For a few brief seconds after he woke up, Steve Caldwell felt fine. He’d been dreaming that he was hairy beyond belief, a recurring dream since his mission and the loss of some of his hair.
Then the memory of the date he’d had the night before thudded into his memory like a lead ball. He sat up on the edge of his bed and gloomily looked out at the snow swirling past his window.
“Big snowstorm today,” his roommate announced. “The interstate’s already closed.”
“Do you know how many girls at BYU have told me that they like me only as a friend?” Steve asked. But his roommate breezed out of the room, leaving the question hanging in the air.
Steve sat and brooded.
An hour later, however, a sudden great idea flashed into his mind, causing him to hurriedly get dressed.
“Where are you going in this weather?” his roommate asked as Steve bundled up in his parka.
“If they can send a man to the moon, the least they can do is give me hair!” With that, he was out the door.
His car wouldn’t start, but undaunted, he trudged through knee-high drifts.
The first thing he noticed about the usually busy BYU health center was that there were no cars in the parking lot. In fact, there was no parking lot, only a field of snow. He climbed over a drift near the front door and walked in.
“I’m sorry,” the girl at the reception desk told him, “but the doctors aren’t in yet because of the storm. You’ll have to wait.”
“For how long?”
“I don’t know. I’m only the receptionist.”
“Do any of the doctors do hair transplants?”
“I don’t know. I’m just the receptionist.”
He walked into the waiting room. It was empty except for a girl reading a magazine while breathing noisily through her mouth.
He sat down on a chair opposite the girl and alternated between reading a magazine about tooth decay and watching her struggle for breath.
She looked up from her magazine suddenly to catch him staring at her.
“You’ve got a bad cold,” he said.
She burst out crying.
“Nothing to cry about. Everybody gets ‘em.”
“It’s not that!” she sobbed, fumbling for a tissue in her purse. “I was going with a guy, and last night he broke up with me. I cried all night.”
“Really? The same thing happened to me last night.”
She stared at him, and then asked, “You cried all night?”
“No. My girl broke up with me, too.”
“It’s rotten, isn’t it? Had you been going together very long?”
“Two weeks,” Steve admitted.
“That’s not very long.”
“It was to her. Last night she told me she could never get serious with a guy who had less hair than her grandfather.”
“Thank you. What’s your name?”
“I’m Steve Caldwell.” He stood up, walked over to her, put out his hand, had second thoughts, and withdrew it. “Okay if I don’t shake your hand? You can’t be too careful these days.”
She looked at him strangely.
“Germwise, I mean,” he clarified.
He returned to his chair. “Well, there are always other fish in the sea, hey?”
“Not for me,” she cried. “I need tall fish.”
He lowered his eyes to the magazine and tried to figure out what she meant.
“I’m taller than your average coed,” she explained.
“You don’t look so tall to me.”
“That’s because I’m sitting down.”
“Oh sure. Well, even so, you’re no King Kong.”
Her lips began to curl downward, and he knew he’d said the wrong thing. Hoping to smooth things over, he added, “I mean from here you don’t look that abnormal to me.”
She started to cry again. He felt terrible.
“I’m not that tall,” she finally said, “but guys don’t date a girl unless they’re at least two inches taller.”
“I’ve never heard that.”
“Have you ever dated anybody taller than you?”
“Are you kidding? I’ve got enough problems.”
She began crying again, and he read the same paragraph about gum diseases for the seventh time.
Finally unable to stand her crying, he put down his magazine. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it the way it came out. I’m sure you’re a very nice person.”
She blew her nose and looked up at him. “Do you really think so?”
“Sure. And you shouldn’t worry. There are plenty of tall guys on campus. I mean, just look at the basketball team.”
“There are 47 guys in school who are at least two inches taller than me. Twenty-six of them are already married. Nine are waiting to go on missions. Eight of them are either engaged or going steady with someone else. I broke up with one last night.”
He added the numbers up in his head. “That still leaves three.”
“One is my cousin.”
“One is 42 years old.”
“One eats only yogurt and sesame seeds and always carries an orange in his left hand.”
“Zero. I see what you mean. You’re really in a pickle.”
She cried while he read. A few minutes later, he tried again. “I never knew there was so much tooth decay.”
“Where I grew up, we had fluoride naturally in the water.”
“I bet you don’t have very many cavities, do you?”
She started to answer but stopped to touch her cheekbone. “My sinuses are killing me. It feels like my whole head’s been pumped with Jello.”
“I’ll see what’s keeping the doctors.”
On his way to the reception desk, he stopped at a window and surveyed the raging blizzard. It was impossible to see 20 feet beyond the building.
“Nurse?” he asked the girl at the desk, who was listening to her small portable radio.
“I’m not a nurse. I’m just a receptionist.”
“Right. Where are the doctors?”
“I don’t know. The storm may have blocked the streets.”
