Dr. Fryer

Submitted by Debra Vanetten to Contest #15 in response to: Write about one character’s fundamental misunderstanding of another character’s job.... view prompt

If I hadn't been sitting outside in my car, observing things from a distance, I think I would have hugged them both. At the very least, offered them a few kind words. Either way, from my vantage point, it looked like they could both use it.

Although they were young, both their faces were pensive. I would put them in their mid 40s, his baseball cap slightly angled to reveal a wisp of newly graying hair, her pony tail messy, but stylish. Simple silver hoop earrings. Clothing was what I like to call, "Saturday threads". Comfortable sweatshirts, and although I couldn't see their pants or shoes, I guessed they were Saturday threads as well. They stood close together, both of their arms folded, noticeably both uncomfortable and anxious. Were they listening? Watching? Maybe a bit of both. She moved her arm and cupped the left side of her face with her hand. She turned to look at him, but he didn't notice.

The man standing in front of them was wearing the traditional, "white coat" and I often wondered why it was white. It would seem in his line of work, a brighter color might have somehow made the mood better, but nevertheless, they always wore white, at least here. I had seen that same coat before, in other colors. Black, Red, and once even a light shade of orange with gold colored buttons. I liked that one the best although to be honest, not everyone looks good in orange.

The man in the white coat appeared to be sweating, occasionally wiping his brow with his sleeve and although I couldn't hear him speak, I watched his arms moving about, side to side, up and down, "talking with his hands", like my Italian Grandfather often did. He was young for this much animation I thought. His glances were quick, first to the left, then to the right, hands moving up, head moving backwards. I was trying to figure out what he was saying with that much passion...and perspiration. I couldn't. The couple just stood there. Listening. Watching. Waiting. Trying to make sense of it all I suppose.

Time seemed to be just painfully dragging and the man in the white coat was still moving around, and still sweating, but the couple stood silently, shifting in their places from time to time. They'd been standing there for what felt like every bit of fifteen minutes, although it could have been less. Time seems to drag when you're waiting.

It must have been bad news I imagined and this is how they are preparing themselves for it. By simply standing still and listening. "So many children here", I thought to myself. And I began to wonder if this was about their child.

She was looking down now, at the floor and I suspected for a moment she might faint. He was looking impatient, now rocking back and forth, swaying wider now in his space, arms still folded in front of him.

"This has going on for too long I thought, so I decided to park my car and go inside. I don't know what I expected to accomplish in there, because I didn't want to go in the first place, but here I was, about to join the crowd. I suppose it was curiosity that was getting to me, or maybe it was empathy to some degree. Either way, I was going in.

It wasn't easy to find a parking space, and I knew it was because of two things. The time of day and the venue. It wasn't my first rodeo, so to speak, which is why I didn't really want to get out of my car. It wasn't that people necessarily wanted to be here on this day at this time, but that's where even the best of us in our situations would wind up at some point, at least a couple of times a month. Sometimes when life is tough, it's just easier to go someplace closer to home. At least you don't have the long car ride home afterwards, and that gives you less time to think.

That's when I saw him. The small blonde boy, maybe 4 at most but it was hard to tell. He was small, and very thin. Invisible to me before, as I sat in my car, but here he was in the flesh. He was at her side, tugging at her sweatshirt, and jumping up and down, using her shirt to anchor him so he didn't fall over. His one shoelace untied. He looked like he had a fresh haircut, unlike the man with him who I guessed was his father. I wondered why the "maybe father" didn't just get his haircut too. Lots of times little kids didn't like going for haircuts, at least that had been my experience when my son was little. He as figgity, the way kids get when things are taking too long. They were almost ignoring him, the way parents do when they're trying hard to pay attention to something else.

I searched for the man in the white coat and saw him immediately, still talking, still moving his hands and head. Others had gathered around now as well, and it felt like everyone was doing what I was doing, watching.

The noise level began to grow around us, and there were many people now gathering around to watch the man in the white coat. And twice as many children. Some were even beginning to cry, knowing that their turn was coming and anxious to see it arrive.

I managed to maneuver myself a bit closer to the front and was almost sorry I did. I stepped into a huge puddle of something yellow on the floor, and I convinced myself that it was just maybe Mountain Dew, or something else besides what it looked like. "That's what you get for your curiosity", I thought to myself, and made a mental note to be sure to hit the ladies room afterwards and clean the bottom of my shoes.

And then the man in the white coat spoke loudly. "Almost done guys", he said to the masses of people watching him.

"It's about time", answered the young boy.

French Fries in the making. A fast food restaurant.

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1 like 2 comments

02:27 Nov 21, 2019

Here for the critique circle. I read this for the title alone! This is a funny story, I liked it. One critique, though. In the very beginning there are several longish paragraphs, one after another. The average reader hates that. I mean, to solve this problem you don't even need to write more or less, just tap enter a few times and it makes the story so much easier to read. Well done!


11:59 Nov 21, 2019

Thank you for the tips and for the compliment as well!


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