The Good Doctor

 

PhotoFunia-f24ee9f_o“Excuse me one moment.”

“But I–,” began the patient.

“One moment.”

The doctor pushed a button. Spoke into a speaker.

Came the voice: “Yes, doctor?”

“Grace, have we a large rag or sponge?”

A brief pause. “No, doctor. No rag or sponge.”

“Grace, begin a list. Item one: large rag or sponge.”

“Yes, doctor.”

The doctor released the button, thought.

Then: “Say the word once more.”

The patient shifted in the chair, said the word.

“Good to hear you say it. Finally.” The doctor’s fingers removed thick black glasses from the doctor’s nose, put one gnarled black earpiece into the doctor’s mouth. Teeth clamped, the doctor said, “Are you ready?”

The patient blinked. “Pardon me?”

The doctor’s head shook no.

Between the doctor and the patient fell a shaft of sunlight.

The doctor gnarled his glasses. The patient wrung his hands.

“Have you ever wanted to be someone else?”

The patient squirmed. The chair squeaked. “What do you mean?”

The doctor sighed. The hand holding the glasses fell to the doctor’s lap. Spittle dripped from the doctor’s gnarled earpiece onto the doctor’s notepad. “I mean what I said.”

The patient swallowed, blinked. “Yes.”

“Well…?”

“Luke Skywalker,” said the patient. “When I was seven, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker.”

The doctor licked his lips, furrowed his brow, nodded. “If you’d any sense, you would have wanted to be Solo.”

The doctor held down the button on his speaker phone. “Grace, have we some plastic bags?”

“No, doctor,” came the response. “No plastic bags.”

“Item two, Grace.”

“Yes, doctor.”

The doctor released the button.

The patient gulped and said, “Doctor–”

The doctor’s eyes snapped up, and pushed the patient deeper into his chair.

The patient choked back a cough and said, “What did you mean, just then?”

The doctor put his glasses back on his nose. The learned head cocked back, the nose went up. The eyes squinted, and sighted down the nose. “What did what mean?”

“You said, ‘it would be best.'”

The doctor’s eyes rolled in their sockets. “I meant what I said.”

Fingers to glasses, earpiece to mouth, teeth to gnarling. The doctor turned a pencil upside down and erased on the notepad. “Can you do it yourself? Or do you require help?”

The patient blinked. “I don’t understand.”

The doctor’s head shook no. “You misunderstand. You waste my time. Are you paid?”

The patient blinked, swallowed, was silent.

The doctor pushed a button. “Grace, the status of the gentleman’s account?”

“Paid but for today, doctor.”

The doctor considered this. “Acceptable loss.” The doctor studied the patient. “Grace, go to lunch. Take the list. Add to it: one bucket.”

“Yes, doctor.”

A moment passed. Footsteps approached the door. A click sounded from the latch. The patient’s head whirled towards the door. Footsteps receded as Grace left for lunch with the list. The patient gasped, twitched, rose. “Doctor, I must–”

“Quiet.”

The patient froze, not sitting, not yet standing.

The doctor erased on the notepad again. “This will be our last session.”

The patient stood fully, his head in the shaft of light.

“Now you understand,” the doctor said. “I see it in those eyes.”

The patient turned, went for the door, rattled the knob. Clenched his teeth. The patient rattled the knob again, blinked again, put hand to mouth. The patient beat the door with a fist.

The doctor rose, walked through the shaft of sunlight, swirling the dust within. The doctor drew the window curtain, snuffing out the light. The doctor circled the desk.

On the desk, a lamp.

The doctor unplugged the lamp, removed the shade and tossed it aside. The doctor wound the cord around the lamp. The doctor’s palm closed around the thin part at the bottom.

The patient slammed his back up against the door. “No,” he whispered.

“Not yet,” the doctor agreed. “Tell me again about those eyes.”

The patient squeezed his eyes shut. “I hate them.”

“Yes,” the doctor said, facing the patient. “Now comes the part where I say you should not. Or they are not so bad. Or they can be fixed.” The doctor paused. “But I cannot.” The doctor removed the thick black glasses, tossed them on the desk. “Tell me about that brain.”

