Dr. Ocho

by Nancy Natalicio

Niko felt awful.  He didn’t know what was wrong.  He felt a pain in his stomach and a pain in his head.  His dad said he just needed a hard day’s work in the sun.  His mom gave him chicken soup.  His grandmother gave him menudo.  His aunt gave him green tea.  His wife gave him a hard time.  Nothing helped.

 So Niko went to the doctor.  In fact, he went to seven doctors. After a while he couldn’t remember their names, so he gave them numbers.  Each one said something different.

 Dr. Uno said he had a stomach virus.  He gave Niko pills.

Dr. Dos said he had food poisoning.  He pumped Niko’s stomach.

Dr. Tres thought it was an ulcer.  He told him to eat mashed potatoes and dry toast.

Dr. Cuatro did an ultrasound.  He didn’t find anything, but he gave Niko herbs and vitamins just in case.

Dr. Cinco said it was in his head.  He sent him to a head doctor.

Dr. Seis asked a lot of questions but he didn’t have any answers.  He said, “Mmmm…very interesting,” and “How do you feel about your mother’s chicken soup?”  

 “I feel pain!” Niko said.  He wanted to scream, “Pain from the questions, pain from the pills, and pain from the doctors!” But he kept quiet.  Dr. Seis sent Niko to Dr. Siete for tests.

Dr. Siete made Niko look at cards with messy ink stains.  He made Niko read the letters of the alphabet out loud.  He made Niko count backwards by seven.  When the tests were over, Niko’s head hurt even more.  His stomach was in knots.  He didn’t know whether he or the doctor was more stupid.

Niko called his friend Beto.  Beto worked on the same line at the plant.  “Man, I’m sick, and nobody can help me.”

“Come on over,” said Beto.

Niko drove over to Beto’s house.  Beto was sitting on the steps drinking a Coke.

Niko sat down beside him. Niko liked Cokes, but he didn’t want one now.

“What’s up?” asked Beto.

 “I don’t know, man,” Niko said.  “I don’t feel good.  Things keep going wrong.   I left my car lights on last Monday.  The battery was dead the next morning.   I left the water running all night Tuesday after I washed the car.  Wednesday was O.K., but Thursday I forgot to pick up Susan after work.  Boy, was she mad!  My insides are dog meat.”

“I know what you mean,” said Beto.  “The last two months have been rough at work.  The boss is on my case.  I thought he was going to fire me yesterday, and I almost didn’t care.”

Niko was surprised.  “You, too?” he said.  He looked at Beto.  Beto was looking at the ground between his feet.  He looked like a hound dog with no rabbit to hunt.

“Beto, he gave me a warning last month,” said Niko.  “Told me I had one month to get my numbers up or he’d sack me. Said I wasn’t a ‘team player.’  I can’t tell Susan.”

“A week from Monday is the 31st,” said Beto.  “What are we gonna do?”

Niko and Beto sat and thought.  Both were quiet.  Both had quotas to fill at work.

Both needed their jobs.

Niko said, “You have such a good spot on the line, Beto.  I’d like to be taping and marking those boxes.”

“Yeah?  I think it’s a drag.  I hate writing.  I always wished I could do what you do.  I have a good eye for pulling bad cans,” Beto said.

Then it came to Beto.  “Hey, man!  Why don’t we trade jobs?  We make the same wage.  As long as we make the boss look good, he won’t care.”    

“Think we can get our numbers up in a week?” Niko asked.  But Niko had already made up his mind.

“It’s worth a try,” said Beto, excited.  Then he remembered.  “Hey, I’m sorry, man.  I forgot.  You came to talk about your stomach.” 

 “Doesn’t matter anymore,” said Niko.   “I feel much better.  Hey, Dr. Ocho, how about that Coke?”



© Unlimited Learning 2002