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Sunlight was sparkling down through the canopy of leaves as the softest kiss of a breeze ghosted over my skin. I leaned forward and I could feel the water gurgling up between my toes from the mossy ground. The feeling made me smile and reminded me just how wonderful it is to be alive. I slowly inhaled and enjoyed the scent of moist earth and wet leaves thick in the air. It was the smell of life. The source of everything.
A rustling of leaves drew my attention and I watched as a young bear cub ambled into the clearing. Just as always, he was trying to reach the bee hive in the branches of the massive tree we were under. I stood silently and watched the scene a little sadly. There was a time when I would have laughed at his antics, but now I feel sad that he has never once been able to reach his goal and taste the honey that he craves. The wind moved the branches of the tree and the bee hive began to dance as if taunting him...
* * * * *
"Doug? Will you answer my question?" Ms. Burney asked me impatiently.
I blinked as I came back to myself.
Ugh. Ms. Burney.
She tells us to call her Ms. Burney because she says that it's sexist to call a woman Miss or Mrs. I think the real reason she wants us to call her that is so we aren't always reminding her that she's a middle aged woman who's single.
If we called her Miss Burney, then it'd be like us all saying every day that we know that she's old and alone and that no man would want her.
"I'm sorry. I didn't hear the question." I said reluctantly.
I heard a few snickers and one faint 'busted'.
"I'm sure you didn't. If you're not going to pay attention, you might as well leave. I believe you know where the office is?" Ms. Burney said with an irritating smirk.
"Yes Ms. Burney." I said, as I put my text book back into my backpack.
Yeah. I know where the office is. I've been sent there at least twice a week for the month that I've been going to this school.
I never even thought that my life could be this crappy. One day I'm chugging along, minding my own business, hanging around with my friends; the next day my parents are telling me that we're moving across town. Now I'm going to a new school where I'm surrounded by strangers... Well, except for Todd. If there was only going to be one person from my old school here, why did it have to be Todd Lawrence? Why couldn't it be someone who might actually want to be my friend? Just when I think he's kinda okay, he gets all rude and insulting.
I was having a hard enough time dealing with 'high school', now I've got this to deal with too. I'm a freshman, which means I'm at the bottom of the high school food chain AND I'm a new kid.
* * * * *
"I see you made it three days this time." The school secretary said sympathetically.
"I thought I was doing better." I answered, feeling ashamed.
She nodded, then said, "It looks like you're going to get to be the first to try out our new counselor, Mr. Le Plant."
"What happened to Mr. Higgins?" I asked curiously.
Every time I'd talked to Mr. Higgins, he always complained about something being wrong. Arthritis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, bleeding gums... and that's after only knowing him for one month.
"He had another one of his migraines, and apparently he was so out of it that he picked up his dog's worm medicine instead of... It doesn't matter, he's going to be fine. He just won't be in for a few days. Give me a moment to let Mr. Le Plant know that you're here." She said, then dialed the phone.
"Mr. Le Plant? I have a student, Doug Lawson, here to speak with you." She said in a pleasant voice.
"You already have his file on your desk, he's one of our frequent flyers." She said with a chuckle, then gave me a slight look of apology.
"Of course. He'll be right there." She said, with a gentle smile and hung up the phone.
"Just go to the next room past Mr. Higgins office. He'll be waiting for you." She said gently.
I reluctantly nodded, then started walking down the familiar hall to the counselor's office.
I could almost hear Todd's mocking voice calling out, "Dead man walking."
* * * * *
All this time I thought the next room past Mr. Higgins office was a closet.
I walked into the uncomfortably small dingy office, to find a young blond haired man about twenty-five years old sitting behind a ratty old desk that was probably older than me.
There was enough room for him, that desk and one chair. The dim little room smelled like the disinfectant they use in the bathrooms.
The room was silent except for a faint buzz overhead.
I took a seat and waited quietly while Mr. Le Plant read through my file. I looked up toward the source of the buzzing sound and saw that one of the bare fluorescent bulbs was burnt out and the other one seemed to be slightly strobing. Waves of light were coursing down the length of the long white glass tube with almost hypnotic slowness.
"Well Doug. It looks like you've made quite an impression during your short stay at this school." Mr. Le Plant finally said.
"I guess so." I mumbled quietly.
