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    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.

     

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« Chapter Four Teaser | Main | Chapter Three - Teaser »
Sunday
Apr282019

Chapter Three - Doctor

 

 

I awoke, if I ever was asleep, staring into a clipboard that hovered above my face. The guy wasn't wearing anything that would identify him as a doctor but I figured he had to be – he had that look of someone that studied your personal areas. A curvy woman with horn rimmed glasses and a rat's nest of hair stood next to him. She smelled of roses dipped in clorox.

"I said do you often have this loss of consciousness?"

"Sorry?"

He looked at the woman, she grimaced, he said something under his breath.

"I see. You have had another one." He wrote something on the clipboard. "Do you remember coming in here? They told me you were in a diner." His thick grey mustache danced as he spoke. "You don't seem to have any injuries, except for that nasty cut on your forearm. I thought about stitching it but thought that --"

Three parallel steri-strips were pasted against the partially scabbed over gash.

"Shit. My knee!"

I threw back the white sheet, unaware of my nakedness. The woman didn't turn away but lurched forward, her eyes widened.

"You been having problems with your knee?"

I ran my hands along the smooth, unbroken skin covering my left kneecap. I glanced at my right, just in case I was wrong. Neither of them had a scratch.

The doctor glanced at the clipboard. "Have you had problems with an addictive substance? Previous psychological treatment? Exhibitionist tendencies?"

The woman smiled at me.

I brought the sheet back to cover myself.

"Francine, I think you should--" the doctor started.

"Who brought me here?"

"You were in your truck," said the still smiling, kind of leering, woman. Francine seemed about right somehow.

"What do you mean in my truck? You said I was in a diner. Who brought me here?"

"Now take some breaths. We don't need you passing out again. "I'm Doctor Little. Don't you recall our previous conversation?"

"I've never seen you before."

"Some men drove here from the diner. I guess they put you in the truck. You must have left the keys in it, so they drove you here."

"Who did? Where are they now?"

The doctor and Francine exchanged glances.

"Are you feeling feverish?" Francine asked.

"Now Francine, you took his temperature already, and it was fine."

I closed my eyes and tried to remember back to before. In the diner, we were drinking water. Her face grew large in my mind.

"The woman, with the really white skin... where is she?" I asked.

The looks on their faces told me that if I didn't start making sense, they'd be ordering a full brain scan and psychotic strip down. Or Francine would be stripping something.

"Really, Mr. Stilton--"

"Who is Mr. Stilton? That's not my name."

"Oh," a quick glance over to Francine,"there was a note, in your pants, we assumed that was you."

"What note?"

"Mr. Stilton, if you have a previous condition it would help us diagnose any..."

"Stop calling me that."

I threw back the sheet and swung my legs over the bed.

"Where's my pants?"

Francine, taking in another eyeful, turned away when I met her gaze. She went into an adjoining room and came back with my jeans. She laid them on the bed. They were dirty, but bloodstain free.

"Underwear?"

"I'm sorry, we cut those off, we had to see if you had some, um, internal injury that would account for your, uh, condition." He ran his hand over his mustache and coughed.

"Condition? Wait a second, what kind of doctor are you?" I took a quick glance around the room, no tongue depressors, no blood pressure machine, and it had a funny smell. The poster of the kitten hanging from a branch clinched it. "You're a vet!"

"Well, of course. The only medical doctor we have comes by every two weeks, unless there's an emergency. We thought of calling her but we couldn't find anything that would warrant her..."

"Am I done here?" I wanted to ask why they hadn't cut off the jeans. Something told me it was Francine's decision to slice the underwear.

"You're free to go anytime. But don't you think you should stay a bit? We could call the other doctor if you wish."

I pulled on my jeans, riding bareback, what the hell.

"My wallet? Or did you have to cut that too?" I glared at Francine.

She scurried into the other room and came back with my keys and my wallet.

"If you wanted to find out who I was why didn't you just--" I stopped as I flipped through several bills and the faded photo I'd been carrying for years.

"Something missing?" The vet asked.

"Where is it?"

"I assure you, we took nothing. What are you missing?"

"Which one of you swiped my I.D.?"

"We wondered why you didn't have any."

"Until we found the note," Francine reached into her breast pocket and took out a folded yellow square. She handed it to me, her fingertips, long nails with a daisy yellow polish, stayed a few extra seconds on my palm.

