More writing by Bruce Taylor

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Dr. Frederick's Last Task

by Bruce Taylor

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DR. FREDERICK WAS forty-five, with an overabundance of wrinkles around his eyes and an aura of having-seen-it-all. He grimaced as he sat at his broad dark desk, making himself as comfortable as possible considering his peculiar set of circumstances. He wore a gray suit with white shirt and subdued blue tie. Running his hand over his graying hair to make sure it was in place, he glanced at his appointment book, noting the patients coming for return visits and the brief summaries regarding several new patients. Dr. Frederick guessed it would be a typical day. He glanced at the clock nine exactly then pressed a button on the intercom and said, "Miss Leo, send Mr. Klotzky in."

"Yes, sir," came the reply and in a few minutes Mr. Klotzky, a tall, robust-looking fellow (who rather looked like a lumberjack) came sauntering in. His blue eyes were fierce as always, his blond hair a bit thinner, and the hatchet was still stuck in the back of his skull. "Howdy," he said to Dr. Frederick and smiled.

"Hello," answered Dr. Frederick, "please have a seat."

Dr. Frederick scanned the notes from the last session. "Well, how are you today? How's your wife?"

"Pretty good. She's on vacation with the kids to the mountains. Still has some chest pain though."

"Oh?" asked Dr. Frederick.

"Yeah, she hasn't taken the ice pick out of her chest yet."

"Mm," murmured Dr. Frederick, "I see. Well, how're you doing? Still have those migraines?"

"Yeah," said Mr. Klotzky, slumping a bit in the chair, "I sure do. Nothing seems to help. No amount of Excedrin or Anacin seems to help."

"Well," Dr. Frederick replied, "This has gone on for some time. Maybe you should think about removing that hatchet from your skull."

"Yeah," said Mr. Klotzky, gingerly touching the hatchet blade, "I suppose . . . but I'm afraid that if I do, I'll lose my brains or bleed to death."

Dr. Frederick nodded. "I don't think that'll happen, but, until you're ready to do that, just more medication I suppose."

"That'd be fine. And can you make out a prescription for my wife?"

"I guess that she's still frightened that if she pulls that ice pick out "

Mr. Klotzky shook his head slowly, " her lungs will collapse."

Dr. Frederick wrote out the prescription. "Here you go. Call me if your headaches get too severe."

Mr. Klotzky sighed, then stood. "Yeah, well thanks." He turned to leave.

"Mr. Klotzky?"


"You really should hang a little red flag from that hatchet handle to warn people. You don't want to poke someone's eye out you could get a ticket."

"I suppose you're right," Mr. Klotzky agreed, "I'll take care of that today."

After Klotzky left, Dr. Frederick noted in the chart: Headaches continue; pt. advised to remove hatchet. Prescription renewed.

Dr. Frederick filed Mr. Klotzky's chart in the desk drawer and pulled out another, glanced at it briefly then pressed the intercom. "Mr. Hotchins, please."

Mr. Hotchins was a splintery old man dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and very red tie. He wore a gray hat with a little feather stuck in the band. Over his right shoulder drooped a dead cat.

Dr. Frederick smiled. "Mr. Hotchins, how are you today?" He wanted to rise, but simply didn't have the energy to do so.

"I'm doing pretty good, but I've been bothered recently by very unpleasant odors."

Coughing, Dr. Frederick turned and opened a window. "There seems to be a lot of odd odors going around, Mr. Hotchins, but I think you're doing better I mean last week you came in complaining of a crawling sensation on your left hand "

"I know, and I did exactly as you advised I took off that jar filled with spiders that I was wearing on my hand it helped a great deal."

Dr. Frederick reached into a drawer for some pine-scented room deodorizer and sprayed it about nonchalantly. "And what do you suppose is causing the bad smells?"

"Dunno," shrugged Mr. Hotchins, "just don't know."

"Could it be that dead cat on your shoulder?"

"Feedie? My dear beloved Feedie?" Unconsciously, he lifted his hand to stroke the dead animal, unintentionally removing large chunks of fur and skin. "Never! It can't be Feedie!" Abruptly, Mr. Hotchins stood. "It just can't be! I'll never come here again as long as I live! Let's go, Feedie!" Mr. Hotchins turned, and the cat's tail tore off and dropped to the floor with a fwump. In an amazing move of awareness and agility, Mr. Hotchins snatched up the tail and was out the door, slamming it behind him.

