Animal Magnetism, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 03 November 2001)


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This fictional account contains adult language and themes.  If such language
and themes offend you, please do not read further.  The persons and events
described in this work are purely fictional.  Any similarity to actual
persons or events is strictly coincidental.  Copyright 2001 by SSTORYMAN.
All rights reserved.  Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this story in
any form and for any purpose as long as this notice is reproduced and no
financial remuneration is received, directly or indirectly, by the person
reproducing it.

ANIMAL MAGNETISM

1.	The First Session - Bill.

   Paula sat at her desk glaring at the computer screen.  "Damn," she
muttered.  "Damn, damn, damn!"

   Bill Johnson looked at her from his seat in the patient waiting area.
"Having problems?"

   She sighed.  "Yes, I am.  This stupid computer program is so irritating!"

   "Is it your office management software?"  Seeing the pretty receptionist
nod, he smiled.  "Maybe I can help.  I sell small business software.  Our
company has great products that do medical office management.  I'd love to
show you a demo sometime if you're interested."

   It was Paula's turn to smile.  "Oh my God, that'd be great!  Dr.
Richardson just recently opened her practice.  We're still trying to work the
bugs out of this stupid office management program.  The scheduler is
impossible, and the patient billing program is even worse."

   He stood up and walked over.  "Let me have a look."  He nodded.  "I know
this one.  It's an old program.  What operating system are you running?"

   "Windows 95."

   "Well, first we should upgrade you to Windows 2000.  Second, I can bring
in a demo of our medical office management program.  It'll work a lot better
than this outdated piece of crap."

   Paula grinned.  "Bill, you're a godsend!  I'd love to see your program.
Sheryl, I mean, Dr. Richardson, asked me to set up and organize the office,
and it's driving me crazy.  I'm sure she'd be willing to pay your going rate
to consult with us on setting up our systems."

   "I'm glad to help.  If you look it over, I guarantee you'll like what our
product can do for a small medical office like this one."  He paused.  "I
take it Dr. Richardson is all on her own?"

   Paula nodded.  "Yeah, as I think I told you, she finished her residency
and decided to hang out her own shingle, instead of joining an established
psychiatric practice.  But getting the business end running has been pure
hell!"

   Bill took out his wallet and gave Paula a card.  "This is my phone number.
Give me a call and I'll set up an appointment to bring over some brochures
and demo products for you and Dr. Richardson to look over."

   At that moment, the interior door opened and an elderly woman shuffled
out.  She exchanged brief pleasantries with Paula as she left via the main
door.

   A tall, attractive blond appeared in the interior doorway.  "Mr. Johnston?
Hi!  I'm Dr. Sheryl Richardson.  I can see you now."

   "Thanks, Paula," he said, winking at the receptionist.  "I take it you're
the whole office staff?  Bookkeeper, nurse, and general girl Friday?"

   "Yes, she is," Dr. Richardson cut in.  "Paula has been a godsend running
the office."

   "That's funny, Sheryl," Paula smiled.  "I just told Mr. Johnson he's a
godsend.  He's in computers.  He can show us some stuff that will work better
than the shit we have right now."

   Dr. Richardson nodded.  "Paula's in charge of the office, Mr. Johnson.
And I see you already convinced her that we should talk to you to get help.
If you can assist us, that'll be great.  But right now, it's time for your
appointment.  Come on in."

   Her office was relatively Spartan.  There were few pictures on the wall.
No couch, which Bill expected to see in a psychiatrist's office.  He sat in a
large comfortable chair.  She sat down across from him, pen and notepad in
hand.

   "Doc, thanks for seeing me today."

   "No problem, Mr. Johnson.  My practice is still getting off the ground.
I've only been here a few weeks.  As Paula may have said, I have lots of
openings in my schedule right now."

   "Yeah, that's what she told me.  That's partly why I'm here.  The other
shrinks - I mean, psychiatrists - I tried calling for appointments all had
waiting lists a mile long."

   Dr. Richardson smiled.  "I don't have that problem, Mr. Johnson.  It's one
I hope to have one day.  As Paula told you, I only recently completed my
residency and opened my own office."

   "Yeah, well, it worked out great for me.  And please, I prefer if you call
me Bill."

