In October, we held a fright fight contest to get in the mood for Halloween. Contestants were asked to submit a spooky, scary, or Halloween themed narrative of no more than 1000 words for a prize and the chance to be published.
“Girl with Two Ears and a Knife” won second place. The quirky and dense writing mix with psychological themes in this story.
by Luke Cai
Marjorie Birney was holding a bloody knife in her right hand and a chocolate bar in her left when her father came into the room and stared.
“Marjorie,” Thomas asked. “What have you done?”
Marjorie, a seven-year-old girl, was the only child of the Birney family. She was extraordinarily brilliant except for one unique disposition.
“Can I sit or should I stand?”
“Should I text or should I call?
“What should I do after 5?”
Marjorie was compulsively indecisive. No matter what she did, she couldn’t decide if it was the right thing to do. So every day, her parents Thomas and Angela had to tell Marjorie what to do or else she wouldn’t know when to eat, when to pee, or even if she could sleep.
“She needs help.”
Then in September, they got in touch with a local psychiatrist named Sylvia Addow and learned that Marjorie’s issue was somatic.
“She needs therapy.” Sylvia said. “I specialize in these sorts of children. They just need to be told what to do.”
The Birneys were hesitant, but she smiled. “Why don’t you let Marjorie come in?”
Marjorie’s mother motioned for her to come inside, but now without four stupid questions. Dr. Addow smiled at the seven-year-old girl.
“Marjorie, how would you describe your problems?”
She didn’t know what to say at first.
“I don’t know what to do,” Marjorie began. “If I should sit or I should sit or if I should stand. If I should shut up or speak.” She kept going. Her questions lasted two minutes. Her parents were anxious, but Sylvia was patient and reserved, unlike any psychiatrist they had seen before.
“You said the issue was somatic,” Thomas began. “Maybe we should take her to a physician.” Sylvia stopped him.
“No, I have some training. I can help her with that as well,” Sylvia said. “Wouldn’t you like that Marjorie?” Marjorie nodded.
So they agreed that Marjorie would be treated on a weekly basis.
The girl made tremendous progress. Everyday her parents would shy away from Marjorie’s salvo of questions, but after meeting with Sylvia, she was at ease. After a month, her line of questioning was almost nonexistent.
“Mommy, look!” Marjorie said one day. “I got first place in gymnastics!”
“That’s wonderful!” Angela said.
Marjorie nodded. “Can I–” she began. She knew that she didn’t have to for permission to sit, so she smiled. When Angela asked Marjorie what she did during her private sessions, Marjorie replied that “she just keeps talking to me all the time and I feel better. Sometimes she rubs my ankles. It’s soothing.” She would never talk about the subject of their conversations.
Her parents called another psychiatrist named Dr. Nazwinsko to monitor Marjorie’s progress, but she was confused.
“She’s somatic? What does that mean?”
“You don’t know?”
“Of course I do. It means that there’s something wrong with body. But your daughter’s problem is in her head.” She pointed at her temple. “Aboulomania. Pathologically indecisive, with the inability to control the prefrontal cortex.”
“So it’s not somatic.”
“Of course not,” Dr. Nazwinsko said. “I’d have that doctor of yours checked out.
And they did. They looked into the Addow’s public records and social media. She was certified but her family life, was in shambles. Sylvia had a master’s degree but her husband was an alcoholic who hadn’t even graduated high school. He had two counts of domestic abuse. When they nudged Sylvia about her husband, she never mentioned a thing.
“I don’t talk about my husband after his passing,” Sylvia said, and they left her alone.
Their therapy sessions came to a close in late October. Dr. Addow asked Marjorie about Halloween.
“What do you want to be for Halloween?”
“An angel, but I might be a teddy bear instead.”
“Not everyone can be an angel.”
“But you are,” Marjorie said. “I didn’t think I’d ever know how to stop asking questions. I felt like my head was going to explode sometimes.”
“Well sometimes it’s better to ask more questions than know all the answers,” Sylvia smiled. “This our last meeting, and I’m happy to see your progress. If you need any more help, give me a call.”
“But I want to visit you,” Marjorie said. “Maybe you could visit me. I live next to the park.”
Dr. Addow laughed. She told Marjorie that she lived four blocks away but shook her head and sent Marjorie home.
It was snowing on Halloween. Marjorie left the house in a teddy bear suit and went door-to-door with the neighborhood kids. The real commotion began when an ambulance pulled around a house four blocks away and a woman was carried away. She had cuts on her skin, and Marjorie was following her. When Thomas heard that it was Sylvia Addow, he rushed out to bring his daughter home.
The next morning, Thomas went into his daughter’s room and found Marjorie eating chocolate obsessively and, inside a pillowcase, a knife covered in blood.
“Marjorie,” Thomas asked. “What have you done?”
“I didn’t do anything,” she said.
“Then where did you get this knife?”
She talked to her father about her last therapy meeting with Sylvia. She learned where Sylvia lived and visited on Halloween, although all the lights were out. She found the front door open and discovered Sylvia cutting herself near the wrists. She wanted it to happen silently when everyone was too busy trick-or-treating, but Sylvia called for an ambulance. She talked with her and hid the knife.”
“And was that what you did last night?”
Marjorie nodded and nibbled on some chocolate. “I was scared.”
Her father had trouble responding. “You did a good thing.”
They watched the news talked about the snow and a DUI car crash. No word of Sylvia.
“You seem to be better,” Thomas said. “You haven’t asked a single question today.”
“May I ask one now?”
Marjorie asked what was wrong with Dr. Addow. Her father couldn’t answer.
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