“Never again would they dare to call me insane,” Joe Witherspoon said as he rubbed his hands rapidly down his thighs.
“Why do you say that?” Steve’s forehead wrinkled with curiosity.
Joe slapped his hands on the table in front of them, causing their coffee mugs to rattle. “Come on. You know what really happened, don’t you?”
Steve stared into his friend’s deep blue eyes, wondering if the doctors were right about Joe’s emotional status. “I’ve heard Sarah’s version, but never yours.”
Sighing, Joe picked up his mug and brought it carefully to his mouth, his shaky hands causing the hot liquid to spill. Not noticing the drops falling to the table, Joe allowed the steam to caress his face as he inhaled deeply, drawing the soothing aroma into his trembling body. “I’m not insane. I never have been. Sarah made up all that nonsense about me throwing that butcher knife at her.” He sipped cautiously, staring into Steve’s eyes for confirmation.
“You admitted in court that you threw the knife.” Steve leaned forward, his eyes focused on Joe’s.
“So what? I was drugged out and so I have little recollection of whether or not I did. It might have been you that threw it, for all I know.” Joe placed his cup on the kitchen table, and took a minuscule bite of a freshly made chocolate chip cookie.
“Sarah was shaking like a leaf. It took a strong sedative to calm her down.”
“She’s the nervous type,” Joe responded as he meticulously scraped crumbs into his open palm which he then poured into his mouth. He brushed his hands together, then resumed rubbing his thighs. “She’s nuts, you know. Sarah can’t sit still for more than a few minutes and never sleeps. And she lies. She makes me so mad. Sometimes I feel like strangling her. She tells her friends that I’m nuts. I’ve heard her. She goes downstairs when she thinks I’m sleeping. She calls everyone she knows and makes up stories about me. That’s why people think I did it. That I was trying to kill her.” Joe stood and began pacing the floor. Three steps to the sink, four to the back door, two to the refrigerator, one to the table, and then start all over again. “Sisters shouldn’t do that. Sisters shouldn’t do that. Sisters shouldn’t do that,” he chanted.
“Settle down, Joe. You’re making me nervous with all that walking,” Steve said.
“Can’t do it. Once my feet get moving, I can’t stop them.”
“Did you take your meds this morning?”
“Don’t need ‘em. Doc says I’m cured, remember?” Joe’s speed picked up to a trot. His hands twisted into knots, then untwisted, then twisted again, in time to his steps.
Steve quietly stood and then walking backwards, moved toward the kitchen door, never turning his back on his friend.
“I never did it,” Joe intoned. “I never threw that knife, but I wanted to, I tell you. She makes me so mad. So mad. I hate her! I hate that lying woman!” Now pounding his forehead as intensely as splitting logs, he moaned with each blow of his hands.
Steve tiptoed out of the room, barely breathing for fear of distracting the crazed man. Joe dialed 911. When the operator answered, he explained the situation. When told to leave the house immediately, he complied.
Standing out in the freezing Seattle rain, Steve watched as the police arrived, followed shortly thereafter by an ambulance. After knocking at the door and receiving no response, the officers entered the house, guns drawn. Within minutes, one of the officers stood at the door. He signaled the waiting paramedics, who grabbed their medical kits, clipboards, and the gurney before going inside.
Steve felt sorry for Joe. Joe had struggled with mental illness since his teenage years and had been hospitalized several times. When on the proper medications, Joe seemed like any other guy. Without the drugs, he went ballistic, with superman strength and fearsome rages.
Within minutes the paramedics guided the gurney out the front door toward the waiting ambulance. One had his hand on Joe’s right arm, patting him as one would a dog.
“Don’t call me insane,” Joe whispered. “Don’t ever call me insane again. I swore that no one would ever dare to call me insane again.”
Tears ran down Steve’s face. He knew that Joe couldn’t control the obsessive rages, but it scared him. Sarah, too. After Joe threw that butcher knife at her, she packed her bags and moved to New York, swearing to never return. Shaking his head, Steve walked back into the home and tidied the table and counters. He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed some more, trying to erase the remnants of Joe’s craziness.