Puppy for Sale

by James Matthews

Chapter 14

Push the Stool Away

I was two days into my lockdown as I referred to it, and to be honest, I wasn't finding it at all bad. In fact, it had given me time to evaluate my future. More and more now, I was starting to imagine a life beyond Greenstone. I pictured walking amongst flowers, going to the shops and trying McDonalds for the first time... yeah I know, such random things.

Cindy, it was obvious, was avoiding me. I had knocked on her door several times to find out what was going on with her, and why she had made this supposed phone call to my father. On my fourth attempt of trying she came to her door and told me she needed some space and that she would knock for me when she felt ready. I had known Cindy long enough to realise this was her way of dealing with embarrassment.

As for me, I was feeling optimistic. I had written down some more questions that I wanted to ask Max. I had made a list of all the things I wanted to do when I got out. I knew that stuff cost money so I kept most of them simple, like going for ice-cream in the summer, or trying out ten pin bowling.

Most of what I knew about life came from the TV sadly. Being at Greenstone, I never got to leave the grounds. Because of that, I never knew what went on outside of its walls. I think that's what scared me most, even more so than meeting my dad's family.

Speaking of my dad, it was now only a few days until I would see him again and more importantly only a few days until I could experience leaving here for the weekend. Excitement battled with anxiety for top spot. What was his wife like, would Steven accept me, did he have a big house, did he keep pets... so many questions that I had forgotten to ask when I last saw him, but it didn't matter. What mattered was, soon I would be able to ask these questions whenever I wanted to, and in some cases actually see the answers for myself.

I awoke to a pressure on my mattress. My room was pitch black and I scrambled to find the light switch on my lamp, feeling a sense of terror as to what might be in my room. I managed to get hold of the wire and I let my hand travel up it, to the small button.

As soon as I pressed it the room was thrown into a dull yellow light and I could see Cindy sitting on my bed through my squinting eyes.

"Shhh," she said, as I jumped up.

"Cin... Cindy what time is it?"

"Just after two in the morning, I'm sorry, I had to see you, I was just lying there awake driving myself nuts."

"Cindy, if you get caught in here we are BOTH history," I whispered, looking over to my door, making sure it was closed.

Cindy didn't reply, she didn't seem to care. Her face told me her mind was troubled and it was all I could do not to hug her, but I had questions, to only which, she had the answers. I felt mad towards her, but also sadness. I wanted to blame her for my outburst, but I knew it was me who was the blame. If the truth be known, my mood had been declining overall since my dad left and I was unable to stop it so far. I knew things were going to get worse even if I did briefly feel good for a moment. I knew the patterns! However, right now, all the thoughts that ran through my head were centered on a phone call... a phone call she had made.

"I did a really silly thing, Puppy," She said, almost starting to cry.

"Yeah, I am just starting to find that out. Do you wanna tell me what you were thinking?"

"Did I get you in trouble?" she asked, deciding to answer my question with one of her own. I wasn't impressed.

"Never mind that, why did you do it Cindy, you have put yourself, me and Max in a difficult place now."

"I just..." Cindy stopped, as if to gather her thoughts. She brushed her long hair out of her face and looked at me. "You're really going to leave here aren't you?"

I sighed. "It's a strong possibility, and I know this is hurting you, even when you say you are happy for me. I'm not stupid Cindy."

"I just called him because I... Oh, Puppy, I don't know why I called him. Call it Desperation, I guess."

"Listen, I can't imagine what you must be feeling right now. The closest I can get to knowing is thinking about how I feel myself about a life without you and that is bad enough. But to do what you did was totally the wrong way to go Cindy. If you had just let me speak to Max, I might have been able to do something."

"I didn't even know you had planned to speak to him, Puppy."

"Well, I hadn't, but after this I'm thinking that maybe I should have. It's not like I don't know how hard this is for the both of us. I guess up to now I never saw it as an option of you ever coming with me... God, I mean I don't even know how that would work."

"It's fine, Puppy, it was a stupid idea and a stupid thing to do. I hope it doesn't affect our friendship and I hope you can forgive me."

"Affect our... Cindy, of course it doesn't, I just wished you had not gone behind my back with this. That's what bothers me, because we share everything, including our feelings and issues."

"The thing with your dad was different, Puppy, how could I share that with you?"

"Well, you would have had to in the end, I mean, how on earth did you think that something like that could stay between you and my dad? It would look a bit strange if he turned up one day to collect you and no one knew anything about it."

"I didn't think that far ahead, like I said, I just felt desperate. When you left that number on Charlotte's desk it was just too tempting, and-"

"And did you think by not telling me what you were up to was the right thing to do?"

