Finding Benny

“When did you first become concerned about your wife‘s mental health, Mr. Fargo?”

The psychiatrist is a broad, bearded man with a deep voice. He speaks with authority, even with just a simple question.

“Well,” I fiddle mindlessly with the pen in my hands. The notepad for me to gather my thoughts on is empty. “Shortly after my son died.”

“What do you recall about the first moment when you found out that your son had died?”

“It was a phone call. Yes, I remember clearly. The phone rang and Marge said, ‘I‘ll get it.’ And she got up and picked up the phone and said ‘Hey-ya’,” I chuckle, “that was always her little signature phrase. She used to say that all the time when we were courting. ‘Hey-ya, how ya doing?’”

“Let‘s not lose the moment,” the doctor commands, “What happened next? After she answered the phone?”

I shift, uncomfortable. Vunerable. Probed. “She was quiet for a long time, just listening. Well, I mean, before that she said ‘Hey-ya’ and then ‘yes’ a couple seconds later. But then she just listened. Very quiet. I asked her ‘Marge, who is it?’ She didn‘t answer me. She just put the phone down and I could see she was crying. She put her fist up to her mouth. Like when her mom died. It was just the same.”

A moment of silence passes.

“What did you do?”

“Well, of course, I asked her again ‘Marge, what‘s going on?’

And she just blurted out, ‘Benny‘s dead!’ and fell into my arms.”

“What was going through your head at that time?”

“I didn‘t believe it. I didn‘t even understand it. I couldn‘t. I mean, he was such a good kid.”

“When did you first talk to the police?”

“That night. They came over. They told us that he was killed in a car accident. Very formal, very cold.”

“Did the officers say how the accident happened?”

“How would they know?” I response defensively.

“What did the officer suggest?”

“He said that Benny was drunk. But Benny was only 16, he‘s a good kid.”

“Ok, ok,” the doc motions with his hand for me to calm down. Easy for him to say! “Tell me about the first incident. When was it?”

“The next day, actually, the next morning. Marge woke me up and said, ‘He‘s here, I can hear him.’

I said, ‘What?’

‘Benny! Benny is here!’

Of course, I was out of bed like a shot. Even the suggestion that he could still be alive was enough. I ran down the stairs, into the living room. But there was nobody there.

‘Where?’ I asked Marge, ‘Where is he?’

‘I heard him calling my name,’ she was crying and upset. All that day she searched around the house looking for him.”

“What did you think about this?”

“I was willing to hold on to any shred of possibility that he was still alive. Anything. I think she was just the same.”

“What led you to seek counseling originally?”

“It kept happening. She kept claiming to be able to hear him calling her name, then she could see him. She‘s grab me, drag me into the dining room, or the bathroom, or the garage and point into the middle of the room and scream, ‘Look! There he is! He‘s calling me!’”

“Did you see anything there?”

I shift uncomfortably. “No, of course not,” I answer quickly.

“What did the therapist say about this?”

“She said it was denial, and at first I accepted that. But...”

“It didn‘t stop?”

“A year later, she still claims to see and hear him, that she can almost touch him, that he follows her around the house, calling her name.”

“How often did this occur?”

“Once a week. Twice a week. Sometimes more.”

“What did you do?”

“Well, the counselor recommended that we have her evaluated. She suggested that Marge may have stress-induced schizophrenia. Although Marge insisted that she wasn‘t imagining things, she agreed to go. The psychiatrist immediately concured with the counselor‘s suspicion. Since she only had the, er, delusions while at home, he said we should move immediately, if only temporarily, to a new place.”

“Did you?”

“Marge refused to go. She refused to even leave the house after that. She would scream at me, ‘Stay away from me! I won‘t leave my baby!’ She would stand in the middle of his bedroom and talk to him.”

“Did he ever talk back?”

“She said she was sure he could understand her. She said, ‘He doesn‘t want me to go. I can‘t leave him here alone! He doesn‘t want to be here alone!’”

“What kind of relationship did you have with your wife at this point?”

“Very little. She wouldn‘t sleep in our bed, only in Benny‘s bedroom. She wouldn‘t let me in. She would sleep only a couple hours tops each night. I could hear her late into the night, talking to him.”

“Did you ask her what he said?”

“She told me he said, ‘Mommy, please stay with me. I‘m sorry Mommy. Mommy, don‘t leave me.’ And so on.”

