Trick or Treat
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In reality, I'm a quiet, unmarried, unassuming, young surgeon trying to be the sort of doctor I'd want attending me, but quite a few people are hesitant about consulting me because my office is located in my home. They appear to be intimidated by the large old Victorian mansion I'm buying and having restored as I can afford it. The shrubbery around the house is badly overgrown, but I haven't had time to do anything about it as yet. Not long ago I purchased the property from the estate of an elderly doctor and, poking around in the old carriage house, I found a number of old almost bizarre but fascinating medical items I suppose he collected over the years.
Tonight is Halloween, dark with no moon, just the way I think Halloween should be. I dress in black jeans and sweat-shirt, whiten my face with theatrical make-up and put on an old black cape lined in crimson. A set of plastic fangs over my upper teeth completes my appearance as a vampire, fitting the aged atmosphere of the house. I'm certain I'll have only the bravest of trick or treaters come to my door. I prepared the entrance hall with an old wicker body basket containing a propped up full size plastic skeleton that I used in med school, one lighted candle in a sconce above it, and music softly playing in the background – a CD of spooky organ music put out a few years ago by a young organist with a macabre sense of humor. I love it, for Halloween brings out a side of my personality I keep subdued the rest of the year, even to my family name – Dethridge. A little white tape on my sign by the drive quickly turns it into Dr. Deth. Enough to conjure up the image.
Because my office entrance is on the side of my house, I've purposely left the old hinges on the front door unlubricated so it opens with a screech of rusty metal against metal. The room to the right of the entry, the last in my remodeling plans, remains dark, gloomy and like the entry, as yet, uncleaned. A few artificial cobwebs from a spray-can to augment the real ones, some of the old medical items I found, one low wattage bulb in the old chandelier, and it's a superb place to pass out treats. Tonight I hope to find the perfect subjects.
Riiiiing! Someone has tugged on the ancient bell pull at the door. I open the door slowly to enhance the screeching. Two boys, not yet teens, stand there in costume. "T…t…t…trick or treat," one stammers looking half scared out of his wits.
Both are probably here on a dare and I don't wish to scare them worse than I can see they already are. I reach for the dish of candy and drop large lollipops into their bags with a maniacal laugh that sends them scurrying down the walk. I close the door and take my seat by a window overlooking the street. I enjoy watching most youngsters in their colorful costumes pass my house by with wary glances and have only a couple more brave the gloom to ring my bell. I'm about to switch off the dim light on the porch when I see two college age guys swaggering toward my house, affecting a show of bravado. Perfect.
Riiiing! I again open the door slowly and step back with a bow. "Enter Doctor Deth's house of horrors," I say and cackle in a sick way that took me a lot of practice to perfect.
One pushes the other until they're in the entry. I close the front door with a bang and turn to open the one to the darkened room. "Come in, my brave ones, the feast of the dead awaits and I thirst." I cackle again.
The taller of the two brushes away the cobweb that has draped across his forehead. The other spots the antique real human skeleton hanging in a corner, then looks at dusty place setting on the table. The cup appears to be filled with blood, it's cheap ketchup, and moldy crustless white bread on the plate with a dime store dagger thrust into the middle looks appropriately gruesome in the poor light. "Holy shit!" He exclaims.
I bow and wave them to an old horsehair love seat. "And how may Doctor Deth be of service this evening? An amputation of a leg or arm, perhaps?" I hold up a rusty surgical saw and point to a flesh-colored rubber glove I've stuffed with cotton and streaked with red paint so it looks a freshly amputated hand.
The seated one gives a weak unconvincing chuckle. "Hey, dude, what frat you from? This is the best get up I've seen yet."
"Frat? What is frat?" I ask.
His eyes widen. "This ain't no frat house?"
"This is home of Doctor Deth. You intrude, so now must pay …"
"Hey, Bret! Look at this." The other boy has been prowling the room and found an old peg leg I had brought up from the carriage house.
I see a look of relief cross the face of the one I've been addressing. "Shit, Jack, you still on that kick?"
Jack looks up at me having bent one knee enough so that his other knee rests on top of the peg, which is too short for him. "No kick, buddy. I sure wish this was long enough for me to try."
I pick up a large rusty surgical knife and turn slowly to the boy holding the peg leg. "You like the peg leg, young man, I easy make so you need," I say with a raspy chuckle.
The other kid gets up. "Fuck this noise; you're both beyond weird. I'm outta here."
I expected the other to leave also, but he's still playing with the peg, so I open the door and let the other kid out, pressing a lollipop in his hand. "Your lolly for braving the house of Doctor Deth, little boy."
