This is the first story that I had ever written about a supposed autistic savant. Although dated, it’s satiric take on unique personalities and the creation of diseases by the pharmaceutical industry to sell dangerous drugs to children and adults predicated on any behavior that varies from what is deemed normal–whatever that means. Asperger’s disease was delineated by the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in 1944; however, it was not recognized in the USA until 1994. After taking fifty years to reach our shores psychiatrists have noted a pandemic of Asperger’s that they treated with antipsychotics on young children. This pleased many of their parents because it alleviated their guilt and their child’s unusual persona was not the manifestation of witnessing their progenitors conflicts but some undiscovered genetic abnormality. I am happy to say that the editors of the DSM V the bible of the American Psychiatric Association has decided that Asperger’s is going to be excluded from the Fifth Edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
I hope you enjoy this odd tale regarding a young boy who may or may not have been an autistic savant.
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The slender woman in blue tights had the classic hip, waist, and breast ratio of the nudes selected for mens magazines. She had finished running, wore a mantle of shimmering sweat, and her flawless features appeared wind‑swept flowing from her chin back toward her raven-colored hair, evoking a vague resemblance to a plane’s fuselage, suggesting a state of perpetual arousal.
She refused to do her exercises. Instead, she sat on the floor, stared into the mirrored wall and indulged herself, grasping the tendrils of the erotic fancies floating through her mind. She rolled off her tights and thong, whose density was comparable to dental floss, and sat on the cold floor that in her current state of derealization remained unnoticed as she began gentling herself. She showered in a wooden bathhouse shrouded in the foliage of her imagination. She awaited her lover who had arrived later than expected. He was less reticent than usual, swooping down, enveloping her within his shadow, combining tenderness and cruelty like Leda’s Swan, instead of the loner romantic prelude she’d thought she wanted. Although impersonal, it struck her as more moving than she would have thought, but at the apogee of her orgasm, the prism of her composition revolved, replacing the man between her legs with another lover whose familiar face eluded precise recognition. Then she noticed Rodenberry watching.
That evening during a dinner of London broil, broccoli with hollandaise sauce, hand cut home fries, and chocolate cake, Edward Reynaud, whose uncanny sense of smell made him the world’s most prominent perfumer, noted a sweet yet fetid odor. Only Edward’s acute olfactory epithelium could have detected this bouquet masked, for an instant, by the mushroom gravy Laura passed to him. The scent re-emerged, as said in the industry ‘through smoke,’ with greater pungency once he placed the gravy boat on the table. “It’s my wife,” he thought, “my beautiful wife. I will kiss her throat. I will make love to her like a brute, an animal.”
Laura cleared dishes from the table and took them into the kitchen; Edward began to follow but his son Rodenberry gnawing his food with slurping noises stopped Mr. Reynaud. “Must you chew like a pig? Answer me! What is it with that scarf? You are never to wear that rag to the table again! Answer me! You’re not washing under that scarf. Don’t lie to me!”
The huge square-faced boy sat in silence except for his salivary symphony, twining the frayed fuchsia scarf he’d wrapped around his left hand with his right hand. The handkerchief had belonged to his deceased grandmother. In the kitchen, Edward grabbed Laura and kissed her with a satyr’s passion.
“It’s not you!” he said backing away. “Your scent is lovely, but it is not you… and, if it isn’t you, it must be the boy.”
“What are you talking about?”
“But how could it be him?”
Edward neglected Laura and lumbered into the dining room where Rodenberry sat licking his fingers. Edward pressed his face close to his son’s and about to speak when the aroma—a fragrance whose tincture was strange and erotic—forced him back into the kitchen. “I don’t know how to put this, but we have a problem. Has Rodenberry been acting unusual of late?”
“I don’t know what you mean?”
“He smells odd. At first, I thought it was you; if you know what I mean?” They returned to the dining room, sat down, and Edward asked the boy if he had done something unusual that day.
Rodenberry said, “I plucked the glop out of a cat’s eye.”
“And did you wash your hands? You didn’t. Remember our discussion regarding washing before meals, brushing your teeth, and showering.”
Laura revisited her erotic fancy while Edward rattled on, “Why are you wearing grandma’s scarf? Give it to me, please.”
Rodenberry stared at his father. Edward lunged at the boy. Rodenberry drew his hand to his side, a lame animal, and said, “It wasmy present from nana.”
Edward stood up knocking his chair backward; it teetered before it struck the Oriental rug covering the mahogany floor. He rushed toward Rodenberry. The boy smiled before skipping from the room. Laura thought, “Leave the boy alone. He’s experienced enough.”
Laura became unnerved, considering that Rod might tell his father what he’d seen that afternoon. What would Edward do given he inhibitions—despite purchasing her a vibrator that coiled in a sinuous complete 360° circle? The idea of his wife masturbating while observed by their son would create… well, she couldn’t be certain, but she knew it wouldn’t be pleasant. She had to preserve her secret and her irrational sense of guilt perplexed her. She decided to mention her ‘feeling of shame’ to her psychiatrist, Dr. Isidore Abelhard.
Laura found the next two days difficult, living in constant fear, Rodenberry would tell Edward. Even though her self-pleasure in masturbation and her concomitant fantasies had enhanced the couple’s sexual pleasure, she knew Edward would be perturbed. Dr. Abelhard, during an emergency session, asked her why she had felt intense shame and her answer led to his unsubstantiated conjecture. Abelard’s transference manifested itself as love and lust for Laura. (His obsession would drive him to consult with his mentor and shrink Dr. Heinrich Helmholtz, regarding how to handle his conundrum.) In Laura’s next session, she and Abelhard stared at each other in silence save for the metronomic ticking of his office clock and his high-pitched wheeze as he exhaled. “Who doesn’t masturbate these days?” Laura said. Abelhard nodded, imagining Laura naked in his arms, and he had not heard another word she spoke, sitting still, legs crossed, concealing his erection until the session came to a merciful conclusion.
