Sully and I were taking our lunches together in the windowless breakroom. We may have ordered Chinese delivery. But more likely the case; we’d each just ordered down to the horrible restaurant at the end of the strip mall (in which our clinic was actually situated) and picked up a burger and… Well, Sully always loved working Wednesdays at our clinic because Wednesdays meant ‘Wecky Wednesday’ down the walk at Boris’s Family Restaurant. The restaurant where the fries were always under or overcooked, the chicken wings came out dangerously cold and raw, the iceberg lettuce heaps of salads contained dead flies, and the Styrofoam boxes used to serve takeout often melted right into the hotter of the lunches… And yeah. This was the place everyone who worked in that clinic kept going back to. And the patients even! And sometimes, from there, I even ordered a hangover breakfast! Not that the omelets were any better. Almost worse, actually. But with just enough hot sauce… Hot sauce makes everything better. And there was this one breakfast that I used to get. The Southern Something or Other. And basically, it was a couple of biscuits (store-bought and reheated but actually pretty good), a bucketful of some of that thick, white, chicken fried steak gravy, breakfast sausage links, ham, two fried eggs on top of that and I think they actually served more toast as a side! And I kind of had a thing for Russian Boris’s Russian daughter. She was about my age too. Not that it ever amounted to anything. And not that any attraction could ever be served up as a good enough excuse for continuing to order from that place. Because none could. And yet every one still did. I seriously knew a patient whose blood pressure dropped while she was hooked up to the machine… And she was a disgusting woman. And he was a completely obedient spouse. And they were both well into their 70’s so… It’s not like there was any hope of changing shit around. They once left a dog out in their car in the Florida summer (as they were snowbirds). But lucky I went out front for a smoke and saw that thing. It would have been dead in minutes! And wouldn’t ya guess...for the wife’s very next treatment two days later; their solution to the problem was just bringing the dog inside and letting it chill out until, I do recall Sully’s deep voice bellowing, “Is there a dog in this medical clinic?!” So yeah. After that. No pets allowed. Not that there even were any in the first place. But that lady was mowing down on a Boris’s breakfast so hard… I believe it was pancakes. It must have been because I remember it happening in the morning and that there were chunks of pancakes kind of falling out of her mouth and because she always ordered fried chicken in the afternoon. Anyway. She was in the midst of feasting while hooked up to the machine…something that most doctors would never allow for safety reasons but our doctors did because they were pushovers and whores and would do anything in order to keep a patient including telling them they can eat on the machine thereby putting their health and safety at risk which, it seems to me, is exactly the type of risk that doctors should be there to advise their patients against to begin with. But again. Whatever. The medical field is just a bunch of whatever’s that allow patients to go on living comfortably in denial. But again…anyway. So this old lady’s blood pressure goes low and she blacks out in her chair. And someone notices (probably me) and I lay her back to get some of that blood back to her brain. But something’s different this time. Usually I can just lower them back and unclamp their saline bag and give ’em a couple hundred mils and they’re fine. But not this time. Mostly because this woman was turning blue and unconsciously spitting out huge, quadrilateral shaped chunks of Boris’s breakfast pancakes. And all sorts of butter and syrup too. So a nurse actually got this vacuum tube out…like they use at the dentist’s office to collect the remaining water from out someone’s mouth. Like when he or a surgeon might say, “Suction,” to a nurse and then they break the thing out. Not that most of that shit ever actually went up into the tube in this instance. In fact, most of the larger sized chunks of cake were removed from her mouth by the fingers and then some of the shit further down was sucked out. But even then, most of those chunks just got stuck in the thing and the nurse would then remove it, brush the bigger pieces of half-chewed pancake away and then proceed again. I guess the logic behind it was; rather than having to stick any more fingers directly down the throat which would open up (pun intended) the possibility of, perhaps, accidentally stuffing even more pancake down there… The suction tool would suffice to suck out what was already lodged halfway down her esophagus whilst pushing the rest of the other shit down, finally, into this gross lady’s stomach where it belonged. And when she finally did ‘come back to’, she was coughing and still shooting bits of pancake dough all over the place. So when ya think about it…a Boris breakfast almost fucking killed someone! Everyone kept going back there though. But what can I say? The food was at least pretty cheap.
And so we’re sitting there in that windowless breakroom. It was a fairly sizeable breakroom which was nice. The lighting, however, was the same as it was in the rest of the building; those type of florescent bulbs that keep everyone looking like they’re glowing white. Even black people somehow! And up by the ceiling, in one of the corners, is a TV hanging there by some brackets and it’s set to a soap opera that neither Sully or I had bothered to change. The volume is playing lowly. It’s actually pretty nice background noise. Especially since Sully and I weren’t saying much. We weren’t mad at each other or anything. Rather, it was just two dudes relaxing with their food…trying not to think about the living workday taking place just through that breakroom door and down the hall. And I could tell Sully was happy because he always hummed to himself while he ate. Hummed to himself and tapped his feet. Almost like he was doing a little dance. Wecky Wednesday was treating him well.
“Mmm,” Sully sighed through his nose in a sort of chewing, food-driven ecstasy, “I’m tellin’ ya, man? You never tried one of these?!”
