They call me “Dr. Fine”
The pain is so excruciating that even getting out of bed in the morning is a task, much less bathing her son or doing easily manageable tasks such as vacuuming the floor. Krista can feel the walls closing in on her very sanity as she struggles to meet the next day.
“I’m hungry,” her son whines at her, “I want something to eat. Can I have a sandwich, please?”
“Just let me lie down for a minute,” she pleads, “For just a minute, and then I will get you something to eat.” But she knows that as soon as she lies back in her chair, sleep will have its way with her, as always. The pain is so tremendous that at times her brain ceases to function properly, making her forgetful and frustrated.
Instead of lying down, she grabs her cane and shuffles to her purse in her slippers. Krista calls her little boy over to her, “Let’s go to the store and buy some bread.”
Little three-year-old Benny jumps up and down clapping his hands, “Can we get the kind with the balloons on it? I like that one.”
“We’ll see,” she says as she opens her purse to count the coins inside, ensuring she has enough before they get there. She’s done it before, getting to the checkout counter and not having enough change for a gallon of milk. It’s so embarrassing.
Placing Benny in his car seat, she realizes he doesn’t have shoes on. He giggles as his little piggies wiggle at her, and she can’t help but laugh back, grabbing them and tickling until he begs her to stop. She looks to her front door, considering making a trek to get the shoes, but it seems so far away. He’ll be okay, she thinks, I’ll just need to be tough for a couple of seconds to put him in the cart and take him out. She knows it will hurt, but it’s a procrastination of pain for her, so she gives in.
Tossing her cane to the passenger side, she plops into her seat, starting the car up. The gas light begins to blink, “We’ll have to make the bread last this time.” Her cane rattles against the inside of the car door when she turns the corner and she can hear her son cheering in the back, “Wheeeee!” He’s always liked the corners and makes a game of leaning the opposite direction.
The light ahead is green, and Krista finds a pang of memory at every intersection she comes to, especially on green lights. She habitually brakes and checks the intersection, certain that some idiot driver, not paying attention will nail her again. If her situation gets any worse, she doesn’t know who will take care of little Benny.
The parking lot is virtually empty, but that’s because it’s early in the day. It guarantees her a shorter walking distance when she comes at this hour, and she’s found the best time to shop is early morning, or late at night hours. Of course, shopping after 9 pm is difficult with a toddler who is usually asleep by then.
As she pushes Benny from the car to the store, a man in a business suit approaches her. “Ma’am,” he begins, “I can’t help but notice the unbearable pain you are in while picking up your child. Let me introduce myself. My name is Mort, and I can help you.”
Never having anyone ask about her pain, other than a paid physician, Krista is not expecting anyone to approach her like this. “Excuse me?” she breathes, trying to speak ‘normally’ while she clenches her teeth in pain. Her breath catches in her throat.
“I said that I can tell you are having piercing pains,” his smile never faltering from his lips, as a good salesman does. “I have something to alleviate the extreme pain for you.”
Krista can’t help but chuckle. “Listen, I have just enough money for a loaf of bread,” she looks at her son who seems unusually drawn to the man, “But if I did had money, I’d have legal medication by now.”
“That’s why I’m here!” his cheerfulness never pauses and Krista feels a small prick in her arm, followed by a burning sensation. Her eyebrows frown as she looks down toward her right bicep where he is removing a hypodermic needle. A tiny spot of blood emerges and he wipes it off with a tissue.
“Ouch!” she yelps, “You didn’t have permission to do that! Who do you work for anyway?” Without waiting for a reply, she ignores his rhetoric and moves quickly into the electronic doors, seeking a customer service person.
The only person she can see is the young girl at the checkout, helping a customer. There are several people in line, but the hour is so early, the store is prepared for a limited amount of traffic. She waits for a while, but determines to go to the management office instead.
Benny happily kicks his feet in the cart as she scrambles toward the office. Just as she reaches the door, a woman is exiting and holds it open for her. “Hello, may I help you?” a woman has her back to her, with a plume of smoke rising from her.
“I’d –I’d–I’d like to report someone distributing drugs in front of your store,” she manages to stammer out.
The woman rotates to display a cigar between her fingers and a heavily made-up face. She produces a form and a pen, placing them on the counter in front of her, “I just need you to fill out this report.” Krista notices the artificial smile on the woman’s face, causing her to resemble a Stepford Clown and begins to giggle nervously.
Who is this woman and why is it important to give her name? Regaining her composure she states, “It is the man outside who’s breaking the law, not me! His name is Mort.”