"Yes... no... I mean, shit, I don't know. I knew you might have found out at some point, but I hoped I could tell you before someone else did. I just didn't have the courage at the time and I didn't want you to know until after I had done it, I guess."

"Why?" I asked, probably looking perplexed.

"Because I knew you would tell me not to do it."

"Yes, I would have, but as I mentioned, if I knew, it would have also given me the idea to say something to my father instead of what is now a mess.

"And now all that is ruined." Cindy remarked, starting to gently weep.

'Hey, don't cry, it's cool, really. What did he say anyway?"


"Well I'm assuming you asked to go with me?"

"Oh, well I sort of did. I mean he was really polite and thoughtful but I knew after the call finished he was not thinking it could happen. It's was only a short call anyway, I told him I had class."

"I'm really sorry."

I leaned forward and put my arms around her. I knew how she must have felt. She had felt helpless and made a decision based on desperation, and now, with her plan in tatters she felt even worse. As I rocked back and forward with her I wondered what I could do. Even if I did talk to my father about her being adopted, what could he do? It was different for me I assumed, because I was his son, but Cindy? Well, that had to be a more complicated situation and one I doubted my dad would be willing to resolve. After all, it was me he put so much effort into finding.

The situation was complicated, but I knew what the likely outcome was going to be. I wanted Cindy more than anything to be happy. Ideally, I wanted her to be happy with me in her life, however my choices were limited. Either I took the only opportunity I was likely to get and join my father, or, sacrifice all of that and stay at Greenstone for the sake of Cindy not being alone. It was an almost impossible situation. By taking the first, I risk... well everything! By taking the latter, I make Cindy happy, but then run the risk of her finding a family and me being left here by myself.

"So, I never asked what did you say... I mean to my dad, how did you put it, when you called him?"

"I just asked him if I could come and live with you."

I screwed my face up. "What, just like that?"

"Pretty much. I just said if there was a chance, would he take me with you."

"And the answer was not what you wanted I gather from what you said just now?"

Cindy sighed. "He just said that it wasn't as simple as that, but he would look to speak to the home when he could. I Know he wasn't really keen though, I could hear it in his voice. As I say, that's about the moment I said I had class. Anyway he called the home and spoke to Sam Stillworth."

"You know about that?" I asked, oddly surprised.

"You don't think you were the only one who got a grilling do you?"

"Shit Cindy, I didn't even think to ask you about that, how did it go?"

"I got properly told off. Mr Watson said I could have put myself in danger, but I don't see how."

"Maybe he meant if you generally call strangers."

"But Max isn't a stranger, he's your dad, and I feel like I know him anyway."

"Yeah, but... look, never mind. I'm sorry to hear you got in trouble. I assume there will be no punishment for you?"

"Since I have a clean file Mr Watson told me he will not pursue it any further as long as your dad chooses not to make a complaint about the call, which apparently he isn't."

"I'm glad to hear it.

I stretched my arms out and produced a massive yawn. It was in no way a hint to Cindy that I was getting tired again, but she seemed to take it as one. Tapping my leg, she got up from my bed and kissed me on the cheek.

"Thanks for staying awake and chatting to me, I'm sorry I avoided you, I was just..."

"Embarrassed? Yeah, I know, and its cool. I'm glad you are feeling a little better about all of this.

"Do... do you think you can talk to your dad, about me possibly-"

"I'll talk to him Cindy, I promise I will talk to him," I said, cutting in. Cindy smiled at my answer, but her smile made me feel like I had just given her false hope.

Whoever knew a smile could make you feel so shit!

"I'll see you tomorrow Puppy, for breakfast, Shall I knock for you?"

"Sure Cindy, you do that."

Cindy opened the door and left my room, quietly closing it behind her. My body was tense until I heard her own door close, as only the sound of that told me no one had seen her leave my room.

The next day, or same morning, whatever way you want to look at it, I joined Cindy for breakfast as we agreed. I hadn't managed to sleep all that well for the remainder of the night and in turn this had left me grumpy as hell.

"What's up with you?" Cindy asked as I swirled around some porridge in my bowl.

"I'm tired, and feeling a little unbalanced."

"Have you taken your pills this morning?"

"Yes, Cindy I have taken my pills!" I snapped.

"Ok, no need to take it out on me. Perhaps you ought to go back to bed for a little while if you feel bad."

"I can't, I have a meeting with Doctor Listern in half an hour and then we have class remember?"

"I'm sure if you don't feel well you can skip class, Puppy."

"I don't want to skip class; it's the only time I can get out of my room at the moment."

"True, I guess. Do you fancy going down to the lake later on?"

"I can't, remember? I might just do some reading and try and get some more sleep if you don't mind."

"In that case, I might have a go at talking to Leah Jones today; see what I can find out."

"Well, if you do, just try and be tactful, we don't want another repeat of what happened to Billy, do we."

