Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Case Study #21

This just arrived at the office, via State Department courier. Why the State Department would be involved in such a thing, I have little idea. Perhaps Hillary has made some interesting procedural changes:

Dear Dr. Brian: Is it really so wrong for a 45 year old woman to go around wearing tiaras large and glittery enough to be seen from the Space Station and referring to herself in the 3rd person as "HRH"?

HRH's Royal Secretary

And Dr. Brian responds:

Dear HRH Person,

What a delightful question you present, and your timing is impeccable. I have just returned from an extended stay with the Royal Court of Lithuania. Although I had initially been invited for consultative purposes, the situation turned into a vacation of sorts, as there was a small military coup shortly after my arrival. While the family dealt with the appropriate beheadings and such, I was given ample time for leisure activities.

As it turns out, I’m apparently something of a Royal Watcher. Prior to this realization, I had little interest in what privileged people might do when practicing absolute rule over their subjects. Seemed a bit boring and trite. But after several days in court, I began waking each morning in a flurry of excitement, racing down the gilded stairs to see the latest abuse of power.

The Lithuanians are VERY angry people. And they don’t forget things.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble a bit, especially since I’m fairly certain that your situation has little to do with short, ugly people who do amazingly audacious things because the inbreeding has gone unchecked for many centuries. I merely mentioned my recent journey to show that I do have some familiarity with royalty and their mannerisms. The Lithuanians are not the only monarchs listed in my Blackberry.

So, you have a fondness for extravagant, jewel-encrusted headgear? This is really not all that unusual. Many people enjoy adorning themselves with status symbols. After all, this is one of the basic tenets of America. Your attire should reflect your standing in society. In fact, if you DON’T prance around in a distinguishing outfit of some kind, strangers will not know your station in life and therefore will be uncertain on how to conduct themselves in your presence.

In that sense, dear Crowned One, you are in fact doing a great service to mankind by helpfully letting everyone within a one-mile radius know that you consider yourself privileged royalty. This clears up any societal confusion, quickly establishes the proper etiquettes of dialogue, and ensures that you will be given the most commanding spot at the dining table, should nourishment be on the agenda.

As we all know, it’s very troublesome when those irritating free spirits refuse to conform to any type of dress code. If we don’t know what you’re wearing, we don’t know who you are. This can lead to the wasting of valuable time, as everyone in the room has to figure out the pecking order and determine who they can offend and who they cannot if the want to receive further invitations of a social nature.

You are doing a grand thing, indeed, HRH Person. Your exquisite breeding is shining through in a lovely aura that enhances your ravaging noble beauty.

Now, having run through all that and hopefully lulling you into a false sense of security and superiority, there ARE a few little quibbles that we must address. As you are the one who graciously approached ME with your concerns, I’m assuming that someone on your staff will be sending me a royal check. Thus, being in your employ, however temporary, it behooves me that I provide you with the counseling you desire in a manner that is useful without jeopardizing the cash flow.

I trust that the following advice will be taken graciously by Your Highness, with your delicate ear accepting the words as wisdom to strengthen your queendom and not as salacious slurs that could result in imprisonment in drafty towers. These are merely my humble suggestions to keep peace in the land and prevent tawdry revolutions where ugly people are rude, yell a lot, and storm things.

Firstly, could we possibly get you to remove the searchlights you have stationed at the end of the royal drive? I’m sure you only meant to highlight the location of your palace, and perhaps provide guidance to visiting foreign dignitaries. Such an action is kind and thoughtful on your part.

However, these searchlights are causing a bit of a situation. There has been an impact to local air traffic, with planes being thrown off course and forced to touch down in places that they would rather not, given a choice and the ability to retain their vision after one of your strobes blasts the cockpit. As I’m sure you’ll understand, cow pastures do not typically have adequate ground crews for impromptu arrivals, and the beverage service can be downright appalling.

Then there’s the matter of your decision to redesign the American flag. While I agree with you that the original layout of the flag could perhaps have used a bit more pomp and circumstance, I’m sure you realize that adapting the flag to better represent your stake in society is a bit forward. You have to let people vote on these things or they become cantankerous.

Besides, are you really satisfied with simply using a staple gun to affix your image to the flag? This really won’t do, even if the glass of wine told you otherwise. And surely there is a better representation of Your Highness other than a life-size cardboard cutout. (Where do you even have these made, pray tell?) The size of this image is just a bit ungainly, considering the standard dimensions of your typical flag, especially since you are sporting a crown that can physically compete with the Manhattan skyline.

And since we’re on the subject of altering public signage, perhaps we can discuss your incessant need to rename local streets so that they coincide with your visionary dreams. Granted, we all would like to live on boulevards with fancy names. Everyone would like something pretty to put on their business cards. It adds a nice touch of class.

However, this desire cannot always be feasibly satisfied. Spray-painting over the current street signs in your neighborhood, and then scribbling a new street name using an orange crayon does not alter reality. You do not live at “12 Pemberton Lane”. You live at Rural Route 7, Box 122. The cows in the neighboring fields can verify this statement.

