NEW STORY: "The Music Room," by Perle Besserman
So there you sit, barefoot in the doctor's office, staring at your own liver-spotted ankles, when the doctor busts through the door, snaps a nicotine lollipop out of his mouth, looks down at his clipboard and tells you that you are going to die.

"You've got a bad heart," he says. "The worst. It's amazing you've made it this far."

He flips pages on his clipboard as if he is reading from a script and tells you about the limits of modern medicine and about life, death, and your "options." He picks at a pimple buried in his eyebrow and shows you an x-ray of your own chest. He has circled several spots in black magic marker. You dutifully try to pay attention as he lectures you about what is wrong with you and why there's nothing that can be done about it; why all the damage is permanent and fatal

"So what now?" you ask.

The doctor rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet, creaking his penny loafers.

He puts his clipboard down and clear his throat.

"Isn't there anything you've always wanted to try but never had the guts?" he asks.

The doctor squints at you and leans forward slightly. You realize that this is his favorite part. He collects these little revelations about lost opportunities and permanent regrets and then uses his wealth and position to make sure that he doesn't miss out on them himself. He listens to the dying and makes certain that he crushes life's grapes against his palate so hard and often that even his gingivitis is fermented and tannin-rich.

"Isn't there anything you've always wanted to try but you've been putting off, waiting for the right moment, always thinking that there's plenty of time left?" he asks.

You won't give him the satisfaction.

"No," you say, looking sideways. "I did everything I ever wanted. I did everything right."

"Everything?" the doctor says. He steps toward you. He runs his stethoscope under your paper shirt to listen to your heartbeat. To hear your lie.

"Yes," you say, near tears. "For God's sake: I did everything right."

The doctor sucks his bottom lip and then nods. He lets the stethoscope fall out of your shirt and then loops it around his neck.

"Well," he says. "Then knowing you are going to die is nothing but bad news. Enjoy your last few months."

He slides out of the room, leaving you with a file folder full of phone numbers for terminal illness support groups, estate lawyers, funeral directors, and grief counselors.

With the doctor no longer looming over your desperate shoulder, your imagination soars.

There are a thousand things you've always wanted to try but were afraid for the consequences. One thing in particular. One thing where the timing was never right. One thing you'd like to try, beyond closed doors, locked up safely, in private, safe within...

"THE MUSIC ROOM," by Perle Besserman

Posted by miracle on Wed, 09 Sep 2009 08:41:26 -0400 -- permanent link

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