Articles/Essays – Volume 54, No. 4

Salt Lake City, 1957

Podcast version of this piece.

Sunday morning in Salt Lake City, when
faithful Mormons flock to worship
at neighborhood wards, my father’s
secret psychiatric patients slip inside
the back door of 508 East South Temple,
for fifty-five-minute appointments.
A nurse impersonator, I greet them,
steer them into the doctor’s office,
return to Atlas Shrugged. We might
argue in the car, but on arrival my father
and I team up. He exchanges his suit
jacket for a white coat, ducks out
for a smoke, while I pull patient charts
from the wall of alphabetized folders.
There’s the homosexual bishop,
the alcoholic Relief Society president,
the man who pees on his wife. I align
the waiting room magazines, feed the fish,
flush a dead one, and replace the Kleenex.
Everybody knows the drill. No one arrives early,
no one stays late. Crossing paths with a friend,
neighbor, or relative, means questioning
why some problems require more
than prayer or a patriarchal blessing.

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