“Ms. Ryter, have a seat.” Dr. Sike motioned toward the couch. “Tell me what’s troubling you.”
“Well,” Ms. Ryter sank deep into the couch, the cushions raising around her. She pushed at them, but they only sank deeper, nearly swallowing her whole. She sucked in a breath. “My family made me come in.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
“Nothing is the problem! They just don’t understand, that’s all.”
“I see.” Dr. Sike's blank look indicated he obviously didn’t see.
“They say I’m not living in reality, that I’m always in some cyber world.”
“So you spend a lot of time on the internet?”
“Yes, but it is reality! The people there are real, just like I am. And my writing touches others. It’s not a waste of time.”
“Yes. And my family likes that.” She managed a smile. “Except on Wednesdays.” Ms. Ryter twisted the strap of her purse. “And Thursdays.”
“What happens on those days?”
“Thursdays, nothing much. That’s the problem. I just need an idea, that’s all. Just one idea. Is that too much to ask?!”
“You seem to be quite agitated, Ms. Ryter.” His tone remained even.
“Yes. Others get their stories in within a half an hour, Dr. Sike. A mere thirty minutes!”
“Within a half an hour of what?”
“The topic being announced, of course. Don’t you remember? I said it was on Thursdays.”
“Right. Thursdays.” Dr. Sike’s brow wrinkled. “Um, and how does that make you feel?”
“It makes me feel like I haven’t got a creative bone in my body--how do you think it makes me feel? Anyway, my family gets tired of me asking them for ideas, I guess.” Ms. Ryter sniffed.
“So, does the same thing happen on Wednesdays?”
“Oh, no! Wednesdays I feel quite brilliant!” Ms. Ryter straightened. “Wednesdays I have ideas all day long.”
“So, what’s the problem, then?”
“Well, I usually end up writing until late.”
“Well,” Ms. Ryter squirmed. “Sometimes until midnight. Or one. Or two.” She whispered the last words. “But I’ve got to get it in before the deadline, you know!”
“So do you sleep in the next morning? Perhaps the kids are sometimes late getting off to school because of it?” Dr. Sike guessed.
“Oh no! I can’t sleep in on Thursdays! I’d miss the topic and the judging results. But sometimes, I ah…” She looked away. “Sometimes I go back to bed. If I’m depressed. If I didn’t place.”
Dr. Sike nodded. “Is there anything else your family complains about?”
Ms. Ryter sighed. “They complain on Monday afternoons, too.”
Dr. Sike bit his lip and hesitated. “And, ah, what happens Monday afternoons?”
“Hinting. That is, it’s supposed to happen! Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we have to wait for ages!” Ms. Ryter's chest heaved and she nearly pulled the strap right off her purse. “Once things got just awful. They high-jacked a jet with peanuts and everything!”
Dr. Sike’s head came up sharply. “Who’s ‘they’?”
“Oh, Tim and Sue and them.” Ms. Ryter waved a hand. “But that’s not important. The point is that my family actually wants me to come cook dinner, or help with homework, or things like that. Can you imagine, Dr. Sike? It’s like they want me on the fourth page.” She choked back a sob.
“That’s why you’re here now, Ms. Ryter. We’ll talk out a plan and get things so everyone is happy.” Dr. Sike patted her hand. “Now, you know how they say the first step to addiction recovery is wanting to get help.” His smile broadened. “You’ve already taken the first step by coming in here.”
“So, how did the first week away from the challenge go?” Dr. Sike poised his pen over his notebook.
“It went well.” She smiled. “Well, until Tuesday.” Her smile wavered.
“What happened on Tuesday?”
“I…” she looked down. “I accidentally saw the topic.” Her words came faster. “I couldn’t help it! Someone else told me what it was.”
“I see. So what happened after you heard the topic?”
“Well, I didn’t think about it at all. I put it right out of my mind and went to do the dishes. They were kinda stacked up. Way up. But then,” she bit her lip, “then I let the water out of the drain.”
Dr. Sike blinked.
“You see, the topic was ‘river’, and when I saw the water running down in the great swirl I thought of a whirlpool.” She threw her hands in the air. “Someone was caught in the current, being sucked down. I couldn’t just let them drown, could I? I had to sit down and save him and after I saved him, well, I got curious and had to figure out how he got in the water in the first place.”
“So,” Dr. Sike licked his lips. “Does that mean you wrote a challenge entry after all?”
“Yes.” Ms. Ryter's face reddened. Then she brightened. “But I really think it’ll be a winner this time!”
© 2006 Amy Michelle Wiley
Edited/improved in 2012
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