On Saturday morning, Dr. Kuchenmitnussen leaned close to the bathroom mirror and examined his face. It still hurt.
He could have fixed the damage if he had wanted to. A little self-hypnosis and deep breathing exercises and the bruises would have faded quickly. The pain in his nose would have gone away almost as fast.
He didn’t do it. The bandage across his sore nose was punishment for his failure, although hardly adequate. It was also clear evidence that the Systematic Desensitization Method was not appropriate for this patient. The embedded coping strategies were obviously not working for Twyla Crumplebottom. They should have been effective. They were not. He was worried.
Dr. Kuchenmitnussen’s appearance was clownish but he was not a buffoon. His training had been thorough and his experience was vast, ranging over many worlds. Something was different here, something he could almost touch, but not quite.
He shook his head, and decided that he had no choice. He would have to consult with other specialists. He got dressed, combed his hair and sat down in front of his computer. The broadcast was succinct: Consultation luncheon at the retreat today. He did not know how many would answer his request, but it didn’t matter. Any advice would be welcome.
He then immediately left for the retreat. Although it had facilities for an overnight stay, he did not plan on staying the night and did not take anything with him. All he had to do was arrive earlier than the others and arrange for the food, a simple buffet of turkey and salad.
As it turned out, seven therapists answered his call for a conference. Dr. Englebert Dengler from Strangetown arrived first. Dr. Lamar Hirsch of Veronaville arrived almost immediately thereafter, followed by Dr. E.T. Dropa, who specialized in alien patients. Also present were Dr. C. Miacid, who handled the canine world, Dr. Elmer Bot, who worked exclusively with servos, Dr. Meroe Piye, who managed a great many exotic locales, and finally, the eccentric Dr. Tuketu (which in the language of the Miwok meant “bear making dust”). No one quite knew where Dr. Tuketu practiced his therapies, except that it was in a land called Miwoka, which he would only describe as being very dusty.
The doctors met briefly before eating, and were horrified by Ingall Kuchenmitnussen’s bruises. None of them had suffered such a thing before, although Dr. Dropa believed that Dr. Guthorm, who was not present, had suffered bite wounds from a patient some years previous.
They questioned Dr. Kuchenmitnussen thoroughly about his case. He answered carefully, explaining how he had either used or ruled out certain methods of treatment. He had even spoken to the shade of Mr. J. Filmore Crumplebottom and from that source had learned much about Twyla Crumplebottom’s childhood. Mr. Crumplebottom’s spirit had been trying for years to speak to his wife, but she was strong-willed, and invariably blocked those visitations completely. Dr. Kuchenmitnussen was still searching, so far without success, for the reason why his patient could not consciously accept the presence of Mr. Crumplebottom’s ghost.
Dr. Elmer Bot finally said that the only obvious solution was shock therapy. “You need not even be involved. The local hospital should be able to handle it.”
Dr. Kuchenmitnussen became angry. He said that electric therapies were too cruel and the results too unpredictable. He would not subject any patient of his to such nonsense. Dr. Miacid agreed with Dr. Kuchenmitnussen with some force, reprimanding Dr. Bot with a rough growl.
Dr. Tuketu said nothing. However, he was suspicious of his friend Ingall’s reaction to Dr. Bot’s suggestion, and said something privately to Dr. Miacid. Later, while the other doctors stretched their legs and played games, Drs. Tuketu and Miacid took Dr. Kuchenmitnussen aside.
Dr. Miacid was very direct. He said, “We have concluded that you are emotionally involved with this patient, my friend. Howi and I think you should transfer out of Pleasantview. We know of another doctor about to finish the training schedule who is qualified to take over the Pleasantview practice.”
“No! Absolutely not! I am long familiar with all the families in Pleasantview, and I am best suited to taking care of them. Furthermore, I am NOT, I assure you, emotionally involved with the patient.”
“We would rather not take the issue up with the Commission, Doctor, but we will. Please, rethink your position. Our analysis of the situation is that you are avoiding some therapies that should work. You are bonding with Twyla Crumplebottom.”
“Not true,” insisted Dr. Kuchenmitnussen, although he was beginning to recognize that if it were true, it would explain what made this case so different from any other he had handled.
“There is,” said Dr. Miacid, “another option.”
Dr. Kuchenmitnussen nodded, “I know. I could become one of them. If I did, I would still be free to treat most of the residents there, although it would be a great deal more difficult to get to some of them in time. But it’s not the answer.” He squinted angrily, “and I will never use the electric therapies on any of them, and particularly not on Twyla Crumplebottom. I forbid it. Those methods could easily reduce her to an empty shell, erasing her personality and the experiences and thoughts that make her who she is. That is not a cure. It’s extinction, even if the body still walks and talks.”
“Oh, I agree. I do agree, Doctor,” said Dr. Miacid. “But she is resisting all your attempts to help her. She does not even acknowledge that she needs help, and we all know that acknowledging the need is a vital step toward a cure.”
Dr. Kuchenmitnussen turned away and hung his head, forced at last to see that Dr. Miacid was right. He was failing his patient in every way.
Dr. Tuketu, the eccentric who had remained quiet so far, spoke up at last, “My friends, I think this may be the rare case where emotional involvement is not the problem. It is, on the contrary, the only cure. Doctor, you have been unconsciously fighting emotional involvement, when the pathology of her problem suggests a powerful need for exactly what you are avoiding. This is the conflict that you must resolve!”
Dr. Miacid considered this novel idea and nodded agreement. “Howi, I agree. Your theory is inspired.”
They both smiled at Dr. Kuchenmitnussen.Next chapter