By Dominic Tramontana
The patient coughed and wheezed. Pustules, black as tar, dotted his red skin. Blood crusted his mouth. Hacked phlegm stained his blanket. “Doctor, are you still there?” He asked. He wiped his mouth with the blanket.
Doctor Rufus rushed to the bedside and grabbed the patient’s hand. “Of course.”
“Heh, for a second I thought you forgot about me.”
“Not for a moment.”
A nurse pushed a cart filled with blood bags into the room. She set up the IV then left with the cart.
“You just sit tight and let that blood do its magic. Can you do that for me?”
The patient nodded then drifted asleep.
Rufus released the man’s hand then sat in his chair. He exhaled and stared wide at the white panel ceiling.
The nurse from before reentered the room. “Doctor Rufus, the patients have all been given blood. I think we can finally rest.”
“I don’t think I’ve rested properly in years.”
“You and me both.” She left.
Rufus went to the nearly empty break room. The hospital did not have many doctors. Only two, including Rufus and a few nurses.
Doctor Matheld stood with one hand leaned against the counter and the other held a mug. She breathed heavily.
Rufus could tell she was worn out. He always liked her and so he wasted no time walking to her.
Matheld spoke before he could. “Finally got the last one hooked up, huh?”
“How could you tell?”
“I doubt you’d be resting if you haven’t. Plus, you’re starting to get your color back.” She handed him a mug but Rufus refused. “Right, how could I forget.”
They stood there silently, enjoying the relief.
Rufus picked at his fingernails.
“I can’t help but notice something on your mind, kid,” Matheld said.
“Is it that obvious?”
“Go ahead. Spill it.”
Rufus rubbed his neck. “Sometimes, I don’t know. I don’t know if what I’m doing is enough. I just saw thirty people covered in those pustules wheeled in here. How many people couldn’t call an ambulance in time? I’m sitting here saving a few while they’re maybe thirty more dying alone.”
Matheld inhaled. “Geez, kid. And here I was expecting you to complain about all the blood you’ve been giving. Are you sure that’s not been a problem by the way?”
“No, of course not. A little rest and I’m good as new.”
“Then lemme give you some advice on what’s really bothering you. This is a thankless job, and it’s also a limited one. But I’ll be damned if I sit here and let you say that it’s not enough. You saved thirty people today. How many people in the world can say that?”
“You’re right, like always.”
“Kid, you coming to this hospital has done wonders for the city. Every person who leaves is left stronger because of you. And if you still feel down, just go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and put on the biggest smile you can. Works for me at least.”
“Thanks. I’ll give that a try. I don’t know how good it’ll do me, but it’s something.”
“That’s the spirit.” Matheld looked at her watch. “Oh, gotta go. Break’s over.” She left her empty mug and walked out of the room.
Rufus did the same and went to check on his patient.
The patient stood and stretched his back. The black boils had completely evaporated and his red skin had turned creamy white. He saw Rufus and gave him a big handshake. The grip could’ve broken a hand if Rufus wasn’t prepared. “Wow, doc. You’re amazing. I thought I was gonna die if I’m being honest.”
Rufus laughed. “Not on my watch. If there’s anything else you need I’ll be here.”
“Will do, Doc. Take care!” He jogged out the room.
Rufus grinned at the results.
A nurse poked her head through the doorway. “Doctor, twelve more patients just arrived.” The nurse said with urgency.
“Alright, thank you.” Rufus looked at the wall clock then to the nurse. “One second, I’m going to the restroom.”
The nurse nodded and rushed off.
Rufus entered the bathroom and cracked his neck. He remembered Matheld’s mirror trick and decided to give it a shot. He looked at the glass and laughed. Maybe the remedy would work better if he had a reflection.
Bio: Dominic Tramontana is an up-and-coming writer writer from Florida. He writes everyday and finishes a story every week.