Sunday, November 20, 2005


Mom and Dad and Dianne Schramm are in a car with Stanley Elkin around 71st Street on the south side of Chicago. It's a busy area back in the 1940’s. While someone is in a store, Stanley decides to try to hypnotize Dianne. He moves his finger back and forth, and she follows it with her eyes. She goes under. It's the first time he's successful with hypnosis.

Okay, he says. Now I am going to bring you out, he says.

He snaps his fingers. Nothing.

He claps his hands. Nothing. She won't come to.

He tries every trick he knows to reverse the spell. Still, nothing works. She's under.

She sleeps, does Dianne Schramm, whose picture I will find in my parents' photo album decades later. After Korea. Who will marry Morty Haberman, who will divorce him, a man now dying of esophageal cancer.

All these years later, after Dianne's trance, my parents will still know Morty. They will spend New Year's Eve 2004 with him, watch as he chugs morphine before each bite of food to kill the pain.

But she, Dianne, can't read that future, or the titles of Stanley’s future books, or his Multiple Sclerosis and death, or Morty’s doomed esophagus, or at least says nothing about them. Instead, she sleeps, oblivious to Stanley's imprecations, his attempt to bring her back to that present, before my past even begins.

She sleeps a long while, waking with a headache in her own time, says nothing about what time, what future or present she's glimpsed, and whether it's fate that's given her a headache, or Stanley and his clumsy, novice technique.

I don't know if he ever hypnotized anyone again, at least without a pen.


pia said...

What an interesting story. Where she went . . . a place to imagine a much longer piece.

Anonymous said...

This is a revealing story, one that shows a side of Elkin I never anticipated.
It's told (and, of course cited) in the new Elkin biography, due out next year. Thanks, Gail!

Dave Dougherty