"Why don't you tell me about it?" Mr. Le Plant asked, as he closed the file and devoted his full attention to me.
"It's just like the papers say. I can't pay attention." I said, as I felt a fresh wave of shame wash over me.
Why can't I just do like they say and concentrate? What's wrong with me?
"Please Doug, if you'll tell me what happened to get you sent to the office, maybe it's something I can help with." Mr. Le Plant said, and he sounded like he really cared.
"I was just sitting there in class. Ms. Burney was talking about... something, and I guess I spaced out for a while. When she noticed, she asked me a question and I didn't hear what it was, so she sent me to the office... again." I said in a diminishing voice.
"I'm going to ask you something and I need for you to be honest with me. Can you do that?" Mr. Le Plant asked me seriously.
I hesitantly nodded.
"While you were sitting there in Ms. Burney's class, were you spacing out or were you daydreaming?"
"Daydreaming, I guess."
"Doug, I want to try something. It may seem a little strange, but I have my reasons."
There was a moment of silence, then I slowly looked up at him and saw that he was waiting for me to agree.
I hesitantly nodded.
"Close your eyes and listen to what I'm saying."
I closed my eyes and waited.
"It's morning. The air is crisp and cool. You're standing on the black-top pavement in a parking lot. You can faintly smell oil and exhaust fumes and in the distance you can hear the occasional car driving by. To your right there is a path that leads up the side of a small hill... you take it from there, tell me what you see."
I saw it clearly in my mind. I saw the image as clearly as something I'd seen this morning with my own eyes. It was so familiar.
I focused on the image in my mind and quietly said, "The path is white, made of white rocks. There's some grass, but not a lot. It's scraggly and spotty, I can see the dirt... maybe it's sand. And I can see a picnic table on the other side of the parking lot."
"I'm trying to go to the path, but I can't... it's not for me. Other people can walk there, but I can't." I said, not understanding what it was that I was seeing.
"Look around some more, try a little bit to the right, past the picnic table. What do you see there?"
"Another path. It's not like the white path, this one is just dirt and not too many people take it. If you didn't look for it, you wouldn't even know it was there. The dirt path doesn't go over the hill, it leads off in a different direction." I said, now more certain than ever that I'd seen this place before.
"Can you walk that path?" Mr. Le Plant asked in a gentle voice and it sounded like he was smiling.
"If I want to. I don't feel anything stopping me." I said, as I concentrated on the feeling.
"Open your eyes."
"What was that all about?" I asked, as I looked at him curiously.
"Before I answer, let me show you this." Mr. Le Plant said and held out a framed photograph to me.
I took the picture and nearly dropped it when I saw what it was.
"This is what I saw... I mean, this is EXACTLY what I saw." I said with disbelief, as I stared at the picture of the hill, white path and all.
"I know. This place is in the Davis Mountains in West Texas. And just so you know, I couldn't walk the white path either."
I looked at Mr. Le Plant then back to the picture with wonder, not even knowing what questions I wanted to ask.
"This isn't the right environment to try to... Just give me a second to clear the rest of our day, then I'll do my best to explain as much as I know." Mr. Le Plant said as he picked up the phone.
"Mrs. Hawk. I'm going to be taking Doug to the library for a while. Will you excuse him from his last two classes?"
"That's right. Just a second..." Mr. Le Plant said, then put his hand over the mouthpiece and asked, "Do you have a study hall tomorrow?"
"Yeah, third period." I said, still completely overwhelmed by what had just happened.
Mr. Le Plant took his hand off the phone and said, "Also excuse Doug from his third period study hall tomorrow, so he can meet with me."
"That's right. Thank you Mrs. Hawk. Just call me in the library if anything comes up."
After a moment, Mr. Le Plant smiled and hung up the phone.
"Good. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's go." Mr. Le Plant said happily and picked up a backpack from beside his desk.
I put the picture on the desk, then grabbed my backpack to follow him.
* * * * *
"I think I dreamed of that place in the picture." I said in a distant voice as we walked slowly down the hallway.
"So did I. I've been dreaming about it since I was about two years old. That's why it bothered me so much when I actually saw it."
"But how? I mean, how could I dream it? I've never been to Texas."
