James Misunderstood

by Joshua Shaw

The doctor closed his notebook as if aggravated and stood up.

"If you're not going to take this seriously, then you don't belong here with us. You belong out there with them."

Spoken calmly, a calculated move. Threaten him with abandonment enough and he'll eventually crack. All children are afraid of adults abandoning them.

"Not this one, not me." James thought.

He was far too clever for that. The doctors had learned long ago not to push too hard. He would only push back harder. Why then was this doctor different? They had been working together so long; he must have felt a strong connection to James. He must know what James would do next. Why then would he dare to threaten him? James relaxed.

"It's all the same. They're all the same. " He thought as he grabbed his crayon and continued coloring.

"Alright then," The doctor continued. "You know, a smart child like you should really consider the consequences of not talking to me. Everyone here thinks you're really out of it. Broken. But I know better. You're very smart James, but not smart enough to fool me. You should take that into consideration for tomorrow's session." He grabbed his coat and walked out of the room.

James continued coloring. He knew that he would win. This doctor, so much the same as the other doctors, and still so different, He did not even ask James the real questions. The questions that James wanted him to ask.

"Dr. Manheim said that you don't get any dessert tonight. You must have pissed him off good."

Betty entered a room like a ninja, silently and with a purpose. She was like a ghost. When she first started speaking, James jumped slightly. She loved to do that to him.

"He's just bitter." James pouted. Looking crossways at Betty as she gathered up his things.

" He's bitter? Betty asked. "What did you do to make him bitter? Or wait, I have a better question, why did you make him bitter? You promised you were going to try this time."

"I think I've gained weight." James said, ignoring Betty's questions. "Missing a dessert or two might do me some good."

James got to his feet, wiping his hands on his pants, they were moist. For whatever reason this doctor was getting to him.

"Alright, let's do this. Hands behind your back." Betty said, holding the shackles out.

"Really? " James asked, the annoyance apparent in his voice. "Were only going across the hall."

Betty smiled slightly. "Not this time sweety. You're going back in with the rest of them. The Doctor said it would do you good to see how well you've had it here. I'm sorry sweety, not my decision."

From the way she said it, James knew she really was sorry. He was obviously too sweet of a boy to be thrown in with those animals.

"oh well," James said. "I guess I'll just have to make due." He put his hands behind his back and Betty put the shackles on. Loose enough to be comfortable.

"she's such a sweet lady," James thought. "how in the hell did she end up doing this for a living?"

James heard a ringing in his ears, and then darkness.

When he awoke, he could see the sunlight pouring in through his window. Another beautiful day, and he was stuck in here. The pictures that had decorated his room were all gone now, and the room smelled like disinfectant and bleach. "They've cleaned up a bit," he thought. "About time. I was beginning to feel at home."

He stretched his arms out over his head, really feeling the yawn. It felted so good to stretch. He looked up at his hands and saw that his wrist were wrapped in gauze. They hurt a little. "What happened to me?" he thought.

"David beat you up." It was Buddy talking. James's roommate. "They said when they were bringing you down here, David saw you and went crazy. He threw Betty on the floor, and when the orderlies came, he beat them pretty bad to."

"Why did he do that?" James asked, his eyes filling with tears.

"I don't know. Maybe he didn't want you to be in here. It doesn't matter now. The doctors chained him up and dragged him of somewhere he ain't ever coming back from.

They heard the two knocks on the door meaning someone would be coming in. James hoped that it was Betty with food. She always tried to have a little surprise for breakfast. He was just so hungry! He didn't think he had ever felt so hungry before.

The door whipped open. It was Simon, The largest of the orderlies. He looked around the room quickly. When his eyes landed on James, he looked back over his shoulder and said, "He's up now. .Where you want him?" James felt confused. What did he mean "where do you want him?" He hadn't done anything wrong for them to be speaking about him in that tone.

James heard another voice speaking to Simon, thought he could not make out what was being said. Simon threw a quick glaring glance at James and shut the door.

"You got in trouble, you got in trouble!" Buddy mocked cheerfully.

James glared at him through the tears now starting to bead and roll down his face.

"I didn't do anything wrong! Stop making fun of me!"

"You got in trouble! You know they gonna get you good now! You gonna get hit on and beat on and everything!" Buddy was jumping on the bed now, laughing in James's face.

"Leave me alone!" James was screaming in anger now, his face red and his fist balled up tightly.

"Stop it! Stop making fun of me!"

