AW Flash Fiction–“The Doctor”–10/11/09

Shannon rang the doorbell to the old apartment built in the 40’s and waited patiently for Lila to answer it. Lila had been one of her regular Meals on Wheels customers for about three years now and one of her favorites. She heard a little shuffling and then the rattle of a chain, the turn of a deadbolt and then finally the jingle of the doorknob as Lila cracked open the door.

“Yes?” asked the white-haired lady through a space of no more than four inches.

“Miss Lila? It’s me, Shannon. I’ve got your dinner tonight.”

“Oh Shannon! Is that you? Come in. I haven’t seen you in ages,” Lila said, excitement in her voice.

Shannon entered the modest living room of Lila’s apartment and then moved into her kitchen. The furnishings looked like they had seen better days, probably in the 40’s and 50’s. She enjoyed Lila’s kitschy stuff though–a few Betty Grable statuettes, the one where she’s wearing a bathing suit and looking over her shoulder, a cat clock with a tail for the pendulum and eyes that looked back and forth.

Lila watched her lay out the meal with a curious look in her eye as she sat in her well worn kitchen chair, the table hitting her at her breastbone, she had shrunken so much in size. Her gnarled hands rested in a prayer position on the table as she waited for Shannon to finish her preparations.

“Are you married, Shannon?” she asked. She asked this everyday.

“No m’am. I’m still single.”

“I should introduce you to my grandson, Matthew. He’s a doctor, you know. A real catch. Handsome too. A lovely gal like you should grab you a good one while you can.” Lila winked at her and began to eat.

“I’m sure he’s a very nice man,” Shannon said politely. It’s what she always said.

Lila chitter-chattered with Shannon for the next half hour about everything and nothing. As Shannon watched Lila finish up her meal, ever cautious throughout her visit for any signs of choking, she noticed some strange discoloration on Lila’s right arm.

“Miss Lila, did you hurt yourself?” she asked, trying to remember if the discoloration was there yesterday. She remembered Lila had cut herself on the sharp edge of can a couple of days ago but it hadn’t seemed like any big deal.

“Oh this, it’s no big thing,” Lila said between bites.

“Still, it doesn’t look so good. Maybe you should see a doctor.” Shannon pulled out her notepad to make a notation of what she’d seen so that she could remember to put it in her report and followup with medical attention if necessary.

“What are you writing?” Lila asked, looking somewhat alarmed.

“Just making a note about your arm,” Shannon said as she finished up her thoughts and then put the pad away.

“No need for you to call anyone, I’ll call Matthew. He’ll take care of me. He only lives a few blocks away.”

“Well all right,” Shannon said, satisfied for the time being. “But you’ll call him as soon as I leave right?”

“Of course! My grandson is a top doctor at the local hospital. Maybe when I call him, I’ll put in a good word for you, eh, Shannon,” she smiled a cheshire cat grin at her matchmaking idea.

“Now Lila, don’t you go trying to fix me up,” Shannon gently scolded as she rose and cleared up the trash and after a few parting pleasantries, left.

The next day went almost exactly like the day before. Lila informed Shannon that she had called Matthew and was waiting for him to come by and check on her. That it would be in a few hours and not to worry. She had bandaged up her arm but wouldn’t let Shannon see it.

Two days later, more of the same. No, Matthew hadn’t been by yet but he promised he would come that day. Shannon made a call to the doctor who sometimes aided the Meals on Wheels clients because Lila really didn’t look so good.

Three days later, Lila didn’t answer the door. After Shannon got the landlord to unlock it, she found out why. Lila lay in her bed, still in her nightgown, dead. The discoloration on her arm had turned into a festering wound. The doctor who had accompanied Shannon estimated that she had died sometime the day before, most likely from the infection entering her bloodstream.

Shannon sat on Lila’s sofa and began to cry. “She said her grandson was a doctor, that he’d come see her. Oh Lila, why didn’t you call him and if you did, Matthew why didn’t you come?”

The doctor who had been inspecting Lila’s apartment walked over to Shannon, holding a picture of a young man in a doctor’s coat. He handed it to her. With shaking hands, she read the engraving on the frame:  “Matthew Goldberg, Beloved Grandson, 1970 – 2001.”

Sorry so sad.