I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that it’s really in your best interest to cease and desist with your attempts at redistricting. There’s a growing contingent of dissatisfied subjects who are tired of being unable to find their way home. They would like you to find another hobby, as soon as royally possible.

And now we approach one final item that is of an extremely delicate nature. I hesitate to even broach the subject, but after consulting national polls as well as live updates from CNN, a healthy discussion simply cannot be avoided. In order to ensure that your lengthy reign over the queendom will continue with a minimum of political controversy, it is critical that you heed the following advice:

Please stop making public appearances in the nude.

Granted, I’m sure that most of your subjects will heartily agree that you have an exquisitely-toned personage. That, in fact, there have been occasions when the morning sun striking your dewy body is a vision with little compare. Sensitive people have been known to weep at the sight.

However, those same subjects humbly request that you limit the number of viewing opportunities. As I’m sure your Royal Artist in Residence will confirm, even the most stunning work of art will lose its luster when you can see it every day in the produce section of the local supermarket as you select the evening’s dinner fare.

Yes, I understand that you take considerable pride in the baring of your regal topography, that you have an army of physical therapists to ensure that every feminine curve is divine. However, this extreme dedication does not necessarily sanctify your actions. Just because your pubic hair has been trimmed in the shape of the family crest does not mean that everyone should have a front row seat.

In summation, please discreetly alter your lifestyle so that the gaudy searchlights on your royal property do not cause commuter planes to suddenly crash to earth in an explosion of cow patties, remove the offensive staple-gunned American flag so that your neighbors will not be appalled when rushing to assist the crash victims, stop changing the street signs so that rescue vehicles can locate the downed plane, and by all means, do not rush out the back door of the palace, bellowing that you know CPR, while your pubis is uncovered. These people have suffered enough.

Thank your for your attention in this matter. Your Royal Highness.

In obeisance,

Dr. Brian

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Case Study #20

This just popped into my email account:

Dear Dr. Brian,

Please help me find out why I'm obsessive about watching the movie "Home of our Own". I know that they get their home in the end. That the mother learns a lesson about child abuse. That they will not be happy with their Christmas presents..blah,blah,blah. But if I'm surfing the guide and see the title pop up I feel I must go through this journey. Please help me!!!



P.S. If you can solve this problem, maybe we can work on the "Wizard of Oz" next.

And Dr. Brian responds:

Dearest Cheryl,

I have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

Okay, perhaps that was a bit aggressive. You’ll have to excuse me. There’s a tremendous amount of activity going on here in the office, what with my assistant, Lanae, insisting on showing me these pictures of her family. I don’t care one whit about her family, and I certainly don’t need to see amateur photos of them eating barbeque. You would think she would understand that after all these years.

On top of THAT bit of dreadful business, my most recent session involved one of my clients who refuses to realize that he will need to remain on calming medication, non-stop, for the rest of his entire life. I fail to see why this is such a difficult thing for him to grasp. And in this day and age, where so much of the populace is just noisy and rude, why would anyone not RELISH the thought of eternal neuro-blockers? I consider such an option on a daily basis. Especially when I see Lanae headed this way with coffee and a photo album.

Anyway, we had to physically restrain the non-believer, which is never a good thing, no matter how much the patient may actually deserve it. First, everyone involved gets a bit sweaty, which is far from professional. Second, something made of glass always gets broken during the scuffle. And finally, there’s that pesky question on the insurance claim, “Did you have to immobilize the patient at any time?”

Why is that question even on there? How could this possibly factor into the processing of the claim? Are they looking for a reason to pay less than the indicated fee? Surely not. If anything, the fee should be increased when restraint is involved. After all, subduing the patient requires that I get out of my chair, where I had been resting comfortably, and that Lanae must quit playing Sudoku and bring me the tranquilizer gun. It’s an outrage that they would even question my medical procedures, don’t you agree?

Oh my. I seem to have made this correspondence completely about my own issues. My apologies. I will now attempt to address the concerns you surfaced above, even if it bores me slightly. However, I will still have to charge you for my time from the start of composing this email. If I have any uncharged time during my day, then my accountant becomes quarrelsome and people have to be let go. I’m sure you understand.

So, let’s see what we have here. You are obsessed with this movie, some film with the generic and vapid title of “Home of Our Own.” Interesting. Now, not having seen this film, my diagnosis will of course be somewhat on the fly, but this has never troubled me before, so I’m sure that I can find something deeply wrong with you. Really, it’s all a matter of paying attention to detail and then connecting the psychotic dots.

As I’m sure you must at least subconsciously realize, and were therefore driven to submit this email, one should never do anything to an extreme, even things that bring you pleasure of some kind. If you do indeed watch this movie every time it appears in your guide, then we will have to consider this unhealthy behavior, especially if the movie is as sappy and contrived as the title indicates.

So there we have one budding issue: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD as some of the hip, young doctors like to say. I don’t care for the hip, young doctors who say this. It’s laziness. If you can’t say the entire prognosis in the way it was intended, and must use abbreviations all the time, then why are you a doctor?

A true physician must have the ability to pronounce all words in their medical entirety. Doing so slightly terrifies the patient and causes them to take things seriously, which means they will make all efforts to pay their therapy bills on time to ensure further treatment. Using acronyms makes things sound simple and fun, like a game of some kind, and the patients will neglect their financial responsibilities and instead spend their money on trivial things like food and electricity.

