Big Carl had a big plan to unite the divided ED misfits into a sacred mosaic moment.
One day he arrived at the ranch late. Everyone noticed and asked him about it. He said it was a cold or virus, not to worry. He spent longer at lunch with the HR lady, Helen. She looked worried, and Carl looked haggard somehow. He was slower, more labored than usual. The patients grew concerned about his health. If Carl was not well, how could they possibly get better?
First Petey came to Carl. “Mr. Carl, I want you to know that I stopped eating facial tissues and carpet lint.”
“Good Petey. Are you sure you want to do this? Did anyone pressure you to quit?”
“Oh no, Mr. Carl. I just thought about how you are sick and all, and I’m just sort of making up my sickness cause my parents never said no to me. I wanted to show you that you matter more than lint or tissues.”
“Thank you, Petey. No one has ever given me such a mighty compliment. Bless you.”
“Mr. Carl, Bless you.”
The next day Tina asked point blank in group, “Carl, are you ill? Is there something you’re not telling us?”
Instantly Hal’s abandonment issues kicked in. “Mr. Rogers, please don’t leave me. Please!!! I quit donuts for you, man. I’m down 8 pounds, Bro. Don’t go.”
Even Stoic Sandy fell in as the group began to collapse in anticipatory grief. “Oh Carl, I believe in you and I know you believe in me. You have given me inner strength. I’ve been nibbling on licorice at night after lights out. I’ve been dreaming of mashed potatoes and gravy, Carl. I want to eat and get better. Don’t go. I want to change.”
Carl was pleased but not surprised at their protests and assertions of affection. He had seen groups change like this before under his blue-eyed spell. But those groups had always fallen back on their promises. Most dieters fail, after all. His success rate in the past never topped 20%. However, this time Carl Everett was determined to make ED history. He had a secret card hidden up his sleeve. Only Mario, the aide who was hired at the same time as Carl, knew the card and that it was about to be played. Mario had worked in Las Vegas with Carl. They had met in Gamblers Anonymous. Carl, blued-eyed balding hypnotic Carl, had a gambling problem. Mario was a small time card counter. Both men had been flagged by the big casinos’ security staff as cheaters. They were done with casino gambling but not with running a scam.
Together they concocted new identities as mental health workers. Mario handled the fake credentials and Carl did all the talking. Uh, Doctor Carl, that is. Once they got hired at the Zero Tolerance Eating Ranch outside of Phoenix, no one checked references. Mario worked off the radar, collecting personal information and charging thousands of dollars to the patients’ idle credit cards while Carl reassured each of them that they were fine just as they were. In fact, he’d tell them not to change, knowing that these tortured souls would try to do the exact reverse and push themselves to improve. Since telling them not to do what they continued to do had famously failed, Carl figured he’d endorse what the patients were doing and just love them as they were. He gambled that with all this positive regard they would quit their negatives. Score. Jackpot.
He needed two months for Mario to run the credit cards and electronically transfer as much money from them to dummy businesses they had set up in Vegas. Then the great escape was needed. And how great it was.
Carl let it be known on Monday of week seven that he had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and had mere months to live. The group fell deathly quiet and then burst into infant screams of abandonment. He explained that he planned to go home before he went Home to Jesus.
“Did I ever tell you that I’m from Lyme, Connecticut, which is where Lyme’s Disease was first discovered? Yes, my people go back to the whaling boats and New England chowder dinners. Way back before the deer ticks.”
Sobs and keening were the background soundtrack to Carl’s life summary.
“It has been an honor for me to be your companion through these hungry hallways. I’d like to honor the journey with a final supper on Thursday evening. It would be my privilege if each of you could attend and break bread with me for the last time. Mario will be driving me to Connecticut on Friday. It’s for the best.”
Everyone at Rancho Mirago threw down for the blow out Last Supper with Carl. Prime rib and lobster were ordered along with red and white wines, gourmet breads, a nice Greek salad, sweet potatoes and fresh corn wrapped in tortillas with eggplant and a lovely ranch dressing. The nutritionist was ecstatic at this once in a lifetime chance to put out a menu without any consideration of price. It was “an apocalyptic event of immeasurable magnitude”. That’s what the sign said in the day room. Thinking about delicious food got all the patients into a hungry and festive state of mind that they had to hide beneath the grief-driven occasion. And yet, they reasoned, it’s what Carl wants us to do.
When Thursday night came, Sandy danced a lyrical good bye to the sailor dance she recalled from Charlotte’s studio. Petey hugged Carl so tightly that it appeared to be a Heimlich maneuver to those unacquainted with Petey’s odd manners. A noticeably trimmed down Hal sobbed, while Tina prepared to read a farewell speech to Carl. In the end she simply whimpered, “Good bye Blue Eyes”. The room erupted in eating and singing and dancing and institutional partying. Meanwhile Mario went around with a card, making sure that he got everyone’s signatures for future withdrawals on their credit cards.
The next morning they drove south to Mexico, entering under their real names, leaving no trail. The amazing thing was that back at Rancho Mirago all of Carl’s patients remained active eaters and were eventually discharged. A year later U.S. Marshals contacted each of them to inquire what they may have had in common to make them a uniform target for identity theft. The only commonality was the Rancho Mirago Miracle as they called it. No one ever suspected Carl Everett or Mario Vincenti, who never had existed beyond Rancho Mirago.
However, two years later at St. Thelma Agnes Hospital in Butte, Montana a tall Dr. Richard Ficklestein and a mental health aide named Ralph Mudgio were hired on the same day in the Eating Disorders In-Patient wing.