   "Of course, Bill.  Now go ahead and tell me why you're here.  What's the
problem?"

   Bill Johnson took a deep breath.  Dr. Sheryl Richardson was gorgeous.  He
knew he'd be seeing a female psychiatrist.  But he never expected her to be
so damned attractive!

   "I'm in sales, Doc.  I've always done sales.  I graduated from college a
year ago with a degree in marketing.  I joined a company selling computer
systems solutions to small businesses, including medical offices.  I've done
real well.  I get a salary plus commissions.  My first year I earned more in
commissions than anyone on our sales force.  I make plenty of money; and
that's why I can afford to do this - to see  you, I mean."

   "Well, congratulations, Bill.  You're obviously very good at what you do."

   "I'll explain why that's the problem, Doc.  Excuse me, but can I call you
Sheryl?"

   "Call me whatever you like, Bill.  Feel free to call me Sheryl if you
wish."

   "Okay, Sheryl.  Like I said, that's the problem.  I've always been good at
selling; damn good.  I could always get people to do what I wanted.  In
middle school, I sold magazine subscriptions door to door, raising money for
my private school.  Each year I won the award for most subscriptions sold.  I
sold twice as many subscriptions as anyone else."

   Sheryl smiled.  "That doesn't sound like a problem, Bill."

   "It's not exactly.  But it gets more interesting.  In high school I worked
at a clothing store.  Right away I became the store's highest producer.
People always bought lots of stuff from me."

   "So?"

   "Senior year I ran for high school class president.  I won in a landslide.
I applied to colleges.  I got full scholarship offers from every school I
applied to.  To earn spending money in college, I worked part time at a
computer store.  We got paid commissions, and I made a ton of money.  It's
like I couldn't fail.  You see, Doc, I'm starting to wonder if there's
something weird going on.  With me, I mean."

   She frowned.  "Bill, you're successful in sales.  You're a pleasant and
articulate young man who speaks well to people and puts them at ease.  That's
no problem.  I don't understand."

   He smiled.  "You're right, Doc.  You _don't_ understand.  See, people
always do what I want.  If I go out with friends, they ask me to choose the
restaurant or movie.  Always.  I used to think it was just my outgoing
personality.  But then last year something strange happened with this girl
I'm dating.  That's what made me really start to wonder."

   Dr. Richardson silently waited for Bill to continue.  So he did.

   "There's one more piece of background that you should know to understand
why it upset me.  See, my senior year in college, I started smoking.  I know,
I know, it's a dumb habit.  I shouldn't smoke.  But it helps me deal with
stress.  It relaxes me, if you know what I mean."

   Dr. Richardson nodded.

   "I started smoking regularly senior year, and I kept on after graduation.
To be honest, I like to smoke.  I mean, I _really_ like it, and early on I
decided I wouldn't hide it, either.  When I started my current job, after
graduating, I met Carolyn.  She's got a great personality, and she's
unbelievably good-looking.  To be blunt, she's sexy as hell!  She really
turned me on, so I asked her out, and she said yes.  She's a nurse, so she's
also in healthcare, like you.  We went out a couple times, and suddenly, with
no warning, she announces that she wants to smoke, too."

   Dr. Richardson frowned.  "That's not so odd.  It's unfortunate, but not
unusual.  Smoking is a dangerous and foul habit.  But people who spend time
together often begin to adopt with each other's likes, dislikes, and even
habits.  Plus, nursing is a very stressful and demanding profession.  From my
personal experience, I know that many, many nurses _do_ smoke, more than
you'd think.  So it's really not too surprising that Carolyn might take up
the habit."

   "But Carolyn's not the only one.  My mom and dad smoked when I was
younger, but they quit years ago.  When I began smoking, I didn't tell them.
I thought they'd be mad.  But finally I decided I had to, at the start of
spring break senior year.  By the time I returned to school a week later,
both Mom and Dad were smoking again!"

   She raised an eyebrow.  "But why?  Did they say why?"

   "Yeah, they said seeing me smoke reminded them how much they used to like
it.  They both said they just decided they wanted to start again.  It was
weird!  I mean, they're in their forties, with professional careers and shit.
But now they're smoking all the time again!"

