BOSTON. Maeve Bluestone is the gateway that all who would enter the inner sanctum of Michael Aramik, her long-time boss, must pass through. “He can be a very genial man,” she says as she checks his Outlook calendar, “but not for long stretches of time.”
And indeed the busy executive’s schedule looks like a crossword puzzle before a reader has begun to work on it: a grid of mostly empty squares, punctuated every now and then by one that is filled in. “I’m under strict orders not to book two appointments with other human beings in a single day, or on consecutive days,” she says by way of explanation, but her words are left hanging in the air, leaving the listener to assume there’s more coming. “Also not on a Monday following a Friday, or on the first and last business days of consecutive months.”
“We’re done here, I think. Right?”
Aramik suffers from PDS, short for “Personality Deficit Syndrome.” “It is the psychological equivalent of those South Pacific islanders who fear that when you take a photograph of them you have captured their souls,” says Dr. Morton Albrecht, a psychiatrist at St. Martin-Among-the-Hyphens Hospital here. “Victims have personalities, but they fear that if they interact too much with other people they will dissipate what little they have to offer in the way of human sympathy forever and not be able to replace it.”
Aramik is behind closed doors today, his eyes shut as he counts backwards from 100 to 0 several times in succession in an attempt to blot out from his mind the sensory impressions left by others at a charity gala the night before. “Maeve,” he announces over the office intercom that connects him to his secretary when he’s feeling psychologically indisposed from excessive exposure to homo sapiens.
“Yes, Mike?” Bluestone replies.
“Could you bring me a cold compress for my forehead, a bicarbonate of soda, and a copy of Soldier of Fortune Magazine?”
“No, the special Lone Wolf Christmas issue.”
“Righto,” Bluestone says. She disappears discreetly around a corner to the office kitchen and reception area, then returns with the items her boss hopes will calm his nerves.
“Is there any mail for me?” he asks as she cracks the door open just wide enough to hand him what he’s asked for.
“There’s a solicitation and entry form for the Walk-for-the-Cure-for-PDS this summer,” she says.
“I’ve never done that before,” Aramik says. “I suppose it could be fun. How many people usually participate?”
“It says last year they had over a thousand . . .”
“Just close the door quietly,” Aramik says. “I want to be alone.”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “I Hear America Whining.”