Charlie’s Choices (Choice B)

Another wave of nausea hits, and as Charlie is dry heaving into the toilet, his watch catches his eye.  It taunts him.  Everyone keeps telling him how little time he has, and he is spending this moment on his knees in front of a toilet.

Finally the nausea passes.  He climbs in the shower to wash the stench down the drain, and the water helps to revive his energy.  He dresses and leaves to make his daily trek to the library.  On the way out of his house he looks at his watch out of habit.

Damn!  I only have two hours before the library closes.

In that moment, Charlie decided he was done having time matter.  He took his watch off and handed it to the first person he saw.

“Here, I don’t need this anymore.”

The teen looked suspiciously at him and then glanced around as though expecting a set-up of some sort.

“I’ve cancer and have been told I won’t be here much longer so I really don’t need it.  Please, it’s a good watch.”

An uncertain hand reached out and Charlie placed the watch in it.  Before objections could be made, he continued on his way to the library.  He glanced back and the guy was still standing there looking at the watch.

“It’s water-proof,” he yelled over his shoulder before turning the corner and walking out of sight.  He felt better than he had since hearing the diagnosis.  He knew it was just a gesture, but it felt as though he had taken control over at least a piece of his life.  From now on it is quality, not quantity.

The professor looked up from his desk as Charlie knocked at the frame of his office door.

“May I help you young man?”

“I hope so.  I would like to read a book that discusses the connection between mind and body and how to use one to affect the other,” Charlie said.

“Son, the library is on the other side of campus.”

“I know.  I’ve been there every day for the last three weeks and I’ve read lots of books but I’m not getting anywhere.”

“The search is part of the process.  When you find it you will feel all the better for having done so,” the professor said with a smile before giving him a dismissive nod and returning to the stack of papers he had been grading.  When he didn’t hear the sound of footsteps turning away, he looked up again.  “Perhaps you will have better luck getting the librarians to help you.  Off with you now.”

My life is about quality over quantity. “I mean no disrespect sir, but I am not leaving until you either give me the name of a book or else the name of another psychology professor who might help me.”

The smile was gone.  “You will be leaving now, young man.”

“No sir.”  Charlie and the professor stood with their eyes locked, the professor becoming angrier by the second.  Charlie had meant what he has said, but he realized it wasn’t reasonable to expect the professor to understand.  “I have cancer.  I’m trying to find a way to live longer than the 5 months I was told I have 3 weeks ago.  The librarians have been as helpful as they can be, but what I really need is someone who can help me get right to the point.  Since you are the head of the psychology department, I thought it best to start with you.”

“I see,” the professor said quietly.  “That’s a pretty big task you have set for yourself.”

Charlie shrugged.  “It is this or I go home to die.  That look of pity you gave me when you found out, I hate it.  Three weeks ago my entire life was in front of me.  Now my parents are furious that I am not going home; I spend part of each day in treatment and another part puking; and the rest of my time I spend researching or hanging out with my friends.  Given that they have all started to give me that same look you just did, I would guess they somehow found out.  I left home to create a better life for myself.  Now there is a previously unimaginable urgency to that goal.  Today I realized that if I am to have any chance of success, I have to choose quality in every choice I make.  Please, may I have the name of a book or another professor now?”

The professor nodded slightly.  “Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  That will get you started,” he said as he moved over to the bookshelf beside his desk.  He scanned the rows, running his finger over the titles before landing on one.  He plucked it from its spot and handed it to Charlie.

“This isn’t Psycho-cybernetics,” Charlie said as he tried to hand the book back.

“No, it is The Go Getter by Peter Kyne.”

“I don’t understand.”

“There are going to be a lot of people who tell you that what you are trying to do can’t be done.  You may appreciate that story just as much as you do anything you learn from Dr. Maltz.  And now son, while I do not have cancer, I do have a wife waiting at home for me and she continues to threaten to kill me if I am ever late for dinner.”

Charlie laughed and he saw that the professor gave him the first genuine smile he had seen from the man.  “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  Come visit me in about 6 months and bring that book back,” he said with a wink.  “Oh, and here’s Maltz’s book.”  He tossed the book to Charlie from the corner of his desk.

They walked out of the building together and then went their separate ways.  Charlie looked at his naked arm out of reflex and smiled.  Quality is going to take some getting used to.

Once back at his place, Charlie decided to skip dinner and feed himself with knowledge.  Dinner seldom stayed in anyway.  The Go Getter was a quick read and he realized that the professor was the first person who hadn’t told him to face facts or to stop wasting time.  As he opened Psycho-cybernetics, he realized that it felt good to have someone on his side.  He had barely finished the first chapter when the phone rang.

He had made a few phone calls, but he hadn’t answered his phone since being diagnosed.  It was probably his parents and he didn’t want to hear their lecture about how unfair it was to them that he wouldn’t come home.  If it wasn’t his parents, it might be the girl he had been dating.  He hadn’t called her since the night before he went to the doctor for the first time.  He didn’t know how to tell her he was sick, didn’t want to see the look of pity in her eyes, and had decided that he preferred she write him off as a jerk.  His friends had figured out that they needed to come over if they wanted to talk to him.

C.  Have Charlie answer the phone

D. Have Charlie ignore the phone

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