Dr. Helpful, Supershrink

Coping With Guilt

(Scene:  A psychiatrist’s office.  Two somber yet plush burgundy upholstered leather chairs with a coffee table in between them are the main pieces of furniture in the crimson-carpeted room.  The walnut walls are bedecked with certificates from prestigious universities that bespeak the doctor’s unimpeachable qualifications, while framed letters from distinguished patients she’s cured attest to her impeccable track record.  There are also some signs conveying some of her prevailing sentiments for the edification of her visitors.  One reads, “Absolute power assuages low self-esteem.”  Another proclaims: “The need to love yourself is the greatest gift of all.”  The legend below a picture of a frowning pixie-faced girl in a blue outfit suggests, “Only you can make you feel blue.”  Finally, near the entrance is a full-length poster of a clown doubled over that says, “He who laughs last laughs hardest.”

The doctor is in the middle of a therapy session with a regular patient, Macbeth, King of Scotland.)

Doctor

Can you tell me about the dream you had?

Macbeth

I was surfing on a tidal wave of blood.

Doctor

Good.  Describe the surfboard.

Macbeth

Well, at first it was black, then it turned red.  Then it morphed into a shark.  Only he didn’t have fins.  And he had Banquo’s face.

Doctor

Banquo-shmanquo.  I don’t want hear that loser’s name ever again.  Do you understand?

Macbeth

You asked me to tell you about the dream.

Doctor

Indeed I did.  But sometimes white lies are just what the doctor ordered.

Macbeth

How was I supposed to know that?  Doctor, you look so restless.  Can’t you have a little patience?

Doctor

Of course.  I must have had one too many espressos this morning.  So, tell me what else is inside your head.

Macbeth

I can’t sleep at night.  When I close my eyes, all I see is an hourglass full of human skulls raining down and forming a mountain.  The racket is deafening.  It just seems to get louder and louder.  The skulls at the bottom are crushed like seashells while the ones at the top get bashed in by the new tumbling skulls that smash into them.  There’s also a hole at the bottom of the hourglass with sand made of bones leaking out into a spreading pool of red.  The skulls just keep falling like coins raining down in a one-armed bandit whose player has hit the jackpot.

Doctor

Hmmm.  Strange.  Have you been taking the sedative I prescribed?

Macbeth

Yes, I have.  It only makes the nightmares worse.

Doctor

Mr. Macbeth, as I’ve told you before, you’re suffering from a guilty conscience–still!  What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you, man?  I mean, lighten the hell up for a change, would you?  Do you recall what we said last time about conscience?  Remember the line from the movie On the Waterfront?  You know, the scene where the priest played by Karl Malden is talking to Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy about his conscience?

Macbeth

No, I don’t.

Doctor

“Conscience–that stuff can drive you nuts.”

Macbeth

I’ll have to write that one down so I don’t forget.  (Writes in his diary.)  See Doc, that’s another thing–I can’t remember anything anymore.  Since I can never get enough sleep, I’m unable to process new memories.

Doctor

What are you talking about?  You remember your dreams.  In loving detail, I might add.  Unless you’re embellishing them to flatter your medical mentor.

Macbeth

Fair enough.  But the only reason I remember them is they’re incessantly recurring nightmares.

Doctor

Oh, come on, Fergus.  You have lots of phantasmagoric variety, a veritable treasure trove of nocturnal hallucinations to choose from.  I want you to keep taking the medication.  Double the dose if you have to.  Remember what we said, after all:  “Health equals wealth.”  By the way, did you send me another check for your last visit?  The first one you sent bounced right out the window.

Macbeth

Yes, I did.  You’ll have to excuse the bloodstains.

Doctor

(wagging her finger)  Ah-ah-ah, my dear king of the blues.  Don’t forget:  “Success means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Macbeth

Sorry–I keep forgetting.

Doctor

(rolling her eyes and sighing)  Oh, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey.  What ever are we going to do with you?  All righty, then. I’d like you to close your eyes. . .

Macbeth

Okay. . .

Doctor

Take a deep breath. (Macbeth inhales deeply, pushing his stomach all the way out the way his yoga teacher showed him to.)  Excellent.  Now repeat after me:  “Color red. . .”

Macbeth

“Color red. . .”

Doctor

“. . . is for the dead.”

Macbeth

“. . . is for the dead.”

Doctor

Perfect.  Now exhale until your lungs turn inside out like unsightly clusters of poppable seaweed.

(Macbeth releases a long, slow breath, his hands loosely gripping his kneecaps.)

Doctor

Very nice.  Now open your eyes.  (Macbeth opens his eyes.)  And say in a big, strong voice:  “I am not the bull.”

Macbeth

“I am not the bull.”

Doctor

“I’m the matador.”

Macbeth

“I’m the matador.”

Doctor

“I hold the red blanket.”

Macbeth

“I hold the red blanket.”

Doctor

“And the bull drops dead.”

Macbeth

“And the bull drops dead.”

Doctor

Very good!  (The doctor’s intercom on the coffee table buzzes.  She leans forward and presses a button on the device.)  Yes?

Secretary

Barack Obama’s on the phone.  He thinks he might have accidentally left his kill list behind during his last visit.

Doctor

(keeping a straight face as she pulls a piece of paper out of the breast pocket of her red suit jacket and flashes it at Macbeth, whose eyes widen and jaw drops.)  Tell him I’m afraid I haven’t seen it.

Secretary

Okay, I will.  Thank you.

Doctor

Ciao.

Macbeth

The president of the United States has a kill list?  May I see that?

Doctor

Sure.  (She hands it across the table to him.)

Macbeth

Wow!  It’s long.  How many pages is this?  (The doctor shrugs.)  What a great idea!

Doctor

Go ahead–keep it.  I’m sure he can retrieve all those names if he uses the mnemonic devices I taught him.

Macbeth

You’d think he’d have at least one extra copy for back-up.

Doctor

There’s nothing that’s certain but death, taxes, and human error.  (The doctor and Macbeth share a hearty laugh.)  There now.  Feel better?

 

 

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