Martin Haversham lived in Stamford, Connecticut (or rather Stanwich) and had not stopped living there since the day he was born. He was the third of three brothers, each one progressively less impressive than the last. The first, Gerald, who was never called Gerald, but Gerry, was a local hero in Stamford by the time he was fourteen. Gerry had jumped into Upper Mianus Pond upon seeing the Falstrom sisters plunge through a thin patina of ice covering the water. Those who had been near the pond at this moment, Martin included, recounted how Gerry had ripped his jeans while running to save the two young girls. Martin had stood and watched, only eight at the time, the same age as the Falstrom sisters, and the thought never appeared in his mind to do what Gerry had done instinctively. The older Haversham boy disappeared beneath the dark surface of the pond and swam towards the fierce splashes and the tiny, flailing arms wrapped in pink winter coat sleeves. The water pulled about him as he swam. Suddenly the splashing ceased and the boy and the pink winter coats withdrew from the air.
At this, the adults began to run themselves towards the pond. Martin remained stuck where he stood. While the men were struggling to take off their boots and or fumbling for the buttons and zippers running down the front of their pea coats and bomber jackets purchased in the city, Gerry emerged from the bruise blue water with the Falstrom sisters tucked underneath his arms. He kicked, fighting to keep the girls' heads above the freezing bite of the pond. The men, who had moved so quickly to remove their boots and jackets before jumping in, stopped what they were doing and silently looked on as the boy found steady footing on the bank and rose from the pond, the water gripping to him for a moment before falling from its clutch like a rock climber from a mountain sill. Gerry didn’t move once he reached his full height, as if the cold had finally caught him—for Martin, nothing moved at all. The pond and those around it were frozen like this until Karen Falstrom (the girls’ mother) rushed from where she had been locked in warm conversation with Ronald Dunn (a recent graduate of Williams College who had since returned to Stanwich to, along with romance the recently widowed Karen Falstrom, work as a substitute teacher of English) towards the water and screamed without sounding out a word.
It was then the sculpture broke for Martin and movement returned to him. He lost sight of Gerry in the flood of bodies that reached out to offer aid in helping both the boy and the two girls rolled underneath his arms. Even now, Martin could not remember the next time he saw his brother. Had it been that very day? Had it been mere minutes after the people turned their focus to moving the Falstrom girls from the freezing air? Had it been weeks later as Gerry had lain in Stamford Hospital, spitting coughs rank with phlegm and dark splotches of blood? Had it been at the funeral mass when he was shoved past the open casket by his uncle, shoved also by the hundreds of Stanwich townspeople who had come to honor a boy they knew only through rumors and newspaper clippings? It might have been. Martin could never remember, but then, he could sometimes barely remember what his older brother had looked like.
He could remember Jonathan perfectly however, and it’s really Jonathan why Martin sits here now, and it’s really Jonathan that you need to hear about. The second eldest Haversham brother enrolled at Yale when he was only sixteen. The chances of someone becoming President of the United States hover around one in forty million. To most people in Stanwich, the odds for Jonathan Haversham were closer to one in fifty. No one ever gave out odds on whether he would be admitted into mental institution at the age of eighteen, or on whether he would impale himself through the throat with the sharpened end of a broomstick by the time he was twenty-two.
Martin had begun a practice over the first two years of Jonathan’s enrollment at Yale of waiting at the bus stop with a book in hand. This book was never something he was reading or planned to read but a novel taken from his father’s study carried mainly for the reason of impressing Jonathan. Martin attempting to live up to his success. His brother would usually step off the bus with his trunk tucked underneath his arm as if it weighed nothing at all and linger a few seconds on the edge of the sidewalk. He would look as if he were searching for someone, when he knew full well the only one ever waiting upon his arrival would be his younger brother. Yet they would both play the game—Jonathan looking about the bus stop, letting his gaze widen further back to the houses and the forestry behind the four plastic seats and the glass overhang, and Martin, raising up his book and waving it at his brother, struggling to steal his attention, and Jonathan, smiling at something beyond Martin, beyond Stanwich, but not letting his attention fall to what was closest to him, and Martin, now leaping into the air and yelling out Jonathan’s name, and Jonathan, relenting, looking upon his brother, his grin falling from his face for a moment, and Martin, always remembering this change—and so it would go on most days Jonathan was able to steal away from the university to come home.