   "Hmm.  It _is_ unusual for people your parents' age to return to a bad
habit they left behind years earlier," Dr. Richardson agreed.  "I'm sorry it
happened, and I'm sure you are, too."

   He nodded.  "I feel a little guilty.  I also feel guilty that Carolyn
started because of me."

   "Yes, tell me more about Carolyn."

   "She's a nurse, like I said, and one of the hottest women I've ever seen.
She works in the ER at Parkland Hospital.  Before we dated, she never smoked
in her life.  Our first date, she told me she disapproved of my smoking.  But
our second date, she surprised me by asking for a cigarette.  I gave it to
her, but I figured she'd use it to lecture me, to tell me how bad it is, how
dumb it is to smoke, that kind of shit.  Well, to my surprise, Carolyn lit it
up.  She said she'd been seriously thinking about taking up smoking herself.
Is that strange, or what?"

   "Like I said, many nurses _do_ smoke.  I saw it during my residency, Bill,
and even before that.  You see, I was a nurse before I went to medical
school.  It may seem inexplicable, but believe me, lots of nurses smoke, even
though they should know better."

   "It's not weird that other nurses smoke.  But it made no sense for
Carolyn.  She grew up in a family where no one smoked.  Her parents were
totally against it.  They were horrified the first time she came home and lit
up in front of them."

   "I'm sure.  So, what?  Carolyn began to smoke socially when she was with
you?"

   "No, more than that.  After our second date, she began to smoke
incessantly.  She now does more than a pack a day.  She smokes constantly,
Doc.  Hanging out with me, seeing me do it, completely changed her mind about
smoking.  She insists she loves it, even though before she said she hated it.
She firmly maintains she can't live without her cigarettes.  She says she
never wants to quit.  She's become just like me; a confirmed smoker."

   Dr. Richardson's eyes narrowed.  "So, what are you suggesting, Bill?"

   "Doc, you'll think I'm crazy, but here's what I'm afraid of.  It adds up.
I'm great at sales.  People always buy from me.  I'm successful with women.
I never get turned down by girls I ask out.  And they don't just go out with
me.  I always get laid, Doc, even on the first date.  People always seem to
do whatever I want.  I hate to complain, but I don't think it's normal.  Do
you?"

   "Like I said, Bill, you're handsome, articulate and personable.  It's not
a surprise that women find you attractive, or that you're successful in
sales, either."

   "Okay.  But the smoking thing with Carolyn made me wonder, Doc.  It makes
no sense.  I mean, people these days don't just start smoking.  Sure, I like
to smoke.  Oh, I know it's a bad habit, but I don't care.  I like it, but now
it seems like everyone around me likes it, too.  I'm afraid I have some kind
of animal magnetism, some weird psychic control or power over people.  It
makes them agree with me about anything and everything, regardless of how
they felt before.  In the past, Carolyn detested smoking and smokers.  After
two dates, when I smoked in front of her and defended my habit, suddenly,
bang, she's a pack a day girl!  I tell you, it makes no fuckin' sense!"

   Sheryl laughed.  "Bill, you're extrapolating from the facts and drawing an
unwarranted conclusion.  You're successful in sales, and in love.  People see
you as a trend-setter, someone whose actions influence theirs.  Your opinions
obviously become important to those around you.  But I seriously doubt you
have any strange psychic power."

   "I don't know, Doc.  I don't know."  He shook his head.

   She smiled.  "I thought you were going to call me Sheryl."

   "Oh, yeah, right.  I'm sorry, Sheryl."

   "Either way is fine, Bill.  The important thing is, I want you to feel you
can speak candidly.  The doctor-patient relationship sometimes creates a
barrier to honest communication.  To help you, I need you to speak freely at
all times."

   "Okay, Sheryl.  So do you think I have a problem?"

   She laughed.  "I think you have great influence over people.  That's all,
Bill.  Okay, your parents and your girlfriend all started smoking shortly
after you did.  That's unfortunate, but it's not weird, or even
unexplainable."

