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A Spoonful of Worries

by Dimitrije Medenica

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

In the morning, he greeted his employees with an unusual good mood and began sipping from the cup with the amber liquid. Ideas for his designs started bumbling in his head. He felt a surge of inspiration.

Without a second thought, he turned on all the lights in his office, brewed some coffee, and began redlining the preliminary drawings from the night before. They were prints for a private residence in Edgewater, New Jersey. It would overlook the river with bay windows, and the client had insisted on using natural materials to blend into the hillside. It was an expensive challenge.

Jonathan sent his employees away for an hour or two and paid them to have coffee. He did not have to ask them twice. He was left alone to pore over the drawings of the evening before. Two hours later, the employees came back, followed by the project manager. They saw heavily marked printouts of their work. They sat and corrected all according to the marks. Everyone was done by the evening.

“Wonderful work! Go home early and spend some time with family and friends. I’m sure they’ll be happy!” Jonathan smiled, and once everyone was out, he urinated the dark amber liquid.

He felt he had needed to go to the bathroom often, but he also worried less. He did not know what to worry about until he picked up his next cup and started sipping. He repeated the process for several nights.

One morning, he paid all his bills; and because he had pleased his client with the private residence, he saw a large check arrive in the mail at the end of the week. Along with the check came a letter from a friend of the client, asking for a house designed in the same style.

“Mr. Ziegler, your design is fantastic. I love the way the house blends into the hill and looks over the river. It seems there is nothing there, but a hill with a few trees,” his client said over a dinner at Cafe Nice Matin in the Lucerne Hotel.

“Well, I am glad you like it. We should start construction on it promptly, so that you may enjoy it before the winter. Construction should take only a few months, as the structure is made with shipping containers.”

Jonathan took a bite of his braised rabbit ravioli, followed by a bite of vegetable ragout. He savored a food he would never have dreamed of tasting before Dr. Vogel’s medicine. Since that first visit, he had gone back to buy a fresh supply of it.

“So, we just need to excavate to anchor the shipping containers partly below ground, then?”

“Something like that, Mr. Cornwall. Let me worry about the details, and you enjoy the summer,” Jonathan said. He smiled as he took another mouthful. It was wonderful, he thought, to be able to design houses that blended into the fabric of their surroundings and earn a decent living at the same time. Dr. Vogel had performed a miracle.

* * *

The projects kept piling in his office. Each morning, he drank a bowlful of worry and eliminated the worry that same evening by urinating. His production increased, he ate better, and he was pleasant to his employees. He paid his bills with ease, and when one of his employes dared suggest he pay for a new condenser and blower combination, he jumped on the opportunity, to the staff’s surprise. They were sweating in their shorts and chugging gallons of bottled water.

“Well, Dominic,” Jonathan said to his head drafter, “why don’t you take our younger drafters and take care of that immediately!”

“Really? Are you sure, Mr. Ziegler?” Dominic was stunned.

“Absolutely. It’s just too hot in here,” Jonathan said.

Dominic made the calls, and the technicians came that evening to take away the old system and install a new one. The small office rapidly cooled, and everyone celebrated with a glass of red wine. Jonathan sent Dominic to buy cheeses from Zabar’s, on Broadway and 79th street, for a late night celebration.

Jonathan had a few glasses of wine and smashed the old fan that had blocked his view of the garden he so loved.

At about two in the morning, Jonathan accompanied his staff to the door, locked it and went to the bathroom. He urinated as usual and prepared his comforter. He felt as light as a bird with no worries to think about. He laid down confident that, in the morning, he would deal with a new worry as he had with the others. Besides, the liquids in the bowls were now lighter in color, which meant that money was flowing in, his clients were satisfied, his bills were being paid, and his life was more comfortable. His greatest worries were taken care of, and he allowed himself to imagine living in an apartment again.

“It’s still a little hot in my office, now that I think of it,” said Jonathan as he closed his eyes. “Oh! Well, that’s not a problem. Let’s just turn the air conditioning setting to high.” He threw his comforter and walked to the controller on his wall. He looked at his cups on the table in front of the window. The air conditioning vent, a new one he had added, stood directly above the window.

The blower turned on and a gust of cool air toppled the cups. They fell to the floor and spilled over his comforter below the table. Jonathan tried to catch the cups, but he lost his balance while grasping his new Herman Miller chair on wheels, and knocked the back of his head against the table. Cursing, he rubbed his neck and sat on his wet comforter.

