And when the fog was finally swept from my head it seemed like Id just come up after a long, deep dive, breaking the surface after being under water a hundred years. It was the last treatment they gave me.

They gave McMurphy three more treatments that week. As quick as he started coming out of one, getting the click back in his wink, Miss Ratched would arrive with the doctor and they would ask him if he felt like he was ready to come around and face up to his problem and come back to the ward for a cure. And hed swell up, aware that every one of those faces on Disturbed had turned toward him and was waiting, and hed tell the nurse he regretted that he had but one life to give for his country and she could kiss his rosy red ass before hed give up the goddam ship. Yeh!

Then stand up and take a couple of bows to those guys grinning at him while the nurse led the doctor into the station to phone over to the Main Building and authorize another treatment.

Once, as she turned to walk away, he got hold of her through the back of her uniform, gave her a pinch that turned her face red as his hair. I think if the doctor hadnt been there, hiding a grin himself, she wouldve slapped McMurphys face.

I tried to talk him into playing along with her sos to get out of the treatments, but he just laughed and told me Hell, all they was doin was chargin his battery for him, free for nothing. When I get out of here the first woman that takes on ol Red McMurphy the ten-thousand-watt psychopath, shes gonna light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars! No, I aint scared of their little battery-charger.

He insisted it wasnt hurting him. He wouldnt even take his capsules. But every time that loudspeaker called for him to forgo breakfast and prepare to walk to Building One, the muscles in his jaw went taut and his whole face drained of color, looking thin and scaredthe face I had seen reflected in the windshield on the trip back from the coast.

I left Disturbed at the end of the week and went back to the ward. I had a lot of things I wanted to say to him before I went, but hed just come back from a treatment and was sitting following the ping-pong ball with his eyes like he was wired to it. The colored aide and the blond one took me downstairs and let me onto our ward and locked the door behind me. The ward seemed awful quiet after Disturbed. I walked to our day room and for some reason stopped at the door; everybodys face turned up to me with a different look than theyd ever given me before. Their faces lighted up as if they were looking into the glare of a sideshow platform. Here, in fronta your very eyes, Harding spiels, is the Wildman who broke the arm of the black boy! Hey-ha, lookee, lookee. I grinned back at them, realizing how McMurphy mustve felt these months with these faces screaming up at him.

All the guys came over and wanted me to tell them everything that had happened: how was he acting up there? What was he doing? Was it true, what was being rumored over at the gym, that theyd been hitting him every day with EST and he was shrugging it off like water, makin book with the technicians on how long he could keep his eyes open after the poles touched.

I told them all I could, and nobody seemed to think a thing about me all of a sudden talking with peoplea guy whod been considered deaf and dumb as far back as theyd known him, talking, listening, just like anybody. I told them everything that theyd heard was true, and tossed in a few stories of my own. They laughed so hard about some of the things hed said to the nurse that the two Vegetables under their wet sheets on the Chronics side grinned and snorted along with the laughter, just like they understood.

When the nurse herself brought the problem of Patient McMurphy up in group the next day, said that for some unusual reason he did not seem to be responding to EST at all and that more drastic means might be required to make contact with him, Harding said, Now, that is possible, Miss Ratched, yes but from what I hear about your dealings upstairs with McMurphy, he hasnt had any difficulty making contact with you.

She was thrown off balance and flustered so bad with everybody in the room laughing at her, that she didnt bring it up again.

She saw that McMurphy was growing bigger than ever while he was upstairs where the guys couldnt see the dent she was making on him, growing almost into a legend. A man out of sight cant be made to look weak, she decided, and started making plans to bring him back down to our ward. She figured the guys could see for themselves then that he could be as vulnerable as the next man. He couldnt continue in his hero role if he was sitting around the day room all the time in a shock stupor.

The guys anticipated this, and that as long as he was on the ward for them to see she would be giving him shock every time he came out of it. So Harding and Scanlon and Fredrickson and I talked over how we could convince him that the best thing for everybody concerned would be his escaping the ward. And by the Saturday when he was brought back to the wardfootworking into the day room like a boxer into a ring, clasping his hands over his head and announcing the champ was backwe had our plan all worked out. Wed wait until dark, set a mattress on fire, and when the firemen came wed rush him out the door. It seemed such a fine plan we couldnt see how he could refuse.

