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January 28, 2021 Fiction

Heidi & Bob

Jon Lindsey

Heidi & Bob photo

Tonight, Heidi is wondering if there is such a thing as ESP. She is thinking that when you make love, your brain opens, and everyone knows what you are thinking, and you know what everyone else is thinking, so your husband knows what you are thinking and can control you. Yeah.

“It doesn’t sound like you’re doing well,” Heidi’s caseworker says.

“Oh,” Heidi says, into the phone.

“I think you should come in.”


* * *

Now, Heidi is in inpatient. Not much for her to do here. Eat. Walk hallways. Sleep.

Heidi likes to sleep. She is good at it. But Heidi is sleeping too much.

“The more you sleep, the more you want to sleep,” the doctor says, and gives her a motivation medication.

All the medicine does is make Heidi worry. Is everyone she loves angry because she will never not be ill? She shuts her eyes and squeezes until she feels her skull. Opens and sees colors.

* * *

On Valentines Day, Bob visits. He is learning to do for himself. Laundry, dishes, sloppy joes.

Heidi wishes she could cook healthy recipes for Bob. But he says, “I’m a meateater.”

Anyway, the 99 Cents Only only carries canned vegetables.

* * *

The hospital won’t let Heidi have Diet Mountain Dew, but will allow Dr. Pepper. What’s the difference? The difference is Heidi is a Diet Mountain Dew person. In a day she can drink a whole two-liter. But she knows that can’t be healthy. Bob’s favorite is Pepsi.

Heidi wonders how she got her mental illness. Mom? Dad? Mom’s mom? God? Someone or something else?

Sometimes, Heidi thinks she isn’t ill. Just susceptible.

“I don’t want to pressure you,” her caseworker says. “But you need to socialize more.”

Heidi wishes her leg would quiet.

“Heidi has two sisters,” Heidi says.

“Hmm, are you disassociating?”

Heidi knows the voices she hears aren’t whole people. “I have–”

“Good. When was the last time you talked to your sisters?”

“But one died.” Heidi keeps forgetting.

* * *

Out of the hospital, at home, Heidi’s kitten hunts the laser. Claws the wall to kill the red dot. Runs when the phone rings.

“You got hired!” the caseworker says.

“Great,” Heidi says, and shoots the laser at the floor.

“Aren’t you excited?”


Heidi will have a paycheck and an employee discount. She shops at the store so knows the layout. Where things go. What they cost. The store carries cleaning supplies and Kotex and almost everything. 

For weeks, Heidi waits to say nine words, “Hello and welcome to the 99 Cent Only Store.”

Bob unloads trucks at the Salvation Army. Lifting furniture is hard on Bob’s body. But he wears a brace around his back and belly.

Surprise! Bob bought a new loveseat. New to them. “Gently loved,” Bob says.

Soon, Heidi and Bob are moving out of Bob’s dad’s house and into their own cottage. Heidi likes the miniature house with its many windows, but why can’t she keep her kitten?

* * *

On their first night in the cottage, icebergs grow on the meat in the freezer. Heidi and Bob sit on the loveseat and watch the Grammys. Bob holds Heidi’s hand. Her hand fits in his.

Heidi loves Bob. Bob loves Heidi. That is enough. Isn’t it?

* * *

Heidi is forced to socialize when her neighbor visits. The neighbor has two children so the government gives her extra. Heidi heard the government used to sterilize people like her and her neighbor. She wonders if they want to do that anymore.

The Bible says that women are saved through childbearing.

The caseworker says, “Do you want your children to go through what you’ve been through?”

“No,” Heidi says.

But does that mean she won’t be saved?

* * *

Tonight, an ambulance took Bob to inpatient. His thoughts were racing themselves. Because his doctor changed his sleep medication. Because Bob has addiction problems. And sleeping pills are hard on the liver. And Bob has problems with his liver.

The new medicines overwhelmed Bob. He couldn’t put on clothes. Or shower. He was urinating in a plastic bottle because he couldn’t walk to the bathroom, and when he tried, he fell. He was going in and out of conscienceness … conchusness … consciousness.

They were supposed to celebrate Heidi’s birthday at the manmade lake.

* * *

Heidi zones the freezer so her manager thinks it looks organized. Her fingers sticks to frozen burritos.

“What a deal.”

“What?” Heidi turns and sees three women holding Easter eggs. 

“I said, what a deal,” the three women say, sniff in unison, then wipe wrists across noses and become one woman.

When Heidi wakes, the paramedics say, “Relax.”

What did Heidi eat for breakfast?

