One flew over . . . (episode 33)


401B Concrete Shacks

June 15 1997


I am writing this in haste as I am about to be collected by a government-sponsored glue-sniffing rehabilitation van. Earlier this week, I received a four-page-long, black-and-white printed, communication from the Department of Social Security – which stated that my Unemployment Benefit would be summarily suspended unless I agreed to be taken away to an establishment which deals with addictions. In my case, the specified addictions are to the Benzodiazepine ‘Valium’ and to the adhesive whose brand name is’Glu-Stik.’

I naturally took to my bed on receipt of these tidings – anaesthetized by a Valium intake of some 50mg – which is a dosage, I am told, sufficient to stun an elephant. ‘Glu-Stik’ is on the table by my side, together with one or two flagons of cider. I am not feeling too well, a condition exacerbated upon receipt of yesterday’s telephone call from a person who called herself ‘Miss Fothergill.’ Miss Fothergill informed me that the rehabilitation squad would be turning up promptly at 9am tomorrow – to take me away – and that resistance would be useless. They are bringing their own battering ram. The person Miss Fothergill most reminded me of is the head nurse who featured in that film called, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ Nurse Ratched? I am scared, auntie, that I may come back lobotomized (or not at all) because I am just the sort of man who likes to air his own, unique, and possibly undesirable, opinions on courses of this nature. I am anti-authority and authority is often anti-me.

You are my next of kin! Please come to see me at your earliest convenience. Bring duct tape. Bring gum-wiring equipment. Bring anything you have to keep my lips completely sealed during Group Work and Role Play!

Your deserving nephew



3 thoughts on “One flew over . . . (episode 33)

  1. countingducks

    Always excellent. I can see this man buckling under the pressure of his circumstances only to resurface for future generations, through your writings, as a man who knew how to live on the edge of oblivion and still send rational letters to his relatives

  2. josna

    English nurses of the old school can be pretty terrifying. Auntie–to the rescue, quick! Still the British system—at least, what was still left of it back in 1997—is still kindler and gentler than the system in the U.S. They are threatening him with cutting off his benefits if he doesn’t get treatment to kick the addiction. In the U.S. he probably wouldn’t have had benefits in the first place, let alone being able to get free treatment.

    And I agree with countingducks about the intelligence, articulateness, and and essential humanity of Ralph, no matter how squalid his living conditions. It’s sad that a man like Ralph has to live more-or-less underground, sad that society can’t treasure people like him and allow their talents to flourish, rather than relegating them to glue-sniffing in a squat.


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