The Transplant

2 Apr

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The Transplant

by L. Stewart Marsden

Caution: this story contains mature content

Part I: Desperate times call for desperate measures

Rom drew the can close to his face and put the magnifying glass against it, moving it back and forth from the can until he could read the tiny print. The glass was inherited from his grandmother, Gommy, who had collected stamps and coins for years. She used it to make out coin inscriptions and stamp details, which were hard to see with the naked eye.

The magnifier was a rectangular glass with a stainless metal frame holding it in place. There was a grooved columnar handle protruding from one of the corners. The handle was covered with a black rubber grip.

“Ingredients: sufficient water for processing,” the first ingredient. Mainly water, he thought. That’s what makes it so squishy.

“Meat By-products, Chicken, Beef, Liver,” the next ingredients. Yum. By-products. He knew hot dogs were beef and pork by-products, but never seriously considered which by the by were. It was better not to know. Except Calyssa would want to know. Well, not really. Calyssa would go three aisles out of the way to bypass the luncheon meat coolers in the grocery store.

“Brewers rice.” Ah, at last a redeeming ingredient.

As he read through the various other stuff, sodium tripolyphosphate, carrageenan, potassium, chloride, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate — he wondered how any dog could thrive on this concoction.

The detail section of the label said the can was “packed with meaty goodness for a hearty, delicious meal.”

How long had this can been on the shelf? Meaty goodness? Delicious? Who the hell determines that?

He had read that there were actually jobs for animal food tasters. Yech! He began to choke back bile just thinking about it.

His dog Peabody sat patiently on the floor beseeching Rom with big brown eyes.

“Not gonna work, Peabody. Not today.”

He pulled the key tab on the lid of the dog food and peeled the lid back slowly. The smell of meaty goodness and deliciousness wafted to his nose. Grabbing a large soup spoon out of the silverware drawer, Rom scooped out a rounded glop of dog food and held it up.

“Cheers!” he said to Peabody, who was by now salivating onto the kitchen floor.

He grabbed and pinched his nose with his left hand, and guided the spooned food into his mouth with his right, choking down the dog food.”

“Ahhh!” he rasped, grabbing a tall glass of water pre poured for this moment. He chugged down the water, his eyes nearly squirting lacrimal tears.

“God! Peabody! So this is what you live for every day!”

Peabody’s chestnut tail fanned the floor like a windshield wiper.

He gripped the can tighter, and scooped out more of the dog food, and repeated his initial action. He did this until the spoon stirred in the can without dredging up any dog food.

“Okay,” he wheezed at his very disappointed dog. “One down — ten more to go.”

As he slowly progressed over the next hour through cans lined up in front of him, Rom’s disgust waned. In fact, on the fifth can he actually began to discern some of the finer nuances of taste and texture.

Peabody eventually sulked out of the kitchen and lay down under the dining room table, his head nestled between his front paws. He only looked up and over at his owner whenever he heard the poof of air when Rom opened another can.

His phone rang.

“Hey. Almost through the first batch.”

“How is it?”

“According to the label, it’s meaty goodness and a hearty delicious meal.”

“How many cans?”

“I thought I’d start with 10. The feeding guide says four and a quarter to seven and a half cans for dogs up to 150 pounds.”

“You’re a bit above that, Rom.”

“So — it’s my first feast — and I added three more cans.”

“Tell me — how is it?”

“At first I thought I was going to spew. Then, believe it or not, I got used to it.”

“It’s going to work, you know.”

“So you say. It’s a helluva lot cheaper than rib eyes.”

“There’s that — but the homeopathic effect.”

“You know I love you, right?”

“But . . . ?”

“If this doesn’t work, what then?”

“I don’t know! I hadn’t thought beyond this part!”

“Chill, Cal! I’m not blaming you! It’s not your fault.”

“Yes it is. At least partly. If I hadn’t suggested the transplant.”

“You didn’t know, Cal. Who could have known?”

