That Other Guy by Brian Clark

Newspaper reporter Richard Callaghan must figure out what's happening when he starts getting mysterious migraines and people are treating him differently; by Brian Clark.

Excerpt from an article in the National Register, headlined Goodbye Mr. Hyde:

Medical Reporter

The annals of medical history are filled with stories about brain-damaged patients who have undergone dramatic personality changes, and usually not for the better.

Perhaps the most famous case is that of Phineas Gage, an American railway construction worker who miraculously survived after an explosion drove an iron bar straight through his head in 1848. Although most of his mental faculties remained intact, the formerly courteous and deferential man became foul-mouthed and insensitive.

Then there's Mary (known only by her first name), a kind, easy-going woman of 42 who would frequently transform into a belligerent, vulgar personality who called herself Courtney and spoke with a British accent. Mary had no memory of what she said or did as Courtney. The removal of a benign brain tumour banished Courtney forever.

But can brain damage turn someone - at least temporarily - into a kinder, more generous, more empathetic person? Can Mr. Hyde turn into Dr. Jekyll?

Consider the case of R.C., first documented by neurologist Dr. Suresh Patel in the Journal of Behavioural and Brain Research. R.C. is a middle-aged professional who lives in a small Canadian city. Patel describes him as being small in stature but having a formidable intellect.

Patel writes that R.C. was not well-liked at work, although he was respected for his skill and expertise. Colleagues characterized him as arrogant, brusque, overbearing, condescending, sarcastic, insensitive and exceedingly stingy.

Last summer, R.C. began to experience severe and persistent headaches, and his family physician referred him to Patel. Other symptoms arose in the three weeks between the referral and the appointment, including dizzy spells and memory gaps.

And then things got really strange...

Chapter 1

Copy editor Richard Callaghan looked up from the computer screen, lifted his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He let out a sigh that turned into a prolonged growl.

None of his colleagues asked what was wrong. They knew better.

Richard stood up, crossed his arms and looked out over the newsroom.

"Mark! A word please!"

Mark Reynolds made his way through the maze of waist-high partitions towards Richard's desk. As usual, the rail-thin reporter looked like an unmade bed: tie askew, shirttail out, wrinkled pant cuffs drooping around his ankles, hair in general bird's-nest disarray.

Richard did little to hide his disdain at Reynold's appearance, his face puckering into a sour expression as he watched the reporter approach. Not that Richard was a fashion plate. He was dressed in his customary bargain-bin attire: white dress shirt, navy blue polyester slacks, red rayon tie. But everything was nicely pressed and neatly done up and tucked in. And his swept-back grey hair was a topographical wonder of immaculate comb striations.

Arriving, Reynolds removed a chewed-up pen from his mouth. "What's up boss?"

"Yes, Mark, do you have a copy of that memo?"

"What memo?"

"The one that says we've stopped using the English language in favour of whatever it is you're using here. I didn't get the memo but I'm assuming that you've begun to implement that policy."

Reynolds rolled his eyes and huffed out a long breath.

"Is the sarcasm strictly necessary, Richard?"

"What sarcasm?"

"OK, whatever. Just tell me what's wrong."

"Well, let's start with this lede," Richard said, looking down at his computer. "It says: 'City council has changed course on its decision to reverse the rejection of a housing project that it approved last year.'"

He looked up at Reynolds over the top of his glasses.

"Seriously, Mark, it hurts my head to read this."

Richard closed his eyes, massaged his forehead with comic exaggeration and moaned.

"I'm telling you, Mark, I'm actually feeling an ache in the language-processing part of my brain. I think it's overheating. So please give the lede another shot."

Reynolds clamped the pen back in his mouth and trudged back to his desk.

"Then we'll discuss the rest of the story," Richard called after him. "And by the way, try sleeping in your pyjamas next time."

Richard closed his eyes again and resumed rubbing his forehead, gently this time using the tips of his fingers.

"Show's over, Richard, you made your point."

He looked to his left into the pudgy, round face of Blair Larrabee, his closest neighbour on the news desk. Richard dropped his hands onto his desk and flashed Larrabee a half smile.

"You know," Larrabee said, swivelling his chair to face Richard, "Mark's writing has improved quite a bit lately, and he really does try hard, and it doesn't really help -"

Richard cut him off. "Yes, I know, but did you hear that lede? I mean, come on. He's got to learn. We're not here to mollycoddle them, Blair."

"I'm not suggesting you mollycoddle them, Richard. I'm just suggesting that maybe sarcasm doesn't have to be your default setting. It does come off as kinda mean, you know."

"What sarcasm?"

Larrabee sighed. "Richard, Richard, Richard, I swear, sometimes you can be impossible."

Larrabee's phone rang and he swung his chair back around to answer it. Richard looked down at his computer screen and moved on to the next story in the queue. He started reading and, almost subconsciously, began massaging his forehead again.

The headache was real and it was getting worse.

Chapter 2

Richard Callaghan got to keep the house in the divorce. Patty had no interest in staying in Dalesford.

There were many reasons for their breakup, but the main issue was simple and irreconcilable: she wanted kids and he didn't.

And so they had parted, and Richard now lived alone on the edge of town. He liked the three-bedroom, vinyl-sided bungalow on Hogan Street. It was just the right size. He especially liked the large lot and the privacy it afforded. He had a nod-and-wave relationship with his neighbours.

The home was like a furniture and appliance museum. None of his stuff - stove, fridge, TV, stereo, couch, chairs, bed, dresser - was newer than 25 years old. He drove a 1997 Honda Civic.

