After a few sessions, Dr. Frucht elicits descriptions of Nat's recurring childhood dreams and the fact that he never knew his biological parents. In the lobby, when Nat bumps into the lovely Dr. Gertrude Trampleasure, an empathologist, she tells him how much he resembles her old teenage sweetheart, Buddy Keebler: "You two could be twins!" With the assistance of a private eye, Nat embarks on a quest to search for this "twin" and his unknown past, while continuing to work on his biblical novel, NNNNN.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Carl Reiner
Simon & SchusterCopyright © 2006 Carl Reiner
All right reserved.
AM EPM AGP
(an eon ago)
"My dear brother, I cannot believe what thou art telling me."
"I did see her!"
"Art thou certain it was not our mother thou didst see?"
"It was not our mother!"
"But thou hath said that she had the look of Mama."
"In that she had large breasts and no penis or testicles."
"Thou hath described Mama."
"No, she hath skin darker than Mama's."
"Cain, thou dost not wish to lie with Mama, dost thou?"
"I do not, Abel!"
"Dada said thou must -- if thou art to multiply."
"Then I choose not to multiply."
"Cain, where didst thou see this creature?"
"On the other side of the steep hill, lapping water from a stream."
"Cain, we are forbidden to leave our garden. Why hath thou disobeyed Dada?"
"To find what lies outside of Eden. And there I did see her. I thought it was Mama and that she had been rolling in mud."
"Mama enjoys to roll in mud -- "
"But when I called 'Mama,' she ran off on legs that were thinner and longer than are Mama's. It was the dark woman!"
"It was Mama!"
"Abel, my penis erected! That hath ne'er happened whilst looking at Mama! This morning she drank again from the stream -- and, in thesunlight, I could see no mud on her dark skin."
"Cain," Abel scolded, "there are but four humans in the world -- and they are all of one color! That is a known fact, a universal truth!"
"And now, Abel, with my new-known fact, we have a new universal truth! There are more than four humans in the world and, the dark woman did say, many more than four."
"And, Cain," Abel scoffed, "how many more does this dark creature, who does not exist, say there are in the world?"
"Nineteen? I know of no such word."
"Nor did I -- until she showed me nineteen!" Cain said, opening his hand to show many shiny black stones. "See," Cain explained, placing four stones on the ground, "this is how many humans are in our Garden, and here" -- Cain placed the remaining agates in Abel's hand -- "is how many more there are in the world."
"I see stones," Abel said. "I do not see humans."
"Thou art pigheaded," Cain roared. "Canst thou not accept that one of the stones in thy hand represents one human?"
"I could, if there were a human to be represented by it."
"There is!" Cain shouted, grabbing a stone from his brother's hand. "This is that human woman and I did see her!"
"Does this stone," Abel said, smirking, "have a name?"
"I know it not, but I will learn it," Cain said, caressing the stone, "and I will find her!"
"Thou hath seen no person," Abel argued. "You dreamed her!"
"Did I dream these?" Cain shouted, displaying the stones.
"Thou didst gather them while asleep. I have seen thee walk, talk, and pee in thy sleep! Cain, did thou inform Dada of this dark woman?"
"No, Dada thinks that there are but four of us in the world."
"Dada does not think!" Abel shouted. "Dada knows!"
"Does Dada know from whence we came?"
"From Mama's vagina. Dada told thee."
"Abel, I know not because Dada told me but because I didst see thee come out of Mama -- but from whence did Mama come?"
"From Dada's rib," Abel insisted. "Dada hath told us many times."
"And I do not believe it, because I did not see Mama come from Dada's rib."
"So, from whence dost thou think Mama came?"
"I do not know -- and didst thou not wonder who made Dada?"
"No, Cain. Dada made himself from his own rib -- Dada is a self-made man -- he hath told thee that."
"Did Dada tell thee how he did arrive in the Garden?"
Abel smirked again. "Cain, Dada did not have to arrive in the Garden, for Dada was already here!"
Cain sighed and ran off toward the hill.
"Cain, where goest thou?"
"To find her and ask her name," Cain shouted, holding the stone aloft, "and to ask if she will lie with me!"