"Man, you are in a bad mood. Quit the sniping at me will you."

"I'm sorry; I'm just not good company right now."

I got up without saying anything more to Cindy and dumped my bowl on the trolley that housed all the dirty crockery. Without saying goodbye, I left through the double doors and headed towards Doctor Listern's office, not even bothering to look back at Cindy. It was nothing against her, I was just in my own thoughts and her keeping going on about pills, Leah Jones, my mood and god knows what else? Well, it was grating on me! On a normal day these things would not have bothered me which is why I knew there was something wrong and also why I had decided to visit Doctor Listern early.

On the way upstairs I could feel my mood and state of mind deteriorating. I wanted to punch a wall, it was starting to feel that bad. I knew I couldn't afford to get angry with anyone anymore, otherwise Charlotte's comment about my father not wanting me, or whatever she was suggesting, might start to hold some weight.

As I approached Listern's closed door, I heard this voice. Kick away the stool it whispered. I coughed and wretched, at the haunting sound. It was that voice. The voice I had not heard, or had to deal with in four years. I closed my eyes and backed up slowly until my ass hit the wall behind. My fists were clenched and mouth was tightly closed, indicating I was under stress. "Na nah mmm hm hm nana" I hummed, praying to God I didn't hear the voice again.

Possibly hearing the sound of my voice, Doctor Listern must have come out of his room because I heard him mutter something before tapping me on the shoulder. I slowly opened my eyes to see him staring at me with a curious look on his face.

"Puppy, is everything ok?"

I didn't say anything. I just closed my eyes again and continued to hum. I felt him slowly take my arm and lead me into his room. Once I heard his door close a sudden peace washed over me and I felt I could open my eyes and stop humming.

"Fascinating," Doctor Listern said quietly, before shaking his head.


"Were you meditating?"

"I was shit scared that's what I was doing... Doctor Listen, that voice is back?"

"Puppy, slow down and lets deal with one thing at a time. The words you used in the corridor, where did you learn them?"

"Words? No, I was just humming... Look, I really need to talk to you about that voice Doctor Listern; you said it would never come back."

"Puppy, I must ask you again, in the corridor, please think hard, do you remember saying any words."

"No, I told you, I was just humming to get away from that voice, why?"

Doctor Listern shook his head in astonishment. "Latin, Puppy, you used a Latin phrase right in the middle of other words I could not make sense of."

"Doctor Listern, unless I am totally losing it, which after hearing that voice again, I might be, then I assure you, I spoke no words."

"Puppy, I'm concerned, you are showing very mild signs of delusion." Doctor Listern said, quite matter of fact.

"I feel sane, maybe agitated and extremely low, but I don't feel like I'm going crazy."

"Hmm, well that's the beauty of being crazy, Puppy, the victims of craziness don't realise they are crazy."

"If you are looking to scare me Doctor, then its working... anyway, what was this word I was supposed to have said?"

"Not a word, Puppy, a phrase. You muttered the phrase semper ad meliora, and it's not something I have heard uttered since I was at University."

"Well, what does it mean? I read in history lesson that people who spoke Latin were sometimes possessed by the devil or some shit like that."

Doctor Listern laughed, throwing his head back. "Oh no puppy, that's just religious nonsense, I am however, intrigued as to where you learned it, and even more curious as to why you don't remember saying it. Anyway, you asked what it meant - roughly translated it means, always towards better things.

"Always towards better things?"

"Uh huh, fascinating you would say that. So anyway, tell me about this voice, you are sure it's the same one for a start?"

"Yes, definitely, like twisting wires and a bad radio signal."

"Well, you have been under a lot of stress lately. Perhaps because your mind knows you are afraid of the voice your subconscious brought it to the surface. It may just have been a one off Puppy. Or it could be the result of a reduction in your medication."

"A reduction?"

"Yes Puppy, since you have been Improving on the bipolar side of things and seem altogether happier of late, I took the decision to reduce your dosage on two of your key drugs."

"Why didn't you tell me? And just for the record, I don't feel happier, in fact I feel suicidle right now." Doctor Listern seem to brush off my latter comment, I must admit, I had said it lots of times.

"I didn't tell you because I wanted to see if there was a change, and telling you could act Psychosomatically, giving false results."

"In English please Doctor."

"I mean it could make you think you are getting worse when actually you might not be. Sometimes when people have something taken away from them, they automatically feel loss or feel the change. This is more often the brain playing a trick on them Puppy, and in fact there is no change whatsoever."

"I think I get it. But even you have to realise that reducing my pills, has lead to a change?"

"Mildly, Puppy yes, but I want to see how things go, your body needs time to adjust to the new pill doses and it's only normal there will be some changes to your mood. Although speaking Latin involuntarily wasn't on my list of side effects."

