the passion of Molly Apples

Molly Apples was distracted by a 3-D Jesus wall-hanging in the window of Wilaker’s Notions and Dry Goods Store. When she leaned to the left, it was a close up of the white robed, dirty-blond haired, brown eyed Jesus with the beatific face she knew from her childhood Sunday school. When she leaned to the right, the same Jesus winked, smiled and held up two fingers in either the sign of V for victory or peace. The wall-hanging was priced to sell at $1.95 and she wanted it badly to hang in her living room next to her black velvet painting of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. But she had other places for her scant earnings.

You see, when Molly Apples was a youngster, not long after a break with her childhood Sunday school over a devotional disagreement, she made the decision that if she had only one life to live she would live it as a blonde. And, having made that decision, she bought her first Clairol hair colouring kit from the Cunningham Drugstore on Commercial Drive.

Molly Apples was a natural brunette but wanted more than anything to look like Veronica Lake with her platinum blonde peek-a-boo hairstyle. Unfortunately, nothing she could have done would have ever made Molly Apples look like Veronica Lake. Molly Apples was cursed, her word, even into middle age, with the impish and pouty appearance of Shirley Temple, not the big eyed femme fatale looks of Veronica Lake. But nonetheless, since that fateful day in her fifteenth year, after coming home with her proudly purchased bottle of blonde, her hair had been as close to pearly platinum as she was able to achieve. And no matter how dire her financial circumstance, she’d always reserved enough capital to purchase her desired hair colour.

And so it was that on that day when she saw 3-D Jesus in the window of Wilaker’s Notions and Dry Goods Store, Molly Apples stepped into the Cunningham Drugstore on Commercial Drive to purchase another Clairol hair colouring kit. It was on this day also, that she did what had become habit for her so long ago – she went on a tour of the store to peruse the familiar and the new. After picking up her box of Clairol Perfect 10 – 10, she went through the cosmetics department and up the greeting card aisle, down the toothpaste and magazine aisles and quickly and uneasily past the incontinence products then through the snack section and finally arrived in the pharmacy.

In the pharmacy were laxatives and haemorrhoid remedies, vitamins and eye drops. But what caught Molly Apples’ attention was the newest in home testing products. Situated right next to the home pregnancy tests was a dazzling and typically tasteless display she’d never seen before. It advertised the latest in home diagnostics. A stunning breakthrough in medical science. It was safe, easy and convenient and was value priced. It was the new new new GlaxTonic Laboratories Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test.

The small text read, Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test is a patented technology providing unparalleled at-home results right when you want them. Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test is 99% accurate at detecting typical psychiatric disorders like Depression, Bipolar Disorder 1 and 2, Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorders and Psychosis. See drug monograph for a full listing. Call doctor if results are positive.

She picked up one of the pastel packages. The price was $15. Holding it to her ear, she gave it a little shake. Nothing moved inside, though the little box did have some heft to it. She turned it over and found a colour chart with instructions. Once a small amount of urine was applied to the target area of the device contained inside the package, a colour would appear to represent a psychiatric disorder. Blue was for depression, bright red was for bipolar 1 and pink for bipolar 2, orange was for schizophrenia, puce was for obsessive compulsive disorder, green was for generalised anxiety disorder and yellow was for psychosis. There were gradient shades in between on the colour chart representing other disorders like borderline personality disorder and agoraphobia. White meant the user was perfectly sane.

Molly Apples thought a moment then made a decision. She would purchase the Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test and test herself for a psychiatric disorder.

