Still mourning the baby she gave away a year before – and feeling rejected by the same church people who had so cheerfully arranged that adoption – sixteen-year-old Diane seems to find a supportive friend in her gynecologist, Dr. Zeus. Diane is intelligent and bold but often leaps before she looks, and now she questions why he has to examine her so often, and why he prescribes her so many drugs.
The state medical board also has suspicions about Dr. Zeus, but the official inquiry inches forward very slowly as its new investigator stumbles over his own hang-ups.
|Publisher:||Real Nice Books|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
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Doc Doc Zeus
By Thomas Keech
Real Nice BooksCopyright © 2017 Thomas W. Keech
All rights reserved.
I know he's allowed to put his fingers inside, but I can't get used to being touched that way. My mother says everything I feel and think will of course be different now. And he has a medical word he calls me that means I'm not even a regular girl any more. I'm a primipara. The first time he called me that was after I asked why my medical examination went on for so long. He said everything inside me was different since I had the baby. I could believe that. I couldn't see what he was doing down there, but I had no choice but to feel it.
Dr. Zeus always scheduled my appointment last, when there were no other patients around. This turned out to be lucky for me – no nosey middle-aged moms to frown at the shameful slut who got herself pregnant at fourteen just because she fell in love and she and her boyfriend got so excited they screwed up the condom thing. But really, what I dreaded most was ladies in the waiting room talking to me and trying to be nice and then asking me the whole story of what happened. I'm not sorry, most of the time, that I refused to marry Carl, but maybe that's a sign of how cold I am because the next thing I did was give up my little baby girl to total strangers I never got to meet. It was the right thing to do, almost everybody said, but they never told me how much it would keep on hurting.
"Do you always schedule me as your last patient on purpose?" It was the first time I'd ever said a word while my feet were up in those stirrups. It just hit me that I ought to thank him for scheduling me after all the other patients were gone. You don't get to talk much to your doctor, so I guessed I had to say it right then, even while he was touching me where no one but Carl had ever been allowed.
Then I was not being touched, and he came around so I could see him. His arms suddenly dropped to his sides. He must have already taken his gloves off. His face was red. He looked me right in the eyes while he put some instrument down on a metal tray and picked up a towel. He seemed upset. I felt stupid for upsetting him, so I guessed I should explain.
"I'm just saying thanks for making me your last appointment. It's so embarrassing to have to tell my life story to all the people in the waiting room."
His face stayed red and he didn't say anything for a minute. Then I got this surreal feeling like maybe I had no clue at all, maybe he had nothing to do with what time I came into the office. I opened my mouth to explain why I said that, but no words came out.
"You shouldn't be embarrassed, Diane. Everybody here has problems. All the patients have problems. I have problems myself. I'm sure the receptionist here, Mrs. Halley, has problems too, though she'd never admit it." He patted me on the shoulder. He was good looking, with dark hair and deep blue eyes.
It had been a year since I gave my baby away. I thought about her every day. I didn't even get to give her a name. Then I spent a year at the Academy School, which is just one part of the church I joined. I'm back in public school now, facing the same kids I stared down back then, daring them to laugh at me as my belly swelled up during the whole ninth grade school year. I wasn't sick at all when I was pregnant, and I think I pulled it off pretty well. My friend Kate told me once she thought some of the other girls were jealous.
It seemed like every time I tried to get back to a regular sixteen-year-old girl's life I got a message saying I had to go see the doctor again. Lately I'd been going almost, like, twice a month. Dr. Zeus didn't say there was anything wrong with me, but you had to wonder. The clinic where I saw Dr. Zeus was a special one set up by the church so pathetic pregnant girls like me could get checkups and have their babies and then come back for follow-up visits. My baby was long since born and long since given away, but he still wanted me to keep coming. He said I didn't have to tell my parents about the appointments. I hadn't told my mother about the last few. The less she had to think about my pregnancy, the happier she was. The clinic was just a couple of rooms built in a corner of the church's gymnasium building. The rooms didn't even have real ceilings.
My mother still finds a way to remind me every day how bad I screwed up. It's like there's this invisible wall of disapproval I have to jump over every time I want to talk to her, so I don't talk to her. I told Dad I was getting these messages to come back for check-ups, it was free, the church had arranged it and the church was paying for it. All he said was, "They should." Like he was blaming the church for getting me pregnant. I do still wonder how those church people tracked me down in the first place. Sue just showed up at my front door one day when I was about three months pregnant, beaming like it was a miracle she found me, and acting like I was going to give birth to the baby Jesus himself.