“Just to verify everything,” the woman explains, “You know to alleviate pranks, false accusations, and the like. If you will just fill this out, we’ll have security go out and check on it right away.”
“But ‘right away’ is now, not in five minutes after I fill out your form,” Krista argues.
“Policy,” is all the woman offers before Krista rotates to stumble out of the office.
The walls are beginning to melt as Krista leaves the office and makes her way toward the back of the store, toward the milk. She looks at her son who is curiously staring at her. “Stop it, Benny,” she laughs, “Stop it!” But he continues staring and saying he wants the bread with balloons on the outside. His expression is one of concern, which she never sees on his face. It causes her to become uneasy and uncomfortable.
“This is weird,” she says, holding her hand up in front of her face, “But my back is no longer in pain!” Her fingers stretch to be twice the length they were before and they change–they become talons, as she opens and closes her claws before grabbing onto the handle of the cart.
Benny begins to whine a little, as he examines his mother. “I’m getting your balloons, Benny,” she offers, “Just a minute and let me find them. I promise we won’t leave until we get a whole bunch of pretty balloons for my little Benny.”
Walking down the aisle, she sees the shelves lined with boxes and boxes of cereal. At his wit’s end, Benny begins to cry. Krista weaves the cart back and forth in an effort to entertain him and runs into the shelves a couple of times, knocking boxes off. “Clean up on aisle seven,” she sings as she pulls away to run into the boxes on the opposite side.
“Balloons!” Benny argues, “No, no! Balloons!” He throws it on the floor and she grabs another box, tossing it into the cart.
“I know baby, but we’re here for food,” she strokes his hair and tries to calm him down, “This cereal looks like tiny balloons, see?” He doesn’t understand, and continues to cry.
“You know, I feel pretty great,” she admits, “I should get this guy’s name before I forget.” She definitely needs to find the salesman and get his information. ‘No pain’ has never felt so good as it does, and she feels like she could run a marathon now. Even with it being a drug, she’ll be okay as long as she keeps in moderation without overdoing it. Whatever the price is, she’ll figure out some way to get the money. She hurries toward the door, pushing the cart as quickly as she can.
When she reaches the door, she crosses the pad and the door pops open, signaling an alarm. Without paying mind, she begins to look for the miracle man who’s given her a new lease on life. But from out of nowhere, two larger-than-life security men stop her. One snatches her cart and the other clenches her by the arm. “What’s the big idea?” she cries as they drag her back into the store.
“We want to ask you a couple of questions,” the monotone voice sounds like a machine as she notices they are no longer men, but robots. “Where is my son?” she screeches, noticing he is no longer in the cart, “What did you do with my baby?”
One robot jerks the cart out of her hands and she sees several boxes of Trix fall off the top of her piled high cart. “Where is my son?” she screams even louder this time, tears streaming down her face as she pulls and tugs, desperate to get away from the robots and locate her baby.
An ambulance pulls up in front of the store, accompanied by police officers and a medical team in white coats. “The baby is in the restroom,” the woman she was speaking to earlier announces, “We haven’t touched anything.” Her face is drained white, despite the heavy make-up on it. The clown suddenly isn’t very happy.
“I need my baby!” Krista screams, frantically, “Where is my baby?”
The two men hold her while the stretcher wheels in and they forcibly strap her down to it. She isn’t feeling as strong now, but they can’t keep her from telling the world about her abduction. The people and workers stare at her accusingly as they complete the task of confining her. “Got it?” one man asks another who nods as they begin pushing the stretcher toward the door.
Finally, they place her in the ambulance and prepare to close the doors. “Hi,” the doctor announces, “They call me Dr. Fine.” He climbs in, to check her over.
“I remember you.” She does remember him from somewhere, but she can’t be sure where. She desperately searches her memory. For some reason her mind keeps juggling Trix with slices of bread, but she can’t hold a single thought very long.
“Mort?” she finally manages to spit out, “Are you Mort?”
“Yes,” he says, “That’s correct, Dr. Mort Fine. I’m going to make you all better.” He inserts a tube into her arm and picks up a hypodermic needle to fill it and give it a couple of flicks before inserting the liquid into the tube.
“What about little Benny?” she asks sleepily, feeling a numbness and warmth shoot up her arm. The heat travels immediately up the back of her neck to fill the rear of her head, causing a loss of consciousness.
“Now don’t you worry about him,” Dr. Fine warmly smiles, “You’ll never have to worry about him ever again.”
The ambulance begins to move and the sirens begin screaming, blurting out the woman’s cries for help.