Sloughheart Continues Quick Slide, Others Baffled, Talk

“He came through but with the side effect of secondary dystonia in the cranial-facial region, most likely caused, of course, by the head injury followed by the stoke. Initial analysis indicates that the dystonia is severe enough to warrant his immediate transport to Glendale-Virginia Apgar Memorial Hospital for brain surgery involving the deep nuclei,” Lucent conveyed the latest news to her growing family. Even Grace and Suijnwe were there now. “They may even implant electrodes that stimulate the deep nuclei artificially, which would ideally provide relief by neuronal depolarization. However, during the surgery he also experienced an episode of subito-ignota spasms in the medulla oblongata, which is sure to complicate matters.”

“Ugh … my poor head,” Joy moaned from the couch. It was now just after lunch, though she hadn’t eaten yet. She hadn’t even left the couch. Instead, when Morris got up to stretch and walk around, Joy stole his space in the middle for her legs and feet, and then nestled down more into a lying position. Angelica had looked at her almost pathetically, smiled, and then pulled her feet into her lap with a groggy “thank you” from Joy. “Can you for once, just once, speak straight English? I mean it all sounds very impressively ugly for the swine-brute, but I’d like to actually understand what’s going on with his … body or whatever… And, my heavens, my head really does hurt, like an entire high school band is practicing inside my skull… And my feet and ankles hurt, too…”

“Ha! You big baby!” Angelica retorted. “You’ve got to be kidding me, right?” She laughed and started massaging Joy’s feet. “Of all things … after being tortured I’m sitting here giving a foot massage to a preacher!” She laughed again along with everyone else. “Nothing could be crazier … at least, I hope to hell not!”

And I’ll be more than happy to speak straight English to you now, Joy Brighterday,” Lucent gave her a dead-level stare with hands on her hips. “If you want me to take care of that little headache of yours, you will first eat something, no ‘if, ands or buts’ about it! Period! Even if it’s just a cup of broth with three saltines … o.k.? Along with at least six ounces of purified water. We’ve got to get something into your system and keep you from getting dehydrated. Deal?”

“Ah … yeah, o.k.” Joy answered through half-opened eyes. “I don’t know why I hurt more now than I did before; it seems crazy … but the massage sure feels good.”

“Don’t get used to it, Dragon Sage – I think I’ll change that to Dragon Prophet or, no, Dragon Priest … that’s it – so don’t get used to me being your personal masseuse, Dragon Priest.” Angelic said this, but it actually made her feel good inside to somehow be helping someone else, especially someone who’d already helped Morris and her so much.

“I’ll go get the broth heating up and bring in the water,” Effete said. “I’ve been floating around here long enough doing little to nothing!”

“Well, I guess that’s kind of all of us,” Moxie inserted. “We’ve just been waiting for updates. Of course, it is unusual not to be talking about something somewhat substantive when we’re all together like this.” Everyone chuckled. “Maybe a nice break, I don’t know … but I’m kind of getting bored. I mean my brain feel like it’s going numb.”

“Oh no! I highly doubt that!” Morris exclaimed. “At least not in such a relatively short space of time. No, your brain is fine, I’m sure. But anyway, what in the world would you want to talk about? Hopefully something that would be a diversion… I mean, I could really use a break from … well, this whole traumatic mess, you know… Not that I deserve a break, but…”

“Hey, Morris, you stop that, my friend,” Able piped up. “I mean it; and, yes, you do deserve a break, most assuredly, both you and your mom … and Effete, too.” He looked over at Effete as she helped Joy into a slightly sitting position so she could dutifully drink her water and he smiled. The beleaguered but stately woman smiled back. “You’re our friend, and you’re welcome here; we want you here, and we want you to be comfortable here. If you – all of you – need a break from the whole Sloughheart muck and muddle, then a break it will be!” And given the authority in the tone of Able’s voice, everyone knew that was final.

Lucent brought in the broth, Joy handed her the empty glass and began obediently sipping on the steaming liquid. Joy had to admit it was refreshing; she hadn’t eaten all day, but she was also glad that Lucent had apparently let the saltines go. The broth would be sufficient … in her estimation anyway. The dutiful nurse practitioner stood by her side with two pills in her hand while the others chattered away about this, that, and really nothing at all. Joy wasn’t paying too much attention anyway, and neither was Lucent. Instead, when Joy had disposed of about two-thirds of the broth, Lucent handed her two two-mg tabs of hydromorphone. Strong medicine, to be sure, but Joy hadn’t been sleeping or eating well, but she had been pushing herself, so…

“So why did you decide to pursue another degree in Social Work, Lucent?” Grace politely asked.

“Well, really, it’s rather simple – certainly not to have another piece of paper to hang on my wall – but to broaden my horizons in an area that means a lot to me, something I’m very passionate about, and that’s basically just helping people to the best of my God-given abilities. Of course, you could say I was doing that by working hard at the Hart Clinic in the capacity of nurse practitioner, but I wanted to be able to do more… Now I am. Now I can go somewhat beyond the … umm, strict confines of medical treatment into actually connecting patients with very basic necessary resources that, hopefully, will enable them to live fuller, better, all-round healthier lives. And I can, with their consent of course, keep up with them … for awhile, at least.”

Joy’s eyes were completely closed now and she was, thankfully, snoozing nicely. Effete couldn’t help but gaze at her shepherdess-savior friend and smile. Really, everyone was packed into the Keener household because of this one very special woman. In that moment, Effete could not doubt God; no, it was just God in and through Joy Emmanuella Brighterday. As so many people had said, “Emmanuella” was the perfect name for her, despite very normal and completely tolerable faults and shortcomings; she was “God with us.”

