the body show benefit: spotlight on margaret malone
Part two in my series of stealing stuff from Nora Robertson's website! She's giving little previews prior to the big Body Show Benefit, which is coming up on November 3rd at Someday Lounge. I'm excited to post this particular preview as Margaret Malone is one of the best writers I know. Spare, smart, funny. Check her out. [Nora's voice to follow...
A couple is running late for a medical appointment which turns out to involve an exam and a doctor in knee-high boots about to go on African safari. Oregon Literary Fellow Margaret Malone and filmmaker Brian Padian recently released a short film Brian adapted from her short story by the same title, “I’m Your Man.” Cinematography by Scott Ballard, song by Joe Haege, performers include Christine Calfas and Karen Hepner. Real-life couple Margaret and Brian are also collaborating on a memoir about Brian’s survival of a brain tumor, The Year of Travel & Good Fortune.
Also catch Margaret reading more of her hot fiction at the Body Show Benefit on Nov. 3rd at Someday Lounge. Performers include Arthur Bradford, Gigi Little, B. Frayn Masters, Nathaniel Boggess and Danielle Fish, and there will be a Voodoo doughnut contest judged by style points. Door at 7PM, 7:30-9:30PM, $5-15 donation.
EXCERPT: I’m Your Man
We sit in the small room. It is already crowded. Bert is on the papered exam table and I’m on a loveseat smooshed into the corner. The loveseat is pink pleather cushions and wood arms and legs, like something out of a medical office furniture catalogue under the heading – Make Your Patients Feel Right At Home – only of course it doesn’t, because our home does not look like the exam room of a urologist.
I am still holding everything, coats, purse, coffee in a jar. I heave the pile over onto the cushion next to me, unscrew the jar lid and, praise god, I hit the coffee, three big sips.
On the wall is a poster of inside a penis, capillaries and vessels in sharp reds and blues. Next to that in the corner is the mandatory metal sink with a tall-necked faucet like the top of an f, stinky-clean medical handsoap, automatic paper towel dispenser, and above all that on the cabinet door is a sign that says, We’re all in this together.
Bert says, “I’m nervous.”
I say, “There is nothing to be nervous about.”
He says, “What if the doctor wants to cut my penis open?”
“That’s crazy,” I say. “You sound crazy. It’s just an office visit.”
I am not as understanding as I could be.
This is when the door opens and a woman with a long face like a summer squash walks in. Straight dark blond hair, low cut black sweater, short black skirt, black stockings, and black knee high boots. Obligatory white coat.
She says, “I am Dr. Foote.”
Her voice like the edge of a serrated knife.
She will not look us in the eyes for more than a small part of a second, so when she speaks to us she speaks to her clipboard.
She says, “We don’t have much time.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “We didn’t have any idea how far away it was.”
Her lips spread a bit. A smile, maybe. Her dark eyes meet mine for a moment.
“This will be a short appointment,” she says. “I have other patients.”
She lowers herself onto a round black stool. The wheels squeak as she settles in.
Without moving our bodies, Bert and I look at each other. Look back at Dr. Foote.
The three of us sit in the shape of a triangle. Dr. Foote, on her stool. Me, on the loveseat. Bert, legs dangling from the papered exam table.
I take another hit of coffee from the jar. I drink too fast and it gets caught in my throat. When I am done coughing, Dr. Foote speaks.
To her clipboard she says, “How long have you been trying?”
Bert and I look at each other. Our voices hopscotch.
Me, “One year.” Bert, “About a year.”
Dr. Foote writes on the clipboard.
She says, “Your hormone tests came back and everything looks normal, slight elevation of Prolactin. Doesn’t mean anything though.”
Sound of a page turned in the file. Paper creased by a hand. Scratching of pen onto paper to test the ink. She is in love with that clipboard. If it disappeared, she would have to actually look at us.
To Bert up high on the exam table, she begins her barrage of questions. She says, “Do you smoke?”
“Drinking, how much per week?”
Bert says, “Per week? Maybe seven drinks?” His eyes meet mine. “Ten?” he says. Sure, ten sounds good. No need to tell the doctor that Bert drinks like a dock-worker.
Dr. Foote crosses her legs revealing her black stockinged knee above her boot. She says, “Any street drugs?”
Bert says, “No.”
Dr. Foote’s dark animal eyes swing my way. My stomach does a flip flop.
“Not even marijuana?” She says this to me even though she’s talking to Bert, like I am his pusher, like I’ve got a nickel bag in my purse and I’m just waiting until she leaves the room so we can get high.
Bert swallows. He says, “No.” Bert says, “Not anymore.”
“And you don’t wear tight pants do you? On a regular basis? Bike shorts? Or what have you?”
The squeak and click of the stool’s metal wheels against the hospital floor. She pushes a little bit forward, a little bit back to find the right spot before she continues. Jar of coffee in my hand which I see now is ridiculous. I’m not relaxing at a café on the Seine. I chug the rest, put the lid back on and set it down on the floor.
Dr. Foote says, “We got the results of your semen analysis. Your count is slightly lower than normal.”
Bert says, “Right.” We’ve heard this all before.
She says, “That’s not a huge deal.”
She says, “Your motility is a bit low and your percentage of normal sperm is quite low.”
Bert says, “Right.”
We have not heard this before.
We don’t know what this means. What does a normal sperm act like? I picture Bert’s wayward sperm, painting its fingernails black, getting a tattoo.
She swivels to the loveseat, her eyes land on me. She says, “And everything with you is functioning normally? Ovulating? Healthy?”
Dr. Foote’s squash face is already back in her clipboard. She is not a very good listener.
I clear my throat. “Yes, we thought it was me,” I say. “My eggs, you know, because usually it’s the woman, but now we think it’s not. I took that test where they inject this…”
She swivels back to Bert. She says, “Well, let’s do a quick exam.”
Dr. Foote rises from her stool, sets her precious clipboard on the counter by the sink. She says, “Stand up and drop your pants and underwear to the floor.”
Bert’s expression says, Yikes!
I point at me and then point at the door, like, you want me to leave? Bert shakes his head no. From a cardboard box, Dr. Foote pulls a pair of heavy blue latex gloves, stretches them over her hands.
Bert stands, unfastens his belt; his pants and boxers fall to the floor. Bert’s naked half torso in profile. Dr. Foote facing him, blue hands reaching out.
I turn my head toward the pile on the loveseat, cross my legs, pick up my purse. I look really hard for something to look for. My hand trolls the bottom of the bag. Keys; pen; chapstick! Perfect. Put on that chapstick, take your time. Really smooth that waxy chapstick all over your lips.
Dr. Foote’s blue hands feel Bert’s testicles.
Do not stare. Do not seem uncomfortable. This is all perfectly normal.
There is no comforting small talk.
The sounds of give and stretch of blue latex over skin.
I check the inside of my purse again. Probably I should put on some more chapstick. Yup, that’s better. Maybe I’ll just check my phone. No messages. All-righty. No problem. There’s probably an old mint in here somewhere.
Dr. Foote says, “Okay.”
Oh thank god.
Bert leans down to pull his pants up.
Dr. Foote says, “Now just turn around and lean against the exam table. I’ll check your prostate.”