92. A Complex Complex
Bertie sat in the waiting room while his mother was inside, talking to Dr. Sinclair. They had been ten minutes already and, with any luck, it would be another ten before Dr. Sinclair called him through. Sometimes, in the days when he came to see Dr. Fairbairn, the two adults had talked for forty-five minutes before Bertie was admitted, which meant that he had only fifteen minutes of the psychotherapist’s bizarre questions. In Bertie’s mind, Dr. Sinclair, or Roger as he had asked to be called, was not nearly so bad, but, even so, it would be nice if their sessions were shortened by his mother’s interventions.
He searched the pile of magazines on the waiting room table to see if there was a new copy of Scottish Field. There was, and he seized it eagerly. There was an eagle on the cover this time, and Bertie studied the plumage and claws with some interest. Tofu had said that he had seen an eagle in a tree in his garden, but Bertie doubted this.
Tofu lied about most things when it suited him, and it usually suited him to impress other people. He lied about his father, saying that he was a private detective, when Bertie knew that he was really a writer of books on vegetarian matters. He lied about his mother, whom he claimed had been eaten by a lion while on safari in Africa, but who was, according to Olive, locked up in prison. Olive herself, of course, was not above lying. She had misled Akela with entirely false claims of previous scouting experience, but much more importantly she had deceived everybody at school with claims that Bertie was her boyfriend, which, as far as he was concerned, was most certainly not the case.
He opened Scottish Field and turned the pages. There was an article on a man who had turned an old byre into a house. There was an article about a man who restored old cars, and one about wolves and whether they should be reintroduced into Scotland. Bertie thought this would be a good idea, but that it would be best to reintroduce them into Glasgow first before they started to reintroduce them into Edinburgh. If the wolves did well in Glasgow, and didn’t bite too many people, then they could start by reintroducing them into Queen Street Gardens before they allowed them to make their lairs elsewhere.
He paused, and looked up at the ceiling. What would happen, he wondered, if they reintroduced wolves into Queen Street Gardens but did not tell his mother? And what would happen if he, Bertie, read about this in Scottish Field? Would he have to warn his mother if she told him that she was taking Ulysses for a walk in the gardens – as she sometimes did? If the wolves ate his mother, of course, they might take pity on Ulysses and raise him as one of them. Bertie had read about this happening, about feral children being brought up by wolves and such creatures, and he thought it would be fun to have a brother who lived with wolves, like Romulus and Remus.
Bertie skimmed through the article on wolves and reached the pages at the back where there were pictures of the latest parties and dances. This was the part of the magazine that he liked the most, as he now recognised some of the people in the pictures, and it made him feel part of everything to see them enjoying themselves.
He would go to these parties and dances himself when he was eighteen; he was sure of that; he would go without his mother. He looked at the pictures. There had been a dinner at Prestonfield House, he read, and there had been hundreds of people there. He scrutinised the pictures and saw some faces he knew: Mr. Charlie Maclean, in a kilt, talking to Mr. Humphrey Holmes; Mr. Roddy Martine talking to a lady in a white dress with a tartan shawl about her shoulders. Bertie’s eye moved over the captions. Annabel Goldie talking to Mr. Alex Salmond, and both smiling. He had read about them in the papers and he knew who they were. He was telling her a joke, Bertie thought, and it must have been very funny, because she was laughing a lot. And there were pictures of a band. Mr. David Todd playing the fiddle in his tartan trousers while a group of people danced. Bertie sighed; he had only ever been to one party, and that was Tofu’s, at the bowling alley in Fountainbridge. There were never any photographs of parties like that in Scottish Field.
Irene did not take forty-five minutes. Within ten minutes of going in, she came out again.
“You can go in to see Dr. Sinclair now, Bertie,” she said, rather tersely. “Mummy’s popping out to Valvona & Crolla, but will be back at the end of your session.”
Bertie went in and sat in the chair in front of Dr. Sinclair’s desk.
There was a silence, and out of politeness Bertie thought he would make a remark. “Do you ever think about wolves, Dr. Sinclair?”
The psychotherapist, who had been scribbling a note on his pad of paper, looked up sharply.
“Wolves, Bertie? No, I can’t say I think about wolves very often.” He paused. “Do you?”
Bertie nodded. “I think that wolves are going to come back,” he said.
Dr. Sinclair stared at him. “That’s interesting, Bertie. Does that worry you?”
Bertie thought for a moment. “A little bit. I wouldn’t like to be bitten by one.”
Dr. Sinclair said nothing. Freud’s Little Hans, he thought; he had been worried about being bitten by the dray horses. And then there was Freud’s wolf man. How strange that young Bertie should…
Bertie interrupted this disturbing train of thought. “Of course, we could always get the Archers to deal with them if they became too much of a problem in Edinburgh.”
Dr. Sinclair looked puzzled. “‘The Archers,’ Bertie? Who are these archers?”
“They wear a green uniform,” explained Bertie. “And they have a hide-out on the edge of the Meadows. I’m not sure if they’d be able to hit the wolves, though…”
Dr. Sinclair made a note on his pad, but kept his gaze on Bertie. I have almost made a major mistake, he thought. I was on the point of discharging this poor little boy, on the grounds that he did not need therapy. And now this… a complicated neurotic structure, complete with wolf and archer fantasies, and I missed it entirely, until it revealed itself, unfolded before my eyes.
I owe his mother an apology, he thought. It just goes to show how professional arrogance and its attendant assumptions can lead one up entirely the wrong path.