Is it me now, is it me later, or is it me not at all – challenging health care in Ontario

In my head I tell myself to move cautiously. I can see obstacles in the way: I am an outsider when it comes to physical health and wellbeing. Yes, off course, I spent the last two years navigating mental health supports. The issue is when you set a goal of improving physical health for the year ahead, and out of necessity you have to engage the larger overall health care system, it’s a different set of challenges altogether.

Systems develop over a long time and move in very small, very calculated and calibrated ways. Threats of rapid change are met with a circle-the-wagons defence, with everyone on the inside heading for the basement tornado refuge, emerging when the storm passes with closer intimate bonds. I believe babies were made in air raid shelters during the Blitz. Similarly, institutions where conflicts occur daily over budgeting and policy resort to a kind of beurocratic inbreeding when confronted by outside threats.

 Fundamentally, I am an outsider. I don’t know the language or the protocol. My mind has been honed to a business, project management, deliberate and nimble knife edge; up front negotiation, clarifying and evaluating, then charging forward. My life is a schedule, narrowed down to 15 minute actions. My communication is electronic; I can track it that way. I make notes, outline, and communicate very effectively. I hold on to adages like, “If it’s not in my schedule, it doesn’t happen!”

Yet, in small ways, I have been able to make significant changes using technology. I am now able to take my blood sugar levels three times a day: 9 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. It’s in my schedule. As a Type 1 diabetic I haven’t been able to track this for years. I’ve gone further and make notes on diet, insulin, and recently I replaced lunch with a diabetic shake and power bar – the levels are starting to even out and are closer to normal than in years!

 The ‘system’ has its own way of doing things. To see a specialist to review my diabetes condition I am told to attend a hospital education program. Uh, oh, not only have I been through this in the past with diabetes, I’ve also been through so-called programs with mental health supports. I can assure you that in order to ‘graduate’ and move on, you have to conform. They finally get you in a One-Flew-Over-The-Cuckoo’s-Nest kinda way.

I don’t have time to go with the flow! So, I am now a disillusioned outsider and I haven’t even begun. To be clear, I am not resisting change, or help. I have put years into understanding me, peeling back the onion. Developing intelligence early in life, along with curiosity and creativity and a need to evaluate the world, is a very dangerous thing. Do not encourage your children to question authority or think divergently. It is dangerous and will lead to a lifetime of struggle and mental health issues. I am living proof! It is abusive for parents to encourage their children to think for themselves. If your children show the slightest spark of intelligence, take away their books, pencils, and subject them to cold baths. Hurry, do it. You don’t have time to waste. You must think of their future happiness and success!

Hyperbola aside, I am still left pondering if the health care system in Ontario is going to be my next cross to bear. Do I have the capacity or the energy, or will I end up bitter and declared “difficult.” Perhaps, if I can manage the process, I will create small wins over time – and do all the things I have learned through experience and practice – just maybe I’ll come out of this year OK.

Finally, I saw a clip in a documentary on Thomas Edison this past weekend. Most people apparently think of Edison as trying over and over again to create the light bulb. A historian in the show mentioned that Edison spent little time dwelling on past mistakes. In contrast, he used creativity and imagination to create new solutions to problems daily. I’ll consider this approach but I’m also reminded of the last scene in Cuckoo’s Nest – Chief Bromden finds McMurphy in bed after being lobotomized. It’s the final push the Chief needs to escape. We wait all film for this breakthrough moment. I’ve been waiting a while too.

 

Metadata

Thomas Edison – sound bite – didn’t look at past mistakes

Health Care System – complex environment – outsider – new language and environment

Mental Health – personal experience – incremental change works best – 2 years

Commitment – thought/ stress/ time available/ impact/ attention span

Capacity – small additions to established patterns

Process – overwhelming – mapping landscape – burn-out

Approaches – cross to bear – conflict – shut out – accessibility – difficult persons

Recording – note-taking – linking to sources – comments/blogs/articles

 

 

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Open Letter to My New Endocrinologist

Well – that happened!

Not quite sure where to start, or if it will matter anyway. I don’t expect this to be read, least of all understood and considered; however it behooves you to listen to experience.

I presented myself at your office with several challenges and opportunities, key of which is my determination to move forward with health goals in 2015 – a new approach after failing again and again for years. I was scheduled several months ago, though I changed the appointment because I knew I wasn’t ready – now I am.