“Say, have you got anything for that girl? She’s got a sinus problem.”
“This isn’t a drugstore, you know. I’m not a pharmacist.”
“Miss Williams, is that your name?” he said reading the name tag on her uniform. “Don’t doctors get little samples of medicine?”
He walked to a cabinet and opened it. “Do you have a first name?”
“Of course I do.”
He looked at all the packets of medicine.
“You’re not trained to look in the cabinet,” she said.
“Miss Williams, do you have any idea the suffering that poor girl is going through in there? Don’t you have any empathy?”
“If we have any, it’ll be there.”
He finally found a sinus pill. He read the directions out loud: “‘Drowsiness may occur. Use caution in driving or operating machinery.’”
He took a glass of water and the pill back to Susan. She took it and thanked him.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“I came to get a hair transplant.”
“Do they do that now?”
“Look,” he answered, feeling himself tense up, “they sent a man to the moon. They ought to be able to grow hair on my head.”
“It’s not that bad, really. What are you, 26?”
Steve bit his lip. “I’m 22.”
“Sorry,” she said quickly. “It’s not the hair that bothers me. It’s what people say. They’re so cruel.”
“I know about cruel,” she agreed. “I was five ten in the eighth grade.”
“If you’re tall, you should play basketball.”
“I mean for BYU.”
“Oh. You really are an athlete. I always used to dream about being an athlete. Tell me, do guys ever wait outside the gym and ask you for your autograph?”
“That was the only reason I wanted to be an athlete—to sign autographs for girls.”
Susan yawned. “Wow, that pill really made me sleepy.”
A few minutes later, she was asleep in her chair.
Steve finally gave up on his magazine and turned on the TV in the waiting room, but after four commercials, the screen went blank, and he turned it off.
A little later, Miss Williams came into the waiting room. “May I have your attention?” she asked formally as if there were a hundred people in the room. “Dr. Rawlins has asked that I close the health center and send all of you home.”
“But just after I talked with him, I heard on the radio that they advise everybody to stay where they are.”
“Do we go or stay?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Miss Williams confessed. “What do you think we should do?”
He looked out again at the raging blizzard and said, “We’d better stay.”
“Okay, we stay.” Suddenly she noticed Susan with her head tilted back against the back of the chair, breathing through her open mouth. “Is anything wrong with her?”
“No, she’s just tired. Did you know that where she came from they had natural fluoride in the water? I bet she doesn’t have many fillings in her teeth.”
“Really?” Miss Williams asked.
“I’ve been reading about tooth decay. I wonder if she’d mind if we looked into her mouth,” he said.
They both leaned over and peered into Susan’s open mouth.
“Isn’t that amazing?” he whispered.
“It’s breathtaking,” Miss Williams agreed.
“I’ve never seen teeth with absolutely no fillings,” he continued. “I wish I had my camera.”
“She has a nice face, too, don’t you think?”
“You like her, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I guess we both need someone right now.”
“We don’t get many romances here.”
“Oh, it’d never work out. She’s taller than me, and I don’t have all my hair. People’d always be making fun of us.”
“Do you really care about people who do that?”
“I suppose you’re right,” he said, looking at Susan’s upper molars. “Oh, look! I see a filling way in the back. You have to get down and tilt your head over like this.
Miss Williams also looked. “Where?”
“Way back, where my finger’s pointing.”
Just then Susan woke up, saw them peering into her mouth, and screamed.
Steve grabbed his ears and moaned.
“Why were you looking into my mouth?” Susan demanded.
“We were looking at your teeth,” he confessed.
“The TV wasn’t working,” he answered lamely.
“You scared me to death. I thought at first you both were vampires.”
Miss Williams went back to the reception desk. Steve sat down and picked up his magazine.
“I’m sorry, Susan. I had no right. The least I could have done was ask your permission. You can look at my teeth if you’d like.”
“You have amazing teeth. You can truly be proud.”
“I brush regularly and watch my snacks.”
He looked up from his magazine. “I bet you’ll teach that to your children, too, won’t you?”
“You’ll be a wonderful mother. If you have boys, you can teach them basketball.”
“Oh, sure, it wouldn’t matter, would it?”
“And you could show them how to be interested and concerned about other people …” Suddenly she stopped and blushed. “I didn’t mean to imply that we’d get married.”
“It’s all right.”
“Don’t misunderstand me. I think you’re a nice guy, but it was dumb of me to imply that we’d be married in the temple and have a wonderful family.”
“No, really, it’s fine.” He put down his magazine, walked over and sat down beside her. “Susan, I’ve never said this before to any girl, but I think you’re nice.”
“Thanks. That’s good to hear, especially after last night.”
“You know,” he said, holding her hand, “you remind me of a greyhound.”
“I do?” she asked with raised eyebrows.
