Meeting the little man who isn’t there is rated
an horrendous experience. But discovery that the
man is there may be even worse.
The slick black car sped along the wide and straight street. It came to a smooth stop in front of a clean white house. A man got out of the car and walked briskly to the door. Reaching out with a pink hand, he pressed the doorbell with one well-manicured finger.
The door was answered by a housewife. She was wearing a white blouse, a green skirt and a green apron trimmed with white. Her feet were tucked into orange slippers, her blonde hair was done up in a neat bun. She was dressed as the government had ordered for that week.
The man said, “You are Mrs. Christopher Nest?”
There was a trace of anxiety in her voice as she answered. “Yes. And you are... ?”
“My name is Maxwell Hanstark. As you may already know, I am the official psychiatrist for this district. My appointment will last until the end of this year.”
Mrs. Nest invited him in. They stepped into a clean living-room. At one end was the television set, at the other end were several chairs. There was nothing between the set and the chairs except a large grey rug which stretched from wall to wall. They walked to the chairs and sat down.
“Now, just what is the matter with your husband, Mrs. Nest?”
Mrs. Nest reached into a large bowl and absently picked up a piece of stale popcorn. She daintily placed it in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully before she answered.
“I wish I knew. All he does all day long is sit in the backyard and stare at the grass. He insists that he is standing on top of a cliff.”
Hanstark took out a small pad and a short ball-point pen. He wrote something down before he spoke again. “Is he violent? Did he get angry when you told him there was no cliff?”
Mrs. Nest was silent for a moment. A second piece of popcorn joined the first. Hanstark’s pen was poised above the pad. “No. He didn’t get violent.”
Hanstark wrote as he asked the next question. “Just what was his reaction?”
“He said I must be crazy.”
“Were those his exact words?”
“No. He said that I was”-- She thought for a moment--”loco. Yes, that was the word.”
“Yes. He said it just like those cowboys on the television.”
Hanstark looked puzzled. “Perhaps you had better tell me more about this. When did he first start acting this way?”
Mrs. Nest glanced up at the television set, then back at Hanstark. “It was right after Texas Week. You remember--they showed all of those old cowboy pictures.”
“Well, he stayed up every night watching them. Some nights he didn’t even go to sleep. Even after the set was off, he sat in one of the chairs, just staring at the screen. This morning, when I got up, he wasn’t in the house. I looked all over but I couldn’t find him. I was just about ready to phone the police when I glanced out the window into the backyard. And I saw him.”
“What was he doing?”
“He was just sitting there in the middle of the yard, staring. I went out and tried to bring him into the house. He told me he had to watch for someone. When I asked him what he was talking about he told me that I was crazy. That was when I phoned you, Mr. Hanstark.”
“A very wise move, Mrs. Nest. And would you show me where your husband is right now?”
She nodded her head and they both got up from the chairs. They walked through the dining-room and kitchen. On the back porch Hanstark came to a halt.
“You’d better stay here, Mrs. Nest.” He walked to the door and opened it.
“Mr. Hanstark,” Mrs. Nest called.
Hanstark turned and saw her standing next to the automatic washing machine. “Yes?”
“Please be careful.”
Hanstark smiled. “I shall be, Mrs. Nest.”