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Just Another Florida Day

by Ron Van Sweringen

The blue-gray light of dawn filtered through Martin White’s palm-fringed bedroom window. Another Florida day, he thought, sipping a cup of scalding hot tea the way he liked it with honey. How many more, before it’s all over? A second thought followed as he watched the first shafts of golden sunlight pierce the sky. He was a tall man of distinguished bearing, nearing his 60th year.

A slight twinge of discomfort nibbled at his groin. He knew the sensation well. It had arrived for the first time six months earlier while he was sitting across the desk from Dr. Polanski in the physician’s private office. Martin remembered it distinctly, the queer feeling he could best describe as an internal itch, originating from some unknown place deep inside his body. As it grew in intensity, affecting the rhythm of his breathing, he put a name to it: Panic!

The word “terminal” had unleashed it, searing Martin’s brain like hot lava pouring out of Dr. Polanski’s mouth. The orifice, under its gray mustache, reminded Martin of the Fun House amusement park ride he remembered as a child. A large gaping cavern with red lips swallowing up scores of laughing visitors without even a belch.

“Do you understand, Mr. White?” Dr. Polanski’s emotionless voice bored through his torment like a dentist’s drill. “You have six months or less to live.”

“Six months,” Martin repeated blankly, half to himself, before adding “or less.”

“That’s right,” Dr. Polanski replied closing a folder on his desk with a slap. “Make the best of them.”

That had been six months ago to the day. Martin gave a slight smile before finishing his tea. “You were wrong, you old fart,” he thought, enjoying the warm sunlight now bathing his face.

The beach near his cottage was nearly deserted when Martin stepped onto the sand two hours later. “God, what a beautiful day,” he sighed, drinking in the clear blue sky that floated to infinity.

A red umbrella, its scalloped border flapping in the breeze, caught his attention. “Now that’s bright,” he thought, drawing closer to the scarlet circle in the sand. “Who would be sitting under that?” he said to himself, turning casually to look as he passed.

Her face was in profile, half hidden under a floppy straw beach hat. Even so, something about her looked familiar to Martin. He slowed his pace and took a longer look at her. She wasn’t young, probably his age, but attractive with what he considered to be very good legs, which had always been his downfall.

He was about to turn away and continue along the beach when she looked up at him. “Mr. White,” she called out with a surprised smile. “How nice to see you.”

It took Martin a moment before remembering he had seen her when passing through Dr. Polanksi’s waiting room once or twice. He had assumed she was a patient and briefly smiled at her, but no conversation occurred between them.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, her blue eyes looking genuinely concerned.

“Fine,” Martin blurted out so quickly it stunned him. “I’m not surprised,” she replied, motioning him closer. “You look as fit as a fiddle.”

“Not according to Dr. Polanski,” Martin replied, sitting in the sand beside her. “He gave me six months or less to live, six months ago to the day.”

“What a horrible thing to tell someone,” she gasped.

“In my case he was wrong,” Martin smiled, “in fact I’m going out to celebrate tonight. You wouldn’t happen to be free by any chance, I would enjoy the company.”

“Well, actually I am free.”

“Excellent.” Martin smiled. “But how stupid of me: you know my name and I don’t know yours.”

“I’m Patricia. Mrs. Patricia Polanski,” she answered after a moment’s hesitation.

“Polanski?” Martin shot back, a look of confusion on his face. “Dr. Polanski’s wife?”

“The late Doctor Polanski,” she replied. “My husband passed away two months ago.”

“I’m so sorry,” Martin mumbled at a loss for words.

“It was very sudden, a heart attack,” Patricia continued softly. “ I can’t help thinking it was brought on by the investigation.”

“Investigation?” Martin repeated trying to comprehend what she was saying.

“Yes, they have kept it quiet until now,” she replied slowly. “The medical board doesn’t like things of this nature to go public. A doctor being incompetent, you know.”

“You’ve lost me,” Martin sputtered, shaking his head in confusion.

“When my husband saw you as a patient, I’m afraid he was suffering from diminished mental capacity,” Patricia replied. “His notes and patient records for the last six months are very confused and in some cases completely non-existent.”

Martin looked at the endless horizon stretching above the calm sea and heaved a sigh. Two things occurred to him in that instant. The constant annoying inner twitch in his groin was gone and upon closer inspection, Patricia did indeed have good legs.

Copyright © 2013 by Ron Van Sweringen

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