Robert Garner McBrearty

Everyone is getting out. They’re getting out. My dentist is getting out. The letters are familiar: After over thirty years of service, loving every moment of it, so very grateful to all of you… But read between the lines: You all revolt me. I can’t look into another mouth. Your gums, my God! Have you heard of floss? Anyway, my hands are shaking. One slip…

My chiropractor is getting out. Grateful for all the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of adjusting…. Frankly, I no longer care whether your disc is slipped. Take your slipped disc elsewhere.

My plumber is getting out, but he is merely snarky:  Happy flushing, folks! See you down the drain!

My friends are getting out of their relationships… Though we will always remain close friends, we are moving in different directions… Not another night under the same roof! What a waste! There’s got to be something better out there.

Getting out, getting out. Adios. Hasta luego. We move on.

Getting out of town, getting out of state, getting out of the country, going out of my mind.

Write to us again, please, a year from now, two years from now. Let us know how you are. Just say hello. Hello out there.

My retina specialist is getting out. I’ve just received another letter, not a personal one, just a generic announcement of her retirement. I feel a little hurt by this one, like maybe she could have told me in person, but of course I’m just one of many patients.

I feel strangely sad. I’ve been seeing her for over fifteen years, after I was diagnosed with macular degeneration. I was young to have it; only fifty when I was first diagnosed.

I actually see pretty well, and I give her some credit for this, even though she has never actually treated me for anything, only monitored the condition. But it has been reassuring to come in every six months and have the various tests reveal no signs of further deterioration. Well, you’re still safe, no eye injections today, she might say, with a breezy little chuckle that makes me chuckle too.

She’s a little older than I am, and I can understand why she would want to retire. But it’s not easy finding a good doctor. I’ve enjoyed our chats. We went to the same college in Iowa, and we talk about this when I come in, but after six months, it’s all new again. She was a good student, apparently, studying medicine. I was a bad student and a drunk, but I don’t tell her this. She calls me Doctor because I teach at a university. I don’t want to disillusion her.

I have this sense that she has brought me good luck. I was a little scared when I was first diagnosed. I did not want to go blind. She told me that wasn’t likely. Not completely anyway, she said with her breezy laugh, the sort of laugh that made me relax and laugh too.

I feel a little scared again. I wonder if the new doc will bring me bad luck. Maybe my vision will grow worse. I may go blind.

Not completely. Remembering that makes me smile. I should write her a letter. I should thank her for all her years of service and for our pleasant chats. But I probably won’t. People should, you know, write nice letters to the people who have helped them along the way. It’s a shame that we don’t.

Let’s have a big fair, a big fair with many booths, and at each booth there will be those people who have been kind to us, and let us go from booth to booth, shaking hands, hugging, seeing each other one last time. Saying thank you, thank you, be happy, stay well.

Robert Garner McBreartyRobert Garner McBrearty’s short stories have been widely published including in The Pushcart Prize, Missouri Review, New England Review, New Flash Fiction Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and Laurel Review. He’s received a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award and fellowships from MacDowell and the Fine Arts Work Center. His new collection of stories is forthcoming in University of New Mexico Press.

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