Doctor Harvey Worthington had been lying awake for almost fifteen minutes. Since there was nothing better to do, he performed a self exam. He used a simple pinch and roll, a technique he found favorable. The brief joy he received was quickly overshadowed by the discovery of an extraneous bump. It felt like a pea had lodged itself in his scrotum, but he couldn’t remember eating any peas.
As soon as his fingers discovered the protuberance, he sat up, startling his wife Carol.
“What’s wrong?” she cooed.
“I have cancer,” the doctor replied.
“What do you mean?” Her voice showed both her concern and her desire for more rest.
“There’s a lump, down in my testicles. I have cancer.”
“You can’t possibly know that,” she tried to reassure while stifling a ferocious yawn that came out anyway.
“Carol, honey, I think I know when I have cancer. After all, I am a doctor,” he added matter-of-factly.
Carol rolled her eyes. Harvey was a doctor, something he pointed out to everyone he met. He was a doctor of philosophy, which he claimed was the truest of sciences.
“I’m sure it will be okay,” she muffled into her pillow.
“No, darling, it won’t be. I’m only giving myself two years, tops.”
Just as he spoke, the alarm began its annoying buzz, prompting him to feel his testicles again. This time, the lump felt more like a golf ball.
“It’s growing!” he cried, flinging off the sheets and revealing his naked body. He pulled his body up to his knees, his bulging sack hanging between his legs. “Look at this lump,” he shouted while pointing to the mass.
Carol glanced and said, “It looks fine to me.”
“Fine? It looks like I have three balls!”
She didn’t respond.
“How can you even think about sleeping at a time like this?”
“Because I’m tired.”
“I can’t believe you’re ignoring my impending death,” he said. He looked down again at the appendages between his legs. The lump was now the size of a tennis ball. “It’s growing by the second! It’s an exponential growth curve!”
“I’m so impressed by your mathematical abilities,” Carol said.
“Would you just look at the damn thing? I might be dead before the hour is over and all you can think about is a few extra minutes of sleep.”
Carol sat up again. “Testicular cancer is highly treatable. Over ninety-five percent of men are fully cured within a year. Very rarely is it fatal.”
“I can’t believe you aren’t taking this more seriously.”
Carol stared at his naked body and became playful. “Would you like me to examine it for you?” she said as she mounted him like a bronco.
“How can you even think about sex?” He gave her a forceful shove and reached for his robe, covering his naked body before Carol could see that his lump had grown as big as a grapefruit.
“Calm down, baby. You’re going to be fine. We’ll make a doctor’s appointment.”
“For heaven’s sake, dear. Why must you insist on belittling my own education?”
“Darling,” she said, “why must you insist that you are a doctor? You don’t know cancer. If you think you’re dying, you need to see a real doctor. A medical doctor.”
“Great. I’m dying and my wife thinks that I’m good for nothing.” Doctor Worthington marched toward the bedroom door.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to church. I need to start working on saving my soul.”
“You’re ridiculous,” she uttered before he completed his exodus.
On his way out of the bedroom Doctor Worthington took a glance at the now cantaloupe-sized lump and fell to the ground. The crash rattled the windows.
Doctor Worthington tried to cover the lump, but the robe wouldn’t quite fit. The bedroom door pulled open and out came Carol.
“What are you doing on the floor?”
“Take me to the emergency room,” the embarrassed doctor said.
“Are you hurt?”
“I have a watermelon growing out of my ballsack and I can’t stay on my feet. Go start the car.”
“Honey, don’t you think you’re exaggerating slightly? Other than looking a bit like a buffoon, you look fine.”
The doctor didn’t understand how his wife could be so cavalier.
“Just get the damn car running before we won’t fit inside anymore.”
“Fine,” she said as she went back in the bedroom to dress.
Doctor Worthington pulled himself to his feet. He held the lump between his legs while leaning on the banister. The doctor descended the stairs, wincing with each step. A few minutes later, his wife passed him.
“Aren’t you going to put something else on?”
“This is fine. They’re just going to make me get naked anyway. Look, now. It’s as big as a chair.”
Carol shook her head and left him behind. A few minutes later, he flopped down in the backseat of the car, carefully dragging his furniture-sized scrotum behind him.
“What the hell are you doing back there?” Carol asked.
“I don’t think I’ll fit in the front,” he moaned.
Carol drove him to the hospital, hitting several bumps along the way.
During the car ride, the lump grew so big that it got stuck on the way out of the car. It barely fit through the double wide automatic doors to the ER, scraping on the cold metal edges as he entered.
Doctor Worthington was greeted with a stack of forms. The receptionist asked him what he felt on the pain scale. The doctor was disgusted.
“Seriously? Look at this lump.” He opened his robe and showed his naked body to the nurse.
“Sir, please cover yourself up and answer our questions.”
While trying to close the robe the best he could, the doctor muttered, “It doesn’t really hurt so much as it is just inconvenient.” Now that he thought about it, he wondered why it didn’t hurt, especially given how much it stretched out the soft tissues of his scrotum and forced so much extra weight to tug at his testicles.
