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Chapter Thirteen: Oysters on the Half Shell

I ordered Keith’s telephone and went back to the Farm.

Late September nights were cool and the days warm, sunny and dry.  The house had been closed for almost a year.  My brother was in the Navy and had married.  Mother had remarried and gone to the East Coast to live.  Now she and her sixth husband moved back to Tampa to be near my grandparents.

First, I headed to the back yard pump for water, priming from the sealed jugs on the shelf left for that purpose; working the handle until the water ran cold and clear.  Then I wandered around the place, inside and out, meeting ghosts from the past at every turn.  A deep silence settled here, except for droning cicadas and an occasional bird calling.  No more Puccini blasting in the background.  No more air conditioner humming night and day to keep the house cool with a fire burning constantly in the fireplace.  Most of all, no sounds of Keith calling for attention.

Just the silence.

But the silence was rich with memories.  In the kitchen, I could see my mother, grandmother and aunt washing dishes by lamplight after a big dinner of fried fish caught on a family fishing trip.  In the dining room, around the huge oak table with braces carved like a crouching lion, and legs like lion’s paws, I could see the family in all their accustomed places, enjoying feasts of fresh vegetables from the garden, and rabbit stew from Grandpa’s hunting expeditions.

In the bedrooms, I could hear all of us children settling down in the big iron bedsteads, giggling and talking, while the grown-ups talked back and forth between the bedrooms, until Grandpa called out, “It’s time to go to sleep!” And then only the rustling of the palm fronds outside the window in the breeze that blew constantly from the Gulf, and the occasional slapping of an errant mosquito that had slipped past grandma’s insect killing pump gun.

The years all flowed past me, awakening ghosts of the voices of the past as though I could really hear them now.  This effect was so strong, in fact, that I had to shake my head to dispel the sensation that I was actually hearing whispers and faint echoes of years gone by.

At first this sensation seemed comforting, but as days went by, it became oppressive.

I swept and dusted and took clean linens down to make the bed, and wondered if I was going to be able to live there alone after all.  The sensation of being watched as I moved from room to silent room was unnerving.  I spent most of the time until dark working to ignore it by staying busy.

But every evening, as twilight turned to dusk, it would not be ignored.

It was too late in the season for the whippoorwill, but owls of all varieties hooted and screeched alternately, and all the sounds of the backwoods Florida night were amplified by the simple fact that I was alone.  The weak light from the kerosene lamps didn’t do much to dispel the darkness.  (I did not bother to order the lights to be turned on.) In a way, I felt more vulnerable because all that darkness “out there” was not illuminated.  I was in the circle of light and could be seen, but could not see.

I put out the lamps and sat in a chair by the open window.  Gradually, my eyes became accustomed to the dark.  I was absolutely certain that I was not alone.  I listened and looked, scanning the part of the yard I could see from the window and the part of the house I could see from my chair.  I absorbed all the night sounds, the creaking and cracking of the old house as it settled down to sleep for the night.  I gradually came to feel that the house itself was alive, and was probing me to see how I had changed since I had last been there.

Finally, when I could sit up no longer, I went to bed and the Gulf breeze through the palm trees sighed me to sleep.

I had to stay at the house until the phone was installed, having promised to call Keith the instant it was operational.  I overslept.  After sitting up over half the night, I was exhausted.

I was dreaming fitfully about an evil old woman sitting on the front porch in one of the rocking chairs, when I was awakened by a pounding at the front of the house.  It was like swimming to the surface from the bottom of the ocean to come awake, and as I got closer to the top, I became more confused about who I was, where I was and what I was doing there.  When I finally opened my eyes, it all came back to me: the phone guy!

Through the window I could see the phone company truck.

Laura Knight Jadczyk family album

Me not long after the "phone guy" came.

