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«by RYAN GRAHAM HASKINS B.A. University of Central Florida, 2010 A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of ...»

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Malcolm took his car keys out of his pocket then paused briefly before putting them on the table next to his pack of cigarettes, the metallic rumbling severing the silence between them.

―Want a cigarette?‖ Malcolm asked casually.

–  –  –

―I’m gonna see if I have any papers,‖ Malcolm responded, standing and exiting the balcony.

Jake knew this was entirely unprofessional, to be here, about to smoke weed with one of his staff, one of his subordinates, but the taboo of the situation created a strange sort of silent bond between them, he thought, and for some reason felt assured that Malcolm wouldn’t ever say anything to Eliot or anyone else at Liberty, couldn’t identify a function for such a behavior.

Jake hadn’t smoked weed since high school, about a decade now, and he was somewhat nervous, but figured he could crash here if necessary, and that the eleven hours between now and when his shift started was ample time for the effect to wear off.

Malcolm returned, rolling papers in one hand, a small, rustling baggie of weed in another.

He lit another cigarette and began rolling.

―How long did you say you’ve been working at Liberty? Seven years?‖ Malcolm probed, trying to get Jake to talk, to open up maybe.

–  –  –

―How long have you been a supervisor?‖ ―I got promoted after five or six months.‖ ―Cool. How long have Nick and Maggie and all of them been there?‖ ―Well, Maggie and Constance have been there since the house opened, the rest sorta just trickled in as people left. I think it’s a good mix now, the first year or so was really rough, five clients, all new to the house and the staff, they were all freaking out nonstop, we had a lot of staff turnover then, a lot more than now even. The house opened with I think fifteen employees, twelve of them quit in the first two weeks. I’m the only one left from the beginning, the only staff I mean.‖ ―How long has Eliot been there? He came across as if he’d been there since the house opened.‖ Jake chuckled, ―Yeah, no, Eliot has been there about a year now. There’s been five program managers since the house opened. Mostly fuckups, well, for the most part, I guess there is just something about the job that prevents someone from staying for any good length of time.

That, or Stuyvesant intentionally hires fuckers and junkies.‖ Malcolm finished rolling the joint and put his cigarette out in the glass ashtray with a Canadian flag painted on the inside.

―Why would they hire assholes on purpose?‖ Malcolm asked, passing the joint and lighter to Jake.

Jake took the lighter, then the joint, and sighed quietly. ―Well,‖ he fidgeted with the black Bic lighter, then lit it, inhaling lightly, ―Why would someone do something,‖ he said, letting the

–  –  –

behavior that can be assessed or analyzed, in a traditional sense. One would assume you would hire someone incompetent so that they would perform incompetently. Right?‖ Jake asked Malcolm, handing him the joint and lighter.

―Why would they want that?‖ Malcolm took the joint, confused, intrigued.

―Well, you would want someone to perform incompetently so that they did not perform competently. Therefore, why would you not want someone to perform competently? Possibly if a competent performance would yield negative results for Stuyvesant.‖ ―What?‖ Malcolm asked, smirking, passing the joint, unaware if he had smoked any.

―If your aim, as an organization, your true aim, was to simply make money, and stay in business, and make sure those at the top kept their jobs, no matter if you are making toaster ovens or repairing sprinkler systems or providing behavioral residential services for profoundly developmentally disabled people, then simply you would only do the bare minimum, only that which is fundamentally necessary to continue, and if there was no apparent additional reinforcement for doing anything more than the minimum, why would you? And if you feigned excellence, but strove to surpass that which is only required, then you would need to make sure that others involved in your organization that are not necessarily in on it, like you and me and program managers, didn’t attempt or strive to succeed beyond what you secretly set the bar so low at. If an entirely competent program manager were to appear, they would soon see the truth of the situation, soon seek to rectify and improve and challenge what is intended, what is provided, the minimum, the absolute lowest quality of care and service required, and then some,

–  –  –

Earth motherfuckers.‖ ―What the fuck, did you memorize that? Do you really think that?‖ Malcolm lit a cigarette and sat back in his chair, looking away, into the dim night sky, processing.