"I had never been to Texas before I was in college. I went with my family on a road trip for our summer vacation that year. When we pulled into that little roadside park I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I'm sure my parents must have thought that I was nuts when I took a full roll of pictures of that hill." Mr. Le Plant said with a chuckle as we entered the library.
Mr. Le Plant led us to the back of the library to one of the study rooms then closed the door.
"What was on the other side of the hill?" I asked carefully, not really sure that I wanted to know.
"Nothing. Or at least that's what my sister told me. I couldn't make myself go up there." Mr. Le Plant said as he sat down his backpack and took a seat.
I took the seat across from Mr. Le Plant and waited to see what he was going to do next.
"I want you to daydream for me."
"Just relax and let it go. Don't try to think about anything, just let the daydream take you wherever it wants to."
"Um, it doesn't work like that. It just happens."
"If I'm right, you can make it work like that. Go ahead and give it a try, please. I'll sit here and be quiet."
"Um, okay." I said, and tried to concentrate on what it felt like when a daydream started.
* * * * *
"I can't take this anymore. One failing report card after another and now a report from one of your teachers that you were sleeping in class. Well it's over. I've taken away your television, your video games, you've been grounded for nearly a solid year and you've only gotten worse. Tomorrow your mother is taking you to the doctor that your school counselor suggested, and we're going to get you fixed." My father said in an angry voice. But not my father...
Feelings of failure and fear washed over me at the pronouncement.
Then, all of a sudden I'm in a different place. An office.
"This should fix him right up. I think with the problems he's been having, three doses a day should do the trick. In fact, I'll prescribe an extra bottle of pills for you to give to the school nurse so she can give him his dose at lunchtime." The doctor said cheerily.
"Then he'll be able to pay attention in school?" A woman who I somehow knew was my mother asked hopefully.
"Absolutely. By the end of the week he should be on the track to the honor roll."
"Thank you doctor. We should have done this sooner." The woman who was supposed to be my mother said in a small voice.
"Not to worry. This is just a bump in the road. From now on everything is going to be fine." The doctor assured her.
A hazy fog of random images filled my mind.
Walking from one place to the next without emotion or purpose. Read the book, do the work, pass the test, take the pill, repeat...
All of a sudden, it's dark.
I'm sitting in a small dark bedroom holding my father's handgun in my lap, trying to work up the courage to make it end. I can hear myself praying that when it's all over, I'll be able to dream again.
* * * * *
"Doug?" Mr. Le Plant called quietly.
I jolted out of my daydream with a gasp.
"Will you write down your daydream for me? I promise that I won't judge you or hold anything against you. Please be honest and write down exactly what you just dreamed."
"Mr. Le Plant, that was... I've never had one like that before." I said in amazement. I felt shaky and a little weak.
"Please Doug, call me Chris. Right now, I need you to write down everything that you just dreamed before it fades; just write down every detail you can remember. I'll answer your questions when you're done, I promise."
I pulled a spiral bound notebook and pencil out of my backpack and started writing.
I stopped for a moment and looked up to think about the right way to put what I saw into words when I noticed that Mr. Le Plant was also writing.
"How's it going?" He asked me a moment later.
I looked up from my writing and said, "Um, I think that's everything."
Mr. Le Plant held his hand out and waited until I gave him the notebook.
He started reading and I watched carefully for any reaction.
When the silence seemed to have gone on too long, I said, "I'm not thinking about... you know, doing that."
Mr. Le Plant looked up from the paper and quietly said, "Don't worry about it. I understand. In fact, read this."
* * * * *
"Honey, why can't you just concentrate? You're a smart
boy, I can't understand why you're having so much trouble."
"I know." -Me
"Doug. Mr. Higgins is suggesting that we take you to a psychiatrist for an evaluation." -Dad
"I... I don't want to." -Me
"Don't worry. We're not going to do that Doug. I just wanted to let you know what's going on in case he asks you about it." -Dad
"I'm sorry. I'm really trying." -Me
"I know. We're going to start looking around to see if there are any special programs for kids with ADHD... programs that don't use drugs. Maybe we can get you some help that way." -Dad
"I'm sorry." -Me
"You might as well start trying to get along here
because the way you're going, there's no way you're going
to pass this class so we'll be seeing each other again next
year." -MISS Burney ;)
"Isn't there some extra credit or something I can do to make up for it?" -Me
"Extra credit is for those who are trying, not to bail out slackers." -MISS Burney
"I'll try to do better." -Me
"Take your seat, we're about to begin." -MISS Burney
* * * * *
"How? How did you know?" I asked Mr. Le Plant shakily. I went to Ms. Burney's classroom early today to talk with her before class. No one else was there. No one else knew I was going.