“Still . . . ”

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Part II: On Top of Old Smokey, all covered with hair . . .

My dad told me two lies when I was growing up: that I would never have to worry about my weight, and that I would always have my thick, curly brown hair.

Dad was hirsute on every part of his body except his head. And he had been that way since he was in his twenties.

He always thought his baldness was the result of serving in the South Pacific in the Navy during the war, and having to wear his officer’s hat nearly all the time.

“Hell, the heat and the lack of sun killed the heck out of my hair,” he said.

Mom didn’t seem to particularly care, cause he made up for it in other ways — like being a more than successful business man.

He also said “Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street,” which is what I said to “Dr.” Timberwolf on my first visit to his hair club.

“Well in your case, then,” chuckled Timberwolf as he rubbed his latex-covered fingers across my slick dome, “there’s a traffic jam!”

I had pretty much heard them all, and all were as stale as could be to me.

“So, what kind of hair did your maternal and paternal grandfathers have?” he asked during the intake, which I couldn’t answer.

My dad’s dad died in the great flu epidemic in the winter of 1918, and Dad was born that next spring. He never knew his father, and there were hardly any photographs of the man.

Mom’s dad died of a stroke two months before I was born. He was in his fifties, and seemed to have enough coverage in the pictures there were of him.

I always thought I probably killed my hair when the afro craze hit. Even though I was white, dozens of friends had their hair permed and brillowed up. A lot of the stars — Art Garfunkel, John McEnroe, Billy Crystal — were doing it, too.

I read in The Autobiography of Malcolm X that a lot of blacks killed their hair by using really harsh chemicals to straighten it.

It was ironic that way. It was a fad. No one wanted to look like they looked.

“Well, I don’t think that a few months of perming your hair would damage the hair roots that extensively,” said Timberwolf.

So he took a few skin samples from my crown and said that it looked like the river bed was dry as a bone. He was referring to my scalp.

“So, what’re my options?” I asked, knowing that the floodgate of expensive and miraculous solutions was about to wash me away.

“You could do what men have done for years, which is to let your side hair grow out long and extend it over your head with some hair gel to keep it in place. From the side or back, either works.

“You could wear a rug, and I’d be happy to refer you to some good carpet cutters in the area.

“We could tie in real hair into your scalp. Or implant hair follicles one by one.

“I could put you on a regimen of various prescription drugs, which are expensive, and tend to produce more fluff than hair.”

“It sounds pretty dismal,” I said. “I’ll need a note from you that I can give to my girlfriend. She suggested this in the first place.”

“Ah. The girlfriend. You might consider getting a new girlfriend — one who accepts you the way you are.”

“They don’t exist. If it weren’t my hair, it would be something else.”

“I agree. There is one more possibility for you.”

Here it comes.

“It’s still in the early development stages, and I cannot guarantee that the results will be to your liking. Oh, never mind, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

Can you say put the lure in the water and then jerk it back out when a fish starts to nibble?

“But you did bring it up. So, you may as well spill the beans. I won’t tell you that money is no option, but I suppose I need to rule out everything before I tell Cal there is no hope.”

“Money would not be the consideration. I’m involved in something — experimentations — that have the backing of venture capitalists. You wouldn’t have to pay me anything.”

“So, what’s the catch?”

“The catch is that if my experiments were to work on you, you would become my poster boy. Like Charles Atlas was for body building.”

“Okay.” I leaned in with interest.

“You would be a beta participant.”

“Not alpha?” I kidded.

“You would join a group of men with similar conditions as yours, where heredity factors or other problems mean a healthy head of thick hair is not in the cards,” he continued, ignoring my remark.

As he paced about the room, I sensed his excitement growing.

“You need to know that I plan to do this scientifically — meaning that it would be a blind study, and not all participants would receive the same treatment.”

“To validate the experiment,” I added, letting him know I knew what a blind study was.

“And you’re okay with that?”

“I haven’t left,” I answered.