Until recently, Richard had been a man of regimented routine. He rose and had breakfast at 8am, read the paper until 10, cleaned the house until 11, took a walk until noon when he had lunch, napped until 2pm, showered, then headed downtown for a 7½-hour shift on the news desk at the Dalesford Express.

But the headaches had forced him to alter his habits. The mornings were the worst. The pain was like a jackhammer behind the eyes, meaning the housework often didn't get done and he couldn't even look at the paper until the ache had started to ease, sometime around 10:30.

But Richard still tried to get in his walk, even if he sometimes took a shorter route. He preferred cloudy days; bright sunshine usually aggravated the pain.

The day was overcast, with the sun occasionally peeking through gaps in the iron-grey clouds.

Richard was about 10 minutes into his morning stroll, making his way along Buchanan Street, when someone called out to him.


He looked to his left and saw a plump old woman in a floral print dress. She was waving to him from the porch of a red-brick farmhouse, a broad smile creasing her chubby face. Richard knew the old house well: it stood out as a survivor in the new subdivision. He loved its steeply pitched gables, gothic windows and quoin brickwork.

But he had no idea who the old lady was.

Richard flashed his palm in the air to return the greeting, but kept walking along the sidewalk.

"I just wanted to thank you again," the woman said as she hobbled down the porch steps to the front walk with the help of a cane. "You know, for cutting my grass."

Richard stopped and looked at her.

Old, fat and senile, he thought.

"Ohhh, well, you're entirely welcome," he said with barely disguised mockery. "Absolutely any time at all."

Richard smirked and continued walking.

"Oh, and I've decided on hunter green," said the elderly woman, leaning on her cane.

Richard stopped again. He turned and faced the woman, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes.

"Look," she said, "if you don't have time now, that's perfectly all right. I fully understand. Like I told you, I'm quite happy to hire a contractor to paint my porch. It's just that you were so insistent that you wanted to do it."

Richard looked past the woman to the porch, which spanned the front of the house and consisted of four wooden columns, long sections of railings, a plank floor and bits and pieces of gingerbread. The white paint was peeling and cracking.

My God, Richard thought, full-blown Alzheimer's.

"No, I'll be happy to do it," he said. "Hunter green it is."

He stifled a laugh and headed off down the sidewalk.

The woman said, "You're such a nice young man. Thank you, Ricky."

He froze.


It was like fingernails on a blackboard. No one called him Ricky! Ever! Not Ricky, not Rick, not Rich, not Richie, not Dick, not Dickie! His name was Richard, damn it!

"Something wrong, Ricky?"

Richard hissed out a long, hot breath and forced a smile.

"Nothing at all. So it's hunter green, eh? I'll remember. Buh-bye now." Then, as he started moving again, he mumbled under his breath: "Anile endomorph."

It wasn't until five minutes later, when he was turning onto Ballantyne Street, that it hit Richard.

How the hell does she know my name, even if it is that stupid diminutive?

He slowed to a saunter and thought. There were a couple of possibilities. She could have attended the public meeting at the church hall where he had spoken out against the expansion of the Townline Road quarry. Or she might have seen his picture on the weekly column he wrote for the Express.

OK, but neither of those possibilities would explain why she thinks I cut her grass and volunteered to paint her porch.

"Oh well, whatever," he said and quickened his pace.

A hundred yards up the road, Richard turned into Nathaniel Morgan Park, following a dirt path through a grove of red maples on his way to a drinking fountain at the picnic site.

The dizzy spell struck with such sudden ferocity that Richard staggered off the trail and almost collided with a tree. He grabbed a hold of it and held on, like a sailor hugging a mast on a storm-tossed boat.

He spotted a bench 20 yards away and lurched towards it as his world spun. Anyone watching would have thought he was blind drunk. Rivulets of sweat coursed down his face, stinging his eyes and soaking his T-shirt. He collapsed onto the bench and almost slid off the end of it. He closed his eyes and felt like he was falling. Opening them again and tilting his head back, he beheld the kaleidoscopic whirl of the tree canopy - and threw up.

It was then that his spin-addled mind offered up an unexpected thought: The old lady's name is Alice and she's a widow and her husband's name was Albert and he died of a stroke.

The vertigo began to ease, like a merry-go-round slowly coming to a stop. He spit out a hot clot of vomit and wiped his mouth.

"Hey, buddy, you OK?"

Richard turned his head - sparking another momentary wave of wooziness - and saw a tall, bearded man jogging along the path.

"I'm fine," Richard croaked. "Overdid it last night."

"Been there," said the bearded man as he trotted past.

Richard took in a few deep breaths and willed away the last traces of nausea.

Alice? Widow? Albert? Stroke?

How did he know any of that? Had he actually met that woman before?

No, he decided. It was just some invention of his fevered brain.

Richard haltingly got to his feet. He swayed a little but steadied himself. He spat again and headed slowly back along the path towards Ballantyne Street.

Something else to tell the neurologist, he thought.

Chapter 3

"So, who's on the hot seat today?"

The question came from Blair Larrabee. Richard turned to see his colleague take a giant bite of a meatball sub. Mustard dribbled down his chin towards the fleshy expanse of his neck.

Richard waggled his right index finger towards his own chin, and Larrabee took the hint, mopping up the trickling condiment with a paper napkin.

"It's Ryan Doyle," Richard said. "I've never met him. Have you?"

"No," Larrabee said, chomping down again on the sandwich, expelling another yellow runnel down his face. "Guess we can look forward to a lecture on Dalesford's homeless problem, eh?"

Richard nodded, choosing to ignore the mustard leakage this time. He looked up at the newsroom clock: 3:55pm Doyle was scheduled to appear before the editorial board in five minutes.