All of her life Molly Apples had felt different from the rest of humanity. There was something, she felt, just a little off-kilter. This was confirmed by family members like her mother who had always said that Molly Apples was different and should therefore expect a life of exclusion and isolation, and that Molly Apples should be content with that as it was the will of their Pentecostal God. Others, acquaintances and people who claimed to be her friends, had always concluded that Molly Apples was a little odd. They used words like unhinged, unzipped, screwy, oddball, dingy, dippy, delirious, flaky, flipped and freaked out. Doctors had used words like eccentric, erratic, unconventional, idiosyncratic, quirky and peculiar. But at no time in her life had she received a psychiatric diagnosis. Something for which there was a therapeutic intervention that would ease her suffering. The Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test might be just the thing to put that right. She’d bring the evidence that the test revealed to her physician and set him straight. It would light a fire under the shifty quack and thereby persuade him to find some solution to her abnormal state.

At the till, she forked over the cash for the Clairol Perfect 10 – 10 and the Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test. It was more than she had planned to spend but it was worth it. She could go without lunch for a few days. The cashier cocked an eyebrow and smirked as she scanned and bagged the items. Molly Apples pursed her lips but let it go. Hers had been a life of cocked eyebrows and smirks. Protesting was pointless and only attracted attention. She took her bag and walked out.

Molly Apples walked back home past Wilaker’s Notions and Dry Goods Store and stopped to look at the 3-D Jesus wall-hanging again. She stood on the sidewalk leaning right then left, right then left, to see the white robed, dirty-blond haired, brown eyed Jesus with the beatific face and then the winking peace sign wielding Jesus. It was a 3-D thing of beauty and since she’d already blown the bank on hair colour and the Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test, she decided to go all the way and buy it.

Hana, the Korean cashier at Wilaker’s didn’t cock an eyebrow or smirk at Molly Apples’ purchase. She smiled and nodded in approval. “Very nice,” she said. Hana was a fellow follower of the Anointed One and had a home with 3-D Jesuses hung in almost every room. She had even been the cashier on duty when Molly Apples purchased her black velvet painting of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. And Hana had approved very much of that acquisition, too. “Very more 3-D Jesus arrive next week,” Hana said in her best broken English. Molly Apples thanked her and left to walk home.

Once home, Molly Apples realised it would be a chore to hang the 3-D Jesus wall-hanging next to the black velvet painting of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It would involve a hammer and footstool. So, instead, and for the time being, she hung the sacred icon on her refrigerator with a Holy Land Experience theme park fridge magnet. She stood back and looked, tilting her head this way and that to see the alternating images. It pleased her greatly. But then she remembered the Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test in the drugstore bag. In a moment, she had the package in hand and was once again reading the instructions.

She tore off the cellophane wrapper and opened the box. Inside, she found the device. It looked something like a teaspoon with a small square patch of what appeared to be litmus paper. The instruction said that urine could be applied directly or the device could be dipped into a vessel containing urine. Molly Apples blushed at the words applied directly and went to the cupboard to retrieve a rarely used Royal Dalton teacup with 14K trim. Then she went into the washroom and, though she lived alone, locked the door. In a moment she emerged and went into the kitchen to dip the device.

Sitting at her kitchen table, Molly Apples held the device in one hand while holding the package in the other, rereading the instructions. What colour will I be, she thought. Am I blue for depression? Yellow for psychosis? Puce for obsessive compulsive disorder? Chartreuse for narcissistic personality disorder? Or will I fall, inconclusively, somewhere in between? Or will I be, and at this thought she gave a dreadful little gasp, white for perfectly sane?

She dipped the device into her Royal Dalton teacup of urine and pulled it out. The instructions said that she must wait five minutes for a conclusive and error-free result. She checked the time on her stove clock and sat staring at the small square patch of litmus paper. It was a very slow five minutes but when it was over, the small square patch of litmus paper wasn’t white anymore. It was brown. She picked up the box again and read the instructions on the back. There was a rainbow of colours there, but no brown. There was magenta, purple, cyan, red, pink and a half dozen other colours, each with its own assigned psychiatric disorder. But there was no brown.

Molly Apples was incredulous. How could a product that promised so much fail her so completely? She scanned the packaging for a clue but found nothing. Nothing, that is, until she saw the words Help Line and the phone number 1-833- 555-Harmony. She dashed to her telephone and dialled.

