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The Hypnotherapist

The psychiatrist looked at his watch. Sighing deeply, he looked around the room, checked his fingernails. It always looked better when a few more minutes had passed than were strictly necessary. Perceived value, and all that. He cracked his neck left, then right, then looked at his watch again. It had been long enough.

“Mr. Osterhase,” he said quietly, “when you hear the clicker, open your eyes.” He held up a plastic yellow device about the size of a matchbox, and pressed it between his thumb and forefinger. Click!

Damian’s head, which had been lolling against his chest, eased upward, his eyes opening. “Wow,” he said, “I feel great.”

“Mr. Osterhase, do you remember anything we just talked about?”

Damian raised his eyebrows. “Of course,” he said. “I’m pretty good at remembering stuff.” He got up, thanked the psychiatrist, and passed the receptionist on the way out the door without speaking. “Fucking quack,” he said as he walked away. “Two-hundred forty fucking Great British Pounds Sterling right down the fucking drain.”

Deciding a walk would help calm him down, he avoided the bus and headed for his apartment on foot. Twenty minutes later, he reached his building, and walked into the ground-floor newsstand.

“Mr Damian,” the man behind the counter called out, “how nice to see you today. Anything I can get you.”

He stood at the counter for a moment, as if deep in thought, and reached for a pack of chewing gum. “I guess I’ll take this,” he said after a moment, and put a five-pound note on the counter. He pocketed the gum and his change without looking at either, and slowly walked out towards the door. Turning, he asked the cashier, “what was your name again?”

Heading up the stairs to his apartment, he pulled his keys from his coat pocket. A packet of gum fell out on the floor, unnoticed. Damian tried his front door, and was relieved that it was unlocked. Pushing it open, he called out the usual, “honey, I’m home!”

He heard her answer from somewhere in the house. He tossed his jacket on one of the living room chairs. Slouching onto the sofa, he put his feet up and reached for the remote control. His hand hung in mid-air. An open pack of cigarettes was on the coffee table. He quickly swiped it from the table and held it up. “She doesn’t smoke,” he said. “And I sure as Hell don’t. Can’t stand the smell.”

His wife came in from the bathroom wearing her shower robe and a curious grin on her face. “And? How was it?”

He frantically hid the cigarettes under his jacket. “Well, I just paid over two hundred smackers for a forty minute nap. I don’t feel a bit different. It was a complete waste of time.”

She looked at him, and he noticed her eyes dart suspiciously to the table before him. Disappointment washed the brightness from her features, and she gave him a hug. “There, there, baby, at least it was worth a try.” He held her tight, and noticed that her hair smelled of cigarettes.

“So, honey,” he began, “where did you go while I was at the doctor’s?”

She looked surprised. “Well, nowhere. I came right back here.”

He thought again about the cigarettes on the table. “Anybody come by for a visit?”

She shook her head and looked questioningly into his eyes. Was he imagining a pang of guilt lurking behind her innocent expression? He walked around the living room, his mind racing. He needed a moment to think. Why was she lying? What was she trying to hide?

He went into the bathroom and examined the cigarettes. Marlboro Reds. A man’s cigarette. In his house. He sat on the closed lid of the toilet and held his face in his hands. After a moment, his anger overtook his pain and he looked frantically around the bathroom. There was the shirt she had been wearing when she had dropped him off at the hypnotherapists. He held it up to his face, and could barely believe the rank nicotine funk that was pouring off it.

Throwing the shirt into the sink, he grabbed one of his own shirts from the hamper. It, too, smelled like an ashtray. Jesus, he thought, was he smoking right here in the bathtub while she scrubbed his back?

He walked back into the kitchen, numb inside. She was standing with her back to him, calmly scooping coffee into the machine. “Maybe you can go back for a second visit? You know, talk the doctor into giving you a freebie?”

He quietly slid open the knife drawer, and pulled out the first one that met his fingers. “Freebie,” he said, chuckling bitterly to himself. “Yeah, and I guess that would be a good way to get me out of the house for another couple of hours.”

“What’s that?” He plunged the knife into the back of her neck, and she went down without so much as a twitch. He winced as her skull cracked against the tile. He calmly walked over to the phone, a destroyed man. He dialed the police, and begged them to come get him.

Watching through a two-way mirror, the Detective stood motionless while Damian sat at a metal table and drank coffee. The side door opened and a uniformed police officer entered the darkened observation chamber. “Detective Penske, the hypnotherapist is here.”

Penske walked out the door and greeted the doctor. After formalities, he got to the point. “What exactly was the purpose of your meeting with Mr. Osterhase this afternoon?”

“Well, I’m a hypnotherapist. I helped him stop smoking. We do this by removing the desire to smoke, and indeed the the very idea of being a smoker, from the patient’s personality.”

Penske looked at the door to the observation chamber and shook his head. “Nature hates a vacuum, Doc.”




A brilliant piece of short-short fiction, this. Thank you!


Yes, absolutely brilliant. Glad Eric sent me over. I'll be back... right after I have a smoke...


Good stuff, Rube. Good stuff.

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