I was still sweating the beer out and already paying for the pains of the night before. Ten men together. Add beer. Square the testosterone levels and what you’re left with is three broken ribs, no medical insurance and an urgent care facility that looked as though its better days had not been seen by anyone still top-side of God’s green one.
I clutched my side gentle as a mother bird to its injured sparrow as the curtain ripped back and the blonde-haired doctor stepped into the cubicle. Sizing me up and down, no doubt wondering to himself what kind of loser plays American football in a corridor? Drunk. Without padding. And with no insurance!
This kind, Doc. Soak it up.
My time in California had been more loving than loathing but all things must end and with six grand of miles between me and my National Health Service it all came down to how green you could be.
As he put me through my paces I winced and noticed his name badge; Dr. Heinrich Stoller. Another alien, like me. A better class of alien though. One that brought something to the table. One that worked sixty plus hours a week at his own practice plus gave his time to this free clinic so that bums like me could injure bones in badly made decisions, like if they weren’t badly made I would have any decisions at all.
‘Point on the chart to the severity of pain you’re feeling.’ his accent still thick, thick as his tan. Thick as his bank account.
I dropped a digit on the eight and winced again as my wing relaxed back down to my side.
‘I’m going to give you a shot for the pain, after that I’ll…’
‘What made you become a doctor?’ I asked. The question stalled Stoller.
‘Mr. Morgan are you currently on any medication for…’
‘No, no medication.’
‘In which case I’m going to write you a script, Maureen can fill it for you,’ he replied with a lavish stroke of the pen. ‘And it’s a family thing.’
‘Becoming a doctor. My father was a doctor, and his father was a doctor and so on. It’s one of those things you just get born into.’
I got that. My old man was a drunk, bad-tempered and weak. He taught me everything you’d ever need to know about parenting, certainly enough to know that just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. He taught me other things too.
‘And what is it you do, Mr. Morgan?’ Stoller’s cold blue eyes gripped me.
‘I’m a writer.’
‘Would I have read anything of yours?’
‘OK,’ he sighed. The clock read ten-AM. ‘Well I’ll keep an eye out for you, as long as it’s not Sci-Fi.’
Inching off the treatment table I clawed the script into my pocket, pulled on my white tee and dragged my bones towards the warm glow of the exit. Los Angeles was waiting outside for me, wanting me to play in her sunshine, to taste the heat of her full-bodied embrace.
On the sidewalk I called a cab and waited. I got to thinking. There was a very good chance that Heinrich Stoller’s grandfather was a Nazi doctor. It made me smile, and I reconsidered my stance on children briefly.