I read it.
We found this man sitting outside his truck in the parking lot of the diner. He said his name was Stilton. Then he passed out. Please help him. We have to leave for a family reunion.

It was signed, Chris and Kelly. A smiley-face was drawn at the bottom.

"We were gone to lunch, just egg salad sandwiches that Francine's mom had made. And when we came back there you were in your truck. Out cold. I guess these people drove you and your truck here. When you didn't wake up, they figured that was the best they could do. So they left."

"For a reunion." Francine added.

There was no phone number or address on the note. The letters were hard to read, a pen almost out of ink – under the smiley-face there was another word that I couldn't make out.

I thought of what the girl with the white face told me about escaping time.

"What does this say?" I asked.

"We couldn't figure that out either. Francine has a guess."

"Clarkesville."

"Never heard of that, where?"

Francine gave an awkward smile. "You know, like that old song. The last train to."

My head had been pounding ever since I gained consciousness. It now threatened to burst and spray brain matter across the vet's office.

"You have any pain killers?" I bent my knees, stretching out my legs, forcing blood flow back into them.

"Mr. Stilton, we cannot give medication without –"

"Just some damn aspirin."

Francine fished around in her pocket and brought out a blister pack.

"These will probably do something," she said.

Doc gave her look and reached for the pack. I pushed him aside, grabbed the pills, and jammed the note in my pocket.

"You should stay and get checked out," Francine urged. "People aren't all that different than dogs."

"I've had all my shots."

Francine ran her tongue over her lips. I made a quick exit, almost running by the time I went through the door. The doc yelled out, saying I should go get checked out by my regular doctor. I spun out of the lot, spitting gravel chunks at the sign with the little dog and cat in doctor outfits.

I pushed the speedometer on the truck as far as it would go, keeping one eye on the temp gauge. I popped the pills out of the pack and downed them. I trusted horny Francine that they were actually for pain, and not flea and heartworm – or fuck, some sort of pet viagra. The road ahead shimmered, in the distance a pair of buildings looked like splotches of overripe fruit against a sky the exact shade of the empty ice cube holders in my fridge back home. It was a weird thing to remember. I hardly remember what my place looked like. As I whipped by them, I spied a thin man on scaffolding, slapping orange paint with a huge brush. I could see the droplets splash and hang in the air before settling on the weathered surface. I shouldn't have been able to see that.

I urged the pedal down farther – having no idea where I was going, if I'd find the sedan again, or what I'd do if I found it. I flipped the switch on my radio, filling the cab with harsh guitar rock and some guy screaming. I turned it up and pushed the speed over 85. The temp gauge jerked. The pounding in my head softened to brushes on the edge of a snare. Shush-shush.

I passed a green Pontiac, driven by a redneck with a buzz cut and a tattoo of the queen on his neck. As fast I was going, certain images moved in slow perfect clarity – like some Einstein relativity problem. I perceived moving objects as if they were standing still. But the large granary in the distance appeared to be moving away from me. I squeezed my eyes shut for a second, and tried to refocus. When I opened them again there it was, the black sedan, it popped out of nowhere, less than a quarter mile ahead. There were no access roads that I could see – it was like it dropped out of the sky. Somehow, I knew I'd come across it. Just like last time. And probably some other times that I couldn't remember.

I pulled in close behind, following the s-curve of the road, and tried to peer into the back window. The sheen on the glass reflected back light, not like a mirrored surface, but fragmented like cheap Mactac for bathroom windows.

The granary pulled in front of me after the curve, or that's what it looked like. Spireton. A handmade sign was drilled into the post underneath the town name – Corn and Bacon Festival, Aug. 3-5. The sedan pulled into the lot of the Spireton Hotel. I followed.

I watched the back door open and a white leg appear. I started to wonder if that vet had give me some sort of sedative, or even a hallucinogenic. Movement played tricks on my eyes. Trails of colour swept behind her legs as she approached the truck. I rolled down the window.

"Come on in. You look like you need a drink."

The sedan idled. I cranked my neck and tried to see inside.

"Just the two of us," she said and winked.

I saw every lash move on her white face.

 

<<<<>>>> 

New Chapters of Bent Highway will appear weekly (or more) at this blog. Please, comment, share, or give a shout on twitter. (Or like the link on facebook... people are still on facebook, right?)

 

 

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