A Fearsome Phobia

     When the slight man shifted uncomfortably in his chair and uttered a long, low, pathetic sound, the doctor knew that expert kindness was required.

     "You are either clearing your throat of rhino dung, or in immediate need of an exorcist," he said with a benevolent smile. Mr. Elpmann only looked at him blankly, eyes as narrow as Carl Jung's dream interpretations. Dr. Fraud tried his standard ice-breaker, asking if he'd read any good ink blots lately. When the patient only shook his head and made a sound like an alpaca in labour, the doctor reached deep into his bag of tricks and suggested the simple word association he'd learned long ago in Vienna.

    "Einschwang," he said. Nothing.

     "Aufenstrudzel," he tried. Maddeningly, the patient sat wordlessly. Strange, thought the doctor; the exercise had always worked at the university.

     "Gestuntenlag," prodded Dr. Fraud, but Mr. Elpmann only stared at him.

      The doctor slid open the third desk drawer and contemplatively stroked the fly of his folded trousers as Woody Woodpecker popped out and announced the quarter hour in his sing-song staccato. With his other hand, he distractedly typed Mute Patients into his notebook's search engine and watched the screen unfurl glorious images of under-dressed cute Haitians.

     Desperate to help his tongue-tied client, he immediately favourited the URL for further study and brought out the finger puppets he saved for troubled children, the mentally handicapped, and civil servants. Just as Peter Pinky was asking Fiona Forefinger to dance, Mr. Elpmann broke into great gulping gales of laughter. The doctor fought a bitter impulse to tell him to shut up; that he wanted to see what happened. Last time, after all, Iggy Index had become involved, and Tom Thumb had to call the Palm Police.

    "It's only that I'm afraid, you see," said the patient finally, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

    "Of course, of course," tutted the doctor. "Phobias are very common. And you are afraid of.....?"


    Dr. Fraud glanced quickly at Fiona, who looked very pretty, he thought, in her purple frock.

    "You are afraid of nothing?" he repeated hesitantly.

    "Exactly," said the patient.

    "Not icky, scuttling, biting, scratchy spiders?"


    "Not those suffocating, dizzying, airless enclosed places?"



    "Acrophobia? Not at all, Doctor."


    "Foephobia? Negative."

      Dr. Fraud quickly ran through his complete compendium of fears: water, snakes, darkness, Barry Manilow songs, germs, thunder, death, the unknown, aliens, and posting stories at interactive writing sites. Mr. Elpmann shook his head at each one.

    "Well then. What are you afraid of?" he finally asked in exasperation, casting a sideway glance at Fiona Forefinger, who was rummaging naughtily in his trousers.

    "Fears, Doctor. I'm afraid of fears."

The End

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