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Fiction #3
(published Mid-year, 2000)
by Dean Bakopoulos

Some days my head feels like a lemon. All full of pulp and seed. And sour. I'm outside feeling like this when McGee, the old man next door, comes limping by my porch.

McGee has me thinking about lettuce-wrapped chicken. He's going to China Garden for lunch. My stomach rumbles and my tongue gets fat with hunger. But I can't go anywhere like this.

"Want to come?" he says.

"No. My head feels like a lemon."

"What's that like?"

"Fucks your appetite. Everything tastes like a lemon."

"I imagine," McGee says. "That my head looks like a prune, all wrinkly, eh? But it don't feel like a prune. It feels like a head."

"Well my head feels like a lemon. I can feel all the juice sloshing around and the seed stuck right behind my eyes."

"You okay, Harvey? You need a doctor? You ain't making sense."

"Oh, kiss off McGee. Go eat your Hong Kong Phooey."

"Okay then. Good day."

I'm a little hard on McGee, but I just came back from my brother's funeral a couple of weeks ago. So, you can see why I have some things on my mind. And the only way I can describe the way my head feels is just like that: Like a lemon.

Later, Doctor Steve is over. We're having a couple of tall, icy glasses of gin lemonade. He brought it over in a pitcher full of ice. Too hot for bourbon, he tells me. But gin lemonade? If he only knew.

Turns out he does.

"McGee tells me you ain't feeling right? What's the matter?"

"That old shitbird McGee might as well die right now if he ain't got anything better to talk about then how other people are feeling. Look Doc, if I needed an appointment I know where to get one."

"I'm not asking as a doctor. I'm asking as your friend."

"Okay. My head feels like a lemon. Okay? Is that what you're dying to know?"

"A lemon?"


"Not an orange or anything else, just a lemon?"

"Yeah, nothing too spherical, right? It's more oblong. A lemon. A lime maybe. No that's too green. I feel totally yellow. A tangerine would be kind of close."

"What do you mean Harvey? A lemon? I've never heard of this. Never ever."

"Okay. Don't sweat it. It's only been one day."

Doctor Steve is always worrying about me. Says I don't take care of myself, he says I should hit weed over liquor. Says I'd be in better shape. He says I'm bipolar, meaning I can't help my moods. And since Rosie and me spilt up, he thinks I'm getting worse.

"Better come into my office," he says.

"Do you think it's a tumor?"

"Now don't put words in my mouth," he says.

"Because it doesn't feel like a tumor. It's a lemon I feel like."

"I know. Is there any pressure? Pain?"

"Sure a little juice needs to leak out if you peel a lemon, right?"

"What are you taking for the pain?"

"I don't know, Doctor Steve. I had some pills. I had some weed. I had some drinks. I had some sadness in my life to overcome."

"Come on Harvey, let's roll one up. We better smoke this lemon thing out of your head."

It works. Doctor Steve and I smoke and smoke, we go through two fat joints. Doctor Steve said after medical school he tried and tried to get off the grass, but he couldn't take it. You should see him when we're done. Grinning like a boy at the ballpark on opening day. His eyes are puffy and red. He gets on my couch and falls asleep. You can act like that when you are the only doctor in town and half the time you don't charge people because you know they don't have the money.

I go into my bed. Around three in the morning I yell out, "I don't feel like a lemon anymore!" In the morning, maybe it's afternoon when I wake up, Doctor Steve is gone. My head feels normal again. I shake it from side to side and up and down, yawn and stretch and wish I felt this good everyday. Some sourness and pulp hangs between my ears and behind my eyes, and I sneeze and it dissipates.

Good old Doctor Steve. It's good to have friends like him. If I had known how little time he had left, I would've thanked him more properly.

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