An Uncomfortable Diagnosis

An Uncomfortable DiagnosisNote: The names of the persons directly involved in the following account have been changed to protect their right to privacy, as guaranteed (okay, maybe not “guaranteed,” but “implied”) under the Medical Privacy Act of 1923, as first instituted quid pro quo somewhere in Liechtenstein; amended in 1927, somewhere in the Nether Parts; and later modified (see attached pamplet explaining “said” modifications) somewhere over the rainbow.


“Doctor Phuphuey will see you now, Mr. ImScared,”  said the nurse. She was carrying a manilla chart. “Please follow me.”

Mr. ImScared rose from his chair in the packed waiting room and followed the nurse to the doctor’s office. “You can sit here,” she said, pointing. “Doctor Phuphuey will be with you in a few minutes.” She snapped the chart onto the desk and made a hasty retreat. The door closed with a firmess that suggested finality.

The quiet of the office seemed to hold Mr. ImScared as though in a straight jacket. Without moving his head, he googled his eyes around the room: Diplomas, crooked; a picture of a smiling family; and–oddly enough–an old-fashioned pedestal ashtray at the end of the desk. Suddenly the door sprang open, and Dr. Phuphuey entered; he was the spitting image of Kramer from Seinfeld. “Sorry to keep you waiting, ” I was performing a private examination on another patient–the part in question begins with a “P,” ends with an “E” in case you want to guess.” He picked up the the chart and began to thumb through it. “So, what can we do for you today?”

“I’m here for the results, you know, from the test a few days ago. About the virus.”

“Which virus?” asked Dr. Phuphuey. “There’s a lot of them.”

Mr. ImScared couldn’t believe his ears. “Whhaaaa!” his mind cried. “You know…the virus…the one that’s been the star of the media show for the last eight months.”

“Ohhhhhhh, that one,” said the doctor. “The one that presents as mild to moderate symptoms in 99% of the populaton?”

“Yessss,” exclaimed Mr. ImScared, “that one!”

“Well, we’ve got some good news for you, Mr. ImScared. Your tests were negative. No trace of the virus whatsoever. Not a smidge.”

In Mr. ImScared’s mind he heard the sound of a plug being popped in a bathtub. He felt the tension drain from his body.  “You mean I’m going to live?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Dr. Phuphuey, “…at least for a while. Of course, I can’t guarantee that you won’t drop like a sack of gummy bears on your way to the parking lot. But, ç’est la vie, right?” With that, the doctor reached into his desk and removed a pack of Export A Cigarettes. “I like ’em strong,” he said, as he lit a cigarette and took a deep draw.

“This is insane,” said Mr. ImScared. “This is a doctor’s office. You can’t smoke in here!”

“Well, I beg to differ,” said the doctor. “My office, my rules. Besides, they’re legal, and if they were really bad for your health, they’d be outlawed. They’re not banned at all. You can buy them anywhere. Why just two weeks ago, I was travelling in East Ring-a-Ding-A-Ling, and they had them in all sorts of pretty packages. A lot of fufu about nothing, if you ask me.”

A cloud of tarry smoke wafted over them. Mr. ImScared coughed. “What did you mean when you said I was going to live…for a while?”

“Just that,” said the doctor. “You do realize that your body is going to die? Right?”

Mr. ImScared felt as though he might choke on his adam’s apple. “But when?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” The doctor inhaled deeply and yawned a smoke ring toward the ceiling.

“But I’m free of the virus.”

“Yup, you certainly are…but there’s no telling if you might catch it next week, or next month. In the meantime, you might die of a hundred other causes.”

“You missed ‘Bedside Manners 101,’ didn’t you,” said Mr. ImScared.

Dr. Phuphuey nodded. “Yup, skipped it. Went bowling, instead. Rubbish. Simple waste of time. By the way, second letter in that exam I referred do is ‘R.’ Wouldn’t be ethical to tell you the whole word; but I can tell you a few facts about life, if you care to listen.”

“Shoot,” said Mr. ImScared.

“Let me be clear; your body IS going to die. It’s not a question of ‘if.’ But here’s the real scoop: If YOU LET FEAR DOMINATE YOUR LIFE, YOU MIGHT AS WELL GO DIG YOUR OWN GRAVE AND DROP DEAD INTO IT RIGHT NOW. Just think ‘dead‘ long enough and it will happen. My prescription is this: GRAB A SET OF NUTS ON YOUR WAY HOME AND GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE. NO ONE–NOT EVEN THE POLITICAL PUSSIES THAT TRY TO PASS THEMSELVES OFF AS CARING HUMAN BEINGS–ARE GOING TO LIVE FOREVER. GET OVER YOURself AND BE HAPPY–YOU’VE GOT TODAY; THAT’S ALL ANY OF US HAVE. Oh, and one last point: CUT BACK ON THE T.V–IT’S GOT YOU ALL FUGGED UP.  And with that, Dr. Phuphuey ground out his cigarette in the ashtray and watched as Mr. ImScared rose from his chair.

At the door, Mr. ImScared turned and said, “Same time next week?”

“You got it,” said Dr. Phuphuey. “I’ll be here…maybe.”


Dare to dream (and care for one another).

With heartfelt regards,


Copyright © – 2020–R. Arthur Russell

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