Doctor Wilson hurried toward the entrance of his clinic as if conditioned by the buzzing in his pocket. Personal reminder:
NEWSPAPER DELIVERY @ 0600.
Wilson didn’t need to look at his phone to know what it said. It was the same every morning for the past few years.
Wilson unlocked the door and stepped out into the icy winter morning, feeling the cold seep into his aging bones. He looked up the street and squinted against the malignant wind tracking from the heart of downtown.
He didn’t mind waiting for the paper in the summer. The sun was rising, the temperature was a perfect twenty degrees, and the world was only beginning to wake up. However, the paper was never late in the summer.
Winter in Brooklyn was bitter, dark, and wet. And the paper was always late. Wilson turned back to the door and pulled it open just as the drone came around the corner. He let the door fall closed and waited patiently for his delivery, slowly hardening as a forming icicle does.
The drone came to a stop and hovered in front of him.
“Doctor Robert Wilson, pleasure to see you this morning,” the drone’s voice was mechanical. It was an older model without the ‘HuMan’ voice technology. Newspapers didn’t have the money they used to.
“Here is your subscription.” The New York Times protruded from the body of the drone and Wilson took it quickly. “We value your business.”
The drone disappeared in a flurry of wind and Wilson retreated back inside the clinic. Of course the Times valued his business, he was one of the few keeping the print edition alive. Some would call him old fashioned, and he wouldn’t argue. Some would call him a sadist, since no one relied on the news anymore. He didn’t think he could argue that either.
Wilson’s office was down the hall, and after a quick stop in the staff break room for a coffee, he’d nestled himself at his desk with the paper laid out in front of him.
It was his routine. Reading the paper was his time before the day began. An hour more and the rest of his staff would arrive, a half hour more and they would open the door to clients. An endless deluge of them. Without his time in the morning, he would have lost his mind years ago.
Wilson always started with the sports. He knew that the sports section, unlike the other sections in the paper, were always true. Professional sports was still God in America. You didn’t lie about the Knicks.
After the sports, he skipped over business—the section that reminded him how little money he made, and then skipped over international news—the section that reminded him how fucked the country was, and finally settled on the local news.
There was a story on the latest developments in a rouge drone assault spree. Wilson had even tended to a few of the victims. Fifteen so far and they still hadn’t found the faulty machinery. The experts were saying that whoever had damaged it and set it loose had corrupted both its Morality Drive and its GPS. It would explain why the attacks were random and particularly brutal.
Wilson scanned a few more articles, then settled on another. The headline was different, but the story was the same and it always hit home. Another physician, dead in his office. ‘Died suddenly.’ Wilson knew the newspeak. He didn’t know why he read those articles anymore. It was enough to make him wonder when he would be next.
His eyes lit to the name. Doctor Tracy Knowles. Wilson was pretty sure he’d met Knowles at a CME event (one of the few perks left in the profession) a few months back. They’d had a lot in common, as they discovered over a Busch. Old fashioned guys working within the lines drawn for them. And they were both Knicks fans. The man didn’t seem unhappy at the time, but then again, it was hard to tell these days. People had gotten good at hiding how they felt. Besides, it wasn’t always depression driving suicide.
Wilson finished on the strips. Even if the artists were jaded, at least there was still some innocence there, amongst the panels. Wilson chuckled at one, outright laughed at another, and frowned his way through the rest, then he folded the paper up and set it aside on his desk. Five minutes left. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.
Doctor Wilson took a look at the chart outside the door. The flimsy electronic paper yielded to his touch as he scrolled down the page.
JORDAN CAVUS. FEMALE. AGE 28. TURKISH-AMERICAN. 163CM. 57KG.
TYPE I DIABETES MELLITUS. ON PUMPED INSULIN. AWAITING SC-P TRANSPLANT.
IN FOR: CHECK UP; ONSET OF NUMBNESS IN TOES.
Wilson pulled his stylus out of his breast pocket and flipped through the test readings from her last visit. Not great. Wilson checked his watch and sighed contentedly, then took a deep breath and knocked on the door. He looked at his curled up fist in surprise (old habits?), and then entered.
Jordan was sitting on the examination table, already changed into a gown. Wilson glanced at her briefly and shot her a quick smile before looking back at the chart.
“So, Miss Cavus, you’re in for a check up?”
“Yes, Doctor Wilson. And my toes have been feeling funny lately, so I wanted you to take a look at them.”
“Funny?” Wilson asked. “Care to elaborate?”
“Uh, sure. They feel kind of, you know, numb.”
Wilson appraised Jordan speculatively. “Okay. We’ll look into that. Can I get your ident please?”
Jordan nodded and then held out her hand. Wilson pulled his Clinical Assistant from his pocket and scanned the square tattooed on Jordan’s wrist. The information shot through a series of satellites and then pulled up Jordan’s billing information. The machine wouldn’t work without it. Wilson keyed in his codes—he had to get paid after all—then looked back at Jordan.
“Thank you. If you could disrobe,” Wilson said. It wasn’t a question and Jordan knew the drill. She stood up and shrugged off her gown. Wilson held up his CA and let the tiny device scan his patient.
“How have you been managing your sugars lately?” Wilson asked as he circled Jordan and the CA went about its business.
“Not great, I haven’t had the money to keep my pump full.”
Wilson took a look at the implant on her hip. He pressed the reading button and it flashed a low reading at him. Truth was, doctors were hard pressed to find a patient who wasn’t hard up for money. Life was expensive these days. Health was rare, and in that, priceless. The best he could do for most was help his patients find a reasonable spectrum between death and dying.
“The insulin is important. I’d guess it’s probably why your toes are hurting.”
“It’s not my place to say, but clinical experience tells me so.”
“God, what can I do?”
Wilson looked down at his CA.
He frowned at the machine. To hell with it. He’d been a real doctor once, a long time ago, when people were healthier, and healthcare was harder.
“You need insulin,” he repeated and watched as her gaze fell away from his. To the floor. To the cracks between the tiles. Anything except for his eyes.
Twenty-eight years old, Wilson thought. Young and beautiful. But broken. It made him think. A different girl, but so familiar. “Give me a minute.”
He hurried from the room and returned a minute later with two vials. Jordan was shivering, standing naked in the middle of the room when he got back.
“Here,” he set the vials down by Jordan’s purse. There had to be some benefit to having pharma samples.
“Thank you doctor,” tears welled up in Jordan’s eyes.
Wilson turned away from her. It was no small thing to secret her samples for a drug that she was already on. His pharma rep would not be happy when she checked stocks later in the month. Wilson didn’t care. He wasn’t the only one to engage in such practices—it was frowned upon, but not unheard of. The vials would cost him, but something in his training decades ago seemed to remind him that the patient was always first. Even if that wasn’t the way anymore.
Wilson turned back to Jordan and stared at her. She was hugging herself against the cool, sterile air in the examination room.
“Is that all?” Jordan asked, her arms shifting up to cover her breasts.
“Right. Sorry. Got lost in the past there for a moment.” A good past, but the past all the same. He pulled out his CA. “Let’s finish this up then shall we?”
– Stay tuned for Part 2 next Friday, May 23, 2014. –