I glanced at the day’s schedule. Maybe I had a cancellation and could catch up a little. No such luck. Somebody new, and... What an odd name. Mild stage fright skittered low in my belly. He could be a Forest Gump, a Hannibal Lector, or just a pill, you never knew.
Entering the waiting room en route to the loo, I stopped short at the psychedelic vision popping up from a chair. “Dr. D? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Pillbo Baggins.”
He was the oddest little man I had ever seen in a long career marked by odd scenes.
Rotund and hairy, he wore an aquamarine, three-piece suit, mustard shirt, garish floral tie, with a bowler on top.
His dark beard ran up his cheeks leaving only bright black eyes and nose exposed. He wore no shoes. His feet and toes were covered with dark hair to the nails. Those were long and dark.
He was remarkably short. I am only 5’2”. The bowl of his bowler barely reached my sternum.
Taking all this in at a glance, I nodded and shook the hand he offered me. He tipped the hat with the other hand in a courtly manner, saying in a plumy, English sort of accent, “I am most pleased to meet you, Doctor.”
“Likewise.” A warm, popcorn aroma wafted off him. His furry hand was squishy, with long dark nails.
We stood there a beat or two longer. He continued holding my hand. I raised my eyebrows. Another beat, and he let go. We locked eyes. Let the games begin.
“Come on in,” I said, leading the way. As we passed my office manager Chris in her sanctum behind the check-in window, I popped my eyes out at her: Very weird.
She raised a hand in the stop gesture. “May I speak with you for a moment?”
“Mr. Baggins, if you would, please go ahead into my office, and make yourself comfortable.” He toddled down the hall, vanishing from view.
“Dee, Mr. Baggins has someone with him, a Mr. Gandalf. He’ll be joining you in a minute.” She popped her eyes out, “Wait till you see the way he’s dressed. I don’t think these guys shop at Penny’s.”
Mr. B. had chosen the couch and removed the hat, exposing a low forehead and bushy, neatly brushed hair.
“How are you today, Mr. Baggins?” I smiled, sitting down. “What brings you in to see me?”
He cleared his throat, “Well. Doctor. Given the uh… rapid and thorough way you uh… scanned my person in the waiting room, I feel confident you have uh… inferred I am a hobbit.”
Busted! It had occurred to me, of course, but I had dismissed it. Hobbits are creatures of fiction, not reality. Keeping my face arranged in an attitude of attentive interest, I thought like mad.
Perhaps he was suffering from a delusion, the false operating premise being that he was a hobbit, not a human. He did look uncannily like a hobbit.
Did the delusion stem from his natural appearance— Hormone imbalance? Hairy genes? Or, had he changed his appearance to match the delusion? Hormone injections?—
A sharp knock knocked off this spadework. There stood a rangy old man with a staff, wearing a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf over which a white beard hung to below his waist.
“Mr. Gandalf I presume?”
“At your service. May I enter?”
Ever mindful of HIPAA privacy regulations, I deferred to Mr. Baggins: “May he?”
“Certainly. Certainly. By all means.”
Closing the door, I read a red “X” scrawled in the center that hadn’t been there before. I ran a finger under my turtleneck.
Gandalf sat down on the stuffed chair that matched the couch, crossed his knees and trotted his eyes toward Mr. Baggins.
“Gandalf,” said Mr. B., “I have just informed the good doctor I am a hobbit. She took it quite well.” They grinned slyly at each other.
Fascinating. I had never in real life encountered a folie-a-deux: two loons sharing a nest of delusion.
Both spoke in that British, over-written manner. Their clothes could have doubled as costuming on a Middle-Earth stage set. Enough to confirm the diagnosis? Maybe. I shelved the hypothesis pending further data.
Another knock-knock. Who was there? A dwarf? Squat, muscular, with a bright blue beard, and hooded green cloak. “Baleen at your service!” said he, pushing by me, and taking a seat next to the Baggins on the sofa.
A swimming sensation of not being quite up to the intellectual pressure of events washed over me.
A mayday from my bladder broke through: ME PEE! ME PEE! ME PEE! I groaned silently. My curiosity about Mr. B. had derailed me from taking care of business.
Well, curiosity kills cats, and it could well be the cause of an embarrassing accident now. I pivoted to exit, the words “Excuse me for a moment,” on the tip of my tongue—
Another knock. A second dwarf. This one with a bright green beard and blue cloak. “Dwayleen at your service!”
