Saturday, July 27, 2013

Footprints Across Night Clinic

                            

“Another Saturday night, another stint in the Night Clinic,” I muttered as I snuck in the back door. I wonder what adventures await Miss James and me tonight.
“Good evening, doctor,” an unfamiliar voice greeted me.
“Hello, uh…where’s Miss James?” I asked the heavy set woman dressed in white. I think she sensed my disappointment.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Barnes,” she replied, her voice sporting an edge that said I know I’m not young and blonde and shapely, but I do know my job. “Miss James asked me to cover for her. She had to go out of town suddenly; something about her twin sister and a rash and fever. Anyway, she’s not here. You’ll just have to get by with frumpy old Maggie.”
“Pleased to meet you frumpy old Maggie, I’m chastised young Dr. Barnes. Anything waiting for me?”
“There’s one patient left over from the day shift, older man with pus draining from his penis. I guess Dr. Wacker didn’t have time to get to him.”
I picked up the chart. Fifty-five…no address…arrived at …”three o’clock. Maggie what’s the deal. He’s been here for five hours.”
“I guess they were busy.”
I shook my head and wondered how busy they really had been, then shrugged my shoulders and turned to face the problem at hand.
“Well, I guess I’m off into the world of pus-sy penises. If I’m not out in five minutes, page me.”
I knocked on the door and then entered. Seated on the chair was a very large naked man with a  paper sheet over his groin. A large pannus hung down almost to his knees.
“Good evening, Mr. Jonas. I’m Dr. Barnes. What seems to be the problem?”
“Well, it’s about time. The problem? Can’t you see it? I think it’s about to fall off.”
“What’s about to fall off?” I asked, trying to sound concerned.
“Why, my gentils. Burning and dripping for days. I knew I never should have gone.”
“Gone where?”
“Upstairs at the Palace. I knew I’d catch some disease.”
“When did you go to the Palace?”
“Let’s see it was Tuesday, no Wednesday.”
“So, you went to the Palace three days ago?”
“Three days ago? No, no, no doc. It was, let me think, Wednesday, June 3rd 2010. I just knew that whore would give me the clap.”
“Mr. Jonas. If it’s been three years since you went to the Palace, I don’t think your problems have anything to do with catching the clap from any lady that you might have encountered.”
“It has to be that. I haven’t been to any hookers since.”
“Just tell me when everything started.”
“Well, it was on a dare. Some of my ‘quote…friends…unquote’ said I didn’t have the balls to go, pardon my pun. Well I proved them wrong. I went and now look at me.”
I did look at him and then asked, “you mean that you have all these symptoms you are suffering?”
“No, no, look at how big I’ve become. Back in twenty ten I only weighed a hundred and eighty. Now I must be four hundred…”
“At least,” I observed. This could go on for hours. “Tell you what, let me take a look at your problem and I’ll see what I can do. Can you lie down on the table so I can examine you?”
“OK, Doc.” He pushed down on the table a couple of times, checking to see if it was sturdy enough and then slowly climbed up and lay down. His large belly hung down over the area in question.
“Uh, do you think you can hold your belly up?” I asked gingerly, trying to be at least a little tactful.
“Oh, sure.”
Beneath the massive pannus, which was edematous and red I saw a small, retracted penis and scrotum. After much digging I managed to get a proper hold of it and examined it. There was purulent drainage emanating from a remnant of foreskin and the suprapubic area was ulcerated secondary to irritation from his huge apron of a belly.
“I don’t think your encounter at the Palace is responsible for your current problem, unless you want to count your guilt at having frequented that establishment. No the problem you are having is that your belly is too big and it looks like you’re having trouble keeping yourself clean. Do you have any help at home?”
“Just my mother, but she will let me have it if she finds out I’ve been to see one of those whores at the Palace.”
“Well, you really don’t need to tell her. However, can she help clean you up? I think if you get in the shower and clean yourself well, and then apply one of the medicated patches I’m going to prescribe, you’ll be better in no time.”
“We can give it a try. Mother will do whatever is necessary. It’s what mother’s are for.”
I nodded my head and called for Maggie. The two of us cleaned him up and dressed the open wounds, which were actually pretty clean, with Duoderm dressings. I gave him a prescription for some antibiotics to treat what appeared to be cellulitis of his huge pannus and a follow up appointment at the family practice clinic at the University hospital, attention to Dr. Wacker.
Revenge can so sweet.
