Mind Games by Jeffrey Johnston

Oh my God. Won’t this poor woman just shut up? She keeps telling me the same stories over and over again, day after day, week after week. Why does she keep asking me if I remember Jimmy and the rust-colored basset hound she is convinced holds some fond memory in my heart? I know her. I mean, I must know her…right? I’ve heard her voice many times before, but I’ll be damned if I can put a name to that voice. She speaks to me with that condescending tone of voice, as if I were a child. Why does she do that? A better question is why can’t I see her, or anyone else for that matter; why can’t anybody hear me? I am talking, right…aren’t I? I hear myself talking, or at least I think that I do. What the fuck?

“Argh! Hey, stop that, would you!” Here we go again with the feet. The guy with the feminine voice who loves to play with my feet. Argh! “Stop it! That hurts and tickles at the same time, and it makes me have to pee!” I don’t know what this guy hopes to accomplish by scraping whatever that is across the bottom of my feet every single day.

Will this dream ever end? This must be a dream; a nightmare is more like it. Day in and day, out it’s the same shit. People attaching things to my penis, shoving tubes into my nose and down my throat, telling me, “Swallow, honey, swallow. Swallow the nice tube and you’ll feel better.” Bullshit! It stings my sinuses and makes me gag. But if I don’t swallow that fucking tube, they keep jabbing it against the back of my throat, and it hurts. I submit; I have no choice in the matter.

Holy crap. What’s that smell? Is that? … Oh man, somebody has crapped themselves again, and I have to lie here and smell it until someone cleans it up. Probably that woman with the cold han…  Whoa, Hey!  Here we go again! Rolling, rolling! On my side now, and wow, did that smell get worse or what? Old Ms. Cold Hands is working her magic again. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Blot, blot, blot.

“Hey, don’t forget the baby powder, Cold Hands.”

Ahh. That’s better. Smells like a freshly diapered baby’s butt in here now. I wish she’d take this thing off of my prick and give me back my boxers. Do I even wear boxers, or was it briefs? The hell if I know anymore. A lot of things I remember. A lot of things I don’t. Little Jimmy and that freaky-looking dog are among the latter.

Is that…is that pot I smell? Here’s that guy that smells like pot every time he comes. Talks to me about BMX racing all the time and how we used to hitchhike up Highway 9 to the summit and race back down into Saratoga. He tells the same story about how we went as a group all the way to Big Basin State Park in the eighth grade on our bikes and camped overnight. Said raccoons ate all our food in the middle of the night and we had to eat some canned crap called Beefy Mac that we bought from the country store next to the ranger station.  Beefy Mac?  What the hell is that?

The eighth grade? How long ago was that? Years? Days? Who is this guy, and why does he always smell like pot?

This is the most bizarre dream I have ever had. This has to be a dream ‘cause I can hear everything that is going on around me. There are people talking and music playing on a radio somewhere. I smell pot and shit and an overwhelming aroma of Band-Aids, but I don’t see any of these things. It’s like I’m on the edge of sleep, you know drifting off…but I’m not. This is so fucking weird, man. If this is a dream, I sure wish that it would end, but more than that, I wish I could get this tube out of my nose. It itches something fierce. Just about got it out now. Gaaack! Ah, yes…and it’s out now. Whew…dang, I almost puked that time. Now to work on that other one. I just hope I get it out before that bitch tapes it back to my dick and starts jamming that other one back into my nose. It takes longer and longer to get it out each time. What are they going to do next, shove something in my ass? Don’t get me started. This is torture, I tell you! Torture!

What the fuck kind of kinky joint is this anyway? I hope I’m not paying for this service, like I hear they do some of those kink-themed brothels in Nevada or overseas ‘cause I don’t think I’m completely satisfied with this whole eating and pissing through tubes experience.

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! I can’t stand it! I don’t know any Jimmy! Bassett hounds the color of rust don’t exist in nature! Even if they did, I still wouldn’t care! Stop it! Please, no more incessant babbling about remember when…remember the time…remember how you loved…No, dammit! I don’t remember! I don’t remember shit except that dude with the girlish voice screwing around with my feet, the smell of shit, Band-Aids, and antiseptic in alternating aromatic strengths and someone talking to me in Spanish during the night.”

And hey…by the way, what the hell is that all about? And what’s with the Mexican music? I don’t understand any of that. I must admit, the touch of that woman’s hand caressing my cheek as she talks to me in Spanish is kind of nice.

“Tranquilo, pequeño. Estad quieto. Jesús te ama, pero no te necesita todavía.” 

I don’t know what she’s saying, but boy does it sound sweet. Kind of arousing too. Or maybe that fucking tube that old Cold Hands has taped to my dick again is making me think I’m aroused. I wish she’d stop doing that.


Uh, oh…here we go again. Jumping around.