I wasn’t sure how long the guy had been knocking at the door.  I most certainly didn’t want him to give up and leave, so I called out “Just a minute!” Just to let him know that there was someone at home.  I struggled into my robe as I stumbled to open the door.  I was sure that I didn’t look my best, but since it was just a serviceman, I wasn’t too concerned.  My hair by this time was long, mussed, and falling in my eyes, and I went to the door feeling pretty much like death warmed over.

Standing outside the screen door of the porch was a tall, blond, blue-eyed guy with the build of a wrestler and the face of an angel.  I opened the door and mumbled something incoherent about having been sleeping, and “sorry, the place for the phone is thataway,” and held the door open, waiting for him to enter.  But he just stood there looking at me with the most amazed expression I had ever seen on anybody’s face.  He seemed to be unable to speak for a few moments, and then managed to say that he was there to install the phone.  Well, we already knew that, and I wondered if my nose had turned green or something.

I let him in and showed him where I wanted the phone, and went to the kitchen to make coffee.  Since there was really nothing else to do, I returned to watch the hole being drilled in the wall.  It must have been hard to install the phone and stare at me at the same time, but he did, and I began to feel more than a little uncomfortable.  He must have realized this because he started to talk, asking questions about the old house, and why I was there and what did I do.  He told me his name, which surprised me because it was Grant, a traditional name in my family, and not very common.  He then volunteered the information that he was Polish, his father having escaped from Poland during World War II.  He said that he was working for the phone company so as to save money to go to school to be an electrical engineer.

He sure hit all the right buttons.  But I was not biting.  He was, after all, a complete stranger, and was only there to install the phone.  I was relieved when he finally left.

Later that day, Keith came to take me to lunch at our favorite seafood restaurant up the coast.  Usually I drove, but on this day he insisted on driving himself.  He was driving so fast and recklessly that I suggested that he take more care.  This set him off on a foaming-at-the-mouth rant.  How dare I criticize his driving?  I demanded that he stop and let me out of the car.  Well, that set him off even more.  How dare I insult him by implying that he would stoop so low as to put me out on the side of the road!  Of course, if I were determined to abandon him, he would not stop me.  So, he slammed on the brakes, squealed the tires turning the car around, nearly putting us in the ditch, and drove me home.  When he pulled up in the drive and stopped, he switched to his poor, pitiful me role, and begged me not to leave him.

But I couldn’t give in any more.  Over and over again he had pulled the Dr.  Jekyll and Mr.  Hyde maneuver, and I knew as long as I kept giving in, he would keep it up.  I told him I didn’t believe that he would never do it again and I needed time.  He was practically in tears as he drove away.

And so was I.

I knew he was not rational.  He’d suffered brain damage; it was unreasonable of me to expect him to control himself.  He was drowning in his suffering.  But he was drowning me too!  All my sympathies and Christian upbringing said that I should disregard all the negative and nurture the good in Keith.  But the negative was growing and the positive was diminishing.

It seemed that I should just pack up and go back to my grandparents’ house, which would mean that I had failed.  At the same time, I couldn’t afford to live on my own without a job of some sort.  I was struggling with myself over whether or not to call Keith and tell him all was forgiven when I heard a car coming up the driveway.  He must be really sorry to get out and navigate all the heavy grass and the steps up to the porch with his paralyzed leg.  I waited.  A knock came and I went to the door expecting to see Keith.

It was the phone installer guy!

“Hi!  I just got off work.  I just wanted to come back and make sure everything was working okay!”

He looked at me with the kindest, most sympathetic blue eyes I had ever seen.  I was at one of the lowest points ever.  The contrast between Keith’s violence and this obvious kindness undid me.  I invited him in, glad to talk to somebody “normal”.

And we did talk!  For hours!  The floodgates opened and I poured out the story of Keith.  He listened attentively, and when I began to cry, he wiped my eyes with a tissue from a pack in his pocket, and even helped me to blow my nose.

I finished talking and crying and said, “So that’s it!  Sorry to talk your ear off.  It’s really not as bad as I make it sound.  I’m sure it will look different tomorrow.  So now it’s only fair that you can tell me some of your problems!” I don’t know what I expected when I said this, but it most definitely was not what I got!

