soul was troubled...who looked at him quietly with gentle eyes...saw every quiver on his face and heard every word he said or didn’t say...who listened to him with her ears, her eyes and her heart...who discerned the buried secrets of his soul and restored his belief in himself.

 Dr Bacon stood up, swaying, an impressive figure with a bushy beard and a red face with swollen eyelids through which glinted red eyes.

And it seemed to him that nothing was real anymore. Nothing. HE wasn’t real, the people before him weren’t real, just a two-dimensional collection of pretentious gits who knew everything and doubted nothing, opening and shutting their gobs, talking crap words, listening to nobody, their academic brains no more capable of understanding the human mind than goldfish were of swimming to the sun. And the sun would rise tomorrow and Mrs Jones would still be dead.

There was only one thing to do and Dr Bacon did it. He upended his desk with a great crash.

In the silence that followed, Dr Bacon tiptoed to the fish tank, picked up a pottle left lying alongside, and sprinkled a little fish food on the surface of the water. He watched the fish rise, googly-eyed and gaping, and he gazed for a time at a stream of bubbles gurgling up from the bottom. Then Dr Bacon turned to enjoy the shocked stillness behind him, where the others, like stunned cod, were gawking at him in a silence as thick as aquarium glass.

He walked over to the President of the Psychologists’ Guild, emptied the pottle of fish food on his ponytailed head and departed.


In 2010, New Zealander Bruce Costello retired from work and city life, retreated to the seaside village of Hampden, joined the Waitaki Writers’ Group and took up writing as a pastime. Since then, he has had 146 short story successes— publications in literary journals (including Yellow Mama) anthologies and popular magazines, and contest places and wins.


Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.

Digital arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.

View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio, DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.















In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022