I gave honest and forthright input into various conditions, and how I am pursuing a rational and realistic approach to healthcare moving forward: Incorporating structure in my life, incremental change, monitoring and gathering data, and setting achievable goals.

I understand that time is a precious commodity – it is fundamental in my life as a project manager, though I’d like to step back for a minute and outline some history briefly.

• 5 years with diabetes
• Defaulted on commitments with previous specialists
• Defaulted on commitments with education clinic programs (twice)
• Mental health issues – depression/anxiety/ADD/ Bipolar

What I want to summarize about this is I have had to fight my way to this point – through crisis and adversity – managing career, family, and all the pressures daily to succeed, to be dependable, and to be productive. I have done it on my own – and determined the path that works for me. I have put processes in place to address challenges, assess options, and keep going.

My prediction for a successful outcome with your recommendation and referral to an education program is limited to about 40% or less. I’ll take it one step further and say that I see two outcomes:

  1. 1.Attempt to access consultation with yourself on improving my diabetes – through engaging in a clinic – though I see this as an uphill battle wasting time that will end in frustration and disengagement.
  2. After going through an uncertain process over the next several months when I don’t have time to dispose and negotiate, find myself back on my own – and this time I’ll take care of it my way.

I could go into detail about my options and experience with diabetes treatment and clinics, though I’ll make the following clear:

• Education programs are not tailored to the individual. It’s a shoe-horned approach.
• Information is often superfluous – or not presented with participants learning in mind.
• Change is “expected” by practitioners, who see clients as malleable and able to incorporate all – as though they were empty vessels.
• Conflict by practitioners is the preferred response when challenged for any reason.
• Practitioners are dismissive – not supportive.

Search engines use tags to narrow information as metadata. I randomly created some tags summarizing my appointment at your office to give me key words to reflect on. They are quite revealing:

Rushed; Hectic; Up and down in different rooms; Resident – not primary doctor; Not taking time to listen or hear; Shoe-horning; Unable to communicate the way I needed; Was met with ‘we know best’ approach; Overlooked in the process to get out the door and move on; anxiety and experience – déjà vu; Stress and prediction of poor outcome; No follow up scheduled; Wait and see approach – not proactive; Contradicted/ opposed; cynical; no encouragement.

In conclusion, I now have to assess the consultation and try to gain some kind of perspective, to avoid cynicism in my life and see what I opportunities I can squeeze out of the experience. One thing’s for sure – I am not going to ‘own it’ if it goes South. I have better things to do with my time, like moving forward.

I hope this input is valuable and I await a call at some future time, for a program of unknown length and content, with uncertain outcomes.

Regards

Brian Scott.

Journal #1

I can barely describe how I’m feeling in a soundbite It’s much easier for me to extrapolate, to reflect when my mind keeps circulating information – it’s much easier letting go and moving on to the next place. The sun is shining, and, anointed by the light, I should make use of time.

I think I’m living in a kind of slow suffering. You’ll probably tell me to stop obsessing but the truth is I can’t yet. There’s the obligation I face, and the imminent changes. The legal responsibilities, and the conflicts that inevitably arise with family care. I am clear on these. What I don’t know is if I have the personal ability to withstand the changes. I am more and more understanding of my own mortality. I am more in tune with the ultimate ending.

I catch myself quite often saying – this is going to suck. I look down at the floor, I stop smiling at whatever trivial circumstance I happen to be in, and I don’t want to go any farther. It’s too easy to do nothing – the opposite of what I need to do.

The other morning I went to breakfast with family. There is one thing soothing about my life and that’s being with people I care deeply about. This was life about a younger generation. The girls were there, a friend, a boyfriend, and they were animated as usual. I am smiling now as they are important to me. I may not be a good person all the time but give me five minutes with them and I want to be better.

The contradictions are all around me. I will survive probably, the little things are where the answers are. Namaste my friends, thank you so much for sharing the moment. I can move on to tomorrow.

Business as Usual

Turn your head into the pillow, groan, and wait for the night’s stiffness to stop. Business as usual. The first thought is make coffee and light a smoke but you remember there’s half a coffee still in the office from the night before. Easy does it: you slip into your track bottoms and runners, checking for sore knees, a back spasm or god forbid, a swollen ankle – all signs you have reached middle age and the weather is changing. Out on the balcony, drawing heavily on a cigarette, there is barely enough light at this time of year. However, I can see two layers of clouds, one higher than the other – the lower one is moving in a different direction; rain clouds. I better take an umbrella today.

