“As a lay person you would not be able to understand the science of my experiments at Harvard,” the doctor began his explanation to Madelyn.
“They involved Heck. That’s all I want to say.”
“Like a guinea pig?” she asked.
“Yes, you could say that, although Heck wouldn’t like the analogy. Would you, Heck?” The doctor looked at the rat, who tilted his head, like a curious cat, squinting up at the doctor while rubbing his nose with his paws. “Fruit flies are very useful for experiments and so are guinea pigs,” the doctor continued. “But for my purposes only Rattus norvegicus, would do. Not as cute as the guinea pig, perhaps . . .” Heck made a tiny squeaking noise. “Have I hurt your feelings? I’m sorry, Heck,” the doctor said.
“He understands you?” she asked. Up to now she had thought of the doctor as being eccentric. Now she wasn’t sure what to think.
“He understands me, of course,” the doctor said proudly. Then he added, in a show of bitter humor. “He’s got an IQ well above the average Democrat.”
“But why did you bring him to the office?”
“I received a warning that the authorities might be paying a visit to the clinic today.”
“Today?” She couldn’t believe he had waited until now to tell her. She had felt nervous when she had arrived at the office that morning because of renewed rumors circulating in the town about an imminent crackdown on the so-called pill mills.
“That’s right. Today.”
“Then why did you bring the rat here.”
“Because I’m sure they want me to think they’re coming to the clinic when what they really plan to do is to go to my home.”
“But how would they get in?”
“My landlady would let them in. She’s easily intimidated.”
“She’d let them in?”
“In a heartbeat.”
“But what would they be looking for? What records we have are in my computer.”
“They’re not after records.”
“Why, Heck, of course.”
“What would they want with Heck?” Puzzled, she looked from the doctor to the rat and back at the doctor.
“The ‘rat’ as you like to call him is the key to everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s the answer.”
“To the single greatest threat to freedom in the world.”
“Precisely,” he said.
“Who’s Big Brother?”
“You’ve never heard of Big Brother?”
“I don’t think so.”
Shaking his head and turning to the rat, the doctor said, “What do you think of that, Heck? She’s never heard of Big Brother.” As he continued shaking his head slowly, Heck tilted his head and peered up at him curiously while the kittens looked down on what was happening with the look of total incomprehension.
“Haven’t you read this pamphlet?” he asked her, picking up one from the little pile he kept on his desk. “I distinctly remember giving you one, and one for your daughter.” The doctor opened it to one of the illustrations, showing a menacing Big Brother figure. He held it up to show her, then he laid it down on the desk, leaving it open to the same page, which the rat edged over to and looked down at, as if it could read or at least appreciate pictures. Madelyn felt stupid. Was it possible the rat had not only heard of Big Brother but had also read about him? It couldn’t be, she told herself. She had a tee shirt, which she had worn only once, to a Fourth of July fireworks display. REDNECK AND PROUD OF IT! But she never could have imagined encountering a rat smarter than she was, a show-off, smart-ass rodent which, if it had a tee shirt, would probably read SMARTER THAN A REDNECK!
“But what does the rat have to do with Big Brother?” she asked.
“Heck and I made a remarkable discovery.”
“About Oxycontin,” he said.
“What about it?”
“Oxycontin is the diabolical means by which the American government is attempting to enslave us.”
“Yes, by eliminating all resistance to Big Brother.”
“But why are you prescribing it if it’s diabiblical?”
“Diabolical,” he corrected her. “Because the ends justify the means.”
Talk about ends and means always passed over her head, as it did now. She didn’t want to show her ignorance by asking him what he meant. She just looked at him blankly.
“I’ve discovered how to turn Oxycontin into Anti-Contin,” he explained.
“Yes, an antidote to Statism.”
“Statism?” Statism was not something she had heard of before.
“What the Democrats believe in. ‘That government is best which governs most.’”
“That’s right. But it won’t be much longer before I have enough money to manufacture it in Mexico.”
“Yes. I plan to open a clinic there.”
“But you’re not prescribing patients Anti-Contin now?”
“No, not yet.”
“What’s so special about it?”
“It’s derived from Heck’s urine.”
“Heck’s urine? Hoy shit!” she exclaimed.
Madelyn looked at the rat on the desk, at the kittens on top of the file cabinet, at her own fun-house reflection in the doctor’s thick Coke bottle glasses, asking herself whether this was a bad dream or, worse still, a drug induced hallucination. At the moment, she believed she possessed the ability to feel the agony of the people outside in the line, most of them, like herself, who didn’t understand means and ends or statism from Adam.