Dr. Zeus is a wonderful guy. He comes to the clinic once a week, and it's free to any girl they send there. The receptionist, Mrs. Halley, told me he also has a regular job at his main office and sometimes goes to Freeland Hospital, too. Dr. Zeus didn't say I had to have the baby and he didn't say I had to give it up. He always said he was there just for me, for whatever I wanted. I don't know if I'm smart enough to be a doctor or not, but some day I'd like to be the kind of person who helps people like Dr. Zeus does.
"You're a very strong young woman, Diane. You've been through a lot, and you've come through it all with courage and grace."
Thank you, thank you, thank you. But I didn't say that. Instead, I just started to cry. I don't know why. I pulled my feet out of the stirrups and swung my legs around so I was sitting on the table, facing him. I threw the paper sheet over my legs and blew my nose on a scrap of it. "Thanks. I didn't mean to cry."
It felt good to sit up straight. I have naturally good posture and I'm kind of tall. Sometimes that's all it takes to get a guy's attention, to get him to meet your eyes like he means it. When I was fourteen, Carl's eyes shone with so much adoration I fell in love with him right away. Maybe I'll never know that feeling again. He was sixteen then; he had a job and a car. He wanted to marry me in Florida where it would be legal and move there. I backed out, even though I really loved him. It seemed like a stupid plan. But once I gave up Carl, and the baby, I didn't have so much of a life left.
"Do you talk to anybody about your feelings?" Dr. Zeus asked. When I didn't say anything, he went on. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
"No. They all talked like I was a chosen person at the Academy church school. But none of the boys wanted to hang around with me."
"You have no boyfriend now?"
"I just started back at public school. But they all know me there too, from back in middle school. So it'll probably be the same thing. Only I won't be 'chosen' there. There, I'll just be 'used goods.'" This was so true I had to laugh.
He caught my eye, and I could see I'd made him smile. I couldn't believe I had the power to make this important guy drop his serious doctor expression, even for a minute. He wasn't a tall guy, maybe just a few inches taller than me. He had a chiseled face, soft eyes with wrinkles at the corners, dark hair with longer sideburns than most men. I guess he wasn't as old as my Dad, but he was old, maybe 40. I want to say that his face was growing wider, as men's faces do at that age, but I don't think it's fair to even think like that about your doctor who probably spent his whole youth studying just to learn to take care of people like me whose problems are mostly their own fault.
"You're a young, healthy girl."
"You said I'm a primipara."
"That's just a medical shorthand word for someone who's had one pregnancy. It doesn't define who you are. You seem to be a lovely young woman. Even your deacon says so."
"You talked about me with that guy?" My whole body tensed. "He's not really a deacon, you know. Is he trying to get me to come back?"
He touched me on the shoulder. "Diane, I'm your doctor. My only job here is to serve you, to take care of your needs. It would be unethical for me to try to influence you one way or another on a religious matter." I guess I still looked scared, so he went on. "I promise that's the last word you'll ever hear from me about that subject."
"Oh. Thanks. Really." I reached out and touched his shirt with just the tips of my fingers. He liked it, I could tell. But then I thought, what am I doing, and pulled my hand back. In truth I had felt lost ever since I left the Academy and gave up on fitting into the church. Everybody there said I shouldn't leave – except Sue. Sue was the one who had first tracked me down somehow and brought me into the church and the Academy, but she disappeared the moment my baby was taken away. I think that's all she cared about.
During the last few months of my pregnancy my path in life was set out right there in front of my face. I would have the baby and give it away. I would officially join the church and go to its Academy school. Once you were there, the church and the Academy figured out for everybody what the rest of the path was. After a while I figured out I didn't want to be on that path. But after I left there and came back to public school, my old friends didn't seem to like me as much as they used to, and I couldn't get into my schoolwork like before. Thank God for soccer. So I was hanging in there, but kind of a mess at the same time. I knew if I talked to Dr. Zeus about this stuff he'd give me some kind of pill. Isn't that what doctors do?
So it was embarrassing that I had reached out and touched Dr. Zeus's shirt. But maybe he had a six-year-old kid and was used to stuff like that. Maybe he'd seen a lot of weird women and decided just now I was one of them. It did feel really good when he said I was a lovely young woman. Mostly what I'd been told at home the last few years is how much trouble and expense I'd been. Finally I confronted Dad, got in his way in the kitchen one morning and told him yes, I turned out to be very expensive, and he was just going to have to live with that. Give him credit. He just laughed.
"You don't have a boyfriend," Dr. Zeus said now. "You're a healthy young woman. Do you have needs that you feel are not being satisfied?" He touched me on the back of my hand with two fingers.
"You mean ... um ... sexual?" The instant I said this I thought, God no, that's not what he means, you dirty-minded slut. I could feel my face get hot. I would have jumped up and ran out of the room except his fingers were still resting on my hand.
"I do mean that, Diane. It's perfectly normal to have sexual needs. Is that something you struggle with?"
