Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"The Ward" by Roger Thomas, Part Two

"I know, I know, my dear", the doctor replied. "And I've just the treatment to get you there." He waved a sheet of paper. "I'll run along and drop this off at the nursing station. They'll get things going, and I'll be back in a couple weeks to check up. No, no, don't get up", he bustled to his feet and offered his hand, "I can find my own way out."

"Thank you so much, doctor. You've taken a tremendous weight off my mind", Jillian said fervently, clasping his hand.

"Oh, that's what I do, dear, that's what I do", the doctor replied, pulling his hand free and bundling off through the curtains, leaving Jillian sitting on the bed in what felt like a pink cloud of happiness. She was so relieved! Nowhere near as serious! A regimen that wasn't strenuous or difficult! The prospect of being released, of being able to go Outside! This was far, far better than her wildest hopes! For some while she just sat still, basking in the delightful prognosis. Nowhere near as serious!

Eventually she stirred herself. She had to tell Agnes – Agnes would want to know. Pulling on her robe and slipping into her buskins, she pulled back the curtains and gave a little shriek of surprise. Standing just outside her curtain, almost exactly face to face with her, was a tall man in a lab coat. His hair and beard were dark brown, and his eyes were sea gray. He held a clipboard in one hand and the other was raised as if he had been about to part the curtains. Only his unexpected presence had startled Jillian, for she knew him. This was the stern doctor.

"I'm sorry to have startled you, Jillian", the stern doctor said in the low voice which Jillian knew so well. "I was just coming to see you."

"Oh – ah – hello, doctor", Jillian replied, backing toward her bed and sitting down upon it. "It's been a while – I'm glad to – that is, won't you come in?" She beckoned toward a chair, but the doctor didn't sit. He stepped in, pulled the curtains closed behind him, and stood looking at her.

Jillian wasn't feeling happy any more. It wasn't that she disliked the stern doctor. He was always polite and his tone was always serene and his presence was both calm and calming. But his words were – well, stern. Those eyes of his seemed to see right thorough you. It was clear he took his responsibilities seriously. He was known as the doctor who treated the serious cases, which was why his presence in a wing was always a cause for concern. Nobody liked to see him coming.

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

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