The Stranger Elijah

Summer, 2004 / No. 12
Art by Ian Phillips
Ian Phillips

“Ill people may act not unlike a magician,” the doctor said. He wasn’t talking to me. “Their symptoms quickly evolve from the concrete to the mysterious.”

We sat inside that gleaming hole, how only four asses can sit and not rise. “Quickly evolve” could mean one second, or “quickly evolve” could mean twenty years. In magic, the eye is ahead of the body.

Dr. M. pulled on his thin little ponytail that curled around his neck and perched on his shoulder. He had a tight, white mouth that was made all for me. So why’d he speak to my father, not me? My mother, not me? The lady doctor, not me?

That lady, I felt her gaping at my face. Fuck it, she probably loved my pink craters—big bear and little bear over my brow. She didn’t smile; O.K., but she didn’t back down either. Whatever. I felt too funny to sit.

“Tara, sit down!” my father yelled.

God, I have a pain in the ass.

The actions of ill people—Dr. M. meant mentalized people—are like those of a magician’s. My face acts like the mask of my twin, and we both have the same blotch of crap in our eyes. See, what the doctor doesn’t know is that magic falls on the magician. Magic, it’s true, can just fall down one day. And magical vision is cultivated to precision in the exact time it takes to become an adept.

“Your big udders are what I got first,” Elijah said after he met me.

“She is an obsessional and digressional thinker,” Dr. M. said.

“I am just a naturally smart and voluptuous person,” I said.

I listen to the one who makes the most sense. Elijah told me: “You are a cave.” Then he entered the cave. Elijah’s the one who recorded me moaning. He offered me water, and wrote down my deeds.

The lady doctor and my mum gave each other some kind of eye.

“Tara is keeping something too strong inside her,” the lady doctor said. “You see those angry marks on her face. We have to cool the fire and dry the damp. We will accomplish this with herbs and energetic techniques.”

I groaned. Oh, God. Another fudge-healer. I bet she couldn’t touch open sores. I bet she was pregnant and thought I’d shrivel up her fetus. Or maybe she always had that soft, fatty gut.

Can a lady doctor understand that there’s only one way to get an egg from a chicken?

Hey, lady, it’s not through fucking that a chick takes in sperm!

It’s from thinking that sperm sites are inside of chickens!

“I wouldn’t be shy recommending Celexa for her,” Dr. M. said to my parents. “Our other, more conservative, option, of course, is Paxil.”

“Her liver meridian is blocked, and Paxil will tax the liver.”

Oh yeah, this lady doctor was a bit of a bitch. But probably she knew the secrets of Paxil. Its absolute spurts that take throat and cunt first. Paxil numbs membranes to stop new formations.

“I think we should try again, Tar,” my mother whispered.

The lady doctor swallows flax seed oil, and Dr. M. eats a lot of eggs. I bet Dr. M. drives a really fast car. There’s a fetus inside every egg, you know, Doctor, one that has to be born, even a clot. If you don’t like abortions, you shouldn’t eat eggs.

“O.K., folks, questions? ” Dr. M. asked the room.

“O.K., fucks, suggestions? ” I mimicked his shit.

My mother didn’t look at me. She hunched her shoulders. My father glanced over, then coughed messily. The lady doctor said (and she sounded kind of mad): “We need to talk about the liver from a T.C.M. perspective.”

I laughed out loud. Everything is loud. My inner ears have been centrifugally cleaned. Whatever they all say or don’t say, it doesn’t really matter now. Because even though I’ll be better soon, Elijah will still hear me think.

Tamara Faith Berger writes fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays. Her novel Queen Solomon was nominated for a Trillium Book Award. Her work has appeared in Apology, Canadian Art, and Canadian Notes and Queries. Last updated summer, 2021.