Back again and this time with a shorter story. It's a mere 1000 or so words long. I seem to be on a to-bloggin-ing ride down and icy slope at full speed . . . I'm just hoping there aren't any trees at the bottom. Anyhow, this little short story was my second one published back in 1999 and I remember leaping . . . ummm . . . preforming manly jumps, around my living room when I got the acceptance letter. The editor of the small press wrote, and I quote, 'this is exactly the type of story we are looking for'. Any yes, it took quite a few days for my swollen head to shrink back to its normal size. Ah, the sweet victory of a sale, which is not to say I don't have in excess of 75 rejection letters as well. This little story was inspired by a doctor joke I heard a long time ago, but to tell the joke here may spoil the story. So, no more wasting time.
I hope you enjoy it.
By Paul Darcy
It was green. It looked unhealthy. And it was affixed to his left biceps. The room smelled faintly of iodine. "Doc, what the hell is this thing, anyway?" Walter asked, staring at the repulsive blob on his arm, wondering if this New Age doctor knew anything about curing his insomnia. Or was this doctor simply a lunatic? Walter couldn’t believe he was paying forty dollars for this treatment. This was definitely the last time he would use the phone book to find a doctor in L.A. He had found this one listed under, ‘Cures’.
"The moss is safe and friendly," the doctor answered in an low breathy voice that Walter assumed could belong only to a fruitcake. Of course, Walter might be letting his imagination get the best of him. Or was he? To Walter’s knowledge doctors always displayed multiple credentials on their walls. This one displayed none.
"It is a rare Polynesian moss," the doctor elaborated, "capable of extracting the poisons from your body through your skin. It cleanses your system, much like your own liver. You may not know this, but the most common cause of insomnia is toxins in the blood, toxins which the liver has a difficult time removing. These toxins negatively stimulate the brain causing disruptions in the sleep cycle, hence insomnia." The strange glint in the doctor’s eye, coupled with an overly friendly smile, worried Walter. He knew little about livers, except how to fry them with onions. But if the moss did cure his insomnia, he might form a different opinion. Until such time he would remain unconvinced.
"How much longer do I need this attached to me?" Walter asked. "Not that I am complaining, if it will help me sleep, but it kind of gives me the creeps." Walter looked again at the moss, almost sure he had seen it move. In his opinion it was nothing but a damned organic leech. Forty bucks and all he got was an eighteenth-century cure that cured nothing except the hunger of a quack doctor. A couple of green things in his fridge could probably do the same job should he care to get into this business himself. It was easy to have your name listed under, "Cures."
The doctor shone a light into Walter’s eyes. "It is probably enough," the doctor said, hovering far too close for Walter’s liking. The doctor snapped on a pair of rubber gloves and then, very gently, almost lovingly, peeled the moss from Walter’s arm, smiling warmly the entire time.
Walter could see a blue stain where the moss had been. It looked as if he had been hit in the arm with a baseball. "Thank’s, Doc. I’ll let you know how I make out," Walter said, thinking the exact opposite. Cured or not, he wasn’t coming back.
"I’m sure that you will. See you soon," the doctor said. The glint returned to the doctor’s eye. But a glint of what? Glee? Perversion? Longing? Walter didn’t stick around long enough for any more contact.
Once safely in his apartment, Walter picked up a book and tried to read, hoping that when his head hit the pillow he would actually sleep. He wasn’t sure that he would. With the turning of every page, the face of the doctor kept painting itself across his mental easel. Distracted by the doctor’s face, which replayed itself like a hated song he occasionally found himself humming, Walter set the book down and got a glass of water. His apartment felt very dry and he was thirsty.
When Walter returned to the couch, he examined the stain on his arm left by the moss. Damn, he could swear it was bigger than when he had left the doctor’s office. Wondering if his arm was infected, Walter pressed on the stain. There was no pain. Probably the stain or bruise or whatever it was would go away in a couple of days. If not, he would visit a hospital and see a real doctor.
Walter poured himself another glass of water. It was growing late. He would try to sleep.
He tossed about fitfully under the blankets. His insomnia was not cured. The treatment, if it could be classified as such, was not working. He grabbed the glass of water on his bedside table and finished it. The inside of his mouth felt like it was lined with hair. He fumbled for the light, but gave up after a couple of tries.
Suddenly, the image of the doctor’s face appeared in his mind again. The detail was incredible, even down to the glint in the eyes. That glint didn’t seem so strange to Walter now. He could almost understand what it meant. The doctor, in fact, was not unattractive. Walter’s thoughts drifted and he actually did fall asleep for a time.
When he woke, it was the middle of the night. The image of the doctor’s face remained. Walter felt like never before: invigorated, alive and very, very alone. The treatment had done something wonderful to him, but he didn’t know what. All he knew was that he felt compelled to go to the doctor again, and now.
Soon he was back at the doctor’s office. Standing on the sidewalk, Walter could see a light still on inside the house. The doctor was waiting for him. He knew it. He strode quickly up the steps to the door, but before he could knock, the door opened and the image of the doctor’s face, the one fixed in his mind all night, struck him with the full force of reality. The doctor was beautiful and beyond compare. Walter was in love and knew he had found his mate.
They went inside, closed the door and embraced. Their lips met and opened. The sickly sweet smell of iodine intoxicated Walter and he knew true bliss. The kiss was long and passionate. The green hairy tendrils in their mouths intertwined in an orgy of joy. The doctor had been alone so long without another.
Walter was elated that she had chosen him for the treatment.