“Go to the chiropractor,” the doctor had told Jim. That’s when he knew it was bad. Never in the history of ever should a family doctor ever say that to one of his patients. The rivalry between the two professions was legendary enough that even Jim, remaining purposefully as detached as possible from anyone in the medical profession, had heard of it. Only now, with his back basically keeping him from doing anything, had he finally go for anything more than a five-minute checkup.
The seeming contradiction in terms that this recommendation represented was finally enough to get Jim to follow his doctor’s instructions. He knew nothing of chiropractors beyond what they were supposed to do to help their patients, so he flipped through the yellow pages until he finally came up with something. He finally settled on a local place that the owner called “Back to Basics.” It was close enough that Jim didn’t have to suffer through a long drive, and the schedule was open, so he decided to give it a shot.
The sign was little more than the name of the business with the hours posted immediately below it. It looked like the proprietor had put some money into it, but only in that it was backlit and presented in a solid, professional font.
Jim entered, hobbling along in the way that seemed to hurt the least. The woman at the desk looked at him as though she expected him to fall apart in front of her. Fully realizing he would hear it, she picked up the phone and paged the good doctor.
“Sir, I have a gentleman here who looks like he could use an adjustment five years ago.”
And so Jim found himself in the office, with the thin, bearded man standing in front of him.
“You look a bit young for a doctor,” was Jim’s first voice opinion.
“Alternative medical school,” the man responded quickly. He was already busy looking his patient over. “And I’ll tell you right now that you’re going to need something more than regular chiropractice can provide.”
Jim was reasonably certain that chiropractice was not the correct term, but again, he tried to stay as unknowledgeable able such things as possible. “What am I going to need?”
“About two weeks off work. Can you swing that for me?”
Jim made the call from the office. The response was something along the lines of “Yes, please, get your back fixed before you kill somebody with that off-balance stagger of yours.” Jim hung up and informed the doctor, who nodded and stretched himself out a bit.
“All right. I’m going to need to adjust your posture a bit first so I have something better to work with. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll need to make several adjustments over the next two weeks to make sure that my work lasts. You’ll need to stay close to the clinic, but I can arrange very cheap accommodations in the area. All right, stand up.”
Jim did as instructed, and the doctor wasted no time getting to work. He almost violently grabbed Jim by the shoulders and pulled him down until he was standing with hand and feet both on the floor. That was a feat in and of itself, especially since Jim’s gasping breaths came from surprise and not from pain.
“What are you doing?” he demanded in exasperation, voice bouncing from octave to octave at a ridiculous rate.
“Like I said, alternative school of medicine.”
That was all the explanation Jim would get. Just as he began to realize that his posture seemed far too comfortable in that awkward position, other things began to seem off. Like how his fingers were shrinking into his hand and swelling into padded digits. Or how those digits, as well as the rest of his arm, were beginning to grow far more hair than they should. Or perhaps even that the hair was golden and far too long to be his own…
The doctor began to press into his back at various points, until the arch that his stance should have had in such an odd position was completely eliminated. In fact, his back seemed completely straight now, which only seemed possible if he had somehow lost some vertebrae. Just as he ventured to think about this oddity, the missing vertebrae seemed to return all at once, but they were now at the end of his spine, rather than where they were supposed to be. The new limb began to wave back and forth before he even realized what it was, and by the time he ventured a look it was a full and very furry tail.
By the time his face began to push out into a muzzle, with his nose turning black at its end, Jim finally had an idea of what was happening. He panted, long tongue hanging out in front of him as his clothing, now hanging loosely around him, began to make him a bit hotter than he would have liked. He tried to say something, but his vocal cords were already better adjusted to barking than to speaking, so that is what he did.
“Four paws is a naturally more stable stance, you see,” the doctor explained. “I’ll keep you like this for two weeks; during that time I’ll be able to check if there are any complicating factors that will cause your back’s alignment to come apart when you get back to two legs. I’ll have some footwear recommendations for you then but, for the sake of the present, I’ll be switching out your mind with one more appropriate for your current species. I’d ask you for any questions or concerns, but you wouldn’t be able to tell me anyway. You’ll be staying in a nearby kennel. Don’t worry, that’s run by an old friend of mine who knows a bit about alternative methods of business himself. He’ll take care of you, and it’s pretty cheap.”
Jim cocked his head as the doctor continued to rattle on, but he barked an affirmation to the doctor once the young man had finished. The doctor apparently understood what he meant, and he snapped his fingers dramatically to finish off the change.
As Jim’s intelligence grew slightly, he had one last human thought through his mind. “My back has never felt better!”