“It’s not without discomfort,” he said, looking at me with curiosity.

“Well, weaving hair plugs, or planting hair follicles isn’t painless,” I said. Then I uncovered my forearm by unbuttoning my sleeve and rolling it back, revealing a multi-colored tattoo that reached from my wrist to beyond my elbow.

“It will be a little more painful than your tattoo was, Rom,” he responded.

When he sensed I was ripe for the kill, he called in his office assistant, who entered the exam room armed with a large folder of forms, waivers, and other documents I was responsible to fill out, plus a request for medical records.

It all seemed on the up and up.

And when Calyssa and I discussed it over a bottle of chardonnay, it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Funny how those things go.

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Part III:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign . . . from “Signs,”

by the Five Man Electrical Band

I suppose we should have picked up earlier on some of the tell-tale signs after the experiment began. But we were so astonished with the early results that what’s a few ominous tell-tale signs?

Really, almost immediately hair was growing . . . and profusely! I never knew what Timberwolf was doing because he sedated me. Cal had to sit and wait through the sessions, and then drive me home. It took me a couple of days to recuperate each time.

First sign: tremendous thirst. I couldn’t drink enough water. I could go through a gallon of water in less than an hour.

Timberlake said the follicle roots needed a lot of moisture, and reminded me how my initial skin tests indicated a dry bed.

Second sign: I couldn’t go through the meat department in the grocery store without loading my cart with armfuls of steak and roasts and other red meat. I spent a month’s grocery budget on meat on one trip.

Timberlake said that the body needs tremendous amounts of iron in order for the hair to take permanent “possession”, he called it, of the scalp and body.

Third sign: My hearing became so acute I could hear roaches skittering across the countertops in the kitchen at night.

Timberlake explained that heightened senses were a common reaction to other participants, and that things will go back to normal eventually.

Fourth sign: The ends of my fingers began to itch, and scratch as I might, I could not relieve them.

He wasn’t sure why that was. Other participants experienced itching in their toes and tailbone.

Fifth sign: Peabody started growling at me for no reason at all. And he wouldn’t come when I called him, but slinked into another area of my apartment.

I never mentioned this to Timberwolf. I figured, what would he know about dogs?

Sixth sign (and you won’t believe this one): I actually started seeing smells! No lie! When it first happened I was resting on the couch after one of my sessions with Timberwolf, and I had some chicken giblets simmering in a pan to make chicken stock. I saw an orangish-brown ribbony cloud come out of the pan and spread through the room! It was the smell of the giblets cooking!

On the subway going to work one morning, someone in the car I was in farted, and I saw the fart and traced it back to the person!

I won’t begin to tell you everything I’ve seen and smelled since. I began to think I should seriously consider becoming a crime detective, because I could, literally, smell out the crooks!

I never mentioned this to Timberwolf because I was afraid he might think I was losing it, and either stop or cut back on the treatments.

Seventh sign: aggression. I’m normally a peaceful and passive guy. About a month into treatments I literally turned on my supervisor and let him have it over a project I was working on. Frank — my supervisor — is very assertive himself (we called him Alpha Wonder behind his back), and did not like to be argued with. That day — I don’t know — I felt cornered, and this huge swell of angry emotion exploded! Frank backed down — which he never does — and then he seemed to tip-toe around my cubicle after that. Everyone at work wanted to know what I have on him.

And I don’t. Have anything on Frank, that is.

Again, everyone goes through life cycles, and I figured that this was one of mine. This one had its benefits.

So when you put all of these things together in a list, there you are — it shoulda caught our attention.

But it didn’t. Calyssa was so ecstatic about running her fingers through my thick brown hair (it was actually multi shades of brown and black and a little blonde mixed in) that the obvious wasn’t obvious to either of us.

Well, there was another sign as well: my labido. My sexual prowess had been heightened by an exponential factor of about three, and Cal said I was like an animal in the sack. My positional preferences changed as well, and I liked — well, you know — doggy-style.

