“A Nervous Surgery”

Erica Peterson

All rights reserved by the author


            Doctor McMurphy, Murph for short, moved his foot to the right and out of harm’s way.  The scalpel fell to the floor with a clatter missing his foot by mere inches.  Nurse Pitch scurried over to dutifully salvage the instrument.  She picked it up and when she stood up, she took in, for a fraction of a second, the man on the operating table.  She knew from his chart that he was Frank Walford, a twenty seven year old who had at one time had a heart of gold – He had been well liked around town and popular with the women; a very eligible bachelor.

            Now he lay quietly sleeping on the table and he was hopefully to be restored to his old cheerful disposition.  He would no longer scowl at people when he was seen on the streets, which was rare lately.  He would no longer take refuge in his gloomy house.  He might even try to fix up the old Victorian, which as though it sensed his deep depression had taken on a gloomy and unwelcoming look.

            There was an incision in Frank’s chest where the generator would be implanted.  On his neck was a larger incision which Murph was concentrating on.  He was carefully winding the electrodes around a nerve which Miss Pitch knew supposedly worked as the “mood center” for the brain known as the Vagus nerve.  The implanted electrode would regulate the signals sent out by this nerve. 


            There was an observation room which looked into the operating room from the left wall.  The glass, which separated the two, was one way, so that only the people observing could see, but those in the operating room could not see into the observation room.  This way the doctors and nurses would not be distracted by movement occurring in the room.  Currently there was very little movement taking place in the observation room.  One man stood alone watching apprehensively what was being done to Frank Walford.  Albert Usted was proud of what years of his work had produced: the instrument which was being imbedded in Mr. Walford’s brain and chest.  Albert was a slight man of thirty-seven.  He had strong dark features and a personality to match.  Dark hair framed his chiseled faces and his deep brown eyes were focused and his concentration was on what was occurring in surgery.  His hands were deep in the pockets of his navy blue sport coat, and in his right hand he gripped a small remote.


            There would be the slightest of scars on his neck where the incision had been;  Murph could tell his work was exceptionally good.  He was working now on suturing the opening in Frank Walford’s chest.  Murph was known for his fast and incomparable work on patients.  He could perform difficult surgeries in little time, and the outcome of his work was comparable to that of a plastic surgeon.  This was an entirely new procedure and he had been selected to execute it.  He had been approached by a man named Albert Usted who told him about his contraption which had the capacity to be a scientific breakthrough.  The idea made sense.  He agreed to find a candidate for the procedure and offer the “brain pacemaker” to the patient.  Frank Walford had been the first to accept.


            The bright noon sunlight hurt his eyes as Frank awoke from his surgery.  He thought to himself how nice it was that it was sunny out.  He rolled over and it took him a few seconds to realize where he was exactly.  He finally was able to recall that he was at Southshore Hospital for an outpatient surgery which had given hope to change his life.  He sat quietly until a nurse came into the room.  She looked at Frank and smiled.  He noticed her sparkling white teeth and contemplated the fact that she was a beautiful woman.  He smiled back at her.  She took his chart in her hand, paged through, read a page thoughtfully, closed it and placed it on the table. 

            “Well Mr. Walford --” She started.

            “Please,” he interjected, “call me Frank.”

            “Oh.  Well, Frank, I’m Nurse Pitch.  Dr. McMurphy implanted the pacemaker and all went well with the surgery.  You may be a bit sore for a few days where the sutures are.  Just be sure to clean them and if you notice any excessive pain or redness or any side effects be sure to give us a call or stop in.  Oh, and I nearly forgot!  If you experience any odd behavior at all, please give us a heads up.

            “Your shirt is on the chair.  You can go ahead and put that on and come on out to the front room and we can send you along your way.”  She sent him a dazzling smile as she walked toward the door.      

            Frank got up and picked up his navy blue polo shirt from the maroon chair at the foot of the bed he had been resting in.  He felt no soreness.  In fact he felt great.  He was glad the sun was out.  He was glad Nurse Pitch was so beautiful.  He felt glad – and that was something in itself.  Frank had forgotten what it was to be happy.


            Frank held in his hand contact numbers which he was to use in case complications arose from his surgery.  He also held the phone number of Valerie Pitch.  This he had had to ask for.  The fact that she had given him her number had elated him.  He smiled to himself as he turned to walk down the driveway of the Hospital, past a bench where a skinny man with dark brown hair and a navy blue sport coat sat with his hands in his pockets. 


            Frank walked down the driveway to Chester Street and turned right.  He then walked a half a block until he reached Main Street.  He then turned left onto Main Street.  It felt as though he was looking at the world with a new pair of eyes.  He saw things he had ignored before.  He saw the green trees and was able to appreciate the beauty of the flowers and the way the sun played hide and seek behind the puffy white clouds which speckled the sky above him.   Also, he reacted differently to people.  He returned their smiles they shot his way as he walked through town.  Frank was happy.

            Frank failed to notice that when he had passed the man on the bench in front of the Hospital, the man had taken notice to where Frank had gone.  He was now following Frank from a distance, so as to not be noticed. 

