L’Esprit d’Escalier: Part Nine.

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

He glanced down at the Hanowa wrist watch his mother had bought him as a newly qualified graduate of medicine.

God knows, Lucien had experienced some bad days in the last forty years. Days when he wished that the Earth could swallow him up. No death, painful all otherwise; no funeral and no wake. Just a slit in the ground that he could nonchalantly step into, taking him to wonderful oblivion.

Today, however, was different. This tortuous obstacle course of a day had hardly begun and yet it stretched ahead of him like no man’s land on the Somme. He had already lost one friend and neighbour, and had been lectured by an 84 year old fascist. Now, what stood before him, was a delicate flower he’d spent four years nursing back to mental and physical health.

Staring into Anna’s puce face, he saw the vulnerable wreck that had turned up on his doorstep with two broken children in tow. As she’d slowly improved, her offspring had gone in the opposite direction thanks to the environment in which she’d introduced them. It had been Lucien’s job to balance the scales of this unstable family and today they had finally collapsed.

Anna glared at the doctor but it wasn’t her face he was looking at. The woman’s hands, one clutching a small white box, were shaking violently like those of an addict without a fix.

“Well I’m waiting, what have you got to say for yourself?” She yelled, waving the box and engulfing him in a shower of spittle.

“Anna, I’m sorry. I think it’s about time I explained about both, but I have a full surgery. Come we talk later?” As the words left his mouth Lucien realised by the look on her face; which he now took in with all its devastating glory, what he had just done.

“Both? What do you mean both? Don’t tell me you’ve been treating Alain as well!” she had lost all self-control and raised her hands as if to strike Lucien. Several large gobs of saliva left her mouth, one landing on medics forehead the other on the lapel of his jacket. Unconsciously, Lucien wiped them away with his hand. Anna noticed this and suddenly seemed to realise her predicament. 

He looked on as the anger slowly drained from the woman. It was as if she’d been dropped naked into the middle of a crowded football stadium.

She glanced around anxiously; first through the open door at the curious crowd, then back to the diminutive figure of her GP. 

Her hands blindly felt for the chair that Raymond hard vacated, and she slipped back into it, bowing her head and placing it into her open hands. The sobs emanating from this poor curled up creature were like nothing Lucien had heard before. He watched with horror as four years of treatment unravelled before his eyes. He glanced down at the Hanowa wrist watch his mother had bought him as a newly qualified graduate of medicine.

Nine fifteen…

The day lay ahead of him like the slowest form of torture. Lucien couldn’t contemplate enduring the rest of this torment. Never before had he wanted to just get up from his chair and walk into the busy street: into the path of whatever vehicle was passing at that moment.

Nevertheless, he was dragged back to excruciating reality by the actions of the young woman. Anna lifted her head and gave the doctor the tiniest of smiles. She then got up from the chair and faced him.

“Later,” she growled, holding the faint trace of that grin. Behind it was pure tragedy. Then, slowly, she walked out of the room. Raising her arms, she stopped in the middle of the outer room, turned back to Lucien and said one more word.


With that, she marched off into the hallway emitting a laugh that relegated her previous wails to the second division of audible horror. Lucien got up and before the next patient could enter he slowly closed the door.

“I’ll be with you shortly,” he said through the narrowing gap between door and frame.

Then silence.

Returning to the desk, he folded his arms on the leather top and gently lay his head on them. He allowed the deep sadness to inundate him like a drowning man in a vast ocean, with no hope of rescue. He assumed this position for what seemed like an age, the tears cleansing him of his vast melancholy. Then, he sat up, took a deep breath, and wiped his face with his handkerchief. Lucien checked his watch.

Nine twenty.

It was going to be the longest of days. His whole body jumped at the knock on the door, and he remembered the room full of people on the other side of the thin wooden membrane

“Come in,” he called. This time with more assertion. The door swung open and there, filling every square centimetre of the frame stood the colossus that was Abdulaye Haidara. He was followed by his constant companion, the sickly sweet aroma of marijuana. Dragging the baseball cap from his shiny, bald, black head, he spoke. His voice rumbled like the sound of the passing metro trains in the tunnel many metres below the surgery.

“Good morning Doctor Lucien. I have a problem.”

1 Comment

  1. Ken Childs

    Still intriguing.


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