“Okay, Mr. Worthington, have a seat.”
“It’s Doctor,” he corrected.
“Yes, a doctor will be with you shortly.”
He would’ve argued, but he really needed to find a good seat to rest himself.
“This is so embarrassing,” his wife muttered, her hands hiding her face.
“Ha. You’re embarrassed? What about me?” He found an open row of seats to rest his lump. He begrudgingly picked up a copy of People Magazine because The Economist was too far away to drag his body.
Doctor Worthington flipped through the magazine four times, stopping to read a few captions here and there. As he opened the cover a fifth time, his name was finally called.
“Mr. Harvey Worthington,” a blonde nurse said, “the doctor will see you now.”
He thought about making a joke about seeing himself, but he wasn’t really in the mood.
He tried to stand, but the weight of the now horse-sized lump prevented him from moving.
“Could I get a wheelchair?” he asked.
“Okay,” the nurse said with mild uncertainty. She looked at Carol who shrugged in return. Carol asked Harvey if she wanted him to come with him to the room. He told her it was best she not. She shrugged and picked up a magazine.
The nurse returned a moment later with a wheelchair.
“Do you have any of those double wide ones?” Harvey wondered.
“Let’s see if this one works for you first,” the nurse said.
Harvey sat down reluctantly, his lump spilling off the chair and dragging on the floor as the nurse pushed him to the room. He was impressed by her ability to push him so easily.
“Here you go, Mr. Worthington,” she said when they arrived at the room. She squeezed him and the lump through the doorframe. “The doctor will be here shortly.”
He already is, thought Harvey. The nurse handed him a gown and left. He saw no point in putting it on.
The room was so small that Harvey immediately began to feel claustrophobic. He felt like he was being swallowed, and he knew the lump would burst through the walls at any moment.
Harvey waited for at least ten minutes. If the doctor didn’t get there soon, either the room or Harvey would surely explode.
Just as the pressure of the lump squeezing against the walls became unbearable, the doctor burst through the door. Harvey’s lump spilled into the hallway.
“So, Mr. Worthington, I hear you have a lump,” the doctor said while staring at a chart.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m Dr. Andrews. Would you please take off your robe so I may have a look?”
Harvey looked at him blankly.
“Don’t be shy, Mr. Worthington,” Dr. Andrews said, “I’ve seen it all.”
Harvey dropped his robe and stood naked. The doctor moved closer to inspect the lump, somehow avoiding the sack as he worked.
“Yes, yes, I see,” Dr. Andrews muttered as he fondled Harvey’s lump.
“Well, what do you see?” Harvey asked.
Dr. Andrews took off his glove. The glove snapped as it came off, and the doctor responded to the snap by saying, “You have a lump, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary?” Harvey cried. “Are you kidding? It’s taking over the hospital. Can’t you cut it off?”
“I’m afraid that would do more damage than you’d probably like,” the doctor said.
“Well, what is it?” Harvey wondered. By now, the lump had filled the hallway.
“It’s called a varicocele. Some people refer to it as a bag of worms.” Dr. Andrews scribbled something on the chart.
“That’s it? A giant bag of worms is taking over my body? Are they eating me from the inside?” Harvey felt a bit faint.
“More than twenty percent of men have them. They don’t serve any serious problems. You might experience a twinge of pain, and it’s possible that it affects your fertility. The surgery is rather invasive and not recommended. I wouldn’t worry about it at all,” Dr. Andrews said. With those words, he stepped over the massive lump and disappeared into the hallway.
Harvey sat down in the wheelchair and wheeled himself back into the waiting area. He could feel patients and nurses staring at him as he looked for Carol.
“What’re you doing, Harvey?” his wife cried.
“I’m leaving. These people are idiots here.”
“Where’s your robe?” she cried.
“What’s the use? It won’t fit over the lump.”
“Let’s get out of here before you get arrested,” Carol said in a panic. She walked swiftly out of the hospital and to the car. The lump trailed behind. It was still in the waiting room when the couple was almost to the car, blocking the doorway and forcing several ambulances to wait.
Carol unlocked the car and got in. She didn’t bother asking Harvey what the doctor said. Harvey wondered how he was going to get the lump inside. He wondered if he could just break it off by slamming the car door on it. As Carol started the car, Harvey got an idea. He grabbed the lump and started to roll it up like a hose. It became more and more compact until he could squeeze it into the backseat.
Carol ranted almost the whole way home about how embarrassed she was. Harvey tuned her out as he wondered how he would ever get into his pants again.
“What am I going to do?” Harvey moaned in the back.
“I don’t know, but you’d better figure it out in the next few months,” Carol replied.
“Why’s that?” Harvey asked knowing he probably wouldn’t be around that long.
“Well, honey, this may be a bit of a surprise, but we’re pregnant!”
Harvey’s eyes met Carol’s briefly in the rearview. Then he looked back at the lump and the gray hairs surrounding it. For a brief moment, the lump seemed a little smaller as Harvey realized he had bigger problems on his hands.
Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His story “The Oaten Hands” was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing. Visit him atwww.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm
© 2012 Nathaniel Tower