Tongue Depressors

Delphine Rodrik

I snap a fifth tongue depressor against my inside jaw, giving it a wet chew before lobbing it into the trashcan a foot and a half away. Buckets. (1)

Tongue depressors were, in my opinion, invented to be stolen and abused. Perhaps you don’t agree with me, but when you’re a fourteen-year-old kid and some guy in a white lab coat with a koala pin leaves you alone in an eight by eight exam room with last June’s “Highlights” magazine, your mother, and variously colored pamphlets on whooping cough and ADHD, you don’t have much else to keep you distracted. Of course I wouldn’t have had to fuck with this guy’s popsicle stick collection if he didn’t keep us waiting forever so that he could saunter around his clinic, jerking off his stethoscope and planning where in Florida he would vacation next so that he could contract his second case of malignant melanoma. Who lets these guys become doctors, anyway? Anyway, after five or so minutes of doing barrel spins on Dr. McDoctor’s (2) wheely stool and another 30 or so of me telling my ma (3) how impatient I am, the jerk-off finally shows up.

“Well howdy there, big man,” he says. “How’s your year been…[He looks down at his chart]…Noah?”

I’m already pissed off with the guy for making us wait. My ma sees me resisting, so she has to kick me with a glare before I come to.

“Not bad, Doc. And yourself?”

“Doing reeeal well,” he says, dragging out that “e” like a porpoise being anally penetrated as it axes its way through a bathroom door so that it can murder its innocent porpoise family in cold blood. He grabs a tongue depressor out of the jar, oblivious to its missing contents, and he tells me to say “ah.” I acquiesce. And, following his next request, I consent to him exploring the remaining orifices of my face with a penlight. I better get a goddamn Dum Dum out of this, I think to myself.

We finish playing doctor and he rolls back on his wheely stool like he’s some goddamn magician. He then pulls off his latex gloves and presses his fingers in a pistol shape against his chin.

“Well, Noah, everything looks good,” he says. “You staying out of trouble?”

“Of course,” I say back. My ma gives him a confirming nod, which sucks because it means that even she knows I’m too soft of a kid to do anything of real concern.

“Okay, doo du doo du doo,” he continues, in hum, pulling out my BMI (5) charts. “So everything looks good. Weight looks good; I hope you’ve been eating well. Blood pressure is good. Doo du doo du doo. Height’s still below average, but I don’t think you’ll grow more anyway. And other than that—”

“Hold up, doc,” I cut him off. “Say that again.”

“I’m sorry?”

I choke up. That’s not how this is supposed to work. He’s not supposed to just say it. I’ve seen the movies. He’s supposed to take me back into his office. He’s supposed to fold one hand over the other, lean over his mahogany davenport or something like that. And he’s supposed to tell me in a soft, sodden tone, “You might want to take a seat.” I mean sure, right here, right now, I’m already sitting. But he didn’t fucking tell me to sit. He’s supposed to do that. Then he’s supposed to tell me “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more we can do. I wish there was a better way of telling you this, but there’s no real reason to beat off the bush; I’m just going to be straight: You’ve developed a chronic condition—there’s no treatment.” My ma is supposed to gasp and tear up and say, “there’s got to be something, doctor McDoctor—anything, an experimental treatment, anything?” And then he’s supposed to shake his head and cautiously explain the morbidity of the situation. And all the while I’m supposed sit there in that chair he told me to sit in, meditating on my mortality. That’s how he was supposed to do this, but instead this guy just decides it’s okay give me this fatal fucking diagnosis in a passing comment.

The words clang in my head again: “I don’t think you’ll grow more anyway.” Who the hell does this guy think he is, some kind of doctor? Well maybe, but—but still.

“What exactly do you mean not growing anymore?” I finally say. “I thought I had at least four more inches in me? My dad’s five eleven for Christ sake (6)!”

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