“A rat’s urine! That sounds disgusting,” she said.
“That’s what you all say.”
“All who are under the influence of Big Brother.”
“A rat’s urine! Yuck!”
“Not a rat’s urine. Heck’s urine.”
“What makes Heck’s urine so special?” she asked sarcastically.
“You could never guess,” he said, looking up at the photo of Hayek on the wall before pronouncing solemnly: “Heck now shares the DNA of the greatest mind of the twentieth century.”
“Up to now, I must have been blind as well as addicted.”
“What?” the doctor asked in disbelief. “You addicted, too?”
“What about the DNA business?” she asked.
“I obtained a lock of the Great One’s hair through extraordinary luck. If I wasn’t a man of science, I would say that providence had a hand in all this, even if it’s only the invisible hand.”
“The invisible hand?”
“The the invisible hand of the free market.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And neither did Oxy and Contin, who were mewing and walking in circles on top of the file cabinet. The doctor looked at his watch. “Madelyn, we have patients outside in the throes of Statism. They’re waiting for us.”
“I’m very much aware of them, Doctor,” she said, feeling very attuned to them as this moment.
Are you a Democrat?” he asked.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Excuse the non sequitur,” he apologized.
“ I’m not into politics,” she said.
“Whom did you vote for in the last presidential election?”
“Which presidential election?
“You didn’t happen to vote for the Black Big Brother, did you?”
“I don’t remember voting,” she said.
“You see, Heck, it’s the familiar vicious circle. One addiction leads to another, and people end up voting for Big Brother.”
There was the sound of loud male voices with unfamiliar accents in the outer office. Huck flicked his tail nervously and the kittens became even more agitated.
“Who’s out there?” the doctor shouted, bringing his little fist down hard on the desk. Panicked, the rat jumped off the desk and scrambled for a place to hide. Oxy overcame his fear of heights and jumped from the file cabinet and Contin instinctively followed him. A cat may always land on its feet but the kittens tumbled over when they painfully hit the floor.
Suspecting it was a robbery, the doctor shouted, “I demand to know who’s out there?” A tense looking man in a gray suit and a striped necktie appeared suddenly in the door to the office. Behind him, looking over his shoulder, stood a a square faced state trooper.
“Doctor Gudenoff?” the man in the suit asked.
“Yes, I am Dr. Gudenoff,” he answered defiantly.
“I’m Special Agent Smith with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.” He opened a wallet and flashed his DEA badge.
“Your Big Brother badge doesn’t impress me Special Agent Smith, do you understand?”
“This is Captain Porter of the State Police,” Smith said. “We have a warrant to search your clinic.”
“Oh, you, do you?” the doctor said contemptuously.
“Doctor, do you have a key to the closet in the outer office?” the trooper asked.
“No,” the doctor said sharply. “You’ll have to ask my office manager.”
Madelyn reached into her blouse pocket and took out the key. It was only then that she remembered where her purse with the Oycontin was. She kept a pair of galoshes in the locked closet. Last night she had heard about an imminent crackdown on the pain clinics. After she opened the clinic that morning, she had put her purse in the right galosh of the fur-lined pair she kept in the closet. What she was thinking as she handed the key to the trooper was that she might lose custody of Barbie when they discovered she had forged prescriptions. They would probably lock the doctor up for a long time. She had heard that it was the case with doctors that, with the complicity of their colleagues, who are eager to maintain the priestly status or their profession, that they got away with malpractice, if not murder. But she doubted the doctor would get away with his promiscuous prescribing of Oxycontin. In the time she had worked for him he must have prescribed as many pills as the McDonald’s sign said it had sold hamburgers. But what would they do to her for having forged prescriptions? At that moment of uncertainty, she would have given anything for an Oxycontin and so would Oxy and Contin, cowering in a corner, as would also the doctor and his pet rat, who were as hopelessly hooked on the drug as anyone in the town. The rest of the country was about to learn that it was ground zero of Oxycontin addiction in America.
When the doctor and Madelyn were ushered into the outer office by state troopers, Oxy saw his chance of escape. The front door was half open and he scooted for it, with Contin right on his tail and Heck not far behind.
“Your Big Brother badge doesn’t impress me Special Agent Smith, do you understand?”