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Part IV: Grandma . . . what big teeth you have!

I think it was when hair began to grow in on my ears, the nape of my neck, and under my eyes, plus the trip to the dentist, that did the trick.

Timberwolf said hirsuteness was not uncommon, and had told me at the beginning that I would probably see hair in places hair had never been before.

I thought maybe part of the treatment was steroids, because I noticed my chest and shoulders and haunches bulking up. But he said steroids were not being used. He said I should enjoy the changes.

Then my mouth started to ache, and became so sore the gums swelled up and began to bleed when I brushed.

So I went to the dentist, who oohed and ahaad for nearly twenty minutes before he popped up from my mouth and announced he needed a new set of X-rays.

I asked why, but my mouth was so full of cotton and he was so intense I’m sure either he didn’t understand me, or hear me, or both.

“Do you have any unusual dental history in your family?” he asked after the images were taken.

“None I can think of.”

“I’ve seen this before — not very often, mind you. You have new incisors growing in on both the top and bottom locations. They really aren’t incisors in the normal sense — they are very pointed — more like canine teeth.”

“What?”

“Like I said, it’s unusual — well, really unusual — but, it has happened before and there are a few dental papers on the subject. That’s why I asked about your family history.”

“How did this happen?”

“I have no idea. If you like, I can have them surgically removed, and you won’t have to worry with them. I mean, they are going to push out your permanent incisors in four places if we don’t. The roots of those teeth may already be cut by the canines and dead. I’m not sure we can save them, and we’d probably need to put in either a bridge on top and bottom, or my favorite solution: implants.”

So, as he prattled on, my mind kept hearing the ka-ching of the cash register. Jeesh!

“If you didn’t want to do anything, I guess the positive end of the story is you’d never have to dress up for Halloween!” he laughed. “The teeth? Get it?”

I got it.

So Cal and I talked it over, and decided to confront Dr. Timberwolf together.

We handed him a written list of the various evidences of which we had come to be aware. I also had a copy of my latest dental X-rays.

We sat in his office quietly while he read, examined, and digested what we had gathered. Finally he looked up from behind his desk, adjusted his glasses, and sat back.

“Just what would you have me to do?”

“Stop the treatments,” Calyssa said quickly, “and do whatever is necessary to reverse what’s going on!”

I nodded silently, scratching the hairy nape of my neck with itching fingers.

“Well, that ship has sailed, folks — for parts unknown,” he said slowly in a low voice. “And coming back is impossible.”

I felt the surge of anger as it pulsed up my spine. It was all I could do to contain myself.

“I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear, Rom, but it’s all I can tell you. If I stopped the treatments, there’s no telling what would happen. In fact, after the first three treatments, everything I’ve been doing has been to hold things in check.”

“You mean you knew these things were going to happen?” I growled.

“I didn’t exactly know. But due to the animal trials, I had a strong premonition things could progress in this direction.”

“What the hell direction are we ‘progressing’ in?” I stood and shouted, slamming my fists on his desk.

“Sit, Rom!” Timberwolf hissed between his teeth, which he bared as he stood defensively. He seemed larger than I remembered. Bulkier about the shoulders and upper arms. A bit hairier himself.

Startled and confused by his reaction, I sat. Cal bowed her head in obeisance.

“If you will remember, I said that you may not like the results. But, you are not the only one involved in this experiment, and I can tell you that I have made significant strides at control.”

“Control? What the hell are you controlling?”

“I can’t tell you that. But, here’s the good news: I am about to launch an advertising campaign with you as my centerpiece — and the results will pay handsomely, I am certain.”

“Wait — you’re going to release these treatments to the public?”

“I said if it proved successful with you, that you would become my spokesperson. And it is immensely successful — well, with one or two drawbacks — but you have that with any new product!”

“My teeth are more than a drawback! Hair all over my face — drawbacks!”