The door ripped open, Simon screamed inside "Knock that shit off! If I have to come in there, I'm gonna put my hands on you boy, and you ain't gonna like it!"

James threw himself onto his bed, put his head in his pillow and cried. He could not understand the harsh treatment. He had done nothing wrong. He had been attacked, and now was being made fun of for it. It all seemed so unfair.

James cried into his pillow for several hours. When he finally calmed down enough to sit up, he noticed that Buddy was gone. He must be out for exercise or something. Finally, some peace and quiet.

He Dug around under his bed for his box. He loved his box. Inside was everything he would ever need. Paper, charcoal pencils, and peace of mind. He loved to draw pictures. At first he hated the fact that the only thing he could use to draw or write was charcoal or crayon. After a while however, he got to be pretty good with them. He could draw people so well. He loved to do it. It was his favorite thing in the world.

Before he could get started drawing, he heard the two quick knocks on the door. Simon put his head in.

"Are you calmed down enough to eat now?"

"What did he mean by that?" James thought. He was calm! What had he done wrong?

"I said are you calm!?" Simon raised his voice.

"I'm calm. " James choked out softly.

"Good. Get on your feet, and put your back on the wall."

"Back on the wall, why?"

"You wanna eat or not?"

James backed himself against the wall. Simon walked to his bed and put a tray on it.

"Where's Betty?" James asked.

"You don't get to ask me no questions. You shut your mouth when I'm around you hear me?"

James started to cry.

"You eat this and go to sleep. You gettin up at first light tomorrow to see Dr. Manheim. He's not real happy with you."

He looked at James's drawing stuff, looked back at James and smiled.

"You love this stuff don't you?"

James looked at him puzzled.

"You know I love it."

Simon smiled an evil smile.


He picked up James's Box and walked towards the door.

"Maybe I'll take it out back and burn it." Simon said. Then he stepped outside into the hallway and slammed the door shut, twisting the lock into place.

James fell to the floor crying. It was just so unfair.

The next morning James woke up with his face in his dinner from the night before. His eyes were sore, and puffy from all of the crying. His head hurt.

"You got in trouble again didn't you." Buddy was back. He was smiling an evil smile at him.

"Leave me alone Buddy. I don't want to play today." James got to his feet and began changing clothes.

"What did you do to tubby? Simon's usually so calm and nice. Well, nice for this place. You must have pissed him off good!"

"I didn't do anything Buddy! I was sitting in my bed drawing, he came in, threw my food at me, and took my drawing box. I hate him!"

"Where's Betty?" Buddy asked, changing the subject.

"I don't know. I haven't seen her in a day or two. I'm starting to miss her I think."

Two knocks at the door. James buttoned his new shirt and stood waiting. It was Simon.

"Your ready I guess." He motioned towards the wall signaling James to stand against it.

"Got you some new dud's here. You're gonna like these. Extra strength, extra tight." Simon chuckled.

James winced as Simon put him in the shackles. The wrist cuffs hurt so bad. They rubbed on the gauze and burned. Buddy giggled the entire time.

"Whats so damn funny?" Simon asked as he got up from putting the shackles on James's legs.

He glared at James. James looked down at the floor. Buddy continued giggling. A sharp smack landed across James's face. He let out a scream in pain. Buddy giggled softer now, but still giggling. Another smack. This one harder. James wanted so bad to grab Buddy, to slap his face. He wanted to grab his own face and cry into his hands but he could not. The shackles were too tight

Simon grabbed James from the back by his arms and lifted harshly. The pain was horrible. James could feel Simons nails digging into his arm.

"Smart assed punk!" Simon growled. "you better have something good to say to the doctor. Let me tell you something, this is Texas punk. We'll fry anybody. You better get your shit straight!"

James looked around at all of the people in the hallway as he walked. He hated the way they looked at him. He felt as though none of them could possibly understand what he was going through. He was so smart, and special, why could none of them see that?

When they got close to Dr. Manheim's observation room, Simon put James against the wall roughly. James's head hit hard. He started to cry. Simon glared back over his shoulder at him as he put his key in to unlock the observation room. When he opened the door and turned on the light, James could smell the same bleach and disinfectant smell he had to deal with in his own room. He hated it.

"Come in here, sit your ass down, and don't mess with anything until the doctor gets in."

James walked in slowly. Simon slammed the door shut and locked it.

James looked around. The room didn't look too different from the way it looked the last time he was in there. A few books had moved. The furniture had shifted slightly. It was probably moved by the cleaning crew. The disinfectant smell was horrible. And there was a lamp missing.

