Enter...sign in, take a seat and wait. Unfortunately for some, departure won't be nearly as uncomplicated...
Our dreaded 'Wait' Begins:
The man peers cautiously over the top edge of the crinkled, sour smelling magazine (wondering what kind of diseased individual had last flipped its pee-scented pages) and notices the kid still glaring at him.
The annoying, loud-mouthed little ankle-biter looks to be around four or five, and currently has his right index finger buried knuckle-deep into his left nostril.
Dear ol’ dad used to call that ‘Digging for Gold’ or ‘Scratching Your Brain’, rest his demented soul.
“Hi! Hey! Hi-hey!” the kid blurts out, the same irritating refrain he’d repeated ad nauseam for the majority of the half-hour span since the man’s arrival in the perpetual Dead Zone hospitals label as waiting rooms.
The man instinctively raises the magazine back up to cover his eyes, ignoring the snot-nosed cretin.In his less than humble opinion, kids should neither be seen nor heard.
What kind of so-called parent drags their sniveling offspring to a doctor’s office anyhow?Not just a doctor’s office, but a Urologist, for cripes sake? Ever hear of a babysitter, you idiot?Does the booger-gobbling little pest suffer the same throbbing, burning pain as I? Does the carpet-chewing, butt-picking nuisance have to drag himself from the comfort of his bed four times a night to drain his bladder, as I do?Nah, probably just lets it go in his pants and hops off on his merry way.
“Bobby, close your mouth and be still,” a female voice whispers harshly.The kid, as most do in these modern days of ‘Time-outs’ and ‘verbal counselings’, completely ignores her, continuing to scream and whine while tossing multiple magazines to the floor with obvious glee.
The gas that presently bloats the man’s ever-expanding gut garbles loudly and he fears that despite the piped in elevator music overhead, it can be clearly heard by all; a virtual lower colon concerto.
“Wah..wah WAH!” the kid wails.
“Be quiet, Bobby!Ohhh, you’re gonna get it soon!” the woman spouts without a hint of actual anger.
“Wah…Wah…DAH DAH! Doo-Doo breath!” the kid replies defiantly.
The man feels his blood pressure rise like a thermometer submerged in desert sand.
It’s his initial visit to this particular doctor, and the apprehension begins to build.His groin feels as if someone had doused it with gasoline and tossed on a lit match for good measure.
The article he scans without a thread of sincere interest speaks of ‘Academy Award Picks, 2009!’; the date on the top of the page reading ‘February 2009’, and he is forced to suppress a cynical giggle.He recalls his dear departed Mother once quipping ‘You know you’re in a second-rate doctor’s office when the magazines are over two years old’.Grumpy old bitty would have sprinted out of here screaming, he deduces with a smirk.
“Mr. Humphries?” the receptionist bellows, her voice shrill and obviously a bit peeved.Another satisfied employee, it seems.He had noticed her less-than-chipper attitude upon initial greeting. She had practically groaned with annoyance as he’d signed in, her face a creased scowl.
Uncrossing his legs, as he had felt his right foot begin to tingle and drift away into a deep slumber, the man lays the magazine down and leans back, suppressing a yawn.
“Hi! Hey! Hidey-hidey ho!” the kid screeches, lunging past in a leg-pumping, arm-waving blur.
The man’s knees pop like brittle kindling as he pushes himself from the narrow, foul-smelling chair and gingerly strolls towards the receptionist’s desk.
The kid promptly jumps into the man’s seat and begins to wriggle and squirm.
The man would gladly find another if need be.
His groin burns and throbs anew as he nears the windowed office, occupied solely by the heavy-set, perpetually frowning woman imprisoned within its stifling confines.
“Miss?” he whispers through gritted teeth, fighting off the urge to massage his privates right then and there, present audience be damned.
She ignores him for a few moments, hands frozen on her computer keypad, then finally acknowledges him with an annoyed grunt.
“My....uh....appointment with Doctor Mills was set for .It’s almost two-thirty.Is there a…um…problem?”
Her eyes roll.She is a middle-aged white woman carrying an extra hundred pounds on a frame far too small to accommodate such bulk.
