The Doctor Dispenses Drugs from His Office ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Verna Shelton’s husband was long gone. The only thing she had to remember him by was a son, Cullen, and a daughter, Corinne. The three of them—Verna, Cullen and Corinne—lived in a small frame house in a seedy neighborhood on the edge of town near the railroad tracks. Verna had a job as office assistant for an osteopathic doctor, Dr. Bunch, on the upper floor of an old building across from the county courthouse. All day long she answered phones and coordinated a steady stream of people in and out of the doctor’s two examining rooms.
As a single mother, Verna did the best she could but she sometimes she felt she wasn’t equal to the task. The problems were unrelenting. One day it was a fever and a sick stomach and then the next day a chipped tooth, a new pair of shoes, a note from the teacher demanding money, or an injured ankle that needed to be x-rayed. The money she made never went far enough.
Her personal life was no more rewarding than her professional one. She was lonely, she wanted a companion, a mate, but she had an abysmal record with the unfathomable (to her) male of the species. To make it through her difficult days, she took handfuls of tranquilizers that kindly old Dr. Bunch provided to her free of charge and without a prescription. She frequently augmented the pills with wine, beer or whiskey straight out of the bottle.
And then Cary Mulvihill drifted into town from parts unknown. He was thirty-one years old, trim-waisted, dark-haired, blue-eyed, angel-faced. As soon as Verna saw him, her heart skipped a beat and she knew she was gone. He seemed equally taken with her. He asked her out on a date and, when that went well, he asked her out again and again.
All at once she developed a new outlook on life. She woke up in the morning with a smile on her face that lasted all day long, even through the most difficult days of car troubles, payments in arrears, and three-day measles. The number-one thought in her mind was when she was going to see him again. She was—dare she even speak the words?—in love.
He had a room in a hotel outside of town, causing her to think he wouldn’t be around long. When she asked him what his business was and what he did for a living, he told her he was a writer, traveling around gathering research for a book. When she asked him what the book was about, he told her she’d find out but not until it was published and sold in bookstores everywhere.
Unlike other men of her acquaintance, Cary was always a gentlemen. He held doors for her, helped her with her wrap, lighted her cigarettes. When they were alone, he never behaved inappropriately. Not only was he good-looking, he was smart and cultured; he knew about good food, good music, foreign films, books and paintings. He was a good dancer, fond of animals and children, and spoke lovingly of his mother. He was all the things she might have hoped for in a man and never expected to find.
One Friday at the end of October, he picked her up at Dr. Bunch’s office at the end of the day. With a headache, cough and sore throat, she was out of sorts and not feeling at all well. How can you work in a doctor’s office with people coming and going all the time and not catch whatever is going around?
Cary was sympathetic. He smiled at her and put his arm around her and drew her close in the car. “I have just the thing that will make you feel better,” he said.
He reached into the back seat and brought forth a little leather case. He opened it and took out a syringe and a little bottle of liquid.
“What is that?” she asked.
“Trust me,” he said. “It’s just the thing you need for what ails you.”
She didn’t think to resist but rolled up her sleeve dutifully. He found her vein easily enough. It was over in a few seconds.
“You surprise me,” she said. “Are you a doctor?”
“Of course not,” he said, “but I’ve done this a lot.”
They went on to dinner and the injection, whatever it was, made her feel wonderful. She reveled in the food, the music, the dancing and the wine. The feeling of well-being lasted all through the evening. When Cary took her home at two in the morning, she believed she had just passed the most best evening of her life. She awoke in the morning happy, certain the happiness would last forever.
There were other injections, of course, any time motherhood was getting her down, a tooth was bothering her, it was her time of the month, or Dr. Bunch put extra work on her. And the injections always cast their magic spell. Whenever she asked him what the injections were that made her feel so good, he smiled and told her she asked too many questions. She came to see the injections as part of the wonderment of Cary Mulvihill, unexpected and delightful.