"Doctor, am I going to get worse?"

"Puppy, Mental health is a very complicated and delicate condition to treat. As you know, you have multiple issues being managed. Trying to get the correct drugs to manage this is challenging even when you are dealing with one condition, such as depression. It's a whole different game when you are trying to deal with three or four different kinds. You then also have to make sure that one drug is not interfering with the other, as that could then make one condition worse than the next. Like for instance, speaking Latin and hearing voices. Now both of these I am a little concerned about, and I hope they were just a one off misfire in your brain, but I will need to monitor this closely with you."

"And I'm not possessed by a demon or anything?"

"Puppy, I prefer to rely on science to explain unusual phenomenon and not silly legends. I can assure you, you are not possessed by demons, the devil or anything else for that matter. Now tell me more about your anger issues of late, do you feel they are getting worse?"

"In some ways, yes. Sam was the main cause of the last attack, but I'm really confused because everything that has happened lately has been relatively good news so I don't know why I am feeling angry about stuff."

"Stress, Puppy. Even when we get good, exciting news, it can still bring on stress. You may be seeing the fact you have found your father as a positive thing, but if you look deeply, this revelation has caused you stress. I do think Sam Stillworth's handling of a situation with you was lacking in empathy and that is something I have noted with Mr Watson."

"So do you think I'll start feeling better soon, because right now I feel so low and it's like I am not in control"

"Things take time Puppy, I can't cure you over night. Your new drug for bipolar has only been in your system for a few weeks, so that will obviously take a little time to supersede the last drug. All I can recommend is lots of talking, therapy and a continuation of your current drug regime."

I dropped my head in despair. "I just... I just don't want to feel like this."

Doctor Listern stepped towards me and placed his hands upon my shoulders. "I will give you an increased dose of Diazepam for two weeks to dampen the anxiety Puppy, but I am not a fan of this drug, I'll be honest."

"I hate taking any pills Doc, but right now I'll do anything and take anything."

Whether it was my current state of mind or the fact Doctor Listern was running out of ideas I felt today's meeting with him did nothing for me. I felt helpless and lower than I think I had felt since I self-harmed a few years ago. It was an inescapable and terrifying feeling that tore away at the fabric of my soul.

"I would suggest you go and get some sleep Puppy."

"I can't, I have class, and before you tell me to skip it, I don't want to."

"Very well. But make sure you get an early night and rest. You have a big weekend coming up and you know you'll want to be in a good mental shape for that."

I nodded and left his room, closing the door behind me. The dull hum of children echoed throughout the building and I could hear Charlotte shouting at one of them. As I wandered droopily along the corridor, I saw Mr Watson coming out of his room and heading towards me. "For fuck's sake, what now" I muttered under my breath.

"Ah, Puppy, Just the person. Will you come into my office, please; I need to inform you of something."

"Yes, ok," I replied softly.

Inside Mr Watson's office, he didn't bother sitting down in his chair, he perched on the edge of his desk and told me to sit down.

"Puppy, I have received a phone call from your father. He says he is very sorry but he is going to have to cancel your stay over the weekend as he and his wife seems to be having issues with their other son Steven. He said he will contact you in the week to explain."

That was about all I could take, and in a rare explosion of emotion, I burst into tears... uncontrollable tears. I didn't wait for any more from him; instead I just got up and left for my room. Mr Watson tried to coax me back into his, but knew quickly it wasn't a good idea, after learning from Sam Stillworth what happens when you push me too far.

I got to my room and slammed the door. I began pacing, up and down, up and down. I really did feel like I was going crazy. Was I slipping into a manic episode? No, this time it felt different... this time it was worse than mania. The truth was I had literally had enough of life itself.

Just when I thought things could not get any worse, I heard it again. Push the stool away it said. "Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off," I hissed. Then, eyeing the chair in my room, a strange peace came over me. I stopped pacing and stared at it for a moment before going up to the end window in my room. Reaching up I allowed the lever that opened the window to flip off the catch revealing a protruding metal stump. Once again I closed my eyes and started to hum my little song which I always used to do when hearing the voice.

All worries were now fading as I positioned my chair up against the wall by the end window, still humming. Slowly and dreamily, I undid my belt and removed it from my jeans. Making sure it was steady, I climbed up on the chair and fashioned a large loop out of my belt before connecting the buckle end to the window catch.

More and more peace was starting to wash over me and serene pictures were floating within my mind. Manoeuvring my head, I slotted it into the belt loop and stood there. Once again I closed my eyes and began to hum. I was waiting... waiting because I knew I would hear it soon, it would just be a matter of time, and after less than a minute? There it was... push the stool away.

So I did!


"Ring-a-ring o' roses,
We all fall down

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