A really short story about the day middle apple was diagnosed

After they came back from the clinic, mother left the house quietly and went out for a drive alone. No one said anything, only because there was nothing that needed to be said. Everyone already knew what was going to happen out there on the road. Mother would step on the accelerator furiously, play CCR on the stereo with the speakers blasting at full volume, and give hell to any fool who tried to get in her way. The drive, that was mother’s thing, her cocaine, her way of dealing with pain. Still a touch of the 70’s chick about her, ghosts of Patti LaBelle and Joan Baez summoned from the grave of her flower child heydays. She would start with side two of Cosmo’s Factory, go repeat, repeat, repeat on the first song Up Around the Bend and shout passionately along in her attractive husky voice –

There’s a place up ahead and I’m goin’ just as fast as my feet can fly
Come away, come away if you’re goin’, leave the sinkin’ ship behind.

Come on the risin’ wind, we’re goin’ up around the bend.

Catch a ride to the end of the highway and we’ll meet by the big red tree,
There’s a place up ahead and I’m goin’, come along, come along with me.

Yeah! Do do doo do…


Mother had a lot going on in her mind. That very evening, the doctor, in his infinite wisdom, had concluded that the middle one among her three perfect shiny apples was bipolar. Without any shadow of doubt. 

And then everything had been so confusing after he had dropped that bomb. All those big words that he had used, her symmetrical world crashing all around her, and God those papers! so many white papers, hundreds of them, so many questions that middle apple had answered at Doctor’s command…She needed to forget about all those things and block them out, if only for a little while, drive faster, turn the music even louder, get away...There’s a place up ahead…John Fogerty started singing again for maybe the ninth time (she had lost count), and mother kept on driving faithfully to the music…


Back at home, middle apple was in her room, looking intently at her face in the mirror. Doctor had used a single term to describe her avalanches, so succinct he had been. But then, what did it mean, to have a name for the things going on inside her head, the hurricanes and the tidal waves? He had gone on and on about her fluctuating episodes to mother, and that had made her feel like a daytime soap opera. She peered closer into the mirror and noticed the little maps on her face – the continents on her forehead and around her eyes, that wide sea beside her mouth, etched on her face, ‘maybe they’re all so prominent because of the episodes,’ she thought, and tried each one of them again just for size. An unquiet mind, that is what he had also said. Bipolar. Mercurial. Such subversive words. Why this desire to name things and put people in a box? And slowly, she started worrying about the treatments that were to follow. Would she need to be medicated, and then eventually hospitalized, like those girls in the movies? She started having visions of her head slowly turning into a cabbage, tasteless, colorless, her restless brain ricocheting inside its putrescent shell. She sat there unseeingly for a long time, chain-smoking, fidgeting with the silver ring on her right hand, thinking, unthinking, and then little by little, she started remembering Brautigan’s Private Eye Lettuce and smiled a bit to herself. Good old Brautigan and his delicious poems that taste just like wafers made with honey. It all came back to her in tiny bits and parts, each one about the size of a single coriander seed. She recited the poem out loud at her reflection, maps on her face and all:

Three crates of Private Eye Lettuce,
the name and drawing of a detective
with magnifying glass on the sides
of the crates of lettuce,
form a great cross in man’s imagination
and his desire to name
the objects of this world.
I think I’ll call this place Golgotha
and have some salad for dinner.

She had just been objectified that evening, turned into a walking comedy of errors, a sitcom that only bored housewives and grandmothers bothered to watch. And yet, yet still, she had never felt this fundamentally human ever before. So strange. She felt a huge tidal bore forming around her mouth and gave in to it freely, the waves crashing all around her, taking her along for the bumpy ride, eventually unseating her from the chair – I think I’ll call this place Golgotha and have some salad for dinner.


Story by Ruati Chhangte. This is a work of fiction. All Rights Reserved.

All illustrations by Alyssa Pachuau for The Mean Journal.

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