Dressed and out the door the rain has started. At first it is fine drizzle, but before long a steady downpour is underway. My umbrella is good and solid – for golf. I don’t golf much anymore , come to think of it, playing in wet weather is not very comfortable. My shoes are getting wet as are my trousers below the knees. I am trying to hide as best I can under the umbrella, letting the dome cover my back from the water. It’s a short walk to the bus stop but I hurry anyway as the route feels longer today. I try and avoid the puddles.

Fortunately several buses travel along the main road on their way into town. It’s a reasonably short walk in the summer but if the weather is uncertain I hop on any of the passing transits. That’s what I tell myself at least. Actually, I prefer the comfort of a shorter ride at the beginning of my day than a brisk walk. This way I don’t have to overheat, especially in the summer months with the humidity making things sticky. It’s too wet to smoke. I can see a bus coming, snaking its way towards me, stopping at a traffic light and falling in behind a yellow school bus which thankfully turns right. You don’t want to be stuck behind a school bus, they stop every four or five blocks along the way with lights flashing and stop sign out.

The terminal comes into view as we round the last corner. I notice the canopies intended to protect riders are not holding back the rain that drives in on an angle, making the concrete platforms wet and slick. The bus comes to a stop, but not before passengers start to move, several waiting at the door, bags and packages in hand, collected from seats where they held new riders at bay – forcing some to stand like myself. I am in no hurry and prefer to wait until someone lets me go ahead of them, feet shuffling in step with the person in front of me, eyes down for the inevitable step off. Turning, I cross paths with passengers entering the building as they move to other buses, other destinations. This is my stop. I will not be travelling further. I open my umbrella again and make my way across the bus lanes, heading for the street. Reaching the sidewalk I light a cigarette outside the no-smoking signs of the terminal. Once again I fall into step. Up ahead I can see City Hall. Business as usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terminal Baggage

Two old high school friends meet in an airport lounge for the first time in years.

Pete: Oh my god Josh, is that you – holy shit, it is you. My god, Josh (Josh and Peter hug.)

Josh. It’s been so long; what, must be seven, eight years? (they step back but still holding each others elbows) Wow – you’re looking good. I see you’ve put on a bit of weight – (laughs) Hey, I’m married now –a year and a half. Holly’s everything I dreamed of and we’ve got a beautiful son Aaron who’s 4 months. Can you believe it?

Pete: You always were a player. (They stand back from each other)

Josh: Well, you know – there always were women around…how about you?

Pete: I guess I never really found the right girl.

Josh. What about…um…what’s her name. Jenny?

Pete: That’s right, what’s her name. She left when the money ran out.

Josh: Wha’de’yah mean the money ran out?

Pete:m diabetic: type 1. The bills kept running up and I had to go on long term disability. It took a while to diagnose and the job was having layoffs anyway, so I was on unemployment that ran out after six months. It was a real roller coaster for a while.

Josh: Oh no, that’s terrible.

Pete: Yeah, so things got more strained between us and Jenny left. She took the dog.

Josh: So what are you doing now?

Pete: Still looking for work, hard to find a job as a bureaucrat these days – no skills really (chuckles.)

Josh: Wow (too emphatically)

Pete: Yeah…wow. It’s ironic that I’m still getting a government cheque though (chuckles again. (Josh doesn’t laugh)

Josh: So…?

Pete: Yeah…so.

Josh: So what else… how’s your mom and stuff?

Pete: Oh Fine, fine. Everyone’s fine I guess. What about you?

Josh: Who me? Everyone’s great! Mom and Dad spend most of their time at the cottage. Dad’s got a hobby where he’s fixin’ up an old Chev – He can’t stop talking about it. Holly says it’s his second lover. Mom does the usual – walks the dog, and reads n’ bakes.

Pete: Sarah died four years ago.

Josh: What?

Pete: Cancer. Came as a surprise and took her in months. Never smoked, was a lot healthier than most of us, right to her brain. She lost a lot of weight by the end – didn’t look like her at all.

Josh: Peter, I’m so sorry. That’s terrible.