Coyote Wild, a Life of Pleasure, starring Lana Velvet and Jonnie Longwood was Laura’s scenario in which a jealous female porn star had smuggled the film from the set, uploaded it to You Tube, and it had gone viral. Her smile faded when she decided Edward wouldn’t tolerate her indiscretion. Abelhard and Laura had discussed the fact Rodenberry surprised her and he had a play date and was not due home before he caught her ‘in the act.’ Even if his intellectual gifts were normal, Rod might not understand why she needed to indulge herself. Her mood almost an ineffable idea fluttered away and her inadvertent exposure chilled her marrow. Perhaps Rod didn’t see enough, or was oblivious, as was often the case with children suffering from his malady. Maybe she noticed him when she had finished. He probably didn’t even notice given the tenacious lure of his internalized world. If Rodenberry mentioned the incident to Edward, she’d deny everything but given Edward’s less constrained sensual attitude? Rodenberry walked in when she had thought she was alone, nothing to it, but the consequences, whatever they might be educed the mantra like sense of her anxiety.
Edward and Laura had reached the wearisome stage of their marriage where they conversed in idiosyncratic grunts only they could decipher. Rodenberry hardly spoke, and when he did, it was gibberish. If Edward believed Rod and confronted her, her tendency to blush would unravel the skein of her secret, but she hoped the incident based on Rodenberry’s limited cognition would disintegrate. Complicating her predicament—and why did it matter—Edward had complained that Rod’s body odor had become more intense since the episode and kept pressing Rodenberry regarding his hygiene, causing an escalation in Rod’s terrifying tantrums, and Rodenberry had even pushed Edward who swore that if Rod was normal, he would have “gotten the strap.”
‘Post rage’ that night, Edward and Laura made love, and it was the most lascivious experience they had in, well, they could not remember. “I was just thinking about Rod,” said Surrounded by the curtains of their four-poster in their coital afterglow, Laura said, “I believe I’m beginning to smell the distinctive scent you’d noticed.”
“Not with your inferior olfactory instrument. I wish you could, but the scent is much too subtle for you to detect. I thought it was you. I can’t place it. You know I have total recall for every bouquet. It’s maddening. I swear to God, mentally slow, smentally slow, I’m gonna drag that animal into the shower every day and scrub him.”
“Why are you getting so worked up?”
“Because you don’t know what it’s like smelling odors other people can’t detect… You can’t imagine how ambivalent I am about this gift, or curse, of mine.”
Two nights later, Laura answered the telephone and Rebecca Feinstein, Harriet’s mother, had called. Yes, Laura remembered her daughter, the prematurely florescent girl—a woman really—who befriended Rodenberry, and had cookies and milk at their home on many occasions.
“We must see you and your husband tonight,” said Rebecca.
“Perhaps some other time, we’re tired. Edward, Mr. Reynaud, hasn’t even gotten home.”
“No, Mrs. Reynaud …”
“Oh, please call me Laura.”
“You don’t understand; this isn’t a social call, it’s about Rodenberry.”
“Is something wrong?”
“I must insist that you and Mr. Reynaud come over tonight.”
Regarding Mrs. Feinstein’s call, Edward said, “If he did something dreadful again I’ll rip…I don’t know what I’ll do. The clumsy oaf probably broke a family heirloom.”
Rodenberry remained at home, as they walked over to the Feinstein’s white colonial, down the hill from the Reynard’s English Tudor, where the cul de sac was widest and near the water’s edge. Harriet greeted them at the door with flushed cheeks and the reddened nostrils of a crying jag. Laura had the desire to gentle the girl’s cheek, to brush her long hair, draping her pretty face. Rebecca entered the oval foyer and Laura inquired about the problem. Rebecca kissed Harriet’s forehead, whispered something in her ear, and sent her upstairs to finish her homework. Lawrence Feinstein entered, greeted them, and they exchanged introductions, and they all agreed that they should have met earlier since they were neighbors. Lawrence had red hair, even features, and a complexion without any freckles, a rarity, Laura decided. Rebecca was a bovine woman whose girth had surpassed the limit of what a girdle could transform into pleasing amplitude.
While showing their guests into the den, Rebecca turned to Lawrence, with her habitual sense of self-recrimination and said, “I won’t cry. There’s nothing left.” She cried.
“What is this? Did the boy break something?” asked Edward.
Lawrence said, “Remember those words, Mr. Reynaud; they were ill chosen if not malicious.”
Lawrence led his guests into the den. They decided to have drinks and their cook, an emaciated crone, brought out a pitcher of Margaritas with crystal glasses on a ceramic server surrounded by hors d’oeuvres.
“We’ll need chemical comfort,” Lawrence said as he filled glasses, handing them to the women, and gave Edward his martini. Lawrence prepared a recording as they sat down and guzzled their drinks.
“Larry, you can’t show it to them,” said Rebecca, “I’ve thought it over, and I can’t watch it.” She fingered a five-milligram Valium in the pocket of her tunic, before letting the pill fall to its bed of lint.
“I don’t see why they should be spared,” said Lawrence.
Edward downed his martini, asked for another, and said, “What is the emergency. Has Rodenberry broken anything?” Edward was either reaching for his wallet or scratching his ass.
“Just relax. You’ll see in a minute. As soon as I can, get these things working. Verizon hooked it up to so many devices. Listen, Reynaud …”
“My name is Edward.”
“Edwardwas there any predominant reason for naming your kid Rodenberry?”
“Call me Ed.”
“Are you a Trekkie or something? Dumb names are a pet peeve of mine. Imagine going through life with that name?” said Lawrence.