“I’ll give you that, sure. But not insurmountable. Look, I’ll cover the dental work costs, if that’s what’s worrying you. And, I’ve got some depilatory products in the works for your face and ears. You do like most of the enhancements, yes? You have a handsome mane, and your sex drive?”

“So, you plan to fully disclose the possible reactions to your treatments?”

“Like I said, Rom, the benefits outweigh the inconveniences . . .”

“These are way more than inconveniences!”

“Perhaps we should let our consumers judge that for themselves.”

“Our? When did this become a we thing?”

“When you signed the contract.”

“Well, then, I want out of the contract.”

“Then you’re willing to pay me what you promised if you break the contract?”

“Wha — ?”

“Again, the contract. See, Rom, like so many who want something so badly, you failed to read the fine print — both you and Calyssa. And in the fine print is an agreement you will want to consider carefully before you back out.”

So, he had me. By the proverbial testes. He was Pavlov in disguise, using both punishment and reward to get the desired results. If I played the game and ran the obstacle course for him, I would get a treat. If not, a punishment.

I’ve always preferred a treat over a punishment. I don’t know, I’m different that way, I guess.

 

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Part V: A star is born

Time was of the essence, to Timberwolf. At first, I was scheduled for commercial filming, ad photography, and appearances on Donahue and The Tonight Show.

Both Phil and Johnny took positions of skepticism, even though I was armed with before pictures of myself over the years. I gave the spiel, and took everything in a good-natured manner. Timberwolf actually had to give me a sedative to keep me from getting angry and exploding on national TV.

There were also infomercials, and the combination lit up sales. Sales were, of course, sessions with Timberwolf at incredibly exorbitant prices — and were, by nature, booked by the rich and the famous — which also helped spread the word.

Cal and I were somewhat appeased by the six-figure check Timberwolf deposited into my checking account, and it was easy to get lulled into the sense of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That had to do mainly with the money, not the continued physical degradations.

We had the oral surgery, and the canine teeth were extracted. Like my dentist feared, the four incisors were dead — their roots cut by the canines. So those teeth were also pulled.

The dentist had to pack the holes with donor bone marrow grafts. I didn’t ask where the grafts originated, but I had visions of grave robbers late at night working under a full moon.

The problem is that the bone marrow grafts had to take hold over several months to become a part of my jaw bone. The next process would be drilling holes into those four places and screwing in the metal bases for the implants.

During that waiting period — guess what? More canines developed.

So the dentist advised to let the canines come in. Then he would cap them, and they would look normal. I wondered why the hell he didn’t think of that one in the first place.

The canines came in, two on the top and two on the bottom. I looked like Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man. The capping had to wait, though — according to the dentist.

Because of that, and because the office banter about me being a werewolf, and because I was bringing in pretty good money from Timberwolf, I quit my job.

With Cal, things were beginning to become more than a little dicey.

We couldn’t go out without attracting a lot of attention. I never dreamed publicity would become the big problem in our relationship — but it had.

She hated it. Privacy could only be had if we stayed in and ordered out. There’s only so much Chinese one can stomach.

And, my action de faire l’amour became more and more beastly to her. I nipped her once on the neck, and she had to go to an urgent care for stitches. When the doctor asked, she said that her dog had bitten her when they were wrestling on the floor.

“You probably ought to check to make sure your dog is free of rabies,” she cautioned Cal.

“Yeah. I thought of that already.”

At the same time, it seemed like werewolfism had become a national fetish. An American Werewolf in London grossed over $30 million at the box office. Even Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer jumped on the band wagon in Wolf.

Biters were everywhere, in every story and every film.

And wherever I went, the same question: Are you a werewolf?

To which I answered, “No! Of course not!”

“What about the teeth and the hair?”

On every full moon the paparazzi and other news media and reporters gathered outside my apartment building and waited for me to leave. I used to be able to ride the subways or the buses, but no longer.

National Inquirer had me featured every other day on their covers.