It rang and rang and Molly Apples grew impatient. Surely to goodness operators were standing-by, waiting for her call. She was used to calling the 700 Club Prayer Line. They prayerfully and solicitously picked up almost at once. GlaxTonic Laboratories could take a lesson from Pat Robertson.

Then came the recording, GlaxTonic Laboratories is anxious to take your call and answer your questions about the Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test. If you have a general question about the Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test, please press one now; if you disagree with your test result and would like an alternative result more consistent with your self-described state of mind, please press two now; if your Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test device displays a colour not found on the back of the package, please press three now. Conditions of class action settlements order that we announce the details of all class action settlements.  If you’re calling about current world-wide class action lawsuits and how you can receive a free gift for withdrawing your claim to court-ordered settlements, please press zero now. Have a nice day.

Molly Apples pressed three and listened to Robert Goulet sing covers of Beatles’ tunes for twenty-three minutes. Then an operator answered.

“Hello,” said the operator. “Thank you for calling GlaxTonic Laboratories Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test Customer Helpline. My name is Felicia. How may I help you?”

“What’s brown supposed to mean?” said Molly Apples.

“Brown?” said Felicia. The line went silent for a few moments, except for the distant sound of typing on a computer keyboard. Then Felicia came back. “The GlaxTonic Laboratories Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test doesn’t display brown, ma’am. The chemical composition of the litmus paper pad makes it impossible for brown to appear. Please recheck your results and call back if you feel it’s necessary. Have a nice day.”

“Whoa there, Felicia,” said Molly Apples, perhaps a little too loudly. “Don’t you hang up on me. I just spent $15 on this little item and I want results. Now just you find out what brown indicates and tell me so we can end this phone call.”

There were more quiet keyboard sounds, then Felicia came back. “Are you certain it’s brown and not chartreuse? Chartreuse is often mistaken for brown, as is orange. You do sound a little narcissistic. Also, have you ever been tested for colour blindness? Ophthalmologists are available in your area. I have a list of offices I can mail to you or I can send it to you via email. By the way, do you know about the GlaxTonic Laboratories Bonus Points Plan? You already qualify for 10,000 GlaxTonic Laboratories Bonus Points with your purchase of the GlaxTonic Laboratories Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test. Points can be redeemed for a myriad of lovely gift items. All you have to do is open an account with us. We can do that right now while you’re on the line. Shall I send you a catalogue?”

“Look, sister,” said Molly Apples, “the little paper square is as brown as German chocolate torte cake. I’m not colour blind and I don’t give a hoot about your little bonus points plan, which is, no doubt, a means by which GlaxTonic Laboratories sucks in all of the vital personal information it can on its customers in anticipation of the eventual arrival of The Beast Satan 666.”

“Uhm, well,” Felicia said shyly, “you may be interested in knowing that this week’s GlaxTonic Laboratories Bonus Points Plan special is a Cuisinart Food Processor with nested bowls and retractable cord, available in three designer colours for only 150,000 GlaxTonic Laboratories Bonus Points.”

“I want a damn diagnosis,” said Molly Apples, turning red and gnashing her teeth. “And I want one now. What the hell does brown connote in your satanic little GlaxTonic Laboratories universe? Am I psychotic, bipolar, anxious, antisocial? What?”

“You seem a little anxious.”

“Don’t toy with me, Felicia.”

“Perhaps you’d like to speak to my Call Centre Manager,” Felicia said.

“Will he tell me anything different than what you’re telling me now?” Molly Apples asked.

“No,” said Felicia. “But he’s very empathetic and a good listener.”

“Aaarrrrrgh!” sounded Molly Apples. “Just forget it.” She hung up the telephone.