“It’s a unique name,” said Laura, “It wasn’t my first choice.” They both wondered how they came up with the name. It now struck them as a weird and poor choice. Edward said that the creator of Star Trek spelled his surname with a double d.
Lawrence looked at Laura with the blood shunting desire everyman had experienced once she ripped her post-pubescent chrysalis, glancing at Rebecca, and back to Laura, conjuring a plan to access a more intimate view of her luscious form. He looked at Rebecca with disdain, and his silent fart made Edward gag.
“Look,” said Edward, “I have no idea why we’re here, but unless that’s a gun in your pocket I can… get to the point.” Edward leaned forward on the leather chair, realizing his alcohol-inspired comment was moronic.
“I was rude and apologize,” said Lawrence, “but how would you react if you came home and saw your thirteen-year-old child cavorting naked with a bunch of little brats? Did I say little? Well, can you guess who the ringleader was? Yes, your Rodenberry, Ed, was belly-to- belly with my baby. I predict he’ll be a porn star; a real stallion that boy, boy, he’s a giant!”
Laura thought he said, scallion. She accepted another drink from Rebecca who underlined every word with an asthmatic sigh. “And you’re about to show us a recording of this episode. A guy that keeps a surveillance camera on his daughter is a sicko.” Edward said.
“No, I wouldn’t say that.”
“Of course you wouldn’t.” Edward asked for another martini.
“I thought it was best to leave the house and allow them to get decent,” said Lawrence.
“What does get decent mean?” asked Edward.
“You know what I mean.”
Edward said, “Clichés and euphemisms are a pet peeve of mine.”
Lawrence said, “Their precocious sexual experimentation has a natural progression.”
Edward said, “No shit!”
Rebecca had downed her Valium with a slug of her Margarita and poured a second. She babbled and thought someone else said, “They were acting like animals and whores.” Her own voice had the whine of bow sliding over threadbare violin strings.
“What’s the fuss?” asked Laura. Woozy, inebriated, she accepted a second Margarita. “They’re experimenting. It’s innocent curiosity. Didn’t we do the same things? Perhaps not to the extent of kids today but even one’s libido is inflationary.”
Laura laughed at her pun. It occurred to her that she was reducing the collective anxiety in preparation for the moment, Rodenberry told his father he had seen her masturbate.
“I don’t mind a little experimentation…but what happens when my baby gets pregnant?” Lawrence asked.
“We’ll get her on the pill,” said Rebecca.
“Very clever; she’ll be dead from phlebitis before she’s fourteen,” said Lawrence.
“I want you to get her down here,” said Edward.
“Do you think I’m going to subject her to your interrogation? I’m telling you, Rodenberry is the ringleader. Things will never be the same around here,” said Lawrence.
“I warned you, I’m getting mad. Okay,” said Edward, facing his wife, “tell them.” Laura shook her head. “Then I’ll do it; you know how painful it is for me.” Edward told his hosts how he had struck Rodenberry’s head, inducing a concussion, with a golf club when he had been practicing his swing in the den.
Lawrence fought the temptation to ask Edward what club he had used. “The blow opened our baby’s head and resulted in a subdural hematoma, a clot, and permanent brain dysfunction. I’ve labored with guilt to such a degree I have not played golf since. I can’t watch it on TV. He can’t be the ringleader; he doesn’t have the capacity.”
Laura said, “Dr. Abelhard said Rod was sick before and you are exaggerating the effect of the golf club incident.”
Lawrence, his words running into a slur, “Is that the talk show head case, the shrink?”
Laura said, “Yes, he said Edward made up the story to obscure the real evolution of Rod’s illness.”
Her alcohol-inspired comment surprised her. The truth, if it was, had emerged from the art of disheveled reminiscence, and Edward and Laura had repressed their ‘genetic’ contribution to their son’s symptomatology, but they had rationalized that Rodenberry’s cognitive insult was bound to the psychological conflicts educed by the crumbling edifice of their cadaverous love.
“Your Rod was reciting poetry to my baby.”
Rebecca said, “Our, she’s our, baby.”
“He made our baby dance with a pink scarf tied about her waist. I could’ve killed him!”
“It was tied to her thigh,” added Rebecca lounging in the hammock of her chemical comfort.
“It was a poem by Walt Whitman, I think, maybe Hawthorne,” said Lawrence.
Rebecca burped and said, “It was Poe’s Annabel Lee.”
“The boy can’t ride a friggin’ bike,” said Edward.
Rodenberry removed his diary from beneath loose floorboards under the leg of his desk and wrote in his concise hand. The essential news of the day is that Harriet’s (my love is the lance on which time warps its petals of light) parents came home during the weekly meeting of the Crescent Street Dumplings. Mr. Feinstein marched into the room and screamed, ‘What’s going on here?’ It was obvious. We all tried to conceal our primeval nudity. He had to ask that moronic question. Harriet was standing next to me and she was shaking, the poor thing. He made us stand there, stark naked, so he could humiliate us, and launch into a dumb irrelevant lecture about responsibility. When he finished his speech he grabbed Harriet by the arm, twisting it while, he dragged her from the room. Mrs. Feinstein waited by the door, and the minute she got her hands on Harriet she began shaking her until Rebecca and Harriet cried, their screams became tensile and attenuated as they ran upstairs. It was horrible. Mr. Feinstein stood by the arch leading into the den stood with his arms folded glaring at us. We fumbled around for our socks and dressed amid what a sate of electric embarrassment. Julian, our diminutive mascot, sat on the floor and whimpered.
Hearing his parents,’ Rodenberry replaced his diary, wrapped his hand in the fuchsia scarf, extinguished his lights, climbed into bed, and pretended he was asleep. Edward headed straight for the boy’s room; Laura tried to snag his arm. “If you hit him, you’ll hate yourself.”
