From the Doctor’s Office

Library 3It’s been and interesting week of patients in Watervalley.

Oni Kinser came in Monday with a black eye. Florence, his wife of twenty-plus years had given it to him, accidentally. It seems that while the two of them were in the garden, Florence, who is rather wide in the hips, was bent over picking green beans while Oni was picking tomatoes. As fate would have it, he came across a rotten one. The target provided by Florence’s broad and face-up backside proved beyond his capacity to resist. His wind up and release was followed by a satisfying splat sound and a two-foot hop by Florence. It took her about 2.7 seconds for her to progress through the emotional stages of surprise, disbelief, realization, and then, anger. Oni was still hovering in the laugh-out-loud stage. It didn’t last.

Florence is a rather squat, tough woman who on a good day still has a rather surly disposition. She could probably play linebacker for the Chicago Bears. In a fluid motion she reached over and snatched a baseball sized cantaloupe. After rolling it in her fingers for a contemplative millisecond, she sent it on a line drive. Oni had just raised up from doubled-over laughing when the cantaloupe beaned him.

Florence put some ice in a zip-lock and drove him to the clinic. By the time I saw them in the exam room, they were more or less only grunting at each other. See-sawing between anger and worry, Florence explained what happened. Oni kept the injured eye, as well as his mouth, shut.

I patched him up and told him to come back in a couple of days. He finally spoke and asked if had any other advice for him. I told him it was probably best to avoid temptation in the garden. As I recall, Adam had a similar experience. That didn’t work out too well either.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sunflower Miller came by to talk to me. Sunflower is Watervalley’s last remaining flowerchild. Albeit, she was probably also the first and only. In her free flowing, mother-earth kind of way she’s a lean and handsome woman, despite her sixty-plus years. She has beautiful skin and is an ardent sun worshiper, only taking time off when it’s overcast. She’s also a great advocate of holistic healing, of pushing back the horizons of traditional medicine from where apparently, they’ve been standing to closely. Despite her rants at my conventional medical practice, I liked Sunflower. But understanding her was like trying to fold a fitted sheet. No one really knows how to do it.

She stretched out in the wingback across from me and stared reflectively at the ceiling.

“So, Sunflower. How’s everything in the cosmos? Is the moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars?”

“I think the planets are out of line, Doc.”

“Did one of them misbehave and need to apologize?”

“I know it’s hard but try to act nice.”

Sunflower was in one of her moods. Truthfully, the only act I wanted to do was a disappearing one. “Sorry, Sunflower. Tell me what you mean.”

“I’m feeling paranoid lately.”

“How so?”

“Like right now. I feel like there are things that can hear us.

“What kind of things?”

“Little things. They’re very very small. And you can’t hear them unless you’ve been using illegal substances.” She paused for a moment, realizing what she had just said. “Which, of course, I would never do.”

“Of course not,” I responded dryly.

“It’s just that I’ve been feeling very anxious lately, like the boogie man was under my bed, waiting to grab me.”

“So what have you been doing about it?” Sunflower had an herbal remedy for everything.

“I look under the bed each night before I cut the light out.”

“Actually, I was referring to the anxiety and not the boogie man. But seriously? You actually look? Does that make you feel better?”

“Sure it does.”

“Okay, so humor me here. Let’s say that tonight when you look under the bed, the boogie man is actually there. What’s your plan?”

“Not funny, doctor.”

“The point is, Sunflower, is that you always seem to have some concoction, some eye of newt and toe of frog for every ailment. I figured you had something that cures anxiety.”

“I could if I knew what was causing it.”

I shrugged. “You’re a smart cookie, Sunflower. If something or someone was causing it, you’d know it. So it sounds like a physiological imbalance.”


“Well, like…for example, the over production of thyroid hormone can cause anxiety. We can run some blood test and see what it tells us.”

She exhaled a long sigh, clearly not liking the idea of succumbing to the regimens of traditional medicine. “Okay, maybe you’re right.”

“I’m sorry, Sunflower. I know how painful it was for you to say that.”

“More than you’ll ever know.”

“Oh, cheer up. I may even come up with a solution to ward off the boogie man.”

“Don’t be an idiot, doctor. Everyone knows that putting a clove of garlic under the bed keeps the boogie man away.”

“As well as anyone with a nose.”

“Garlic has been used for centuries to ward off evil spirits.”

“I’ll start by putting some under that chair.”

“Luke, sometime you should let me put you on a week of herbal elixirs and supplements. I’ll make a believer out of you.”

I smiled and walked her to the door. “Sunflower, I don’t particularly understand your unusual brand of crazy, but I’m very impressed with your total commitment to it.”

Clara Jane Parks rounded out the week of interesting patients. I liked Clara Jane, but had come to think of her as God’s little goofball. She treated every conversation as if she were consoling you at a funeral, thoughtfully bending in, her voice in a whisper and her face framed in an expression of elevated concern. She always spoke in the kindly, deliberate tone one would use when teaching a Sunday School lesson to a group of five-year olds, invariably offering a comforting smile and assuring nod along with a concluding moral.

Clara Jane loved to talk. She tended to start stories in the middle and had a hard time finding either end of them. And mostly, she loved to talk about the woes and transgressions of the world and where it was headed. I had come to realize that if it wasn’t for inequity and immorality, Clara Jane would have nothing to talk about. She seemed to have a fascination with original sin. Come to think of it, even if the sin was unoriginal or imitative, she found it interesting.

Clara Jane was an old maid in her fifties who some years back who had taken in her equally likable but indolent brother, Ronnie. Ronnie was one of those people with an easy going disposition who had started at the bottom and liked it there. He worked a succession of low paying odd jobs and when he wasn’t in a bass fishing tournament he was likely drinking, heavily. With Ronnie, Clara Jan could never be certain where the next dollar was coming from but she could be pretty sure where it was going to.

I highly suspected that Clara Jane would ramble on at her brother well past the point of his ability to listen to her. And even though she had pretty much made a household pet of him, he probably found her instructional monologues a lighter yoke than the financial burden of living under his own roof. His intake of alcohol perpetuated her output of words, and vice versa. But they were held together under an unexplainable bond of blood and kinship.

Maybe it was caused by her brother’s untenable ways, but Clara Jane was a hypochondriac. She would come to me on a weekly basis, wearing a face of woeful concern and proceed to describe her self as having the symptoms of the previous patient or two I had just seen. Apparently, along with a little gossip, she would query those around her in the waiting room about their ailments and layer those on top of whatever malady had brought her in. The tip off on this was when she came in one day complaining that it hurt to lie flat on her back, that she was having prostrate issues.

I had just given Ed Caswell his annual prostate exam.

But on Thursday afternoon, after listening for twenty minutes to a lengthy liturgy of her latest infirmities, I decided to take a new tact with Clara Jane. I decided to tell her the truth. I told her she was a hypochondriac and that most of her ailments were inside her head.

At first she seemed a little hurt so I did my best to assure her that she could overcome this and lead a much happier life. We talked on and in time her spirits seemed to be lifted. We discussed things she could do and some reading resources she could review to better help her understand her condition.

It all seemed to be coming together well until right toward the end of our talk when she asked me if there were others in Watervalley that suffered from this condition.

“A few people, more or less.”

“Well, do you think that maybe we could start a support group?”

Unfortunately, I spoke before thinking. “Well, we could. But I doubt anybody would come. They’d probably all call in sick.”

I expect Clara Jane will be back to see me next week.

I’ll be back then, too.

-Luke Bradford


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