Sesame Seed: Chapter Two.

by | Aug 26, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The young woman, wearing her coat, entered the office with a brown paper carrier. Immediately, the room was filled with the aroma of bacon and eggs. Tony’s mouth began to water and his stomach gurgled. Sharon smiled at him and her cheeks turned pink.

“What the doctor ordered, I think,” she said, placing the aromatic package on the desk.

Thank you, Sharon. Have a lovely weekend. Be here all the earlier on Monday,” smiled the doctor.

“God bless us, everyone,” she laughed as she left the office.

As the door closed, Doctor Smith’s grin broadened. “An absolute diamond, that girl. She’s worth every penny I pay her and wise beyond her years. Now Tony, tuck in while it’s hot. Everything else will keep.”

They ate the sandwiches in silence, Tony relishing every bite of the half stottie crammed with a full English breakfast. Washing it down with his mug of tea, which had cooled to a tolerable temperature, Tony belched into his napkin.

“Beg your pardon Doc. That sarnie was something else. It’s the most I’ve eaten since the funeral. You’re a lifesaver. Oh, shit. There I go again.” He closed his eyes and pursed his lips in embarrassment.

“Right. Let’s get one thing straight Tony. No more talk of death, suicide, or anything morbid. I want it from the start, from when you first suspected something. Tell me how you both met. How long you went out, the engagement, wedding, the lot. We have all the time in the world and there’s always the pub after this,” Alan said as he cleared everything onto the drinks tray.

For the first time in around half a dozen meetings, Tony looked at the other man as someone other than a medical professional. Something about him changed. Was it Alan or his own attitude that had reconfigured over a takeaway sandwich? Suddenly, he saw beyond the black-out curtain of grief. There was a chink of light and it wasn’t costing his health insurance eighty pounds an hour. His head was filled with thoughts that he wanted to let out, thoughts that had been trapped like an upstream log jam. All at once, the water began to slowly move, and with it his anxiety.

“I don’t know if we need to go that far back but I’ll try my best,” Tony sighed, raising his eyes in deep thought. He trawled the tangle of lumber, trying to pick out one long straight trunk. All of a sudden, he blurted out one word, “eyes.”

“OK,” Alan dragged the two letters out as if they were elastic on his tongue.

“No. It’s not what you think. Well, it could be. Oh God, I’m making a mess of this before I even start,” Tony groaned, lifting his hands to his face and rubbing them vigorously.

“Pub, now. Let’s go. The Cat’s open, they’ve got Sputnik on keg. My shout. We’ll get to the bottom of this, I promise,” Alan declared, jumping up and grabbing his jacket, “let me just lock up and I’ll join you there. Tell Dave to put them on my account.”

***

Tony adored the cramped micro-pub, situated in a portacabin a hundred metres from the doctor’s office.

“How are you doing?” called the barman as Tony popped his head around the squeaky front door.

“Dave. Not so bad, yourself?” Tony replied with the same enthusiasm as the amenable Yorkshireman.

Dave took a swig from his Leeds United cup, picked up a two-thirds glass, and waved at his customer. “What can I get you? Let me guess, Sputnik.”

“Spot on me man, make it two, Dr Smith is joining me and he’s paying,” Tony said. This claustrophobic wooden hut, with its pre-fab concrete floor and walls bedecked with all things Jonny Cash, was an oasis in Tony’s desert. The music varied depending on who was working and was particularly good when the friendly Tyke was serving.

“Champion, consider it done. Big match tonight. Aston Villa away. Could make or break our season,” Dave said, nursing the lively brew into the glass.

“You’ll be alright. There are at least four teams worse than Leeds in the league.” Tony appreciated this good-humoured chat as it chased the blues that continually clung to him like the smell of an old dustbin. The place, the people, and the staff were a Godsend, “tell me something Dave,” Tony enquired. “It’s to solve a dispute so to say.”

“Fire away mate. How can I help?” Dave replied, placing the full glass on the bar.