"Editorial board" was the grandiose title for an ad hoc group, composed of newspaper staffers, whose only function was to collectively interview visiting VIPs. So once a month, some public figure dropped by the Express newsroom to spout off about something or other and answer questions.

"Oh, there he is," Larrabee mumbled as he finished off his sub. "Looks just like he does on TV."

Richard glanced up from his computer to see managing editor Glenda Stone escorting Doyle through the newsroom. The visitor was a solidly built six-footer who was wearing worn jeans, a denim shirt, a severely distressed leather jacket and a grimy Dalesford Tigers baseball cap pulled tight over a riot of red curls. He needed a shave.

"My God, look at him," Richard said. "Just because he runs a homeless shelter doesn't mean he has to look like a vagrant."

"Come on, Richard, he doesn't look like a vagrant," Larrabee said. "He's just a little ragged around the edges."

"Ragged around the edges? The man's a bum. I mean, just look at -"

Richard stopped. Doyle was waving at him and making his way through the newsroom maze towards his desk, Stone trailing behind. A silly grin lit up his face.

"Well look who it is! It's my old pal!" Doyle trumpeted in a thick Irish accent as he arrived at Richard's work station. "You work at the Express, do ya? Cool!"

For a moment Richard couldn't speak, his mouth hanging unhinged. A crowd started to gather around his desk.

"There's something I want you people to know," Doyle said, addressing the throng. He pointed at Richard and beamed. "Your colleague here is probably the best volunteer we have down at the shelter."

In responses that were comically simultaneous, Richard said "I am?" while at least two of his co-workers said "He is?"

Apparently not hearing Richard's comment, Doyle pressed on.

"Oh yeah, he's great. A bit of a mystery man, but really great. He cooks, he cleans, he does everything. He's just so laid-back and easygoing. The guys call him Mr. Cool."

A few people tittered.

"No, I'm absolutely serious," Doyle said. "He is Mr. Cool. I mean, he's got to be the serenest dude I've ever met. Serenest? Hey, is that a word? I guess you people would know, eh?"

The copy editor in Richard finally compelled him to speak up.

"Yes, serenest is an acceptable superlative for serene, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's too awkward. I'd suggest most serene. For one thing -"

Richard looked up at the faces in the crowd around his desk. They were all staring at him. Mark Reynolds stood at the back, a heavily gnawed pen clamped in his mouth.

"Anyway," Richard said, "I think you have me confused with someone else, Mr. Doyle. I mean, I don't believe we've ever actually met before. And I know I've never been to your shelter."

Doyle's smile faded slightly and his eyes narrowed.

"Isn't your name Ricky?"

"No, it's Richard."

"Well, same thing."

"No it is not the -"

Richard checked himself. "I just prefer Richard, that's all."

Doyle let out a short laugh and folded his arms.

"Well, sir, all I know is there's a guy who calls himself Ricky who has been helping out down at the shelter for the last little while. And you're a dead ringer for him. Never did catch his last name. We don't even have a phone number for him. We usually keep contact information on our volunteers, but like I said, this guy's a bit of a mystery man."

He shook his head and slapped Richard playfully on the shoulder.

"All right, so it's not you then. I guess you oughta know, eh? Tell you one thing, though. I'd say you've got a twin walking around town."

Richard heard someone in the crowd whisper: "This one must be the evil twin."

It sounded like Mark Reynolds.

Chapter 4

Richard did his best thinking during his morning walks. The daily headaches had left him a little muddle-brained at times, but he was confident he could still reason his way out of a problem.

It was a bright day, but dark sunglasses and a ball-cap visor pulled low made the glare and his head pain tolerable. A light breeze rustled the pines, elms and birches along Hogan Street as Richard set off down the sidewalk.

So, he thought, now two people he had never met before (so far as he knew) had greeted him like a long-lost friend and called him Ricky. How to explain that?

He had, at least initially, felt confident in dismissing the first incident as being the product of a senile mind (even if the old lady had somehow managed to get his name sort of right). But Ryan Doyle was harder to explain. He might be scruffy and maybe even eccentric, but he certainly wasn't senile.

Was it possible, Richard wondered, that his double really was wondering around Dalesford doing good deeds? Richard once met a man who looked eerily like him. It had happened at a wedding reception, and he had found the experience profoundly unsettling.

But what were the odds that this "twin" would share his first name (although preferring the despicable sobriquet Ricky)?

Well, I guess it's possible, he thought. Richard is a common name.

But was that the most likely answer?

"Come on, man, work the problem," Richard prodded himself as he detoured around a tricycle parked in the middle of the sidewalk.

OK, what makes the most sense? Two people I don't know each suffering a delusional episode? The doppelgänger theory? Am I just dreaming the whole thing?



Could it all somehow be related to these damn headaches and dizzy spells and -

He stopped in his tracks at the Buchanan Street intersection. Across the street was a sign that read, Coming Soon: The West Dalesford Recreation Centre. Behind the sign, graders were at work. They had already cleared half the lot.

"How long's that been going on?" he mumbled.

He stood staring at the construction activity, trying to remember the last time he had walked this route.

Was it yesterday? The day before? The day before that?

He didn't know. His morning constitutional frequently took him this way; it was the quickest way to the park. But sometimes he headed elsewhere.

For the life of him, Richard couldn't recall where he had walked the past few days, although he was pretty sure he had gone somewhere. The last excursion he could remember clearly was the one when he had met the old farmhouse lady, and he wasn't sure how long ago that had been. It felt like a dense fog had seeped into his memory bank, leaving nothing but faint, misty traces.