"She doth not exist, Cain, she is but a dream -- "
"Yes, a dream, and she doth exist!" Cain shouted, his voice trailing as he fled the Garden of Eden. "She exiiiiists -- she exiiiiiistttttssss!!"
"That is page four," Nat Noland mumbled as he checked the page count on his computer screen. "Good start," he said, smiling. "Twenty more and we can title this baby!" Experience told Nat that if he wrote twenty-four acceptable pages, a full novel would follow.
N (for "novel") had been the working title of his first novel, NN his second, and this being his fifth, Nat typed NNNNN into the computer. Being borderline superstitious, and aware that his first published novel, Normal, started with an N and had been a minor success, he decided that all of his titles would contain a word that began with an N.
"You know something, Nat my boy," he told himself, looking at the five N's atop the page, "NNNNN could be the title."
"Yeah, it has an element of mystery," Nat agreed, "like M, that classic German film by Fritz Lang!"
"With Peter Lorre," Nat added excitedly. "One of the all-time great titles -- that single letter M was intriguing."
"Five N's would be five times as intriguing," Nat said. "Could I justify using all five?"
"Five N's?" Nat whined. "I don't think so."
"How about No, No, No, No, Nanette!"
"That was the title of a musical, schmucko!"
"That was No No Nanette!" Nat joked. "This has three more 'nos' -- and don't call me schmucko!"
"Hey, about this book," he said, grimacing. "Do I really want to do my version of Genesis?"
"That was the idea."
"A little blasphemous, don't you think?"
"A little blasphemy is good -- it's provocative -- and provocative sells!"
"Nat, darling," said a soft soprano voice wafting down the stairwell, "you're talking to yourself again."
"Oh, damn! Really?"
"Really, and rather loudly," Glennie answered, balancing a mug on a small tray. "Weren't you aware of it?"
"I'm not sure -- I think I was. Shit no, I wasn't! Glennie, could you hear what I was saying?"
"Something about blasphemy," she said, making her way down the stairs, "and you told yourself not to call you schmucko."
"I'm sorry, darling," she said, setting the tray down, "but you did want me to tell you when you're having these conversations."
"Yes, yes! Damn! I thought I was thinking those things. Glennie, I'm getting to be a weirdo."
"Darling, lots of people talk to themselves."
"Yeah, and whenever I see one, I say to myself, 'There goes a weirdo!' I hope I'm saying it to myself. Did you ever hear me say that?"
"Never! Drink your Postum, darling -- while it's hot!"
"You know," Nat announced, picking up the oversize mug, "a lot of people think I'm weird for drinking Postum."
"I drink it."
"Yeah, but you don't talk to yourself," he said, sipping from his mug. "I am definitely a weirdo -- I'm even writing weirdly."
"How is your novel coming, darling?" she asked brightly, hoping to buoy his spirits.
"It's not," he said, taking two short sips.
"It's coming, but I'm not sure it's a novel!"
"What is it, then?"
"I don't know, but whatever it is, it's flying out of me. I know one thing, though: It's going to disappoint my publisher and the people he likes to call my 'loyal readers.'"
"Nat, would you like me to read it?"
"No, it's only four pages -- and I don't need you to be disappointed too."
"I have a feeling I won't be, but if you think -- "
"I do! It's like nothing I've ever written -- the subject, the style -- the font -- "
"Yeah, instead of Times New Roman, I'm using Monotype Corsiva. Never used that before -- crazy, huh?"
"Monotype Corsiva? No, that's wonderful, darling!" Glennie gushed, clueless as to what Monotype Corsiva looked like. "You have been grousing about repeating yourself."
"No, Glennie, it was the critics who were grousing about that."
"But you didn't disagree."
"No, I didn't. Hey, Glennie, those times when I talk to myself," he asked worriedly, "do I always answer myself?"
"Very often, and lately, sweetheart -- you've been using a different voice."
"How's it different?"
"Well, it's deeper and kind of whiny."
"Really? Hmm, deep-voiced men usually don't whine."
