Doc Little sat in his office on the third floor of an office building in Century City. On his desk lay scattered papers, a pen, and an empty bottle of gin. Little was grotesquely overweight. His stomach sagged over his snug belt and his cheeks drooped glamorously past his recessed chin. In his hand he held a crystal glass with a few melting ice cubes. He twirled the glass, spinning the cubes furiously before sliding them down his putrid throat. The ice hit his stomach and melted instantly in a pool of liquor. He sat momentarily entranced by an old photograph of himself. He was in the woods, in his early twenties, svelte, ambitious, and brave. In the background acres of dominant woods challenged his curiosity. The glass covering the picture threw an awkward reflection towards him, and as his disfigured nose reached his eyes he turned in his chair and stared out the window. His image was still burning in his mind, past and present flashing back and forth.
A knock on the door disturbed him. A female wearing a floral print blouse swung open the door and walked in. She took a few steps towards the desk and stopped.
“Doctor. Mr. Silverstein has been waiting for nearly thirty minutes. He’s becoming a bit impatient.”
Little stared at her large floppy breasts. Those water balloons yearned to burst from the constricting supporters she strapped over her shoulders. In her right hand she held a medical chart with a red tag sticking out of it. Little’s eyes scrutinized the woman in front of him. She had worked for him for seven years. Diligent, loyal, never late, she was tailor made to serve. He looked her up and down. What a great fuck she must be if only given a chance. In all these years he had failed to notice the heartache that poured from her eyes. Lonely, deprived, complacent. She had been loved, she had loved, but lacking in her stare was a confidence that love would visit her again. He could make her happy. She would make him happy.
“Mary. Tell mister Silverstein I am attending to an extremely delicate patient. Apologize for our inability to serve him at the moment. Assure him that I shall visit him at his residence at his earliest convenience, be it not this day.”
Her brow curled in a perplexed manner. She walked out and shut the door behind her. Little reached in his top drawer and pulled out a set of keys. He stood up, wrapped his coat over his shoulders and flipped the light off on his way out.
The sun had just dropped below the horizon on the Pacific Ocean as the Jaguar pulled into the garage on Pacific Coast Highway. Little walked up the stairs to the third floor and out to the deck. He pulled out his pecker and offered a donation to the crashing waves below. He shook off a few drops and tucked his wrinkled love wand back in his trousers.
The third floor had been frequented by many of his associates in his more glorious days. Now it served mostly as his retreat from society. He stepped behind the bar and opened a bottle of whiskey, sour mash Kentucky straight bourbon. He dropped a few cubes in the glass for good luck. On his coffee table was a photo album with a marker inside. He flipped it open and stared at a photograph of a woman. She was short and slender fair skinned with blonde hair. Her breasts were perky and commanded attention. She smiled past the camera, at Little, as he snapped the shot. He swigged the sour liquid and reclined on the leather couch.
A harmony of furious drivers pounded their horns as they waited in their cars on the highway outside. Little’s eyes drowsily unlocked. A night’s worth of drool clung his cheek to the couch. He gently peeled his face and winced as the light crept through his lids. He glanced at the Rolex on his wrist. Seven thirty. There was a message on his answering machine. Mary had left the day’s instructions for the good doctor.
Little searched his medicine cabinet for a small bottle. He popped a pill and chased it down with some mouthwash. A quick shit and shower and he was ready to roll. The pill always started working as he was drying his balls. He strutted down the steps and sat in the Jag. He would take the canyons to avoid the traffic.
He grinned during his drive, listening to the morning talk show hosts babble hilarious dribble. His unnatural verb caused him to step on the throttle with voracity. A red light slowed him down enough for the cop that had been chasing him for five miles to catch up. He waved at the cops, his diamond ring blinding their middle class pupils. They stared with contempt but today he was impervious. He grinned and pulled away.
As he walked up Silverstein’s walkway he noticed the neat hedges trimmed to resemble exotic animals. It was a total zoo, a zebra in the middle, the lion hiding in the corner, an elephant wandering aimlessly at the rear. A maid showed him to Silverstein’s bedroom.
Silverstein’s room had no bare walls. Every inch was covered with mementos, photographs, souvenirs, news clippings. Over his bed hung a theater poster of a Broadway play.
“Extravagant.” Shouted a headline in bold yellow letters.
The dilapidated Silverstein let out an agonizing moan as the smiling doctor got closer.
“Silverstein baby. What’s the problem?”
“I’m fucking dying. What do you think is the problem?”
“Now now. I’ll be the judge of that.”
Little opened the black leather attaché and pulled out a chart. His grin turned upside down as he read the details. The change in face was dramatic and as he felt Silverstein’s eyes on him he quickly resumed his jovial stance.
