Roomies

By: Lindy Zart


This is to anyone who ever dialed 867-5309

and hoped to talk to Jenny.





SO HERE I am, at 8:26 in the AM, all smiles for the first victim—I mean, patient, of the day. For the record, I hate mornings. I don't know whose record that information is going on, but it's going on someone's. And consciously awake and functional? Not before 10:00.

She (the patient) is looking less than thrilled to be here, but I don’t let that deter me or cause my overly perky smile to falter. The air around us is cloaked in a medicinal smell that is astringent to the point of burning nostril hairs if you breathe too deeply, or making your eyes water if you stand in just the right spot. It's from all the many—healthy and completely harmless, of course—chemicals and cleaning solutions used in the office. I'm used to it, so out of habit I take shallow breaths. I'm all about being shallow. Maybe that's the patient's problem—she isn't breathing properly and the fumes are getting to her. I decide that must be the reason for the nasty scowl upon her weathered face. Who wouldn’t want to be here?

I walk up to where she is sitting in the waiting room—a small area with white walls, five chairs, two large windows, and a wood floor. It also houses framed medical jargon on almost every inch of wall space. Oh, and a big red blow-up heart (the organ, not the pretty one that symbolizes love) that kids are forever trying to turn into a punching bag, much to the receptionist's frustration. Although, I mean, come on, I've even punched it a time or two while passing by. It just screams to be whacked.

Apparently healthy hearts equal healthy feet and the reverse can be said. Everything inside you, from your eyes to your teeth to your toes, is connected. I know, crazy.

I extend my already grotesquely large grin and announce, “We’re ready for you, Agnes.”

Agnes Magnus (yes, that’s really her name), a widow in her late eighties, suddenly has saucers for brown eyes and a twist to her red-lined lips. It appears that she may have even decided to throw caution to the wind and not use lipstick at all, going for the ‘lip-liner and nothing else’ look. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. The sudden belligerence in her eyes tells me that she may need some assistance down the hall. Not that I would drag her to the examination room or anything. (Insert chuckle here.) But I might give her a gentle shove in the right direction. Harmless.

“Well,” she says with a wheezing scoff, “maybe I’m not ready for you.”

Eyes narrowed, I have the semi-unpleasant thought, Trust me, lady, we don’t want you here anymore than you want to be here. But I just continue smiling, though maybe tightly at this point, and wait with raised eyebrows.

With an excessively drawn-out sigh, she struggles to her feet and mutters, “Come on. Let’s get this over with.” As if she is doing us a favor by gracing us with her presence because the office needs her and her money so much that we begged her to set up an appointment. Like we are glad she hasn’t taken care of her toenails to the point that they are now growing into her actual toes, and she has no other alternative but to have them surgically clipped. Yes…we have been waiting, years and years and years, for this monumental day.

Please.

I save my eye rolling for after I have my back to Agnes, because I am able to show restraint like that. The lone receptionist of the joint catches my eye as I pass by and smirks. We, the podiatrist and I, have our battles with patients, but Sally Flood, the receptionist, has hers as well up front. Agnes Magnus is not one of our favorite patients, to say the least. She’s not the worst, but definitely nowhere near the top of the list for patients we wouldn’t mind seeing more than once a decade.

With only minor grumbling on her part, I get Agnes into the operatory; a small, bright white room with shiny metal equipment and products galore seeping out of every crevice that we refer to as the ‘op’ because we’re verbally lazy, and motion to the single chair with the smile of an executioner. She doesn’t return the smile. But she does sit.

In her scratchy voice, she says, “I feel like I’m on death row and about to be lethally injected or electrocuted.”

I silently open up her chart on the computer.

“Are you going to strap me down too?” she wonders.

It can be arranged. “Of course not, Agnes.”

“Hmmph,” is her rebuttal.

“We’re going to numb up the skin around your toes before cutting the nails. We'll do the left foot today since that has been bothering you the most,” I say, meeting her eyes.

Her face pinches up. “Why are you smiling? Are you happy about this?”

My eyes go wide. “I’m not smiling.”

“I distinctly see the outline of a smile upon your face, though I’m sure you’re trying very hard to hide it. Do you enjoy other people’s discomfort?”

“No, of course not,” I say, turning away, and add with a mumble, “Maybe yours.”

Before I can worry about whether or not she heard that, my boss enters the room. Grant Olman is large. He has to be about six and a half feet tall and weighs anywhere from two hundred thirty to four hundred pounds. Okay, so he probably weighs more like two hundred sixty. His voice is deep and booming, making him seem closer to eight feet tall, and he’s perpetually clean-shaven. I’ve never even seen a hint of stubble upon his face. He’s got shaggy brown hair streaked in silver that always seems to be in need of a trim and gray eyes that are alight with humor most days.

“Agnes Magnus! How’s it going on this lovely morning?” he greets, then looks at me. “Great day for pizza, right?”

I hold in a sigh. My boss recently turned fifty and the office celebrated by having a pizza party at the local bowling alley. I showed off my athletic ability by routinely getting gutter balls and then I let my inner pig out by devouring most of a cheese pizza. Ever since then, he mentions pizza at least once a week. The guy needs new material.

“It’d be lovelier if I wasn’t here,” she replies.

For all of us.

My boss just laughs, complete with a snort at the end, and turns to me. “Ready, Freddy?”

“Who’s Freddy?” the sweet, sweet lady demands.

“She’s Freddy,” he says, pointing at me. “I can’t remember her name, so I just call her whatever.”

“As long as you don’t call her late for supper, eh?” Mrs. Magnus cackles.

I narrow my eyes on the back of her fluffy gray head. What was that? Was that a fat joke? I glance down at my average frame and frown. Does she think I'm fat?

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