Jumping, jumping, jumping…

“Aarrggg! What the hell is happening to me!” All of my muscles have contracted at once, like I’m in some perpetual full-body flex. It feels like my teeth are going to explode under the force of my own jaw muscles.

Whew, damn…what the hell was that? Crap, is my jaw sore. That lady is calling for a nurse. Funny, that’s the only word in English I ever hear come out of her mouth, and it happens every few hours when I start jerking around. And here comes that lady with a calm voice. She tells the Spanish-speaking lady that I had a seizure. Seizure? What the fuck is that? Every time they come in and talk about that, the calm lady touches my neck, my forehead, and pokes me here and there and then leaves again. She leaves me alone with the Spanish lady or that crazy woman who can’t stop talking about Jimmy and that unnaturally colored Bassett hound. Rust colored? Really? Not on this planet, I tell you.  That woman is clearly insane.

Oh my God, this is so scary! What is happening? I don’t understand what all this jerking around is about, it…it scares me, and…and it makes me so tired afterward. My ears start ringing, and everything goes black. When I come to, my jaw aches, and all of my muscles are sore. I wish my mom was here. She would make everything better. She always does.

“Mama! Mom! Make it stop…please! Mama!”


Where are we now? How the hell did I get on this train, and where are the walls? Oh hey, there’s Diane and Mike and Ethan. Oh, and there’s my buddy Jimmy. Hey, I wonder if that’s the same Jimmy the crazy lady with the weird-colored dog keeps going on and on about.

“Hey, guys, what’s up? Where’s this train headed? Guys? Hey! Can you hear me! Is anybody listening to me?” What the hell, man.

Oh shit, there’s John, or Red, as we called him, from the Canoas Gardens apartments, the new kid with the red afro. I never did like that guy. Last summer he spray-painted his allegiance to Satan in the creek by the Malone Road Bridge. Great big red letters complete with a pentagram. What a freak. Not the best way to make a first impression in your new neighborhood, I suspect. He’s been black-listed from our clique ever since.

Hey, is that snow this train is traveling through? It’s not even cold. No trees, no buildings, just white as far as the eye can see. Here comes Red running his ass off trying to catch up to the train, and what the…is that a rifle in his hand and his bike in the other? Holy shit, what is he up to?

“Hey, guys, you see this shit? Guys? Hey!” What the hell, am I even talking?

He’s at the ladder now. He’s tossing his bike up and is on the last rung. Whap! The conductor kicks him in the face, knocking him back into the snow, and then throws his bike off the train after him.

Nice one, dude. Everyone else is patting the conductor on the back. Looks like no one else wanted him on the train either, especially with that gun in his hand.

Jimmy has a bottle. It figures. He always does. Bacardi 151 is our drink. We all have a small collection of those little round bat labels in our wallets covering up the photos on our student body cards—you know, the ones from the neck of the bottle. A brotherhood all our own.

“Hey, Jimmy! Pass that thing this way, amigo. Hey, I said pass it, bro. What the fuck, are you ignoring me or you got pig shit in your ears! Hey!” What the hell is going on here? All of my friends are here on this flatbed rail car, barreling though this undefined seamless and endless white void, but not one of them is acknowledging I’m even here. This is just weird, man…weird.


Uh…OK, then. Now where am I? That was strange in a non-transitional kind of way.

Now I’ve seen everything. Hey, this is kind of fun. Yee-haw! Look at me, jamming down a hallway, looks to be a hospital corridor in a…a wheelchair? What am I doing in a wheelchair? Must be a dream, ‘cause I’ve never been in a wheelchair before. But hey, it’s almost like riding a bike only with four wheels instead of two. Get speed wobbles when we get going too fast, though.

OK, now that I got all that straight in my head, this is kind of cool. I’m jamming down this hospital corridor, my chariot piloted by some hot brunette who had the brilliant sense to wear high-cut lace-trimmed panties under her tight-fitting white slacks, exhibiting to all with even moderately acute vision the detail of her lacy undergarments. And if that wasn’t titillating enough, the well-endowed ta-ta’s of this twenty-something stunner—clearly an asset to her profession—are lightly brushing the back of my head as we traverse the halls, zipping in and out of other wheelchair and gurney traffic. Yee-haw!

Somehow I am acutely aware that we’re on a quest to thwart the efforts of that crazy devil-worshiping Red who is on a mission to cause harm to the hospital staff and patients. Man, I like this dream. Hey, there’s another one of those spider drawings on the wall. Red must have come this way ’cause he used to draw those things everywhere he went, you know, like a trademark or a crazy white boy way of tagging or whatever. That means he’s in the hospital. We have to stop him. The last time he was seen, he was running through the snow carrying a rifle. Unpredictable as he is, I should warn people before he does something bad.

“Follow those spiders, honey. They got to lead to him eventually!

Whoa, cool! I’ve always wanted to be in one of these things. This is one of those surgery observatories or whatever they’re called. Wow, there’s a guy on the operating table down there too. He’s about to be cracked open by one of those surgeons. Hey…do you see what I see? It’s Red, and he’s outside the operating room window, running right toward us.

