by Nick McArthur


A Brief Monologue Wherein Our Hero, a Formerly Comatose and Wrongfully Accused Young Patient, Makes Good his Escape from Sayreville County Hospital, Displaying at Once Resourceful Cunning and Multiple Behavioral Symptoms of Having Sustained a Massive Head Injury

Greetings, Mr. Worthington! How are you feeling today? Good? I hope the answer is “good.” My name is Samuel Curtis and as you’ve probably guessed from my stethoscope and wristwatch I am a real doctor gainfully employed at this hospital. I will be attending to your case this afternoon. Please disrobe and lay face-down on the table while I look in this cupboard for a medical chart (i). Help yourself to a paper dress. The lollipops are delicious.

Now before we get started, you may or may not have noticed that aside from my stethoscope and high quality wristwatch I am dressed, let’s say, sort of atypically for a practitioner. This is entirely for your comfort, Mr. Worthington. Recent studies have shown that a doctor’s good health and professional success can be off-putting for some patients, especially those inclined to bouts of jealousy. These jealous bouts can adversely affect a patient’s willingness to open up, inhibiting channels of communication, and ultimately delaying the attainment of a useful diagnosis— sometimes with catastrophic results. According to these studies, a less professional appearance on the part of a practitioner can foster healthy relations between him and his patients. You will notice, for example, that I am not wearing a lab-coat or grasping onto a clipboard. I am dressed in a hospital gown identical to your own— my feet clad in slippers, my face unshaven and legs exposed. These are all tokens of my sympathy for your illness, Mr. Worthington. They are the symbolic evidences of our shared mortality, our mutual vulnerability, our unbreakable bond as diagnostician and diagnosed. Consider them a gesture of equalization. And please, Mr. Worthington, don’t think of me as superior, for we are embarked on this together just as sailors in a squall or as soldiers in a foxhole— companions united until the bitterest of ends. Do you understand what I’m saying, Mr. Worthington? It is pivotal that you trust me and that I in turn trust you. This is the reason that I’m dressed the way I am— as a patient recovering from extensive cerebral hemorrhaging. Can you comprehend all this, Mr. Worthington? Can you understand what I am trying to communicate?

I’ll assume from your speechless terror that you cannot.

Excuse me one second while I lock the door…

Mr. Worthington, I believe I have surmised the reason for your discomfort, and I suppose that I owe you some kind of an apology. Obviously, my endeavors to put you at your ease have failed; my feigned congeniality has failed; these illusions of bad health have failed. You’re as alienated now by my paper gown and slippers as you ever could have been by a three-piece Armani suit. What is worse, Mr. Worthington, is that your attention (I can tell) has by this point been drawn to the upper-leftmost quadrant of my skull. Please do not be alarmed! It is my duty to emphasize, here, that the festering contusion which you believe you see is entirely an illusion— a synthetic wound designed to bring us together; to render us less like doctor and patient and more like two commiserating friends. I can see now what a terrible error in judgment this has been. You are obviously frightened. Perhaps if I were to— how should I say it— unveil for you the methods of my dissemblance— perhaps then your reservations would be assuaged? Please, Mr. Worthington, indulge me for one second:

The area right here resembling exposed skull is, as you will notice on further inspection, nothing but plaster bandages carefully shaped and painted. Go ahead and touch it, Mr. Worthington. Doesn’t it feel real? Doesn’t it feel like genuine exposed skull, throbbing below your fingertips? Please do not be disgusted. Nothing you’re experiencing is real. Those secretions you’re encountering are also synthetic.

And what about the fissure? At the center of the plaster, can you distinguish a long crack? A narrow little cavity? A hole that extends straight down to the interior? If you hazard a second look you will no doubt catch just the faintest glimpse of grayish pink brain, nestled below the surface. It is nothing but smoke and mirrors, Mr. Worthington! A little black paint for the illusion of depth; a little pink polish for the temporal lobe, and voila— a thoroughly convincing cranial fracture! Go ahead and get a pinky in there… that’s right, keep going… keep going… okay, that’s far enough.

Now, Mr. Worthington, have I thoroughly calmed your fears? Are your uncertainties abated? Your questions answered? Your prejudices quelled? As you can tell I am a man of science— abreast in every way of the latest techniques. My approach may be unorthodox, my demeanor may be odd, and I may smell unpleasantly of uncured ham— but I am nevertheless your doctor. And after everything I’ve shown you I hope you’re ready to trust me. I hope that you’re ready to begin the examination and move forward in our friendship. Are you, Mr. Worthington? Are you ready to trust again? Are you ready at last to let yourself be vulnerable?

Mr. Worthington, I have with me a sedative to dispel whatever lingering feelings of anxiety you may possess. I normally wouldn’t insist but— given your initial wariness— this may be the only way for us to secure accurate data. If you trust me as your doctor and have faith in my techniques, I will administer this needle before continuing your examination. If not, I will leave you in peace to locate another practitioner. The decision is yours.

But I should warn you, Mr. Worthington— there is a small chance that the sedative in question will present certain undesirable side-effects. You may feel disoriented. Your mouth might become dry. You may twitch uncontrollably. After a few minutes of these initial effects, you may experience various paranoid hallucinations. Just as an example, you may imagine that I’m stealing your clothes and rifling through your wallet— leaving you here in a state of prostrate nakedness. Possibly, these paranoid hallucinations will occur with such galvanising vividness that you will suddenly feel compelled to punch me in the throat. I urge you to resist this compulsion. It is important you remember that I am your doctor, and that I am only here to help. I am not here to run off with your clothes like some desperate, hunted person. Because I am not a desperate, hunted person. I am a doctor. I am here to help. I am here to help you with your illnesses, right now.

So, what will it be, Mr. Worthington? Will you take the sedative? Have you decided to take my advice? Have you decided to trust me?

(i) An excerpt from Mr. Worthington’s medical chart, located several days later by police investigators:

Patrick Worthington

DOB: 10/11/1959


PHYSICIAN: Samuel “Wallaby” Curtis


VITALS: Still vital.

SKIN: White.

Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Throat: One of each. Except for the ears. And the eyes. And the… nostrils?

CHEST: Present.


BREASTS: In the A range, I suppose.

RECTOVAGINAL: Definitely recto.

UTERINE: This may be the wrong chart.

MENSTRUAL: This is almost definitely the wrong chart.

LABIAL: Where do we keep the other charts? Is there a cabinet for men? By which I don’t mean a cabinet filled with tiny little men, but rather a cabinet filled medical charts designed for regular sized men, with regular sized ailments. And where would we keep such a cabinet, if we had one?


NEUROLOGIC: Very good.

NODES: Very, very good.

SPINAL: Very, very, very good…


Nick McArthur's first book, Short Accounts of Tragic Occurances, was published by DC Books last year. You'll want to read it.

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