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