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What the Doctor Ordered


The last appointment, my doctor popped the question - asked me to pet-sit and house-sit for him while he traveled to Florence - described his wooded wonderland cottage on Mount Tamalpais and his arthritic dog, Jeeves.

I'm dying very quickly, and the sweet chemicals in candy and diet sodas are comforting, so the first thing I think about is if there would be a convenience store nearby, so deep in the woods. Nobody believes that I'm dying from such a sad, and rare disorder - one that doesn't have a name. Only the doctor knows what is really wrong with me, but he says there is no name for this fatal illness.

Sometimes, he'll begin "you see..." then, change the trail of the conversation to something as impersonal as the local deer population crisis.

"Well, yes of course they are a menace to gardens," I say, "but they don't look evil, that's what is so damn sad I bet?" He doesn't answer which makes me worry that he would shoot them, and I tell myself he wouldn't, being a natural healer.

He said this is a lonely pilgrimage - off to Florence to say goodbye to his former fiancé, a well known visual artist named Sandra who has a rare and fatal blood disease. Her illness has a name, but the name is very long and Latin, and he can't pronounce it. He said it would be easier to sing it, says, "Bella, bella" when he speaks of her.

"I can take care of the doggie and cottage," I had said, wanting him to perk. He stroked his beard sweetly, as if it were a bunny. I wanted to touch all of the doctor's things. I wanted to lie in his sheets.

I've done many things the doctor will not approve of since moving in, like turning on the heat in the frigid mornings, and removing his aggressive wind chimes. I am bored with his beautiful house, the whimsical trickle of a natural creek in the yard that honest-to-God polliwogs swim in. I'm on Pluto, or maybe I have landed in Carmel before it was ruined and turned into a theme park. I hate authentic character I've decided, the master bedroom smelling like vintage sweat and pine, salty stuff I'll never smell fresh from his skin unless I grab him while he's jogging, in which case I would risk being abandoned as his patient.

I feel annoyed by his creviced leather sofa, forest green corduroy chairs, Pennsylvania Dutch braid rugs. The only bright spot is Jeeves, the doctor's ten year old golden retriever who follows me everywhere wishing I were the doctor. We have talks about why the doctor dresses so well, when all the other doctors look schlumpy. "Do you think he's vain?" I ask Jeeves, who looks unsure about everything.

I'm not getting enough fruit he'd say, am getting sick from energy bars and diet cokes. I am often thinking about what it would be like to be naked under the llama rug when the doctor gets home all stricken with grief.

Since living in the doctor's cottage, I've been imagining the shape of his fingers while chopping vegetables. Picking just one finger would be hard, like selecting a puppy from a box. Some people fall into the trap of the rice farmer obsessed with growing apples. And it's true, I've grown and cultivated men all my life - but this one will not thrive in my soil. It's time to move on.

I water each of the doctor's daisy bushes carefully, do not flood their roots. I talk to his plants so they don't die while he's gone. Jeeves waddles out and plunks next to me to sit in the sun.

Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Originally an actress, her flash fiction stories and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in 3AM, Toronto Quarterly, Mud Luscious, Juked, Pindeldyboz, Smokelong Quarterly’s Fifth Anniversary Issue,Wigleaf, Elimae, Keyhole, Frigg,Wordriot, The Rose and Thorn, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica and various upcoming anthologies of flash. Meg serves as an editor for SmokeLong Quarterly. Her blog, with writing exercises and literary links, is here: