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A Chance Meeting

Short Fiction by Jonathan Mitchell

Paul Sarians lay supine on his therapist's couch at the California Therapy Center in Los Angeles, located on Venice Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue. Paul was too depressed to say anything to his therapist, Dr. Victor Nabov. Part of the reason that Paul was demoralized was that he just could not make much money. Therefore, instead of hiring a $90-120 per fifty minute/hour shrink he had to settle for a $20 per forty-five minute hour shrink at the California Therapy Center which was devoted to practicing clinical psychology on a sliding scale fee for those persons who could not afford the traditional going rates of therapy and for those therapists who could not find enough people to pay them 90 bucks plus for the sessions.

"A penny for your thoughts," said Dr. Nabov, deciding to break the deathly silence. Paul managed to hide his irritation with his shrink who often used cliched phrases which he felt should have gone the way of zoot suits and 78 rpm Guy Lombardo records.

Paul finally decided to speak up. "Well, you know, it's just the usual shit. I'm depressed about the fact that I can't make as much money as I would like. Really though, it is more than just money. I, just seem to be in a rut. I thought I was doing work that was useful but now I am not so sure."

"Well, Paul, many people are dissatisfied with their work, sort of feel like they are in a rut and there are various options. Sometimes one can take a sabbatical from one's job and one's work and then sort of be rejuvenated, that is, more freshened."

"Well", replied Paul, "I really don't want to do that. I just want to keep on working because whenever I don't I get kinda depressed. Besides I need the money". Paul continued. "Maybe if I could find another profession. I am not sure this profession is the right one for me."

"Well, Paul", chimed in Dr. Nabov, "you're 44 and not getting any younger. It is damn hard to change careers at your age. Especially when you consider all of the time and money that you invested in your present career, but we are going to have to pick up next week, same time, same channel 'cause I'm afraid our time is up."

"Well", said Paul, "the least you can do is extend the time from 45 minutes to 50 minutes the way the nonsliding scale therapists do. Besides, I have another 5 minutes on the 50 minute parking meter that goes ten minutes short to accommodate people that see therapists." At this juncture both Paul and Dr. Nabov burst out laughing.

"Okay", Dr. Nabov acquiesced, "another five minutes it is." There was a brief silence on Paul's part as Dr. Nabov again waited for him to speak after allowing him the extra time.

"I extend this extra five minutes to you and you have nothing more to say?" queried Dr. Nabov.

"No I guess not, sometimes one feels there is something more to say, maybe I don't really need it after all. Of course there is just one more question I would like to ask you, doc. Since sometimes I can't even think of what to say in these sessions except bitching about my occupational problems why the hell do I need psychotherapy anyway?"

Dr. Nabov thought about this for a moment wanting to give his client the best answer. Finally he answered.

"Because, you have heard the old saw 'physician heal thyself', right?"

Paul nodded.

"Well that old saw does not apply to clinical psychologists, Dr. Sarians." It was at this time that the two psychologists mutually agreed to end the therapy session for the day even though Dr. Paul Sarians' five minute windfall was not up yet. He then got up off of the couch and walked across the hall to the door of his office marked undistinguishedly Paul Sarians, Ph.D.

It was a little while before Paul's next client of the day would show up for her session with Paul so Paul tried to kill the time by reading the latest issue of American Psychologist. However, Paul's concentration was just not up to the task. He thought about all the shibboleths of the profession he had been working in the past 15 years. People were always commenting on how what psychotherapists charged $100 or more per 50 minute session could be done for free by a friend. Paul had always countered that most friendships were lost when one friend treated another like the city dump and no remuneration was involved. Besides, he was not emotionally involved the way a friend was. In graduate school he had been trained to avoid what had been termed countertransference or not feeling empathy or feeling like his patient was someone in the exact shoes as he was or in general, getting emotionally involved with the patient. This explanation did not bode well with most people and he tended to lose a lot of people once he reached the countertransference argument which was foreign to most nontherapists.

Finally, it was time for Paul's first patient of the day. Her name was Deborah Meyering, a 29-year-old $6.25/hour teaching aide. Deborah was somewhat overweight but still reasonably attractive. Deborah sat down on the couch across from the chair that Paul occupied. Paul nodded to Deborah and asked her how she was and she replied that she was fine. Paul could tell by the look on her face that she was not at all fine but extremely depressed. After counseling her for six months, he knew better. Deborah started to lift the burden off her shoulders.