Next you have scribbled the line “I know that they get their home in the end.” You are assuming that I have seen the movie, when I have not. I have no idea who “they” might be. It could be juvenile delinquents or pod people. Who knows? Your statement is a classic example of extreme narcissism and self-involvement.

You think that just because you have seen this movie and value its contents in some way, that the rest of the world has done the same. The world has not. The global population is not aware that someone else got their home in the end and, more importantly, they wouldn’t care even if they knew. They are busy getting their own homes. Assuming that they live in a place where there are, indeed, homes.

Now, there are many varieties and strains of egomania running about the planet, so I would need a bit more detail in order to fine-tune your particular breed of self-involvement. However, since I would prefer to get you in-session as soon as possible so that I can charge you more, I will take an educated stab at identifying your special slice of the self-centered pie

Your egoism appears to be based on entertainment programs of questionable artistic value, and you are so invested in these pointless characters whining about things they don‘t have that you are unable to stop talking about them. Therefore, I am leaning toward classifying you as also suffering from Self-Involved Pathetic People Yearning and Causing Unending Prattle (or SIPPY CUP, for you youngsters out there).

Continuing on with your description of this slumber-inducing feature presentation, you state that “the mother learns a lesson about child abuse,” yet you do not indicate what this lesson might be or how it is applied. Was the mother’s lesson good or bad? Did she dispense with further acts of child abuse, or did she instead perfect them? I really must know more before I can competently assess this angle.

Finally, we get to the bit about “they will not be happy with their Christmas presents”. Really, Cheryl, I don’t have to even see your trashy film in order to take this one on. This yuletide neurotica is one that has practically decimated our country, leading to a generation of spoiled brats running amok, learning rap songs and avoiding responsibility.

You see, budding patient, children should be thankful for whatever they find under the Christmas tree, as long as felonious acts were not required in order to produce said gifts. If the child is not happy with the contents of his beribboned packages, then it is squarely the parents’ fault, pure and simple, because they obviously didn’t raise their offspring in a practical and worthy manner.

Back in the day, children who had never heard of rap songs were quite thrilled to receive a stick with a little face paint and call it “dolly”. In our current society, some hideous youngsters are not satisfied unless they are the recipient of at least 50 packages, most of which contain devices requiring electrical current and/or make obnoxious noises that would drive any decent person to the brink of harsh acts against mankind.

Again, the parents are to blame. They did not do their job. It’s quite simple. I’ve grown weary of the endless line of anxious parents who tromp into my office, dragging along little hellions with an attitude, and asking what they should do with the demon miniature image of themselves.

The first bit of advice that pops to mind is already outdated and useless. They should have come to see me years ago, before their little game of slap-and-tickle at the drive-in spun out of control and resulted in Damien’s first satanic cries nine months later. I could have done a quick analysis, realized they were not fit to procreate, and forewarned them against continuing their respective family lines.

Then I tell the quivering parents that I can certainly recommend a good child psychologist, but that I will personally not be able to accept the case. In my practice, I only counsel adults who are already deeply involved with their mental illnesses and I generally know what to expect. It’s too tiresome dealing with youngsters who have not yet decided upon their preferred neurotic states. Then I bid the parents a warm farewell and wish them luck.

Of course, two seconds later I’m on the phone with Lanae, ensuring that she captures the demon child’s name, because I’m sure we’ll be seeing him in about 12 years.

Well then, Cheryl. It appears that we can wrap up your assessment for now. I will be working out a treatment plan and speaking with you again in a few days. Until then, please refrain from watching this movie ever again. It’s truly causing you some very serious issues.

And the same advisement applies to “The Wizard of Oz”. I trust you’ll understand when I say that repeated viewings of THAT film could cause a severe psychotic break that can never be resolved. Just say no. The flying monkeys alone are responsible for 10% of my patient roster….

Good day,

Dr. Brian

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Case Study #19

And the mailman just handed me this:

Dear Dr. Brian:

Sometimes I need to eat quickly and cheap, but I'm having a fast food dilemma. That guy in the Burger King outfit really creeps me out, the way he stares with that silly grin plastered on his face. And come on, TIGHTS? Then there's Ronald McDonald, a grown man who disguises himself with baggy clothes, makeup, a wig, giant shoes (???) and tries to lure small children into his building. That Wendy cartoon chick has crazy eyes. What about Colonel Sanders with his wee, beady eyes and "secret herbs and spices?" And don't even get me started on that damned chihuahua from Taco Bell.

So, to make a very long letter even longer, where can I eat without being stalked by these scary mascots?

Dear Person with the Very Incisive Letter but the Inability to Sign Your Name,

  I’m very impressed with your surfacing of this issue, proving that you are somehow on the cutting edge of psychiatry, even though, if your postmark is to be believed, you hail from a small Oklahoma town where they still believe in such things as designating an individual to be “Butter Queen of the Pickle Festival” each October.

