By Ariel Leal “Have a seat, Mr…-“
“Bridges. Clay Bridges,” I told the suave doctor. What a mistake that was. I should have known better to interrupt the good doctor. Worse yet, who was I to question the authority and intelligence of the world-famous Dr. RJ Shafty (MD)?
He chuckled innocently before tilting his glasses down and looking me dead in the eyes.
“Now, now, Mr. Bridges, you and I both know how this works and you really should wait for me to tell you what your name is.”
He was right. Here I was, foolishly salivating at the sight of the outline of his skin-covered scimitar and I couldn’t even give the man the respect he deserves.
“The results are in,” he stated, staring at the crisp, white sheets in front of him. With the rays of sunlight striking them just right from the crack in the curtains, I vaguely made out various pictures of Rodney Dangerfield, but what did I know? I’m not a doctor.
“As it so turns out, Mr. Bridges, you are not Michael Phelps.”
At this point, I spat out all the saliva I was collecting in my mouth onto the rich mahogany desk in front of me. Dr. Shafty didn’t even bat an eye but that was to be expected; after all, he’s a doctor and I bet he deals with saliva pretty often. Already, the memories I’ve had of swimming the English Channel for my daily routine began to fade. I wanted to say something, to object, to question him. I knew I was in no place to question a surgeon of his class (that’s the highest class, for the viewing audience).
“Bu-I…are…” I was frantic. I slipped out of the chair and fell onto the floor like some sort of slippery reptile and inched my body closer and closer to one of several mirrors Dr. Shafty rightfully owned. I picked my head up and used my teeth to try to adjust the only mirror that was touching the ground. Being that I am an idiot and not a doctor, the mirror fell on top of me, shattering into large, reflective shards. I winced and cried aloud in pain but stopped acting like a complete basket case when I saw the blood pooling around my waist. I turned back to the doctor as a child would to a parent after being recently betrayed.
“Is this not the blood of an Olympian? Is this not the very essence of life that flows through the veins of the God of Chlorine?” I had to ask. My willpower was simply not strong enough to withstand the invincible urge to question the credibility of a licensed medical practitioner.
“You are no better than Lochte himself. Do not dare to compare yourself to the Webbed-footed Prince of the Seas,” Dr. Shafty barked at me, kicking me in the bridge of my nose. This pain felt comforting and warm.
“Look, all I can offer are some brochures on how to continue having sex with your wife after this...mess. All I can say is good luck. It’s not every day that someone comes here to discover that they are not Michael Phelps. I can’t say I can empathize, because I would be lying. After all, I have all twenty-three of my gold medals in my colon right now. Now, please get the hell out of my office. You won’t be needing a follow-up so you’re free to go. Don’t forget to congratulate my secretary, Michael Phelps, on the way out.”
The words became increasingly muffled as they were spoken and I could feel my body get weaker and less aroused by water. All those birthdays spent trying to blow candles out in the water only to sob at the fact that they weren’t even lit to begin with became more difficult to remember. My skin was dry and leathery and it became nearly impossible to slither out of the door.
Sighing, Dr. Shafty opened the largest drawer on his desk and pulled out a glass vial of what could only be described as lubricant and walked over to me, pouring every last drop into my eyes.
I felt the life drain from my feet and after several hours of blissful oblivion, I began to awake to the voice of my wife.
“Honey? Please wake up. Please be okay.”
Brushing aside the apparently falsified memory of my eighteenth birthday, spent waterboarding Commies in Singapore, I fully regained consciousness.
“Sweetheart, I…I’ve got some bad news,” I said, choking on what little water was left in my dried trachea.
“What is it, my love? I’m sure it can’t be all that bad. I’m sure we can work through this together.” How naïve she was.
“The results are back and I…I’m not Michael Phelps.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, honey, everyone is Michael Phelps!”
“It’s true…a real-live licensed medically-trained physician informed me,” I said, with warm memories of that bearish doctor’s masculine visage.
“But, honey, what about the time you slayed the water demons from heck and earned your rightful title as Water Wizard Mickey Phelpo?”
“I-I can’t remember,” I mustered, with the sentiment of barbed wire piercing my soul.
I watched the love and passion drain from her suede, brown eyes and kind of weird looking pointy face. She grew silent and cold, to the point where her cells physically began to harden as the molecules of her body moved less and less. She was now ice. I understood she could no longer love me. My daughter ran in, accidentally shattering the ice sculpture that was once her mother but paying her no mind. Don’t blame her; she’s too young to understand.
“Dad! I’m so glad you’re okay. This means you still get to come to show-and-tell tomorrow, right? I can’t wait to help you endorse Subway!”
“Sweetheart, I…” I didn’t have the nerve to tell her. I laid there, crying out every last droplet of water that remained in this pathetic body of mine. I mustered every last bit of strength I had to pick up the mirror that conveniently sat beside me. Looking into the reflective surface of the gadget, I gazed into the eyes of disappointment and looked upon the face of a man who had nothing left to live for. I stared and stared and only the stranger, Ryan Lochte, stared back at me. Whoever this man was, he certainly was not Michael Phelps. As my body faded into the bed sheets, only a silver medal marked “First Loser, Ryan Lochte” was left behind.