One of Those Days - Этот ужасный день
|One of Those Days|
|It was never going to be an ordinary day. The alarm decided to wake me an hour earlier than it was supposed to, at five rather than six. My dog ate the last of my cereal. The cat, which has spent three years happily peering through the fish tank glass, decided that morning was the occasion to quit procrastinating and jump into the tank instead. The only clean socks in my drawer were odd, despite the fact I’m positive they matched when I put them away. I locked my keys inside my house, leading to having to wake my dear but decidedly disgruntled neighbor for the spare set. Then, just when I thought nothing else could go wrong, the car had a flat tire.
Luckily I’m one of those types who needs to plan everything. This includes rising in the morning an hour earlier than necessary on the off chance something - or several things - go wrong. I’ve always been this way. Pedantic my mother calls me. Anally retentive my father calls me. Either way, pedantic or retentive, at least I’m prepared. Being taken by surprise doesn’t sit well with me.
So finally I made it to the clinic, after being caught behind an elderly man driving a Volvo who obviously thought the brake was the accelerator. He was also wearing a hat. You know what they say about drivers who wear hats and drive Volvos.Beware!
When I walked into the clinic I noticed Janet working the reception desk instead of Carmel. This is a perfectly fine arrangement for three weeks out of a month. It’s that other week that leaves me, and most times the patients as well, walking on eggshells. She wasn’t supposed to be working this particular day, but Carmel phoned her early to say she had the flu and Janet begrudgingly took her shift. I knew the instant I walked in that it was ‘the other week.’
“It’s a beautiful morning!” I said, smiling in a way that alleged my contentment with the world, even though, for the most part, it irritates me.
“Ya think?” Light gray eyes cut through me like a laser. “Have you noticed Carmel’s not here?”
“Yes.” From five-foot-eight to five-foot-five in a nanosecond.I shrank defensively under the woman’s furious gaze. “I have. But…” Smile sweetly, Alex, and pretend you haven’t noticed the horns growing out her head. “… it’s always a pleasure to work with you.”
“Men.” She snorted. I swore I saw smoke swirling out her nostrils. “You’re all the same.”
In my infinite wisdom I’ve learned to never argue with a PMSing woman. It usually always ends in tears. Generally mine. Janet started humming. When she hums I know it means I should avoid eye contact, conversation, weak jokes I presume may cheer her up, and, if at all possible, refrain from breathing the same air as her.
She shoved a patient file toward me. “He’s late.” She stomped her foot. Kind of like a raging bull eying a red cape. “Men!”
“He’s only two minutes la…” Shut up, Alex, smile and nod. “You’re right. It’s completely unforgivable.”
Tucking the file under my arm, eager to free myself from Janet’s hormonal wrath, I wandered into the treatment room. I have three sisters, and I survived my mother’s early menopause, but no woman scares me as much as Janet does during that ‘one week.’ It’s the humming. The humming is terrifying. A swarm of bees many decibels louder, heading directly for me with stingers drawn like swords, could not petrify me more.
I removed my jacket, took a white coat from the hook behind the door, and slipped it on. Embroidered on the pocket it says Bell’s Chiropractics. Beneath that it has my Christian name and surname. This is my father’s clinic and the name on his coat reads Tony Bell. The name on my coat reads Alexander Bell. I’ve never forgiven my
parents for that. Alexander Bell. What were they thinking?
After making sure the treatment table hadn’t collected dust overnight, I walked to the bench and set the file down. It was then I saw the name glaring at me in red ink. Richard Saunders. My stomach instantly tied itself into a billion knots. I looked at his date of birth and hoped he was any age other than twenty-six. No matter how many times I did the calculations in my head, it always came back with twenty-six.
The buzzer hadn’t sounded yet to alert a patient arrival. Everything else vanished from my mind and I ran from the treatment room, down the hall, skidding on the linoleum floor where I crashed into the reception desk. This was one day I fervently wished I’d never woken up to.
“Janet.”I pointed frantically at the phone. “Call this patient and reschedule the appointment.”
“Are your fingers broken?”
Panic led me directly into stupidity and I retaliated with, “You’re the receptionist!” Bad move. Her lips puckered as if she sucked an ultra sour lemon. I could almost see those satanic hormones pulsing through the throbbing jugular veins in her neck. Her face turned a dreadful shade of burgundy.
“Fine!” I snapped, as though it were the greatest one-liner comeback of all time. “Forget I asked.”