Martin wouldn’t speak much on their walk back home. Neither would Jonathan. The most interaction that went on between the two would be a nod (Jonathan abhorred physical contact) and an exchange of greetings. Jonathan would then hand Martin his trunk and they would slowly move, slightly staggered along the sidewalk. He would consistently be excited to see his brother but Martin remembered there to be no real reason for this feeling. His brother rarely spoke to him and never once mentioned the novels Martin would carry along with him—not even when Martin brought The Brothers Karamazov.
It was this day, the day Martin brought Dostoevsky to the bus stop, that Jonathan began to act in the manner that would lead him to be admitted to the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane one month later. The mental asylum’s layout, like most hospitals caring for the insane, was split down the center of the administration building. Flanking this structure were the Awl and Salmon buildings, the latter keeping the more violent patients and those guilty of committing crimes by insanity until the mid-1970s. It was in Salmon that Jonathan Haversham lived until his twenty-second birthday.
Martin remembered the tour his family went on two months after Jonathan was admitted. It was his first visit to Norwich, and his parents’ first since their son had begun to decorate his room with the pages of a novel he had taken upon himself to write in his own blood. A Doctor Lundqvist greeted them upon their arrival. With each opening and closing of his mouth, his cheeks would shake and quiver and flap as if they were being slapped by air. So steady was this shake that even after Dr. Lundqvist had finished a sentence and would turn to flash a grin at Mrs. Haversham, the skin of his face would continue to undulate. Welcome to the Norwich Insane Asylum, young man, Dr. Lundqvist had said to Martin as he pawed the boy in an attempt at a handshake, you’ll see we are taking wonderful care of your brother here.
Martin was silent for a majority of the tour. His father, never rising to the same loquacity he had been known for throughout the state before Gerry’s death, was quiet and reserved as well. This left Martin’s mother Linda to deal with the doctor. Linda Haversham was the type of woman that most young men despise having for their mother come the time of puberty—a study of late-blooming beauty completely ambivalent to any sort of appreciation for her husband yet simultaneously absolutely enthralled with her son’s friend’s obsession (and their father’s) with not only her realization of her ability to attract other men, and thus her choice in attire following this discovery, but also with tracking her every move, her every expression, her every word with the explicit desire to anticipate what would make her more comfortable, what would make that laugh roll out from within her, what would make her continue to speak to them for only another moment's time. And so on. Dr. Lundqvist was not immune to this attraction. It would only take Martin the sight of seeing the doctor grasp his mother’s left hand with his own left to acknowledge this. Upon seeing her reach through her purse minutes prior with this same hand, the doctor had deduced that the woman was accustomed to shaking with her less dominant hand and also deduced that she would enjoy someone realizing this and giving her the pleasure of using her dominant hand to greet him with, something the doctor had thought about exclusively since he had first seen Mrs. Haversham exit the bull-black Chevrolet parked outside the hospital gates. Dr. Lundqvist was delighted to see the corners of her mouth curl up at this greeting, bending the near-invisible hairs on her upper lip so they shone for but a second before blending to flesh once more. In response he took his other hand and sandwiched her thin venous fingers between his fat paws and smiled even wider.
Martin watched all of this along with his father. He felt the slightest pressure of his penis pulling on the fabric of his briefs. Remembering that moment now, he could draw this movement back to the burgeoning thoughts he had had at the time that his mother was fucking someone, or looking to fuck someone, other than his father. He had wondered then if sometime during the tour his father and himself would be left alone wandering the grounds of Norwich State Hospital for the Insane while the doctor took his mother to an empty cell and laid his bloated mass atop Martin’s mother while he rubbed her clit. These thoughts would arrive steadily for three or four years after this moment, ending suddenly and inexplicably in his early twenties. He never knew if his mother had indeed fucked another man during this time, or before. He never knew if she ever had for that matter. His parent’s divorce came when his father was well into his sixties and his mother had ceased wearing the sort of dresses that made men wonder just how far those freckles on her thighs extended. It was nearly unfathomable to Martin that his parents had endured, or had deserved to be subject to, any sort of marital strife beyond the loss of their first two sons.