With his whirling mind still searching for answers, Richard managed to get his feet moving again. A few minutes later the farmhouse came into view. He noticed two things right away. The first was that the owner was nowhere to be seen. And he was grateful for that. The second was that the porch was gleaming under a fresh coat of paint. It was this second observation that brought him to a halt.

"OK," he murmured, "what does this mean?"

He closed his eyes and massaged his temples. He almost did it without thinking these days.

All right, it's simple. She decided to hire a painting contractor after all. Of course she did. That's the logical explanation. No mystery here at all.

"Right then," he said to himself and started walking again. "So that's what hunter green looks like."

Ten minutes later Richard reached the park and decided to rest for a while on the bench in the stand of red maples.

A pair of blue jays started to jeer at each other. A fat bumble bee droned past. The breeze whispered through the tree canopy.

Relaxed, Richard stretched his legs out in front of him and crossed his ankles. He noticed a spot on his right running shoe. He lifted his right leg and crossed it over his left to get a closer look. It appeared to be a tiny paint stain. He recognized the colour right away.

Hunter green.

Chapter 5

The old wooden floorboards of the newsroom began to shift and shake, and Richard looked up from his computer screen to see Blair Larrabee steering his bulky form through the rabbit warren of partitions.

"Sorry I'm late guys," he said, slumping into his saggy chair. "Accident on Westchester. Rossi's there."

He turned to face Richard.

"How ya doin'?"

"I'm fine," Richard said as he checked the story queue on his computer for something to edit.

After a moment, he realized the inquiry was more than a conversational icebreaker. He turned to see that Larrabee was still looking at him and had a concerned expression on his face.

"Something on your mind, Blair?"

"No, I just wanted to see how you were feeling."

"Well, like I said, fine."

Larrabee nodded his head slowly. "It's just that you weren't... well... you weren't really yourself last night, Richard."

"No? Who was I then?"

Larrabee shifted in his chair, which creaked in protest.

"Well, it was after deadline and we were all shootin' the shit," Larrabee said. "You started to get this dreamy, spacey look on your face. Your eyes were kinda glazed and you had this really loopy grin. You were moving and responding to things in this kinda slow-motion way. There's a word for that. Um... let's see... ah... never mind. Doesn't matter. Anyway, you offered to treat everybody to beer and nachos at Sheahan's. None of us could make it, but..."

He leaned forward and tilted his head to the side. "You remember that, don't you?"

For a moment Richard couldn't respond. His scalp prickled and he broke out in a clammy sweat.

Holy shit, I don't remember any of that.

He cleared his throat. "Of course I remember. I was just feeling a little tired, I guess. You know what it's like sometimes after a long shift. You get a little bit punch-drunk, a little goofy."

Larrabee scratched his chin and considered this for a moment.

"Yeah, I guess. But when you mentioned the beer and nachos, you kept saying, 'It's on Ricky. Everything's on Ricky. Ricky's picking up the bill tonight.' Remember?"

Richard swallowed hard and choked out a "yes."

"I once called you Ricky - I think it was my first week here - and you took my head off."

"I'm... I'm sure you're exaggerating, Blair."

"Nope. You took my head clear off. I had to get my mother to sew it back on."

Larrabee laughed awkwardly.

Richard just stared at him. He said, "I was just kidding around - with the Ricky thing. That's all. I still prefer Richard, if you don't mind."

"Yeah, sure. No problem. Funny thing, though."

"What's that?"

"Well, remember that volunteer that Ryan Doyle was talking about, the guy who looks like you? He was called Ricky."

"Yes, Blair, it's funny all right."

"Anyway, you seem to be your old self again, eh?"

Larrabee turned to face his computer and booted it up.

Richard felt like his tingling scalp had set his head on fire. Sweat trickled down his back and his tongue had turned into a dusty mat. He stood up and navigated his way through the labyrinth to a water cooler, where he quickly downed four paper cups' worth and splashed a little on his face.

By the time he got back to his desk, he felt a little better.





"Phlegmatic. That's the word you were looking for. Or perhaps languid."

Chapter 6

The food bank had been packed when Richard arrived. He had flitted about nervously, trying to get someone's attention, waving the letter around like a flag, only to be told - politely but firmly - to line up like everybody else.

And so he had.

The letter had arrived that morning just as Richard was preparing to head out for his morning walk. He was going to leave it until later, but the name on the envelope - Helping Hands Food Bank - aroused his curiosity. He slit the letter open and read the contents, then quickly forgot about his walk.

Instead, he jumped into his old Honda Civic and tore down to the food bank on Steadman Street, cursing all the way.

"Fucking Ricky. Fucking Ricky!"

And now he was standing in line - behind a grizzled old man with a palsied tremor and in front of a sad-eyed young woman holding hands with a little boy in need of a face cloth.

Richard looked down and realized he was wearing his "walking clothes" - a worn pair of sweatpants and a faded I Love New York T-shirt. He hadn't shaved yet that day, either.

I look like everyone else in line, he thought.

He pulled the letter out of his pocket and read it to himself again.

"Dear Mr. Callaghan: Words cannot adequately express our immense gratitude for your wonderfully generous donation of $5,000. Your gift arrived when the food bank was desperately short of stock. I am happy to tell you that the name Ricky Callaghan will forever be included on our Donor Wall of Fame. Again, bless you for your generosity! Yours Sincerely, Jill Henson, manager."

His mind seemed unable to comprehend the figure.

Five-thousand dollars.

Five-thousand dollars.

Five-thousand fucking dollars.

