Troy Retter never knew what hit him. One minute he was careening along the interstate in a powder blue Impala, and the next thing he knew he was in a ditch, with clouds of dust and exhaust whirling around him. He just caught a glimpse of the back of the pick-up truck that ran him off the road. The rusted tailgate. with one side unhinged stuck in his mind. And all he could think of was Engine, the horrible street thug at home that had left him stranded in the woods, with his left hand nailed to a tree, beaten and unconcious. But Engine could not possibly be anywhere near Wyoming and this vacant stretch of Route 90.
Troy popped open the car door and got out. He was horrified to discover the whole side of the Chevy scraped and battered. Both of the tires on the driver’s side were flat. Troy felt an anger well up in him. Troy, the meek and mild one, felt like killing someone. Instead he kicked the side of the car, but his tennis shoe deflected off the wheel well, and he side-swiped his ankle and fell on the ground hollering in pain.
Troy rubbed his ankle. He got up, locked the car, and limping noticeably, began to walk up the lonely godforsaken highway. He felt doomed, as he hadn’t seen a vehicle, other than the one that forced him into a ditch, in quite some time.
He had been walking in the relentless sun for about a half hour when a car buzzed past him, then slammed on the brakes, and hurtled backwards in gear—grinding reverse to where he stood. Troy peered through the dust, and into the passenger’s side window. “Need a ride to paradise?” a female voice asked. Than Troy saw the face that possessed the mouth from which the words had emanated The woman was about forty years old. She wore a red bandana, and was puffing away on a tiny cigar. She wore goggles and a tye-dyed pattern dress,
“Is Paradise the closest town to here?” Troy said.
“Not a town,”’ answered the woman. “It’s a hospital, so to speak. “
Well, thought Troy. Here goes nothing. Troy got into the car, a 1965 Ford Falcon. “You mean like, with doctors, and patients, and all that?”
““Sort of. I’m taking you to Colony Optomista. It’s kind of a cross between a self-help camp and a leper colony. “ She stomped on the gas and the car lurched forward, rattling and creaking as it went.
“A what?”” Troy asked.
“Nothing to worry about, “ the woman assured him. ““The AIDS patients are kept in one building, the ones with contagious skin disorders are in another, and the mental patients have their own wing at the hospital. The one’s who are there for E3P Therapy are housed in a dormitory. It’s totally safe. By the way, I’m Dr. Freda Sigmund. “ She extended her hand to Troy, and Troy shook it gingerly, wipeing his hands on his pants immediately after.
‘“That your car in the ditch back there?, “ Dr. Sigmund asked. “‘cause if it is, I’m sorry to say I saw vultures circling over it as I went by. “
“It’s not really mine, “ Troy explained. “I’m just transporting it West. “
“Ah, good. Then you probably don’t mind those two guys stripping the wheels off it then, huh?”
“What?” Troy yelled.
‘“Don’t worry, maybe the buzzards will get ‘em before the Sheriff does. “
“We gotta go back, “ Troy whined.
‘“Relax,” the Doctor said. laughing, “I’m just kidding. It’s just where you left it. “
Troy was almost relieved.
“We’re almost there,’” Dr. Sigmund said.
The car turned right on a dirt road. Fences lined fields on both sides of the road, but the fields looked identical to the road. Dust. Dirt. More dust and dirt.
About three miles along, Troy could just make out the blurry outline of a massive building in the distance. As the car rolled along, the scene began to take on a more definite shape. There were four or five buildings, rather than one massive building. They seemed to be fused together into a rather unattractive mish—mash, as if they had been built over a long period of time and a half—hearted attempt had been made to make them appear congruous. The car approached the compound, arriving at an iron gate twelve feet tall. Dr. Freda Sigmund poked her head from the car window and hollered “Gabba gabba Hey!” The gate creaked open of it’s own accord, and the Ford Falcon breezed through. “Do you like the Ramones?” asked the doctor.
‘“Don’t think I’ve ever met them, “ Troy said.
“They’re a rock group. Used to go see em when I lived in New York City. “
“?“ thought Troy.