"The same way you did."
"I don't understand."
"I'm a daydreamer too. That's probably the main reason that I became a high school counselor. I wanted to find others like me so I can help them."
"You're a... I still don't understand."
"I know. And I will explain everything. But there's something more important that we have to do right now." Mr. Le Plant said as he opened his backpack and took out a CD Player and set it on the table between us.
"What's that for?" I asked slowly.
"Like I said, I'm like you, Doug. You're failing your classes just like I was. Things can't keep up the way they're going. I'm going to show you a few tricks to help you control the daydreams. They won't take your daydreams away, but they'll allow you to get your work done and focus enough to pass your classes."
"Really? You can really help me?" I asked in wonder. For the first time in... I can't even remember how long, I felt hope. Like maybe at last I could be normal.
"Yes. I really can." He said with a smile, then scooted my notebook back to me.
"Write this down." He said seriously and waited for me to be ready. "First, you must ALWAYS study with music playing. The more discordant the better. I can loan you a few CDs until you can get your own collection built up."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing, but went ahead and wrote it down.
"You are going to have to allow yourself time for daydreaming. If you don't, they'll creep in and take over when you don't want them to. Set some time aside every single day."
I nodded as I added it to my list.
"Sleep. If you go to school tired, you're asking for trouble. Make sure to get a good night's sleep every single night.
"Take time to have fun. It doesn't matter what it is, but it has to be something you enjoy. Building models, drawing cartoons, reading comics, even if it's something that other people think a boy your age shouldn't be doing, if you enjoy it, it's important that you take time to do it."
This seemed to be getting crazier with each thing on the list, but I kept writing.
"Write down your daydreams."
"Why do I have to write down my daydreams?" I asked before I could think better of it.
"Because they mean something. When you're dreaming around others, your dreams can see into hidden places. If we can figure out what you're seeing in your daydreams, then we might be able to find a way to make the dreams a blessing for you rather than a curse." Mr. Le Plant said so seriously that I decided to just go with it.
"That's it for now. Keep your list handy, I may think of other things that you need to add to it later."
I nodded and put my pencil down, then asked, "What do I have to do now?"
"When will your parents have some time when I can talk to them? I need to discuss things with them so they'll allow you to do the things you have to."
"Um, you could do that tonight. Mom's off today and Dad should be home around four or four-thirty."
"Good. I'm going to come over and smooth things over with them. Do you have a test or anything coming up that you really need to study for?"
"Yeah. I have a big American history test second period tomorrow." I said with a feeling of dread.
"Do you have your textbook with you?"
I nodded and pulled my American History book out of my backpack.
"Good. We're going to do a quick study session right now, so I can show you how it works." Mr. Le Plant said as he reached into his backpack.
He set a pack of index cards on the table between us and said, "Take these index cards. Each paragraph should have a point. Try to find that point in as few words as you can, then move to the next paragraph as fast as you can. It's like a race. I need to see how fast you can get finished. You don't have to try to remember anything at this point, that's why you're writing it down. Oh yeah, I forgot. Here's some chewing gum. You need to be chewing on something when you study. That's essential."
"No food or gum in the library."
"If this works for you, I'll take care of getting you exempted from that rule. Start chewing your gum, put on the headphones and write me some note cards as fast as you can do it."
"Okay." I said uncertainly and got to work.
* * * * *
I can't even describe the music or whatever it was that I was listening to. It sounded like the singer was singing a totally different song from the background music. And she was singing in German... kind of screaming. But from the moment it started, I felt... peace. It's like something that was tense and cramped up in my mind just relaxed as it listened to the cacophony. Oh, and the gum was a complete surprise. I didn't know when he handed it to me that Black Jack meant that it was licorice flavored. It was just freaky... I think I'm going to have to find out where I can buy some.
I took off the headphones and looked at him with question.
"You're taking too long. Skim, scan, write the point and move on."