"Well, your guy does. The first time I heard that voice was at my brother's birthday party. You were in the powder room arguing, and I thought there was someone with you. I knocked and asked if you were alone, and you said, 'I am never alone.' Do you remember that?"
Nat's face darkened. He repeated the line as he stirred his Postum and stared at the coffee-colored vortex. "Yes, Glennie," he said, nodding, "I do remember."
"What did you mean, 'I am never alone'?"
"I don't know -- what did you think I meant?"
"I thought you'd found a clever way to tell me not to pester you."
"No, that's not it," he said, closing his eyes and mouthing the words. "I am never alone -- "
"Are you all right, darling?" Glennie asked softly.
"No, I am definitely not all right."
"Is there something I can do?"
"There might be" -- he sighed and looked at her beseechingly -- "if you can remember that young doctor's name -- the one your friend Jane was rhapsodizing about at dinner last month."
"Oh, yes," Glennie said, pleased at his interest, "a reputedly brilliant Viennese psychoanalyst."
"Yes -- had a strange name," Nat offered, "like -- uh, Dr. Fruit!"
"I think Jane said Dr. Frucht."
"Frucht! That's right! Frucht in German means 'fruit,'" Nat added excitedly. "How do I get in touch with him?"
"Well, I jotted down his name -- in case. Uh, darling, are you thinking about making an appointment with this psychiatrist?" she asked innocently.
"Glennie, are you worried about a shrink tampering with the psyche of someone you once described as -- my perfect husband?"
"A bit," she lied.
"But if he finds a way to make me more perfect, you wouldn't object?"
"Not for a moment, dear."
Copyright 2006 by Clear Productions, Inc. f/s/o Carl Reiner
from Chapter 2
"If this Dr. Frucht is such a hotshot," Nat asked himself impatiently, waiting for the light to change, "how come he answers his own phone?"
"Because psychiatrists don't have secretaries," he offered. "I think to guard against a breach of confidentiality."
"Well, why was it so easy to get an appointment?" Nat shot back. "Do you really believe that his two o'clock patient canceled to give birth?"
"I do. Why would he make that up?"
The moment the light turned green, Nat stepped on the accelerator and swerved sharply to avoid hitting a car that had darted in front of him.
"Hey, asshole!" Nat shouted. "You don't turn left from the right lane!"
"Whoa, he's an eighty-year-old asshole," Nat calmly pointed out. "Forty years from now, that could be you!"
"They should revoke his license!" he whined, gunning the motor.
"Hey, are you trying to kill me?"
"Do you want to drive?" Nat lifted his hands from the wheel.
"I had better," he snapped, grabbing the wheel, "if you're serious about seeing the great Dr. Frucht."
Stopping at another red light, Nat wondered if he had been giving voice to his thoughts. He flipped down the visor to check his image in the mirror.
"If this Dr. Frucht is so great, why is his office in Tarzana and not Beverly Hills?"
Nat was upset to see his lips moving and hear words coming from them.
Dr. Frucht had set up shop in a new three-story commercial building. The sparse listing in the lobby directory suggested that suites were available.
Nat Noland never passed up an opportunity to check lobby directories for unusual names. Nadesjda, the heroine of his best-reviewed novel, was a name he had cadged from a doctor of internal medicine, Nadesjda Shlocht. To avoid a lawsuit, he had changed Nadesjda's last name to Smythe. Nat happily noted that this directory sported an unusually high percentage of exotic names. Besides Dr. Frederich Frucht, there was a Dr. Phillip A. Druul, Orthodontist, and an R. G. Neparia, Physical Therapist.
"Neparia," he mumbled, jotting it in his notepad. "That's a keeper."
"And how about this one: Dr. Jertrude Trampleasure, Ph.D.?"
"Hmm, Jertrude, with a j -- definitely worth noting," Nat said, scribbling "Jertrude" on his pad.
"How about Trampleasure?" he asked himself.
"No -- name sounds made up."
"Sir, I think you will find that all names are made up!" a vigorous, British-accented female voice instructed. "Trampleasure was made up in the eleventh century by one of my paternal forebears."
Nat turned and faced a smiling, uncommonly attractive redheaded woman.