“What if he gets Harriet pregnant?”
“She’ll have an abortion. I mean she’s thirteen.”
“You think it’s that simple?” Edward opened the door to Rodenberry’s room.
“No, don’t, he’s asleep,” said Laura.
“We’re waking him.” Edward flipped the switched on the covered wagon lamp on Rodenberry’s night table. The boy held the scarf and Edward jerked it from his wrist where it had begun to unravel.
“There’s Jezebel’s scarf.” Edward tucked it in his pocket.
“No…No.” Rodenberry said.
Wedged into the cinderblock of his massive face, his eyes wore a cataract of grease. When Laura looked at her son, her tears fled down her cheekbones and funneled toward her mouth. She felt compelled to shave Rod’s beard. At twelve, Rodenberry’s precocious physical maturation, had made him taller than any boy in his class by six inches, and he already had a man’s beard.
“What were you doing at Harriet’s house?” Rodenberry remained dumb. Edward shook him as if he was emptying a piggybank. “Our twelve-year-old son cannot understand a simple fucking sentence.” His comment triggered Edward’s apology to Rod but the infuriating musky aroma was such a poignant violation of Edward’s hypersensitive instrument it loosened his control. “Listen son you are never to go over to Harriet’s house again. I know you like Harriet but you got her in trouble…okay?”
Rodenberry smiled and said, “I plucked the glop out of a cat’s eye.”
Edward decided, in spite of Laura’s reservations, that Rodenberry should be confined to his room after school where he would remain until dinner and return to wash, brush his teeth, shower, and be in bed by nine.
“As soon as he’s forgotten about Harriet Feinstein he can come and go about as he wishes as long as he studies.”
Thus, after school each day, Rodenberry went into his room and closed the door behind him. Living in the same house but not seeing Rodenberry until dinner induced in eerie feeling in Laura. She often paused outside his door trying to determine based on the sounds emanating from behind the door what he was doing. He often played rock music, forcing Laura to knock on his door, making him to decrease the volume so it wouldn’t ruin his hearing.
One afternoon Laura received a special delivery letter. She did not recognize the ornate handwriting and there was no return address.
Aren’t you the hypocrite? A former president of the P.T.A., a devotee of yoga, who scrapes her tongue, rinses her nostrils with tepid salt water, freshens her system with coffee enemas inconvenient as they may be. You have incarcerated your Rodenberry who may or may not suffer from Asperger’s because of his innate curiosity. At least his actions had a social motive. One can only guess what the outcome (Oh, dear!) of the gathering at and you’re your visit with the Feinstein’s and the excessive and warranted punishment, I repeat, of your son, who suffers from soft neurological signs and post-concussive symptomatology. I’m talking about creativity, about architecture, about science, about political leadership, and about cultural progress. No, I’m afraid this involvement with his fellow corprophiles is the healthiest behavior he has demonstrated to date. Look around, in basements all over the world, children are trying to solve the riddle of the sphincter, and what are we to make about your behavior? I have watched your hand ferret through the folds of your desire. Stopping… shopping…and sopping while awaiting the lover who pries you from your family, and what can we discern from the minutia and paraphernalia of your affair. The afternoon jog, the tights, the room lit for romance, casting shadows that partially conceal your digital exploration and the mirror for the supposed lone witness to your own purblind finale. Shame on you and shame on your dexterous fingers used to gentle and manipulate your precious glans and fancy.
The missive disturbed Laura. Who could have written it? Who had violated her privacy? She was embarrassed and angered, because the letter was a series of lies. By exploring her fantasy life, she had freed her sexual essence that had gone unexamined before her search into her intimate compositions, her habit and her liberation unveiled an unknown aspect of her sexual persona that stimulated Edward’s desire for her, and he became more loving, more affectionate, making the note far more dangerous and important. In a fit, she tore the letter up, burning the fragments in the kiln used to glaze her pottery, and why did it strike her as a cremation? Ah, the act was an iconic burial of her inhibitions.
She placed the ashes in its envelope and scattered them during her daily run around the Great Neck North Junior High School track.
Later that afternoon, Rebecca Feinstein called. “Excuse me, I’m a little spent,” she burped, “I can’t keep away from the tequila and Valium since we interrupted their adolescent sex group, or grope, I guess. What do they call themselves?”
“They are the Crescent Street Dumplings.”
“I just want to tell you that everything is okay. Larry felt ashamed and burned the recording like some sort of cremation, I guess.”
Laura recalled the letter and her own ritual. She even wondered if Rebecca Feinstein had spied on her through their basement window. Laura knew she was being ridiculous.
Rebecca said, “I just couldn’t bear that recording around. Larry’s still mad but I couldn’t care less. I was terrified that my mother would see it like my mother. Could you imagine?”
When Laura hung up the phone, she had the odd notion she had never received the letter and had imagined the episode. In a way, the impression of never having read the epistle was more intense than its detailed content. She was now unable to envision the mail carrier’s face. Maybe she hadn’t received the letter. Maybe her morbid sense of guilt initiated a form of dissociation, and she had never received the letter.
Before dinner that evening, Edward kissed Laura with uncommon passion. “I know it’s unusual, of late, my pet, but I’m in a good mood now that the scarf episode is buried, and my olfactory gift has assumed its prior clarity. A prolonged inability to discern the nuances of various scents could cause a great loss of income.”
Rodenberry walked into the kitchen and punched his father in the arm. “Willie Mays play on sunny days.”
“My child,” said Edward, “My child.”
“Willie Mays plays on sunny days.” Rodenberry laughed. They all laughed.
Laura, Edward, and Rodenberry had a family hug before they sat down for dinner.