“Jamison.Jerry Jamison,” he replies curtly.
“Mister Jamison, I have no idea what the delay is.I would think the doctor will get to you as soon as he can.Please have a seat and be patient.”
Temples pounding, his jaws sore from a constant gnashing of teeth, the man sighs wearily and turns to seek out a new island of solitude to inhabit.
He finds a spot on the opposite side of where he’d been, seemingly a safe distance from the dead-end kid and his spineless parent.
An elderly man sits a few seats to the man’s left, a wadded newspaper in his lap.The old man’s chin rests atop his bony chest, a small line of drool making its way slowly from the right corner of his mouth towards his slumped shoulder. The man figures the old guy’s plumbing has probably gone south, big-time.The man can sympathize.
Poor old dude probably spends three hours a day straining over a urinal.At least I’m not at that stage…yet.
His watch now reads .A middle-aged woman sits three chairs over to his right, her head leaned back but her eyes wide open behind comically thick glasses that appear partially fogged over.Her dark brown eyes are saucer-sized due to the magnification of the bottle-thick lens. Her hands are crossed over her purse; her mouth slightly agape.She could be as young as thirty-five or as old as fifty, it is impossible to gauge.She has a huge band-aid positioned on each of her chubby kneecaps, and her right wrist is entombed in a small cast.She is eerily still, her breathing virtually impossible to detect.She looks as though she has possibly kicked-off right there in the chair.
Might be a relief at that, he muses.
Still, the man can’t shake the feeling that the woman is sizing him up somehow, studying him, although she remains rigidly still.
The sharp pain in his groin transforms into a different kind of discomfort by the time his watch reads .It’s as if someone has poured itching powder into his pubic hair.He wants desperately to scratch, but a young couple sitting across from him would surely witness the act, along with Ms. Coke-bottle goggles.He thinks about exiting to the men’s bathroom just outside in the hallway, but figures his name might be called just as he departs the room.Grimacing, he feels the initial pangs of potential diarrhea tap at his lower stomach.
That would be the ultimate pisser, now wouldn’t it? They’d probably reschedule me out of pure spite.
The young couple whisper to one another, grinning mischievously.They are perhaps in their low to mid twenties, a good fifteen years or more his junior.
The man frowns as if pinched.
Neither had a clue about chronic pain or the daily suffering it entails. Such maladies bide their time when you’re in your twenties, he deduced, laying low for an additional decade or so before rearing their sadistic heads.When a person’s health started to go, it was like a rotted plywood wall attempting to hold back raging flood waters.Everything seemed to go at once.
The man had visited a doctor’s office exactly four times in his twenties, in each instance to be treated for the flu or similar cold symptoms.
He couldn’t tally such visits with a calculator since reaching the big four-oh.This was his fifth trip to the Urologist in the past year, and that didn’t take into account all the family practice doctors and Proctologists that had taken turns poking and probing his lower extremities.
His family and many so-called friends had written him off as a hopeless hypochondriac or pity-seeking ‘drama king’, but he knew better.The problems that had arisen with his shoulders, legs, and now his groin were real, not some fictional figment of his imagination.He hopes with every pain-racked fiber in his body that this will finally be the miracle physician that can both recognize and eliminate this latest malady.
The young couple begins to kiss lightly, shamelessly snuggling like they were at a drive-in movie.
The man’s eyes grow unbearably heavy while watching them grope.The young girl has a zit the size of a marble on her chin, and the young man is sporting a deep scar that runs from the corner of his left eye down his jaw line, hooking underneath his ear lobe.
Closing his eyes to both avoid their display and to rest his anxiety-ridden mind, the man leans back and inhales deeply.
The shrill, bitter voice of the receptionist shakes him back to reality moments (hours?) later.
“Mr. Cobb?Mr. John Cobb?”
A large, middle-aged man wearing a work uniform of some type strolls by, the smell of oil and grease filling the surrounding air.
A young, slim, rather attractive nurse greets the man at the entrance to the back offices, her smile kind yet strikingly insincere and even a tad bit predatory. Her tiny, polished teeth seem overly pointed at the tips, like those of a piranha.
