"Oh, hello in return."
"How's it going?"
"Not bad. Not bad at all. You?"
"Quite well, thank you. So, how did you end up here this afternoon?"
"That's a fair question. I'm Peter, by the way."
"Morris, good name. Nice to meet you, Morris. Anyway, let's see. About two years ago, I guess, I had just microwaved my frozen turkey and mashed potatoes dinner in the kitchen on my office floor. The last step on the box directions for microwave cooking of the dish was 'make certain that meal is cooked thoroughly; use thermometer to check internal temperature of food; minimum 165 degrees.' I thought all day in my cubicle about how insanely the processed food company had misunderstood its customer base. I mean, I can't be bothered with an oven or a plate or silverware, but I have a food thermometer handy?"
"That's an amusing anecdote, Peter. And I don't mean to be too forward here, but what's the point?"
"Oh, right. Well, after that, I spent the weekend considering how ridiculous my job was and how pitiful my life must have become if I were a regular customer of the insane processed food company. I never returned to that office, or that job."
"Well, that's perfectly normal. Happens to most of us at some point in our lives. So, what do you do now?"
"I'm a generalist."
"I'm not familiar with that term."
"I dabble in health care."
"I don't think health care is a field appropriate for dabbling, Peter."
"You know how there are medical specialists? Well, I'm a generalist."
"A general practitioner, you mean?"
"Not exactly. A general practitioner is a doctor. Again, I just dabble. I'm a generalist."
"Peter, I don't follow."
"Well, what I do is, I see people who are considering going to the emergency room and advise them as to whether their concerns are valid, or whether they should save the expense and wait before seeing a real doctor. I only charge a flat fee of twenty dollars per person. Five dollars extra per ailment if there is more than one, of course."
"Of course. Peter, are you qualified to make such determinations?"
"Yes, of course. I'm not some lunatic, Morris. I care about people. I went to nursing school for two years, though I never graduated."
"And why is that?"
"Well, a few weeks before graduation, during a CPR training drill, I was partnered up with, umm, a big girl. Really big. Freaking huge, to be perfectly honest. Just disgusting. Anyway, one drill required that I roll her off her stomach and onto her back. As she lied there on the floor motionless, I tugged and tugged and pulled and yanked, but I just could not budge her. I tried to push my legs off the wall to gain some leverage, and that's when disaster struck. My hands slipped and by the time the instructor looked over, I was lying directly on top of the large girl with my head on her buttocks and my groin on top of her head. So, ultimately, they expelled me."
"Ha! I mean, sorry. Sorry, Peter, about the not graduating."
"Yes, it was a setback. But I didn't want to let it hold me back. I am not prone to giving up. So, I became a generalist."
"With no medical qualifications, is what you do legal, Peter?"
"You know, I've never really thought about it before."
"No, actually, I never have. But the hospital hasn't complained, so I hope that means it isn't. See, I rented a house right across the street from the hospital on the north shore. The house is all brick and plain looking, so it resembles an office. And I set up shop. I hung a sign above my front door, 'The Emergency Room.'"
"I must say, that does not sound very ethical."
"Sure it is, Morris. My business as a generalist revolves around one simple, direct question -- Do you need to go to the emergency room? So, that's what I put on the sign. I put a question mark after the word 'room,' distinguishing it from the hospital's emergency room."
"Well, I guess that is a little better."
"But the question mark fell down a few months ago."
"You're pulling my leg."
"No, I wouldn't do that to you, Morris, especially considering the circumstances."
"I appreciate that, Peter."
"You know, I had this one guy come in to my office slash living room. It was the damndest thing. He had paralytic eyeballs."
"You're misusing words."
"Don't you mean malusing?"
"No, I do not. Peter, body parts are paralyzed. A paralytic is an agent employed to induce paralysis."
"Riiiiight. So, umm, anyway, this guy had para . . . lytish eyeballs. That better?"
"He could still see. He just could not move his eyeballs. You know, I don't think people realize how their eyes are in near constant motion. You rarely stare at anything for more than a second or two. So, instead of being content with having to stare at an object, this guy would move his head to correspond to a normal person's eye movement. I tell you what, his head moved around and twitched so much it looked like he was tracking the path of one of those little gnats when they get caught up in a zig-zagging group."
