The dim hum of an infirmary. A womb of faded pink curtains. The gurney’s vinyl slab.
You are eighteen. Your gut is a swirling mass of snakes. It’s hard to breathe.
A week before, you flew from Boston to Arizona on the shaky premise of attending college, but really you just want to soak in hot tubs and drink beer—and hopefully, meet a long-haired boy with bed-you-down eyes.
Instead you are on a gurney with curtain walls in the middle of a busy room, wrapped in a johnny made of cheap material. A freckled nurse with cornflower blue eyes appears. She tells you the doctor will be here in a minute. She smiles kind and vanishes.
A man jerks back the curtain. He’s sixty-something, with a craggy complexion and thick glasses. His hair is greased, silver and swept off his face. His lab coat is open, exposing a giant belt buckle cast in the shape of Texas. He grins at you with pale lips parted to teeth dull gray.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Scotty. I’m here to take a look at you, girl.” He grins and slides in close, oddly graceful. His shirt is checkered, augmented by pearl snaps like a cowboy. “So your belly aches, does it?”
You nod. You don’t trust your voice.
He draws the johnny up and rests its hem at your crotch. “I have a feeling it’s not your belly we’re talking about,” he says with a wink. “Maybe something else hurts, something more private?”
“No, it’s my stomach,” you creak.
He draws in closer, his breath a blast of mouthwash mint followed by a bite. Whiskey?
He shrugs. “O.K. then, we’ll start there.” He tugs the johnny further up. “My hands are gonna feel a bit cold.” You wonder why he doesn’t put on gloves.
His fingers are thick and rough as he kneads your doughy belly. You jerk when he grasps your stomach. Inside you the snakes hiss. You cry out as he pushes down on your right side.
“Oh, that must be the spot.” He presses into you and shifts. One hand glides down under your panties. You want to buck away but your body locks, as if you’ve woken in the middle of the night, clenched by a dream. “Sssshhhh. Be a good girl now.”
You whimper. You know how to be a good girl, how to behave. You don’t want to disappoint him.
He adjusts himself further down your body. Sounds, voices meld outside the curtain. You close your eyes. His fingers wedge between your legs. He gropes around finding no entry point, no further way inside you. “Dammit,” he mutters. Your breath catches. He’s found a crack with a fingernail. He pries you open, crams a finger into hot, swollen insides. Your eyes open and close making everything flash as if paparazzi are capturing the moment. He gazes down. “You’re making this harder than it needs to be.” He sounds tender. “Relax.”
Not possible. You are all constriction. He keeps digging. You don’t know what he is looking for. As you start to black out, something loosens and you fart, a little squelch of air against the vinyl. He freezes. You titter, nervous. He grunts and pulls out, his face creased with disgust.
The cornflower nurse snaps the curtain open. He turns to her. “This girl needs to go to the hospital. Her appendix burst.”
Then he is gone. It’s only you and the nurse under the greenish sun of florescent light. The squint of concern on her face. Her hand on your arm as she tells you to get dressed, she’ll be right back. As you sit up, the gut snakes sputter, angry. Pity their venom never reached him, the good doctor, before he left to wash you from his hands.
Erica Kent lives with her husband, daughter, and big dog in Portland, Maine. She is a high school English teacher who on some days lacks a sense of humor but works hard to regain it. Her work has been featured in StoryQuarterly, The Brooklyn Rail, Words and Images, and Past Ten.