My heart ticks like a stopwatch as I squirm upon the bed, bracing myself for the onslaught. I can do this, if I just believe. I can. I really can. Or can I?
Let's face it. By the time Mister Pristine-Lab-Coat enters the room, I'm a basket case. Or is it 'big disgrace'? My hair's a nervous wreck and my deodorant is flagging. I hope he doesn't quiz me on my hygiene habits or the rolls of fat that enfold my abs.
"Relax, Frank B. I'm here to help, not harm." The doctor's firm handshake, smooth voice, and soothing words set my mind at ease - until I happen to glance at the wall and catch my reflection in the glass that showcases his Ph.D. Whoa! Where did all those rabies - I mean, scabies - come from? They're giving me closet phobia. Or is it 'caustic myopia?'
"And what might be the reason for today's visit?" the man inquires.
Now there's an easy question - provided I stay focused, and don't allow the ghost of past examinations to drift - or is it 'sift'? - my grainy mind. Through sheer will power I shall ignore the boatload of X's and O's that just floated by my cornea. Or is it 'conjunctiva?' Perhaps...
"Are you okay, Mr. B?" The man disrupts my daydream.
"Huh? I mean, sure. Where am I again?"
He graciously repeats his initial question, but I trip all over it, haunted by deep-rooted memories.
"I... got dizzy running laps. I mean, 'had trouble reading maps'?"
"Perhaps a bit of both," he suggests. "But don't sweat it. Remember, I'm here to help, not harangue. Now sit tight while I scrutinize your vitreous humor." He shines a brilliant light into this pupil's pupils, checks out my irises, and locates a problem in the white zone.
"Are you familiar with the term 'jaundice'?" he asks.
Not really, but I've got a vague idea. "Some type of carcinoma? I mean, glaucoma?"
The doctor's raised brows tell me I've totally missed it. Apparently the definition involves concepts beyond my grasp - such as "yellow," breakdown," and "blood cells."
"Your symptoms point to 'hype-uptight-is D,'" he adds. "Ever hear of that?"
I draw a blank. He fills it in. "Hypodermic Anxiety Syndrome activated by below-average grades.'"
That's me, all right.
"Care to take a stab at a cure?" he asks.
Uh-oh. He used the "S" word. That can only mean one thing.
"A shot! I have to have a shot!"
"No. I'm not here to needle you. My job is to help, remember? So here's a hint: How do you change a D to a C?"
"No. With a B."
"B as in 'BRAT' diet?"
"No. B as in 'beatitudes'!"
Rats! I almost had it. After spending all night studying 'begats' - I mean, 'be-ats' - , I thought I had the answers in the 'brag bag.' But now, the way things are going, I'm pretty sure I'll flunk.
What can I do? When he tells me to say "Ah", it comes out "Blah." When he speaks of 'CAT scans,' I assume they're for my tabby Stan. He laughs when I call halitosis "short for 'harried diagnosis.'"
"But at least you're honest," he adds. "And that's worth extra credit, from one who's here to help, not hinder. Do you hear me?"
"Good." He takes my temperature via ear thermometer. "104, just as I thought. That's the number of multiple choice voices straining your poor brain. They're terrible bullies, led by a strongman called 'Fear of Failure.'"
Fear of Failure. I might have known.
It's plagued me all my life. How can I possibly conquer it?
"Name the cure," he offers, "and a perfectly clean bill of health is well within your reach. Remember: I'm here to help, not cause heart attacks."
Phew, that last part's good to know, because the FOF has hounded me so long, I've lost almost all hope of finding a cure.
All I can do is cry, "Lord, have mercy! I don't know. Would it be cheating if I asked you for the answer?"
With arms open wide, the Great Physician welcomes my request. "What do I keep telling you?"
"You're here to help?"
"Hurray! You finally got it. You just aced the whole, entire test and now you're free!"
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