  I was just on a conference call with several colleagues from Bornsdall University, wherein we were making tactical plans to deal with the expected influx of patients exhibiting symptoms just as you have described. The technical term for this condition is known as Doughboyphobia, or the acute fear of food-related mascots.

  I assure you that this syndrome is very real and can be potentially dangerous. This is not one of those “pretend” maladies that they come up with on your local evening news just so you will stay tuned and boost their ratings. If you actually believe even half of what you see on privately-run local stations, you would never leave the house.

  Sadly, as of this writing, there is no known cure for Doughboyphobia, despite the intense efforts of an international team of experts with names that look like sound effects in violent cartoons. While I’m sure there will eventually be a formalized announcement of the most promising treatment, it may be some time before the findings are published and the common populace is free to eat cheap food on the run without fear.

  Therefore, in order to prevent wide-scale panic and the overuse of the 9-1-1 system, all professionals involved with preventing global dementia have been advised to follow this preliminary edict issued by the World Health Organization: “Placate the patient in the best manner that you know how, utilize your talent for obfuscation, supply sedatives, and check your inbox every day for the real prognosis. And thank you for paying your dues on time.”

  So there you have it. Basically, I am to proceed as if it were just another day wherein I lead the misguided, the confused, and the financially-solvent toward a better light. And thus I shall.

  As such, it’s imperative that we examine closely the specific nature of your discomfort with the scenarios you presented above. If we can pinpoint the exact trigger of your psychotic break with each of these food-based exercises in merchandising, I believe it will give you temporary relief until the inevitable and appropriate prescription becomes available.

  Let’s start with that King of the Burger business. You realize he is not actual royalty? This alone should soothe your soul to some degree. He cannot issue any type of ruling that can affect you in any way. He cannot take away your land. He cannot arrest you for speaking ill of the king. He cannot insist that you send him a goat each month for taxation purposes.

  And, if my instincts are correct, he cannot do the thing you fear the most about this King of the flame-broiled meat: He does not have the means to make you his personal serving wench, wherein you must wear dirty, ugly outfits and bring him an endless supply of mead and turkey legs. This will not happen. Breathe.

  Now, doesn’t this make one feel much better? This supposed king has no power, much like the Vice-President of the United States and anyone involved with the effort to keep the Humanities in our public school systems. He has a pointless title, does not command an army of any type, and has never been invited to royal social gatherings in the south of France.

   That being the case, his atrocious little outfit means nothing. The silly grin? Let it trouble you no more. And the tights? Well, that one’s a bit more tricky, with it’s possible reference to lewd and salacious desires, but again, we must ignore the legs encased in stretchy material. This is a good rule regardless of who might be sporting the tights. I’ve never understood why ANYONE would wear them, unless you were performing one of those boring ballets, and even then there are some serious questions that should be answered.

  Moving on to Ronald McDonald, we have yet another example of why people should not be allowed to dress themselves without the proper training and consultation. As you have surmised, there is something unseemly about this man’s attire. The oddly spacious cut of his garments, the excessive makeup topped off with the lurid, slightly pornographic smile, the wig with it’s own gravitational pull.

  I agree that simply processing all of this input can be overwhelming, and the resulting confusion could lead to a life of crime and a fondness for calliope music. However, there is again one key factor which can greatly dilute the traumatic impact of such a vision standing beneath the golden arches and beckoning at your children.

  The misguided man underneath all that makeup? His name is actually Cletus. History has shown that no personage christened with this name has ever done anything of import, whether good, bad or indifferent, through all the ages of mankind. The sheer weight of bearing such a name has left the man unable to lift his arms long enough to do anything substantially harmful. You have nothing to fear from this man.

  Please make your selection from the brightly-lit menu and pull up to the second window.

  Now we have the freckle-faced Wendy, she of the pigtails and outdated, high-collared couture. Whilst I agree that she does indeed possess eyes of a disconcerting nature, with their ability to appear somewhat demonic depending on your angle of viewing and the time of day, I should point out that eyes alone cannot kill, despite many catchphrases and folklore tidbits that have popped up over the years.

  I should also point out that Wendy does not have an actual body.

  She is, in fact, nothing more than a disembodied head. Despite additional folklore stories wherein people are supposed to fear such things (as well as the reverse, the headless body), I can assure you that these wives’ tales are meaningless.

  After all, a head without a body has no immediate means of physical transport. I suppose the head could convince a bystander to place them in a menacing shopping cart and thrust said cart at you in a hurtful way, but it is very unlikely that this will happen. As long as parents train their youngsters that they should not talk to strange heads, and the children remember this caveat, then the only thing a disembodied head can do is yell insults and comment on your attire.

  Likewise, the headless body, though mobile, has no eyes that can assist with navigational decisions. This lessens the potential danger considerably. If you have even a minimal amount of skill at avoiding capture, you should be able to deftly escape a headless body and be home in plenty of time for Wheel of Fortune.

  (Although I must say, if you DO find it frustratingly difficult to run away from something that cannot see you, then perhaps some thinning of the herd is justified, yes?)

