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Paging Dr. Dickhead

Today's lesson? Bite your tongue.

By N.J. Gallegos Published 7 months ago 10 min read
Paging Dr. Dickhead
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Clanging and high-pitched beeps. Engines flaring to life. Bird song—hesitant at first, but as the horizon lightened, a babble that deepened into an outright racket. The rhythms of a society that gave NO SHITS about the poor folks who had worked a brutal shift the night before.

I’d just crested into my first REM sleep, my last waking thought of that Game of Thrones episode. You know the one. Visions of Jason Momoa—Khal Drago, wearing nothing but an impish smile—were incinerated as if Daenerys Targaryen hissed, “Dracarys” in that sexy, psychotic way she had. I scrunched my eyes closed; just a couple more hours, never mind the damn cacophony outside.

Another bang; closer. Plastic rattling down on asphalt and that unmistakable chiming tone…

Garbage day—truck incoming.

Oh shit.

My eyes shuttered open and my body ramped itself into a classic fight or flight response, as if I were about to battle a saber-tooth tiger. Thrumming heart slapping against my ribs and tense muscles, coiled, and ready to spring.

No, this was high-octane stuff.

I’d forgotten to wheel the can down to the curb…


Not that it was surprising that it’d slipped my mind.

I’d slogged in from my shift at 2 AM, three hours past quitting time. It had been an absolutely shitty day. A slew of sick people trying their damnedest to meet their Maker, and somewhere in the process, my powder-blue scrubs filled with a startling amount of blood that was not mine. In the biohazard bin they went, and I spent the rest of the shift in the hospital regulation scrubs that were oddly stiff in the crotch.

Even worse?

The blood? It belonged to a patient on Eliquis with a nosebleed that reminded me of Carrie White’s wide-eyed expression after that bitch, Chris, and her greasy boyfriend played by a scuzzy-appearing John Travolta, dumped Wilbur’s blood all over her.

In other words?

The poor woman was sick as hell and I’d had the audacity to consult the jackass ENT doc who was on call.

Anytime I had an ENT emergency, I cringed, caught in an ER doctor’s Schrodinger’s dilemma where I fervently hoped it’d be literally anyone else on call but knew in my heart of hearts, knowing it would be Dr. Dickhead on the schedule.

But last night, I’d dialed the Physicians’ Access Line, fidgeting as it rang. After about a minute—in which I recited The Lord’s Prayer I’d learned in my catechism classes, trying to get in good with God in the hopes I’d be spared the inevitable ass-reaming—one of the operators picked up.

“Physician’s Access Line, this is Toni.”

“Toni! It’s Dr. G. Please tell me it’s not HIM on for ENT. Please.”

A sharp intake of breath. Fuck.

“Toni, why you gotta do this to me?”

“Sorry, Dr. G, I don’t write the schedule, I just report it. Ugh… The way he speaks to you is damn appalling!” She would know… the operators stayed on the line and listened to his tirades and piss poor behavior to any and all staff with XX-chromosomes. After the evitable Dr. Douche rage hang-up, Toni clicked back on the line with some choice words of her own—most of which made me giggle in a mean-spirited way.

Last night she’d said, “Girl, you don’t deserve any of that. He’ll get what’s coming to him. Just you wait and see.” I’d mumbled my thanks and told her to have a good shift.

So yeah… the damn garbage was not a priority last night.

I heaved off the comforter and leapt to my feet, thrust my feet into slippers and I was off, like Allyson Felix if she competed in SpongeBob athleisure.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I threw the front door open and raced outside.

And immediately ate shit. The front of my slipper snagged on something, sending me sprawling to the sidewalk into something resembling a swan dive. My tongue snapped between my teeth and I tasted iron.

“Owwww,” I moaned, struggling to my feet. Add two scraped knees to the injury list and subtract a slipper. In my periphery, I spied the forest-green garbage truck trundling down the street, just two houses away. Great… they’d probably loved that, watching me trip over—


What had I tripped over, anyway?