“What’s next Maggie?” I inquired as a rubbed my hands with the waterless cleaner which hung on the wall at strategic points throughout the clinic.
“Back pain for three years in room three, lacerated arm in four and a burn to the hand in five.”
“Is it bad, the burn to the hand, I mean? Because, if it is, then we might as well just call the Burn Unit now.”
“Second degree at worst. You should be able to handle it.”
I nodded my head and then went back to the supply closet to get some a new box of gloves. As I walked I noticed some peculiar footprints on the floor.
“Maggie, did you notice these footprints? It looks like some wild animal has been walking around.”
The footprints were very unusual. They were a cast of dirt and grease, three toes with long claws which looked like the perpetrator walked for a short ways, then jumped to the end of the hall where there was a water fountain, and then jumped back, where there were some more footprints  leading nowhere in particular.
“Very strange, Dr. Barnes, very, very strange.”
“I guess there’s no time to worry about it now,” I remarked, believing that one of the patients or personnel from the previous shift had brought their dog to work. It wasn’t long before I found out how wrong I was.
I checked on the burned hand first.
“Hey Doc,” a familiar voice called out.
“Vince? What are you doing here at this hour?” It was Vince Smialdi, one of the maintenance workers for the clinic.
“Well, you know doc, I was in the back, checking out the store room. I thought I smelled some smoke back there. Anyway, I was in the store room and I found this. What do you make of it?”
He held up what appeared to be half of a large golden eggshell, broken and burned at the edges. The shell was at least twelve inches wide.
“Looks like one of the proverbial golden eggs, but I’d hate to get cornered by the goose that laid it,” I observed.
“That’s what I thought. Looks like a giant egg shell, but it’s only gold color. Look…”
He grabbed some of the broken edge and broke a piece off. It was brittle, just like any eggshell.
“A mystery, that’s for sure,” I replied. Could this have anything to do with those footprints?
“Uh, Doc.”
I looked up from my thoughts and saw Vince with a perplexed look on his face.
“Oh, sorry Vince. I was just thinking. Maggie and I saw some unusual footprints in the back. It wouldn’t surprise me if the two were somehow related. But first, let me look at your hand.”
He held up his right hand. The palm was red with large blisters.
“I got this when I picked up that eggshell. It was like picking up the business end of a branding iron. I rinsed my hand in some cold water, but after I got home those blisters popped up, so  I came back here to the clinic.”
“A good thing, too, although this isn’t terrible. Second degree at most. Let me dress it for you and then you can be on your way. No, on second thought, why don’t you stay for a bit, if you don’t mind and we can investigate some of these strange things, this eggshell and those footprints. You don’t mind, do you? Let me finish up with the patients who are waiting and then we can check things out.”
“No problem, Doc. I don’t have anyone at home anyway.”
Vince had been alone for years. His wife had passed away and both his kids had moved away and lived on the west coast.
I left him in the break room and went back to my patients. I gave the back pain a shot, stitched the laceration, but then had to deal with a cocaine overdose, a baby with a fever, a broken arm, two hookers who got into a fight over a “customer” and a drunk woman who had pneumonia after passing out, vomiting and aspirating. I had to wait for an ambulance to ship her to the County.
It was 3:30 when I was finally free. I found Vince sleeping on the sofa.
“How’s the hand?” I inquired, making small talk as we ventured to the back of the clinic. I left Maggie up front to man the fort, should any patients arrive. Most nights, business slowed considerably after about 2:30 am. The bars were closed, everyone who was going to hook up had done so. Sick kids and their worried parents had fallen into fitful slumber. It was the time I usually managed to grab a couple of hours sleep. Tonight, however, I was a sleuth, investigating a deep, dark mystery.
Sometimes my imagination gets the best of me.
Maggie had cleaned up the tracks by the supply room, but I saw fresh ones near the storage closet. There was a faint scent, like burned plastic.
“Do you think it’s safe,” I asked, grabbing Vince by the arm. “What do you think is in there?”
My thoughts drifted back to werewolves, vampires, aliens and so many other bizarre things I’d encountered here at the clinic.
“Don’t worry, Doc,” he replied, trying to reassure me. “Two to one it’s an ostrich or something like that.”
Just to be on the safe side I picked up a broom that was in the hallway.
“That’s great. If there’s some sort of monster you can sweep it under the table. You’re not much for adventure, Doc.”
“If I want excitement, I’ll go to an amusement park. I’m just an old country doctor, to quote Dr. McCoy.”
