Courteous, courteous man!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the course of an evening, a blindly rapturous mother sings in praise of the courteous Dr. W to her friend over a bottle - or two - of wine. Yet, when she mentions (in passing)the mysterious disappearance of his wife, his son's disquieting reaction, and the doctor's eery fondness of her teenage daughter, we begin to wonder whether this charming Dr. W has been hiding something from the prying eyes of his neighbors...

Submitted: January 12, 2010

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Submitted: January 12, 2010



Courteous, Courteous Man!!

Who was the most courteous man I’ve ever known? I had to write an essay about that, you know. – Oh, long time ago! I had to write about who I thought was the most courteous person for a college admissions essay… didn’t get in, of course. As soon as I sent in the resume I realized I had written about the most courageous person I’ve ever known. What a dreadful mistake!
I’ve been a neglectful host, haven’t I? I entreat you to have a glass of wine. This one’s my favorite; you must try it. And some crackers – take the sesame-seed ones, they’re marvelous. Are you sure you’re comfortable on that couch? Oh, don’t worry about the pillows; just throw them on the floor. Yep, that’s it. Sorry about this mess! Is that a sock? You see it’s the maid’s day off… the kids just won’t ever clean up after themselves – Your house is messy too? Well that’s nice to hear!
But what were we saying? – Oh yes! The most courteous man I’ve ever known! There’s no wavering on that point. Dr. W, to be sure, is the most courteous man in the world. So universally loved by everyone! So polite, so friendly, so charming! And that’s saying a lot, you know – after all he’s been through. Oh yes, he’s been through quite a bit, I tell you, quite a bit. I’m surprised he’s even alive, poor man. But alive and courteous, too! That’s just too much!
Does he have a wife, you said? – No, he doesn’t. That is, not anymore. I remember having seen Mrs. W a couple of times, at church. Beautiful woman…always wore the nicest clothes. Very skinny – blonde. I don’t remember what her eyes were like. Never had that much expression…looked very tired. – Poor woman, I don’t blame her; with that child of hers! – Oh, I didn’t mean…! What I meant was that it must have been a stressful life, to be the mother of that boy – sweet and adorable as he was.
She’d bring the boy to church, no matter how much it would bother the congregation. He was always making a racket – do you remember? Uncontrollable! Mrs. W. never did anything – she’d just stand by, completely helpless, always with that blank look on her face. And then finally, Dr. W. would do something about it. – That good Dr. W.! – Always saving the day!
What was the boy’s name again? Stephen? No! Sam, it was Sam, wasn’t it? – Now I remember. I think Dr. W. said he had some sort of condition – mental –was born with an extra “chromosome”, whatever that is. But with or without the “chromosome”, everyone could see the boy wasn’t normal. I’d only seen him a couple of times myself (Dr. and Mrs. W. rarely brought him into public, in order not to disturb the others – courteous couple!). Not very pleasant to look at, to say the least. In fact (though it sounds terrible!), he was hideous. The other children were absolutely terrified of him. I remember my daughter Sofia started wailing and screaming when Sam only smiled at her in the library. The poor girl told me she had nightmares for a week afterwards.
Ah, Sofia! She was only seven then. Now she’s a grown girl. – Why, thank you! I agree she is good-looking. Although she was traumatized by that experience with Sam, she seems to agree with me about the Doctor, how very courteous a gentleman he is. I remember she told me once that he drove her home from school when she found herself stranded – she missed the bus, that’s what she said. Happens all the time, in fact. – Oh really? Not with your children? Well, Sofia just told me yesterday she misses the bus at least three times a week (she won’t say why – but she is very busy with school, you know) and that Dr. W. is so kind as to take her home every time! Courteous, courteous man! His office is right next to the school, you see, and I suppose it’s no problem for him.
But I know I was going to say something. – Oh no, don’t worry, I assure you I was not interrupted. Ah, yes!… We were talking of Sam, weren’t we?
Well, he’s gone for good.
Don’t tell me you didn’t hear of it! It happened such a long time ago, too! He lives now at this wonderful place – called the Green Mountain Asylum (or something like it) – that’s supposed to be a school suited exactly for boys with his condition. The poor Doctor was devastated to part with his dear child – at least I heard him telling Ms. Watson so, at church.
Poor Dr. W… it’s not his fault his son is so frightful. He takes it well, though. Don’t you think? He always looks very composed. Just like him! I heard the Doctor telling the same Ms. Watson (prettiest girl I ever saw!) that he thinks about his son unfailingly, everyday, and that he thanks God continuously for the precious gift of his son. This was after church, of course.
