Randolph Pike, 77 and silver-haired, sits shirtless in his doctor’s office. He breathes. The fresh sanitary paper spooled out over the examining bed crinkles under his frame, cutting through the sterile silence. Pike looks up at the ceiling tiles, the fluorescent lights, the air ducts. He scans the counter — jars of cotton swabs, Q-tips, tongue depressors, a plastic model of the human brain, cut into removable sections. On the wall an eye chart, a biohazardous refuse receptacle; on the back of the door, a full-length mirror. Pike’s eyes rest now upon his own reflection.
The door suddenly swings wide open. Dr. Ranieri, a gentle-faced young man in a white lab coat, stethoscope stuffed into one of its pockets, enters brusquely.
“Good morning, Mr. Pike, how are we today?”
“Excellent,” Ranieri says swiftly, scanning Pike’s chart. “I see we suffered some chest pain overnight.”
“I did. I had some chest pain overnight, yes.”
Ranieri wraps an inflatable black armband around Pike’s bicep and begins pumping. He removes stethoscope from pocket and places the buds in his ears. “Breath normally, Mr. Pike.”
Pike inhales and exhales in mannered, measured breaths, noticing the mixture of rubbing alcohol, chlorine bleach, and a waft of Ranieri’s cologne in the air.
“Blood pressure is fine, 120 over 80. Perfect, actually.”
Ranieri moves the stethoscope around to Pike’s back, stopping momentarily as he respires.
“Have you been to the mall yet?”
“No, Dr. Ranieri, I haven’t been to the mall yet,” a hint of laboured sarcasm in Pike’s voice.
“I thought we had an agreement, Mr. Pike.”
For a moment, Pike holds Ranieri’s scolding eyes before blinking.
“Yes, I was going to go, but my daughter-in-law, Kiva…”
“No more excuses, Mr. Pike. We talked about this. You need regular exercise after your heart episode. Nothing strenuous. We agreed that you would walk around the mall in the mornings.”
Pike climbs down from the examining bed.
“You may have been a big bad cop once upon a time, Mr. Pike, but you can’t play bad cop with your doctor,” Ranieri says, a smile breaking across his face.
“Yes sir … you young sonofabitch.” Pike salutes, putting one arm back into a shirtsleeve.
“How are Kiva and the kids?”
“Just fine. They come once a week to visit their old grandpa.”
“That’s good, Mr. Pike. So many of my patients don’t have anyone. You’re a lucky man.”
Pike’s eyes flash back at Ranieri.
Ranieri stops himself, a little embarrassed: “I just mean…”
“I know what you meant, Dr. Ranieri,” Pike says, “and you’re right,” retrieving his slacks from a chair in the corner. “But it wasn’t all just luck.”
“Of course, it wasn’t, Mr. Pike.”
“Some of that luck I could give back to the Indians, let me tell you.”
Ranieri frowns. “But you’re here now.”
“There were lots of times I almost wasn’t.”
“Maybe you should write a book.”
“What do you want me to do, write a book or walk around the mall in the mornings? I won’t do both.”
Ranieri smirks. “Let’s start with the mall. Promise me, Mr. Pike. Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow, yes, I promise.”