Martin was left wondering at wholly inexplicable times about the chance of infidelity within his family. For example, he was shaving just a week past and cut himself with the two-blade disposable, the same blade his father had used, and Jonathan as well for a few years, before Norwich, and had watched as that dark humor dropped from his now not-quite-bare chin into the sink-basin, effusing through the spumy froth of his shaving cream until it stuck on the perforated stopper choked by the smalls hairs of his cheeks and neck and mustache and chin, and at this moment, as the blood stuck to the stopper, Martin thought of the last time he had seen his mother bend down to playfully smack her lipstick smothered lips on her husband’s pale cheek. Had it been before Gerry dove into the pond? Or was it far later, perhaps after Jonathan was admitted? For the life of him, Martin could never remember the exact moment it had happened at all. And yet it was there as if it always had been. Martin saw no reason to doubt himself, but if it had indeed happened, he thought that perhaps this last time it occurred could give some answer to why he could not shake the thought that his parents had been unfaithful to each other, and if it had happened, it had happened here at Norwich.
It was insanity, he knew, to think such a thing. His mother was never out of his sight throughout the doctor’s tour nor had she ever returned to the hospital after that day, as well as his knowledge served him. She had been there as Doctor Lundqvist had presented the bowling alley, the bakery, the laboratory, and so had he and his father. The halls had seemed as if they had been designed to consume light. What little that was allowed to siphon through appeared as slivers of brightness against the walls like lines of white frost in the sun. As the four moved through the hospital—Dr. Lundqvist in front, gesticulating, Linda Haversham just barely staggered behind him, nodding incessantly, Mr. Haversham and Martin at his side, behind them maybe ten feet and dragging their shoes along the wood-paneled floor—Martin would watch as the dark between cracked doorways would swallow the doctor and his mother almost completely each time they passed an office or open cell in the Awl building before splashing them back into his vision for a fraction of a second. Each time they did this, despite his being able to make out the slope of their shoulders and catch the slap of their shoes, he would imagine them vanishing forever. In that instant, when they were lost from not only the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, but also his entire world, he would not know, even now, after having twenty years to think over that day, whether he would have stopped or continued on. But on where? And would his father have noticed their disappearance as well? He had thought about this for some time and he was no closer to an answer.
Awl had not been very interesting to Martin. It seemed to him the entire hospital was more of a university dormitory than the prison he had hoped for, or at least imagined. He had inquired of his father whether Jonathan would be in a cell like he had seen in Cool Hand Luke. His father had taken him, and Jonathan as well, just a few years past, when Jonathan was still being lauded for his mind’s seemingly endless potential. His brother had hated the film and spoken openly of it. Right away he thought the constant Christ allusions to be heavy-handed and patronizing, but there was something much stronger in his abhorrence of the film, something embroiled in the portrayal of Luke as someone worthy of Jonathan’s respect. On the ride back to their home after stopping for scoops of caramel ice cream (Martin’s favorite), his father driving the family’s Ford Consul, his brother alternating between explaining to Martin why exactly he should be wary of films like the one they had just watched and shouting down his father each time Mr. Haversham spoke about the merits of Newman’s performance, which Jonathan could only describe as “masturbatory,” though never to his father’s face and especially not at this moment. In that car, Martin remembered his brother turning on his father with the same expression he would see years later in a dimly lit cell at Norwich State Hospital. This expression came after his father, watching the road, fists wrapped about the wheel, turned to his brother—Jonathan, you can’t believe that, can you? Truly? Have I done so much wrong that you can’t see? At this, a great silence settled in the car and it was as if all the emotion Jonathan hoped or wished he could convey toward his father was culled through an extreme display of will. A crimson rash spread from the base of Jonathan’s neck until it reached his cheeks. His lips arched into a sneer and his eyes remained completely placid. Martin had thought for a moment that Jonathan might leap from his seat at that instant. Change into something more horrible than Martin could imagine. Rip the entrails right out of his father. The car would veer from the night spotted road. His brother feeding on Mr. Haversham’s remains and the car linking with the others parked along the side of the road. Sparks like white fireworks shooting up the window. Martin frozen in the back seat watching, the sound of screaming sounding from the metal car sides, and his father as he is eaten alive. All of this from the absence in Jonathan’s gaze and he could never forget that. He would never understand why those words caused his brother to look at Mr. Haversham that way, or why even his own mind went to that dream. Martin would never think of it again, until now of course, and one other time. It’s quite easy to discern what time that would be by now, wouldn’t you say? Everything is about this really.
