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Welcome To Author William Jeffries' Poetry.
 
    The Toad Song   |   Woes For A Fallen Choice   |   THE CURSE OF THE BLACK COMB  |  October Fest   |   A Quote   |   The Recompense

The Curse Of The Black Comb
Author William Jeffries
© Copyright, 2000

THE CURSE OF THE BLACK COMB
           by  William Carlyle Jeffries

     There are several reasons for feeling lonely and forgotten on holidays; and, even at this particularly joyous time, there are many people who feel down.
     Some have suffered the loss of a loved one at this time; and this otherwise happy time takes on the feelings of loss. Memories of painful times seem to overshadow the joys these people had brought.
     There are those who had been in the service; and had been separated physically from family and friends on this season.
     Some have been in school; or away on some foreign shore doing some thankless job.
     Then, there are those who have been in institutions during this season. They also recall their lonesome times, shut away from society, for whatever reason. There are even those whose families seem to have forgotten them. They surely feel "Put away."
     One such individual, we will call him "Billy," had found himself locked up tighter than a jug on a security ward on Christmas Eve. It seems he had walked away from the hospital a few weeks earlier and the hospital staff really didn't know what else to do with him.
     It had been easy to walk away. Everyone at the hospital was expected to have a job. This, both to keep the patients occupied, as well as to lessen the expenses of keeping them
     Billy had walked off his second job.
     His first job had been work in the kitchen feeding a particularly large dishwasher that pretty well filled a room. When he thought that he ought to have his birthday off, he was replaced.
     He then had been given a job working in the dairy, taking care of the dairy cows. It was dirty, physically taxing work, but preferred by the inmates because the supervision was at a much lower level.
     The weather was cold, already; and Billy had been led to the end of the hall to the cloakroom. There, a ragged coat was found, and forced on him by the much larger attendants.
     A few days later, the boils started to erupt; and it was for this reason' Billy had walked off. It was certain that he would get no medical attention here.
     But Billy had already found a "home," and there really wasn't anywhere to go. He was quickly and unceremoniously brought back.
     Sonic may argue that the treat­ment of mental patients has improved over the decades; but one must remember that this treatment started out "in the hole."
     Horror 'stories are rampant. There are stories of particularly troublesome individuals being chained to the walls of the tunnels and then walled in. There are stories of shock therapy machines being rolled from ward to ward and used on the bulk of the patients indiscriminately. "Thumping Therapy" had been applied to some of the patients who had a slightly belligerent nature. And more recently, the widespread use of drugs had replaced the older tortures.
     But, now, one of the attendants had called "cigarette time." Billy was going to smoke his blues away. Some of the boys didn't have cigarettes, so things were often boisterous. There would be bumming and borrowing and boys mad who missed their smoke.
     Activities were scarce when one was locked on the ward. Billy had tried his hand at poetry, writing this one:

THE UNFINISHED LUNACY

This jewel that blazes in the night
Catches us all with crystal glow,
Leads us on with her mystic light,
And beams us to the God we know;

And as we turn, overcome with fright,
We take one long glance, turning slow.
We have to set our minds aright, 
And let the true light ever flow.

Reflections cast
Might seal our fate;
Eternal blast
Our souls with hate.
May shadows fast
From our new plate.

     The state was not totally negligent in care, however. Many toilet articles were distributed on request.  After shave, electric razors, mouthwash and deodorant were kept at the office and distributed. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and combs were allowed to leave the office to become personal possessions.
     Combs were often found lying around and were picked up and redistributed by the attendants in an effort to save the state some money.
     Billy butted out his cigarette and went for a short walk in the halls. He again thought about all the "Bills," "Billys and "Willys" on the ward. An attendant had laughingly told him that that's how all the 'Bills" got paid.
     Furniture and furnishings were being constantly moved about. Patients would wander aimlessly from place to place and move objects about as if they had some sort of significance.
     This left the ward In a constant state of turmoil, except for "pill time" and "chow time; and even these were sometimes rowdy.
     Tonight would be "late night" as the next day would be Christmas, and Christmas was, well, a holiday. The party would commence, and frivolities not end till next day. Soon the night would end, however, and the patients would march off to bed. The attendants worked through the night wrapping and arranging the presents.
     Dawn came, and the fellows all received their presents. There were presents for everyone, a government issued garment, toothbrush, tooth paste and that ever present "BLACK COMB." Someone started a fight.

     Bill shook off these painful memories and looked around his house. Yes, there were the Christmas tree with its lights and ribbons, Christmas cards hung all in a line, his bride Irene and the Christmas feast spread over the table. Christmas bells could be heard in the distance.
     Irene said Grace with a special thanks for Bill. It's funny how his life had been turned around. Now there was hope. Two people could enjoy life much better than one struggling one.
     Bill ran a comb through his hair in preparation for the meal. With this act, he apparently brushed away those painful memories for at least the rest of this day.
     Perhaps eventually all those painful experiences would fade forever as he bathed his mind in his newfound joys. He would be parted from pain forever, . . .  like hair with a black comb.

     Note: (2nd Place Christmas Story Contest Winner,
          El Dorado Springs Sun news paper,
          El Dorado Springs, MO. )

Author: William C. Jeffries

    The Toad Song   |   Woes For A Fallen Choice   |   THE CURSE OF THE BLACK COMB  | October Fest   |   A Quote   |   The Recompense

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