A heavy fist rattled the door and a deep, husky voice said comin’ in. Thus entered the doctor, his long white coat parted by his belly, which preceded him into the room. Squeezing his fat forehead was a black band holding one of those silver metal thingies. He glanced at me, and then his eyes flitted to the bench, then back to me. He said, “Why are you standing?” His breathing was heavy.
I motioned to the tissue paper laid across the bench. “I didn’t want to muss it up.”
“Uh huh,” he grunted. “You’re all wet.”
I looked at my feet and realized that a bit of a puddle had formed. “Apologies,” I said. “I was at the swim-up bar much of the night.” I adjusted the lapels of my tweed jacket as a matter of pride, and a few more drops of pool plunked to my shoes.
“I see,” he said, clearly not seeing. He eyed me suspiciously as he flipped through the pages on his clipboard. His eyes flitted down and he said, “Says here you got numbness.”
“Well, I suppose you could call it that,” I said.
“Uh huh,” he grunted. “Whereabouts?”
“What do you mean, where?”
“Whadda you mean whadda I mean, where? I mean where’s the numbness?”
“It’s not any one place,” I said. “Maybe here?” I waved my hand around the general vicinity of my soul. “Inside?”
The doctor narrowed his eyes. “Whadda you mean inside? You’re not supposed to feel your insides. Who feels their insides?”
“You don’t understand, sir. I don’t feel anything. At all.”
The doctor blinked and said, “You mean -,” He clicked his pen closed and crossed his arms, clipboard tucked behind his back. “You mean you don’t have feelings. That girly stuff.”
I swallowed, a bit uncomfortably. This doctor, he was a bit gruff. “I wouldn’t describe it as necessarily feminine. It’s just an absence. Emptiness. A numbness of the spirit, if you will.”
The doctor nodded, snorted. “I get it now.” He hacked something from the back of his throat to the front, and spat it into the sink where it went splop. “Well, I ain’t that kinda doctor,” he said, wiping on his sleeve and turning to go. He swung the door open, and waited.
So did I. Waited, I mean.
He swiveled his eyes towards the door, then swung his clipboard after them. “Let’s go, buddy.”
“No, I don’t wish to.”
He blinked a few times and shook his head, studying the floor. “Whadda you mean?”
“I’d rather not go back out there.”
The big doctor’s melon-head fell forward and rolled across his chest. “Look, I can’t help you, buddy. You need one of those…whatsits? Those foo-foo doctors.” He put up finger quotes and said, “’Counselors.’ Maybe a social worker. That’s what you need.”
“I’m not leaving,” I said. “I did not wait forty-five minutes for you to say you can’t fix me. You must give me a shot, or some such. Laudanum. Epsom salts.”
The doctor inhaled deeply and puffed out his cheeks and sighed, filling the room with the smell of bologna. He gave the door a shove and let his open hand hang in the air until it slammed. “Allright, Mr. Walker. How about you join me on the veranda.” It wasn’t really a question, but it caught my interest.
“You’ve a veranda?”
“I’ve,” he said, crossing the room. He slapped his meat-hooks onto the bench I hadn’t wanted to sit on and gave it a shove, revealing a metal hatch in the wall. He opened the hatch, stooped to squeeze his girth through the hole, and said, “This way.”
We emerged on a patio overlooking a tranquil garden. In the center was a fancy water thingy featuring toads spitting water into a pool.
“Seems a bit foo-foo,” I said.
“I find it soothing,” said the oaf.
“Hmm,” I said.
“I think you’re wrong about the numbness,” said the doctor, lowering himself into a patio chair.
“Hmm?” I said, taking the chair beside him. A young lady wearing a grass skirt and leis brought us drinks in coconut shells with umbrellas poking out of them.
“You feel things just fine,” he said, pulling a cigar out of his interior lab-coat pocket. He lit up and blew an impressive cloud. “You’ve passed judgment on my veranda already.”
“I’ve?” I said.
“You’ve,” he said, puffing and blowing. The cloud began to hover over and between us. “Maybe you’re just an asshole. Ever think about that?”
My mind flashed back to a man yelling at me in a parking lot one time. And also to some remarks a lady friend once made. “It has come up in conversation.”
He offered me a cigar. “No thank you,” I said. He shrugged, returning it to his pocket.
“Doctor, I’d like to return to the subject of some sort of prescription.”
“It’s in yer hand,” he said.
I looked at the umbrelly coconut thing. “This?”
“But this is not healthy, its effects only temporary.”
The doctor’s head rolled around, swinging the cigar like a red-tipped baseball bat. Smoke billowed around him, obscuring the garden. I saw only his fat head in a grey haze, the silver metal thingy floating above it.
“I guess I see your point,” I said.
The grey smoke thickened and walled off his face.
I reached out to grab the silver metal thingy, but it vanished. So did the hand at the end of my arm. I tried to straighten my lapels and found I had no arms. It was most odd. I wondered where my coconut had gone.
I called out for the doctor and heard nothing. Not even my own voice. The silence was absolute.
I seemed to be alone.