Two black orderlies welcomed them to Salmon Hall. They seemed friendly to Martin. The younger of the two (his name was Benjamin) was rather handsome and Linda made attempts at flirtation with him, as Martin had expected, however these were met with little success. Benjamin would smile occasionally at her when they happened to make eye contact but seemed to be looking at the ceiling, or the wall, or rather, anywhere but Linda Haversham when she would do much more than cast her stare on him. At one point she took a hand to her forehead, wiping her brow of sweat (which was quite understandable, it being just barely past the 4th of July) yet it was when she ran her hand down her side, outlining the curve of her hips, but not softly, or with any sort of grace, but hard enough to wrinkle the fabric of her blouse, pulling at the cloth about her breast that it was clear Benjamin held no more interest in her than her own husband did, for he watched this act with not a trace of movement from his face—a blank stare and a blank smile as if the presence of a woman such as this, in a place seemingly designed to pain those who were unlucky enough to look upon it, was nothing more than a paltry amusement, a minute blip on the radar, to which attention was paid, but only in the smallest of measurements.
Benjamin and Donald (which was the other orderly’s name) explained to the Havershams the cautions they should take upon entering Salmon Hall, as well as the rules and regulations in place to assure their safety. We don’t usually allow many visitors on Salmon, Benjamin said, but Dr. Lundqvist thinks Jon’s got no intentions of harming anyone no more. Now, we won’t be able to let you in there with him, much as we’d like to say he’s gotten better. But you’ll be able to see and talk to him. However, for your safety we’re gonna have to ask you to stay least five feet from the cells at all times, and that means all of them, not just Jon’s. It’s best if you don’t try to make any sort of eye contact with any other patients. As Dr. Lundqvist has told you, Salmon’s where we treat our most violent patients. Not saying that Jon’s in any danger here. Nor are you. See these doors here? Benjamin gestured a long row of steel blue doors lining the hallway. These are here to keep our reputation intact, aren’t they Dr. Lundqvist?
The doctor looked up from peering at Linda Haversham’s freckled calves and carried his leering smile up to face Benjamin. Yes, that’s quite right, he said. We haven’t had a single escaped patient since Norwich was first erected in 1904. It’s a testament to both the diligence of orderlies such as Donald and Benjamin here, but also to the hall’s ingenious design. You see, Dr. Lundqvist strode over to the closest door and opened and closed it, these doors are airtight. And as you’ll notice when we take you in to see Jonathan, we have a strict system. No two doors are to be opened at the same time. If one is opened in order to enter a wing of Salmon Hall, this same door must be promptly and securely locked before we can open the next successive door. In this way, even if a patient were to escape, he wouldn’t be able to get very far, you see?
How many attempts have there been? Dr. Lundqvist adjusted his glasses on his nose and his jowls jiggled slightly as he opened his mouth as if to speak, yet no sound came out. It was as if the doctor was hoping to inhale just the right kind of air in order to respond to that question, as if none of the air inhaled previously was enough to formulate an answer to that inquiry without betraying a secret known only to the halls of the asylum. As I said previously, we have never had a single escaped patient recorded here at Norwich, Dr. Lundqvist said after a moment, his voice rising and breaking as he spat out the words faster and faster. That’s not what I asked, said Mr. Haversham. I’m sorry, but what do you mean then? As I’ve explained this is a totally secure facility, the doctor said. What I’m asking, Mr. Lundqvist, is how many patients have tried to escape Norwich. I heard you fine the first time, I’m not deaf. It’s a question of desire, Lundqvist. How many prisoners want out? Dr. Lundqvist coughed and glanced first at Benjamin who stared at Mr. Haversham with a look of an intense interest on his face, and then to Donald who bowed his head and seemed preoccupied with the embroidery spelling out his name on the front of his robin’s-egg-blue orderly’s smock. Martin had noticed in that moment an inexplicable whining coming from within one of the several doors lining the room, noticeable only by the grace of the silence that his father had invited into their midst. He had thought of that sound for some time—at first he had believed it to be one of the prisoners, or perhaps one of the fans used to cool and vent the hallways, but he thought of how difficult it would have been to hear much of anything through those solid steel doors. In later years, he had come to the conclusion that this whine was simply a symptom of the hospital itself. The way all things take on the fear people put into them. It was a decision then that this soft pain was nothing more than an abstracted imagining of what should be present in an insane asylum. Of course his senses would be heightened to any sort of terror. He was, obviously, an extremely impressionable young man when he visited Norwich, and he chalked up these moments in which he could not explain the sounds, or voices, or thoughts that invaded his head, to the same mental abnormality that had taken his brother—an inherited madness.