"I can't quit thinking about Danny, my soldier boy. He would always tell me his problems and I would always say, 'chin up soldier boy' and he and I would burst out laughing. He was a wonderful lover. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. I told my parents and all my friends that this was the man I was going to marry. He said that his enlistment from the army would be up in a year and that when he left the service the next June we would be married. He said that he learned a lot in the army and he would have no trouble getting a job as a mechanic or something like that. He said he loved me!" It was at this time that Deborah started to cry. On the desk between her and Paul was a box of Kleenex. Paul immediately and tactfully in the well-rehearsed manner of an experienced therapist handed pulled a single Kleenex from the box and handed it to her. Somehow the calculated procedure of taking one Kleenex from the box instead of handing a sobbing client the whole box was a more sensitive and intimate way to deal with the problem. There were just some things you weren't trained for in graduate school or an internship Paul thought wryly to himself.

"But that was shortly after the Persian Gulf war. That was about 8 years ago. It's time to move on."

"I DON'T CARE!! I DON'T GIVE A FLYING FUCK!" exclaimed Deborah, and without bothering to wait for Paul she picked up the whole box of Kleenex and helped herself to a few Kleenexes and started crying hysterically again.

"WHY DO MEN HAVE TO BE SO CRUEL AND RUTHLESS?" Deborah cried even further.

This was only about the gazillienth time that Paul had heard this story in the six months that he had been counseling Deborah but there did not seem to be any point of apprising her of this fact. What had happened was during the Persian Gulf war and Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, Deborah who had not been ugly by any means but was considered less than a matinee idol or even somewhat plain by other men and did not get asked out much, had looked in this magazine that the United States Army had put out. In it were a list of soldiers serving in the Persian Gulf War who were interested in being Pen Pals to women in their early 20's and gave the post office box number to which they could be written. Deborah started writing to a PFC named Dan who was serving in the Middle East as part of Operation Desert Storm. They had exchanged frivolous letters at first but then somehow the letters became more intimate and Deborah had fallen in love with this man whom she had never met. Finally, Danny had written her a letter saying that he would be going on leave and would be visiting Deborah in Los Angeles. Deborah had fallen in love with Danny through his letters and photos and they had started having passionate sex immediately. Danny had assured her that he felt the same way about her and had proposed marriage saying that they would get engaged and then they would marry the following year when his enlistment was up.

Much to Danny's chagrin, however, one day when Deborah was looking for something in Danny's car she found an old discarded envelope on the floor saying Mr. and Mrs. Danny Trueblood as part of the address on the envelope. One question from Deborah and one evasive answer from Danny had led to another and another until finally it had been established that Danny was a married con man who constantly cheated on his wife and gave the same story to all of the women he had bedded about how they would be the future Mrs. Trueblood. Traumatized by this turn of events, Deborah had completely given up dating since that time shortly after the end of the Gulf war. Eventually, she had decided to seek therapy in order to try to get out of this rut. Unable to afford the 90 dollars an hour or more charged by many therapists, she had come to The California Therapy center for her solace.

"HE JUST TREATED ME LIKE A PIECE OF MEAT. JUST WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM!" Deborah continued her crying with Paul just nonplussed not knowing what to say or do, being helpless to do anything about her problem. It took all of his willpower not to look at his watch in the middle of the session.

The session eventually ended with Paul feeling more than ever absolutely useless and feeling that he would have to leave the field of psychology somehow but he just did not know how. He would have to continue his sessions with Dr. Nabov in order to figure out just how to do it.

Finally, Paul's last client of the day came in for an evening session. His name was Richard Vance. He worked as a sales manager in an electronics store. Not a fancy job and not a fancy income. Like Deborah, he was someone who was not rich or had a prestigious job but still had psychological problems and was in need of a therapist. Dr. Paul Sarians and The California Therapy Center were something that he could afford.

Richard sat down on the couch facing Paul. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence which Paul decided to break. "So where were we two weeks ago, Rich? We were talking about your dates with Denise as I recall."

Richard sort of made an indignant face. "Yeah, I really got screwed. Well, maybe I should say shafted instead a saying screwed; after all, I didn't even get to kiss her let alone get screwed."

"How do you figure you got shafted?"

"Well", continued Richard, not bothering to conceal his disgust and irritation, "she was really sweet and pretty to me. She sort of subtly hinted that she wanted to go out with me; I mean chicks, they don't ask guys out, but they talk a sweet and pretty talk, they say stuff like 'we have common interests', you know how it is."

Paul nodded.