I nodded and put the headphones on again, then went to work writing two or three word phrases as fast as I could.
* * * * *
"Now, turn off the CD player, spit out the gum and take out a piece of paper. I'm going to have you take the practice quiz at the back of the chapter."
"Okay..." I said and did as I was told.
"Tell me when you're ready to start, you'll have three minutes." He said as he rested back in his chair.
"Just do it."
I got a clean sheet of paper ready and took a deep breath to brace myself before saying, "Okay, I'm ready."
Normally I'd be doing good to answer the first question in three minutes, but I kicked it into high gear and answered the multiple choice questions as quickly as I could.
I would skim over the question long enough to determine what it was asking, then pick whichever answer seemed to fit, then move on.
"Time's up. Put down your pencil." Mr. Le Plant said, as I was writing the answer to the last question.
I put down my pencil and waited for his next instructions.
"The answers to the chapter quizzes are in the back of the book aren't they?" Mr. Le Plant asked in a leading tone.
"Yeah." I said and began to flip through the last few pages of the book to find the answer key.
As I compared the key to my answer sheet I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"I only missed one!" I said, probably a little too loudly, but... it's the first time I've gotten anything right at this school.
I found the one I missed, then turned back to the chapter test to read the question.
"Um, number four, it asked who the Hessians worked for. I chose 'A: The British, the book says the answer is C: Both."
"The book is wrong."
"Go back and look it up. The answer key in the back is wrong."
I went back into the chapter and somehow I went immediately to the exact paragraph that I needed.
"You're right. It says right here that the Hessians worked for the British. The answer key is wrong!"
"Now do you see what you've just been able to accomplish? You were able to distract your mind with all the noise and gum-chewing so that the part of your brain that processes new information was free to do it's job. Forcing yourself to rush keeps you from getting bogged down in details and becoming bored. The more you use this technique, the more comfortable it will become."
My mind raced and I quickly asked, "Will this work for algebra too?"
"Like a charm. For a good algebra session I find salt-water taffy and Sex Pistols are my best study buddies."
"Can I try it now?"
"No. I'm afraid it's time for us to call it a day. It's almost time for the final bell." He said with a glance at his watch.
"Really? I can't wait to try this on Algebra. I bet I can be caught up with the rest of the class by the end of the night."
"You do and you won't get the sleep you need. I have a few more tricks to show you, don't forget to come to my office third period tomorrow." Mr. Le Plant said as he gathered the CD player and unused index cards back into his backpack.
"Yeah, I'll be there!" I said happily, feeling better than I had in months... maybe years.
"Good. Go ahead and get your things together."
I hurried to gather my stuff when Mr. Le Plant said, "Would you give me your address and phone number so I can stop by around four thirty?
I pulled out a sheet of paper and quickly wrote them down for him.
He took the paper and looked it over, then said, "Thank you Doug. Please let your mom know that I'm going to be stopping by."
"Yeah. I'll see you at four thirty." I said happily as I stood.
He smiled at me and we walked out of the study room together as the final bell rang.
* * * * *
I was in kind of a daze as I walked to my locker to get the things I'd need to study... which was pretty much everything.
"I heard you were stoned out of your mind in Burney's class today. Are they gonna boot you outta here?" A voice asked from behind me.
I didn't have to look to see who it was. There's only one person who would talk to me at this school... whether I wanted him to or not.
"No. And I wasn't stoned, I was just thinking about something." I said as I tried to jam all the books into my backpack.
"Was it Melanie Hart?" Todd asked and followed with kissy noises.
"No." I said as I finally got everything I needed to fit.
"I bet you were thinking about Levi Gibson weren't you? I bet you're a total homo." Todd said in a sneer.
"No Todd, I was thinking of you." I said and batted my eyelashes at him.
Todd looked stunned for a moment, then finally realized that it was a joke.
I rolled my eyes at him and said, "Seriously, I wasn't thinking about anyone. I just kind of drifted off for a while. I gotta go."
"So if they didn't boot you, where did you go for two hours?"
"Counselor's office. I'll tell you about it later. I really have to go." I said as I hefted my pack onto my back.
"Yeah. Later." Todd muttered as I walked away.
* * * * *
I walked home in silence.
My mind was going over and over the things that had happened to me.
In just two hours Mr. Le Plant had changed my life.