"Oh, I am so sorry," he sputtered. "I didn't realize that I was -- uh -- "
"Talking to yourself?" Dr. Trampleasure asked good-naturedly.
"Well, yes. I do apologize. I love unusual names, and both of yours are that."
"Well, I grant that there are not many Trampleasures in this country," she said, pushing the elevator button, "but you do have your fair share of Gertrudes."
"You pronounce it Gertrude, with a hard g?"
"Yes, don't you?" she asked, amused.
"Well, I would say Jertrude, with a soft g -- as in George."
"And why would you?"
"Because" -- he shrugged, pointing to the directory -- "you spell it with a j."
"I do not!" the doctor insisted, checking the directory. "But obviously the keeper of the directory does. Heads will roll!" She laughed. "How stupid of me. I've been a tenant for two days now, and I hadn't thought to check. Thank you for bringing it to my attention."
"You're welcome, Dr. Trampleasure. I guess talking to oneself out loud has its positive aspects."
As they rode up in the elevator, Nat introduced himself and explained why he collected interesting names. Dr. Trampleasure allowed that she might enjoy reading about a heroine named Jertrude if her last name weren't Trampleasure.
Nat and the doctor alighted at the same floor and found themselves going down the corridor together and stopping at offices that were directly across the hall from each other. As she unlocked her door, she turned and stared at Nat.
"Mr. Noland, have we ever met before?"
"I doubt it," he said. "I would remember you -- and your name!"
"I'm sure you're right," she said, "but I have this strange feeling that I know you from somewhere -- but no matter -- lovely to have met you."
Nat waited for her to enter her office before mumbling, "Now, that is one charming woman."
"With beautiful teeth," he agreed.
"And a Ph.D."
"And she thinks she knows me. Maybe I should go see her."
"First let's see what Dr. Frucht has to offer."
"Except for what Janie Wells told us," Nat said, entering the dimly lit waiting room, "what do I know about this guy?"
"Well, I know that he probably has no obese patients," he mumbled as he sat down on a fragile-looking cherrywood settee. "Hmm, National Geographic," Nat said, glancing at the magazine rack, "gave me my first look at bare breasts."
"The first long look," he argued, unaware that Dr. Frucht had emerged from his office. "You saw cousin Deeana's tits first."
"Right. At the beach house," Nat concurred, "and Mom got mad when she heard me comparing the size of Deeana's tits to Lenny's sister's."
On hearing two deliberately enunciated "ahems," Nat stopped reminiscing.
"I am Dr. Frucht," the doctor announced, rolling the r in Frucht, "and you are Mr. Nat Noland?"
"Yes, I have an appointment," Nat offered gratuitously. "I -- I was talking to myself, wasn't I?"
"I believe you were," the doctor answered. "Please come in."
"What did you hear?" Nat asked, entering the office.
"A discussion about tits -- comparing the size of your cousin Dinah's and -- "
"Deeana's," Nat corrected.
"Yes, Deeana," the doctor said with a nod, shutting the door. "Please to have a seat."
The chair facing the doctor's desk was as flimsy as the waiting-room settee. A more substantial-looking wicker couch was available, but Nat ruled it out.
No sir, he thought, I'm not ready to lie down and spill my guts out to this Freudian-bearded shrimp.
Dr. Frucht was a small, neat man with a narrow face and a full head of downy mouse-colored hair.
The man looks like a kiwi, Nat thought. How can I trust someone whose name means fruit and who looks like a fruit?
Checking the decor, Nat divined that Dr. Frucht was partial to brown. His desk, suit, tie, and the Rembrandt print he had behind his desk were all shades of brown that blended beautifully with the textured wallpaper. Nat watched with interest as the doctor picked up a pitcher of water and filled two stemmed glasses.
The man is gay! he thought.
"What are you thinking, Mr. Noland?"
"That you were gay -- ing to," Nat blurted out, "go -- ing to offer me water."
"Yes, would you like some?" He offered Nat a glass.
"Thank you," Nat said, gulping down the entire four ounces, hoping that his faux pas had gone unnoticed.
If he's any kind of analyst, Nat thought, he had to have caught my attempt to cover up "gay-ing" with "go-ing."