Vince picked up a flashlight as he slowly pushed the door to the storage room open. It gave a loud squeak. I thought I heard some fluttering noises. Vince shined his light to the back of the room, starting at the floor and up to the ceiling.
“There, see them? More footprints. They lead to that back corner.”
He slowly made his way towards the footprints, while I followed closely behind, clutching the handle of the broom, its bristles out in front of me, ready to swipe at whatever vicious brute was waiting out there, surely ready to pounce on us.
We made it to the back of the room. There were greasy footprints all over, but nothing else. Vince shined his light in every corner, but saw nothing. It was at that moment I glanced up and saw the faint silhouette of something hovering in the corner, wings beating against the air. There was a faint glow from two deep red eyes and then flames shot out towards the two of us. I grabbed Vince and pulled him down to the floor as a white hot stream of fire shot across the room, leaving smoke and a blackened wall where the flames had hit.
Vince shined his flashlight at the flying apparition. What was it?
It wasn’t more that eighteen inches tall, had a lavender body, except for its tummy which was orange. It had black wings on its back which were rapidly beating against the air. Its eyes glowed red, illuminated by the flashlight. There were long sharp claws on its feet and shorter claws on its hands. Its mouth was closed, but there were sharp teeth pointing upwards.
“A dragon?” Vince and I both concluded, almost in unison.
“Daddy, daddy,” the little dragon cried out, staring at Vince.
“It thinks I’m its Daddy,” Vince whispered as we both crouched behind some boxes on the floor.
“If you’re its daddy, then go to take care of it, give it a spanking or something” I hissed between my clenched teeth.
“You’re the doctor,” he responded. “Don’t you think you should check it out, you know, just to be sure it’s not injured or something?”
At this moment the lights came on and Maggie came in.
I jumped up and grabbed her as fire shot towards the door. Vince jumped up and raced towards the little monster.
“Aieee…” screamed the little dragon and then it flew into Vince’s arms.
“Daddy, Daddy,” It screamed again. And then, much to everyone’s surprise, it licked Vince’s face and threw its short arms around his neck.
Maggie and I slowly stood up, wary of the baby dragon’s intentions, but Vince showed no fear as he looked up at us, the little beast still clutching his neck.
“I guess he’s adopted you, Vince,” I observed.
“I guess so,” he answered. “Poor little guy. I bet he’s all alone in the world; last of his kind no doubt.”
“No doubt,” I agreed.
Vince put the dragon down and held its hand. They made an odd looking couple. Tall elderly man and short squat monster.
“You know, Doc, I’ve been alone for years now. Lizzy’s been gone for a long time and the kids are all grown and moved away. I was never big on pets, but I think I can make an exception.”
“Just be careful, you don’t want to end up half broiled,” I remarked as the three of us walked back towards the break room.
“What do dragons eat?” Maggie asked.
“No idea,” I stated. “He’s sort of lizard like. Maybe insects or fish?”
“Maybe he’s a vegetarian,” Vince suggested.
Maggie sat down and took out a cigarette. As she put it to her lips a short flame shot out from the dragon and lit it, the flame just reaching the end of the cigarette, carefully measured not to scorch anything else.
“Well, you’ll need to give it a name. Is it a boy or a girl?” Maggie asked.
“Good question,” Vince replied. He eyed his new charge up and down from every angle.
“What do you think, Doc?”
“No idea. Maybe we can do some DNA testing.”
“What about Pat, or Robin, or Courtney?”, Maggie suggested. “Those are all good names for either boys or girls.”
“Daddy, daddy,” the dragon cried out. “I’m hungry.”
Maggie opened the refrigerator door and said, “Help yourself.”
The little dragon half walked and half flew over to the fridge and grabbed my sandwich off the shelf and wolfed it down. Then it ate an apple, two oranges (which had belonged to Maggie) and drank a carton of milk.
“From what I can see,” I remarked, “food is not going to be an issue.”
I looked at my watch. “It’s almost seven. I think you should be on your way with your adopted monster, Vince. The less explaining we have to do, the better.”
He agreed. He dressed the dragon in a gray hoodie which we kept around for just such occasions and left. As he walked away I called out:
“What are you going to call him or her?”
He screamed back an answer, but I couldn’t quite make it out. At that moment Maggie handed me my coat. It was quitting time. Another eventful Night Clinic had come to an end.

If any readers have an idea fora  good name for the little dragon, please leave it as a comment.