In the waiting room, I shed my skin and study it. A scroll of dusty parchment. It’s hard to believe this shapeless rag has shielded me from the elements for so many years. The other patients look more patient than me. When the nurse calls them, they rise like Easter Island heads and swagger into the distance trailing a diagnosis. Once in the corridor a very old man tried to strangle his doctor with a stethoscope. Nurses ran shrieking to the scene, but the doctor uncoiled himself and patted the old fellow’s shoulder. Of the twelve floors in this building, all but three are haunted by dispirits. You can recognize them by their soft bellies and cheap bright clothing. Whenever I see one approaching I duck inside a book and turn the pages to conceal myself. My doctor specializes in treating dispirits, but there’s no cure, only palliatives. I’m his only normal patient, the only one who wears real cotton and exercises at least once a week. At last the nurse mispronounces me, and I stagger into the sanctum, where my doctor slurps from a can of iced tea, shakes my paw. We’re old friends, aren’t we? His new summer suit is a confection of Irish linen. I couldn’t afford a button of it, but I honor his taste. After he examines me he pronounces me cured of myself, then asks where my skin went. I left it in the waiting room, but will pick it up on the way out. Don’t let the dispirits snatch it, he warns, they’ll keep it for themselves.
William Doreski’s work has appeared in various online and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (Splash of Red, 2018).