I glanced back at the stoop. On my mat—which I couldn’t appropriately label a “welcome mat” since it read: Please Leave —sat a black box.

Weird… not the mail, it was way too early.

Not that it mattered.

The box could wait.

My trashcan—heaped high with refuse that reeked of rotten take-out—could not.

Ignoring the malodor, I dragged it down to the curb, taking the utmost care to avoid eye contact with the driver who no doubt had seen the fall. I hustled back up my sidewalk, grabbed the box, and slammed the front door behind me.

In the kitchen, I examined it.

A glossy black, sturdy cardboard; the kind they used for fancy subscription boxes. No logos or markings nor an address label.

And it was fairly light… maybe the weight of a paperback book in an Amazon box.

I had no idea who’d delivered it. A florist or something? I stared at it, my brow furrowing as I racked my brain when I remembered:

The doorbell camera!

I’d installed it last month, fed up with the damn neighborhood kids moving my lawn gnomes. Charmingly, I resembled an old crone screaming at the youth to get off my lawn, instead of a woman of thirty-five-years old.

Ungrateful little shits. My taxes paid for their schooling… would it kill them to teach a little respect?

Retrieving my phone, I pulled up the app and scrolled through this mornings’ videos.


More birds.

A slim jogger with their black lab, pink tongue lolling from its mouth.

A squirrel darting up the gutter and—

A machine?

No… a drone.

Like the ones that were delivering DoorDash, except instead of Chinese takeout, it clutched my box. It went mostly out of view, giving my camera a great look at its whirring propellers, then ascended—sans package.

“Weird, I muttered, closing the app. My curiosity was piqued but I desperately needed a cup of coffee. Neurons functioned better after a caffeine bath, at least, in my case. I’d at least remembered to prep the coffee maker the night before.

Pushed the start button.

The scent of Columbian beans filled the air and I pulled Facebook up, content to doomscroll and creep old classmates while I waited for the pot to fill.

Baby shower… gross. Did they really make them eat melted candy bars out of diapers? I repressed a gag. For a doctor, I had a piss-poor gag reflex at nearly all bodily fluids, excretions, and gunk.

Trump accusing Democrats of stealing the “Electron”, reminding me of a sun-downing dementia patient in need of their Seroquel.

A high school classmate peddling a pyramid scheme.

Photos of one of the APN’s cats, a gray lard-ass she named Gary.


My breath caught in my throat and my jaw dropped.

“Holy fucking shit!” I exclaimed, bringing the phone closer to my face. My eyebrows were nearly to my hairline and my eyes widened, taking in the headline.

Local ENT Surgeon Murdered!

Below that, a grainy photo of a stately brick house ringed with streamers of yellow police tape and the professional headshot of the asshole who’d berated me last night. Coal-black eyes—completely devoid of warmth—stared through wire-rimmed glasses. He combed his thinning gray hair over—hiding nothing of his impending baldness—and bore an expression of someone who got a whiff of dog shit.

The article was sparse on the gritty details, a fact that disappointed me to no end. Sounded like a standard breaking and entering that became murder when someone bludgeoned Dr. Douchebag to death, and—

I gasped.

They’d maimed the body—whatever that meant.

I muttered as I set the phone down, “Hope they shoved your pager down your throat, Dr. Dickhead.”

Whistling a 90s tune I heard on the radio yesterday, I walked with a pep in my step—sore knees and all—to the coffeepot and poured the brown elixir into my Golden Girls mug. In went a heaping helping of Pumpkin Spice creamer that colored the coffee a light brown. Add a sleeve of shortbread cookies from the British section of the grocery store and I was in heaven.

I sipped.

Then remembered.

The package!

I’d completely forgotten about it, having been so delighted by the grisly news.

I grabbed a knife from the block on the counter and slit the transparent tape sealing the box. Unfolded the sides and peered within.

