Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Twenty Camels

by Brenda Anderson
Another consultation, another impasse. Dr Diroc finished recording his patient’s skyrocketing weight, and tapped an order for twenty, armed, star-voyaging camels. Under ‘armed’ he clicked ‘Kalashnikov.’ He, Diroc, would meet Fred Van Damm’s real needs.

Twenty camels materialized outside the window.

Fred gasped and hauled his three hundred pound body up from the chair. “Camels? But, it’s the 100th floor!”
“You didn’t climb any of them, did you?” Diroc’s tone was mild. “Not even the simple step routines I recommended?”
Fred looked away. Diroc pointed to a carpet in the centre of the room.

“Do I have to?”

“I offer you choices, Mr Van Damm. Are you refusing? If it helps, close your eyes.”
 Diroc joined Fred on the carpet and snapped his fingers. The carpet rose in the air.

“Go.” Diroc pointed to the window. The carpet rippled as it slipped through the glass. With a flourish it deposited them on the first camel in the line of twenty marking time outside the window. White-faced, Fred clutched the saddle, and moaned.
“Relax.” Diroc patted the camel’s flank. “Deep space, oh noble one.” The camels ambled forward then picked up pace.
Fred opened his eyes. “Where are we?”
“No place at all, Mr Van Damm, which is your choice, not mine.”
Around them, the blue of Earth’s atmosphere faded to the deep black of space. Stars and constellations whipped past.

Fred slumped against the camel’s neck.

“A doctor presents options, and facts. Give me one fact about the camel’s hump,” said Diroc.

“Uh, it stores water?”

“No. Fat.”

Fred glared at him. “That’s not fair! You can’t lay that on me!”

“Really?” The next was a shot in the dark. “I must ask you about the woman in your life.”

“My wife?” said Fred, with suspicion. “What about her?”

“Not your wife. We both know your divorce has come through. No, I mean the woman you dream about, the woman you’d do anything for. Sometimes you even dream of winning her.”

Fred swore. “No-one knows that. No-one!”

“You’re angry with me? So shoot me.” Diroc pointed to the Kalashnikov. “Go on. Pull the trigger. I’ll never pester you again. But if you take charge of your life, you might win her.”

Fred glared at him. “I don’t know how to use a gun and anyway, I-I wouldn’t. I’m a pacifist. Leave me alone!”

“As you wish.” Diroc withdrew, leaving Fred alone on the camel.

With obvious misgivings Fred took the camel’s leash and leaned forward. “Listen, you,” he said in a whisper. “Take me home. I’ll try harder, I swear. Okay, maybe I’ll try. Go on, shoo.”

Encouraged, Diroc whispered “home.”

Both men reappeared on the carpet in the consulting room. Fred trembled, balled his fists and complained:  the saddle hurt, he lacked motivation, everyone hated him, and so on for several minutes. Diroc nodded, opened the door for him and pointed to the stairs. His patient staggered across the corridor and turned left towards the elevators. The doctor watched him go and sighed. Another soft-option choice. Always the elevators, never the stairs. Diroc picked up his bag. Time to go home.

As he walked down the street, he heard a familiar tune. A few words drifted towards him:

“… and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”

Diroc kept walking. Perhaps, at their next consultation, he could pitch that to Fred Van Damm. He sighed again. Stairway to heaven? Fred would only take an elevator.  If only  the elevator could double as a diet. Suddenly it hit him: elevator music. Ready-made, pick-me-up, repackaged pap, Fred’s diet of choice. Diroc punched the air. Twenty camels had failed to speak to Fred Van Damm’s soul, very well: music would entice him to arrive at the agreed target, minus all his objections and 2/3rds of his body weight. Diroc rushed home and danced up the steps of his house.

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