“When did you get the police involved?”

“She stopped eating. She said, ‘I have to go to him. He can‘t come here so I have to go to him.’ I caught her razor blades. I didn‘t know what else to do.”

“What happened next?”

“The police officer took her away. ‘Involuntary Commitment’ he said.

She screamed,” I look down, “she screamed, ‘He can‘t survive without me! I can‘t leave him!’ It took three officers to sedate her and take her out. I followed them to the hospital.”

“Did she say anything to you?”


A moment of silence.

“What did she say?”

“She said, ‘He doesn‘t forgive you. He will never forgive you.’ And she turned away.”

“What were you feeling at this point?”

“Confused. Terrified, actually. I had lost my wife and my son and I didn‘t know what was going on. What would be next.”

“So you went home.”


“Tell me about that.”

“I saw smoke from a distance. I didn‘t really think anything of it. As I got closer, I realized it was coming from our neighborhood, er, my neighborhood I guess. I came around the corner and saw my house on fire. All the firefighters were spraying it with water but it just burned and burned and burned.”

“What did you do?”

“I got out of my car and just stared. It was too much. Too many things. It couldn‘t be real. I couldn‘t understand.”

“Then what happened?”

“Well...” I turn and shift. “I mean, I talked to the firefighters and filled out their paperwork. I answered all the questions. Then I went to a motel.”

“Is there something else you aren‘t telling me?”

“No, of course not. Well, I mean, nothing serious.”

“Like what?”

I hesitate, then decide to go for it. “I saw him in the window, while the house was burning.”

“Which window?”

“His bedroom.”

“What did you do?”

“I tried to run in and save him, to get him out of the fire. The firefighters restrained me. They couldn‘t see him.”

“I see. What do you think you saw?”

A moment of silence.

“Honestly, I don‘t know. I know he‘s gone. I accept that.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. Of course.”

A moment of silence.

“I have the firefighter‘s report on your house fire here,” the psychiatrist pulls out a brown manila folder. “Do you know what the cause of the fire was?”

“I don‘t. I don‘t think it was ever determined.”

“You‘re right. It says here that the fire started in the upstairs north bedroom.”

“That was Benny‘s bedroom.”

“How do you think the fire started?”

“He must have started it...” I whisper.

“But you said he‘s gone,” the doctor corrects me.

“I did say that, didn‘t I...”

“Did you go back to the site of the fire?”



“I wanted to see it again.”

“See what?”

I hesitate. “The house.”

“What about Benny?”

“He‘s gone. I know that.”

“I need to know what you saw when you went back to the house.”

A moment of silence.

“I saw him, just like Marge said. Standing in the ashes and debris.”

“What did you do?”

“I walked up to him, I reached out my hand and I called out, ‘Benny?’”

“Then what happened?”

“He said, ‘Why did you leave me daddy? Why do you hate me?’”

“And you kept coming back?”

“I wanted to make it up to him. I told him I was sorry, I told him I was wrong. But he just kept saying ‘Why did you leave me daddy? Why do you hate me?’”

“According to this report,” the doctor references a sheet of paper, “the neighbors called the police after seeing you talking to yourself in the ruins of your house for over eight hours. And so the police brought you here, to talk to me.”

“They just don‘t understand!” I say, “I realized Marge was right! He‘s still here! Come with me to house! I‘ll show you!”

“Mr. Fargo,” the psychiatrist leans forward, “You‘re sounding a lot like your wife. I think you‘re deeply confused. Your son is dead. There is nothing at your house besides burnt wood and ashes.”

“No,” I stand up abruptly, “It‘s not true! I saw him! I heard him!”

“Mr. Fargo, please sit down.”

“NO! I have to go back to my son! I have to find him!” I advance on the psychiatrist. “I am not insane! I know what I saw!”

Two heavy hands pull me back. Police officers on either side.

“Mr. Fargo,” the psychiatrist continues calmly, “Recognizing that you are a danger to yourself and others, I am recommending you for involuntary commitment to the care of the state.”

The police start to lead me from the room, but I struggle with them. “I know what I saw! I have to go back!”

“I‘m sorry, Mr. Fargo. This is the end of the line.”

-- Fin

Clohinne winds were blowing when you called me; First you spoke my name, your voice was still the same. You beckoned me, and I arose to follow where you led. You held your hand towards me and I reached to touch your face, but woke to find that you were just a dream.

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