“Oh, not the bus,” he said quickly. “I mean the dog … that is … I mean … you look like you probably run gracefully.”
“People say that on a fast break heading for the basket, I remind them of a gazelle.”
“One thing’s for sure. Next home game you have, I’m going.”
She looked down at his hand clasping hers. “Is that a very good idea?” she asked quietly.
He looked at her strangely.
“Germwise, I mean,” she added.
“I can take it.”
They sat in silence together for several seconds before she whispered softly, “Steve, could you let go of my hand? I have to take care of my nose.”
While she did that, he stood up and walked to the window. Moving aside the drapes, he saw a seven-foot snow drift.
“Susan, you’ve got to see this drift.”
“Oh, yes,” she said, remaining in the chair.
“No, come here and see it.”
“I’m afraid,” she confessed.
“Snow can’t hurt you.”
“I’m afraid of standing up.”
He turned to face her and asked gently, “You are?”
“When I stand up, you’ll see how tall I am, and I’m afraid that’ll change our friendship.”
“But we can’t go through life together with you in that chair.”
“All right,” she sighed, “but turn around while I stand up and walk to you.”
He turned around.
“I’m walking toward you now, but don’t turn around until I say. Steve, I don’t think of you as a person who’s shorter than me.”
He could tell that she was just in back of him.
“All right, you can turn around now.”
He turned around, looked at her, and whispered, “Good grief!”
She ran from the room. A second later, he ran after her. He heard a door slam, but by the time he reached the hallway, he couldn’t tell which room Susan had entered.
“Where is she?” he asked Miss Williams.
“Second door to the right.”
He ran to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked.
“Susan!” he yelled. “Listen to me! I’m sorry!”
From inside the room, he could hear her crying.
Miss Williams appeared beside him. “I’m sure the medical staff would frown on this kind of activity going on in the medical center.”
“Susan, it doesn’t matter! Susan! Come out so we can talk!”
“No,” a muffled voice answered.
“Susan, if you don’t come out, I’m going to do something drastic!”
Just then the electrical power throughout the building went out as the blizzard raged on.
Susan opened the door a few seconds later. “How’d you do that?”
“It was the storm. The power just went out.”
“Oh, no,” Miss Williams moaned. “What are we going to do now? We’ll freeze to death.”
“We’ll survive! Don’t worry. First thing, get some doctor’s smocks for us to put on to keep us warm.”
A few minutes later, each wearing a doctor’s white smock, they sat down behind the reception desk. Steve took charge. “Now we’re going to tell stories and play games and have a nice LDS get-together until the storm lets up. It’ll be just like a long ward activity.”
“How long?” Susan asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Can we play Simon Says?” Miss Williams asked eagerly.
“Later. First I want to tell you about my mission.”
“Then can we play Simon Says?”
Suddenly they heard yelling outside. The door opened and a student staggered in, his clothes caked with snow. He wearily stumbled to the reception desk, saw Steve, and cried out, “Doctor, you’ve got to help me!”
“Well, actually …” Steve began.
“I’ve been so depressed lately. This morning I even thought about committing suicide. You’ve got to help me, or I don’t know what I’ll do!”
Steve glanced down at the name tag reading Dr. Rawlins on the smock he was wearing, and then up at the student. “What would happen if you couldn’t see a doctor today?”
“Don’t you understand what I’m saying?”
“I see,” Steve said. “All right, I’ll see you. What’s your name?”
“Before we start an examination, we need you to fill out a form. Miss Williams, get a form.”
“Any form!” Steve whispered. “Have him fill it out in a room down the hall.”
As Miss Williams escorted Frank down the hall, Steve called out, “Frank, take all the time you want to fill out the form.”
After depositing Frank in a room down the hall, Miss Williams ran back to the reception desk, nearly hysterical. “What are we going to do?”
“Don’t ask me! I’m not a doctor!” Steve said.
“We could phone a doctor and ask him what to do,” Susan offered.
Miss Williams dialed the number and summarized the situation concisely: “Dr. Rawlins, there’s a student here who says he’s terribly depressed! What do we do?” A long pause followed. “I see.” Another long pause. “Yes, doctor.” A few seconds later. “Oh, rats!”
“Oh, rats?” Steve asked.
“The phone just went dead.”
“Well, what did he say before the phone went dead?” Steve asked.
“He said for us not to let him leave the building. Dr. Rawlins will try and find some way to get here.”
Just then, Frank returned with the completed form, which he handed to Steve. “Now what? I’ve had plenty of counseling before, but none of it’s done any good. What do you people do?”
Steve felt all three of them staring at him. He cleared his throat. “Of course it varies with the individual case. There are a number of different treatments possible.”
“Believe me, I’ve had ’em all. What will you do for my case?”
Steve picked up the form and pretended to be examining it. Finally, he cleared his throat and announced as officially as he could, “We could play Simon Says.”