Pete: Yeah. I think it took Dad the hardest. Sometimes he just sits in his Lazyboy and stares out the window – I think he’s imagining Sarah getting off the bus and running up the driveway like she was ten. She was always his favourite, probably because she never had kids. Just like me I guess. He’d rather think she never grew up or something.

Josh: That’s sad.

Pete: Not really – if you can’t live with the present, at least you have the memories of a better past.

Josh: I guess so.

Pete: Seven years. Wow man, it’s good to see you. It’s really good to see you. What are you doing now?

Josh: Well that’s why I’m here actually – I’m a regional sales director for the Southwest, took me only three years with Michigan tire and auto. Here, here’s my card.

Pete: Michigan tire – wow. (Sings jingle) We’re more than just tires; we’re Michigan tire and Auto.

Josh: That’s right.

Pete: (Quickly) got any Jobs?

Josh: Well, not really. Most of our work is technical unless we hire college kids with no skills. No, I didn’t mean that. That’s not what I meant. Hey sorry.

Pete: It’s O.K; I can’t see myself in red polyester anyway. (Both laugh – nervously.)

Josh: Listen, that’s my boarding call. Well, the first one anyway. I have to pick something up for Aaron and Holly before I get on. Give me your number. We should get together some time and really catch up.

Pete: Yeah, sure. Here you go (searches for pen.)

Josh: Here’s one of ours…

Pete: We’re more than just tires…

Josh: Yeah, that’s right. Keep it.

Pete: Here

Josh: Thanks.

Pete: Well, I guess this is goodbye.

Josh: For now.

Pete: See you later then?

Josh: Sure. (Josh picks up his overnight and starts to walk away, and turns back) Hey Peter?

Pete: Yeah?

Josh: Aeron was born 12 weeks prematurely.

Pete: I’m sorry is he ok?

Josh: He is now. It was touch and go. I stayed with Holly for two weeks in the hospital sleeping there nearly every night. She lost a lot of blood at first. They almost fired me at work because I missed so much time – came really close.

Pete: Josh, That’s terrible.

Josh: Yeah. Never felt so scared and alone in my life.

Pete: Funny that.

Josh: Yeah tell me about it. It’s all O.K. now. Hey, listen. What are you doing later this month?

Pete: Let me check my calendar (looks up at the ceiling) – nothing, why?

Josh: I’d like to have you over and meet Holly and the little guy; time to pick up where we left off?

Pete: You know we don’t have to

Josh: Yes we do.

Pete: I’d like that.

Josh: Let’s make it a date. Give me a call and we’ll set it up.

Pete: Yeah, I sure will.

Josh: Good to see you again.

Pete: Thanks Josh. Bye now.

Josh. Goodbye Pete.

The Old Man and the Seas

Prologue: It’s a small story – perhaps worth telling – a piece of truth wrapped in fiction… as much about the contrast between hardships and the search for happiness and might go something like this:

The Malecon curves away from Vieja and around the Hotel Nacional in the distant haze. Here, the sun pins the crumbling birds egg blue or bleached yellow facades of Havana’s once glorious sea front between the crashing surf and deep blue sky. Taxis and buses dodge one another, cheekily honking horns as much in anticipation as of any marked route.

Donald Reginald McReary was born several thousand miles away over 80 years ago. As an  Albino, in those days, he knew he wouldn’t be able to support a family early on with his limited vision, so he never married – but nevertheless he was determined to make a go of it. In Hamilton, Ontario, he left school at 13 just after the Second World War, and took any job he could find. 

Sitting in Veradero Airport’s smoking lounge Don looks like a man at the Legion with his quilted, plaid coat with the red lining on this cool morning – his white cane sitting folded up on the small table, waiting for his flight back to Canada. Remarkably he has been visiting Cuba for over 25 years and has made many friends throughout his adventures.

One of the first things Don tells you from behind thick glasses is that you don’t need a lot of things in your life to find happiness and he should know. He was abandoned as a child by parents who, out of poverty, couldn’t take care of his needs. He lived in a boarding house of sorts paying money from paper routes to the household keep. He earned enough to manage five dollars a month which, as he tells it, was never raised for  the next 12 years until he moved out at 21. By this time he had mapped out paper routes all  over Hamilton delivering several editions at the same time. 

The tourist resort economy in Cuba began to hit it’s stride in the late 90’s. On the streets of Vieja – the old quarter of Havana – you can buy a paper sleeve of peanuts for as little as 10 cents. For us, the hawkers are a reminder that Cuba is developing and extreme poverty exists. It’s otherworldly everywhere you turn. Service is poor in restaurants though the food is quite good. Bike taxis are everywhere and you have to keep your head down at cobble stone intersections to avoid the constant barrage of requests to be spirited away on three wheels, usually from a Cuban the age of an out of school Don McReary.

Like many born into difficult circumstance, Don was filled with ambition. His was to make something of himself and land on his own two feet. Years later at the Veradero Airport he tells  of walking through the mountains near Trinidad on the South coast of Cuba where he had taken a bus. The sun was low and affected his limited vision. He slipped and fell – breaking his arm. As he says, he lay there for 20 minutes before a taxi happened by and helped him get to his billet in the town. He knew the countryside as well as the city and named off several small communities and some of their hotels. He has problems with his right arm ever since and uses his left hand to support his right when he shakes yours.

High up above the Malecon the Hotel Nacional perches like a great peacock proud of itself. Tourists sit leisurely in the oversized outdoor rattan furniture protected from the pedlars by the Malecon below and an army of blue suited security at the front door. The view of the ocean is spectacular in itself however two treasures are found on the grounds. The first, two massive rusty canons remain installed since the Spanish American war when they shelled unsuspecting ships. More interesting however are the trenches dug during the 13 day standoff with the United States over nuclear  missiles based on the island in what is universally known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Everywhere you go in Cuba you are reminded by one billboard or another that the Cuban people are a proud people, at least that is what the official propaganda instills in the unsuspecting tourists – reminders that this is still a nation under siege, reminders that politically at least, state control is apparent. In the late 1980’s Cuban’s experienced a more quiet revolution of sorts, around about the the time Don McReary started visiting. His story is that while the Cuban’s are proud, they nevertheless extend courtesy to strangers and are warm and giving – in sharp contrast to the tourist experience in Havana at least.

Don gestures to his empty plastic glass on the table and reminds us that Cubans love to dance. He earned the nickname “non-stop” he says of his dancing in those early years. He’d start the night with just one drink of rum and by the wee hours in the morning he’d still have a quarter left because he had danced with one young Cuban lady after another, not allowing time for indulging in heavy drinking. They would be lined up waiting to dance with him.

The quiet revolution is as much a social revolution as political.  Cuba relied heavily on oil from the former Soviet Union and fashioned large scale production of food much the same way as North America. This investment in high priced agriculture was no longer sustainable after the collapse of the Eastern Block and Cuba turned to methods which are innovative and internationally applauded. In many ways, diversity has been reinstated and traditional farming re-introduced.

Cuban’s have a different approach to life under adversity. This is the Cuba Don speaks off. It’s not too much of a stretch that with his limited advancement during his formative years he has discovered something far away from the tourist spots and, over the years has become familiar with the Cuba of the people that you don’t see on billboards. Don is here in Cuba because he is proud of the Cuban people, their resilience matches his, their history and culture are rich, and their persistence in the face of adversity is incomparable. Don Reginald McReary is one of them and he is happy being so.

Epilogue: Truth is, we never got Don’s real name. Strangers passing in an airport with just enough time to share a story or two…maybe three. One thing I do know, the old man we met will be back soon.

Calamity – Draft (yeah, I know there’s errors!)

It’s early on Christmas Eve and the three animal rights activists enter Harry’s Furs on George Street in downtown Guelph. Harry’s alone in the store. Sid, Elliot and Johnathan don’t look like they could afford new coats let alone furs. Johnathan, hidden by the other two locks the door behind them. Thunk, click, the tumbler goes unnoticed. Harry comes out of the back of the shop glasses on top of his balding head holding several pieces of paper, and, sliding the glasses down with a wrist flick, takes in the dishevelled trio with a squint: “Can I Help You?” he says half enquiring,

“Elliot. Grab him.” Sid is the first of the three to speak.

Elliot is quick to act and strides across the store to Harry, taking him by first one then both arms and twisting them up behind  Harry’s back. A roll of duct tape falls out of Elliot’s coat pocket and, hitting the ground seemingly in slow motion, rolls back across the floor to stop at Johnathan’s feet.

