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Chekhov’s Gun

The following is an excerpt of Shelly Lowenkopf's story in Volume 7, Oh, Fortuna! which is available for purchase on Amazon or through our bookstore.

A long, boring commute to the Actors Home Medical Center in Calabasas, but their favorable copay made the trip worthwhile. The woman who stood before Bender in the waiting room looked shrunk down from the dozens of her screen performances. Bender knew better. Cameras and her acting abilities gave Eileen Rich height.

“What a brave thing to do,” Eileen Rich said. “So obvious you’re having fun with it.” Childlike mischief skip-danced into her smile. Further disarming him, she touched his hand. “You bring gravitas to wearing a chicken costume. Really a nice touch. So sorry we had to meet in a place like this.”

Bender nodded his thanks, fought the impulse to open this into a conversation. Eileen Rich, recognizing him. “Mr. Bender? I want to tell you—” Her hand on his. Would he ever get this opportunity again? Gravitas. Him in the chicken suit. Holy fuck.

Last thing to do in an accidental meeting, tell someone of her stature how much you admire her work. Worse yet, ask why she’s there.

A nurse tapped a thick file folder with his name on it, even had a miniature head shot of him. She nodded toward a bank of consultation rooms. “Ready for you in there.” Eileen Rich, back to looking tall again, smiled farewell.

Bender followed the nurse until a scrawny knob of a man, well into his eighties, grabbed his attention when he pumped his folded arms in an exaggerated mime of a chicken, flapping its wings.

“Hey,” Bender said. “That’s—”

The nurse said, “I see you recognize—”

“Efrem Bloom,” Bender said. “Efrem Bloom.”

“Honey,” the nurse said, “we get ‘em all here. And now, we got you. Cluck cluck.” She opened the door to a consultation room, motioned him to enter.


“You will please be seated.” A wispy woman, too small for her white lab coat, greeted him. The name, stitched over her upper pocket, J.S. Goldfarb, M.D. This agreed with the faux-brass nameplate he saw on the desk.

“I am Dr. Goldfarb, your assigned oncologist.”

Bender couldn’t suppress an “Uh?” that Dr. Goldfarb diagnosed at once. “Jnanada Srinavasian Goldfarb,” she said. “Goldfarb and I met as interns together at L.A. County General. Our families approved of the marriage. His because they thought I look Sephardic.”

“And yours?”

She tapped her embroidered name. “At least he’s a doctor.”

“If I’m assigned an oncologist,” Bender began, “that means I have cancer.”

“Well—” Dr. Goldfarb said.

“Either I have cancer or I don’t.”

“To be sure, you have cancer. But—” Her brows scrunched like caterpillars on warm pavement.

“Then what’s with the uncertainty?”

She scanned his chart. “I’m thinking I’ve seen you before.”

“Maybe you saw me in King Lear.”

Dr. Goldfarb shook her head. “I’d certainly remember King Lear. So dear to us in India. Remarkable similarities to our Bhagavad-Gita and Ramayana.” She shrugged India aside. “Back to cancer, with its four stages, represented by Roman numerals. Stage I, the tissues have begun to spread, you see. When they break through the membrane covering the affected area—” She paused. “Why am I associating you with chicken?”

Bender sighed. “And waffles.”

Dr. Goldfarb’s patina of detachment cracked into smile lines about her eyes and mouth.

“Chick’n Waf,” she said. “Of course. A great favorite of my husband. I can’t wait to tell him you are my patient.”

“About my cancer,” Bender said.

“Yes, of course,” Dr. Goldfarb said.

Bender admired the way her detachment forced her smile off stage.

“We find ourselves at a crossroads here,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation like this.”

To read the rest of "Chekov's Gun" please purchase Volume 7 from Amazon or via our bookstore.

Shelly Lowenkopf

Shelly is a writer (short stories, novels, essays, and reviews), editor (books and magazines), and teacher (graduate level, undergraduate, and adult) who lives in Santa Barbara. He has learned from first-hand experience how much more difficult it is to write books that have been sold before they were written than to sell books that have already been finished. For this and other reasons, he has been called an ironist.

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