"Um ... uh. ..." The really dirty thing was I got excited right then – because he was touching me, but more because his office was a place where you could tell your secrets and nothing you could say would be too sinful or too pathetic. Everybody should have a place like this. But I could feel my face still hot, and then I started to feel warm all over. I could tell he saw that, and then I got even redder.
"That's not a mandatory question." He smiled and took his fingers off my hand and put them back on the edge of the examining table. He had the calmest, sweetest look in those eyes, like he knew me inside and out, all the good and all the bad, and still thought I was okay. He seemed happy I was there. Was this a great place, or what?
Carl had been so real, not like the fourteen-year-old guys I was around all day in school who hung around the hallways in packs and never seemed to want to look you right in the eye. Once when we were drinking out on my parents' back deck, me and Carl and Kate and her boyfriend Lucky, Kate made a joke that we were getting as dull as our parents. But I kept quiet because Carl and I would actually be doing parent stuff later that day. Carl really, really needed me, all the time, and that was the most exciting thing I'd ever felt.
Dr. Zeus was still looking at me. "Can we talk about something else?" I said.
He raised his eyebrows. "Certainly."
"Is it true you can't tell any of my secrets to anyone else?"
He made a motion with his hand like he was turning a key to lock his lips.
"Does it make you tired and cranky all the time, being a doctor?"
He slumped. "You want to talk about me? Is that how I seem, cranky? It's a lot of responsibility. But there are rewards, too."
"You have a house?"
"A vacation house at the shore?"
He sat back. "A condo."
"A small one. I haven't gone to the condo in over a year. My wife got so tired of me being tied up at work she goes there by herself now."
"Do you have any children?"
"A girl. Younger than you. Much, much less mature than you."
"You might not want to leave her home alone at night with her boyfriend."
He grinned. "You have a real sense of humor, don't you? Not many of my patients have that. We're almost finished. You can get your clothes on now. Stop by at the desk and make an appointment for next week on your way out."
"Thank you, doctor."
He was already halfway out of the room, but he turned around. "It's a pleasure to treat such a mature and beautiful woman."
As I was getting dressed I was thinking I was getting a crush on my doctor and how stupid that was. I guess I do sort of jump into things. More courage than sense, my father says.
For months, my mother and father tiptoed around the house like they were afraid they'd wake up the baby inside me and it would pop out right then in front of their eyes – or in front of their friends. Mom was worse. Maybe she is a good person, but ever since it happened I feel like she just doesn't believe I'm in that same category of goodness that she's in. I guess I'm not.
One night my father came into my room but didn't talk about me at all. He just started telling me about some hilariously bad decisions he had made in his life. Then he sort of backed out of the room, awkward with his own daughter. I cried because I knew that was the most I was going to get. I kept trying, and for a while I thought Mom might not be frowning so much every time she saw me, but then Sue from the church started coming over every day and sort of took over my whole life. And Mom let her.
Sue told me over and over there was a higher purpose in being pregnant. There were no mistakes, just blessings, she said. She had never been pregnant. I asked her once if she'd ever been married, but she just started talking about Jesus's will. I did start to believe I was chosen for something special. My gross, balloon-shaped body was going to produce a miracle. She told me I was bearing the child for Jesus. That kind of creeped me out, but I thought I knew what she meant.
Sue was there for me every day, came to my house for hours and talked to me, exercised with me, read to me. I couldn't understand how anyone could put so much of their life into someone else's life. Of course she was paid by the church, but I knew she couldn't do all that for me without caring for me at least a little. She was only twenty-two, much shorter than me, and very chunky. She would tell me everything about Jesus's life but nothing about her own. She talked about the young deacon so much I started teasing her that she was in love with him, but Sue didn't like to be teased. He wasn't even a real deacon anyway. He was just a guy named Robert who wanted to go into training to be a deacon, but he used that title a lot.
Sue kept preaching to me what a blessing it was for me to have this baby. When I told my father this, he said he could have put off getting this blessing for another ten years. I told this to Sue but she didn't think it was funny. Sue didn't like jokes. She convinced me to take this blessing seriously. She said my life before I got pregnant was just a preparation for real life. I might have been doing fine in my middle-school work and had a lot of fun in soccer and laughed myself silly with my friends Kate and Lucky. I might have fallen in love with Carl. But she said these were all childish things. She showed me in the Bible where it said it was time to put away the things of childhood.
The thing I learned is, you have to choose. I'm not talking about having the baby. I never for more than a couple of minutes thought about getting rid of it. I don't think I made that decision for Jesus. I think it was just some animal part of me saying, Carl and I made this amazing little creature and I'm just going to watch it grow. Anyway, that wasn't the hard choice.
Excerpted from Doc Doc Zeus by Thomas Keech. Copyright © 2017 Thomas W. Keech. Excerpted by permission of Real Nice Books.
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