"Who would take that lamp? It was bulky and ugly. " James thought to himself while he waited.

He looked around the room for a second. The smell of the cleaners was mostly by the door. It was obvious it had been a few days since anyone had opened the door because of the stagnant way the odor lingered. Looking around by the floor, his eyes locked on something on the carpet. I large brownish red spot. It was obvious that someone had scrubbed for a long time to try and get the stain out of the cheap blue carpeting. James wondered what it could have been. His immediate thought was blood. But who would be bleeding all over the observation room?

"No, it cant be blood." James thought, and he leaned back and thought about the doctor.

"He'll probably yell at me too. Probably for something I didn't do. I thought he was different. I guess he's exactly like everyone else here. Just a jerk doctor who thinks he's better than me. I just want him to ask me the real questions. The ones about my family. He never does. He never ever does. I want to remember them. I just want to be able to close my eyes and see their faces and hold them in my mind. He won't ever let me do that." James began to cry again.

The door shut sharply. Dr. Manheim looked at James over his glasses and walked towards him.

"How are you feeling today James." Asked the Doctor. James didn't say anything. He just stared ahead. Waiting for whatever undeserved treatment the doctor had in store for him.

Dr. Manheim sat down across from James. He took his notebook out of his bag and his pen from his pocket. He read through his notes, and looked at James.

"We need to talk James. I know you don't know what's going on here. I know you can't understand right now, but you have to believe me, I am here to help you. I am going to make you better."

James didn't understand. He didn't understand at all. He didn't understand why he was away from his family, and he didn't understand why he was being treated this way. He didn't understand any of this.

"We're going to try something new here James. I'm afraid I owe you an apology. This isn't how I planned to do this, but I feel that in light of recent events, I have to move this forward."

"What are you talking about?" James asked, "I just want to go home!"

"Tell me about your home James. Tell me about your family." Dr. Manheim wasn't holding his notebook as he normally did. He wasn't sitting with his pen in hand waiting to take notes on what James said. He was leaning forward with his hands in his lap waiting for James to start talking.

"My family?" James asked, shocked that the Doctor finally asked. "What do you want to know?"

"Tell me everything that you know about them. Everything."

James started to trimble. His hands moistened with nervousness. This was the last thing he had expected.

"James, time is of the essence here. I only have a few hours left here with you. After that, I am going home. I am the last doctor they are sending to speak with you, and I'm the only one that thinks we have a chance at making you better. If you don't speak to me, then I can't help you. Please, just think hard, and tell me."

"I..I don't want to talk about them."

"Alright fine, We'll come back to that. Tell me about the last thing you remember before coming here."

James closed his eyes. He tried so hard to remember. He tried to remember anything. He could almost make out faces, but everything was so fuzzy. He couldn't. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't remember.

"Alright James. Since you don't want to tell me. I'm going to have to do something that I didn't want to do."

James looked up at him, scared at what would be done to him now.

"Tell me about Betty, James. What do you know about her."

James was confused. "She works for you doesn't she."

"No James, she did work here. She worked here for 22 years. She loved this job. She spent her entire adult life here, helping people like you. And two days ago, someone hit her in the head with a lamp, and killed her. He grabbed a lamp from a table, waited until she turned her back on him, and hit her in the back of the head. It happened right in here."

"No!" James cried. His heart was broken, he loved Betty. She was his only friend in this place, so nice to him. So sweet. "How, why?"

"Well, she didn't put his restraints on tight enough. I can't imagine why. She must have trusted him. Can you even begin to imagine what kind of person would do that James. Can you?"

"Why are you telling me this? What does this have to do with me?"

"Everything James. Do you want to know who did this horrible thing James? Do you care to know?"

James sat sobbing. He did not want to think about it anymore.

"It was David. You know David don't you James."

"I don't know him." James said, his voice weak and trembling.

"I know you don't James, you don't know him. But I just want you to understand that he did this. He did this, and now Betty will never come back again. Her family will never see her again, and her children have to grow up without a mother now. Because David did this."

"What does this have to do with me!?" James was becoming overwhelmed. He didn't ask for any of this.

"Tell me about Buddy James. You seem to have a unique relationship with Buddy."

"Buddy's crazy. He's driving me crazy. He's always making fun of me. Laughing at me. I hate being around him. He's horrible."

"I see. What do you know about him?"

"I know he's been here as long as I have. I know he hates my drawings, and I know that he is horrible. Why do you care what I know about him?"

"I care because you know more about him than you think you know. I care because you know more about David than you think you know. What about the orderlies. What do you know about Simon?"