For the rest of the day and into the evening, Molly Apples sat at her kitchen table staring at the tiny square patch of brown litmus paper. Eventually night came and it got dark but she didn’t turn on a light. The world preyed on the weak and ill-informed; it was full of broken promises and disappointment. Molly Apples realised, not for the first time, just how ill-equipped she was to live among humankind. She thought about colouring her hair. It might lighten her mood. But then she changed her mind. Colouring one’s hair was a sinful vanity. Perhaps it was the reason for her life of heartbreak and uncertainty. Perhaps, she thought, it would be better if she tuned in the 24 hour 700 Club station and watch reruns.

But then she remembered the 3-D Jesus wall-hanging. It had to be hung on the wall next to her black velvet painting of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. She went to her tool drawer and pulled out a hammer and nail. Then she went to the refrigerator upon which she’d hung her 3-D Jesus with a Holy Land Experience theme park fridge magnet. There He was, at once in His white robe with the dirty-blond hair, brown eyes and beatific face. Then winking, smiling and holding up two fingers in either the sign of V for victory or peace. Molly Apples couldn’t help moving her head back and forth to see both.

She was trying to decide which she liked better when a third image of Jesus appeared. This one was like neither of the two she’d seen previously. This Jesus had an even calmer smile and more caring eyes. He was animated, as well. He held up a pacifying hand. Molly Apples was astonished. She reached out and touched the wall-hanging, wishing to make contact, but only felt the hard refrigerator door behind it.

“It’s okay, Molly Apples,” 3-D Jesus said.

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” said Molly Apples in amazement. “Is it really you?”

“Yes, child,” 3-D Jesus said.

Molly Apples began to cry. “Oh, Jesus,” she wept, “I’m so confused and alone and worried. What is wrong with me? Oh, what is so terribly wrong with me?”

“You’re seeking a psychiatric diagnosis, Molly,” 3-D Jesus said. “But some human conditions defy description and classification. For these there is no therapeutic intervention, only faith and perseverance.”

“Do I have enough faith?” asked Molly Apples.

“Yes, you do,” said 3-D Jesus.

“Will I persevere?”

“Yes, you will,” said 3-D Jesus.

“And what can I do,” ask Molly Apples, “to feel some happiness in this wicked, wicked world?”

3-D Jesus smiled an even calmer and endearing smile. And it was such a genuine and gentle smile, Molly Apples wept all the more. But now, hers were tears of pure joy.

“There’s really only one thing you can do,” 3-D Jesus told Molly Apples.

“Yes?” she said in a sudden fit of impossible anticipation. “What is it? What could that one thing be? Should I become a pilgrim and walk the planet alone for your sake? Should I fast until near starvation? Should I flog myself with a switch until my flesh falls away and only bone remains?”

“No, Molly Apples,” said 3-D Jesus, “none of those things.”

“Then what, oh what?” Molly Apples said. “What can I do to know you better and finally feel happiness?”

“Well,” said 3-D Jesus as if He might not know.

“Yes?” said Molly Apples.

“I think you should colour your hair,” said 3-D Jesus. “Your roots are showing.”

Then Molly Apples felt an overwhelming ecstasy. She fell to her knees as if to pray but fainted instead. Later she woke to find the animated, talking 3-D Jesus gone from the wall-hanging. Only the white robed, dirty-blond haired, brown eyed Jesus with the beatific face and the winking, smiling Jesus holding up two fingers in either the sign of V for victory or peace remained.

And so Molly Apples spent the rest of that night colouring her hair and felt such elation in doing so that she knew it was the right thing to do. The next morning, she hung her 3-D Jesus wall-hanging next to her black velvet painting of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker for all to see, though she had very few visitors.

In the days that followed, she joined in on several of the class action lawsuits against GlaxTonic Laboratories Harmony® Home Psychiatric Disorder Test and eventually received several tens of thousands of dollars for her trouble. She used a portion of the money to cover all of the walls of her home with different 3-D Jesus wall-hangings and invited Hana, the Korean cashier from Wilaker’s Notions and Dry Goods Store, over for tea. As they walked together past the ever changing images of 3-D Jesus, she knew that her confusion, loneliness and worry were gone forever.


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