“Na. Not yet anyway. I’m always tempted to but then I just go with the burger. It’s hard to fuck up a burger.”
And he tilted his huge, Irish head from side to side; considering my point for the moment, “Yeah, that’s true,” he spoke with his mouth still half-full which, for some reason, just because it was him, didn’t bother me, “But it’d be pretty hard to fuck up one of these too. Mmm…yeah. Nothing but salt and fat. Seriously. I should have taken my stethoscope and listened to my own heart before eating one of these things…just to hear what it sounds like afterwards. I should really see a doctor.”
Just for the record here, Sully also once wanted to weigh himself on the patient scale just before and after taking a dump…just to see if he could shit out a whole kilo.
And that’s about the time that Craig walked in. I had no idea what he was doing. It wasn’t his breaktime. So…let’s just say that he was getting a cup of coffee either for himself or for a patient. God damn needy-ass patients that they were. And Craig was kind of a… Well, I’m not really sure how to even describe him but… Let’s start with the physical characteristics. He was in his 50’s. Had to be. His hair was almost entirely grey but for a few strands of pepper just barely hanging in there. And the weird part was, it was shaped into this little boy’s bowl cut. He wore rimless glasses. Usually a blue scrub top. But he also always wore white pants. And they were scrub pants, granted. But always. White pants like…what the fuck? He was a pretty skinny dude. And I actually liked the guy despite his having quickly developed a reputation around there for being quite the space cadet out on the patient floor. He was an army guy though. He’d made that much known to everyone. As in; the majority of his career was spent in the army and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in any field anywhere related to the medical.
Sully used to tell me that Craig did a pose but admittedly, until he’d mentioned it, I’d never actually noticed. “You know,” he’d say, “Like when you’re talking to him and then he smiles and kind of tilts his body with his hands on his hips? It’s a little pose. It is.” And I’d never been able to think about it in any other way since. It reminded me of a Leprechaun somehow or somebody about to dance a jig. Regardless.
So Craig walks in and starts filling up a Styrofoam cup with coffee and powdered creamer. And it’s horrible coffee. I know because I was the one who ordered it and drank almost two pots of it a day. Seriously disgusting. And he says the usual, “What’s happenin’ guys. Enjoyin’ your lunch?” And we give him the usual, “Totally.” Just pleasantries. Just stuff to say so that an awkward silence didn’t ensue the second he entered the room. “Sounds good, guys. I’ll see ya back out there.” And, “You know it,” Sully and I both spoke mindlessly not even watching him as he left. But as he left, he said something else. Craig did. It wasn’t mumbled so much either. That is, he spoke the words at a perfectly audible speaking volume. The same volume he’d already been speaking to us in. And we, to him. But it was just that moment… Not that I mean at that particular point in time. But there’s so often a moment like that… Like when people first greet each other for the day? Or feel obligated to exchange a few phrases for the sake of comfortability…as was the case just now. And imagine the two people are walking toward each other or something. And the first person says, ‘Hello’. And then the second person says, ‘Oh, hey how’s it going?’ And then the first person answers, ‘Oh, fine.’ But that just doesn’t seem to be quite enough. To either party. And so either given one of them will add something as they pass…as their backs would now otherwise be to each other if each didn’t turn their shoulders and head. They’ll add something open-ended and vague like, ‘Yeah. Well, we’ll see what happens.’ And both will smile and shrug and laugh a little…even if nothing they’d said prior to that point could ever possibly lead up to, ‘Yeah. Well, we’ll see what happens.’ And I don’t know about other people but I personally will wonder, ‘What the fuck?’ to myself as I turn back around and go on with whatever I was doing even if I’m the one who said the vague and open-ended piece! It’s just a thing people do. I encounter it almost every single day. It’s like we absolutely have to leave things on a high note. And that’s just what Craig was trying to do. Leave things on a high note as he left the room.
A minute or so went by. Silence resumed. Relative silence. Sully went on humming his little tune, that is, and the soap opera went on playing low. But then the humming stopped. The tapping of his little toes stopped as well. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d have said that the TV had gone mute too. And I looked up at Sully then only to see his piercing eyes already staring straight at me from just behind a slightly lowered newspaper. And he asks me, “Did he just say, ‘I’m just a rat with a .45 down in the hole?!’”
And I had to think about it for a second but then came up with, “Why yes, Sully. I do believe he did.”
“What does that mean?!”
“You know, I’m not sure really.”
“I mean, what the hell does that even mean?!” and then he seemed to shrug in conclusion, “He’s an idiot.”
“He said he was in the special forces or something. And then he was trained to be like a specialized driver. Like for transporting important people and shit? In Germany? He lived in Germany for a while. I know that much.”
“Psssh. Yeah, right,” Sully rolled his eyes, “He’s an idiot. I don’t doubt he was in the army but I’m sure they were like, ‘Here. Guard this door.’ I mean, he almost infused bleach into someone the other day. And that’s fucking hard to do!”
“I know. That was freaky. The whole dialyzer turned black.”
“Rat with a .45, my ass.”