Miserable

Mr Henderson sat in the office, scrunched into himself like an empty snack packet. He stared blankly through the coffee table in front of him, ignoring the glossy brochures and infomercials designed to seduce the hesitant client.

Outside the office Kurt shook his head. There was no point putting this off anymore. He donned his professional persona and strode into the room. Mr Henderson jumped to his feet, anxiety written across his features.

“Mr Henderson,” said Kurt, holding out his hand. Mr Henderson shook it, a cursory one-two and release. “I’m Kurt. How are you today?”

Mr Henderson shrugged. “Okay, I guess. I mean, if you’re asking as a doctor, obviously not okay. Why would anyone be here if they were okay, right?”

“I’m not a doctor, Mr Henderson. I’m in charge of client interfacing.” He winced even as he said it. “That is, I’m a glorified meeter and greeter, I guess. We keep the doctors locked away in the theatre.” He smiled to show Mr Henderson it was a joke. Mr Henderson did not return it. “Please, sit. Have you been offered a fruit juice? Water? They don’t allow us caffeine-based drinks in the client areas. Something about what it does to the synapses. We can’t have the technicians getting electric shocks from an over-active imagination.” Again, his humour fell on the stony face of the dour man in front of him.

“No, I’m fine. So, what now? I tell you what I want cut out? What sort of waiting time is there?”

Kurt decided to abandon his attempt at bonhomie. “Well, something like, yes, that’s what we’d normally do.”

“It’s Roy Jackson.”

“Yes?”

“I was twelve I think. Maybe thirteen. Does that make a difference? Anyway, we were in the park one day, and out of the blue he told me we weren’t friends anymore. No reason, no warning, just blam! No more friends. To this day, I don’t know why. The point is, I’ve been obsessing about it recently. I mean, really obsessing. I can’t sleep at nights. I can’t concentrate at work. I can’t watch a TV show. It’s making me miserable. My life is unbearable. I know it sounds stupid when I say it out loud, but that one little event, it’s just replaying itself over and over in my mind.” Mr Henderson paused, looked down at the closed folder in Kurt’s lap, then back up at the young man’s face. “Aren’t you going to write any of this down? Take notes?”

Kurt sighed. “I’m sorry, Mr Henderson, but we can’t help you. Believe me when I say, I wish with all my heart we could help you, but we can’t. Have you considered a more traditional approach? Therapy? Medication? A puppy, perhaps.”

“What? You can’t erase a simple memory? Not even when it’s making me miserable? Why not?”

“Oh, we could erase that memory, Mr Henderson. Such a small incident, little or no cascading referential integrity issues. We could take your money and snip that out easier than flicking fluff from a suit.” Unconsciously Kurt picked at an invisible thread on his sleeve. “What I meant was, it would not help. We can’t perform the procedure in all conscience because we know it won’t help you. It would be unethical.”

“I’ve got the money.”

“Invest it in a good doctor, Mr Henderson. Memory management is not appropriate in this case.”

“Why not?”

Kurt sighed. He’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this. How many checks and procedures was he about to break? But this case was the exception.

“I have your file here, Mr Henderson.” He opened the folder. Mr Henderson frowned.

“My file? What do you mean? I’ve not seen anyone yet.”

“I’m afraid you have. Seven times in fact. Do you recognise this woman, Mr Henderson?” He held out a photo.

“Her? No. I’ve never seen her before. Why?”

“You married her twelve years ago. Your divorce was eight years ago. Unreasonable behaviour. You came to us to erase her from your life because the divorce was making you miserable. That was your first erasure with us. Quite tricky, divorces, because of all the time and emotion involved, but as you can imagine, we have a lot of practice getting them just right.”

“No, I was never married.”

“As I say, we’re quite adept at them now. Have you ever had any dealings with Truegood and Partners?”

“No.”

“You worked for them for five years. You hated it. You said it made you miserable thinking about the years you wasted there. Second erasure. Not quite as tricky as a divorce, but even so. This is the insurance report for a road traffic accident you were involved in. You weren’t injured, but the recurring nightmares it gave you made you miserable. Do you see a pattern emerging here, Mr Henderson? The death of your family dog, the girl you didn’t have the courage to take to the dance. Smaller and smaller memories, simpler and simpler operations, and yet every memory made you miserable. Look back at your life, your life as you remember it now. What’s the worst thing you can remember? A slight by a boyhood friend? Really? And next year, what will it be? A graze to the knee when you were five? We cannot keep doing this, Mr Henderson.” Kurt closed the folder and sat back. “That is to say, we can, but we won’t. This boyhood memory, it’s an excuse, not a cause.”

He reached into his pocket and produced a card. “Here, take this,” he said, his voice suddenly gentle. “It’s the offices of a very good therapy centre we work with. Tell them we referred you and they will give you a discount.”

Mr Henderson jumped to his feet. Kurt rose slowly to face him.

“I just want it cut out,” Mr Henderson said through clenched teeth, tapping the side of his head. “Just this one.”

Kurt shook his head. “I’m sorry, truly I am.”

Mr Henderson batted the card away and stormed out of the office. Kurt waited until he had left the reception then made his way to the front desk.

“Mary, if Mr Henderson calls again, and I’ve no doubt he will, please don’t let him make any more appointments with us. We can’t make any more adjustments to his memory.”

“Oh. Poor man. Why’s that? A brain tumour?”

“No, nothing like that. He’s just what we call in the profession a miseryguts.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

2 Responses to Miserable

  1. I loved this too 🙂

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