“Cramped, the sign, the beer. What is its origin?” the other man asked, “I always thought it was down to a Google review about the space here. You know, those funny messages you put on the blackboard outside?” He continued, “but my good friend John Alder said it’s about the band The Cramps. Which is true?”

“Ah, well. You’re almost right with the first and John is spot on with the second. Most people think it’s from Google because nobody’s heard of the Cramps,” Dave replied, while charging the second glass. At that moment he stopped halfway and turned to his customer. “John Alder? The John Alder, from The Jags? You know him?” Dave shook his head in disbelief, “I’ve got them on my playlist here. In fact you just missed I’ve got your number.”

“Written on the back of my hand,” Tony continued, smiling.

Just then, the door squealed again, indicating Alan’s appearance. The doctor had changed into faded Wranglers and an old Scotland rugby top which had seen better days and plenty of action on the pitch.

“Doctor,” called Dave, completing the second glass, “welcome to the weekend.”

“The same to you and good luck for tonight. It’s a big ‘un,” Alan replied.

“Cheers, egg-chaser,” Dave laughed as he held up two immaculate glasses of opaque yellow liquid topped with a thick white head.

“Now that’s what I call symmetry,” added Alan, taking one of the beers, “on mine please and one for yourself.”

“Done and thank you, doctor Smith,” replied the smiling barman, “John Alder, eh?” He breathed as he turned to the till.

“What was all that about?” Alan asked, following Tony to the table by the window.

“Oh just settling a little difference of opinion,” Tony said, the smile still frozen on his face.

“I see, OK. Where were we?” Alan pulled up a stool and took a sip of his beer.

“Can we talk about the eyes thing?” Tony mirrored the doctor’s action and savoured the brew. He closed his eyes and sucked the froth from his upper lip, “I’ll go back as far as I can and we’ll take it from there. Let’s skip the honeymoon period, you know, when everything is shiny and new.”

“If that suits you, it’s fine by me. Tell me when you first thought there was a problem,” Alan said.

“This is so hard, Alan. Trying to cram twenty-five years of marriage into a single conversation.” Tony rubbed his hands up and down his thighs and rocked on his stool. “Perhaps I should cut to the chase. After most of her life denying that there was something wrong, society suddenly convinced her that she was faulty, broken, a reject.” Tears welled up in his eyes at the last few words.

“I’m sorry man. I don’t know what to say. So, she was diagnosed with something, obviously? A long way into your relationship?” As Tony reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, Alan continued. “We have a classic case of misdiagnosis or even non-diagnosis. Am I right?”

“In summary, yes. Years of fighting an invisible enemy, like a virus or something. Meanwhile, all along, the family denied that anything was wrong. It was like living with a grenade with the pin pulled out. Squeezing the striker lever until your fingers burned.” Tony wiped his eyes and took a gulp of beer, “I tried, Doc. I gave her everything.”

“Tony, relax. I brought you here for a reason” Alan stared into the eyes of the other man, who was pulled into the green irises like walking through an unripe wheat field. He concentrated on the white scar on the bridge of Alan’s nose. The one created by the shoulder of a Hawick RFC flanker.

“What’s happening here Alan? We’ve gone from a strictly professional consultation to a boozing session. But, do you know what? It works.” Tony chugged half the glass of thick, potent beer and slammed the glass on the table.

“Steady, laddie. Let’s take it one step at a time. Can I tell you something?” Alan pinched his eyebrow between thumb and forefinger, highlighting another scar, of unknown origin, “In my opinion, you have been let down by the service, the system. Marie has paid the ultimate price. I can say this because we are here in the pub and not my office and I am your friend as well as your therapist. That’s why I sent Sharon home and we are drinking beer from Leeds, in a shed.”

Chapter Three

“I’ve been let down by her family, not the system. How can the service deal with something it knows nothing about? Do you know her sister is one of your lot? How can someone who lives with a person most of their adult life not notice something when it’s their job, their profession?” Tony replied…

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