Heaps of pink tissue paper, reminding me of the cotton candy they whipped up at the county fair. It crinkled as I shoved it aside, revealing a thin, black felt box that rested on a greeting card-sized envelope.

“What is this?” I mused aloud, extracting both. I fought the urge to open the felt box first, remembering the Christmas my mother admonished me for tossing a “heartfelt” card to the side while I ripped open presents, desperately hoping to see an N64 console. Sliding my finger under the seal, I opened the white envelope.

Cartoon frogs capered over the front, some sitting on red-spotted toadstools, and inside, a flowery cursive read:

I hope this brightens your day, Doctor!

Scrawled below that was a phone number, one which seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.

“Well, isn’t that nice?” I exclaimed, setting the card aside and smiling.

I turned my attention to the box.

What would it be? Jewelry? A Rolex watch? I wasn’t exactly the fancy type but… a gift was a gift!

Grinning—feeling giddy—I opened the black felt box and gazed upon my gift.

My smile twisted into a grimace and froze.

No diamond earrings.

No necklace.

A… a….

I willed myself to lean forward, eyes crawling over my “gift”.

Pinkish bumps covered the surface, appearing puckered and dehydrated. The bumps increased in size towards the back where the tissue abruptly ended, cleanly sliced through—although I could visualize small clotted-off vessels here and there.

Had I not endured grueling hours of anatomy lab as a first year bent over a cadaver for hours on end—reeking of formalin, even after multiple showers—I might not have recognized it. It almost looked like a wad of Big-League Chew, roughly the same size but…

Definitely not gum.

No… this was a tongue.

I closed my eyes, remembering dissected masseter muscles, a full set of teeth—in our cadaver’s case, at least—that hid the organ most responsible for indulging… other than the brain.

A tongue.

A severed tongue.

“Okay… is this some Van Gogh shit or something?” I said and stepped back; I didn’t need to get close to the… tongue. My arm brushed against something and it dropped on the tile.

The card.

That phone number…

That message…

What was going on here?

My mind raced and I grabbed my phone, hesitating briefly before tapping in the scrawled number.

Part of me yelled, CALL THE POLICE! IDIOT!

But I didn’t heed my own advice.

The pattern my finger traced on the screen felt so… familiar, like I dialed it frequently.

The line hummed, initially so silent I worried I’d accidently hung up, followed by a continuous ring.

Waiting for someone to answer.

I chewed my lip, wondering if I should hang up and dial the police instead, about to hit End when—

“Physician’s Access Line—”

An electric jolt surged through me, leaving a bitter cold in its wake.


“—this is Toni.”

“Toni?” I said, her name coming out as a croak.

“Dr. G? Is that you?” Her voice was pure honey, cloyingly sweet.


“You must have gotten the package!”

“Toni—” I started, swallowing hard. “What… did… you do?” My fingers curled around the phone, knuckles blanched white.

She giggled and for the first time, I sensed sinister undertones. “I told you he couldn’t speak to you that way! And now… he’ll never speak to anyone like that or any other way… ever again!” The last bit came out like a growl. My skin painfully tightened as a crop of goosebumps bloomed.

“Toni… tell me you didn’t,” I pleaded.

No way… she couldn’t have.

Could she?

“Dr. G… I’d do anything for you! You’re amazing! Muah!” Toni puckered her lips, blowing me a kiss over the phone, and the line went dead, filling my ear with dial tone. I stared at the phone, still struggling to comprehend the implications of… all this.

I really should have called 911 first.


Despite my disgust and horror, another feeling stirred within me:

A spark of joy.

At least Dr. Ass-wipe would never be on call again.


About the Creator

N.J. Gallegos

Howdy! I’m an ER doc who loves horror, especially with a medical bent. Voted most witty in high school so I’m like, super funny. First novel coming out in Fall 2023! Follow me on Twitter @DrSpooky_ER.

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  • Natalie Demoss6 months ago

    I love your subtitle. It's so fitting. Love the story.

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