―Yes and no. Whatever. No, I suppose, but look. They’ve got torn clothes and are fed the shittiest, cheapest food possible, and nothing gets fixed unless it has to be for licensing or certification or if it’s cheaper to repair than replace. And they hire staff with no experience and pay them nine dollars and hour. And most of them quit before they would get a pay raise, and if we want to take the clients to get a milkshake or a new pair of shoes, I have to fill out three forms and wait a week or a month, or just long enough so that we forgot they wanted or needed something, and if you saw the budget and how much money the clients’ funding and Medicaid and all that is coming into the house, per day, per hour, you’d throw up and say fuck all.‖ The smoke lingered around and above them, no wind to stir it or them, car doors and laughing echoed occasionally from below. The tiny sounds of crinkling paper and scraping flint filled the few silences between them.

―Why don’t you quit then? Or apply to be a program manager and do something about it?‖ ―I’ve applied to be Liberty’s program manager the last three times the position was open.

They told me I didn’t get the job cause I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, but Eliot doesn’t, neither did Tim, the manager before him.‖ ―Maybe cause they know you’re competent.‖ ―I’m not. Neither are you. How could we be? If we were we wouldn’t be there.‖

–  –  –

―Don’t get me wrong, you’re a good staff, you’ve been picking things up pretty quickly, and you’re not lazy or neglectful or anything, it’s just that if we were really doing our job we’d be blowing the fucking whistle.‖ ―Well, how do we? How do we blow the whistle and try to do something instead of just doing whatever, being complicit in this bullshit?‖ ―Are you willing to lose your job?‖ ―No, I don’t know. Probably not.‖

–  –  –

―Although we’re not working in an office making spreadsheets or whatever or washing windows, they’re fucking people, which they want us to forget, which I never forgot, and what, they are just supposed to eat fish sticks and take their medicine and sit in their rooms crying and screaming and trying to kill themselves and us until they do?‖ ―Yeah, but they couldn’t be anywhere else could they? I mean with how they act…their behaviors, it’s not like they’re prisoners, isn’t this the only place to put them?‖ ―No, they aren’t prisoners. Criminals did something wrong, mostly, that they could conceive of as wrong, mostly. Imagine you couldn’t talk and only understood like thirty words, and didn’t understand what most things in the world meant or what they were for, didn’t understand the sun and the moon, or the spinning of the world. Didn’t understand a hug or a kiss

–  –  –

born to sit in a room and wait and wait and do nothing but eat and shit and scream and bleed.

And no one had ever loved you, or loved you but abandoned you because they loved you too much or didn’t know how to love you or couldn’t bear what their love meant. And you’d never gotten laid or known anyone to love you for who you are, or knew who you really were, or knew that these things you didn’t have or never got even existed. And you didn’t have any hobbies or anything to take your mind off your problems besides beating your head in, and strangers forced you to do things you didn’t understand like fold your clothes and take your dishes to the sink, cause why do clothes need to be folded, cause they won’t be wrinkled? Cause if they were wrinkled you’d look disheveled or ugly? What’s ugly? What is dirty or clean? What is important besides the only things you’d been exposed to that you like a little better than everything else you hate, like candy or lasagna or soda or biting someone so they will look at you and give a shit for once, even for a second, and do something, anything, like scream or restrain you or bite you back? Anything so that you weren’t bored, trapped in your thoughts, whatever strange, confusing logic or nonsense that goes on inside you, a dirty, wrinkled sack in your head filled with hundreds of locks and thousands of keys and none of them match except if I am sad or in pain or happy or bored or waiting for the fucking monotony and turmoil to just fucking end already. All I can do to express it, express anything, is to communicate with violence, which I can’t even comprehend as such, punching and kicking and biting and busting holes in the wall with my face isn’t violent or aggressive or charming or beautiful. It’s just what I do. What I’ve always done.

