Thin and Bone
by Hunter Lily Troy
part 1 of 2
The doctor told John Small he would not live to see the new year if he did not make major adjustments to his lifestyle. “You’re malnourished,” pled the doctor. “It’s only May,” replied John, “I have plenty of time to change.” To this, the doctor could only shake his head.
John Small had been the worst patient Dr. Brown had seen in his office in over five years. Cases like John’s were rare, he later told his wife over tea that evening. Mrs. Brown covered her eyes when her aging husband described John Small’s appearance.
“The man is nearly five foot ten, and barely a hundred and eighty-pounds.” Dr. Brown paused and sipped his tea. “He is narrow, lanky, and his skin merely rests upon his bones. I dare say he is thin and bone! Thin and bone!”
“I don’t know why you took him on. Couldn’t he have gone to one of those specialists downtown?” Mrs. Brown reached for her pill box, which she kept on the mahogany end table. She sucked down a nerve pill and petted a Great Dane, named Snippet, resting at her feet.
“Oh, it was a favor for a friend I owed, or I would’ve never... Why I knocked the wisp of him to the floor when I bent over to retrieve the pen he dropped. Which,” Dr. Brown emphasized, “I think he did deliberately to stall the completion of his family history.”
“It runs in the family does it?” Mrs. Brown said flatly.
“I should say so.”
“I just don’t understand where people like that get off treating their bodies like that! Hereditary or not, it’s just an excuse to stay that way!” Mrs. Brown sighed and nibbled her pastry.
“He was the talk of the day, and the butt of all jokes. I had to reprimand my staff for snickering loud enough for him to hear.”
“Let him hear the laughter when he comes into a room,” Mrs. Brown said ferociously. “Maybe that’ll sink into his skin long enough for him to do something about his appearance. A disgrace I should say.”
Dr. Brown dipped the end of a hearty mars-pie pastry into his tea and slipped half of it into his mouth. “I wish I could say I’ve seen the last of him.”
“I have him coming back to me in three weeks.”
“I have Mr. Small on a special diet. You know how it is, darling. If you don’t monitor the results they won’t, and don’t, take it seriously. It’s like children and homework. Unless you test them on what they’ve read they won’t read it.”
“That’s my line you’ve stolen.”
“You are a good teacher.” Dr. Brown smiled.
“Flattery, always good for the soul.”
Dr. Brown took the last pastry from the tray and ate it, smiling a bit more, as he shirked off the stress of the day.
“You know,” Mrs. Brown said, “if he likes you, he’ll tell his friends and before you know it, you’ll have your waiting room looking like a box of toothpicks!”
“No, no, it won’t come to that.”
“It will alienate your regular patients.”
“No, no, you’re exaggerating.”
“Before you know it, you’ll be buying special chairs for them to sit all comfortable like in your waiting room, and a different examination table, equipment-you’ll be renovating your whole practice to accommodate the lot of them!”
“I can make a difference with Mr. Small. He will be a superb role model for his acquaintances, you’ll see. Three weeks, and he’ll be twice the man.”
Across town John Small entered Frankie’s Diner for supper before he was scheduled back to work at six o’clock. His feet glided up the ramp through the electric glass doors, wide enough to fit two cars side-by-side.
Inside, John noticed six counter seats where he normally liked to sit taken up by patrons. “Six stools, when will they add a couple more?” John sighed, on his way to an empty booth on the far side of the spacious room. Patrons snickered as he walked by.
“Featherweight,” a man muttered under his breath.
Jon looked back with an evil eye, but the man, still smiling at his own remark glanced out the window to avoid his gaze.
“Oh my god, he’s so puny!” a teen said rather loudly as John sunk into his seat and buried his head in the menu, though he knew it by heart.
“What’ll it be today?” A female server stood attentively with her electronic pad.
John looked up and followed her eyes to the line cook who had been making faces from the order window. The cook’s cheeks were sucked inward causing his visage to look emaciated.
The server cleared her throat. “What did you say you were having?”
“I didn’t yet.”
The server noticed the distance between John’s waist and the table. “This here booth too big for you? I can bring over a booster, or if you want I can move you over there.” She pointed to an end table far from other patrons, beside the bathroom and kitchen entrances. “The table isn’t screwed to the floor, so’s you can move it close to your middle, so’s you won’t be leaning so far away from your food.”
“This is fine,” John said calmly. “If you would only add a few more stools at the end of the counter, for customers like me, there wouldn’t be any need for me to move tables.”
“No need to get all uppity! I was only trying to be nice!”
John placed his order to-go and waited quietly in the booth. He met each stare with his head raised, though tears, unbecoming him, felt ready to fall. I should be used to this, he thought to himself, as he played with the liter jar of ketchup on the table. He paid the server, even tipped her, though he would have rather donated it to a charity.
It was 6:05. John Small had never been late to work. He thought the diner deliberately made him late, even though his meal had been the equivalent to a small side order, and should have taken less time to prepare. John crossed the double-wide street in a hurry, neglecting the traffic lights. The taxi-cab swerved trying to avoid John, but he was hit head on. The taxi cab driver later told reporters, “If he wasn’t so threadlike, I might have seen him.” While the late edition rag sheet would bear the headline: “Slinky Takes a Tumble.
A special old model ambulance had to be summoned to the scene to accommodate John. The first cop to arrive had seen this happen many times before. “Sir, at your size you should know better than to cross the street without a chaperone. But don’t you worry, we’re going to take good care of you.” The cop tried to keep John from moving his leg, which had been broken in three places.
Across town Sonya Porterly stepped from the shower naked and crossed her second floor dwelling shimmying and shaking to the grinding tunes from her wall to wall television, set on a country music channel. She used the remote as a microphone and gave a performance in front of the wall to wall mirror on the opposite side in the living room.
