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alternative medicine
by robert a. melos

Andy Garrison walked into the medical building, his mind and body filled with apprehension. Tests of any kind, particularly medical tests, filled him with fright. He glanced around the waiting room. It seemed pleasant enough in a sterile sort of way, just as he expected. He approached the reception desk.

An elderly lady sat behind the desk, shuffling papers and trying to look busy. She glanced up at Andy after he cleared his throat. “May I help you?”

“I’m Andy Garrison. I have an appointment –“

“Yeah, whatever,” snapped the receptionist. She thrust a pile of forms at him. “Fill these out, and please make sure, even if you don’t answer any other questions, to fill in section 31A.”

Andy began leafing through the pages looking for 31A, when the receptionist thrust a donut at him. “Oh, no thank you. I’m not supposed to eat before my test.”

“This is your prescription,” the receptionist said.

“It’s a donut,” Andy countered.

“It’s a prescription. You take it and hand it to the technician when he calls your name,” the receptionist explained.

“It’s a donut,” Andy repeated.

“It’s a prescription,” the receptionist said, a testy tone creeping into her voice.

“It’s a donut,” Andy reasoned.

“Listen,” the receptionist hissed. “We ran out of prescription forms. You have a glazed donut; that means you’re having an MRI. A lemon cream is for kidney scans, bear claws are for C-Scans, and raspberry jelly filled are for blood work. Do you understand?”

Andy shook his head, but accepted the donut.

The receptionist shook her finger at Andy. “Remember, don’t eat your prescription!”

Andy shuffled away from the desk to a seat nearby. He began working on the pile of forms he’d been handed. Remembering the request to fill out section 31A, he rifled through the forms until he found the aforementioned section. “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: NEXT OF KIN CONTACT NAME” it read in big bold print. He sighed and flipped back to page one.

“Mr. Garrison?” A tall thin young man called from a position just next to the door marked “LAB”.

Andy stood up and approached him. “I haven’t finished filling out the forms,” he said.

“Don’t worry about them. We’ll finish them later. I’m George, your Lab Tech for the day. Do you have your prescription?”

Andy held up the glazed donut.

“Oh, you’re here for the MRI. Come right this way.”

Andy followed George into a large white room, devoid of any medical looking machines. “Have a seat,” George instructed. Andy did as he was told, sitting on the folding metal chair in the center of the room.

George shuffled through some papers on a counter, and then turned to Andy. “We have a slight problem with the MRI machine, and with your insurance’s ability to pay for its use, so we’ll be doing some alternative tests that meet your insurance requirements,” George said.

“Uh, I don’t understand,” Andy said.

George approached Andy. “Don’t worry, these tests are all within the requirements of your insurance company’s acceptable terms and conditions.” George patted Andy on the shoulder. “Now, you’re having stomach pains?”

Andy nodded.

George knelt down and pressed his hand firmly against Andy’s stomach. “Does this hurt?” he asked.

“A little,” Andy answered.

“How about this?” George asked, pulling his hand away making a fist and launching it hard into Andy’s gut.

Andy grabbed his stomach, doubled over in pain and fell to the floor, curled up in a ball. George walked over to the counter, picked up a clipboard and began making notes on the attached form.

“What the hell was that for?” Andy gasped sitting up.

“That was a certified stomach exam sanctioned by your insurance company,” George said.

“What the hell kind of medical treatment is this?” Andy asked as he climbed from the floor back to his seat on the folding chair.

“The finest kind your insurance will pay for,” George replied. “Are you allergic to cats?”

Andy blinked. “Cats? No, I’m not. I’m here for stomach pains.”

George ignored Andy and walked across the room to a filing cabinet. He opened the top drawer and a black and gray tiger striped cat poked his head out. “This here is Scanner,” George said. He gently picked the cat up and cradled him in his arms.

Andy watched in amused disbelief and confusion as George played with Scanner.

“Whose the cutest little kitty?” George asked Scanner. “Whose the big bad cat of the lab?” Scanner meowed after each question. George held Scanner up, allowing the cat’s legs to dangle in the air. Scanner obviously didn’t like being held in such a manner, and his claws came out. “Catch!” George yelled tossing Scanner toward Andy.

Andy held up his arms crossed in front of his face as the furry cat was flung at him, claws poised for a landing. True to the old adage Scanner did land on his feet, in Andy’s lap. Andy leapt to his feet, sending Scanner flying through the air once again. Andy yelled. Scanner screeched. George busily scribbled notes on the forms attached to the clipboard.

Scanner leapt up to George’s protective arms, and George walked the cat back across the room to the filing cabinet. He re-deposited Scanner in the top drawer, reached into his lab coat and produced a small tuna treat for the animal. “Good Scanner,” he said, feeding the treat to the cat. “Good Scanner.”

He tucked the cat’s head down and closed the drawer, before turning to face Andy. “You seem to be in fine health. You have great reflexes, but obvious tenderness to your stomach. I would recommend more tests, but that’ll be up to your insurance company and your doctor, naturally.” George said, ushering Andy out of the room and thrusting a form at him. “Please fill in section 31A for our records before you leave.”

Andy stood staring in disbelief as George slammed the door in his face. He turned to face the receptionist who was busy running her hands over the keys of a calculator.

“Mr. Garrison, your insurance requires you to pay twenty percent up front, and they will reimburse you if they feel the results of your tests were required,” she said.

Andy stood staring blankly into space.

“Mr. Garrison, you didn’t fill out section 31A. Oh, I see George also ran a cat scan on you. We’re going to have to insist you pay for that separately. Your insurance won’t sanction it since it wasn’t ordered by your doctor,” she explained. “Do you understand?

Andy nodded.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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juli mccarthy
8.25.03 @ 3:26p

"they will reimburse you if they feel the results of your tests were required"

Although this reads as a comic piece, it's sadly only SLIGHTLY far-fetched. And don't you love when your insurance company, rather than someone with actual medical knowledge, decides what kind of treatment you need?


robert melos
8.26.03 @ 1:24a

Only the "cat scan" was far-fetched. Well, okay, so was the donut.

My mom worked for 22 years doing the billing for an ENT, and she dealt with most of the big insurance companies, and after hearing the horror stories from her, I'm almost glad I don't have insurance.

I can't get past the thought that a clerk at an insurance company is deciding if a treatment was necessary. I would want to call each one of them and ask when they got their medical degree.

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