Nurse Jane pinpoints the area of concern, touching the same area again and parts adjacent to it to confirm that it is, in fact, the source of my ailment.

“It could be a number of things,” she says. “Have you eaten or drank anything out of the ordinary since it began?”

“No, not that I can think of,” I say, my voice a lot hoarser than I remember it being.

“Do you drink heavily?” she asks.

This is Wisconsin. And I work at a bar. Define heavily.

“Not really…,” I say, the uncertainty obvious in my voice.

“Do you drink more than once a week and about how much in that time period?”

“I really only drink occasionally,” I say. “Maybe once or twice a month. Beer mostly. No more than a bottle each time.”

And that’s only really because I’m broke. Like most adults my age, I’d probably drink more if I wasn’t so strapped for cash all the damn time.

She simply nods. She rolls my top back down, and I can only assume she’s done. “You’re certainly not the typical college girl, huh? No boyfriends, virtually no drinking…” she trails off with a gentle smile.

The smile I give her in return is unsure as I simply say, “I just don’t really have the time for all that right now.”

Or the freaking money.

I know I don’t have the desire either. At least not for the boyfriend part.

But I’m not about to explain my life story to a stranger in

a gloomy examination room who just got done poking my belly, no matter how nice she seems.

She takes off each glove with a pop and smack, and discards them into the trash receptacle at her feet.

“We can’t really determine what’s causing you the discomfort without doing either an ultrasound or an endoscopy at this point. Since you noticed the abnormality over a month ago, I would highly recommend that you get either one as soon as possible.

“It can be IBS or the beginnings of a gastric ulcer or something else entirely. Whatever it is, it seems to be concentrated just below your ribcage so I can probably rule out IBS, but again, you’ll have to meet with a physician to really determine what it is.

“We don’t offer ultrasound services here at the clinic, but I can refer you to someone over at the Greenwood Surgical Center. You know the one on Hashinger Boulevard, about three miles from here? They offer all those services and more, and the doctors there will definitely be able to help you out a lot more than we can over here.”

She keeps going on for a bit longer, mostly reiterating what she’s already said, but I’ve pretty much stopped listening to her at this point. All sorts of things are going through my mind, haphazardly bouncing around in utter chaos, and I can almost hear my brain cussing me out as it spins out of control with so many thoughts at once.

An ultrasound or endoscopy? The surgical center?

What the fuck?

I don’t have the money for any of that!

And I sure as fuck don’t have health insurance anymore.

My eyes dart around the room restlessly as I try to compose my roguish thoughts. My expression must be a clear reflection of how shitty I feel right now, because she seems to read my troubled mind.

“Give me just a second, I’ll be right back,” she says before she heads out of the room. The door closes after her with a fairly soft thud. Even the way she closes doors is gentle. My father would have liked her. He was always so touchy about how people closed doors, whether in buildings or cars, saying shutting them too hard could end up with someone losing their finger.

Another sigh escapes me for the million and third time today.

I really don’t want to be thinking about my dad right now. I feel myself go limp as if the very essence of me has been sucked out of my body through a wide straw.

God, this really sucks ass.

Where the hell am I supposed to get money for an ultrasound?

The door opens again suddenly, and Jane’s presence fills the room once more. She holds out a crisp white 2 x 4″ card as she approaches me.

“Here,” she simply says as she hands it over to me.

I take it and hold it firmly between my long fingers as I read the professionally formatted, dark blue font on it.

John T. Templin, M.D. Chief Surgeon, Greenwood Surgical Center.

She moves over to the hand sanitizer dispenser and rubs a few pumps all over her hands.

“John’s a great doctor and a frequent referral of ours. Plus, he’s my brother,” she adds with a smile. “I’ve given him a call and told him he should be expecting you around one-thirty this afternoon if that time works for you. Your consultation with him is on me, and he’ll be able to determine if you even really need an ultrasound or any other in-depth diagnostic procedure at that point. All right?”

I’m not sure what to make of this extension of kindness. I don’t know why she’s being nice to me, and I’m not sure how to react. The paranoid skeptic in me sees this as a bit of a red flag, searching for any signs that her kindness is some sort of gimmick, but there don’t seem to be any.

“Tha-Thank you,” I manage. It sounds a lot less enthusiastic than I’d like, especially since she’s being so nice, but I’m confused and worried on so many levels right now. Thankfully, she doesn’t seem to mind my bland response.

“No problem, sugar. Good luck with everything, ‘kay?”

“Thanks.” I force a smile once more as she leaves the room.

I soon follow suit, grabbing my belongings hastily, far too eager to get the hell out of that room and out of that entire building altogether.

Thankfully, Trixie shares my sentiments.


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