Very pious man. That makes him even more commendable! I tell my little Johnny everyday he should look to the Doctor as the model of virtue. I even tell my dear husband Richard the same! Ha!
 - Yes, definitely. Dr. W. and my husband are very good friends. They’re intimate – that’s what my Richard tells me. Apparently the Doctor is around often – you know, talking with my husband about business and what-not. It’s so nice to have Richard working at home! It wasn’t like that before, but I put up such a fight that he finally gave in and changed his job so he could be at home with all of us. But he’s still out of the house fairly often – you know, signing and discussing contracts, and things like that. Anyway, what’s strange is that I haven’t actually seen the Doctor myself much, at home, though my little Johnny always talks about Dr. W’s visits. He’s quite Johnny’s favorite!
Oh! I forgot to tell you! I came home the other day from grocery shopping and who did I see, but the Doctor himself! He was standing next to little Johnny, who was holding a baseball mitt, and beaming his cute smile as always. But I must admit I was a bit surprised to see the Doctor… After all, it was the first time I’d ever seen him in my kitchen!
–Of course! He was just as courteous as always. I think he must have sensed my surprise, though, pleasant as it was. The Doctor was acting a bit differently from usual. For one thing, he was looking slightly pale, sweating a little. I started to get annoyed after a while because he wouldn’t stop fixing his shirt, buttoning and unbuttoning his sleeve. You know how I can’t stand nervous habits. But he was still very polite, and such a gentleman! He explained right away that he’d come over for a short while to fix my daughter’s computer. Now don’t you think that was nice? As you can imagine I burst out my thanks – how grateful I was! And still am! Sofia, you know, had been complaining about that computer for the longest time. Anyway, I was so caught up in thanking the Doctor that I didn’t even get the chance to offer him refreshments before he said he was in a hurry, and scurried away.
It was such a shame to see the Doctor run off like that! Then I closed the door again and asked Johnny, where did he get that baseball mitt he was holding? The child just kept on giggling and trying to hide the mitt behind his back and refused to answer me until, after I threatened to take away his dessert after dinner, he finally admitted that Dr. W. gave it to him. Little Johnny looked very guilty when he said it. He wasn’t supposed to tell, Johnny said. Dr. W. told him not to tell. Can you believe it? Then Johnny said I wasn’t supposed to find the Doctor here.
But I was in raptures! Just so wrapped up in admiration! Can you believe how modest that Dr.W can be? Didn’t want me to know how much he’s done for us! But, why should it be remotely surprising? After all, it is so typical of him. Has he done anything like that for you? –He hasn’t? Well I suppose he considers us to be very good friends…
 – Wife? – Oh yes, I almost forgot he ever had one. Didn’t I tell you she’s not around anymore? Or did I say that to someone else? Ha! I’m sorry, I talk so much it’s hard to keep track of what I say, to whom!
No, no, he doesn’t have a wife. Not now.
– Don’t you know what happened to her? That’s impossible. It was talked of for the longest time. I can’t believe you know so little of everybody!
The Doctor’s wife is dead.
It was an accident – a boating accident – extremely tragic. The whole family – Dr. W., his wife (back then), and his only son – went on a boating trip together for the break. You see, the Doctor had just bought a very expensive Yacht, and it was all fancy, with a cabin and leather seating and all. (Think – if only my Richard could afford that!) They planned to go on a little private cruise down the east coast. It was supposed to be jolly good fun – and Dr. W. always liked to spoil his wife once in a while.
But they had the most terrible luck! While the family was miles and miles away from shore, a huge thunderstorm suddenly struck them, with out any warning. Thank goodness it didn’t come by our area. It was bright and sunny for weeks down here – remember? Dear Richard even ventured into our swimming pool for the first time in years…
Well anyway, you know what happened? The poor Doctor’s wife fell overboard. Just like that. It was the last time the poor Doctor ever saw her.
But no one noticed she was gone, not for quite some time. Dr. W. came back and didn’t utter a word – I guess that was his way of coping. After all, he is so very courteous! The first time anyone noticed Mrs. W.’s absence was when she didn’t show up to church. I was a little curious myself about where she could have been, but because the child was still there I just assumed she was sick. The Doctor looked so composed and at ease I didn’t even feel it was necessary to inquire about his wife.
Ms. Watson was the first to find out about the whole thing – apparently she got the whole story first-hand from the Doctor. Oh, how immensely pleased with herself she looked – how privileged she felt! – Repulsive woman. When Ms. Watson found out she came rushing down here to tell me all about it – I was the only person she told. But then somehow word got around, and pretty soon the whole town knew.