He looked at me so strangely, took a deep breath and just launched into the craziest series of words I had ever heard.  He told me that he had never, ever, had the feeling before that he had when he first laid eyes on me.  He had tried to just go on about his job the rest of the day and forget it, to go home and push it away, but it was so overpowering, so compelling, so unbelievably immediate and intense that he thought he was going to have a heart attack.  He was risking everything, but he had to say these things: he was in love!  Totally, completely, unbelievably; he knew it was crazy and none of it made any sense, but there it was!  Seeing me had ignited a fire in his soul that simply was raging out of control and he was helpless.

Wow!  Talk about being speechless!  I was stunned.  I didn’t know what to say.  I mean, what do you say when a perfect stranger practically falls on their knees in front of you and declares you to be the most beautiful, incredible, and marvelous creature on the planet?

It’s sort of hard to think of a snappy comeback to that one!

The first thought that passed through my head was that this guy was really off his rocker!  Better to run back to the safety of the known madness of Keith than to walk into what was so obviously a trap.  Sure, he was an attractive guy, he was Polish, he was intelligent – but no instant fireworks on this side!  (In retrospect, I really should have listened to my instincts on this one!)

I guess he could see the shock and doubt on my face, because he immediately backed up and explained that he knew how unsettling his words probably were, but would I please give him a chance?  Would I please give myself a chance?

I thought that I had a reasonably fair estimation of my looks and sex appeal.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I was maybe a four.  On a good day, with make-up, I might rate a five.  But only if I kept my mouth closed to conceal my crooked teeth.  I was most definitely not Helen of Troy with a face to launch a thousand ships.  I wasn’t even sure I could launch a toy boat!

I simply did not trust the idea of love based on looks.  All my experiences in junior high and high school showed that the good looking kids were popular, but less than stellar in personality, kindness and brains.  And they definitely did not become attracted to people like me.  I had learned through painful experience that good looks did not equate to being “good” inside.

So how could this guy know he was in love with me when he didn’t even know me?

Yet, from another point of view, I had spent most of the last year with a highly intelligent man who had all the potential to be lovable, but was stunted and twisted emotionally.  I realized intellect didn’t necessarily equate to emotional depth either.

It was certainly true that I felt an attraction to Grant of some sort.  But I really had no experience with this thing called “being in love,” and for all I knew, reports from other people regarding love were the same as the reports that God had answered their prayers.  Maybe my search for True Love would end up like my search for the Voice of God.  And, in that case, I would probably be alone all my life, and such a prospect was not very pleasing.  I was tired of being alone.  Very, very tired.  My objections crumbled like sand on a beach.

My thoughts, taking such an unexpected turn, left me confused.  I must have said something, but all I remember is that he was slowly moving toward me with his arms extended, and in the next moment I felt those arms go around me with tender gratitude, drawing me close.  It was a shelter from the storm and I felt that a long battle had come to the end.  He turned my face up to his and kissed me.

Too soon he had to leave, promising that he would return.  Surely this was a dream?  All that evening I kept touching my lips that had never been kissed in such a way.

And, he did return.  So we began.  When Keith called to get me to come back, Grant took the phone and told him in a very firm voice that I was not able to take his abuse anymore, and Keith stopped calling.  I was grateful for the shield, though it hurt to think how it must have affected Keith.

Grant and I talked about our future.  He came every day and we talked on the phone almost constantly.  At work he tested new phone lines by calling me.  I cooked our suppers on the old gas range.  We ate at the old oak table by the light of the kerosene lamps and made love to the sound of the whispering palm trees and shrieking owls.

My life felt like supernatural bliss.  I was living in the place I loved.  I was loved completely and without reservation.  There was only one thing I really couldn’t understand: why Grant couldn’t stay with me at night.  Every night he came, and every night he left before midnight.

But I brushed my concerns away as we kept planning our future.  And, of course, one of the things I wanted most was a family.  To be normal.