The man rubs his eyes vigorously and glances back up just in time to see the young girl biting the neck of the young man.The young man is lying back, only the whites of his eyes revealed, flashing an expression of pure ecstasy.Small trickles of blood escape the punctures in his neck as muffled slurping sounds fill the air.
Something catches the corner of the man’s right eye and he turns quickly, the bones in his neck popping like blank rounds from a cap pistol.
The drooling old man is now sitting next to him, his eyes closed tightly and his breathing labored.
“You okay, old timer?” the man asks cautiously.
The old man doesn’t respond except to lift his right arm and gesture towards the obviously ancient Timex watch attached to his frail, liver-spot ravaged left wrist.
The minute hand is spinning wildly, the second hand a complete blur.
The old man’s lips tremble.His breath smells of mouth balls and moldy cloth.
“It’s…the waitin’…that gets ya, son.....it’s...the waitin’...that finally…does ya...in,” he mumbles, then keels over headfirst into the floor like an overdressed bag of bones.
Looking around for help, the man suddenly discovers he is the only one remaining in the room save for the collapsed senior citizen and the annoyingchild, who is standing over the old man while casually chomping a piece of gum.
“What’s the matter with him, Mister?Was it the wait?” The kid asks in-between noisy smacks.
The man sees the receptionist office window is now closed, a cardboard sign reading ‘CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE’ hung with Scotch tape from the inside.
The kid is now standing on top of the old man’s back, periodically stomping up and down as if trying to revive him.
Reaching to grasp the kid’s shoulder, the man cringes back a moment later as if electrically shocked.
The child’s impossibly deep, grating voice seems to penetrate his very flesh.
“What’s his problem?I was born here, and they still won’t let me go home!It’s not fair! I want to go home, dammit!” the child screams in a voice that is chillingly adult.
The child looks up at the man, pleading. His once youthful flesh suddenly appears leathery, like baked clay.His drooping, bloodshot eyes speak of infinite frustration, of precious youth eternally wasted.
“It isn’t fair that he should get out of it this easily!I’ve been here much, much longer…....much, much, much, much..,”
The words ring in the man’s ears as he rushes towards the double glass door exit.
He hears his name called just as he shoves the doors outward.
“Mr. Jamison?Mr. Jerry Jamison?” it blares in a monotone that is almost comically robotic.It is definitely not the receptionist’s voice.
Whirling around and re-entering the waiting room in one smooth movement, he halts only when greeted by the announcement’s originator.
A quick look at his watch reveals that it is now .
The day reads Wednesday, April 13th.Didn’t he arrive on the 11th?That was his appointment date, he....thinks.
He is greeted by a gaunt, white-haired gentleman sporting an ankle-length lab coat with a stethoscope looped around his narrow, wrinkle-infested neck.The instrument is cloaked in cobwebs.The man notices the black shoes the stranger wears are painted in white dust.The stranger holds a metal tray covered by a wide cloth that is almost blinding in its pure, blinding whiteness.
“Mr. Jamison, you almost left without these.Wouldn’t want to live without them, no siree,” the stranger whispers through a mouth void of teeth, his moist, exposed gums riddled with black, pit-like holes.
Somehow realizing he most definitely DID NOT want to know what lay underneath the cloth, the man tries to turn back towards the exit.Small but remarkably strong hands grip him at the elbows from the rear.It is the child, giggling maniacally as whitish froth pours from the corners of his pursed lips.
“Too soon, doctor.It isn’t fair!Too soon for this one!” the child rants.
The man pulls back the cloth with a grace usually reserved for waiters in upscale restaurants displaying a main course to the wealthiest of clients.
Although his eyes focus and then re-focus on the items spread across the tray, it takes a full minute (hour?) for the definition of each to become clear due to just how ridiculously out of place they appear just…laying there.
“You can re-attach them with a fine sewing needle, or even Super Glue if you prefer,” the stranger says with a hint of humor, seemingly gumming back a chuckle.The stranger’s breath reeks of infinite decay, like rotted cabbage wilting beneath the blazing rays of a desert sun.