He snorts in disdain and walks away. I turn off the porch light and go back into the room. Jack is walking around on an old pair of crutches.
"I see you tumbled to my jokes," I say in my normal voice. "So what about a beer? My throat's dry from talking funny."
Jack smiles. "I could go for that."
"Come on back to my den where it's more comfortable."
He follows behind me, still using the crutches. I whip off the cape, remove the uncomfortable fangs, and use a few tissues to wipe the stage make-up from my face as best I can. "Have a seat and I'll get the beer and chips."
"This is a nice room," he says when I hand him a beer.
"Thanks. It's taking a while to get the old place remodeled, but I like the space." In the good light I can see he's a very handsome young man.
"This really is your home?" He asks with a surprised look.
"Yes, and office, too."
"That sign out front isn't a joke?"
I chuckle. "No, I'm a real surgeon. I did alter my sign for tonight, though. My name is Dethridge."
"Damn! I'm a third-year architectural student at the university. Your name is on the list they gave me to see if I could get a tour of this house. It's the last unaltered Victorian in town. I'd like to find some information on its construction and maybe take some pictures to enhance my report."
I find myself attracted to this kid. "On a Saturday, then. You'll have plenty of light to see it."
"Thanks, doc. I'm sorry Bret and I barged in. Some of the guys told us this was a setup by one of the fraternities."
"That's okay. I was hoping for a few older guys to have some fun with, but other than you guys only a few small kids came to the door." I look at him steadily. "Are you a true apotemnophile?"
I smile. "You probably say wannabe."
"Oh, that. Yeah. Having two legs makes me feel odd. I've always wanted to have just one." He looks up. "Guess you think I'm nuts, huh?"
"Not at all, it's a valid psychological condition. But are you completely certain that's the way you want to be? You can’t change your mind once it’s done."
"Damn sure. The guys tell me I'm nuts and tease hell outta me 'bout it."
"How did they find out?"
"There's a guy on campus has one leg. I sat down next to him on the quad one day and started asking him, you know, what it was like. Anyway, he got pissed at me and called me a fruitcake just as one of my buddies was passing by."
I nod. "He's probably a recent amputee and still in denial. How long have you been pretending?"
"How'd you know?"
I smile at him. "From the look on your face when you followed me in here on those crutches and while you were playing with that old peg leg."
He looks chagrinned. "Guess I shouldn't have been so obvious, but damn it was fun."
"No, thanks. I gotta get going. Early class tomorrow."
"You’re the first true apotemnophile I've met, so I’d like to discuss this in more detail with you. I'm not on call Saturday, so why don't you come back about ten-thirty and spend the day? You can see the house and pretend if you want; there's no way anyone can see you from the street because of the hedge."
"Hey, you're okay, doc. I'll be here."
"Fine, I'll enjoy your company. I'll walk out with you and pull that tape off my sign."
He helps me remove the tape then sets off toward the campus whistling.
While I seldom, if ever, use it in my practice, I'm a skilled hypnotist, having learned on the QT from one of my professors in med school. I find it useful in helping terrified patients relax and occasionally use it in a deeper form as an anesthetic for minor office surgery like removing moles and warts if the patient is highly suggestible. When Jack shows up Saturday morning I offer him a cup of coffee, decaffeinated to avoid stimulation, then try hypnotizing him.
He's an excellent subject and I soon have him revealing his wannabe feelings in depth. While he's now without immediate family, he recalls in detail how fascinating he found his uncle's short leg stump and prosthesis. His uncle, being only a few years older than Jack, allowed him unusual liberty in touching his stump and answering his questions. He also provided Jack with his first homosexual experiences that Jack confesses he's missed.
I plant a post-hypnotic suggestion that Jack will find his right leg completely relaxed when he awakes and plant a password with which only I can put him immediately back into a trance.
I bring him out. He stretches and looks at me. "Damn! I didn't mean to go to sleep like that."
"Big night, last night?" I remember what student days are like, especially Friday nights.
He grins. "Something like that. Were you serious about letting me pretend?"
"Of course. Let me help you."
He takes off his right shoe and drops his baggy jeans. I wrap his doubled up leg in a long Ace bandage until I reach his hip. Pulling his foot up and back I wrap another Ace around his waist to hold his foot in place.
"Damn! I never could get it to bend so far back," he says in amazement.
"You were probably never as relaxed as you are now. Let me know if it starts to bother you." I fasten the Ace and step back. "Okay you one legged stud, let's see you finish dressing."