When I brought this up, Grant seemed troubled.  He looked away or changed the subject.  But instead of feeling warned, I brushed it aside.  We were happy now.  Time enough to think of such things.  And the palm fronds whispered and the owls shrieked.

We drove to Tampa one Saturday to meet my grandparents.

Grant was charming, understanding and patient with my grandfather, who sometimes acted confused due to the medications he was taking.  I announced that we were going to get married and Grandma hugged me.  Grandpa gave Grant the third degree about his occupation and plans, and grudgingly admitted that he sounded like a likely prospect for marriage.

When he took me back to the Farm that evening, Grant stopped his car in the drive.

“We need to talk.”

I was startled by the serious tone of his voice.  “Whatever you have to tell me, we ought to go inside.”

“I’m already married,” he said.

The long story that emerged was that he’d married young, had a child, and discovered he had nothing in common with his wife.  He was starving for spiritual and mental union.  “I’m so sorry to be hurting you, but the fact that I’m married shouldn’t make one bit of difference,” he told me.  He would get a divorce.  We could continue as we were until then.

I was so stunned I couldn’t even speak.  He had made all those professions of love to me night after night, and had then gone home and slept with another woman.  And she was the one who had the most right to feel betrayed.  I was outraged for both of us; her and me.

My heart felt as though it had turned to stone.  As long as he was married, there was a wall between us.  I asked him to leave.  He pleaded to allow me to just let him visit, to remain friends, to not abandon him to spiritual death.

I felt my heart break.  “Go,” I repeated again.  I couldn’t see him or speak to him without wanting him, and wanting him was a sin I would not commit again.

He left.

And then the internal questions started.  Who did I think I was?  What did I have that was so precious?  Did God create me in a new and better mold than other women?  I had spent years taking in stray animals and feeding them.  What was different about a man suffering from a much greater hunger?  Why did I feel that the payment was more than I could give?

Grant called the next day.  “I’m desperate to hear your voice,” he said.  I hung up the phone.  But Grant simply could not accept that I wouldn’t talk to him.  He came to the house every morning and parked in the drive in front and just sat there for an hour, staring at the house with a miserable, woebegone expression.  When it was time for him to head for work, he’d drive away, only to reappear after work to sit for another hour.

I felt like a prisoner in my own house.

One afternoon, my good friend Tom, the one who’d introduced me to Keith Laumer, came to see me.

I explained the situation to him.  I knew I couldn’t hold up under this kind of emotional pressure for very long.  Tom suggested that I go away for a little vacation.  Just simply disappear.

This seemed like a pretty good idea, so I called my brother and told him I was coming for a visit.

After a few days of relaxing enjoyment of my nephew and baby niece, seeing what sights there were to see in Brunswick, Georgia, I was sitting idly on the sofa in my brother’s house while my sister-in-law was starting dinner.  Suddenly, we heard a car pull up next to the house.  I looked casually out the window and nearly had a heart attack!  It was Grant!

I wanted to run and hide under the bed, but my brother told me to relax, that he would take care of it, and he went out to talk to him.  Apparently the conversation was long and emotional because, after it was over, my brother came in and said: “Sis, the guy is sincere.  He really loves you, and just wants to talk to you.  Why won’t you talk to him?  Give the guy a break!”

I knew that refusing to even talk to him after he had driven over three hundred miles to see me would make me look incredibly selfish.  So we went for a drive down the coast to Jekyll Island, to the beach.

Jekyll Island, the perfectly named place for Grant to take me.

We walked on the beach while Grant made declarations of the purest, undying love ever before known to man; the sun rose and set at my command; he worshipped me and would never hurt me; without me he simply could no longer find a reason to draw breath.

“I’m getting a divorce,” he said finally.

I stopped walking.  “I object,” I told him.  “I grew up without a father because my parents divorced when I was a baby  and I never want to be responsible for contributing to that kind of suffering for anyone.  Forget it.”