I went from feeling like a hopeless failure to a... normal person.
Well, as normal as anyone else who listens to screaming German singers and chews licorice flavored gum.
As I approached our yard, I saw that Mom was kneeling by a flower bed, planting what looked like a military formation of colorful little flowers.
When I opened the gate, she looked up at me and smiled.
"Hi honey. Did you have a good day at school?" She asked me cheerfully.
You'd think she'd know better by now. I haven't had a good day at school in years and they've been progressively worse since we moved.
But today, I've got a surprise for her.
Unable to restrain my smile, I answered, "Yeah. I had a good day."
Mom looked at me with surprise and stood, leaving her next little flower sitting on it's side beside the hole she was digging for it.
I chuckled to myself at her expression and happily said, "Yeah, really."
Mom walked over to me and pulled me into a joyful hug.
"So, tell me all about it. What happened today?" Mom asked as she released me.
I walked over to where she had been working so she could get that poor little flower into the ground where it belonged.
Mom moved along with me and went back to work on the flower bed as I said, "Well, I guess the first thing was that I was sent to the counselor's office."
"Oh no. Not again."
"It's okay. Really."
Mom looked at me inquisitively.
I thought about how to tell her what happened to me today and decided that I'd better just hold back on the information and give her the basics.
"Mr. Le Plant is coming over to talk to you and Dad tonight."
"Who is that?" Mom asked, as she turned her attention to me, this time leaving that poor little flower in the hole, but without any dirt filled in around it.
"He's the new Counselor at the school." I said, as I looked at the flower.
She followed my gaze and started to scoop dirt into the space around the flower's roots as she said, "Oh no. Not again."
I could feel her disappointment and said, "Mr. Le Plant showed me some stuff to do today that really helped. I think that if I do the stuff he says, I might be able to pay attention and study."
"Really? What did he tell you?"
I thought about what it would sound like if I tried to tell her what happened, then decided to say, "It'll be better if he tells you. You'd probably just think I was making it up."
Mom looked stunned by the statement, but finally said, "I made some snickerdoodles today. They're on the cooling rack in the kitchen. You can have one to get you by until dinner if you're hungry."
"Yeah, thanks Mom. I want to go clean my room before Mr. Le Plant gets here in case he wants to see where I study." I said, glad that she didn't press for any details.
"You? Study?" Mom said with surprise, as I walked into the house.
* * * * *
"Mr. Le Plant, this is my mom, Gina and my dad, Jeff, this is Chris Le Plant." I said in my best estimation of a proper introduction.
"It's nice to meet you. Please come in, would you like some coffee?" Mom asked courteously.
"Yes, thank you." Mr. Le Plant said with a smile, as Dad led us into the living room.
"How do you take it?" Mom asked from the doorway.
"Just black." Mr. Le Plant said quietly as he took a seat.
"Doug hasn't told us much except that you may know of a way to help him get over his concentration problem." Dad said seriously.
Way to go Dad. No need to make him feel welcomed or anything, just get right to the point.
"Yes. I can't make any guarantees because everyone is different. But from what I saw today, we have good reason to hope." Mr. Le Plant said, as he looked my dad in the eyes.
"There isn't any drug therapy involved in this is there?" Dad asked in a cautious, kind of threatening voice.
"Absolutely not." Mr. Le Plant immediately responded.
"Good. I know Doug has some problems. But I believe it's important for him to learn how to deal with them, not try to medicate them away." Dad explained as Mom walked back into the living room with a tray of filled coffee cups.
Mr. Le Plant nodded and said, "I'm glad we agree on that point. I can tell you from personal experience, that the cure can be far worse than the condition."
Mr. Le Plant accepted a cup of coffee from Mom, then noticed that Dad was looking at him with question.
"I was a lot like your son. In fact, I still am. Eventually I learned how to deal with it. If you'd agree to it, I'd like to pass the things I've learned on to him. Some of the things may seem counterintuitive, but I'm asking you to trust me and let Doug try it out. If he hasn't improved after a couple weeks, then we can sit down and talk about the things that worked and the things that didn't." Mr. Le Plant said seriously, then took a sip of his coffee.
"It sounds like you're preparing us for something really strange." Mom said cautiously from beside me.
