Thursday, 16 May 2019

Half Past Eight


By Rosemary Johnson

English Breakfast Tea


All I can hear is the dull thudding of my heart.  Already beads of sweat have formed on my forehead.  My shoulders are hunched forward, every muscle in my body tight and ready. 
    I fix my eyes on the clock, watching the minute hand edge, in sharp jolts, towards the six at the bottom.  
    “Go.  Now.”
    The race is on.  Susan’s words jolt through me like an electric shock, almost making me drop the device in my hands.  Not quite, though.  I'm jabbing at its buttons. They squeak in protest. 
    Then… nothing.  Please, please, get on with it. 
    Burr burr, burr burr.  This is promising.  This is good.
    Burr burr, burr burr.  Answer, answer.  I know you’re there.  
    I clasp the receiver more tightly, as if it might leap from my hand.  Come on, come on.  Me, me.  Someone else’ll get in front of me - again.  I’ve been waiting for two whole days.  Don’t they realise I'm sick and in bed?
    I hear a click.  I draw in my breath.  They’re picking up.  It’s happening.  I’m getting in there.  I exhale like a march wind.  Before they can say anything, I start to talk.  Everything I’ve wanted to say over three days pours out of me in a torrent.
    Silence.
    I cough, to remind them I'm here.
    Another click.  “All our appointments for today are booked,” says the voice – or is it a machine?  “Please call back at half past eight tomorrow.”
    I would’ve thrown the telephone against the wall, watched its plastic components wrench open and smash, but at that moment Susan pokes her head around the bedroom door.  “Did you get through to the doctor, dear?”

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