(I wrote this 500-word short story as an exercise. It had to be about a space doctor delivering news (good or bad) to a patient.)
The space doctor emerged from the backroom laboratory and entered the brightly lit examination room with a gloomy expression on his face.
“Well, give me the bad news, space doctor,” I said.
“I’m not a space doctor,” he answered. “I’m a janitor.”
I laughed. “If you’re not a space doctor, then what are you doing with that medical apparatus?”
He glanced at the instrument in his hand. “The mop? I was cleaning the floor in the women’s restroom.”
“I see. So if that’s the women’s restroom, then where is the medical laboratory?”
He seemed confused. “We don’t have any laboratories here.”
“Are you trying to tell me we’re not in an intergalactic hospital?”
“No. This is a grocery store.”
I looked around and realized the space doctor was right. In fact, we appeared to be in the freezer section of my local Value For Less, a grocery outlet that offered tremendous savings on a wide variety of everyday merchandise. Concerned about this distressing development, I turned back to the doctor.
“Listen, doc, I desperately need to be treated for a serious case of space syphilis. You’re the only one who can help me.”
He deposited his so-called mop in a large yellow canister nearby. “Look, if you have syphilis, you should see a real doctor at a real hospital.”
“It’s not syphilis, though; it’s space syphilis. I contracted it during sexual intercourse in space.”
“I seriously doubt you’ve ever been to space.”
I was about to laugh at his incredulity, but I paused for a moment. Had I been to space? Once I thought about it, I couldn’t remember ever having left the planet Earth.
“So maybe I’ve never been to space, but I still need to be treated for my syphilis.”
“There’s really nothing I can do for you,” the space doctor replied. “If you’re sick, see a doctor.”
“I don’t feel sick, though. Syphilis has no symptoms.”
“Yeah, it does.” He gave me a funny look. “So there’s nothing wrong with you, but you’re still convinced you have a sexually transmitted disease?”
“Actually, if I’ve never been to space, I’ve probably never had sex.”
“You’ve never had sex?”
“Not with another person, no.”
“If you’ve never had sex and you don’t feel sick, I don’t think you can possibly have any kind of syphilis. Honestly, you look fine.”
I sighed with relief. “So you think I’ll be okay?”
“Absolutely. Anyway, I need to get back to mopping the bathroom or my supervisor will write me up.”
“Thank you so much, doc.” I shook his hand.
The space doctor collected his cleaning equipment and returned to the women’s restroom.
I retrieved my shopping cart from the nearest aisle and continued shopping for frozen goods. As I picked out a selection of ice cream treats to celebrate my clean bill of health, I muttered aloud to myself, “Space can be a strange and confusing place.”