Episode 18 - THE DREAM DOCTOR!


          So with Liebenfels' perplexing riddle and a winsome glance from Frau Wittek I was dismissed... Anna's smile would reappear in my dreams but, after, would follow images which caused me to start from that soft Viennese bed with my heart risen somewhere up in the vicinity of my tonsils. It was Friday... and I was at liberty without a single Sprengel lead save that of the German Templars and no other intent but to walk the streets of Vienna, marvelling at the tongue-twisting Bohemian names of the merchants and soldiers in candylandish uniforms, numerous as black cats in London. By and by I reached that place called Bergstrasse, a depressing block of junkshops closed early for Sabbat crowding up to the formidable Suhnhaus from which, abruptly, a figure stormed out... wrathful as one of those shades of the incinerated theatre patrons; a formidable woman, tossing off incomprehensible, gravelly curses at the pale, bearded face watching from a window above. Trusting the inner promptings of my vagabond spirit guides, I called upwards...

          "Herr Freud?"

          "Abriesen!" the bearded man shouted back. "In funfzig Jahren ist alles vorbei!"

          I did not know whether the dream doctor had extended an invitation... or dismissal... being young and of then-optimistic character, I chose to presume the former. The harridan had left the door to the Suhnhaus quite open and so, having estimated the location of Freud's office I mounted the steps and soon presented myself at the threshold of the controversial Doctor.

          "My name is Cameron," I introduced myself, "Arthur Cameron... spreichen Angeles?"

          Freud shrank from my extended hand as though it belonged to one of that small fraternity of court officials employed to serve legal papers upon unfortunates. "Bitte, bitte... some... are you a bill collector?"

          "No," I hastened to assure him, "only a man who suffers from disturbing dreams..."

          Sigmund Freud's eyes focused, his chin and teeth twitching in a nervous manner and he raised a pipe to his lips, which I deduced to be the mannerism by which he concealed his interest.

          "Are you a pauper?"

          By way of response I handed Freud my wallet, which he opened as I took the opportunity to appraise the psychologist's suite. A great assemblage of artifacts, many very old and perhaps valuable, had been collected but haphazardly arranged... chintz furniture from Versailles, ancient Greek, Roman and oriental knick knacks randomly facing each other upon tables and shelves. Thin cardboard covered a broken window and Freud sniffled constantly as he returned my billfold with a shrug.

          "Dr. Hartmann suggested I meet with you," I declared.

          "He is a vandal... but that woman you undoubtedly saw depart was my patient from Warsaw, a former patient now..." Freud admitted ruefully, "and I have no other appointment until four. I take dollars American or English pounds... do you think you will require extended treatment? Most do... I arrange lodgings for my foreign patients in a Pension on Maximilian Square or the Kreuzlingen Sanatorium if..."

          "I do not desire to be hospitalized..." I protested, "only to stop this damnable dreaming."

          "That would be unfortunate... in dreams begin responsibility and too many in this Empire lack any sense of that." Something near that turned up in one of Willie's poems, as did a dream doctor in a number of stories by that young marine journalist Sarsfield-Ward; I must have told the both of them my story but, at what instance, I cannot, for the life of me, bring back. "But sit, sit..." Freud invited, "now... what is the dream that so troubles you."

          The infamous Freudian couch, quite obscure at this time, was so smothered in pillows and dusty Turkish rugs that, as I was wearing a fawn colored suit, I'm afraid I made an overacted show of brushing Freud's couch to determine the extent and nature of its dust. Today, of course, it is given that a psychotherapeutic patient will recline at his or her full length but that couch was so crowded with clutter I could scarcely sit with comfort, moving my limbs constantly in a way that must have been distracting to the dream doctor.

          "There have been too many lately," I admitted. "Once, however, what may have been a bird... seemed to dive into the pillow as I slept..."

          "Passed right through your head, did it?"

          "Why... I suppose that it did!"

          Freud, evidently delighted, removed his pipe and, after placing it upon a table, rubbed his hands as if contemplating a plump goose laid out upon his table. "I once dreamt that my mother had been carried off by men with heads of falcons," he confided, "which were, of course, Egyptian funerary gods... symbols of copulation for the word "vegeln" is near "vogel", for bird. Have you ever desired sex with your mother?"

          So absurd and offensive was this suggestion that I rose, with some difficulty from the notorious couch. "What? Now see... first, I do not even know German very well, and then..."

          Who knows what I may have done, perhaps even some infamous act of violence upon the person of Freud had we not been interrupted by a pounding on the door and screams. Freud threw his hands up, waved me off, and admitted a hysterical young man into whose outstretched arms he thrust a pile of dirty looking papers... they exchanged a few choice German oaths before Freud slammed the door against the fellow's curses."

          "Weininger! Such a pretty boy, quite favored by some morbid Scandinavians, but a plagiarist of Fleiss and also Dr. Mobius... another of those tiresome self-hating Jews." And Freud coughed again, glancing wistfully at his pipe.

          "Perhaps if I came at another time..." was my suggestion.

          "Why?" was the doctor's defensive retort. "Is it that you are cold... that is the work of our Noble Window Breakers," he informed me with a gesture. "Young Christians of wealth and privilege with no better objective in life than to torment an old, shabby Israelite!"

          "What do I owe you," I announced, certain of the magnitude of my error and anxious to be off, " about five dollars?"

          The sight of money revived the self-pitying dream doctor... he reached perhaps a little hastily, then slapped his forehead and turns to a pile of book filled boxes.

          "Ah... what I do," Freud sighed, "I was not born a cheat you know... but look at these! Franz Hartmann sells more of his nonsense," he sniped, having noted the still-unread romance among my parcels, "than I ever shall of my Interpretation of Dreams. Please take a copy for your trouble," said the Doctor, then pressed his hand to his brow. "My head!"

          "Do you wish me to call a doctor?" and Sigmund Freud rewarded me with a glare of the sort I do recall having seen, once... upon the face of a circus bear whose chain had just been pulled, too suddenly, too painfully.

          "I am a doctor," he rallied his dignity. "No, you may not... it's only migraine. It is all the fault of women, just as Sacher-Masoch and Kraft-Ebbing declare. They abscond with our souls, young man... perhaps young Weininger is not so disturbed as he appears," Freud added with a melancholy shrug.

          "I know the way downstairs," I declared and, carrying off another unpopular Viennese book, I let myself out as a gust of November wind punched the cardboard in; snowflakes whirling in the parlor of the failing dream doctor. So it was that I collected no useful information regarding either Fraulein Sprengel nor my dreams, only another curiosity for my library. Had I taken somewhat more initiative, I might even have obtained a copy of the young Weininger's opus... when published two years later it became one of those brief sensations for the reason that the author devised an intriguing manner of publicizing his work... suicide... renting for that grisly purpose the very room in which Beethoven spent the last year of his life.


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