"Let me refill that for you," the doctor said, taking Nat's glass. "These do not hold much. I ordered some ten-ounce tumblers that should be delivered today. By the way, I am not gay."
"Huh?" Nat asked, his glass poised at his lips.
"You were wondering if I was gay, weren't you?" The doctor handed back the refilled glass.
"Was I?" Nat said, gulping water.
Sonovabitch, Nat thought, the man is perceptive.
"You asked me if I was gay-ing to offer you water," the doctor explained good-naturedly.
"Yes, I did. I'm sorry, Doctor -- "
"Don't give it a thought. Most people assume I am homosexual."
"Is that right? Well," Nat added quickly, "it doesn't matter to me."
"It would not matter to you if I were gay?"
"Not at all," Nat said forcefully. "I have quite a few gay friends -- really good friends -- really gay ones. Do you know Carson Lamply? You probably don't -- he was my lit professor in college and a great influence on me -- and he was a homosexual -- still is -- we keep in touch -- not as often as either of us would like but we do keep in touch -- Christmas cards -- never missed a year -- "
Nat was aware that he was rambling but could not stop.
"I send him all my novels and Carson sends me his essays and anything he thinks would interest me. Whoa, Nattie boy," he admonished himself, "you are going on a bit too long about a subject you say you're comfortable with. Pretty significant, huh, Doctor?"
"It may be," Dr. Frucht responded. "So, tell me, Mr. Noland, what brings you to my office?"
"Well, this is going to sound a little crazy to you -- or maybe not -- I'm sure you've heard crazier. Say, Doctor, without giving names, what's the craziest reason a patient had for coming to see you? Whatever it is, I'll bet mine takes the cake."
"Mr. Noland," the doctor asked patiently, "why are you here?"
"You heard why -- in your waiting room -- I talk to myself."
"Many people talk to themselves."
"But I have long conversations -- and my wife says that lately I've been talking more often -- and louder. What troubles both of us is that I'm not aware that I am."
"You are not aware," Dr. Frucht asked, his eyebrows subtly arching, "that you are talking aloud?"
"That's right, Doctor! I take the cake, don't I?"
"Do you ever know when you are talking to yourself?"
"I guess not. In your waiting room, when you interrupted my conversation with your aheming, I had no idea. Pretty crazy, eh?"
The doctor delivered a generic "hmm," closed his eyes, and tilted his head back.
Now, that's pretty crazy, Nat thought. He's staring at the ceiling through closed eyelids.
Dr. Frucht remained silent and motionless for what seemed to Nat much longer than the ten seconds it was. The silence was broken by two voices speaking simultaneously. Nat asked, "Should I tell you a little about myself?" and the doctor said, "Why don't you tell me about yourself."
Their answers overlapped, Nat saying "Okay," the doctor saying "Yes, tell me about yourself."
Nat Noland took a deep breath and, for thirty-five minutes, described his childhood in some detail, insisting that "it was a relatively happy one."
Dr. Frucht listened attentively until ten minutes before the session was scheduled to end, when he leaned forward and uttered an enunciated "a-hem," signaling Nat to stop talking. A frustrated Nat could not stop. He had just begun to recount how, in high school, his heart had been permanently damaged by the breathtakingly beautiful Helen Melonsky.
"The jocks referred to her as Helen Melons," Nat rattled on. "Every guy in the school was in love with her -- she didn't know I existed -- it wasn't until my junior year that I got up the courage to speak to her -- we were in study hall -- "
"I do want to hear about Helen Melonsky," Dr. Frucht interrupted, "but for today, it would be helpful if you clarify something for me. You said that you were relatively happy as a child. What did you mean by 'relatively'?"
"Well, I did have a baby sister, but only for a few weeks. It was that sudden death thing -- I was about a year and a half at the time and I don't remember her at all. I think her name was Nellie -- did I tell you that she was also adopted?"
"Also, Mr. Noland? You were adopted?"
"Oh, yes. I mentioned that, didn't I?"
Dr. Frucht shook his head.
"Oh, I thought I did when I spoke of my parents -- are you sure I didn't mention -- "
"I am sure that you did not."
