"Sprinkles or nuts?"
"Do I need to go to the bank?"
"No, that's it. Except for the pizza. My butt's getting out of control."
"That's what we're here to determine."
"Tell me again how it's not going to hurt."
"I rather enjoyed mine. A rare reward of middle age. He's a walking wet dream."
"There is that aspect."
"I don't think you're his type."
"How can you tell? No pictures on his desk."
"Look at that window box."
"A service. They all have them. Underpaid illegals. Anyway, is it ethical to go out with somebody after he's examined your posterior?"
"It's my preferred M.O."
They are buzzed into the beige waiting room, hung with posters of Degas nudes. "Females," Amy points out.
"All right, um, Mrs. Pointer," the woman behind the desk says, eyeing Jake. "Your paperwork is in order from the consult. You can have a seat."
"There's a joke in there somewhere," Jake says, but she doesn't smile.
The doctor appears. "Ready."
"Pizza and hot fudge," Jake reminds her back.
She follows the woman into the examining room. "You can wear your socks and bra. The gown opens in the back. Lie down on the table, on your left side, when you're ready."
Amy wonders what to call the woman. They have not been introduced. When she was young, all women working in doctors' offices were referred to as nurses. The doctor sticks his head in now, says, "Is the patient ready?" Amy decides to think of the young woman as the nurse, just to keep things clean.
The doctor enters, smiling. "Good," he says. "Hold out your left arm. This will relax you a bit. Then we'll get going." His hands are articulated, immaculate. She wonders if he plays an instrument. The air is fragrant with breath mints. "Here we go," he says. The probe snakes into her, warm and slimy.
Just think of England, Jake said. Think of ice cream. She smiles. The doctor is singing under his breath. Every move you make, every step you take.... His eyes are on the monitor.
Amy's muscles tighten. She says, "Maybe I need some more--"
"Shh," the doctor says.
"Something's wrong," she says.
"Hold still for just a--"
"You said it wouldn't--" It is huge, blazing. "I have to stop. Now."
He pushes on. "Scar tissue," he says, but not to her. "Over here, see?"
"Get the fuck out of me," she yells.
The nurse touches her shoulder. "Almost done."
It slithers out. He washes his hands, leaves. "You'll need to lie here," the nurse says. "Let the Demerol wear off, expel some gas."
"Okay." When the door shuts, she grabs her things.
Jake is waiting in the hall. They pass the nurse's desk. "I need to--"
"I did," he says.
The doctor steps out. "She's clean as a whistle," he says to Jake. "I don't need to see her for another five to ten years. Fortunately," he adds sotto voce to the nurse, who lowers her eyes.
They head for the door. "Mrs. Pointer, you need to sit down," the nurse says.
Outside, Amy lurches to the curb. She steadies herself against a car. Jake puts his arm around her. "Asshole," he says to the closed door. "Shithead."
Amy snorts, heaves. "There's nothing to come up."
"Sure there is. Bile. Here." He guides her to the impeccable window box and cradles her head. "There you go."
About the author:
Susan O'Doherty's writing has been featured in in Eureka Literary Magazine, Northwest Review, Apalachee Review , Eclectica, VerbSap, Style & Sense, Phoebe , and the anthologies It's a Boy! (Seal Press, 2005) and Familiar (The People's Press, 2005). Her story "Passing" was chosen as the New York story for Ballyhoo Stories' "50 States Project, and her story "The Tower" was recently selected for The Best of Carve, Volume 6 . New work has been accepted by the forthcoming anthology About What Was Lost (Penguin, 2006). Her advice column for writers, "The Doctor is In," appears each Friday on MJ Rose's blog, "Buzz, Balls, and Hype."
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