Johnathan pauses looking at the tape for a second before picking it up. When he does all four men have a surprised look on their faces, Harry’s mouth widens in his otherwise serious stare and utters, “What the fuck?” twisting to snarl at Elliot. Johnathan bolts across the room with the tape, pulling off a large enough piece to press against Harry’s mouth, stopping any further emissions. 

“Nice,” says Sid ironically. Harry is struggling against Elliot’s grip as Johnathan starts to wrap Harry’s hands and wrists, rolling the grey sticky tape to the elbows.

“Stop moving old man,” Elliot tells Harry, giving him a shake, now in total control of his capture, “We don’t wanna brake anything.” Elliot is the stockier of the three -well muscled and uses it to his advantage to control Harry.

Sid moves forward to the register and takes out the small metal bar he brought and slips one of the ends into the cash drawer seam which gives way immediately. He turns to the others who have now sat Harry down in a chair, working the tape around his torso so he’s stuck fast.

“There’s no money!” Sid yells. The other faces turn from their prey to look at Sid.

“What do you fuckin mean there’s no money,” exclaims Elliot. “This guy’s rich!” All three would-be robbers turn to Harry. Sid moves to stand beside the chair and in one motion tears the tape from Harry’s face.

“Ah Fuck,” Harry grimaces. “What the fuck’s goin’ on. I don’t have any money in the cash after Theresa takes it to the bank at two. Let me go!” but Sid quickly slaps the tape back over Harry’s mouth. Harry mumbles something inaudible.

“Shit. Shit. Shit!” Elliot stomps, “I new something was going to fuck up.”

“Shut up,” Sid replies, “Let me think.”

“Let’s just get out of here.” begs Elliot. “ Scrap everything. This is fucked up.”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Johnathan adds in palpable fear.

“No. We came to a job and we’re going to finish it. There’s a lot riding on this you don’t know and we can’t leave without somethin.” states Sid. “ Look, take the old man into that closet and Johnathan, roll down the front blind. Put the closed sign up.” Sid stands in the middle of the store with his hands wrapped around his head tightly, eyes closed he’s thinking.

“What are we going to do now,” Elliot enquires.

“We’ve got to take some furs to sell. It’s the money we need.” Sid replies

“What the fuck do we know about selling stolen fur coats?” Elliot complains. “And these are furs, we should be spray painting them so they can’t be sold. That’s what activists do. You said this was going to be about robbing a fur shop to save the species. You never said anything about getting our hands bloody doing it.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know – looks bad. But remember our promise to Sheila.” Sid declares. “We needed the money to prove a point – that we don’t back down for the effort.”

“Shelia’s not fucking here, locked in a fur shop with no money, is she. And what’s so great about Sheila anyway. You got a chubby for her?” Elliot accuses.

“Shut up – you know we have something meaningful,” Sid responds.

“That’s it, isn’t it. Harry’s locked in a cupboard, and we’re locked in his store just so you can prove something to a girl.” says Elliot.

Meanwhile Johnathan comes out of the office carrying two plates full of Christmas shortbread cookies, Christmas Cake and chocolates. “Hey guys, they must have been having a party here today and look what I found?” He holds up an opened bottle of champagne admiringly.

“What the fuck? Put that down” Sid orders.

“Leave him alone!” Elliot shouts back.

“What kind of robbery is this when he helps himself to leftovers – all he ever thinks about is food.” says Sid.

“Better than thinking with his dick, isn’t it.”

“Fuck off.” Sid replies

“Jonathan, let’s get out of here.” says Elliot

“No wait.” says Sid. “There is something you don’t know about. The money from the robbery was to buy explosives. There’s this guy, Armand, who Sheila says is looking to make a statement by blowing up some fur stores in Toronto. That’s all I know. I promise. Look Elliot, we’ve been friends for a long time. I need your help.”

“What did you get us into, Sid.?” Asks Elliot.

Jonathan returns to the office with his loot, seemingly oblivious, and finds a plastic cup for his champagne.

“Sid?” Elliot prods. What did you get us into?”

“I need your help.” Sid says. “I can’t do this without you.”

