John is studying the form that his doctor gave to him after a health check up. It details his proposed blood test. Despite eating and feeling healthy and being told that he is in ‘good nick’ by his doctor, he intends to go to the hospital on Tuesday and carry out the necessary precautions as there are not many worse things in life than someone who is an eternal optimist. When the day comes and he is at the front door inspecting that he has everything one requires when visiting a hospital by bus – wallet, keys, phone, pen/pencil, notepad, travel card, sunglasses, bag, book/magazine, bottle of water, sugar-free mints (in case he gets talking to someone reasonably attractive), deodorant, aftershave (for the same reason) and lip balm – there’s always something else to remember. ‘Ah, tobacco,’ he thinks, running up the stairs, just in case his one cigarette a week habit overcomes him on this particular day.
Whenever John thinks of hospitals, he imagines the scenes are ones that are akin to the aftermath of a bombing: pure pandemonium with people rushing around holding their bloodied heads whilst trying to stem the red stuff with towels and bandages. On the contrary, the vicinity of the entrance is taken up by able-bodied people in tidy clothing calmly walking in and out with seemingly no qualms or apparent health issues at all. A combination of patients and visitors, some may be dying from cancer, but one would be hard pushed to hazard a correct guess on who it was that was suffering as they all appear well-preserved. He doesn’t see anyone with the signs that he associated with the disease such as baldness, pale skin and thinness. That’s the scary thing and why he is there today to undergo a blood test for he has heard that doctors can determine if there’s anything wrong with you by carrying out this procedure. John walks towards the reception desk
‘‘I’m here for a blood test,’’ he says to a blonde woman with blue eyes behind reception.
‘‘What’s your name?’’
‘‘John Simmons,’’ he says, smiling.
At this point, John feels it is necessary to insert a mint into his mouth.
‘‘You’re with Doctor Roy. Here’s your number,’’ the receptionist informs him, handing him a piece of paper with the number 8237 printed on it, ‘‘so if you would like to take a seat and wait for your number to be called then he’ll be ready to see you.’’
‘‘Right, okay. My number’s on there,’’ John says, pointing at his form.
‘‘Ah yeah,’’ the nurse sighs. ‘‘Well, take a seat and Doctor Roy will be right with you.’’
John pauses with a smirk on his face.
‘‘Yep, that’s the number people generally contact me on to, you know, go to the cinema, have a drink or a meal in a restaurant or something.’’
The receptionist gives him an obligatory courtesy smile then looks down at her papers. She didn’t seem to take the hint and go with it. Rather, she took the hint and stamped on it.
‘Of course she would’ thinks John. ‘She’s probably going out with one of the doctors here. What chance have I got being a grubby and hopeless student. And why would she get the ‘hots’ for someone who was having a blood test in the hospital? Saying, ‘‘I’m here for a blood test,’’ is not exactly up there with introductions like, ‘‘I have a yacht in St. Tropez. Would you like to join me?’’ ‘Nope, better just forget about her entirely.’ There must be other women I can put my mints, deodorant and aftershave to good use upon.’
In the meantime, three children no older than six feel that it will be a rather fun idea to bash away at random keys on the grand piano that is situated near the entrance. Ten minutes later they are still causing a racket, and no sooner has John decided that he will tell them to shut up should they continue their antics, his number is called out.
Doctor Roy is on the third floor in room seven awaiting John’s arrival. Like many doctors it is when hearing footsteps approaching that he tries to make himself look busy by practicing his signature on a bit of paper. This says to the patient that his or her doctor means ‘serious business’. Instead of taking a lift John gets his daily exercise out of the way by running up the stairs. After drinking a cup of water from the water tub outside the doctor’s office in the hope that his urine will be as clear as the notion that Chris Moyles is an unfunny and self-indulgent buffoon, he enters the room, has his blood test and hopes that he doesn’t have cancer. He will hear from them in around two weeks should he have the virtually incurable beast developing within his frame.
He leaves Doctor Roy’s room and goes to the toilet in order to excrete some nutritionally drained, biological liquid before leaving the premises. His urine wasn’t yet as clear as the notion that Chris Moyles is an unfunny and self-indulgent buffoon, but a few more cups would do it. At that point it was as murky as William Roache’s private life.
Upon entering he is shocked to discover that a set of overalls are hanging from the hook on the door of one of the cubicles. It is accompanied by rubber gloves, a cap, mask and boots. ‘What the hell is it doing left in here?’ he thinks. ‘How could someone leave this behind? This will be a bit of fun. I’ll put it on and pretend I’m a doctor,’ which he duly does after the contents of his bladder are released. As he steps out of the toilets and into the passage, he hesitates before heading out into the cauldron of the hospital corridor. Taking a deep breath, he opens the door and struts down the hallway, confident that people are giving him instant respect although he puts his head down, fiddling with his uniform when he spots someone dressed like him. But with the mask on, he looks vaguely like any other member of staff with brown eyes.
This is confirmed when someone in the corner of his eye suddenly appears before him with the words, ‘‘can you deal with this? I have to take a shit.’’ She gives him instructions of what to do and, before he can answer, he is left with a body on a stretcher. When he thinks to look up, he imagines the scene to be silent with everybody staring at him, knowing that he shouldn’t be in this position. Surely someone will usher him to one side and call the police or the local mental asylum wherever that is (probably the town hall). As he lifts his head, everything seems to be carrying on as normal: men and women in blue and white attire carrying clip boards under their arms and the customary old man holding onto his Zimmer frame for dear life for fear of falling over and breaking himself into little pieces.
As a nurse opens a door for the old man, John takes a peek at the person he has been left with. It’s a woman with long and ruffled dark hair complete with fringe. She looks beautiful to him. It’s a shame she’s unconscious otherwise he could strike up a rapport with her. He could tell her he is playing a practical joke by dressing up as a member of staff in a hospital then she would laugh and think what a great sense of humour he has and how unlike other guys he is. He could then cheekily ask for her number to which she would flirtatiously oblige. They would then arrange a date at a restaurant and have a right old laugh about the incident while there. The waiter would walk away after taking their order and think what a great couple they are and how suited they are to each other, then she would go home thinking that it was the most relaxing and fun first date she’d ever had. They would continue seeing each other regularly and go for trips to places where he normally goes alone.
This is what he is thinking about as he escorts her down to the basement of the hospital and into the morgue where some people wait to place her into a fridge. Turns out she died with a hole in her heart that she didn’t know about. Feels like John’s will too. She had trouble breathing so there were signs of a defect, but she left it too late to get fixed. Now, after wearing a uniform belonging to someone else who handles dead bodies, John feels that he has to have another health check-up. ‘What can you catch from close contact from a recently deceased person?’ he ponders. So he figures that while he’s at the hospital, he might as well book another appointment – which he does.
Written by Ricky Murray