The diary of Doctor Jeremiah

It's a beautiful evening in the city. The clouds are gunmetal gray and the rain has slackened to a refreshing drizzle. The streets glisten wetly and the headlights of passing cars gleam off of the roadbed. Water trickles into the sewers, there to gather and rush into the bay. It is peaceful. No potential patients lurk in the sewers or soar through the clouds, though. But my regulars will know where to find me.

Today I am in the park, near the center, under the towering oak tree. A slight wind rustles the leaves, merging with the sibilant hiss of tires to create a soothing background of white noise. It's one of my favorite places to work. I unpack my booth from the dolly and set it down facing a sturdy bench. I set my stool behind it, sit, and then I reach around and turn the placard over.

The Doctor is [IN].

9:45 pm

I see that I am not alone tonight. A redhead with a service animal sits on one of the wooden benches near the empty fountain. Skateboarders practice in the fountain on clear nights, but tonight the rain has driven them off. I can see tension in the way the blind newcomer sits, clutching a photograph of some kind. That seems odd. Surely it's not for the dog. They seem to be waiting for something, or someone. Not for me though, not tonight at least.

10:35 pm

Betty dropped by. The sound of boot heels let me know that she was coming. Betty is one of my favorite patients. She lives uptown now with her partner, and she has made a great deal of progress since we first met. Betty is wearing her patrol outfit, which tells me that she may be backsliding a little bit. She settles down on the bench, and the park lights reflect from the golden accents of her boots. I ask how she is, and she tells me that she is feeling down because her partner is out of town. She confides that she saw Steve's car on the street and she has been reminiscing about their relationship. I've seen him even more recently. He's about 20 feet above us, perched in the tree, but I don't tell her that. As stalkers go, he's more of a guardian angel than a threat. Especially to Betty, who can take care of herself. Still, I avoid delicate topics for tonight, not being too keen on another beating. We have a nice long chat, I enjoy her company. Betty's got my usual fee, and when we're done, I happily trade her for a bottle of pick-me-ups. She has an on-the-books doctor too, but that one won't prescribe. Some people! What is science for if not to make people well? We share a little hug before she leaves. The oak leaves rustle a bit more loudly, but I don't look up. I know that I've likely just traded a hug for a pounding, but having Betty interact calmly with a male authority figure is important. As for the unstated threat in the tree, well, it's all in a night's work.

11:45 pm

After Betty has gone, I get out the placard that says PSYCHIATRIST BOOTH and attach it to the booth, and I pin on my PSYCHIATRIST badge. I put a tent card on the park bench. BENCH. I like to be prepared.

Midnight

Steve drops onto the grass behind the bench just as the bell tower begins to chime. He's learned not to drop right onto the bench—that never goes well. "God-damn" he mutters as he gets up stiffly. Nonetheless, he gamely leaps onto one end of the bench and squats there. One of the reasons I prefer this spot is that the right end of the bench is deep in shadow, which is how Steve likes things. I can't make out more than the whites of his bloodshot eyes and the smell of rum.

The rum smell is a bit strong tonight. I forestall any unpleasantness by producing a manila folder. Steve has developed a pronounced mania about labels. I have carefully inked POLICE FILES on the folder in large block letters. The eyes bob slightly and I know that he has nodded in approval. A gloved hand appears and takes the files into the shadows. We'll complete the exchange later. Everyone benefits from this...the police get certain matters attended to off the books, Steve works out some aggression, the city is pacified. I wait patiently and listen to the wind and the rain. After a pause, Steve's deep, whispery voice breaks the silence, telling me about his recent adventures. He's been stalking Betty of course, but he's been up to a lot more as well. He pauses from time to time, and I hear the gentle slosh of liquid in a flask. Steve starts to call me 'Alfred' and I smile faintly. After a while, his voice trails off. There's a meaty thud, and I know he has passed out. Not for the first time, of course, that's another reason for the dolly. He weighs a ton in his armor, but I carefully wrestle him onto the dolly and secure him. I flip the booth's placard to

The Doctor is [OUT].

and then I trundle Steve down to his car. I help myself to a few goodies from his belt pouches, he has access to a few useful items that I can't source myself. He doesn't know that I know his car's security code, which I key in. I leave him there, safe in his vehicle to sleep it off. One day he is going to wake up somewhere else, in a small room, with the door clearly labelled in neat block letters. Today is not that day.

1:05 am

The Doctor is [IN].

1:35 am

The rain has let up and the clubs have let out. Traffic picks up as everyone heads home. Taxis, ubers, and that new driverless Google contraption ferry the drunks safely to their domiciles. A police scout car glides past, the officer at the wheel gives me a nod. I wave in return, everyone on the force knows about Dr. Jeremiah, a veritable public servant. Yes, indeed.

Dale comes up and dries the bench with a bandana. Who carries a bandana? Dale sits a bit gingerly on the bench. Alone, I see. Some nights the fish don't bite. I know that Dale likely just wants Oxycodone but I'm not some pill-pusher. Also, I am concerned. Dale displays a few indicators that alarm me: rubbing the temples, itching, breathing that looks and sounds a bit too rapid and shallow. I know a place that might help, but Dale's not willing. I cast a covert glance at the dolly, but today is not that day, either. Soon, I tell myself. Professional concern mollified, I give Dale some pills, and get back my compensation. Dale wants to talk about some sweet young thing from the club. An unrequited infatuation, clearly. Dale knows that, but needs to voice the regret. Once that's been vented, Dale pokes at an app for a moment and then rises a bit stiffly. One of Google's toys pulls smoothly up to the curb and the door wings up. I don't know how people trust the things. Dale gives me a wave as the door swings down and the robot-car rolls off.

2:00 am

My phone is ringing. Well, it...laughs? Guffaws? Chortles? It's hard to capture the sound in words. My ring-tone is the voice of an old patient of mine, one of my all-time favorites. Ah, the good old days. I recognize the caller from the phone app's notification. It's only 11:00pm in Las Vegas. I'm going to pick up.
Siri: Pause Diary. Answer call.

3:30 am

I can't talk on the phone and use my journal app at the same time, so I had to take notes on the call by hand in my old spiral-bound. I'll scan that page in later.

4:00 am

A large green van with muffler issues shudders to a stop at the curb. I recognize an invitation when I see one. Duty calls. I flip the placard:

The Doctor is [OUT].

then I strike the booth and secure it to the dolly. I don't normally make house calls but there are always exceptions. A couple of mooks help me load it into the van, and we're off.


FIN


A wrap-up node for the Truly Madly Deeply Fallen Quest.

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