As time passed, Laura felt assured that Rodenberry had not seen her masturbating, which enabled her to obscure the letter from consciousness. With a renewed sense of freedom, she indulged her fantasies with greater excitation. She welcomed every nuance of her routine, the paralysis of time, the augmented texture of familiar settings, her run, affording her an ever-increasing awareness of her body, her dances exercises, and the shower in the woodland of her fancy, the mirror, the intense orgasms, and its aftermath. Her ritual became more intense and served as a prelude leading to Edward’s nocturnal clasp.
Then one day she saw Rodenberry watching! “What are you doing!” she shouted.
The boy said, “I plucked the glop out of a cat’s eye.”
“You weren’t supposed to leave your room. I’m telling your father young man. Go back to your room and don’t come out until dinner.”
Laura tugged her tights up and escorted Rodenberry back into his room. He broke free, pushed her, and she smacked into the wall. She was frightened. He was grey and ugly. Her on child terrified her and never had his coarse beard seem so unbearable.
“You’re not nice,” he said.
“You get into your room, mister.”
Rodenberry locked his door. Laura shook the doorknob. “Open the door,” she said.
“You told me to stay in my room and that’s what I’m doing.”
“I want you to open the door, now, Rodenberry! Open the door! What did you mean when you said I wasn’t nice?”
Edward and Laura sat at the dinner table that night. “What’s our boy going to eat?” asked Edward.
“He’s not coming to the table. He said I’m not a nice mommy and he’s not coming out as long as I live here.”
“I’ll get him.”
“He was emphatic. Don’t force him Edward, please.”
Edward had already headed to Rodenberry’s room. “Son, this is daddy. Answer me Rod. Your supper is getting cold. Linguini with clam sauce, your favorite”
Laura said, “Let him be. He’ll come out to use the bathroom. He can do without supper. You’ll fight and one of you will get hurt.”
Edward noted the full aroma of Laura’s ‘perfume.’ “Well, I suppose you’re right.”
I’m lucky to have such a beautiful wife. It will be nice to have an evening alone. I can have her over the ottoman and peek at the football game every now and then.
Three days had passed and Rodenberry had not emerged from his room though he ventured out during the night because Laura found a mess in the kitchen every morning. For hours, Laura did not hear a sound from his room. Fearing she could no longer endure her perturbation, now induced by the scraping noises emanating from Rodenberry’s room, she went outside and peeked in his windows, but he had drawn his shades. Desperate, standing in front of Rodenberry’s door, tears flowing she threatened to notify the police. Her dread turned to anger and she pounded on the door. Shaking the doorknob in a furor, she demanded he open his door. “I’m getting a screwdriver and removing the doorknob.”
After searching through Edward’s tool chest and his workshop without finding the appropriate implement, Laura threatened to call “daddy,” and make him come home. Frustrated she waggled and tugged the doorknob to no avail. She telephoned Edward. “What are we going to do? I can’t stand it. He refuses to leave his room and is giving me the silent treatment.”
“Relax, he has come out of the room and he will tire of his game. We can wait up for him tonight or I can take the doorknob off.”
Edward had begun to enjoy their privacy. After her conversation with Edward, a loud bang from within Rodenberry’s room, startled Laura, and she noticed a white envelope he had slipped underneath the door. She tore the envelope open and began reading a letter composed by someone with elegant handwriting.
Laura, as you have so fervently wished, and at times suspected, I do not have a learning disorder, a low IQ, or suffer from the national epidemic of Asperger’s, which is a means of selling antipsychotics to children by the pharmaceutical industry. It is clear that this is most efficacious because it allows parent’s who have bestowed their unresolved conflicts upon their children. On the contrary, I possess superior mental agility, and I’ve found it is in my best interests to play “dumb.” I admit to having stumbled on this tactic by happenstance; however, the advantages of this policy are so obvious, so blatant that only in a country with millions of incompetent and remorse-ridden parents could fall for such a ruse.
My predominant interest was predicated on the privacy allotted a ‘retarded person.’ Oh, excuse me, I meant to say, a mentally challenged individual. I loathe absurd euphemisms that mock rather than ennoble its victims—incurring the opposite effect for the putative reason that various interest groups had them created. Nobody was concerned with what I had to say once I was ‘accused’ of being ‘backward’ so I could utilize the freedom for more inspired cognition and observe the mores and jejune machinations of our relatively primitive culture as only an ‘outsider’ or a ‘stranger’ can. Once you sent me to a host of special classes and tutors, (my relationship with Bertine Clyde has been invaluable to my intellectual growth) this had both advantages and disadvantages. There was no pressure on me to perform, or maintain a lofty academic record that I could have easily achieved but again I had the liberty to devote all my time to my own more intriguing, and infinitely superior cognitive pursuits. On the other hand, I had to acquire the rudiments of a liberal education on my own, which proved to be more costly than I would have wished. I know that this is not a challenge for you to believe. Look how easy it was for you and dad’s remorse and anguish to betray the both of you. You had feared that your child would be mentally deficient because father’s brother had been. Why were you so convinced that your child would be? Was it something within you? Heredity is only a fragment of our primitive apprehension of our own mysterious physiological cosmos. After our beloved Allison’s death from the poorly understood phenomenon of SIDS, and an example of our intellectual frailty. I would imagine that your sense of culpability was unbearable, and the evidence, or the wrath of the gods, who bestowed upon the House of Reynolds some unfortunate heritable defect must have overwhelmed your capacity to tolerate grief of that magnitude. What is the imperative that drives, excuse the pun, you and Edward have to hide behind the mask of that silly story of Edward’s clobbering me with an errant golf swing? Do you think that jejune tale ameliorates your stigmata? What is one to make of the diagnosis of all those specialists you paid to examine me (the great Dr. Ludwig and now Abelhard to mention but two.). Well mother, I know your needs and now you know mine.