Mr. Le Plant smiled and said, "Nothing too bad, I promise."
"Okay, we're ready." Dad said in a no nonsense tone.
Him doing the protective father thing is cool and everything, but I wish he'd lighten up a little before he makes Mr. Le Plant feel unwelcome.
"Doug, do you have a television in your room?" Mr. Le Plant asked me in a gentle voice.
"I used to, Mom and Dad took it away when my grades started falling." I admitted shyly.
"He'll need the TV. Doug can't study in quiet. He needs distractions. Whenever he's trying to study, he should have his headphones on and the television going." Mr. Le Plant said as he looked from Mom to Dad.
"But how can he study with all that going on around him?" Mom asked with concern.
"That's been his problem. His brain needs to be processing those distractions so the part of his mind that learns can focus on his lessons. I know it sounds a little crazy, but I'm asking you to give it a try for a few weeks." Mr. Le Plant said in an imploring tone.
"Okay, I think we can do that. What else?" Dad asked hesitantly.
"He should have some incense or something like that in his room to give it an interesting fragrance. Patchouli always works well for me." Mr. Le Plant said in thought.
Mom nodded that she would take care of it.
"He'll need a good supply of chewing gum, taffy, licorice and peanut brittle if he likes it. Chewy foods are the best, but popcorn and potato chips will do." Mr. Le Plant said in a thoughtful tone.
Dad nodded without expression.
"As far as drinks, he should have coffee or soft drinks with caffeine up until about two hours before bedtime. As much as he wants. When he gets into the groove of studying this way, the caffeine will help to keep him focused." Mr. Le Plant said distantly, like he was reading a checklist in his mind.
"Won't that keep him awake half the night?" Dad asked cautiously.
Mr. Le Plant focused on Dad and said, "It shouldn't."
Then he turned to me and continued, "Doug, if you have trouble sleeping, set your cut-off time for caffeine a little earlier."
I nodded that I would.
"I brought a few CDs with me for him to listen to until he can build up his collection. These are mixes of some of my best study music." Mr. Le Plant said and handed the CDs across the coffee table to me.
I thought about what he had said, then turned to Mom and asked, "Can I have some coffee now? I'd like to study when we're done here."
"There's a fresh pot just made." Mom said uncertainly.
I hopped up and went to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee as quickly as I could. I didn't want to miss anything that Mr. Le Plant had to say.
* * * * *
"The only other thing I can think of at the moment is that Doug needs to do something that he enjoys." Mr. Le Plant was saying as I walked back into the room.
"Like what?" Dad asked curiously.
"That's up to him. Just whatever he decides to do, try to encourage and accept it." Mr. Le Plant said as I sat down beside Mom again.
"What do you mean?" Dad asked more slowly, sounding apprehensive.
"If Doug were to take up needlepoint, then I would recommend that you take him to buy supplies, maybe suggest patterns to him and praise his work when he finishes a piece." Mr. Le Plant said carefully as he looked my father in the eyes.
I nearly choked on my coffee when he said it. I mean... needlepoint? Where the hell did he come up with that?
"Doug wants to do needlepoint?" Dad asked before I could say anything.
"No, that was just an example. Whatever he decides to do as a hobby or for fun should be encouraged, even if it seems to be inappropriate for some reason. Given his unique... perspective, it can be a challenge for him to find things to hold his interest. If he finds something, he should pursue it. Having some fun each day will bring a sort of harmony to everything else."
"I think we can do that." Mom said with an imploring look at Dad.
After a long thoughtful moment, Dad nodded his agreement.
"That's all I can think of at the moment." Mr. Le Plant said in a considering voice.
The mood seemed to be a little more tense than I liked and I felt like Mr. Le Plant might like to get away from it as much as I would.
"Would you like to see my room?" I asked him hopefully.
"Sure Doug. Lead the way." Mr. Le Plant said with a relieved smile as he stood.
I hopped up and hurried to the doorway.
* * * * *
"What do you think?" I asked with anticipation as I stood aside.
Mr. Le Plant looked around the room carefully, then his gaze stopped on one of my posters.
"Do you like Star Wars?"
"Yeah. Well, I used to." I said reluctantly, knowing that it was kind of a kiddie thing to be into.
"Did you collect the action figures and books?"