"I know he hates me. I know he wants to hurt me. He took my drawing box. I..I love my drawing box."

"I know that you do James. I know that you hate Simon. I know this because I know you. I know everything about you James. And I know that you are ready to be free. So that's why I'm going to do."

"You're going to let me leave?" James was excited now. He wanted so badly to go home. He wanted to know where his home was. He wanted to see his family.

"Where are you right now James."

"I'm in a hospital."

"A hospital. You think everyone in a hospital is put into shackles to see their doctors?"

"I.I don't know. I guess."

"How old are you James?"

"I'm 11. You know that."

"I know that? How would I know that James. You don't look 11. You look much older than 11. You're much smarter than an 11 year old. You have a much higher vocabulary than an 11 year old."

"What do you mean? I'm 11! I know how old I am!"

"Calm down James. I'm just trying to help you. What size shoe do you wear? I wear a size 10."

"I don't know. All I get here are slippers."

"You wear a size 13 James. Why would an 11 year old wear larger shoes than a full grown man? Do you know the answer to that?" James was puzzled. He looked at his feet.

"I think you are smarter than you let on James. I think you are piecing this all together. I am going to show you a picture James. I want you to tell me who you see."

Dr. Manheim reached into his bag and pulled out a picture. It was a grown man. He was dressed in a tuxedo. He looked so happy.

"Do you know who this is James? "

James gasped. It was his father. He knew his face well.

"It's my father," James Said. "And that's his wedding picture."

"I see," Dr. Manheim said. "I want to show you another picture."

Dr. Manheim pulled another picture from his bag. This time it was a young boy. A beautiful brown haired boy standing in the sun with a soccer ball.

"Who is this?" the doctor said showing the picture to James.

"That's me. Ready for a game." James looked sad.

"Is it James? How about this one?"

Dr. Manheim pulled another picture. "Who is this?" It was a beautiful women. Her eyes were gigantic, and she was in a wedding dress.

"That's my mother." James got choked up on the words. He hadn't seen her face in so long that he had forgotten it.

"Really James? This women is your mother?"

"Yes it's my mother. Why wouldn't I know that? It's my mother."

"Okay James. I'm going to tell you a story. It's a sad story. Please don't get angry, but you need to hear it."

"Okay," James said.

"Once apon a time, there was a seemingly happy family. The father was a graphic artist. He loved to draw pictures, and he had a beautiful family. His wife was a lawyer. She was beautiful. They had a beautiful son. He was smart and funny, and loved life. They lived a wonderful life together in a wonderful home, in a great neighborhood. Everything was perfect.

Then one day, the husband came home to find his wife in bed with another man. He did not like that at all. He had loved her. Loved her so much, that he would not share her with anyone else, so he took a knife, and cut her until she died. He beat the man she was with until he couln't recognize his face anymore and then cut off several of his fingers just to hear him scream. Then he sat in the corner and cried until the sun came up. He was heartbroken, and sad. In the morning, his son came in. He was such a beautiful baby boy. The father saw the look in the boys eye when he saw the lifeless body of his mother laying in a pool of her own blood. He didn't think the boy could go on living a normal life after what had happened. So he took him in his arms, and hugged him and kissed his head. Then he choked him until he stopped breathing. The boy was dead. The father laid the boy next to the mother. He laid down next to them, and said a little prayer and cut his own wrist."

"Stop! Stop telling me this! Why are you telling me this?" James was bawling.

"You need to know this James, it's the only way you can understand."

"Please, just stop!"

"The police came in the next day, a neighbor called because she thought something was wrong."

"They were shocked. The only person who was still alive was the father. He laid there with his arms outstretched weeping. He was so scared. "

"Please, Just stop this. I hate this. I hate you!" James was shaking in his shackles.

"The police took the father away. He would not stop weeping. In the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, they kept trying to talk to him, to ask him questions. 'Hey, hey buddy! What the hell happened there? What the hell happened? Hey Buddy! Answer the questions!' He didn't say anything for so long. He just laid there weeping and chuckling to himself. The officers got angry.They questioned him for hours, tensions rising, and anger growing and growing. The police were beginning to lose there patience. The first real answer that the father gave came the next morning, when they called in a psychiatrist to speak with him. "Who did all of this" The Doctor Said "Who caused all of this?" the father sat up as far as he could in the hospital bed. "It was David." The psychiatrist looked at him with a puzzled expression. "And who are you?" he asked him. "My names James. I want to go home." And he cried.

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