Just Cut on the Dotted Line

I was 15 years old. I wasn’t a doctor, and I wasn’t married. So how did I end up in an operating room, with my wife paging me on the telephone?

Just Cut on the Dotted Line

“Doctor Evans, we’re ready for you to begin.”

Justin looked down at the man on the operating table. There was a line drawn on the man’s stomach. Justin was wearing a surgical robe and a mask. There were rubber gloves on his hands. Nurses and others in green surgical gowns were all waiting for him to begin the operation.

There was, however, one tiny problem—Justin was 15 years old and didn’t know anything about surgery.

“So what do I do, just cut on the dotted line?” he joked.

Nobody laughed. “Doctor, we need to begin right away,” the woman next to him said.

“Doctor Sanchez is right,” a man said. “We need to begin right away.”

“Let’s see, I guess we need some kind of a knife or something.”

A nurse shoved a scalpel in his hand. Justin looked down at the stomach. He cleared his throat. “Give me a hint here, should I slice this guy deep or shallow?”

“Are you all right?” the woman they called Doctor Sanchez asked.

“Is this guy going to bleed a lot if I cut him open? I really can’t stand the sight of blood.”

“Would you like me to take over?” Doctor Sanchez said.

“Yes, please.”

The woman traded places, took up the scalpel, and cut along the line on the man’s stomach.

“Oh, gross,” Justin said a few minutes later upon seeing for the first time the exposed inside of the man. But after a while he got used to it.

After the operation as he removed the surgical gloves and gowns, Doctor Sanchez came over to him. “You and your practical jokes,” she said. “For a moment there it sounded like you didn’t know anything about what was going on.”

Justin smiled. “Yeah, right.”

A nurse came in the room. “Dr. Evans, your wife called.”

“I have a wife?” he blurted out.

Everyone in the room smiled.

“She left a number for you to call. She said it was important.”

He went to a phone and dialed the number. A woman answered.

“This is Justin.”

“Listen, I need to ask you something. Did you send in the house payment last month?”

“Do we own a house?”

“The bank called to say they haven’t got our payment yet.”

“I know I’m married to you, but could you tell me your name once again. I guess I’ve forgotten it. You know how I am with names.”

“Justin, this is no time for games. The deadline for Howard to enter the race for city commission is Thursday. He needs to know what you did with the petitions you handled for him.

“What color hair do you have? And when did we meet each other?”

There was a long pause, and then she said, “All right, tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m 15 years old, and I’m not a doctor, and I’m not married, and I don’t have any idea who you are or who Howard is or what petitions you’re talking about. Basically that’s it.”

“Are you serious?”


“I’ll be right over.”

“How will I recognize you?”

“I’ll come to your office.”

“I have an office then, right?” he asked. Saying good-bye, he hung up and walked the halls until he found a door with his name on it. He stepped inside and sat behind the desk and tried to figure out what was going on.

A few minutes later someone knocked on the door. He opened the door and let her in. It was a woman.

“Are you my wife?” he asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“How nice to meet you. What’s your name?”


“Lori, can you help me? I seem to be having a bad day. I don’t belong here. You know what I think? I think this whole thing is a dream.”

“You mean, here, right now, even me?”

“Yes, that’s what I think.”

“Why don’t you wake up then, if it’s just a dream?”

“I don’t know how to make myself wake up.”

“Pinch yourself.”

He pinched himself. Nothing happened.

“It must not be a dream then,” she said.

“But maybe I only dreamed I pinched myself, and it really is a dream.”

“If it is a dream, it’ll end soon, and you can get on with your life.”

“Maybe so. While you’re here, can I ask a few questions before this ends? On the phone you kept talking about mortgage payments and some kind of a petition for Howard.” He paused. “I guess the main thing I want to know is if being grown up is any fun at all?”

“Most of the time it is. Especially if you prepare for it when you’re young.”

“How do you prepare for it?”

“You make goals of what you want out of life. Then you work to achieve those goals.”

“Sounds boring.”

“Not really. Do you know what you always tell me?”

“To have pizza for supper more often?”

“Yeah, that too, but also you say, ‘If you can dream it, if you can plan it, if you can work hard for it, you can achieve it.’”

He smiled. “I say that? Sounds good.” He looked at her more closely. “Where did we get married?”

“In the temple.”

“That’s good, isn’t it? I’m glad we did.”

“The reason it happened is that when we were both young, even though we didn’t know each other, we both decided to plan for a temple marriage.”

“When you’re 15, like I am now, it’s kind of hard to think about planning for something that’s years away.”

“The tallest buildings have the deepest foundations.”

“Do I say that too sometimes?”

“No, I do,” she said with a smile.

“You’re smart, aren’t you? And attractive.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s been nice to meet you. Thanks for talking to me. Do we have kids?”

“Yes. Two with one on the way.”

“You’re pregnant now? It doesn’t show.”

“It will,” she put her hand on his shoulder. “Do you want me to drive you home?”

“No, I think I’ll just hang around here until I wake up from my dream, and then I’ll be 15 for real, and I’ll go on with my life.”

“Don’t forget to prepare for the future. It’s kind of important to me because I’m in your future. I’ll be doing some preparing too.”

“Should we kiss or something?” he said as she got ready to leave.

And then he woke up.

Doctor Sanchez was standing in the doorway. “Doctor Evans, we’re ready for you to begin the operation now.”

He stood up and looked around his office. “I must have dozed off. I had the strangest dream.”

“You’ve been working very hard lately. Oh, your wife called. She said Howard needs the petitions.”

“I’ll call him after the operation.”

Minutes later he stared down at the exposed stomach of a man on the operating table.

“Let’s see now. I just cut along the dotted line, right?”

Once again, nobody laughed.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh