Dr. Cutter, MD.

October 10, 2007
By Clare Zipf-Sigler, Prairie Village, KS

It is small and white, just your average, run of the mill mouse. The kind they use in any standard lab setting. I see its nose first, twitching, spiked with fine, white sensory hairs. It emerges in quick darting movements from behind a gleaming stainless steel machine, and makes its way rapidly toward a similarly massive metal construct. I move to go after it, to stomp, and ravage its small body, all thoughts of my current activity abandoned, when, from the other side of the room, I hear a squeak. I look. It’s another one, brown this time, with beady black eyes gleaming tiny twin reflections of the unmercifully bright fluorescent lights. And here comes another, and another, and three dozen more. They swarm the room—emerging from behind machines and green fabric clad feet, seemingly from the floor itself. And, oh god, I can hear them now, with those hairless pink feet that skitter across the sterile white linoleum, and that insidious squealing that builds and builds, blocking out all other noise. All other thought. And still they come, torrential in their flow, a veritable tidal wave of living, organic terror creeping closer and closer, until—

Dr. Cutter?

I blink.

The mice are gone. And this is good. Good for the patient lying supine beneath my latex encased fingers, and good for me as well. After all, how many times a day can a person see phantom mice, and still have the wherewithal to go about his duties as a renowned cardiologist. Short answer: none. Having far exceeded that limit, however, I will make do with this abruptly terminated brush with psychosis. And when this surgery is done—for as I look around and see that field of masked faces, eyes wide and directed straight at me (who else), I recall that this is indeed a surgery—when this surgery is done, I will make do with something altogether more fortifying. Eighty proof at least.
But for now? It is time to make the cut, because with my years of experience, such hesitation is surely uncalled for. Altogether inappropriate. Troublesome. I can see doubt in the faces of the nurses, and in the furrowed brow of the anesthesiologist. I know the rumors, of course. Have heard the muttering in the lounge room. Just talk. Not a word of it true. And my hand, so steady now as it parts that ocean of pink flesh, is all the proof they need.

The operation proceeds as one would expect with a person of such unflagging professionalism taking the lead. Minimal discomfiture when a bee, fully formed, slightly battered and bloody takes flight from the right ventricle. It flies away in its tiny bee circles, buzzing lazily upward until, like the mice, it vanishes. And I wonder briefly, where do they go? But the cutting floor is no place for such whimsical notions, and back to work I go. Six hours later, and the patient is all sewn up—carefully mended back together—his heart, new home to a few eight-legged crawlies, beating away merrily. A toast to ten more years of whole hearted (ha-ha) burger consumption, Mr. Smith!
I shoot my gore spattered gloves into a trash receptacle, and brush the powder off my tired hands. I can feel it now, in every muscle, and every bone. Shoving a path through the pressing crowd, I make my way down labyrinthine hospital halls, past glaring, leering faces, till at last I am there. The private offices of Dr. David Cutter, MD.

Key in lock. Squeal of hinge. I shuffle towards the great mahogany desk, collapsing into my ergonomic, leather swivel chair. Such a trying day. My head is down on the desk, but my hand guides itself with unfailing accuracy to the bottom drawer on the left. There is an audible clink of glass on glass, and finally I raise my head to survey the scene. Casting aside the emptied bottles (on the floor, a miniature militia of men uniformed in red and gold), my search is finally rewarded. A bottle of gin, half empty. Unscrewing the cap, forsaking the use of a glass, I tip the bottle to my lips and rejoice in the strengthening warmth that fills my mouth and gut. I feel my standard steadiness, confidence come flooding back, and all is well with the world.

Another day’s work is done, with only and handful of minor setbacks. And perhaps now those inane rumors will desist. An alcoholic? Me? Preposterous. For who has ever heard of an alcoholic with such steady hands?

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