The Good Doctor 76
Pete took my shoulders and turned me around to face him and fidgeted with my tie. We were in what they called the green room even though it wasn't green but a sort of putty color.
He said softly, “There, that’s better.” I had to look up at him because the top of my head comes like to his chin.
“Do I look okay?”
He grinned. “You always look great and now your tie does too. You feel okay?”
I smiled. “To tell you the truth I feel like I’ve just been fucked. Does it show?” The fact was that we’d been up since five this morning and fucked twice before getting dressed and driving into Hartford. My mom was getting Jase off to school.
He grunted. "For God's sake don't bring that up when you're talking to Yolanda."
“You think she’s gonna be mean? People say she can be mean.” I was talking about Yolanda McClellan the star of morning television on WSUK TV, the biggest TV station in Hartford, Connecticut. Her program, Good Morning Hartford was the most watched local program in the state and she wanted to interview me about running for mayor. It wasn’t Mr. Butterworth’s station and he had even warned me that Yolanda was mean but I figured that I had to go on her show once she asked me.
He looked mildly worried. "Well, if she is just don't rise to the bait. Given her job she's probably gonna be a little...well, difficult; but don't lose your temper. Remember a politician has gotta be able to put up with that sort of thing."
"A politician?" I was a politician? That sounded so dirty.
Pete cocked his head. "That doesn't have to be a bad thing you know. Besides that whole "mean" thing was when she broke up with that guy." "That guy" was a CPA she was married to for about five years and who eventually ran off with a handsome young state trooper because he said she paid more attention to her dog than she did to him. The dog actually had his picture in the paper. He was a handsome, well, in a canine sort of way, a German Shepard with a wild look in his eyes. I remember thinking at the time that that dog looked like he was capable of anything. Some animals, like people, just look like they're dying to get into trouble. I know that it sounds stupid but I could imagine that dog hanging out in dark alleys smoking unfiltered cigarettes and making rude remarks to strangers.
Finally they came and got me and put me on couch sitting next to her but all of the lights and everything were on her, my end of the couch was almost dark. Yolanda had short gray/blonde hair and the posture of a drill sergeant. She was staring at the camera and reading with relish a story about a Senator who was caught having an affair with his wife's brother. When she described what they were caught doing on a nearly deserted beach in Florida she seemed to turn her head very slightly in my direction and frown.
Finally she finished and cut to a commercial. She leaned over and whispered to me, "You're next." Her breath smelled of vodka and I wasn't really sure how she meant the, "You're next!" comment. Pete was standing over by the side of the stage smiling encouragingly at me. The thing is that Pete sees the world from the position of being a tall, blond, godlike, doctor and nobody ever treats him like shit because, well, you just wouldn't. I mean he actually knows the name of his salesman at Brooks Brothers. If this woman was interviewing him she'd be treating him like the CEO of IBM or some fucking thing. At restaurants even if we don't have a reservation they kick everyone else out of the way so that Pete can get the first table. On the other hand, I sometimes bring out the worst in women. They either try to rape me or they use me to take out all of the frustrations they feel about other men. On the other other hand I'm the only one who ever treats Pete badly but that's only because I love him.
Suddenly the lights came up and I heard an announcer that I couldn't see say something about me running for mayor and Yolanda turned to me. She crossed her legs slowly and sat so rigidly I had to wonder if she had like a back problem. Then she dramatically let out a long slow breath lifted an eyebrow and said, "When you first decided to run for mayor were you at all concerned that your...lifestyle...might cost you votes?" This was how she was beginning the interview? Geez, just what I needed, a real bitch.
I sat a little straighter and had a strong urge to cover my balls with my hands.
I forced myself to smile at her. "Lifestyle? My lifestyle is pretty ordinary."
"Oh come now, Mr. Cortland! I'm very familiar with some of the things that you people get up to. But what I'm wondering is whether or not the voters will hold you accountable."
"Accountable? What on earth do you think I do?" Out of the corner of my eye I could see Pete push himself off of the wall, shove his hands deep into his pants pockets, and stare at me intently.
She looked at the camera and smirked. "Oh, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what you do. The question now is whether or not the voters will put up with it."
I was really getting irritated and maybe starting to get a little loud. Sometimes I do that. "Put up with what?"
Her mouth was set into a grim line and almost through clenched teeth she said, "Admit that you're gay." What, this isn’t common knowledge?
I sat a little forward, smiled at her and said, "You wanna know about my sex life?"
She almost screamed, "Admit that you're gay!!" I dunno but that triggered something in me. Like why was I letting this bitch get the better of me? Did I really want to be the mayor of someplace that much that I was willing to put up with anything? I didn't think so.
I smiled at her again and leaned even closer to her, like I wanted to share a secret with her. I said softly, conspiratorially, but plenty loudly enough for the microphone, "Okay, but only if you tell me about yours. So what are you into...men, women...ahhhhh dogs maybe?"
The corners of her eyes were twitching wildly and her mouth was beginning to contort but before she could say anything I touched the tip of my index finger to my upper lip and said, "Okay, lemme guess. When your boyfriend is whispering in your ear does it sound like "Aaaarrrrf?" She seemed totally frozen and I said, "What's the matter Yolanda? You gotta carry plastic bags so you can pick up your boyfriend's poop?"
Suddenly her face contorted and she let out the most blood curdling shriek I've ever heard and dove for me across the full length of the couch with her arms outstretched and her pink painted nails like the claws of tigress going for the throat of a quivering gazelle.
"I'M GONNA TEAR YOUR EYES OUT!!!!!!!"
I grabbed for her hands to protect my eyes from those long nails and we both rolled off of the sofa onto the floor and then in an instant there were guys on either side of Yolanda pulling her off of me while I yelled, "It's not my fault that your boyfriend likes to eat Alpo!!!" And despite ordinarily being a complete gentleman I would have tried to kick her but suddenly I was lifted off of my feet with my arms and legs flailing and Pete literally carried me out of the station to his car.
When he put me down my muscles were shaking, my shirt was pulled out of my pants and my stomach was churning like I was gonna puke and I was still in full fight mode.
I yelled, "You shoulda let me put that bitch away!"
He wrapped his arms around me and jammed me between him and the car while holding me so tightly that I was forced to relax. My face was pressed into his chest. He whispered in my ear, "She had twenty pounds on you and she's crazy!"
While my chest was heaving and I was gasping for breath I mumbled into his chest, "So you think this'll affect the election?" He just groaned.
Pete was gonna drop me off at the club but when we got there there was a satellite truck parked out in front of the place with a couple of guys sitting in it so he tried to drop me at home instead but there were other strange cars and a satellite truck parked there too. In the end we went around the block and he dropped me in front of Ernie’s mom’s house and I cut through her backyard into my backyard and I got into my house through the door at the back of the garage. It’s hell being a celebrity.
When I slid into the kitchen my mother was making coffee and she had two cups and saucers set out on a fancy tray with a little pitcher of cream and a bowl of sugar. There was no way that could be for me. I’m not nearly that genteel.
She looked up a little startled and said in a whisper, “Oh…you’re home.” She glanced quickly in the direction of the living room and then said, “Ahhhh…Harold is here.”
I whispered back at her, “Harold?”
“Yes.” After a second she got a frustrated look on her face. “Harold Woodmeer.” I must have had a blank look on my face because I had no clue who that was. “HAROLD WOODMEER! The City Clerk! The guy running against you! For God’s sake, Eric! You don’t even know who’s running against you?” Nobody ever told me that there was somebody else running.
“I knew who it was! It just slipped my mind!” The woman has no faith in me.
I sighed. “I suppose you saw what happened.”
“Yes dear.” She was pouring the coffee. “That’s why Harold is here.”
She put the coffee pot down and turned to me. Slowly she put her hands on her hips. Not a good sign.
“You do understand that you can’t let the election happen don’t you?”
“Of course not!”
“People would vote against me?”
She shook her head. “Some, of course. The thing is Eric that this town is filled with the same yahoo’s that you went to school with so anything could happen. You could even be elected…and that’s what we gotta stop.”
She reached over and put her hand on my arm. “Eric…right now the town is filled with television trucks and reporters. They all wanna talk to you, to photograph you, to put you on television. If you get elected this town is gonna be a three ring circus.”
“And that’s bad?”
“We can’t afford it! The city is right on the edge, financially. So far we’ve been able to keep our heads above water but with a bunch of news people here and all the lookeyloo’s…that’s expensive. You get that kind of attention in a small town like this and you need cops to control things. You got any idea what overtime costs for a police officer? For emt’s? For firemen? And that’s not even to mention all the different grants that town has applied for from the state and federal government. If all of a sudden we elect someone,” she gave me an odd look and then patted my arm, “you know, someone a bit…well, erratic…it could blow the whole thing.”
She shook her head. “You don’t understand all of the attention that you attract!”
“Me? What did I do? Well…aside form this morning.”
She shook her head. “I dunno. I honestly don’t know. Of course there was this morning but that’s not really all of it. I mean you’re just one person so it almost seems impossible. You wouldn’t think that you could stir so much up. It’s like you’re a lightening rod or something. When you were in high school I would get all those phone calls from upset parents and I would think that, “Well, this will end when he grows up and settles down.” But it never really did. But anyway, that’s why Harold is here. I’m negotiating with him.”
“Negotiating?” I cocked my head to one side. “You’re selling me!” I knew that it was only a matter of time.
She grabbed my arm hard and dug her fingers into it. “Eric, I got a hundred and twenty acres of the old Stanton farm that needs to have a paved road and you’re not screwing this up for me!” When did she buy that?
I tried to pull my arm away. “You are selling me!!”
She shook her head. “Of course not! It’s more like trading. You drop out and when Harold gets in he puts me in charge of the city council. Harold gets what he wants, I get the City Council, the town gets a stable future and you get everyone’s eternal thanks.”
“Ma! That’s illegal!”
She smiled and patted my chest. “Eric, it’s not illegal, at least not if it’s done right. Besides the people that buy the houses that I’m gonna build on those four hundred lots are entitled to decent roads, aren’t they? Or do you think that they’re somehow less important than you are? You want little kids playing on unpaved streets and tracking mud into their mother’s brand new kitchens?”