Rodenberry had sent those letters and this launched Laura into the vise of a previously unknown state of horror. She struck the door with her fists, calling his name until she fell into the poignant silence of someone whose lover had died in their arms, succumbing to their end in an instant and without a moment’s warning. Laura imagined his face—the grey mask with a man’s beard.
“I know what you must be thinking, but Rod, darling; I don’t know what you want, honest. Dad and I will make it up to you.”
Within the odd silence that one hears in a vacant chamber, so similar to the murmur of a conch shell, Laura’s words seemed so inane to her.
Just then, the doorbell chimed; it was their elderly neighbor, Louella Kierkegaard, who grew, what could only be described as redder than red tomatoes in her backyard, that Rodenberry often picked off their vines on his way home from school.
“Mrs. Kierkegaard, if you’re about to suggest that Rodenberry has been at your tomatoes again, I must inform you that he has been grounded, and he’s been in his room for the entire school recess.”
“Well, unless there is a young man in the neighborhood who looks exactly like him, I must be going mad because I saw him taking wheelbarrows filled with bricks from the site of the new house they are erecting next to the Feinstein’s.”
Laura and Kierkegaard looked toward the naked structure at the end of the block. “I’m telling you this because a child like Rodenberry is special.”
Laura thanked her. Edward came home the night in a mood Laura had never seen before. He was wild and his kiss was brutal it left her feeling as if she would faint. He insisted they dine at Bruce’s new restaurant on Middle Neck Road that Newsday’s brilliant restaurant critic, Mike McGrady, had given a rave review. Laura wore a low‑cut black satin chemise by the hottest designer, Chester Preene, and Edward held her hand across the table while humming, The Shadow of Your Smile, the only melody he had mastered, as they nibbled on their Caesar salads. Laura had decided it was best not to mention Rodenberry’s letter.
The house held the uncanny hush it had earlier, and Laura thought about the bricks Mrs. Kierkegaard had mentioned. When Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds were about to express their devotion, Edward excused himself to fetch an antacid and walked, proud as a cock, into the bathroom. Laura decided it was time for her to apply her KarmaSutra Fire and Ice lubricant. Finding the phallus-shaped receptacle in her night table drawer empty, she followed her consort. As she entered the bathroom, Edward had the odd look of a man caught in a shame-inducing act, and he hid something behind his back.
“What are you concealing, a vibrator?” Laura reached for Edward who stepped back from Laura’s hands. He insisted it was a surprise, he’d purchased at The Pink Pudenda. Edward’s flushed face and perspiration was indicative of deceit. Laura was about to return to their connubial bed with a fresh supply of Fire and Ice, and placed her lips on Edward’s when she noticed the waggling of the fuchsia scarf Edward had tried to conceal behind his back. In a moment of clarity, Laura knew why it inspired Edward’s rage when Rodenberry had it wrapped around his hand. She darted from the bathroom room and threw herself onto their bed. Edward placed the scarf in his dresser drawer and attempted to placate Laura who had masked her face in a pile of pillows.
Edward said, “It’s nothing. You don’t understand. You’re so beautiful. Don’t cry.”
“That scarf you couldn’t tolerate, you sick bastard, was worn by Harriet Feinstein. Her scent turns you on. You need a whiff of her before you can make love to me!”
Edward bandaged her mouth with his hand. “Quiet! That’s not fair. Yes, the scarf turns me on. However, it has no bearing on my love for you and it has a matrix of estrogen-inspired scents. Remember what Lawrence said about Rod being a porn star.” Edward removed his hand from Laura’s mouth and continued. “At first, I was concerned that I was perverse so I spoke with Dr. Abelhard, and he stated the obvious. First, given my olfactory gift it was an amalgamation of aromas I had detected, not just Harriet’s, and it’s normal for a man to be turned on by another woman’s scent and a stimulant that inspires making love to his wife.”
“Harriet Feinstein’s is a child and her scent is the predominant one embedded in that scarf. She’s also a friend of your son’s.”
The sunrise failed to disinfect the wounds of their dreadful night. Mr. & Mrs. Reynaud met in the kitchen, which had often displayed the affects of Rodenberry’s early morning foraging but it was now in its familiar state of near pristine cleanliness.
“I thought I heard him around three. He has gone too far,” said Edward, mentioning that
Rodenberry had consumed the last of the eggs. “Frankly, I’ve rather enjoyed these few weeks with him in his room, and I don’t feel guilty about it either. That was another item I had to discuss with Abelhard, and we agreed that having a family session was prudent now.”
After returning from Manhattan the next night, Edward demanded that Rodenberry open the door. There was no reply. “I’ll break the door down if necessary so open it up kiddo. This business has gone far enough. I know you’re troubled.”
Before using his shoulder as a battering ram, Edward thought it best to remove the doorknob, but his entire collection of screwdrivers was missing along with other tools from his basement workshop. He ran up the stairs, through the narrow vestibule, leading to Rodenberry’s door, and slammed into it with his shoulder. Edward’s rage inspired adrenaline permitted him to pummel the thick walnut without noticing pain until he had a hairline facture—revealed later that night in the North Shore Hospital ER—but the threshold was unblemished, and he began kicking the door in a state of fury. Laura had brought him his electric drill, a jigsaw, and a large hammer, and if those utensils failed to achieve the requisite result, she mentioned his sledgehammer. Edward looked at her with a dullard’s expression, suggesting he had regressed to a stage of evolution indicative of man’s primate ancestry. She though he would be better off using the drill, the small handsaw, and remove the doorknob. He accepted her advice.
At the end of the knotty pine vestibule leading to Rodenberry’s room was a solid brick wall. Behind that barrier, Rod had replaced the door with a slab of steel. Near the top was a square cutout backed by a sliding steel plate similar to the entrance of a speakeasy. Edward and Laura stood in the foyer, exchanging glances. Edward, handed her the doorknob, and he felt the solid wall. “Rodenberry!” he screamed.