  And now we arrive at one Colonel Sanders, with his odd bow tie, mystifying wisp of a goatee, and his subversive attempt to appear grandfatherly and benign. To be fair, I suppose we could credit his suspiciously beady eyes to something physical, such as myopia or severe intestinal distress. I’m certainly not going to discount the potential for mayhem and destruction that his eyes might be revealing, but I think it’s the lesser of two evils in this situation.

  I believe you are much more on target with the “secret herbs and spices” angle. What does this really mean? After all, every restaurant chain has secret recipes. If your recipes were public, then everyone could make them and there would be no point in anyone driving up to purchase your wares. Your company would go bankrupt and your family would not get anything pretty for Christmas.

  Yet Mr. Sanders is very proud of his herbs and spices. Why? From where comes this insatiable need to gloat about one’s ingredients? I found this terribly intriguing. I raced to one of my many scholarly texts (this one entitled “Recipes of the Damned: How to Counsel the Crazed Cook”) and found this fascinating nugget:

  “When an individual in the fast-food industry insists on publicly announcing the individual ingredients of their products, in a way that is only partially complete and elliptical, it is usually the result of growing up in a multi-sibling environment filled with intense competition, wherein the winner must keep secret HOW he won so that others cannot achieve the same result.”

  So there you have it. Colonel Sanders is not trying to kill you. He is merely proud of winning, but will not tell you exactly how he did so. While boastfulness can be annoying and slightly rude, it is not nearly as unsavory as homicidal tendencies or the desire to maim you with a paper bucket.

  And finally, we approach the last of your concerns about purchasing cheap food on the run. This scenario involves the high-end purveyor of Mexican entrees, the inestimable Taco Bell, and their spokes-dog. Although I could ramble on for pages, because I do so enjoy listening to myself, the abeyance of your misgivings is quite easy to accomplish.

  The chihuahua in question has gone to the PR firm in the sky.

  Thus, any further issues you might have with the previously-perky pet point to an entirely different set of potential neurological complications. If your heart still races when approaching Taco Bell, please schedule another session.

  Well, then. It seems that we have successfully neutralized any identifiable reasons that might prevent you from experiencing the joy of speaking into a clown’s mouth and ordering cholesterol-laden food imitations. Please, pile your family into a vehicle of your choice, and head for the nearest drive-thru.

  Be sure to specify to the clown any condiments that you may require. They’ve been awfully tight with those things lately.

Dr. Brian

A record album? Seriously? I find this highly disturbing and fraught with danger…

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Case Study #18

Dearest Clients,

I must say that I have been overwhelmed by the warm and welcoming reception you have given me these past few days. It was with great trepidation that I renewed my counseling practice here at Bonnywood, fearing that my lengthy stay in France had soured our relationships. On the contrary, the bookings have been solid and well-attended, to the point that we have had to initiate a waiting list.

It’s marvelous, really. Just a month ago I was facing financial uncertainty and a ruined vocation, yet weeks later all fiscal obligations have been met and we are practically turning away neurotics at the door.

Of course, the usually lovely Lanae, our esteemed receptionist, had to throw a dark cloud into the day by wondering aloud if the REAL reason for the influx of activity was that people simply wanted to hear the sordid details of my Parisian mishaps. I chose to ignore that possibility. After all, prior to Paris, I had an international reputation for excellence, successfully treating the most wounded of souls.

Then again, Lanae can be a smidge bitter from time to time, usually as the result of yet another unsatisfying encounter whilst attempting to establish a romantic connection with a member of the male population. When these attempts go south, she gets quite blue and stops bringing potato salad into the office on Fridays.

Anyway, with my revenue stream at a very healthy level, I can now focus on your various treatments with even more vigor, which is certainly good news for all concerned. In fact, I no longer wish to tell the tale of my abominable experience in Paris to each of you as you resume your sessions. The constant recitation of the facts is getting a bit old, and I wish to put the whole situation behind me.

Therefore, I will visit the narrative one last time, via this email, and then we shall never speak of it again. Unless, of course, one of us is legally bound to do so in a court of law. This is always a possibility, especially when the French are concerned.

Herewith, the chain reaction of coincidences that led to my incarceration.

The day started pleasantly enough, as it typically does when one is in Paris, supposedly attending a week-long conference on the current most popular things that make people have psychotic breaks. I say supposedly, because we all know how these things go. There are meetings and lectures in abundance to attend, but no one goes to them, especially if you’re in Paris. You only attend those sessions where you might win an award or there is a prize of some kind.

That particular morning, I had taken up position at a comfortable table in a charming bistro, sitting out on the sidewalk and sipping a delicious concoction loaded with caffeine, and gazing at a quaint little plaza with a statue in the middle, presumably of someone who had done something worthwhile in their lives and hence metal was fashioned in their likeness.

Just beneath the statue, there was a small family perched on an iron bench. Mother and Father were lavishing attention on a cute little tyke, perhaps about five, as he giggled and squirmed and danced, doing silly things that are pleasant enough when you are five, but incredibly annoying in anyone older.

As my waiter brought a second cup of nirvana, the happy trio across the way gathered their things, marched this direction, and stepped up to the bistro counter to order something tasty. While preparations took place to satisfy their needs, the youngster ambled a few steps away, careful to stay in the line of sight of his mother (good boy, well-trained), and came to a halt right in front of me, looking up at my face.