Then it came out, almost unconsciously, as a low grumble.

"Five... thousand... dollars."

The old man turned around and looked Richard up and down with rheumy eyes.

"You say somethin', Mac?"

"No. Nothing. Sorry."

Richard groaned and looked at his watch. It was 11:30am. Ahead of him was a wide counter where a frizzy-haired woman was handing out cardboard boxes of groceries. There were still six people in line in front of him.

Then he saw a familiar face. Jill Henson had emerged from a corridor behind the counter. She was a tall, thin woman of about 50 and she wore her grey hair in a ponytail. Her picture frequently appeared in the Express.

"Oh, excuse me, Ms. Henson? Could I have a word please?" Richard called out, waving.

Henson smiled warmly.

"I know it's been a long wait today, but be patient. You're almost there."

"No, no, no. I'm not one of the... I mean, I'm not here to... I'm Richard Callaghan."

"Oh, Mr. Callaghan!" she gushed, rushing to the counter and extending her hand. "It's so lovely to meet you."

Richard approached the counter and shook her hand.

She leaned forward and lowered her voice.

"You were in the food lineup, did you know that?"

"Yes, I know," Richard said. "I tried to flag down one of your staff when I got here, but they just told me to line up."

"Oh, well, I'm sorry about that. It's been really crazy here today."

"That's OK. I understand."

She gave him a dazzling smile. "But I'm just so glad you came to visit. If I had known you were coming, I would have rolled out the red carpet," she said with a theatrical sweep of her hands.

Richard contorted his face into something resembling a smile and looked down at the counter.

Henson said, "Anyway, Mr. Callaghan... ah...Hey, do you mind if I call you Ricky?"

"Actually, I prefer Richard."

"Oh. OK. Sorry. I thought you went by Ricky. That's how you signed the note you included with your donation."

"Oh. Right. Actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you about, the donation."

"Sure. Wanna see how your money is being put to use, eh?"

"Well, not exactly. You see, Ms. Henson, the donation was kind of a... well... kind of a mistake."

The smile fell from her face. "A mistake? What do you mean?"

"Well, it's kind of hard to explain. It's just that it shouldn't have happened."

Henson stood gawking at Richard, her eyes wide, her mouth forming an almost perfect O.

"Mr. Callaghan, surely you're not telling me that -"

She glanced at the food line and motioned Richard down to the end of the counter.

"Surely you're not telling me that you want your money back," she said in a low but strained voice.

Richard looked sheepishly down at his feet.

"Well, I'd still be willing to make a donation," he said. "But I mean, $5,000, that's an awful lot of money."

"Mr. Callaghan, I'd like you to look at those shelves back there behind me. You see those cans of pasta and soup and vegetables and stew and tins of tuna and jars of peanut butter and boxes of cereal? You see them? That's where your money went."

Richard saw panic in her eyes and a sheen of sweat on her forehead.

"And I still don't understand how someone could donate money by mistake. And you can't expect us to -"

"Sorry to interrupt. You have a phone call, Jill."

Henson turned around to look at a white-haired man standing in a doorway along the wall to the right.

"Please take a message, Arnie."

"They said it's urgent."

She sighed. "OK, I'll be right there."

Henson turned back to Richard. "Please just wait here. OK? I'm sure we can work this out. I'll be right back."

Henson followed the man through the door. Richard leaned on the counter and exhaled slowly. He glanced at the food line. The sad-eyed woman and the grimy-faced little boy were being served. The boy gave Richard a gap-toothed grin and said, "We're getting Shreddies and peanut butter and some stew and some tuna and my favourite in the whole entire world, pasghettiOs. Right mom?"

The woman looked down at her son and gave him a weak smile. "That's SpaghettiOs."

"Oh yeah. ScettiOs."

The frizzy-haired woman returned to the counter and handed the mother a box of food.

"There ya go, Sandra."

"Thank you, Trish," the mother said shyly.

"Oh, I almost forget." Trish reached under the counter, came back with a cellophane-wrapped lollipop and handed it to the boy. He grasped it with a pudgy hand.

"What do you say, Peter?" said his mother.

"Thank you."

"Oh, you're welcome, Peter," Trish said.

As mother and son turned to leave, the boy waggled his hand at Richard. He waved back.

A moment later, Henson hurried back to the counter, her ponytail bobbing behind her.

"I'm sorry about that, Mr. Callaghan. It couldn't be helped. Now, as for your donation, if you could just -"

"Keep it," he blurted out.


"Keep the money. It was wrong of me to... to come here and throw such a scare into you."

Henson released a long puff of air and seemed to deflate with apparent relief.

"Thank you so, so much. I really don't know what I would have done if ..."

She reached out and touched his hand. "This is a wonderful thing you've done. You're helping an awful lot of people."

"Thank you."

"I must admit, though, Mr. Callaghan, I still don't understand -"

He cut her off. "Yes. I don't really understand it, either."

Suddenly, Richard felt the room tilt and he had to grab the counter to steady himself.

"Mr. Callaghan, are you all right?"

The episode passed quickly, and Richard nodded.

"You sure?"

"Yes, I'm fine," he said. "I should go. Sorry about all this."

Richard turned to leave. He had gone only a few steps when he stopped and looked back.

"Oh, one other thing, Ms. Henson. Don't forget to send me a tax receipt."

Chapter 7

The voice sounded distant, like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel or the bottom of a deep well.

"Hey, Mr. Cool. Are you all right? Mr. Cool?"

When Richard felt the hand on his shoulder, his body shuddered and his eyes flew open.

