Hunting_Tree_4

“Has it been two years now? Well good for you,” Sherry congratulated Melanie.

“Yeah, thanks. I quit just after Christopher,” Melanie admitted.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I never made the connection,” said Sherry. She reached across the small table and touched Melanie’s hand.

“It’s okay,” said Melanie. “I mean it’s as okay as it will ever be, I think.”

“You’re so strong,” said Sherry. “And you’re doing such a great job with the kids.”

“Oh,” Melanie laughed and wiped a small tear from the corner of her eye, “I don’t know about that.”

“Sure you are,” consoled Sherry. “Considering everything?”

“Susan is just so difficult,” said Melanie. “Everything is a fight with her. School, friends, how she dresses, when did twelve-year-olds get so mature?”

“It’s just different now,” said Sherry.

“I’m worried about Davey, too,” said Melanie.

“Why, what’s going on with Davey? He seems so healthy and happy.”

“He is, most of the time,” said Melanie. “He’s really good at sports, he plays soccer, and baseball, and hockey if I can still afford it next year. He’s got a million little girlfriends too. He’s one of the most eligible third-graders,” she smiled.

“So what’s wrong?” Sherry prodded.

“You remember how clumsy Christopher could be?” asked Melanie.

“How could I forget? You remember that party at the Peterson’s?”

“Oh, I did forget about that,” laughed Melanie. “I think I was probably half sloppy drunk.”

“You were all drunk, but he was the sloppy one. I had shrimp in my hair, one in my bra, and,” Sherry paused to catch her breath between laughs, “I shit you not, I found one down the crack of my ass when I got home.”

“Oh my god,” Melanie was breathless from laughing. “He was such a klutz at parties.” Melanie dabbed her eyes with her napkin. “I told him one time that that was why I drank so much when we were out.” Her laughter slowed as her memories cascaded. “I miss him so much.”

“It gets easier,” Sherry squeezed Melanie’s forearm. “I promise.”

“Davey reminds me of him so much,” whispered Melanie. “When he’s involved in something, like sports, he’s just so agile and graceful. Then you see him trying to carry his dinner plate to the table and he looks like he has Parkinson’s or something. Dr. Innes says he’s fine, but I worry.”

“Does he have vision problems, or headaches or anything?” asked Sherry.

“No,” Melanie considered, “not that he admits to, at least. The doctor asked him that, I’m sure.”

“Well you remember years ago, Julie’s son? Did you know the Kim’s?” Sherry asked, but didn’t wait for a response, “They took their son in because he had double vision, and he had cancer.” She lowered her voice by the end, not wanting to broadcast such a powerful word.

“That’s horrible,” said Melanie. “No, I didn’t know them. How did they find out?”

“The optometrist sent them to a specialist. I can get his name for you. Better safe, you know?”

“Please do,” said Melanie.

 

#####

 

“Well, Mr. Hunter,” the doctor said, kneeling in front of Davey. “I heard that you did extraordinarily well in our little torture chamber.”

“I guess,” said Davey. He held his video game tight, and looked down at it longingly, knowing he was forbidden to play it until he was back in the waiting room.

“Why don’t you go sit with the lovely ladies of reception while Mom and I talk a bit?” prompted the doctor.

“Okay,” said Davey. He slid down from the bench and headed for the door. Melanie stopped him to fix his collar, put his tag back inside his shirt, and smooth his tussled hair. She wiped a gray smudge from the back of his neck and patted him on the back.

“I’ll be right out, okay?” asked Melanie.

“Okay,” Davey repeated. He pulled the door handle and tripped on his own feet, slamming the door shut before he could squeeze through. Davey took a resigned breath before re-opening the door and exiting the examination room.

When he had clicked the door shut behind him, Dr. Chisholm turned to Melanie and smiled. His face bore the lines of a million smiles, but his grey hair and grey teeth were stained yellow. Melanie found the doctor creepy in a way she couldn’t quite pin down and she pegged him for a closet smoker.

His smile disappeared as he began reviewing Davey’s case. “I wanted to speak with you one-on-one, instead of ganging up on you with the radiologist, Ms. Hunter. Those guys are notorious hedgers.”

“Okay,” she inhaled.

“Oh, he’s fine,” he flashed another yellowing smile, “you’ve got that near-panic look I was trying to avoid.”

