The Lifelong Friendship of Dr. Atwood and Jonas
by Edward Cress
I want to bring you a story, for once, of love and friendship, with a happy ending. I have been accused of having nothing but macabre stories to tell and I think this is an unfair assessment. I have plenty to say that is not morbid but warm and fuzzy. I am filled with smile-inducing tales. I will prove this with the following story, which I call “The Lifelong Friendship of Dr. Atwood and Jonas.” Ready? Good.
* * *
Dr. Atwood and Jonas meet for the first time in a Jewish delicatessen. Dr. Atwood orders a corned beef and tongue on rye, while the younger Jonas orders a frankfurter and a knish. Their only intercourse at the meeting is this: “Tongue? Don’t think I’m brave enough to try that.” Dr. Atwood smiles.
Their next meeting is far more substantial. It is years later and cities away. Both moved from New York to Chicago in 2001, thinking, “The buildings in New York are too tall, but I just would never make it in the country.” The only difference: in Dr. Atwood’s mind he called them “skyscrapers.”
They meet a second time in Dr. Atwood’s new office. He has just opened a private practice after working for years in a hospital.
“What seems to be the trouble today?” Dr. Atwood asks Jonas.
“I’ve been feeling a little under the weather.”
“I’d say that’s a good thing or you’d be up in the sky.”
Jonas does not laugh.
Annoyed by Jonas’ lack of personality, Dr. Atwood rushes through the check-up. Unfortunately, in his hurry he misses a lump in Jonas’ chest, and Jonas dies three years later of breast cancer. Jonas’ friends all find it very funny that a man could develop breast cancer. Who knew?
Jonas’ father knew, as he had been saved from breast cancer by his doctor twenty years earlier. His doctor was also named Atwood, but he was not related to the one in this story.
In a fit of rage, Jonas’ father hunts down his son’s physician — the Dr. Atwood that is in this story — and shoots him dead for failing to find the cancer in time. The end.
That is not the happy story I was looking for. Let me start again.
* * *
Dr. Atwood and Jonas meet for the first time at a Jewish delicatessen. Dr. Atwood orders a corned beef on rye, while the younger Jonas orders a hot dog with sauerkraut. Their only intercourse at the meeting is: “Sauerkraut, hm. I’ve never been a fan myself.” Jonas smiles.
Their next meeting is far more substantial. It is years later and cities away. Both protagonists move from New York to Seattle in 2001, thinking, “The buildings in New York are too tall, but I would just never make it in the country.” The only difference is that in his mind, Jonas calls it “a rural area.”
They meet a second time, when Dr. Atwood is driving home from the hospital. Neither man knows it, but this is the hospital where Jonas’ father died of breast cancer twenty years earlier.
Dr. Atwood is considering opening a private practice and finds it on his mind all the time. In fact, it is on his mind at the very moment he is driving home from the hospital. Not paying attention, he runs Jonas over, killing him instantly.
Jonas’ mother — a hard-hearted woman who has lost her husband and son before their time — vows revenge and murders Dr. Atwood and his family with a chainsaw in their sleep. The end.
That’s not right. Start again.
* * *
Their next meeting is much more substantial. It is years later and cities away. In 2001, the two protagonists move from New York to Omaha, thinking “I’ll give country life a try.”
They both start dairy farms and become the top competitors in Nebraska’s “Golden Udder” competition. Desperate to have his milk named the best in Nebraska, Dr. Atwood cuts Jonas’ brake line. The next day, Jonas is killed when his car fails to brake properly and slams into a wandering cow. Ironically, it is Dr. Atwood’s prize heifer, Mrs. O’Leary. Dr. Atwood does not win the competition either.
Having become a murderer for nothing, Dr. Atwood seals all the doors in his garage, climbs into his Subaru, and turns it on. The end.
That’s not right. I’ll start again.
* * *
In 2001, the two protagonists move to Fiji. Jonas joins a revolutionary group determined to overthrow the militaristic government of Bainimarama and is turned in to the authorities by Dr. Atwood. Jonas mysteriously dies in custody. In revenge, Jonas’ wife seduces Dr. Atwood and slits his throat post-coitus. The end.
No. I’ll start again.
* * *
They move to Antarctica and build igloos directly across from one another. While ice fishing one day, Dr. Atwood falls through the ice and Jonas leaps in to save him. Jonas dies of hypothermia three days later. His mistress avenges his death by burying Dr. Atwood alive in the snow. The end.
I’ll start again.
* * *
While ice fishing one day, Dr. Atwood is attacked by a polar bear. Jonas saves him but ends up getting mauled. His boyfriend ties Dr. Atwood to a sled and drags him until he is dead. The end.
* * *
The prostitute Jonas has not yet paid for his time rips Dr. Atwood to shreds with his bare hands, as Antarctic prostitutes are known to do. The end.
* * *
Dr. Atwood and Jonas meet for the first time at a sushi restaurant in Nagasaki in the summer of 1945.
* * *
Dr. Atwood and Jonas meet for the first time in New Orleans in 2005... but they immediately leave and arrive in White Plains, New York, which is a safe enough place for them to live but exciting enough to prevent them from taking their own lives out of boredom.
They live in a very soundly built apartment building across the hall from each other, but they keep very different schedules. Ironically, they never see each other and therefore have no reason to compete over milk quality.
The weather and landscape do not permit ice fishing, and, most importantly, neither of them joins a revolutionary group determined to overthrow the militaristic government of Bainimarama.
Jonas does not go to Dr. Atwood for a checkup. In fact, Dr. Atwood moves away, to Detroit. Jonas gets his checkup from his father’s doctor, who also happens to be named Atwood. Jonas is careful to remind him of his family’s history of breast cancer. This Dr. Atwood recalls having saved Jonas’ father from a case of breast cancer twenty years earlier.
“Don’t worry, Jonas. Breast cancer in men is rarer than the steaks they serve at Peter Luger’s.”
Jonas laughs and laughs and laughs at this play on words. He laughs so hard he tumbles off the exam table... But he does not land on the scalpel lying on the floor. He merely gets a bump on the head.
Dr. Atwood — the one giving him the checkup, who turns out to be in this story after all — is encouraged by Jonas’ good humor and discovers the breast cancer easily. Jonas undergoes a simple surgery but has a bad reaction to the anesthic, which the anesthesiologist easily fixes. Before long, Jonas is as good as new, although one mammary gland short. The end.
* * *
And there you have it. “The Lifelong Friendship of Dr. Atwood and Jonas.” It’s not very good. Not much happens and there is almost no conflict. The characters are two-dimensional, live securely, and live apart. But the point is that they live.
The idea of these two characters’ becoming lifelong friends is quite pleasant. They most likely live out their lives in the final scenario feeling a void of some sort, knowing there is supposed to be someone important missing in their lives.
Maybe they even somehow picture each other at the same times and wish that this person in their mind were real and could be their friend. It would be nice for all of us if Dr. Atwood and Jonas could be friends. However, some things are not meant to be.
Copyright © 2013 by Edward Cress