People grieved.
No one could believe it – not even I could. My Richard was so touched by the catastrophe that he went over directly to the Doctor’s house himself, and gave him a discount on a piece of furniture (the Doctor, after all, is our best costumer). Mrs. Johnson even, who never really liked the Doctor’s wife, gave him a huge basket of flowers, cookies, jam, and such things. I didn’t want to look like I didn’t care, so I spent forty-six dollars on a bouquet of white lilies and a box of chocolates. He looked extremely pleased with the gift. In fact, it was better than Hannah’s – hers consisted of a few home-made cookies. Do you remember now? You must! The town was in a total state of confusion!
Dr. W. decided not to hold the funeral at his home, it would’ve been too hectic. Instead, he went down to his parents’ house, in another town, to have the funeral. Ms. Watson (who is now the Doctor’s special confidante, I hear) said that the Doctor made a special monument for his wife, and placed it in a beautiful mountain valley. How very nice! I hope my Richard does that for me when I’m dead.
 – I’m sorry to ramble on like this. Would you like some more wine? I’ve had half the bottle already. Ah! Never mind, the bottle is empty. Shall I open another? – Very well then. Don’t worry about the couch, I can always get the stain out. Happens all the time. You don’t know how many times my little Johnny spilled soda all over the cushions!
 – So you’ve heard that, too? From Mrs. Johnson, right? – No. I don’t believe it. Can you imagine Dr. W. mistreating his wife, when she was still around? Never.
I do recognize, however, that had Dr. W. been any other man, she surely would’ve been mistreated. And quite rightly! Remember the way she’d behave? Hardly noticed me or even said “hi” whenever I walked by with little Johnny. She was so quiet.
So insipidly blank!
But the W.’s looked like a very happy couple, despite what Mrs. Johnson says. Always smiling together, although they did have some trouble with that boy of theirs.
– No, not at all. Sam didn’t change one bit, after the accident. Or at least, if he did change, it was for the worse. – Had more tantrums, was almost in constant hysteria. Remember that time (it must have been a week or two after the accident) Sam made that horrible racket in church?
He was flinging his arms about and making the worst racket in the world, shrieking as if he were about to be killed. What was he saying again? Oh yes! I think he was crying out for his mother… Mommy, he kept yelling. Where’s Mommy? Then suddenly he started pounding at the Doctor, hitting him as if to save his own life! Of course, the boy was very weak and it couldn’t have hurt much, but just the sight of it was the scariest thing! He slammed his fist into the Doctor’s stomach, then clawed at the poor man’s face, digging his nails into the Doctor’s cheeks! – as if his father were some criminal! Dr.W’s cheeks were scratched up and bleeding, but still the boy wouldn’t stop. Where’s Mommy, what did you do to Mommy? Why did you leave her behind like that, he squealed.
I think what really made everybody shocked was the fact that the child was speaking. And his voice – it wasn’t a child’s.
Everyone was so taken aback, you see. Even the Doctor, who’s usually calm and composed, looked terrified! His eyes were just wide and glossy and blank, and his lips were purplish white. He was sweating like crazy – it mixed with the blood on his face. Droplets of blood and sweat spewed everywhere. Looked disgusting. I couldn’t watch it. Finally (and not too soon!), the Doctor slapped the boy back, gripped him by the arm and dragged him out of the church.
What! Is it one already? So late! I had no idea! – I’ve noticed you’ve been glancing at your watch for some time. – Don’t apologize! – So sorry to bore you like this, with all my rambling! – No, you can stay as long as you like – but if you insist on leaving… don’t feel obliged… Please take home the wine, I’m sure I’ll have nothing to do with so much… Although I must admit it was excellent…
But, before you leave: do you know of a product that covers bruises well? I just noticed the other day, while Sofia was eating breakfast, that she’s just covered in bruises! There are four of them; one of them is on her face, just under the eye. That one’s the biggest. It looks truly ugly. I don’t know where they could have come from. She doesn’t play any sports, even. I asked her how she got them, but she was so defensive! She told me she fell down the stairs and that it was none of my business anyway. Humph. I suppose that’s typical of teenagers. I hope none of your kids are like that?
Oh, I must tell you! Dr.W. is coming for dinner tomorrow!
Sofia didn’t seem too excited, though, when I told her – started complaining about how she already made plans to go to the movies. Typical teenager! I told her to forget about the movies, that she had no choice but to stay – what with the Doctor being so courteous to her and all. Did you know he drove her home again today? He was quite the gentleman, as usual.
Oh, that courteous man…

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