   "Wait.  There's more.  It's not just my folks and Carolyn.  My college
roommate also started to smoke after I did.  And Carolyn's roommate took it
up after I got to know her.  Then here's the _really_ weird thing.  I just
spent a weekend at Carolyn's folks' home in Atlanta.  I dreaded it.  I was
afraid they'd lecture the hell out of me about smoking.  I knew they blamed
me for getting Carolyn hooked.  And they did lecture me at first.  But the
second day we were there, her mom announced that she'd been too
closed-minded.  She asked if she could try a cigarette.  Then her dad wanted
one.  I swear, Doc, both her parents now smoke.  Isn't that weird?  It seems
everyone I meet starts doing whatever I do.  They do whatever I want them to.
It's not just sales, it's personal stuff, like the smoking thing."

   "But you're unhappy that they're smoking," frowned Sheryl.  "You don't
want them to smoke, do you?"

   "God, I don't know," he admitted.  "It's easier being around smokers.  You
know?  I don't feel awkward or guilty about wanting to light up when I'm with
smokers.  I know it's bad for them, and for me.  But I like people not to
disapprove of me and what I do.  So, yeah, I guess on one level I am glad
they smoke.  All my friends smoke now.  Do I have some weird psychic power,
some animal magnetism that draws them into it and overcomes their
objections?"

   "I doubt it, Bill.  You feel guilty about your influence over friends and
family, especially because so many of them have begun to smoke.  Have you
tried to talk them out of it?"

   He frowned.  "No, not really.  I did tell Carolyn I was surprised by her
transformation.  But she just laughs.  She says she just likes to smoke now,
and she likes smoking with me, too."

   Dr. Richardson shifted in her seat.  "Bill, you fear you have some
mystical ability, psychic power, an animal magnetism, as you call it, over
others.  But you want me to talk you out of it, to assure you it's your
imagination.  Well, I think it _is_ your imagination, but I don't think I can
talk you out of it using reason alone.  Perhaps I should talk with Carolyn.
Then I can find the real reasons for her taking up the habit.  I suspect it's
more complicated than you think."

   "God, I don't know, Sheryl.  I didn't figure on the cost of you meeting
with Carolyn, too.  That might get kind of expensive.  I'm not sure I can
afford that much of your time."

   Sheryl thought.  "I tell you what.  I'll do it for free.  It's an
interesting case, and I'm curious to hear Carolyn's point of view.  My
appointment book isn't exactly full."  She walked to her desk to pick up some
business cards.  "Give one to Carolyn.  Have her call me to make an
appointment.  I'll meet with her, then we'll talk again.  I can find out
what's really going on and put your mind at ease.  There's a natural
explanation, I'm sure, something in Carolyn's past, perhaps something in her
parents' past, that explains why they all decided to start smoking."

   Bill sighed.  "That'd be great, Sheryl.  God, I appreciate it!  Sometimes
I go crazy worrying about this.  I'm not complaining about success in sales.
I make good money.  But for peace of mind, I need to know if something else
is going on.  Because it seems weird."

   "I know it does, but that's why I'm here.  By the time we're done, I'll be
able to show you there's nothing out of the ordinary happening, no
explanation except that you're a very handsome and engaging man."  They stood
and shook hands.  "Bill, it's been a real pleasure.  I mean it.  Now, I
wonder.  Can you talk with Paula and me about that computer software program
for medical offices?  I need a good accounting, bookkeeping and scheduling
program.  The one we have is shitty, to be honest.  I guess Paula told you
that."

   "Yes, she did.  And I'd love to, Sheryl.  When is a good time for you?"

   She looked at her watch.  "You're my last appointment.  How about right
now?  We can go to Paula's desk and show you what we have.  Who knows?  Maybe
you'll make another sale."

   She began to open the door to the reception area.  But Bill touched her
hand, to stop her from opening it.  "Sheryl, I must tell you.  Paula's a
great receptionist, very dedicated.  And she's extremely cute, pretty and
personable.  Don't you think?"

   Sheryl slowly smiled.  "Yes, I suppose she is, isn't she?"

   "I told her all about my concerns, about the animal magnetism thing.  I
don't mind if you tell her all about this.  It's fine with me.  She's a great
asset for someone just starting out in practice, Sheryl.  You're lucky to
have Paula.  Don't you agree?"

   "Yes, I do agree, Bill," Sheryl nodded.  "Paula's great.  I probably don't
appreciate her as much as I should.  Now let's see if you can sell us that
office management program!"


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