“Oh,” she said without committing.

“CT scans were all perfectly clean. Nothing to indicate the need for an MRI – no tumors or growths,” the doctor explained.

“Good,” she nodded her head.

“Yes, very good. But there are some interesting things about Davey,” he continued.

“Yes?” she tried to concentrate on what he was saying, but her mind wanted to return to his “clean” comment, she wanted to be sure he meant that Davey didn’t have cancer.

“We might want to play around with some genetic testing. These would be diagnostic tests simply used to rule out any genetic or chromosomal conditions.”

“Wait, can I just ask you something?” asked Melanie.

“Yes, of course.”

“So, he doesn’t have cancer, or a brain tumor?” she asked timidly.

“No,” he stated decisively. “To the best of our ability to screen such things non-invasively, he doesn’t. Nor does anything about his behavior suggest to me that we should be looking harder.”

“Oh good,” exhaled Melanie.

“But he does have some interesting traits that I think warrant further investigation,” said Dr. Chisholm.

“Such as?” Melanie’s inquisitive, analytic nature began to surface.

“Well, there’s the situational clumsiness – as you mentioned,” he ticked off one finger. “He has extraordinary eyesight, hearing, short-term memory, intelligence, and concentration,” said the doctor.

“You got all that from the past half-hour?” asked Melanie.

“Well, some,” said the doctor. “I tested his hearing and eyesight, just to verify the results from the neurologist. I asked Davey to read this page of numbers and words when we began today’s examination, and you were here at the end when he was able to recall ninety percent of this list,” he held up the page.

“Is that unusual?” asked Melanie.

“My key only goes up to the ninety-eighth percentile,” said Dr. Chisholm. “So, yes, that would make Davey about the most unusual boy I’ve examined.”

“Hmmm,” Melanie pursed her lips, not sure what to do with this information. She always knew Davey to be bright, but nothing from his school had ever indicated this level of superiority.

“The notes from the radiologist were very interesting, too,” said the doctor. He flipped open Davey’s chart to the appropriate page and handed Melanie the document.

He pointed to one passage and then read it aloud for her – “When prompted to ‘sit tight,’ Davey sat ABSOLUTELY motionless. We had never seen anything like it – he looked like a statue. We read from his chart that he has exhibited clumsiness and uncoordinated motor control. This is hard for us to believe based on our experience.”

“I called this operator,” the doctor tapped the page, “these notes are not what I expect to find in a professional communication. I didn’t understand what he meant until I told Davey the same thing earlier. He has the ability to turn his body to stone – you wouldn’t know something was alive in there. That’s what I mean about his extraordinary concentration.”

Melanie squirmed in her seat, she was ready to get home and forget about how extraordinary her son had become. “So, you said something about more tests?” she prompted.

“There’s one more thing,” said Dr. Chisholm. “Davey’s extremely developed for a boy his age.”

“Pardon?”

“We call it ‘precocious puberty,’” explained the doctor. “The absolute earliest we expect to see any signs of puberty in a boy is about nine. Any earlier and we’re looking for the cause. Now, personally, I’ve seen boys growing up in a house without a father can sometimes begin a little earlier. Davey is unusually early.”

“He’s just about to turn nine – he’s just a boy,” argued Melanie.

“Not for long,” said the doctor. “I think we just need to do some more tests to see if we can pin down the cause, but I’d say he started puberty months ago, at least. We’ve ruled out brain tumor, but I’d like to get him one more CT scan to look for any testicular tumors. I’ve already got the blood and urine samples, but I’ll send those out for hormone tests as well.”

“What does this mean? What do I do?” asked Melanie.

“I’d like to try to figure out the cause before we start to suggest a course of action. If there’s an underlying cause, we’ll treat that and hope the puberty slows. If there’s not, then we may decide he needs hormone therapy to counteract the environmental or genetic influences.”

“This can be genetic?”

“In about five percent of cases in boys it comes from the father or maternal grandfather,” explained Dr. Chisholm. “Let’s not jump to conclusions. I’ll get all these tests and you can schedule a follow-up with reception.”

“Okay,” said Melanie, rising tentatively.

“We’ll figure this all out, Ms. Hunter. Please remember, we haven’t found anything really wrong with Davey. If anything, he seems to be a outstanding specimen.”

Dr. Chisholm smiled again; Melanie felt a chill.

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