“Hey, docs. Don’t you see him? He’s got a gun! Stop him before he gets too close. Doc! Doesn’t anybody hear me?”

Oh good, looks like one of the surgeons did, ’cause they just opened the window, and what the…they’re taking out rifles of their own and firing out the window at him.

“Blast him, Doc. Take that evil bastard down before he gets into the hospital!”

I guess they didn’t teach marksmanship in medical school, ’cause you fucks can’t shoot worth a shit! OK, one of them just heaved an oxygen cylinder out the window at him. Whataya think that’s gonna do? He’s nowhere near close enough to hit… Oh, I get it, they’re shooting at the cylinder to try…blam! There it went. Heads up, everybody! It’s raining bike parts and bloody bits of red hair. Thanks, docs. That was close. With Red gone, we can all sleep a little easier. What the hell was that guy up to anyway?


Hey, this is nice. Where am I? Am I in a swimming pool? Sounds like the music I hear when that nice lady is holding my hand and caressing my face, talking to me in Spanish. Mom, is that you? When did you get here, and wait a minute—how did we get at this swim-up bar, and hey, are we in Mexico? Looks just like it does on TV. Mom…you’re not wearing a bikini, are you? Oh, hell no. I could’ve gone all day without seeing that shit. Mom, why aren’t you talking to me? This must be a dream. You’ve always been pretty lenient with me growing up, but I don’t think you would’ve ordered margaritas for us both at a bar, right? Not to mention a swim-up bar in a Mexican resort, and besides, I’m only seventeen. Mom…Mom? Hey…where’d you go?


Oh, shit, here we go again with the jerking around! What did I ever do to deserve this? Aarrggg! Will this exhausting convulsing ever end!? It huuurts! Damn, that one lasted longer than the last two combined. I think I broke a tooth that time, and my mouth tastes like copper.

“Tranquilo niño. Estad quieto. Debe descansar y guardar tu fuerza. Tienes la pelea de tu vida todavía por delante.” 

Oh, thank God it’s you. You are the one thing I can rely on in this world. Well, the one calming thing I should say. Not like Girly Man and his foot fetish or old Cold Hands who is always taping stuff to my dick. You, I like. You, I can get used to. I think I love you, Spanish-speaking lady with the soft hands that smell like pink soap. I wish I could stay here with you forever. So soothing is your touch, the romance of your language, caressing away the anxieties of this new and unfamiliar world that I have been thrown into. Ah, yes. This is where I belong. Yawn…so soothing.


Ouch! Hey, what the…stop that! That hurts. What the hell is that? Is someone stabbing me? Help! Someone’s stabbing me! Feels like a safety pin jabbing me in the leg. Damn, I was sound asleep too. That better not be you, girly man with the foot fetish. I’ll kick your punk ass, dude. Oh, so it is you. Running that cold steel up and down the soles of my feet, having your way with them wasn’t enough of a turn on for you, huh? Now you’ve added stabbing me with pins to your repertoire? You’re dead meat, mister.

Hey, Spanish-speaking lady, stop this guy, will you? You’re my only savior in this place, the only one I can rely on to keep me safe. Help me, somebody…please!

How long must I endure this…this bizarre and now slightly kinky treatment?


Whoa! Who…are…you? You are stunningly beautiful. Wait, are…are you an angel? Oh shit! I must be dead. Oh my God! If you’re an angel, that must mean I’m dead! Dang, you are so pretty. Prettier than anyone or anything I’ve ever seen. So, all those movies were right. Angels really do have long blond hair and luminescent eyes like polished blue glass. Hey, what’s your name? Do angels even have names?

“Oh my God… There you are…We’ve been waiting a very long time for you to return to us,” the heavenly creature says softly, rising from a chair positioned at the foot of the bed, a station that she held for several hours on this day and the twenty-eight days that preceded it.

Stepping up to the bedside, she gently caresses my cheek with her fingertips—the softest touch I have ever felt.

“My name’s Pia,” she says in a sensuously smoky voice. “Don’t go away now. I’ll be right back.”

Hey…hey, where ya going? We were just getting to know each other.

Pia, the gorgeous blond-haired woman with the angelic face and ice blue eyes—eyes that had now begun to well up with tears—runs out of the room and down the hall.

“He woke up! 382-A woke up!  382-A woke up!”

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A writer, blogger and published author of short fiction, Jeffrey Johnston can be found in mountain cabins, coastal coffee shops and the occasional Midtown Sacramento cafe, huddled in a corner banging away at his computer, breathing life into his fictional characters. Also an award-winning photographer, when not immersed in writing his stories, he travels near and far capturing the beauty of his home state of California. Johnston holds a BS in Business and an MFA in Creative Writing. His short stories have appeared in the GNU.

Photo credit: Christina Salomon


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