The Story:

“Would You Like to Give Me Fifty-Five Dollars Now?”


Sitting in the front seat of her old car, Sondra feels Katie, Mark’s girlfriend, breathing down her neck. Katie squeals, “We can’t miss the movie, Mark. I have been waiting all month to see it. I swear if we miss it….”

“We won’t miss it, Katie. Now just chill.” Mark turns to his sister, “so, how long do you think you will be in there?”

“This is Dr. Vernon, my psychiatrist, so it will be short” Sondra answers him as she looks out the window. She wonders if her brother will ask her if she wants to go see the movie with them. Although he should, everyone in the family is supposed to be keeping her occupied, she knows he won’t. Ever since what she calls her accident, he acts awkwardly around her. They were once the best of friends, but now, he can’t stand to even look her in the eye, let alone be in the same room with her for more then five minutes.

“Oh. You mean your dealer?” Mark laughs at his own joke that no one else finds funny, so he just moves on, “Okay, sorry. Well, anyhow that will give me enough time to drop you home and get us to the movie theatre, okay Katie? Did you hear that? We have enough time”, Mark says to his girlfriend as he looks at her in the review mirror. She must have rolled her eyes at him because he gave her that “what do you want from me look” he has been giving her ever since Sondra came home. Katie answers with a spoiled sigh.

Sondra continues looking out the window and Mark just drives on in silence. Katie tries to turn on  the radio from the back seat, but Mark quickly hits her hand away from the stereo knob. Sondra turns and sees Katie give him a puppy dog look as she says, “ouch”. Mark sighs and says, “That didn’t hurt”.

They finally pull up to the psychiatrist’s office and Mark asks, “Sondra, should we …uh…go in with you or…” Sondra looks at her brother and tries to make contact with his hazel eyes. He adverts his gaze and she answers his brown hair, “No, I’ll be fine”. Sondra closes the door. Katie jumps in the front seat and lunges for the radio. She can see Mark laughing and Sondra smiles. Then sadness starts tugging at her like an attention-starved child. She wonders why her brother can’t laugh with her anymore. She misses his laugh because it is so contagious. Sometimes Mark would start laughing and then she would start laughing. They would both be laughing so hard because the other is laughing, they would forget what they were laughing at in the first place. Now he either runs from her or uses Katie like a protective shield. All Sondra wants is her brother slash best friend back. But now he is too afraid of her. Suicide attempts do that to people.

Sondra opens the door to the doctor’s office and the receptionist greets her with, “Dr.Vernon is just a bit behind schedule today. He will be with you in just a few moments.” Great! She shakes her head and picks up a three month old copy of some entertainment magazine. After a few minutes, Mary interrupts her reading to tell her the doctor will see her now.

Walking to the office, she notices for the first time how cheap the wood paneling is in this office. Sondra wonders if all his patients get treated like drug addicts and maybe that is why his décor is so cheap. In a way, that makes Sondra feel dirty and wrong for needing Zoloft.

His office door is open and he is sitting in a shabby brown chair. His sweater vest and gray beard makes her think of her Grand pop Miller, but as soon as he opens his mouth to tell her to come in, the kind Grand pop image shatters.

“So, how are you today” looking at his notes in the folder, “Sondra”.

 “I’m fine. I had that dream again. You know the one with the campfire?” She looks at her doctor and she can tell he isn’t listening. He is scribbling her prescription down. She knows he isn’t the one to bring this stuff up to, but for some reason she craves his opinion.

“Oh, the one where everyone is sitting around…” he trails off.  He tries to be a kind man and pretends to listen. She hates how much she needs him to pay attention. She continues, “Yeah, but this time there is another site I didn’t see before and some guy is waiting for me. Do you think it means anything?”

He coughs and scribbles some more. Then he looks over at the clock. She giggles to herself realizing she spends more time in the waiting room, then in his office. He sputters out, “I’m not sure. I will need some time to really think about it and discuss it with your psychologist. But for now, here is your prescription. Would you like to give me fifty-five dollars now?”

She sighs as she reaches in her bag for the money. They exchange goods and she wonders what he would say if she said she wouldn’t like to give him fifty-five dollars. The doctor smiles at her and tells her to see Mary about her next appointment.

When she gets back in the car, Mark looks annoyed. He snaps at his sister, “It took you long enough”. She doesn’t look at him because she can feel the tears welling up in her eyes. Katie is again in the back seat pouting. Suddenly Sondra feels Mark’s hand cover her own. She turns toward him and she sees he is looking into her eyes. He leans in closer to her and says, “I was only joking”. He doesn’t look away as he silently tells her his biggest fear; he doesn’t know how to make her better and he can’t live without her.  


The Letter:

Hi,  Michelle… well, a few problems still remain here… for one thing, you  need to review paragraph formatting… every paragraph should have one subject.. you can’t say Sondra said this, then did this, and have Mark say something and do something… in the same paragraph… so they need to be gone over and pulled apart.
Re: the storyline… I still like it, but you’ve raised too many questions you don’t answer… you make the reader wonder what happened to Sondra… you say it’s what she calls her “accident.” So was it an accident or not? Later you call it a suicide attempt… the thing is, I get many many stories about people who are depressed or who go insane, or who are waiting in dr’s offices like this one… and the writer never takes the time to explain why… it always feels to me like only half the job has been done…. with finesse you should be able to subtly hint at the situation… a little hint like Uneasily she notices that the men next to her looks like her attacker… something that justifies… otherwise I think a writer is really taking the easy way out.
The other question is Why does she crave her doctor’s opinion, if he’s such a waste of time? And of course the biggest question, the one I think that really compromises your story is, Why does she keep going to this doctor? He’s obviously not helping…

Finally, I think the biggest problem is that you’re trying to tell two very different stories, but instead of accomplishing that, you wind up diluting the impact of both… I think you need to choose: Is the point that she’s going to this horrible dr who only cares about her money (sort of a shallow story, because, as I say, it isn’t convincing that she’d stay with him) or is this a story about losing a best friend because of her mental illness? (a better, deeper story.)