WOLF MAN SIRES BABY WITH MICHAEL JACKSON’S SISTER and more.

It went on unending. And it became more and more difficult to cope. More than once I struck out at cameras and reporters, snarling and growling out my frustration. Every time I rued my action, as cameras clicked and caught me looking like a damn werewolf.

Cal and I broke up. Yes, it was all over the tabloids. Even ET Tonight covered it. And when Cal began seeing other men, she was tailed and never got any privacy. I think she went through half a dozen before it was finally over.

Like so many celebrities, my star rose quickly and brilliantly — like a Nova. But like all stars, like all rising suns, there is the inevitable sunset.

 

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Part VI:

Ain’t it any wonder that we hate to see the sun go down?

“Werewolf,” Five Man Electrical Band

An ultimate showdown with Timberwolf was inevitable.

He had cut off communications with me — wouldn’t answer my calls. He ended our weekly sessions because he had become so busy with the rich and famous.

Checks were no longer deposited in my bank account. He sent a registered letter citing the fact that since I refused to be available for publicity events, that voided the payment part of our contract. I wasn’t, of course. I mean, what normal persons would continue to expose themselves to the media hounds?

I was isolated.

Calyssa had moved on; I had no job, though money for the moment wasn’t an issue. For the future, no doubt I could wrangle a book deal, as long as I was still a hot commodity. And as far as I knew, I was. I couldn’t remember if that was barred by the contract or not — selling my story, I mean.

My condition grew more aggravated. More hair in more places. My fingernails began to round out — like a dog’s toenails. The good thing was that I could extend my leg up and back and scratch my neck with my toenails. I guess that was good. Certainly odd.

I gave up the canned dog food. Why eat by-products when I could afford steaks again?

When I went to bed I had to use the whole bed (I bought a king-size bed: California King), as I would have to rustle about quite a bit until I found a position that was comfortable.

Peabody had come to the point he couldn’t stay. He shivered around me — hiding behind the couch, and he began to lose weight. I finally called Calyssa who mercifully agreed to take him as long as I footed the food and vet bills, which I did.

That was an awkward moment.

“How are you?”

“Well, as you can see, a bit hairier and long in the tooth,” I joked.

She didn’t laugh. She leashed Peabody and I carried his stuff to her car out on the street. She had left the city and was living with an artist who was living with his parents in Upper Westchester County.

We didn’t kiss, or hug or even shake hands. It was obvious she did not want any physical contact with me.

Then she and Peabody drove off.

I guess it was a coincidence that the day Cal picked up Peabody was also the night of the full moon that month. Maybe not. Maybe there are no coincidences. Maybe everything is backed by some cosmic grand scheme and we all are just players, like Shakespeare said.

It must have been part of that cosmic design that I wrap myself up in a heavy raincoat and hat and walk the twenty-six blocks to Timberwolf’s office. I didn’t dare take the subway or the buses. And the walk did me good. Helped me to think through and imagine the confrontation and all of the possible scenarios, none of which ended good.

Lexington Avenue. He had moved up in the world over the last year. Life was good. His storefront windows, now protected with a heavy accordion gate, were plastered with the pictures of some of his clientele — the ones who wanted to bask in the limelight. Rock stars, whose diminishing and receding hairlines were a threat to their careers; actors used to tossing wavy locks on screen and batting dark eyes. It was rumored that Sean Connery was a client. Pernell Roberts was another thought to have sought Timberwolf out. Both had balding issues.

An alley down the side of the building led to an irregular court where I knew a back door existed. I had used that back door many times to avoid paparazzi. Though locked, I had come prepared with a small crowbar, and in the bathlight of the moon, summoned strength enough to jimmy the door open.

It was dark. But then, my heightened senses came to my aid, and I easily wound through hallways and up stairs to Timberwolf’s office.

I could smell him. I could hear him rambling about, and dictating notes.

He was startled when he finally noticed me in the door frame of his inner office. But he calmed almost immediately.

