Spin Doctor

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-01-04
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Question: What do Amy, the new mom; Meriel, the West-Indian housekeeper; Claude and Naomi, the alternative couple; Faith, the elegant widow; and Talia, the super-skinny ballerina have in common? Answer: Abso-freakin'-lutely-nothing! Except that they all live lives of not-so-quiet desperation on the Upper West Side of New York City. What gets them through? Their unusual therapy sessions with supershrink Susan Lederer, held in the depths of the laundry room. Susan knows that all of life's problems eventually come out in the wash, but while the washers keep breaking down, she helps her female friends take control. But Susan's life has become an agitated mess. Her teenage daughter seems destined for a fast-food future; her son's adolescence hasn't quite hit yet . . . and her perfect husband is hiding something. Susan could use a really good shrink. Instead, her dirty linen exposed, she finds that it's her friends who rally 'round her, and by the final spin, she realizes that while it might not take a whole village, it does sometimes take a laundry room to get rid of the nastier wrinkles in life. Now if only she could find the formula for getting rid of that ring around the collar.


Spin Doctor

Chapter One

Me, Susan

My husband Eli didn't get home until two A.M. He never bothered to call, and only muttered something -- just before he crawled into bed without showering -- about a deadline. He writes graphic novels: comic books for adults. I suppose his deadline was more important than our nineteenth wedding anniversary. And if it did finally dawn on him, No biggie, I'm sure he figured, after all, it's not like it's thetwentieth. I stopped sticking "countdown to our anni" post-notes on the bathroom mirror years ago, because Eli said they were an insult to our love. He didn't need the tacky reminders, he insisted. How could he forget the annual celebration of the happiest day of his life? And until last night, I have to admit that was true . . . although I have a sneaking suspicion that the placement of the post-notes earlier in our marriage acted as a positive reinforcement.

Yuck! The dog must have peed on our new sisal. God damnit! I stepped in the acrid puddle on the way to brush my teeth because I was bleary-eyed, having had only four hours of sleep, since I was worried sick about Eli until I heard his key in the door. I think he's become incontinent. The dog, not Eli. Eli's just somewhat immature. That might explain why he's still into comic books. Can a man be in his second childhood at age forty-five? I should know the answer to this: I'm a psychotherapist. I guess it's time to brush up on arrested development.

Our sixteen-year-old daughter Molly came home yesterday with a piercing in what I hope she still considers an obscure location. I regard myself as a fairly liberal mom, but I can only hope that the technician, or whatever they call them, was a woman. Is there such a thing as statutory piercing? Ian, our son, is my only hope for normalcy in this family, although I'm not sure that an eleven-year-old boy who already has a thriving career in musical theatre falls into what the red states would define as "normal." So, thank God, we live in New York City, where his jaded classmates are more jealous than weirded out when he gets to leave school early on Wednesdays to sing and dance on Broadway.

Our apartment is an unholy mess because everyone, including the dog, thinks it's someone else's job to pick up after them and I've always refused to become their full-time cleaning lady. The dog's the only one who's actually got a valid argument. My entire day is devoted to helping other people sort out their messy lives; when I get home, spent and exhausted from internalizing and absorbing the neuroses of a dozen different clients, the last thing I want to do is housekeeping! Gee, it sure would be swell to be able to kick back, have someone else fix dinner, and watch a couple of hours of mindless crap on TV while my children happily do their homework on their own. Is a bit of nurturing for the professional nurturer too much to ask? Complete disavowal of responsibility for a few hours every evening? Bliss! But I am definitely in denial for even entertaining the remotest possibility that this fantasy will ever come true.

It's now six A.M. In an hour it will be time to descend to our building's laundry room to begin the pro bono segment of my workday, helping my clients face, and hopefully resolve, their emotional crises. Believe me, I appreciate the irony.


"I slept on Ben's side of the bed last night!"

"Whoa, sister!" This was quite a revelation coming from my seven A.M. appointment, the usually reticent Faith Nesbit. She's been one of my laundry room clients for a few years now, and it's been an arduous uphill climb to get her to finally become comfortable discussing her most deeply personal and intimate details. There were times when I felt like I'd earned my Ph.D. all over again. And after all that, Faith still shies away from bringing up anything that bears even the slightest whiff of S-E-X.

"At the risk of invoking the biggest cliché in shrinkdom, how did that make you feel?" Clichés aside, it was the question I needed to ask, as Faith exhibits a classic, virtually stereotypical WASP tendency to talk around her emotions, rather than about them.

Faith was perched on the edge of the couch as though she might take flight at any moment and soar clear through the gap in the ventilation screen behind the washers, while I cleaned out the lint traps, dumping their individual contents into a ratty white plastic bag. "I'm listening to you, Faith," I assured her. "I just want to get this done before everybody starts coming down here." Even during these early morning sessions -- which a California colleague of mine refers to as "kinda therapy," meaning the variation commonly offered to acquaintances, friends, and relatives, as opposed to the more conventional variety conducted with those who are official patients -- I find myself cleaning up other people's messes in more ways than one.

"You really don't need to go to all that fuss and bother with the lint traps, Susan," Faith chided, her patrician cadences still reminiscent of her Back Bay upbringing, even though she's lived in New York City for decades. "It's Stevo's responsibility." Stevo Badescu is our building's superintendent, and is notorious for slacking off whenever possible. "Whenever you need the man, he's positively nowhere to be found. It must be the Gypsy in him," she continued, as tart as a freshly harvested cranberry.

"I've been living in this building for forty-nine years, you realize, almost a decade before you were born! Ben and I moved in right after we were married in September of 1957 -- it was our first and only apartment -- and I would swear on my mother's Bible that the supers have gotten steadily lazier over the years." Faith studied her . . .

Spin Doctor. Copyright © by Leslie Carroll. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Spin Doctor by Leslie Carroll
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