At least it's not rocket science

Submitted into Contest #194 in response to: Write a story inspired by the phrase “It’s hardly brain surgery.”... view prompt

4 comments

Funny Teens & Young Adult

“It’s hardly brain surgery.” A phrase one might repeat to themselves when kissing a boy, walking into an exam, or DIYing. Nervously chuckling, she donned her PPE and thought to herself that surely the others are just as nervous as her. Clammy hands concealed by smooth latex, sweat drenched clothes squeaking against the paper gowns, she took a glance in the bathroom mirror. “Yeah, it’s hardly brain surgery… OH who am I kidding, it’s literally brain surgery!?” She wasn’t quite sure how she ended up here, chalking it up to COVID for passing her through med school. Now here she was, unprepared, anxious, and about to begin as a surgeon's assistant. Can I even take a pulse? she thought to herself as she tried feeling her own. Unless she really did die of anxiety, she definitely couldn’t read her own pulse, let alone someone else’s. A knock on the door let her know she was required outside stat, so she put on her best “I am totally confident and qualified to be here” face and walked out the doors, willing herself to believe that, at least, it wasn’t rocket science.

She still remembered the bright eyed, bushy tailed freshman she was when she joined Harvard. After all, getting in Harvard was an accomplishment in itself. Yet not even a full semester passed, and whispers of a pandemic were starting to fester in the corners of the street, and classmates slowly stopped showing up. Still, not even the top of her class would have been able to predict the severity of COVID. Brought out of thought, she sighed and opened her laptop. The blue luminescence from her screen was the only source of light in her dark room as she shifted in bed and clicked join on the big blue Zoom meeting button. Ensuring her camera was turned off, she typed in her name in the chat box for attendance and flipped over, ready to resume her midday nap. It was that very day her professor was demonstrating a breakdown of the human brain, from the cerebral cortex to the brainstem. Of course, she didn't retain any of that information, she was too occupied fantasizing about what college life should have been like. But she still remembered snippets of information, information that she desperately racked her brain to recall. As she walked out the doors, she bumped into one of the real surgeons. He chuckled as she mustered out an apology in the form of a meek mumble and a slight bow. "Nervous?" He asked her. How could she not be nervous? She was about to help cut open some person's head for heavens sake. He smiled, "Well if it's any consolation, once I cut the occipital lobe on a patient 2 centimeters too deep, which thankfully wasn't fatal since the patient was already blind!" She stared at him, willing herself to muster all her social cue skills and decipher whether that was a joke, or he was serious. Thankfully, he started chuckling to himself, and walked away, mumbling to himself about first day jitters. She sighed, braced herself, and turned to face the door. After a few turns of extending and retracting her hand, she finally reached for the door handle. Come on, they can smell your fear. Hell, I can smell it too, I wonder if the sweat makes these gowns see through? Maybe I can request a gown change and avoid having to actually do anything… no no maybe I could pretend to be a vegan? She sighed heavily and pulled the door handle, the silence of real professionals in their work environment slamming into her like a gust of wind. Only the occasional clatter of a utensil or the shuffling of PPE shoes saved her from uncomfortable silence, and she wished that other guy would walk back into the room and crack another joke. She quietly inched towards the operation table, praying that someone will hand her an easy task like take out the trash or just tell her she wasn’t needed and that she could go nap. Hell she would even lie down on the table and become the patient to avoid fumbling up in front of these real deal surgeons.

While walking further into the room itself was a feat, she broke into more nervous sweating when she saw the actual equipment. Inspecting a scalpel she felt a lump form in her throat, she had to hold that to a real human’s head? The head surgeon walked in, glancing at her before announcing to the group “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new assistant with us today, a very capable young woman, top in her class at Harvard!” She grimaced, Why not just call me modern day Marie Curie at this point she thought to herself, when the sharp snap of latex gloves and the squeak of hospital bed wheels brought her out of her thoughts back to the present. If there’s a god out there, let this patient be some horrible person, someone with a big brain that’s easy to operate on, I promise I’ll stop cheating on anything she pleaded to whatever god would listen to her, but as the doors swung open the figure of a small child began to appear. Well great, what’s next? Poor Timmy’s mother is going to run in an- The doors swung open once more, and a woman with tears streaking down her face urged the doctors to take care of her poor child, who had so much in life to live for and didn’t ask for the cancerous lump to consume him from inside out. At this point, she couldn’t help but feel a small, spiteful smile form from the corners of her lips. Why did she have to cheat through med school, this poor kid definitely didn’t deserve to have some inexperienced 20 something year old messing with his brains. She turned to the head surgeon, ready to confess her unpreparedness, but instead what she blurted out was “I think… I think I’m going to become a rocket scientist.” Running out of the operation room, she tore off the PPE and laughed, unemployment be damned, it really was brain surgery after all. 

April 19, 2023 20:31

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4 comments

Ian James
01:26 Apr 27, 2023

Oh man, I really hope that kid gets treated soon. Your story reminds me of my first teaching experience during my practicum. I wanted so badly to appear confident and capable, imagining a classroom straight out of a Hollywood movie with eager and attentive students. But then I got assigned to an extra class filled with rowdy kids who were climbing on their desks like a bunch of monkeys. I had to be honest and admit that I had no idea what to do. I still remember the laughter of the veteran teachers. But now, twenty years later, I'm happy t...

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Smriti Sudhakar
12:33 Apr 27, 2023

I would be frozen with anxiety in that situation too, glad things are better for you now! I'm sure your students will agree that your experience really helps nurture them too.

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Mike Rush
15:28 Apr 22, 2023

Smriti, Welcome to Reedsy, and well done on your first submission! I thought the inner dialogue in this piece was the best part. This was the best one, which is laugh-out-loud funny: Come on, they can smell your fear. Hell, I can smell it too, I wonder if the sweat makes these gowns see through? Maybe I can request a gown change and avoid having to actually do anything… no no maybe I could pretend to be a vegan? I thought you captured well the anxiety of the new-comer to such an intense and nerve-wracking situation. Her taking her own p...

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Smriti Sudhakar
19:13 Apr 22, 2023

thank you so much, that advice was really helpful, and this comment made my day :)

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