"First I picked up the hint and we went out for a movie and coffee. She never mentioned having a boyfriend or anything like that. It seemed like the date went pretty well. She lives out in Van Nuys area, near there, you know. I'm in mid-Wilshire area. Not a really humungously significant distance but it's not like we are around the corner from each other."

"About 13 miles give or take", said Paul nodding and subtly encouraging Richard to go on with the rest of the story.

Richard continued. "Well, we met for the movie and coffee in the mid-Wilshire area near where I live. Then she said that the next time we went out that we should meet in the Van Nuys area, near where she lives. Hell, I figure I've got it in the bag now. After that she said that I was important to her and she would never say something like that if she didn't mean it. Then we go on a second date-or at least what I thought was a date- after that in her neighborhood out in the Valley. I went back to her house with her and she introduced me to her 8-year-old daughter. I was a little hesitant about dating women with kids at first, but then I really got to like her daughter and we really established a good rapport, and I sorta enjoyed the fact that she had a kid. Her daughter even gave me some candy afterwards. Then a few days later comes the bombshell. I ask her for a third date and she says that she can't that weekend because she is going to San Francisco for the weekend where her boyfriend lives, but she said that she would enjoy going out with me as a friend when she was in town and her boyfriend wasn't visiting her in Los Angeles. I asked her how she could have a relationship with someone who lived more than 400 miles away from her and she replied that he'd be moving here in six months. Can you believe that shit!?"

Paul gave a cursory shrug of the shoulders, being at a loss for words.

"How can women be so cruel and so fucked up?"

Paul was worried that if he gave a noncommittal response that he would be lacking professionalism as a therapist. On the other hand, he also wanted to avoid countertransference and not identify or empathize to closely with Richard either and try to stay a neutral observer.

"Well, Rich, that is a riddle that has stymied man ever since the good Lord removed one of Adam's ribs and created woman. It was Freud himself who posed the question 'what does woman want'?"

Richard chuckled a little bit. "I still don't understand why she would go out with me and not tell me she had a boyfriend."

"Maybe she was protecting her territory. Woman do that, you know. They see someone, and then the relationship is not as serious at first and then they check out someone else, but then the guy from San Francisco made a stronger commitment."

"Well I still think he might have been made up. I never actually met him, but our relationship, whatever it was, came to an end after that."

"Well that was in the past, sometimes you have to just move on. I know it's an old cliche, Rich, but there are a lot of fish in the ocean."

"Yea, I know".

"Well, anyhow, our time is up."

"Okay, Dr. Sarians, guess I will see you in two weeks." Richard wrote Dr. Sarians a check and then left abruptly.

Dr. Sarians did not have any more clients for the day so he finished reading the latest issue of American Psychologist that he was reading before. When he finished that he started reading The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. He still had time to kill before his appointment with Dr. Nabov later that day.

Finally, Paul walked across the hall to Victor Nabov's office for his appointment. Paul immediately started his complaining to his therapist.

"I'm getting absolutely nowhere with any of my clients. I just absolutely felt like crying when this one gal cried. I handed her the Kleenex, trying to sympathize and make her feel better, but is this what I spent six years in graduate school for. Not to mention my 3,000 hour internship where I was lucky to even make the minimum wage for some of my hours, and even working for free for a good portion of them."

"What exactly happened?" Paul could tell that Nabov's curiosity was piqued by the way he raised his right eyebrow by just a couple of millimeters or so.

Paul then told what had gone on during the session without mentioning Deborah's name. Nabov had already heard about the adulterous tryst with the soldier and the false promise of matrimony.

"Well, sounds like you did all you could do as a therapist under the circumstances. You have to remember, Paul, you can't expect to save the world and perform miracles. If this gal could find a new man then she could forget about soldier boy." "But, I am still pissed off. I don't feel like I am accomplishing anything at all in this profession."

