Sometime in 2020 the first book in The “No” Conspiracies series, No Fixed Address, will hit the shelves. Here’s your first look at it. Take note that this is an UNEDITED excerpt and may end up looking quite different after it goes through my editing team.
The table in this exam room is gray. The countertop is gray. There is a thin slice of scratchy gray paper between my butt and a cushioned if you could even call it that, gray table. Heck, there is even a gray paper towel dispenser dispensing gray paper towels.
Everything on the counter is perfectly aligned except for the biohazard box. All the jars with gray lids filled with cotton balls, long sticks with cotton on the tips, and tongue depressors are lined up with their sides touching and lettering exactly parallel to the edge of the counter. The bright red biohazard box with that funky symbol on it, however, is skewed to the left facing away from the others. It’s probably embarrassed. Everything inside it is sickly, or dirty, or lethal to anyone who comes in contact with it. I’d be embarrassed too if I was a walking death sentence, which for all I know I am.
I clench my fists and shove them under my legs to help stifle the urge to straighten it and instead focus on the mystery breeze blowing on my bare ass from an as yet undiscovered vent. I complain about the open-at-the-back gowns every trip I make to a clinic or hospital. Doesn’t everyone? Of course, what is the alternative? Open at the front? Ugh.
A young doctor enters through the gray door. Stereotypical white lab coat? Check. Stethoscope hanging around her neck? Check. Friendly but detached expression trying to convey concern the same way you see a television doctor saving lives 60 minutes at a time, minus the commercials? Double check.
I stifle a laugh-cough, but all it does is sound like I’m suppressing a belch. She directs her attention to her clipboard and flips to the second page and then back to the first.
“Good morning Mister…Um… Mister…”
I’m not baling her out. She is on her own. She hasn’t bothered to update her office with a computer so the least she can do is put in a little effort to learn my name. Even if it is a pseudonym. If I didn’t think I was dying I’d get up and leave.
“Mr. Phillips. Right. Mr. Phillips. Hey, there’s a doctor named Phillips on that TV show.”
“He’s my cousin.”
The Luddite doctor cackles and it sounds like my kindergarten teacher on the army base where I grew up. I wonder whatever happened to her. She has likely passed on. Cause of death: Got too close to the biohazard box at her last check-up.
“My name is Doctor Jordan. What seems to be the trouble today?”
“I’ve got what appears to be a growth on my shoulder. It’s probably cancer. I’d like you to take a look and refer me to someone who can remove it.”
“Well let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Mr. Phillips. Take the top part of your gown off and we’ll have a look-see. Where on your shoulder is it?”
“Just around back near the top of the scapula is a gnarly looking brown lump. Asymmetrical, multi-colored, raised. Nasty looking.”
“Hmm. Well, it definitely looks suspect. Let’s book you for a consult with a dermatologist.”
“Can’t I just make an appointment to have it lanced, or scooped out with a grapefruit spoon or something and then sent for a biopsy? Wouldn’t the most efficient path be to just lop it off and be done with it?”
“It’s not about efficiency, Mr. Phillips, it’s about your overall health and wellbeing. We don’t want to be any more invasive than we need to be. We’ll have an expert take a look and we’ll go from there, okay?”
“Listen, one way or another, this thing is being cut out. I was going to do it myself but I thought it’d be worth the trip to see if you could recommend something less drastic than a fifth of Jack Daniels and my hunting knife.”
“Do you often have the urge to cut yourself, Mr. Phillips?”
“No, I only have the urge to cut myself when I notice an abnormal growth sticking out of my shoulder!”