Doctor’s Appointment
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Paper"
Originally featured on 02-12-2007
As part of our series "Anniversaries"

“Will you quit it?”

I stopped fiddling with the radio and put my hand back on the steering wheel. I looked at Jen out of the corner of my eye.

“Will you just relax, David?” she asked.

“I’m fine.”

. “I don’t know what your problem with doctors is. Why are you so squeamish?”

“I am not squeamish,” I said a little defensively.

“Yeah, sure. And when you almost threw up last week when you saw that paper cut I got, what was that?”

“That,” I began, searching for an excuse, “was an insolated incident.” I glanced at her and she rolled her eyes. Okay, so maybe I was a little squeamish when it came to blood and other disgusting bodily fluids but the doctor we were driving to today wasn’t just a regular doctor — he was a gynecologist. I had never been to a gynecologist’s office before and was a little nervous.

“And Dr. Mills isn’t even a gynecologist,” Jen said, reading my thoughts. “He’s a naturopathic doctor. Plus he’s kind of an ex-hippie; he’s really cool.”

“Cool, huh?” I started changing stations again.

“You didn’t have to go, you know. I’m sure me and our unborn child would have been just fine taking the bus,” she said sarcastically.

“No, I wanted to take you. I’m okay, really.”

“Alright. Oh, it’s that white one on the right,” she said, pointing.

We pulled to the curb and parked in front of the office. It was very small—it looked like it had probably been a house at one time.

“You’re not going to be that long, right? Why don’t I just wait in the car?” Jen scowled. “Or I could come inside,” I said unbuckling my seatbelt.

The office/house was old and the wooden floor creaked as we walked inside and down a narrow hallway. In the waiting room there were two small benches that resembled church pews. There was also a large print of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, a religious-looking painting, on the floor propped against the fireplace, which added to the holy feel of the room.

On the drive over I kept picturing large plastic models of vaginas or posters of naked pregnant women. But aside from a picture of a baby suckling an enormous breast on the cover of Mid-Wife Monthly, I was glad to see the references to the female anatomy were pretty scarce.

A man was sitting behind a large wooden desk. “Hi, hello,” he said with a big smile.

“Hi, Dr. Mills,” Jen said.

This was the doctor? I thought. He was probably in his mid-forties and unless you knew, there really wasn’t anything that told you he was a doctor. There was no white coat or stethoscope around the neck. He wore a long-sleeved plaid shirt and jeans.

It took him a few moments to realize who Jen was and why she was there. We sat down while he went to find her file. After a few moments, Jen opened a drawer of an old, antique-looking desk that was sitting next to us.

“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed suddenly.

My eyes widened. “What is it?! A placenta?!” I leapt on the bench like I had seen a mouse. Jen glared at me.

“Yes, there’s a placenta in this drawer,” she said dryly. She pulled out a little book. “It’s a flip book, I haven’t seen one of these in years.”

I slowly peered inside. The drawer contained several small flip books, all art-related. In one book, if you flipped fast enough, you could make Mona Lisa smile. In another book the pitchfork wielding old man in Grant Wood’s American Gothic could be transformed into Munch’s screaming man, only with glasses.

We heard an “Ah, ha” from the back somewhere and Dr. Mills emerged with a manila folder in his hand. “Right this way, Ms. Reyes.” He went into a side room.

Jen looked at me. “Are you going to be okay out here?”

“Of course, I’ll be fine.” She stared at me for another second and then followed the doctor. I picked up a newspaper.

After a few minutes, Dr. Mills came back into the waiting room. He was holding something that looked kind of like large metal salad tongs.

“Alice, have you seen a blood pressure thing?” he called. He scratched his head with the tongs and then dropped them beside me on the bench. “You know, the Velcro thing that goes around the arm?” I stared at the tongs. Did he really just do that? I asked myself. And what the hell were those things used for? I slid down the bench away from them.

A red haired woman came out of the backroom. It was hard to tell if is she was his assistant or another doctor—she too didn’t wear any typical doctor clothing.

“A blood pressure cuff? I think I saw one around here somewhere,” she said.

The two then began searching the office; looking in drawers, on top of a tall shelf, behind a big plant. Twice Dr. Mills came through the waiting room. He glanced at me on his second time around and I thought he was going to ask me if I had seen one, but he just smiled as he passed by.

“Ah, here we go!” I heard him say from the backroom.

I expected him to come and retrieve the tongs but he walked right past them and back into the exam room. I stared at them again and slid further down the bench.

A little while later he came out again. “You have to hear this song,” he told Alice who was now sitting behind the desk. He walked over to a stereo and started looking through a stack of CD’s.

“So, how’s Mrs. Burgess?” he asked.

“She’s doing much better now,” Alice said. “The swelling has really gone down.”

“What about the itching and burning?”

I cringed.

“She said that’s gotten better as well.”

“That’s good. Ah, here it is,” Dr. Mills said, and popped in a CD. He set it to the right track and then disappeared again into the exam room.

The music was a live performance of a man with a raspy voice singing and playing an acoustic guitar. As I read the newspaper, I started nodding to the catchy rhythm of the song. Suddenly a hand was on my shoulder. I jumped.

“It’s a good song, isn’t it?”

I looked up. Dr. Mills was standing over me.

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

He smiled. “She’ll be right out.”

“Uh, okay.”

He nodded and as he headed back to the exam room, removed his gloves and tossed them into a small metal garbage can. I was about to continue reading when I stopped and stared at the can. I swallowed hard. Did he just touch me with one of those gloves? I looked at my shoulder; there was a faint moist handprint. Suddenly I felt nauseous.

I was just about to head for the door when Jen returned to the waiting room. She smiled when she saw me.

“Everything’s fine,” she said, sitting down.


“Are you okay? You look a little green.”

I smiled. “Couldn’t be better. Are we ready to get out of here?”

“Yeah, I just have to get my prescription.”

“Do you speak Spanish, Ms. Reyes?”

We looked up quickly. Dr. Mills had suddenly appeared behind the desk. He was scribbling on a small pad.

“Not really,” Jen said. ”but I can understand it pretty we-.”

“You know,” he said. “I spent a long time learning Spanish for my poetry.” He hurriedly walked into the backroom.

I looked at Jen and she shrugged. When Dr. Mills emerged again he was holding a notebook, open to the middle. He came over to us and got down on one knee. I figured he was going to give Jen some kind of instruction for the new prescription.

“This one’s called ‘La Luna,’” he said. “La luna es muy grande esta noche.”

I glanced at Jen; I could see she was amused if slightly embarrassed. When he started the second poem, I was suddenly reminded of last Christmas when Jen’s five-year-old niece, Emily, insisted she read us her favorite book seven times in a row.

As he read the fourth poem, another one about la luna, an older couple entered the office, and I believe that was the only reason he didn’t read more, perhaps his entire portfolio. When he finished he looked up at us and smiled. We smiled back. He quickly got up and went over to the copier and made a copy of the poems as if we had asked. He signed the paper and handed it to Jen.

“Hasta otro mes,” he said. “See you next month.”

“Bye, Dr. Mills,” Jen said.

“Alice,” we heard him call, as we walked down the hallway to the door. “Have you seen the thing, kind of looks like salad tongs? Oh, never mind, here it is.”

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Jen asked as we approached the car.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Oh, I almost forgot.” She started rummaging in her bag. “Dr. Mills gave me something to give you.”

I smiled. “Really? What?”

“A placenta.”

I could feel the color drain from my face.

Jen looked up at me. “Just kidding. Here you go.” She held out a red lollipop and grinned. “For being so brave.”

Read More By Tim Josephs

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