I turned away; he took hold of my arm.  “I don’t want to hurt my wife.  But it’s unfair for her to live with someone who can’t love her.  If I let her have her freedom, she might find someone who loves her as much as she deserves to be loved.  Don’t you see?”

Slick logic, right?

And, in a funny way it is really true, though it was being used to manipulate me.  I fell for it.

I packed my bag and Grant drove me home.  Along the way he explained how he went to see my grandparents, thinking I would be there.  He persuaded them to tell him what town my brother lived in and then got the address from the phone book.  Very enterprising, yes?  Nowadays they would call it stalking.

Laura Knight Jadczyk family album

My grandparents at about the time I moved back home after working for Keith Laumer. My grandfather didn't have long to live and it showed on his face.

Just because I fell for his story doesn’t mean I was entirely brain-dead.  I had been lied to once, and I wasn’t going to risk being lied to again.  He would have to prove himself to me now.  The situation itself provided the needed parameters.  Since I couldn’t live at the farm without a job, I packed my things and moved back to my grandparents’ house.

After all the mental stimulation of the time I spent with Keith I knew I could no longer just drift along.  I decided that I needed to go back to school.  This idea also worked well with the needs of my grandparents.  Grandfather’s condition was rapidly deteriorating.  A few hours of classes were just enough to give me something to do, while still leaving me available to look after their needs.  The county had voted funding for a new community college, and it seemed like just the thing to “get my feet wet” before heading out to a four year school.  Until the new buildings were constructed, classes were being held in the old airport building.  I drove out to sign up.

I decided to begin with basics: math, psychology, biology, sociology.  Another seed of fate was planted.

In that psychology class, I met Eva and Carol, two women who would soon play supporting roles in my life drama; one as a heroine, the other as the most fiendish of villains though it was only accidental that she was the villain of the piece; she was as wounded as everyone else.

That first day in class, I saw the most amazing woman in a row across from me.

Eva literally looked like the legendary bust of Nefertiti.  Her black hair, cut in the Egyptian style, naturally played up the resemblance.  She wore huge dark glasses.  She took them off to look at me.  We both smiled.  Eva and I “clicked” immediately.

After class we made a dash to the girls room

“I’d love to have hair the color of yours,” she told me.

Well, I couldn’t tell a lie.  “You could certainly have it for a few dollars at the drug store!”

We practically collapsed laughing.

We talked all the way out to the parking lot.  I found it to be amazing to be with someone who could actually finish my sentences exactly as they were being formed in my own mind.  I had never experienced the feeling of really knowing someone so well while being certain we had never met.  I commented on this and it opened the door to the fact that we were both avid students of Metaphysics and had actually read most of the same things.

Eva was quite a bit older than I was; a housewife with nearly grown children who had decided to go to school to ease her transition to the empty nest.  But she most definitely did not look or act her age.  By the time we left in our respective cars, we knew we were going to have a good time in this psychology class!

And we did.

I was thrilled, once again, to have someone to talk to with whom I didn’t have to act dumb.  We talked every day at school, and frequently on the phone.  We had lunch together and soon began to attract a sort of circle of other interesting people.

For quite awhile, I was too busy to pay much attention to another girl in class who kept watching us with birdlike eyes.  Carol: the brilliant little troll.  Carol wasn’t ugly, she was just “symmetrically challenged”.  She, too, had an Egyptian pageboy bob; but on her it looked like a 1930’s cartoon character come to life.  She had a round body and short legs and arms which gave the overall impression of one of those old Kewpie dolls.  She wore shapeless sack dresses, to hide her extreme rotundity and lack of any feminine curves, and Mary Jane shoes.  She blinked constantly as though someone were going to strike her down at any instant.

I kept finding her watching me during class with those sad, birdlike eyes.  God only knows, I had spent enough years as an outsider to know how it felt.  That I was rapidly becoming the center of many discussions before, during and after class was gratifying; I certainly never wanted to forget what it was like to be on the outside.  So, I reached out and drew her in and discovered a mind that was amazing in its acuity and attention to detail.