He pulls his jeans up with such ease it's obvious
he's pretended more than I realized. After he's pinned the empty leg up I hand
him a pair of new crutches I've adjusted to his height and watch him swing
easily around the room.
"This is great, doc. I wanna see how I look, got a mirror?"
"Sure, it's in my bedroom. Can you manage stairs?"
As he admires himself in the full-length mirror I admire him as well. He looks totally convincing.
He's grinning when he turns to me. "Man what I wouldn't give for a picture of me now."
"You're a narcissistic bastard," I tell him with a smile.
"Naa, just feel like I'm really me now. I can't believe how real I look without my foot making a bulge in my jeans. I love it. Thanks, doc."
"Come on down to the garden and I'll take that picture for you."
I can tell he'll photograph well, so I shoot a short roll of film, wanting a picture of him for myself.
After we've walked around my miserably overgrown garden, he says, "I sure would like to go somewhere like this, but I sure don't want to give those jokers at school anything more to tease me about."
"If you're game, I am. Let's go somewhere for lunch."
"I know a little place about an hour from here. They have great seafood and I'm in the mood for a good combination platter." The place I have in mind is on the river near where it joins the sound. It's backwoodsy and nobody will even give Jack a second glance. I like it because freshly caught seafood is all they serve.
"Great. Let's go."
I ask Jack if he's comfortable sitting with his leg doubled up. He says he feels great. When I park, he's out of the car gracefully and places his crutches against the wall of the booth when we're seated. Watching as he goes to wash his hands after our order has been taken; I'd swear he'd used crutches all his life.
"Dinner was great, doc, thanks a lot," he says when we're back home. "If you've got time I guess I should be asking you about this house. My project's due before the break."
"I think you need a little background research first." I reach into my desk’s bottom drawer and pull out two meticulously kept journals. "The man who built this place originally kept two journals, one of costs and the other a running history of the construction. His handwriting is a little difficult to read, but his records will give you most of what I imagine you'll need. I won't lend them to you for use at school because they're valuable historic documents, but you may use them here in my study if you like." I pass them to him to see.
"Oh, man, these will save me hours of research. You sure you don't mind?"
"Not at all. I'm enjoying your company." When he turns his attention back to the journals, I say, "Apotemnophile." Immediately he goes into a light trance. I take him deeper and plant another post-hypnotic suggestion that he'll return often to work on his project and pretend while he's here. I tell him he'll find everything he needs here in my study and to always come to my office entrance during daytime hours, then I bring him out of the trance. I'll let my office nurse know to expect him and to let him in here.
He immediately looks up unaware that he's been out for a few moments. "These journals are great, doc. Can I come back tomorrow and get started on them?"
"I have early rounds tomorrow morning, but any time after ten will be fine. I need to make some notes on a case I've got coming up, so why don't you get started reading them now." I hand him a legal pad and a pen. "I need to use my desk, but you can stay there on the sofa."
It's dusk when I finish my work, but Jack is still reading and making notes. "Hey, guy, what about something to eat?"
He looks surprised. "That late already? This stuff is fascinating."
"It's that late and I think you've done enough work for today so this doctor is prescribing beer and a pizza." Though my cook leaves plenty in the fridge for weekends, after the huge seafood platter we each consumed at lunch I'm not in the mood to bother putting together a full meal.
"Sounds good. My treat."
"I invited you, save your money." I found out under hypnosis he's on a fairly tight budget. So sue me Society of Ethical Hypnotists; it's not as if I mean him any harm, just trying to find out enough about him to cover my ass.
When he's ready to leave for his dorm, I have to remind him to stop pretending.
"Damn, doc, feels so right I didn't even think." His leg muscles cramp for a few moments when he lets his leg down. I massage them until he can walk without pain.
Jack becomes a very frequent visitor, always careful not to disturb me during my office hours. My office nurse is all smiles every time he comes in and my daily cook/housekeeper has fallen in love with him, keeping him supplied with coffee which is more than she does for me. When I complain, she says, "But that poor boy's only got one leg, Doctor; you can get your own."
After his second weekend visit she tells me she's cleaned and made up a bed for him in the room next to mine so he begins to stay over. I get so used to seeing him pretend it's sometimes even hard for me to remember that he has two legs.
While we're relaxing one evening he looks at me seriously. "You're a surgeon, doc. I know you've really gone out of your way to help me, but I want to ask a really big favor." He smiles. "Two in fact."
"I've about had it with those assholes in the dorm. I'm so happy here would you consider renting me my bedroom for next semester?"
I smile to myself because I'd planted that suggestion a week earlier after determining that he despised dorm life. "I'd be very happy to have you here. Don't sweat the rent if you think you could find a little time to do something with the garden."
