Author's Note--I make another appearance in this saga of Dr. Freudine, just so no one forgets moi. My psychiatrist character was last seen laughing with her client, 29th_Candidate, on his couch with him in my review of Chaplin's Essanay Comedies Vol. 1, but you can go to my profile page for all Dr. Freudine posts.
The seemingly innocent high five 29th gave me is suspended in air as we lock our warm palms and fingers, my hand slightly dwarfed by his hairless, long-fingered hand belonging to an artist. I catch my breath, mesmerized by his bold, almost possessive look. Had time wound down then it couldn't have picked a more enthralling moment.
Then his doorbell rings. The moment collapses and he groans while squeezing my hand, then bounds off to answer the persistent ringer. I rise to garner a better look. As he opens it, that nasty jankp strides in, holding a dark greenish, hardbound book.
"Doc, I need your opinion on The Dogs of Babel, see if it rings true to you."
I stagger back, falling onto the couch again. Am I dreaming this? Had I entered another time dimension because of that moment? I can only gawk as the pigtailed, young woman in a gingham halter top and jean shorts drops beside me.
"You see, this young man marries a woman and they seem really happy, but then she's found dead beneath their apple tree, face up, and only their big dog sees it. So the man who's a linguist decides he'll try to teach the dog to talk so he can discover what the heck happened..."
"Wait a sec. Is this another one of your jokes? Obviously you're his girlfriend trying..."
"Not at all, Doc! I'm your guardian angel trying to keep everything professional between you two simmering volcanos. Now as I was saying, this grieving man is serious about teaching his dog to talk and has it all organized like for a child with flashcards and he even laps up some doggy water to try to teach her 'water.' He's obsessed with his project and thinking about his marriage, wondering if she committed suicide, but I don't want to spoil it. If I describe her a bit, could you judge whether she was suicidal?"
I haven't heard much after 'simmering volcanos,' but at least catch the question. Hesitating I consider what experience I have with suicides, that in graduate school, and nod with more interest.
"I know something about this, too, Doc," 29th chips in quietly and takes a seat opposite us after shooing a black and white cat away.
"Of course," I say with a sad glance. Jankp continues.
"Lexy, that's her name, is a beautiful, young woman who takes her time marrying Paul and they are very happy. She makes theatrical, creative masks for a living, but after she's asked for a death mask and she enjoys doing it, Lexy does them only. It fascinates her and they're not morbid, but rather surreal in an abstract way..."
"Very intriguing, but...," I trail off.
"Just wait. She has fits sometimes. Like when Paul praises a death mask she just made, then warns her that it might not be what the buyers want, she goes berserk crying that he hates it and so destroys it. And the night before her death, she sees the designs Paul makes for animal-faced gods as totally stupid and impossible to make, so she blows up at him and stews in her workshop all night. She calls a psychic."
"Oh, does the psychic give her bad news?" 29th looks concerned all of a sudden. "I've heard of these cases before, though I'd never waste time with psychics."
"Actually she's very positive, even when she turns over a Death card showing a Fool walking off a cliff with some animal watching. She tells Lexy it just means that she needs to make changes or sacrifices in her life."
"But," I reflect, "she doesn't want to and instead sees herself as that Fool going to his death. Well, without knowing more about her, it sounds like she wasn't willing to get help for her temper problems and admit she's mentally unstable. I'll guess it was something bad in her childhood that she wanted to bury, but couldn't."
29th agrees. "That's a good guess, but if she fell backwards looking at the sky, and no drugs were found, maybe she lost her balance..., but I doubt it."
"Great! Thanks, Doc and 29th. I guess we just don't know a lot about some people we love and that's sad. I really enjoyed the book, how each chapter kept my interest by going from the present to the past until her death and his realization of why she died converged. I liked Paul who very believably was a man so crazy with grief that he thinks he can teach his dog to talk, although I was annoyed when he keeps a secret from us. He's no Dr. Doolittle, either!" jankp adds with a laugh at me. I smile just a bit, not convinced that she's my guardian angel of all things!
"Did you like the dog, though?" 29th teases. "Or Lexy?"
Jankp eyes him. "I may be a cat person like you, but the dog, Lorelei, was a sweetheart and so loving. The author, Carolyn Parkhurst, really developed her characters to show what they're about and Lexy is strange enough that I couldn't read fast enough."
We look at each other, lost for words. "Well, is that all you wanted?" I finally ask grumpily in the silence and at that she vanishes blowing me a kiss. Once again 29th is beside me pressing my hand in the air and that look is in his dark eyes. Ever so slowly our arms come down, mine feels heavier and heavier, and I find myself somehow on my back closing my eyes.
I fall asleep.
The Dogs Of Babel includes other dogs briefly and in Paul's research and is a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club.