"Every therapist, Paul, including myself, has been racked with self-doubts about what they are doing in this profession. There are the years of college and then the years of graduate school. The 3,000 hours of internship where you have to work for free or maybe for very low pay if you are lucky." Then you're in competition with so many other people that it is hard to make a living and only the shrinks who happen to be good salesmen and not necessarily good therapists are the ones who make a killing in private practice. I think part of your problem is you are a good therapist and not a good salesman and that is why you are having doubts about your effectiveness as a therapist because you have not been able to make it in private practice the same way as a lot of your colleagues. When you see some of your colleagues with their $100/hour, 40 client a week practices it is racking you with self-doubts. Then after all the expensive schooling, training, and low or no paying internship, you have people just ask you what your purpose is and why can't a friend do the same thing that you are doing for free and listen to someone's problems and talk to them and give them advice or consolation. It has happened to me with the people I meet, it made me frustrated at first but I learned how to rise above it. I know that therapy has its limitations and I can't help everyone, but if I can accomplish something with just a small percentage of my clients, do something to help them overcome their doubts of self- worth or adjust to life better somehow, then I can go home, happy, knowing that I have done something worthwhile. You are certainly not going to be the exception to the rule. These have probably been issues since Freud's time, maybe longer. But we have come a long way since the 1960's, when people only saw therapists very discreetly and it was considered a disgrace or an embarrassment to see a therapist and it was only for someone who belonged in a lunatic asylum. I think I will get off the soapbox now and let you talk."

The room was silent at first after Dr. Nabov concluded and let Paul have his chance to respond to his little homily about the shibboleths of the therapy profession, but it seemed that Paul was nonplussed. Finally Paul started talking.

"It's just that I don't know what to do about my clients' problems. It is just that I am at a loss to do anything to help any of them. All I can do is be like a friend and just do a lot of empathizing and hand holding. That really does not seem to be enough to me and I really want to do more than that."

Dr. Nabov finally started to speak. "Well, Paul, if you want to be a good shrink sometimes you have to use a little ingenuity and go for a solution that is somewhat offbeat. I can't really think of any specifics right now. Even if I could the problem is every shrink has their own style. Both therapy and problem solving skills that are part of a shrink's bag of tricks are more of an art than a science. You have to be unique; do something that has the unique brand of Paul Sarians, but I hate to say this but we are going to have to call it a wrap today because our time is up and I have to go home as I am sure you are anxious to get home after a hard day's work at the California Therapy Center."

Both Paul and Victor Nabov left the office together and said good-bye to each other.

Paul then got in his Honda and started driving north on Fairfax Boulevard on his way home. He thought and pondered to himself while driving what he could do to help Rich and Debbie. Part of the problem was that Los Angeles was such a large and impersonal city. It was by far the largest city in square miles in the United States and that excluded the entire greater Los Angeles area which included separate cities that bordered Los Angeles such as Beverly Hills and Culver City and Inglewood, not to mention unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County like Park Terrace and Malibu. The city was spread out, people did not get to know each other or their neighbors on the street. Also, there was no large mass transit system which existed as it did in cities like New York or San Francisco. There were no sidewalk cafes the way there were in other cities. This seemed to make it harder to meet people for some reason. Then he got caught driving in traffic. He found himself behind a large Mercedes Benz. On the license plate frame were the words 'fire your therapist' staring him in the face. It was truly eerie how fate reared her ugly head.

He had continued to drive north on Fairfax Boulevard north of Wilshire Boulevard when he decided to stop in Farmers' Market which was fortuitously on his way home. Farmers' Market was one of the landmarks in Los Angeles, a shopping center that had been around since the 1930's. He then walked out of his car towards the interior of Farmers' Market and walked towards The Fruit Company, one of the numerous outdoor shops at Farmers' Market. He was trying to watch his weight and liked to eat fruit so he decided this would be the first thing that he would buy as long as he was here. He looked at all of the fruit, the Gala apples, the Delicious apples, the sweet honey tangerines, the sweet De'anjou pears and then an incredible inspiration hit him.

Two weeks later he had his next session with Deborah. She continued to carp about how much she was thinking about soldier boy and how she could not get him out of her mind and how she had remained celibate and could not even bring herself to go out and meet men after that incredibly traumatic experience that had happened in the early 90's.

"Well, replied Paul, "I think it's time to move on and try to meet some new people. If you could meet someone new then you would forget about soldier boy."

"Maybe you're right", answered Deborah, looking apparently more upbeat. "But, the problem is I just don't have a clue as how to meet people in Los Angeles. It just seems like it is such an impersonal city." Paul smiled to himself, thinking of the strange irony of how he had been thinking the same sort of thing just a couple of weeks ago when he had been to Farmers' Market and had had his inspiration. He decided that now was the time to spring it on Deborah and then to try Rich when he came in for his appointment later that day.