But we didnt think about its being the day hed made a date to have the girl, Candy, sneak onto the ward for Billy.

They brought him back to the ward about ten in the morningFulla piss an vinegar, buddies; they checked my plugs and cleaned my points, and I got a glow on like a Model T spark coil. Ever use one of those coils around Halloween time? Zam! Good clean fun. And he batted around the ward bigger than ever, spilled a bucket of mop water under the Nurses Station door, laid a pat of butter square on the toe of the least black boys white suede shoes without the black boy noticing, and smothered giggles all through lunch while it melted to show a color Harding referred to as a most suggestive yellow,bigger than ever, and each time he brushed close by a student nurse she gave a yip and rolled her eyes and pitter-patted off down the hall, rubbing her flank.

We told him of our plan for his escape, and he told us there was no hurry and reminded us of Billys date. We cant disappoint Billy Boy, can we, buddies? Not when hes about to cash in his cherry. And it should be a nice little party tonight if we can pull it off; lets say maybe its my going-away party.

It was the Big Nurses weekend to workshe didnt want to miss his returnand she decided wed better have us a meeting to get something settled. At the meeting she tried once more to bring up her suggestion for a more drastic measure, insisting that the doctor consider such action before it is too late to help the patient. But McMurphy was such a whirligig of winks and yawns and belches while she talked, she finally hushed, and when she did, he gave the doctor and all the patients fits by agreeing with everything she said.

Yknow, she might be right, Doc; look at the good that few measly volts have done me. Maybe if we doubled the charge I could pick up channel eight, like Martini; Im tired of layin in bed hallucinatin nothing but channel four with the news and weather.

The nurse cleared her throat, trying to regain control of her meeting. I wasnt suggesting that we consider more shock, Mr. McMurphy


I was suggestingthat we consider an operation. Very simple, really. And weve had a history of past successes eliminating aggressive tendencies in certain hostile cases

Hostile? Maam, Im friendly as a pup. I havent kicked the tar out of an aide in nearly two weeks. Theres been no cause to do any cuttin, now, has there?

She held out her smile, begging him to see how sympathetic she was. Randle, theres no cutting involve

Besides, he went on, it wouldnt be any use to lop em off; I got another pair in my nightstand.


One about as big as a baseball, Doc.

Mr. McMurphy! Her smile broke like glass when she realized she was being made fun of.

But the other one is big enough to be considered normal.

He went on like this clear up to the time we were ready for bed. By then there was a festive, county-fair feeling on the ward as the men whispered of the possibility of having a party if the girl came with drinks. All the guys were trying to catch Billys eye and grinning and winking at him every time he looked. And when we lined up for medication McMurphy came by and asked the little nurse with the crucifix and the birthmark if he could have a couple of vitamins. She looked surprised and said she didnt see that there was any reason why not and gave him some pills the size of birds eggs. He put them in his pocket.

Arent you going to swallow them? she asked.

Me? Lord no, I dont need vitamins. I was just gettin them for Billy Boy here. He seems to me to have a peaked look of latetired blood, most likely.

Thenwhy dont you give them to Billy?

I will, honey, I will, but I thought Id wait till about midnight when hed have the most need for themand walked to the dorm with his arm crooked around Billys flushing neck, giving Harding a wink and me a goose in the side with his big thumb as he passed us, and left that nurse pop-eyed behind him in the Nurses Station, pouring water on her foot.

You have to know about Billy Bibbit: in spite of him having wrinkles in his face and specks of gray in his hair, he still looked like a kidlike a jug-eared and freckled-faced and buck-toothed kid whistling barefoot across one of those calendars, with a string of bullheads dragging behind him in the dustand yet he was nothing like this. You were always surprised to find when he stood up next to one of the other men he was just as tall as anyone, and that he wasnt jug-eared or freckled or buck-toothed at all under a closer look, and was, in fact, thirty-some years old.