Oh geez! Well, in that case. “What about the money I was gonna make? This was gonna be my chance to get caught up with you and Pete.”
She sighed. “Well, that’s one of the things I’ve been discussing with Harold. We decided on making you Road Commissioner.”
I rolled the taste of that around in my mouth. “Road Commissioner? Road Commissioner. That wouldn’t mean that I’ve have to……?”
She rolled her eyes. “Work?” She shook her head. “Not even a little. I’d have a rubber stamp made for your signature and keep it in my purse. Actually we’d just as soon you didn’t even tell anyone about it. I was thinking that I’d bury your salary under paving supplies.”
“And what about…..?”
“Salary? Thirty-five thousand. I know it doesn’t pay as much as being mayor but I’ll also sign over half of my interest in the club. That’ll way more than make up for the rest.” My mom must really be planning on making a killing on that land.
“Do I get a car?”
She glared at me. “Don’t push it, Eric.”
Pete and I were lying on the big sofa in the living room reading. He was at one end and I was at the other. Our stocking clad feet were together in the middle engaging in something very like frottage. The days events had been hashed and rehashed to the point where neither one of us any longer had the strength to talk about it.
On the other side of the room Jase was sitting cross legged in front of the TV. Actually he was so close to it it almost seemed like you could watch it through him.
I yelled, “Jase! Don’t sit so close to the TV!” That got me a whispered, “Kay.” His eyes never left the set.
“Jase! You’re gonna hurt your eyes!” I have no idea if this is true.
Unfortunately it was another ten minutes before Pete happened to notice what Jase was actually watching and kicked me. “Eric!”
Of course I mistook that for some kind of foreplay and shoved my toes under his balls.
He shoved my foot away and said, “Eric, the TV!”
Jase had apparently switched the channel to “Surprise Pregnancy” a program about women who had given birth to babies that they had no clue were on the way. And one of the surprise pregnancies was just about to happen. It was the story about a woman who had just sat down with her husband and six kids to a Chinese dinner at The House of Fong and just as the egg rolls were being served…well, you can guess the rest.
I started to roll off the sofa and dive for the remote just as Jase spun around and said, “Dad what’s happening to that lady?”
My butt and legs were still on the sofa and the rest of me was on the floor but I held out my arms to him. “C’mere, Son.”
He turned back to the TV just as I grabbed the remote and hit the switch. Then he quickly walked into my arms like he was upset.
“What was happening to her, Dad?”
“She was sick and the doctors were gonna try and…….”
Pete groaned loudly and said, “She was pregnant, Jase. She was just gonna have a baby.”
I said, “Basically the same thing.”
“No it’s not, Eric. She wasn’t sick. At least I don’t think so.”
I pulled Jase up the couch with us and said, “Pete’s right, Jase.”
Jase said, “Ernie’s mom is gonna have a baby! Is she gonna look like that?” The lady on the television was certainly not showing pregnancy at it’s most elegant. You know, what with all the sweating, screaming and cursing. Not to mention half of the people in the restaurant running for the door when her water broke and she screamed.
Ernie’s mom’s situation was news to me. The little kids in a neighborhood know everything.
I said, “Whadya mean she’s gonna have a baby?”
“Ernie said that he heard his mom tell his dad that she was gonna have a baby and his dad said, “Who do you suspect?” and then his mom got real mad. Then when she was on the phone to Ernie’s Aunt Ellice she said that it was a surprise. So Ernie and me decided we’d watch “Surprise Pregnancy” so we could find out stuff.
I pulled Jase on top of me so that he was straddling my waist and facing me. That way I get to look right into his beautiful eyes.
I said, “You remember when I showed you those pictures of your mom when she was pregnant with you?” He nodded his head solemnly. While this shouldn’t be a dangerous area the possibility was always there that it could be.
“Well, didn’t your mom look nice? She didn’t scream or yell or anything. She looked really nice. And Ernie’s mom’ll look nice too. It’ll be a good thing. Remember what we talked about? You can’t go by what these TV shows say.”
Jase looked at Pete and said, “Is that right, Pete?” So much for believing what your father tells you.
Pete nodded yes and I said, “So you feel better about that, Jase?”
“I guess.” But it was an “I guess” that said that something else was bothering him.
I touched his arm and said softly, “What else? You look worried.”
“Dad…are those men gonna go away?” My mom didn’t want me dropping out of the race until she had all the details nailed down and the news people were still all over the place. Jase really likes people but some of the news guys were really pushy and while he hadn’t said anything before I could see that they bothered him.
“Did they say anything to you, Jase? I told em to leave you alone.”
“No. They didn’t say anything. I just don’t like em.”
“They’ll be gone tomorrow, kiddo.”
“I don’t want you to be mayor, Dad. I just want it to be like it was.”
“They’ll all be gone tomorrow, Jase, and it’ll be just like before.”
I’d like to thank Terri, Kate and Rock for all their efforts. After I finish another story I’m writing I may return to this one. Thank you.