“Oh, good!” Miss Williams said.
“Wait a minute!” Frank said suspiciously. “I’ve never heard of that therapy before.”
“It’s new,” Susan said. “You could say we are the pioneers in Simon Therapy.”
“Okay, everybody line up against the wall,” ‘Steve said. “I’ll be Simon.”
“Really, you should be Dr. Simon,” Frank suggested as they lined up.
“Simon will do. By the way, Frank, why were you so depressed this morning?”
“Because I’m a failure.”
“I see. Well, let’s begin. Susan, Simon says, take two regular steps forward.”
Susan took two steps forward.
“Frank, Simon says, take two regular steps forward.”
Frank wiped his brow, put his fingers over his mouth, and stared at the floor. “No, I can’t do it. You’re trying to trick me.”
“No, I’m not. Go ahead, you can do it.”
Frank took two steps forward. “Look, I did it!”
“Good. Okay, Miss Williams, Simon says, take two tiny steps forward.”
She did so.
“Frank, Simon says, take two giant steps forward.”
“How big is a giant step?” Frank asked apprehensively.
“It’ll vary with the individual.”
Frank nervously ran his fingers through his hair. “No, I don’t trust giant steps. Go on to someone else.”
“All right then. Frank, just take two regular steps forward.”
Frank took the two steps.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Miss Williams yelled. “He walked, and you didn’t say Simon says!”
“Miss Williams!” Steve warned.
“Those are the rules! He has to go back and start all over again.”
“I knew you were out to get me!” Frank yelled.
“Nobody’s out to get you!” Steve yelled back.
Frank slumped to the floor in utter defeat. “I’ve failed again! Everybody is ahead of me, in every class, in every job, in everything!”
“For crying out loud! Frank, get up! Don’t you know that you’ve got to have failures in order to succeed! There’s nothing wrong with having to start all over again. It’s a part of life. You only fail if you quit. And doing yourself in would be the ultimate in being a quitter.”
Frank stared at the floor for several seconds and then said quietly, “But I’ll never be a nuclear physicist.”
“So what?” Steve said. “Neither will I.”
“But it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do all my life, ever since I started to watch science fiction movies about the brilliant scientist who saves the galaxy from destruction.”
“What’s the problem?” Susan asked.
“Calculus. I can’t pass first semester calculus.”
“Calculus? What’s that?” Susan asked.
“If I knew what it was, I could probably pass it.”
“Well, you know what they say,” Miss Williams said, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”
“I have. This is my fourth time to take it. I flunked the first three times.”
“It isn’t fair,” Frank complained. “Life isn’t fair. I want to be a nuclear physicist, but I can’t do math.”
“I know what you mean,” Steve agreed. “I want to have lots of hair, but look at me now.”
“And I want to be average in height, and look at me,” Susan added.
“I want to be a nurse, and I’m only a receptionist,” Miss Williams said.
They all went into the waiting room and sat down and brooded.
“So, what do we do?” Frank asked. “Give up?”
“The things that are important to you aren’t important to me,” Susan said. “I mean I don’t care if Steve has a whole head of hair or not. If he hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it. Life is more than hair.”
“That’s right,” Steve added. “I don’t care if Susan is tall or not. Life is more than being average in height.”
“And I certainly don’t care if Frank is a … what?” Miss Williams added.
“Nuclear physicist,” Frank said. “That’s it!” Steve said. “We’ve all been worried about what we can’t be. What we ought to concentrate on is what we can be! I’m a nice guy, and I like working with people.”
“And I’m a good athlete,” Susan said.
“And a good receptionist is very important to a medical staff,” Miss Williams said cheerfully.
“And I can be a science fiction writer and write about the brilliant scientists who save the galaxy from destruction!” Frank added.
The electrical power went back on, and Frank and Miss Williams hurried to see if the phones were working yet.
Steve and Susan sat across from each other.
“I should apologize,” Susan began. “I’ve been acting as if I were shipwrecked and you were the only life raft in the sea.”
“And I’ve treated you badly,” he admitted.
“You know, I feel much better now. I found out that I was the one who was making height a barrier to my own happiness.”
“And I was doing the same thing, being so self-conscious about my lack of hair that I drove girls away.”
“I can hardly wait to use my new insight to meet other guys.” Susan said grimly.
“Me too,” he added sadly.
Then he walked over and sat down beside her. “Susan, don’t walk out of my life. We should be more than two life rafts passing in the night. Will you go out with me, at least until someone taller comes along?”
“Oh, I’d like that,” she said, suddenly happy. “Besides, I really look up to you.”
Ten minutes later, four snow-mobiles pulled up in front of the building. Dr. Rawlins jumped out first and ran to the door. “I just hope we got here in time!” he yelled to the two policemen following him.
They rushed in to save the day but instead found four students in doctor’s smocks dancing to music from Miss Williams’s portable radio.