excerpt from The Broccoli Eaters  

Another figure entered. This one was striking. This one was undeniably a doctor, straight out of central casting. He was tall, over six feet tall, lean, but not thin. Powerful, more so in an information age sense or a pecuniary sense than physically. He, too, wore a white lab coat, but it looked as if he had been born in it, not hiding out in it the way the intern was hers.

His large hands took the clipboard away from the intern. He read it. He smiled at Sara, scowled at the intern. The intern faded into the background, looking alert, secondary, disposable.

"Mrs. Moxley, correct?" he asked condescendingly.


He took her pulse. Felt her ribs, palpated her chest. Massaged the bump behind her ear, the thickening of skin on her posterior where she'd injured herself falling off her tricycle as a child. He lovingly observed her moles, her blemishes, the whitish spots and streaks on her nails. He looked in orifices and cavities, apologized for doing so, looked again, to see if anything had moved while he wasn't looking. He put on rubber gloves and intruded upon sacred places, places where Sara herself hadn't ever been, places that no one would think to look. Places that she didn't know existed.

While this was going on, Sara realized that a part of her was enjoying this, the formal examination. It was the observer, the part of her brain or soul or whatever that cockily thought that it existed beyond the body, that paltry lump of flesh being prodded and examined like a hunk of meat on a table. The observer thought that this was cool. A good way to put the ego in its place. Sara hoped that it was right.

The doctor gave his soiled gloves to the intern, who took them reverently.

"You need tests," the doctor said gravely.

"What do you think is wrong with me?"

"The tests will tell us."

"But what do you think?"

"Thinking would be premature at this point."

"Okay, so what do you believe?"

"Belief is a matter for religion. There's no place for religion in modern medicine."

Sara tried another angle. "If some other doctor bet you three grand you couldn't diagnose me, what would you say I had?"

"I'd say that whatever you've got, it's your own fault. The whole thrust of modern medicine is to convince the patient that his or her malady was brought about by him or her. By lifestyle, or deathstyle as we'd like it to be known. If you think about it, none of us has a lifestyle as much as we have a style of choosing our own deaths."

"Then what have I chosen?"

"Let's see what the tests say."

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