The patient made the sounds of someone fighting to not cry.

The doctor stepped closer. “How old were you, the first time?”

The patient burst into tears, tried to say fifteen.

“Sad. To think of how you polluted it, very sad. Do you know what I am reminded of?”

The patient, crying, said enough. Said do it.

“Shall we talk about that night again? What you woke to the next day? The humiliation?”

The patient, heaving, cried out god just do it. Sank to the floor.

“And what did you learn?”

The patient shook his head and wept.

“Now you are ready–,” the doctor raised the lamp, brought it down against the patient’s the face, “–for the cure.”

The patient spilled across the floor, bleeding where the bulb broke. The doctor towered above, lamp shouldered, blood on the lamp.

“About that word, suicide–,” the doctor turned the patient’s head with his foot, “–there are two questions. First, should you do it. Second, can you do it.” The doctor placed a shoe on the patient’s throat. “For you? Yes to the first.”  The lamp shattered the patient’s jaw. “No to the second.”

The patient moaned. The lamp fell.

“I have fixed the problem with your eyes. I will chase away the scar where the bandage was. I will fix your teeth as well, for I simply do not like them.”

After lunch, Grace returned with the items on the list.

24 thoughts on “The Good Doctor

  1. Is your day job intense, yet boring like mine? My mind is on poetry all day as I bag yeast and sell laxative teas. I am curious where yours strays, your writing so eclectic Poe-ish. Cheers.

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    • Thanks, yes, he’s not a nice fellow. This is a piece of longer story called Thinning the Herd. He aims to weed out the weak, preying on the slow and infirm, which to him is how the natural world does and should work. He thinks coddling those who are unfit to survive only makes things worse. The script reads a bit funnier than this short does.

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  2. My good god… that was riveting. And filthy and depraved and hopeless and just perfect a piece of fiction. Inventive, great style, ominous in all the right ways…. loved it. Just loved it.

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    • Thanks Trent, I appreciate the feedback. I wrote this years ago, and I think this version is pretty close to the original draft. But in using it as part of a screenplay I rewrote and reread it so many times that all the different versions blend together and I can’t be objective about it anymore. All the changes live in my head and affect how I read it, so it’s nice to hear thoughts from someone reading for it the first time.

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      • I hear you there. Some pieces become bigger in your mind than they really are on paper, and you assume certain things are imbued when to a new reader they may not be… I think this piece was very clear, though.

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  3. Forgetting the doctor, if you are able, for a moment … how deranged is Grace to work as his accomplice? Clearly she’s in on it, she locked the door before she left for lunch. I wonder just how much (or what) he pays her for her discretion.

    I wonder, too, if either of them is as cold as this depiction portrays them. Perhaps they simply eradicate those patients who can not be helped? What did he do that night when he was fifteen, the patient? Maybe the doctor’s actions were justified. The patient had done something he couldn’t live with but couldn’t bring himself to end his own life. The good doctor helped him along, may have even succeeded in preventing the patient from repeating horrific crimes.

    Unless I misread this or missed something. I’m not saying what he did was good or right, only that it may have been justified. And I don’t believe justified is synonymous with good or right.

    Whatever the case may be, I enjoyed reading this story, and I love the pic you made.

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    • Ah ha! Now all of that is very interesting. You’re right about Grace, of course. It’s touched on in the script a little. But it’s left open because her role is so minor. I think it has less to do with money than with her emotional attachment to the doc. But if she’s in on it (which she must be, as it is written) then it doesn’t make sense for them to go through the bucket, rag, sponge bit, because they must have done this before. How else would she know to lock the door? And why am I asking you these questions? I’m the one who wrote it! 🙂

      I think they mean to get rid of those who can’t be helped. Or at least those who they think can’t be helped. But they can be wrong, and that’s where the story goes aftwards (kind of). As for what the patient did when he was fifteen, I had orginally included that in the story, but someone convinced me to take it out and let it be deliberately vague.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

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