Not the First Time
I am sitting on the sofa. Watching him watch me. He is wearing the same beige slacks, white shirt and red tie he wore on my last three visits. I am trying to decide how often he wears these clothes between washes when he looks sideways at me and says, “This isn’t the first time you’ve been here. Is it?”
“No,” I say. “I’m a regular. Pretty regular anyway.”
He scribbles something in his notepad.
“Which is it?” he says. “There is a difference between regular and pretty regular.”
“Regular,” I say.
“That’s odd,” he says. He touches the tip of his pencil to his tongue and writes again in his notepad.
“This is a game isn’t it? You’re testing me somehow.”
“Interesting you would think that. How do you feel about tests?”
“I don’t care one way or the other,” I say.
“Suppose I pulled a gun from my pocket and said I was going to shoot you?”
“I’d have to think about that. Shoot me where exactly?”
“For starters, let’s say the leg.”
“My left leg has been giving me problems. It goes numb, feels like it’s burning. It keeps me awake at night until I get up and walk it off. Maybe a bullet is what it needs.”
“Then the right leg. I’m going to shoot you in the right leg, the thigh. What would you say about that?”
“I’d say I prefer you shoot me in the left leg.”
“There,” he says. “You made a decision. How does it feel?”
“How should it feel?”
“I’m the one who asks the questions,” he says. Again, more scribbling. “So, how does it feel?”
“Considering my decision is over which leg gets shot, not very good.”
“Still,” he says, “it’s progress.”
He places his pencil and notepad on the table between us and leans forward.
“Next week we’ll discuss your aulophobia.”
“I don’t think I have aulophobia. Whatever that is.”
“We’ll determine that on your next visit. Until then,” he says.
On my way out, Nurse Hillesand stops me in the hallway.
“What was it today?” she says. “The same as before?”
“Yes,” I say. “He still thinks he’s a psychiatrist.”
“Oh,” she says. “I was hoping for the comedian again. Your dad really is very funny. That story about changing the baby’s diapers, I smile just thinking about it.”
“Maybe next week,” I say. “Maybe next week.”
Allen Hope’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Ghost Town, Gravel Magazine, Snow Monkey, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Gallipolis, Ohio with his wife and two daughters.