The next couple pieces are going to be flash stories that give you a glimpse into several novels I have planned, and even started, and left at various stages of life. Eventually, when I’m writing full time, I’ll finish them all.
This one is a piece that I don’t think will ever go out of fashion. The science is there. The conversation has been happening. It’s been done… everything has been done… but I don’t think it’s been done the way I want to do it. There’s a lot going on in just shy of 600 words here. Let me know what you think.
A Conversation with Dr. Ursala Blithe, Emeritus
by Curtis A. Deeter
“How is my patient progressing?”
“Your patient? He hasn’t been your patient in nearly 6 years.”
“Yes, we, you, me… all the same isn’t it? It’s hard to let go of these things, you know?”
Dr. Abigail Blithe reached below her, producing a bottle of amber liquid from a secret compartment she had built into her bottom drawer. Her assistant had long since packed up and headed home, so she left the other woman on speaker, recording their conversation.
“By my accounts, the patient is progressing well. It seems we’ve accomplished more in the last two weeks than we had in the entirety of our correspondence.”
“I see. And the triggers? Are you still able to coax them all out?”
“One or two a session.”
Ursala, the doctor’s mother, scoffed. “It’s a wonder you’re making any progress at all.”
This part of the conversation was inevitable. They’d been through it before, and they’d go through it again. And again. And again.
“I find isolating each response and spending quality time with them creates a stronger bond and allows the patient to open up more completely.”
“I’m still here. Do the same triggers continue to prove effective?”
“The alarm? The music? The door chimes?”
“What about the running faucet?”
“For how long, dear?”
“A couple of years, now. That part of him seems to have regressed, maybe even disappeared completely.”
Abigail took a long draw from her bottle, not bothering with a glass. She let it warm her belly, waiting for the voice from the other side.
Finally, “Abigail, dear, is that you?”
“So good to hear from you. It’s been too long.”
“Yes, mother. It has.”
Tears welled under her eyes. No amount of drink could hold them back.
“And how is my patient progressing?”
“Just fine, mother. Hey, mom?”
Abigail leaned back in her chair, took a deep breath, and forced a smile. They say you can hear a person’s mood through the phone, even when you can’t see them. She’d be damned if she showed her mother, her role model, anybody other than the strong, secure woman she worked so hard to portray.
“I think I’m going to come see you soon. Would that be okay?”
“You think? Either you think or you do, dear. Which is it?”
She laughed through her nose. “I’m coming to see you. This week.”
“Okay, dear. Can you bring some of the new samples? I’d love to see how your prototypes are progressing. We came a long way in my time, but your recent work is fascinating. I saw that boy on T.V., the way he reacted to the crowd. They way they reacted to him… almost as if he were a real boy.”
“He is a real boy, mother.”
“Of course, he is, dear. Of course. Did you remember to log his sequence?”
“Good, good, good. I’d hate to lose such… artistry.”
Artistry. Dr. Blithe supposed that was one way to put it. After they perfected the science, after they mastered playing the role of God, the process progressed into something artistic, each new child a masterful brushstroke on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of DNA manipulation.
“How’s my patient progressing?”
Which one mother? You had dozens throughout your career. More than anyone else… which one? “He’s fine, mother,” Dr. Blithe said. “I’ll see you Wednesday.”