Thursday, June 6, 2013

"The Best Medicine"

Eyes on the electronic tablet in front of her, Jillian did the math in her head.  “So, you’ve been here for… six months now?”

“That’s right,” replied her patient, who had been identified by her tablet as Wesley Baumgartner.  He wrung his long, thin fingers together one moment, and then absent-mindedly picked at his eyebrows the next. 

Jillian winched away in disgust and hoped that he hadn’t seen, quickly donning her professional face.  This man was one of her patients, after all.  “Are you thinking of moving into more permanent housing soon?” 

Wesley’s large, watery eyes became distorted as he looked around the extended-stay hotel room through his thick glasses.  “Um… well, I suppose I could,” he replied nasally.  “But, I’m sorting of holding out that mother will change her mind and let me move back in with her.  I mean, right now, the basement is completely unused.  It’s a waste, really.” 

Shifting in the folding chair the Agency had given her, Jillian tapped a box labeled ‘attachment issues’ on her tablet screen.  “Mr. Baumgartner, I think that your mother asked you to move out in an effort to help you rather than punish you.  You have to admit, it’s hard to get by with your… condition… while you’re living with your mother, isn’t it?”   

The thin, weasley, middle-aged man swallowed, and his eyes seemed to flicker even faster behind his glasses.  “Oh.  I was… um… wondering if you were going to bring that up.” 

“Well, it is why the Agency sent me, Mr. Baumgartner.” 

Wesley seemed to sit up a little straighter in his chair.  “Oh.  Really?”  Jillian noticed the man’s knees beginning to shake.  “Just… um… how did the Agency expect you to… remedy my problem?” 

Remembering her training, Jillian put on her most serious face in an effort to diffuse the situation.  “Simply to examine your living conditions and prescribe medication if I think it’s necessary.  Standard procedure.” 

Lower lip now trembling, Wesley replied, in what Jillian would later realize was a laughable attempt at a seductive voice, “Are you sure they didn’t send you to perform a… physical examination?” 

A sliver of fear slipped into Jillian’s stomach, but it didn’t show on her stone-cold expression.  Even so, she remembered her training, and let her right hand slip toward her purse.  “Definitely not.  This is a very standard, very professional visit.  You shouldn’t be worried.  This sort of thing is much more common than you’d think, Mr. Baumgartner.” 

“Please.  Call me Wesley,” Wesley said, just before leaping to his feet and lunging for Jillian. 

Adrenaline and fear filled the nurse like a hot poker placed on her skin.  Jillian leapt to her feet, dropping her tablet and knocking her folding chair to the floor.  Though she twisted away from the man, Wesley managed to grab her wrist. 

And then he licked the back of her hand. 

Jillian shifted her weight, broke Wesley’s hold and, with a twist of her hips, planted the sole of her right foot squarely into his sternum.  All the air left his lungs in a great whuff, and the scrawny man tumbled backward over his chair.  In the moment she had bought, Jillian snatched her purse from the floor, where it had fallen, and produced the instrument she had reached for earlier. 

A moment later, Wesley’s hands appeared on the back of the chair as he struggled to pull himself to his feet.  His previously combed-over quaff of hair was disheveled and his glasses sat skewed on his nose.  “Wow,” he wheezed.  “I know it’s been a while since I used the Venom, but I forgot how powerful it can be!  Just not so rough from now on, okay?” 

“I think you’ll find, Mr. Baumgartner, that I’m immune to your Venom” Jillian huffed.  Her adrenaline-quickened breath made her hand rise and fall rhythmically, but still she maintained perfect aim on Wesley with the implement in her hand.  “The agency made sure to inoculate me against every possible poison, venom, toxin, hypnosis, mind trick, and curse known to cryptohumanoid kind. So if I were you, I’d not try that again.  This thing was freshly enchanted this morning.” 

Wesley’s eyes widened in fear at the red-handled, ruby-tipped wand in Jillian’s hand.  “Oh.  Oh, no.  I’m… I’m so sorry,” he stammered.  “I had no idea.  Oh god.  I’m so sorry.  It’s just been so long… I mean, look at me!  I’m not supposed to be like this!”  Wesley returned to his chair and put his head in his hands, which put Jillian more at ease. Still, when she righted her chair, she made sure to place it a few more feet away from the man, and to keep her Wand of Stupification in her hand. 

“It’s not healthy for an incubus to stay holed up in his mother’s basement,” Jillian went on professionally.  When Wesley opened his mouth to protest, she added, “no matter how good his video game collection is.  Your kind survives on the sensual energy of young women.  And there are NO young women playing video games on the internet.” 



Wesley lowered his face shamefully. “I’ve tried everything, though.  I mean, look at these pills I ordered from an ad I got in my inbox.”  He trotted to the room’s nightstand, opened it, and produced a pair of plastic bottles, each the size of the venti coffee Jillian had drunk that morning.  Written across the front of the red bottles were the words ‘LOVE MACHINE’ in black letters, plastered in a yellow comic-book style starburst. 

“Mr. Baumgartner, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” Jillian said, setting down her wand long enough to make a few quick taps on her tablet.  “I’m calling you in a prescription meant to help incubuses just like you with this very same problem.  Soon you’ll be looking like your old self again, and you’ll have no trouble with the ladies.” 

“Thank you, Ms. Nightingale,” Wesley said, looking repentant.  “Mother has been teasing me because I look older than she does.” 

“That’s because she’s a succubus, and she feeds regularly,” Jillian replied, “and doesn’t spend all her time playing video games.”  She flipped the cover on her tablet closed and stood, collapsing her folding chair.  “Your prescription will be ready by tomorrow.  Simply take it, and concern yourself more with your health instead of how many headshots your squad is accumulating.” 

Wesley nodded, his hands clasped in his lap.  “Thank you again, Ms. Nightingale.  And I’m so sorry about my little… outburst.  I hope you can forgive me.” 

Despite herself, Jillian smiled.  “It’s not the worst that’s happened to me in this job.  Coincidently, werewolf bites itch like you wouldn’t believe.”  With that, she stuffed her belongings into her back, bid Wesley a final good-bye, and left the hotel room. 

On her way down the hotel’s stairs, Jillian recalled the patients she had seen that day.  A harpy with a broken wing.  A merman with a terrible case of athlete’s flipper.  A troll, currently living under the Watterson Beltway Bridge, with fang rot.  And, lastly, an antisocial incubus with a hormonal imbalance. 

Jillian Nightingale, nurse practitioner for the Agency for the Betterment of Cryptohumanoid Health, returned to her mobile office (a.k.a. her car).  No doubt, it had been a long day.  Though she could have squeezed in one more patient, she decided against it, and picked up her phone to text the Agency that they’d have to find another agent to treat the Sasquatch with fleas. 

The nurse left work at five o’clock, officially, and headed in the direction of her favorite bar.  The wizard bartender had promised her a Wand of Flypaper for the pixies she was supposed to visit tomorrow, should they try any funny business. 

Just another day.

No comments:

Post a Comment