A Mary Ellen Abernathy Headache

Contributor: John Laneri

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Once a month, Jane, and I gather with family for a relaxed evening at the country club. The affairs are comfortable events that feature good food and stimulating conversation.

While dressing for last night’s occasion, I recall asking Jane, “Should I wear my red golf shirt?”

”The blue and white you bought at Pebble Beach would look great.”

“But, it's my favorite shirt. I’d hate to get blood on it.”

She looked at me, frowning. “I’ll never understand what it is between doctors and lawyers. You people have no respect for one another. Just try to endure her. She’s actually a very nice person.”

Jane might be right, but with Mary Ellen being the lawyer in the family, I have a personal obligation to protect my ego from her acid tongue. Not only does the woman irritate the hell out of me, she turns simple conversations into courtroom dramas, which unfortunately leave me with monstrous headaches. She’s also Jane’s younger sister – a relationship that places me in a delicate position.

As expected, Mary Ellen was waiting when we arrived at the club.

She took my arm and pointed me toward the bar, her brown eyes alive with energy. “I have an interesting case I need to discuss with you.”

Once cornered, I soon learned her client was a man in trouble with the law. Reluctantly, I listened while she spelled out the details, taking me step by step on his travels, as he moved from one pasture to another, his inclinations directed toward domesticated farm animals.

“Do you think my client is mentally incompetent?” she asked finally.

Side-stepping her question, I replied, “I wouldn’t know… it’s possible.”

Her mouth twitched a fraction. “As I frequently point out in court, your answer is evasive.”

I looked away and motioned to the bartender, certain that I would need plenty of scotch to last out the evening. Then, I voiced another opinion in hopes of shutting her up. “Professionally speaking, I’d say that your man needs a psychiatrist. He definitely has an abnormal attraction to farm animals.”

She exhaled a breath of frustration then said, “I asked a simple question. All I want is an honest yes or no answer from a neutral physician. So I’ll ask again, is he or isn’t he competent?”

Trying to remain calm, I replied, “Mary Ellen, I do urology for a living. I work on bladders and prostates. I don’t probe psyches, and I don’t have an opinion. But, if you want to know what I think, then I’d say, he's probably crazy as hell!”

I slid off my stool, forgetting about ever getting a drink, and started searching for the cheese dip. I needed a distraction from the woman’s constant questions.

She followed close on my heels. “You probably want money like most doctors, so tell me, what do you know about domesticated farm animals?”

I turned to her and smiled. “I don’t remember learning anything about farm animals. It wasn’t part of the medical school curriculum. You'll have to ask a veterinarian.”

Pausing, she pushed a strand of hair away from her face. “Can I ask you another question?”

I relaxed and reached for a chip. “Sure, why not?”

“Then please help me understand what you've said. You stated that you learned nothing in medical school. Am I correct?”

“That's correct.” I replied, as I eased the chip into a cheese dip.

“Did you or did you not graduate from medical school?” she asked suddenly, her intensity causing me to spill the dip across my shirt.

Growing more annoyed, I brushed away a glob stuck to the logo and indicated yes to her question.

Continuing, she said, “As I understand it, you say that you graduated from medical school, yet you have no recollection of learning anything? Can you explain that?”

“You’re twisting my words. I learned how to diagnose and treat human diseases. That's what doctors do.”

She considered my answer. “I’ll rephrase my question and ask you again from another perspective. If, as you state, you know nothing about domesticated farm animals, how can you have an opinion regarding the people that prefer to engage those animals for their intimate pleasures?”

And so it went. She continued to pound me over and over with questions about domestic farm animals and deranged psyches. By then, my only alternative was to move my head from side to side in continual bewilderment.

Finally, I reached over the bar for a bottle of scotch, found a glass and filled it to the top.

She stopped the interrogation and pointed to the glass. “You just drank four ounces of whiskey… that’s suicidal. Am I not correct?”

I knew her question was rhetorical. It sounded too open ended. By then, I wasn’t sure that moving my head in circles would make much difference as to the outcome of our conversation, so I tipped the bottle to again refill the glass.

“You’re going to drink another full glass of whiskey!” she said, her voice striking a high note. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”

I continued to ignore her. And soon, she seemed to mellow, her imposing style of pain and suffering no longer a problem.

From there, my memory gets fuzzy. I think Jane drove me home. The only thing I know for sure is that I again have another of my typical, Mary Ellen Abernathy headaches, and for what it’s worth, the aspirin bottle is empty.

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
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