The doctor asked for Neil’s medical history, took a blood sample, and palpated his back, running cold fingers over what they called his “condition”. The Condition extended two sinuous tentacles and swatted the doctor’s hands until he learned to respect its personal space.
“Interesting,” said the doctor, and rubbed the backs of his smarting hands. “Very interesting. I don’t suppose this runs in your family, does it?”
“No,” said Neil. “No it doesn’t.”
“I’m sorry,” replied the doctor. “That’s not very helpful, is it?” He shook his head and sighed. “The test results will be in within two weeks. We might know what to do by then.”
“I stopped smoking, you know,” Neil said, his voice taking an involuntary rise in pitch. “Eat my greens. Walk every day.”
“That’s good of you,” said the doctor.
Neil tried to keep his voice steady when he asked if the doctor thought his condition was malignant.
“It is unclear at this point,” said the doctor. “But I would characterize it as irritable. Perhaps a bit surly.”
Neil’s head fell into his hands. He didn’t look up from his feet until he got home.