The only way I know how to get anyone, anyone please, to turn and look, and maybe care for a second or a minute, and if you knew what death was, if you could comprehend a beginning and

–  –  –

into traffic and drown yourself in a toilet in a second to end a lifetime of sorrow and nonsense, and roll the goddamn dice on whatever comes next.‖ Jake was short of breath but calm, a small part of him seemed exhausted to Malcolm.

―Do you think they’d be better off dead? Or never born?‖ Malcolm asked, searching for a definitive opinion.

―Better off dead? Better off how? I don’t know, but I know that when you spend enough hours, hours which must add up to full days, months, months of looking into Constance’s eyes, looking at and into all of them, really, it’s not sadness, cause sadness could only be defined in contrast to happiness, which I don’t know that they’ve ever truly known. And it’s not abandoned hope, cause did they ever have any hope, ever know what it was and hold it close, cherish it? It’s just what they are, what their lives are, emptiness disrupted by fleeting, infrequent pleasure and frequent pain, pain of a body kept in a maze of confusion, pain of a soul languishing unfulfilled and forgotten. And if I could figure out how to teach them, to tell them what life is, what death is, at least they could make a choice, at least be engaged in their own lives, and take the reins toward whatever, anything, whatever they wanted.‖

–  –  –

I do need a break. I’m burning up, or burning out, burning down. There’s only so many hundreds of hours you can stare into the face of utter sadness and confusion and wrath and abandoned hope before you realize that the help you are giving, this assistance you seem to be able to manifest out of nowhere every day for months and years is a fucking poison, a happy plague, for them and for me, and they’d be better off if I drove them into the forest and dropped them off, nowhere and naked, to run wild and chase squirrels, to sleep in the rain and to scream into the darkness, dancing in their own blood and piss, cheering and spitting at the moon, their faces fireworks against the emptiness, a primitive heartsick pack of beautiful jackals, arms and legs flying and bursting away from themselves, their stomping and chest beating an orchestra of flesh and sweat, rhythmic heartbeats of a turning world, a group of human pipe bombs, ready to explode and destroy nothing but their past and their long slow grind toward a death they never conceived of, spinning and howling and laughing in disjointed unison, their faces genuine, bliss, for the first time this world can remember.

–  –  –

Task Setting: Liberty Group Home, Stuyvesant Foundation Task Analysis: Liberation (1 of 1) Task Overview: You are sorrowful. Liberation initiated to reduce sorrow and/or rectify oppression.

Causal Agents: 1) Prolonged refusal to capitulate to spurious support, and/or 2) Elevated anxiety related to hopelessness, and/or 3) Pain, excluding physical distress or suffering.

Task Location: Liberty Group Home; Van; Forest Setup Condition: You have left your cell phone at home, you are supervising a shift in which one or more callouts has occurred, resulting in only two staff on shift, it is morning, on a weekend, all clients are present, and one or more causal agents above exist.

1. Setup Condition Active. Begin Task: Liberation (1 of 1)

2. Move into presence of other staff member.

3. Verbally communicate to other staff member: ―Hey, could you take a van and run to

–  –  –

a. If staff member refuses, convince or command staff member.

b. If staff member references policy regarding van use for personal use, convince or

–  –  –

8. Move to Terry’s bedroom.

9. Open closet.

10. Remove backpack.

11. Move to kitchen.

12. Open pantry.

13. Fill backpack with non-perishable food items.

14. Open silverware drawer.

15. Remove can opener.

16. Place can opener in backpack.

17. Close backpack.

18. Move to van.

19. Place backpack in van.

20. Move to Gretchen and Maggie’s bedroom.

21. Open closet.

22. Remove backpacks.

23. Move to kitchen.

24. Fill backpacks with non-perishable food items.

25. Close backpack.

26. Move to van.

27. Place backpack in van.

28. Move to Constance’s bedroom.

–  –  –

30. Remove backpack.

31. Move to kitchen.

32. Fill backpack with non-perishable food items.

33. Close backpack.

34. Move to van.

35. Place backpack in van.

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