The moist, displaced organs roll around on the metal tray like marbles on a slick concrete slab.One of the them, possibly a testicle, rolls off of the edge, and as the stranger reaches down to retrieve it, the child jumps forward and playfully kicks it across the room.
“Wheeeee! Let’s play soccer!” he yelps joyfully.
The man feels the pain of the disconnected organ even as it bounces off an adjoining wall like a tennis ball ricocheting from a swung racket.
Turning and stumbling forward, he feels the sudden urge to pee.He reaches down between his legs and discovers a smooth, utterly bulge-free area of skin where his manhood had once occupied.
The man falls hard onto the carpeted floor of the outside hallway, sparking light filling his senses as he sinks into an uneasy state of oblivion.
Sweet darkness soon envelops him, and he welcomes it with a weak, somewhat pathetic smile.As his eyes mercifully close, the scent of antiseptic is overwhelming.
Glancing at the rusted watch that is practically embedded onto her wrist, she sees it reads two-forty-five PM.
Ignoring the bothersome child that is staring at her and making faces in the adjoining seat, she lifts herself gingerly onto shaky feet and walks (wobbles?) towards the receptionist area.
The woman ignores her at first, then glances slowly upward, wearing an expression of mild disgust.
“I told you just three days ago, Miss Cameron.You have to be patient.Doctor Mills will see you as soon as he possibly can,” the woman blurts, the fat brown spider nesting above her right temple frantically completing the most recent addition to the already impressive suite constructed there.
“But my appointment was weeks (years? decades?) ago.It’s not fair….I’m in some serious discomfort here, lady.”
The receptionist doesn’t respond, but instead resumes typing, a bloated cockroach crawling from the wide space her ample cleavage has provided.
The woman limps back to her chair, the sharp pains in her lower back aggravated more than ever from the short trek.
It itches like mad inside her arm cast, and she is tempted for the hundredth time that morning (afternoon?) to tear it off and chew into her wound like a rabid animal.
The scabs on her knees ache like rotted teeth.She adjusts her heavy-framed glasses and leans back awkwardly in the small, confining chair.
The young couple a few seats to her left continue to cuddle, both of their necks smeared with dried blood.Although their faces are youthful, the flesh of their arms and neck seem freeze-dried; grotesquely pockmarked and ravaged with age spots.
She picks up the magazine in front of her and pretends to read an article on some new movies scheduled for release. Depressingly, she realizes these same films were released on video nearly a decade before.
The child paces in front of her and babbles incoherently.
She doesn’t listen to his words.She has heard them many times before, and somehow understands and reluctantly accepts that she is bound to endure them for an eternity to come.
The man sitting across from her pretends to read a magazine.He grimaces noticeably with each moment of his hips.His face is set in a permanent scowl.Shockingly, he reaches down and openly massages his groin every three to five minutes, as if set on an eternal timer to do so.
The magazine dips momentarily, and she glimpses the hollowed-out emptiness of the eyes beyond the cracked lens of his glasses.
She will bide her time, for it is the one thing the waiting room provides in sickening abundance.Alas, it isn’t as if she, or any of them, have a choice.
The child dances and rants, raves and dances.His voice is ancient, his hair snow white, the dark-stained fingernails on his elongated digits curled outward and grotesquely overgrown.
“Too soon for you, lady!” he sings between mad ramblings.
“Too soon for any of us.You have to be patient…..we all have to patient...”
Time clicks away as elevator music drones on and on…
An unfamiliar name is called somewhere in the far distance…
The smell of antiseptic is somehow sweetly intoxicating…
Outside the stained glass windows of the waiting room, yellow flames rise and descend from the fiery pits as the screams of the damned echo through endless corridors filled with eternal misery and infinite, searing pain…..
cool story. I love the concept and the tension is built up very well! I miss the names, though. That always makes the characters more personal for me. The story feels very conceptual and needs some editing here and there, but I enjoyed it immensely.
Reviewed by Kimberley simcock (Reader)
Absolutely adore the language chosen. The imagery Terry uses is so refreshing the simile'The man feels his blood pressure rise like a thermometer submerged in desert sand.' is really good and the description of the woman with the massive glasses is hysterical. I like the idea of telling the story from two different characters.