“I thought you might come by sometime. And, it is a full moon,” he said, smiling. A genuine smile, not a leer.

“I’m not a werewolf,” I answered, stepping into the office.

“I know.”

“But I need to know how to stop all of this,” I said, touching my face and barring my teeth.

“That’s simple. Click your heels three times and repeat ‘There’s no place like home.'”

“It’s not funny.”

“I’m not trying to be.” He put his dictation recorder down and moved around to the front of his desk, and leaned against its front edge.

“You’ve had the ability to return things back the way they were since we began our sessions. Like Dorothy.”

“Don’t make me angry! I may not be a werewolf, but I have fangs and claws and the power of a beast, and I’m becoming more of a beast every second you fool around with me!”

“Rom, what do you think I introduced into your body that precipitated your hair growth and all of the other changes you’ve experienced?”

“How would I know that?”

“You’re not stupid. I thought you might have figured it out by now — all this time. Let me show you.”

He walked to a closet and pulled out a clear IV bag full of clear fluid. I had seen them many times. Saline. He laid it on his desk.

“This is what you got.”

I stepped forward and picked up the bag.

“So what’s in it?” I asked.

“Saline.”

“What else?”

“Nothing.”

He watched as I began to spiral down into confusion.

“I didn’t change you at all, Rom — you did. How? you ask. By your own will and volition. All I did was throw in a little encouragement, a few prompts and some suggestive comments, and you did all the rest.”

“But the hair — my senses!”

“All in your mind. At first. The brain is an awesome organ, Rom. It’s power is untapped. Even Jesus said you could move mountains if you believed. If you just believed! Imagine what else is at your fingertips if you just believe?

“That’s what separates the geniuses of the world from the rest of the herd. It isn’t that anyone is really smarter — or has a better brain than anyone else. It is that the Chopins and Mozarts and Einsteins believed something. Or, from the other direction, refused to believe something — that it cannot be done! That new music, or a medical cure or anything else that never was can exist just by thinking so! Or the myriad of things that fail to exist because someone can’t believe it.

“My favorite musical is Music Man. Know why? A genuine shyster of a guy goes to a small town in Iowa and teaches kids to play band instruments using the think method. What a scam! He sells the town instruments and uniforms and never teaches a lick of proper music. And when he is found out and about to be tarred and feathered, a miracle! The kids play their instruments. Why? Because that shyster made them believe they could.”

“And you’re the shyster.”

“In a way. I’ve studied human behavior for a long, long time, Rom. Not as a professional, but as a bystander — watching what makes the difference between the geniuses and the vast majority.

“You were part of the vast majority, my friend. You came to me with the very sincere goal of pleasing your girlfriend. Do you remember that? And when I offered you the remotest possibility of doing that? Why you grabbed at it with all your heart — and most importantly — all of your mind. In doing that, you stepped over the line from run-of-the-mill to extraordinary.”

“So I talked myself into my predicament?”

“You convinced yourself to the very roots that new hair was possible. And along with that, you heightened your senses to the point your sight and hearing and, yes, your sense of smell were boosted well beyond normal. You did that!”

“What about the teeth? You telling me I did that?”

“The teeth did surprise me. But it told me that you had dug so deeply into your mind you were able to make that happen. I frankly would have been satisfied at the hair and would have left it at that. But I think the other things were gravy for you, and I believe you rather enjoyed them.”

“Well — but then everything –”

“Yes. Everything changed for the worse. I’m sorry for that, I really am. The media — the tabloids — Calyssa. Those were unexpected consequences.”

“How do I go back?”

“Not sure you can. It’s so deep in your psyche, now,” he said, rounding the desk and sitting down. “Plus, I don’t think that I can trust that you would keep quiet about all this. It would be not only embarrassing, but devastating to me. They don’t give these Lexington Avenue offices away for free, you know, and I’ve grown accustomed to my work. It’s not everyone that is sought after by celebrities and the rich. Some of the most famous persons you know of call me by my first name.”