He looked up into the gaunt, acne-scarred face of a young man standing over him, his sky-blue eyes wide with concern. He had a blond buzz cut and a strip of wispy hair on his upper lip that barely qualified as a moustache. Frayed jeans and a faded Led Zeppelin T-shirt hung off his skinny frame.

"You OK, man?" he asked, withdrawing his hand from Richard's shoulder.

Richard looked around. He was sitting in a large room with a scattering of dilapidated furniture: an ancient leather couch with torn cushions; a collection of stained, mouldering armchairs; a couple of battered Formica tables surrounded by mismatched kitchen chairs. There was an old TV in the corner. Cracked and peeling linoleum covered the floor. Through a propped-open door, Richard could see an even larger room, this one filled with row upon row of cots, only a few of them occupied.

"Man, that was freaky, dude."

Richard looked back up at the buzz-cut kid hovering over him. "Pardon?"

"We was just talkin' and you kinda zoned out. You all right now?"

Richard smoothed his hair back with his hand. "Ah, yes, sure, I'm fine."

He looked down and realized he was sitting in an armchair just as filthy as the others. An errant spring was poking him in the back. Buzz Cut slumped into a chair a couple of feet away.

There was only one other person in the room, an old man with a swirling grey beard thumbing through a newspaper at one of the tables.

Richard knew where he was. It could only be Good Samaritan House, the homeless shelter run by Ryan Doyle. What he didn't know at the moment was the time. Or the day, for that matter. Or how he got there. He wasn't wearing his watch and a quick pat of his pants pockets revealed that he didn't have his cellphone, either.

"Do you happen to know what day it is?" Richard asked.

The kid laughed. "What day it is? Hey man, who's the homeless guy here? It's Saturday."

"And what time is it?"

Buzz Cut pointed to a wall clock Richard hadn't noticed. It said 7:30.

"And that would be pm, would it?"

The kid laughed again. "Wow. Mellow Mr. Cool is just too cool to know what time it is. Yeah, it's pm."

"Actually, I'm not really too keen on that moniker."


"Please don't call me Mr. Cool."

"Oh. OK, sorry. Just Ricky then, eh?"

"Well, to be honest with you I'd prefer..."

Richard trailed off and expelled a breathy chuckle. "Oh, what the hell. Sure, call me Ricky."

He slowly stood up - and immediately felt woozy. The room spun and his vision swam. He dropped back into the chair, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Some kind of chemical smell - probably a disinfectant - was fighting a losing battle against body odour and the funk of stale tobacco.

Buzz Cut leaned forward in the seat. "Hey, Ricky, you don't look so hot. You're white as a ghost. Maybe I should call for help."

"No, no, no, not necessary, I'll be OK. Just a little lightheadedness. It'll go away. I just need to sit here for a while longer."

"OK, Ricky, long as you're sure," said Buzz Cut, settling back in the chair. "So, anyway, like I was tellin' ya before, it ain't much."

Richard took another long breath and massaged his temples. "Um, it isn't?"

"No, just a basement apartment over on Glenmore, a single room and bathroom, what they call a bachelor. But it's clean and it's furnished and it's all mine."

"Sounds great."

Buzz Cut grinned. "Thanks to you, Ricky."


"And like I said, I'm gonna pay back every cent. That's a promise."

Richard cupped his face in his hands and slowly shook his head. "Remind me again how much I gave... um... that is, how much I lent you."

"Well, it was $1,200. That's for first and last month's rent and a bit more for food and clothes."

Richard moaned. "That fucking Ricky is going to send me to the poor house," he mumbled.


"Nothing. Listen, could you ..." He paused. "What's your name? I've forgotten."

"It's Bob. Man, you really are out of it, aren't you? Don't you remember? You called me your palindromic pal."

"I did?"

"Yeah. It's my name, right? It's a palindrome. I had to look it up. It's something spelled the same forwards and backwards."

"Yes, Bob, palindromes are fascinating. Now, about this money and your laudable pledge to pay it back. Could I ask how you plan to do that?"

"OK, well, that's my other big piece of news. I got me a job interview tomorrow."

"Ah, well done. Very commendable. What's the job for?"

"Cleanin' offices. So I figure I oughta be able to pay you back 50 bucks a week."

Richard nodded slowly and bit his lower lip.

"Well, Bob, that would be a good starting point at least. But you know, someone your age... how old are you by the way?"


"OK, so why aren't you still living at home? You can save more money that way. I didn't leave my parents' place until I was about 24 or 25."

Bob crossed his arms, looked down at the floor and grimaced.

"What are ya, senile? I told you all about that," he said, looking back up at Richard, his jaw clenched. "You want me to tell you again what my old man did to me?"

Bob looked down again and rubbed the back of his neck. He swore quietly. After a moment, he lifted his eyes and his look softened.

"Sorry I called ya senile, dude."

"It's OK. It's how I've been feeling lately."

They sat in silence for a moment.

"You say your job interview is tomorrow, Bob?" Richard said.


"You're not going to wear that, are you?"

"No. I got me a pair of tan slacks and a blue dress shirt from the Goodwill store."

"All right, that's good," Richard said. "And remember to shake hands firmly, look them in the eye when you talk to them and answer their questions as honestly as you can. And show confidence. That's how you get a job - showing confidence."

"OK. Thanks, dude."

"And don't call anybody dude."

Richard got to his feet. He still felt a little unsteady, but the worst of the dizzy spell had passed.

"Do you know how much this job pays, Bob?"

"Ah, well, it's minimum wage, $11.25 an hour. Plus, it's just three days a week."

Richard put a hand over his mouth and slowly shook his head.