A banana.

If Heidi does not eat enough she will pass out because of her anti-depressants.


The paramedics give her chocolate M&M’s from the shelf she zoned.

“Um, okay,” her manager says. “But only just one pack, okay?”

No thanks, Heidi doesn’t want to go to the hospital. She wants to become someone who belongs at work.

For dinner she has lasagna, corn, and Diet Mountain Dew.

* * *

On the walk around the manmade lake, Heidi and Bob enjoy sugar-free candy. Chew slow, the licorice is expensive. 

On the boardwalk, people move both ways, on skateboards, on rollerblades, on foot. On the lake, people ride peddle boats shaped like swans. Heidi sees ducks and geese and a pair of real swans too.

When it gets dark, the stadium shoots off fireworks. Heidi looks up and watches the sky change colors. She gets dizzy and sits.

* * *

“Dad died,” Rachelle says.

“Okay,” Heidi says, into the phone.

Heidi isn’t crying or upset. Her dad was a bad person and she wonders if she could, or should, blame him for the bad things she has done in life. Partly, yes. Still, she wonders if she should feel bad about not crying.

Heidi is worried about her sister. Lately, it’s Heidi who watches out for her sister.

 “In group,” Heidi says, “The counselor said, ‘Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’ And I believe that’s true, Rachelle.”

“Have you heard from anyone lately?” Rachelle says, at last. “Mom or anyone?”

* * *

The electricity goes out in the storm and Bob lights candles. They are having a lot of rain, which is good, he says, “So in the summer we don’t suffer famine.”

They try to keep the refrigerator closed, but the icebergs melt. 

* * *

Tonight, Bob was robbed. A street person stole his money with a knife. But Heidi doesn’t understand why Bob was downtown around the other manmade lake, with his paycheck.

Bob doesn’t want to talk. He wants to watch music videos with Heidi on the loveseat and not talk. He holds out his hand for her.

Heidi likes to clean at night when it’s hot weather, but also, she is wondering how they will pay rent.

In the morning, Heidi knocks on the frame of her neighbor’s screen door. The kids are in the living room in their underwear, eating cereal, on the floor. 

“Mommmmm,” the boy says. The TV is loud. “Hey, stoooopid.”

“I said don’t call me that,” the neighbor says. The wheels turn and bring her chair to the door.

* * *

The other day, Bob had a procedure called rubber banding. The hemorrhoids are tied with rubber bands to cut off the blood flow. They choke and shrink and die. For some reason, Bob couldn’t breathe through his nose, so they couldn’t give him anesthetic. He had nothing and it hurt.

The doctor isn’t sure about the knot on Bob’s throat.

Hope for the best.

* * *

Next week, Bob goes for chemo. Today, the entire outpatient group is going to a baseball game. Heidi is happy because Bob is happy. But when they reach the seats, Bob says, it’s nosebleeds. Heidi squints to see the men on the diamond. Instead of the game, Heidi watches seagulls land in the stands and fight for her bun and dog. She didn’t know they were meateaters.

“There won’t be any fireworks,” someone says. “It’s a day game.”

* * *

Heidi tries to visit Bob at the skilled nursing center everyday, except Sunday, because the bus doesn’t run. She should go to church on Sunday. But she loves to sleep late.

* * *

Happy Birthday! The card from Heidi’s mom says. Sorry I’m SO late, again!

Heidi uses the birthday money to pay back her neighbor in installments.

* * *

Bob is back home and acting different. The doctor changed his medication because of the cancer. Now, most of Bob’s day is spent in the recliner, listening to music loudly and watching videos that don’t make Heidi happy. 

* * *

So far, this year, Heidi and Bob have had three Thanksgivings. At group, at the Salvation Army, and a private dinner in the cottage. Tonight, they are having another with Bob’s sister and her husband at Sizzler. Bob’s sister owns a house in Texas, but isn’t happy with the tenants who pay rent for awhile and then stop. She says if Heidi and Bob move to Texas and pay rent for five years they can own the home.

Heidi and Bob decorate the cottage, but don’t buy a real tree. Outpatient group has a Christmas party and in a raffle Heidi wins a wallet. But it’s empty.

Heidi and Bob are spending New Years Eve at the neighbor’s. Champagne pops. Bob smokes pot with the neighbor’s boyfriend. Someone says, “Rent is going up in the new year.” No one can afford it, but they all have to.

Heidi is cozy at the cottage window, watching rainfall. In the living room, Bob watches his porno videos.

* * *

At work Heidi gets dizzy. She sits in the aisle of canned goods and the shoppers shop around her. 

