“Dr Fraud, may I call you that?”
“No,” said Dr. Fraud. He looked up. He was trying new bifocal lenses, against the recommendation of his optician who felt that Dr. Fraud’s eyesight was far too good to warrant glasses, contact lenses, laser surgery or any of the eighty-one other things he’d requested. He peered through the upper lens and hoped it made him seem serious and concerned. The pinkish blur he could see sitting on the brownish blur that was probably his chaise-longue writhed in a way that reminded him of a Gustav Doré woodcut.
“What should I call you instead? Sir? Your doctorship? Maestro?”
“You should call me whatever you feel comfortable with.” Dr. Fraud tried looking through the bottom lens of the bifocals. Things blurred a little more and his eyes felt tired, so he returned to the upper lens. “You have issues with authority that create anxiety; your anxiety then leads to crushing worry, which in turns feeds your lack of self-esteem. You need to start making choices for yourself, and by deciding, on your own, what to call me, we can establish a toehold on the ascent of Mount Progress.”
“Dr Fraud…,” Melanie drew his name out, dreading ending it in case he snapped at her and told her off for getting his name wrong. She was sure he wasn’t English, and his name sounded… well, he sounded like a quack. And that couldn’t be right, could it? Although, perhaps it was her fault for picking the doctor who least sounded like he could cure her–
“Melon.” His voice, germanic and harsh, cut into her runaway thoughts. She looked at him, automatically responding.
“Um, I think you mean Melanie,” she said, her voice trailing off. He was staring at her in a very odd fashion. She looked down, checking that she’d got dressed properly that morning, but everything seemed to be correct. She looked up, but his gaze hadn’t changed.
“Melon-y? I thought that was a species of potato,” he said. “Like Desirée. I had a patient called Desirée, and I felt it was just cruel. Why not call your daughter Potato and be done with it? Let the poor child know what’s expected of her.”
“I think it also means ‘object of desire’,” said Melanie.
“Well that’s just ridiculous,” said Dr. Fraud, tsking heartily. “Such a silly language where one man’s goose is another man’s mutton. I told her to change her name by deed poll.”
“What happened to her?”
“I can’t discuss that.”
“Oh. Doctor-patient confidentiality, of course. I’m sorry I asked, Doctor… Fraud….”
“No, she changed her name and I got her records all mixed up and I think I may have sent her on a Ugandan retreat at the wrong of time of year.” Dr. Fraud took the glasses off, and the headache that was starting to build abruptly went away. He focussed finally on Melanie and saw her clearly: short, slightly dumpy, with a smile that lit up her face and made people instinctively like her. “But we shouldn’t be talking about her, this is your session. And you need to be more decisive. You need to learn the rules of conversation.”
“With that make me more confident, Doc..oc..octor F…F…Fraud?”
“Just call me Sir,” said Dr. Fraud. “It’s easier, and it’s more respectful. No, you need to learn the rules so that you know how to break them properly. At the moment you break the rules because you’re too scared to know what they are and so stay within them. And people recognise that you’re not aware that you’ve broken the rules, so they chastise you and pick on you, and you retreat, because you weren’t aware that you were outside the rules in the first place. Break the rules firmly, break the rules with a purpose, and when people challenge you, break them too!”
“Break things! Carry a big golf club and speak with a loud voice! Scare people! Make them understand that you make the rules now!”
“I don’t think I can do that, Sir. I… I…,”
“You’re too scared, Melon-y. You need help. You should see someone about that.”
“I thought I was!”
Dr. Fraud put his glasses back on and the world went fuzzy and blurred again. He was trying to decide if this helped him keep an objective distance from the potato-woman or not.
“You are,” he said, his voice calming down again. “And I will help you, whether you like it or not. I shall send you on a course that will boost your confidence. Have you ever been to Uganda?”