He smiled.

I beamed back.

“You stink,” he said.

What? I was taken aback. “Pardon me?”

“You STINK,” he repeated, widening his eyes as he emphasized the second word.

“I most certainly do NOT. I’m freshly bathed.” Really, what was wrong with this child?

He decided on a different approach. “You’re ugly. You’re very, very ugly.” And then he raised a skinny little arm and pointed out something on me at approximately chest-level. “UGLY!” he almost shrieked.

I was seriously at a loss on how to deal with this rude little urchin. What was he talking about? My tie? Did he not approve of patterned silk? The natural instinct to counsel kicked in. “Help me understand what has you so distraught?”

His eyes narrowed. “I saw you. I saw you touch the sheep. You touch the sheep all the time!”

Good GOD, what was going on here?

He stepped forward, reached up, and jabbed his grimy finger into my chest. “I’m TELLING. I’m telling EVERYBODY!”

This was just too much. I lost my professional demeanor. “Don’t POKE me, you little heathen. I’ll poke you BACK!” He paused and stood quietly for a second, calculating his next move.

“Andre! What are you doing to that man? Get over here.”

The urchin and I turned to look at his mother. For just a moment, her composure was gone, and I could see that Andre had proven to be a very difficult child to raise. Then she regained control and smiled sweetly. “Come along, Andre. We have your lunch, and it’s time for you to go to the Center.”

Andre turned back to me, sneered hatefully, then raced to his mother’s arms, an angel once again. She kissed him and smoothed his hair. Daddy, meanwhile, looked at me with an ashen face, fully prepared for a lawsuit of some kind. That poor family, dealing with a demon child on a daily basis, never knowing when they might be arrested. I’ve seen this a thousand times in my work.

I made a hand gesture at Daddy that signified everything was fine, just take him away before I reconsider. They promptly did so. I then made another hand gesture at the waiter, signifying he had best bring me another cup of nirvana or somebody would be dead.

My phone rang.

It was Henri, a chum from the University of Toronado, where we had both gotten our doctorate. We were attending the same neurological convention, although he had not had to travel nearly as far as me, living as he did in Paris. “Hello?”

“Brian, mon ami. How are things?”

“Well, I was just accosted by a midget and-”

“That’s lovely. Say, can you help me out? In a pinch of sorts.”

“I suppose I could. Are there children involved?”

“No, no. Pas des enfants. I am in Chambord, and there is an issue.”


“South of Paris. It is not important, really. What has happened is that we were getting the cheese we love, and crazy Americans in a white van drove us off the road and we broke an axle.”

He paused, as if this brief synopsis had explained everything. It did not. “What does this mean?

“I have a client session this afternoon. It cannot be missed. She must meet every Wednesday or there is much of the trouble. Can you see her?”

“But Henri, I am not certified in France. I know nothing of your diagnosis and treatment for her and-”

“It is fine, mon ami. She is an easy one. Very simple. She just wants to talk, she does not care who, but it must be on Wednesday afternoons.”

Really? I would relish patients such as that. I could force them on Lanae and go out for sushi. “But Henri, I don’t know where your office is. Would I even have access?”

Henri made one of those odd sounds the French make that either means I am being stupid or the escargots are fighting their way out of his stomach. “Brian, it is simple, we meet at my flat on the Rue de Couchon. You know of this. Many times we went there after the drinking.”

Indeed we did, many times after the drinking back in the day. I had a lengthy relationship with the toilet in his bathroom, the porcelain curves etched into my brain as I laid there and dry-heaved many a night. “I suppose I could do this. Anything I should know?”

“The vegetables talk to her.”

“The what do what?”

“The vegetables. She will bring you one, and she will tell you what it said. You pretend to make notes, and you do the nodding. It is very simple.”

Simple. He keeps repeating that, and every time he does I get a little more anxious. But I did owe him for those long ago years, when I was intimate with his toilet and the oddly-shaped, smelly couch that was strangely soothing after a night on the town. “Okay. Yes, I will do this, Henri. But we have the awards ceremony at five. Will you be back in time for that?”

“I believe so. Take your things with you to mon flat, so you can cleanse yourself after Madame de Vegetable, you will be wanting to do so, and I should arrive in time for our departure for the stunning awards where we pretend surprise.”

“And the key is still in the same place?”

“Oui, third rock from the sundial. She will be there at the sharp of three o’clock, as always. Merci, mon ami. Now I must go. The crazy Americans in the white van are still nearby, I am told. Death is possible. Au revoir.”

And then he was gone. I snapped my phone closed. Then sighed.

Well, I had a few hours before this apprehensive rendezvous with the Vegetable Lady, so I decided to visit the Salvador Dali museum in Montmartre. I had always been fascinated with Dali, mainly because I could never decide if he was truly inspired or was just completely insane. After several hours of review, I still didn’t know what to think.

Off to the flat on Rue de Couchon.

I let myself in, and was instantly awash with memories from our graduate years. So many things change, and yet so many things remain the same. It didn’t take me long to discover something that had truly changed in a manner that I never expected.