Rodenberry slid the metal plate open and peered out at his parents. Edward, feeling the pain from his fracture, screamed louder, “What the fuck is this!”
Laura looked at her son’s grey face with the coarse stubble from his beard. He couldn’t have written those letters.
“I’m hiding like a bear,” said Rodenberry framed in the square cutout.
“Couldn’t you stop him from doing this?” Edward said to Laura. “How could that kid build a fucking fortress in there without you knowing it?”
“And why didn’t you stop him?” said Laura.
“I was running our business. Rodenberry, you get out of that room!”
“I’m hiding like a bear. I plucked the glop out of a cat’s eye.”
Edward ran to get a ladder when he felt the intense pain radiating from his shoulder. Edward set the ladder down against the brick facade in the backyard, and climbed up to look into Rodenberry’s windows, but he had locked them and drawn the drapes closed. Edward, with a furious effort, tried to lift the windows. When he couldn’t budge them, he punched out one of the glass panes. It wasn’t until he got the window frame up and was about to climb in when he noticed, behind the drapes, a solid wall of bricks. He shouted his son’s name then ran back into the house. “How could that kid build a fucking fortress in there without you knowing it?” said Edward.
“A lot you care,” said Laura.
“Rodenberry, you get out of that room!” “I’m hiding like a bear.”
Edward called Dr. Abelhard, the next afternoon from Manhattan, wanting to know why Rodenberry would do such a thing and how it was possible for a boy with his limited capacity to accomplish such a complicated feat. Dr. Abelhard told him the boy was an autistic savant. “A person with meager general intelligence but who in one area has the psychic energy and clarity normally associated with genius. The boy was obviously insecure and suffered from castration anxiety and his own emerging, turbulent libido.”
Laura had called Dr. Abelhard before the eminent archeologist of psychological runes, spoke to Edward. “In your son’s case his impressive ability has settled in two distinct areas, architecture and literature. Not common I can assure you but no wholly unique either.”
“But his writing was not literature. It wasn’t a story or anything like that. It took thought,” said Laura.
“Not thought as we know it, but the combination of recalled paragraphs culled from books, he has read. It’s called eidetic memory—photographic memory. As you know, Laura, I have seen your boy. If you like I can refer him to a psychologist for a battery of tests.”
Rodenberry had left the sliding plate open. Laura, noting the invitation, stood on a kitchen ladder and peered into his room. Maybe, thought Laura, the doctor was right, as she watched Rodenberry playing with some bricks. The castle he was constructing was quite ingenious, but he had such an insipid look about his eyes that Laura didn’t think it possible for any “real” cerebration to occur in his brain.
She called out to Rodenberry and he failed to respond at first. Then he slowly turned to her. “Did you make up those letters you sent to mommy of did you copy them?”
He indicated that he copied them. Laura fought hard to believe Dr. Abelhard but wondered where the boy could find anything that corresponded to their familial melodrama.
“Will you show me the book where you got the idea?”
Rodenberry agreed to show her but it would have to be later because he was building the Great Wall of China.
“You must come out of your room. You can’t stay in there forever. Now come out like a good boy.”
“I’m punished. I’m hiding like a bear. Ignatz! Ignatz! Ignatz! No! No!”
Laura left the house for two hours of shopping. She returned and heard loud music coming from Rodenberry’s room. The sliding plate was open and as she climbed the kitchen ladder, she wondered if it would be possible for her to squeeze through the opening. Laura was astonished to see Harriet Feinstein in the room with Rod. Laura imagined Lawrence and felt an acute and inexplicable loathing for the girl that she had formerly adored. Harriet looked extremely pretty in a grey jumper and navy crepe blouse. Harriet greeted Laura with her usual cheerful affect.
Laura said, “What are you doing here?”
The children giggled before Harriet stated she had come to visit her best friend. By the time Harriet closed metal plate, Laura had called her a “tramp,” while attempting to reopen the immovable steel panel. That night Rodenberry refused to leave his room despite the vehement pleading of his parents with promises extravagant material rewards, a new Xbox, a Bose sound system, and a new TV. Edward tried entering the room through the sliding panel that Rodenberry had left open but managed to get no more than his head and left arm through the opening in part because of the cumbersome cast on his humerus. Rodenberry had constructed the opening specifically to exclude his father from gaining entrance. The width of his father’s shoulders was twenty‑three inches. The opening was twenty‑one inches.
His parents decided that if Rodenberry didn’t come out of his room by the following night they would have Dr. Abelhard come over. When his wife was asleep, Edward went down to his workroom, grabbed his sledgehammer, ran back upstairs, but was unable to lift the hammer with his broken shoulder. The turmoil woke Laura who joined her husband in Rodenberry’s foyer.
“At least this is bringing us closer together,” she kissed Edward on the cheek but had yet to forgive him for his attachment to the scarf. They went back to bed and slept together bent into a puzzle.
After Edward had gone to work, Laura discovered another envelope in Rodenberry’s foyer. He now left the sliding panel always open. She had the peculiar thought that perhaps if she ignored the presence of the envelope it would disappear and prove that she had imagined the other letters. She fought the urge to ask him if he had dropped an envelope on the floor. Fighting her virulent curiosity, she delayed the inevitable, jogged five miles before opening returning home and opening the envelope.
Laura, Having Harriet Feinstein visit me the other day was more than pleasant. It was a hint. Don’t you have a jumper like the one she wore, or am I mistaken? There really is only one way to make me come out of my fortress and nobody knows better than you do what I mean. I have just enough bricks to seal the room. How long do you think I can live before I suffocate? Personally, I don’t think I will get that far. The moment I feel the slightest difficulty in breathing I will reach for dad’s Rockwell power drill and bore several 5/8 holes allowing some enough air in or will it be too late.