“You know, it seems as if professional studies have become so divided from one another that they barely touch,” Suijnwe remarked. “Sociologists have little, if anything, to do with anthropologists; medical doctors have little, if anything, to do with pharmacologists; attorneys have little, if anything, to do with ethicists. Or am I overstating the case?”

“You may be overstating somewhat, Suijnwe, but not terribly so,” Sage Wiseman answered. “We seem to live in a very pigeon-holed culture, where everything is so splintered into specialties that there is very little overall cohesiveness among the various disciplines.”

“Ah! And this brings to mind another question, my dear Dr. Wiseman!” Grace interjected excitedly. “A little birdie whispered in our ears the other day and told us something about you pursuing another doctorate! Is this true … and, assuming it is, then you have to tell us the ‘what’ and ‘why?’ Please!”

“Ha, ha! I should shot that little bird!” Everyone laughed. “I won’t ask though … No, really, it’s not something that I’ve advertised, and I guess my answer would be like Lucent’s, you know? It’s certainly not to have another piece of paper hanging on my wall, but like we said just now, it does seem like so many disciples are … far too disconnected from other disciplines, and I don’t like that, really. It makes me feel limited, especially in my passion-area of life, which is helping people, too. You know, I’m not at all ashamed of my achievements; I love being a psychologist and the work I do, but sometimes … I don’t know, it gets a little frustrating that I’m just a psychologist… Not that there’s anything at all wrong with that, but sometimes I feel limited, stifled, or whatever.”

“So what have you decided to do about it, Dr. Wiseman,” Able pushed for the answer.

“Hmm … o.k.” Sage shifted around in her seat. “You know I’ve been doing quite a bit of research in the area of religion, religious groups, and specifically legalistic, fundamentalist groups and/or cults.” Everyone nodded their head. “This has interested me for a very long time, really – not just religion, per se, but the power of fundamentalist, cult-type religion and its impact on the larger community, or society – so about two years ago, I contacted an old professor of mine, now at the University of St. Edmund in Victoria, and talked to him about my then-nascent research and my passion for pursuing this further. He was elated, to say the least, and thankfully very supportive, so much so that together we outlined an original, combination  curriculum for Socio-Psychology of Religion, which is now a non-traditional degree offered at the Master’s and Doctorate levels at St. Edmund. About seven or eight other universities are looking hard and seriously considering adding this non-traditional degree to the similar programs they already offer, too.”

“Wow!” Blue piped up. “Impressive, for sure, but how does this really differ from simply doing post-doctoral work in the same area, or pursuing either psychology or sociology of religion without combining the two?”

“Good question and the answer is that there is no ‘area’ such as this, per se … at least not as particularly structured and intensely focused as this program. Yes, of course, I could have continued my research completely on my own without even making it ‘post-doctoral’ work, for that matter, or earning another piece of paper. But you see, this is another important reason for doing what I’m doing. First, I know I need structured guidance, direction, and advice from a wise and trusted counsellor. Second, I know I am doing this ultimately, hopefully, for the benefit of others, both psychologically and sociologically. Third, and finally, if the program is worth anything at all, and I fully believe it is, then I want it to be available to other students, who can then go out and benefit many more people than I can possibly reach alone. Besides all of this, I believe a well-structured and intensely focused program in the socio-psychological dynamics of religion, and perhaps specifically fundamentalist cult-types, will prove inestimably valuable in our understanding of families, communities and the overall, multifaceted nature of society and culture.”

“Sooo … I’m guessing you’re really into finding out what makes fundies tick?” Angelica asked through a nice, long yawn.

“Sounds boring, huh?” Sage chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so, but more than that it really has to do with helping people. Lucent is helping people even now through her medical practice and social work, combining the two very, very nicely. I want to do the same. I want to continue helping people through counselling, in general, but I also want to reach out to a specific group – or groups, I should say – of people where you find an awful lot of … well, pain and suffering.”

“Sounds great, Dr. Wiseman…” Just then the phone rang, and Lucent promptly answered.

“Hello? Tiger?” Everybody looked at each other at the mention of “Tiger,” except for Moxie, who explained that “Tiger” was an RN and good friend of her mom’s. “Oh God, really? That’s really a humdinger…”

“No, doesn’t sound good for the ole boy, to be sure! But how weird? Who would’ve expected? Anyway, what’s the plan now?” Lucent listed while Tiger conveyed what she knew, quietly and quickly so she wouldn’t get in trouble, and then it was farewell-till-later.

“O.k. Tiger, thanks! Take care and God bless… Yeah, talk to ya later. Bye.”

“Well?” Three or four voices chimed.

“Fen Sloughheart seems to be having another rather curious reaction, or side effect, now. He seems to be experiencing an eczematic-psoriasis, or in English, an inflammation covering at least 2/3 of his body along with large, reddish, circular splotches rising in different places sporadically. Three of psoriastic patches have … cracked and issued some mild bleeding. All of this could be an allergic reaction to one or more of the medications, or the combination of medications used. However, Tiger said the physicians are leaving the cause as ‘undetermined,’ and they’re not really certain how to proceed from here, although a medicinal, therapeutic bath followed by some form of detoxification is probably in the works … however that may help.”

“So it’s happening…” Joy mumbled without opening her eyes.



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