The Man in the White Lab Coat (Revisited): A Short Story

ImplicationMiranda was a happy woman.

She lived in the city. When she wasn't working at her dream job, she met her friends for coffee, dinner, or drinks. She had a handsome and faithful boyfriend. He lived by a beach and his house was a short ferry from the city. She visited him frequently. She visited him passionately.

Life, for Miranda, was as good as it gets.

So Miranda was annoyed, when the man in the white lab coat intruded into her life brandishing a clipboard.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Y_,” he said, “it seems there has been some kind of mistake.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Miranda replied, as she slipped her iPhone into her purse.

“Very well,” the man in the white lab coat replied. “You must understand that there are certain rules, policies, and limits, when it comes to this sort of thing.” He scrutinized Miranda’s record, which was clipped to his board. “Too much happiness for one person. It’s simply not right.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I've ever heard,” Miranda replied. “Me being happy -- no matter how happy I am -- doesn't harm anyone else.” She crossed her arms. “In fact, the happier I am, the more likely others will be happy too.”

“You certainly haven’t been holding back lately, have you?”

“No. No, I have not.” Miranda remembered the promise she had made to love her boyfriend forever. “I risk nothing by being happy.”

“Well, I’m afraid you risked something this time,” snarled the man in the white lab coat. “After the last few months you've had, it simply can’t be ignored.”

“Ignored by who? ” She looked around the sun drenched courtyard. “This is ridiculous. Where's the hidden camera?”

“Although rare, I can reassure you, yours is not the first case.” He tapped the clipboard authoritatively with a Number 2 pencil. “There are procedures already in place.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Miranda pushed past him easily. “My friends are waiting for me.”

“Come along,” he protested. “There’s a car waiting.”

“Fuck off.”

The man in the white lab coat made a sound not quite like — but very similar to — a sigh, before falling on the cobblestones in a heap. In a few moments, only the lab coat and the clipboard remained and, then, after a moment even they turned to dust. Like an unspoken implication, he disappeared unnoticed.

Years later, when Miranda finally tracked down her boyfriend, he was working dutifully in a windowless cubicle, in a tired grey building, in a muted small town on the edge of nowhere.

She resisted the temptation to punch him. She even resisted the temptation to scold him. Instead, Miranda hugged and kissed him. They were together again and, in the end, it was the only thing that mattered.