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screaming eagle
by Kate Burgauer <[email protected]>

You ever lost something? I mean lost and will never -- can never -- find? It will happen to you. It will happen to anyone who has ever had things or people they love. Eventually, you'll lose them.

This is what they tell us in Group. We all have lost, thrown away, and buried part of our lives. We are addicts. Yes, in every sense we are junkies. You become an addict when you become your drug of choice. You are consumed -- well, that's what the shrink tells us.

He's a nice man -- the shrink. He tries pretty hard. He's one of those crusaders that are going to go out and make a difference in the slums, soup kitchens, and recovery centers of our world. He has a mission. And without a mission for ourselves, we'll never get cured. Us, the addicts that is. Or so he says.

Oh, I'm being quite rude -- I should introduce myself. I'm Rachel, and I'm a heroin addict. Hi Rachel. Hello.

If you knew my last name you'd know who I used to be. But, Mr. Poleax, the shrink, says that I can't ever have my old life back. I'm a new person now, missing a part.

I used to be on TV and I was found high on my deck. The needle was still in my vein. Or so the doctors told me. I lost that week; I'll never know what really happened.

"Rachel?" A circular light flashed from pupil to pupil, blinding me. I stopped typing. I have a terrible temper and I had the instinct to jump all over the nurse who was damaging my eyesight.

But, I didn't move. I let my hands fall limp and all I felt was the empty feeling where my anger should have been.

"Rachel?" Again with the name, what a washed-out old nurse, I thought. "It's six o'clock. You know what the means?" It really wasn't a question. It was strap-down time.


Prison is scary. I guess, but I don't really know. Not how criminals know it. I mean, deep down in the always blamed for courage or cowardice human gut. My wrists are wrapped in canvas and iron straps. My legs are strapped down at the thighs and my ankles are raw from the padded cuffs.

They tell us -- be good, be quiet, be cured. Get cured and you get out. Out of this hospital. Who gives a damn if you get well?

I hate sleeping on my back. You can only look at the ceiling. Peeling paint is worse than paint drying. Why watch ruin when you can watch creation?

But, I'm on my back. I can't roll over. I lost that privilege when I screamed last week. I screamed because I was in so much pain and couldn't feel any of it.

I was thinking about a roller coaster ride that night. Remember when you were happy -- happy without your drugs? Mr. Poleax said we should ask ourselves this. When we came up with a happy time, try hard to relive it. He knows everything, everything about how to cure us.

So, I took his advice. Eighth grade. Class trip. Six Flags. The "In Pain Something or Other" roller coaster.

God, I'm going to scream again just thinking about that night when I got in trouble, when I screamed and woke up the whole ward. I was screaming because of the roller coaster. Not the scream that sneaks out of you as you descend that first drop. Car rattling, people yelling, and your stomach in your eye balls.

"Rachel?" A hairy knuckled hand rested almost on my nose. Again a circular light shined into my pupils. I opened my eyelids further. Respect your physician, they care about your cure. I turned my head away from the cornea-burning searchlight. My pillow smelled like vomit. "Yes. Sadly, she's still reacting to the withdrawal-suppressant drug. Her stomach is weak."

The doctor's voice sounded far off, but his breath was smelling of coffee under my nose. Daily check-up time. As the doctor uncuffs us he goes through the process in detail. It's supposed to make us scared of the restraints. Mr. Poleax says so.

"Rachel, dear?" A smell of bourbon and expensive perfume. My mother. She took my hand. God, she looked like she had just killed someone.

"Mother is here to see you, Rachel." The doc was using his visitor's voice. "It's time for you to explain the procedure, and your cure."

This time came every morning. Before they unstrap you -- I mean us. I'm assuming you're not an addict. We have to tell them what we memorized. Extra pudding if you learn it all in one day.


"Mother," I began. She loved that. It made her feel like the parent she never was. "Thank you for saving my life." We have to say that. "You have provided me with a cure to my addiction."

There it is -- that word cure again. I was beginning to wake up and the sedative was wearing off. I remembered that I would have been feisty with the cuffs and all. But, the energy was absent. I have a bandage on my head where it should be.

"I have had a life-changing surgery."

"Oh, honey." Mother started crying; she was clenching my hand. I couldn't move my head enough to see her face, but her voice was crying. All I had to go on was the crumbling paint.

"Let her finish." The doc was getting my meds together.

But, I didn't feel like it. I was thinking about that roller coaster again. I closed my eyes. Visualization of a happy place is very effective. Shrinks need to try that themselves to see if it works. So, I am in the car. No, the seat. The harness over my shoulders is tight. My heart is pumping, but... But, nothing. Empty. I can't feel it. My head hurt.


I got in trouble again. I guess my mother stormed out. I created a rift that will be hard to bridge, Mr. Poleax said. I screamed again because what I lost was stolen.

You probably want to know what was stolen. My soul I think. On a rational level, my heart. My chart will tell you:

Penal Gland Removal. Anti-withdrawal regime to counter paranoia.

STATUS: Check-in by parent. Patient not able to form ideas or understand consequences. Surgery successful. Gland removed for tests. Nervous center returned to normal behavior.
COMMENTS: Recurring screaming fits. Part of gland not excised?

That last comment was put in to assure my cure. By the way, that gland, that's what was keeping me addicted. Mr. Poleax says so.

But, that gland thing in my brain, that's also good for something else. They stole it. My mother broke in to my head and the doctors stole me.

I hate these hospital gowns. The back exposes you to the cold sheets on the gurney. And the rectangle lights laugh at you as you go by. Off to prison I go, on my back in a hospital gown.

I can feel the hole right now. They say that feeling lasts for awhile. I'm going back to the operating room. They're gonna have a look to see if any of my life is left. If so, out it will go, and along with it any thrill or love or laugh or feeling or emotion that I ever -- or will ever -- have. Science has found my cure.

The warden is rolling me on towards my cell. Six by six by seven. Padded for my safety. Nothing comes in, and nothing goes out. Muffled and padded and empty. But, I'll be cured.

I try again. I'm in the seat, the harness tight, the car rattling upward. Here my heart should race and my blood pump, my eyes water and my stomach clench. Here I am.

I scream. The scream of pain and sorrow and outrage. Every remnant of real living has pooled together and welled up in my throat.

I scream.


The lights stop moving above me. A circular light blinds me.

"We'd better hurry. Look at her heart rate. We might need to remove the whole adrenal gland. She's getting much too excited." The heart monitor was beeping like mad. I screamed louder because I could feel it. I could feel it as though I were flying. Then the lights went out.

They cured me that day. Or so Mr. Poleax says.


Title: Screaming Eagle
Date: 06/08/00
Author: Kate Burgauer
e-mail: [email protected]