Doctor Galonsky was a civilian. Probably never even served a day in the military. Not that there was anything wrong with that, Commander James Wolfson thought. Not necessarily, at least. It just meant he had no concept of punctuality and that his medical skills were rusty. Not trustworthy.
James had already decided that no matter what diagnosis the man came back with, he’d have to seek out a second opinion. He hadn’t wanted to go to the clinic on base, because their records might as well be published in the mess hall. Last time he went in for an infected toe, his boss’s secretary had sent him a get-well card.
He could hear his watch ticking as though to mock him. If he didn’t get back to his office before his 1:30 status meeting, he’d be busted back down to cabin boy. He lifted his arm and thumped his Bulova with his forefinger. He wouldn’t have agreed to wait around for his test results if he’d known it’d take 45 minutes and counting. A simple blood test and chest x-ray shouldn’t take this long to sort out. Was it possible that he’d been forgotten?
Through the office walls, he could hear the doctor speaking to another patient. A housewife, by the sound of her voice. Better get her out the door before her kiddies miss soccer practice.
James heaved himself off the doctor’s examining table, dragging a paper tablecloth in his wake. Shrouded only in a short paper dress, he padded over to the doctor’s desk and began rifling through the drawers. Ah ha. What idiot would leave a full pad of post-it notes in the hands of the seriously bored?
He peeled each leaf off in turn, pasting them to the sterile surfaces of the examining room. Door, covered. Squeaky stool on wheels, covered. Box of latex-free gloves, size large, covered. Mysterious and frightening stirrups for god knows what feminine complaint, covered.
The door opened behind him, sending a draft of chilly air up his naked buttocks. He turned and grinned, waiting for the doctor to blast him. A military doctor would play a practical joke in return. He’d test this civilian fellow, see what he was made of.
The doctor, thin, almost gaunt, with a salt-and-pepper Vandyke beard, barely seemed to register the desecration of his Hippocratic sanctuary. He took James’ arm and led him back to the examining table.
“Please sit down, Commander. What I have to say isn’t easy, nor is it easy to hear. The x-rays and blood test reveal a large abnormality on your left lung, and it may have spread to your ribs. We’ll need to do a biopsy to be sure, but I believe you have a malignant tumor. Given its location inside the rib bones and along the lung’s nerve bundle, it is unlikely that surgery will be an option.”
James stared at the doctor for several beats, then threw back his head and barked a laugh. “Goddamn, doc, you had me going there for a sec. Didn’t know you had it in you.” He laughed again, then knuckle-punched the doctor in his lean bicep. The doctor winced and rubbed the spot.
Doctor Galonsky appeared flustered. “I understand that this isn’t easy to hear, but you shouldn’t spend too much time absorbing the news. For maximum effectiveness, you need to begin chemotherapy and radiation as soon as possible.”
He laid his hands on James’ broad shoulder. “I’m sorry. I really am. I’d like to have you speak to a colleague of mine, an oncologist, one of the best in the state. I’ve made an appointment for you at 2 pm today.”
“Hell, doctor, I can’t waste any more time in this nuthouse. I’ve got a meeting. I’m sorry if your colleague needs to make the note on her second home, but I can’t spend all day in a tissue nightgown.” He grabbed his pants off the visitor’s chair and slipped them on.
He struggled into the rest of his dress uniform, ignoring the cough that led him to this quack in the first place. He shouldn’t have left base. Damn doctor couldn’t diagnose a hangnail right if it were on his own finger.
Lung cancer. Bullshit. He didn’t smoke. Dependency on a burning tit substitute wasn’t for him. His body was a tribute to the hours he’d spent honing his strength and endurance. At sixty four, he was more fit than half the would-be sailors rounded up by the recruiting office.
this is a story about a submarine rescue and you start with THIS??? This is backstory.
When I read this I couldn't believe I'd asked for pages..what the hell was I doing wanting a cancer story?? Well, then I re-read the hook.
Don't beam us UP, Scotty, Dive! Dive! Dive! Get us on that boat. This isn't bad writing but if you've got five pages of this, after a good hook, you've got an impatient agent.