I heard him give his age only one time, overheard him, to tell the truth, when he was talking to his mother down in the lobby. She was receptionist down there, a solid, well-packed lady with hair revolving from blond to blue to black and back to blond again every few months, a neighbor of the Big Nurses, from what Id heard, and a dear personal friend. Whenever wed go on some activity Billy would always be obliged to stop and lean a scarlet cheek over that desk for her to dab a kiss on. It embarrassed the rest of us as much as it did Billy, and for that reason nobody ever teased him about it, not even McMurphy.

One afternoon, I dont recall how long back, we stopped on our way to activities and sat around the lobby on the big plastic sofas or outside in the two-oclock sun while one of the black boys used the phone to call his bookmaker, and Billys mother took the opportunity to leave her work and come out from behind her desk and take her boy by the hand and lead him outside to sit near where I was on the grass. She sat stiff there on the grass, tight at the bend with her short round legs out in front of her in stockings, reminding me of the color of bologna skins, and Billy lay beside her and put his head in her lap and let her tease at his ear with a dandelion fluff. Billy was talking about looking for a wife and going to college someday. His mother tickled him with the fluff and laughed at such foolishness.

Sweetheart, you still have scads of time for things like that. Your whole life is ahead of you.

Mother, Im th-th-thirty-one years old!

She laughed and twiddled his ear with the weed. Sweetheart, do I look like the mother of a middle-aged man?

She wrinkled her nose and opened her lips at him and made a kind of wet kissing sound in the air with her tongue, and I had to admit she didnt look like a mother of any kind. I didnt believe myself that he could be thirty-one years old till later when I edged up close enough to act a look at the birth date on his wristband.

At midnight, when Geever and the other black boy and the nurse went off duty, and the old colored fellow, Mr. Turkle, came on for his shift, McMurphy and Billy were already up, taking vitamins, I imagined. I got out of bed and put on a robe and walked out to the day room, where they were talking with Mr. Turkle. Harding and Scanlon and Sefelt and some of the other guys came out too. McMurphy was telling Mr. Turkle what to expect if the girl did come,reminding him, actually, because it looked like theyd talked it all over beforehand a couple of weeks back. McMurphy said that the thing to do was let the girl in the window, instead of risking having her come through the lobby, where the night supervisor might be. And to unlock the Seclusion Room then. Yeah, wont that make a fine honeymoon shack for the lovers? Mighty secluded. (Ahh, McM-Murphy, Billy kept trying to say.) And to keep the lights out. So the supervisor couldnt see in. And close the dorm doors and not wake up every slobbering Chronic in the place. And to keep quiet; we dont want to disturb them.

Ah, come on, M-M-Mack, Billy said.

Mr. Turkle kept nodding and bobbing his head, appearing to fall half asleep. When McMurphy said, I guess that pretty well covers things, Mr. Turkle said, Nonot en-tiuhly, and sat there grinning in his white suit with his bald yellow head floating at the end of his neck like a balloon on a stick.

Come on, Turkle. Itll be worth your while. She should be bringin a couple of bottles.

You gettin closer, Mr. Turkle said. His head lolled and bobbled. He acted like he was barely able to keep awake. Id heard he worked another job during the day, at a race track. McMurphy turned to Billy.

Turkle is holdin out for a bigger contract, Billy Boy. How much is it worth to you to lose your ol cherry?

Before Billy could stop stuttering and answer, Mr. Turkle shook his head. It ain that. Not money. She bringin more than the bottle with her, though, aint she, this sweet thing? You people be sharing moren a bottle, wont you. He grinned around at the faces.

Billy nearly burst, trying to stutter something about not Candy, not his girl! McMurphy took him aside and told him not to worry about his girls chastityTurkled likely be so drunk and sleepy by the time Billy was finished that the old coon couldnt put a carrot in a washtub.

The girl was late again. We sat out in the day room in our robes, listening to McMurphy and Mr. Turkle tell Army stories while they passed one of Mr. Turkles cigarettes back and forth, smoking it a funny way, holding the smoke in when they inhaled till their eyes bugged. Once Harding asked what manner of cigarette they were smoking that smelled so provocative, and Mr. Turkle said in a high, breath-holding voice, Jus a plain old cigarette. Hee hoe, yes. You want a toke?