“What am I gonna do now? What am I supposed to worry about?”

Jonathan began panicking, because he did not know what his next worry should be. He tried to separate the colors of liquids that formed puddles in the folds of his comforter, but he soon realized how useless an endeavor that was.

In a fit of rage, he lifted his comforter and shook the liquid to the ground. It formed a large puddle on the hardwood floor. He turned on the lamp on his desk and stared at the floor with one hand holding the comforter.

“What am I going to do? Oh my God!” Jonathan began crying. He slid to his knees into the puddle, clutching the comforter. “I need my worries back. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next.”

And then he took the phone to call Dr. Vogel. It would not have been the first time he called the doctor in the middle of the night for a panic attack, but he did not always reach him at such hours.

The dial tone rang. It rang. It kept ringing. With each ring, he began hearing his heart pounding louder. “Dr. Vogel speaking. Who’s calling at this ungodly hour?”

“Doctor... Doctor, I spilled... I spilled all my—”

“Jonathan, is that you? Calm down. Take a deep breath. Don’t worry,” said Dr. Vogel, recognizing a panic attack. “Don’t worry, you’re okay. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“But I spilled the bowls of worries,” Jonathan screamed into the receiver.

“Did you write down your worries in a notebook?”

“You never... You never told me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to worry about.”

“Jonathan, take a deep breath. I’m coming right now.”

“No, don’t let go of the phone! There’s something I should... there’s something I should worry about, and I’m not worrying about it! Oh! Gosh, what is it I’m supposed to worry about?” Jonathan wiped his forehead with the hand that held the phone, and the phone fell to the floor.

“Jonathan? Jonathan? Are you there?” Dr. Vogel’s voice rose from the receiver on the floor in the puddle.

Jonathan felt cold fingers of dread squeeze his heart. His arm began tingling and his vision blurred, but he managed to grab the receiver. “I’m here... I’m... I’m still here, please come!” He dropped the receiver into the puddle and pulled his shaking knees to his chest, waiting for the doorbell to ring.

Dr. Vogel knocked and rang within minutes. Jonathan grabbed the desk, pulled himself up and wobbled to the front door. Without turning the lights on, leaning on door frames and desks, knocking against pencils and computer equipment, he opened the front door, falling on his knees in the doorway.

“Jonathan, you’re fine,” said Dr. Vogel, sitting on the steps leading up to the street. “Pull yourself up. I’ve got a new dose, and all you’ve got to do is take it to stop worrying about not having anything to worry about!” Leaning on his cane, Dr. Vogel nudged Jonathan.

“What? You mean... you mean it’ll all come back to me?” Jonathan looked into the doctor’s eyes.

“That’s right, Jonathan! It would’ve saved you a lot of aggravation if you had jotted down your worries, but you simply have to drink a new dose and start the process again.” Dr. Vogel smiled and Jonathan’s breathing slowed. “You just had a panic attack, and it didn’t kill you,” Dr. Vogel said, handing Jonathan a new prescription bottle. “Take it, get a glass of water, and drink just as you did before.”

“Just like... just like before?” Jonathan grabbed the bottle but hugged his knees again.

“Come on, shake yourself up. Drink and go to sleep!” With one hand on the handrail, Dr. Vogel pulled himself up and nudged the architect with his cane. “Goodnight, Jonathan! Drink, sleep, and use a bowl. You’ll only have one bowl of dark liquid because you only have one worry tonight!”

“You mean my worry... my worry of not remembering my worries?”

“You’ve got it. Tomorrow’s gonna be a rough day because your old worries will come back, and you’ll have to juggle them until you drink the medicine in the evening to spill them out.” Dr. Vogel wobbled up the steps to the street, and Jonathan wobbled to his kitchenette. A few drops into a glass of water and the mix killed Jonathan’s anxiety as if he had taken Xanax.

He awoke during the night with a pounding headache and relieved his sinuses by leaning his head over a bowl. In the morning, he drank the dark amber liquid. All his worries came back, and he spent a restless day, but at night he drank the medicine. Liquid streamed from his ears to fill bowls with his lost worries. He spent the following day designing a new residence and he urinated in the evening.

Copyright © 2014 by Dimitrije Medenica

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