Vol. 3 Issue 10, "Houdini"

Page 121

Fiction

Doctor Donald Awaits You Dee Burton

D

r. Donald was an imitation of a person. Not insincere, phony or psychopathic—although there was that about him also—but a genuine imitation of a person, like one might expect to find in the twenty-second century, or on another planet, or in an old Bradbury novel. When you met Dr. Donald, you knew right away the man must have been conceived in a test tube. Aside from being a person-impersonator, Dr. Donald was a renowned psychiatrist. He’d attained recognition when his voluminous thesis on the etiology of folie à deux was popularized as a self-help book, titled “I’m Bizarre, You’re Bizarre.” This early acclaim prompted Dr. Donald towards increasingly audacious writings and the bolder his assertions, the greater the number of his followers. In the inner world of neo-Freudian analysis Dr. Donald was known as a shrink’s shrink. Almost all of his patients were shrinks: practicing shrinks, budding shrinks, has-been shrinks, would-havebeen shrinks. Stanley was an exception. Stanley was just an ordinary guy, who, like most ordinary guys, had heard of Dr. Donald, had seen in print the name, “Donald B. Donald, M.D.” He had sought out Dr. Donald for help in his relationship with Beth. Theirs was a quality marriage, but lately Stanley had been finding it difficult to keep up his end of the quality. He’d come to feel, not overwhelmed, but perplexed, dismayed, and fatigued by his wife. As he put it to Beth: “I want Dr. Donald to help me be a better husband to you.” Beth herself was mildly disparaging of the idea. “Fish-head,” she said. “Only a fish-head would go for marriage counseling by himself.” In the end, though, Dr. Donald’s prestigious reputation won out. “Donald B. Donald, M.D.:” here it was again, this time engraved on a gold plaque next to the impressive mahogany door. Stanley felt a chill: he was going to see the best! There was no telling what mysteries might appear and then unravel, what rare insights might pop into his mind, what new depth of experiencing he might attain, with the assistance of the wisdom of Dr. Donald. “Donald B. Donald, M.D., Donald B. Donald, M.D.,” Stanley whispered to himself as he pulled open the heavy door and stepped into the waiting room. A thin woman with a white dress and red hair sat in back of a plexiglass desk, watching miniature television on her watch. She turned down the volume and rose as Stanley approached. Stanley stood up straight and spoke in a full-volume voice. “I’m Stanley Block and I have a six o’clock appointment with Dr. Donald,” he said. The receptionist gave him an exasperated look. “Do you have PTV?” she asked.

“Uh—I don’t think so,” Stanley said. “I haven’t been diagnosed, but—“ “No, no, no, no, no!” the receptionist exclaimed, wagging the index finger of her right hand once for each of the no’s (though subsequent to, rather than in accompaniment with the words). “PTV is Psychiatry Television,” she explained. “An interactive network. Do you have it?” “I must—we get them all,” Stanley answered proudly. “Then hurry on home!” she scolded. “Dr. Donald awaits you.” Stanley tore into his home and turned on the tube just as his telephone rang. He grabbed the receiver. A recorded voice instructed him to turn down the volume to his video and turn up that of his speaker phone. Stanley adjusted his reception just in time to hear a man’s melodic voice say: “Good evening, Stanley.” Stanley scooted up to within inches of the screen. An orangehaired man with dull grey eyes and a charcoal suit sat stiffly in a large brown leather chair. “Good evening, Dr. Donald,” Stanley said. “We’re quite informal here at PTV,” Dr. Donald said. “That is to say, we’re rather casual. You may call me Dr. Donald.” “Of course, Dr. Donald,” Stanley said, beaming. “Tell me, Stanley, how is it I may help you? That is to say, what can I do for you?” “I hardly know where to start,” Stanley said. “I guess you could say I have a kind of marital problem.” “You…say…marital problem,” Dr. Donald said slowly. “Is it a woman with whom you are engaged in a relationship?” “Exactly,” Stanley said, pleased that their communication was getting off to such a four-star beginning. “I want to make one thing clear from the start, though,” Stanley quickly added. “Beth is a remarkable woman.” “Aren’t they all, though,” Dr. Donald said, and seemed to give a little snort afterwards, although he could have just been clearing his nasal passages. “Go on, Stanley,” he said. As well as he could, Stanley described some of the situations that troubled him: the incident with Beth and the Kellogg ad exec, for example, and the one with her and the podiatrist. Stanley took his time and freely associated. “Beth and I have a quality relationship, Dr. Donald,” Stanley concluded. “But lately—I’m ashamed as hell to admit this—but it’s almost as though I’m angry at her. I’m a sick man, Dr. Donald. Help me, please.” “Hmm,” Dr. Donald said, and there was a deceptive appearance of warmth in his smile. “For sure, for sure I can help you. Why did you marry Beth?”

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