“But what are we going to do?” Elliot pleads. Both are looking at each other with apprehension. Sid didn’t quite know. Elliot speaks first: “ OK. I know this guy who steals things, mostly electronics. You remember Tony, he was a year younger than us in High School. Maybe we can take a few of the coats and see if he’ll sell them.”

“Thanks Elliot – I know you would come through,” Sid says.  

“But now we do things my way.” reply’s Elliot.

“First, we have to find the high end furs. I think they have a locker or a vault or something – I saw this in the movies. That’s where they keep the expensive stuff.” Elliot says, looking around the store. “Over there.” Both men cross the store and. Flicking on the switch step inside the vault.

Johnathan comes out and, seeing the store empty, begins to panic. He drops the plates of cookies and the plastic cup of champagne and heads for the front door. In the way, he pushes the vault door which slams shut. He reaches the front door and undoing the latch runs out onto the street. Their car is still there. Cautiously, he heads back into the store. He hears muffled voices behind the vault door and approaches. “Hey, where are you guys?”

“Jonathan, we’re in the vault, what’s going on. Open the door? Johnathan can hear Elliot’s voice from behind the door.

“The handle doesn’t turn and there’s no key.” Johnathan says, putting his mouth close to the door.

“Get the old man – he must have a key” says Elliot.

Inside the vault Sid is looking around. Hanging in several rows there are long fur coats, mostly white and jet black, very different from the ones on display in the store. They must be luxury items.  On a shelf against the wall there’s some unopened champagne bottles that must have been from the party. On one rack, something catches Sid’s attention. There seems to be sets of fur bra’s and panties, along with some rubber boustiers. “Hey Elliot, the old man is into some kink!”

“What are you doing Sid?” shouts Elliot, “Give me your crow bar. We don’t have time for that.”  Sid hands over the bar. :Just Looking.” he says.

“Look we’ve blown it. We really have to get outta here.” Elliot states while pushing the crowbar into the door jamb. It doesn’t give way and  both men try their weight on it to no avail.

“Call Johnathan, see what he’s doing.” Sid says.

“Johnathan!” Elliot shouts. Nothing.

“Why did we bring him anyway – That was your idea.” Sid accuses.

“You know he wants to help animals and has a soft spot for Sheila. He’s always going on about how nice she is to him. It’s not his fault he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Elliot replies. “And anyway, who knows what we were going to face today. Really. Now look at us.”   Elliot hears a pop and turns around. Sid is standing with a bottle held to his lips and is tipping the contents into his mouth. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Just helping myself.” Sid replies. “I’ve never tasted Champagne before.”

“For Christ’s sake, put it down and give me a hand over here.” Sid takes another couple of swigs  before putting the bottle next to the door with him.

Out in the store, Johnathan opens the closet where Harry was placed and looks at the old man. Harry struggles and is saying something, eyes narrowing in anger. Johnathan pulls off the tape.

“You guys are in fucking trouble.” Harry shouts. “Let me go.”

“I need the key for the door.”

“What door?” Harry asks – “You’ve already got us locked in.”

\ “For my bro’s “ Johnathan says. “They’re locked in your vault.”

Harry thinks for a minute and burst out laughing. “The bastards are locked in the vault? That’s incredible. What kind of robbers are you? “

“We’re not robbers, we’re vegans.” states Johnathan, smirking.

“What?”

“Yeh, activists. We’re not robbers.” Johnathan responds.

“I don’t care what you fucking are, let me go!” Harry declares.

“No. I need the key.”

“Well, you’re not getting any key until you let me go.” says Harry.

“Well I’m not letting you go until I get my bro’s out from behind your wall.” Replies Johnathan. He starts to go through Harry’s pockets.

“ I don’t keep them on me – you think I want to be robbed you asshole?”

“I’m not an asshole, I’m Jonathan and my bro’s need the key. Where is it?” Asks Jonathan.

“That’s it, when I get free you’ll all pay – what’s it going to be like in jail eh – you’ll have lots of bro’s then.” Harry is grinning. “Yeah, they’ll have a field day with a snot-nosed little bugger like you!!”

“Hey, be nice.” Says Johnathan.

“You’re not too bright are you – you’re Lenny!”

“Who’s Lenny, I’m Johnathan.”

“Doesn’t matter you freak – let me out of here.”

“I might if you calm down and be nice, and give me the key” Says Johnathan. “Hey, did you have a Christmas party today? I thought you were a Jew?”

