Tuesday 11 June 2019

At the Clinic

by James Bates

ice tea with a hint of mint

The nervous looking man stood up, sat down, then went outside, sucked down a smoke, came back in and began pacing. From his chair on the other side of the clinic Larry watched, all the while wondering , what the hell's the matter with that guy?
            When the vet's assistant came out from the back, Larry stood to greet her. "Here you go, Mr. Sanderson," she said, handing over Cicely. "Your kitty's doing just fine. It was only a little hairball."
            "That's a relief." Larry smiled gratefully, nestling his little four month old calico to his chest as she began purring loudly. He gestured toward the guy, now sitting, jiggling his legs and twisting a magazine to death. "What's up him? Is he okay?"
            "Oh, yeah, he's fine. Just a little upset. It's half price procedure day today at the clinic. His dog Pete is getting neutered."
            Ouch, Larry thought to himself, and felt a sudden, sharp, sympathy pain, remembering a few years ago when he fulfilled his promise to Nancy a week after their second child was born and had the old tubes tied. Not the most pleasant experience he'd ever had.
            At the time his wife had not been one bit sympathetic to his plight. He clearly remembered Nancy looking askance at him saying, "Suck it up, Larry," as she helped him hobble to their car."Try giving birth sometime. Twice."
            Which was certainly a true statement, and at the time he'd made a wise marital decision not to pursue the matter any further. In fact, he'd put it all out of his mind. Until now.
            He cradled Cicely, petting her while casting a consoling eye toward the dog's owner who was holding the now destroyed magazine limply in his hand, staring into space, hands twitching, dealing with his own inner demons. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the clinic a dog barked and the poor guy grimaced and jumped in his chair. Then he grabbed for a new magazine to mangle.
            Before the memory of his own procedure became too vivid for comfort Larry figured he'd better leave. He paid for Cicely, then thanked the assistant.
            "Okay, good-bye," he said.
            She patted Cicely on the head and said, "Right. See you next month. Okay?"
            Larry stopped short. "Next month?"
            "Yes. She's due back then. It's easier when the kitty is younger."
             Larry blanched. That's right. Her procedure. He'd conveniently forgotten. "Oh. Sure," he said, voice cracking, perspiration breaking out on his brow. "Right. I'll see you then."
            "Be sure to come, okay?" she said, watching a bead of sweat trickle down Larry's forehead."Call for an appointment," she added.
            "Yeah, I will," he managed to stammer. Then he turned, petting Cicely nervously before wiping his brow. He couldn't get out of there fast enough.
            As he made his way to the car, Nancy's words come back to him, "Suck it up Larry." He was trying his best, he really was, but he just couldn't shake the vivid memory of "Being under the knife" as he always referred his operation.
             He situated Cicely in her car carrier in the passenger seat and got in behind the wheel, happy to finally be leaving the clinic behind. Then he remembered that it was only a month before he'd have to return. Not good. His hands started shaking at the thought.
            Next to him, Cicely started her motor going, purring up a gentle storm, usually a calming influence. But not today. Man, Larry thought to himself, it was becoming obvious he was not very good at this kind of thing, handling these procedures and operations and what not. Maybe he should ask Nancy if she would take Cicely to the clinic for him next month. Then he stopped himself. No. Bad idea. He knew exactly what she'd say. "Don't be a such a baby, Larry. Suck it up for god's sake."
            Larry sighed and scratched Cicely under her chin through the mesh on the carrier's door. "Don't worry, girl. It'll be just fine. Trust me." In answer, she looked up at him with big blue eyes, her motor going full tilt, purring up a storm. Bring it on, she seemed to be saying to him, blinking calmly and casually licking a paw. Just bring it on. She kept looking at him, like she was ready for anything; ready to go anytime, whether he was or not.
            He patted her head before putting the car in gear. "Good girl," he told Cicely as they left the parking lot. It was up to him to take her back for her procedure. Both Cicely and Nancy were depending on him. He had a month. Plenty of time to get his act together. Plenty of time to figure out how to suck it up. He hoped. Either that or they'd better have some magazines on hand for him to mangle. Make that a lot of magazines.

About the author

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Mused - The BellaOnline Literary Review, Ariel Chart and Potato Soup Journal. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.


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