Billy got more and more nervous, afraid the girl might not show up, afraid she might. He kept asking why didnt we all go to bed, instead off sitting out here in the cold dark like hounds waiting at the kitchen for table scraps, and we just grinned at him. None of us felt like going to bed; it wasnt cold at all, and it was pleasant to relax in the half-light and listen to McMurphy and Mr. Turkle tell tales. Nobody acted sleepy, or not even very worried that it was after two oclock and the girl hadnt showed up yet. Turkle suggested maybe she was late because the ward was so dark she couldnt see to tell which one to come to, and McMurphy said that was the obvious truth, so the two of them ran up and down the halls, turning on every light in the place, were even about to turn on the big overhead wake-up lights in the dorm when Harding told them this would just get all the other men out of bed to share things with. They agreed and settled for all the lights in the doctors office instead.

No sooner did they have the ward lit up like full daylight than there came a tapping at the window. McMurphy ran to the window and put his face to it, cupping his hands on, each side so he could see. He drew back and grinned at us.

She walks like beauty, in the night, he said. He took Billy by the wrist and dragged him to the window. Let her in, Turkle. Let this mad stud at her.

Look, McM-M-M-Murphy, wait. Billy was balking like a mule.

Dont you mamamamurphy me, Billy Boy. Its too late to back out now. Youll pull through. Ill tell you what: I got five dollars here says you burn that woman down; all right? Open the window, Turkle.

There were two girls in the dark, Candy and the other one that hadnt shown up for the fishing trip. Hot dog, Turkle said, helping them through, enough for everbody.

We all went to help: they had to lift their tight skirts up to their thighs to step through the window. Candy said, You damn McMurphy, and tried so wild to throw her arms around him that she came near to breaking the bottles she held by the neck in each hand. She was weaving around quite a bit, and her hair was falling out of the hairdo she had piled on top of her head. I thought she looked better with it swung at the back like shed worn it on the fishing trip. She gestured at the other girl with a bottle as she came through the window.

Sandy came along. She just up and left that maniac from Beaverton that she married; isnt that wild?

The girl came trough the window and kissed McMurphy and said, Hello, Mack. Im sorry I didnt show up. But thats over. You can take just so many funsies like white mice in your pillowcase and worms in your cold cream and frogs in your bra. She shook her head once and wiped her hand in front of her like she was wiping away the memory of her animal-loving, husband. Cheesus, what a maniac.

They were both in skirts and sweaters and nylons and barefoot, and both red-cheeked and giggling. We had to keep asking for directions, Candy explained, at every bar we came to.

Sandy was turning around in a big wide-eyed circle. Whoee, Candy girl, what are we in now? Is this real? Are we in an asylum? Man! She was bigger than Candy, and maybe five years older, and had tried to lock her bay-colored hair in a stylish bun at the back of her head, but it kept stringing down around her broad milk-fed cheekbones, and she looked like a cowgirl trying to pass herself off as a society lady. Her shoulders and breasts and hips were too wide and her grin too big and open for her to ever be called beautiful, but she was pretty and she was healthy and she had one long finger crooked in the ring of a gallon of red wine, and it swung at her side like a purse.

How, Candy, how, how, how do these wild things happen to us? She turned around once more and stopped, with her bare feet spread, giggling.

These things dont happen, Harding said to the girl solemnly. These things are fantasies you lie awake at night dreaming up and then are afraid to tell your analyst. Youre not really here. That wine isnt real; none of this exists. Now, lets go on from there.

Hello, Billy, Candy said.

Look at that stuff, Turkle said.

Candy straight-armed one of the bottles awkwardly toward Billy. I brought you a present.

These things are Thorne Smithian daydreams! Harding said.

Boy! the girl named Sandy said. What have we got ourselves into?

Shhhh, Scanlon said and scowled around him. Youll wake up those other bastards, talking so loud.

