By Jared Golub
“It was furry and pink and coming towards me incredibly fast. My first impulse was to run away. So, I did. I ran out of the backyard and all the way down the block to the gas station my father always bought his cigarettes from. I was panting and crying, and when that finally stopped, I realized one of my shoes had fallen off somewhere. I never found it. And I’ve been running away from stuffed animals ever since.”
The doctor looked up from his clipboard when it was apparent that Mrs. Humphries—who he was beginning to suspect wasn’t a Mrs. at all—had finished her tragic tale. He would have to say something reassuring, something insightful enough to warrant the three framed degrees on his wall and the one hundred fifty dollars he charged each hour.
“And you were six years old, you said?”
“Hmm.” The doctor looked at his clipboard again and wrote “BUY MILK,” then circled it twice. “And what about today? How does your aversion affect your daily life as an adult?”
Mrs. Humphries reclined a bit further in the gold suede couch and took a deep breath. She said something about an office party, a man with red-rimmed glasses who smelled like fish. The doctor took this opportunity to refine his plans with Catherine. He would forgive her for the affair and come clean about his own recent indiscretion with Tiffany. He just wanted things to go back to the way they were, or at the very least, be able to see his daughter more than once a month. There would be time for them now—he would make sure of it.
“So, now everyone calls me ‘Wacky Wanda.’”
The doctor put the cap on his pen. “That’s truly heartbreaking.”
“Now, I’d like to go a little deeper into what these dolls represent. What is it beyond the hair and colors that really evoke so much fear?”
“Well, dolls I’m fine with, really. I have a pretty big collection of American Girl dolls at home. Stuffed animals. . .” Mrs. Humphries blushed. “I guess there’s something sexual about the feel or look of them.”
The doctor nodded. He would take on fewer patients. He would refer the less interesting ones to Calvin as soon as his latest lawsuit was settled. Catherine would have to make some sacrifices too, of course. There would be no more weeklong quarrels over unwashed dishes or unkempt lawns. She would keep a detailed record of everything she spent money on. It was not a lot ask, all things considered.
He remembered their first date at the movie theater where he worked. They snuck in from one feature to the next, until his manager discovered and fired him on the spot. Their first Thanksgiving feast consisted of turkey sandwiches and a single baked potato on the floor of his studio apartment. She fell asleep in his arms as they exchanged dreams about how they would help people around the world.
“And before my uncle left, he put my skirt back on. He wiped away my tears with his thumb and put the teddy bear in my arms. I stayed like that for hours.”
There was a knock at the door. Mrs. Humphries and the doctor looked at the clock above it.
“Well, I think that means our time is up.”
Mrs. Humphries nodded and brought a tissue to her eyes.
“My secretary can schedule another appointment with you. Tiffany?”
Tiffany opened the door and moved aside for Mrs. Humphries to pass.
“Thank you, doctor. Sometimes just talking about these things really helps.”
Tiffany raised her eyebrows when Mrs. Humphries had completely shuffled out of sight.
“Your ex-wife called. Wanted to confirm your dinner tonight at Cesare.”
The doctor rolled the pen between his fingers, noticed the crucifix reflecting the light above his secretary’s cleavage.
“Tell her I’m sick. What are you doing tonight?”
Tiffany shrugged her shoulders and grinned. “I guess I’m making you feel better.”
The doctor watched her walk back towards her desk and the now sobbing Mrs. Humphries. He wrote on his clipboard, “+ BREAD.”