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Welcome to Pine Rest

Jake was forty-two and in the throes of his second nervous breakdown when he arrived at the Gerald Ford airport looking so haggard and strung-out that security thought he might be a terrorist.

“Sir, are you OK?” the security guard asked.

“I’m waiting for my mother,” Jake mumbled. 

The guard moved on. 

Jake’s mother finally arrived, gave him a hug, and walked him to the car.

“Now listen, don’t worry about a thing,” she said. “If you start feeling really bad, there is a facility called Pine Rest where, they will really take care of you.”

His mother painted a favorable picture of this place called Pine Rest. She said that a friend of the family with a substance-abuse problem stayed there and gushed about the nice facilitators and the scenic grounds.

“What kind of a place is it?” Jake asked. He was in a dream-like state. 

“It is a place that helps people. Kind of like those celebrity retreats.”

Jake was told not to be ashamed should he have to go there. And over the next few days his family fussed and tended to him in every possible way, and all he could do was fantasize about this enchanted place called Pine Rest. 

He was quite despondent as they took him to lunch at a local bakery. He was busy picturing his first day at the facility. He imagined it situated next to tall pines like a hunting vacation lodge. Upon entering he would be greeted by hotel clerks dressed sleekly in black who would promptly take his luggage. Then he would walk over to the polished oak concierge desk where the clerk would ask if he had a reservation.

“Yes, it is under Jake Abrams,” he would say.

“Yes, I see you right here. I see you are reserved for a suite with a view to our golf course. Do you golf?”
“Not really.”

“I hope you swim. We have an Olympic-sized pool and a fun waterslide for kids. But adults like it too.” The clerk would give him a wink. “I am sure you will find your stay here refreshing. The bell hop will take your luggage to your room. Do you need any clothing dry cleaned or pressed?”

“Um, not that I know of.”

“Ok, and now, Sandra will take you on a tour. “

At which point, a stunning brunette with a name tag and a headset would walk Jake through the halls and show him the massage room, the yoga studio, the gym with treadmills, each having TV screens, and the indoor running track. She would show him where the dining hall was located, and she would tell him that meals were are all-inclusive. She would walk him to the movie theatre where they offered free freshly made buttered popcorn. Then they would get in the posh elevator and they would walk down the hallways to his room where she would slide his room card into the slot and open the door and he would see his private, breathtaking suite, which had a view of the golf course and the pine trees. There would be two chocolates on his queen-sized bed. 

His fantasy was interrupted by his mother asking him why he was not talking to his family at lunch.

“Be here with us. We all love you,” she said.

“Yeah, you don’t seem very talkative,” his thirteen-year-old nephew added.

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Jake had no answer. He was retreating deep into his troubled consciousness. That night they took him to see the Grand Rapids Symphony where his very own brother-in-law was conducting and his sister was performing solo on the violin. She was playing the Sibelius violin concerto. And once again, Jake fell into a trance. Again, he was taken back to the Swiss chalet-like place called Pine Rest. He imagined that the first talk-therapy group would surely be led by a bearded counselor with compassionate eyes. Surely, there would be an attractive damsel in distress to meet. They would commiserate over the fresh coffee and later walk the grounds, as if they were living within the novel The Magic Mountain. Surely he would find love at Pine Rest while also getting a lot of rest and relaxation as well as being pampered with manicures and pedicures. 

Back in real life, Jake was taken to a psychiatrist who observed him with neutral eyes as Jake said his entire world was falling apart and how strange it felt as a New Yorker transplanted to Michigan. He asked her to please give him something for the crushing depression. She replied coldly, “First I want to treat your thoughts.”

But he never slept, and he wandered his mother’s home like a ghoul on the night of the living dead. So one morning, in December, it was unanimously decided he must go there–to Pine Rest. He was looking forward to it. An ambulance and police car arrived at the house, and he was escorted by two cops into the ambulance. 

At last he would be admitted into that five star paradise! 

Twenty minutes later, they arrived at Pine Rest and Jake was shocked to find it looked like an average everyday hospital building. They walked him through antiseptic halls. A nurse asked him how anxious he felt on a scale from one to ten. Jake said, “Fourteen.” 

He was taken to a room where he was asked to take off all his clothing so that he could be frisked for any drugs or weapons that would be of danger to him to others. He then dressed and was led to a room with bars on the window and a small single bed. The hallways were dark, and patients wearing pajamas, holding styrofoam cups of coffee paced in circles. He approached an intern dressed in scrubs.

“What is this place?” Jake asked. 

“Didn’t anybody tell you? This is a mental institution. What is your name?”

“Jake.”

“Well, Jake. Welcome to Pine Rest.”

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View Comments (2)
  • Pine Rest is a real place just as the airport and the city…This short story is is an entertaining, brief glimpse into how our fantasies bump up against the real world where they are bound to disappoint. Which is where the work begins. I wish Jake a lot of luck and good fortune and hope to hear more about his journey through the vagaries of psychiatric illness and its attendant care.

  • Congratulations Ivan! Your writing is so vivid with such witty and understated subtext that it takes the reader to the punch line effortlessly and with poetic swiftness.
    Check out Ivan’s poetry too- he’s a master of allusion, condensed emotionalism and bittersweet humor.

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