Yana Stajno was born in Zimababwe of Polish and French parents, studied English and Drama at Cape Town University, became an anti-apartheid activist and was exiled to London, where she have did further studies in traditional medicine systems. She's worked as an acupuncturist and herbalist since 1980 and began writing plays in 1988. Stage plays include Salt River. Radio plays - Venus Bar,Postcards from the Swamp, Confessions of a Love Addict, Writers Block Workshop. She did further studies in Creative Writing and Novel Writing at City University from 1999 - 2002. Published short stories - Ten Plastic Roses, published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 2010, Flash in the Park, published in It's Dark in London anthology by SelfMadeHero. Her debut novel - Rules for Thursday Lovers has been published in July 2015 by Clink Street Press.
Angie regretted not having learnt languages at school. She couldn’t seem to make Dr Henkelschneiffer of the Baden-Baden Sanatorium understand that it was Mr Aranovitch who needed help, not her. The psychiatrist was a crisp, self-assured, grey-haired, headmistressy woman, whose English was perfect. However, Angie felt there must be some nuance missing in the doctor’s grasp of the situation. For his part, Mr Aranovitch had spoken to the doctor in fluent German, beamed at Angie – “so good of you to come” – and had been allowed to swan off to another musical engagement. And Angie was now trapped in this airless room.
“In this city, we are great admirers of Mr Aranovitch’s work,” said Dr H.
“He’s a marvel,” Angie agreed, “but Alzheimer’s, or senile dementia, is what our National Health Mental Diseases doctor has diagnosed.” She felt she needed as many words as she could summon to keep this woman’s penetrating gaze at bay. She wished she had some more to hand. “Is that the same in German? Confusion of mind and incontinence of body.” She tried making some whirling motions with both arms.
Dr Henkelschneiffer showed no clarity deficit. “I have observed no signs of confusion in the behaviour of Mr Aranovitch.” Her blue eyes glittered behind tinted lenses as she followed Angie’s movements. “However, there are disturbing signs of mental fragmentation in one or two of his associates.”
“I’m sorry, I may not seem to be making much sense, but I haven’t had much sleep,” Angie tried explaining.
“I see.” The doctor took a pad from the desk. “How long have you had trouble sleeping?” Her pen was poised.
“I haven’t been in my own bed recently and…” Angie became unnerved by Doctor’s H’s note taking. “I’m just a little disorientated, tired, in need of a bath and some home cooking. I’m sure Dusty’s missed her trombone lesson and the gerbils haven’t been fed. There’s some lasagne at home I know will go to waste unless I...” She grew conscious of the damp patches under her armpits. “I apologise if I’m a bit whiffy.”
The doctor peered at her, hmmmed, the ballpoint moving continuously. “What medication are you using at the moment?”
“Er, none, I mean…” Under this scrutiny, Angie found she couldn’t stop talking. “I’m terribly sorry if you feel I have in any way insulted Mr Aranovitch, or the city’s admiration of him.” Angie tried shrugging with what she hoped was nonchalance.
The doctor was still writing, occasionally raising her eyes to look at Angie as if she was developing a rash.
Angie wished she would stop. “I’m sure I’ve...” She was waving her arms again. They were hard to reclaim. “...Totally failed in my duties here, so perhaps we can forget all about him, and...” She made a supreme effort to stop gabbling, took a breath, sat on her hands, and tried to stick to the point. “Look, I can phone the Home and leave the matter between you and them.” She fancied she could hear the blood coursing in the doctor’s veins like ice clinking into a glass. A bird chirruped just out of view and somewhere someone coughed.
“What exactly is your role in what you call this ‘home’?” asked the doctor, finally.
This was terrible. Angie could tell by her emphasis that she thought it was Angie who was the inmate of an institution, not the old man. She tried clawing her nails into the steel of her chair to prove she wasn’t dreaming.
This was noted down.
“Look, I love Mr Aranovitch too.” A vision of Jake intruded into her thoughts. She pushed him away, forcefully. “Deeply, truly, fully and completely.”
The doctor frowned, hummed a slight tune, then enunciated her words carefully. “In my professional opinion, you appear to be suffering from Wernicke’s Aphasia. Is that the same in English?”
“This particular aphasia is named after Dr Wernicke.”
Was this a German bedtime drink?
“The condition is caused by pressure on the temporal lobes of the brain. It gives the compulsion to utter random word sequences.” The doctor put down her pen. “And, what is worse, an unreasonable belief that they make sense. You may find this difficult to follow?”
Angie nodded her head furiously, then decided that was the wrong response, so she shook it just as energetically.
“I think we need to run some tests.”
“I’m perfectly alright, it’s Mr Aranovitch who…” Angie gave up fighting for her ward. “Call my husband, he’s a doctor. Please.” She rummaged for her phone, found it and threw it onto the table. “He’s under T.”
The psychiatrist moved the phone across her desk with her fingertip as if it was a murder weapon and placed it in a plastic bag from the drawer in her desk. Then she smoothed a fresh piece of paper onto her clipboard, snapping down the metal clip with a firmness that rattled the windowpanes, and said:
“Just answer one or two simple questions. Which continent is the Sahara Desert in?”
Really, Angie thought. This is getting ridiculous.
Doctor Henkelschneiffer’s gaze was unrelenting.
“Tell me the name of the late Princess Diana’s mother.”
“What?” Was the doctor mad?
“Do you or do you not know the name of the late Princess Diana’s mother?”
“You mean the stepmother?”
“Answer the question please.”
Angie felt all her resistance drain out of her. “Er, no, not offhand.”
“Offhand.” The doctor noted this down. “Tell me the name of the President of the European Commission.”
Angie racked her brains. Nothing happened. “Oh, dear. Does it begin with a P? No? M? No, no an S. Yes, that must be it.” She could see this dithering proved her horribly in line with the diabolical diagnosis the doctor was pursuing.
“You say you have a husband?”
‘“I’m not just saying I have one. I have one.”
“And what is his middle name?”
“Er…” Ted’s middle name was Wally after his grandfather. Angie stared back at the doctor, and kept her mouth shut. There was no way she was going to give Dr Henkelschneiffer that piece of ammunition.
“He hasn’t got one.”
Dr H pursed her lips, then examined the fingertips of her left hand.