Jake steps into the hall and comes across a staircase that he had never noticed before. The staircase leads to a suite of lavishly furnished rooms. This old house is grander than he had known.
One of the rooms contains a row of beds, all made up and empty. Too many beds for a children’s bedroom. More like a ward of hospital beds awaiting accident victims on a Saturday night.
Who are they for?
Another room appears to be a study. There is an oak desk littered with old claims checks and unanswered letters, a lamp and a swivel chair. Bookshelves, except that the spines on these books have no names on them. Faces dance in picture frames. Jake sees a girl he knew once in one. The girl committed suicide when she was just twenty-five years old, following a liaison with a deadbeat from the mill.
A group of people are gathered in a laundry room across the hall. Sigmund Freud, the foreman at the mill, the Marquis de Sade, Linda from Human Resources, a long-haired pitcher from Paraguay—Jesus something or other, and the kid from Leave It to Beaver. Last month the foreman fired Jake. Something to do with a lack of commitment. Now he has the nerve to invite himself to his home! The whole charade smacks of the game of Clue and while the-foreman-in-the-office-with-a-pink-slip might seem the logical choice, Jake has a better idea.
A fancy bathroom with a giant portrait of Quasimodo on the wall facing the commode.
Jake takes advantage of the opportunity to relieve himself. When he gets out his father is standing there. This is strange because the man died ten years ago, but it would be rude to point this out.
How’s it hangin’, sport? his father says.
Jake looks down and checks himself, then snatches up a loose-leaf binder from the shelf over the sink and waves it in the air.
Lookee here, it’s done! Stayed up all night to finish it.
How’s that for commitment, his father shouts through a hole in the wall. Half his life and the bum leaves it to the last freaking day.
This is one f-word that Jake has never heard the old man use before.
It’s a family show, explains the Beaver.
Linda looks at her watch. Time to go, pumpkin, she says as she bends over to button Jake’s coat and kiss him goodbye. Freud and the Marquis exchange a wry grin as she heads off to commune with Quasimodo.
Jake is presenting his report to the science class—on the role of recombinant DNA in the development of the mushroom. There is a new teacher standing at the back of the classroom. The teacher looks suspiciously like Jake’s father, except that he has long hair like Jesus that completely covers his face.
Jake’s classmates are cheering and clapping, and he feels very proud. But behind the hair, the teacher is mad.
The teacher reaches into his pants and pulls out a switch. He then accuses Jake of lying, though Jake has never lied but once or twice in his entire life. Once to a girl who turned up on a slab with a belly full of Drano, and once about his name. Turns out that Jake’s real name is Bryan, and Bryan has a pet rat named Percy that he keeps hidden in a box in a closet under the stairs and brings out when things get rough.
On your bike, bitch, says the teacher after the whipping but Jake’s butt is too sore to even consider it. Besides, he never even owned a bike though he does happen to know some boys on the East Side who could fix him up with one on the fly.
See, now this here is exactly what I’m talking about, says the teacher to the class. He’s a BUM. Always was and always—
All I ever wanted was for you to love me!
Jake screams at his tormentor, but the message goes unheard because Jake’s features are starting to melt into the shape of the girl he once knew, and it is himself that he is addressing.
It feels as though Jake has been gone forever, though in reality it may have been just an instant. When he finally arrives home, bloody and bruised, everybody has left apart from Freud and the Marquis, and the two of them are on the phone with Tony Soprano arranging for a pick-up of wet goods.
Seeking a different form of closure, Jake calls up a psychic help line and speaks with a woman named Wanda. Wanda tells Jake that his name is not really Jake—who does he think he’s kidding, doesn’t he know that she’s a psychic—and if he can only get all this craziness out of his head then one day he will be elected Minister for Foreign Affairs and he will appoint a rat as his Deputy.
Jake says that he hopes this call is not costing anything because she’s full of it, and Wanda assures him that all 1-900 numbers are free of charge.
After they get off the phone, Percy tells Jake to look in the trunk in the closet under the stairs.
Jake opens up the trunk and inside he finds a box full of dreams.
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