            The streets were busy for the middle of the day.  Shoppers were bustling about from shop to shop with their purchases tucked in tissue paper within the bags they grasped in their hands.  Dogs on leashes barked playfully at the cars passing by.  The day was warm. 

            Frank walked taking in the whole scene hungrily, because he felt as though he had been starved of such experiences as of late.  As he walked, he found himself toying with the hem of his shirt.  It did not phase him – it was merely a subconscious action.


            Albert gripped the remote in his pocket.  He pushed the two red buttons on the controller and concentrated hard for a second.  He released the buttons and waited.


            Frank was waiting to cross Bundell Street when he took off his shirt.  He stared at the article of clothing that his hand clutched.  He watched as he let go of the fabric and the shirt fell to the sidewalk.  He wanted more than anything to pick it up and put the shirt back on. 

            The light changed and Frank began to cross with the small crowd which had gathered waiting for the same thing Frank was.  As he walked, Frank unbuckled his belt.  He removed it from his pants and he dropped it to the ground when he reached the opposite side of Bundell Street.  He was now beginning to attract attention.

            Before he could bend down to gather his belt, Frank did something he was horrified by.  Frank unbuttoned his khaki cargo pants and unzipped the fly.  The woman next to him looked at him with horror.  Frank saw her do so and as he let them drop to a loose clump of fabric around his ankles he stepped casually out of them. 

“I’m terribly sorry, Miss.”  He apologized.  “I can’t…I don’t…”  He fumbled for an explanation and found he had none.  “I’m sorry,” he repeated.  She hurried away from this man who had just dropped his pants in front of her.  He walked on, leaving his pants in a heap.  He was now in his boxers and absolutely mortified.  He couldn’t comprehend what had occurred.  Every part of him knew that clothing should not be stripped off and discarded in public, yet he could not control his actions.  Frank stopped walking.  He turned on his heel and faced the direction he had just come from.  He could see his pants which had been left in a mound on Main Street, his belt a good thirty five feet away from them, and his shirt beyond that.

            Frank walked steadily toward his pants.  He reached them successfully and scrambled to put them on.  People laughed at him as his face turned a deep shade of red.  People were staring at this man who had moments earlier stripped off his clothing in public.  He nearly ran to gather his belt and put it back on as he waited for the street to clear for him to cross. The traffic cleared and Frank ran across to collect his shirt.  He pulled it over his head as he walked hurriedly back towards the hospital, the only place he could think to go.  He would go explain to Dr. McMurphy what had just occurred.  Perhaps he shouldn’t have gone through with the surgery after all.


            When Frank turned around, Albert panicked.  He ducked into the nearest shop and hid within.  He stood and waited, watching attentively who was passing by.  Frank walked frantically by pulling on his pants as he went.  Albert waited a moment and emerged from the shop keeping his eye on Frank.  He followed Frank across the street.  He wanted one last test.  One last way to check that his instrument worked – that he did in fact have some control over Frank’s actions.  He pushed the two buttons and concentrated on the first feeling that came into his mind.  He released the buttons as his stomach growled.


            Frank was a block and a half away from the Hospital now.  He was panicked.  He must get to the doctor and insist they remove this object.  It was the only explanation for what had just happened.  He hadn’t been in control and he knew this.  It was imperative to have this surgery reversed.  It was imperative for Frank to get ice cream.

            Frank turned and entered an ice cream parlor.  Frank was lactose intolerant.  Yet he went to the counter and ordered a large ice cream cone.  He paid and exited the shop and then stared at the ice cream in his hand.  Frank felt helpless and even more determined to get to the hospital as soon as possible.  He continued down Main Street and at the first trash can he threw out his ice cream. 


            Albert knew now that Frank must be heading for the hospital.  He knew what would occur.  The surgery was impossible to reverse without damaging the surrounding nerves.  The doctors would not believe his complaints anyways.  Albert was not worried.


            Doctor McMurphy entered the room to find sitting on the examination table a distressed looking Frank Walford. 

            “What can I do for you Frank?” Murph asked.  Frank explained all that had just occurred to him on his travels along Main Street.  He explained his lack of control – how he knew what he was doing and did not want to do it but could not control the way his muscles were moving. 

            “I want it out.  I think it is the implant.  Please Doc.  You gotta help me,” Frank was begging.


            Frank was given a sedative and he promptly fell unconscious.  Murph knew there was no way to undo what he had done earlier that day.  Quite frankly, there was no way Frank’s claims and suspicions could be true.  He would apply the placebo effect in this case.  He would abate Frank’s fears by simply telling him that the implant had been successfully removed.  It was the only possible thing to do.  He couldn’t reach Albert.


            Albert was thrilled.  His mechanism had worked.  He was one step closer to being able to control the human mind.  He ignored the vibrating cell phone in his pocket as he walked excitedly back to his apartment.


            Frank woke up and Murph cheerfully told him all had gone well.  The implant was gone.  All was normal; there was absolutely nothing to worry about.  He wished Frank the best of luck and saw him to the door. 


            Frank walked down the driveway of the Hospital for the second time that day.  He blinked in the sunlight and started home.  Albert, at home, placed his two fingers on the buttons and concentrated…


© Copyright 2005 by the author

All rights reserved