"I'd like that. I feel cooped up being inside all day."
"Good. Now what's the second favor?" I have no idea what's coming.
"Cut my leg off for real."
"That’s impossible without good reason. You have no idea what I'm subjected to with every surgery I perform. There's the surgical oversight committee, the ethics committee, and more. I could lose my license."
He looks at me pleadingly. "Isn't there some way? I feel so great with one leg it actually hurts when I have to take it down at night."
I shake my head. "Only if you get seriously injured in an accident."
"I've thought a lot about trying something, but it's gonna hurt like hell."
"Very likely. Apotemnophile."
He drops into a trance and I seriously explore his desire. Every answer comes up the same, he feels deformed with two legs and normal with one, precisely what I've read in the reports of the journal of psychology out of Scotland where a few such voluntary amputations have been performed. I go further and determine he wants a below the knee amputation so he can use a peg leg like the one I found as well as a prosthesis when needed.
I lay awake for sometime mulling over what I've determined. The temptation is great because he's so beautiful on crutches and I have a desire to have him sleeping with me, though I want that to be of his own choosing, not at my suggestion.
During the two study days students are given before exams start on Monday, Jack moves all of his things in from the dorm with the help of Bret. I happen to be in the bathroom and overhear Bret say before he leaves, "You're crazier than I thought moving into this old place. That doctor is weird."
"Fat lot you know! Your old man's putting you through school; I'm making it on my own and this is sure gonna help out. Thanks for helping me move my stuff, though."
"Yeah. See you 'round campus."
Because my study is so large and Jack and I mesh so smoothly, I buy a huge partners desk so he'll have his own space to work. He's overjoyed when I show it to him. "Thanks a lot, doc. You sure my computer isn't going to bother you?"
"Not at all. I've got another to put in here if you know how to network it with the one in my office."
He smiles. "Easy. Let me go with you to get the hardware. There's a nice little gadget for about a hundred bucks ought ta do it just right."
"Thanks. Glad I've got you around for these tough jobs."
He grins. "Nothin' tough about that."
I'm completely at sea with the technology, but the next afternoon he has my two computers communicating perfectly within a couple of hours.
The afternoon after his last exam, he comes into my office. Gert, my nurse, sent him in because I have no more patients scheduled.
"What's up?" I ask.
"My exams are over and we've got nearly three weeks break. How long's it take to get over an amputation? I mean like out of the hospital and moving around on crutches?"
"A healthy young man like you shouldn't be more than a week or ten days. I'd say a week since you're living here and I can care for you. Why?"
He grins. "Gonna give myself an early Christmas present. I'm gonna have an accident with your mower when I'm getting up the leaves." My riding mower has a bagging attachment.
"Don't be stupid, Jack. I know you want it, but I can't help you."
He gets serious. "Look, I know enough to know you've got local anesthetics around. Any you don't have to account for to the law?"
"A couple. Why?" I already know his thinking.
"I'm gonna fill my leg with it then stick it under the mower."
I know I'm a damned fool for putting myself at such risk, but I know Jack won't, can't tell anyone, so I give him a heavy dose in the hip before he goes out to start the mower and pick up the leaves while I prepare to help him after.
Half an hour later I hear him yelling for me. "Get an ambulance," I yell at Gert as I run out the door, bag in hand.
Jack has done as good a job as he could. I put a tourniquet on his bleeding stump and trim the end. He's giggling the entire time, a rare side effect of the anesthetic in heavy dosage. When he starts to feel some pain, I give him a shot to put him out.
"Man, what a mess," the ambulance intern says to me. "Lucky it's your yard he was mowing."
"Then you agree there's no way his foot was in a condition to be reattached?"
"That mess? Not a prayer, doc. Let's get going." Now that my ass is covered, I relax and start thinking of the best way to shape his stump in surgery.
Though my assisting surgical intern protests, I give Jack a four-inch nub below the knee, just as he's often mentioned he wanted. It'll look gorgeous sticking out behind the peg leg I've had made as his Christmas gift.
I stay with him in recovery until he wakes. "Did it work?" are his first words.
I lean over and kiss him. "You've got that beautiful four-inch nub you wanted."
He kisses me back. "Thanks, doc, I knew you wouldn't let me down. Now I can't wait to get out of here and in your bed."
"How can I resist a beautiful one legged stud like you when he makes an offer like that."
Two weeks later when he's healed enough to be in bed with me, he says, "Man, I'm sure glad Bret and I went to your place by mistake on Halloween. It's all worked out perfect."
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