Fiction: francine j. harris

Dr. Gaffy and John


“Hello, John. Please come in. Do have a seat. Thank you, my friend. May I take your coat. Fine, fine. And can I offer you coffee or tea perhaps.”


“Good. Excellent. I will pop just down the hall and get you a cup of coffee. Now. Do tell me. How do your take your coffee? Would you prefer it mild or strong?”


“Mild or strong?”

“I don’t know.”

“You see you can choose the strength of the coffee from this incredible little machine we have. If you were a certified clinical doctor, such as myself, I could take you with me to the backroom and show you how this coffee is made, but unfortunately, there are no patients allowed in the clinic kitchen.”


“Wonderful. A good strong coffee coming right up. Would you care for cream? Or sugar.”


“A black man. Much after my own heart. The coffee of course. I mean the coffee.”


“Ok. Well I’ll return directly.”

“Here you are. I’m sorry it took so long. There was a short line for the coffee. It’s in high demand in the clinic during our busy time of day.”


“I hope you’ll find it to your liking. …. ”


“Is the coffee to your liking?”

“Yes. It is fine.”

“Ok, excellent. Well to it, then shall we?”


“I am so glad to see you again today, John, so happy that you came in. I know I should not say so, but I found our first couple sessions so enjoyable. I know I shouldn’t say this, but you are becoming one of my favorite patients. You seem to take to therapy. Some of my patients, they are so resistant to my suggestions, to my questions, but you seem made for therapy. It is privately, between you and me, a secret joy to have you here.”


“So to it, then. I wanted to start this week – I thought it was appropriate to start this week – with the video that you left in my clinic mailbox in the mail room, John. Do you know which video I am referring to?”

“It was a DVD.”

“Yes, so I was so very grateful that you dropped off the DVD video in my faculty clinic mailbox. I know that you are an aspiring filmmaker and I am so very glad that you trust me enough, now, to share your creative outlets with me. I want you to know, that I have entirely respected your desire for me not to search your name on the internet, even though you have creative film pieces on the internet. I wanted you to know that I respected your privacy.

“But I did watch the DVD video on Saturday, John, after I took the children to the zoo – oh but they do love the zoo, John. I tell you, there is just so much to be seen at the monkey cage. My youngest spends hours in the monkey cage and she says ‘Daddy, why do they lock up the monkeys in the cage? Why can’t the monkeys be free?’ and John every time she asks me this, I am at such a loss for words. It just breaks my heart. But at the monkey cage, I thought of you, John. And I was thinking about what you told me last week about the white children in the suburban town that you grew up with and how they would ask you about your lips and your hair. Do you remember talking about this last week, John?”

“Briefly, yes.”

“You know the thing is John, as a Jewish man, I know what it is like to have white children question the texture of my hair and I understand that it can be very painful. So I want you to know that I can hear that.”

“Yes. Ok.”

“The DVD video that you left in my faculty clinic mailbox. What did you intend to portray with that DVD video?”

“Human supplication.”

“Yes. Ok. I see. The position of the lovers among the black sheets. With the red sheet between them. I thought it was interesting that from time to time, one of them would pull a red sheet seemingly from behind the other person.”


“Oh, excuse me. I’m sorry. Inside what, do you mean?”

“One person would seemingly pull a red sheet from inside the other person.”

“Oh. Well, yes. Yes. I can understand that. And it fits with the theme of prayer and the blood of your Jesus, is this what you intended with the red sheet?”

“No. Entrails.”

“Mmmmhm. Forgive me, John. I must stop you there, because I see that your coffee cup is getting low. Would you care for more coffee from the faculty clinic kitchen?”


francine j. harris is originally from Detroit and has recent work appearing in Rattle, Ploughshares, Hanging Loose, and Meridian. Her first collection, allegiance, was published in the spring of 2012 and reached the number one spot on the national poetry bestseller’s list within a month of publication. She is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and received her MFA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she lives, teaches and writes.


Read more work by francine j. harris:


Two Poems in Mead
One Poem in Rattle
One Poem in Boxcar Poetry Review