Monday, March 30, 2009

"The Ward" by Roger Thomas, Part One

"Wake up, dear", the nurse nudged Jillian, "wake up, the doctor's here."

Jillian stirred herself from a nap she hadn't intended to take. "The doctor?" she asked, fuzzy-headed. "Which one?"

"The nice one", smiled the nurse. "I'll give you a minute to put yourself together." She pulled the curtains around the bed as she departed to afford Jillian a little privacy.

Jillian brushed her hair and arranged the bedclothes. She wondered whether she should stay in bed or sit in one of the chairs to confer with the doctor. She was feeling well today, and perhaps if she showed it a bit, it might persuade him – oh, right, this was the nice doctor. She didn't have to persuade him of anything.
Thus she was still sitting up in bed when the familiar face poked between the curtains. "Decent, I presume?" he grinned, getting a smile in return.

"Doctor, how good to see you", Jillian said. "Please, come in, come in. Have a seat."

"Don't mind if I do", the doctor said with a chuckle. He bustled in, plump and jovial with thinning white hair, red cheeks, and an almost perpetual smile. "You're looking awfully well today." He seated himself and looked around the little space, and Jillian couldn't help but notice he put a thick file folder he placed in his lap. Could that be...?

"I'm feeling well", Jillian replied, "but I've felt well before, and then – you know."

"I do indeed, my dear, I do indeed", the doctor mused, his eyes wandering about the walls and ceiling. "But today I have some good news for you."

Jillian's heart leapt at those words, and her hope soared as the doctor opened the folder on his lap and began paging through the documents.

"I have here the results of the tests we ran, and", he pulled out some of the sheets and handed them to her, "it seems that our concerns were unfounded. Your condition is nowhere near as serious as we'd feared."

"Oh, doctor, that's just what I wanted to hear", Jillian gasped, nearly dizzy with the news. She took the sheaf of papers that he seemed to be pressing on her and looked them over, but they meant nothing to her. Forms with tiny boxes filled with tiny type, and printouts with tables of intelligible numbers. But that didn't matter – as long as the doctor knew what they meant. Beaming with joy, she handed the papers back to him.

"I knew it would be", the doctor replied. "I rushed over here as soon as I had everything ready. I couldn't wait to tell you."

"Then – everything I'd heard – ", Jillian started to say, but the doctor cut her off.

"Now, dear, we've spoken before about the rumors that can float around wards like this. I trust you know who you should be listening to and who you should be ignoring."

"Yes, doctor", Jillian answered, a bit cowed. They had spoken of it before, and it had been the only time the doctor got anything less than nice. His eyes had grown steely and his voice took on a harsh edge, as it was starting to do now.

"That's my girl", the doctor said, his smile and geniality returning. "Now, I've drawn up a regimen of treatment for you which I'll be passing along to the nursing staff. Nothing strenuous or difficult, just a few pills and light exercise. It'll take a while, but you'll be making steady progress. In time, you may be well enough to be released to go Outside."

"Outside", Jillian whispered. "I've always dreamed of being able to go Outside."

"The Ward" is a short story by Roger Thomas, author of The Last Ugly Person: And Other Stories

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