The Doctor Who Lived On Parlor Street (Short Story)

The doctor who lived on Parlor Street did not approve of the way things were. He could find fault where others couldn’t and every morning over breakfast he would complain to his wife and young daughter about all of the things he found wrong with the world.

“The cost of living is too damn high.”

“The politicians are driving our country into the ground.”

“These eggs are too runny.”

And so on.

One day he was out for a walk and saw two boys playing frisbee in the street when a car came roaring by without slowing down. The driver barely gave the boys enough time to escape to the safety of the sidewalk and nearly ran one of them over.

“People don’t look out for one another,” the doctor added to his lists of complaints the following morning.

That night, while he was tucking his daughter into bed, she sat up and asked him, “Dad, if you think there’s so many things wrong in the world, why would you ever want to be a doctor?”

The doctor smiled softly and sat down on the bed beside her. “My dear,” he said, “the fact that I see something wrong in everything is precisely why I should be a doctor.” He breathed deeply and said, “My child, one day you’re going to grow up and start seeing things differently than you do now: the trees won’t seem as green, the sky not as endless, the food not as sweet. You’ll start seeing the gray, the imperfections, and sometimes, at dark times you hopefully won’t experience for long, it’ll seem like that’s all there really is to see. That’s not a bad thing; that’s just life.” He was quiet a moment. “And then you’ll ask yourself, ‘Why aren’t things the way they were before? Why can’t they go back to when they were good?’ and it’ll be because you’ll have come to expect them to be a certain way, and remember them as such. But they won’t go back, no matter how hard you look at the trees or stare into your melting ice cream.”

“I don’t understand,” his daughter said quietly.

“I know you don’t, my child,” the doctor said. “But doctors do. We see the problems in the world and we try to fix them as best we can in our own way. Our contributions seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but still we keep trying, trudging along, hoping that the people we help will be able to see the color for as long as they are able. Miracles aren’t doled out easily, after all.”

His daughter didn’t respond quickly. She seemed to be thinking. “Do you think it’s possible to still see the color even once it’s gone away, or is it gone forever?” and then with a touch of fearfulness to her voice, she added, “Do you ever still see the color?”

“Of course I do, my child!” the doctor beamed at her. “I see it when I take a sip of the perfect cup of coffee, I see it when I play golf and sink a hole-in-one, and I see it when I tell your mother a joke that makes her laugh.” He thought a moment. “You just… need to look a bit harder for it. That’s all. It’s there. It’s always still there. It’s just hiding a bit, waiting for you to find it.”

His daughter seemed to like that. She smiled before yawning deeply and lying down in her bed. “Goodnight, dad,” she said as she drifted off.

“Goodnight, my child,” the doctor said as he walked from the room, taking with him the color he’d found in his daughter’s soundly sleeping face and adding it to his, up until now, otherwise colorless day. “And thank you.”

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