The Almost Man by Joe Dees

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In his spacious office, lined with bookshelves filled with psychological treatises and complete with the stereotypical couch, Dr. Ernst Francke sat and sat and stared from his easy chair, stared across the desk at the crib in the center of the room. In the crib was a child barely a week old: his ward, Joshua Priebourne. Dr. Francke's thoughts, however, did not concern the infant directly; he was mourning the death by suicide of his father Mazel Priebourne, and the death during childbirth of his mother Mary three days later. He sat and stared and mused and cried. Mazel Priebourne had been a patient and a friend, and something MORE. He was the Almost Man, almost there; the marathon runner checked in mid-stride, his chest forever frozen an inch from the finish line, teetering on the brink, trying but failing to fall forward; the climber grappling to the top of the barrier and glimpsing the land beyond, but unable to push or pull himself over; the man who knew that it could be, would be done, and yet couldn't do it. Yes, the Almost Man...almost, but not quite. Moses at the river Jordan, seeing the Promised land but unable to cross over, able to touch but never to grasp, the Man at the Edge, forever. Dr. Francke sat, and stared, and brooded over what had happened, as he had many times before, and as he knew he would again and again and again...
The next case was a common one; no referral, no complaint. The man - let's see, ah, Mr. Mazel Priebourne - just wanted to talk with him. Sarah, his nurse-receptionist, ushered the man in; Dr. Francke directed him to a chair by the desk.
"What seems to be the problem, Mr. Priebourne?
The man hesitated, then, without preamble, simply said, "Sometimes, rather than do things with my hands, I've found myself doing them more directly - with my mind. I believe it's called telekinesis."
The easiest way to deal with this type of delusion, Ernst had found, was to challenge it directly. "Could you demonstrate, Mr. Priebourne?"
"I can't do it at will," he answered. "It always happens when I'm mad or scared - I guess you'd call them stressful situations, Doctor."
"Well then," Dr. Francke proposed, "let's make this a stressful situation. Do it or leave."
"I could go to another psychiatrist," Mazel answered. "It has to be a situation where there are no alternatives. Do you wish me to leave now?"
"No, please stay." The man had aroused his interest. "Tell me something about yourself, Mr. Priebourne."
"Mostly," he answered, "I'm quite undistinguished. I'm the senior systems analyst for Drillco Oil. I have a wife, Mary, and we're expecting our first child any time now. She has your phone number," he added, "though she thinks I'm counseling you on investments. I have a car, a dog, and a home in the Northglade district."
"Have you seen a psychiatrist professionally before, or had any evaluations made?"
"No, you're the first psychiatrist I've consulted.

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