Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Le Médecin malgré lui*

(A tragicomedy in one scene.)

            The scene is a doctor's office of another era. A large and well worn oaken desk separates the doctor and his patient. The doctor's chair is high-backed, plush and leather. The patient perches on a plain, straight, armless wooden chair, one leg of which is just slightly shorter than the others causing it to thump as the patient moves in the chair. [Importantly, neither character should ever remark on this, even with a glance or gesture.] Everything in the office speaks of long use and ill attention, except for an enormous, gleaming metal and porcelain cabinet that looms behind the doctor. [Care should be taken to light the cabinet aggressively, so that the effect is of a glowing, sublime and vaguely overwhelming presence.]

The doctor is a tall and slender man in his mid-fifties, his close-cropped, once brown hair gone grayish with the strain and aggravation of years spent telling patients exactly what is good for them and not being universally heeded. He wears a dark suit, and a white lab coat with an American flag lapel pin slightly askew.

The patient is a woman of indeterminate middle age. Her smart business suit, tame hairdo and (if the director wishes) cliched horn-rimmed spectacles, along with her upright posture, vocabulary and close attention to the doctor all suggest a person of intelligence, education and judgment  . . . but all tinged with a wisp of real worry.

Doc:     Well Ms. Jones, you are terribly, terribly ill.

Jones:   Oh my goodness, what’s wrong with me. Is it cancer? Lupus? The Zika virus?

D:        Now, now, none of that. Naming your disease is not going to change how sick you are, Ms. Jones. Certainly you can see that.

J:          But don’t you need to diagnose my disease to treat it? Isn't its etiology important, crucial even, in fashioning an efficacious treatment?

D:        Well now! Look who's spent some time on Web MD. Who’s the doctor here, hmm? I know exactly what you need. Yes indeed.

::Swivels his chair to the large cabinet behind him and swings opens the doors to reveal shelves sagging with hundreds of bottles of blue pills::

::Swivels back and hands a large bottles to Mrs. Jones::

D:        Now take three pills five times a day. Do your best to combat the nausea, hair loss, cramping, drowsiness, insomnia, spasms, temporary blindness, light sensitivity, deafness, tinnitus, speaking in tongues, chills, night sweats, flaking skin, oily skin, loss of hearing, loss of libido, loss of memory, constipation and explosive diarrhea that are certain to accompany the treatment. Do be sure to report any other side effects, as I really cannot anticipate what those might be and I sort of like to keep track.

Alrighty then, you can go now. See you in 90 days.

::He looks down at his papers::

J:          What are these, Doctor?

D:        ::Looking up, surprised and slightly peeved to see Ms. Jones has kept her seat::

            Now, missy, that seems obvious. They are blue pills. These are what I give my all my patients any time any of them gets sick.

J:         The same pill? No matter what caused their cancer or  . . .

D:       ::interrupting with a raised hand::

             Hey there! We'll have none of that!

J:         I'm sorry. I mean to say, whatever caused their . . . er. . . .sickness . . . .

            ::The doctor smiles and lowers his hand:: 

           . . . .whatever it might be called – they all get the same pill?

D.        Oh yes, of course the same pill.

           ::He comes to his feet then leans across the desk. His voice becomes oratorical::

            I believe very strongly in these pills, Ms. Jones. I am deeply committed to these pills. I want these pills to be a part of my legacy.

J:         Are they effica. . . um . . . will they work? Will I get well?

D:        ::He sits::

            I haven’t the slightest idea. Whether they "work," as you call it, whether you get "well" – these are not the point. The point is that I’m the doctor and I want people – well, not people, exactly, but my patients –  to take these blue pills.

J:          Why? 

D:         ::Exasperation growing::

             Now you are a silly little thing aren’t you.

::He stands again, reaches across and deliberately pats her head::

Why dear, it is simply common sense to take these pills. Common sense. You’re not objecting to common sense are you?

J:         Well, I’m not sure that  . . .

D:        ::He sits with a thump of finality::

             Hush now, child. After all, who’s in charge here, eh? I’m the doctor. You’re the patient. Yes, you’re terribly sick and you lack common sense. But never fear, I have something to help with your lack of common sense as well.

J:          Let me guess. . . .

::Doctor swivles precisely back to cabinet for another bottle of blue pills.::

D:        Now I really haven’t any more time for your questions today, young lady.

           You scoot now.

J:         OK

             ::She takes the two large bottles of pills and rises to leave.::

D:         ::Just as the patient reaches the door. . . :: Wait! Wait one second!

J:           Yes, Doctor?

D:          You forgot the bill.

* Obligatory apologies to Jean-Baptiste Poquelin.