"That sounds horrible."
"Well, yeah, I know it must sound horrible. But I'd like to see you sit in the same room with him and not laugh."
"You do tell a good story, Peter. But, again, how did you end up here this afternoon?"
"Wait, do you hear that? Did you just turn on some music?"
"No, I didn't. That's just a sousaphone."
"I can hear that, Morris. But what's the sousaphone playing? What instrument is that?"
"Peter, the sousaphone is an instrument. It's like a tuba. That's my neighbor's kid practicing. We have thin walls in this building."
"Riiiiight. You know, it sure is windy out today. You feel that? It hasn't been this windy in a long time. A real long time. Well, there was that one day about a month ago, but it was storming that day. There is not a cloud in the sky right now. I mean, look at that sun. Such a big, old thing. It feels like you can just reach up there and touch it today. But that storm last month sure was something too. Mother Nature is a glorious gal. It was during the storm that I got evicted."
"I'm not following, Peter."
"Oh, well, you see, the power went out and as I walked into my spare bedroom slash waiting room, I was quite unexpectedly attacked by a coyote."
"Oh my God!"
"Yeah, that about sums it up. And let me tell you, when I walked out to the trash the next morning, past my neighbor Ms. Johnson's porch, holding her dead cat by the tail, she was pretty upset."
"You killed your neighbor's cat?"
"As it turned out, yeah. Not sure why I assumed it was a coyote. It didn't put up much of a fight."
"Peter, that's awful."
"That's what Ms. Johnson thought too. She even looked like she might be having a heart attack. I ran over to her porch and offered my services as a generalist, but she, well, she declined. And trust me, she was pretty strong for an old lady, especially one having a heart attack. She just kept screaming her cat's name, Jeff."
"I don't know whether I believe you, Peter, but you are entertaining."
"I know, Jeff is the oddest name for a cat ever, right?"
"So where have you been staying? Have you been homeless?"
"Oh, no. Not at all, Morris. But I appreciate your concern. I had been staying at my girlfriend's place. Actually, she was a client of mine too. I had made it a rule to not date clients, but that was until she walked in. She was my first attractive one."
"Of course. But it is nice to have someone, don't you think, Peter?"
"Yeah, it sure is. She dumped me yesterday. Kicked me out. You see, I took her youngest sister to the mall two days ago, as a favor. And, well, that was the end of it."
"Peter, you didn't . . . ?"
"What? Oh, no. God no. I would never do something that terrible to her little sister. All I did was watch her get beat up."
"Her youngest sister, she bumped into someone she knew in the mall food court. I went to get a soft pretzel. I paid the cashier. I turned around, and there she was, getting beat up right in the middle of the mall."
"And you did nothing?"
"No. Of course not. She's a big girl. Well, not physically. But it's her life. Besides, I'm a pacifist."
"Peter, again, just awful."
"Well, she looked to me like she was holding her own. She was pretty feisty for a twelve-year-old girl."
"Yeah, but you would never know it if you saw her fight. Thinking about it now, I would like to see her and old Ms. Johnson go a few rounds. That would be a quite a battle."
"Well, Peter, I must say, I can understand why your girlfriend was upset."
"Yeah, she was pretty angry. Though I thought I had calmed her down well enough. But then her little sister ruined everything and told my girlfriend that the guy I watched beat her up was my younger brother. He's fifteen."
"And was that true?"
"Oh, yeah. You don't think I recognized my own brother? Stewie is a pretty ornery little guy. He told me that his friends had dared him to walk up to my girlfriend's little sister and say to her, 'I want to French kiss your asshole.' Apparently, in response, the little sister called my brother a 'stupid jerk.' And that just set him off something fierce. He does not tolerate name calling."
"I see. Well, Peter, as I look at the time, I do have another appointment soon."
"Are you saying my time is up?"
"No! I mean, no. I'm not saying that at all, Peter."
"Then what do you suggest?"
"Well, what say you grab my hand here through the window, and we get you off that ledge?"
BIO: Jeffrey Carl Jefferis is the more stylish son of Carl and Kathy. He graduated the fifth grade with honors, along with high school, undergraduate college, and law school. His work has recently been, or soon will be, published in Word Catalyst Magazine and Foundling Review.