Authors: Luis Jaramillo
Tags: #The Doctor’s Wife
THE DOCTOR'S WIFE
1334 Woodbourne Street
Westland, MI 48186
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author
THE DOCTOR'S WIFE
Copyright Â© 2012, text by Luis Jaramillo.
All rights reserved, except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher: Dzanc Books - 1334 Woodbourne Street, Westland, MI 48186.
Published 2012 by Dzanc Books
Design by Steven Seighman
Cover photo by Jessica Antola
eBooks ISBN: 978-1-938103-63-6
First edition: October 2012
This project is supported in part by an award from
the National Endowment for the Arts and MCACA.
Printed in the United States of America
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THE DOCTOR'S WIFE
The Doctor's Wife is pregnant with her fourth child.
It's after lunch, and the Doctor's Wife has given Ann and her siblings two packets of saltine crackers each and told them to play hard until she calls them for dinner.
Ann thinks that's fine. She doesn't want to be inside. On stormy spring days like this, the lake roils with inky waves and becomes the Atlantic Ocean. The world is in black and white like a newsreel. It's up to Ann and her siblings to defend the United States against the Germans. The three kids have white-blond hair, blue eyes, and their last name is Hagen. Do they care that this is a German name? No.
They prepare for the grim battle. Bob is 10, Ann is 8 and Chrissy is 6. They drag the overturned metal fishing boat into position on the sand and now the boat is a bunker. The pieces of driftwood around the fire pit become a jail for the POWs. Ace, their black Labrador retriever, keeps dropping a wet stick at Ann's feet and wagging his tail, but he is really a military police dog. Bob props oars against the boat, shoving the paddles into the sand and pointing the handles out to sea, so that the Americans have cannons with which to hit the approaching destroyers.
But the German attack is brutal.
“Retreat!” Bob yells. Ann runs, feeling the hot, fetid breath of the enemy behind her. She runs past the house, down the driveway, across the street and into the woods, pushing through the jungle of blackberry bushes, pine saplings. She turns past the hermit's shack, stomping on ferns, pushing aside alder shoots tangling under the canopy of Douglas firs.
Ann meets her siblings at the tree house, a ramshackle collection of boards they've wedged in the crotch of a giant tree. Bob calls down for the other two to hurry up and climb, but Chrissy's been hit by a bullet. Ann, now a nurse, kneels over her sister's sprawled body, pressing ferns into her wounds to stanch the bleeding.
“I'm better now,” Chrissy says, leaping up. The kids run from the Germans again, fleeing toward the swamp, crossing the creek on the pieces of plywood they've made into bridges. In the swamp, Ann picks a skunk cabbage and flings it past Chrissy's head toward the enemy. Chrissy stops, gagging at the smell. Ann doesn't know why Chrissy has to always behave so dramatically. It must be her youth.
“Let's hunt for frogs,” Bob says, and the Germans are forgotten. Ann uses a stick to push aside the pussy willows. Chrissy lunges for one frog, clumsily and too loudly. It's Bob who first catches one, cupping it in his hands. He opens his hand enough so that they can see it.
“What are we going to do with it?” Ann asks.
“Keep it?” Chrissy asks.
Bob shakes his head, placing the frog gently down onto a dry patch, where it hops off into the reeds. They wipe their hands on their pants and unwrap the saltines. Ann licks the little bits of salt off the surface of her cracker.
After they're done with their snack, Bob dares Ann to knock on the hermit's door. There isn't anything definitively bad about the hermit, but what you don't know you make up, and Ann can imagine plenty. She shakes a little as she taps the door.
The hermit answers Ann's knock. She tries to peer past him into his house, but sees only dark and shadows. He reaches into his pocket, pulling out a handful of butterscotches, the hard kind wrapped in yellow cellophane. Ann extends her hand to receive the gift.
Then the Doctor's Wife is calling for them, her loud voice telling them to come in to dinner. They run back home through the woods, stopping when they get to the street to divide the candy evenly. When they're in the kitchen setting the table, Chrissy pops a butterscotch in her mouth.
“Where did you get that?” their mother asks, and Chrissy is dumb enough to tell her.
The Doctor's Wife becomes very angry.
The Doctor's Wife is dressing for a dance at the Everett Country Club. She's made her own dress, a simple black silk thing she hopes looks acceptable. She looks in the mirror at a side angle to see if it works or not. She smoothes down the fabric over her belly. “Can you tell?” she asks.
“Not exactly,” the Doctor says, knotting his tie.
The doorbell rings. The Doctor's Wife slips on her left pump as she hop skips down the stairs. Hazel Adelsheim is at the door, here to take care of the kids. She's a blowsy sort of woman, scattered. Her husband is a real bastard.
“They need to be in bed by nine at the very latest,” the Doctor's Wife says. Hazel waves her out the door.
The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife drive through a light drizzle, over the trestle above the Snohomish River and Ebey Slough. The drawbridge, which the Doctor's Wife has never seen drawn, looks down over logging barges underneath. The wipers sweep the glass, the lights of other cars forming weird shapes in the wet swiping. In Everett, they turn at the sign for the club, up the drive. The clubhouse is clad in dark gray siding. The whole building needs to be replaced or at least rehabbed. The Doctor likes to golf and is good at it. The Doctor's Wife occasionally walks around the course and knocks the ball into the bushes.
Under the porte cochÃ¨re, the Doctor opens the door of their Plymouth, helping her out of the car. She doesn't need the help but she takes his hand. Inside, she shakes out her coat and hands it to the attendant, heading upstairs.
“Where did you get that dress?” Nancy Taylor asks when the Doctor and the Doctor's Wife walk into the banquet room.
“Oh, you know,” the Doctor's Wife says.
“Seattle? I won't tell your hubby how many hundreds of dollars you spent,” Nancy stage whispers.
“Thousands,” the Doctor's Wife says.
Nancy shakes her head as understanding comes. “You made it yourself, you dirty dog! Everything I try to sew turns out looking like a flour sack.” Nancy is more of a craft person than a seamstress. She likes to make Santa and Mrs. Clauses out of pine cones and that sort of thing. Nancy narrows her eyes. “But it's not just the dress. Something's different about you.”
“There isn't either,” The Doctor's Wife says, not liking to lie, but she's not ready to tell her best friend. The older three kids were born almost exactly two years apart from each other.
“Have you lost weight? Haircut?”
“How many people do you have lined up for the meeting?” the Doctor's Wife asks.