"Ah, Bob, that's probably not even enough to live on. You couldn't pay me $50 a week. You couldn't even pay me $5 a week."

"Well, they said if things work out they might be able to take me on full time. And the salary goes up to 12 bucks an hour after a year. That's if I get the job, o'course."

Richard folded his arms and looked around the room.

"Tell you what, don't worry about paying me back for now. If you get the job and if you get on full time, then we'll work something out."

Bob jumped out of the chair and grabbed Richard in a bear hug. After a moment, Richard hugged him back.

Chapter 8

Sitting at a small wooden desk, Dr. Suresh Patel took copious notes as he asked Richard question after question about his headaches. Richard sat in a padded green chair in front of the desk, fidgeting with his hands as he answered the neurologist's questions.

When Patel asked if there had been any other symptoms, Richard mentioned the dizzy spells and memory gaps. The doctor paused briefly, and Richard noticed a slight elevation of his eyebrows. Then he asked more questions and scribbled more notes.

Next they moved to an examination room, where the doctor checked Richard's temperature and blood pressure; listened to his heart; examined his head, eyes, nose, ears and neck; and evaluated his motor function, balance, reflexes, co-ordination, eyesight, hearing and sense of smell.

When the poking, prodding and palpating were over, they returned to the office and Patel resumed scribbling at his desk. Richard sat in the chair and waited.

He liked Patel's thoroughness. He also appreciated the framed Oxford medical certificate on his wall. Patel was tall and lanky, and looked to be about 40. He had coffee-coloured skin and jet-black hair and goatee. He had a soft voice and spoke with a hybrid British-Indian accent.

Richard drummed his fingers on the armrest. After a moment Patel looked up and gave him a gentle smile. Richard silenced his fingers and folded his hands in his lap.

"Um, doctor, there is something else I should probably mention."

That's when he told him about Ricky. He told him about Ricky painting the old woman's porch. He told him about Ricky's generous donation to the Helping Hands Food Bank. He told him about Ricky's apparent post-deadline appearance in the newsroom. He told him about Ricky's volunteer position at Good Samaritan House and about the long conversation with Bob.

The more he talked, the more Patel's eyes widened with interest.

"So, Mr. Callaghan, what you're saying is that you have no memory or direct knowledge of what you do as Ricky."

"That's right. Um, although there was one occasion during a dizzy spell that some details about the old woman might have leaked through, so to speak. I just dismissed it at the time and still don't know what to make of it. But apart from that, everything I've learned about Ricky has been second-hand. And it seems pretty clear that..."

He trailed off and pursed his lips.

"Go on, Mr. Callaghan, what seems clear?"

"Well, it seems pretty clear that... well... that Ricky is a lot nicer than I am."

Richard laughed, and it felt cathartic. Patel smiled.

"Tell me, doctor, is this what they call dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder?"

"Well, first of all, that's a psychiatric disorder, and that's not my field. And even if it were, I would hardly be prepared to offer a diagnosis based on a few minutes' conversation."

Richard nodded. "What about brain tumours? Are they your field, doctor?"

Patel hesitated. "Well, yes, but why do you ask?"

"Isn't it obvious? Headaches, dizzy spells, memory problems, behavioural changes - don't those symptoms point to a brain tumour?"

Patel smiled again. To Richard, it looked a little condescending this time.

"You've been consulting Dr. Google, have you?"

"I've been researching my symptoms on the Internet, yes."

"Well, Mr. Callaghan, I will be ordering an MRI brain scan. Until I see the results, I'm not about to diagnose your condition."

Richard nodded. "Yes, of course. That makes sense. But this has really got me thinking, doctor. You see, I've been thinking of Ricky as the alternate personality. I've been thinking of him as that other guy, even though he is really me, or a part of me. But what if Ricky is the real me, even if he did take years to emerge? That would make Richard that other guy."

Chapter 9

When a medical case is considered urgent, the health-care system can move with surprising speed, Richard discovered. Four days after his appointment with Dr. Patel, Richard underwent an MRI scan with contrast enhancement. It revealed a nickel-sized mass in his left frontal lobe, the part of the brain that regulates reasoning, behaviour, memory, personality, judgment and mood.

Judging by the well-defined borders of the growth, doctors said the tumour was likely benign, but they wouldn't know for sure until it was removed and biopsied.

And so, five days after the MRI, Richard checked into Dalesford General Hospital to undergo a bifrontal craniotomy.

The next morning he was wheeled into an operating theatre and given a general anesthetic. In 15 seconds, he was gone. A frame was attached to Richard's head with pins to prevent motion during surgery. A nurse shaved a narrow strip of hair.

Then the neurosurgeon, Dr. Rachel Penmark, went to work. She made a coronal incision, cutting over the top of the head from ear to ear, and pulled the skin down like a mask to expose the skull. She drilled four holes in the bone, then sawed between them to create a skull flap, which was removed and put aside.

To gain access to the brain, she used surgical scissors to open a thick membrane called the dura, which she then folded back. Using retractors to move aside healthy brain tissue, Penmark isolated the tumour and removed it using a suction device. She then removed the retractors; sutured the dura closed; replaced the skull flap, anchoring it with titanium plates and screws; and folded the skin back into place, securing it with surgical staples.

The procedure took three hours.

Chapter 10

Richard made the turn from Hogan Street onto Buchanan. For the first time since his surgery five weeks ago, he was determined to complete his favourite walking route, the one that took him by the park.