Whats the matter, stingy? Sandy giggled, starting to turn in her circle again. You scared theres not enough to go around?

Sandy, I mighta known youd bring that damn cheap port.

Boy! She stopped her turning to look up at me. Dig this one, Candy. A Goliathfee, fi, fo, fum.

Mr. Turkle said, Hot dog, and locked the screen back, and Sandy said, Boy, again. We were all in an awkward little cluster in the middle of the day room, shifting around one another, saying things just because nobody knew what else to do yetnever been up against a situation like itand I dont know when this excited, uneasy flurry of talk and giggling and shuffling around the day room wouldve stopped if that ward door hadnt rung with a key knocking it open down the halljarred everybody like a burglar alarm going off.

Oh, Lord God, Mr. Turkle said, clapping his hand on the top of his bald head, its the soo-pervisor, come to fire my black ass.

We all ran into the latrine and turned out the light and stood in the dark, listening to one another breathe. We could hear that supervisor wander around the ward, calling for Mr. Turkle in a loud, half-afraid whisper. Her voice was soft and worried, rising at the end as she called, Mr. Tur-kull? Mis-tur Turkle?

Where the hell is he? McMurphy whispered. Why dont he answer her?

Dont worry, Scanlon said. She wont look in the can.

But why dont he answer? Maybe he got too high.

Man, what you talkin? I dont get too high, not on a little middlin joint like that one. It was Mr. Turkles voice somewhere in the dark latrine with us.

Jesus, Turkle, what are you doing in here? McMurphy was trying to sound stern and keep from laughing at the same time. Get out there and see what she wants. Whatll she think if she doesnt find you?

The end is upon us, Harding said and sat down. Allah be merciful.

Turkle opened the door and slipped out and met her in the hall. Shed come over to see what all the lights were on about. What made it necessary to turn on every fixture in the ward? Turkle said every fixture wasnt on; that the dorm lights were off and so were the ones in the latrine. She said that was no excuse for the other lights; what possible reason could there be for all this light? Turkle couldnt come up with an answer for this, and during the long pause I heard the battle being passed around near me in the dark. Out in the hall she asked him again, and Turkle told her, well, he was just cleanin up, policing the areas. She wanted to know why, then, was the latrine, the place that his job description called for him to have clean, the only place that was dark? And the bottle went around again while we waited to see what hed answer. It came by me, and I took a drink. I felt I needed it. I could hear Turkle swallowing all the way out in the hall, umming and ahing for something to say.

Hes skulled, McMurphy hissed. Somebodys gonna have to go out and help him.

I heard a toilet flush behind me, and the door opened and Harding was caught in the hall light as he went out, pulling up his pajamas. I heard the supervisor gasp at the sight of him and he told her to pardon him, but he hadnt seen her, being as it was so dark.

It isnt dark.

In the latrine, I meant. I always switch off the lights to achieve a better bowel movement. Those mirrors, you understand; when the light is on the mirrors seem to be sitting in judgment over me to arbitrate a punishment if everything doesnt come out right.

But Aide Turkle said he was cleaning in there

And doing quite a good job, too, I might addconsidering the restrictions imposed on him by the dark. Would you care to see?

Harding pushed the door open a crack, and a slice of light cut across the latrine floor tile. I caught a glimpse of the supervisor backing off, saying shed have to decline his offer but she had further rounds to make. I heard the ward door unlock again up the hall, and she let herself off the ward. Harding called to her to return soon for another visit, and everybody rushed out and shook his hand and pounded his back for the way hed pulled it off.

We stood there in the hall, and the wine went around again. Sefelt said hed as leave have that vodka if there was something to mix it with. He asked Mr. Turkle if there wasnt something on the ward to put in it and Turkle said nothing but water. Fredrickson asked what about the cough sirup? They give me a little now and then from a half-gallon jug in the drug room. Its not bad tasting. You have a key for that room, Turkle?

Turkle said the supervisor was the only one on nights who had a key to the drug room, but McMurphy talked him into letting us have a try at picking the lock. Turkle grinned and nodded his head lazily. While he and McMurphy worked at the lock on the drug room with paper clips, the girls and the rest of us ran around in the Nurses Station opening files and reading records.