She had every reason to believe that Cary would ask her to become his wife. She invited him for a special dinner that she cooked herself so that he might see her domestic side. Cullen and Corinne loved him, as she knew they would, and he had a special way with them. He brought Corinne a stuffed elephant and Cullen a telescope.
It was all too wonderful! She had met the man of her dreams and he was going to rescue her from her dreary life. Cullen and Corinne would at last have the father they deserved and advantages in life they wouldn’t ordinarily have: travel, good schools, a promising future. Their names would appear in the society columns.
Finally Cary asked Verna to spend the night with him in his hotel room. She knew it was coming and was thrilled beyond measure. She saw it as the prelude to marriage. She arranged for a teenage sitter to stay overnight with Cullen and Corinne, packed an overnight bag, and waited out front for Cary to pick her up. She had bought all new underwear and sleepwear so he wouldn’t see her shabby stuff.
First they had a wonderful dinner, where they laughed and danced and relaxed. When she thought about what was to come later in his hotel room, her heart pounded with excitement. It was all so romantic!
After dinner, they went for a drive through town. Cary stopped his car on the street in front of Dr. Bunch’s office.
“I though it’d be fun to see where you spend your days,” he said.
“It’s not very exciting, I’m afraid.”
She took the keys out of her purse and unlocked the downstairs door and they went up the stairs in the dark, laughing and holding hands.
“Better not turn on too many lights,” she said, slurring her words.
When they were in the doctor’s office, he grabbed her and kissed her in the dark. She giggled, pushed away from him and turned on the lights.
“This is it,” she said.
He looked around admiringly. “I like being in a daytime place at night after everybody has gone home, don’t you?”
He wanted to see the examining rooms where the doctor saw patients. She took him into one and then the other. There was the table, cabinets, a sink, two chairs, a small, heavily curtained window.
“I’m impressed,” he said.
“We should go,” she said. “If the night watchman sees the lights, he’ll wonder what’s going on.”
“I want to see where the drugs are kept,” Cary said.
“Didn’t you say the doctor dispenses drugs from a large closet.”
“Oh, yes. It isn’t much to see. Just shelves of stuff.”
She opened the door to the drug closet and turned on the light. Cary whistled. “That is a lot of drugs,” he said.
“Three-quarters of a million dollars worth,” she said. “That’s why we keep the door locked at all times.”
“I like it,” he said. “I like the whole layout. I’d like anyplace where you worked.”
When at last they were in his hotel room, he ordered a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice, just like in the movies. They sat on the couch, drinking the champagne, talking in throaty voices. She nestled closer to him, took his arm and draped it around her shoulders. He kissed her and she purred like a kitten.
“Would you like an injection?” he asked after a while.
“Everything is perfect already,” she said. “I don’t know how it could be any better.”
“It will release you from your inhibitions.”
He gave her the injection and, as she was starting to feel it, he picked her up in his strong arms and carried her over to the bed and laid her on it.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I just want you to be comfortable,” he said.
“What about you?”
“Just rest. Everything will be fine.”
When she awoke, it was daylight. Fully clothed, she lay in the same position on the bed where Cary Mulvihill had placed her. She gasped and sat up, not at all sure of what had happened.
He left her a note that read: Please be out of the room by noon. I’m leaving you money for cab fare.
When she saw a hundred-dollar bill sticking out of the top of her purse, she knew he was gone. Gone and not coming back. She ran into the bathroom and heaved up the contents of her stomach.
Cary Mulvihill—with help from compatriots, of course—took Verna’s keys and cleaned out the drug closet in Dr. Bunch’s office in the early hours of the morning while the night watchman was napping. Three-quarters of a million dollars worth of drugs.
When Dr. Bunch arrived to open the office, he saw what had happened. Verna’s not showing up for work at the usual hour aroused his suspicions. He called her at home and when he didn’t get her he called the police. They were waiting for her as she got out of the cab in front of her house.
Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp