It was a squirrel.
And, to his credit, the doctor did say it was a trained squirrel before he let it loose. I was on the table as he said it and I thought back to my early twenties.
“I’ve got a stomach of steel!”
I’d told my friend who’d just poured me a shot of hot sauce. Then, I downed it in one. I was twenty-two.
I’m thirty now. It turned out my stomach was steel, but my colon was made up of those little flecks of dust you find floating in the air of old attics.
The doctor spoke to Y who sat beside us and took notes:
NO SPICY, NO SALTY, NO SWEET, NO DAIRY
“…and make sure you don’t love him too much. This boy has had too much love already.”
I would have been glad at least to have been called “boy” at that moment if the doctor hadn’t tapped my ass as he said it and I could feel the squirrel hide and the doctor cried,
I forced myself to relax.
“Are you okay?” the doctor said.
“I’m okay–yeah, I think so,” I told him.
I heard a squeak, a pinch, then another squeak.
“Good,” the doctor said. “Good, good.”
NO RED MEAT, NO SODA, NO ALCOHOL, NO JUICES, NO YEAST, NO EGGS, NO SUGAR, NO PICKLES
The doctor made some kissy sounds and finally, thankfully, the squirrel emerged. I took myself out of downward-facing-dog and sat there. I looked at Y and I thought, “you still want to have sex with me, right?” But she seemed to be hard at work making sure to write down everything the doctor said in feverish detail.
NO CORN, NO TOMATOES, NO PASTA, NO BREAD, NO LOVE!
I thought about when I used to go to the doctor with my mother and they’d tap my knee and it would tickle a bit when they put the stethoscope to my chest. The doctor would say things like:
“there you go,”
“just a little cough now,”
And then when they’d all finished up, they’d turn to my mother and say, “looks like the little guy has a cold. It’s a couple of days of ginger ale and ice cream shakes for you, young man!”
I’d take my mother’s hand and she’d lead me back to the car and say, “now let’s swing through McDonald’s, what-a-ya-say?”
And I’d say,
I pulled up my pants as the doctor sat and calmed the squirrel. “There you go, good, brave boy,” he told it before tucking it in a drawer and turning back to me, Y was busy rolling up her notes.
“You will come back in one month,” he told me.
Y took my hand and led me to the car.
“When do you have to be back at work?” she asked.
I checked my phone and adjusted myself in the seat.
“Ten minutes ago.”
This story was originally published on Medium in The Moss. The fantastic illustration seen above is by Nikita Klimov.