"Well," Nat continued animatedly, "they're wonderful people. Jed and Bertha Noland. I couldn't have asked for better parents. I know psychiatrists expect patients to badmouth their parents, but try as you may, Doctor, you won't get me to say a negative thing about either one of them. I love my folks and they love me -- at least that's what we keep telling each other." Nat laughed. "Is that something I should worry about?"
Dr. Frucht was about to speak when a small red light atop his desk started to blink. The doctor clicked it off, smiled benignly, and informed Nat that the session was over.
"Why did I say yes so fast when he suggested that we meet again next week?" Nat asked himself as he slid his credit card into the self-service gas pump.
"Because Dr. Frucht was on the verge of saying something significant when we ran out of time."
"Which we wouldn't have if you hadn't used so much of it talking about your gay friend Carson Lamply."
"I didn't want him to think I'm homophobic -- should I cancel next week's appointment?"
"Let's think about it."
As he filled his gas tank, Nat thought about the doctor and how intently he had listened when Nat spoke of his dead adopted sibling.
"I was sure I told him that I was adopted."
"I know you didn't," he shot back, "because I was about to mention it but I interrupted myself by telling him how some nights I drive Glennie crazy by insisting that we sleep on each other's side of the bed."
"Did you notice how his eyes popped open when you said how you enjoyed bedside swapping with your wife?"
"Yes, and did you notice how perfectly his eyes matched his necktie?"
"He's weird," Nat concluded, "but so am I -- maybe we can help each other."
That evening, after Nat decided he wasn't hungry, he soaked silently for the better part of an hour in the hot bath that Glennie had drawn for him. At one point, in an effort to lighten her husband's mood, she brought in the half bottle of merlot that was left over from Saturday night's dinner. Glennie took some good-natured abuse from friends for her boorish practice of refrigerating leftover red wine and then drinking it instead of using it for cooking. She emptied the chilled merlot into two glasses, giving Nat the lion's share. When asked why the uneven distribution, she quipped, "Darling, you're drinking for two."As the words left her mouth, she regretted them. She had never before been flippant about his problem.
"I'm sorry, Nat, that was mean of me."
"Yes," he agreed, "but it was funny-mean, not mean-mean."
Nat met her further attempts to apologize with assurances that he was not angry and did love and appreciate her. He picked up his glass, toasted their marriage, and announced that he was going to work on his novel.
"I'm guessing, darling, that you don't want to talk about your meeting with Dr. Frucht."
"I will when I figure out what the meeting was about," he said, rising from the tub, pulling on his terry cloth robe, and striding resolutely to his office.
He fired up his computer, put on his glasses, and quickly scanned the pages.
"Whaddya think?" he asked.
"Well, Nattie, in four pages we've got a good mix of incest and blasphemy -- and it's all in questionable taste."
"So far, so good!"
"Should we continue writing or get something to eat?"
"Both. I'll write and you go make sandwiches."
"Deal!" Nat said, getting up and starting for the stairs. When he looked back, he was upset to see no one at the computer.
"Well, do we have any doubts about keeping my next appointment with Dr. Fruit?" he asked.
"No, you have just dispelled them!" he agreed, returning to his desk and clicking on the intercom.
"Glennie, sweetie," Nat sang, "would you be a doll and whip up one of your award-winning melted cheese sandwiches?"
Glennie winced when she heard Nat's whiny voice add, "Could you make that two?"
He speaks with two voices, she reasoned, but he eats for one.
Glennie made one sandwich and held it hostage until Nat promised to make regular appointments with his psychiatrist.
Nat reached for the sandwich that Glennie left on his desk but stopped to check something he had written on his notepad.
"Hey, how about we name the dark woman Neparia?"
"Neparia, hmm, not too bad. Does it sound biblical?"
"Biblical enough! And it starts with an n!"
"How does Cain learn her name is Neparia?"
"I got an idea. Start typing!"
Copyright 2006 by Clear Productions, Inc. f/s/o Carl Reiner
Excerpted from NNNNN by Carl Reiner Copyright © 2006 by Carl Reiner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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