When Dr. Lundqvist entered the hall on which Jonathan’s cell resided, urgency suddenly appeared in his steps. His strides took him far beyond Linda and especially Martin and his father. When he caught up to the doctor near a turn in the first floor hallway, Martin saw that that smile had not left Dr. Lundqvist’s face. It was strained now, but Martin had admired the man in that moment for his attempts at composure. For our safety, Benjamin said pointing at the massive metal mesh door leading into the washroom across from them. We have to be there, you see, to watch them when they gotta go. If they try anything, which they have, we have to close this door, SMACK. Benjamin clapped his hand together. And they’re trapped. And they can’t hurt us. Or you or your dad or your mom. We’ve got a good system here, don’t you worry. Have you had to shut my brother in there? Martin said. Your brother’s much too smart to make us do something like that.
Benjamin! Dr. Lundqvist shouted from further up the hallway, these good people would like to see their son, not our washrooms. Martin followed him, and felt somehow relieved to hear such respect come from Benjamin concerning his brother. He’d thought at the time this respect would affect Jonathan’s stay at Norwich, that perhaps it would allow him to come home to Stanwich much sooner than his mother had said he would. Somehow it would worm its way through the walls of Norwich State Hospital and find itself crawling beneath Dr. Lundqvist’s office floorboards. And in all due time it would poke its head about and appear, as the most natural of things will do. Jonathan would ride home on the same bus that returned him from Yale and he would pretend not to see Martin as he stood by the bench of the bus stop, clutching another Russian writer, perhaps Gogol this time, or Gorky, whatever he knew his brother to have just read, and discarded, left usually on the base of their house’s stairs, as if he was waiting for Martin to pick it up for him, or, and now it seemed more likely this was true, that Jonathan left the books as an explanation, a storied reason for why he rose up the stairs that specific day, why he bled himself near dry, why he wrote what he had done in the pages of his leather-bound notebook with a quill he had bought at Yale’s bookstore, dipped in the ink of his own letting.
The last book had been Notes from the Underground. Most of the pages were dog eared, but the novel was tee-peed where the maple railing line met the short, curled carpet, and when Martin opened it to the page indicated it was blank, and un-bent by his brother. He kept his thumb dug into the crevice and flipped through the book. All of the pages were marked by black ink—notes, underlined phrases, and some passages completely crossed out—but on remembering his thumb slunk into the spine he returned to the page to find it blank but for one phrase encircled with staining red-black liquid. What could only be the blood of his brother wrapped itself around the words, “They — they won’t let me — I — I can’t be good!”
It was then he was pushed aside, his father and mother running up the stairs. Jonathan had left a note for his parents in the glove compartment of his father’s Consul. Martin had had the chance to read the note just once. His father had pressed it into his hand some days after the event, and told him to keep it for himself. The note only remained in his possession for a matter of minutes before he was approached by an officer almost a head shorter than Martin, who promptly appropriated the note, telling him, Your father didn’t have any sense giving this to you. Martin was able to read the first line of the note prior to this, which had been so anti-climactic that he hadn’t even thought of it until just now, a simple, “You will find me at the top of the stairs…” It was so perfunctory that Martin couldn’t help but hating his brother then, and still, for not being more profound, or elegant, or even audacious in what he could only assume was his suicide note. Perhaps Martin was secretly seething to himself that he had not deserved a note in his brother’s eyes. Especially now, after all he had done. An entire life devoted to the saving of another.