Her hands crept along her voluptuous ripples and across her thick thighs; she bent down and seductively motioned phallicly with the remote, in and out, with the musical rhythms.
The phone rang.
Sonya waved her hand in front of a sensor on the mirrored wall revealing a drawer; she grabbed a towel to cover up, then quickly pressed the yellow button marked “receive” on the remote. The music channel minimized to the bottom left corner as the incoming caller appeared on the rest of the screen.
“Hello, Sonya. My, my, did I catch you at a good time.” Derek cleaned his glasses on his blue scrubs.
“What do you want?” Sonya ensured the towel covered her completely.
“Ah, now I can see better.” Derek readjusted the glasses on his face. “I always knew you had great legs.” His eyes roamed over all her bare spots showing.
“Those silly relics are just for show! I know you had corrective vision on your eyes when you were a baby.”
“You’re no fun.”
“If you called to ask me out again, for the hundredth time, the answer is still no!”
“The more beautiful, the harder the chase.”
A surgeon stepped onto the screen, forcing Derek out of the picture. “Ms. Porterly, we need you in as soon as possible. Dressed, of course.”
“Of course, Doctor Green.” Sonya clicked the receive button and the country music channel reappeared.
In her bedroom, Sonya powdered her underarms and belly and put on a lime-green scrub set. She sprayed a coconut spritzer into her naturally curly hair, which bunched up right above her shoulders, and squeezed on her sea-shell clip-on earrings, then applied her rose colored lipstick.
“Today is going to be a good day,” she said, then puckered her lips in the mirror in front of her vanity.
Within the hour, Sonya Porterly arrived on G-Wing at Carepulent City Hospital. She had worked as a nurse there since she started interning in college and stayed on fulltime after graduation. Sonya made her rounds around the “O” shaped floor. First she visited Mrs. Otis who had been recovering from a routine quadruple bypass surgery. Sonya took her stats, marked the results on her chart, retrieved a cup of ice chips for her, and then proceeded on to the next patient.
The hours passed just as they had every day for Sonya, even though they had been a nurse shy. She prided herself on her upbeat personality and ability to make her patients forget their illness, if only for the moment.
Derek waved Sonya over to the nurse’s station in the center of the wing. “You’re going to love the patient in room 606. Lovely disposition.”
Sonya took the chart from Derek and glanced over the report. “A broken leg, how bad can it be?”
“Look at his weight,” Derek whispered and pointed to the highlighted box.
“Oh my.” Sonya’s voice grew quieter. “Does he have a special bed?”
“That’s why he’s on G-wing, the only floor with the old configurations to support the outdated equipment.”
“I just asked about the bed,” she sighed. “I don’t think you should be so hard on the guy. He’s probably trying to gain weight. It’s hard for some people.”
“Lazy people, maybe, he doesn’t have my sympathy, nor should he have yours for that matter.”
Sonya closed the chart and pressed it to her chest. “I’m sure he’s not as bad as you’re making him out to be.” Sonya sauntered down the hall; her shoes scuffed upon the glossy green tiled floor.
“Knock knock,” Sonya’s pushed open the door to room 606. “Mr. Small? Hi, I’m Sonya, your nurse for today. How are you feeling?” Sonya played around with the buttons on the hydration system. She had been trained to run it, but seemed to forget how, now standing in front of a real one.
“All right.” John Small tried to sit up; his gown, not suited for his size, entangled him and impaired his movement.
“I think this thing is working.” Sonya checked the hydration lines connected to John’s wrist. “If I remember correctly, the last time I used one of these units, a woman about your size had also been hit by a car.” She tapped the bag, and checked the line. “Please forgive me if I press too hard on something.” Sonya took John’s wrist in her hand. Her fingers overlapped when she closed her grip. “Any pain?” She poked his skin around the needle’s entry point.
Sonya looked down at John. He was pale and clean shaven. His brown eyes were warm and frightened, like one of the puppies in the showcase window she often passed on her way into work.
“I need to call my job,” John said urgently.
“I can do that for you Mr. Small.”
Sonya blushed as her eyes met his. Her smile brought out a similar one on John’s face.
“Now, I need to take a look under here.” She reached for the sheet.
John tucked his blue garment in between his legs and kept his hands there. “It was my fault,” he said.
“You shouldn’t say that. No driver should ever hit a pedestrian.”
“I know, but I wasn’t looking where I was going. I was having a bad day as it was.”
“A bad day? Why so?
“Every day is a bad day for me. While I was in surgery, the automated-judicial-court found me guilty, not the driver, and sentenced me to court ordered counseling!”
“Oh no, not a spindle group.” Sonya cupped her fingers over her mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call it that.”
“I know that’s what everyone calls a weight-gain group.” John covered his face then ran his fingers through his close-cut hair. “This sucks!”
“Look on the bright side, you have me as a nurse and my patients are the fastest to recover and leave this place.”
“Thank god, the last nurse nearly ripped my leg off trying to get me into the bed.”
“It’s a lot smaller than the ones we are used to. They train us for special for moments like this, so there shouldn’t be any excuse why you wouldn’t get the best care.
Sonya took John’s temperature, listened to his heart, and registered his other vitals on his chart. Before she left she helped him pick out his dinner from the menu.
“I’m not very hungry.”
“Why not let it be our little secret, huh? You order the whole chicken with three sides, eat what you can, and I won’t mention it to the doctor.” Sonya knew this was breaking protocol. A patient’s appetite was a primary concern with the doctors, but something about the way John looked up at her, the way his eyes stayed right on her own, and not the rest of her, made her take his side.
“You would do that for me?”
Copyright © 2007 by Hunter Lily Troy