Tessa Castree

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Double Chocolate

The ice cream Dr Roberts bought Brian was delicious, double chocolate with nuts. He ate it slowly; lately there hadn’t been enough ice cream in his life.

The doctor was enjoying his, too, but he had to drive at the same time. Brian looked out the car window at the lovely homes with their gracious gardens and wide porches. Some had statues or large potted plants. It was like watching TV, real and unreal at the same time.

Dr Roberts put his ice cream between his knees; he needed two hands to turn into the hospital drive.

‘Are you getting out?’ he said.

Brian focused his eyes and saw that they were parked outside the ward. There was Janine smoking beside the double doors with a couple of people. He didn’t know if they were new people or her visitors.

The doctor sometimes wore jeans, and a casual Bob Charles knit shirt. The yellow one didn’t suit his fair complexion. He had a thin Pākehā face with a biggish hooked nose and upward-pointing chin. He reminded Brian of a Toby Jug or a Punch ’n’ Judy puppet. When it was court day, Dr Roberts walked like a handsome man in his dark suit.

The only thing Brian could remember about his arrival on the ward two months ago was the hospital orderlies who had accompanied him. They must have thought he needed help, but he couldn’t think why. He wished he could remember more but these days he walked around in a blur. He’d rather be his old self, full of energy and plans. He’d told Dr Roberts this several times during their cosy chats in the doctor’s office.

‘It’s a balancing act, Brian,’ the doctor had said. ‘How you were was not reality. High as a kite and very vulnerable to exploitation from others.’

Brian had wondered where Dr Roberts had got that from.

‘No I wasn’t! I felt really good most of the time. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep but it was much better than this. Now I feel half dead.’

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