I whipped out my phone and speed-dialed Henri.


“Henri, why is there a goat in your kitchen?”

“Ah, the goat. Do not mind it. I have a client, he pays with livestock, it is nothing.”

I paused and stared at the goat looking at me quizzically. “Do I need to DO something with the goat, or is he okay?”

“The goat is happy. He will not trouble you. But do not let him out the back door. There are children in the courtyard and he will eat them.”

“Could you repeat that?”

“I am sorry. Not eat, bite. He will bite them. This is something we do not want, children and animals biting. Do NOT open the back door.”

I took a deep breath. Was I awake? Was this really happening? “Okay, Henri. Duly noted. No backdoor for the goat. Are you on your way yet?”

“Yes, we arrive in time for the pompous ceremony. A bientot.” And he was gone.

I clicked the phone closed, just as the doorbell rang. Vegetable Lady was here.

Much to my surprise, she turned out to be a very nice woman. We had a very pleasant conversation. The only disconcerting element of our session was that she had placed an enormous cucumber on the table between us in the front room. Everything that she had to say, she claimed, was the result of her previous chats with said cucumber.

She finally rambled to a stop, and then prepared to depart, making no effort to collect the cucumber from it’s resting place on the coffee table. Perhaps she had overlooked this. “Madame,” I said soothingly, “ the cucumber?”

She smiled briefly. “The cucumber is for you. Make the salad as you always do, Henri.” And then she was gone.

Henri had not mentioned the making of a salad. And since she was already gone, I assumed that this action would not be necessary. I placed the cucumber on the counter next to the kitchen sink. As I did so, I noticed that the window above the sink had been shoved completely open, and that there was a can of Crisco sitting on the window sill.

I didn’t even know where to BEGIN thinking about what this might mean. So I ignored this little set piece, and went to take a shower in Henri’s bathroom, waving a quick hello to the toilet I had hugged all those years ago.

Once I was cleansed of the day’s traumas, I hopped out of the tub and wrapped a towel around my waist. I sauntered back into the kitchen, looking for my travel bag that contained the luxurious body cream that was so soothing for my dry skin.

The can of Crisco was missing from the window sill.

The cucumber was missing from the counter.

Could this day get any stranger? What was going on?

I peeked out the window and spied the Crisco can lying on the ground in the courtyard. Well, I’d best retrieve that can, happened on my watch and all. I proceeded to the back door, and this is the only development during that mystifying day where I accept blame. I forgot about Henri’s warnings concerning the goat. And after I glanced around the courtyard and did not see anyone about, I thought it would be okay if I slipped outside wearing nothing but a towel. After all, this was France. Scantily clad people meant nothing to them.

I was so wrong in those two minutes of my life.

I opened the back door and took three steps to the Crisco can. Picking it up, I turned back to the door, and this is when the Fates of Hell determined that I should suffer. The door burst open, and out galloped the goat, with the chatty cucumber firmly gripped in his teeth.

The goat raced past me in a frenzy of freedom. I instinctively chased after him, remembering Henri’s words that the goat should not be allowed to bite neighborhood children. I could not let this happen. The goat thundered through the courtyard, heading toward an open door across the way.

I ran as fast as I could, and actually caught up to the goat just in front of the open door. I reached down to grab him, but only came away with the cucumber that he apparently released to lighten the load in his attempt at escape. I followed him inside whatever dwelling we had entered, only vaguely noticing that my towel snagged on something in the doorway. I wanted to get that goat!

Once inside this unknown building, the goat skittered to a halt, surprised by the scene before us.

It was a room full of youngsters, roughly around the age of five. A quick glance around the room, with its happy posters and smiling cartoon characters, made it very clear that this was a daycare facility of some kind. For very young children.

And there I was, standing behind a goat, completely naked, and holding a can of Crisco in one hand and a cucumber in the other.

Right in the midst of the startled young children, clutching a bag of goodies from the bistro I had visited that very morning, was that evil tyke Andre, the crazed little boy that thought I smelled bad. He opened his vicious mouth and screamed: “That’s the man that wanted to poke me!”

In my astonishment, I dropped the can of Crisco, and it rolled with an alarming clacking noise to the feet of the one adult in the room, a pinched-faced woman with her hair in a bun, signifying that she was uptight beyond words. She whipped out her cell phone and called the police.

They were there within two minutes.

I was in jail twenty minutes after that.

And all of this because somebody had talked to a cucumber and needed to share their thoughts on the matter.

I hate France.


Dr. Brian

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Case Study #17

Dearest Clients,

It is with supreme humiliation and utter shame that I put pen to paper. As most of you are aware, or at least those of you taking two prescription tranquilizers or less, I encountered a slight legal situation whilst attending the neurological convention in Paris last September, and found myself unable to leave the country for quite some time.

As the French authorities kept me quite busy taking a battery of psychological tests (me, taking tests such as that, can you even fathom my horror?), the time simply flew by in an amazing whirl of days and weeks. I had no idea that proving your innocence in a court of law could be so time-consuming, especially when everyone around you is babbling in a language that is not your own.