Look here, Scanlon said, waving one of those folders. Talk about complete. Theyve even got my first-grade report card in here. Aaah, miserable grades, just miserable.

Bill and his girl were going over his folder. She stepped back to look him over. All these things, Billy? Phrenic this and pathic that? You dont look like you have all these things.

The other girl had opened a supply drawer and was suspicious about what the nurses needed with all those hot-water bottles, a million of em, and Harding was sitting on the Big Nurses desk, shaking his head at the whole affair.

McMurphy and Turkle got the door of the drug room open and brought out a bottle of thick cherry-colored liquid from the ice box. McMurphy tipped the bottle to the light and read the label out loud.

Artificial flavor, coloring, citric acid. Seventy per cent inert materialsthat must be waterand twenty per cent alcoholthats fineand ten per cent codeine Warning Narcotic May Be Habit Forming. He unscrewed the bottle and took a taste of it, closing his eyes. He worked his tongue around his teeth and took another swallow and read the label again. Well, he said, and clicked his teeth together like theyd just been sharpened, if we cut it a leetle bit with the vodka, I think itll be all right. How are we fixed for ice cubes, Turkey, old buddy?

Mixed in paper medicine cups with the liquor and the port wine, the sirup had a taste like a kids drink but a punch like the cactus apple wine we used to get in The Dalles, cold and soothing on the throat and hot and furious once it got down. We turned out the lights in the day room and sat around drinking it. We threw the first couple of cups down like we were taking our medication, drinking it in serious and silent doses and looking one another over to see if it was going to kill anybody. McMurphy and Turkle switched back and forth from the drink to Turkles cigarettes and got to giggling again as they discussed how it would be to lay that little nurse with the birthmark who went off, at midnight.

Id be scared, Turkle said, that she might go to whuppin me with that big of cross on that chain. Wunt that be a fix to be in, now?

Id be scared, McMurphy said, that just about the time I was getting my jellies shed reach around behind me with a thermometer and take my temperature!

That busted everybody up. Harding stopped laughing long enough to join the joking.

Or worse yet, he said. Just lie there under you with a dreadful concentration on her face, and tell youoh Jesus, listentell you what your pulse was!

Oh dont ... oh my Gawd ...

Or even worse, just lie there, and be able to calculate your pulse and temperature bothsans instruments!

Oh Gawd, oh please dont

We laughed till we were rolling about the couches and chairs, choking and teary-eyed. The girls were so weak from laughing they had to try two or three times to get to their feet. I gotta ... go tinkle, the big one said and went weaving and giggling toward the latrine and missed the door, staggered into the dorm while we all hushed one another with fingers to the lips, waiting, till she gave a squeal and we heard old Colonel Matterson roar, The pillow is a horse!and come whisking out of the dorm right behind her in his wheelchair.

Sefelt wheeled the colonel back to the dorm and showed the girl where the latrine was personally, told her it was generally used by males only but he would stand at the door while she was in there and guard against intrusions on her privacy, defend it against all comers, by gosh. She thanked him solemnly and shook his hand and they saluted each other and while she was inside here came the colonel out of the dorm in his wheelchair again, and Sefelt had his hands full keeping him out of the latrine. When the girl came out of the door he was trying to ward off the charges of the wheelchair with his foot while we stood on the edge of the fracas cheering one guy or the other. The girl helped Sefelt put the colonel back to bed, and then the two of them went down the hall and waltzed to music nobody could hear.

Harding drank and watched and shook his head. It isnt happening. Its all a collaboration of Kafka and Mark Twain and Martini.

McMurphy and Turkle got to worrying that there might still be too many lights, so they went up and down the hall turning out everything that glowed, even the little knee-high night lights, till the place was pitch black. Turkle got out flashlights, and we played tag up and down the hall with wheelchairs from storage, having a big time till we heard one of Sefelts convulsion cries and went to find him sprawled twitching beside that big girl, Sandy. She was sitting on the floor brushing at her skirt, looking down at Sefelt. I never experienced anything like it, she said with quiet awe.

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