“I am – my staff aren’t. What does that have to do with anything?” Harry asks.

“Nothing really. Sheila says Jews killed Jesus. “

“Who the fuck is Sheila.” Asks Harry

“She’s my friend in the group. We’re activists.”

“There you go again with that activists bullshit.” says Harry,”Don’t you know we’ve been raising animals for their coats for thousands of years and we’ll be doing it for a thousand more.”

“That’s what we are here for – to stop you.” says Johnathan.

“Well there’s a hell of a lot of us to stop, isn’t there.” Harry points out.

“I need the key.” Jonathan states.

“I’ll make you a deal,” Harry says.” You let me go and I’ll give you the key.”

“I’ll think about it.” Johnathan replies.

“Oh My God – that will be the day!,” cries Harry as Johnathan puts the tape back across his mouth and closes the closet. Jonathan walks to the vault, this time with sandwich in hand. “Hey guys, Harry says he’ll give us the key if we let him go.”

“He’s just playing a game – he won’t let us out. You have to find the key” Elliot shouts from inside the locker. “Start looking for it – search everywhere.”

“I’m starting to feel sick.” Johnathan answers. “When can we get out of here.”

“When you find the fucking key,” Sid shouts.

“Oh.” Jonathan replies. But instead of looking. He goes into the office and sits in Harry’s chair, putting his feet up on the desk, and falls asleep.

“Hey, look at these things,” Sid says, holding up a riding crop he found in a bunch lying on one of the shelves. “”who would have thought that little bastard played with toys.”

“We don’t have time for this shit.” Elliot states.

“ Yeah, all we have is time – until Johnathan finds the key so what are you afraid off. “

“Let’s just not get carried away.”

“Lighten up – have some champagne,” Sid hands the bottle over to Elliot who, shrugging, takes a long swig.

A figure appears at the window. The girl tries the handle and it opens. She steps in and bolts it behind her. Cautiously she moves through the store. She hears someone kicking on the closet door and opens it slowly to see Harry staring back in surprise. She hears something from the office as well and approaches slowly. There, wrapped in a fur coat, Johnathan is snoring. She nudges him and he comes to life.

“Hi Sheila, what are you doing here?” Jonathan asks.

“I came to see what was taking you so long.” Sheila replies.”Where’s Sid and Elliot?”

“They are in the vault and I have to find the key.” Johnathan replies.

“The Vault?” Sheila exclaims. “and who’s that in the closet?”

“Oh, that’s Harry.”

Sheila walks over to the vault and hears laughing from the other side. “What’s going on – what are you guys doing.”

Silence for a second, then two voices shouting over each other.” Get us out of here, let us out, hey Sheila.”

Johnathan is rooting around in desk drawers and the filing cabinet, shoving papers over the desk when Sheila returns to start looking herself saying,. “It’s got to be around here somewhere.”

“Hey, I think I know.” Johnathan says, looking at Sheila. “Check the fridge. “ Sheila opens the small refrigerator and looks inside.. There’s a set of keys when she lifts  the ice box door, sitting on a plate. Johnathan burps. “Excuse me.”

Sheila runs to the vault where the voices are still crying out. “Help! Help us,. Let us out of here.”

She fumbles through the keys trying several before the handle lock turns and with it the door opens. Out falls Sid and Elliot into a pile on the floor, several empty champagne bottles rolling out with them.

“Hi sweetie,” Sid tries to stand..”What are you doing here?”

“What the fuck is happening here.” Sheila is shocked. Sid is dressed in a floor length white fur coat, and Elliot  – laughing – is wearing a pair of fur bra and panties with nothing else….except a riding crop!

“I know this looks bad honey, but…” Sid trails off laughing.

“Maybe we better get them outta here before someone see’s them like this.” Says Johnathan.

“Yeah, let’s get out of here – which way to the party?” Laugh’s Elliot.

Carrying one of the men each as best they can. Sheila and Johnathan get the two out the front door and into Sheila’s car. “Wait,” says Johnathan, “we forgot about Harry.” Johnathan runs back inside and opens the closet door. He peels off the tape quickly and stands the man up. “Now you count to 100 before you do anything. “ Johnathan looks Harry in the eyes. “And I’m no Lenny. You can call me Armand. ” Johnathan runs out the front door again and jumps in the car which speeds off.