The door buzzer sounded. I froze. Memories of school flooded back to me. Ric Saunders, the captain of the football team, the guy all the girls drooled over, the one who made my life a misery for years. Who stole my lunch, ripped up my homework, wrote ‘Alex is a fat fag’ on my locker, and who flushed my head down the toilet more than once. He taunted me, threatened to beat me up, and was almost as scary as
“Hi. Sorry I’m a bit late.”
I recognized the voice immediately. Any hope of mistaken identity evaporated. “I’ve got an appointment for nine. Richard Saunders.”
“A bit late?” Janet snarled. “Eight minutes late is almost ten minutes late. Ten minutes late is not a bit.”
Go Janet! Let him have it. Set free the hormonal rage!
“I tried to call. Phone battery was dead.” Ric sounded exactly the same as he did in school and it made my skin crawl. “My mother’s in hospital. I came straight from the ER. Food poisoning.”
“Oh, I see.” From meltdown to temperate, Janet calmed. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Don’t be sorry! I tried to will my thoughts to penetrate directly into Janet’s mind. The woman gave birth to him for God’s sake. She deserves to be punished!
Even Ric’s moron best mate, Greg Willis, who had a neck the size of his head and a brain the size of a pea, would’ve been a better deal than Ric. Greg egged Ric on at every opportunity, but he never had the smarts to think up bully tactic plans on his own. He tried once to embarrass me with ‘AB is gay’ scrawled across the classroom chalkboard. Greg failed to remember our homeroom teacher’s name was Aaron Benson. It landed him in detention for a week.
There we were, all gathered around the reception desk, and at this stage I hadn’t dared look left. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. Perhaps divine intervention or that relieving moment when you wake up and realize it’s all been a twisted nightmare.
“Are you going to take Mr. Saunders through to the treatment room, Dr…” Speaking far louder than was necessary, I cut Janet off before she could say Dr Bell.
“Yes!” I slammed the file to my chest, covering the embroidered pocket. “As soon as you’ve completed the patient interview,” I said while winking my right eye repetitively.
Janet folded her arms over her chest, nostrils flaring. “Since when do I do patient interviews?”
“Since today.” My winking quickened. “New procedure.”
“Fix your eye.” She ripped a tissue from its box and shoved it into my hand. “I know nothing about…”
“Forget it.” What was the point of arguing? “I’ll do it.” I span on my heel, jerking my head at Ric without looking at him. “Follow me.”
Once inside the treatment room I placed the file on the bench, took off my white coat before he read my name, and sat down on my swivel stool, keeping my back to Ric at all times. I heard him shuffling around the room and figured he didn’t know whether to lie down on the table or stand around aimlessly.
From my pocket I took a pen, clicking it with my thumb furiously like I do when I’m angry or nervous. “Do you prefer to be called Richard or Dick?”
“Dick? I’ll make a note of that on your file.” I spoke aloud as I wrote. “Patient prefers to be called Dick.”
“Have you ever been to a chiropractor before, Dick?” When I heard him sigh in exasperation, I couldn’t help smiling.
“I’ve been to a physiotherapist. Never a chiropractor.”
A lot has changed since I went to high school, my appearance especially. As a teenager I was very overweight, had pimples, braces on my teeth, had horribly unflattering glasses, and when wearing the dark red school uniform, I looked more like a raspberry. It didn’t seem as though Ric realized who I was. Why would the coolest guy in school remember the name of the fat, ugly kid he tormented? Even I can barely see the resemblance of my teenage self in comparison to how I look now.
“I see.” Should I put my theory into action or keep my face from view? Curiosity burned. I wanted to see if the asshole remembered me. “They’re two very different forms of treatment, Dick.” I swiveled my chair around and looked at him for the first time. “Expect to hear a whole lot of bones crunching and cracking.”
He stared at me wordlessly. For a moment he seemed scared until his blue eyes wandered over my face and resulted in unnerving me instead. “Thanks for the warning.”
It shitted me off to see that he hadn’t lost any of his good looks in the past eight years. In fact, the bastard looked even better.
“Do you want me to take my shirt off?”
“No!” God, it was bad enough I had to touch him at all, let alone touching his naked skin. “Leave your shirt on, Dick, but take off your jacket.” I got off my chair, approached the treatment table, put my foot on the pedal, and lowered it. “Then sit on the side of the table and look straight ahead.”
“Okay.” My abrupt bedside manner obviously had him thinking twice about putting his skeletal system into my hands. “Where should I put my jacket?”
Shove it up your ass! “Give it to me.” He handed it over and I tossed it into the corner of the room.
“I could’ve done that myself.”
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