Chris stood behind him, mouthing silently: I’m sorry! Shrugging, I glanced inside the office: full house. But were we playing with a full deck?
“Gentlemen! How many more of you should I expect?”
Gandalf spoke: “Two more, my dear.” Chris took off, presumably to return with folding chairs. Or a net.
A third dwarf with yellow beard and red cloak stomped in (Grumpy?) gripping one arm of a thrashing young hobbit.
Baleen (Or was it Dwayleen?) grabbed the other arm, but not before getting his lip split.
Right away I knew: the sweet young thing was the reason for this folderol straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.
How to make sense of this? What’s real? What’s not? Reality: What a concept! ROBIN WILLIAMS
My head swam again. The military acronym SNAFU drifted across my mind’s eye: Situation Normal All F**ed Up.
I imagined one good man instantly leaving the deserts of Afghanistan to come to my aid. “You sent for the Marines, ma’am?”
“Yes! How would YOU describe this situation?”
“SNAFU.” he laughed. “No doubt about it.”
I surfaced to chaos.
The young hobbit’s eyes were spiraling like a hypnotized cartoon-character’s. The plentiful hair on all exposed areas— head, face, hands and feet— spiked wildly on end. His filthy poet’s shirt was rumpled; his short pants wrinkled and smudged with dirt.
My nose wrinkled. Rotting fish? I rearranged my face back to neutral.
He wriggled and hissed madly in an effort to shake off the two dwarves gamely holding on. Though small, he was taking up a significant amount of square footage.
The room was packed tighter than a subway car at rush hour. My bookcase rattled ominously. Any moment, the antique bottle collection on top would cascade to the floor and shatter. Shards of glass would shoot in all directions.
Great. I had a Situation here. Apologizing to my bladder for not visiting the facilities when I had the chance, I pointed a finger at the reeking hobbit.
“You—” I paused, making eye contact. “Settle down.”
He glared at me, stuck his tongue out, and wriggled harder, almost eeling out of his captors’ grasp before they reeled him back.
“You—” I said to Pillbo and dwarf on the couch, jerking a hitchhiker’s thumb away: “Off!”
A breath later, and little Lord Fauntleroy— “Oof!”— found himself jammed in the love seat, filling a dwarf sandwich.
“Mr. Baggins. Mr. Gandalf. Explain.”
I sat down on the edge of my seat, knees clamped.
Gandalf began. “Doctor, this is young Dodo Baggins, son of the late Frodo of Lord of the Rings fame. Pillbo is the late Bilbo’s cousin twice removed.”
I should be drawing a genogram. Where was the chart? Missing In Action.
“Dodo has acquired the One Ring of Power,” said Pillbo, picking up the thread. “Like everyone else, we were misled by the trilogy finale, assuming the Ring perished with Gollum. How this feeble-minded oaf got it, we’ll never know. (Maybe that will be the next movie.)
He denies it is destroying him and refuses to stop using it. He’s been on the run, taking advantage of the Ring’s power of invisibility: stealing from his mother, looting various businesses and vandalizing public buildings by spray-paint-tagging nonsense like: ‘This Dodo NOT exstink!’ He’s crazy. You must help us.”
“Precioussss! My Precioussss! Mine!” rasped Dodo, ramping up his snake imitation.
“Why me?” If I could have thunked my forehead on the wall without springing a leak, I would have.
The end of the session, if that’s what this could be called, was long overdue. The waiting room had to be a cauldron of patients heaving to a slow boil. With the bathroom on the other side.
Then it came to me: an idea so cunning, if you put a tail on it you could call it a weasel.
“Where is the Ring now?” I asked.
“Dodo wears it on a string around his neck. Whoever takes it from him risks the same fate."
“It makes you invisible?” All (except Dodo) nodded darkly.
“Well, give it to me. No problem. I Am Woman. Hear Me Roar.”
Pillbo’s face split with delight. “Give it to her!”
“No! No! My Preciousss! Mine!” wheezed Dodo, as three dwarves sat on him.
Popping the ring on my finger, I vanished and shot through the mobbed waiting room to the bathroom, leaving them holding the Baggins.
PHOTO CREDIT: khalliballi