"Well", started Paul, "meeting people requires going out and getting exposure which I think you have neglected to do. People often take art and yoga and creative writing classes, etc., in an attempt to meet people. They sometimes take up square dancing or country line dancing or even ballroom dancing. They often pay a couple of thousand bucks or more to a dating service. Those are the more obvious ways. Sometimes, though you can meet people in the much less obvious and creative situations. Take Farmers' Market for example. You've been there, haven't you?" Deborah nodded. It's an open and public place and tons of different people come in and out of there. It's really a great place if you play your cards right. I know that it is hard for a woman to ask a man out, but you can often do subtle things like, smiling, trying to be sweet if a man engages you in small talk and so forth. There is this one outdoor shop, at Farmers' called the fruit company where a number of men in their early 30's hang out. I think it would be perfect for you."

"Well", said Deborah, "I guess it couldn't hurt to give it a try", brightening up a little bit. She and Paul then talked about what Deborah had been doing during the two week hiatus that he had not seen her and other things. Paul wondered if his plan would work and if she would go for it. Also, of course, it depended upon Rich as well.

Later that day, Rich came in for his once every other weekly session with Paul.

"How have you been?" Paul asked Richard.

"I've been", Richard replied.

Paul smiled at the wry humor and they started their session. Rich, again, went on about his women problems. "Well, doc, you know, it's the same old shit, though I know that you are tired of hearing it..."

"That's what I get paid for", interrupted Paul, trying to ease Rich into his thoughts comfortably.

Rich continued. "I just can't forget Denise and what a fiasco that all was. I know logically that it is time to move on and find another girl, but I just can't, you know how it is, Doc, emotions are just stronger than logic sometimes."

"Yea, sure, I know how it is, but sometimes you have to try logic, and logically you know that Denise was in the past, things did not work out, and that it is time to find another girl. Furthermore, if you found someone else that you liked and they worked out you might forget all about Denise. It's just like what Mark Twain supposedly said about people talking about the weather but not doing anything about it. You can bitch and moan about not having a girlfriend and Denise not working out until doomsday or you can do something about it."

"Such as?"

"Well, I think I have a good idea for you. It's hard to meet people in Los Angeles, it is sort of a cold and impersonal city. People try all sorts of things, like want ads in the L.A. Weekly that no one ever responds to, expensive dating services that often just net someone a few dead end dates, going to yoga or art classes and so forth. Also, in some ways, being a male, you are at a disadvantage because you have to take the initiative in relationships, you have to strike up the conversation and start the conversation, you have to make that first move, and ultimately you are the one who is going to have to ask the woman out and deal with a rejection if that occurs. There are some less obvious ways, however, to meet women. For example have you heard of Farmers' Market near here in Hollywood?"

Rich nodded.

"Well, you know how they have a variety of outdoor shops?" Again, Rich nodded.

"Well, when I was there the other day I noticed that there was this particular outdoor shop, The Fruit Company, where there seemed to be a lot of women in their early 30's. They sell all of these exotic fruits there like De'anjou pears, Gala apples and sweet cantaloupe and these seem to be popular with women in this age range. I don't know if they were single or not but I didn't notice very many wedding rings."

"Yea, at my age, that is the first thing I look at when checking out a woman, the ring finger of the left hand, unlike when I was younger and just used to look at their tits to gauge their breast size." interjected Rich.

Paul smiled a bit and then continued. "Well, this place also gives a man the opportunity to use some good opening lines. For example, say you see a girl that you like and she is fingering the De'anjou pears you could say, 'you are as sweet as these pears, and don't they give you a sense of deja vu rather than De'anjou.' Or you could say, 'these gala apples could be the beginning of a gala affair'. Or, 'I'm as delicious as these apples'. You have to admit those are great opening lines."

Paul's spirits buoyed when he noticed Rich smiled. Paul and Rich continued the session with small talk and with what Richard had been doing in the two weeks that they had not seen each other. Then the session ended. Paul smiled. He knew that now the seed had been planted.

Deborah thought about Paul's suggestion about Farmer's Market and The Fruit Company and decided that it was worth a try. She still thought about soldier boy and what a disastrous affair that had been and how mortified she had been after telling her family and friends that this was the man whom she was going to marry only to find out that he had neglected to tell her that he was already married. She then looked around Farmers' for The Fruit Company and she finally found it. Contrary to what Paul had told her, she did not see very many men who looked like they would be eligible men, just families who were shopping there, checking out the fruit. She started checking out the De'anjou pears, pretending that she was shopping, trying to give the eye to any men who looked like they might be single.

