|Illustration by Mitch Handsone|
with the days incoming mail and his monogrammed ballpoint pen. Before he transferred each piece of mail into one of the three categorized piles (bills, not bills and junk), he carefully crossed out each Mr. in Mr. Stanley Carruthers and wrote Dr. on top of it, in very very bold small letters. It vexed him terribly, the notion that people hed never met would think he wasnt a doctor.
Im a doctor, idiot, hed sputter at a letter, God damn idiot or Moron!! at a bill. Doctor, god damn it! Doctor, doctor, doctor!
Stanley? It was Mrs. Carruthers, poking her head around the corner. Are you doctoring the mail again?
Leave me alone, said he. I am a goddamn doctor, you know.
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I know, said Mrs. Carruthers, quietly. Thats exactly what kind of doctor you are.
WHAT DID YOU SAY? hollered he.
It was true, the part about Carruthers being a doctor. He held, in fact, three separate doctorate degrees one Ph.D. in military linguistics from Stanford, another in metaphysical nuclear engineering from the University of Fanta, and his third and most recent Ph.D., in semiotics, from the Elliot Tanpool Mangrave Institute of Modern Hieroglyphic Studies, where hed written a dissertation called The Sensual Stick Figure, later augmented and published as the best-selling book of the same name.
Stanley Carruthers stood in the basement, beside the pool table, a hand in a corner pocket, mechanically fondling the No. 2 and No. 9 balls, like Humphrey Bogarts Captain Queeg and his worry-balls in The Caine Mutiny. With the other hand, he held the telephone handset against his head.
My patients never have to wait this long, Carruthers huffed impatiently into the unattended phone, in what he felt was a firm and resonant tone, the tone hed been told exudes authority and wisdom. He hadnt used his natural voice, really, since he was 8 years old.
Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Carruthers, the phone replied, a few minutes later.
Doctor Carruthers... said Carruthers.
How can I help you, sir?
I just wanted to make dinner reservations for Saturday at 5 p.m. said Carruthers.
For how many?
And the name?
You got it. Anything else, Mr. Carruthers?
Doctor, actually, said Carruthers. Dr. Carruthers.
In early adolescence, when Stanley Carruthers began to fantasize about having sex with girls in his class, or with a few of his younger teachers, all fantasied fuckees would refer to Stanley as Doctor Carruthers. (Give it to me harder, Dr. Carruthers; Dr. Carruthers, youre so big; More, Dr. Carruthers, more.) Before hed even started high school, Stanleys obsession had rendered him vulnerable to linguistic impotence he couldnt climax without being called Dr. Carruthers.
Recently, Carruthers had taken to reminding his few remaining friends that he looked a lot like Bill Cosby, only with lighter skin and less hair. Cosby, Carruthers would then point out (three or four beers deep in a night of poker), earned an Ed.D. from UMass in 1977, and credited himself as Dr. William H. Cosby Jr., Ed.D. on his eponymous television show.
And he wrote his thesis on Fat Albert!
Who fucking cares, Carruthers? Fucking call, or fucking fold.
Every few weeks, Carruthers received one or more special envelopes from charitable organizations. Amnesty International, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Nature Conservancy, the Cows of Noon. Each of these contained a request for a donation, and one or more sheets of preprinted, adhesive-backed return-address labels, all with the same typo: Mr.
Dear Mr. Carruthers:
Thank you for your inquiries dated July 15, August 14 and September 11, 2005. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate your request to change the Mr. to Dr. on your free return-address labels. Note that these are promotional labels, provided at no charge to you. If they displease you, you are under no obligation to use them.
Furthermore, just as you apparently resent being grouped with others of your gender and not educational achievements, ours is a well-established, internationally respected organization; we do not appreciate being addressed as Dear Idiots, Dear Goddamn Idiots or Dear Fucking Morons.
Oliver Benjamin Charlotte Taylor, Esq.
The Cows of Noon
Yes! Thats it, Dr. Carruthers! Just like that! Oh, yes! Oh, yes!
License and registration, please. Carruthers sat in his car, heart pounding visibly through his clashing shirt and tie. Hed really done it this time. Hed been caught. Hed been caught breaking the law, which was one of the very worst things to break. Hed broken the same law every day, but hed never been caught before. It hurt. Doctors dont get caught. Just like that episode of that show, where the guy who isnt a doctor gets caught. And that movie.
He couldnt breathe. He didnt know what to say, other than what hed seen in the show. Or the movie.
Good evening, officer. Or a book. A book about a non-doctor, someone who doesnt say Doctor when someone calls him Mister. That mustve been it.
Good evening. May I see your license and registration.
Doctor evening. The guy gets pulled over, in the show, or the book, and doesnt say Doctor. What does he say?
Sir? License and registration. Please.
Doctor and registration, Carruthers replied, nodding.
Sir, said the patrolman, Im only going to ask once more.
Doctor License N. Registration, said Carruthers, suddenly free, suddenly gleeful. Thats me! Im a doctor, you know! Ive memorized Keats! My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk! Philosophy will clip an angels wings! Parakeets now, those are some attractive birds, eh? Loud, though.
My wife was a most spherical woman a most spherical woman, indeed! Call me Bill Cosby, but I dont understand doctors who put doctors in cages.
And where did you study, my dear Dr. Office-Sir? Dr. Doctor-Doctor?! DOCTOR!!
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