The letter enraged Laura and she retrieved the kitchen ladder, peered in and said,
“You’re going to get hell, young man!”
Rodenberry was busy pinning photos he had cut from Sports Illustrated onto a corkboard at the far end of his room. He looked toward his mother and continued.
Laura said, “Are you writing me letters? It can’t be you; is it Rodenberry, RODENBERRY ANSWER ME! Stop writing me letters.”
As she spoke the letter she had rolled up in her hand inadvertently fell through the open panel. She lunged for it as it fell to the floor on Rodenberry’s side of the wall and found herself halfway through the open panel so it was apparent that she could enter the room if she desired.
Of course, why hadn’t she realized the obvious before? If Rodenberry was able to get in and out of his room through the panel, so could she. She could slip in during the middle of the night, get the power tools and hand them to Edward.
How unnecessary though…all they needed to do was to hire a building contractor and have them demolish the wall. No, calling a stranger wouldn’t be right. It would be embarrassing. Edward could have borrowed the necessary tools but now with his broken shoulder. Why was it so easy to believe that he had a genetic form of cognitive disability?
When Edward got home, he gave Laura a perfunctory kiss and went straight to Rodenberry’s foyer. He produced a tape measure he had just purchased. Rodenberry had taken the tape into his room. Edward measured the dimensions of the panel, and wrote them on a little pad. “This is what’s happening,” he turned to Laura.
“Tonight we make a last ditch attempt at wooing him out of the room. I bought him a TV and we’ll set here as a gesture of appeasement. In the event that he remains, ‘hibernating like a bear.’ Abelhard will come over here with a colleague and administer a sedative. If that doesn’t work, we’ll get a contractor to tear down the damn wall.”
“How will Abelhard be able to give him a sedative if Rod won’t let him in?”
“His associate is has narrow shoulders and can climb in. That’s why I’m getting the measurements. The man also knows a little karate so that if Rodenberry won’t hold still for the injection he can subdue him with a pressure point.”
Edward and Laura carried the TV from the car and placed it in the foyer. Laura laughed. It was funny, she thought, how Rodenberry had brought her and Edward closer than they had been in years. Their lovemaking had the intensity they enjoyed during their honeymoon and the tender weeks that followed. She knew this also related to her ability to indulge her fantasies. The following morning, Laura was aware of her extreme sexual excitation. Prior to her “sexual awakening,” she would go for long intervals of time without any conscious sensual ideas or reveries.
Perhaps when she finished her chores she would indulge herself. While putting away several of Edward’s hankies she noticed the corner of the fuchsia scarf peeking from under the corner of his monogrammed leather jewelry box. She took the scarf and ran into Rodenberry’s foyer, dragging the kitchen ladder along with her.
“You knew about this all the time didn’t you, you bastard! Your father is falling for that little bitch. He kisses her through me. You knew what you were doing. Answer me you bastard!”
Laura waved the scarf as her arm dangled through the open panel. “Answer me!”
Rodenberry looked her in the eye, and resumed tacking photos on the corkboard. He’ll do that forever, she thought.
In the afternoon, driven by her anger toward Edward, she set out to masturbate as an act of infidelity. She would flow into the arms of imagined lovers and they would have her in a fashion that Edward with his ludicrous olfactory fetish could never comprehend.
She wasn’t able to get comfortable since Rodenberry kept emerging in the foreground of each fantasy. She knew what to do. She would get the boy out of his room. Hadn’t he constructed the cursed thing so that a narrow shouldered person like herself could force him out? We don’t need Dr. Abelhard here! I’m going to look so beautiful Edward will flip, she decided, settling into her bath. She shaved her legs and spread soothing aromatic after bath oil on them. She redid her eyes with a tawny eye shadow, put on lip-gloss, a subtle base, and a dab of rouge on her cheeks. She put on a baby blue blouse Edward had bought her. At that point, she stood at her open closet undecided on how to proceed, when she noticed the grey jumper that Rodenberry had recalled as being similar to the one that Harriet had worn the other day. She reached for the garment thinking it might coax Rodenberry. He was obviously partial to the style. Edward had also shown a preference for it and had stated how it displayed her gorgeous figure. She stood in front of her full-length mirror pleased by her appearance. When she was in Rodenberry’s foyer, she said, “Okay, buster, this is your last chance to come out or mommy’s coming in after you.”
She climbed through the panel easily, though for some reason she thought it would be difficult. Standing in his room, she had a strange, almost nostalgic sense of something ineffable.
“Look what I brought for you.” Laura showed him the scarf. “You may have it if you leave the room, understand?”
He looked at her. His eyes looked bottomless, empty and for his entire life, he will cut pictures out of magazines and make collages. She pushed the hair from his forehead. “Promise me that you won’t tell daddy I came in to get you. Rod, are you coming with me sweetheart?”
Rodenberry walked over to Laura and placed his hand on her shoulder.
- No More “Asperger’s Syndrome” (science.slashdot.org)
- Asperger’s syndrome dropped from psychiatrists’ handbook the DSM (guardian.co.uk)
- For psychiatry “bible,” Asperger’s is out, binge eating is in (boingboing.net)
- Psychiatrists drop Asperger’s syndrome and gender identity disorder from new diagnosis manual (rawstory.com)
- Help for Asperger’s: Social Skills Program for Kids Celebrates First Anniversary (prweb.com)
- ‘Asperger’s disorder’ dropped in psychiatric guide (vitals.nbcnews.com)
- Asperger’s Are Us (bu.edu)
- Why Claim Asperger’s is Overdiagnosed? (psychologytoday.com)
- ‘Asperger’s disorder’ being dropped from psychiatrists’ diagnostic guide (vitals.nbcnews.com)
- Asperger’s dropped from revised diagnosis manual (king5.com)