‘“That’s where I got “Gabba gabba Hey! ‘ It’s a long story. “
The car skidded to a stop. The doctor got out, and Troy followed. “We’ll get you some help here in a minute, “ the doctor said. “But first, let me give you a brief explanation and tour of our facility. “ They began to walk towards the entrance of one of the buildings. “You see, the main premise of Colony Optomista is that no matter how debilitating or potentially fatal a person s condition may be, there is always cause to be positive about the chances for recovery because the truth dictates that a person is not at a point where recovery is impossible if the person is still alive. Understand?”
“I think so. “
“And our Self Help Division proceeds under the theory that unhappiness is merely a by—product of misdirected thought processes based on existence perception, perspective, and practice, or E3P, as I referred to earlier. “
As they approached the front entrance, the doors swung open and two purple—shirted orderlies rushed past carrying a stretcher with a white sheet-covered body on it. They hurried off in the direction of one of the other buildings. “Nothing our Cryogenic Department can’t handle, “ the doctor said.
Troy stepped into the foyer of the main building. Directly in front of him stood a plastic—covered scale model of Colony Optomista, It seemed much larger than the actual compound looked. “As you might have noticed, “ Dr. Sigmund said, “some our planned structures have yet to be built. But they are all our future plans. Here, for instance, is where the eighty—thousand seat stadium will be built. And here is where the amusement park will be. Better than Disney Land. And over here is manufacturing plant we plan on building. We’ll make coiled steel rolls, thimbles, and paper clips there. Maybe a few guitar strings. “
Troy just wanted his car back. A man named Guido Montessori had told him to deliver the car in one piece to his friend Afganistan Mogul in Newport, Oregon, and Troy intended to do just that. It was increasingly evident, however, that he was not getting out of Colony Optomista within the next five minutes.
“Let me show you the AIDS wing. “ Doctor Sigmund said.
“Wait a second, “ Troy protested. “I ‘m not very interested in seeing the AIDS wing. “
“Why so squeamish?” asked the doctor. “They’re all enclosed in specially designed plastic modules with temperature control and piped in music. But if you insist, we’ll go on to the contagious skin disease section. “
“I ‘m not very anxious to see that either, “ Troy said, “ couldn’t you just help me get my car fixed?”
“Well at least let me show you the E3P thought re-evaluation center. “
“O. K. “ Troy said, “but then can we get
“By all means. “ The doctor lit another tiny cigar. “Follow me. You’ll really find this fascinating. “
Dr. Freda Sigmund led Troy through an extensive labyrinth of hallways, tunnels, and breezeways. The smoke from her cigar floated along behind them. At least we can follow a trail of cigar smoke back to the main building if we get lost. Troy thought. Finally they came to a huge orange door with a sign on it that read: DANGER, THOUGHT WAVES TRANSMITTED HERE. Dr. Sigmund pulled open the door, and they proceeded to pass into a large cavernous room. The carpet that covered every square inch of the floor was unique in that the pile was about six inches in length, giving the floor the appearence of orange grass uncut for a month. The walls were also orange. There were orange beanbags all over the floor, and people reclined on them, staring into the ceiling with lost and faraway gazes. “Try and keep it down, “ the doctor whispered. “They’re practicing putting their existence perception into perspective. We’ve had some very famous people pass through here. John Belushi was here for awhile. Andy Warhol too. Everything is orange because that’s the color of the mind on the inside. “
Troy just shook his head. He read about these things in People Magazine, but never really thought they existed. He figured they were simply figments of someone s overactive imagination. “Can we go now?” Troy pressed.
“Just one more thing I want to show you. You’ll find the dream analysis section of the mental ward quite intriguing. “Troy had a sinking feeling that he would find it totally ridiculous.
