Expectantly, he sat on the examining table gazing at the door with steady, unblinking eyes. The smell of antiseptic hung in the air, and a male assistant stood beside him to make sure the elderly patient didn’t fall. A scale waited directly in front of him to report on his eating habits. A variety of pill bottles, some horse-sized and some much smaller, sat on a shelf beside the roll of gauze. He could hear the receptionist who’d greeted him as he came in talking on the phone down the hall.
“Yes, ma’am,” she said. “Can you be here at 4:00? Okay, good. We’ll see you then.”
A white-coated lab assistant came through the door, her left hand holding 3 hypodermics, which the patient eyed warily, but he said nothing. A deafening silence filled the room.
“The doctor will be with you in a few minutes, sir,” she said to him. “We’ll try not to keep you waiting.”
She laid the hypodermics down on the counter and walked out, closing the door behind her.
The patient shifted his weight a bit and glanced out the window, watching the rain splash against the windowpanes. He didn’t especially care for the rain. The air was a bit chill and damp for the first day of May, not the best weather for the achy joints of the very old, but such is life. Occasionally, the male assistant patted him sympathetically and reassured him.
“The doctor will be here very soon. I promise.”
As he waited, he thought of other visits to his doctor. Sure, there’d been that time he’d had kidney stones and they weren’t pleasant, but the doctor provided the pills to cure him. Back at home, his family had nursed him through it, poking pills into him every few minutes, or so it seemed. He’d done all right and could soon expel the water he needed to. And another time he’d had a sore throat so bad he couldn’t eat—the doctor said wouldn’t—but it just hurt too bad. He preferred to be hungry rather than suffer through the pain of swallowing. Doctors didn’t always understand the patient’s feelings; they just thought they did.
Finally, the door opened, and the doctor came in carrying a thick folder containing charts of visits for years and years past—the story of a long healthy life, for the most part.
“Well, old man,” the doctor said, “I didn’t expect to see you here alive ever again. I was sure you’d be dead by now. You look pretty good, considering. Let me see you walk.”
He helped the patient to stand and watched him stagger across the room, bumping into first the cabinet and then the chair leg before getting his balance.
“Well, old man, let’s get these shots into you, and I have a couple to tests I’d like to run today,” the doctor said. “You’re still taking your steroids every other day, right.”
The patient looked away sullenly and didn’t answer, but the woman sitting in the corner nodded.
“He hasn’t missed a dose,” she replied, watching the doctor give the injections.
“He’s not very happy with me,” observed the doctor, “and I really don’t blame him. His temperature is normal, and his weight is good. He’s doing so well that I’m going to skip a couple of the tests. I don’t want to bother him any more than is absolutely necessary.”
The doctor bustled about finishing the tests, went out to check the results, and in ten minutes or so, he stuck his head back in the door.
“All done, old man,” he said. “I hope to see you again next year. You just might make it. You’re free to go.”
At this point the old man finally chose to speak to the doctor.
“Meow,” he said, and walked unsteadily over to his human servant, demanding to be taken home.
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