May 15, 2014 Comments Off on Anodyne by Darrell Petska
Steth, the son of Dr. and Dr. Scope, popped from Mrs. Dr.’s womb with a fleshy stethoscopic appendage encircling his neck. Despite appearances, he did not carry on his parents’ profession. He became a bartender.
Patrons loved him, telling their complicated life stories while his stethoscope detected every nuance of their situations. His advice became legendary. Public figures, celebrities, even prelates converged on his bar to obtain guidance.
In time their confidences proved onerous. A marked man by virtue of his unusual feature, he retreated to a cabin in the woods. The forest animals ignored him, but so finely attuned to voices his stethoscope had become, he heard the communing of deer, rabbit and fox, and found their life stories to parallel so closely those of humans that he could not be at peace.
He considered excision, the judicious snipping of tubes to release him of what had become more curse than blessing. Yet he could not, finding such an act tantamount to cutting off his ears.
Thus he withdrew farther from the world of sound, inhabiting for a time an old shack above the tree line. Birds soaring by did not respect his need for privacy. They blatted out their cares to the wind, and he could not help but hear. And he found the wind itself, whistling and howling, had its own life, not an easy one at that.
He tried a cave in Utah, a desert in Arizona. Then he met Thalma walking into the desert as he walked out. Born with an ophthalmoscopic eye, she too had fled civilization, having seen too deeply. Chemistry does not begin to describe the immediate attraction they experienced. Each knew at once the other’s pain. Each bore the other’s anodyne. They shared it, then and there, upon the desert floor.
Steth could hear only their beating hearts, and Thalma could see nothing out of her ophthalmoscopic eye, for the fleshy diaphragm of his stethoscope blocked its view. They loved in this manner until the sun drew down.
She did not see, nor he hear, the dune buggy exiting the desert way too fast. They lay in its path. It passed over them. They died instantly, happily, still embracing. The dune buggy driver continued on, believing he had struck just another sandy hummock.
© 2014 Darrell Petska
Darrell Petska’s writings have appeared in Blast Furnace, Lummox, Eunoia Review, Red Fez and elsewhere. He worked more than 30 years as an engineering writer/editor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.