You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #19 of The Word Count podcast.
The prompt was “The only difference between a madman and me is that I’m not mad.”
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“Did you know that you can sell guns on any street corner in Alabama, but it’s against the law to sell sex toys?”
He pursed his lips, showing his disapproval. “And how do you know so much about the subject, Lena?”
“I read. Just because I don’t have letters after my name doesn’t mean I’m ill-informed.”
“No, no, of course not. You’re an intelligent woman, Lena.”
“Don’t patronize me, you narrow-minded hypocrite.”
“Lena, there’s no need to be combative. I’m just trying to help you.”
I glared at the man sitting in front of me—a boy, really. He was probably no more than thirty but had the wisdom of a ten year old. At the insistence of my god-fearing husband, I’d been coerced to seek medical help. I was even prescribed drugs for my little problem, though I didn’t take them, of course.
“Yes doc, in Alabama, you can shoot your guns at will so long as you’re of legal age. Just don’t shoot your sperm into a vinyl blow-up doll.”
His expression changed, though unsuccessfully masking his contempt. “Really, Lena, must you speak in such lewd terms?”
“Your puritanical way of thinking is ridiculous and maddening.”
“And why does that make you mad, Lena?”
This guy was something else, so incredibly innocent that I could bait him with a piece of snot. “First of all, doc, don’t call me by my name. You haven’t earned the right, and you’re not going to endear yourself to me by doing so. Secondly, the term madness is open for interpretation. I’ve been called many things: insane; crazy; even hysterical, which in itself is quite ironic.”
Ironic indeed. My problem was that I had urges—often, and I didn’t mind satisfying them. The issue was my dear husband didn’t think it was normal for me to have such an active libido, and he was shelling out big bucks to have me “cured.” He certainly didn’t approve of my using vibrators, or as he called them, my “marital aids.” In Victorian times, I would’ve been brought into an office not unlike this one, only I’d be manually masturbated by the doctor as a remedy for my anxiety or depression. Now, I just had to sit in front of this shrink and talk about it.
“You don’t like me very much, do you?” he asked.
Wow, the dim bulb flickered. “I don’t like what you represent, doc. Do you think you’re going to cure me of my desire? If you do, you’re the one who’s mad.”
“Lena … sorry—look, I know you’re not happy about coming to see me, and you’re only doing it to appease your husband, but you have a legitimate problem.” He paused to wipe his upper lip with a handkerchief. “My apologies, it’s quite warm in here today. I—”
“Cut the bullshit, doc. It’s no warmer than usual for a Tennessee summer day. You have some nerve telling me I have a problem. I think I turn you on, don’t I?”
His face went ashen and he began stuttering incoherently.
I offered a coy smile. I’d known from day one what his weakness was. From the stark appearance in his office, lack of family photos, and no wedding band, it wasn’t difficult to guess that he was unmarried and likely a virgin. The fact that he would counsel me on becoming a righteous woman was laughable, and now I’d confirmed what I had suspected all along—he had a Mommy complex.
“Doc,” I said calmly, now almost feeling sorry for him, “you need to pull yourself together. It’s not very professional of you to have your tongue hanging out.”
“Mrs. Robinson! I don’t think I can see you anymore.” He got up, walked over to his desk, and shuffled papers. “I’m going to recommend another doctor immediately.” Scribbling on a notepad, he thrust a piece of paper in my face—all the while, avoiding eye contact.
I looked at the note. It was the name of another doctor. Getting up slowly from my seat, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with this young, small-framed man. “You know doc … I was just beginning to like you.”
“Please leave,” he said, his eyes looking toward the door.
I picked up my purse and left his office. Once outside, I crumpled the piece of paper he’d given me and threw it in the garbage. Another shrink conquered—my dear husband will surely be mad.
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This story is included in a collection called HOT FLASH, now available