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The Secret Life of Laird Barron - F. Brett Cox — LiveJournal

Mar. 16th, 2011

02:45 pm - The Secret Life of Laird Barron

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[Yes, I know it's been forever since I've posted. But this is a special occasion. Some of the language below is taken from public-access mental health documents.]


Promote best practices in a compassionate environment

“Do you understand why it was wrong for you to eat Dr. Simon’s brains?” Barron asked.

“I…was…hungry,” the zombie replied.

“I know you’re always hungry. But we have to behave in ways that are appropriate.”


Barron sighed, tried to remember his training—what there had been of it. “Violence in any form hurts the community and adds to life crisis.”

“Good…brains?” The zombie chewed what was left of its right index fingernail. The entire tip of the finger came off with a wet crunching sound. The zombie chewed momentarily and then spit the fingertip on the floor.

Provide non-coercive, collaborative treatment that neutralizes power and control

After the virus had come and gone and the worst of it was over, there were still all those zombies to deal with. In some parts of the country they just wiped the slate clean—a tire iron to the head did just fine—but in Washington state there was an officially sanctioned desire to help the former living if possible, to see them as victims, too. But there was only so much funding available, especially given the cost of repairing Seattle. Crisis and counseling centers were established, but they weren’t very big. Counselors were recruited, but their training was minimal. Keep them from eating the living, and help them cope. But mostly, keep them from eating the living.

Create a healing environment that promotes patient involvement

“How do you feel when you kill somebody?”


“Do you remember what it was like to feel? Try to remember.”


“Good or bad. Try bad. Remember what bad felt like?”


“You don’t really want to make someone else feel like that, do you?”


Barron looked at the thing that used to be human sitting in front of him, closed his notebook, leaned forward, grateful for the ointment under his nose that fought off the smell. “Good. Let’s go with that. Let’s see what we can do, you and me, to make it not bad always.”


People’s strengths emerge when you believe in them

They recruited Barron because someone in charge had read one of his books and thought that he might understand. Someone else had a file that contained Barron’s actual history, and that sealed the deal. He hadn’t really wanted to do it, but the corpses that littered the landscape from coast to coast had, funnily enough, diminished the already-tenuous market for horror fiction of the highest literary quality. There wasn’t a lot of money, but there was enough. And his reluctance did not offset the fact that he wanted to help. Of course he wanted to help. Those poor dead bastards.

Social norms are the most useful source of power

Barron sat in a circle with six zombies. “Melinda, how has the week been for you?”


“Can you tell me something you did in the past week to make our community a safe place?”


“Great! Very good, Melinda. We’re all proud of you. Now, Jerry, what about you? Can you tell me something you did in the past week to make—”


Barron sighed. “OK, Jerry, we’ll come back to you. Now, Kim…”

Violence is not an acceptable behavior in this community.

The day Melinda walked down a street without lunging at anyone, Barron almost wept with pride, a feeling that was only slightly diminished when she paused to gnaw on a cat. Baby steps. One foot in front of the other.

Everyone shares in the responsibility of community safety. If we follow these basic beliefs, respect one another, and treat others as we wish to be treated, then we may begin to heal.