(Fair disclosure to those patients who are not suffering from stress-related memory loss: Yes, I’m sure you’ll recall there was that previous judicial matter involving the authenticity of my doctoral license, so it’s not like I’ve never had experience with the courts, but that bit of crockery took place here in America, where I at least understood the nature of the charges against me.)

In any case, the situation in France took a long time to achieve full resolution, to put it mildly. During this sordid ordeal, I had mistakenly assumed that my office staff here at Bonnywood Manor would take the necessary steps to keep the business running smoothly, temporarily directing clients to other physicians and whatnot.

Unfortunately, my expectations that my staff could function professionally without supervision were misguided and overconfident. I’m not certain WHAT they were doing during my absence, but it’s fairly clear that they were not attending to the needs of my many patients or even bothering to show up for their duties.

There’s an enormous amount of inventory missing from the various storerooms, the exquisite waiting room furniture had been replaced with folding chairs and a Styrofoam cooler as a coffee table, and the calming music in the consultation rooms had been changed to that grating alternative style of music wailed by poorly-dressed people who don’t bathe.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in the office door.

In speaking with some of the tawdry but temporarily-useful gossipers in adjacent office suites, I did eventually learn of the unsavory activities of two of my now former employees, Tiffania the nutritionist and Bethany the bookkeeper. It appears that they have started their own company, operated out of their mobile home, wherein they manufacture and market plants and herbs for medicinal use. If the gum-smacking gossiper is correct with the dates she provided, this corporation was formed within three hours of my arrest in Paris. So much for dedicated employees.

The only employee who remained mostly faithful until my belated return was Lanae, my charming and friendly assistant who ensures that you place enough zero’s on your payment check as you depart the building. But she has confessed that her commitment to the cause did waver a bit at the end, with her calling in sick every day for the last 8 weeks. Who she was actually calling, I have no idea, but it wasn’t me.

And, of course, the most horrendous part of this whole tragic drama is the effect on you, my beloved and revenue-producing clients. Your suffering must have been immense and heavy. And I’m fairly certain the biggest violation to your self-esteem was the unfortunate week when, showing up once again for a counseling session that should have been cancelled, you were greeted at the door by a proctologist.

Please allow me to explain a bit about that.

You see, for the most part, the management staff here at the Bonnywood Manor medical complex is a very professional and understanding team. They do their best to ensure that all organizations that lease space in the facility are comfortable and happy. They will accommodate you in every way. Except one.

You MUST pay your rent, preferably on time.

As I was fairly occupied in another country, what with those charges and all, I just assumed that this monthly transaction would be handled by my staff, most likely my business manager, since “pay the rent” is clearly spelled out in his contract. What I didn’t realize, off in the land of wine and cheese and misunderstanding, is that most of my staff ran for the hills before the announcement of my arrest had finished crawling across the screen on CNN.

No checks were written, Bonnywood Manor, Inc. did not receive any money for quite some time, and the office was re-leased to a physician with a completely different specialty than mine. Which led, dear client, to the traumatic week during which many of you arrived anticipating a soothing chat with your therapist, and instead were confronted by a man who seemed very determined to have you bend over.

Turns out this man was not a proctologist, or even a doctor, having no credentials or certification that proved valid. He was just an odd little mad with lots of money and time on his hands, and was just a little too invested in his role-playing games. (I don’t believe any charges were ever filed, as none of you were able to identify his finger in a lineup. But don’t blame yourself, I’m sure it was the stress and all the bright lights that led to your confusion.)

Luckily for me, Bonnywood was unable to lease the office to anyone else before my return. (The gum-smacking gossiper claims it was all the screams and ungodly noises that could be heard coming from the office during the week of the proctological duplicity, but I believe she‘s making that up. She’s a drinker.)

In any case, I have resolved my financial misunderstanding with Bonnywood, payments are back in order, more appropriate furniture has been delivered, and a new, well-trained staff has been hired. (Each of them has a clause in their contract that they cannot immediately quit just because a superior has been arrested for public indecency. They have to give two weeks’ notice just like everybody else.)

Oh, and the charming Lanae is still with me, of course. I firmly believe her story that the mental anguish over my plight in Paris eventually led to an inability to get out of bed. (Although I must confess to a slight moment of doubt when I realized that the amount of money missing from the petty cash box is roughly equivalent to the cost of the new flat-screen TV I spied in her apartment when I picked her up this morning, but surely it’s coincidence.)

Anyway, Lanae is once again at the front desk, ready to assist you with those zero’s.

And I am ready as well, relishing the prospect of resuming our intimate conversations wherein we determine that you do rash and hurtful things just because Daddy wouldn’t buy you a pony in the third grade. I miss that. And I certainly miss people believing everything that comes out of my mouth, unlike those mystifying French people with their odd grooming habits and inexplicable need to accessorize with scarves.

I await your return with great pleasure.

And yes, I promise to give you a detailed depiction of what truly happened that led to the morals charge. The pictures and words that were broadcast out of Paris were misleading and out of context. You deserve to know the truth. But you have to book a session to get the full story. Frankly, I need your money. That trial cost a fortune, and somebody has to pay for the new furniture in the lobby. My back, your back, yes?

In anticipation,

Dr. Brian

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