13. The Disappearance of Kitty Reynolds

"Isn't this nice?" said Sheila, when they were in the car. "The three of us together again? Like old times. Do you have enough room back there, honey?"

Drew, for one, was not going to treat his daughter like an invalid or mental UA. "Are you going to tell us what the hell you were doing sleeping in a park?" he said.

"Drew," said Sheila, "really."

"I wasn't sleeping in any park. I was trying to avoid being remotely harassed. But then you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"The police report said you were sleeping in the park," Drew said.

"The police report is a lie. Sometimes things are lies. If someone says or writes something that isn't true it's called a lie. We weren't sleeping. We weren't even in the park. We were in the square and we were talking to people."

"What were you talking to people about?"

"Drew," said Sheila, "there's no point ..."

"Oh, different stuff," said Miranda. "God and Satan, stuff like that. Power cords, rifles. Snow-machines, next of kin, focus groups, light bulbs, puppies, flowers—you know, that kind of stuff. Stuff like that. Life and death, stuff like that."

"Alright, Miranda, that's enough."

"Being dead and being born. Stuff like that. Hey, I'm hungry, is anyone else hungry? Let's get something to eat, hey? I'm really starving. No kidding. Maybe we could order a pizza, you know, like old times. The good old days, remember them?"

"Alright, we get the point."

"Really? Because what's the point? I didn't realize there was a point. What you people don't seem to realize," she muttered, more to herself than to them, "is that when you get enough people together, in one place, geographically I'm talking, inconsistencies can start to arise in the data, and then it's no one's problem, so it's easy, you just wash your hands of it and go home to bed and make it all up as you go along ..."

Drew's hands were trembling. It was nonsense. Garbage! But she still spoke easily and naturally, with the right amount of emphasis, the proper cadence and intonation. She did not talk like a madperson was supposed to talk, waving her arms, shrieking or whispering, interrupting herself, cackling, struggling to spit the syllables out. If you didn't understand English, you'd swear that she was a clever, earnest young woman clarifying some matter of personal interest. She talked as if what she was saying made sense. Perhaps it did, in her head.

He was reminded of his grandmother after her stroke. He had been terrified of her, had hated having to talk with her, hated listening to her, because he'd been unable to understand anything she said; but she spoke with such conviction, and her eyes were so cruelly clear, that he always felt that she was criticizing him, cataloging his sins.

He was reminded too of Miranda as a baby, when she was first learning to speak. She gabbled so earnestly, pointing and gesturing and moving her eyes and face with such an adult air of perplexity and consequence, that it was impossible not to feel that she was saying something definite, logical, and important, and that she had simply not yet learned how to control her voice box.

"Before I forget," said Drew. He tossed the pack of pills over the seat. "Take one of those."

"What is this, a breath mint?"

"It's called a neurostyptic something—an anti-psychotic."

"It'll make you feel better, honey," said Sheila, turning around in the seat to show with her face that it was okay.

"Never mind what it is," Drew said. "Just take one."

Miranda laughed, the vapid, grating laugh of an imbecile. "I'm not psychotic."

Sheila repeated what Dr. James Thomas had said about chemical imbalances in the brain, and added, "If it was your kidney we wouldn't mess around, would we? We'd follow doctor's orders and take the medicine that would make you better. Well, this is just like that."

"Except that this is my brain. Let me tell you a piece of news," Miranda said in a sarcastic conversational tone. "My brain's not fucked. You're fucked. All of you. It's the whole world that's fucked, not me. Just look around you. Take one look at your dead little prepackaged lives. Good little drones, do what the doctor tells you, do what the policeman tells you, do what the President tells you. You can't leave the table till you eat up everything that's on your plate to prove you're a good little piggy consumer and that you've earned your right to go out and play. I mean, Christ on fire, they're the ones who should be taking little pink pills. The ones who put that shit in your head. The ones who bombard you with that shit from whatever little hideouts they've devised for noncompliance ..." She threw the packet back over the seat; it landed in Sheila's lap.

"Give me those," said Drew.

"And let me let you both in on another little secret: I'm not going to any fucking mental institution for asshole lunatics."

"You don't have any choice in the matter," said Drew.

"Drew," said Sheila in a high monotone, "I don't really think a combative attitude is going to help anything here, do you?"

"What are you going to do, tie me up and drag me behind the car? Next stop you make at a red light I'm fucking out of here, you'll never see me again. It'll be the Disappearance of Kitty Reynolds all over again, it'll be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance till you don't know what hit you. Is that what you want?"

"Honey, we know you don't mean what you're saying. We know that this isn't you talking. That it's your disease. We know that you're not well. That you need help. And so we're not going to be hurt by what you're saying right now because we recognize it's not your fault."

"Shitchrist," Miranda seethed, "do you know how easy it'll be for them to find me in there? A place that small? Probably they keep you in one building, one big room, strapped together on top of each other. That's why they put people in places like that, to keep you from moving around too much, so they can vvvvt! home in on you! That's what those places are for. Shit."

Drew popped a pill out of the foil and put it in his mouth.

"Drew!" screamed Sheila.

"I'll take one, you take one," he told Miranda. "If I'm crazy, I'll snap out of it and agree that you're not. If you're crazy, you'll snap out of it long enough to realize that a month of rest and assessment in a hospital is not going to kill you and just might make you feel better."

"Drew," Sheila hissed, "those pills are not prescribed for you, you can't just go around popping other people's medication like they're candy, you don't know what the side-effects are, you don't know what they'll do to someone who's not, who's not—"

"Sheila," said Drew, catching Miranda's eye in the rear-view mirror.

"Mind your own business," they said at the same time.

He clenched his jaw to hide a smile.

Miranda, with the consequential air of a connoisseur, put a little pink pill on her tongue.