But could he really deserve such a thing? He had been waiting at the bus stop. He had seen his brother exit to the curb. He had played the game, hadn’t he? Martin had waved his hands above his head, waggling Dostoevsky’s last novel like it was a rallying flag. His brother had played, too. He’d looked on. Past the bus stop. Past the rows of houses. Past the malls. Past the town itself as he had always done and might have done again. But this time he had turned and walked to the Haversham household without greeting his brother. There was always the recognition but there was none in this moment—Jonathan strode, his head down, a book in one hand, the book, the other thrust deep into the refuge of his pocket. Martin should have followed him, but he waited for almost an hour before trudging back to his house. The twilight seeped into the skyline as he’d entered. It was only minutes before his parents returned home, pushing their youngest son into the maple railing running up the stair-side causing him to drop the novel he has become sure was left for him, and him alone. His mother had tripped on it as she’d climbed the steps, the heel of her shoe sharp enough (his parents had just returned from their anniversary dinner, or one of their birthdays—they hadn’t told Martin and he couldn’t remember) to impale Dostoevsky through. He remembered the howl of noise, his mother’s cries, his father’s frantic attempts to wrench the knife from Jonathan’s hands, and Martin, sitting on the lower step staring at the torn pages, all the sounds hitting his hearing like soft velvet, nothing but a touch of the senses, wordless, meaningless, existing to prove they exist, but nothing more. Martin reached down and lifted the ruined novel from the floor. He turned to the page his brother had propped open upon the stairs just moments ago. His mother’s heel had pierced through much of the page, but Martin could still read some of the words that Jonathan had circled with his own blood. What had once been an almost calligraphic twist about the letters was faded and smudged and halved from the onslaught of his mother’s heel. It now read, “I—I can’t be good!”
The group moved through the corridor of Salmon Hall with caution. The walls were green as he could remember, or had used to be, fading now to the color of bile. It gave the hallways the sense that a putrid smell of defecation should be smothering its inhabitants, and although none existed, nearly every person that would enter Salmon Hall would cringe, curling up their face in disgust, putting hands to their mouths, with a fear in their eyes that was sourced never from what could be known but always from what could be imagined. Martin did, too. Mr. Haversham seemed the only one immune to the faux-rank spread about the walls—he walked through Salmon strangely unaffected. It could have been Martin’s imagination but his father’s strides appeared to lengthen as they neared Jonathan’s cell. As if with his gait he was saying, “Go on, get on with it, let me see my son.” Mr. Haversham outstripped both Benjamin and Donald and even Dr. Lundqvist, coming to Jonathan’s cell with a halt. Martin stopped several feet short of the cell, just enough to catch the edge of the room gleaming with the sunlight patched through his brother’s window. The grated glass looking in upon the cell was smaller than the others, as if it had been designed specifically for the patient therein, like denying him just the slightest inch of view of the corridor was a part of his healing process. The window into Jonathan’s cell was much too high for Martin to see in properly so he looked to Mr. Haversham for a sense of how he should feel in this moment.
He could not remember if he had been surprised to find his father’s face twisted into a grimace but it was an expression Martin had never seen, nor would see, for the rest of his natural life. Would you like to speak to your son, Mr. Haversham? Dr. Lundqvist slowed to the cell-door. He reached out his hand to Donald who planted a large loop of keys into his open palm. It’s the reason we’re here isn’t it? His father, as he said this, broke the freeze of his face to look down at his son by his side. Martin stared back into his father’s gaze and attempted to display the same stoicism he had seen within that gaze again and again. Dr. Lundqvist placed the key, a long, steel grey skeleton, into Jonathan’s cell-door. Wait, his father said. Mr. Haversham bent and with a struggle brought himself to a kneel beside Martin. He brought his face uncomfortably close to his son’s, enough so Martin could see the lightning strikes of bloodshot streaking across his eyes. His father kissed him on the forehead then. He brushed back Martin’s hair and cupped his massive hands about the sides of his head, covering his ears so what Mr. Haversham said next came to Martin like the love song sung ten miles beneath the surface of the sea. This wouldn’t have happened if Gerry were still here, would it? Martin stared at his father. Do you think that was it? Mr. Haversham’s fingers dug into his son’s head. His fingernails were long and cut into Martin’s skin, sending tears flooding to his eyes. His father saw this and let go. He seemed to be waiting for an answer, but Martin could not find any within himself to give. He had to pry his gaze away from his father’s trembling hands, the wet of his own blood glinting with every shudder undulating through Mr. Haversham’s body. He looked from his mother, to Benjamin, to Donald, to Dr. Lundqvist. They all seemed not to have noticed what had just occurred—Dr. Lundqvist’s eyes on Mrs. Haversham, Mrs. Haversham’s on the orderlies, Donald and Benjamin’s scattering glances about the hall, to the cell, to the walls, to the cells down the hall, and back to the door to the corridor past locked airtight, closing them all in with each other. Martin wondered much later if Jonathan heard their voices as they approached, if he heard the key slide into the lock with a metallic click, and stay, waiting on a word from his father. But at that moment he could only look from one adult to another pleading for some sort of answer. Not for why this happening, but an answer for the proud quiet man who now shook as he stared into his son’s open gaze. Mr. Haversham? Dr. Lundqvist waited by Jonathan’s cell door, his fingers still clasped about the ring of keys. Fine, open the door. Dr. Lundqvist obliged. Jonathan, your family is here to see you.
A sudden rush of sunlight flooded Martin’s vision. He raised an arm, cutting the glare enough to look upon his brother’s cell. It was unremarkable. The walls were an eggshell white and undecorated. A single window sourced the flow of light into the hospital. The window itself was over five feet long and checked by iron bars behind which was a single sheet of meshed metal screen. A bed lay in the left-hand corner of the room. On it was one pillow and one thin, wool blanket. The bed was impeccably made, either from being untouched or from a sort of preparation for our arrival, Jonathan’s or the orderlies. Benjamin, Donald, could you restrain Jonathan, Dr. Lundqvist said, Just a precaution Mr. and Mrs. Haversham, I assure you. Benjamin and Donald moved into the cell like ghosts, appearing beside a small, mahogany desk as if they had existed in the room before Dr. Lundqvist had even opened the door. They huddled over the desk, blocking out most of it from view. They worked quickly, silently but for the clink of metal buckles and the groan of straining cloth. Beneath the hulking blue smocks Martin could see a pair of bare feet belonging to his brother. Jonathan tapped his foot to a song none could hear but him as Benjamin and Donald worked to wrap the clean arms of the straight jacket about Martin’s brother, buckling and pulling at the straps, tightening his embrace about himself. The orderlies stepped away, looking now upon the Doctor. They moved a few feet away from the young man sitting in the chair beside the table, and stood, like personal attendants for the boy they just imprisoned inside his clothes.
It seemed to Martin as if they were concerned not for the protection of the Doctor nor the family, but for the young man who sat with his head slunk below his shoulders, handless arms wrapped about his frame like a tipped cross. Jonathan raised his face to them. There was a sharp intake of breath behind Martin—his mother gasping. Martin’s brother looked much the same as he always had, his bone structure resembling the same young man who had been the pride of Stanwich, Connecticut, his hair like rippled rain down the pale window pane of his forehead, his lips still pencil-thin about a mouth too wide for him to be truly handsome but enough that the girls he had taken to the movies while still in high school gravitated their kisses to him without the slightest hesitation. It was what his brother had done to his skin that stopped Martin dead. He had watched, still clutching Notes from the Underground to his stomach like it was an injured robin, as the paramedics had tripped over themselves bringing Jonathan down the stairs. He remembered glimpsing his brother’s head through a break in the medics' movement. Bandages and crimsoning gauze had engulfed Jonathan’s face, about his eyes, his ears, his mouth. The only manner in which Martin could discern that this was in fact his brother being carried to the ambulance was the plume of hair like burnt straw that struck out from the wrap of the white bandages. Martin had thought at the time how much his head had resembled a speckled egg. It was as if the chick inside it was poking the shell from within, and with each attack of its beak cracked ruby lines across its cage. From the police report of the incident, of which Martin became aware of only a few years ago, an omission so egregious to him at the time he physically became sick thinking of his lack of wherewithal to examine it prior to that date, it was believed that Jonathan had taken the quill, burned the sharpened end, and dipped it in ink he had purchased, along with the quill, in the Yale bookstore some months before he returned home, and pressed the tip into his cheek and dragged the quill down the side of his face to the base of his jaw-line and from this spout of blood he had written
I have written this in the manner and time as you have instructed me. If you are reading this then I have surely failed. The changes that were necessary were far beyond my capabilities. I can do nothing now but apologize to you
(there lay a blood splotch that drew itself like gauze over the words written)
If it is possible, and I’m sure that is for you (you have come back after all), you must look to Martin to finish what I’ve begun. The line runs thr —