He had started walking on his first day home after a weeklong stay in hospital. It helped the recovery process, Dr. Patel had told him. His first walk consisted of a slow circuit of the rooms in his house, which lasted all of three minutes. Overwhelming fatigue and a crushing headache meant that was all he could manage. A few days later, when he felt slightly more energetic and slightly less headachy, Richard did two circuits. Then he added the basement stairs. After two weeks, he moved outdoors and strolled around his backyard for 10 or 15 minutes. Soon he was trudging up and down Hogan Street for 30 minutes at a time.

Now, Richard felt that his energy level had almost returned to normal. The dizzy spells and memory gaps he had experienced before the surgery were gone. He still had headaches, but they were becoming milder and less frequent. The cause, Patel had assured him, was no longer the tumour. A post-operative MRI had confirmed that the surgeon had removed all of it. And a biopsy established that the mass was benign. No, these headaches were the lingering result of Dr. Penmark's excavation of his brain, and they would eventually fade away, Patel said.

And as for Ricky, Richard was certain that he was history.

Richard paused and let a power walker - a grey-haired woman who looked to be 10 years his senior - pass him on the Buchanan Street sidewalk. He didn't mind. It was a beautiful September morning - deep blue sky, a few tufts of cottony clouds, a gentle breeze - and he was in no hurry.

He passed a Dalesford Express newspaper box and stopped to read the main headline: Council Approves Housing Project.

"Now that's one boring headline," he mumbled and continued walking.

They really need me back, he thought. The plan was to return to work, part time at first, starting next week. He felt ready.

The old farmhouse came into view on the left. The elderly woman was nowhere to be seen. Richard wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed.

He stopped in front of the house, and reached up and gently touched the top of his head. It was something he did dozens of times a day, almost without thinking. He could feel the plates and screws under his scalp.

A thought flashed into his mind: Where do alternate personalities go when they die? Does anyone mourn them? Do I?

He pictured a headstone with the inscription, "Ricky Callaghan: 2021-2021. We hardly knew ye."

Before he knew what he was doing, Richard turned and headed up the front walk of the farmhouse. He climbed the stairs and stood on the porch. He looked at the paint job. Ricky had done well.

It was a lovely spot to watch the world go by. There was a scattering of wicker chairs. Potted plants stood atop a couple of wrought-iron tables. Chrysanthemums, sunflowers and asters spilled out of hanging baskets. Ornamental frogs, rabbits, sheep, pigs and chickens stood watch here and there.

But something wasn't quite right. He was no decorator, but it was obvious to him as he looked around. More work was required.

Richard approached the front door and raised his hand to knock. He hesitated, dropped his arm to his side and took a step back. Touching the top of his head, he again felt the metal hardware under his scalp. The door to my brain.

He sucked in some air and slowly let it out.

"Ah, just do it."

He stepped forward and knocked. Ten seconds later the door opened a crack and a fleshy face appeared. It lit up.

"Oh my goodness, look who it is!" said the old woman, throwing open the door. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank you. How are you?"

"Oh, you know, managing OK, I guess. So where have you been? I haven't seen you in weeks."

"Yes, well, I had some health issues I had to deal with," Richard said.

"Oh? Nothing serious I hope."

"Well, it was. But everything's fine now."

"Oh good. Well, would you like to come in? I'll make some coffee."

"I'd like to, but I've got to finish my walk. Doctor's orders. It's part of my recovery process. I'll take a rain check, though."

"OK. I'm gonna hold you to that."

Richard smiled. "The reason I knocked is, I was wondering if there's any paint left. You know, the hunter green."

"Well, sure. Don't you remember? There's a whole can left. You put it away in the shed."

"Oh, of course," he said. "That might be enough. If not, I can get some more."

"Enough for what?"

"Could you please come out here? I'll show you."

He held out his hand. She took it and stepped gingerly out onto the porch, supporting herself with a cane in her other hand.

Richard pointed at a pair of large wood-frame windows flanking the front door. Both were bracketed by shutters. The frames and shutters were covered in flaking white paint.

"I think they would look good in hunter green," he said. "The window frames and the shutters. And the door, too, now that I think of it."

"Oh my, my, my. You've done so much already. I can't ask you -"

"It's OK," Richard said. "It's really just a matter of finishing the job. I'm actually surprised that Ricky... um... that is... I'm not sure why I didn't notice this when I was here last time."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, absolutely. In a week or two. I'll be back to 100 per cent then. And I'll come back and get it done."

"This is just so nice of you. I can't thank you enough."

She looked in his eyes and held her gaze for several seconds. The smile she was wearing faltered.

She said, "You know, you seem a little bit different to me somehow. I'm not really sure why. I don't want to pry but... are you sure everything's all right?"

Richard nodded. "Yes, I'm sure. But you know, maybe I am a little bit different. And that might not be so bad."

Still holding his hand, she gave it a squeeze.

"Well, this time I insist on making it up to you," she said. "How about a great big Sunday dinner? D'ya like pot roast, Ricky?"

He let out a faint chuckle. "I do. But I just have one favour to ask, Alice."

"Sure, anything."

"Would you mind calling me Richard?"


  1. Fun story, good pace, vivid character description, and I liked the reverse Dr. Jeckyll Mr. Hyde conflict and its resolution.

    1. Thanks for reading my story, Harrison.

  2. Dear Brian

    Your story was a clever take on a classic story but you added a great deal more to it. It was an interesting evolution from Richard to Rick and I kept rooting for Rick to come out on top, which he largely did. You used good metaphors and excellent other descriptive devices. I really enjoyed it. You make me wish I were up to penning such good fiction. Well done.

    1. Thanks Bill. And I think you're right. Ricky did kind of come out on top. Or at least Richard became a little more like Ricky. Glad you like it.