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February 19, 2024

Talk Is Cheap

By Terry Petersen

My client's eyes lit up when I suggested she could have an anxiety disorder. Eleanor W. savors fears the way some people relish chocolate or overpriced wines. As Dr. Margaret Kale, PhD in my own private practice, I accept people who don't have insurance and charge minimal fees. This cuts down on the paperwork hassle. Other difficulties, too.

Eleanor W. has plenty of money. I don't charge her much anyway, or bill insurance. She likes it that away, claiming: "My health records don't target me as a nut case." Although, she calls to fit in extra visits often. A kind of hobby. The bills add up and Ms. W. doesn't care. She has few friends and no family.

She shows me messages on her phone. "See. It's happened again. I don't recognize either cell number. Two days apart. Similar nonsensical texts."

"Doesn't that say more about the person sending them than it does about you?" I lean forward; she leans back.

"This person could be dangerous. A code of some kind."

"But you admit there isn't enough substance to warrant police interference." I look at the last message: poisoned underpaid fish. "Delete it. Probably a fourth-grader who just learned how to spell two-syllable words but hit a wrong number."

"Never thought about that."

"Let's see if this nonsense ends. You have my phone number. In the meantime, what other unhappiness can we turn around? You can beat this. Really."

She shrugs, but I think I see a smile slip over thin lips, the slightest glint in her eyes.

She talks, and I listen for another forty-five minutes.

"By any chance do you have an appointment open on Thursday?" she asks.

"Can you wait until three? I'm booked until then."

"Thanks, Dr. Kale. More than I can say."

"Why not just lock your cell in a drawer for a day," I suggest.

She nods, and I'm surprised I hadn't choked on my own words.

In the bottom drawer of my desk are two cheap phones. I paid for a limited number of hours. For a game. To see what would happen. Time to end it. Unethical? Sure. However, the diploma on the wall behind my head came from my private scanner. Yesterday's newspaper is worth more.

At least for one hour on an ordinary Tuesday I made one person happy -- in her own way.

Article © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-04-23
Image(s) © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
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