Rich then drove into the parking lot of Farmers' still thinking about Denise. He looked around for The Fruit Company and then finally found it. Contrary to what Paul had told him, he did not see any women who looked single there. Just some families shopping for fruit. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a girl who was certainly no matinee idol, but not terrible looking. She looked like she was about his age and he noticed the absence of a ring on her left hand.

Debbie noticed this sort of scruffy looking guy approaching her. He did not really strike her as being terribly good looking or someone who was well-to-do. Debbie wondered about what Paul had told her and wondered if there were other guys that would come, but she decided to spend the afternoon hanging around The Fruit Company as Paul had suggested.

"Really nice pears, sort of gives one a feeling of deja vu rather than De'anjou', said Rich to Debbie.

Debbie laughed. At least he has a sense of humor thought Debbie.

Rich continued, trying to take Paul's advice. "You can see that cantaloupe there. Well you are as sweet as that sweet cantaloupe."

Debbie blushed a little bit. "Why thank you, you're not so bad yourself. By the way of introductions, my name is Debbie Meyering."

"Rich Vance." They tentatively shook hands. Rich pointed to the Gala apples. "Look at those apples, could this be the beginning of a Gala affair?" Again, Debbie laughed.

"Seriously though", said Rich, I really would like to get to know you better and perhaps I could have your phone number and we could go out sometime."

Debbie did not answer but instead smiled and produced a pen and a piece of paper that she just happened to have in her purse and wrote her name and number and handed it to Rich.

"I was wondering though", said Rich, "when and where we could meet."

"What's wrong with right here and now? Look at all of the shops and things that Farmers' Market has."

"Sounds good to me", replied Rich. Then they immediately started walking towards an outdoor Mexican restaurant for their first date.

While Paul waited for Debbie to come in for her appointment since he had last seen her and had come up with his scheme he worked on his laptop computer, writing an article that he decided he would submit to The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology if his little scheme worked. He had titled it A Chance Meeting: Lessons To Be Learned in Facilitating Social Interactions in Clients. If it did not work, writing a journal article might do him some good anyhow, and who knows, perhaps he could try it out on some other clients if it did not work with Debbie and Rich.

Debbie then came for her biweekly appointment. Paul noticed that she was smiling and looking more upbeat than when he usually saw her.

"Dr. Sarians, guess what", Debbie chimed in immediately, "I took your advice and you were absolutely right. I went to The Fruit Company and met a really terrific guy. It's even possible that we'll get married. Well maybe it's a bit early for that just yet, but we have started going out and he is absolutely terrific. His name is Rich Vance." Paul smiled, his plan had worked! "you were also right about something else. Now that I have started dating Rich, I couldn't give a flying shit about soldier boy. He is a total blot to me now. You are one hell of a terrific shrink. But, I am afraid I have some bad news for you. My problem is solved and I won't be needing your services anymore, this will be my final session."

"No, it's good news", Paul corrected Debbie, it is always good news when I get a good result with one of my clients, it really just makes me feel completely worthwhile. I also wish you the best of luck with Rich."

Next came the session with Rich.

"Dr. Sarians", Rich enthused, "you were absolutely right. I went to Farmers' Market and The Fruit Company just like you suggested and I met a terrific gal. Her name is Deborah Meyering." Then, Rich went through the formalities of telling Paul that his problem had been solved and that his services as a therapist were no longer needed. Paul smiled just after his last session with Rich had ended. If either Rich or Deborah had discovered that their chance meeting had been planned by him, neither had let him know. If they had not done so already, both would probably at some point discover they had both been his client and realize they had been set up for their chance meeting at The Fruit Company that day. If they got married and had kids and grandkids, it would be a great story for them to someday tell their grandkids.

Several weeks later, Paul had another session with Dr. Nabov.

"Well, Paul", said Nabov in a more enthusiastic voice than Paul had ever remembered, "ever since your article was published in The Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology the phone of The California Therapy Center has been ringing off the hook. The way you got those two people together was a stroke of genius. You now have a two month waiting list with a number of clients willing to pay you as much as $100 per session. Maybe more in some cases. I know you have started your own private practice and are making more money, but I just wanted to let you know, I am glad you have decided to stay on here and work with some clients on a sliding scale."

"Yes, I have work to do here and I enjoy it immensely and I wouldn't trade being a shrink for any other profession in the world. But this will be our final session. I won't be needing a therapist for at least a bit."

Nabov nodded; he understood.

After their session had ended Paul went back into his office undistinguishedly marked Paul Sarians, Ph.D. and waited for his next client.

The End

Copyright 2004, Jonathan Mitchell - All Rights Reserved.