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Charlie Keys Bohem and Les Bohem

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thecure.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees 2014

The Cure

 

by Charlie Keys Bohem and Les Bohem

 

Peter sat on an examination table that was kind of cold, even through his Levis. There were X-rays of his head up on a computer monitor. His mother and his father and a doctor named Doctor Ross who had said that Peter could call him Gerry were there. The grown-ups looked at each other but didn’t speak. 

There was a poster on the wall. Pioneers of modern medicine. Peter got off the table and went over for a closer look at the poster. He found Alexander Fleming, which is who he was looking for.

“That’s Alexander Fleming,” he said to Gerry. “He discovered penicillin.”

“He did,” Gerry said.

“I’m doing my science fair project on molds.”

Then Peter’s father came over and put a gentle hand on his shoulder.  Peter liked his father’s gentle hands.

“Honey,” his father said to his mother, “why don’t you and Peter go get the car? I have to ask Dr. Ross a few questions… about our insurance.”

Peter turned to Gerry. 

Gerry nodded. Peter’s mother came over to him and said, “Come on, honey.” The two of them left the room. Something was making his mother sad and he wondered if it was something about their insurance or about something else.

-----

Thumb-tacked to the wall in the garage in Peter’s house was a print out from a web site about Alexander Fleming. It was the same picture that was used in the poster in Gerry’s office. Next to it was a poster board for a science project. Peter had printed out the words “Medicinal molds” in bold, big letters. His mother had set up a work-station for him and he was sitting there now, scraping some mold from a very old peach into a Petri dish.  There were several other Petri dishes and jars of things that had gone moldy on the table in front of him.

His mother and father were in the doorway. Peter’s father sounded angry. “Look at this mess,” he said. “You’ve taken over the whole garage.”

“It’s all right, honey,” Peter’s mother said. “I’ll clean up when Peter’s... done.”

There was another one of those silences. There had been a lot of silence ever since they’d come home from Gerry’s office.

“What are you trying to show in your project, buddy?” Peter’s father asked, and Peter could tell he was trying to act as if he’d never been angry.

“Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in moldy bread. My thesis is that there are other molds that do other things.”

He saw his mother and father exchange a small smile. The kind of smile grown-ups always have when kids use big words like “thesis.” But even their smile looked sad and Peter wondered why that was.

“You grew some molds,” his father said. “now, how are you going to prove that they can do anything?”

Peter looked at his father. He had no idea. “I don’t know,” he said.  He felt defeated. “I can’t start another project. The science fair’s tomorrow and I’m tired and I’ve got a headache.” 

Peter’s mother and father looked at each other and it got all silent again. Then Peter’s father made himself smile. “Don’t worry, buddy,” he said. “Just finish your display. I’m sure Mr. Varga will love it.” And he turned to Peter’s mother, who for some reason looked as if she were going to cry. “Come on, let’s let Peter get back to work.”

After they left the garage, Peter continued to work. He scraped the rest of the peach mold into a Petri dish. Another mold into another dish. As he moved to a third mold and a third dish, his hand slipped and he cut his finger with the mold-covered scalpel. It didn’t really hurt, but it was going to make a mess. He sucked the blood from the cut, and as he did, he looked up at the picture of Alexander Fleming, a man who had saved so many lives.

-----

A month later, he was back on the examination table in Gerry’s office.  His father had called it a follow-up physical. Peter couldn’t remember ever having a follow-up physical before. Gerry had another X-ray up on his computer and he was staring closely at it while Peter’s parents waited in a different kind of silence from the sad silence that Peter was now almost used to.

“Am I going to get a penicillin shot?” Peter asked.

“No,” Gerry said. “Not today. Hey, that reminds me, how did your science project go?”

“It was great,” Peter said. He looked at his mother. “My teacher really likes my thesis.”

He saw that familiar “big word” smile on Gerry’s face now. “What was your thesis?”

“That if penicillin was from a mold and it did all the things it did, then maybe other molds could do other things.”

Gerry nodded, smiled a little. He looked at Peter’s parents.  “Completely gone,” he said. “I have no explanation.”

Peter didn’t know what he was talking about, but whatever it was, it made both of his parents smile.

-----

“Time to throw this out,” Peter’s mother said.

Peter and his parents were in the garage, looking at the science project sitting on the work-table where they had put it after they brought it home after the fair.

“Can’t I keep it?”

“The science fair’s over,” his father said.

“I know, but I worked so hard on it.”

“That’s all right, honey,” his mother said. “You can do another one next year.” Something about that idea seemed to make her very happy. So happy that, out of nowhere, she wrapped him in a big hug.

When the hug was over and she finally let him go, Peter said, “Okay.  We can throw it out I guess.”

His father picked up the project; the board, the display, the moldy Petri dishes. They walked outside and he went with his father while he carried it all to the trash. Something slipped from the board and rattled to the ground. 

“I guess we better throw this out too,” Peter said, handing it to his father. It was a scalpel, the one that Peter had cut himself with when he was transferring the molds to their dishes. His father took it from him and dropped it into the trash.






Les Bohem is a screenwriter by day.  He wrote A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5, The Horror ShowTwenty Bucks, (with his dad) Daylight, Dante’s Peak, The Alamo, Kid, Nowhere To Run, The Darkest Hour and the mini-series, Taken which he wrote and executive produced (with Steven Spielberg.) and for which he won an Emmy award.   He used to play bass with the band, Sparks, back in the day, and had his own band, Gleaming Spires, as well.  He has had songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Freddy Fender, Steve Gillette and Alvin (of the Chipmunks.)  His short stories have appeared in some rather embarrassing men’s magazines, in a few horror anthologies, and most recently on Derek Haas’ site, Popcorn Fiction, where two of his short stories, “DMT” and “Honeymoon” have been optioned and will hopefully be coming to a theater near you soon.  Les is presently developing his series, Shut Eye, for FX and is at work on a series about the Outlaw Country movement produced by Willie Nelson.   His short novel, Flight 505, will be published by UpperRubberBoot this fall.


 


 


Charlie Keys Bohem has been previously published on Popcorn Fiction, where his short story, “A Day at the Office” was so popular that it ran for a month, rather than the usual week.

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