This story was originally published at Núvol.com and takes part in their short story contest. It’s a prequel to my first novel, violeta i el llop. Many thanks to Claire Gottwaltz and Elena Pérez for proof-reading it for me!
Let me call myself, for the present, Doctor Hammond. As a young boy, I was morbidly fascinated by the human mind — the reasons why people behave in a certain way, the disorders that set them apart. As time went by, that feeling of fascination evolved into a vocation. I would have gladly graduated in Psychology. My father, however, would have never forgiven me if I’d turned out to be the missing link in our extensive dynasty of doctors. That was what made me navigate towards Psychiatry. I’m a serious man: in over thirty years as a doctor, I’ve never called in sick. My office is upstairs in my own home: it’s a large room with good quality furniture. Reference works and gifts from patients are kept on its shelves. Recently, these shelves have got dusty: our cleaning lady hasn’t stepped in there for a while. I’ll have to discuss this with Michelle.
There’s a highly intriguing patient sitting across my desk right now. She’s a middle-aged woman of Hindu lineage who sports a tired look. She’s got some sort of a personality disorder, I know for certain, but I’m not quite sure which kind — I wouldn’t dare diagnose her yet. She’s convinced she’s a doctor. She actually wears a white doctor coat, and she’s even made herself a name tag to wear on her chest.
—Doctor Hammond —she has a stern face—. I need to confess I’ve been talking to your wife. She says you used to keep good care of your garden, which you’ve neglected since we met. Your roses and your carnations have withered away.
I stare at her for a moment. She looks worried, compassionate. That’s even more disturbing than the fact that she talked to Michelle. I write it down on my leather journal. Then, I put down my quill on the desk and clasp my hands together.
—Doctor Hammond —she continues—, how about we meet in my office next time? I’d love to show you some resources I keep there.
—Harry? Oh, Harry —Michelle walks in without knocking, even though I must have told her a thousand times not to do so. Since my nurse retired, her interruptions happen too often—. I’m sorry, Doctor Sahni. I was out getting some groceries. I did not know he had taken you up here again… Harry, Harry, we agreed not to come upstairs anymore, remember? Doctor Sahni is supposed to see you downstairs, in the sitting room. Oh, my good Lord, look at all this dust. I’m so sorry, Doctor Sahni.
—Don’t worry about it —replies the Hindu lady—. I had actually asked your husband to see me in my office next time. He could use some fresh air.
—What about the garden? —Michelle rubs her hands and frowns, as she does when she needs to cry but she’s refraining from it.
—Oh yes, the garden would be a good project —the Hindu lady stands up and rests a hand on Michelle’s shoulder. My wife has started sobbing—. Mrs. Hammond, it’s a temporary issue. It is not degenerative: his psychologist and I agree on that point. Actually, it would be appropriate to find a psychiatrist. As a neurologist, there isn’t much more I can do for your husband…