“Well Silverstein, here’s the deal. You are suffering from a bad heart. In medical terms that’s not good. Have you been sticking to your diet and exercise plan.”
“Fuck the diet and fuck the exercise. I pay you to fix me. Every time I mount that stupid bike my ticker starts busting out of my chest. Now how can you tell me that’s going to fix me?”
Little pulls a gold pen from his white coat and scribbles on the chart. He puts on a stethoscope.
“Take a deep breath please.”
Their eyes lock as Silverstein struggles for air.
“Is that all you got?’
“For Christ’s sake. I have emphysema.”
His pen hits the pad again. “Emphysema.”
“You fucking doctors have no clue do you?”
“Silverstein. I’m going to be straight with you. Look around. You’re walls are full of great memories. You went out and conquered the world. Unfortunately you cannot conquer time.”
“What the fuck are you telling me?”
“All I’m saying is I can’t bear to see you spend your last days in a hospital bed. Now I have an idea.”
Little stops and stands up straight, his stomach not sagging as much. With a determined look he digs into his coat pocket and removes a small tin box. He pulls out a purple pill and chews it down.
“How are your children doing?”
Silverstein’s anger resides a bit. His chance to brag about his offspring is always joy. He scoots up on his pillows and clears his throat. He swallows a huge breath and picks up a family portrait from beside the bed.
“Look at these kids. Have you ever seen a group of better looking children?”
“Mmm.” Little nods his head in anticipation.
“Jason, my pride and joy, he’s won a fellowship for his work in responsible corporate maneuvering. He’s working on his doctorate in business. I can imagine the type of damage he’ll be capable of. He always had a knack for…”
Little’s mind begins to wander. He drifts off into the Broadway poster entranced by the pretty dancing girls, their legs swinging high past their hips. He tries to see past their underwear and imagines the sweet smell of their flowers. His head nods in rhythm to the song playing in his head. He’s wearing a top hat and swinging a cane as he glides on the stage in front of the girls. The audience applauds and Little rejoices.
“…and Gale. She’s still breaking hearts up and down the eastern sea board…”
Both men seem oblivious to the others indifference, happy to immerse themselves in their trance. Little grabs hold of a chair and pulls it up next to the bed. Silverstein emerges first and calls to Little,
“How’s about a smoke chief?”
“How bout it?”
Little produces a fresh pack of smokes wrapped in an elegant box. He puts a light to Silverstein’s lips and watches the smoke rise, twirl and make funny shapes as it fills the room.
“Like I was saying doc, that Jenny, boy that Jenny, she’ll be president one day. She’s top of her class at Harvard.”
He glances over at Little who has drifted off again.
“Harvard! First in Harvard!” He exclaims.
“Ah yes Harvard, fine school indeed. She could be president some day.”
Something in Little stirs and he feels compelled to rise.
“May I use your restroom good sir?”
“Certainly. Straight through that door.”
Ten minutes later Little reappears. A foul stench trails behind him. He pulls the door closed. Silverstein has fallen asleep. Little empties the ashtray and leaves the pack of cigarettes next to Silverstein. Three hours have gone by. Three hours of priceless therapy as far as Little is concerned.
He walks down the stairs and finds the maid dusting off an old bust.
“Tell Silverstein he’ll be all right. I did a thorough examination.”
Little lets the Jag soar down Sunset Boulevard. He stops at a food stand on his way to the elevator.
“Send me up one of those shish-kabobs that I like, but go easy on the sauce. And don’t forget the bread.”
“Yes mister Little.”
After lunch Mary brings the doctor five charts. This one’s foot hurts. This one has indigestion. That one can’t sleep. She can’t stand the stress. He stops at an interesting one. Colon cancer. The patient is a fifty-eight year old lawyer who wasn’t able to talk his way out of life.
“Mary, call in Jonathan.” He instructs through the intercom.
Jonathan walks in. A young doctor three years in the making. His hair is securely combed, nails neatly trimmed, and teeth perfectly bonded. His eyes are defiant but his mind reasonable.
“Jonathan see what you can do with these.” He tells him as he hands him four charts.
Jonathan grabs the charts and looks them over. If it weren’t Little it would be another established doctor. Little knows Jonathan will take good care of his patients. He can’t afford not to.
Colon cancer. The name on the chart reads Harrison. Outstanding balance: zero. Little opens his suitcase and pulls out a fifth of gin. He stares at his picture on his desk as he pours the drink. His left hand reaches out for the intercom as his right feeds his vice.
“Mary. Tell mister Harrison I’ll have to reschedule. Apologize for the inconvenience and inform him I will visit him at his residence at his earliest convenience.”