j. l. navarro

Danny Orkin's Dimpled Smile

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Illustration by Warren Beishir

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College students are always in need of money.  I was no exception.  The notice said it paid $50.00 dollars per session.  Lot of money for an art student who was always trying to make ends meet.  The notice didn't say a whole lot about the research except that the shrink dept. was behind it.  It was a head-trip of some sort, a machine-hook-up type thing.  Real sci-fi stuff.


Prospects were required to fill out a questionnaire, then the interview, and then the waiting period.  Kind of like getting a regular job.  There were no guarantees that you would be hired.  But if you were lucky and were picked you were assured at least five hundred dollars, or ten two-hour sessions.  That broke down to $25.00 dollars an hour.  Not bad for someone who was always scrounging for pizza money.


I filled out the paperwork and received a call a week later to go in for the interview.


"You're an art student, eh?"  The lab coat stared at my application, his eyes darting here and there over the page.  His nameplate said: Doug Henderson. 


"Uh huh."


"Do you think in pictures?"


"I see things in pictures.  I guess most artists do that."


"Ever take hallucinogenic drugs?"


"No.  I think I indicated that on the application."


"Just making sure.  Do you drink alcohol?"






"Enough to get buzzed."


"How many times a week?"


"Oh, maybe once a week."


"You're not a drunk, are you?"


"No."  That sounded really unprofessional.  Why hadn't he used the word "alcoholic" instead?  For some strange reason his choice of words made me feel less confident in whatever it was they were researching. 


"Is it that you don't get drunk everyday of the week because you can't afford it?" the interviewer said.


"The idea of being drunk everyday doesn't appeal to me," I said.  "I don't like hangovers."


"If you're chosen, you will not be allowed to drink any alcoholic beverages at all until your part in the project is finished.  Would you have a problem with that?"


"I don't think so."


There were also a few questions on the initial paperwork that I found unusual.  For instance, they asked if I'd ever had any psychic experiences, premonitions, recurring dreams, or audio hallucinations.


"What exactly is it that's going to be done?"


"If you're picked, it'll all be explained to you."





This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.