in E Minor
Rubber, You're Glue...
Does It All Mean?
-by Len Rely
was sent to a different room this time, a darker room. The
lack of illumination from the
moment she came through the door gave her a look that was night to the day
before. Her mother
had a careworn expression as she sighed loudly and left to wait in the lobby as
Dr. Lang had
requested. The door closed and
Katherine walked slowly to the bed not sure what was going to
She looked for Dr. Sobol, and spotted him in the corner of the large room turned
away from her.
She could tell something was wrong with him or else he had some news that he did
not want the
light to reveal on his face. He
stared at the floor and appeared to be picking at his fingernails. On
the other side of the room there was a second man who looked like a doctor of
higher office holding
"I'm sorry you had to come here again, Kathy." Dr. Sobol said, not
The other man stepped out of the shadows toward her, glints of light reflecting
off the twisted
ends of his hair around that huge head. He
towered over her as she sat and dug her fingers into
the sheet. Her face contorted into
a horrid look of surprise and she cowered behind her outstretched
hands trying to retreat from him.
"Can we please get this over with." Dr. Sobol muttered quietly.
Dr. Lang shot a fierce look at him. He
moved an uplifted hand toward the girl, rubbing his fingers
together as if he half-wanted to grab a handful of her hair but had been stopped
by a passing thought.
He lowered his hand and holding the clipboard upright turned away from
the frightened patient.
"Your misdiagnosis was as follows..." he said dryly. "You
had originally prescribed Albuterol, which
would have eliminated the symptoms and little Katherine would not have had
reason to visit us again."
"It would have cured her." Sobol stated.
"There is your mistake!" Lang remarked. "We
would not have had the further pleasure of this young
lady's company, and as the symptoms were 'cured' the underlying problem would
"I'm curious to know what your diagnosis is, Doctor." Sobol said,
turning to face him.
"I will inform her mother that the reason her symptoms appear and disappear
is because they are
"What do you mean psychosomatic..."
"In reality she never had asthma to begin with. She
has anxiety attacks, as you yourself witnessed,
and for one reason or another she decides that it is difficult to breathe."
Katherine made a choking sound from the bed. Her
throat had begun to close up just listening to
this. Her face was turning reddish
and she closed her eyes painfully to gasp any shred of air that
would go down. She tried to speak
but it was impossible.
"Hold on, my dear." Sobol said, rushing to her side. "I'll
give you something that will make it go away."
"No!" Lang barked furiously. "She
has to do it herself!"
Kathy was turning purple. Dr. Sobol
held her hand as she slowly began to calm down. She
shallow, hurried breaths as her eyes were fixed on Dr. Lang.
"We must explore her mind and expose these frights for all they're worth to
find the cause of the
phenomenon." he said. "I
am going to prescribe a Methaquaalude..."
"What!" Sobol exclaimed. "That
is a neurological drug used for extreme mental patients!"
"Are you questioning my medical opinion.” Lang
said quietly, putting the clipboard down.
Sobol swallowed the phlegm in his throat.
"Because if you are, then you can relieve yourself of this patient and I
will continue with her alone."
Sobol lowered his head, not willing to look Katherine in the face. He
returned slowly to the corner
as Lang proceeded. He opened his
black medical bag and produced some plastic tubing which
made poor Kathy's heart jump not knowing what he intended to do with it.
When she emerged from the room, she looked like her entire childhood had been
spent and all that
enthusiasm defeated. There was a
look of oblivion on her face like she had been shown human
horrors or forced to hold her breath for too long. There
was a general soreness about the face like
when an oxygen mask is used.
Her mother was shocked at the sight of her and reacted not with compassion but
frustration at the
prolonging of it all, which perhaps was a mistake. Sitting
on a bench in the waiting room she had
been thinking head downward, face tensed at how she could afford further
treatment and her child's
further suffering. In her
displeasure at Dr. Lang's description of her "condition,” she
Katherine hurriedly by the wrist to leave when what her daughter needed was a
Dr. Lang handed the small vial of drugs to her mother himself as if he had taken
it from a drawer.
As she turned to leave, she placed a hand on the top of Kathy's head and
pulling it away stared at
a couple of loose hairs in her palm and noticed that one of her daughter’s
pigtails was missing.
"What happened to her hair?" she demanded somberly.
"It is beginning to fall out." Dr. Lang stated. "A
symptom of her deteriorating condition. Be
bring her on a daily basis starting tomorrow."
Her mother wiped a tear from her face and turned quickly away, taking Kathy by
the arm as if she
were significantly older than the wheelchair-riding child of before.
An uncomfortable Dr. Sobol stood at the back of his colleague's dark office, the
buttons of his white
frock disheveled for the first time in the young physician's career. He
thumbed a bead of sweat from
his forehead and looking forlorn made a fist in the air which he brought down
and stared upon his
shaking hand for some time.
"I care for the girl," he stated, "and if I had the slightest
ability this would not continue." "Stop
before I say something that outlives my usefulness, because my ungodly presence
here is my only
comfort in that I can observe what you would gladly do unseen. Yet I am here
ergo I must speak,
regardless. I am horrified. Our
duty is to heal the sick as quickly as we can so they may go about
their lives. This obsession
circumvents that trust, and in the end I would do anything to save her,
even from you."
Dr. Lang sat at his desk ignoring him, focused entirely on a small tuft of the
girl's hair held aloft
between his thumb and fingers. It
absorbed him, and from his perfect collar downward he was
"Does she tantalize you?" Sobol asked with disgust as he moved closer.
"Does she haunt you at night like you do to her? Would
you cut out her face and paste it on a
fantasy of your choosing so you can sleep at night?"
"You use the word ergo like an educated man." Lang stated after a
"Funny, isn't it? Very well, I
am content ergo I will ignore you and keep the whim that allows you
to remain. Fair enough?"
Sobol stared at him.
"Things are moving along better than anticipated." Lang continued,
rising to his impressive height.
"I'm thinking there may be room in this case study for more rewards
than I originally hoped for."
"It was my intention to put her on the breathing apparatus permanently
starting tomorrow, but
something else has come up... Something
which may provide even more control over the situation
than I thought was possible. If
effective, I may even provide the girl with some freedom from the
apparatus for the time being, to keep her limber. We
have to look out for her in the long term, you
see." The lower rims of Sobol's eyes turned red as listened to this.
"Her mother." Lang stated. "Did
she not seem a bit standoffish to you? This
ordeal is really getting
to her, poor woman. Morose
indifference is not the way to treat a child, she should have shown more
compassion. If this continues, it
may open the door that she is an unfit mother not qualified to be the
girl's protector. We could benefit
He swiped the palms of his hands together with a snap in eagerness.
"You're breaking into a sweat all over thinking that the girl might be
available to you forever." Sobol
said with a look of sickness. "You
can't wait to see her again, can you."
"You're the one who cannot control his perspiration, little man."
"Mine flows from fear. I
understand it now, which perhaps I let fall shortsighted when you
me. I want to know what you
injected her with on the night she was brought in, so I can report you.
Does it induce asthma or was it a mental drug to, as you say, maintain
Lang's face turned slightly downward into rage, to a lack of allowance. He
showed a little of his teeth
and grasped the handle of his medical bag within easy reach.
"Tell me, you yourself had asthma as a child, did you not?" He
unzipped the black bag slowly. Sobol
stared wide-eyed at him and backed away, uncertain of what he was going to do.
"You had it all the way through the fifth grade, right Doctor?"
Sobol moved quickly out the door and disappeared from sight.