Dr. Freda Sigmund led Troy through another maze of walkways, tunnels and glass—lined corridors. They arrived at a special picture window with triple thick glass. The doctor took a key from the pocket of her tye—dyed dress, and inserted it in a lock at the bottom of the window. The window popped open, and grabbing it from the bottom, she swung it up in the air. The doctor began to climb over the wall and through the window. “Clever, huh?” the doctor said. “The mental patients would never dream of escaping through a window disguised as a door. “
Troy stared in disbelief, but crawled through just the same. “It ‘s just up here, “ the doctor said. They were in an area filled with white—coated people bustling about, but not looking busy. They were just bustling. The doctor led Troy to an area where people were laying on tables with any number of electrodes attatched to their legs, arms, heads. Machines behind them recorded information in the form of lines and dots. “We have a theory about the dreams of the mentally insane, “ began the doctor. “The best way to explain it to you is to turn the whole thing around. Now when you dream, all sorts of impossible scenes and absurd situations drift through your head, right?” Troy nodded. “Well, our theory is that insane people, whose concious lives are full of impossible scenes and absurd situations, actually dream about normal things, like stopping for a cup of coffee, or going shopping for a rain parka. In other words, what is normal for them, is abnormal and foolish in dream form, just as what is normal for you is abnormal and foolish in dream form: They dream what you live and you dream what they live. Get it?” Troy was overwhelmed by all this. He was just a confused boy from Kensington, Pennsylvania, running away from one problem to tackle another, driving a borrowed car which was now incapacitated on the side of the road somewhere in Wyoming. He began to not be able to handle it. He started to shake. “You know I noticed your hand was bandaged and your face bears the tell-tale signs of violence, “ Dr. Freda Sigmund said. “Would like to check into our transient minority abuse clinic for some tests? “
“JUST TAKE ME BACK TO MY CAR! “ Troy screamed from the bottom of his lungs.
“No need to get excited. “ the doctor said. “Follow me. and we’ll get you some help chop chop.
Troy found himself sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, watching as Colony Optomista vanished in a storm of dust and wind. The truck was being driven by three orderlies, Bevo, Mack and Percival. They had tossed ten different tires into the back with Troy. One of them had to fit, they thought, and coupled with Troy’s spare, would get him on his way. Troy peeked through the back window of the truck. Mack and Percival were looking at porno magazines while Bevo drove, except that Bevo was in the middle and Mack and Percival were on either side of him.
“?“ Troy thought.
After twenty minutes of drive time, during which Troy was alternately bounced, shaken and vibrated in the back of the old pick—up, they arrived at the spot where Troy had left his car. Troy looked up to see buzzards circling overhead. And to his dismay, he discovered all the tires were missing on his powder blue Impala. Troy let out a little cry, and jumped from the truck before it stopped. “Now what am I going to do?” he moaned.
Bevo, Percival and Mack sauntered up behind him, scratching their heads. “Holy shit, Bevo, the tires’s is all gone.”
“Now ain’t this a bitch. “
“If I was you Mack, what would you ask me I would do?”
“Let’s get them tires out the back and do some matchin’, boys. “
The three orderlies proceeded to go about hauling all the tires out of the back of the truck, lining up the rims with the lug nuts to see if they would fit. Troy, exceedingly disheartened, watched without much in the way of hope.
None of the tires fit.
“Dad gum, we’ll just haveta take ya back to Colony ‘0’. “
“No. wait, I gotta ‘nuther idea. “
Bevo proceeded to jack up the pick—up truck, and take one of the wheels off. “Lookee here, boys. Perfect fit!” A cheer went up from Mack, Percival and Bevo as well. They then took all the wheels off of the pick—up truck, and bolted them onto Troy’s car. When the last wheel was bolted in place, Bevo stood up and brushed the dirt from his hands. “Your’re all set. sonny, “ Bevo said. “Good as new. “
Troy was a tiny bit befuddled. “But how are you going to drive the truck home?” he asked.
Bevo looked at Percival, who looked at Mack who looked at Bevo. “Good question. “
“We’ll thinka somethin
“You just head on to the West. And remember what Dr. Sigmund always says be optomistic, not sick. “
Troy did not need to hear any more. He cranked the motor over, and gunned it. He took off so fast he forgot to say thank—you. Bevo and Percival and Mack began to entertain themselves by throwing tires at each other. The way they were laughing, it must have been fun.