Her manager says, “I need to see you in my office, okay.”

Heidi still has Sizzler hidden in her teeth. Her pointer finger picks at steak. She will own her own home.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” the manager says, “but we have to let you go.”

“Okay,” Heidi says. “Where?”

* * *

In the hospital, in the X-rays, Heidi’s intestines are completely stopped up. Some psych meds do that. Now she is drinking plenty of water instead of Diet Mountain Dew. The doctor says the dizziness could also be caused by  stress. Luckily, there is the manmade lake. Heidi and Bob walk around in the evening. Sometimes twice. She gets to see all the ducks and geese who live there. No more swans.

* * *

Tonight, Bob wanted money for meth and Heidi would’t give it to him. There was only a little leftover for laundry, bus fare, and whatever else. They were in the courtyard of the cottages, so the neighbor heard Bob hurting Heidi. “I’m calling the cops,” the neighbor yelled through the screen.

Now, Heidi is here in the shelter for women.

She wonders where Bob is, and how he will get his nighttime medicine.

Heidi knows it was a long time ago that her dad called her brain donor, dummy, and jerk, but it affected her. So when Bob talked about how he was neglected in his youth, Heidi understood. But Bob admitted to Heidi that he had a prostitute give him oral sex. He borrowed the money from Heidi and didn’t even bother to pay her back. And when she was in inpatient the only time he came to see her was when he wanted money for meth, but Heidi didn’t know that at the time.

When they had sex sometimes it hurt, and he would say, “No it doesn’t.”

He would constantly watch his videos and try to get Heidi interested. He was constantly masturbating and when Heidi told him to see a doctor, he refused. He blamed all the problems in his previous marriages on his wives, and Heidi is sure he will blame her too. 

But Bob did help Heidi when she was homeless. After they met in inpatient, he brought her to live at his dad’s. But then he constantly got on her the way her dad did.

* * *

Heidi’s new apartment isn’t walkable to the manmade lake, but there is a church and library. Heidi is reading a book that her bus driver recommended called, Never Be Sick Again. She likes it so far.

* * *

Heidi visits Bob in jail.

He stopped taking his medicine, took meth, and stabbed a woman in a motel.

Now he wants a divorce.

* * *

Today is Sunday, so Heidi walks to church. Although her wardrobe is still wanting, her leg is feeling better. She walks with her muscles now, instead of on her bones. Does that make sense?

Tomorrow is group. This week they will walk a wildness trail.

* * *

Today, Bob’s dad and brother visited Heidi’s new apartment and dropped off the loveseat. They said the government offered Bob a plea deal. Thirteen years, but he won’t take it. He is going to plead insanity.

* * *

Heidi is on a vegan diet and making an effort to eat less food. She has decided she will no longer drink Diet Mountain Dew. Or any soda. Soda seems to mess with her memories.

* * *

Lately, a cat has been coming around that reminds Heidi of her kitten. She is wondering what to name the new cat. When she was young she watched a cartoon named Felix the Cat about a cat in a black and white tuxedo.

* * *

Heidi goes bowling with someone from church. She bowls a seventy something. The guy from church is supposed to be a friend but keeps putting his arm around her and asking, “Are you ticklish?”

After that night, she doesn’t hear from him again, and she’s glad.

* * *

Bob gets sentenced to 12 years in prison. Heidi doesn’t know how to feel, but wishes someone had asked her opinion.

* * *

Heidi tries to call Rachelle another time, another time, another time, but only gets busy signals.


* * *

Heidi ends up in the hospital too many times and her caseworker moves her into assisted living. The food is sometimes healthy, but everything is always changing. They like to keep you guessing because they want you to learn to cope. But Heidi thinks routine helps mental patients.

* * *

Heidi’s new roommate is helpful. She lets Heidi talk. There is so much to to say, but sometimes Heidi still settles on, “Okay.”

Her roommate is 86 years-old and doesn’t remember everyday things, just the past. There are a couple of older ladies like that here. The younger people are all mentally ill.

Sometimes Heidi doesn’t think she is mentally ill, just unable to defend herself against doctors.

Her roommate assures her that isn’t true.


* * *

In the dining room, they wait for cake. The musician strums his thumb down the strings of his acoustic guitar, lays it on its back in the box, and snaps the locks. The ambulance lights change colors in different ways on the window.

“When I was in San Diego,” Heidi says. “I had a vision that hospitals were gateways to hell.”

“God works through medication,” her roommate says.

Heidi isn’t sure she believes that.