Thursday, April 2, 2009

"The Ward" by Roger Thomas, Part Four

Jillian almost jumped at the frank use of the term. Almost nobody ever used it here in the Ward. A variety of euphemisms were employed, but few people said "die". It was almost considered rude, and some people got offended when they heard it.
Jillian clutched her robe about her and tried to gather her thoughts. "Thank – thank you, doctor. I appreciate your concern, and I'll take your advice under consideration."

"We need to begin the treatment soon, Jillian", the doctor warned, his tone grave.

"Why? Do I – is there that little time?" Panic surged within her again.
"I don't know", he replied, glancing at his clipboard. "In your condition – it could be any time. We have no time to waste. Shall I send someone to start you on the treatment?"

"I – thank you, doctor –", Jill fluttered. "This is all rather startling, especially after – that is, I was hardly expecting this. I'd like a little time to think, if I may. Do I have a day to think it over? Just a day?"

"I'll be honest, Jillian: I don't know how much time you have. My recommendation is to begin treatment – my treatment – without delay. But I understand that this is rather a shock, and that you'd like some time. I'll leave this here with you", he handed her a piece of paper and a manila envelope. "It provides the basic details about the treatment and what it requires of the patient. When you want to begin, just sign it and someone will pick it up. Once you undertake the treatment, helpers will be sent to assist you. My strongest recommendation is not to delay. A decision by tomorrow, or even tonight, would be wisest."

"I understand, doctor", Jillian meekly replied, staring numbly at the papers in her hand. "I'll – I'll let you know as soon as I make a decision."

"Soon, Jillian", the doctor admonished gently, "please make your decision soon."

Jillian didn't even hear the stern doctor part the curtains and leave. She sat silently on the bed, stunned. Grave condition. Dangerous shape. She stared at the paper in her hand, making no sense of what was written there. She was confused. She didn't know who to believe. Not twenty minutes ago she had been giddy with the promise of freedom, having been told by one doctor that she could be cured with a simple treatment and be released to Outside. Then another one tells her that she's in serious trouble and must undertake a difficult treatment of indeterminate length or she'll die. Which was right? Part of her wanted to dismiss the stern doctor's prognosis as doom and gloom. Grave condition? She didn't feel like she was in grave condition – oh, sure, she had her days, but – death? On the other hand, the nice doctor had been vague, and when he'd delivered his prognosis, the thought had flitted though her head: too good to be true. Was it too good to be true? Both claimed that only their treatment could help her. What should she do? Finally she stood – she'd still go visit Agnes, she'd just have more to talk about. She pulled the curtains back headed for Agnes' bed. Maybe Agnes would have some ideas.

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

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