“If I can believe that I can grow hair and believe I’m turning into a dog, it should be no problem to believe something I desperately want,  and to go back to just me the way I was before all of this.”

“When I said I wasn’t sure you could, I may have stretched the truth a bit.”

“So what else is new?”

Timberwolf pulled open a drawer. He reached in and withdrew a pistol, which he placed on his desk.

“I guess what I really meant to say was you can’t go back to the way it was because I won’t allow it.”

“So you shoot me?”

Timberwolf picked up the pistol and stood. I wondered if he had loaded it with silver bullets.

“You came here on a full moon. Before my eyes you transformed into a hulking animal. I had no choice. You see, belief also takes its form from mass hysteria. Elvis and The Beatles mesmerized America through it. Hitler used it to conquer most of Europe and to convince his minions to murder millions of Jews.

“Who wouldn’t believe me? The tabloids will resurrect dozens of photos of you from past issues. So will the major news media. You are the dark boogie man that has preyed on our imaginations for decades. Evil incarnate. And, an unfortunate error for which I will take full responsibility publicly, while avowing I have discovered and remedied those mistakes for the sake of my current and future clients.”

“Timberwolf!” I growled authentically. The electric current of rage shot through every part of my body, and I felt every ionic particle.

“Oh, you might as well know that’s not my real name. It’s Johnson. George Johnson. How ordinary and plain.

“Timberwolf — clever, don’t you think? A play on your mind as well. I bet you thought I was treating myself, too. And the other Beta patients? None. You were my one and only — and so successful! I never dreamed — well, no, that’s not true. I did more than dream — I believed!

“I now find myself in the company of so many who were able to pull so much out of so many little people! FDR. Stalin. Jim Jones and Jim and Tammy Bakker! God, the list goes on. Of course, not all ended well. And a bad ending is not a fate I intend to experience, Romulus.

“Ironic, no? Romulus. The Romulus Experiment. The perfect name for the perfect experiment. I owe you much. And you owe me quite a bit as well. So let’s call it even, shall we?”

What happened next was a blur. The police say Timberwolf fired off a shot in defense and wounded me, but not enough to stop me.

I apparently leapt over the desk and ripped his throat open with my fangs.

Then I called the police, and they and EMTs arrived, but too late. Timberlake died as a result of bleeding out through his jugular.

At the moment he died our contract became null and void.

At my trial I told the story as I knew it, but no one believed me. Some of Timberwolf’s rich and famous clients testified by affidavit — they knew better than to appear at so public an event. They testified that the “doctor” was legit. Who would ever question their testimony?

Even Calyssa appeared. But for the prosecution, not for me. There wasn’t anyone who could testify in my behalf.

As far as an insanity defense, the judge ruled with the expert testimony of the prosecution. The shrink said since I walked twenty-six blocks from my apartment to Timberwolf’s apartment, consciously avoiding public transportation or taking a cab, I was able to discern between right and wrong. It showed my intent was premeditated.

Also, as Timberwolf had cut off my income (by my own testimony —  against my lawyer’s advise), I had motive.

It was an open and shut case.

Still, everyone — and I mean everyone — thinks that I am a werewolf.

So here I am in prison — bald and fat. I can’t sell my story on account of the Berkowitz law, but despite that, unauthorized and speculative books and movies have come out. None begins to approach the truth.

I am waiting to be contacted by some wide-eyed novice journalist who wants to make a name for herself by getting my story. That will happen eventually. I believe it.

For the time being, though, I may as well be Hannibal Lecter.

The good side to that is all the other inmates and prison guards keep their distance, fearing I will transform and rip them to pieces. You see, I decided not to cap the fangs.

The bad thing is each month during the full moon, I am shackled by my wrists and ankles to the wall of a solitary confinement cell.

Ahhh-woooooooo!

 

Copyright © by L. Stewart Marsden, 1 April, 2014. All rights reserved.
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