The PMS Outlaws: An Elizabeth MacPherson Novel

The PMS Outlaws: An Elizabeth MacPherson Novel by Sharyn McCrumb Page B

Book: The PMS Outlaws: An Elizabeth MacPherson Novel by Sharyn McCrumb Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sharyn McCrumb
come to prefer this soothing cocoon of a life to the endless struggle of the sane world.
    As the days slid past, she found herself getting to know the members of her group, as little by little they disclosed bits of information about their problems. They no longer seemed exotic creatures to her; now they were her comrades, no stranger than anybody else’s friends. She had pegged Richard Petress for problems relating to gender confusion; the vain and caustic CliffordAllen was probably a sociopath; the waiflike Seraphin wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t say why. Rose, the newspaper woman, was an alcoholic, Emma O. wanted to die, and old Mrs. Nicholson had left reality through a door marked ALZHEIMER’S. Not exactly the social set Elizabeth would normally have chosen to spend her days with—ah, but normal had nothing to do with it. As it was, there seemed to be a certain satisfaction in joining a group in which you were the least disabled. Elizabeth knew that among her friends and family outside Cherry Hill, she was the afflicted one, while their lives seemed to be progressing smoothly. She’d felt everyone mentally tiptoeing around the minefield of her grief, which had only heightened her sense of loss and isolation. Here, though, everyone had problems to overcome, and she was accorded no special treatment. Others were worse off than she. As a triumph, such a distinction was minuscule, but it offered a flicker of hope for a future recovery. She was not pushing herself to rejoin the world yet, though. Easy enough to suck in one’s sorrow, grasp a prescription for pills, and go back to life as one of the walking wounded, but that would serve no purpose. Go back to what?
    As kindly old Dr. Dunkenburger kept reminding her, the important thing was to feel better, not to rush back to the rat race just for the sake of pronouncing oneself cured. Not that she was anywhere near cured. In fact, the members of her group accused her of having a tendency to wallow in her grief, resisting any efforts to bring her out of her depression. In art therapy she drew nothing but charcoal seascapes of a small boat tossed by towering waves.
    After studying the tenth rendering of the stormy boat scene, Emma O. had announced, “This is not therapy. This is anexercise in masochism. Why do you dwell on this scene of your husband’s disappearance? It’s almost as if you had to remind yourself that you’re supposed to be sad.”
    Elizabeth made no reply, but for the rest of that class period she painted stick-figure deer at rest under sprawling oak trees. Nobody could find anything objectionable about that. Today, though, she was going to try a more ambitious project.
    Art therapy class was apparently designed in the hopes that the patient would draw road maps to his subconscious, thus shedding further light upon his own particular disorder. Rolls of paper and several kinds of drawing materials were made available to small groups of patients in a sunny room with cinder-block walls, a tile floor, and large rectangular windows overlooking the back lawn and the woods beyond. Hardly anyone ever drew the view, though. Apparently their inner vistas were more compelling than the well-tended institutional landscape beyond the glass.
    Seraphin did not even face the window as she worked. She stood with her back to the daylight, frowning in concentration at the penciled outline of a portrait on her easel. She always drew the same face: a young woman with short, light-colored hair, and fine-chiseled classic features. Sometimes the woman was a figure in a larger scene; sometimes her face alone looked out from Seraphin’s drawing paper, but the features never altered, except to be rendered more skillfully by the artist, as practice sharpened her proficiency. Except for her slender figure, the woman in the pictures did not resemble Seraphin herself. Elizabeth wondered who the subject was. In today’s drawing the fair-haired woman was kneeling before an altar. In the

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