"What's madness but nobility at odds with circumstances?" T. Roethke



It was during the roaring 20's when a virginal

rosy-cheeked senior at the Sacred Heart Academy

lost her way, longing to be free like her idol,

Zelda Fitzgerald. She danced in her room,

to Benny Carter and the Chocolate Dandies'

rendition of the Bugle Call Rag, Fats Waller's

"Sheik of Araby" and Ted Lewis' "Hold That Tiger."

Sneaking away from home Sunday afternoons

she lied about her age at the Roseland Ballroom,

strapping down her pert, pear shaped bosoms to

dance as a flapper in the Charleston competitions.

She longed to enter marathon dance contests

but couldn't stay out all night, so resigned herself

to partnering with any lonely tumescent lug who

could come up with ten cents a dance.

When her parents found out about her dancing

they called her a whore.


When she was young her mother would pin her pajama

sleeves over the blanket to prevent her from touching herself.

Father, also profoundly religious, a Knight of Malta, was a

banker who couldn't endure the day without getting

sloshed at his favorite speakeasy.

He was determined to get her into Holy Cross,

but she was failing math because she couldn't tell a

parallelogram from an isosceles triangle.

So he locked in her room and night after night

tried to pound math concepts into her head to no avail.


When father was incarcerated for his role in the

Tea Pot Dome Scandal, she began to get cryptic

radio messages through her teeth threatening

that she would be stalked by a malevolent man

if she ever left the house again.

Doctors agreed this was a case of dementia praecox.

The treatment of choice was insulin-shock therapy

to restore her sanity by bringing her to the brink of death.

The beauty who once thrilled her parents in her

winning step-dancing days would never be free again,

locked away and forgotten in the back ward of

Creedmore State hospital, land of the living dead.


Milton P. Ehrlich