Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"The Ward" by Roger Thomas, Part Three

But here he was, by Jillian's bed, holding his clipboard and looking at her gravely. Jillian swallowed hard and tried to look back, but found her eyes kept dropping.

"Jillian", came the doctor's calm voice. "I've been trying to find you for days now, but you're always off somewhere."

"I'm – I'm sorry, doctor", Jillian stammered. "I've been doing a lot of visiting – that is, I've been with friends. I've been feeling better, so I get around when I can."

"I see", the stern doctor replied. "No matter, I've found you in time."

In time? Jillian didn't like the sound of that. In time for what?

"I've been running some tests and looking at your case history", he glanced at his clipboard. "Your symptoms and numbers are distressingly familiar. I'm afraid," he looked up at her with those eyes of his, "you're in serious shape, Jillian. Dangerous shape. Your condition is far more grave than you think, and only serious remedies have a chance of helping you."

Jillian's breath caught in her throat, and she felt like time was slowing down. Dangerous shape! Grave condition! This didn't sound at all like what she'd just heard minutes ago. Her pink cloud of happiness had evaporated like mist in the harsh morning light. She clutched at her robe and stammered.

"Grave condition? But, doctor, that isn't – I mean, is it quite that bad? You make it sound quite hopeless."

"I didn't say hopeless, Jillian", he responded, dropping to his knee so he could look her in the face. "But I did say grave. I've seen a lot of cases like yours and know how to treat them. But the treatment is lengthy, difficult, and takes commitment and full cooperation from you. There are no shortcuts, and it must be the treatment I prescribe solely – no other treatment can be used at the same time."
Again Jillian had the disturbing feeling she'd known before when dealing with the stern doctor – that he was able to read her mind. She'd just been thinking about possibly undertaking the nice doctor's course of treatment while incorporating parts of the stern doctor's regimen. She dropped her eyes from his penetrating gaze.
"I – thank you, doctor, I believe I understand. But you say there is hope? That I could be cured and released to – to Outside?"

"There is certainly hope", the doctor replied in a kind tone. "There is always hope. And the goal of the treatment is to make you well enough to be released to Outside. The question is not the efficacy of the treatment – it always works – but whether the patient has the will to persevere with it."

"How long does it take?" she asked.

"It depends", the doctor shrugged. "For some, a very brief while. Others spend long periods here in the Ward before being released. But those who stay with the regimen of treatment are released. Those who refuse the treatment, or undertake it then stop – simply die."

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

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