She was not only well read, she was a thinker, even if her thinking tended to run in an almost mirror image parallel to Keith’s.  He had been focused on an almost Nazi-like belief in white supremacy.  Carol, on the other hand, was equally devoted to racial equality and blending of the races for the new Superman.  But both of them were certain that Darwin was the true God.

We were taught by a professor with deep insight and grace – Rose Frank – an amazing woman.  We spent more time in free-for-all discussions than hearing lectures, and the class seemed to bond into more of a club than anything else.  The issues of God and consciousness that I had been pursuing for so many years were now very proper subjects for discussion.  This was the heyday of humanistic psychology.  There was Eric Berne and “Games People Play,” Alex Comfort and the radical “Joy of Sex”.  We talked about giving and getting “strokes” and assured each other that we were “OK”.  We talked to our “inner child” and tried to rewrite the “scripts” that we lived.  It was heady stuff.  So what if humanity was the product of mindless evolution; we had a mind now, and it could be whatever we chose to make it!  Let’s play Man and make God in our own image!

One day Eva called me excitedly to say there would be a three-day training seminar in hypnosis over in Clearwater the next week.  Well, I had always been interested in hypnosis since the episode with the stepbrother, and had even experimented a bit with it in high school.  The subject came up in the girls’ room one day.  I mentioned that I had read a little about it.  They began to ask questions and one girl insisted that I should try to hypnotize her because she wanted to see what it felt like.  Since I was being put on the spot, how hard could it be?

Well, there we were in the girls’ room and the only available chair was a toilet, so she sat on the toilet and I began to “talk her down”.  I was completely freaked out when she really did go into a trance!  One of the girls panicked, thinking that this hypnotized girl was going to die, but I counted her up and she woke up just fine So, I knew I could do it, I just figured I’d better not try it again until I knew more!

Here was my chance!  “Of course I’ll go with you!” So we signed up, paid our money and waited expectantly for the first day of the course.

We had to drive to Clearwater.  There’s really only one direct route there — across Tampa Bay on a long bridge.

There is something very strange about the drive across the Bay Bridge that Eva and I made on the day we attended the first session of the hypnosis seminar.  To this day, what both of us remember is starting across the bridge, and coming off the bridge, but nothing in between.

It was as though we spent no time at all on that bridge.  Sure, that’s pretty normal for most people, but it wasn’t normal for either of us.

Quite a large crowd signed up for the course and we took our seats about half way back.  I was determined to figure out this hypnosis business.  The lecturer had everyone stand up and asked us to do a series of actions including holding out our arms, closing our eyes, touching our nose with our fingers while our eyes were closed, and so on.  It was all pretty silly, but I went along with it while continually peeking at what everyone else was doing.

At this point, with our arms extended out to the side, the instructor asked us to pay close attention to how our outstretched arms felt.  Well, heck!  Holding your arms out in the air for any length of time is a pain!  Then he said that they felt extremely light and that no matter how hard we tried, we would not be able to drop them to our sides.

Naturally, my arms did not feel light, and I was perfectly able to drop them to my sides.  In fact, I was glad to do so.  I looked around me and I was pretty surprised to see quite a number of people struggling to drop their arms, and obviously completely unable to do so!  What was going on? Why did it work on them and not on me?

We were soon to find out.

The instructor, a professor of psychology, explained to us that when he had asked us to do the little nonsense actions at the very beginning, it was actually a form of hypnosis.  When people obey a request or “suggestion,” thinking it is just a more or less reasonable request, or a game, or whatever, that they are basically giving up their will to the person making the request and that this is, in its most basic form, a type of hypnosis.

Some people are more susceptible.  Once they have agreed to do the simple requests, they come completely under the power of the person making the request.  When the next suggestion is made, that their arm is light and they cannot bring it back to their sides, they have no effective will to counteract this “belief” that has been “imposed” on them by their own consent.

