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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

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Doris Lynch
Bloomington, Indiana, USA


Social Work 101

On a crystalline, red-leafed day, I take the Altoona bus to a state hospital in Bellefonte where I'm to meet my charge, Mrs. X, a farmer's wife, who has schizophrenia. I'm a college junior majoring in social welfare and Mrs. X has volunteered to let me interview her for a case history.

We walk down the green-painted concrete hallways to a small, stale-aired room, and I ask the nurse if we can sit outside. She starts to shake her head no, but then noticing tears well in Mrs. X's eyes, reconsiders and takes us to an enclosed patio.

Stepping outside, Mrs. X pauses, breathes in deeply, three times. "Can taste the hay and pine cones," she says. "Falling leaves, too. Little lost souls."

She's the first person I've interviewed. But I feel surprisingly comfortable with her. When she tells me about the voices that come to her each night, I realize whom she reminds me of—my mother who recently moved to Melbourne, Florida and whose voice sounds distant and altered over the telephone wires.

Mrs. X asks the nurse, standing nearby, for a light. She draws in deeply on her Marlboro. After each question, she hesitates then, choppily with long breaks, tells her story. When the nurse leaves us alone inside the gated wall, Mrs. X leans close and warns, "Missy, mind your p's and q's or they'll lock you away too." What she says is prophetic, not for me, but for my mother.

her lipstick—many shades too red

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