Hank and Frank
by Carl A. Puleo
His name was Henry Allen Smith, but he was known as Hank.
An awkward teen in middle school, he had one friend named Frank.
Hank and Frank were best of buds; they hung out on their own.
At school they sat alone at lunch and on the bus ride home.
And everyday they played and laughed just like real best friends do.
But Frank, you see, was make believe, not real like me and you.
Hank’s parents were concerned for him. They said, “You need more friends.”
“No thanks,” said Hank. “I’m fine with Frank. We’re best friends to the end.”
Hank’s parents took him to a man they said would help him out.
They said his name was Dr. Bob — but Hank was full of doubt.
“I don’t feel sick nor have a pain so why am I to go?”
His parents shared a moment’s glance and said, “He’ll let you know.”
Old Dr. Bob sat in a chair as Hank lay on a couch.
The room was dark and smelled of pipe the doc filled from a pouch.
“Young man, you’re here to share with me all of your secret thoughts.
“To tell me ‘bout this friend of yours is why my help was sought.”
Hank sat up and looked confused; he knew not what to say.
Did mom and dad think just because I like Frank, I am gay?
“He’s just my friend! That’s all there is. He’s been my friend for years.
“Just because we hang together does not make us queers.
The doctor scribbled on a pad and puffed upon his pipe.
He said, “That’s not the problem, son. We know you’re not that type.”
“Then tell me, sir, why it is that I am here today.
“Since no one thinks that me and Frank are...well...um...that way.”
“I see,” said Dr. Bob to Hank. “You fail to see the truth.
“Existence of this friend of yours has no amount of proof.
“It’s only in your mind he lives, I’m sorry to report.
“This friend of yours is merely an imaginary sort.”
Hank stood up and raised his voice. “That’s certainly untrue!
“Ask anyone who knows me well; call anyone from school.
“They’ll back me up and prove to you that Frank in fact is real.
“Then at last we’ll settle this and finish this ordeal.”
The doctor too stood up and said, “Please have a seat young lad.
“I must discuss this further with your mom and with your dad.”
He left the office through a door where Hank crept slowly near.
He pushed it open just a crack so he could try and hear.
The voices muffled by the walls and heavy wooden door
Left Hank with bits and pieces, and he couldn’t hear much more.
But what he managed to pick out, though difficult to tell,
Was something ‘bout a long term stay inside a hospital.
“Hey Hank!” a voice came sounding out which made Hank jump and spin.
He turned to see his best friend Frank was standing next to him.
“That old fart thinks he’s so darn smart. I bet he’s full of gas.”
No matter what the circumstance, his friend could make him laugh.
But Hank grew sad and felt the tears begin to wet his face.
“They’re gonna lock me up inside some crazy nuthouse place.”
”Don’t worry about all that right now. You know just what to do.
“We’ve talked about this once before — this incident’s your cue.”
Instead Hank turned and ran into the room the doc had gone.
“Hey mom! Hey dad! It’s Frank! He’s here! Come on! Come on! Come on!”
But when they got into the room where Frank was said to be,
They found the office empty — no trace of Frank to see.
Hank swore to them he had not lied, that Frank had been right there.
No matter what he said to them, they did not seem to care.
Hank’s mind came crashing downward diving; he had one final thought.
Sometimes in life it’s hard to tell what’s real and what is not.
They locked him in a padded cell with shots three times a day.
They counseled him from dusk till dawn — was said the only way
To cure him of delusions grand and free him from within
From thinking that a made up boy had been a real live friend.
Hank knew he had to tell them what they thought was really true.
That Frank was fake and not for real; what else could poor Hank do?
Damned if do and damned if don’t — the time had come to choose.
Remain imprisoned in this place or learn to tie a noose.
For Hank had made a vow to Frank, and swore upon his life;
He’d not deny that Frank was real or else he’d pay the price.
“I’ll never turn my back on you!” said Hank a few years back.
“For if you do,” said Frank to him, “You must fulfill our pact.”
Thirty days had come and gone and Frank had not appeared.
An unexpected thought occurred to Hank about his peer.
Perhaps they’re right and I am wrong, and Frank is not for real.
Then I am free to move ahead and screw the stupid deal.
He told the nurses, docs and staff just what they yearned to hear.
And soon thereafter claimed him cured — the time to leave drew near.
And leave he did one afternoon; his parents took him home.
He found it hard adjusting to a life out on his own.
At school he noticed right away they talked behind his back.
He wondered if they knew or had it always been like that.
His only friend had gone away. Or had he ever been?
Was best for Hank to forget Frank and start his life again.
Then one night — a t.v. show of unsolved mysteries,
That happened many years ago — a horrid tragedy.
A family living not too far outside of Hank’s hometown
Was butchered in their sleep one night and not a clue was found.
They showed the faded photograph of those who died that day:
A man, his wife and only son upon the screen displayed.
And Hank sat up and nearly screamed; his heart felt like it sank.
For there beside the two adults — a boy he knew as Frank.
He didn’t sleep at all that night; he stayed awake and thought.
He knew where Frank had lived and died was now an empty lot.
He’d ridden past there many times on days he rode his bike.
Tomorrow when the sun came up he’d head out to the site.
He rode his bike out to the lot where Frank’s old house once stood.
His heartbeat raced within his chest, his feet were blocks of wood.
“Hey Hank!” a voice came calling out which made Hank jump and spin.
And there beside an old oak tree was Frank staring at him.
“You really disappoint me, Hank. You turned your back on me.
“Because you failed, the time has come to face the penalty.”
“No! I beg you,” Hank then said. “Please let this burden pass.
“I can’t be held accountable for things said in the past.”
Frank then pointed straight above where on a branch up high
A noose was swinging in the breeze and Hank began to cry.
His tongue was frozen in his mouth; Hank tried to say a word.
But what came out was garbled noise that hardly could be heard.
Hank’s body floated off the ground, his head slipped in the noose
While Frank observed from down below, his grin showed every tooth.
“Why?” asked Hank before the noose could take away his life.
The only thing that Frank would say was, “Hank, you knew the price.”
The rope grew tight around his neck and snapped without a sound.
Hank awoke, the nightmare done and this is what he found.
The padded cell surrounded him just as it had for years.
The drugs they gave him caused the dreams which fed upon his fears.
Hank was now an older man. They say he’ll not get well.
“Frank is real,” is all he says. They keep him in his cell.
“Alas,” they said,“a hopeless case. He’ll never be the same.”
So Hank lived out his final days eternally insane.