Dr. Frederick sprayed the room with more of the aerosol, then opened the window wider. He wrote in Mr. Hotchins chart: Pt. complains of smelling strange odors. Advised to remove dead cat from shoulder. Pt. refused. Denial. However, other symptoms seem to be less problematic.

As before, Dr. Frederick put the file away and plucked out a new, empty one. "Please send in Mrs. Gallsworthy."

"Yes, Dr. Frederick."

He idly wondered what this Mrs. Gallsworthy's problem was and hoped it wouldn't take too long lots of cases today, plus another new patient at two.

The door opened and a woman, short and wide like she'd been compacted by life, her face lined by lances of stress walked in, followed by a large green frog in a baseball hat. "Dr. Frederick?" the woman asked.

"Yes. Won't you have a seat? What can I do for you?"

She entered, fitfully clasping her purse and looking about furtively. The frog hopped once behind her and sat nearby. Mrs. Gallsworthy squirmed in her seat. "Well, it's like this it's about my son, Daniel."

Dr. Frederick looked at the frog, "What about your son?"

Daniel nodded at Dr. Frederick then opened his mouth and with a long, pink tongue, flicked a fly out of mid-air.

"That's the problem."

"What's the problem?"

"Catching flies in public he did it at church last weekend and the congregation was outraged."

Dr. Frederick frowned, perplexed. "But he's supposed to eat flies."

Mrs. Gallsworthy twisted in her chair and fidgeted with her pink purse. "Maybe I didn't explain myself clearly " she began again, "I mean, I know he's supposed to eat flies, but he's doing it all the time he can't stop eating. I'm afraid he has an eating disorder or maybe he's missing something in his diet "

Dr. Frederick thought for a minute. Daniel opened his mouth, flit, a pink tongue zipped out and another fly vanished.

"Daniel?" said Dr. Frederick, "are you feeling well?"

"Breet," replied Daniel.

"Do you think your eating is a problem?"


"Hmm. Well, I'm still going to give you the name of a nutritionist. If you're only eating flies, it might be wise to expand your diet a bit you know, moths, flying ants, mosquitoes you are a growing frog and your body requires lots of calories. Could be an addiction-allergy, which means you crave food you're allergic to like flies. A nutritionist can help you." Dr. Frederick wrote the name of a nutritionist on the back of his business card and handed it to Mrs. Gallsworthy.

"Oh, thank you, thank you," gushed Mrs. Gallsworthy, standing. "I think this will be most helpful and might solve our problems."

"I hope so," said Dr. Frederick.

Smiling, Mrs. Gallsworthy put the card in her purse and snapped it shut. She turned to Daniel. "Let's go, Danny." She walked out the door, Daniel hopping close behind her.

Dr. Frederick sighed. That was fairly easy and not too unusual. He hoped the rest of the day was the same, and it pretty much was.

There was Mr. Gleckin, a young man with dark eyes and black hair who complained of a burning sensation on his back. He requested burn medication without considering that his flaming shirt might be the problem. And there was Mrs. Enrod who, with pigeons nesting in her hair, said she couldn't understand where the white spots on her clothes came from. She liked Dr. Frederick's suggestion of wearing polka-dotted dresses until she could decide what to do about the pigeons.

Then there was Mr. Slather, a very fat, fifty-five-year-old man, who pulled behind him a red wagon filled with pastries. He complained he couldn't understand his constant weight gain and requested a weight reduction diet while sucking down a milkshake.

At the end of the day, at five-o'clock, Dr. Frederick sighed. Miss Leo brought in the checks for the day and Dr. Frederick stared at her. "Little blue flames on your blouse again."

She glanced down, "Oh yes, heartburn. Too much alcohol recently."

"You've been dealing with that ever since I've known you."

She nodded. "It's so hard to change. I just have to keep on working at it. Good night," she smiled, "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Indeed," he replied. "Have a good evening."

Finally, it was Dr. Frederick's turn to leave.

Slowly, and with great effort, he stood, and realized, as he had realized many, many times before, that someday he'd have to do something, something, about that twenty-pound anvil in the seat of his pants . . .


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