"Yeah. I think I still have them in a box in the garage." I said thoughtfully, not really remembering what happened to all that stuff when we moved.
"Well, if you enjoy your Star Wars things, then you should find it and go through it. Build display cases and add to your collection... just do whatever makes you happy."
"Because people like us have trouble finding things that make us happy and it's essential that we have some happiness every day."
"What makes you happy?" I asked carefully. It seemed wrong to ask, but at the same time, I wanted to know.
Mr. Le Plant thought about it for a second before he quietly said, "I'll tell you if you'll promise not to tell anyone else."
I nodded quickly.
"Autobots. You know, Transformers." Mr. Le Plant said shyly.
No, not Mr. Le Plant, Chris.
This guy I was talking to was revealing something very personal to me and trusting me not to tease him about it or tell other people.
I smiled and said, "I used to love that show. Optimus Prime was awesome."
"Yeah. I have all the episodes recorded, all the action figures, I have posters and have even drawn and painted a few of my own posters." Chris said with a shy smile.
Something occurred to me and I got serious for a moment.
Before I could think about what I was going to say, it just kind of slipped out.
"So I'm going to be doing kids stuff like playing with Star Wars toys from now on?"
"Just for as long as you enjoy it. You might find something you like better than Star Wars and start doing that. Try thinking about it this way. How many people do you know that have fun every single day? If other people can't understand, let them go on and live their serious 'fun-free' lives. Once you get into this, look at how they live and how you live, then decide if you'd really want to be like them... normal." Chris finished with a crinkled nose.
"I always thought I wanted to be normal, but when you put it that way... this might not be so bad." I said, just beginning to realize that he might be right.
I guess being like me isn't the worst thing that could happen to a person.
"Actually, I think we're some of the luckiest people in the world. Daydreamers get to take voyages into the unreal every single day and see things that regular people can't even imagine. There are people who pollute themselves with drugs and alcohol just to get a taste of what we were born with. Some of them sit in front of a television set or a movie screen and try to feel, for a short time, what it's like to dream because they aren't able to." Chris said distantly.
"Can I come in?" Dad asked hesitantly, carrying a small television.
"Sure Dad." I said, as I stood out of the way so Dad could walk into the room.
"I'd better get going. I'm overdue for my dream time." Chris said with a smile at me.
"What's that?" I asked quickly, it sounded like something that I should be doing too.
"Remember when I told you that you need to allow yourself time to daydream? I give myself about an hour and a half each evening after work to daydream. Then I can focus on the serious things that need to be done."
"When do you do your fun stuff?" I asked, wanting to get into a routine as soon as possible.
"Usually right before bed. It's like my reward for getting all my work done."
"I think I'll do it that way too."
"Try it out. You may find that things work differently for you." Chris said as he turned to leave.
"Thanks for everything Chris. I really appreciate it." I said quickly, hoping that he could tell that I really meant it.
"Just do well on that test tomorrow and that will be all the thanks that I need." Chris said with a gentle smile at me. And I could tell by the look in his eyes that he understood just how much I really did appreciate him.
"I'll let you know how I did as soon as I find out." I said as I walked with him past the living room to the front door.
"After what I saw today, I'm sure you'll do fine... but some studying tonight and a quick review of the index cards before the test wouldn't hurt." Chris said and gave me a playful wink.
"I'll remember that." I said as we stopped at the front door.
"It was a pleasure meeting you both. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns." Chris said to my parents who were now standing behind me.
"We will. I really hope you're right about this helping Doug." Dad said seriously.
"Well, just don't worry if there are some rough patches along the way until he can get into a routine. It might take a few weeks to get everything completely settled, but you should see improvement in his grades almost immediately." Chris said with a smile at me, then opened the door to leave.
"Thank you so much for everything." Mom said from behind me as Chris walked away.
"There's no need to thank me. This is why I became a counselor." Chris said with a smile, then continued on to his car.
Well what can I say? Doug is a really nice kid and Chris is a wonderful counselor. I can see this story developing into a very wonderful story. I don't know how to say this for sure, but I feel a sense that this story may carry a little bit of MM in it. I have to wonder if he is also a daydreamer. Of course that wouldn't surprise me in the least. All his stories have the wonderful daydreamer aspect to them. I don't think I have ever been disappointed when I have read a story by MM.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher