>THE PEN, THE FERN AND THE CABINET

>If you really want to trace the whole thing back to its point of, let’s say, origin—though some might argue termination—you must understand that Dr Fur was under “a whole lot of pressure”, which, to some people may seem a rather arbitrary measurement, but, as Dr Fur was not in the habit of telling people exactly what he was thinking, it was just as accurate an estimation that could, with any confidence, be ascertained. Dr Fur broke his glasses. To be more specific, a filing cabinet broke his glasses when—as is so often the case in a life too full of dedication to a profession and not full enough of the repetitive practice of simple motor skills—Dr Fur had so much trouble catching a pen thrown to him by a colleague that his head came into damagingly forceful contact with an open metal drawer. Amidst the panicked confusion that generally strikes a white-collar office when faced with a relatively domestic emergency, Dr Fur’s mind had a rare moment to itself. Lying on the thick waiting room carpet, blinking blood from his eyes and onto burgundy shag, watching blurry shapes he knew as his co-workers and patients buzzing ineffectually above him, Dr Fur began to wonder what he was actually doing. It was not quite the existential query that prompts so many textbook epiphanies, but rather a simpler, more prosaic wondering of why we are who we are. Dr Fur realised he had no idea how and why his life had led him to this particular point: i.e. prostrate, slightly concussed, bleeding, in the vestibule of a highly regarded psychological research institute. As Dr Fur tried to move his arm, and found he couldn’t, he reflected on the awful paradox of him being an avid instigator and discoverer of the mind, and yet unable to find a simple reason for his current position in not just his own life, but everyone else’s. How did he arrive at this moment in time? Who decided where his dot would land on an axis of x, y and z? But, such was the nature of Dr Fur’s personality that, when asked if he was alright, he said, “Yes. Of course.” Which, in point of fact, was a lie.

Dr Fur’s vision came and went, like a camera shot just below the water line, lapping between two refracted worlds. He wasn’t actually worried until someone who sounded very much like a television doctor said, “The first minutes are crucial when there’s broken glass and eyes,” and Dr Fur thought he’d knocked over a vase or tumbler before he realised that it was his glasses that were being talked about, which weren’t, obviously, made of glass, but rather some sort of Perspex compound. He put his hand up to his face and felt a mangled twist of wire where his spectacles had once been.

“Get him a glass of water,” said the television doctor, whose voice Dr Fur suddenly recognised as the colleague who had thrown him the pen. Other voices made murmurs of apparently professional agreement. What he needed most, Dr Fur knew, was a bowl of clean water, a towel, and a basic first aid kit. The irony hung over the room like a palm tree: How many PhDs does it take to put on a band-aid? Although he was feeling mostly alright, Dr Fur remained on the floor. He was ready for a little sympathy, and was enjoying the uncomfortableness of the people around him. The room, as it happened, just happened to contain most of the great regional minds of paediatric behavioural psychology, and as such, a fair chunk of Dr Fur’s regular social circle. They had been gathering for the morning session of a particularly regular conference meeting at the offices of a certain Prof. Ptarmigan, employer of all present, owner of the waiting room, and indeed the research institute to which it belonged. Now Dr Fur’s friends and colleagues proved as useful to him as spinning tops on a sinking ship.

Dr Fur sat up, observing, first, the constellation spatter of blood down his aquamarine shirt. He removed the sad post-script of prescriptive lenses from his face. The filing cabinet drawer still stood ajar, seeming to have sustained nowhere near the level of injury he had. The drawer, in fact, remained stuck in a pulled-out position, as if the force of a grown man’s head was not even enough to force it into its most basic function: rolling inwards. “Smarmy bloody thing,” said Dr Fur, under his breath. He added this incident to a growing list of things that were wrong with a compartmentalised society.

A face appeared: very pink, very much a nose, very many red tributaries linking all vital features. Professor Ptarmigan was nothing if not noticeable, with or without corrected vision.
“Can’t imagine this will put us too much behind schedule,” was his observation of the situation.
Dr Fur replied, “Can’t imagine it will,” and attempted to stand up. In the usual way of overweight men, this involved arranging both legs into a position normally associated with marriage proposals and knighthoods, then pushing the body up with both hands braced against the upright knee. When Dr Fur arrived, eventually, at an upright position, he found himself in the middle of an almost too well arranged semi-circle of bodies. Eight esteemed psychologists, including Ptarmigan and the television-doctor-voiced-pen-thrower, looked at Dr Fur as darts players would a fresh board. They all seemed, to Dr Fur, to be staring intently at his hand. When he looked down, he discovered to his surprise that he had actually caught the pen.

“Does anyone remember,” he asked, holding the pen aloft, “why I needed this?”

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