We were told that this was a common “test” performed by stage hypnotists before they begin their act.  They are looking for those who have very little will, or are most suggestible, from the audience members, and only those will be the ones called to the stage, seemingly randomly, to be hypnotized and cluck like a chicken or bark like a dog.

Many people have the idea that the state of being hypnotized consists in passing out and becoming comatose.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Everyone passes into a state of hypnosis occasionally throughout any given day, whether it is induced by their environment or their own attention, reading a book or watching television This professor believed that dancing was a form of self-hypnosis.  If you watch people dancing, you may see a complete lack of expression on their faces.  They don’t talk at all.  I had the passing thought that maybe people who were good dancers were also highly suggestible.   I knew now that I was not very suggestible, and I certainly couldn’t dance worth a hoot!
Priests and witch doctors have long taken advantage of this fact, using chanting, dancing, music and rhythmic drumming to put their followers into trance, better to inculcate them with prescribed beliefs.

Hypnosis is not a state of unconsciousness.  It’s more a state of hyper-consciousness with a very narrow focused awareness.  It can be described, but not precisely defined.  Though the conscious mind is still present, depending on the subject and the level of hypnosis, the mind of the subject is more or less en rapport with the hypnotist to an extreme degree.  He wants to do what is suggested to him because, in a certain sense, he has willingly identified himself with the hypnotist.

That, of course, leaves the question open of what people are en rapport with when they are dancing or participating in other activities that produce trance states?

Then the “yes set” was explained.  This is when a “hypnotist” puts people under hypnosis in a very sly way by asking them a series of questions to which he is sure that they will answer yes.  Generally, by the time a person has answered “yes” to three questions in a row, their brain has “shifted” into rapport with the hypnotist because the pattern of affirmation is interpreted by the subconscious mind as “agreement” with the person asking the questions.  The subject feels a sort of “unity” with that person and will then, most likely, agree with everything that the hypnotist, or politician, or preacher says after the hypnosis has been induced by the “yes set”.

Well, just hearing that made my hair stand on end!  I realized that this was standard practice in every church I had ever attended.  All the services that had begun with the preacher standing at the pulpit and asking the congregation urgently, “Do you need more happiness in your life?  Do you need more peace in your life?  Do you want a richer, fuller life?” And, of course, with each question, the congregation answered “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!” And followed commands for standing up, sitting down, opening the hymnal, and all the instructions of the service.

The essence of hypnosis, to give one’s will over to the control and direction of another, was actually what was happening all over the world at this very moment, somewhere, under some circumstance, and most often in churches!

What a racket!

There were morning and afternoon classes.  In the mornings, we learned theory; in the afternoons, we watched demonstrations.  And, of course, at the end of the course, we were offered the opportunity to elect a private session if we wanted it.

I did.

So, I scheduled a session with the psychologist and Eva scheduled one next to my time slot.  I wanted to learn about my own level of suggestibility.  I decided to enter the experiment with complete willingness to be hypnotized.  I realized that the only way to know was to be completely honest with myself.  This meant that I couldn’t go in with an “attitude” that “I can’t be hypnotized.” Besides, it would be a waste of money.

It was a waste of money.

The poor guy did everything he could.  I did cooperate and follow the directions.  But it just wasn’t happening.  It seems that I was, after all, not hypnotizable.  Dr.  So-and-so was pretty flustered, mumbling that he had never encountered such “resistance”.  Well, heck, I wasn’t resisting!  I was trying to “get into it!” Maybe it had something to do with having two left feet on the dance floor?

But, it didn’t matter, really.  Eva and I had a new toy to play with.  We went home anxious to try it out on everybody we could rope in to experiment on!

What a great time I was having!  Things to do, places to go, interesting people to do things with, and the whole world was my oyster.

Well, sometimes you find pearls in oysters, and sometimes you die from toxic ones.  Which was it going to be?

Continue to Chapter 14: Pearls in the Oyster