by Josh Bolling
A doctor discovers a spider has taken up residence in one of his patient's ears.
Mrs. Sutphin's Malady
By: Josh Bolling
It's another Monday, the second of March to be exact. Weekly rounds with the walking dead. Inspecting the geriatric residents of Atlantic Coastal Care Facility. Nothing like non-urgent triage to kick off an exciting week! My head still throbs a little. How many gin and tonics did I polish off last night?
I park my 328i in my reserved spot. It's a lower-end import, I admit, but still a beemer. I pass my badge by the RFID reader and the door unlocks. I beeline for my office, coffee in hand. The emails have rapidly accumulated over the weekend, splendid. I step away for two days...
Two bottled waters later and I'm ready to start my rounds. Clip board: check, stethoscope: check, ink pen for doodling: check. Here we go again. My first stop is Mrs. Kerchinsky. A sprained wrist, how exciting! I wonder if she put her walker into overdrive in an attempt to escape? Run for the hills Mrs. Kerchinsky! Although with her dementia, I don't think she'd know what to do once outside.
After two hour of routine stops, my patience wearing thin, I prepare for my last patient. It seems Mrs. Kerchinsky's sprained wrist will be the pinnacle of excitement for my day. It's always the same, more or less, the same robotic responses and smile. "Your blood pressure's still high," or "You know you can't have that much candy."
Mrs. Sutphin smiles faintly as I enter the room. Seventy-six years old, thin as can be, and a full head of shockingly white hair. It'd be hard to determine how long it is since it seems to just extend into space around her instead of falling toward her shoulders. She gives the impression that she just stuck a fork in a light socket a few minutes ago and is now ready for a nap. It's true though, the patients do behave better for a doctor than a nurse. Doctor carries a sense of authority and although the patients seem to spend a lot of time self-diagnosing, they still listen.
"How are you doing this morning, Mrs. Sutphin?" I beam at her.
"I'm hungry." she responds.
"Well, I think it's almost lunch time. I'm sure they'll get you fixed up." I say to her with a placid smile. Blood pressure normal, heartbeat solid for someone her age, and just for shits and giggles, let's check the ears. I remove my otoscope from my pocket and check her left ear. Hairy and devoid of any intelligent life I see. I move around her to the other side, my mind wanders off to what I'll eat for lunch after this. Maybe something spicy to inject some zest into this awful mundane shell of a day.
I finally arrive at Mrs. Sutphin's right ear. I've found it's much easier to just accommodate seniors rather than try and have them move their head left and right. God forbid some old man break his neck during a routine examination. Although a malpractice lawsuit might spice up this prosaic year. Wait, what was that? I thought I saw something nested in Mrs. Sutphin's ear. I lean in for a closer look. Yes, there is something in her ear! Sitting a few centimeters into her ear canal sits a tiny spider. How wonderfully curious and unexpected! The closest comparison would be finding a four leaf clover. The chances of occurrence absolutely astronomical.
"Mrs. Sutphin, have you lost your balance recently?" I ask her.
"No, sir." she responds in her careful, aged tone. So she hasn't noticed it yet, how wonderful.
"And how are you sleeping these days?" I say to her.
"Some nights I wake up but others I don't." she responds in her droll and deliberate diction. She hasn't the faintest clue that an arthropod has taken up residence in the forest of ear hair that comprises the inside of her head. I wonder how long it will remain? If it's not bothering her, I see no need to remove it. No need to make her aware either. Maybe I'll just let this play out as nature intends.
"Well you look just fine, Mrs. Sutphin. I'll see you again in a week." I tell her.
"Thank you." she slowly calls after me as I leave the room.
I return to my office, my mind abuzz. How delightfully terrible this is. I think of things that I want to do. To measure the spider, and then put it back. I wonder if, like a bird and her eggs, would the spider return to it's nest once disturbed? Or would it abandon the safety and comfort of Mrs. Sutphin's ear? I wish I would have taken a picture of it! Maybe I can create an excuse to check in on her tomorrow and visit our furry little friend again. I head to lunch both elated and regretful. Overjoyed at the discovery of a new eight-legged addition to my patient while also regretting that I don't have any proof of this discovery. My mind races through excuses I can use to check in on her each day and monitor this.
I return home from the office after a pit stop at the liquor store. With a fresh double gin and tonic with lime in hand, I head to my computer. I do a web search for "spider in ear" while chewing on fresh lime pulp from my drink, the sweet sourness invigorating my spirit. The pictures this web search brings onto my monitor are absolutely diabolical. Nasty little intruders breaking the sanctity of personal space on the most violating level. I would put it on par with violent crime in terms of physical boundary violation. I wonder how long the spider can survive in this climate? Would it deem this a safe space to lay eggs? Would it remain to watch it's children hatch in this most intimate of personal spaces or simply release it's progeny and vacate? I lay in bed after several more drinks though sleep seems unattainable. The liquor unable to surmount the level of activity buzzing through my skull. What would happen if she had a spider in each ear? Vertigo, I suppose. Maybe I could assist another in taking up residence in her left ear and find out first-hand. My morbid fantasies eventually carry me off to sleep.
I make my way through traffic to work wondering how many meetings or appointments I will need to shuffle to get back to Mrs. Sutphin as soon as possible. My anxiety rages in the foreground of my thoughts. Each traffic light seems like an eternity. I have to know if it's still there! I badge through the back door briskly and head for my office. No time for good mornings today. I have important work to do. I open my calendar app and scan my early morning engagements. Yes, if I shuffle one appointment to the afternoon, I can check in on Mrs. Sutphin before ten A.M.
I let the charge nurse know that I noticed a slight swelling in Mrs. Sutphin's lymph nodes yesterday and will be keeping a close eye on her until the swelling goes down. I can't have her dying in the middle of this fantastically terrible experiment after all. I make my way to her room and let myself in, clipboard in hand. It's always best to carry a clipboard when you're up to no good, people tend to not ask questions.
Mrs. Sutphin greets me with her usual faint smile. "Good morning, Mrs. Sutphin." I beam to her with the most genuine smile to appear on my face in years. I honestly couldn't be more happy to see her. In fact, there's nowhere else I would rather be at this moment. I have to know if her tiny brown companion is still nestling gently in the dark space at the end of her ear canal. The suspense has been killing me and I must know now! I remove my otoscope from my lab coat and make my way around her. My breaths are short and a bead of sweat trails down my back underneath my button-up. I switch the otoscope's light on and peer into the void of her ear.
The spider is gone. I search the dark spaces frantically, hoping that it's just somehow hiding from me. My anger is palpable. I'm absolutely crushed, beyond devastated. I had glimpsed the impossible. I had verged on the pinnacle of something great only to have it snatched away. I can't believe my eyes. I check her other ear hoping that I misremembered which ear beheld our tiny friend. No luck there either.
I take the rest of the day off. I spend the afternoon in a thoroughly abysmal mood. Was this meant as a sign? What great force was at work behind this medical mystery. I have so many unanswered questions. I run out of gin and drive drunk to the liquor store for another bottle. Might as well make it two. My heart is broken, my future unclear. There must be something I can do to repair this situation. I must find salvation.
It's another Monday, the ninth of March to be exact. Weekly rounds with the walking dead. Something is different today. Things seem brighter than they have in decades. The total emotional loss of my previous discovery washed away. I'm refreshed in a way I thought unachievable. In addition to my usual examination tools, I carry something new and exciting. A pair of metal tweezers and a small glass baby food jar. The label has been removed from the jar and it has been washed. Inside it, reside a dozen small white sacs. Time to find my children a new home.