Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BUG (04/06/17)
- TITLE: Lost but Found
By M. C. Syben
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Although I disliked the title, I got used to it. It made people smile. Everyone oohed and ahhh-ed over my size. When they picked me up, I enjoyed the perspective granted above knees and torsos, gazing outside into the distance. Unless closely supervised, mother barred any outdoor activities.
“An eagle or hawk might fly away with you, Bug.”
I wondered if I was the only one with that problem. In the pre-computer age, I was a rarity. I felt so alone as I stared out the window wistfully. “One day, I'll go outside. I'll go anywhere. One day, I'll be big.”
Years passed, but I remained incredibly short and slight. When I shared my hopes and desires to become a physician, Mom and Dad chided me.
“Bug, you can’t expect to accomplish what others can in this life,” my father said. “A doctor. That’s absurd.”
“Bug, lower your expectations,” Mother said sweetly.
“But, Mom, Dad…”
“It is what it is, Bug,” Dad snapped.
From then on, I safeguarded my thoughts from everyone, until I shared them in a required assignment entitled “My Dream Is…” for Miss Prithim, my junior-high English teacher.
“Bug, see me after class, please.”
“You going to swat him?” “Nah, just squash him, Ms. Prithim.” Of course, I endured my classmates’ wisecracks but felt even more isolated. After the bell rang, I stood before the teacher’s desk.
“Bug, you want to become a doctor.”
“Yes, ma'am. But... my parents say that’s impossible.”
“Why? You certainly have the grades for it, young man. Just keep up the good work through high school. You’ll be sure to win a scholarship with hard work, Bug.”
“It's not about money, Miss Prithim. My parents think I'm too little.”
“Little? Absurd. What does size have to do with doctoring, young man?”
“I don’t know, Miss Prithim…”
“You don't know because stature has nothing to do with healing. Doctors enjoy an honorable profession that requires intelligence and training only. You'll solve any problems that might arise. I have faith in you, Bug.”
Miss Prithim re-ignited my hope.
“Why not? Why can't I be a doctor?” I thought. I could adapt. I imagined skateboarding down the hospital hallways to keep up with the rest of the medical personnel. I would strap a ladder on my back and use it to examine patients. “I can,” I thought.
I studied with diligence and proved myself to naysayers. Their “no’s” became “maybe’s.” Eventually, their attitude towards me changed from doubt to respect.
When I entered med school, I insisted people call me Charles Frigate; it gave me a sense of stature. True to Miss Prithim’s word, I adapted to every situation--extending my ladder, using a Segway for rounds. I allowed nothing to stand in my way of success.
One afternoon, during my internship, I entered a hospital room of a beautiful young woman—tiny like me. She looked like the ballerina poised on top of my mother’s jewelry box. Traction held her mini leg up in a hospital bed. She looked forlorn.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Frigate. How are you feeling today?”
“You? You're a doctor?”
“Yes, Mrs. …” I picked up her chart.
“Miss. Call me Jasmine. I can't believe you're a doctor.”
“Why is that, Jasmine?”
“Well, my family insisted that I give up lofty goals.”
“That's the difference between us, Jasmine. I didn't listen to my family.” I thought about the providential five minutes I spent with Miss Prithim. “But that's because a teacher saw me as something more. She encouraged me. I'm sorry you didn't have that same blessing in your life.”
“Maybe I do, now,” Jasmine whispered. Surprised at her own candor, she exclaimed: “Well, it’s never too late to believe in one’s self, is it?”
I felt loneliness lift from my shoulders. My heart soared. “It’s never too late, Jasmine.”
After examining her leg, we exchanged life experiences with good humor and tears. Mesmerized by her silky, sweet voice, I lost track of time. We connected like two elusive pieces of a puzzle—once lost but found.
Before I continued rounds, Jasmine reached out to me.
“Will I see you soon, Dr. Frigate?”
I felt ten feet tall. I was understood. “Jasmine, call me…Bug.”
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